The diocese of Steubenville, the parishes of Steubenville in particular, is in the midst of some very difficult moments.
Two images come to mind. One is of my 2nd grade class when we were learning about how to care for our teeth. A visiting public health nurse gave each of us some little red pellets to chew, and then we were to go look at our teeth in a mirror. The other image is of a smallish crowd of folks suddenly trying to run for their lives.
These images come to mind because they are both about revealing what is hidden. Most of the kids in my 2nd grade class looked at their teeth and saw red guck stuck to all the plaque they hadn't brushed off their teeth. I do remember one girl (who always brought a healthy lunch and was otherwise pretty much the Perfect Kid) still had pearly white teeth after that experiment.
And the runners. People who are accustomed to running could go at a clip for quite awhile. Others would be motivated by adrenaline for a short time but then be overcome by their bodies and stop, panting.
Back to the diocese. We are building a new Cathedral and six parishes are being closed down. There is grief, both at the closings and at all of the upset caused by the grief. A few folks have been very vocal in questioning the Bishop (to use polite terms). I admit I was surprised and a bit shocked at first, but that was two years ago.
It seems this change is showing us where our hearts lie. Is it with "what we've always known"? Is it with ourselves? Our desire for control? Are our hearts with Christ and His Bishop wherever they may lead us?
What frightens me the most is the wide range of odd reactions, evident from letters to the editor published in both the Catholic and local newspapers. I thought the idea of Catholics wanting the Church to run like a democracy was only a problem in liberal strongholds, which we are not. One recent letter suggested a vote (to be accomplished by next Saturday, no less) where every person in the diocese would hand off a card saying "yes" or "no" to a plan that was set in place, with extensive planning and imput from lay and clergy, over two years ago, and for which $7.1M has already been raised! Which wall do you want me to bang my head against?
So, I read this message this morning, and found it so fitting.
January 19, 2004
Jesus the King
Dearest children in the world, you are afraid. I wish to alleviate fear entirely from your lives. Followers of the Light should never fear because man cannot diminish My Light. If you carry Me within you, there is nothing that can hurt your eternity. I will protect My Spirit within you and that is the only thing that should concern you, the loss of My Spirit. In this time of change, you must walk in the Light with determination. Children do not often fear because they rely on their parents for everything. When they face a problem, they run to their parents and place the problem with their parents, running off again to continue with their childlike pursuits. Take heed, dear ones. This is what We ask of you at this time. And We ask this for your own peace. This is the way to proceed during this time of change and transition. Soon, it will come naturally to you and you will have no need to remind yourself each day.
I have asked My children to practice their faith and by that I mean continued acts of trust when trust would seem difficult and there is a temptation toward fear and distress. You must say, I have given this to My Father in heaven. God wants to protect Me so I will take full advantage of my Parentage and allow Him to do so. In this way, I am mentally liberated and can do the work My Father wills for Me in freedom. My concentration should be on each task that is placed in front of Me, never worrying about the past, never worrying about the future. Only in the present can I serve My God, and My God needs My service. Would you say, No, God, I cannot serve you now as I must sit down and worry about tomorrow. Find someone else to do your work while I busy myself with this worrying.
My brothers and sisters, your God has not asked you to worry this day. He has planned many tasks for you today and worrying is not among those tasks. So worrying and distressing yourself is your will for yourself, not God's will for you. A true servant, and I want each one of you to be true servants, is joyful because he or she only wants to serve God in the present. This servant knows that in the present God's will is being accomplished and this servant is a part of heaven by the commitment he or she has made. What else can you ask for, little ones? You are on the straight path to heaven. Should you be taken from that path at any time, you will simply complete your ascent effortlessly because I will be there to lift you the remainder of the way. In other words, as long as you stay on the path, there is nothing, nothing, that should have the power to upset you. Your eternity is secured. Do you understand? You will lose everything from this world eventually. That is for certain, as when you lay down to die you bring nothing with you but your service to God. If you are united to Me, your Jesus who loves you, I will stand before you and justice and your sins will be blown away like so many small embers from a fire. So for this day, I ask that you simply concentrate on what it is God is asking of you right now. That is My request, little ones. Focus on serving God's Kingdom today.