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There is Always a Way to Respond

As I shared last week, throughout the month of June, the staff and I have welcomed your comments as to what your experience of liturgy has been at Saint Noel. Again, most feedback remains overwhelmingly positive, from parishioners and guests alike. More recent comments, however, have been more negative. While equally appreciated, there is always a constructive way to respond, whether shared in person or in writing.

I have already addressed this previously in an e-mail to the parish, but if you are upset about something or feel the need to express concerns, and choose to remain anonymous, your e-mail or letter will be deleted or shredded and not taken into regard. I consider myself a rather approachable person, and rarely have I been unable to greet the assembly following a given liturgy. Perhaps it is not the best time to raise a concern immediately following Mass, as I am greeting others, but an appointment can be scheduled and I encourage you to call the office to do so.

It has pervaded nearly every aspect of our culture to immediately react, and we feel entitled to voicing our opinions. I will never dismiss where anyone is coming from, as so often our instant reactions tend to stem from past hurts and negativities. We are all coming from different places. However, too many times, our reaction is not even necessarily related to the issue at hand. Day after day, our many disappointments and misunderstandings build, and likely enough a deeper hurt is the underlying cause of an uncharitable response.

One specific example occurred after the weekend of June 9, when the image on the cover of the bulletin featured Michelangelo’s fall and expulsion of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which illustrated the First Reading taken from Genesis 3:9-15. I received an anonymous letter stating this image was pornographic. I will not reprint what followed in the letter and have dismissed the rather insulting and hurtful words that followed. However, the first concern raised is worth addressing, as it proves to be a teachable moment for all ages. This image is unequivocally not pornographic. It graces the ceiling of one the holiest sites in all of Christendom, where the next pope is elected under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The human body is God’s greatest work of art. “God created man in his image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27). In fact, our very bodies are sacramental, revealing a deeper truth about the human person. Sacred nude art expresses the original nakedness our first parents experienced without shame. All of us shared in this innocence before we became “aware of ourselves.” In our broken and fallen world, shame becomes learned, and so too, can disordered sexual desire. Pornography seeks to divorce the body from the person, and distort its true meaning, so that we are enticed to view the other as an object to use, rather than a person to love. Healing from this is a process that can be long and arduous. In fact, the Christian’s life journey is the redemption of the body, which includes everything about our humanity. “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good” (Gn 1:31). My final word on this, friends: what God has ordained to be good, we are not to consider otherwise.

Other expressed concerns have included several inquiries begging why I do not celebrate Mass as my predecessor, Fr. George. Very simply, and respectfully, I am not him and he is not me.

Our baptism demands we engage charitably with one another. If we are not capable of this as a parish family, why do any of us wonder as to the present state of the world?

On a personal note of gratitude, I thank those who offered their kind and affirming words on the kiosk on the occasion of my fifth anniversary as pastor. I have taken them to heart and to prayer.

Fr. Terry


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