Friday, May 31, 2013

Dear Friends in Christ, Truly

For the past nine years, almost every week I've written a letter to my parishioners in the weekly bulletin.  Today's is the last of those letters.

Dear Friends in Christ,
As I write that salutation to you, “Dear Friends in Christ,” for the last time as your pastor, my heart is filled with wonder and with gratitude for the tenderness that Christ has shown towards me during these past thirteen years.  In the communion of life that we have been given together, I have daily encountered the face of Christ; a face of tenderness, mercy, and charity.  As I ponder all that Christ has given to me in our communion together, I realize again that there is nothing that Christ will not give to me.
Over the past decade, I’ve tried to use this column to build up our communion.  Through humor, through expressing the practical needs of parish life, through doctrinal teaching, through explanations concerning the Liturgy or the Scriptures, and through personal reflections on my life as your pastor, I have tried to use this column to strengthen our communion.  I did so because I believe that at the very heart of parish life there must be a very deep and solid communion.  Without this communion, we have very little.  Experience has only confirmed this within me. 
In these last words to you as your pastor, I wish to convey something necessary and serious; a charge of sorts.  Do everything possible to preserve the communion of life that God has given to you.  Do nothing to weaken that communion. The Evil One tries to steal sheep from the Lord by sowing division.  He does this in all sorts of ways.  He draws some away from the life of the Sacraments.  He draws others away from the sure and certain doctrines of the Church.  He draws others away from the authority of the Church’s pastors—the Pope, the bishops, and the priests. 
The division that the Devil sows is not only accomplished through grand gestures, but most especially in subtle ways.  He does it through gossip, through calumny, through envy, through cattiness, through resentments, through disobedience, through backbiting, through cynicism, and through a thousand other proven methods.  Christ draws us continually into deeper communion with the Trinity and with His Body, the Church.  Christ is always about the work of communion.  He draws the people He loves together through the sacramental life of the Church, through the profession of the One Faith, and through the life of charity. 
I urge you to guard zealously the unity that Christ has given to you.  Avoid all division.  Adhere with all of your strength to the True Faith.  Humbly devote yourselves to the Word of God and to the Sacraments.  Be obedient to those who exercise authority in the Church.  Do nothing and say nothing that would ever allow anyone to think that there was even an inch of distance between you and the Pope, the Bishops, and your priests.  Be of one heart and mind.  Flee from all division.  Never speak ill of one another and never allow envy, cynicism, dissension, or rivalries to have a place among you.  Let the whole world marvel at the love that you show towards one another.
These words, I know, are a bit odd to have as a parting letter to you.  But, Christ has given to you something truly beautiful.  Something so beautiful is always disdainful to the Enemy.  Thus, you should be on your guard.  Whenever you feel yourself drawn towards division, know that this is the work of the Enemy.  Instead, be drawn towards deeper communion.  Be quick in forgiving.  Be generous in kind speech.  Be steadfast in Faith.  Be patient in adversity.  Be one in mind and heart with your shepherds.  Be constant in prayer.  Preserve the unity that Christ has given to you.  In his great prayer to the Father, Christ prayed, “that all might be one.”  When you live that oneness with each other in the communion of the Church, you are living the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer. 
How blessed I have been to be your shepherd!  How blessed I have been to learn from your example!  How blessed I have been to experience the profound communion of the Church in our life together!  You can be certain that I will always remember you in my prayers and that I am most grateful to be remembered in your prayers.  With all of my heart, I entrust you to the maternal tenderness of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  May she who is the bright Star of the Sea guide all of us through the storms of this life to the safe harbor of heaven where he who sits upon the throne declares: “Behold, I make all things new!”
Your Brother in Christ,
Fr. David Barnes


  1. God Bless you Father. You will ALWAYS be in my prayers.

  2. And again I say AMEN.

  3. May God Bless you and Keep you...we'll miss your guidance and light - Jane Knight

  4. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" There is no doubt that you will hear those words again, from the One you serve so well. May He continue to bless you as by pointing to Him you draw souls to Him. You will always remain in my prayers — I waited my entire life to meet a priest like you. May God be praised!

  5. see.....
    I knew He had great things in store :)
    Now...go find us a few more excellent priests would ya please!
    Enjoy your new Shepherd's post!

    God bless you Fr.David

  6. Sometimes, people send in anonymous comments and ask that I not post them. I'm fine with that, but the only difficult is that there is no way to reply to an anonymous comment except publicly. I received a comment today and I am uncertain whether the person did or didn't want me to post it. So, in an abundance of caution, I won't. But, I want to reply in case you are reading here.

    When I wrote that there should be no distance between the Pope, the Bishops, the Clergy, and the laity, that is another way of saying that we should strive towards perfect communion. In no way did I mean that if someone were aware of evil etc, that they should do nothing about it or ignore it. If I were to write, "Obey your parents," I would presume that everyone knows that that doesn't mean, "If your Mother tells you to rob a bank, obey her." Similarly, we should obey the Pope, bishops, and priests insofar as what they teach reflects the Gospel and the Church's doctrine.

    Now, if the pastor decides to have guitars at Mass, our views might be different, but we should not create distance between us and the clergy over something prudential. If the priest says that we should rob banks, then we should do what is necessary to correct him in charity.

    Certainly, there are times when it is the proper role of any member of the Body of Christ to fraternally correct another--be he the Pope, a bishop, a priest, a deacon, a husband, a mother etc. But, those things should always be done in charity and for the sake of communion. They should never be about injuring the communion of the Church.

    So, to the person who wrote to me (and I appreciate the feedback), I'm not saying that if a Pope, bishop, or priest does something immoral or fails in some serious way in his duties that nobody should say anything. I'm just saying that we should do it in such a way that we are certain that we are loving them because that is what Christ calls us to do. I can correct someone and not have distance between us. In fact, if I do it right and it is received with the proper disposition, then we should be closer than ever.

    It makes me think of excommunication. When the Church takes the rare and serious step of excommunication, it is not to get rid of somebody. It is so that the person will see the seriousness of his situation, repent, and be restored to full communion. Whenever we correct someome in the life of the Church, it should be so that the person can fully live the life of communion.

    (As an aside, I don't want to read now a hundred comments about who should and shouldn't be excommunciated!)

    I hope I've satisfactoraly clarified. God Bless.

  7. And by the way, I don't oppose guitars! I was just using an example where people's prudential judgments could legitimately differ.