Green Bay in Pittsburgh
November 14, 2008
If you come to visit my office, you will notice in the hall outside a host of art, photos and memorabilia from my days in both Pittsburgh and Green Bay. I admit that the mix is a bit of a personal mosaic — everything from an autographed Steelers football to seminary posters, photos of Downtown Pittsburgh bridges to nostalgic Steelers Super Bowl posters from the former Horne's department stores. There's a little bit of old Pittsburgh — and a little bit of old Green Bay as well.
One of my favorites on the wall is a watercolor of a snowbound church in Wisconsin. It is a print, painted originally by Carolyn Barnard, and like all good art it says so many things. I have to admit that I like it because it reminds me of my service in Green Bay. I’m a Pittsburgh hometown boy blessed to be home again. But that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten where I’ve been. Carolyn Barnard’s painting reminds me every day of Green Bay in Pittsburgh.
There is another layer to the art, however. The painting is so quiet. There is a stillness to it that speaks of a quiet meditation, the feeling we get when we enter a church to find that we are not there alone, but with Jesus in the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament. You can feel the faith; you can feel the presence of God. It is so real that you can almost touch it.
Carolyn Barnard’s print from Green Bay reminds me of that feeling each time I look at it. It is the serenity of God’s presence in our midst, typified by a church on a snowy evening, but a church with Jesus really present therein.
Frazzle and frenzy
This is the final notice for peace and quiet before the Thanksgiving storm, followed by the pre-Christmas storm, and culminating in the Christmas storm and the New Year’s storm. The hectic days begin just two weeks from now, when we can often work ourselves into such a frazzle and a frenzy. The whole sense of giving praise to God at Thanksgiving, the joyously penitential season of preparation during the four weeks of Advent and the miracle of the incarnation of Jesus at the Nativity can be lost in a whirl of doing things.
I keep reminding that we need to be excited about our faith. There is no evangelization without that excitement, no real catechesis, no true sense of mission and no vocation without that excitement for our faith. It is that excitement that makes “The Church Alive!”
But “excitement” does not equate to frenzied activity. It means passion and deep dedication, but not “busyness.” It means that we have “interiorized” our faith — made our faith the essence of who we are, how we think, how we feel and how we live our lives.
That passion, that excitement for our faith, is not only found in silence — it is born from it. It is the quiet moments of peace, prayer and contemplation that must be an ordinary part of our lives, but something that we often miss in our busy lives.
That’s one reason why eucharistic adoration is such a central part of our celebration of the Year of St. Paul. Silence before the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is the perfect act of contemplative prayer. To realize that this is now going on every day in our diocese — even those hectic days of the seasonal storm fast approaching — is something that can fill us all with peace.
Now, I’m not going to fool you. I get caught up in the “busyness” of this season just like you, and perhaps even more. Advent and Christmas are hectic seasons in the life of any priest as well. I know what most of you will be going through because I will be going through it myself.
In the midst of that busyness, we need to take time — time to search out and find quiet time in this upcoming season; time to feel the presence of the Lord near us and in us. We will find that peace at Mass, we will find that quiet in our prayers, we will find both in eucharistic adoration at one of our parishes. We can find that peace alone with God, and we can find that quiet with others and God.
Robert Frost wrote his famous poem about “Stopping by woods on a Snowy Evening.” He wrote of the quiet “of easy wind and downy flake.” But then concluded:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.”
We all will have our promises to keep in November and December. But let’s not forget that we do have to make and take time for peace and quiet as well. It’s those silent moments when we can hear ourselves think ... and God speak.