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Fr. Gerard’s Weekly Column: 7/7/24

 

A thorn in the flesh was given to me… Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

For almost two weeks now, I have been at a location that has become a summer home for me, the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. This place we call “God’s Country.” encompasses nearly 300 square miles of territory, and it where over 14,000 male and female teenage scout will participate in high adventure backpacking this summer. This year I have spent a few weeks as a Catholic Chaplain on staff, other years I have hiked with Catholic Scouts. I am continually amazed at the good that is done here, not through physical strength but through the acceptance of personal weakness. It is only through accepting one’s weakness, and therefore depending on the strength of others, that a participant and their adult advisors make it through the experience. In fact, it would not be rewarding if there was no weakness or failure along the way.

Saint Paul’s powerful words in today’s second reading help us to appreciate the weakness of our faith and spiritual life. Saint Paul asks that his temptations and failures, which he calls the “thorn in his flesh,” be removed. The answer he receives to his prayer, however, is that the grace of Christ is sufficient for him. So often we are discouraged by our failure to overcome the same temptations. We are embarrassed because we seem to commit the same sins repeatedly. While it is our desire, and the Lord’s, for us to overcome our sinfulness and to experience true conversion, it may not happen when we want it to, or perhaps, ever.

In a strange but valuable way, our sins can bring us back to Christ. In the experience of the Sacrament of Reconciliation we receive the Lord’s forgiveness and the grace we need to sustain us. Our sin reminds us of how dependent we are on the Lord’s mercy. Our sin places us in a position of need and weakness, lest we become falsely independent. When we are weak due to sin, we can be made strong by Jesus’ merciful love for us.

As hard as the physical challenge is to hike these mountains here in northern New Mexico, I would not have given up the chance to experience that weakness so I could experience the strength of others who sustained me when I was hiking. As a chaplain here, it is amazing to see how this experience brings both participants and our college aged staff to seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I believe that the physical and emotional weakness they experience here heightens their awareness of their spiritual weakness. And just like in their experience of physical weakness, they find strength in that spiritual weakness from Christ, whose grace is enough for them.

I am grateful that the parish staff, and all of you, allow me the opportunity to spend some time in this special place. They are busy days, with lots of driving to the various locations in this vast property, but they are rewarding. I find myself renewed in ministry and enriched by the people who I encounter here.

FESTIVAL 2024 – Our annual summer festival is once again upon us. Starting on Thursday, July 11th, the next two weekends will be a wonderful opportunity for our parish and school communities to come together with neighbors and friends. The weekday and Sunday hours are from 6pm-10pm and on Friday and Saturday the closing time is 11pm. Discounted Pay-One-Price ride bracelets are available through an online order. See the information in the bulletin.

The festival has amusements, games, and rides, along with traditional food and other treats including our festival’s famous zeppole’s! I thank our outstanding school parents and other parishioners who make up our Festival Committee as well as all the volunteers who work so hard to make this special event happen each year.

In the name of those who live in the church neighborhood, I ask everyone who attends the festival to be respectful of the homes and properties that surround the church. Your cooperation with neighborhood parking regulations will also be greatly appreciated.

Peace

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