Dear POP Folks,
We are observing the 14th anniversary of the departure of Father George Sheltz as the third pastor of Prince of Peace. It was a difficult farewell for Father George and for the parish, which he had faithfully pastored through good times and difficult challenges.
It was also a painful time for me to leave behind a parish I loved deeply, moving north to this mega-church on 30 days’ notice. The grief was overwhelming. The love and vibrancy of POP was a comfort and a blessing.
The story continues on down the line to the priest who took my place and the pastor who took his place: Each of us happy in our lives and our assignments, devastated to be leaving, and then graced and energized by the people and blessings of our new church homes.
Since 1789, this time of year has also seen the observance of a national day of giving thanks. Thanksgiving, like other American institutions, is currently under pressure to be redesigned with no mention of the Creator. As Catholic Christian Americans and residents, we have not forgotten Who this day is about.
This time of year, for us who believe and for those who don’t, is always tinged with sadness as we remember other Thanksgivings, other holidays that we celebrated with now-departed parents and grandparents with departed spouses, with children who no longer maintain contact, with neighbors and friends who have drifted away.
Some of our losses represent the end of wonderful relationships. Others bear the ragged edges of conflict, hurt and harshness. Still others are marked by the inattentiveness and distraction that allows closeness and friendship to slowly fade.
I suggest that this Thanksgiving time is a great opportunity to:
- Go to God in prayer for the pain of what has been lost. The Heart of Jesus understands: he has been there himself.
- Remember that as members of the Communion of Saints, we have the ability to communicate with our departed loved ones, to speak words of anger or apology or farewell to those who have passed.
- Reach out to someone in a card, e-mail, Facebook note, text. Whether there is a response, the effort has been made as a gesture of healing and even love.
- Bring all of these people spiritually to the Eucharist, on Sunday or Thanksgiving. They have each in some way been a gift of God. Pray for them and give thanks.
If the anger or the missing or the loneliness is particularly painful, spend some time before the Crucifix and see the God who loved totally, was wounded mortally, and never paused in his gratitude to the Father for the people and the gifts of his life.