Sunday, March 13, 2011

Beautiful, Beautiful

Words seldom fail the blogger, but they are failing me now. Bishop John M. D’Arcy (retired, Fort Wayne–South Bend) is back at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Beverly, Massachusetts, the only parish he ever served as a priest. Tomorrow evening at 7pm he begins a three-day Lenten Mission, “Christ: Yesterday, Today, Forever.” This morning at 10:30 Mass I witnessed the “Today” part of that theme. Christ was present in the sanctuary—and evidently here for the long haul—as Bishop D’Arcy (pictured), our pastor Father Barnes, and transitional deacon Kwang Lee stood and prayed side-by-side.

Where to begin? With the three clerics, I guess. In a tangible way, they represented the eternal presence of Christ within His Church: Bishop D’Arcy, who entered the seminary in 1949; Father Barnes, our pastor for nearly ten years; and Kwang Lee, who is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in May this year—54 years after “Father D’Arcy” said his first Mass here.

The Bishop has been undergoing radiation treatment for cancer, and some of us anticipated that he would be slowed and perpetually tired while among us. He did move slowly to the pulpit, where he pulled himself up the four steps and began his homily with what sounded like great effort. He noted that this Mass and the upcoming Mission were not about a homecoming priest but about the eternal presence of Christ. Yet he clearly was moved by being back in this sanctuary.

Once his prefatory remarks were completed and he began reflecting on the readings for the day, his voice, his whole presence shifted into a higher gear. Something new, something with a power greater than his faltering body seemed to speak through him. Several times he used the word beautiful in reference to our church and people.
  • He referred to Kwang, a fixture in our parish for the past two years, as “your beautiful deacon.” He told us of asking Kwang his Christian name and learning it is Andrew. The Bishop told us that Andrew was the first saint of Kwang’s native land, Korea, and its first martyr.
  • The Bishop referred to the “beautiful readings” by our lectors today, and they were beautiful: clear, distinct, proclaimed.
  • The Bishop later referred to the “beauty” of St. Mary Star of the Sea itself, and you only have to check out the picture below left to see what he was talking about.

At the end of Mass, Bishop D’Arcy stood stooped but bristling with energy on the sidewalk in front of the Church for about fifteen minutes, greeting one and all, and remembering many. I told the Bishop the name of my wife (who had to dash out at the end of Mass) and the names of her parents, who baptized their seven children in our church. Bishop D’Arcy vividly recalled the early death of my wife’s father and particularly the “beauty” of her widowed mother, “a great lady.”

The greatest of ladies, Mary, Star of the Sea, smiles and shines on our parish church today, this week, and forever. Welcome home, Bishop D’Arcy!

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