A Message From Fr. Pat...
To my dear St. John Neumann Parish family:
It is interesting how God uses the most ordinary situations to teach timeless lessons.
It is no secret that our statues have taken longer to arrive than we expected. When we ordered them in July, 2013, the estimated for delivery was “6 to 12 months.” The distributor would tease us occasionally with a photo of a “work in progress”, but it became clear that, no matter how often we asked or how agitated we became, the statues would get here “when they got here.” But, FINALLY, they have all arrived. St. Gianna makes her “debut” this weekend, and St. Joseph will claim the empty shrine near the confessional after Christmas, when the manger scene is cleared away. (Side note: there are still two angels yet to be produced, but they are not technically “statues.” We’re hoping to see them soon!)
When the first of the statues arrived, it was almost like Christmas morning. As we pried off the wood of the crate and peeled back the bubble wrap and other protective wrapping, the beautiful work of the artist was revealed. She was beautiful! And we have been equally pleased with the other statues. They weren’t “on time” and we had been worried and angry and frustrated and exasperated, but the finished product was as beautiful as we hoped.
I’m starting to learn that about God’s mysterious artistry with people. I’m not sure many people realize how accurate the title “Father” is for a priest. As your spiritual leader, you share with me your joys and fears, your frustrations and your struggles. I watch, and walk with you, when you succeed, and when you fail. That’s especially true with our children. With you, I encourage and advise and reprimand when needed. I personally grieve when one of our kids gets into trouble, or falls away from the faith. I take it personally at times. I ask the Lord to fix things, and, sometimes He seems to ignore me.
But then I reflect on the psalms and the scriptures of Advent, and I am reminded that the Lord is in control. I am a far different person today than I was 20 or 30 years ago, and that change has been slow and painful. I am keenly aware of how far still I must walk in my own spiritual conversion. I have begrudgingly let God in at times, and He has squeezed through the barely open door and done His work in me. And so, He speaks to us quite clearly: “Pray. Be faithful yourself. Speak My words and act in My name. Leave room for human freedom, and trust I will do all in My power to save every person. Be patient.”
May the beauty of our new statues be a constant reminder that the Master Artist is always at work, even when we can’t see it—in us, and in those we love.