March 20, 2008
My Dearest St. Peter,
I know it’s Holy Thursday
and you’ve probably got a lot of major work to do today,
inspiring the faithful and all.
But I just couldn’t let this day pass
without asking some more questions.
You see, I’ve been really reflecting all week
on the words of Jesus,
especially on the words he spoke
during those last days of his earthly life.
Good St. Peter, you were there.
I mean, tomorrow afternoon at the liturgy of Good Friday
churches all over are going to sing, "Where you there."
But you, St. Peter, you were there.
So I really believe you are an expert
and will be able to answer my questions.
San Pedro, what did Jesus mean when he said,
"Take this, all of you, and eat it. . ?."
We seem to be getting that all confused.
Did he mean,
"Take this all of you and eat it. . .
. . . . unless you are divorced and remarried
and the tribunal hasn’t finished
processing your annulment yet."
What did he mean by,
". . all of you?"
Did he mean,
"Take this, all of you and eat. . .
unless you are a homosexual. . .
. . . .well, if you are a practicing homosexual
do not approach the altar.
Celibate gays may receive..."
Is this what Jesus meant by "all of you?"
St. Peter, I do not understand.
I mean, I have always found the Eucharist to be nutritive.
So, how can we deny Eucharistic
to people who are starving for it?
I have also found the Eucharist to be transformative.
We become what we receive.
How can someone become what they receive
if they are not allowed to receive?
how can we sing "All are Welcome" and "Come to the Feast"
during the Sundays of the year,
but then exclude some people
from approaching the table?
I’m really confused.
What we sing and what we pray
do not match what we do.
And today at Cathedrals around the world
clergy will recommit themselves to their ministry.
Ah. . .what a beautiful, beautiful thing that is.
But. . .it’s problematic.
Clergy numbers are dwindling.
I was in church recently
and we were told that the priest
was going to be a little bit late.
He was a visiting priest who was filling in for the pastor
who was out of town.
But he had to preside at mass at his own parish first,
so he would be late.
So we waited.
More than a half hour late,
he finally arrived and we celebrated the Eucharistic together.
I didn’t mind the wait
and I don’t think the people really did either.
But I began to realize
that this will be a reality more often than not.
Clustering, merging and closing parishes
is really only a stopgap.
By giving these gentlemen 2, 3 or more parishes
we are only aiding in adding stress to their lives.
St. Peter, by placing all of this added responsibility on them
aren’t we really only committing a genocide of sorts?
"Take this, all of you, and eat. . ."
I don’t think he meant to give our priests
stress related heart attacks in the process.
In giving him several parishes,
a priest will preside at several masses on the weekend,
but may never have
a pastoral relationship with the congregation.
He will only arrive on the scene to "do" Eucharist.
is this turning the ministerial priesthood
into nothing more than a hocus pocus moment?
Are we turning these gentlemen
into sacramental gumball machines?
"Take this, all of you, and eat it."
How can we if we don’t even have someone who will preside?
And will it really be Eucharist
if the one presiding
is so totally detached from the community?
How can this detachment serve The Body of Christ?
in no way do I wish to tell you
or any of the other santos what to do.
But it just seems like that if we don’t redefine
the ministerial priesthood,
redefine who can be a priest,
the church is slowly but surely
only going to end up holding the Eucharist hostage.
"Take this, all of you, and eat. . . ."
How will we ever be able to fulfill Christ’s command then?
We become what we receive.
But St. Peter,
it almost seems like the faithful
will become The Body of Christ,
will be The Body of Christ,
in spite of the Church
and not because of Her.
And today at churches all over the world
priests will wash the feet of the faithful.
This is another beautiful,
yet often misunderstood, ritual.
You were there, St. Peter.
You were there.
You didn’t want Jesus to wash your feet.
He had to explain it to you.
I think there are some who are still in need
of having this ritual explained to them.
It’s all about being a servant.
God bless you, Good St. Peter.
You dared to enter into the dialogue.
You understood what it all meant in the end,
even if you resisted at first.
Why is it, St. Peter,
that so many are afraid to enter into the dialogue?
Why is it
that so many refuse the role of servant?
I know that it won’t happen today,
but I long to attend the sacred liturgy
where St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke
washes the feet of Fr. Marek Bozek.
I know that it probably won’t happen today,
but I long to sing God’s praises during the liturgy
where Cardinal Bernard Law
washes the feet
of those who suffered sexual abuse
at the hands of priests of his diocese.
I know that it probably won’t take place today,
or even in my lifetime,
but I long to witness the liturgy
where Pope Benedict XVI
washes the feet of
Leonardo Boff and Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo.
I hope you don’t think I’m crossing any lines
by asking and suggesting some of these things.
The thing is,
I work hard at raising my son in the Catholic faith.
It hasn’t been easy,
but I think it’s very, very important.
Sadly, I don’t think there will be anyone left
to preside at Eucharist when he is my age.
And I don’t want my
to come into this world
without ever having had the opportunity
to know Jesus in the Eucharist.
Please know, Good St. Peter,
that I am not looking to cause trouble or problems.
I’m just stating to you in this letter
what’s crossed my mind this past week
as I reflect on the words of Jesus,
"Take this, all of you, and eat it. . ."
And so, I ask these questions.
I really would like to know
how you see it all,
from your heavenly perspective.
And then I’d like you to let me know
what I can do,
from my little place in history,
to help bring about God’s plan for us all.
Please say "hello"
To John Paul I for me.
Although his time as Pope was short,
he continues to inspire me.
Be sure to let him know
that his Letter to Pinochio is one of my favorites.
Especially, where he writes:
" My Pinocchio,
there are two famous sentences on the young people.
I recommend you the first one, by Lacodaire:
‘Have an opinion and assert it.’
The second one, by Clemenceau,
and I do not recommend it at all
‘He has no ideas,
but he defends them passionately."
I think John Paul I
is one of the reasons I write and think so much today.
Oh, and please say "hello"
to Oscar Romero for me.
I realize that the anniversary of his death
is coming up.
His words and actions
have served to inspire me more than any other.
Boy, could we use some bishops
like San Romero de América today.
remember me to my abuelita.
My grandmother died on Good Friday, you know.
I hope you remembered the Mariachis
to welcome her home!
for once again taking the time
to listen to all I have to ask,
for taking the time to really listen to me.
I promise that I will do the same for you.
Tu hermana en la lucha,
© 2008, Rubi Martinez-Bernat. All Rights Reserved.
First Letter to St. Peter