Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Cassock and the Peripheries

It is well known that Pope Francis tells us to go the peripheries, to find those at the margins. The peripheries are not some place far away. They are right on our doorsteps.

Many have read the Esquire article "What Happened When I Dressed Like a Priest."

Sir Alec Guinness walked off a set wearing a cassock and a little boy came up to him and took his hand crying "Mon pere, mon pere!"

Yesterday I went shopping in a local supermarket. I happened to be wearing the cassock. Pope Francis had departed from the US that morning.

There is a transgender person who works in the store. I have got to know this person over the past few months. They always say hello and stop for a chat. Yesterday, this person put their arm around me and said what a wonderful person Pope Francis is. If ever this person felt alienated by the Church - and I have no reason to know one way or the other - they certainly feel at home in the company of a catholic priest.

At the checkout, I had a reasonably full cart. A man with a budgie on his shoulder had just a couple of items so I let him pass. He commented: Pope Francis is teaching you guys well! And spoke about how pleased he was that the Pope joined folk in a homeless shelter rather than join the White House banquet.

Pope Francis' visit has created a groundswell of good will. The best service we can do to our fellow citizen is to provide joyful, humble but unabashed witness to our respective states in life: priest, religious, lay person. The Church must be visible at the peripheries - which are just a short walk from home.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dorothy Day and what the laity need from a priest

I am only now learning about the great Catholic social activist Dorothy Day. From the little I have read about her - I am just over half way through her autobiography "The Long Loneliness" - she must be a saint.

She made a choice between God and her common law husband. She chose baptism for their daughter even though she knew her husband would not support this. She chose entry into the Catholic Church even though she knew this mean the end of this common law partnership. Preferring God in everything appears to be what she came to learn was paramount.

In the midst of the "Long Loneliness" she was experiencing even while her life "was too full" she writes:

I arose arose early for Mass, and I began to go to daily Communion for the first time in the four years I had been a Catholic. This at the urging of a priest whom I never happened to see, to whom I spoke in the confessional, to whom I confided my struggles from week to week.
Father Zamien was Salesian and was not long afterward sent back to Jugoslavia. He was the kind of priest who gave you spiritual counsel, who recommended spiritual books to read, who advised daily Mass and daily communion and made you know your importance as a child of God. 
In that little church there were two priests who heard confessions every morning before and after Mass, one on either side of the rear of the church. When Father Zamien was no longer there I turned to Father Pelligrini, who even now is still hearing confessions in his stifling little box on the right-hand side of the church of Our Lady, Help of Christians, on East Twelfth Street. On the other side of the church, the windows were open all summer, and your eyes could wander if the sermon was too long (and in Italian), out to the window boxes of the tenements on Avenue A. There were the ever-present petunias, the boxed basil, the tomato plants, and the morning glories climbing up the fire escapes. 
Yes, I was happy that summer. In the evening I went back to the church for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Then in the quiet evening I went hope to read the life of St. Teresa of Avila and her foundations. She charmed me completely.


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