Listening and Speaking
Hopefully you saw last week’s bulletin article about the Pastoral Planning Process that we are embarking upon in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Many may have trepidation about the unknown and others welcome new processes and ways of doing things. The unknown is often a scary thing and we are in the midst of so much of this right now. In our country the response to the pandemic has put our entire world in flux. The new Mass schedule can affect our weekly routines. The Pastoral Planning Process launches us off into some unknown territory.
After a child is baptized the priest or deacon touches their ears and mouth saying, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the mute speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” It is interesting that the ears are touched before the mouth is touched. Our hearing is primary to speaking. We hear the faith before we proclaim the faith.
This is a good model for myself and all of those who help to lead our parishes. Our first act is to listen and we listen from multiple directions. First we have to listen to God. Every parish, family, and person belongs to the Lord. When decisions are made and possibilities are explored, we must listen to the Lord. Also we listen to the Archbishop and his assistants at the Archdiocese. They let us know what is possible and how we’ll proceed in this process. They have a vantage point that looks out over the entire Archdiocese which helps when planning processes commence.
Also our leaders will commit to listening to you. Our parishioners have thoughts, feelings and ideas associated with Mass times, pandemics, and long term planning. We will do our best to offer a listening ear and hear thoughts and concerns. As a reminder, there will be a question and answer session regarding the Beacons of Light planning process in the Archdiocese on Tuesday, January 19th at 7:00pm at the St. Joseph Parish Life Center and on Facebook Live.
As we listen to God, the Archdiocese, and parishioners, there will be a time for our leaders to speak. I’ve found that this is easier said than done (did you get the pun?). There is so much to say and we want to be as open as possible without overloading information. As difficult decisions are discussed and questioned, I will do my best to be as open and honest as possible. That means speaking the truth in love, not sugar-coating problems, and not making promises that aren’t certain to be kept. I struggle sometimes with telling people what they want to hear. I pray for the courage to speak the truth instead of what is easy on the ears. I will do my best to speak the truth in love and not be overly-harsh or unnecessarily critical.
This week we step out of the boat. Recall the story of Jesus walking on water and approaching the boat of the disciples. He invites Peter to step out of the boat into the unknown. We too are invited into the unknown. We aren’t sure how the Mass times adjustment will work. We don’t know what a parish configuration will look like in the next five years. For Peter, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could walk on water. As long as he focused on Christ, the tumult didn’t affect him. The same will be true for us. The better we can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ in the midst of the storm, the better we’ll fare. If we give into bitterness, resentment, and stubbornness, we’ll sink. If we focus on the Lord, we can weather every storm. As Jesus tells Peter, “Take courage, it is I.”
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Sean Wilson