Nota bene: Our Bulletin company’s deadline requires that I submit this column on Friday, June 30, so …
REFLECTIONS ON SEVEN YEARS. On Friday, July 7th, I will begin my eighth year here at St. Raymond’s. In so many ways seven years seems to have passed in the blink of an eye, and yet in other ways it has been a long haul. There have been many, many joys along the way, but a few struggles as well.
I was struck by all this recently as I’ve thought and prayed about a particular personal sadness I’ve felt lately in seeing parishioners moving away with transfers or retirement, or children growing up and preparing to go away to college, work or the armed forces, or young adults moving away in new marriages or for new jobs. And it occurred to me, this is what it means when you call me “Father”—fathers mourn when their children move away.
For 21 years people have called me “Father,” and rightly so—every priest is a spiritual father to all the people. But the Church, in her great wisdom, has always tried to protect and encourage the richness and depth of this spiritual fatherhood in a particular way in the relationship between a pastor and his parishioners. That is why, as with bishops, pastors are given a right to “stability” in canon law—they are supposed to stay with their children as long as possible, until old age, death, or the serious needs of the Church require a change.
When I first arrived here, I explained to you that this is how I would approach my time here: as your spiritual father. And I have tried to do just that. Sadly, I have, as you know too well, often failed in this regard, especially for those of you I don’t know very well. I apologize for all those failures. Like you all, I am in need of the redemptive love, forgiveness and grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is both Son and Image of the Father. His mercy has sustained me in the past, and I gratefully count on it going forward.
I thank the Lord Jesus for giving me these last seven years as your spiritual father, as well as for the year ahead He seems to have given me. And I pray He will generously give me many more years with you in the future. You remain in my prayers constantly, and I hope you will continue to pray for me, be patient with me and cooperate with me, to make this parish family, this small part of God’s family, the best it can be—in our time together here in this world, but most especially in the world to come.
JULY FOURTH, AND LIBERTY. Seven years longevity pales in comparison to the 241 years of our great nation’s independence which we celebrated this last week. Let’s look back on some wise words from the Fathers of our nation as we look forward to our 242nd year. God bless America.
Declaration of Independence [in part]
“In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
“The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789 (excerpt):
…[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.
In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States.
Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage.
These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence….
…Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people….
I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign parent of the human race, in humble supplication that since he has been pleased to favor the American people, with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of Government, for the security of their Union, and the advancement of their happiness; so his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.
Oremus pro invicem. Father De Celles