Letters – January 9, 2023


Remembering Msgr. Joseph Lehman

Reading the article about the Nativity set placed on the state capitol grounds (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 26) as well as the “In Memoriam” for my former pastor and boss at Our Lady of Nazareth (OLN), Roanoke, Msgr. Joseph P. Lehman III, reminded me of a homily he once gave during the Christmas season.

That day, Father Joe said this is how we keep Christ in Christmas. And he recited the famous poem by Howard Thurman from “The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations”:

“The Work of Christmas”

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.

Later, in announcing his move to St. Bede, he told the parish that he would know we had listened to him if he heard OLN was continuing the good work we did when he was with us. We try, Father Joe, we try!

As a member of staff, I remember him often running out the office door to his next appointment, calling over his shoulder, “Love you.” Our response was the only appropriate one, “Love you more!”

Rest in peace, Father Joe. Love you more. – Colleen Hernandez, Salem

Advent lessons deepened

Over my lifetime, the season of Advent has evolved from childish anticipation of Christmas to the prayerful waiting for the incarnation of God in the form of a baby. Shockingly, Advent 2022 took on a much deeper meaning with the sudden illness of Msgr. Joe Lehman and the 10 days of hopeful prayer for his recovery. Despite some good news of progress, he slipped from this world Dec. 13.

Father Joe’s idea of Advent was no Christmas trees put up until Christmas Eve or later, and no Christmas parties either until … later. Advent was preparation for the coming of our God at Christmas, not Christmas. We were to be still and listen and pray for the coming of Christ, while Christmas reminded us that God is among us in human form … in our companions on the road.

This Advent, Father Joe got his face-to-face with God a bit earlier than we did, while we came to understand the meaning of his life in ours.

This humble, God-filled man loved those he encountered in life and those entrusted to his care as pastor. He devoted himself to helping us connect with God, to facilitating our being in right relationship with our God and one another, and to showing us how to be one on the journey to eternal life. He was such an incredible gift – one to be cherished. We honor his memory by continuing to seek God in our lives as we help one another along the way.

As for Father Joe, we can be with him always in prayer as we wait for that joyful day of reunion in the life beyond. – Patti Peters, Roanoke

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