Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Today I signed a check for a little less than $160,000.00. There is something frightening about signing my name and have a multi-thousand dollar transaction happen. It was not from my personal wealth (of which there is not any), but from my parish and the diocese of Little Rock. The check is for the purchase of two adjacent properties properties on the end of our block on West Main Street. We now own the entire block that fronts on Main, the south side of the block. This is a big investment for us, since we do not have any extra money to throw around, and we are looking at such a tottering economy. It is, however, a step toward the future of possibilities for this parish. Some will say that I can be pretty spendthrift with other people's money, and that is something that a pastor has to be always aware of and avoid, since the property and wealth of a church are not his own. (The motto on my coat of arms Duc in altum-Cast out into the deep, means that I should be bold. It does not mean that I should push others out into the deep.) At the same time, a pastor has to have a vision for the future of a church, even if the members thereof do not. Pastors come and go, and the changes and plans of one are quickly dismantled and overthrown by the next. They are not making more land, though, and it is good to have a lot of it if you ever (as an institution) want to grow. May this transaction be according to God's will for us. If it be, we will have nothing to fear, and if it be not, then it will simply be another example, among the countless, of human folly. Let us pray that it be the former rather than the latter.
O Holy Spirit of God, take me as your disciple; guide me, illuminate me, sanctify me. Bind my hands that they may do no evil; cover my eyes that they may see it no more; sanctify my heart that evil may not dwell within me. Be my God; be my guide. Wherever you lead me, I will go: whatever you forbid me, I will renounce; and whatever you command me, in your strength, I will do. Lead me, then, unto the fullness of your truth. Amen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi gras and Lent

We are on the cusp of Lent today. Much ado in the sacristies, changing of altar cloths, getting vestments ready, changing out candles and books, and all the other things that have to be done to prepare for tomorrow. I hope that we have some more non-Catholics at the services tomorrow, although we neglected to put the schedule in the paper.

I will have plenty to do: Morning Prayer, blessing and distribution of ashes, and holy communion at 7 o'clock. Mass at noon, and again at six. Then another Mass in Spanish, although I will be trinating, and we're not supposed to say more than one Mass a day, and another if it is something special, e.g., a funeral. If I don't do one in Spanish, then they will not come to the others. The Anglos don't care for bi-lingual liturgies. (We should have kept things in Latin, and then we wouldn't have to deal with all this!)

I get excited about Lent. It is a far more loin-girding time than the new year of resolution attempts. Spring is in the air (Lent is from an Old English word for spring) and the daffodils and other bulbs are blooming all over. It is a time for pruning. So much of our liturgy is based on the cycles of the seasons. How right it is that Passover and Easter are in the spring! Life is going to come out of the death of winter, but even winter was a time of rest and preparation.
Some people hate Lent. They think that it's a total downer. They don't like the music, they don't like the readings or the homilies. They don't like the self-denial. But if there's anything that we need to do as Catholics it is penance. How do we get away without having a penitential spirit. St. Benedict says that the monk's like should always have the character of Lent. This is in line with his understanding of on-going conversion (conversatio morum).
We are having our Tuesdays in Lent again this year. I will do basic apologetics for the first four times. We live in the bible belt, and are surrounded by a sea of fundamentalism. Catholics need to learn how to answer the questions that are inevitably raised, but to answer with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:16).
Besides the lectures, we will have supper provided by the various groups in the church. It will be meatless and mostly soups. Maybe more people will come to Mass on Tuesdays at 5:30. They can then come to supper and the talk. On the last Tuesday of March (5th Tuesday) we will have a presentation of slides from our EOHSJ pilgrimage last November. Everyone has wanted to see them, and Phil Pesek has prepared quite a show.
Who therefore among you who is even more tempted after baptism should not be troubled. It is for this you have received arms: not to stand at ease, but to fight. God will not then ward you off from temptation; and this He does for many reason. First, that you may so learn that you are now stronger. Then, lest you be exalted by the greatness of His gifts. Thirdly, that the devil may receive proof you have wholly renounced him. Fourthly, that by this trial you may become yet stronger. Fifthly, that you may receive an indication of the treasure you have received: for the devil would not so pursue you, to tempt you, did he not see that you had now come to a higher dignity. (Chrysostom, Hom. 13 in Matt.)