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For the Sheep in Exile – Bulletin 2015-12-13

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Here is Bulletin_2015-12-13

1. Spiritual Direction: This blog would not be possible without the good counsel of my Spiritual Director. He takes the time to point out my failings and my strengths – he is honest where others would not be. I need that. This week, among other things, we discussed “The Year of Mercy” declared by Pope Francis. Because I was remiss in my preparation for this special year, my Spiritual Director gave me an assignment. Before our next meeting I must read Misericordiae Vultus – Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. So, that is what I am doing. If you have the time, join with me in studying the Papal Bull as the Pope exhorts us to “rediscover” what the Church teaches about mercy. Section 15 of the Bull reminds us that there is balance in mercy – it is not just corporal, it is also spiritual:“It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.”

2. Advent Program – December 6th: Providing time permits we will publish a separate post concerning the “Advent Program” which took place after the 8:30AM Mass on Sunday, December 6th. (See Rules and Tools for Radical Pastors #8 – Bishop With a ‘Fresh View’ for more details.) I attended and took very good notes. At least one other person attended whom you would be know. The basic topics of discussion were selected quotes from the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis. Nothing unusual or outrageous occurred. We did learn that there will be more discussions like this sponsored by the Parish, but they will likely take place at the Rappahannock County Library with all from the county invited, especially conservation groups.

Why is that? Because the priFeatured Imagemary source for the discussion will be the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for our Common Home.

So, if you liked the Vatican light show and the abuses that took place in Rome, you will surely find yourself quite at home with where these discussions will lead. This reminds us of a story in the Rappahannock News – ‘Climate Justice’ sermon. According to the report, on October 25, Unitarian Universalists of the Blue Ridge (UUBridge) Rev. Russ Savage was to present a sermon on “Climate Justice” at Hearthstone School, based on Pope Francis’s argument that the effects of climate change fall most heavily upon the poor.

3. Conflicted: Have you noticed our first article and our second article are somewhat at odds. Both refer to teaching from Pope Francis. In the Papal Bull, we were able to find balance and a reminder that mercy really does have a spiritual component. On the other hand, in Laudato Si’ we see how liberal elements have latched on to Pope Francis’ statements and are using them to preach a doctrine that is in no way Catholic. Yes, we are conflicted. My Spiritual Director and I discussed this problem. We remain faithful to Jesus Christ and the Church he established and we pray fervently that the Pope will guide the Church just as Jesus exhorted Peter to guide His flock.

4. Exile Swap Shop: The chances that we would ever resort to quoting from the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) are usually just about nil. Yet, while commuting on Metrorail yesterday I came across a story that might just give us a way to solve all of our problems here at St. Peter’s. The story is North Carolina parishioners clash with pastor, petition for his removal.

It is our story, but in reverse. In the eyes of some parishioners at St. John the Evangelist Church in Waynesville, North Carolina, they have been inflicted with the grave injustice of an orthodox pastor. In the view of the new pastor’s critics he is described as having “restorationist” approaches to liturgy and church governance. Here are some selected quotes from the article:

In interviews with NCR, parishioners say their pastor has been aloof and removed from the concerns of grieving families at funerals. Attendees at one local civic leader’s funeral, which included a large number of non-Catholics, were told in the pastor’s homily about church teaching on purgatory and little or nothing about the life of the deceased. They also said their pastor is slow to respond to requests for the sacrament of the sick for the dying. Their complaints fill hundreds of pages of documents they have submitted to NCR and to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. ……

Some parishioners now attend Sunday Mass at the office of a local dentist, after being asked by Jugis to cease Sunday worship at the nearby Living Waters Retreat House. ……

Carol Viau, a local Catholic, considers herself to be part of “St. John’s in exile.” The retreat center Sunday Mass had attracted as many as 100 former St. John’s parishioners. Petitioners have so far received no formal response from the bishop, other than his suggestion that the group meet with [Fr.] Riehl. A first meeting, held Dec. 1, was described by Viau as providing some progress in addressing concerns about the pastor’s response to requests for the sacraments. ….

Viau said that St. John’s was “a happy and vibrant parish” but is now deeply divided.

Parishioner Mark Zaffrann acknowledged that church attendance is down, but attributed that to what he said was discord sowed by the dissident group. The leadership of that group had “unbridled control of the various ministries” in the parish and resented Riehl’s new approach. He said the old finance council in the parish presented Riehl with an overly-optimistic view of the church’s finances, which was disputed by a diocesan-sponsored audit requested by the new pastor. As for the rectory repairs, Zaffrann, a local realtor, said the structure was uninhabitable and desperately needed renovations.

Liturgically, the parish has improved, Zaffrann told NCR. “My impression is that the Mass is better,” he said. “It’s very humble, reverent and solemn. It brings respect to the Eucharist.”

There is a great irony here. The Sheep in Exile of St. Peter’s pray for their Pastor. They would want him to change, but they would not wish him harm or pain. Although they might seek some redress by means proportional and appropriate they would not bring the matter to the attention of the Papal Nuncio.

My wife and I make this offer. Should the diocese in North Carolina and Bishop Loverde both be willing, we will pay for the travel costs to swap Father Riehl and our own Pastor. Then “St. John’s in exile in Waynesville, NC and the Sheep in Exile at St. Peter’s could all return home. What a Christmas present that would be! – Then with Bing Crosby we could sing “I’ll be home for Christmas.” Unfortunately, it will probably only be in our dreams.



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