It is all over now: the fabulous display of reds and oranges on the “October Glory” maple trees on our front green. Where the CYO and Scouts will be setting up the Christmas tree lot this weekend, there was the most splendid array of color and life that made us all pause as we came or went from church or school over the past few weeks. Not only we stopped; numerous passersby on University Boulevard pulled into our parking lot and wandered around, grinning, marveling, and taking photographs.
One parishioner came up to me after Mass one Sunday when the trees were ablaze and said, “whatever you do as Pastor, don’t cut down those trees!” I laughed and pointed out that I may reluctantly do just that to one or the other, as I did this spring with one dying maple, but as evidence that I have no intention of eliminating them, I showed him where I have also planted three or four new ones.
Another parishioner stood with me one morning as I was enjoying the trees (see, I told you we all stopped and looked – I did it every day for two weeks!). She said she had just been speaking about them to Bishop David Foley, who was the second Pastor of Saint Bernadette (1975 – 1983) when they were planted. He had laughed and told her that until then, that space was simply lawn, and when the trees were planned, a group of parishioners noisily complained, and insisted they liked the lawn just as it was, and did not want its simplicity and perfection spoiled.
We can laugh now about those folks who did not want the trees planted, wondering at what we all would have missed if they had got their way. I am sure the lawn was beautiful. I know it was useful – for years, the parish hosted a carnival out there that drew folks from all over. I am still grateful to the founders of the parish for not paving it all into one huge parking lot stretching all the way to the boulevard. But I am just as grateful for those trees, that give us privacy and buffer the noise from the roads seven or eight months of the year. And two weeks of the year, they are our own local Natural Wonder of the World.
When you have something good – very good, even – it can be hard to imagine that any change would make it better.
This weekend, the Church around the world changes something, something that was very good: how we celebrate Mass in English. The new translation changes your responses and all the prayers that we priests have to say. At least at first, we will all have our noses buried in our books or pew cards, stumbling through unfamiliar words that do not come naturally.
It will be hard for everybody. Some folks will grumble privately, others object publicly, that this is an affront or a mistake. But the Church is still guided by the Holy Spirit; and hundreds of talented, knowledgeable, and faithful people, who love the Mass and love you, have worked for decades to bring this to this point, where not to change would be a disservice to not only us but to future generations as well.
As deep as your love for the Mass, as beautiful as your experiences were of Jesus with the old translation, I promise you that this will only enhance and improve that love, that beauty, and your future experience. Just as our maple trees made our beautiful lawn exponentially richer and more marvelous, so will this change bring you more beauty, more truth, and even more color. Your love for the Mass is not over now; this is a new Advent.