Fr. Greg's Pastoral Letter-September 16, 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

This weekend our beloved former pastor, Fr. Charlie Gagan, S.J., joins us for the 9:30 am Mass and hospitality afterwards.  We celebrate his golden jubilee of ordination, which was June 1, 1968.  We give thanks to the Lord for his many years of service to the People of God, and we ask the Lord to bless him richly in the years to come.  Ad multos annos, Fr. Charlie!

Our Parish Picnic is just two weeks away.  In addition to food and fun, we will welcome the refugee family seeking asylum in the U.S. that St. Ignatius and St. Agnes Parishes have been sponsoring for more than a year.  So many of you have given your time, resources, and prayers to support this beautiful family.  They will be here to express their gratitude for the ways in which this faith community has made remarkable and life-long differences in their lives.  We will hear a bit of their story, after which we will bless them and then have time with them at the BBQ.

On another note, in light of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, many have asked what they can do to be part of the necessary change in the institutional Church to ensure that such atrocities and cover-ups never happen again.  It is a question I asked Archbishop Cordileone last week at a gathering of the priests of the Archdiocese, which he requested in order to talk about his letter in support of Archbishop Viganò.  In a memo to the priests of the Archdiocese subsequent to his Viganò letter, Archbishop Cordileone ended by saying, “… know of my gratitude … to you, our people, for your prayers, for your love and concern for the Church, which now moves you to demand change that is effective and decisive ...”  I told him at that meeting that a number of people in our parish want to do something that is “effective and decisive,” and asked his help and that of other pastors.  He replied that he will be discussing that at his next Presbyteral Council meeting.

In the meantime, Fr. Ray Allender, S.J., pastor of St. Agnes, and I have decided to hold an evening of reflection for our two parishes.  Beginning with some prayer, we’ll then have a discussion on ways we can help be part of the necessary changes in the structures of the institutional Church.  Details are being worked out.  Mark your calendars for Thursday, September 27, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

In my pastoral letter last week, I shared with you my personal challenge in all the “stuff” of the Church that is swirling around me: to face it with compassion and mercy (required by the Gospel and taught by Pope Francis), to put the best interpretation on the intentions, actions and words of those I disagree with or have been hurt by (taught by St. Ignatius).  I find that difficult, but I continue to be convinced that it is necessary if we are going move forward; we have to do these things from the place where we are our very best selves, with hearts that are ones of flesh, not stone.

A parishioner sent me the following, and I think it is one tool that can help us have hearts of flesh and be compassionate.  It was adapted from Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self.  I share it with you because it has been helpful to me these weeks.

“As a Catholic, I was often puzzled by the continued return to heart imagery, such as Jesus pointing to his “Sacred Heart” and Mary pointing to her “Immaculate Heart.”  I often wonder what people actually do with these images.  Are they mere sentiment?  Are they objects of worship or objects of transformation?  You must return their gaze and invitation for a long time to get the transformative message and healing.  Such images keep recurring only because they are speaking something important from the unconscious, maybe even something necessary for the soul’s emergence.

Love lives and thrives in the heart space.  It has kept me from wanting to hurt people who have hurt me.  It keeps me every day from obsessive, repetitive, or compulsive head games.  It can make the difference between being happy and being miserable and negative.  Could this be what we are really doing when we say we are praying for someone?  Yes, we are holding them in our heart space.  Do this in an almost physical sense, and you will see how calmly and quickly it works.

Next time a resentment, negativity, or irritation comes into your mind, and you want to play it out or attach to it, move that thought or person literally into your heart space.  Dualistic commentaries are lodged in your head; but in your heart, you can surround this negative thought with silence.  There it is surrounded with blood, which will often feel warm like coals.  In this place, it is almost impossible to comment, judge, create story lines, or remain antagonistic.  You are in a place that does not create or feed on contraries but is the natural organ of life, embodiment, and love.  Now the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart have been transferred to you.  They are pointing for you to join them there.  The “sacred heart” is then your heart too.”

Oremus pro invicem, that as we are held in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we may also hold others there, perhaps especially those with whom we disagree.


Fr. Greg