Fr. Felix’s Thoughts for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
My dear friends,
A couple of weeks ago, the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released on clerical sexual abuse committed by catholic priests. The church is facing a sad reality. The report is horrific and condemnable. It deeply affects the core and fabric of the priesthood and the people of God. And in no way is it acceptable that so many children were abused, causing them so much pain they suffered. The turning of a blind eye, causing this to go on for so long is also not acceptable.
Please understand, that the reason I have not spoken about this before this weekend is not that I did not want to say anything, but I was waiting for information from the archdiocese.
This past weekend we put a letter in the bulletin from the New Jersey Catholic Bishops expressing their sadness and also their commitment to the protection of youth in the Catholic Church. On the other side of that letter is the invitation by Cardinal Tobin for prayer, fasting and penance to help all of us and especially, for the victims and their search for peace, healing and justice. Specifically, Cardinal Tobin’s letter invites all to join him at the Cathedral in Newark on September 14 (the Feast of the Cross) at 7:30pm.
My dear friends, this is not a moment for us to abandon the church. Many times people ask when something like this happens, why did God allow this? Some people stopped going to church and stop coming to Mass.
But that is not the solution. The solution is not to leave the church, as one priest said, rather it is to a time to lead the church.
What does it mean to lead? It means to strive towards even more holiness. As the body of Christ, followers of Jesus, as Christians and as Catholics, we do not leave the church when things gets difficult; nor when there are bad things which happen. Instead we are called to a deeper relationship with Christ so that He can make all of us saints.
The priest has a responsibility to guide the people of God through the Word of God and the Sacraments to holiness.
At church and at Mass, it is not about the priest, it is not about who is on the altar saying the Mass as bread and wine which become the bread and Body of Jesus Christ. It is about Jesus who is inviting you and me; and calling us and urging us to become holy as His people on earth.
If you were to ask me if this report of Pennsylvania bothers me? You’re damn sure does! I am in shock and angry and saddened by the hearing of this report.
As your pastor and parish priest I’m not here to go golfing; I’m not here to be on vacation, I’m not here to spend money, or to have parties. But I am here to serve you. I am not the one who’s on the pedestal, it is the Lord who is on the pedestal; and it is He who is the good one and I serve him, by serving you.
We are all broken, and sinners…me too. I shared with you my struggles during my Mom’s sickness, and the arguments that we had as a family in regards to her care. I am human and I love my Mom and wanted the best for her, as my family did. But there were times when we disagreed on things as a family.
The virtuous ones in this report, are the victims. The victims are the virtuous ones because they came forward and spoke out.
At the same time many asked where was God? Christ was with them in the suffering and the struggle and shame of what happened to them. Jesus was never far away from them, he was there in them and carried the cross in them.
We at Nativity will remain ‘in black’ for this year and continue to pray for the victims of this devastating abuse in the church.
This is not a time to depart from Mass nor the Word of God. Let God enter into us and remain part of our lives, so he can gather us, heal us, and raise us up.