Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
September 30, 2007
The bleeding hearts and artists
Make their stand.
And when they've given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it's not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall. Pink Floyd
The No Border Wall campaign has developed quite a bit of momentum in the past few months and has started to make itself heard outside the Rio Grande Valley and border area. Whether enough voices will be raised nationally to derail the ill-advised wall is still very unclear.
The effort against the wall in the Valley has brought together disparate folks—environmentalists, business leaders, immigration activists, and those drawn to the issue by their understanding of Catholic social teaching (not mutually exclusive groups, of course). Our Bishop Peña has weighed in and made a strong statement when he participated in the Pachanga in the Park in Brownsville this past weekend. His strong words, echoing those of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), have been widely appreciated and widely praised by progressive Catholics in the Valley, not always noted for appreciating and praising his words.
They are only words, however, and that is the rub. What we have not seen is an organized effort within the Diocese and its parishes to put the fine words into real efforts at the grassroots, parish level to educate the faithful of the Rio Grande Valley about the Church’s teaching on immigration and to provide the parish infrastructure to support Catholics who want to influence public policy that supports that teaching. The Bishop’s words in Brownsville and in columns in the newspapers are great, but they are like the seed that falls on barren soil and is trampled under foot. The parishes should be fertile soil in which commitment to the Church’s social teaching can grow but that will never happen without organized effort and support at the diocesan level.
In our own parish we have a pastor who not only has no interest in the social teachings of the Church, but has engaged in a concerted effort to rid the parish of all activity directed toward educating parishioners about these teachings and all efforts to provide opportunities for parishioners to actually put those teachings into practice in the context of their parish life. The complete silence on the Border Wall or on any immigration issues in the parish is not surprising, but that does not make it any less scandalous.
Not every pastor has the inclination or the talent to be an articulate voice for the social teachings of the Church, but no pastor is entitled to remain ignorant of them or to actively prevent his parishioners from being voices, in the context of their parish life, for them.
Bishop Peña should ensure that every parish has, within its ministries and activities, opportunities for parishioners to learn what the Church teaches about social justice and to participate in efforts to implement those teachings. In his address last Saturday, the Bishop referenced Matthew 25 (“when I was hungry…” etc.)—this is how we are to be judged, not by the fervor of our pious practices.
At 8:30 this Sunday morning there were about 250 people at Holy Spirit. When Mass actually began (late, of course) a few more folks had arrived, but the church remained far less than half full.
There were no altar servers, one lector did double duty as a choir member, and the projection screens, in several instances, failed to present the correct song. This is nit-picking, sure, but the sloppiness of it all reflects a disrespect for the Eucharistic community that is shameful.
Because of no altar servers, the Offertory became a Chinese fire-drill as people from the congregation tried to help out (you might wonder if certain other folks’ attempts to lend a hand would have been as well received, or even allowed). This was preceded by a homily that seemed to be motivated more by Stuart Smalley than the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
It is no wonder the building was less than half full.
I am going to cheat a little here and just share some words that I just posted again in my kitchen. I am a big fan of quotes. Perhaps others might send in some of their own favorites as well.
Words to ponder and live by from Henry David Thoreau:
“Be not simply good, be good for something.”
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña
Francis, John, and the Three Theresas
“In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss—of God not wanting me—of God not being God—of God not really existing.” Mother Teresa to her confessor, in 1959.
This week finds the Church celebrating the feast days of Francis of Assisi and Therese of Lisieux. We have also seen a lot press about Mother Teresa and because of that, renewed interest in John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. The mystics (John and the Theresas) all recount decades of feeling abandoned by God, of even having no sense of God’s existence. Anyone who has ever taken on the discipline of regular meditation has to have some sense of what these mystics are talking about—refusing to trust possibly self-delusional emotional responses is a radically honest way to approach God, but can still leave a person desolate when left in a very dark night. The mystics shouldered on because of faith, a faith that was not reinforced or coddled in any way, shape or form in their daily lives. Mother Teresa apparently carried out her great work with the poor with no “warm fuzzies” to make her feel good nor with any consolations other than the firm conviction that she was doing work she must do.
Francis of Assisi is not typically presented to us as a “dark night of the soul” sort of mystic, but there is no doubt that he suffered some sense of estrangement in his life. He was a zealous, maybe even fanatic, reformer, calling for the Church to abandon its luxurious ways and seek not only to help the poor, but to be poor. His message of peace did not resonate with an institutional Church engaged in the Crusades; he was even driven from the leadership of the religious community he founded. It is unfortunate that many times Francis is portrayed as some sort of medieval Doctor Doolittle, instead of a person with a strong voice crying out for peace and justice.
Total below budget: $76,173.67 (last year same date: $74,851.58)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $173,286.67
Projected yearly shortfall: $180,218.14
A Papal Pronouncement
“The one who is head over all should be chosen by all. No one should be made a bishop over the unwilling; the consent and desire of the clergy, the people, and the order is required.”
Pope Saint Celestine I (d. 432 A.D.)
You would think such a principle would also apply, maybe even more strongly, to the parish level.
Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.