Friday, February 1, 2013

Rollerblading and Holiness: A Letter for Catholic Schools Week

The Following is a letter that I wrote to the parents of my parish school during Catholic Schools Week. 

Dear Friends in Christ,
This past week, many of us attended the Culturama at St. Mary School and were impressed by the quality and depth of the projects and presentations.  Whenever I see those projects, I think about what my home would have been like on the days leading up to the deadline.  I expect that there would have been tears and some raised voices.  I also have images of my mother saying, “This is your project, not my project!  I graduated from the eighth grade!”  Perhaps, things were similar in your homes?  After a lot of hard work on the part of students, teachers, and parents, something good was accomplished.  Well done!
Later in the week, I had the opportunity to watch as scores of children roller skated and rollerbladed together.  Some were novices and some were expert.  I’ve always considered myself a good skater.  I just can’t stop or turn around.  Some of your children were being towed by older children or by their parents.  Some were struggling mightily to stay standing.  Others were gliding around as though the next stop was the Boston Bruins.  It was impressive.  All of this was done because it is Catholic Schools Week.  As such, I want to write to you in order to encourage you and (if necessary) to challenge you in your role as Catholic mothers and fathers. 
One reason that Catholic schools began in this country was so that Catholic parents could be assured that their children were learning the Catholic Faith and were not being subjected to anti-Catholic indoctrination.  While our school has many wonderful qualities, the most important thing we can do is to help our students deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and to become his disciples, not only in name, but also in fact.  This is why St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish has and continues to be so generous in its support of St. Mary School. 
Like the Culturama projects and the roller rink, success in growing in the Catholic Faith depends not just on the individual, but upon administrators, teachers, parents, and the whole community.  The child who falls down in the rink is encouraged by seeing older children whizzing by.  It tells him that what he is trying to do is possible.  Similarly, all of us can help one another to become better disciples of Christ.  When those who are weak in the faith see other families who are living the faith, it encourages them to get back up and start again. 
I know that many of you are doing a wonderful job raising your children in the practice of the Catholic Faith.  I commend you for that.  I know that it is not always easy to get a household up and moving on Sunday morning!  But, you are providing to your children the most important thing they will ever possess, a friendship with Jesus Christ.  I thank you for your faithful example.
I also know that some of you have disappeared from the rink.  At one point along the way, you were out there in the midst of everybody else, but somewhere along the way, you’ve unlaced the skates and have disappeared.  I’m sure there are many possible reasons for your being away from the practice of the Faith.  For some, perhaps you felt pushed off the rink.  Maybe some of you got turned off by the bad example of some of your fellow Catholics (be they priests or lay people).  For others, perhaps you felt discouraged by your lack of progress.  For some, you just don’t know how it happened and you are uncertain how to get back in the rink.
Whatever the reason, I want to let you know that you and your children are missed and we would like to have you back with us at Mass and in living the Catholic Faith together.  I’m not sending you this letter to shame you into coming back or to scold you.  I’m writing because Jesus wants you and your children to be close to him and for you to be his disciples.  Occasionally, I’ve heard people say that they would have come back to the Church if only somebody had asked them to do so.  So, if you have been away, I’m asking you to come back!
The older kids whizzing around the rink the other evening were like the saints who show us that it is possible to live the Catholic life joyfully and with ease.  If somebody stands outside the rink and looks in, they will never learn to skate.  Even if they were to read a hundred books on skating, the only way to learn is to lace up and get in the rink.  Similarly, it is possible for the Catholic life to become second nature to us, but not if we stay on the outside.  It has to be lived from the inside.  The more we live it, the more joyful and easy of an experience it becomes. 
If you’ve left the rink for some reason, I’m inviting you back.  It’s better to be in the rink, falling and struggling to get up than it is to be outside alone.  If there is any way that I can be of assistance to you, please know that I am willing to do what I can.
Your Brother in Christ,
Fr. David Barnes


  1. That's really strange that you wrote this. I go to St.Mary's but have been contemplating leaving because of a sense of disconnect. Sometimes I feel like churches are geared for families and since I am single I feel on the periphery. It is, however, one of the most exquisite churches I have seen in the US. Whenever I seriously think of throwing up my hands and joining the ranks of the fallen away Catholics, the stained glass depictions alone manage to draw me back in. And the knowledge that God has bestowed many graces on me. Yet I don't feel any sense of fellowship. You don't have to publish this, but at least I told you.

  2. Although you said that I didn't have to publish your comment, I hope you don't mind that I did. I cannot reply to comments unless they are published. I am grateful for your comment. Perhaps you or others could suggest ways that our parish could directly respond to your situation. Because, if there is one person who feels this way, there is more than one! I'm very grateful for your comment.

  3. Dear Anonymous...although I have a family, I know what it's like to be on the periphery. My husband's work has taken us to five states and five different churches. When you haven't been a lifelong member of a community with deep roots, it can be hard to feel included, even though no one is trying to exclude. I agree that St. Mary's is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever heard mass in, and I would even extend that to churches I have visited worldwide. But more than the physical beauty of our church, there are times you can actually feel the presence of me, you will know it, when you experience it! I don't know "how," these blogs work, as we are both anonymous, but please don't give up on St. Mary's church and I pray that I get to meet you and can show you some fellowship.

  4. Why don't you join in some of the parish activities other than Mass. There are numerous opportunities to meet others as listed in the bulletin. By nature I think that our worship (Mass) is very serious and it should be. There are other opportunities to meet friends, neighbors and priests outside of Mass. I feel that most everyone is friendly and welcoming especially Fathers Barnes and Chateau. It is kind of different in our family's case. The "loose" atmosphere in some other parishes is actually a turn off for us. We actually are drawn towards a more devout and directed worship. That's why St. Mary's is one of our favorite places to be. Not only a beautiful building, but more importantly a beautiful worship experience...hard to find, sadly in most other parishes.