Dear Parishioners and Friends,
I would like to begin by offering congratulations to Dan and Peg Lareau who will receive the St. Joseph Medal this Sunday afternoon at the Cathedral of St. Joseph from Archbishop Blair. Father John and I will attend the ceremony during which medals are given to members of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Hartford in recognition of their dedication and service to the Church. In the past few years we have recognized Kim Nardone and Christian Heiden for their service, and this year we have nominated Dan and Peg for the many ways they serve our parish of St. Patrick-St. Anthony and beyond!
I would also like to offer a word of encouragement to all our parishioners to participate in the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. So far, our parish has pledged almost $18,000, which is a very good start. We should keep in mind that we are part of the local Church, and as such, we ought to support the charitable works of the Church beyond our own parish. So, if you haven’t yet made a gift or a pledge, please consider doing so.
Early on in my ministry in New York, there was a man named Frank who would attend Mass at St. Francis of Assisi every day. He lived in a nearby hotel; always dressed in a suit and tie, he was well-known in the neighborhood. Frank was also blind, but his lack of physical sight never kept him from doing all the normal things we take for granted. He seemed to be able to navigate the crowded sidewalks with little difficulty. Once in a while he would come to the parish office to purchase a Mass card, and he knew –by touch – the exact denomination of each bill in his wallet.
To be honest, I’ve always been rather amazed how people are able to overcome their lack of physical sight and not allow it to keep them from attaining great self-sufficiency. Moreover, there was a residence for blind persons about eight blocks away from the church, and several of the residents would regularly attend Mass on Sundays. At the end of Mass, as they were approaching the door of the church, they would call out to the priest to say hello.
In Jesus’ time things were much different for people with physical impairments, as we often hear about in the Gospels. Today’s Gospel highlights the example of a blind man who receives his sight from Jesus. Unfortunately, this miracle gets quickly swept aside when arguments arise about whether his blindness was a result of sin.
The final paragraph of the Gospel is quite telling: “Some of the Pharisees who were with him said to [Jesus]: ‘Surely, we are not also blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”
I am reminded here of the verse from the Gospel of Matthew (13:13- 14) which says, “They look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’ Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see.’”
So, the question that is put before us is this: “How willing are we to change our thinking about something which we are convinced is the truth, but in reality, might not be?” In other words, when confronted by another opinion or point of view, how willing are we to consider accommodating that view with our own? Is it just a matter of pride that might prevent us from altering a view that we hold dear?
Perhaps many of the political, religious and moral arguments which have aroused so much animosity in our world today could be resolved, or at least pacified, if only we were more willing to see a different way of looking at things. I know that there have been many times in my life that I have been led to put aside my own point of view and look at a situation from other angles that I might not have considered before. In doing so, I have experienced something of a conversion from thinking that my opinion or belief was the only way of seeing a situation. To borrow a line from the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace,” I was blind, but now I see.
Those have been moments of grace for me, as I hope they have been for you, as well. As I have gotten older, I have often thought that I had gained a bit of wisdom and understanding about life. But I’ve also come to the realization that I don’t have all the answers, all the information, and certainly not the wisdom I thought I had. It is only by keeping our eyes and ears (and hearts and minds) open to others that we can continue to learn the true wisdom that comes from the heart of God.
Blessings on your week ahead!
Fr. Tim Shreenan, O.F.M.Pastor