Pastoral Letter August 25, 2019

I am Your message, Lord. Throw me like a blazing torch into the night, that all may see and understand what it means to be a disciple.

St. Maria of Paris

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Firstly, let me just say that I love this quote. I love everything about it. I love the imagery. I love the message. I love its power. I love its motivation. I love its trust. I love its command.

The author of the quote, St. Maria of Paris is an unassuming saint with an unexpected back story. Born Liza Polenko, she took the name of Maria as she was tonsured an Orthodox Christian monastic. So yes, obviously she was a nun.

She was a twice-divorced, beer-drinking, chain-smoking nun.

But a nun nevertheless.

When we hear these small (but substantial) details of this saint’s life, we may be tempted to embrace the false sense of over simplifying the struggles in her life and perhaps thinking “wow, if she can be a saint, I certainly qualify!” As we identify with her vices and sympathize with her lowest points, we begin to naïvely ease up the process toward sanctification and dilute the virtuous efforts of salvation. We want to be like the saints, but in reality, we want them to be like us, so we can in turn…be like them, just without the effort. St. Maria of Paris is a perfect example of us “admiring” a saint for perhaps the wrong reasons.

To be sure; her generosity, her writings, her work with the poor, and ministry to the most vulnerable of her day would certainly cast her in a recognizable, sanctified light.

Again, read the above-referenced quote. It reads as if written by an Athonite Monk or a Cappadocian Father. But, no. Those few, yet convicting words come from the mouth of a woman who lived through the ravages of war, endured the death of her young daughter, suffered two failed marriages, and then through His redeeming grace and longsuffering love, preached the Gospel through living the Gospel. She ultimately died a martyr’s death.

She clandestinely took the place of a Jewish woman destined for the gas chamber. And it is there, where she died: in a Nazi Concentration Camp.
Mother Maria of Paris, boldly proclaimed to the Lord and to us, that she is His message. His message of redemption and salvation was proclaimed to the world; not simply through her words, but most notably, through her actions. Her sacrificial actions.

But my beloved in the Lord, I now wish to share my actual message. St. Maria’s life, though captivating as it is…her quote itself, is really where I want to concentrate my efforts.

Again, I absolutely love the imagery of her words: the saving message of God, thrown as a brilliant torch into the darkness of night, to illumine the faithful and light their pathway towards the comfort of safe harbor. Those who were once lost in darkness and stumbling over perilous obstacles, now enjoy the benefit of clarity, light, knowledge and direction.

Clarity.
Light.
Knowledge.
Direction.

So here it is: in a few short weeks, September 8th to be exact, the 2019-2020 St. Anna Sunday School year will begin once again. Our children, no matter their age, live in a fallen world. A world without God is a world that is dark, cold, dangerous and lonely. This is the world that can await our youth if we do not do our collective and individual best to ensure their strong footing in His holy Kingdom. The world’s definition of love is very different than God’s definition of love. But to walk in His light, and feel His love begins with our knowledge of Him. We learn of God’s love at home, in the Liturgy, through Scripture, during prayer and, quite obviously, in Sunday School.

Last evening, I held a preparatory meeting with our Sunday School staff. This blessed collection of dedicated youth workers came together in order to be fully prepared to receive the children of our St. Anna parish into their capable and prayerful hands. As we discussed the probable rosters of the new year, we noticed that many of our past students have come only mostly-consistently. And some, came sparingly. 

Clarity.
Light.
Knowledge.
Direction.

Please, moms and dads, grandparents, godparents: take extremely seriously the spiritual lives of our young people. While I am exceedingly grateful to have seen yet another summer with an average of about 160 people coming to church each Sunday, we need to look to the start of this school year and dedicate ourselves to the well-being and strength of the young souls that are entrusted to our care. I say without hubris or hesitation, that our Sunday School teachers are among the absolute best that I have ever worked with in over 20 years of parish ministry. Our teachers are gifted educators who are wholly engaged in their ministerial task. Let’s pledge to ourselves and to the Lord that we’ll make every effort to have our kids at church and in Sunday School each week.

As it stands today, our registration will be at about 70 kids. We came up with an honest list, keeping on our rolls the children whom we believe are still active and involved in our parish. So let’s have these kids with us each Sunday. Please. Let’s see that these children are active in our youth ministries and family events. Please. Let’s see that their participation is active, vibrant, consistent and genuine. Please. Let’s minister to our kids. Let’s impart to them the teachings and traditions that are handed down from Christ, Himself. Let’s be committed to their clarity, offer them light, share God’s knowledge and lead with direction.

In the end, if we all do our part: that is if our parish offers quality programming, and our parents respond accordingly, then our children will be the blazing torch that is thrown into the night. Once they become receivers of the Light, they will then become bearers of the Light. 
Sunday School begins September 8, 2019.

Please plan from now, to enroll your kids, and support them with active participation throughout this new year and always.

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony