Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
I hope everyone is having a wonderful Easter Season. It is right about now that I wake up in the morning and don’t feel tired any more. I’m hoping that’s tomorrow…
Also about this time, after we’ve had a lot of focus on events and reflection, we have written our thank you notes, before we look to the next projects on the horizon it is good to do some housekeeping and respond to some questions and concerns that seem to come up frequently. So, in no particular order of importance, here are some replies.
1. Amoris laetitia, the new apostolic exhortation of the Holy Father on the life of the family and marriage and sexuality is the most recent grist for the mill of popular media. I have been confronted by a number of people who have heard a little of this and a little of that about it, I ask them where they heard it. Well, CNN. MSNBC. FOX. Last I checked none of these had a concern for Church teaching, or even a vested interested in Truth without a spin. I would advise everyone to read the document (if he would only write a short document!) and we can talk. I will probably start a parish discussion group, as we did with Laudato si’ last summer, to sift through it together and get to the bottom of what Pope Francis wants to say. The first thing people want you to think is that “it” is all changing. First we must determine what “it” is, and then evaluate change in the context of Tradition and the Church, removing the many misconceptions that often cloud the conversation from the outset. Not all change is bad, either; it wouldn’t hurt us to try to be more compassionate, loving, welcoming. For now: study, prayer and discernment.
2. Lately when our Eucharistic Ministers go to the hospital to take Communion to the sick, they report back that the list of Catholics is very short. Many suspect that there are more Catholics than we know about. The only way we find out about you or your loved ones in the hospital is if you tell us. Please call our parish office and let us know you would like a visit on Sunday from one of our folks. Apparently, when you register at the hospital, it isn’t enough to say you are Catholic, you must actually request to receive pastoral care. Then your name will be put on a list. But the best advice is just to call us to be sure.
3. A new family, at the New Family Welcome Meeting on one of the fourth Sundays of every month, told me the reason they wanted to join our church is that they heard we were so understanding about babies in church. On the one hand I’m glad to know we are kid friendly but I sure don’t want us to get a reputation that we are promoting bad behavior during Mass! As I thought about it more and more, it isn’t the children who are misbehaving, though: it’s beyond their control. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (I’m dating myself), please use the cry room! It isn’t a play room, it is a quiet place to go when children break out in song at the wrong time. When parents don’t take their children out and it continues, and continues… it is so hard to concentrate (priest and congregation) and truly disrupts the purpose of why we all came. Remember the wise, old adage: “Good intentions are like crying babies. They should be carried out immediately.”
4. Maybe related to #1, but predating the arrival of Amoris laetitia, a number of people have asked about the nature of excommunication, particularly where marriage outside of the Church is concerned. In fact, it was one of the questions in the 8th grade question box the other day. The word “excommunication” conjures up movie scene memories of the Inquisition and people in black hooded robes stamping out the paschal candle upside down in the dirt, declaring somebody a heretic or declaring exile.
That is simply not the case. The word literally means “from Communion“—a situation where an individual’s discipline of life and formation of conscience does not agree with the law of the Church, and therefore separates that individual from the sacraments.
You actually can’t stop being a Catholic, you are always a member. Baptism can never be revoked. You still have your pew. Nobody is ever thrown out of the Church, though active participation may be limited for a time. For now, we must do what we can to stay alive in the sacraments. Priests, deacons and delegated laity are here to do what is necessary to heal and regularize these situations through the spiritual and canonical processes that form a part of the life of the Church. There is no sin too great that the love of God can’t conquer! It is we who must draw near.
God bless all of you.