Columnist Jim Cahillane: Stay woke: Life is not a dress rehearsal

  • In this 2017 photo, the Rev. Richard Bondi chats with Our Lady of the Hills parishioners George D’Astous, left, of Chesterfield and John Andrulis of Leeds during a welcoming reception for him in the fellowship hall at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Haydenville on Sunday. Gazette file photo

Published: 9/16/2019 7:00:16 PM

As Frank Sinatra sang, “The days grow short when you reach September.” Autumn’s the time of life when searching rearview mirrors is a daily event.

Regrets arrive out of the blue without notice, but I feel them.

It’s one thing to have a relative or crony call you out for a failure. Even worse is when conscience awakens too late. I remember the 1980s when it felt a leap to attend a funeral for a casual friend who died of AIDS. Two decades later it was a gay wedding. The world refused to stop in every case, unable to pause while we grew. Marriage equality is now legal in 28 countries, including the United States of America.

In just two years, Pastor Richard Bondi of Our Lady of the Hills has renewed his 150-year-old Haydenville parish. Father Bondi’s leadership style is collaborative — problems are identified and goals set. Questions are welcomed with no subject off limits. Our Catholic community is moving along a faith-filled path — meeting, working and worshipping together. In a letter of support for the great majority of faithful priests, Pope Francis said that the current crisis is a time of “ecclesial purification” that “makes us realize that without (God) we are simply dust.”

Pope Francis also speaks of “A joy ever new, a joy which is shared.” In “The Joy of the Gospel,” he writes: “Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor.” In his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis speaks of caring for our common home, accepting the scientific consensus that changes in climate are largely man-made. Worth a read!

I recently decided to take The National Catholic Reporter on its promise to be, “The Independent News Source.” Most practicing Catholics cannot stomach one more news item or historic revelation about abusive religious leaders, or bishops who transferred bad apples from parish to parish. The disgrace they feared is out in the open, doing damage to the church’s authority and clerical credibility.

The National Catholic Reporter points out that the church, like today’s America, is divided between liberals and conservatives. This difficult truth can be eye opening to generations of Cradle Catholics like myself.

Only in the Reporter would I hear of an annual Pre-Pride Festive Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City on June 29. Or read about a Fordham University conference where Catholics explored LGBTQ movements around the world. Speaker Carlos Navarro helped create the Mexico network of Rainbow Catholics. He added “that the church will not change by papal decree but the example of LGBTQ people who are openly part of its life.”

Evolution is a happening thing. Hello, Barack!

Old guard conservatives objected when Vatican II dropped the Latin Mass in favor of the world’s vernacular languages. Pope John XXIII pledged to throw open the church’s windows to let the fresh air of the Holy Spirit in.

Parishioners understood more and, as some feared, asked questions. Why not solve the priest shortage by allowing them to marry as you already do for Anglican clergy? Women minister across the globe, why are they not fully recognized? Why did our American bishops initially exempt each other from abuse reporting decreed for priests? Why is there insidious resistance to changes proposed by Pope Francis?

Pray, pay and obey flew right out Pope John’s open window.

Questioning leads to more discussion. In my view, bad behavior by failed leaders was never a valid excuse to abandon God and the gift of faith. Pope Francis offers transparency as his answer to past failures. A humble Francis needs support in this fight to save the worldwide church and his papacy from conservative antagonists. A front-page story reports that four New England dioceses have joined a third-party EthicsPoint Internet portal and telephone hotline in response to Pope Francis’ call.

One more reason to hope that past secrecy is out the window.

Holding on to power is not unique to churchmen. Congresswomen and men are known to abandon their conscience when the National Rifle Association comes to call with dollars or threats to their reelection. Justification comes too easily. Single-issue bishops are wrong when they support Republican politicians with anti-Christian polices toward immigrants and the poor.

America’s biggest blooper ever was electing Donald Trump!

Soul searching is on my agenda when making a presidential vote in 2020. I’ll be looking for moral strength in candidates with the courage to fight for policies that work: Climate change, social services, health care, strong gun laws, immigration, international agreements, education and fixing America’s income gap.

My current Democratic choice, Elizabeth Warren, has made cause for her ability to revive the American dream:

Day dreaming: Jan. 20, 2021: Overheard at Washington, D.C. White House Inaugural Luncheon: “I’ll have what she’s having!”

How woke is that?

Jim Cahillane lives in Williamsburg. His column runs on third Tuesday. He can be reached at columnists@gazettenet.com. English novelist Rose Tremain said, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” ‘Staying Woke’ asks us to understand the real world by knowing what’s fake.


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