By Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes
It’s been said that change is the only constant in life. Still, many of us struggle with change, whether it’s a new school, a new job, our children leaving home or a difficult circumstance that takes us away from a place, or a person, that has brought us comfort. In many ways this struggle occurs in the life of our Church.
On July 1, 12 of the 91 parishes in our diocese received a new leader; 22 of our priests began ministry to a new parish community. These changes are made always in the hope that the unique gifts and perspectives of a new priest will enrich the parish to which he is assigned. As with any kind of change, there will be an adjustment period when the priest learns the rhythm of the people and vice versa. Please join me in praying for these communities of faith as they transition in leadership.
Still, we must acknowledge that change is not painless. Through prayer, reflection and the passage of time, we can eventually see it as something God has brought us for own growth in faith. After all, if we are no longer willing to accept change, what is left for us?
Accepting change takes on a different meaning in the case of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last month that legalized same sex marriage in all 50 states. The ruling, of course, does not change what our Catholic faith tells us about the Sacrament of Matrimony, which can only exist between one man and one woman. If anything, it calls us to witness Catholic marriage by living it to the fullness of its Sacramental meaning.
What we must accept, however, is that there has been a profound change in how civil society defines marriage. This is something we are confronted with in our daily lives—in our neighborhoods, workplaces and most certainly in the media. How do we respond? We are now counter cultural in our belief about marriage, but we cannot articulate it in a way that is hostile or demeans the human person. Let us reflect within ourselves how this change has affected us, and then find a way to be both civil and pastoral in our dialogue with others about this issue, whether they agree with us or not.
My final example of change is one to which the Holy Father calls us in his new Encyclical Laudato Si, which addresses our care for creation. The environment is another issue that is shaded by partisan politics. Pope Francis presents it to us as a moral issue and offers an important teaching about the interdependence that exists between human beings and the ecosystems of the earth. It is an in-depth document that is strongly worded at times.
It calls us, especially those in Western cultures that have enjoyed the lion’s share of the earth’s resources, to examine how our lifestyle may be harming the planet and our brothers and sisters around the world. It calls us to change, so that the beauty and bounty of the earth that we have known is available for future generations, and for the benefit of all.
I recognize that some have difficulty with the Pope’s perspective on this issue. I ask that you look beyond the media’s interpretation of Laudato Si and read the document and pray about it. These are not easy changes that the Holy Father proposes but as our Universal Pastor, he offers us a message that we must consider.
I pray that you find rest, relaxation and ample time with family and friends during these summer months. May God bless you.