Thursday, October 21, 2010

Faith Journey...Membership Moments

Here's an example with how it is with one of our new members, and why membership is important to so many...here you can have a sense of belonging...of love and of compassion. Here at St. Peter's, we're trying to be a "House of Prayer for ALL People"~

From Debbie...
I first came to St.Peter's back in 2009 for the Ham and Bean Supper. The first thing I noticed was that everyone had a smile on their face and they truly wanted to be there and welcome you. I got to meet a lot of great people there that night but one in particular was a real character. This gentleman came up to our table and wanted to know if I would be his "criminal" for the Sunday service.I didn't know who he was but I just got the sense that this was where I was suppose to be and this was the place I was looking for.

I was always brought up to respect your elders and that religion was the most important thing in your life. I went to church on Sunday and found relief in the sermons and songs. You see I was put up for adoption when I was 5 my mother I found out later in life made it very clear that I was to be put into a family that would raise me in a Catholic environment. So I guess you could say church was always in my DNA. I was always the "lost" child I never quite fit into school friends or even in the family. The only place I truly felt that I belonged was in church. I always felt alive when the songs started and when the priest started his sermon even when I thought he was long winded.
I found myself drifting away from the church for different reasons but the last straw was when I came to the realization that I was a lesbian and that the church didn't want me. I didn't understand why they didn't want me I was brought up with the belief that we were all made in God's image so what was wrong with me? I was a child of God but yet I wasn't welcomed in His house anymore because of who I loved.

So I went on a journey of discovering different outlets to re-connect with the church. I wasn't very successful at it. I always felt that something was missing this church had one thing but not another or it was not a comfortable feeling coming from the people there. I was beginning to think I was never going to find a church I would like. But then came the Ham and Bean Supper and who would have thought that would be the ticket to finding my way back to the church. And who would have thought that by saying "yes" to a Simple Parish Priest I would at long last find my church and a new family. My favorite saying here at St.Peter's is that ALL are welcomed here and it doesn't matter how long it's been since you walked into a church we will still welcome you and your family. Come take a leap of faith like me you'll be glad you did.

God Bless you Debbie...and all of you out there who are looking for the embrace of God in a sometimes chilly world.
Fr. Paul

Sunday, October 03, 2010

All I hear is Silence When I Pray

All I Hear is Silence When I Pray

It was that way in ancient times, when our ancestors in faith experienced a national catastrophe. Jerusalem had been destroyed, her people carried off into captivity, her Holy Places desecrated, and the Babylonians taunted them with an invitation; "Sing us now one of the songs of Zion". (Lamentations 1:1-6)

It was that way when Paul was in prison, the Temple was again to be destroyed, the apostles were to be martyred one by one and the early church faced extinction. And thus we knew was the deafening silence of God. (2 Timothy 1:1-14)

And even when the Apostles saw Jesus work his wonders, they asked him; "Lord increase our faith." Jesus told them that all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed, and you can tell a mulberry tree, go ahead and leap into the sea. (Luke 17:5-10)

Funny thing, this too is all I know; it is silence when I pray.

So, how do I know there is a God? I know it because when I step aside to pray in the wee small hours of the night, all I can hear is silence. There is nothing there. I listen, and ask for a sign, still nothing. I dream my dreams of nightmarish terror, and weirdness beyond telling…and still there is a deafening silence.

This silence I came to name as a Presence over time, because I continued to talk to it, and ask it questions too difficult for me to fathom. Then I heard your questions especially when you were beside yourselves with the grief of loss or the sorrows of sin.

I listened to the Silence as you spoke to me and the Presence of that very quiet Silence became God to me. It was like Moses at the burning bush for me. I turned aside to see what this marvel was in life: and the marvel of which I speak is love.

My mom’s love, my dad’s.

My grandma’s my uncle’s…how much I loved them.

They were characters all of them…not unlike you and I loved them like I love you.

And it was in the Silence of the Love I bore for them that I asked my questions long into the night. And that’s when the Presence came alive. It had a name. It was like Moses as the burning bush. Or like Samuel when he thought he could hear someone calling him long into the night.

I wondered if God could call me…and if it might be God that filled the Silence for me. I loved them all so much. And over time, they all died. None of them were perfect by any stretch.

And yet because I loved them so much, I sense that the Silence was becoming a Presence to me. It began to love me back, it became He. It became She. She/He loved me like they did and the Presence told me that She/He love all of them and all of you and even me too.

That same Presence/Silence called me to Priesthood in my church, and wonder of wonders, called me to churches in Boston, Malden, Quincy, Ohio, Methuen, West Virginia, and Salem, MA.

This Silence/Presence stayed with me all through my life and helped me build a Homeless Shelter, feed the poor, write a few books, find a wife, have three kids and on and on and on it went.

The Silence was with me in the happiest moments of my life, and wonder of wonders, there it was in times of terror even for my own life.

So how do I know there is a God? I listen very carefully. I have developed a very acute power of listening. And when I thought all I could hear was silence, I found that my heart would begin to pound with the love of my family, the love of my friends, and ultimately with the Love of God.

Then I discovered that it all begins with the question. Why? Why the destruction of the City and the Babylonian Captivity? How can we sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land?

How can the imprisoned Paul proclaim the Lordship of Christ when there seemed like the Church faced nothing but persecution and the martyrdom of all the Apostles one by one beginning with Jesus?

And for all of them as well as all of us there was the same Silence. But the Silence would not silence my questions. And as I poured out my heart to that dark night, the Light of God began to shine in my heart and the Silence became Present to me.

Thus the Burning Bush spake unto Moses. And the Silence spoke too in my heart and it said wonderful things about the Hope we have in God. That Silence invited me into the Priesthood many years ago, and I followed where it lead the way.

The Silence became very Present to me. It proclaimed the Joy of God in my heart. It told me of a little Baby in a Manger who grew to be a strong man with a heart full of love.

He too went out into to a wilderness of Silence where he became famished for food and for the knowledge of God. He was Transfigured on the Holy Mountain and that changed his whole life

He reached out to all, especially the outcast. He healed them, he forgave them their sins. He taught them how to love God and how to Love one another. And then he went to Jerusalem where he confronted the Temple Authorities. They put him to Death.

For three long days He lie in the Sepulcher. He rose from the Dead, and manifestly appeared to us all.

So how do I know there is a God? How do I know there is a Heaven and how do I know that’s where I’m headed?

It’s all because I have an extraordinary capacity for listening. I can hear the Silence speak to me with the Presence of God.

I can read of God’s Presence in the Holy Writings. I can see and hear of how all the Holy Ones heard God’s voice in the Silence many times before me.

Oh yes, I know there is a God. I know it because my heart knows it. I heard it with my own ears in the Silence, and night after night, day after day, the Silence continues its long and loving story of God’s love in the Person of Jesus.

Jesus is not as quiet as the Silence I hear at night. He speaks clearly and articulately to me in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He is the Personification of God to me in flesh and blood. And when I wonder as we all often do, I look to Him for my salvation.

Jesus looks back to me with the eyes of perfect love and I always hear him now in prayer, especially when I am particularly quiet. His message is pure simplicity. Love God and love one another.

How do I know there is a God? The same way you do…listen!