16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

BELONGING TO A PARISH RATHER THAN A CHURCH

By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB

Rabbi Abraham Heschel once said, “Words create worlds”.  Indeed, words matter and they shape how we act and what we believe.

Over the past few weeks, I have been handing out a number of business cards, and some people have noticed that I used the word Parish rather than Church to identify St. Basil’s.  The distinction is an important reminder for me to be more focused on the needs of the parish (the people that occupy the building) rather than the church (the building itself) – though admittedly there are building issues to address.

(It is also important to understand the distinction between a church and the Church – local building vs. mystical body of Christ)

A similar analogy can be made between house and home.  This is not to say that I want to get caught up in semantics; rather to emphasize a particular focus, responsibility, and sense of belonging

Pope John XXIII once remarked that, “We are not on earth to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.”

The question is how we cultivate such a garden of life at St. Basil’s?  For me, it begins with learning people’s names (which I am trying very hard to do) and then learning their stories, because once we begin to share our stories with each other, we start to feel we belong.

And isn’t this the point?  Belonging?  Though some would say the point is about what we believe, my experience has taught me that most of the time belonging leads to believing.  While there are exceptions, but most of us are Catholic because our families were Catholic.  Only later, did we claim for ourselves a belief that we inherited early in life.

Granted, if you are reading this, then you already understand the importance of belonging and probably contribute to St. Basil’s Parish.  Over the next few weeks, I hope to provide you with some new tools to better introduce others to our community, such as welcome packets for new parishioners and business cards that advertise websites, location and Mass/Confession times.

Of course, there are some that want to be anonymous here, which is a particular strength of St. Basil’s, but for those that call this place a home and parish, then let our words create a new world.

If Heschel is correct, then my hope is that we start to identify ourselves as belonging to St. Basil’s Catholic Parish, as a place where stories are shared, names are known, and belonging leads to belief.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A NEW PASTOR BEGINS. . . 

By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB

When I was ordained, only a little over four years ago, I was told I should make a prayer card to mark the occasion.  Though I am not one to stress over details, I was very aware that such a card was as much of a statement as a tool for prayer.  What image and message to do you chose for such a momentous event?  How do you convey the sense of mission, gratitude and joy that you feel as you begin a new journey?

It is not hard to imagine why I bring up that experience as I write my first bulletin message here at St. Basil’s. . . after all, this is my first time to serve as a Pastor.  I am grateful for the confidence that is shown in my own person by this appointment.  I am deeply humbled by the tradition of this particular parish.  I am overwhelmed by the amount of activity that exists here.  And I am filled with joy because of the many possibilities that lie before us.  In fact, my own heart echoes the Psalm this week:  “Let us cry out to God with joy!”

My prayer is that you feel the same sense of joy as we begin a new journey together.  I pray that you feel comfortable enough to share your stories, wisdom, and dreams with me; as I hope to share mine with you.  You may consider this an open invitation to do just that at any time; after all, there is always room in a day for another cup of coffee and good conversation.

But before that conversation occurs, you might be wondering what I chose for the prayer card to mark my ordination?  The image was of the Apostles putting out into the deep, painted by a monk at Benedictine Monastery in Mission, BC.  And the prayer was the daily prayer of Eleanor Roosevelt when she was chairing the committee that wrote the Declaration of Human Rights.  It read,

Our Father, who has set a restlessness in our hearts and made us all seekers after that which we can never fully find, forbid us to be satisfied with what we make of life.  Draw us from base content and set our eyes on far-off goals.  Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.  Deliver us from fretfulness and self-pitying; make us sure of the good we cannot see and of the hidden good in the world.  Open our eyes to simple beauty all around us and our hearts to the loveliness men and women hide from us because we do not try to understand them.  Save us from ourselves ­­and show us a vision of a world made new.

Amen.