I had a wonderful weekend away with my son Henry at Alpine Camp, scene of many happy childhood memories for me. I missed being with you on Sunday, but you may appreciate knowing that I offered Mass at 4.45 in the morning because I forgot I was in the Central time zone!
Please give your attention to two items:
The school year is back under way, and it is time for us to begin again with our Wednesday School programs. These will begin with our Safe Environment meeting for parents on Wednesday, September 12, at 5.30PM in the church. There will also be a program for children that night while parents have an opportunity to review the safe environment materials and talk briefly with me about the issues concerning the safety of our children in the Church. The children's program will not be a safe environment/"Teaching Touching Safety" program, but rather a quick and fun Catechesis of the Good Shepherd introduction with our director, Scarlett Crawford. Parents will be given the safe environment children's materials - when and how and in what terms to communicate this information to children is left to the discretion of parents who, after all, know their own children best. Having said that, the parents' meeting is mandatory in order to enroll children in our Catechesis program; if you are unable to attend on Wednesday, September 12, and would like your child(ren) to participate in Catechesis, please let me know so that we may arrange a make-up date. Our first classes, for children and adults, will be the following Wednesday, September 19th, with family supper at 5.30PM and class beginning at 6PM. Everyone goes home by 7PM. See more - including a link for registration - [here]!
A Day of Penance
Last week, we heard from Bishop Lopes regarding these latest terrible revelations of the scandal of abuse in the Church (scandal which has intensified even in the last week). Bishop Lopes invited us to offer the fall Ember Friday (September 21) as a day of penance for the renewal of the Church and healing of victims of abuse. To that end, I invite you to join me in a Holy Hour of prayer and penance in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament on that day, from 7 - 8PM. (For understanding the Ember Days in general, see here.)
I have been asked why we ought to do penance for the sins of others - a good and fair question. Briefly:
Because the Church is, as St Paul teaches us, one Body, though it has many members. We are not all, of course, personally guilty of these crimes, but we all are, in a sense, implicated. St Francis began in just this way; he never intended to found a religious order, but rather to be a penitent, offering his own self-chosen poverty, with all of its hunger, want, and suffering, in reparation for the sins of all against God's love. So also we are doing penance for the sins of those deacons, priests, bishops, and others in the Church against children and the vulnerable.
Because penance intensifies our prayer. This is why fasting and prayer are so closely associated. By fasting we are, as it were, "putting our money where our mouth is" and demonstrating (and so also fostering) the urgency of our desire and the depth of our sorrow - going without, or voluntarily bearing some cross, in order to gain some good thing or end. As we hear from the prophet Joel at the beginning each Lent: "Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God; and cry to the Lord."
Finally, because it is what Jesus did for us, and "we are," as again St. Paul teaches, "ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." By this penance, we seek to make reparation not only for our own sins, but for the sins of others in the Church.
This Ember Friday falls on the Feast of St. Matthew, and so is not a day of mandatory abstinence, but I invite you to join me in fasting and abstaining from meat that day, and then join me in prayer before our Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament, that God may forgive our sins, heal his Church, and comfort and restore those who have been prayed upon.
God bless you,