Thursday, April 19, 2007

Newsletter Response

Comment in response to our Parishioners' Newsletter of 04/15/07

The following comment was posted today under comments directed to the Parishioners' Newsletter of 04/15/07, which was posted on Monday, April 16, 2007. There was an insinuation that this comment may not get posted due to its critical nature.

Church Employee Who Has Seen It All has left a new comment on your post "Parishioners' Newsletter - 04/15/07":

Michelle Pena I am ashamed of you. I am disappointed with this blog and the antagonistic attitude toward adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It seems to this unbiased reader (I am not of your parish) that you have battled the enemy to such a degree that you are becoming the enemy. Why can't it be adoration AND night prayer? Why do you have to knock what others find beneficial in their spiritual life just because you don't have a need (understanding?) of it? Isn't that what this blog documents has been done to YOU at Holy Spirit parish? And to call the image of Christ's Divine Mercy kitsch and idolotrous is unchristian of you. I have enjoyed your reflections since I started reading this site, but these statements cannot stand the test of true charity, for while attacking the pastor for his grandstanding at Mass and his ruling with an iron fist, you have decided for everyone that your wisdom and insight are superior than the Holy Spirit's guidance of the Universal Church, which instituted this Feast of Mercy for our benefit. Let's see, you keep tabs of the money spent on the Iraq war, the number of soldiers killed, the number of executed prisoners on death row (not the 4,500 daily murders of innocent children, though! I know, I know, abortion is not the only issue for the enlightened such as yourself, but for those 4,500 boys and girls slaughtered daily, it WAS the only issue) and you call the heirarchy to repentance. Don't you think that these sins, ALL of them, call out to God for justice and that we are all the more in need of God's mercy for allowing them to happen? Or are you so far evolved, a true Vatican II parish, that you no longer need, value, appreciate or want that communion with the Universal Church of which you are a part? Where was that said in Vatican II, that to be a good parish you should ridicule a universal practice of the Church? I am not as articulate as you and I will bet this won't be posted (although my other posts have always been posted, even when they were not favorable to your positions), maybe it can be forwarded to you only, but after reading this today I thought to myself, what a pity that they have turned into what they have battled for so long. I continue to pray for the healing and restoration of this parish for all of its members, only God can bring this about in a way and time that He knows best. In the mean time, an attitude as cynical as what you have had to deal with will not help you, I say this with true concern for you in particular and your faith community in general.


Gerald Brazier said...

Re: Church Employee,

First, let me get Michelle Peña off the hook—her only contribution to the newsletter was the piece, Risen, Indeed—she had nothing to do with the rest of the current edition.

After seeing your comments, I read over the entire newsletter again and couldn’t find anything that denigrated Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as a pious practice, so I am not sure what you are objecting to on that particular point. I, too, ask the question, “Why can’t it be adoration AND night prayer?” The Monsignor has been completely unapproachable about this issue and simply announced adoration on Wednesdays, not even having the courtesy to talk to affected people beforehand and possibly being open to some accommodation. As you know from following the Blog, this is not atypical and you have to realize that these attitudes and modes of operation are bound, on occasion, to give rise to strong reactions.

I gather from your comments that you were not at Mass at Holy Spirit this weekend and so didn’t experience what I did. It is hard to believe that the Church could really be promoting the mode of expressing devotion to the Divine Mercy that was employed this weekend at Holy Spirit Parish. The private revelations and writings of Sister Faustina are no doubt inspiring and comforting to lots of people and in the spirit of “whatever floats your boat,” I say be inspired and be comforted. The display this weekend was neither inspiring nor comforting, at least for me.

What I find particularly problematic is the way in which the ideas about God’s love and mercy have been closely associated with an image, both in Sister Faustina’s writings and in the outward expression of the devotion. It really does smack of idolatry: “venerate the picture and you will be saved,” just isn’t Catholic theology. Being saved has nothing to do with venerating pictures or following a prescribed set of ritual acts—that’s reducing Catholicism to magic and it’s wrong and cannot be what the universal Church means when it promotes devotion to the Divine Mercy. Pointing that out is not unchristian.

Kitsch, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder—I find the image of Divine Mercy being presented to us in the parish to be kitsch, barely rising, as art, above the level of that on the walls of a rented room at Motel 6. There is bad religious art, you know, and to point that out is not an attack on the subject of the art and is not, by itself, unchristian.

Being persistently cynical and negative is unchristian, however, and I do take to heart your expressions of concern that “they have turned into what they have battled for so long.” Your prayers for “the healing and restoration of the parish for all of its members” are the prayers of many. I cannot agree, however, when you say “only God can bring this about.” The state in which the parish finds itself was not brought about by God, it was brought about by people, primarily Bishop Peña, and must be corrected by people. Like Sister Joan Chittister has said, “Why do we pray to God to do away with nuclear weapons, when He had nothing to do with making them?—it is our job to get rid of them.”

I appreciate your taking time to comment and I appreciate the general civility of your remarks. Continue to pray for the parishioners and the leaders of the parish and diocese that together healing and restoration will be found.

Anonymous said...

Why can't it be adoration AND night prayer?

Exactly? This is the first parish I have ever attended where the pastor attempts to EXCLUDE parishioners from participation in church activities simply because they don't happen to agree with his methods. There is no other way or compromise, you either do it "my way" or I will not allow you to participate in any of our parish activities!
What a fine example of Christ's teachings. I sure do feel sorry for those parishioners that have small kids attending! How are they expected to explain this action and attitude to them? How childish! God help us.

Church Employee Who Has Seen It All said...

Goodness, I didn't expect this type of exposure, so I thank you for posting my personal point of view on the main page no less. Truly you are open to dialogue, I have always seen that, and I have always known you were treated unfairly by the powers that be. Also, I apologize to Ms. Pena, I thought she authored those comments on the Divine Mercy image with which I still disagree. Like I said, I have enjoyed her reflections from way back. But you are right, I was not there last Sunday, I didn't see if it was a replica of the original or another artist's interpretation. Whatever the case, the message is as you say private revelation, just as Fatima, Guadalupe, Lourdes, but can we find fault with the way those visionaries pictured Our Lady (with the exception of Guadalupe, which is not of human origin) and deride them for their artistic ability fraught as it is with human imperfection? Why not focus on the message of God's mercy regardless of who is preaching it? Don't you receive Christ whole and entire despite the personal attributes of the celebrant? If Christ is not sufficient, what is? You will not find a perfect pastor anywhere, believe me, I have shopped around, they are as human and as prone to failure as anyone.

I know enough about my faith to realize that God's revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, but still, where would we be today if our faith and practice didn't evolve? Aren't we supposed to be an organic, living Community? If you want to be so like the primitive Church, will everyone there sell everything and give the money to a few and rely on them for their sustenance? Will the role of women as described in the Pauline epistles be embraced by today's women? Oh, some will shroud themselves when visiting a mosque in Edinburg, but will shed that false modesty when entering God's house! Will we persevere in adversity and shed our blood for the faith? I don't know that we are willing to do those things, at least I have not found myself so committed. My concern with you is that you become like those you are battling. When that happens, then they will indeed have won not just the battle, but the war also. I agree with Sister Joan, let us not blame God for what we have done. But I also agree with the Lord: "Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice" (Matthew 23).

Still praying for peace and healing at Holy Spirit, now more the wiser. Thank you for sharing my thoughts and yours.

Anonymous said...

Writer, thank you for apologizing to Michelle. If you knew her the way most of us do, you would know that she is truly a selfless and giving person who truly lives out the gospel message of peace and love. I ask exactly the same question you do - Why can't we have both Adoration and Night Prayer? The reason is exactly as you have stated. There are those, including our Pastor, who knock what others find beneficial in their spiritual life. It's either their way or the highway. I don't believe that communion with the Universal Church means turning your brain. God gave us each a mind to use and think with. Blind obedience is absurd and exclusion is wrong. Wake-up, think and see what's happening.

Anonymous said...

To Chuch Worker Who Has Seen It All: For the first time in almost 4 years I saw a ray of hope that there can be healing at Holy Spirit as I read your apology, BUT, this cannot happen without dialogue, which Brum refuses to allow. Ask him about those who question the destruction of the many Holy Spirit ministries of the past and I would bet my pay check that he will lie. I personally have caught him in lies and have even been lied to by Bishop Pena. If those who are fighting with those of us who disagree with Brum would only take the time to talk to us, I believe that you would see how it is impossible for us to just stand by and watch Brum continue to destroy our home. Please do not doubt the faith and love of the church that we possess. Just as those who persecute the people that Brum has banned believe that they are following God's will, so do we. Please continue to have an open heart and mind to what we say, and please continue to pray for an end to the lunacy.

Church Employee Who Has Seen It All said...

Please do not include me in the number of those who are fighting you. I know your works and your trials and I know the shambles the diocese made of your parish. Those who persecute the people Brum has banned are not following God's will, they are merely puppets on a string who have comfy jobs but produce no real results for the glory of God and the good of their neighbor. They already have their reward, the good Lord says.

Again, my only concern in the months reading this blog was that it seemed the good fight of faith became the fight to the death to prove we are right. No one will win, both sides will lose. I took offense with the description of the Divine Mercy image because the mercy of God cannot be adequately depicted by anyone. It is the message that is key, which was my only point on that topic. To speak so basely about an image of the Lord was offensive to me and I am sure to anyone who loves the Lord and does not want to hear Him put down by others for any reason, much less by members of the family of faith.

And as for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament vs. Night Prayer, there should be no competition and you could even pray the Liturgy of the Hours before the Eucharistic Lord. I have witnessed the Clares Nuns do as much in Alamo. It seemed to me, an outsider never a part of your parish, that the focus on Christ in our neighbor was the only focus, the Eucharist as communal meal was the only focus, and Adoration passed off as old fashioned, pre Vatican II nonsense meant to keep us in a stupor of contemplation. That is not the fruit of Adoration. Ask Sister Joan Chittister who also writes about contemplation. I was advocating a with/and scenario instead of an either/or, but I was set straight about how tough you have it. I could tell you stories that make the Night Prayer fiasco, as hurtful as it was, seem like a stroll on the beach.

Do you think the powers that be are victorious? We are more than conquerors with Christ on our side. When the Lord speaks of spitting out of His mouth those who are lukewarm, He didn't exclude clerics! Doesn't the financial health of the parish speak volumes in the only language that the powers that be seem to understand? The parish will implode eventually and that is where your angst is coming from, I realize that.

What alternatives are there? Split off like the Episcopalians are doing, moderates vs. progressives? Sit ins, where founding families will be removed by the police and become the fodder of the evening news? I wish I had the answer but only God has the answer and I believe with my whole heart that when that answer is provided, it will surpass your expectations. God's justice, just like God's mercy, will not be outdone by us, no matter how hard we try to be God. All I can offer you is my solidarity in prayer and my advice to offer your sufferings for the conversion of those who wronged you. There is great power in forgiveness.