A manifestation of God’s grace

What am I to make of a sudden feeling of well-being, contentment? I am most aware that the feeling can’t be summoned … at least I’m not able to do so. But the very palpable sensation comes out of nowhere. Perhaps it is simply a manifestation of God’s grace. In any event, I like it, and it costs little.

Last evening I went out into the country to meet with the consultors (parish council) at a small Catholic parish. Eleven years ago I worked with the same faith community in their development of a strategic long-range plan. They seem to be ready to begin the conversation about what a next phase might look like.

I brought along some excerpts of my notes from those earlier sessions. Attendance and participation at those five sessions during the first quarter of 2000 were terrific and led to the dedication of some new classrooms and a parish community center in late 2007.

My recommendation is to reconvene and cover much of the same ground in the first quarter of 2011. Much has changed with a different group of students in the school, many new parishioners, changing demographics of the county, and the current economy. Expectations of all concerned need to be voiced as well as heard. With a little success under their belt, the future may seem more clear.

We’ll take a “today” look at the mission of the planning group, revisit the values held by the faith community, and re-articulate the “desired state” or vision for the parish, parishioners, church, and school. The group will explore to what extent Phase I moved toward the vision, and determine the logical next steps.

Frankly, I can’t wait to get started with such a wonderful faith-filled group accompanied by their very energetic and committed pastor. A fringe benefit is the peaceful 1-hour drive out to that little church on the hill.

Here at home our new driveway turned out pretty well. In a few weeks we’ll finish updating our windows. When it gets cold at night, we may even be able to leave the drapes open, sudden temperature changes won’t fog up the dining room and living room windows, ice won’t form leaving puddles on the sill.

All the other windows … twenty plus four glass door panels … have been replaced over the past several years. Doing it in phases hasn’t saved any money, but the psychological impact of an all-in-one sticker shock was nice to avoid.

Visiting the men in prison takes on a marked shift in tone as Christmas approaches. The isolation and loneliness are mentioned more often. There is talk about sending cards, making charitable contributions, remembering the holidays as a child. Listening is the best I can do, and emotions flow freely when a chaplain is at the door. It is a time when one lowers facades a little.

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