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Browsing Pastor's Notes

The Significance of Subtle Events

From the PastorDear Friends in Christ,

Although it is often “big events” that we recall with greater vividness, it seems that what shapes us in more significant ways are those small, subtle, and seemingly insignificant moments that occupy the vast majority of our days. For example, we may quickly recall a big party that we once attended, but we do not think often about the everyday experience of eating dinner together as a family. In the long run, it is not so much the “big party” that shapes who we are as a person, but rather the experience of the day in and day out living together as a family. When, for example, I talk to people who are mourning the loss of a parent, they rarely recount the “big trip to Disney World.” What people often recount is how “We ate Sunday dinners together each week.”

As a parish we often have big events: Baptisms, First Holy Communions, Weddings, Confirmations, Funerals, Eighth Grade Graduations, the Sacred Triduum, Christmas Masses etc. These events are indeed glorious and joyous. For me, however, it is often the more seemingly routine events that catch my attention. I think that these countless “little” events shape us as a parish. I’d like to share with you a few such examples.

Some mornings before school, I stand out in the school yard and greet the arriving students and their parents. In those moments, it is so beautiful to see the love that is shared between these parents and their children. A hug, a kiss, a word of assurance that “I will see you after school.” All of these little acts of affection, repeated day after day, are what build a family and a parish school.

Another thing that really strikes me on those mornings before school is how genuinely well-formed the children are. It still shocks me when the students–from very young all the way to eighth grade–confidently say to me, “Good Morning, Father Barnes. Have a nice day.” Or, “Good Morning, Father, how are you?” Honestly, in an age where people avoid eye contact and seem incapable of conversing with other human beings, I am struck by the capacity of these students to engage in conversation. It’s a small thing, but it’s really a big thing.

Another thing that happens to me five times a weekend is standing outside of the Sunday Mass, greeting all of you. Even though most of those encounters are quick, I thoroughly enjoy that time. Last Sunday while I was standing there, numerous people asked me to pray for various intentions; most for people who are undergoing testing, treatment, and surgery. Sometimes, despite my best efforts, I do not recall the names of the people I’m asked to pray for, but I try. And, I always add, “And for all those I’ve been asked to pray for.”

Also, last Sunday as I was standing there, I overheard an exchange between two families. One of those families has been experiencing some medical issues with one of their children. The other couple said to them something like, “Remember, you are not alone in this. We are here to help you. Whatever we can do. There’s no need for you to carry the burden alone.” And I thought to myself, “That is what a parish is.”

In one sense, Sunday is a big deal. It is the Lord’s Day and we should honor it and give it reverence. In another sense, Sunday for Catholics becomes like the Sunday Dinner together as a family. It is in committing ourselves to it week after week, that we are shaped and transformed. It is the place where, over time, we are built up and each member is strengthened. It is where we love one another. It is at the Sunday Mass that a thousand subtle events gradually transform us. We see that young family and are encouraged. We see that elderly person and are inspired by their lifelong commitment. We see a mother or father who cares for a child who suffers from a disability and we are moved by their example of love. We come to Sunday Mass firstly to worship God. We also come because we are a family and being together is important. It is in living this weekly commitment to one another that we are shaped and formed over time into a true spiritual family.

Your Brother in Christ,

Fr. David Barnes