With deep gratitude
I write this on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. A Church in Pittsburg, KS took that name to itself many years ago. And that parish was the spiritual home in which I grew up.
St. Mary’s, as it is known locally, was where I learned to serve the 6:30 Mass riding my bike from our south side home. St. Mary’s was where the school Mass each day was a Requiem High Mass, complete with catafalque. St. Mary’s was filled by a larger-than-life pastor with ties to our Diocese, Monsignor Alex Stremel.
St. Mary’s was the place then peopled by good and holy priests, and by the devoted Sisters of St. Joseph.
St. Mary’s was the place where my vocation to the priesthood first opened its eyes in Sr. Justin’s fourth grade classroom. St. Mary’s was the place where that vocation was confirmed years later in Sr. Justina’s history classroom during my sophomore year in high school.
Father Bob Kocour, Father Mike Blackledge, Sister Cleophas, Sister Paula, Bob Fleming, Jim Schirk, Chuck Clugston, Herb Krumsick, A.J. Wachter: St. Mary’s was the place that helped to make all of these, and me too.
Pilgrims to Lourdes bathe in the holy waters. This pilgrimage in my mind leads me to bathe in these inspiring waters of memory. I bathe with deep gratitude.
My Dear People,
We read just before Christmas that familiar story of St. Joseph: his problem, his decision, and his dream that turned his world upside down.
Scholars remain perplexed by St. Luke’s text. They find it next to impossible to know what really happened. May I suggest one possible way of looking at it?
It may well be that Joseph was tapping into his unconscious, that border-place where God and man meet. He was in the twilight state between sleeping and waking: that state in which the deep fears, and the deep hopes, and the deep feelings jostle and jockey for position.
It was there that the Angel approached him, touched him, and told him what to do about Mary. His admirable response was instant obedience: no more dilemma, no more decision, just prompt obedience.
May I suggest a way of re-living the Joseph experience in this Christmas season? Get up an hour early, and go immediately go to the liturgical readings of the day. Read them slowly, once, twice, a third time. Do not struggle to decipher their meaning, just absorb the words. You are in the twilight state between sleeping and waking. Let the words you read sink into that creative swirl. Let them rest there a while, and a while-and-a-half.
Then take up your pen and begin to write about the first reading. Write whatever comes into your mind. Write quickly. Write automatically. Do the words trouble you? Write it down. Do the words charm you? Write it down. Do the words inspire you? Write it down. Write it all down.
Then take up your pen and begin to write about the Gospel. Write whatever your unconscious gives you. Write whatever comes into your mind. Can you see the Gospel scene? Write it down. Can you hear the Gospel word? Write it down. Does the Gospel touch off fears, and wonders, and hopes? Write them all down without thinking.
Do you not see that you are doing what Joseph did? You are allowing the sleeping unconscious to emerge in your waking life. You are inviting the Angel to approach you, to touch you, and to tell you what to do. We can refuse to do what we are told, we can sin, of course. But the only real answer is Joseph’s answer: instant obedience.
Repeat this exercise on each day of the Christmas season, and you will find your prayer life recharged and rejuvenated. May Joseph the Dreamer fill your twilight time, and call down the Angel to touch you.
My Dear People,
We are deep in Advent as I write this, and shimmering dawn is faintly visible in the darkened sky. The Advent end is near. The feast of Christmas is near. The child, the child, is near.
But we hardly know it. It has become politically correct to banish Christ from Christmas, to put Halloween, and Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day, and Valentine’s Day on the same level as Christmas. We are not interested in knowing what Christmas meant.
And even in the Church it has become acceptable to banish thoughts of Christ from Christmas, to put the Commandments, and the virtues, and the demands of social justice on the same level with him. We are not interested in knowing how it came about, this Incarnation. We are not interested in the dusty, musty, battles of our ancestors at Nicea and Chalcedon. We are not interested in him.
That swaddled little child, that manger, that woman and that man held fast by wonder. What had they done? What had happened to them?
The truth is simple. She had been chosen to be the mother of the child. He had been chosen to make a home and a family for the child. And the child had been chosen to reveal his Father in heaven, to tell us everything about him, and to gather the sheep who had strayed and the sheep who had been lost.
The truth is the child is near. The truth is hungry love is near. Do we see it? Do we feel it? Do we accept it?
+ Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore
Bishop of Dodge City