It has been said that “variety is the spice of life.” If so, I am lucky that to a certain extent I like spicy food because my calendar was filled with a variety of events.
On Friday evening, I celebrated Mass for the first time in a mall, in observance of the 20th anniversary of the Franciscan Place at Destiny USA. On Saturday afternoon, I was at the Campus Center at Binghamton University as I celebrated a Sunday Vigil Mass for Parents’ Weekend and in commemoration of the canonization of St. John Henry Newman. On Sunday, I was at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Syracuse as I celebrated an outdoor Mass blessing the new grotto and consecrating its altar on a gorgeous October day. On Sunday afternoon, I presided at another Sunday Eucharist for our candidates for the Permanent Diaconate and instituted 14 of them as Lectors and Acolytes.
All of these occasions gave me a further chance to experience various aspects of the Church of Syracuse. They were also a time of reflection for me as the variety of celebrations gave way to not one weekend homily to prepare, but four of them. In the two liturgies that focused on places of worship, I shared a story about a barren island in a chain of islands off the coast of Scotland called the Orkney Islands. It was there during World War II that Italian POWs were kept. A remnant of their stay was a tiny chapel they built from small pieces of wood and their meat ration cans. A commentator wrote about this happenstance and stated: “In this place, a power above us, within us, greater than all our troubles is to be found.”
Both the Franciscan Place and the Lourdes Grotto at Our Lady of Hope Parish are prime symbols of those places where we can gather in the Name of Jesus and come to know his power and care for our lives. Their very existence reverberates with words that St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila) wrote in her prayer book: “Let nothing disturb thee, nothing affright thee; all things are passing; God never changeth; patient endurance attaineth to all things; who God possesseth in nothing is wanting; alone God sufficeth.” I pray also that our Cathedral church and the churches of our diocese will be places where people can come to know that God suffices through the reverence and dignity of our liturgies, as well as being open so people will have places of prayer available to them. One of my dreams is to have more frequent times for Eucharistic Adoration in the churches of our diocese, beginning with our mother Church, the Cathedral.
In the other two Eucharistic liturgies of the weekend, I focused on the invitation that the Word of God gives us to plunge into our relationship with God, with Jesus, and to come out of it a new creation. However, so often our lives can be so routine, like we are just living on the surface, even when it comes to church and our faith life. When various obstacles in life block the way, you and I might be tempted to apply a quick fix and to simply go around them. Nonetheless, what if we take them on and with God’s help try to do something about them? Beneath them might there be a buried treasure, like the precious gift of faith? I think of the life of St. John Henry Newman because it resembles the description I just shared. In his journey of faith, he would be challenged by the Church of his childhood baptism, the Church of England, and the Church of his adult profession, the Roman Catholic Church, but in making the journey he testified to all to the treasure of faith!
In Binghamton, a prayer card was made available to those who gathered for the occasion and I was struck by the words of the new saint found on the back of the card: “God has created me to do him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission; I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling. Therefore, I will trust him, whatever I am. I can never be thrown away.”
In our throw-away society, I think it is so important to know that we are not thrown away by God. Yet, a challenge for the Church today is to ensure that we don’t give the impression that “someone” doesn’t matter. People do matter. The youngest to the oldest in our parishes, the well-known or the unknown, the active or the inactive — all matter!
And to get to the heart of the matter: we begin in prayer, we seek the higher power, and then we use the power to give what we have in the name of Jesus!
Have a good week!