Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
I am completing six years as your pastor and, as many of you know, the Archbishop has reassigned me for six more here at Holy Family. Before that happened, I went through the Archdiocesan Review process. It both gave me encouragement and made me reflect on some of the things I could do better. I know I have failed in many ways - and for that I ask forgiveness - but my greatest failing can be summed up in the quote from Saint-Exupéry: I have not taught you to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
As pastor I have striven to present the full range of Jesus’ moral teachings: from social justice to Natural Family Planning, from the dignity of the dying to that of the unborn, from honoring ones bishop to honoring ones parents, from stewardship to daily prayer. I do this not because I live these teachings perfectly myself – far from it – but because you, as much as I, need to know what Jesus requires. Nevertheless, what I really want to communicate is that these moral teachings are not an end in themselves, but guideposts to arrive at our goal.
Every year or so, my brothers, nephews, niece and I go to Neah Bay for a fishing trip. To get out of the harbor the captain has to watch his speed, avoid hitting other boats and steer a careful course through buoys. But pretty soon we are in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then so far into the Pacific Ocean that the shore disappears. Jesus' moral teachings – you can find them spelled out in the third section of the Catechism - are like buoys which allow a person to pass safely through the port on to the vast sea.
This Sunday we ask for the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul tells us that by our baptism we “drink” of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 12:13) “He will guide you to all truth.” (Jn 16:13) The Spirit enables us to live Jesus’ teachings. None of us can do it on our own. But he is not just the energy to get to our destination. He is our destination. He is the vast and endless sea. Perhaps your heart lifted when you heard the quote from Saint-Exupéry. Not because you thought the Pacific Ocean is endless. You know you will eventually hit China. But those words may have recalled a longing which earth cannot satisfy.
“Our hearts are restless,” said Augustine. Only one can give us rest – the Comforter.
I don't want to be like a nervous schoolmaster trying to calm down his students. On the contrary, I want you to let loose your deepest urges. C. S. Lewis writes, “if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
If all goes well, I will serve at Holy Family till 2009. By then I will be 63 – who knows if the bishop would inflict me on a new group of people at that stage! But I do know that these past six years have sped by like one of the impatient drivers on Roxbury Street. The next six will move even faster. The open sea beckons each of us. I admit that getting there will involve risk, maybe even seasickness. But Jesus gives a sure guide and comforter – the Holy Spirit.
From the Archives:
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Fiftieth Anniversary: Gratitude for Past, Looking toward the Future)
Abortion Clinics Conceal Statutory Rape
Magdalene Sisters and other anti-Catholic Pornography (Warning: Contains graphic descriptions.)
12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer
"Anti-Gay" Speech? (Cardinal Arinze Commencement Address at Georgetown University)
Bloom Family Pictures (Includes June 1 Dedication of Pro-Life Shrine in Stanwood)
my bulletin column
Parish Picture Album
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Footnote to comments on World Civilization Course: There is a lot one could say about this high school textbook. It purports to be comprehensive, but it leaves a lot out. For example, its ample index does not have an entry for Mother Theresa or Pope John Paul II. Even from a secular point of view they are two people who had a deep and ongoing impact on our world. By way of contrast, the textbook did have a section on Betty Friedan! Subsequently I came across this quote from University of Wisconsin Professor Stanley Payne about the current state of history studies:
Major themes are replaced by comparatively minor considerations, which emphasize small groups, deviants and cultural oddities. Most studies are required to fit somewhere within the new sacred trinity of race, class and gender - the new "cultural Marxism." Research that does not conform to these criteria is increasingly eliminated from the universities, where hiring practices in the humanities and social science have become blatantly discriminatory. (from "Controversies over History in Contemporary Spain")
Reasons Young People Leave Their Faith - Presentation for Monroe Christian Pastors. (For pdf format click here)