Fr. Daniel Gifford
Renewing the Face of The Earth and The Church
Dear St. Louis Parishioners,
Last weekend, I began a short preaching series on vocations. With the example of Sister Anne Germaine and the rest of the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation still filling our hearts with gratitude, we began by reflecting on the witness of Consecrated Religious Life. This weekend, as we honor our former pastor (1988-2001) Fr. Ed Harkrader for his 50th Anniversary of Priestly Ordination, we reflect upon the priesthood and holy orders. This will set us up perfectly, to reflect upon marriage and family life on Father’s Day weekend. Already, we can see how the Lord has designed His Body to be composed of many parts, many people with a diversity of vocations. So, as we reflect upon the
Mystical Body of Christ being brought to life by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we are featuring the 1732 painting Pentecost by Jean Restout II (front cover). Perhaps you might recall seeing the picture in the bulletin a couple of weeks ago (and posted again here) of the Pentecost celebration that took place on the final session of Atrium for the year, in which the prominent location of this painting was of great effect.
Meanwhile, as we reflect on the priesthood this weekend, I wanted to take a moment in this bulletin letter to again acknowledge a certain elephant in the room. Sadly, as we speak about the priesthood and holy orders, it is difficult not to be affected by the pain of the memory of sins of priests and of bishops who dealt inappropriately with their crimes. In particular, with the wounds of the scandal that broke open last summer still raw, it almost becomes difficult to speak of the beauty of the priesthood - which must be spoken about - without having concern that listeners are understandably having this pain stirred up again. We have just placed an order for a hundred copies (and if there’s a desire for more, we can order more) of a very brief little book that some might find helpful, consoling and hopeful: Bishop Robert Barron’s new Letter to a Suffering Church. They will arrive later in the summer, at which point we will let you know how you can get your hands on a copy. But, in this “cry of the heart” Barron speaks very personally about his own pain and frustration with the scandal and his concern for the pain of countless Catholics, many of whom are even understandably wondering whether they should give up on the Church altogether. Anyone who might read it - and particularly parents who are wondering whether it should be made available to their children who are old enough to read it - should know that he is very honest and frank, even very specific and sometimes a bit graphic, about the scandalous acts that have taken place. Truly, some parts are quite upsetting to read about, particularly as he outlines some of the key facts of the revelations of last summer (in the first chapter) and as he comments on clerical crimes throughout Church History in the third chapter (“We Have Been Here Before”). He closes that chapter by clarifying: “Not one bit of this historical survey is meant as an excuse, much less a justification, for the wickedness on display in the Church today. But it is indeed meant to place in a wider context what we might be tempted to see as uniquely horrific. We have been here before; and we’ve survived.” By the detail he has given by this point in the book, it is clear that he is not making light of these tragedies in the slightest. And he continues “A time of crisis is not the moment to abandon the Church; it is the moment to stay and fight - precisely in the spirit of St. Peter Damian,” and he will also mention saints of other ages who inspired the Church in dark times in need of reform, such as Benedict of Nursia, Francis of Assisi, and Ignatius of Loyola. The point is clear: “We find ourselves at one of these decisive moments. Who can deny that a deep and abiding corruption has invaded the Mystical Body of Christ?... Above all, we need saints… This is your time!” Again, while a reader must prudently decide whether it is helpful for you to read some of the troubling details included in this book, the sheer honesty of this bishop can be refreshing, especially as it is geared in a hopeful direction as he addresses, “Why Should We Stay” and “The Way Forward.” Stay tuned for more information when the books arrive. In the meantime, may we be messengers of hope in this challenging time, that we may see this as a time when the healing and purifying light of the Holy Spirit has shown upon the places where the Enemy has reared his ugly head, even within the Church itself. In this Pentecost, may we already taste the victory over the Enemy promised in Revelation: “They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony… therefore, rejoice you heavens, and you who dwell in them.”
EMMAUS DAYS: I believe strongly that there are courageous and generous young men out there, even in our pews here at Saint Louis Parish, who the Lord is calling to be a part of the solution, who will help guide the Church through another period of purification, healing and renewal. All vocations play a part in this process. But, the role of priests is indispensable. Please pray for the future priests of our Church. Pray for the young men already in seminary. And pray also for those simply willing to discern the possibility - willing to listen to God and discover whether this is the call He is placing on their hearts, or whether He has another plan in mind. This is the purpose of Emmaus Days. It is not a bootcamp meant to draft men into the priesthood. It is a retreat focused on discernment, designed to help young men begin to learn to listen to the voice of the Lord and so that they can begin to respond, whether He is calling them to priesthood, consecrated life, or married life. Session I is taking place this weekend. Please add it to your prayer intentions. Sessions II, III and IV (for those going into Junior High and High School) are coming up very soon. You can find those dates under the “Youth Discipleship” banner in this bulletin. Please pray for young men to attend and consider inviting one to consider attending.
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!