Well, I have been here a year, and it has been quite a year. Some reflection on the past 12 months.
Thank You. The first thing I need to express is gratitude, to God and to all of you. When I came to Holy, I broke one of the cardinal rules of ministry. I replaced someone well liked and even beloved. Fr. Brown was a tough act to follow. Luckily for me, this is an amazing place with a welcoming spirit. I will not lie, it was a hard adjustment leaving education and then, just when I was getting my “sea legs,” along comes a pandemic to further complicate things. Nevertheless, it has been a joyous year and all of that is due to Almighty God and all of you. So, thank you.
Graduation. In the midst of all of this mess, life goes on. Congratulations to our eighth graders who celebrated their graduation this past week. They were a great group of students. Having spent the last 35 years of my life in high school (slow learner!) you are in for a great time. As I have told you many times, do something out of your comfort zone during your time in high school. For all who are moving on to a different stage in your life, college, job, etc., may God bless you.
Human Interaction. I am not a big hugger, but it doesn’t bother me either. As a priest, obviously, there are rules to adhere to and boundaries to observe, but that doesn’t outlaw human warmth and compassion. Since the pandemic, one of the things I deeply miss are high fives, fist bumps, hand-shakes, pats on the back and hugs. Since St. Patrick’s Day – the beginning of the quarantine for me at least – I have only hugged four individuals. What is amazing is the process of discerning that, yes, this is a moment when we have to ignore social protocol and distancing, and simply decide, in faith and in trust, to be fully human. Those four hugs may have been the most intentional and meaningful of my life. Let’s face it, we humans were not built to just “Zoom.” (There is a sentence that has never been written before.) In fact, I am weary of virtual meetings, teleconferencing and the like. If this crisis has taught me anything it is that technology and the internet do have their limitations. In the long run, that may be one of the best and healthiest lessons.
The Social Contract. This is only one way we are going to navigate the stormy seas of the present moment: that we all understand what is happening, we all are aware of what needs to be done, and that we decide, in love, to do it together. Being fearful simply does not cut it. Never has, never will. Being oblivious is not only dangerous, it is reckless and inexcusable. But awareness is only step one. We need to also know how the virus is spread. (by breathing, close contact over a period of time). We then need the wherewithal to avoid those situations. But we don’t do it simply to keep ourselves safe, we do it to keep others well. And that, is what love and grace are all about. And, it is important that each and every one of us recognize the part that we play, the contract that binds us and keeps us healthy. This becomes even more important as we open up. (Folks, we have to learn to manage this.) So wear your masks to church, try to keep social distance in church, beware of singing too deeply (and subsequently breathing out and in too deeply) wear your masks as you walk up to communion, and be aware that they are not 100% effective in stopping the virus. In the words of Han Solo, “Don’t get cocky.”
Call me a crazy optimist, but I am looking forward to the next 12 months.