Father Joseph V. Corpora, CSC | January 26, 2017
About a month before Christmas break, I decided that I would make a mini-retreat of four days at a monastery where I have made retreats many times over the years. It is a place that I especially love. And I love the community of sisters at the monastery. Like most Trappist and Trappistine monasteries, it’s in the middle of nowhere. Actually you can get to nowhere faster and easier than you can get to this wonderful and beautiful monastery.
I would be there over New Year’s weekend. There is a parish about 16 miles from the monastery and a mission of that parish about five miles from the monastery. I recalled my 19 years as a pastor and how tired I was after Advent and Christmas. So I decided to call the pastor of the parish and ask if he wanted any help over the weekend. He asked me if I would take all the Masses — two at the parish church and one at the mission — and I agreed.
Both churches have very small, tight-knit communities. Everyone knows everyone. As soon as I walked in, everyone knew I was a visitor. They were warm and welcoming, and wondering who this guy was. (I was not wearing black clerical clothing.)
Both communities are very rural. Maybe 125 people attended all three Masses. One thing I noticed after a few moments is how the laity have kept these communities together over many years. Pastors and administrators have come and gone. And I wouldn’t be surprised if, at times, there was no pastor. At the parish, the woman playing the guitar has been in charge of the music since the Second Vatican Council. She’s 95. Can you imagine? And she’s still going and leading the singing.
As I looked out at the people while celebrating the second Mass, it became very clear to me that I did not favor the candidate that many of them had most likely voted for in the recent election. And that got me thinking.
I’m sorry to admit I didn’t pay much attention to the readings or the responsorial psalm. I just kept thinking: We voted for different candidates. I was sure these are good people. They are doing their best, trying to love God and their neighbor. So am I. How could I dislike them? How could I think ill of them? They are trying. So am I. They are failing and succeeding. So am I. They want a better future for their children. So do I. The more I looked at them, the more impossible it was for me to vilify them and think of them as the enemy, as people I dislike, as people I couldn’t stand.