Holy Week Blessings from Our Priests
Thank you to all our helpers during this Holy Week. SO MUCH goes into making this holiday special for everyone – namely those entering the Church. We’d also like to thank Rob Erp, Stella McCaffery and the gardening committee for making our grounds look so beautiful and welcoming. What you do means so much to us!! ALSO, remember next Sunday, April 27th during and after the 11:15 am Mass, we’ll be holding our Canonization Celebration. Please come celebrate this momentous event.DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
A Journey of Faith, to Love Again
by Damian Hanley
“I came from a family that was very fractured. My parents divorced when I was young, and that experience was very traumatic.”
When you’re a child, you’re being taught lessons all the time – lessons on how to love; lessons on how to hate; and lessons on how to be in the world. Adults forget this fact, which is why so many children are abused – not physically, although this does scar young bodies – but emotionally, children remember every dig, and every cut. And they carry those wounds into adulthood. We all know what it is to suffer, and this is why when Easter comes around, we cannot help ourselves but to think about Christ only 3 days before, and how He was tortured. He must have felt double the pain at the injustice of the event. He came to teach us how to love, and we killed Him. I guess one of the reasons why we celebrate Easter is not simply the fact that He rose, but because out of His suffering we found meaning.
Easter is the perfect time for reflection. When we contemplate the suffering and injustice Christ endured, it puts our own in perspective. But, without trying to compare apples and oran…crucifixion, what it also does is prove to us that no matter how great the suffering, or how extreme the misery, we’re called to use these experiences to inspire other people. We’re called to forgive anyway, and use what we learn about the frailty of humans – and the perfect love of God – and use that to better the lives of others. And that’s what Barbara Pascale did.
“I felt abandoned, but as a survival mechanism, I still held within me that there was a God. I see it now, as just part of the fine honing of the person I was to become. If those things hadn’t happened on the journey, there’s no telling I’d have the appreciation for the role of my faith in how I live my life.”
We’ve all felt alone and abandoned at times, but young Barbara was placed in an orphanage by her father at an age so young that she felt absolutely vulnerable, but old enough to know the implication of his action. How could she have possibly felt loved? How could she have felt worthy of love if her own father – unprovoked by any outside force – gave her up? A novel could be written on each of her experiences in foster care, but suffice it to say, it was no picnic.
“As my family fractured, the foundation of my spiritual life became my grandmother. She was always there for me. When my brothers and I went our separate ways into foster care, I began Hebrew school,” she remembers. “I really think I found God in that school, and I clung to that facet of my faith. In fact, I still have my childhood Torah. I bounced around a little and for a short while lived with my father and stepmother. She was a Protestant and at one point I became a Presbyterian. So I went from being Jewish, then becoming a Presbyterian, and when I went back to live with my mother, I started going to a Catholic church with my stepfather’s relative… And that’s when the call became strongest.”
Despite the path of tumult that had become Barbara’s faith life, she arrived at Catholicism in 1962. So many people turn away from religion, faith and God – as reflected in their behavior – because of the pain they suffer as children. Garden variety godlessness is almost too common in our culture to be called a “disease” or “mental illness”. It’s become a new normal for a world in which people (marketers) are literally buying our attention a second or a mouse-click at a time. But by becoming a Catholic, she was answering a call, and finding her way out of pain by looking deeper into her faith life. Not running from it.
“As a survival mechanism, at times, I held in my heart the idea that there was a God that loved me.” Quite possibly it was the pain she felt in her childhood that became the motive force that would fuel her conversion.
She was going to learn to love again.
“I never lost my faith, but it didn’t come easily either,” remembers Barbara. “You know, back then, there was no formal process for becoming a Catholic – no RCIA. I would meet with my pastor, Father John once or twice a week. We’d read through a Catechism that was written for children because no formal program existed – and we did it together. He challenged me. I challenged him. And all the while, this deep sense of peace began to develop within me. It kept getting deeper, and deeper and deeper.”
Slowly the feelings of abandonment that were so pervasive in her childhood began to lift. She could have – and many do – become a hateful person. She could have held the resentment inside and let it chafe her soul. “It took a long time, but in a way I am grateful for the way my childhood unfolded. Had I not felt all that pain, chances are I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
And who is that person today? “I’m a person who has a lot of empathy, compassion,”and she’s a person that gives a lot of herself to people with desperate situations. As part of the Emergency Assistance Team, she reminds people that the Church is there for them in the material world as well as the spiritual. She supports her husband’s work as a Knight, and in an effort to empower the truly disenfranchised around us, she’s president of the Friends of Literacy program in the Lee County Library system, because “when I learned to read, it became the thing I turned to most to expand the world around me. I could go anywhere through the written word.”
We see it in every major faith tradition of our time. Possibly the greatest movement in spirituality of the 20th century was Alcoholics Anonymous, and the variety of 12-step spin-offs it bore in its wake. They all work in essentially the same way. People come in broken. They share with others. They learn about their brokenness and seek God. They amend their lives. They become decent human beings – and here’s the kicker – they carry the message and help other people to find the same peace and serenity which they can only describe as a miracle. It works because, built into the program, is the stipulation that they give of themselves so that others can also find God. And yet, we, in our stubbornness and self-centeredness, blow this off as if it were God’s mere suggestion. When we love people unconditionally and do what we can to help them, God takes care of us. In fact, He grants such profound peace and serenity when we use our pain and experience to help others, it’s as if… Jesus was trying to tell us something when He died on the cross. Could it be that simple? Nah. There’s got to be more to it.
Barbara’s journey wasn’t a “competition” of faiths that Catholicism won out. Her journey started with overcoming emotional pain and feelings of abandonment, and has culminated in a place where the only thing that makes sense is to live a life of service. Punch Card Catholics come to Church because – even if they’re just going through the motions – they know the answers are here. They know that the solution to their suffering is in the Gospel, and make no mistake, we are all suffering in one way or another.
We suffer because of our inability to love – to love like God taught us. No matter how many times we fall – or feel abandoned – our faith that God will send us the person to teach us how to love cannot waiver. He will do it. “I have a prayerful way of being, and I don’t know where this journey will lead, but I believe with every fiber of my being, that it will lead me home.” If we don’t learn how to love… if we don’t learn how to fully live in God’s world, we will have missed the meaning of life. No Ferrari, no McMansion, no amount of pleasure will compensate for that. So when we contemplate the meaning of Easter, please think only of the love God has for us, and get busy emulating it. Our suffering is our greatest teacher, because without it, we cannot grow closer to Him. Be grateful for it.