Friday, January 27, 2012

Three's Company

I know that in January everything can seem a little grimmer. With the Christmas holidays behind us, it’s a long haul to the next fun. The weather is unremittingly grim, and we cannot even console ourselves much with thoughts of next month, since that is February, and there’s an extra day of it this year, to boot! It is all exacerbated by being in an election year. Even Lent is beginning to look good from here.

So I have some good news to share with you. Father Clint McDonell, whom many of you have met or at least seen and heard since he began helping out in our parish a few months ago, has received permission from his Archbishop to move into our rectory here. He will help out with Masses and confessions, and help keep morale high in the rectory, all very important functions for which he is well suited.

Fr. McDonell is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, ordained three and a half years, who has been assigned to pursue his doctorate in philosophy at Catholic University. That will take a lot of time and work, at minimum five years, so if we are all nice to him, this could be a long and happy relationship.

I am not saying he will take Father Nick’s place – I doubt anyone could do that – but he will take Father Nick’s room. No one can aspire to carry the title of Father Food with quite the style that Fr. Nick brings, but Fr. McDonell does indicate both an interest in eating and an inclination toward cooking at fairly high levels of zeal and skill. Heaven knows he has tested my own skills as I have tried to prepare meals that would convince him to want to live here.

I believe most of his sports loyalties are predictably local to Detroit, but you can ask him about that yourselves. But his undeniable Midwestern-ness does liberate this Alabama boy from the oppressive preponderance of New Yorkers that Frs. Nick and DeRosa formed. Now we have a three-way tie – or maybe a Triple Alliance.

His most important qualifications are that he loves being a priest, and really likes Saint Bernadette. He started hanging around here last fall, and helped out when I was away in October, and covered all the Masses when Fr. DeRosa and I both had to go on the Archdiocesan priest’s retreat in November. But I know for a fact that he has only begun to get to know you personally, and since that is the very best part, I encourage and invite you to help him with that when next you see him.

Now, he says he will be moving here gradually over coming months, and not be full-time in residence here until next fall semester. We have already asked him to be here when either Fr. DeRosa or I hope to be away. But once he gets to know you, I don’t know how he would possibly prefer to cram himself back into his little dorm room near campus rather than stay in the Holy House of Soubirous.

Such reluctance to leave would not be without precedent. Heck, Father Nick can’t stay away, and he is supposed to live in another state! And certain other priests are known to have gone away only to come back, and stay…and stay...and stay. Such is the power of this parish and her gracious and good-natured people. You just keep it up!

God bless you with ever-abundant charm and enthusiasm. It’s one thing that I can enjoy even in January, and in every other month of the year too.

Monsignor Smith

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Not passing when the hat is passed

First, some business: My congratulations and thanks to all of you who participated in the Cardinal’s Appeal this year. As you can see in the accompanying insert from the Archdiocese, the Appeal raised a record amount last year, mainly to assist all those in Washington who look to the Church when they have true needs that cannot, or will not, be met by anyone else.

As for our part in that, Saint Bernadette was assigned a goal of just over $139,000. We pledged over $160,000, but actually contributed only 137,070 by the time the Appeal closed accounts this month. What happened to that $27,000? I don’t know – things come up, folks get distracted, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs even when it comes to giving. But remember this in coming Appeals when it seems that already enough has been pledged to meet our goal. Not everyone can or will follow through on those pledges, so we still need you!

The other fun fact is that our participation this year up again: 455 households donated (or pledged, I don’t know which), which seems respectable at 42.55 percent of the 1,082 households currently registered in our parish. Interestingly, this is very near the percentage and count of households who participate in our parish offertory. Now that number may not strike you as being quite so respectable, especially if you give steadily and know from experience how important that is to your relationship with Christ! I don’t want to alarm folks, but will mention further that the percentage of parishioners who give steadily is lower still.

It is a tough sell in this demanding world to point out that we need to give – we need to give in order to live. There is so much insistence that the opposite is true; this call to give can seem a small voice indeed. It is the still, small voice of God Himself; the voice crying in the wilderness; and in fact the very Word, who took flesh and dwelt among us. This is my beloved Son; listen to Him!

Now for a story. In July of 1978, the Smith family was returning to Alabama from a three-week, 6,000 mile journey through the American and Canadian West, from Pike’s Peak to Columbia Icefields, including Banff, Lake Louise, Glacier, and Yellowstone parks. Having stopped in St. Joseph, Missouri, for their second-to-last night in a hotel, they awoke to find a message at the desk informing them that their Oldsmobile station wagon had been robbed overnight. There was little in the car to steal, but among the items taken was the tote containing undeveloped rolls of vacation pictures from several of the family’s cameras, and one cherished souvenir: a black cowboy hat from Calgary.

While in Tucson last week with my parents, sister Suzy, and her family, we hiked the mountains and the desert, visited missions and galleries, and had many delightful meals, including New Mexican, Poblano, barbecue (in a train car no less!) and home-cooked. On my last afternoon in town, having seen and done everything we could think of, my folks asked if there was anything else I wanted to do before we headed back to the casita. I suggested that I would like to try to find a hat. The iPhone indicated a nearby place called Arizona Hatters.

Half an hour later, as we happily drove away from the store wondering how I could safely lug my purchase on the long plane trip, I noticed a deeper satisfaction than I could explain by the hat’s fit, shape, or color. Then I remembered that sad day in Missouri in 1978.

The ancient wrong has been righted. You’ll see the evidence about campus. God bless!

Monsignor Smith

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Places to go

I mentioned last week that more than two thousand people came here for Christmas. That was a pretty big number for our parish, though our church is large enough that we can handle it easily. The marvel is the number of lives that converged here in celebration of the Birth of Christ.

However, our numbers pale in comparison to an interesting attendance statistic from another quarter I read today:


VATICAN CITY, 3 JAN 2012 (VIS) - The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household has published a communiqué announcing that, during the course of 2011, 2,553,800 faithful participated in various meetings with Benedict XVI including general audiences (400,000), private audiences (101,800), liturgical celebrations (846,000), Angelus and Regina Coeli (1,206,000). These statistics, which show an increase with respect to the last three years, refer only to meetings that took place in the Vatican or Castelgandolfo, and do not include the many thousands of faithful who came to see the Holy Father on his journeys in Italy or abroad.

The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household explains that the numbers are approximate, calculated on the basis of requests to participate in meetings with the Pope and on the tickets distributed, as well as on estimations of people present at events such as the Angelus or large celebrations in St. Peter's Square. The single event which brought together the largest number of faithful was the beatification of John Paul II on 1 May.

Please note that of that, 2,553,800 faithful, thirty-five are us – pilgrims from our parish pilgrimage to Rome in October, when we joined about forty thousand others at a Wednesday General Audience with the Holy Father. And that is not counting the hundreds of thousands, probably several million, who saw the Pope on his journeys last year! I am not jealous; I know I am not in his league (though I am in league with him, ideally). How could I be jealous, when I am a fan?

I think it is great that so many people went to the effort to spend time with the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Servant of the Servants of God. It reveals that they know that there is something about him that is different, special, and sacred. He is the Successor of Peter, and carries the responsibility of governing Christ’s Church. As such, he enjoys the graces that our Lord promised to Peter and all who hold that office: divine help and guidance, that the powers of death shall not prevail against it. (Mt 16:18)

The great gift that we have as Catholics is that we have places to go, things to do, and people to see. We are not locked in our minds and its abstract possibilities of drawing closer to God, or moving further away. It all started on the day that Christ was born, when the shepherd were told where to go, and whom to see. That day was holy; that place was holy; and those people – not just Jesus, but Mary, and Joseph, too – were holy. They could be seen, touched, heard, and talked to by all who had eyes to see and ears to hear.

And we few – or few thousand – are not deprived of that because we are separated from Bethlehem that night by several thousands of miles, and years. Praise be to God who came to dwell among us in human flesh, and still does, and still waits, looking to see not how many, but who shows up.

Monsignor Smith