This morning I attended the funeral Mass for the mother of Father Alan Grote, a good priest of our diocese for many years now. The funeral was at her home parish of Saint Mary Church in Uniontown. Father Alan celebrated the Mass and preached, extolling the goodness of his Mom. He spoke beautifully and personally of his Mom's love for her family - siblings, husband and children and Church. He shared that his Mom liked each of the five kids best and pointed out the special relationships and circumstances that made this possible. She saw in each of them a reflection of her husband and their Dad, whom she loved deeply. She also saw and loved in them what she saw and loved in Christ. It was a fitting tribute to his Mom, but even more importantly an important lesson to those who joined him in celebrating her life of faith.
Today is also the feast of Saint Monica, a woman of faith who spent her life praying for her son and husband to come to know Jesus. The only Christian in the family, she lived by example and lovingly shared her faith in Jesus Christ. Her son, Augustine, at the urging of her husband, was well educated, free to do as he wished, and became something of a "wild thing". Nothing Monica said or did made much of a difference in his life ... except that eventually through prayer and love, a setting was provided in Milan and a catalyst in Saint Ambrose's preaching and the realization of hunger and emptiness in Augustine's heart. Enter the Spirit, enter Christ, enter a spirit of love never before experienced by Augustine. His conversion brought about awesome results. His conversion was made possible because of a mother's love. Augustine became a Christian, a priest, a bishop and a Doctor of the Church. From a life of self centeredness and sin he embraced the cross and holiness.
Shakespeare's character spoke of the end of a "winter of our discontent". Many in the Diocese of Greensburg are in the throes of a "summer of discontent", resulting from the recent restructuring of parishes and changes made by our bishop. I understand their hurt, for these necessary moments of change bring sorrow and pain, they are like a death in the family and require a period of mourning. But one of the characteristics of the Church is that while it remains essentially the same yet it is constantly adapting and changing. If it were static, it would not exist. It is the grace of God that sees us through ... along with the love of our mother, which is the Church herself. I have wanted to address a growing spirit of unrest that I find scandalous in its lack of understanding of who and what Church is. Those fostering this unrest, feeding the struggle of so many in this time of transition with half truths, innuendo, disrespect and outright hatred of the bishop and diocesan administration, remind me of the young Augustine. He wanted what he wanted, focused on himself and his desires alone, and could care less what his mom had to say or wanted to provide for him. I'm sure he loved her, but she was irrelevant to what he desired. He wanted her, but didn't need her. Those fostering this "summer of our discontent" are doing a great disservice to the Church that they say that they love. They are centered on self, not Christ. They are caught up in the moment and are not seeing the larger picture. In some ways, since I was stationed in three of these newly structured situations, I feel a sense of responsibility for not adequately teaching the beautiful mystery that is Church. I pray for that graced moment that will allow these people and these parishes to look at the opportunities provided (even those that are strangely different) and move forward as a stronger, more vibrant Church. And I pray that those responsible for sowing the seeds of discontent find their way to God's mercy and forgiveness. Our mother loves us too much to allow us to self destruct, and we should be grateful for that love.