Pastor’s Desk ~ February 25, 2024

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

Whenever we have a national 3-day weekend holiday, it leaves me a bit confused, because after a three-day weekend, the remaining 4-day work week is out of proportion. Tuesday feels like Monday, Wednesday feels like Tuesday, etc. Friday comes and – shebang! – the work week is over.

Presidents’ Day is a bit too generic for me. Washington and Lincoln had their own unique strengths and virtues which any free people would do well to celebrate. Some states celebrate Presidents Day as a combined observance for all presidents. That also makes sense, since the president is not only the head of government (aka, a prime minister, a political figure) but also a head of state who, ideally, represents the nation and people at a level above politics.

The Church, in its civil aspect, is a non-inherited monarchy with the Pope as sovereign. (In the old structures of nobility, cardinals were the equivalent of princes, and bishops the equivalent of lords. That’s why cardinals are referred to as “princes of the Church” and bishops are still addressed in some countries as “Your Lordship”.) Historically, the great threat to monarchies has been succession crises, especially the death of a childless monarch. That’s not a problem for the Church, since the papal successor is elected by a select group of electors, the College of Cardinals. It is an historically unique hybrid arrangement which has preserved the papacy for two millennia.

In addition to Presidents’ Day, the U.S. also honors great state and regional leaders in the National Statuary Hall. Each state is allowed to place two statues of state significance. There are 103 statues in all, including two for the District of Columbia, and one (Rosa Parks) as a figure of national significance.

National Statuary Hall includes the statues of 4 priests and a nun: Fr. Serra (California), Fr. Eusebio Kino, S.J. (Arizona), St. Damian of Molokai (Hawaii), Fr. Jacques Marquette, S.J. (Wisconsin) and Mother Joseph Pariseau (Washington). Two of the priests were Jesuits, the order which, along with the Franciscans, is perhaps most associated with the evangelization and Europeanization of the North American continent, going back to the Jesuit Martyrs of North America.

All those represented in Statuary Hall did their major life’s work either along, or far west, of the Mississippi, at a time when all these vast areas were wilderness. Other Catholic saints, like Mother Cabrini (patroness of immigrants), Elizabeth Ann Seton (patroness of Catholic education and converts), and Rose Philippine Duchesne (ministered to Native Americans, patroness of perseverance amid diversity) are not represented there.

California’s two statues are Ronald Reagan and Fr. Junipero Serra. Due to controversies related to indigenous people, there was an effort in 2015 to remove Serra. The effort was delayed out of respect for Pope Francis, who was about to canonize Serra. Gov. Jerry Brown said that Serra’s statue would remain in place “until the end of time.” The issue hasn’t re-arisen.

I hope and pray that our Lenten liturgies and devotions have been a support to your own observance of this season of rediscovery of the sources of our hope.

Blessings, Fr. Bill Donahue

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