Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
One of the things on my desk right now is a paper that I am supposed to write, to be given at the international Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue in Taipei in November. We met two summers ago in Rome when the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue hosted Buddhists from all over the world, and this year the Buddhists will welcome us to what is described as a mountainside monastery to continue our dialogue. Two years ago the topic was suffering and the alleviation of suffering, and I wrote my paper on how suffering can be valuable, according to Catholic Tradition, if used correctly. This year the topic is non-violence. I am assigned to write a paper on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
So for the past month or so I have been thinking a lot about racism, the lasting impact slavery has had on the human race, and asking myself why we haven’t made any more progress than we have.
Then last weekend the hate in Charlottesville overflowed.
Reporters, even some prominent people tried to represent this raw hatred as a political problem. Conservatives vs. liberals, right vs. left. As much as we can, the Church needs to stay out of those circles, because we must reach all people where they are and bring them closer to the center, to God. Once and for all, the Church must be the example of Christ’s love—far beyond mere tolerance to embrace all people and transform them if necessary by Christ’s love. Extremism is an illness that cuts across party lines and religions, it is everywhere. In our current cultural environment of utter disrespect, people feel emboldened to unleash their destructive illness on others, the innocent, and their prejudice on those who are helpless. Racism is alive and well.
How many times have you experienced people who find satisfaction in the feeling of power they get from walking on other people? People who need to experience supremacy over others are emotionally sick. We live in a bully culture led by bullies.
These realities run deep. Children have to be taught to hate, and seeds are planted in us from a very early age by previous generations. It is the responsibility of all human families to make sure that this isn’t a part of our children’s inheritance. But, you see, that isn’t easy to do because we live in a time (perhaps all times have been such) that there are such fears and uncertainties about our fragile culture, or even about ourselves, we need to find someone to blame.
A couple of summers ago I went with our Oblate Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales to visit their missions in South Africa and Namibia. We went on a safari, out in a jeep among the “wild” animals. At one point we were nearly charged by a young male elephant. The driver explained that they may need to put him down, because members of his family were put to death a generation ago, and he carried within him some memory of danger against human beings. Somehow, it was passed on to this elephant. The driver said that it was common for elephants to gather years later, even next generations, for several days at the place where their predecessors were killed, as if mourning their loss.
I wonder what kind of seeds have passed to our current day. There was a moment during the civil rights days, with all the burning neighborhoods and protest marches, that a man came forward and spoke of non-violence. Dr. King somehow brought a pause to the fury and caught the world’s attention. This is what we need to do as the Church at this moment. Under no circumstances can we allow or let go unnoticed the inhumanity of Charlottesville. I refuse to believe that this is where our humanity is evolving, but we need to speak up and let people know that this is not okay.
So what are we to do? First, I think we look deep inside and name the seeds that are there. Prejudice and pride, desire, a lack of humility, a need to be better than others, all of these bubble to the surface when they are triggered by life events. We need to name them so that we can recognize the source of our actions before we decide to act, or say something we will regret. Second, we need to reestablish in our world the simplest of respectful behaviors. Treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves. Looking in to the eyes of the person with whom we are speaking. Considering the contributions of others as valid as we do our own. End this senseless shouting. Finally, we can’t allow the violence that surrounds us to make us numb and unresponsive in identifying the evil that it truly is.
May God bless you.
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
While everyone is traveling this summer, I would like to remind everyone that you can keep up on what is going on in the parish by staying connected online. We try to run items a little more frequently than the rest of year, knowing that people are in and out weekends enjoying the summer, but news comes and goes and this summer we have a lot of news! If you would like a reminder when news is posted on the parish website, subscribe with your email address and you will received notifications.
Similarly, many have said that they have been keeping up with my homilies by reading this column each week. I would like to remind you that this column and my weekly homily are usually completely different: you can access the bulletin every week by clicking on “bulletins” under the “welcome” menu at the top of the website—and you can also find audio recordings of all my homilies just under that, by clicking on “homilies” under the “welcome” menu at the top. The welcome box at the center of the first page has a button “Announcements” where you will also find this article, as well as the most important announcements of the week and helpful links, such as the registration form for Called and Gifted, the Religious Education registration form, and others.
Mass intentions still are a sore subject, and I don’t know what to say, other than please be patient. Masses are requested now beyond a year from now, especially with Mass intentions from all the daily Spanish Masses which were canceled when Fr. William left. I just found out we still need to reschedule these in the future and will notify people as best we can when we have the new Mass dates. In the meantime, Fr. Vu and I (and other visiting priests) can use nonscheduled Mass intentions for Masses which are not on the regular schedule, such as when we concelebrate or travel. In that way we might be able to fulfill a need for a Mass earlier than a year from now.
As you notice on the new schedule, confessions now begin on Saturdays at 3:30pm. We have been able to complete confessions for all who come on Saturdays so far with only two priests. If this becomes insufficient, and also during busier confessions seasons of Advent and Lent, we will seek to hire another priest to come and help. For now, Fr. Vu is using the confessional on the north end of the church, and speaks English and Vietnamese. I am in the south confessional (previously Fr. William’s) and speak English and Spanish. We will begin at 3:30pm, and will finish when the line runs out, or at 4:45pm in time to prepare for the 5pm Mass.
Part of our plans in the renovation of the church will be to add two new confessionals for the future. The original plans of the church included four confessionals, and only two were built. We will continue to celebrate large penance services in Advent and Lent to accommodate all of you who so faithfully come to celebrate reconciliation during those seasons in preparation for the big feasts of Christmas and Easter.
This week we will finally be underway with our project of digging out the lower school wing opposite the church, to waterproof the foundation and improve drainage. It is a big job and there will be large piles of soil and gravel on the property. The sidewalk between the school and the chapel and the side door of the church will be surrounded with safety fence for safety. Please make sure that your children don’t play in these areas when on the property. And pray for good weather so that we can get all of the soil put back in place and new sidewalks poured before school starts back in five weeks!
We have had a chance to make many nice improvements in the school. Bathrooms are becoming beautiful and clean, and hallways have received some upgrades. We have plumbed a sink and purchased lab tables for the new LabLearner room where students K-5 can go for hands-on science experiences. It is amazing what some fresh paint, clean floors and better lighting can do for educational and work spaces. Hopefully by the time you are reading this our new sign at the street (installation now five weeks behind schedule) will be up and running. Our other projects for the second preschool classroom, school office expansion and parish office expansion are all up for public hearing July 19 with no expected surprises, so hopefully we can work on a schedule for those pieces soon. I had a couple of other projects planned for the summer but they got bogged down in red tape in one way or another and will have to wait until later.
In the meantime, stay cool.
May God bless you.