Letter from our Pastors - May 17, 2020

To all our beloved Parishioners of St. Philip Neri Parish,

Greetings and encouragement in the words and inspiration of St. Boniface: “The Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses.  Our duty is not to abandon ship, but to keep her on her course.”

Many people are asking:  How long will we have to endure this terrible inconvenience? When will the Church be open again for us to pray?  Last week I shared the story, DON’T DESPAIR.

QUESTION:  As COVID-19 continues to unfold in the world scene, in our country and province and in our families, how much is God a part of our responses to this dilemma? How much trust (in God) do we attribute to how we handle this unforeseen social struggle?  Few people would expect a horse, running at 80-1 odds, to win -- aptly named “Don’t Despair”.  But he did win! We will win too, because of God’s mercy and love for us.  Mercy is not so much what we can do for others but what God can do to others through us.

I contend that our churches will reopen (not necessarily literally) when we embrace the power of the Spirit to open our hearts to everyone, when we expand our social consciousness to embrace “everyone”, especially those who struggle beyond their means and capabilities.  Yes! We do what we can, but when we can, do we do it?

The scriptures provide us an image, an attitude that can empower us to live out our most common prayer: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  How can we do God’s will during this confusing and debilitating saga?  I share this scriptural quote with you for your reflection: “Take your shoes off, for the ground you are standing on is holy ground.” The story is found in Exodus 3, featuring Moses at the burning bush.  The context of the story:  Moses is in the midst of a boring job – watching over his uncle’s sheep. The scriptural message:  God comes into our lives, not just in dramatic or exciting times, but also in the mundane and boring moments and pain-filled moments – any time God chooses.  Now it is during one of these boring moments that God presents himself to Moses, in the form of a burning bush.  What is most unusual is that, even though the bush is on fire, the fire is not consuming the bush.  Moses is compelled to check it out.  As he approaches the bush, he hears a voice say:  “Moses, remove the sandals from your feet, for the place you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

What does it mean to “take off your sandals/shoes”?  Maybe we can better understand the command by reflecting on:  “what does it mean to have our shoes on”?  To have our “shoes on” are those times when we are unaware, even unconcerned, with our surroundings … like a construction worker wearing heavy boots.  He can step on sharp stones, nails, glass and be unaware of what is beneath his feet.  Or like the kids running through the kitchen with muddy shoes, totally unaware of the mess they are leaving.  It’s a symbol of insensitivity, even carelessness.

To have our “shoes off” is like walking through the grass in our bare feet.  To step on the slightest sharp object creates a definite reaction.  It’s a symbol of sensitivity and delicate awareness.  To stand on “holy ground” requires a delicate awareness of where and before whom we are standing.

Therefore, who or what does the burning bush represent for us?  The burning bush is every person, every personal experience in life where God wants to show himself, to make himself real to us.  So, to “take off your shoes” is an attitude of respect and honor, an attitude of acceptance and appreciation, an attitude of love and delicate concern.  As Mother Teresa of Calcutta reminds us:  “Each one of us is Jesus in disguise”.

So … when we approach each person, interpret each experience as if it is “the burning bush”; our natural response will be to take off our shoes, to stand in respect and appreciation of the presence of God.  It becomes a God moment because we are standing on holy ground.

May this be your experience as you patiently wait in line at the bank, the grocery store, or even as you pass people on your daily walk.  Your presence, your disposition of love and care and hospitality can be for others “the Church alive and active”.  “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13: 35) … that you stand on holy ground.

A request from the Oblates:

On Thursday, May 21st, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate throughout the world commemorate the anniversary of the death of St. Eugene de Mazenod, the Founder of our Oblate Congregation. Please pray for us Oblates, asking God’s blessings on our ministry here at St. Philip Parish, but also for our Oblates who work in dangerous missions.  More information on the life and mission of St. Eugene de Mazenod can be found in an article written by Fr. Marcello Zago (former Superior General of the Oblates 1986-1998)


From the Parish:

>>> The photo shoot for the Parish Directory has been cancelled until further notice.

>>> The tomato pickup is NEXT SATURDAY, MAY 23RD.

>>> The front door of the Parish continues to be open for donations for the Food Bank.  THANK YOU for your generosity to reach out to the hungry folks for the city. 

>>> Please avail yourself to the Living with Christ missalette, and the daily reflections in Our Daily Bread.

>>> Booklet: The FOUNDER of the Oblates describes the early life of Eugene de Mazenod and his call to gather together the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Sincerely, and with all our love,

Fr. Mike Dechant OMI – Fr. Ken Forster OMI – Fr. Bill Stang OMI