Written by: Bro. Brian Poulin
November 12, 2022 – Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr
This past week I had the pleasure of spending a couple days at Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Oregon. In spite of its name, it is not a Marist-owned school, though it was founded by the Marist Brothers and continues to carry the Marist spirit even though it has been decades since a Marist Brother actually worked there.
When I visit any school in my capacity as vocation minister, whether I speak in classes or engage in some other way, I don’t pretend to be doing any true recruiting as such. Instead, my task is to build—or strengthen—relationships. In schools like Marist Eugene I play a role in strengthening the relationship between the school and my brothers as a whole. In every school I visit, I hope to maintain the more personal relationships I already have and hope that the new connections I form with people will serve to support or deepen their respective relationships with God. Yes, I hope to encounter men who will feel called to consider the possibility of life as a Marist Brother, but it all starts by encouraging whoever I meet in their journey of discipleship. We Marists use the phrase “to make Jesus known and loved,” which begins with helping all God’s children to better see how much God loves them.
A student approached me at the end of one of my presentations the other day, wanting to shake my hand out of gratitude. I honestly didn’t catch every detail of what he was telling me, and given my read of him at the moment, it didn’t seem opportune to ask him to repeat himself. What I got however was that he had grown up with a deep feeling of attachment to his Catholic upbringing. Something had changed recently however that led him to feel alone in his faith and wondering if there was still place for him in the Church that had always meant so much to him. Somehow, something I said provided him with the reassurance that God still loves him and that there are many other Catholics of good faith likewise dealing with whatever concerns may be preoccupying him.
How can it be that people who want to be at home in our Church nonetheless feel unwanted and excluded? I don’t think we can attribute this young man’s concerns to mere adolescent insecurity either. After all, I do sometimes wonder how much contemporary opposition to the Church comes from those who feel the Church was opposed to them first.
When we examine the words and actions of Jesus in the Gospel, we see clearly that he rarely minced his words; when somebody needed to be challenged, he did so. However, he also kept company with all kinds of people, including the public sinners who were scorned and shunned by the good and the great. What are we doing wrong as a Church if we who should be striving to represent Christ discourage those who wish to draw close to him, whether overtly or inadvertently?
I frequently think of Jesus’ words: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Lord, have mercy on me for any time I may have earned such a millstone. Have mercy on all those who make you seem less accessible to people who’s hearts cry out in hope to you.
This month’s ‘ear candy’ is from a recent Grammy winning album and can serve as a reminder that each one of us is God’s precious choice regardless of our missteps and circumstances. The ‘brain food’ raises the issue of divisiveness and exclusion within our Church while implicitly posing the question of how one might raise these issues in ways that do not perpetuate the division they abhor. Does the author himself manage to do this even?
Ear Candy: “We Are” by Jon Batiste
Brain Food: “Archbishop Chaput asks, 'Who am I NOT to judge?'” by Michael Sean Winters
Come back on the first Saturday of next month for a new post!