Sunday, December 24, 2017

Father Shaun O'Connor of Saint Mary's Church in Orange, Massachusetts: A priest who understands the message of 1 Corinthians 12

In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, Pope John Paul II wrote that, "Through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, 'who proclaimed the kingdom of his Father by the testimony of his life and by the power of his word,' the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the Gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously denounce evil." (No. 14).

And yet, how often do the lay faithful encounter opposition from other members of the laity as well as priests and religious when they strive to fulfill their prophetic mission and to "courageously denounce evil." Why is this? Largely because, "To understand properly the lay faithful's position in the Church in a complete, adequate and specific manner it is necessary to come to a deeper theological understanding of their secular character in light of God's plan of salvation and in the context of the mystery of the Church" (Christifideles Laici, No. 15).

Pope John Paul II explains that, "..all the members of the Church are sharers in this secular dimension but in different ways. In particular the sharing of the lay faithful has its own manner or realization and function, which, according to the Council, is 'properly and particularly' theirs. Such manner is designated with the expression 'secular character.' In fact the Council, in describing the lay faithful's situation in the secular world, points to it above all, as the place in which they receive their call from God.." (Christifideles Laici, No. 15).

We read in 1 Corinthians 12 that, "As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit...there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I do not need you.'" (1 Cor 12: 12, 13; 20, 21).

And yet, this is precisely what so many of the lay faithful encounter as they strive to fulfill their prophetic mission and to act as salt and light upon the secular world. Too often, the lay faithful are looked upon by certain priests and religious as "second-class citizens" within the Church. Then again, some parishes - anxious to maintain a status quo - will only permit a select few to participate in the life of the parish. 

But such an attitude is not holy. It is devilish. It is demonic: "..have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs" (James 2: 4). And again, "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice." (James 3: 16).

Let us all strive to remember that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not our "private preserve." Let's leave behind all pride, selfish ambition, envy and jealousy. And when we come across another who has been graced with particular gifts which we may not possess ourselves, let's give thanks to the Holy Spirit who distributes His gifts as He pleases and to whom He wants.

Father Shaun O'Connor, the new pastor of Saint Mary's Church in Orange, Massachusetts, apparently understands this.  The parish bulletin this weekend reads, "Early in the New Year, Fr. Shaun wants to work with parish members to establish a committee to plan and implement a calendar of parish dinners and other events; and a committee to reach out to inactive members and to others in our area who might be interested in learning about the Catholic Faith.  If you'd be interested in either of these groups, please talk with Fr. Shaun after Mass or drop us an email to the office or leave a phone message."

This is a positive development.  At least it has the potential of being such.  In the past, I attempted to volunteer at Saint Mary's Church but was turned down because of my fidelity to the Magisterial teaching of the Church and because I'm not part of the small private "clique" of individuals who have been deemed "acceptable" by the status quo and have been relegated to "second-class" status.

Pray for Father Shaun's endeavour to be a success.  I don't expect to be included in parish ministry myself.  I'm not unrealistic.  But it looks as if the demonic attitude which asserts, "I do not need you"* may be on its way out.

*  See here.

Related reading here.


Orange Catholic said...

This is, hopefully, good news for the parish. Under Father Bermudez, and then Naranjo, if you weren't part of their inner circle, you were persona non grata.

I hope this means that EVERYBODY will be treated with dignity from now on and not just the select few "friends."

E. said...

Orange Catholic, Fr. Bermudez was truly a disaster. He was hateful to people he didn't want to accept. I found him very uncharitable.

Anonymous said...

Not only that, but this priest actually looks at parishioners and smiles. Bermudez was cold and indifferent. Here's praying that 2018 will usher in less hate and more authentically Catholic attitudes at St. Mary's!

Cyn M said...

This is wonderful news, Paul! I have been praying for your parish to be blessed with a faithful and welcoming priest. Praise God. Will continue to pray for St. Mary's and for Fr. O'Connor. It's truly evil for a priest to play "favorites" and exclude anyone from participation in parish service.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

I have deleted a comment from a parishioner over at Saint Mary's Church. This anonymous commenter referred to another individual who commented here as a "small, lying pos." I'm sure my readers need no explanation as to what pos stands for.

Such a hate-filled, uncharitable comment offers nothing substantive to this discussion. It only serves to highlight the moral disaster of a small sub-culture within the parish which believes itself above all criticism, no matter how constructive. It also indicates a shocking lack of charity.

Ad hominem attacks are not welcome here.

When communicating with others, we all have certain responsibilities. For example, we all have a responsibility to submit ourselves to truth when communicating. Dr. Germain Grisez explains that, “As creatures, human persons are utterly dependent on God. Their freedom and action presuppose realities whose meaning and value cannot be changed. Therefore, human fulfillment requires knowing and conforming to the truth, and especially to the truth about what is good. But since genuine community is cooperation in seeking common fulfillment, it depends on submission to truth. Consequently, since all parties to communication should be open to genuine community, they should submit themselves to truth. The alternative is pursuing what they want regardless of truth, caring about no common good beyond themselves, and so, while using means of communication, failing to promote genuine community.”

The sad reality, one which the status quo refuses to acknowledge, is that Father Jose Bermudez was not welcoming toward all. To respond to someone's legitimate concern regarding this fact by referring to them as a "lying pos" does nothing to address this concern.

Orange Catholic said...

My experience with Fr. Bermudez was the same as many others. I felt he was very cold and indifferent. I remember him saying, during a homily, that he hoped parishioners wouldn't stop tithing because they happened to not like the priest. In other words, he knew so many disliked him because of his aridity and the favoritism he showed.

Proof that he was failing the parish is that the collection began to bottom out and was no longer published in the bulletin.

I'm sure those who benefited from his favoritism will disagree. This is so because they WERE accepted.

No surprise there. I'm also not surprised that one of these would stoop to calling another Catholic a "pos." After all, these are the same people who routinely blocked other parishioners from participation in ministry.

John A. said...

I don't belong to Saint Mary's myself, but I find that anonymous comment to be, in a word, very revealing.

In Matthew, Chapter 12, verses 33 and 34, we read:

"Either declare the tree good and its fruit is good, or declare the tree rotten and its fruit is rotten, for a tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you say good things when you are evil? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."

Referring to another Catholic brother or sister as a "piece of s..." suggests a heart that is given over to evil and hatred.

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