… A View – From the Pew … [Reflections from a parishioner]
As I walked into Holy Spirit to attend the first weekend Masses in our Parish since the devastating fires, I felt the tangible presence of God’s love at work through the compassionate family that is Holy Spirit. This essence has made Holy Spirit my home in times of joy and supported me unfailingly in times of sorrow. Holy Spirit is where many initially went for refuge from the fires, turning to the physical symbol of their faith and solace. And our Pastor was there in the parking lot from 1:30 am to 11:30 am that first evacuation morning to provide spiritual comfort.
For many, this Mass was the first opportunity to reconnect with those we love dearly. A little akin to St. Thomas, it was important to me to be able to look in the eyes of those I love to make sure they were all right. It was important to be able to listen to their stories, to hold them close, to provide comfort.
Even before the initial refrain (We come to share our story) of the entrance hymn (Song of the Body of Christ), there was a sense of unity, support, healing, and rebirth. And this refrain opened the door for the many stories that needed to be told, needed to be heard.
Discerned from the Spirit, Father Ron understands the need for our community to heal from within, through the love and support of each other. He knows us so well. The opportunity he provided for the congregation to “write” the homily through their words was empowering; giving voice our fears, our gratitude, our humility, and our faith. By confronting our fears aloud, we remove their power. By expressing our gratitude, we recognize we are part of one family. By acknowledging our humility, we admit our need for our Father and his children. And by living our faith, we will be made whole.
Father Ron’s gentle reminder of the gifts of the Holy Spirit prompted the congregants to share concrete examples of the gifts of charity, understanding, and strength as people opened their homes and hearts without hesitation to those in need. Those who suffered loss courageously described the graces received through the goodness and generosity of others. Absent was blame or self-pity. I will not forget the comment by one who lost all physical possessions to the fire. He said, “People are good.”
When sharing which treasured possessions had been taken to safety, one man stated he took the family Bible, which chronicled generations of family history. Others ensured the safety of fury, four-legged and two-legged family members. Those who left with the clothes they were wearing were grateful the lives of their loved ones were spared.
Those in need of the strengthening grace of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick were called forward. It was a solemn reminder to call on the grace of God for spiritual healing. The solidarity of couples united as one in marriage was blessed as one, a testimony to their union and resolve.
The hymns Father Ron selected for this healing mass* reflected the loving, protective Father revealed to us through Christ. This Mass embodied spiritual community, restoration and rebirth.
Our God is a God of love, taught to us by Jesus Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
* Song of the Body of Christ, Isaiah 49 (I will never forget you, my people), The Cry of the Poor, In Every Age, Shelter Me Oh God, Amazing Grace, I Have Loved You, We Will Rise Again