Sunday, December 23, 2012

Urgent Prayer Request for Newtown Priests

I received this urgent prayer request from a friend at our church, relaying that the priests of St Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown are in desperate need of prayers.  As we continue to mourn with and pray for the town, please include Father Luke, Monsignor Weiss, and all of the other spiritual care providers and first responders who are suffering as well in the aftermath of the unspeakable tragedy.

My friends,

All of you, I am sure, have heard so much about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Many of you have received emails from me about my younger brother, Father Luke Suarez, who is a priest at St. Rose of Lima parish, a Catholic church just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary. He, and his pastor, Monsignor Weiss, arrived at the school within moments of the shooting, and have been caring for the community ever since. The picture I have included was taken at the school.

Father Luke has an impossible task before him. His diocese is without a bishop right now. . personally devastated by the losses. The parish is very large.The rectory has received serious threats, and as my brother gave the homily Sunday at the noon mass, the church had to be evacuated by SWAT teams. After experiencing identity theft and online hacking incidents, he had to erase all of his internet accounts. After a weekend of endless media requests, notifications and vigils with heartbroken families, and little sleep, he now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years.

My large family has been trying to send Father Luke our love and support from afar, and one of my brothers was able to visit with him briefly a couple times. All he asks for is prayer.

I have been wracking my brain, trying to think of a way that our beautiful, loving community could tangibly reach out to Father Luke, Monsignor Weiss, and the St. Rose parish, to support them in this most awful of times. I have sent many prayer requests, and I am asking for more prayers again. But I also want to ask everyone to search their hearts, and if the Holy Spirit moves you, please consider sending one of your family's Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement. Here is his address:

Father Luke Suarez

46 Church Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470

My brother has said over and over again that without the prayer support he is receiving, he could not keep going. And this week is only the beginning. Everyone there is still in shock. Their peaceful home has been desecrated by violence. They will need to live with this sorrow forever.

But in our weakness is His strength. Grace abounds. Can you help me carry him through this time of trial?
On a hopeful note, Father Luke did say that no media coverage has even touched the deep, beautiful awakening of faith that has occurred there. Their tiny church, where my children have received sacraments and where Luke was ordained, has been full of people in prayer without ceasing since this tragedy happened. Love is stronger than death.

Please feel free to share the address with your family, friends, and community. An outpouring of love will sustain these good priests through their impossible ministry-impossible on their own, but possible with God.

I read stuff like this and I think of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction telling Tim Roth, "I am the tyranny of evil men, but I'm trying, Ringo, I'm trying real hard to be a shepherd."

I'm putting cards in the mail to both priests - what a good idea - and also remembering them in my prayers. Will you, too? We forget sometimes that aside from those families directly impacted by the violence, all the people who serve them - ministers, first responders, medical personal, even the funeral support - need prayers, too. And prayer is the most subversive of powers. It knocks the hell out of things!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Renmant Theology and the Church Today

More and more frequently, thoughts inquiring into the mind of God and how he will seek to purify the cancers of dissent and relativism from his Church seem to be entering more and more into my prayer and meditation.  Many a day, in response to encounters and events epitomized by the fact that our current President, perhaps the most anti-life that we have ever seen, won the Catholic vote by 51% to 48%, I cannot help but pray, "How long, Lord, will you allow this to continue, where your people who profess to believe in you and serve you--who claim to be your body--serve you with their lips but keep their hearts far from you?" (cf Mt 15:8).  Why do the numbers of the faithful continue to decline, despite the fact that we live in a world that seems increasingly dominated by hostility to Christ and his message (as the Master himself promised it would be)? Why are we failing in swaying people away from a world that offers so much yet constantly fails to deliver and can make no assurances about eternity?

In his wonderful blog that I just discovered, Monsignor Charles Pope has offered some practical insights on this question (admittedly his own thoughts and reflections, not necessarily the dogmatic teachings of the Church).  He offers them in the context of a term that I had never heard before reading his post, Remnant Theology.  Remnant Theology reflects on the history of God and his people (first Israel, now the Church founded on Christ) from the perspective that he has time and again allowed his people to be led into exile and persecution, to remove the slough of complacency, compromise with evil, and sometimes downright disobedience and dissent that has crept in over time and distanced them from complete dependence on him.

What does Remnant Theology have to teach us about the Church Today?

His conclusion is both challenging and encouraging, echoing Christ's command to those gathered as he ascended into heaven:

Frankly it is going to take a stronger and purer Church to endure the cultural tsunami that is and has been rolling in. The first waves hit in the late 60s, and successive waves look to be even more destructive as Western culture is gradually being swept away. The Church will have to be pure and strong to endure the days ahead, to rescue those we can, and to help rebuild when the terrible waves have worked their last destruction.
I realize this post will not be without controversy. I do not propose it as the only answer to the times. Neither do I claim that fallen-away Catholics have simply been pruned as though we could know they will never return and be grafted on again. We should continue to Evangelize and seek to grow the Church by Christ’s own mandate. We cannot know the size the Lord wants us to be nor should we ever stifle the Spirit of Christ’s mandate, Go and make disciples of all the nations….