Sunday, June 26, 2011

Corpus Domini - Caena Domini

A number of my priest friends are celebrating significant anniversaries this year, so I have had the occasion to attend several Masses offered in thanksgiving for the gift of the priesthood. One of those celebrations was held today. Holding this anniversary celebration today, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, showed in a special way the connection which Pope Benedict pointed out in his homily for this feast when he said,

"The feast of Corpus Domini is inseparable from the Holy Thursday Mass of in Caena Domini, in which the institution of the Eucharist is also celebrated. While on the evening of Holy Thursday we relive the mystery of Christ who offers himself to us in the bread broken and wine poured out, today, in celebration of Corpus Domini, this same mystery is proposed to the adoration and meditation of God's people, and the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the streets of towns and villages, to show that the risen Christ walks among us and guides us towards the Kingdom of heaven."
On this day, we are called to renew our faith in the Eucharistic presence and accept the transforming power of God who through the Eucharist makes us like Himself. As I look around my diocese, however, I see Masses being celebrated less frequently. Saturday morning Masses and nearly nonexistant and most parishes no longer have Mass every day because we do not have enough priests. Many parishes do not have a resident priest and more priests are called on to serve two and even three parishes. Fewer men are being ordained, but that doesn't mean that priests are not dying, retiring and falling ill.

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is inseperable from the events of Holy Thursday because Christ not only instituted the Eucharist on that day, He also instituted the priesthood. The Eucharist is dependent of the priesthood. For that reason, any person who loves the Eucharist must also love the priesthood. At his ordination, the priest becomes the conduit through with God provides the Himself to us in the Eucharist. It is simple: no priesthood = no Eucharist.

The Eucharist is also what binds us to God and to each other. For that reason: no sacraments = no Church. Without the Eucharist we would be little more than a prayer group or a social club, but with the Eucharist we are the family of God, the Church. We are a family so intimately bound to each other because we are bound to God. It doesn't matter if we have met that person or even ever seen him, we are connected because we are united to Christ.

Sadly, there are many Catholics who attend Mass and claim to love the Eucharist without recognizing the intimate connection between the Eucharist and the sacramental priesthood. Today, as you give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist take time to also give thanks for the men who are the only ones who can bring this great gift to us. Pray for them and pray for an increase of men to respond to the call to serve the Church in the priesthood.

When the Sheep Drive out the Shepherd

 I know a good priest who is leaving his parish assignment because so many of his parishioners have failed to accept him. The people have no real grounds for not liking him so they complain about his personality, his liturgical style (Mass is longer now), they don't like his homilies (his homilies are actually very good), and they complain that his is not like the previous pastor. In many ways, they chose to make his life miserable and to think only about what they wanted while ignoring what their priest needed and was capable of. Now that they have driven him away, they are upset because they will no longer have a resident pastor. I am having a hard time feeling sorry for them, but I do feel sorry for the priest who will now be responsible for two parishes.

Over the last three weeks, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on my 18 years in ministry. Some of these reflections and memories are posted here, some will be posted in the future, and others are simply treasured in my heart. Over and over again I have been reminded of the odd ideas that people have about what life is like in the parish office and rectory and what can be expected of the priest and parish staff. In many ways it often seems that people treat it as an alternate universe where the priest is some sort of humanoid robot creature and we, as parish staff, are among the chosen few who get taken up into the mothership each day.


Sometimes I wonder if people think that when their priest was born the doctor said, "Congratulations, it's a priest!" He would have known, of course, by the white collar around the baby's neck. Let's enter reality! These men grew up in families. These families were not perfect and in many cases they were downright troubled. These men had their own experiences which shaped their personalities. Some were always good kids, but others had very dark and troubled lives. Some entered the seminary early while others entered after starting careers and entire lives. It is even becoming more common for widowers to enter the priesthood now. Of course people know these things, but it doesn't change what happens in parish life.

Holy Orders must be the source of this mystical vortex! Sometimes I wonder if people think that the indelible mark transforms the man into the humanoid. While it is true that ordination to the priesthood sets a man apart from the rest of the Christian faithful it does not change him into something other than human. It supplies him with the grace, if he accepts it, to fulfill his calling as a priest, but it does not make him perfect or change his personality, needs or nature.

Here are some of the strangest things I have experienced

At my home parish there was a woman who claimed that her mission in life was to turn priests into saints. She was a good woman who had a very loving and generous heart, but a very misguided mind. Every Sunday she would give Fr. C some booklet or paper about a saint who practiced one form of mortification or another. In one month she encouraged Father to sleep on a bed of nails, to fast on bread and water, and to sleep on the floor. Sleeping on the floor was her particular favorite and she would present information on in regularly. Father was becoming advanced in years and suffered from severe arthritis particularly in his back and knees, but she believed this suffering only made the penance more fruitful. Father would often respond by saying, "You like to have Mass, right? If I sleep on the floor I won't be able to get up to celebrate Mass." I was always responsible for helping Father up after the prostration that begins the Good Friday Liturgy and I knew the struggle he had to stand after just that short time. One Sunday, she rushed into the sacristy in a joyous mood, "Oh Father! I knew you were holy! You are going to be a great saint." Father was rather confused until the woman said, "You don't have to hide it. I saw the mattress and boxspring in the yard! I won't tell anyone that you are sleeping on the floor". With that she went to her pew. I turned to Father and said, "She has no idea that you bought a new mattress and boxspring?" She was clueless and was so happy that his was on the road to sanctity.

Parish supplies were also assumed to fall from the sky. One day I was stocking the sacristy cabinet with hosts and a parishioner came in and said, "Father has to buy those?" I was tempted to tell her that he only bought them once, blessed them and they kept on multiplying. It wasn't only hosts though! There were also strange ideas about clerical attire. One day I was opening a package from our local church supply store which contained several clerical shirts. A woman who was in the parish office saw the shirts and turned totally white! She gasped and said, "Those are priest shirts! You mean....well...I guess he....I never thought of it like that. He wears shirts!" I don't know what she thought he wore. I suppose it theoretically could have been possible for him to just have loosefitting black skin with buttons and a white collar if he was an alien from the planet Priestland.

The sad thing is that after years of this, it all gets rather frustrating. One day I was washing laundry because the housekeeper was sick. One of the parish groups was meeting in the conference room next to the laundry room and a few people said "hi" to me. Then one person noticed that I was washing clothes and said "You have to wash those?" At this point I was so tired and frustrated that I said, "Well, usually I put Father in the washer and then in the dryer. If it's a nice day I hang him out on the line, but he's been complaining that the spin cycle gives him a headache so I thought I would try just washing the clothes this time.

This semi-human status carried over into illness as well. Telling parishioners that Father wasn't available because of illness was unacceptable unless he was hospitalized. Once I had a woman come to the rectory who wanted to speak with the pastor, she refused to meet with the associate. I informed her that Father was unavailable because he was very ill with the flu and she said, "That's ok. I'm not afraid of catching it". I further explained that he had a high fever and needed to rest. She said, "It's ok, I don't mind". I wondered what her reaction would be if I, or maybe her boss, showed up at her door and demanded to see her when she was ill! While it is likely that Father would have left his bed to speak with her, since her need was important, given that she had refused the available priest, the rectory was a very busy place where at least 4-6 people an hour came by looking for one of the priests and had he come down to meet with her he would have never been able to get any rest, that was not a viable option.

More normal events

Those stories are just a few of the more amusing and memorable ones, but I have also seen priests berated by parishioners for sneezing during Mass, not being able to celebrate Mass standing or distribute Communion because of broken bones, accidentally misprouncing words, momentarily losing their place in the Missal, and speaking with an accent. Although we all want a priest who is a master at preaching, finances, business operations, administration, construction, building maintainence, counseling, theology, spirituality, liturgy, music, public relations, etc, the reality is that most priests are strong in some areas and weaker in others. I have worked with very holy priests who were strong in the pastoral areas of ministry, but were disasters in the temporal (financial and administrative) areas of ministry and the other way around as well.

So please, don't be surprised when the alter Christus at your parish turns out to be human after all. He is not ommiscient, he cannot bilocate, he cannot remember everything, he cannot make everyone happy all the time, he cannot change the rules to suit you, he has weaknesses and strengths, he makes mistakes, he has personal needs which must be fulfilled, he has emotions that can be deeply hurt, he has family and friends, he needs time off and time to relax. Have patience with him just as you want people to have patience with you. Remember, Jesus was human as well as divine. His humanity was not snuffed out or overwhelmed by his divinity. Jesus got tired, frustrated, sad and experienced the entirety of human life. His clothes even had to get washed.

Also remember, that your priest needs your support, your care and especially your prayers. Be grateful to have a priest. Don't be quick to judge him or to complain. Be gentle in giving advice or correction. Be forgiving. Send him a thank you note once in a while or just thank him after Mass some day. Be kind to him and speak well of him to others. Ask him how he is doing. Invite him to your home for a holiday particularly if he does not have family nearby. (I know many priests who spent Christmas by themselves because everyone assumed Father had plans) Pray for him every day (not for his transfer to another parish!) and pray that you will come to understand him better.

To read more on a similar topic: Read this post. The Dignity of the Priesthood

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Giant Hill Made of Tiny Grains of Sand

Today marks 3 weeks since Father's passing and it is hard to believe the time has passed so quickly. We celebrated his Month's Mind Mass last night and it was impressive to see the huge crowd of people who came to pray for him. The church was more than 3/4 full and people, including many priests, had come from many parishes and cities.

The Month's Mind Mass, also known in Portuguese as the Missa dos Anojados (Mass of Mourning), is a tradition which has fallen away in most parts of the country, but thankfully here, in the Portuguese community, it is very much alive and well. It is a second requiem Mass which is celebrated about a month after the person has died. The people who attend this Mass tend to have had a closer connection with the deceased and the tone of the Mass is more joyous and resurrection focused. it also provided an opportunity for those who were unable to attend the funeral Mass. While we can often tend to be filled with deep grief and shock at the funeral the Missa dos Anojados provides another opportunity to pray for and celebrate the gift of our loved one who has passed from this world.

Although there were far fewer people at this Mass than attended Father's funeral Mass (the church was standing room only and there were people standing on the steps at the funeral), there was massive crowd. The life of each person present had been touched by him in some way and they came to offer thanks to God for the gift he was in our lives and to pray that Father will receive his eternal reward. Yes, there were tears, but unlike at the funeral, these tears were filled with saudade (an acute sense of absence/longing) rather than grief, and hope rather than tragedy.

Because last night was the vigil of the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist, the readings and propers were from the Vigil Mass and not from the Order of Christian Funerals. I think, however, that there could not have been any more appropriate readings.

Although we were careful to not turn this into a Mass of Canonization, those I spoke with noticed the great similarities between Father's life and the lives described in the first and second readings. The first reading from the the Jeremiah. In this reading, God tells Jeremiah that from the time of his conception He had a plan for him. God calls him to fulfill that plan and become a prophet, but he balks at the idea and lists his weaknesses - He is not a good speaker and he is too young. Father too received a call at a very young age and set off for a country where he was a stranger and did not speak the language. He trusted that God would give him what he needed. Also, like Jeremiah, Father was very aware of his weaknesses but he was not ashamed of them. For example: He knew that his English was not always good, but it never stopped him from preaching God's word. Instead, he relied and trusted in God to strengthen him in his weakness.

The second reading was from 1 Peter. Here Peter talks about the mission of the prophets to never be self serving, but to serve others always and in doing so teach them the secrets of heaven. Again, this is how Father lived his life. He was always a man for others who, in his almost shy way, deflected attention off himself and always onto Christ. He could have taken St. John the Baptist's motto "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:30) as his own.

After Mass, we gathered for some of Father's favorite desserts and couldn't help but discuss which ones he would have sampled first. There was also a great deal of fellowship and sharing of stories. Some stories were inspirational, others were funny, and others were poignant. At the gathering, I met old friends and made new friends. I was surprised at how many people sought me out and I was grateful to hear their stories and share mine. There was one woman who admitted to not really knowing Father, but she was compelled to come because he had saved her marriage. He always had a special charism to help married couples and I knew of many marriages in which he had facilitated reconciliations. This woman drove for half an hour to attend the Mass for a priest she had only spent 2 hours with. Several years before, her marriage was broken. She did not know who to turn to, but she had heard that there was a priest who was good at saving marriages. She called him and he offered to meet with her and her husband. After only a few meetings they decided their marriage was worth saving. He got then back to regular Mass attendance and daily prayer and directed them to The Teams of Our Lady, an international association of couples who meet in small groups for prayer and study and, when needed, counseling. Father was instrumental in the teams and served as a spiritual director for several groups in the area. This women told me that she was now happily married and it was all because Father showed her that her marriage was worth saving. There were many, many others who shared similar stories.

There were several priests, who like me, had been taken under Father's wing as children and under his mentorship grew in faith and love of Christ and His Church. These men became wonderful and talented priests who faithfully serve the Church with the same love and fidelity that they were shown from such an early age. I was the only female present who had been blessed with that kind of a friendship, but I know that my vocation to marriage and lay ministry was fostered by Father's example. I am a better wife, mother, and church worker because of his example of love, fidelity, and service. I know there were times that people wondered what was going on between us. One woman even asked my mother one day, "Why does your daughter want to be with such an old man? She is such a young woman?" My mother didn't know how to explain it, and unfortunately we were entering a time where suspicions were high and people were fearful. The truth is, I loved him like a father and in return I was loved like a daughter. The other priests, and those who were present from the beginning of our friendship understood this. The things I learned were true treasures and I will carry with me for the rest of my life and I hope to pass them on to future generations. I am very sad to know that, because of safe environment policies, this generation of young people will most likely never had the kind of friendship that the priests who Father inspired and I were blessed to have.

There were others who were there because Father had been there for them in their time of need. He had counseled them, sat with the ill and the dying, and administered sacraments, inspired through preaching, and just represented Christ to them in his daily life. It is said that the legacy of a priest in found in the souls he leads to Christ. None of these things made the news and individually may even seem to be insignificant, but gathered in the Church, the living legacy of  this priest was apparent. He had done one great work: he loved Christ, he loved his priesthood, he preached the Word of God and he pointed always to Christ.

I am left here with saudade, a deep untranslatable sense of longing and emptiness because I miss him and I recognize that the world has suffered a great loss, but I am also are fulled with hope because I believe that Father will reach his eternal reward which he looked forward to for so long. I will always pray for him, but I will also always pray to him. I despise funeral canonizations, but I am confident that, because of the way he lived and died and the amount of extreme suffering which he endured over these last 10 years, he is either presently in heaven or will be very quickly. (Father was dedicated to the practice of redemptive suffering) Like most people, his name will most likely never be listed among the canonized saints, and I am sure that is exactly how he would want it, but our goal in the Christian life to be become a saint (whether recognized or not). When he reaches his eternal reward he will be able to do more for us than he ever could before.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Priest and the Chalice of Sacrifice

As I have written previously, my childhood mentor and dear friend passed away a few weeks ago. This is a post I wrote two weeks ago, on the evening of his funeral Mass, and have waited to post until now in preparation for when this chalice will be used for Father’s Month’s Mind Mass that will be celebrated tomorrow.

A priest’s chalice is always one of his most treasured possessions. Often it is given to the new priest at his ordination by his parents or grandparents, and they are even often handed down from priest to priest. It is more than a cup. It is a chalice – a cup of sacrifice which at Mass holds the Blood of Christ which was shed for us. The chalice itself is a sign of the self-sacrificing ministry of the priest. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Himself referred to his Passion and death as a chalice which He prayed would pass him by. Despite this prayer, Jesus accepted the will of the Father.

Father's chalice was given to him by his childhood priest. Many, many years ago I noticed there were two sets of inscriptions on the bottom: one very old and faded and one still old, but clearly newer. The newer one had Father’s name and the date of his ordination while the older inscription had the name of his childhood priest and the dates of that priest’s ordination. Sadly, I no longer recall his name or dates. Father was always very possessive of his chalice which was simple gold with the design of a crown of thorns around the cup. On the node and the base, there were scenes from the Passion. It was unlike any chalice I have ever seen but at the time I missed the profundity of it.

I asked Father why the chalice had a crown of thorns around the cup and he said it reminded him that every priest is called to sacrifice not only at Mass but in life. “Being a priest is not about doing what you want, it’s about doing what God wants even if it goes against what you want. You have to always be willing to sacrifice and a good priest will find joy in that sacrifice”. Father did sacrifice himself even at the expense of his own health. I watched him struggle for years with congestive heart failure and severe arthritis, and later with kidney disease, diabetes, and colitis but none of this ever stopped him from preaching and ministering.

Many years ago, he became seriously ill and his doctor was going to call an ambulance to transport him to the hospital from the doctor’s office, but he convinced the doctor that he was well enough to drive himself to the hospital. When an hour had passed and he hadn’t arrived at the hospital the doctor called the rectory to ask me if I knew what had happened. I was shocked when the doctor told me about the severity of Father’s condition not because I didn’t know he was very, very ill, but because he had called me from the car to tell me he was leaving the doctor’s office and was one the way to anoint a parishioner who was near death. The doctor was livid! By the time Father arrived at the hospital, his condition had deteriorated so dramatically that we were unsure if he would survive the night and within an hour he was beginning to lose consciousness. The doctors came and prepared us for the worst. However, he had one of his almost miraculous recoveries which we soon grew very accustomed to.

One day when I arrived when he was still very ill, he was very agitated almost to the point of tears. He told me that the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion had brought Communion to the patients, but had skipped his room. It was now evening and he was still waiting for someone to come. I was also an EMHC at the same hospital so I went and checked the list. Sure enough he was on it and the EMHC had passed him by so I brought Communion to him. The complete joy and peace I saw come over him as I lead the prayers, that he was barely able to join in with, was beautiful and the moment when I gave him Communion is one I will always treasure. Just that once, I was able to bring Christ to the man who brought Christ to me and brought me to Christ. I will admit that was an odd event that felt as awkward as it was beautiful. In that moment he was a priest, but at the same time it was as though he wasn’t a priest. The battle between his humanity and his divine vocation became clear has his human frailty seemed to conquer his body, but his vocation and his love of God clearly possessed his soul which could never be conquered by anything else.

He did survive this illness and as he was recovering, he talked with the nurses about the faith and even went to hear confessions and administer the Anointing of the Sick to the other patients in the section of the hospital where he was. It was very moving and those he ministered to were profoundly touched. Before long, his room became so full of people because the families of the other patients would visit him as well that the doctors placed restrictions on who was allowed to visit. Father wasn’t able to get any rest because of all the people! Those restrictions frustrated him because he knew there were people who needed a priest, but at the same time he also knew this was a time when he truly needed to care for himself first. There were many days that I simply sat and read as he slept. Every so often he would awaken for a second to make sure that I was still there. He was very concerned that he would die alone.

For the last 7 years, his feet were so swollen that he had been unable to wear shoes and instead wore slippers everywhere. Just moving slightly would often cause him to cry out in pain, but he never stopped serving his flock even though his means of service changed as his heath faltered. After he retired he would celebrate Masses at many churches and would often go to the funerals of his former parishioners. Even as he was dying he wrote one last homily that was given out at his funeral. I have not read it yet, but I will as soon as I am ready. Until his final illness he wrote a regular column in a local weekly newspaper and gave daily radio reflections on one of our local radio stations.

He was always ready to be called home to God and made it clear that everyone should always be ready because we never knew when God will take us. He was blessed with the gift of having time to get extra ready. I am thankful that he had the opportunity to go to confession before he grew too weak and that he was able to receive the Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum. He also had the gift of having a priest present at his death as several of his closest priest friends were praying at his side in his last moments. This was very fitting for a priest who would make it a point to sit with the dying whenever he could and would go out of his way to ensure they received the sacraments.

When I saw the bishop using Father's chalice I couldn’t control the wave of tears that came over me. That chalice was so connected to him, and his priesthood, that seeing someone else using it was an overwhelming sign of his absence. In a few years that chalice will have a third inscription as a young man who Father inspired is ordained to the priesthood. I hope this young man accepts all this chalice represent both as the Eucharistic Cup of Sacrifice and as the symbolic cup of sacrifice which each priest must accept in his own life.

I have loved priests for a very long time, but I have never really known why. For some time I even considered joining an order of religious sisters whose charism is caring for priests as rectory housekeepers. Over the past week, I have come to realize that this love and desire to go out of my way for them is my response to Father’s example of sacrifice and the deep respect I have for all priests because of his example. Father's example also deepened my love and understanding of Christ and has allowed me to see Christ in every priest and to see that doing for a priest is truly doing for Christ.

The photo is of The Agony in the Garden window from the Church of the Assumption in Franklin, LA.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Priest Penitent

There is a lot of commentary currently on the blogosphere about priestly fidelity. This is different and has absolutely nothing to do with the priest in question. It is merely a story about fidelity to one's priestly commitment for your own reflection.

Many years ago I began working in a new parish. There were three priests in this parish: The mature pastor, a young parochial vicar, and a elderly retired priest. When I arrived for my first day of work I was warned, by the pastor, to stay away from the elderly retired priest. He clearly did not trust the old man and did not want him living in the rectory. One of the first things the new pastor did when he arrived at his parish was to call the chancery to check up on Fr. F's canonical status and faculties. Of course, Fr. F was deeply hurt when he discovered his new pastor was investigating him. Being young and rebellious, I ignored the advice of my pastor and would sit for hours talking with Fr. F about many topics. He was well spoken and very wise and I genuinely enjoyed talking with him.

When the pastor discovered us chatting in the living room, he ordered Fr. F to his quarters on the 3rd floor and with great concern asked me if I was ok and if Fr. F had "tried anything with me". I had never been so confused in my life so I asked about exactly what was going on. I found out that 20 years previous Fr. F had broken his promise of celibacy and entered into a long-term relationship with his secretary. His sin became public and very obvious when his young, unmarried, secretary became pregnant. Fr. F was forced to make a difficult choice. He could remain a priest and be forced to leave the country, never to return, or he could leave the priesthood. When he chose to remain in the priesthood he thought that his secret would never follow him, but he was wrong. For the rest of his life, he was faced with people who questioned his fidelity and his faculties.

He supported his son and his son's mother on the small salary he received from his parish work and longed for the child he only saw in photographs and one week a year during the summer. On occasion, we would speak about his sacrifice and once I asked him why he stayed. He said, "Breaking my commitment to celibacy was a sin, but to leave would be two sins. I am a priest and this is my penance". He also understood that had he left the priesthood it would have marked his son, it would make them unwelcome in their town, and it would have prohibited him from any possibility of earning a livelihood as no one in the town would hired an unfaithful former priest. He accepted his unwelcomness in the diocese, the suspicion from priests and parishioners, his relegation to celebrating the sparsely attended 6 am Mass each morning, and the looks of disdain from so many parishioners, and the many people who would refuse to receive Holy Communion from his hands. I, on the other hand, viewed him as a model of fortitude and faithfulness. He knew his sin, it was public, and it followed him everywhere, but he never gave up. He accepted his penance and clung to his priesthood. As he drew close to the end of his life, he moved to a nursing home where I would secretly visit him several times a week. There would be trouble if my pastor discovered. Many times Fr. F would be sitting in his chair holding a photo of his son and weeping silently when I arrived. His choice was not at easy one. When Fr. F died, his son attended the the funeral and I was glad to be able to tell him about how much his father missed him.

This is just one of the stories of faithfulness and unfaithfulness that I could write here. In this case, the priest was guilty and admitted it, but I know of several other cases where the priest was innocent and suffered through many years of agonizing limbo, which once brought a priest I know to the point of suicide, until being reinstated. Just as in the case of Fr. F, reinstatement to full active ministry even after being cleared does not restore a priest to his former level of respect. He will always be under suspicion, the things he said in anger and in response to pain and injustice will always be held against him, and he will carry the deep emotional scars with him for a lifetime. There is one particular priest, who I will not write about in any detail, who was unjustly suspended for several years, remained steadfast in his priestly commitment, was restored to full active ministry but now is treated as the black sheep of his diocese even though he is probably one of the best and most dedicated priests they have. He sees this as part of the priest lying down his life for the flock. After all, the life of a priest is a life of sacrifice and penance for the people of God. Just as the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in atonement for the sins of the people of God, so the priest also offers his own life in atonement for the sins of the people of God. Every priest is called to be a penitent of sorts, but some have received a 1,000 fold portion.

Whether guilty or innocent, not every priest has the strength to take on a life of suffering, humiliation, and shame. Pray for those who are hanging on to their priesthood and pray for those who cannot hang on any longer. At the same time, pray for their family and friends, for those responsible for investigating, for the bishops, for those making the accusations, and for all those who are shaken by the accusations. Remember, there are no winners in this.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Come, Follow Me

In the last 17 years I have served in various positions in 6 parishes in three dioceses (not counting temporary positions). Today I packed up my office and left the the rectory where I work for the last time. My reasons for leaving each parish differ. Only one was involuntary, one was due to a church closing, and for 8 of the 17 years I worked at more than one parish at the same time.

One of the first questions I get asked when people find out I am studying theology is always "What are you going to do when you graduate? Are you going to be a nun?" (Some confused people ask if I'm going to become a priest). My answer has always been the same, "I will go wherever God wants me". Of course, that answer is totally unsatisfying for the questioner, but it is the truth. 

I was taught that all ministry requires a certain amount of dying to self and submission. Although I am not required to make a promise of obedience to a bishop or other superior, for my work to be ministry it must be authorized by a bishop or his delegate (usually a parish priest). This requires that I, at least in part, submit to his will and that I submit totally to the will of God. 

After much prayer, and an invitation from a bishop, I have realized that God is calling me to yet another diocese. The challenge is great, the work is exciting, and I am ready to put my hand to the plow and not look back (Lk 9:62). I am also excited to be getting back to working in liturgy - it is truly where my heart lies and where my theological roots are grounded.

I will miss the parishes where I currently work and all the friends I have made there. I will miss the familiar places and the comforts of "home" but my eyes are fixed on Jesus (Heb 12:2).
Please remember me and my family in your prayers as we embark on this "missionary" journey and for my parishes as well during this time of transition. 

Lenta e Calma

The things that give comfort and joy can be so strange at times. I was searching for something else when I came across a new CD that was released at the beginning of the year. On of the songs on the CD is a lullaby that I used to sing to my son at night which is a version of a hymn which we used to sing after Benediction at my home parish.

Finding this song made me so happy because it flooded my mind with so many happy memories of when my son was very small as well as the very beginning of my parish ministry, nearly 18 years ago.

Fr. Manzotti's version
Translation by Domini Sumus

Slow and calm over the earth
Night descends and light escapes
Now I want to say goodbye
Good night, my Jesus

O Lord, give us the blessing
against the evil that seduces
Guard my parents and I
Good night, my Jesus

At thy feet, O Virgin pure,
I ask for you motherly blessing
Good night, dear mother,
Good night my Jesus

The traditional version we sang after Benediction:
Translation by Domini Sumus

Slow and calm on the earth
Night descends; the light escapes
Now I want to say goodbye
Good night, my Jesus.

Silent in the tabernacle,
The rosy flame flickers
And gentle angels sing:
Good night, my Jesus.

My heart I wish you were
A sanctuary lamp
Because then I would not say:
Good night, my Jesus.

And you, O Virgin Mary
Give us your blessing too.
Watch over us tonight:
Good night, my mother.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Dignity of the Priesthood

One of the things which I always noticed about my dear spiritual Father were his hands. My first reaction, when I was very young, was fear. They were huge, far larger than the hands of a man of his stature are ordinarily, but I soon came to realize that they were gentle. As I got to know him better, I came to see that they were not a source of fear, but that they were a conduit a grace and peace as I watched those hands bring Christ to people and people to Christ. They were used for the extraordinary as well as the mundane. The hands which brought the Eucharist and anointed the sick also washed dishes and dug in the garden. As his body grew weak, those hands were used more and more to steady himself. The hands which had given me every Sacrament grew bruised from injury, illness, and medical procedures, but even in his last days he used them to bring Christ to others. Finally, I saw those consecrated hands for the last time as they lay still: holding the rosary which he had prayed so often.

Today would have been my dear friend's 53rd anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. At his 50th anniversary the poem, "The Beautiful Hands of a Priest" was read and I would like to share it here.

The Beautiful Hands of a Priest

We need them in life's early morning,
we need them again at its close;
We feel their warm clasp of friendship,
we seek them when tasting life's woes.
At the altar each day we behold them,
and the hands of a king on his throne
Are not equal to them in their
greatness; their dignity stands all alone;

And when we are tempted and wander
to pathways of shame and sin,
It's the hand of a priest that will absolve
us----not once, but again and again;

And when we are taking life's partner,
other hands may prepare us a feast,
But the hand that will bless and unite
us is the beautiful hand of a priest.

God bless them and keep them all holy
For the Host which their fingers caress;
When can a poor sinner do better than
to ask Him to guide thee and bless?

When the hour of death comes upon us
may our courage and strength be increased.
By seeing raised over us in anointing the
beautiful hands of a priest!

Over the last week, I have come to realize that I love priests because I love Father, I love Father because I love Christ, and I love Christ because Father made him present to me.

It would seem impossible that anyone who claims to be a good Catholic could look at the funeral of a priest as an occasion to show disdain, but that is exactly what happened and it pained me greatly because of the disrespect it showed not only to this priest, but to all priests. The reason: Ordinary Form vs. Extraordinary Form. It was only one person, but it was a person who claims to love Christ and His Church, but who entered the Church during the wake clearly because he was forced to by his parents. See, he believes in the Extraordinary Form only. He looked at the body of the man, the whom he claims fed him politically correct fluff and was responsible for his poor catechesis as a child, and the priests in attendance with disgust - as though he thought himself superior to the clergy (who in his mind are clearly heterodox, if not heretics).

This man was young when Father left our parish, so it is likely that he never realized, or at least does not remember, the orthodoxy and fearlessness with which this priest preached the faith. He does not remember the fiddleback chasubles which, until I left my home parish, I thought were used at every church. He was unaware of the devotion with which which Father celebrated the Sacraments, his faithfulness and fidelity to his priestly commitment, his unwillingness to mess with the prayers of the Mass, and the self-empyting sacrifices he made for his parishioners, and his lifelong vocation which began when Father was a very young child. Instead, he only remembers the Charismatic Masses, the willingness to let his parochial vicars experiment with the "latest fads" which were sure to engage the young people (most of which would cause Father to roll his eyes as he declared them as insipid), and his deep desire to engage the laity in parish ministry and the life of the Church. I have heard many traditionally minded Catholics describe Father as being soft. "He should have been tougher", "he should have refused Sacraments to those he deemed unworthy", "he should have put his foot down unweildingly and made it clear that he didn't care what his parishioners thought" - "he should have made it clear that he was the boss."

There were times when he did all those things, but for the most part, he was a priest of gentleness and compassion. A good shepherd, who loathed needing to be harsh, and always sought to be the gentle, welcoming face of Christ. He always saw every person who came to the Church for assistance as a soul to be welcomed and loved and he truly believed that love and compassion would draw that person to Christ far better than a harsh rebuke - the rebukes were saved for other times.

Father was raised and ordained in what is now called the Extraordinary Form and celebrated the Sacraments for the first decade of his priesthood in that manner. He would often speak about both the beauty and the imperfections of the Traditional Latin Mass as well the excitement and confusion that surrounded Vatican II. He would never be called a traditionalist, but he was happy to see the Church returning to so much of what had fallen by the wayside after Vatican II. In his last years, we spoke often about his theological opinions and even after knowing him for so many years, I was often surprised by his traditional views which I did not know he held as well as the progressive views he held. Through these conversations, I came to see where a many of my own opinions came from and why people always fail when they try to fit me into their stereotypical theological box.

You don't have to agree with everything a priest does and says, and there are often plenty of times when criticism is warranted, but we must never lose sight of the innate dignity of the character of the priesthood which is present on the soul of every priest and always show honor to the priest. As St. John Chrystostom wrote "he who honors a priest, honors Christ, and he who insults a priest, insults Christ." 

“What a priest unites in himself is what tears him apart. At every moment of his life he must answer two callings and entirely satisfy each of them without ever sacrificing either . . .. Transcendent yet incarnate; here is that same fundamental dualism which . . . constitutes the mystery of the Church and the paradox of Christian humanism.”
Cardinal Suhard

I have known faithful priests and unfaithful priests, orthodox priests and heterodox priests, priests who are liturgical masters and priests who are liturgical nightmares, but one thing always remains: they are deserving of respect because of their priesthood. We should pray for them all, offer support to the good and faithful, and offer direction to the troubled. We must be patient and forgiving of their failings, even when they anger us and never place ourselves in the position as the judge of their souls always remembering that they are consecrated to God and the Sacraments come to us through their hands. Although there are a few who are truly bad, the vast majority are good men who are doing the best they can with what they have to work with in their own human fraility.

I will leave you with this quote:  

"You must never forget that priests are, and that they remain, men.

God does not perform a miracle to wrest them from the human state.

The priesthood does not of itself give a person the power to do everything or to excel in everything. It is important to remember this lest you fall into a very old error . . . that of dehumanizing the priesthood and consequently of setting the priest outside of ordinary life.

That does great harm for by thus isolating him, as unbelievers do, to the exclusive realm of ceremonies . . . he is deprived in good part of his reason for being. If men refuse to pass through him, he no longer can be, at least fully, their mediator."
Cardinal Suhard

 Jesus, Savior of the world, sanctify Thy priests and sacred ministers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anticlerical clericalism?

A while ago I read an article that made this astounding claim "A form of 'pious' anticlericalism exists among the people who view the priest as a spiritual leader on the one hand and a man like every other man on the other".

It may be that I am blind to what is directly in front of my face, but I have encountered less anticlericalism, pious or otherwise, in the Portuguese community in which I was raised than in the non-Portuguese community I have encountered. I know that there are towns, particularly in mainland Portugal (Fatima comes to mind) where priests have been treated badly by the townspeople for many many years even to the point where they have had rocks thrown at them by children (and adults too) and at least during certain periods of recent history were afraid to wear clerical attire in public, but this is uncommon in most areas. So, yes, there are pockets of anticlericalism which reach back to the early and mid 1800's, but for the most part these attitudes are not any more prevalent than anywhere else in the world.

So, what support does the author use to explain the anticlericalism which she claims exists: she says that "the people who view the priest as a spiritual leader on the one hand and a man like every other man on the other". That is amazing and groundbreaking information! Of course he is viewed as a spiritual leader as well as man like any other. That IS what he IS! I imagine that if one is accustomed to the stereotype that Catholics see the priest as a perfect man who can do no wrong, then hearing Portuguese Catholics criticize their priests might be jarring, but the reality is that we know they aren't perfect and we don't have any problem letting them know that we know it. Some criticisms will be valid, while others will not be, but in the it leads to a healthy relationship between priest and parishioners. The priest is loved, but not put on a pedestal. He is respected, but seen as a sinner like everyone else. He is revered, but not idolized. At the same time, should he need anything from his people, whether personally or for the parish his parishioners will never fail to come to his aid. The priest also knows that he has a large number of people he can turn to for advice.

While I have seen this go overboard on occasion with parishioners who think they have a right to push the priest out of the way and do whatever they want (Don't we see that in plenty of American parishes), but I have never seen the lunacy in Portuguese parishes that I have seen in American parishes. What I have mostly encountered is a healthy balance between clericalism and anticlericalism which leads to a realistic view of the Church heirarchy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mourning With Abandon

One of the benefits of being Portuguese is the ability to grieve with abandon. It is commonly accepted and even expected. This grief does not cause shame on the mourner or an uncomfortable feeling in those nearby as they look for a quick exit. Rather, it draws the onlookers to compassion as they approach and offer comfort. It is reflected in the culture and particularly in the music.

Here is a translation of the lyrics to the fado song “Grito”(The Scream) which is posted above

From the silence, I make a scream
All of my body hurts
Let me cry a little.

From shadow to shadow
There is a heaven…it’s so collected
From shadow to shadow
I have lost my direction

Oh sky!
Here I am without the light
Here I am wiithout a star
I cry more

When I try to follow it
And I,
whom the sun has forgotten
the one the world has lost

I only cry now
Because the dead no longer cry
Even this is always with me

Always as my companion
A deep bitterness
Oh loneliness,
you, who were scorpion

Oh loneliness,
You have bitten the head.
I have already gone far beyond this life already

From what I had already set
I am sorrowful shadow
Leaning against a wall.

Life which is so hard.
Come death which takes so long
Oh, how I hurt
the loneliness is like insanity.

These sentiments are very different from what I have seen at so many "American" funerals where grief is expected to be neat, clean and moderate. You know, the "grieving without smearing my mascara" where people tell you to "be strong" when you are really dying inside. To me, that feels so unnatural and even unhealthy because it is a denial of the truth. It also isolated the mourner and prevents him from getting the support which is so deeply needed.

One of the things that was the most comforting to me was that I was able to give into my grief at my dear friend's recent funeral was that I did not have to put on the “happy or brave or whatever face”, but I could drown myself in the moment without distraction and grieve freely. I will admit to breaking down into a wet ragdoll at the wake service as the casket was closed and several times during the funeral Mass only to find other mourners whom I knew, but were not as close to my friend as I gathered around me and literally giving me their shoulders to cry on. They understood the intensity of our friendship and so also understood the intensity of my grief.

Even a week later, although the pain is decreasing, it is far from gone. Healing takes time and we cannot force it to happen before it’s time, but this grief does not mean that I do not have faith or that I am despairing – it simply means that someone whom I loved is now missing from my earthly life and that causes a pain which is far more than a metaphor. It is the real physical pain of grief. A broken heart is called that because it perfectly describes the physical sensation which accompanies a great loss. This must not be denied.

The song does a good job of describing the feelings of deep and early grief. Those feelings and thoughts which rush to us in the silence - to the point where we want to be alone and quiet even though the silence draws out the pain. We walk in darkness and even though we know that heaven is waiting to recieve our loved ones, we are lost in the darkness and cannot see our way. We know we are in darkness and we are searching for the light. It can feel as though the world has abandoned us and God has forgotten us because we cannot see beyond our own grief. The lonliness never goes away and even when we appear to be going about as usual, the pain and the anger remain. The poison flows through us like the bite of a scorpion and we can lose sight of hope. We long to be with our loved ones again and for the pain to cease and it can truly feel as though we are losing our minds.

However, as Catholics, the story does not end there. As the Scriptures tell us, “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (Thess 4:13-14). This hope allows for the time of grief described in the song to pass and for healing to begin. I know that I will see my friend again and we will always have a deep and abiding connection because I will pray for him always and I know that he will be watching out for me from Heaven just as he always did on earth. Even so, a piece of me will be missing until we are together with God.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lord, Teach Me to Pray

We each have our own difficulties and struggles in our faith lives that we are usually loathe to share with others. This is doubly hard for people who work in parishes because we cannot burden those who come to us for help with our own struggles, but there are times when it is appropriate and helpful to share at least some of our own journey. Too often people look at us and think that we have it “all sewn up” and we have the ideal relationship with God. Well, let me tell you - Yeah right. I wish I had the perfect relationship with God, but I don’t.

My spiritual director hears all about my struggles and he gives me very good advice that I generally then struggle to follow. It helps, but I have found that there is more to it than good advice and a personal desire to overcome them.

For many years my struggle has been with prayer. Yes, I would talk with God randomly during the day and offer short aspirations, but I struggled to make consistent time to pray. When I did make the time, I struggled through prayer. I wanted to pray and I knew I should pray but I had little attraction to formal prayer outside of the Mass and sadly, often even during the Mass. This struggle is rooted in a far deeper problem with has long been overcome, thanks to the above mentioned amazing spiritual director who suggested the aspirations. I tried various forms of prayer and some worked better than others, but none really engaged me. Of all the types of prayer that I had previously loved, the rosary was the one that held the least attraction,

Through this, I have personally learned that the ability to pray is a gift. As someone who used to devote large portions of time to prayer, suddenly being unable to pray was a devastating blow, but it was also a necessary one. I knew the importance of prayer; I knew that we cannot get by with a superficial prayer life; I knew that I needed to make the time, but none of that helped.

As I wrote earlier this week, my priest mentor passed away one week ago today. He taught me the importance of prayer and he taught me how to pray. How to really pray: not just say the words, but how to put your heart into prayer and reach out to Jesus. As I was getting ready to go to his wake I felt a longing that I hadn’t felt in many, many years. I went to my desk drawer and pulled out my rosary.. I didn’t know why I was doing it, but I knew I couldn’t leave the house without it. When I worked with Fr. C, we used to pray the rosary together every day and I loved it. Oddly enough when I got to the church there was a priest leading the rosary. Of course, I joined in. The next morning I again took my rosary with me. I struggled to pray it before Mass only this time it wasn’t dryness that was keeping me from praying it was grief and tears. It took me an entire hour to pray five decades but I did it. Still, for the first time in years I was not forcing myself to pray.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the church during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and I again prayed the rosary without any struggle and I prayed it again this morning. I plan to continue this every day and I hope it becomes a permanent part of my prayer life.

In Fr. C’s last weeks he, who always had an inspirational prayer life found himself unable to pray because of pain and illness and he fell back on short aspirations. “My Lord and my God” was the act of faith which he repeated over and over again in his last days and they were the words on his lips as he slipped away.

Looking at all this I have come to the conclusion that this experience was necessary. Fr. C. was able to fall back on those short aspirations because they had been a part of his life for so many years that they came naturally to him. He had taught many of them to me, but I never found much value in them until I found myself unable to pray. Now I see clearly how important they are. We will not always be able to pray as we may wish to for many reasons and when our bodies are breaking down and we are too weak, whether it be physically, spiritually, or mentally, if these short prayers are engrained in our minds they will get us through our darkest times.

I owe much gratitude to Fr. C and to God for this one last gift and lesson. I am sure that as time passes I will come to realize the value of so much more that he taught me and life puts it into a deeper context.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I Love You Lord

Translation by Domini Sumus

You called me to walk with you for all of my life.
I decided to follow you forever, with no turning back.
You put an ember in my breast and an arrow in my soul,
It is hard now to live without being reminded of you.

I Love you, Lord. I love you Lord,
I can only find peace and joy when I'm close to you (2x)

I often thought about being silent and refusing to answer.
I thought I could hide on the trail and go far away from you,
but your strength won out at the end and I was seduced.
It is hard now to live without deeply longing for you.

O Jesus, you will never leave me alone to walk by myself.
For you know my weakness and my heart.
Come teach me how to live life in your presence,
In brotherly love, joy, peace, unity.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Successful Priest

At some point in the life of every Catholic they should have a priest who changes the course of their life for the better, even if only for a short time. I was blessed to be one of the lucky ones. For the last 32 years I have known a true and faithful priest. He loved the priesthood and showed me first hand what  priest was. He was not only in persona Christi during the Sacraments, but throughout his entire life. I watched him empty himself for his flock nearly to the point of giving his own life. He answered the phone 24 hours a day and wouldn't hesitate to venture out at midnight in blizzards to anoint a dying person and stay for hours to comfort the family only to return to the church for 7 am Mass and a jampacked schedule for the day. That day, the short amount of down time he had was spent in the church at Eucharistic Adoration.

He wasn't afraid to preach about the immorality on television, to remind people about how to dress for Mass ("The Church is not a beach" will be engrained forever in my mind), he was constantly talking about the necessity of the Sacraments and the importance of the Mass, and the evils of abortion and cohabitation. These did not make him popular, but he didn't care.

He baptized me when I was 6 months old (He didn't want to because my parents weren't practicing Catholics, but his associate talked him into it), he also heard my first Confession, gave me my First Communion, was present at my Confirmation and at my wedding. I remember how he used to carry a pen in his shirt pocket and used to use it to tap me on the head when I was little. "Hey girl!" he would say. Years later it made me smile to see him tap my son on the head in the same way. I will admit that I was terrified of him as a young child (I think it was his enormous hands), but when I got to know him as a teenager I realized there was nothing to be scared of.

When I was 14 he was coerced (again by his associate) into letting me serve as a reader at Mass. This started me into a world I never thought would end with a career. I was always attracted to the Church. When I was 7 my friends started to attend CCD classes, but I had no idea what it was since we didn't go to church except for Easter and the Holy Ghost feast. I asked my parents to bring me and we went on a brief 6 month stint at the Episcopal Church. Even at 7 years old it wasn't enough for me. My grandmother had brought me to Mass every chance she got so I told my parents "I want to be Catholic". I ended up back at the church where I had been baptized with the priest who had baptized me and from the first day I was enthralled with the Mass. This attraction didn't die and I would go to daily Mass as often as I could with my grandmother.

The next year the associate was transferred at we had only one priest at the parish. He asked me to help him with many things and I would walk to the church every day after school to help him with whatever needed to be done. I washed dishes, answered phones, typed bulletins, trained altar servers, arranged flowers and more all under his supervision. In exchange for my work, he was the best mentor I could have ever wanted. We talked about so many things and there wasn't anything I wasn't comfortable talking with him about. His advice was always solid and he never once steered me wrong.

He was an extension of my own family. Our relationship was so much like father/daughter that when my now husband proposed, he asked Father for his blessing and permission. I knew I couldn't marry anyone he didn't approve of and I knew that if he was ok with it, I would be making the right choice. I'll never forget them going off into another room so Father could interrogate him on his commitment and understanding of marriage. They returned 30 minutes later and it was declared acceptable. As much as he loved seeing happy committed married couples, he loved promoting the priesthood even more. I loved to see him with my son. He loved to show him all the vestments and let him ring the carrilon. (I'm sure the neighbors loved that one) His last words to my son were "You would make a fine priest. Make sure you don't forget that".

He would often berate priests who worked "office hours" or were less than willing to give 100% of themselves. "The priesthood is not a job and the Church is not a business. Jesus gave it all and we are supposed to follow in his footsteps". Many times he would sacrifice himself to care for his people. One frigid rainy night he was very sick with the flu, when a house down the street from the church caught on fire. He didn't think twice to head out into the cold to pray with the families who had lost everything. The next day he was dreadfully ill, but continued on writing his homily for the upcoming weekend when he literally passed out at his desk. When he was rushed to the hospital we discovered that he was in heart failure and had double pneumonia. The nurse chastized him for not coming to the hospital and for standing out in the pouring rain, but all he said was "They lost everything, but they still had their faith. They needed a priest".

When he was transferred to another parish it was very heartbreaking for him, but once again I saw his dedication. In the midst of his grief when many people were telling him to say no to the bishop he said, "The bishop says he needs me there so I go. I promised obedience and it doesn't matter what I want".

One of the most extraordinary events was when a woman entered the church and asked for him. I brought her to him and she said that she was a parishioner at his brother's church (One of his older brothers was also a priest) and he visited her and anointed her when she was dying of cancer. She said that after the anointing her that her tumor shrank and she was cancer-free. She tried to give him credit for her healing saying that he has special powers, but all he said was "I didn't do anything. God makes miracles. Thank God, not me".

 I saw scenarios like these occur again and again, but I'm not saying that he was perfect. He was human and had his faults and we had our arguments. I am also not saying that he never took time for himself. He loved to watch soccer and to plant flowers and vegetables in his little backyard garden and look after his two pet doves. He loved good food and would often try to get away with eating dessert for dinner. One of my fondest memories was seeing him fast asleep on the recliner after a long night out with the sick and dying.

Even after he retired he continued to help at several parishes. I also watched him bounce back from the brink of death so many times that he almost seemed immortal, but over the past two years it became obvious that the end was coming. His health was failing and he could no longer live on his own. He was in constant pain and had extreme difficulty walking. The last time I saw him was at the Chrism Mass. It is how I would like to remember him: at Mass renewing his commitment to God and His Church.

He suffered a devastating fall a few weeks later and after weeks of suffering, Jesus called him home last Friday. He was 80 years old and would have celebrated his 53 anniversary in almost two weeks. His death has made me think about all that he taught me and all the people he introduced me to. He made my interest in the Mass grow, he was my first liturgy teacher, he put me in touch with all the people who could help me to turn it into a full time ministry, and he gave me my first parish job. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be who I am today and I surely wouldn't be a theologian or a liturgist today. I don't even know if I would be Catholic. I am pretty sure that if it wasn't for him, I would have been swallowed up by the ugliness and immorality of the world. He showed me Christ in the Sacraments, Christ in the priest, and how to follow and love Christ.

A Ti Meu Deus
Translation by: Domini Sumus

To you, my God
I lift my heart
I lift my hands
My eyes, my voice

To you my God I want to offer you
My steps and my life
My paths, my suffering

You embrace me in your kindness
And in your infinite goodness I find forgiveness
I will be your follower and give you my heart
I want to feel the warmth of your hands

To you, my God
Who are good and full of love
for the poor and the suffering
We serve you in expectant hope.

In You Lord
Humble will rejoice
Singing our song
Of hope and peace