Good afternoon everyone.
I was back in Kitchener-Waterloo yesterday for a funeral. A good friend and pastoral colleague with her children and grandchildren had come together to say and earthly goodbye to her husband after a very brief illness with a funeral Mass. It was in many respects surreal, only fifty family and friends could be present, all with face masks and distant from one another in the pews in the large church. The evening before, friends and family from all over Canada and many parts of the world tuned in to the online vigil service, a nice mix of good Catholic prayers and song and an “open mic” where stories could be told. Talking with friends after the Mass, almost everyone commented on the longing to reach out and touch. The words are important and being present is a support but what is missing is that human touch, a hand on the shoulder, the firm grip of a handshake, a comforting hug. And, when we find ourselves forgetting and doing it anyway, there is the guilt of knowing that we shouldn’t do it……but. I see it here in the parish as we have begun to celebrate the life of loved ones with the prayers and rituals of the church months later. It is comforting but something is still missing. We need to be close, we need to celebrate. In Ireland they have perfected the tension of holding two experiences in balance with each other, a time for tears and mourning and a time for a good party to celebrate death as a “life changed, not ended”.
I also picked up in our conversation yesterday a tinge of “Covid 19 fatigue”. I hear it also when I am out and about especially in the question “when will this end”. The people of the Old Testament, when they had to endure long periods of turmoil and uncertainty, changed their prayer to a lament: “How long more O Lord, how long more”. And the Lord always answered with the same re-assurance, “soon, very soon”. It took generations to figure out that “soon, very soon” was God’s way of saying, “it will pass, be patient, hold firm, be strong”. And I guess that is what we need to do. We have done well over the last few months and the dreaded numbers keep falling ever so slowly but caution and distance, bubbles and circles of support will be with us for a while longer. And soon, very soon, we can touch and hug and party big again.
I had dinner on Canada Day with friends who are excited to catch Hamilton the musical on one of the many streaming channels this weekend. One of them paid a king’s ransom to see it on stage but I am not sure. Musicals are often torture for me and reading about the musical mix in Hamilton make it sound too strange an experience. After their enthusiasm calmed down, I shared my enthusiastic wait with Netflix for Ron Howards adaptation of Hillbilly Elegy, JD Vance’s memoir about growing up as the third generation of an Appalachian family who search for the American dream, find it and loose it. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time and anyone trying to uncover even a slice of the background to the confusing political divisions in the United States at the moment will find it enlightening and a very good read. Vance is a very astute observer of life and what is important for a society. His deep family roots are his way forward but also the albatross around his neck and his description of a town slowly fading from having everything a middle, middle class community could have to being at the bottom of the social ladder only a few years later is painful to read. His personal experience of a school system reduced to the same poverty and neglect as the town left bright and eager kids like himself to find their own way out of the cycle of poverty and despair. That he found a way to go to university and graduate from Yale with a law degree is a triumph. The book was published in late 2016 and is popular again in anticipation of the presidential election in November. Read it before the movie and entertain your friends at the cottage or in the backyard this summer with your thoughts.
Two books that Felix and I have read over the last few months have brought the last three councils of the church and eminent men and women of faith to our Saturday evening dinner conversations. John W. O’Malley is a Jesuit priest and brilliant church historian who has written long histories of the Council of Trent and Vatican Councils one and two. When Bishops Meet is a long essay that explores the movement from the doctrine and definitions of the Council of Trent to the attempts by Vatican I and II to bridge a peace and understanding with the modern world. This book is especially helpful for Roman Catholics who are interested in history and also helpful to those who are trying to understand the push and pull between a conservative and liberal understanding of history and the place of the church in the very secular modern world.
Rowan William, the former archbishop of Canterbury and intellectual equal of his close friend Pope Benedict, writes for the academic world and for the ordinary man and woman in the pew. Luminaries: Twenty lives that illuminate the Christian way begins with Saint Paul and ends with Saint Oscar Romero. In between you will find names that you know and names that are new. He manages to dig deep into their story and extract nuggets of spiritual insight to guide the follower of Jesus in the world today to find joy. I read it the first time in one long gulp and decided that it needed to be read slowly. It was a daily companion for the first weeks of the lockdown. We both loved it and highly recommend it.
I am met this morning with the leaders of the groups in the parish. Looking forward to the beginning of the new pastoral year in September we need to prepare to launch our parish groups again. I shared with them my concerns that we need to look also for opportunities to offer parishioners a safe place to gather and process what happened over the last months and what we need to keep healthy and holy for the months that we wait for a vaccine or secure treatment regimen for Covid 19. We have many great opportunities for the mind and soul in the parish but maybe we need to look a little deeper to find a way to offer a place for friendship and a listening ear as well.
Life in the parish has entered its summer rhythm. Our patience is being tested severely by our internet connection. It has had a troubled history for several years but in the last month it has gone off the rails several times. Brian Barry from the Finance Committee is on the case and solutions are coming to make the changes we need especially for the fall. Geronimo Cummings joins us on staff as an assistant to Gerry. He is responsible for the sanitizing in the church after each Mass and celebration in the church. We wish him well as it is tedious work. Charles is back this weekend and every week he will be joined at 5.00, 10.00 and 12.00 by one of the cantors.
Mass will continue to be broadcast on Sunday morning at: https://www.standrewoakville.com/sunday-masses-online/ The Intercessions for Mass at St. Andrew’s this week follow. Please feel free to use them in your daily prayer.
Be well and read a book.
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
July 4-5 – 2020
Invitation: The peace we offer one another in this and every Eucharist is not a casual greeting, but the very gift of Christ’s crucified and risen love. It is in that peace that we offer these petitions.
- For a church crucified to the world, arms outstretched to gather, and feet standing firm for peace. Lord, in your mercy…….hear our prayer.
- For Christians, faithful to their baptism, going forth in the world to subvert the world’s demons with healing love. Lord, in your mercy…….hear our prayer.
- For our priests who, though few, labor faithfully in the fields of the Divine Harvest Master, and for the women and men God is calling to also carry on the Kingdom’s work of teaching, preaching, and nourishing as religious, and in ordained or lay leadership. Lord, in your mercy…….hear our prayer.
- For a just settlement to the disputes over settlements between Israel and the Palestinian Territories and for every city and nation in the world longing for a reason to rejoice. Lord, in your mercy…….hear our prayer.
- For the strengthening of every couple married by God’s design and sent forth to build households where life is nurtured and God’s Word is welcomed and lived. Lord, in your mercy…….hear our prayer.
- For the children of our world who enjoy no vacation from school because they are denied education itself by poverty, discrimination, or armed conflict. Lord, in your mercy…….hear our prayer.
- For a full taste of God’s abundant comfort for all who bear with ill health and for a heavenly welcome to greet those who have died [including ________]. Lord, in your mercy…….hear our prayer.
Concluding Prayer: God in whose arms we rest. Receive the prayers of your people, and by the work of your mercy, allow them to bear a harvest for your Kingdom. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.