It’s so good to be back with all of you!
My husband, Jim, and I had a wonderful cruise to the British Isles. It was our first trip to Britain, Scotland, and France, but our third trip to Ireland and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. We attended Church at a “high church” of England (Anglican) at St. Peter’s Port which was very well attended, concelebrated by 2 priests (one a man, one a woman), with a great sermon punctuated with humor and several allusions to the “cruise crowd” by the female pastor. There was a lovely window of Nicodemus coming to Christ at night above their baptistery which I had never witnessed before. At first I was trying to figure out, “What is this window depicting and why is it here?” and then it clicked: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’” (Jn. 3: 6-7) I was also struck by the Baptistery which has some similar features to our own font with the columns.
Our visit to the Rock of Cashel (our last visit was well over 10 years ago) showed some important efforts toward reconstruction and redevelopment to parts of the original monastery. Two of the most famous people of Irish legend and history are associated with the Rock of Cashel. They are St. Patrick whom according to legend, arrived in Cashel in AD 432 and baptized King Aengus who became Ireland's first Christian ruler. The second was Brian Boru, he was crowned High King here in 990. As you enter Ascension Church, the first window on the right hand (north) side is a picture of St. Patrick teaching King Aengus and his queen about the Trinity as he worked to evangelize. When I visited this site in the past, I was working at another parish and had quite forgotten about our window. So the site had much more meaning for me. Also, the cemetery seems to have been reclaimed by current families whose ancestors’ remains are buried here. In the past, headstones were centuries old, but now there are very current dates as the sacred space and site are once again claimed as holy ground. Below are pictures of the outside of the castle and a view of the pastoral scene as one gazes from the cemetery grounds.
One more visit to a church in Scotland was such a delight, I want to share. Jim and I had decided to venture into the port city of Invergordon on our own. There was a museum for Jim and a church for me. As can happen, we got turned around and then I spotted the steeple and headed towards it. A woman came up to me and introduced herself as a member of the church and invited us in for “tea or coffee and some homemade shortbread.” It was a delight! The woman pastor was there with her grandson and we had a great talk about their windows and the upcoming Scripture for the Sunday (which was Martha and Mary) and commented on how we were living the Gospel in the heart of the city. They acknowledged that their congregation was very small (“young people just don’t seem to be drawn into the practice of the Christian faith anymore”) and yet, here were these older members of the community present each time a cruise ship comes to port to open their doors for any “weary travelers.” Again, I was reminded of the graciousness of so many of our own older parishioners here at Ascension who provide services of all kinds to those who are part of our parish as well as to visitors.
Blessings on your week! I promise…no more travelogue next week!
This weekend I am away from the parish to attend my grandson’s Confirmation in Terre Haute, IN. My daughter, his godmother, is flying in from San Francisco to be there with him as he is anointed and sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s an action many of us have probably witnessed many times. It is an action which brings joy to our hearts. It is an action which affirms not only the faith of the one receiving the sacrament, but also the individual faith of each one who witnesses it as well as the faith of the whole community.
Our readings this weekend speak to faith and what it means to be faithful. As much as many would like one single comprehensive statement to elucidate the full meaning of the word, I really don’t hold that to be true. Faith is surely a connector, an intangible but real value, attitude…I wish I could adequately capture with words what I feel in my heart and what is churning in my mind. I know that I am happy that several of my children have embraced my religious faith and value the rituals of the Catholic Church as I do. But I am reluctant to suggest that “faith” is only connected to one’s religious belief. I do see (and somewhat understand) the faith of those who believe in God, in God’s grace and goodness, but do not feel connected to a particular religious belief. And I feel sad for those who turn away from any belief in a loving God because of the terrible things that occur in the world, whether natural disasters or mass shootings or cancer or…you can fill in the blank. I feel sad because I just don’t know how I would cope without my belief in a loving and forgiving God. I find such comfort in the rituals and practices of the Catholic faith and am proud to be a part of a Church which is all embracing. Pope Francis has encouraged (much as St. John XXIII did) to welcome all to Christ’s table; welcome all to come to know the compassionate face of Christ who shows us the compassion and love of the Father. That’s the overall message of the Catholic Faith. There is doctrine and directives and rules but as St. Paul said so well in 1 Corinthians: “Now we have faith, hope, and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” (1Cor. 13:13). As Catholics, we are always reminded to keep things in perspective. It is not for us to judge the actions of others, the beliefs of others (or lack of belief) but simply to be the Body of Christ in the world. Each day we connect with the Creator God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit and move through our day in that spirit of love and compassion. As disciples, we are witnesses. As disciples, we are models. Actions speak louder than words. Let our Christian actions be the means to invite others to “come and see.”
In my model of summer (June, July, and August) it’s hard to believe we are 2/3 of the way through. Except for a couple days in June, I have not been up to my beloved Door County, so I know that will be on my agenda sometime this month. I’m hoping that by September we will begin to see new signs of unification, whether it is an outreach to talk about a new name for our parish, a single bulletin for the 2 worship sites, or even the simple act of worshipping at the “other” parish Church and getting the feel of that community of faith. I hear that people are grieving at our St. Edmund campus (I honestly have not heard that from folks who identify with Ascension by and large), and I am empathetic to those feelings. I know when people are grieving, things can’t be rushed. I’m also aware that there are many folks asking me, “When is this going to happen? When is that going to happen?” I don’t have those answers. However, there are members of the unification team that greet outside after Mass on the weekend. Do feel free to ask Deb, Peter, Michaelena, or Lisa; I bet they would welcome the conversation!
Have a great week!