Bulletin (December 30, 2001)

The Mary Bloom Center received a Christmas surprise. I found out about it when I called Peru, a couple days before the 25th. Four-year-old Melani Palacios answered the phone and said something to me about an abuelito (elderly gentleman) and caca (poop). Her mom, Obst. Luz Marron informed me that some schoolteachers had brought a disoriented old man to the Mary Bloom Center, asking her if she could care for him for a few days. Luz, who was raised by her grandmother, has a tender spot for the elderly and she took the man in. The teachers did not return nor did any of the man’s family come for him. When Luz went to the authorities, they gave a somewhat common response, “We cannot do anything, but if something happens, you are responsible.”

In the speech on the “Seven Ages of Man,” Shakespeare describes the final age:

Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Such is the situation of the abuelito currently at the Mary Bloom Center. It is sad, when one arrives at that state, if he has no loved ones to care for him. For that to happen to someone in Peru is rare, but meanwhile Luz sees their “Christmas surprise” as a blessing for her and Melani.

For me Christmas went in a more familiar groove. Thanks be to God, no one dropped off an abuelito or a baby (as happened to some priest friends of mine a number of years ago). I did receive plenty of candy and other food, as well as a couple of sweaters and many kind cards and gifts. I deeply appreciate the care and affection Holy Family parishioners extend to Fr. Ramon Velasco and me at this time of year.

Our Christmas Masses were most beautiful, thanks to the music by Pat Butler and his choir. Also deeply appreciated was the lovely chant choir at the Christmas Eve 5 p.m. Mass, directed by Paul Grady. The Filipino choir had a number of talented young musicians who brought diverse instruments. The decorations had a noble simplicity, which underscored the profound meaning of this season. I thank all those who worked so hard to make the Christmas celebrations a prayerful experience for all.

New Year’s Day is World Day of Prayer for Peace. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, right after the 11 p.m. bilingual Mass, we will recite a fifteen-decade Rosary for Peace. There will be two other opportunities to join in that prayer: at 10 a.m. (before the 11 a.m. Mass) and at 5 p.m. (before the 6 p.m. Filipino Mass). For the World Day of Prayer, Pope John Paul II has set the following theme: No Peace Without Justice, No Justice Without Forgiveness. In his Message, the Holy Father gave a personal reflection based on his own experience of the Nazi occupation of Poland and subsequent domination by the Soviet Union:

“Recent events, including the terrible killings just mentioned, move me to return to a theme which often stirs in the depths of my heart when I remember the events of history which have marked my life, especially my youth. The enormous suffering of peoples and individuals, even among my own friends and acquaintances, caused by Nazi and Communist totalitarianism, has never been far from my thoughts and prayers. I have often paused to reflect on the persistent question: how do we restore the moral and social order subjected to such horrific violence? My reasoned conviction, confirmed in turn by biblical revelation, is that the shattered order cannot be fully restored except by a response that combines justice with forgiveness. The pillars of true peace are justice and that form of love which is forgiveness.” When the pope was a young bishop in Poland, he participated in a pastoral letter to German bishops in which they expressed forgiveness for the war crimes and also asked forgiveness of the Germans. For many Polish people this seemed outrageously impossible. How can someone forgive those who tortured and murdered a parent, a neighbor, a loved one? Moreover, what have we done to them that we should ask their forgiveness? Yet it was a bold pastoral gesture which did much to bring healing between the two peoples. The pope is calling for a similar forgiveness today between nations. Even though we say, “we believe in the forgiveness of sins” it is hard for us to forgive. For some people, forgiveness means pretending nothing happened. The pope is quite clear that the first step is to identify evil and do all one can to resist it. Unless we believe that human beings can freely choose between good and evil, there is no point to forgiveness. If a dog bites me, I cannot in any true sense forgive him because I do not hold the animal responsible as I would his owner.

While forgiveness begins by recognizing that true offenses exist, it does not stop there. Some folks imagine that they have forgiven because they say, “That’s OK.” However, the next time they have an argument, they are quick to bring up the offense. Forgiveness is putting money into a bank account for future use, but rather erasing the account. The original words of the Lord’s Prayer say, “Forgive us our debts as we cancel the debts of others.” It doesn’t necessarily mean to “forget” but to never make use of the offense in any future dealings with the person. As the pope has pointed out, there is no peace without justice, but for us men true justice is impossible only with forgiveness.

Speaking of forgiveness, I remind you of the great Sacrament of Reconciliation which will be celebrated this Thursday, January 3. Fr. Ramon and I will be in church from 4 to 8 p.m. in our church – or until all are heard. I’ve been telling some of my nephews and nieces, “Isn’t it time you guys did the right thing and got married.” They listen politely to their uncle, but seem to be on their own timetable. Perhaps some of you have had better luck. Anyway, please let any young people know about our Marriage Preparation course (Evenings for the Engaged) which will begin January 13 (Sunday) from 4 to 6 p.m. Please call Sharon, 206-767-6220 to register.

Also Fr. Ramon will be conducting baptism classes beginning on January 14, 7 p.m. Please call Fr. Ramon at the rectory to register.

Finally for all registered parishioners: Please mark January 24 (Thurs) 7 to 9 p.m. on your calendar. That evening we will have a Town Hall Meeting to hear different concerns and to try to get some idea of how much support we might have to do a Capital Campaign for our school and other parish buildings. Our Parish Council will use the results of the Town Hall Meeting in the formation of a strategic plan for Holy Family.