Father Marty's Weekly Message
This Sunday, January 24, is the feast of St. Francis de Sales. Our Provincial,
Fr. Jack Loughran wrote the following that I thought was worthwhile to share
with you. I hope you think so too.
I am writing this reflection a few days after the stunning and unimaginable
attack on the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., leading to numerous deaths
and extreme mayhem. By the time you read this, a new president will have
been inaugurated and our country will be attempting to recover from all the
shocking events of the past weeks, and the enduring tensions and conflicts
that remain between our citizens.
I find myself disappointed and incredulous at the state our country is in, and
wonder, "How can we move from the place where we are now to something
more kind and less threatening? How can we recover the ideals upon which
our country was founded, and reestablish a discourse between us that is
respectful, productive, and serves all people well?"
An appropriate response is presented to us by the patron and spiritual guide of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. The following is quoted from St. Francis de Sales' inaugural sermon when he became provost of Geneva, the leader of a group of priests responsible for the Cathedral there. Fifty-five years before this moment, Geneva became a Protestant stronghold, and Catholics risked their lives if they ventured into the region. Eventually, Francis would be named the Bishop of Geneva, a diocese he was forced to lead from a distance in Annecy, which remained Catholic.
In his inaugural sermon in 1593, St. Francis speaks about his own country/diocese and the divisions between Catholics and Protestants. Many, to make sure their voices were heard, were resorting to violence as the only answer.
St. Francis took a different tack. He said: "How will we recover Geneva? How will we unify and make sure our voices are heard? Through love. It is by love that the walls of Geneva must be shaken, by love that Geneva be invaded, and by love that Geneva be recovered...I propose to you not the weapons of war whose odor and taste remind us of hell. I do not want to form one of those armies full of uncouth soldiers. May our camp, our group, be like the camp of the Lord whose trumpets proclaim with accents full of gentleness this song: 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts.'" It is on this camp that you must fix your gaze."
Francis' suggestion may seem to some to be a weak response to a grave reality. But I believe it is a response formed by St. Francis's relationship with and understanding of Christ as found in the gospels. As Christians, the gospel is our guide and strength, and the way of Christ is foundational in how we live our lives. Perhaps questions we can ask ourselves in this challenging time for our country are, "What can I do to bring the love of Christ into the country I live in and love? How can I change the discourse from confrontation to collaboration, from bitterness and resentment to reconciliation?"
May our prayer on this feast be that we Americans, inspired by men and women of good hearts and filled with the Holy Spirit, come together as one country through the Spirit of Christ.
Peace to all, Fr. Marty