The Sacred Triduum
My apologies for being unable to find either clarity of mind, or time, to write to you in this Pastor’s Corner the past two weeks. I had been caught off guard with being told on Friday afternoon, April 5, that I should make plans for accepting retirement and stepping down as pastor of Mary, Queen of Heaven Parish, by the end of June. I had graciously received five one-year extensions from Bishop Estevez since submitting my resignation (which is canonically required on a priest’s 75th birthday) on June 26, 2014. Being in perfectly good health and with no advance notice to prepare for this, I was not expecting that my resignation would now be accepted. This need to, at some point, step away as your pastor…was inevitable. I was simply not prepared. My bad!
Processing the many new options put before me has been problematic. It was contending with preparation for and the actual liturgical busy-ness of our Lenten Mission, hosting our guest speaker at the rectory for four days, participation in multiple Parish Penance Services (ours included), attending the Chrism Mass, and preparing for Holy Week in general. Yesterday (Holy Thursday), I was given the name of my replacement by the Director of the Priests’ Personnel Board – Fr. Jim Boddie…and told to announce his name at all Easter Masses. I have met Fr. Timlin, but do not know anything about him. Here is the information I received:
“Dear Rev. Denis O’Shaughnessy,
This is to inform you the the Priests’ Personnel Board has recommended to Bishop Estevez that Rev. Philip Timlin be appointed the next Administrator/Pastor of Mary, Queen of Heaven Parish.
Bishop Estevez accepted the recommendation of the Priests’ Personnel Board.
You are to make the announcement of Rev. Philip Timlin as the new Administrator/Pastor of Mary, Queen of Heaven Parish at all masses this Easter Sunday.The effective date of assignment will be July 1, 2019.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Rev. James R. Boddie, Jr. – Director of Priests’ Personnel Board”
I, Father Denis, pray that you will provide Fr. Timlin the same warm welcome I received 11 years ago.
Now, back to our “Corner” article for this Sacred Triduum. Having just celebrated today, here at the parish, the traditional Stations of the Cross from a Marian perspective, and also having prayerfully and song-fully reflected on the “Seven Last Words” of Christ from the Cross…I was blessed to receive from the National Catholic Register, a most astute article written by Fr. Raymond J. de Souza reflecting on these two remembrances.
“On Good Friday, Catholics maintain the custom of the Via Crucis, Latin for making the Stations of the Cross. In 2005, for the Stations, at the Colosseum in Rome, a dying St. John Paul II had asked Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to compose the meditations. Less than a month before he would be elected as Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger gave pilgrims a severe and sober assessment of the state of the Church.
For the ninth station, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote this: “Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in His own Church? How often is the Holy Sacrament of His Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that He is there! How often is His Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filththere is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to Him!”
This past year, the “filth” in the Church has been before our eyes every day. For those employed in reporting Catholic news, it has been sexual abuse all the time, it seems, with scandals recent and historic, at home and abroad…all of it revealing the enduring pain of so many victims and the shared shame of all Catholics.
There is another Good Friday custom, that of the “Seven Last Words,” made most famous in recent times by the Venerable Fulton Sheen ,, who preached the Seven Last Words every Good Friday for 58 years. The custom of meditating upon the seven times Jesus speaks from the cross…is older than that…and the preacher often takes up a particular theme, to be looked at in the light of those seven last phrases of Jesus from the cross. This Good Friday our theme was: “The Scandals in the Church and the Scandal of the Cross.”
For much of this past year, we have been immersed in the legal, sociological, political, cultural, canonical, evangelical, ecclesial and spiritual aspects of the scandals. For a Catholic, though, the most complete way to look at all of this…to look at anything, really…but especially the mystery of sin and iniquity…is to see how it looks at the foot of the cross. And from the cross, the word “scandal” takes on a special meaning. We commonly use “scandal” to describe malfeasance or misconduct of one sort or another, often something immoral or unethical or criminal that was hidden and is now revealed.
But in the Sacred Scriptures, it means something different. It means a “stumbling block,” an obstacle in the path. This is how St. Paul puts it to the Corinthians: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called , both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (I Corinthians 1:22-25)
The cross seems foolish to Gentiles: How can God, who has the power to save, meet an ignominious death? How can one who is powerful be made so weak? And the cross is a scandal, a stumbling block, for Jews. They were awaiting the Christ of God, the anointed of God, and yet to die on a tree was to be accursed (Deut. 21:22-23). To preach “Christ Crucified” is to preach an oxymoron, that the anointed one is also the cursed one.
And yet, on Good Friday above all, we look upon the Crucified One and understand that with the eyes of faith there lies wisdom, not foolishness, and there lies not a scandal, not a stumbling block on the path, but the One who is the Way, the Truth and – even while dying on the cross – the life.
In these meditations on the Seven Last Words, then, we look upon the scandals in the Church in the light of the words of Jesus, taking each word in turn. I propose that we might, at each word from the cross, look at the scandals from different perspectives…the victims, the priestly perpetrators, the bishops who were negligent or complicit, the Church herself, the good priests and laity who feel shame, the world, and the Lord Himself.
On Good Friday, as we accompany Jesus along the Via Dolorosa, walking with the Blessed Mother to the various Stations of the Cross; as we stand at the foot of the cross with her, listening to the Seven Last Words, we wonder: What is Jesus thinking? What is in His mind and heart? We know that, at least one point, He is praying Psalm 22, which begins “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Perhaps we might imagine that He also had in mind Psalm 55. The pain of the scandals has come from within the household of the faith, not from outside, just as Jesus was betrayed and denied and abandoned by His own apostles. As Catholics, we can lament and protest persecution. But betrayal from within is a different matter. And so, the words of Psalm 55 seem a fitting reflection as we begin any meditations on the Seven Last Words:
My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors have death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling have come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, ‘O that I had wings like a dove!I would fly away and be at rest; yea, I would wander afar, I would lodge in the wilderness, I would hasten to find me a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.’
Destroy their plans, O Lord, confuse their tongues; for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night, they go around it on its walls; and mischief and trouble are within it, ruin is in its midst; oppression and fraud do not depart from its marketplace.
It is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him.
But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to hold sweet converse together; within God’s house we walked in fellowship. (Psalm 55:4-14)
Glory be to the Father, and to the son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.” (End of Fr. Raymond J. de Souza’s article)
May this Easter be greatly blessed for all of you,It truly has been for me, as I have received from so very many of you, comforting words of appreciation and encouragement. May the blessings of the Risen Christ rain down upon you; and heal and comfort you and those you love, in any times of difficulty or trial. And may we all bask in and take comfort in the Redemption won for all of us on that first Easter morning. Happy Easter!
Yours in Our Risen Savior,