It was a pleasure to meet Matthew Clark on Sunday morning at St. Catherine’s in Ithaca. No, there’s no guest writer of "Along the Way" this week. It’s just the same old Matthew Clark excited to have met a new friend who has the same name.
Matthew and I got along quite well. He has a very pleasant manner with everyone, smiles easily and obviously has a very curious mind. I note with a tinge of envy that he is among those few who can wear horizontal stripes and get away with it. We communicated for a while both before and after the 50th-anniversary Mass at St. Catherine’s and even posed for a few photos together. Note that I used the word "communicated" and not the word talked. You see, Matthew is 14 months old.
I think of him with joy as I write not only because those moments with him were so happy, but because little Matthew helped me focus on the grace of this Easter season. He reminded me of God’s faithful and enduring love for us in season and out of season, when we are on the right path or making a horrible mess of things. No matter what, it is always the Lord’s desire to refresh, to heal, to reconcile and offer new life.
My meeting with that precious little child came at the end of a weekend schedule which put me in touch with several groups of people. On Friday evening, I went to a dinner that gathered pastoral musicians from all parts of our diocese to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the local chapter of the National Pastoral Musicians organization.
On Saturday morning, we had our annual Stewardship Day. Two hundred and fifty people from our parishes came to learn more about how to develop proper understandings of and commitment to a disposition about the use of our time, talent and treasure that can transform lives and parish communities.
On Saturday evening, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Good Shepherd Parish in Henrietta. The joy and good spirit of the parish were wonderful Easter graces for me. The people manifested a deep appreciation for those who came before. During the liturgy and the parish supper that followed, I had a sense that the people of Good Shepherd have a healthy community that they care for and support one another in wonderful ways.
The St. Catherine’s event at which I met young Matthew was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the parish. It too was beautifully celebrated both in the church and, later, in the parish hall. Care, friendliness and an upbeat spirit marked the celebration. One feature of the celebration impressed me very much. The parish offered special recognition and tribute to women and men present that day who were among the founders of the parish in 1960. They were all given flowers and were escorted to their special seating by members of the parish youth group. That tender drawing together of the founders and the young church spoke volumes to me about Easter hope and renewal.
The grace and beauty of the anniversary celebrations in both parishes were the more impressive to me because both communities — as have so many others — have suffered losses and have been challenged to adjust to circumstances that they never would have chosen for themselves. Both are conscious of the debt they owe to their mothers and fathers, both desire to pass what they have received to those who come after them.
That brings me back to Matthew. His beautiful presence at St. Catherine’s symbolizes and italicizes for me a great deal of what I experienced among the people gathered at the events of the weekend. Generating, receiving, nourishing life in the spirit is what the Christian life is all about. And by the way, I’d love Matthew even if his name were Mr. X.
Peace to all.