Saturday, June 12, 2010
Margaret Visser is a Canadian treasure. She looks at ordinary things and writes about them in extraordinary ways. She wrote an entire book about mealtimes and another about the foods we eat and the way we eat them.
And in just one week last February, she spoke in Saskatoon about swearing and in Toronto about the Eucharist.
A kind parishioner gave me a copy of Margaret Visser’s longest book, The Gift of Thanks. For more than 400 pages she talks about gratitude from every angle.
Reading the book last week got me thinking about all the things in our parish for which I’m grateful, so I decided to share those thoughts instead of a homily today. But when I realized I was on my way to a 400 minute sermon, I posted the long version on my blog and gave the parishioners a summary. That ought to make them feel grateful!
First and foremost, during the fateful Year for Priests that ended yesterday, I have been grateful for your support and confidence. Perhaps even more, I have been grateful for your prayers. The children of St. Anthony’s School prayed for priests at lunchtime each day. At the suggestion of one parishioner, the group that prays the Liturgy of the Hours in church each morning has said daily the prayer for priests written by Archbishop Miller.
Coming a close second is my gratitude for the countless women and men who make it possible for one priest to minister to an active congregation this size. The parish staff—our parish secretaries, PREP coordinator, housekeeper, maintenance staff, and youth minister—work with so much generosity that we’d go broke paying them half of what they’re worth.
The volunteer catechists are like an evangelizing army, teaching with words but preaching by example. I think of the coordinators and team members of the RCIA and RCIC—the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults and for Children—who have literally brought people from outside the doors of the church all the way to the baptismal font and the altar.
With the same dedication, the catechists working in the parish religious education program have been faithful stewards tirelessly sharing their faith with children. The same is done for our youngest members by those assisting with the Liturgy of the Word for Children on Sundays.
The leaders and team members of our youth group have made young people feel at home in the parish, while those who ran the high school religious education program known as I2T gave their time to high school students on Sunday evenings, when I’m sure they’d have preferred to relax in preparation for the busy week ahead of them.
The baptismal preparation team helps new parents prepare to undertake the responsibilities that come with presenting their child for baptism, while welcoming the parents themselves, who are often new to the community.
And now that the rainy season seems to have ended, I must pay tribute to those who do the least attractive volunteer service of all: parking patrol. They are faithful stewards of much more than parking spaces: they prevent chaos when medical emergencies require fire or ambulance personnel.
But of course we wouldn’t have a parking problem if we didn’t have good liturgies, and these are a result of careful preparation by our sacristans, excellent organization of, and service by, lectors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, not to mention our gifted musicians, choir leaders and members.
I should single out the servers, who have started to assist at Sunday Mass in record numbers and growing confidence.
A stewardship parish is always a welcoming parish, and ours is no exception. Cheerful Sunday greeters help to make visitors and parishioners alike feel welcome, and the coffee teams support a vibrant social time after the 10 a.m. Mass. Equally hospitable parishioners organize a monthly breakfast during the week, not to mention many other receptions during the year. The CWL, in particular, offers bereaved people consolation and kindness by arranging funeral teas; the Knights of Columbus have provided help with barbecues and pancake breakfasts.
Still others ensure we reach out in love and service to those in material need.
And I can’t forget the many members of our parish councils and committees who make sure that we not only do things right but do the right things.
All these people, and many more, make stewardship of time and talent something real in our parish, not a catchphrase.
I have to stop, not because I am finished but because I can never finish. But I can’t end without expressing my deep gratitude for the many stewards of treasure in this generous parish of Christ the Redeemer. (Including, of course, our collection counters, accountant, and Project Advance team!)
Your response to Project Advance, and to the weekly and special collections, is a sign of something much more important than a dollar sign. When the economy weakened, your donations did not. When a drop-off in attendance was noted during the worst of the scandals, your donations did not.
A week or two ago, against her express orders, I paid tribute at the school Mass to a dedicated parent volunteer. She responded: I am just a drop in the bucket, and it takes many, many drops to fill it.
It was a simple image, but just the right one. One by one, volunteer by volunteer, minister by minister, donor by donor, we are filling the bucket to overflow in this community of faith.
Margaret Visser writes that “Deeply felt gratefulness is a species of awe, and as such requires humility. It implies a sense of one’s littleness before the wonder of the universe… and before the goodness of others.”
I know this to be true. The impossibility of a pastor’s task, and my own personal weaknesses, would make life overwhelming without the help, advice, wisdom, support, prayers, kindness, and patience you give me.
If deep gratitude is indeed a kind of awe, it means that you, my parishioners, are awesome.