23 May

Witnessing to the Resurrection

Witnessing to the Resurrection

May 22, 2019

The website for Amazon lists 60,000 books on “leadership.” It is a hot topic these days. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what makes for a good leader and what leaders are supposed to do.

During these days in which our local church has just ordained eight new priests and 23 new deacons, we should take a moment and reflect on the leadership qualities that are expected of those who lead us. Obvious ones come to mind. A servant-leader should be selfless, patient, collaborative, decisive, hardworking, visionary. Most books list those and other qualities.

But one quality for leadership that is specific to church life, dating back to the earliest days in our tradition, is often overlooked: Leaders in the church are first of all to be “witnesses of the Resurrection.”

That is what we learn in reading the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. There Peter identifies the criteria for selecting a replacement for Judas. In addition to being with Jesus throughout his earthly life, hearing his words and seeing his many deeds, the candidate to be named as one of the 12 also had to be “a witness to his resurrection.”

Surely one who leads in the church must know and witness to Jesus, who lived 2,000 years ago as recounted in the Scriptures and tradition. Getting to know Jesus, especially through the Gospels, must be at the center of all ministry formation.

But that must include not only Jesus who walked along the shores of Galilee and lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago. Ministers in the church must also bear witness to the Risen Lord, as one who is present and active in the world today.

By making one’s witness to the Risen Lord the priority, church leaders keep ever fresh in their minds that Jesus is the one taking the lead, not them. Their job is to discern and point out where he is leading us. Such an approach to ministry distinguishes leadership in the church in a number of ways.

First, it eases the burdens of leadership, as Jesus told his first disciples: “take my yoke upon your shoulders, for my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt 11:30). Instead of being burdened with the task of taking the initiative, mapping out a way forward and defining goals, servant leaders in the church are confident that everything for the salvation of the world, as St. Paul often reminds the early Christians, does not depend on our works but is proceeding according to God’s own design (cf., 2 Tm 1).

This is a warning to church leaders not to take themselves too seriously, as if everything rises and falls on them. They should always remember that it is the Lord who takes the initiative and they are called to be attentive to all that he is doing.

Pursuing leadership in this way also has a calming effect in moments of great challenge and even crisis. I always like what St. John XXIII recounts in his memoirs. After a very heavy day, filled with the many seemingly intractable problems he faced as pope, he would simply say to Jesus, “It’s your church, Lord; I am going to bed.” This great pope was able to remain serene and composed as he carried out his ministry, because he knew that the Risen Lord was once again in the boat with him as Peter’s successor.

Finally, servant-leaders, for whom witnessing to the Risen Lord is the priority, are able to provide a hopeful vision, for they remind the community that Christ is always doing something new. No challenge is too daunting, no crisis too overwhelming. The future is not intimidating, nor is the past confining, for Christ is the Lord of history, who is moving all of creation forward by his plan and design.

Surely, servant-leaders in the church must have the skill set to respond to the everyday needs of the community living in this temporal world. They must have integrity, know how to consult, collaborate, give direction and take hard decisions. More is required for those who serve as leaders in a church that recognizes that Jesus is alive and at work in ways that are ever new and that need to be discerned.

It is up to servant-leaders in the church to be attentive to all that the Risen Lord Jesus is doing, for it is their witness to it that inspires and gives direction to the pilgrim people of God as they march through time until all things promised are fulfilled. 

19 May

Simply, Love One Another

Dear Parishioners,

George Washington's Farewell Address is considered one of the greatest speeches in American history, second to Lincoln's address at Gettysburg.  It has been analyzed, referenced, and reenacted (the speech is read every year on the US Senate floor on February 22) countless times. 

Washington didn't actually deliver publicly the over-seven thousand word address.  It appeared in the newspapers on September 19, 1776.  The father of the nation indicated he would not seek a third term as President of the United States.  He would instead "retire" to his home in Mount Vernon.  This was truly his desire since the end of the Revolutionary War.  He simply wanted to tend his land.  He truly was a 'Cincinnatus'. 

Washington warns, in the address, against division: geographic, political, international. But he is also positive, attempting to guide the people and leave an American legacy. "The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity," he wrote, "must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local distinctions."

Washington wanted to form an American identity in the people.  They were no longer British colonists.  Nor were they citizens of a particular state, federalists, republicans, farmers, soldiers, whatever.  They were Americans.

We read from the Gospel of John this week part of Christ's 'farewell address.'  It's better than Washington's.  His 'command' to the people (just like Washington 'commanded' the people not to be divisive) was: "love one another" (John 13:34).

19 May

Notre Dame and the Pieta

From the homily on Good Friday

Michelangelo's pietà—the image of Mary holding her dead son at the foot of the cross—was perhaps the most famous depiction of the subject until this past week.  Now, I argue, it is the pietà underneath the high altar of Notre Dame in Paris.  Two images of the sculpture just after the monumental fire stand out.  One is of three French firefighters looking into the smoke-filled nave of the church.  The statue can barely be seen, other than the brilliant gold cross above Mary.  The other image is of the statue with a pile of charred rubble before it.

Yes, the pietà at Notre-Dame de Paris is a symbol of resilience, just like the cathedral itself.  The 800-year-old church survived the Black Plague, the 100 Years War, the French Revolution, Napoleon, the Kaiser, and Hitler, who wanted to burn it.  But Notre Dame is something more, which is why this fire made the front page of every town's newspaper in the world.  A church is, fundamentally, our gift of worship and praise to God.  Sure, we celebrate community and even the sacraments in a church, and we are inspired by the art, the preaching and the music.  But a church building is not about us.  It is about God.  The cross is God's gift to us.  Our gift in reciprocation is a church.  And Notre Dame—the most beautiful church in the world—is the best we as a human race can give. 

And it burned.  It is up for us now, individually, to give as a gift to God our hearts.  Lay your burned heart before Christ when you venerate the cross, and your gift will be greater than Notre Dame.

12 May

We Survived!

Dear Parishioners,

When I first prayed over the second reading for this Sunday, in preparing for this letter, I had my own revelation.  Of course, this is John's revelation.  He sees a great multitude standing before the Lamb of God, wearing white robes with palms in their hands.  One of the saints leans over to John, during his vision, and explains to John that “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7:14). 

My vision was that this multitude in the white robes was you all, you faithful Catholics.  No, it wasn't an idea of throwing a toga party.  It was me seeing you all who have survived 'the time of great distress.'

Okay, what's the time of great distress?  Two things.  First, in the Catholic Church. It's been a rough year for the Church, with the scandals and so forth.  You are still coming to Church.  (If anyone thinks Catholicism has been weakened, I hope you saw the Church on Easter Sunday—it was an absolutely packed house.  And, talking with pastors elsewhere, they had similarly full congregations.)  You have persevered in your faith throughout the scandals.  Your robe has been washed white.

12 May

Mothers Not Only Can Be Saints, They Can Make Saints.

On this Mother's Day it is worth examining several saintly women. 

Joan of Aza was the wife of Felix de Guzman, a Spanish official.  She had already borne two sons and was praying for a third. She had a vision, while praying in church, of St. Dominic of Silos.  He told Joan not only would she have a son, but that her son would be a source of enlightenment for the world.  Joan then had a dream of a black and white dog carrying a torch in its mouth.  Joan gave birth to a son, whom she named Dominic. Her son, the St. Dominic we all know, would go on to establish the Dominicans, or the domini canes, the watchdogs of God.  And Joan's other children? Two became priests, one of whom was also beatified (Blessed Mannes). And Joan's daughter sent two of her sons into the Dominic Order as priests to follow their uncle.

Elisabeth Leseur was an incredibly spiritual woman.  The great suffering in her life was her husband, Felix, whom she loved but who was also an atheist.  Elisabeth died in her atheistic husband's arms on May 3, 1914.  Less than a decade later Felix Leseur was ordained a Catholic priest. 

And who could forget the greatest mother saint of all (besides Mary)? St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine!  Monica was a devout Catholic married to a pagan.  Her son Augustine had fallen astray.  But Monica did not lose hope. She prayed and wept abundant tears.  Monica died in Augustine's arms and her son went on to be baptized, ordained a priest and then bishop, a doctor of the Church, and a saint. 

Mothers not only can be saints, they can make saints. 

12 May

Marie Dombai

The Gift of Motherhood

When I was younger, I grew up knowing not only my mom but also her mother and her mother’s mother—my grandma and great grandma. I saw through the generations the meaning of motherhood. I saw these very strong, independent, spiritual, and loving women as my teachers.

They taught me many things over the years. They taught me about caring, understanding, loving, forgiving, patience, and life. (Just to name a few). They taught the importance and the value of family.

My mom was my superhero—you know, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound to prevent that glass of milk from spilling. My mother gave life to and raised six children. Being a mother of six isn’t easy, (I now know first hand), but hats off to my mom. She is a tough act to follow.

One day, something happened—I became a mom. It took awhile, but I came to understand that motherhood was more that just diapers and mounds of laundry. I realized that our six children were blessings from God and that I was truly blessed.

After I became a mother of six I often asked, “How did Mom do it?” but mom shared her many gifts and life lessons that soon became mine to teach. As a mother, I then began my discipleship and carried on the role of teacher. In raising our children, we have taught the importance of family, good moral values, life lessons, and faith all while teaching love—love for self, each other, family, friends, and God.

Now as a grandmother, I see that what I learned, I have successfully taught to my children as they live their lives and are raising their children in a Catholic environment.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you my admiration for the blessed Mary. She, too, is my mother and has taught me what motherhood is all about through the stories of her raising the Son of God. Mary has become my heavenly superhero, someone who I look to and pray to for support and guidance.

I am extremely thankful for the gift of motherhood and I am truly blessed to have mothers who have given me and continue to give me so much to be grateful for.

Marie Dombai, a retired nursing field supervisor, is a lifelong St. Juliana parishioner and an SJS alumna. She has been married to Tom, a diaconal candidate for 33 years. They have six children and (soon to be) two grandchildren.

07 May

Mary

Tuesday, May 7

Join Father James Wallace in the chapel at 7:00pm for a one-hour talk and discussion.

Mary