Dear Sisters and Brothers of Saint Therese Parish,
In recent weeks I have had the wonderful opportunity of visiting some of our “long time” parishioners in their homes. All of them are somewhere in their 90’s, home bound either because of the danger of Covid or just because getting around isn’t so easy anymore. Now that both they and I have been fully vaccinated it felt safe to offer them the sacramental “works” -confession, Communion and the Anointing of the Sick. “You’re good to go” drew some laughs at the moment; the truth is that the fidelity of their lives through many a hardship was testimony to how a solid faith can see us through many a trying time.
I loved listening to their stories. Every visit lasted at least an hour and for once, I wasn’t the one doing the talking. I heard about kids and grandkids, how they arrived in Montauk, when they met their spouses, the deaths they still mourned, the occupations they had, how some things have changed and others haven’t, and just a little bit of juicy gossip. And of course about the parish, and the building of the church, and some of the priests who have been stationed here. I also received some of the same good advice from more than a few about how to be a pastor in Montauk: “Just don’t try too hard. It takes a long time for people here to warm up to a new priest.” Message delivered. When I was a newly elected and too young Provincial of the Passionists, I drove up to Boston to visit with a then very old former Provincial. He poured us both a scotch at 10:30 in the morning while I asked his advice. I thought it would be something spiritual. He said: “Don’t try to make the guys happier than they really want to be.” Same message.
It seems to be the message of Easter too. The post-Resurrection Gospel passages are full of the disciples being afraid, locked up, doubtful, guilt-ridden, despondent. They had denied, run away, misunderstood. But they will be the ones to found the church. And Jesus assures them that He will be with them...that the community of believers, weak as we are in any generation, will be known by their love for one another. Don’t try too hard...otherwise it’s all about you. The Spirit will tell you all you need to know. I guess we could say that of any family, any relationship, any parish.
I’m sure there are many more stories to hear in this place we call Montauk. And much wisdom.
Blessings and peace,
Father Bob, C.P.