Weekly Bulletin - Religious Ramblings

Religious Ramblings is a weekly column in our church bulletin on spiritual musings related to our current lives and modern society. The most recent edition appears below. You may also download the entire bulletin in PDF by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking the Attachment. For additional reading, be sure to visit the Bulletin Archives.

From Fr. Patrick LaBelle:


"Top of the  morning  to you..."

Sunday, August 10, 2014
Summer 2014

     The Irish are fond of greeting one another and  visitors as well with this expression.  What many, maybe even most, of the visitors do not know is the response to that greeting.  Very simply, "...and the rest of the day to you!"  I suspect that each culture has something similar in its customs.  Not a bad way to begin the day or the exchange.  There is something comforting about being welcomed in a clear and unambiguous manner.  It allows the more outgoing an opportunity to shine while, at the same time, it can put the more quiet types a chance to move ahead with less anxiety and more confidence.

     Let me take a little time to reflect on our history at Stanford in light of the benefits of a sincere and hearty welcome.  For over a century students, faculty, staff and friends have arrived on the Farm with mixed feelings.  In the beginning days of the University some students and others felt a sense of intimidation when arriving on campus.  It can still be overwhelming for many understandable reasons.    Arriving at a place with such a reputation can put one in place very quickly.  I recall when I arrived as Director of the Catholic Community some years ago a startling bit of advice came from the Lutheran Chaplain.  He reminded me that "... Every one of these young people was the valedictorian!"  Perhaps a little exaggerated but the message got through.

     Being welcomed is a great gift.  The entire early period of each new academic year is designed to help newcomers feel welcome.  One of the first challenges we faced a few years ago when we began to design a new identity for our Catholic Community was to determine just who would be welcomed.  Of course everyone is welcome to worship anywhere on campus where worship happens.  But there is another "claim" we have to be welcome into the Catholic Community.  To be very specific, when the Diocese of San Jose, our church sponsor, decided to honor our request to become an actual parish the proposed membership was broadly defined.  A wonderful priest who was an official of the Diocese and a great fan of Stanford was given the task by the Bishop of defining who would be eligible members of this new university parish.  His name was Fr. Maurice Shea, Mo we called him, was a regular student in one or another of the evening classes for the broader community.  He had a grand understanding of the Academy and of Catholic tradition.  His definition was "...the Catholic Community at Stanford is a Personal Parish (that is, not territorial,) in the care of the Western Dominican Province and their colleagues to serve the students, faculty, staff of the University and their families and those others who will call Stanford their principal place of worship." This was a very  important definition, a definition that remains in place today.

     It is our pleasure and privilege to worship together and to participate in the activities flowing from that worship.  What binds us together flows from our Baptism and the hospitality that it presumes.  All are welcome here.  We even celebrate that welcome from time to time in an entrance song of the liturgy.  It is both useful and expected that this and every Catholic Community be marked by love and hospitality.  I have told this story often in the past.  Years ago an alum of the university where I served at that time took a job as a teacher and football coach at his Catholic high school alma mater.  The priest/principal decided to conduct a great survey to help the "branding" of the institution.  Faculty, staff, parents, alums and, of course, students were surveyed and asked to identify that which would be the identifying quality of the school.  An assembly was called to announce the results of the survey.  The Principal announced with great pride that the theme quality of the school, that which set it aside from competitors,  was DISCIPLINE.  The teacher/coach stood up and said "...every Sunday at my parish we sing that 'they will know us by our love'. I have never sung that the people should know us by our discipline!"

     We are approaching a new academic year and, at the same time, trying to strengthen our sense of community and belonging as a diverse and unique university culture.  It seems to me that jumping in and working toward such a goal would help our efforts to commit ourselves to a level of participation that would help one another and others to recognize us by our love, in our hospitality.  A clear attitude of welcome marks Pope Francis and has clear Gospel roots.  So it may be that wearing one of our name tags and participating in efforts to celebrate the permanent community may contribute to the attitude of community and welcome that we intend.  Try it, you might like it!

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