During this pandemic, I have been reading more. One book I have been going through is Robert Putnam’s The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. Robert’s thesis is that America’s Gilded Age — 1870s through 1890s — shows remarkable similarity to our own, including strong divisions in the country, a yawning gap between rich and poor, and a societal focus on “I” rather than “we.”
After the gilded age there was a steady improvement, with a growing sense we are in this together. The height of the curve was reached in the 1950s and early 60s, which represents the lowest gap between rich and poor; most favorable health indicators; highest social spending to help the poor; lowest political polarization; and the apex of America’s sense of moving forward together. Since the 1960s, we have fallen back to the level of the gilded age with the toxic fractionalization of today.
I found myself hopeful that our parish could be an oasis from the strong divisions and “me” mentality of our current situation. Yes, we do have differences, but those need not divide us. There was one quote in the book, “Where there is unity, there is openness to diversity.”
I was struck by the sharing at Mass a couple of weeks ago by some of our founding members. It was repeated a number of times how those first members were intentional about establishing an environment, where all are welcomed. I continue to be impressed by the outreach ministries in this community. It is one way we try to bridge the gap between rich and poor, not just through the material assistance we give but by the human contact we establish.
This pandemic may make us feel more isolated and alone, but our faith reminds us we are united to one another and to the Lord. Find ways to foster this unity: join together in the live streaming of Mass when you cannot physically be present; pray for the parish and its ministries; volunteer when you are able; learn more about your faith through our Faith Formation program; and support financially the mission of the parish.
We are living in the midst of a very “I-centered” time in our culture. We can choose to live as a “we” – united as God’s Holy People.
Pope Francis has called for a synod on the synodal nature of the Church. The word synod means journeying together. God journeys with us as we journey with one another. Journeying together calls us to listen to one another and to the Lord. Pope Francis states that the synod process “was conceived as an exercise in mutual listening… conducted at all levels of the Church.” This listening is not about garnering opinions or taking a survey. It is a matter of listening to the Holy Spirit as we listen to the experiences of one another, our hopes and dreams as well as that inner restlessness, which “impels us to consider what it is best to do, what needs to be preserved or changed.” The timing of this synod process on the parish level is great. It is time for our parish to review its five-year goals and priorities. As your new pastor, I want to know more deeply the hopes and dream as well as the needs and concerns of this particular community. We are now beginning our parish synodal listening sessions. Please sign up for one of these sessions that are currently scheduled through February. Your participation will helps us look at our parish and “to consider what it is best to do, what needs to be preserved or changed.” Information gleaned from these sessions will then be sent to the Archbishop for his diocesan report, which will be sent to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and be included in a national report sent to the Vatican for a gathering of bishops from around the world in 2023. Be a part of this historic endeavor. Sign up for a parish listening session.
Watch Out for Scams! Some parishioners have received requests that are said to be sent by me asking for gift cards. Scammers are very good at getting people to hand over money. I once got a message I thought was from my mom, asking for a gift card. It even had her e-mail address. Whenever you get a request that is even the slightest unusual, check it out. Call the person. Here are some other things you can do:
- Report any scam or unwanted email by forwarding it to the Federal Trade Commission at email@example.com who will track down and prosecute the scammers.
- Contact the organization that the email scam purports to be from.
- Contact your Internet Service Provider, who can help stop scam emails from reaching you. Many have a way to forward these emails directly to them from your inbox.
- Protect your friends from scams by checking them out before forwarding anything to your email distribution list.
One doesn’t know the sinking feeling of being scammed until one has been scammed! Fortunate for me, it was caught before any damage was done. I am one of the parishioners that Father Bill is referring to. I received an email from someone posing as Father Bill, asking me to help him buy gifts for the parish staff. “Father Bill” wanted me to buy a $100 gift card for each member of the staff, and send in my receipt for reimbursement. When I suggested that one can always use Amazon or Starbucks gift cards, he said he specifically wanted Apple gift cards. He went further to say that I should email him pictures of the gift cards with the PIN exposed. Once I have done that, draw a line through the card numbers and PIN, and give the cards to him when I see him on Sunday. He had me going until the picture part. I share this story because it is so easy to get scammed, when these scammers prey on your emotions. Set emotions aside, and let common sense take over. Please be careful!
The Holy Family
Scripture tells us practically nothing about the first years and the boyhood of the Child Jesus. All we have are the stories of the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incidents that occurred when the twelveyear-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In her liturgy the Church hurries over this period of Christ’s life with equal brevity. The general breakdown of the family, however, at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the farsighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instill into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar for all Christian families. “The Holy Family is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God, thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth”. (Pope Benedict XVI) The Christian family is the first cell of the whole Church. It is the place where we begin the journey toward holiness and become more fully human. The Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, became one of us. He was born into a human family. That was neither accidental nor incidental. There, in what the Pope Paul VI called the “School of Nazareth”, we can learn the way of love. Jesus, in his childhood at Nazareth, forever transformed family life. Now, He teaches us how to live in love and devotion, if we will enroll in the “School of Nazareth”.