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Rejoicing Amidst Tragedy

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! ...Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” - Phil. 4:4-7

At this time of the liturgical season, we are being encouraged to set our hearts on the joy that comes from God. Yet, joy and rejoicing may very well be the last thing on some of our minds. The stress. The politics. Personal losses. Financial stresses. Family drama. The loss of a beloved friend or spouse. And more poignantly, the news of tragedy of the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Netown, CT. How can we possibly rejoice? How can we possibly be free of anxiety when some of us are, honestly, full of these things?

In one sense, I have no complete answer. But, with God in our lives, all things are possible. So, therein lies what I know. It’s not about an intellectual thing. It’s not about being able to solve all the problems. Rather, it is about being in right relationship with our Lord Jesus.

You see, he came knowing that we are a deeply troubled people. Our Father in heaven is not ambivelant or ambiguous about these horrible problems in our world. He wants to be our Shepherd through the thickets of our life. He wants to be the healing for those who are brokenhearted.

He will guard your hearts and minds (cf. Phil. 4:7). He will pour grace upon you if you just ask. Yet, sometimes we simply don’t ask. Often we fear letting go and letting God harvest us and bring us to himself. I wonder if we fear that we will be treated like the chaff which is burned in the unquenchable fire (cf. Lk. 3:17) because we feel our sins or pains are too great or that our Father is some kind of angry God. It is true that sins keep us away. It is true that our suffering is a temptation to walk away from God. But, do not fear! Love, and love will be returned. Let yourself go into the loving arms of our God who knows the fullness of our ills and pains. He desires to heal us. He was with each of those children and teachers at their moment of need, and he is active even now in their eternal destiny. God is not deterred by the evil of our world. He is not thwarted by such evil schemes. Yet, we all suffer when even one of us are harmed (cf. 1. Cor. 12:25-26). Our Lord Jesus has also suffered and can certainly sympathyze with us (cf. Peter 2:21).

I cannot fully explain the "why's" of the tragedies of life and especially the horrible events this past week in Newtown, CT. There is no way for us to heal ourselves completely of our pains. God, too, is saddened by these things. Yet, it is our faith that gives us the perspective of God’s providence and his desire to make all things new (cf. Rev. 21:5). The record of God’s mercy in the Bible is very clear. He has righted many wrongs, and he will continue doing so until the final day when his son comes again, and all will be made right in the justice of God. On that day, God will wipe away the tears from our eyes. On that day, we will be able to be glad and exult with all our hearts, for the Lord will have removed the judgement against us, turned away our enemies, and will have no more misfortunes to fear (cf. Zeph. 3: 17).

"Merciful Lord, turn toward us and listen to our prayers: open the gates of paradise to your servants and help us all who remain to comfort one another with the assurances of faith until we all meet in Christ and are with our brothers and sister for ever" (§175 Prayer of Commendation from the Order of Christian Funerals).

And so, we give you thanks for giving us these little ones and adults whose lives and deaths have caused us to pause.  Thank you for the joy and love which they brought to the world.  We praise you for you are great and have conquered death.  We ask you to take these beloved souls to you where they may also rejoice in your mercy for all eternity.

So, rejoice in the Lord who heals the broken hearted. I say again, Rejoice!


Fr. William Holtzinger

Called to Protect

Dear Parishioners,

As I write this bulletin letter, I am on vacation. By now you come to hear or read about the alleged sexual assault of a young boy by Fr. Angel Perez who was once stationed here at St. Anne's as a seminarian. The news is most certainly disturbing. Yet, I would caution us all to resist judgement upon any person in this situation since we have little information and the reports that have been circulating are untrustworthy. So what should be our response? How are we to react?

First, I must share that I personally struggle with mixed feelings of anger, sadness, mistrust, a desire for the truth to be made clear, and healing. It cannot be understated that our children are precious and must be protected. It, once again, convinces me that we must be ever vigilant to create and maintain systems that create a safe environment for our young ones even if they are inconvenient. Sometimes, I have received flack from our own parishioners about being paranoid or creating hoops to jump through when it comes to volunteers' background checks and safety training. I can assure you, we do our best to keep our children safe, and have, on occasions, not allowed some people to volunteer with our children to the anger of said potential volunteers. But, in light of these events, I hope people will understand why we are so stringent in this regard. We simply cannot risk the safety of our children in favor of the desire of an adult to do ministry. Ministry is a privilege while safety is a right which trumps all others. The "Called to Protect" program that the Archdiocese demands of us to implement is good and works. Problems occur when it is not followed. Whether Fr. Angel is innocent or guilty of abuse, it appears that the rules for safety were not being followed. Consequently, at multiple levels, the whole Catholic community, ours included, has been hurt.

I know Fr. Angel and consider him a friend. So, I write this letter in a state of shock and sadness. I am very aware of humanity's propensity to sin. I pray that the allegations are false or mistaken. Without knowing the real facts of the events, we need still pray for justice and healing. If you have access to the Internet, I would encourage you to read Fr. Mike's blog with whom I share his feelings:

Finally, we must continue to commit ourselves to the safety of our children. Please pray for the boy and his family who must be going through a most difficult time, for Fr. Angel and the turmoil in which he now lives, for us priests who live with the collective accusatory stares that come upon us, and for all of us Catholics who have been shaken by these events.


Fr. William Holtzinger