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5/21/2023 Fr. Bens Letter to the Parishioners



Ascension Sunday

It seemed to me that “after” the corona virus people have been taking stock of what is important in their lives, what is worthwhile and what might be things they can let go. For some, after missing Mass for so long, people are tempted to think: Is it really that important? Does it really matter if I go or not? Can’t I just pray at home, or on a hill, or in the bog? And Catholic school: Can we afford it? Is it that essential? People are redefining their priorities.

Last year I saw a beautiful event taking place, although it didn’t start out that way. Sometime ago a man dies alone in his small apartment. He didn’t have much and had lost touch with his family years before he died. His body was discovered a few weeks after his death. The police searched his few possessions and came up with a name but that was about all. Interestingly, the man had some Elder High School clothing and a few Elder items. The police department contacted the administration at Elder and asked if this man might have been a student there in the past. After searching their school records, they came up with a match. This man was indeed an Elder grad, in the late 1960’s.

I guess some calls went out and the Elder alums took charge. They made calls and gathered the funds, paid for the casket and funeral, bought a grave plot, arranged, not only for a priest but for Fr. Westerhoff, who was teaching at Elder in the 1960’s, to celebrate the funeral liturgy. The morning of the funeral there must have been fifty Elder grads gathered around that gravesite praying for one of their own. Now this man is buried at Our Lady of Victory cemetery. Bleed purple, pray purple, purple through and through.

Being raised and taught in the Catholic faith is not primarily about knowledge and information. Faith is about being formed in your very character, your heart, you soul, as well as your mind. Doing the right thing is a “way” of living that comes from within a person and it is this type of man or woman, that makes a difference in the lives of others and in the world. Even though it comes from within it is placed and nurtured there by a community of faith that we see God as the source of all blessing and the individual as a graced gift to be molded and shaped. This is what communities of faith do.

As He ascended to the Father Jesus said to His disciples “Go into the world and make disciples of all people.” We, the Church, have done that for centuries – does it matter? Should we still bother? Will it make any difference?

It made a difference in the lives of the men who stood around that grave that day. They were there because of the character that was formed in them by a faith they received in families, in schools, in parishes, a gift passed on from others. Is it worth the bother? The time, resources, the effort? Damn right it is! It’s worth everything!

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