Dear Parish Family…
As you can imagine, the news that I am being reassigned this Fall to become the pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Glens Falls has become the “headline story” of my life and the life of our parishes these days. I am having to dig down deeply to manage the many emotions as I feel all the losses that accompany leaving a parish family and region that I love, while at the same time “drinking from the firehose” of learning about my new St. Mary’s parish family and working with Fr. Joe and Fr. Jay to make sure that the new system of regional priest cooperation in our area is leakproof. It’s more than a little overwhelming.
When times like this come, I am reminded of the words of St. Francis de Sales, who said:
“When you are overwhelmed, first, start with what is necessary.
Then focus on what is possible. And soon, you will be doing the impossible.”
Part of what is necessary for me right now is to take a step back and look at this situation and my life from the widest perspective I can. Lately I’ve turned to the writing of wise elders of the past and present to help me find my way. So much of what I read has been helpful, but none more so than this perspective I received from Pope Francis, who spoke these words on January 1st this year, as the world struggled with the many problems of Coronavirus and beyond:
“You can have flaws, be anxious, and even be angry, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust.
Many appreciate you, admire you and love you. Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.
To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but to be happy in anonymity.
Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but an achievement for those who can travel within themselves. To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny’s author. It is to cross deserts, yet to be able to find an oasis in the depths of our soul. It is to thank God for every morning, for the miracle of life. Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It’s to be able to talk about you. It is having the courage to hear a “no.”
It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified. It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us. To be happy is to let live the life inside of each of us: free, joyful and simple.
It is to have maturity to be able to say: “I made mistakes.”
It is to have the courage to say: “I am sorry.”
It is to have the sensitivity to say: “I need you.”
It is to have the ability to say: “I love you.”
May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness…
That in spring may it be a lover of joy. In winter a lover of wisdom.
And when you make a mistake, start all over again. For only then will you be in love with life. You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life.
But use the tears to irrigate tolerance.
Use your losses to train patience.
Use your mistakes to sculpt your serenity.
Use pain to plaster pleasure.
Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence.
Never give up …. Never give up on people who love you. Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show.
Can you believe we are lucky enough to be alive in a time to be shepherded by a Holy Father who speaks with such sublime wisdom as that? Though he has never met me, he somehow knows what I’m going through. Though he spent most of his life in Argentina, he somehow knows what your sorrows and losses are, too. He gets it and gets us. He is Christ’s microphone, Christ’s vicar on earth.
And let’s not forget that in March of 2013 (three months before I was ordained a priest), to his utter shock, he was elected pope. He called his sister and asked her to please pick up the dry cleaning that was waiting for him at his neighborhood laundry in Buenos Aires, since he would likely never come home again, not even to get his most precious belongings! And he never has.
And if Pope Francis can understand my life this well, and yours too, just imagine how much God does.