First of all, I want to thank you for coming to my anniversary Mass. This winter storm has kept many people away, including my mom who lives on Camano Island. We have scheduled a Mass in Stanwood on February 2. Please pray that we won't have such bad weather at that time.
It would be an understatement to say that this weather has been a disappointment, especially that many of my priest friends have not been able to come. But it certainly reminds us that our plans are in the hands of Divine Providence. And we have to try to understand what his intentions are in all the circumstances of our lives.
Something did happen which really buoyed me up. On Thursday I received a voice mail message from Archbishop Murphy. I would like to play it for you now…
I have to say I was deeply, deeply touched that Archbishop Murphy from his hospital bed would take the time and care to call. As you know, Archbishop Murphy has been such a dynamic and energetic leader. It is really hard to see him struck down. Our prayers are certainly with him. I am offering this anniversary Mass especially for him and his recovery.
It was Archbishop Murphy who suggested that this Mass be on December 29, the Feast of the Holy Family. In spite of the snow, I am happy to be celebrating it today. Today is the feast day of our parish. And the Holy Family itself highlights an important aspect of the priesthood.
When all is said and done, the purpose of our lives here on earth is the formation of families. The priest's relationship to his people can be understood also in terms of building family.
This has been brought home to me over and over again in my 25 years as a priest. I'd like to tell about an incident when I was in Peru. I was talking with a young mother and I was holding her child as she told the troubles of her life. When she finished, I really did not have that much to say. I went over to her, put her baby back in her arms, then placed my hands on her head to give her and her child a blessing. When I lifted my hands, the young woman looked up to me, her eyes filled with tears and said, "tu eres mi papá." "You are my father."
The great title of honor for a priest has always been "father." It's interesting that even tho Jesus (using oriental hyperbole) said "Call no man Father," his most intimate disciples accepted the title. St. Paul, when he was trying to bring into line his unruly flock at Corinth, reminded them "I am your father. I begot you through the Word I preached to you." And St. John, known as the "beloved disciple," said "Little children, love one another." He was not afraid call them "little children," and they rejoiced to call him "Father."
Of course, we priests do not want to be "fathers" in a kind of controlling, paternalistic sense. That is why it is so important what Sirach says to us in today's first reading. He's talking about the relationship of a grown up son to his father. I think about my own dad. When we were children, my brothers, sister and I pretty much did what he told us, but when we grew up, we would often take the lead and at the end we took care of him. As Sirach says, that is what a father expects of his grown up sons and daughters.
There is a great mystery here. We all want a certain independence, autonomy, but to build family we need to accept a legitimate authority. It does not mean one is greater than the other, in fact it can be the opposite. Jesus, as Son of God, was greater than Mary, but he obeyed his mother. Mary, immaculately conceived, was greater than Joseph, but she obeyed her husband.
All of us priests feel this mystery. We are aware that in our parishes there are certainly people smarter than we are and many who are holier than we are. Yet we have a kind of father's role in guiding the community of faith.
And we ourselves are under authority. I remember when I was completing seven years in Peru. I wrote to Archbishop Murphy indicating I would like to spend a few more years. He wrote back laying out the needs here in the Archdiocese, especially the Hispanic communities. But he also said it was not his style to order his priests.
Obviously I did come home. Part of it was my parent's ill health and wanting to be close to them, another part was missing my friends and the ministry here in the Archdiocese, but the deepest reason is Archbishop Murphy himself. It's not just that I profoundly admire his leadership; it is that God has placed him as chief shepherd of Western Washington. He is like a father for a large family here.
Our family extends beyond the boundaries of the Archdiocese. Having served in Peru, I want to help people strengthen the bonds with our brothers and sisters there. When I was in Peru, I helped found the Mary Bloom Center. It is named for my mom and works with young married couples and poor families.
I am proud to say today that the couple who was most instrumental in getting this work going is with us at this Mass. They drove down through the snow from Vancouver, Canada. I'd like to ask Denis & Liane Bruneau and their children to please stand up.
Denis & Liane served as lay missionaries in my parish in Peru. They shared their lives and even the intimate meaning of their marriage with other young couples there. Teaching the Billings Ovulation Method, they showed couples the true meaning of marital love. And they were able to convince Peruvian doctors, nurses and midwife/obstetricians the value of the Billings Method. One of them, Luz Marrón, now heads up the Mary Bloom Center.
The collection of this evening's Mass will go for that work. In fact all the monetary gifts I have received for this anniversary will go to the Mary Bloom Center. If you write a check, please make it out to Holy Family Parish with Mary Bloom Center or Peru in the memo. And we will send one check to our Archdiocesan Missions Office. Because of the support of the Missions Office, 100% of every donation is sent to Peru. In 1997 we hope to purchase a fetal monitor for the Mary Bloom Center. It costs about $1400 if someone could make out a check for that amount. Also an overhead projector for teaching classes. In Peru a good one costs around $800 . If you can give $100 it will help a family with a medical emergency. Twenty dollars could enable a child to go to school. Whatever you give would be deeply appreciated.
It is a way of expressing our love and concern for the neediest members of our Church family. On my ordination anniversary and on this feast of the Holy Family, I do not feel I can do better than repeat St. John's words: Little Children, love one another.
Follow up Letter
From the archives (Holy Family Sunday homily):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies
(Praying at West Seattle Planned Parenthood)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru