Blowing in the wind

PJP_Final-1080x810On Saturday I went to church at 4pm because that’s what I do. Except for when I don’t, because sometimes I feel as if I simply cannot go to church. It does not happen often, but when it does, it comes on me in waves; I recently came off of a wave. Right now you might think I would feel like I could not go, but no – I went to church freely. In fact, I definitely felt like I wanted to go to mass.  Since the PA Grand Jury and abuse revelations were mentioned so openly and humbly last week, plus the mention of a parish wide meeting as a listening session for our pastor was brought up, I knew I could not, and did not want to stay away. Also there was a mass intention for my brother, and not least of all I really want to support my priest and be present with my community.

This does not mean everything is OK. In fact it is not. Things are horrifying, humiliating, angering, frustrating, disgusting, did I say horrifying? You get the picture. Yet, off to church I went.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about where I sit in church, because you know we all have “our seat in our pew.” From where I sit, I see two things straight on – the crucifix and the nativity window, both very clearly. Birth and death right there, juxtaposed, inextricably connected. I was pretty fixated on that once it occurred to me – that is church to me. Dying and rising and dying and rising and on and on and on.

Arriving at 3:30 for 4pm mass I imagined that I could take a photo of this dying and rising, but alas no! How the sanctuary was already filling up! I had forgotten that this was the culmination of music camp week at our parish, and it would begin with a concert by the children before mass.

This was even better. Children of varying ages, led by slightly older kids, performed in song. I kid you not (no pun intended – ok, a little intended)  – this stuff would go straight to your heart. These kids just stood up in front of everyone and sang their songs, using hand gestures and putting their whole bodies into it, in the most incarnational way possible. Now that is church, isn’t it. This is not about a bunch of cute kids making everything OK, no – it is quite the opposite. It is showing up body and soul, movement and spirit, and putting yourself into it. The storm raged on, but yet here they all were.

One thing that struck me was the presence of three of the older kids who have grown up in church. I mean these are teenagers, not even older teens. I have watched these three grow up as their dad is in music ministry and they have all been involved. Week after week, year after year they sang and grew in church, and here they still were. Seemingly unperturbed by the goofy hand gestures and silly-but-endearing songs (something about Jesus and yee-haw) they too sang their hearts out. Their presence pierced me in a particular way, a good way.

Another little girl is the daughter of another music minister. Just a week ago we had run into one another at an event the Saratoga Performing Arts Center where we saw Joshua Bell and The Philadelphia Orchestra perform against the backdrop of the film, The Red Violin. And here we were together again, Jesus, yee haw.  Here we all are, just moving together in the same direction together, separately and together… that is church. It is no excuse for the zillions of wrongs, wrongs that cannot be undone, hurts that must be healed, forgiveness that may or may not come, so much, so much lies ahead. But here we all are. What else can we do? If some must leave, they must leave. But for some of us, we stay – comfortably or uncomfortably, happily or unhappily, but by choice.

The children sang a number of songs as the church really filled, the regular crowd plus the grandparents and others who were there for the children. Happy that I decided to go, I knew I was where I was supposed to be. Also I was unafraid of the homily and of the Universal Prayer. The homilist is excellent and the prayer would be clear – I wrote it, this week pushing a bit farther beyond where I typically would, but it had to be said. These things must be prayed about – collectively and out loud! Yes this our church, not so much a place or an institution, but who we are.

This does not mean everything is OK, but so little is. On that day, I showed up. I’m glad I did. It won’t be this way for everyone. I thought of people for whom the return to church is not an option. I understand. If anything, it’s a time to discern and decide who we all are. May Holy Wisdom guide us. Ultimately I keep thinking of the words that inspired the post title, from St John XXIII. As he began the work of preparing the church for what would be the Second Vatican Council he said,

“Throw open the windows of the church and let the fresh air of the Spirit blow through.”

To that, let the church say, AMEN! It does not mean everything is OK, far from it, but it does mean we carry on with the work of healing and reform, reconciliation and life. What else can we do? May the wisdom of the Holy Spirit lead and guide us.


St John XXIII and the Holy Spirit From Bro. Mickey McGrath OSFS


After I wrote this, but clearly before I published it, news of Archbishop Vigano’s letter came out. I am not going to address that in detail, but I will say that I find the timing and the content spurious. No man of the church is free of complicity in this mess, but having every single one of them resign results in chaos.  Today I read something on the Facebook page of a friend. He wrote this and I agree with him completely:

“Justice and accountability must come for the Catholic Church. But not on the terms set by some Catholics associated with First Things. These are the same people who, just a few years ago, were denouncing any attempt to expose sexual abuse in the Church. These are the same kinds of people (and in some cases the very same people) who wrung their hands about Hillary’s emails and then defended every sort of corruption under Trump. They argue in bad faith and so it is a losing game to act like their concerns are real.”

He went on to say something to the effect of this, and I paraphrase here:  if Pope Francis were to resign and to be replaced by someone who fit the ideological image of a FT mindset, any voices raised from other corners would be met with phrases such as “you cannot criticize the pope!”

To which I add, from sharp, vivid memories of years and decades gone by, true enough.  Ultimately this is not about criticizing any pope but about finding Christ and about being Christ.

Interestingly enough, Pope Francis has responded to the Vigano letter by basically not responding. More about that here. What a great way to handle it, I actually mean that. We must focus on the work of healing, I believe that he wants to do that. And will.


3 thoughts on “Blowing in the wind

  1. “I find the timing and the content spurious. No man of the church is free of complicity in this mess, but having every single one of them resign results in chaos.” Very true. I like your friend’s FB comment as well… Thank you, Fran.

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  2. Pingback: 7 and 7 on Saturday, September 1 2018 – Chuck The Writer

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