For those who read my prior blog post on my parish's long Good Friday, this is the follow up. To those who haven't, I suggest reading it first.
This morning at 8 AM, a darkness lifted from my parish. The darkness descended without warning a week ago today when our parish church was desecrated. This morning, as our bishop, Bishop John Gaydos came to wield his apostolic authority to drive from our parish church the intense darkness, it was as if the sun was breaking over the horizon to let us know that the Light of Christ conquers the darkest sorrow the devil can inflict. This morning was the bold proclamation that Christ conquers...Christ wins...Christ is victorious!
Bishop Gaydos did not flinch from calling what happened to us evil, nor did he flinch is reminding us that Christ conquers. He powerfully reminded us to allow the theological virtue of hope to carry us beyond this moment and allow the new life breathed back into this parish to powerfully bear fruit. As the various furnishings of the church, the statues, confessionals, books, ciborium, and altar were blest, it was as if someone were flipping on one light switch after another; until the darkness of the desecration was completely driven out from our church. In the place of such a pervasive darkness, a powerful light now shown.
As we concluded the morning with a Eucharistic Procession around the exterior and interior of the Church as the people powerfully sung, "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent", ending with Benediction, it felt as if we had reclaimed completely what was snatched from us one week before. Christ restored completely what Satan had taken from us.
As a pastor, we all wish that the lesson learned from such tragedies inform us of how to live the Catholic life. We pray that where anger and wrath were infused, the healing balm of forgiveness and mercy may heal. We pray that fear give way to hope. We pray that we do not lose our identity as followers of Jesus Christ. My parishioners have responded beyond any hopes that I would have expected. Not one asked what we were going to do to the woman who visited this tragedy upon us. Not one. Instead I had multiple request as to how we might help her. This is the way of Christ. No vengeance. No fear. No overreaction. Just mercy and forgiveness. No one demanded we lock our church up, restricting its use as a sanctuary of prayer. Not one. No, we wanted our house of prayer back and accessible as it was before!
It was remarked by more than a few, that there was a palatable difference between the beginning and end of the ceremonies today. Each remarked how without the Blessed Sacrament in the church, it felt empty. With the Blessed Sacrament back in it again, it was like a life being breathed back into a lifeless corpse. That makes sense doesn't it? If The Blessed Sacrament is what we say it is (more specifically what Jesus Himself says it is), then Christ has mounted His throne again at St Clement and we have great joy.
Today reminded my people and myself that Christ heals the brokenhearted. But as in all healings in the Gospels, the story doesn't end with the healing. No, the rest of the story is finished out with what the person does after the healing. It is here that the rest of the book is written. How is it we will make good use of this healing to thrive as a parish who lives fully the Mission of Jesus Christ and His Church? How do we allow the new life we were given to influence powerfully the parish and community around us? Seeing as how my parishioners are powerfully gravitating towards mercy, I would say we look to respond well and powerfully to what lies next at St Clement Parish!