Fr. Daniel Gifford
MADE FOR COMMUNION
Dear St. Louis Parishioners,
“Many people today are disoriented and lost in search of genuine fellowship. Often their lives are either too superficial or shattered by brokenness. Their work often is dehumanizing. They long for an experience of genuine encounter with others, for true fellowship. Well, is this not
precisely the vocation of a parish? Are we not called to be a warm, brotherly family together? Are we not people united together in the household of God through our common life? Your parish is not mainly a structure, a geographical area or a building. The parish is first and foremost a community of the faithful. This is the task of a parish today: to be a community, to rediscover its identity as a community. You are not a Christian all by yourself. To be a Christian means to believe and to live one’s faith together with others. For we are all members of the body of Christ…. For fellowship to grow, the priest’s role is not enough, even though he plays an essential role. The commitment of all parishioners is needed. Each of their contributions is vital.” These words from Pope Saint John Paul II (front cover), whose feast day is earlier this week, were recently shared with me by a parishioner and they immediately struck me. It was as if I wanted to say, “That’s what I’ve been trying to say!” This reflection on the responsibility of hospitality and building community seem to make it especially appropriate that his image, recently donated by Sue Howard and family at the time that I arrived, hangs in Harkrader Hall, where much of the community building and sharing of hospitality takes place. However, I didn’t know about this quote when we put it up. My original motivation for wanting it there was quite different. At the time, our Confirmation Prep class was meeting for most of its classes in that (Eastern) half of the hall. We have since moved to a different room (which you’ll be able to read more about in a few weeks). But, while that was still their primary meeting space, the thought of having a patron “watching over them” who did so much to enliven the faith of the young made a lot of sense! It is with good reason that an entire generation is sometimes referred to as “The JP2 Generation,” since he devoted himself so much to the formation of the young that it was as if he viewed all the young of the church throughout the world as his children. Still, now that this is no longer a use for the hall, I can’t help but think about how much his teaching taught believers of all ages that what it means to be human is to be made for communion with God and with one another! Whenever we gather in Harkrader Hall, whether for one of the studies that sometimes meet there, or for a social event, may we look to him as a patron, that we may choose to live for that communion. May we seek communion to satisfy our own hearts, but also always mindful of the responsibility to build up the community for others through hospitality. Be a saint today! Saint John Paul II, pray for us!
THANK YOU: Last Sunday, I mentioned the server retreat, as I was most occupied with planning it at the time of writing my letter. But, that was one of two day retreats we held that week. It was a great joy for me to assist with the widow’s retreat. Actually it’s always a joy to be present when it is very clear the Holy Spirit is bringing consolation and peace into the hearts of His people. Have I mentioned I love being a priest?! Anyway, I want to thank Sister Anne Germaine for her leadership and all of the woman who came out, because it was very clear how they were instruments of that consolation and peace for one another. Moments like that are living examples of that mystery John Paul II (who was watching over that encounter as well) taught us, that we are made for communion. Coming together and drawing strength from each other can be a powerful way to allow the Holy Spirit to work!
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!