Fr. Tim's Reflections

June 1, 2021
Archbishop Paul D. Etienne Creates Racial Justice and Cultural Diversity Commission

Recently, Seattle’s Archbishop Paul Etienne created a “Racial Justice and Cultural Diversity Commission”. I applaud this decision since the American Church has been a bit reticent in speaking out against recent racial tensions that plague this nation in so many ugly ways. I do believe it is what Christ is asking of us at this time. To speak more convincingly against systemic racism that continues to wound. We honestly need to step into the light and out of the “shade” that Amanda Gorman expressed in her Inaugural Poem. We must step beyond mere lip service towards the work of reparation. To me, the Commission takes such a step: “We will confront racism and injustice directly so that healing can occur. As Catholics, we are called to transform our institutions and society into one that respects the dignity and rights of all people.”

Recently, OLL Parish studied the NCCB’s Pastoral, “Open Wide Our Hearts”; a discussion that will continue in the months ahead. In this small, yet vital way, we participate in the redemptive work of Christ whose own skin was a darker shade; Palestinian that he was.

Below, you will find the structure and focus of this Commission. May God bless, guide and encourage this endeavor.

Father Tim Clark, Pastor
Easter, 2021
My Dear Parishioners,
I glimpsed resurrection recently. It happened as I followed the Pope’s pilgrimage to Iraq. It happened as Francis stood in the midst of a dwindling and frightened Christian community, threatened with extinction due to violence; a martyred Church that was enlivened by his presence and message. A community of believers that goes back to the 1st century and mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.
I glimpsed resurrection as the Pope limped down a narrow alleyway in Najah to meet 90-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most prominent Shia religious authority. When entering the house, Sistani stood, to the surprise of everyone, breaking with tradition: a revered man of peace recognizing in the other a kindred spirit as both clasped hands in greeting. I found myself quite moved by it all; this pontiff and bridge-builder mirroring for all to see the “God of surprises”. In that humble abode located on a narrow alleyway, two men of peace came alive in a place that has known so much violence and death.
Since his election in Rome, Pope Francis has been intent on reaching out to the Muslim world that has been unjustly vilified and stereotyped. It’s what we, the morally blind, do when faced with another who’s seen as different. Difference often threatens us; viewed as an ominous threat to our understanding and way of life.
As Francis limped his way down that narrow passage in Najah, I recalled how Jesus urged his followers to “enter by the narrow way”. The way that leads to life. Way that opens us to the mystery and life of God housed in the other.  How few choose to walk this path today. Indeed!
So, this meeting of two revered spiritual leaders was, to my way of seeing, so much more. It was an encounter: a glimpse of resurrection and what is to be. What is, for those willing to see. 
During this historic pilgrimage to a beleaguered region of the world, Francis emphasized how “Violence in the name of religion, was a form of blasphemy.”
Recently, we’ve again witnessed sporadic violence in this wealthiest of nations; where the façade cracked and we glimpsed the malaise underneath. All is not well: the senseless loss of ordinary folks going about their daily lives.  To me, such violence is blasphemous in that it’s an attack on the inherent dignity of the human person; where death is chosen over life. 
All of us are created in God’s Image. There is much more to each of us than meets the eye: a permanent, essential characteristic. There is something inside us that cannot die. In God’s eyes we are worthy without question. Thomas Merton writes: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” To quote the Holy Father, “Who am I to judge?” Indeed.
“Violence in the name of religion”: jihads, crusades and inquisitions come to mind. Yet, the violence in the name of religion I want to highlight happened most recently. It happened when the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome took a stand on same-sex couples today saying, “God does not and cannot bless sin.” To me, such language is not God’s doing. So, the Church needs to stop putting such words into God’s mouth for God’s sake! Such language does violence to the dignity of the human person. It’s abortive, discriminatory, unjust. Such language does not ring true when placed next to the person of Christ. The revealed Face of God.  Jesus was quite at home with sinners and broke bread with them breaking, as he did, with the religious caste system of his time. A deadening system that judged who was worthy, and who was not. Did not Jesus warn the religious authority of his day saying, “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of heaven before you”?  
Seamlessly, Jesus focused on the inherent dignity of the other. As followers of the Risen One, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy”. To do so would be blasphemous. It wreaks havoc and does violence.
Without exception, all of us are daughters and sons of God. All of us are sinners, both blest and broken and not unlike the Eucharist; saved by a Love that cannot die.  Jesus reveals how God’s ways are mysterious.  As I’ve said before, we have a God who colors beyond the lines. Who are we to limit God that, in the Beginning, found what had been created to be “very good”? Each one of us is blest from the beginning. Blessing that must not be withheld, if desired. To do so would be tantamount to playing God, and blasphemous.  The words, “God does not and cannot bless sin”, addressed to same-sex couples is like that stone rolled in front of the entrance to Jesus’ tomb: an impediment and obstacle to hope. The CDF’s thoughtless and blind-guided words left me beleaguered. However, I’m reminded of other words by the Catholic writer, Flannery O’Conner, and penned to a correspondent: “It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the church as for it” (“The Habit of Being”, p.90; italics mine).
Recently, more than 230 professors of Catholic Theology expressed their dissent in these words: “We believe that the life and love of same sex couples are not worth less before God than the life and love of any other couple.” In other words, God does not play favorites, nor take sides; “seamless in His Godhead”.
We are meant to be, just by the fact we exist. All of us called to love as best we can and within the givens of one’s life. The way God meant us to be, fashioned as we are in His Image. We are given the freedom to love in ways that enliven us. To prohibit it by requiring Catholics with a gay orientation to live celibately as to be worthy of the Eucharist does violence. How could that ever be God’s will, or part of His mysterious design who is “closer to us than we are to ourselves”?  
Jesus rose from death “before dawn and while it was still dark.” We continue to stand in a lingering darkness, I’m afraid. Not without hope, however. As we stand in the promise of this Easter Day, may the risen and luminous Christ shine through the darkness of all sin to aid us in seeing as God sees: seamlessly and with great mercy. All of us a work of God meant to be here, and worthy of love.
A Blessed Easter to all of you!
Father Tim Clark, Pastor
My Dear Parishioners,

The recent killings in Atlanta—and now in Boulder—with its sporadic violence, leaves us reeling; wondering if it will ever end? Ordinary lives senselessly lost. The all-too-familiar ritual of people placing at those sites a mélange of flowers, balloons, candles and sentiments. Yet, nothing seems to change. Our lives threatened by something far more sinister: minds going numb to the violence, and as we turn the page and go about life. We must not let that happen.

Below is found the response from the Bishops in the Seattle Archdiocese. Allow me to add words from the book, “Let Us Dream” by Pope Francis:

But when we put people’s dignity at the center, you create a new logic of mercy and care. Then what is truly of value is restored to its rightful place. (p.117)

May the logic of mercy and care prevail within a world often thrown off-center, and displaced by all the violence. Let us walk with this in mind and as we begin the journey of Holy Week together.

Be well.
Father Tim Clark, Pastor

Follow this LINK for a Special Message from our Bishops
Dear Parish Family,
Though it was not covered in this morning’s Seattle Times (printed edition), a tragic event and loss of life occurred at a Catholic Community Service facility in Seattle yesterday. Attached, you will find Archbishop Etienne’s response. I found his words well-chosen and compassionate.
Again, this tragedy is symptomatic of the hopelessness, pain and overwhelm in a good number of lives today; exacerbated by the pandemic. Let us remember this individual who died by suicide and all impacted by this tragedy at CCS.
Stay safe and be well. You are not far from my thoughts at this time and during the Lenten season.
Father Tim Clark, Pastor
My Dear Parishioners,

In 1968, I had the chance to shake hands with Senator Robert Kennedy, candidate for the US Presidency at the time. He was in Portland, OR for the primary. Together with my sister, Anne, we stood outside on a wet afternoon, awaiting his arrival. A typical station wagon approached, and out he popped! Expecting a limousine, I was quite impressed. Two months later, his life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet after his victory in California.

Listening to him speak and in a steady rain, what he had to offer was so cleansing and hopeful. There was no arrogance or bluster in the man. Only empathy, vision and a desire to bring this nation together. I felt it in every word, weighed as they were with meaning and spoken off-the-cuff. I sensed a depth to him and as he spoke from the heart. Shaking his hand and as he looked at me in passing, I felt changed whereas before was non-plussed when it came to politics; unable to vote as it was for my age. However, Kennedy offered more than politics or empty rhetoric.

Staggering in the aftermath of Dr. King’s death and just weeks before, Kennedy was a kind of lodestar that offered a way of uniting without put-downs or finger pointing. A luminous message without arrogance or bluster. He offered a future, calling to our better selves, without pandering to a particular denomination or belief. An approach that reverenced the person whatever their skin color. That rainy afternoon in downtown Portland left my 16 year-old self feeling charged. It was electric and I was smitten, mesmerized, drenched!

Our times are not all that different, really. Though we are more anxious, I’m afraid, and without direction. To me, the malaise that plagues this nation has been misdiagnosed. We seem to be changing in that ‘we no longer care for anyone but ourselves’, according to David Brooks. We’re more afraid than hopeful. Gobsmacked as we are by this pandemic. At this moment, what can be done that will make a difference for ourselves as well as others?

Archbishop Etienne offers a viable alternative in his letter to us at this moment; one small step towards the light. Give ear to his words by putting what he suggests into practice at this tumultuous time.

My blessing and good wishes,

Fr Tim Clark, Pastor
Dear OLL Parishioners,

On Saturday, October 24th, we will have our first public celebration of the Mass since the shutdown last March. The time for the liturgy will be the usual hour for our Vigil Mass: 5:00pm. At this time, however, there will be no confessions as has been the practice before life was turned upside down. Of course, we will continue to offer Mass online. This will continue into the future.

Along with this letter, you will find two pages of detailed guidelines/requirements for public liturgies during this pandemic. Please read the guidelines carefully - you may find the guidelines by clicking HERE. This first Mass, October 24th, cannot exceed 50 congregants, including volunteers and ministers. Following that, we will increase that number by, at least, 100. This means you will need to sign-up for each liturgy ahead of time. Detailed information on how to sign up will be sent out soon. Mass will be a stripped-down version of what we’ve been used to at OLL. However, this gives us the opportunity to receive Christ in this way and in the presence of one another; after such a long ‘fast’.

During the past few months, I have celebrated weddings, funerals, first communions, confirmation and many private baptisms. It’s been really wonderful, and a great grace for me who’s found this time difficult due to the isolation. Offering Mass while staring into a lens has been so strange. So, these liturgies with real people went surprisingly well; masks and all. It has bolstered my confidence as we begin to open. Before and following all liturgies, the church is sanitized. This practice will continue.

I’ve been quite reticent to begin these public liturgies, even though other parishes around us have done just that. I did so, on the advice of a parishioner/physician who took care of one of the first Covid patients in WA State; who urged me not to open too quickly. He was the voice I learned to trust. Also, we found it difficult to gather the necessary number of volunteers needed. So, we will move ahead with caution, step by step. If infections spike, we will delay the opening and will let you know.

I offer my thanks for your understanding and patience at this time. Be well, and God bless.

Father Tim Clark, Pastor
We were recently informed of the trumpet player Steve Mostovoy's passing. He’s been coming to OLL every Christmas and Easter for the past 12 or more years. Unfortunately, these last two years had conflicts with his personal schedule.
Sara Hanson was the one who brought him here and he loved coming. He was well respected in the Seattle brass community and was considered one of the finest trumpet players around. He added so much to our liturgies. I would refer to him as “our answer to Herb Alpert”.
He was likable, easygoing and had a warm smile. The parish warmed up to him and welcomed him warmly whenever he was in our midst. His signature piece every Easter was “Resucito” which the choir sang and that he embellished in ways that “would wake the dead” as I once put. You felt resurrection happening in your bones whenever he played.
May he Rest In Peace. - Fr. Tim Clark
My Dear Parishioners,
As we “hunker down” and weather this time of social distancing—sheltering in place together—I do want you to know that my prayer, tongue-tied and restless as it is these days, does remain, with you very much in mind.

Tomorrow, March 25th, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation: that moment when heaven was wedded to earth in an indissoluble and life-changing way. Mary is greeted with such stunning news: that she is to give birth to the Christ. Her response, “How can this be?” as she grapples to cooperate with grace.

Greeted by this most unprecedented moment in our history, Mary’s words ring true, do they not? Together, we helplessly watch this pandemic spread; faced with more questions than answers. The medical community, together with its research, courageously rushes headlong to meet this challenge and break new ground. Thank God!

St. Luke describes Mary as “troubled” and “afraid” when faced with the angel’s message. Yet, she finds the grace and the willingness to launch beyond such emotions into the unknown with her hope anchored in God. And, “we know the rest of the story”. Today, we could learn from her example of utter trust as we grapple with this present unknown together.

Tomorrow and on this Solemnity, Pope Francis is asking Christians everywhere to prayerfully recite the Our Father at 12:00 noon (PDT). This well-worn prayer never grows old since we find everything there. It is a prayer that reaches beyond denominational lines as this virus spreads; forcing us together with our eyes fixed on the common good rather than ourselves. Parishioner and school parent Joe Donsky likes the phrase “All hands on the rope” and it’s what is being presently asked of us. So, we must pray for the willingness to cooperate with what is being asked more than anything. It’s what will pull us through and beyond the coronavirus.

With social distancing in place, let us pause at noon tomorrow and join voices to pray the Our Father. A prayer as utterly simple, born out of Jesus’ own experience as he walked this earth; who knew full well our footsore journey.

The other day—speaking of prayer—I was spending time with the prophet Isaiah in a practice called “lectio divina”; the monastic way to pray with scripture. In chapter 46 verse 4, I came upon the following words. A passage that caught my attention as it ‘spoke’:
Even to your old age I am the same
even when your hair is gray I will bear you;
It is I who have done this, I who will continue,
and who will carry you to safety.

I will carry you to safety. I stayed with those words and there I remained, letting its truth sink into my life here and now. These inspired words are apropos and timely. We know the rest of the story, do we not? God will continue to carry us, who desires only our safety. As she carried a mysteriously conceived child within her, I believe Mary sensed herself being carried within those “everlasting arms” that is God. And it will continue. Let us, then, be willing to carry one another via our social distancing with eyes upon the common good. Paradoxically, it possesses the grace to bring us together. To bring us through.
Father Tim Clark
Dear Quarantined Friends,
I want to say, “Let my people go!” like a prayer, faced as we are with this COVID-19 challenge. We are in this together; “in good times and in bad”.
This past Saturday evening, I celebrated Mass for the 3rd Sunday of Lent in the church and feeling very much alone. Of course, I do believe in the communion of saints that surrounds us always. Yet, they can be a stealthy, silent bunch at times. Most times, actually. So, you were missed as I stood at the altar in the silence, praying and remembering you.
Later, I wrote a reflection on the gospel; when Jesus encounters the woman at the well. Finally, I typed what I scribbled down and now send it off to you.
Fr Tim Clark