Pastor's Column

 

Guest Column

July 20 - 21, 2019
 
We have Come to Adore and We Have Been Blessed
 
I’ve long dubbed my sister Ann Marie ‘Martha’ because she likes to go at a very busy pace. It’s
never on better display than whenever my family gets together. She’s always on her feet, seems to
never sit down, and is always front and center when it comes to the cooking, serving, and clean-up.
Like Martha in today’s Gospel, she’s attentive to people’s needs and makes sure that things move
along and importantly, get done.
 
Washing dishes at large family gatherings aside, I, too, relish a busy pace and work schedule.
The busyness of St. Mark parish suits me; I don’t know how comfortable I’d be in a parish without as
much vitality and energy as that of St. Mark.
 
It’s no secret from hearing my preaching that a chief issue I bring to confession is, at times,
not completing the daily prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, I’m obligated to say as an ordained
clergyman. I usually cite the same excuse: busyness.
 
The retreat I took at a Benedictine monastery, located about an hour outside of Pittsburgh, the
last week of June provided me with a spiritual wake-up call. Aside from it being in what we
Brooklynites would describe as the ‘middle of nowhere’ (though absolutely beautiful, bucolic, and
serene), I could not escape the eye of Mother Marianne, the mother superior, who felt the need to
check in with me the evening before I was to leave. When I first arrived for my private retreat, I
shared that the prior week was a particularly hectic one (up to the moment my plane was going to
leave that day), and that in my haste to make my flight, I had forgotten some important things at
home.
 
Mother Marianne wanted to check in and see how the retreat had gone, especially given the
fact that I arrived in good need of one. Somewhere in our conversation that evening I revealed to her
what I frequently bring to confession I neglect my prayers when I become busy. Mother Marianne,
rather assertively, suggested that if I am going to be busy during the day, the prayers must be the
very first thing I do in the morning, before anything else.
 
And when I mentioned to her that I like going at a busy pace and keeping myself occupied, and
it often seems I have to force myself to stop and pray, she asked me an important question: “What
does any of it have to do with what I like?”
 
My obligations to pray aside, there is great wisdom in stopping, and praying. There is great
wisdom, great blessings, in spending time with the Lord. Mary of today’s Gospel famously choses ‘the
better part’ in putting the minutiae aside, and spending the precious time she has, with the Lord.
Rather providentially, the last week and a half, our parish has had the opportunity to spend
time with the Lord in perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. For me personally, it could not
have provided a better follow-up to my retreat week at the Benedictine monastery -- to practice what
truly and authentically is ‘the better part,’ and spend intimate time with the Lord present in the
Blessed Sacrament, at different points of the day (and night.)
 
Mary choosing to spend intimate time with Jesus, is really her choosing life, over a
superficiality that we often confuse with true life. Prayer grounds us, sustains us, and reminds us of
the correct posture of creature, adoring Creator.
 
But it does more than just give us perspective. As prayer connects us with our life source,
those who pray, who devote themselves to spending time with Jesus, have Life itself within them.
The spiritual blessings that have been generated over our perpetual Adoration of the Blessed
Sacrament have shown me and so many others who have come to church day after day, night after
night, that in praying for the cause of life, we have found Life itself.
- Father Michael Panicali