Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Lessons from Rome…
Greetings in Christ and Happy Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (June 27th)! I regret that a longstanding family vacation keeps me away on my first weekend at OLPH. You have been in my prayers and I ask you to pray for me. See you next weekend at all the Masses!
Our Lady under her title “Perpetuo Succursu” captivated me, from the first moment I gazed upon the original image in Rome. As a deacon in 2008, my pastor and I travelled to Rome. He had been there more than 15 times and took me around. We visited every church (so it seemed!) and tried to absorb a bit of the magic and the mystery that makes Rome such a special place. We came upon the original 15th century icon in the Church of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, around the corner from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. I didn't know she was going to be there before going in. Rome is like that: full of hidden gems one discovers. The church was warm and welcoming, a prayerful place. After praying before the sacred image, I bought a poster and had it framed. Presently, the image hangs in my bedroom, where it inspires and comforts me. So, when Bishop O'Connell assigned me to OLPH, I gazed upon her with fondness and recognized that Mother Mary has been at work, preparing and leading me to this new stage in the journey of tthe priesthood, namely, to be entrusted with the pastoral care of a parish family. That's you, that's us!
Romans love to eat! Who doesn't? But Roman meals are long: many courses, slow food, good wine, chilling in the plaza, watching the world go by. Very different from the way I grew up. My parents had four kids in six years. Dinner time was 6 o'clock and when Mom whistled from the back screen door, we all knew to come running, and wash up for dinner. Around the table with the whole family, we had to eat everything on our plates, and if we didn't eat fast we didn't get seconds of the cheesy potatoes! Sure, we shared about our day – no worry about screens at the table back then – but we ate with purpose and … speed. It has taken me a while to get used to slow eating, which is more about connection than calories. I look forward to us sharing meals and life together at OLPH.
Something funky about that trip to Rome, it was my first time for coin-operated lights! In some churches, a cross between gumball machine and parking meter hangs on the wall. In order to see the beautiful artwork, you gotta feed the meter. One poor soul sinks a coin, and for the next two minutes, 30 tourists are snapping photos! Prayer can be a challenge, but cha-ching the money rolls in. Now that I am an administrator, I need to be attentive to fiscal responsibility, cost-savings, and well, the lights! I will do my best to stretch your generous offerings, with no plans to install gumball machines or parking meters.
So, Rome – the place I first encountered OLPH; the place I learned that meals grow friendship not just bellies; the place I saw fiscal ingenuity in action. I suspect Maple Shade and OLPH will be a lot like Rome: full of hidden gems one discovers and then cherishes. Maybe you can show me around?