Letters • February 10, 2020


Where’s the friendliness?

Where is the friendliest place on earth? Who can say? I can say where it should be — the Catholic Church.

I am not Catholic, but occasionally I attend Mass with a family member. It is a beautiful building with ample parking, well-manicured grounds, clean restrooms and an ambiance both inviting and reverent.

The choir is not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but, by God, they try. Their enthusiasm more than makes up for their lack of musical expertise.

Their pastor (priest) gives an excellent homily week after week. Very instructive and helpful teaching.

So, what’s the problem? Not friendly!!

For several months, I was going there nearly every week. I would say hello, but I cannot recall a single time when anyone ever made the first step to get to know me. Cold!

Don’t hand me a bulletin and look the other way! No eye contact! Continuing a conversation with other greeters gave me the impression that I was not important.

I noted that people are friendly, but only within their circle. Come on, Catholics! Move out of your old patterns (ruts)! Look around, greet and then meet someone outside your circle of friends. Who knows? Maybe an undercover angel has slipped into the service unaware! How did it happen that McDonald’s is more friendly than the Catholic Church? I’m curious. What is the reason you cannot be hospitable to people who attend your church? I’d love to get some feedback on that question. – Gary Brown, Hampton

Let light of Christ illuminate dark hearts, closed minds

I am saddened and dismayed by the circumstances surrounding the decision to relocate the consecration ceremony of Rev. Susan Haynes as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia away from St. Bede, Williamsburg.

In a wonderful ecumenical gesture, Bishop Barry C. Knestout had offered the use of St. Bede’s facilities to the Episcopalians, who were in need of a large, centrally located venue to accommodate the numbers expected for this significant event. However, certain disgruntled elements within St. Bede circulated an online petition to have this ceremony removed from their church.

This petition was supported by an ultra-radical Catholic group and subsequently garnered more than 3,200 signatures on its website, mostly from outside the Diocese of Richmond. Many of the comments were vile, angry and personally insulting to Bishop Knestout, St. Bede pastor Msgr. Joe Lehman, Rev. Haynes and even Pope Francis.

To their credit, Bishop Knestout and Msgr. Joe Lehman, the pastor, resisted this shameful pressure and fully intended to proceed with the ceremony. However, Bishop- elect Haynes, in order to ease the “dismay and distress” this was causing among her fellow Christians, graciously withdrew from the arrangement and relocated the ceremony. In so doing, she provided a lesson in Christian charity that I fear will be lost on her harshest Roman Catholic critics.

That so many of our fellow Catholics could see fit to sign such a blatantly un-Christian document should be a reason for shame and concern for all of us. Where is the fundamental love that Christ commands we show to all our neighbors, especially our fellow Christians?

My prayer for these petitioners is that the light of Christ’s love may illuminate their dark hearts and closed minds. – Lee Startt, Virginia Beach

How to change attitudes, behaviors about racism

February is Black History Month. It’s a good opportunity to examine ourselves to learn what traces of racism are present in us. In the 1990s, I was at a conference on racism, and the keynote speaker stated that white people will always be racists.

I reacted to the statement by disagreeing — in my mind. The thought, though, has stayed with me, and over the succeeding years, various incidents along with a growth in my openness have helped me come to realize and admit its truth.

Working on changing ourselves, as much as we might, we will not become whole on this issue. However, through our efforts, we can become more aware and more accepting of others, realizing that we are all one.

A willingness to identify how racism is part of us, checking our attitudes and our behaviors, are important steps. Also, we need to work on our memory of past influences from family and surrounding society.

Attending conferences on racism and educating ourselves through readings can help. They can give us more understanding of the issue and material with which to change ourselves, our attitudes and behaviors.

This is a slow process, but a valuable and doable one. – Ed Marroni, Norfolk

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