Fr. Christopher Murphy shares thoughts, observations, and reflections to help guide us through the Church year.
True Role Models & the One Thing Necessary (All Saints’ Day Reflection)
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles stands as the largest cathedral church in the United States. One of the most prominent features of its artwork line the interior walls of the nave of the church: 25 tapestries depicting 136 saints and “blesseds” moving in procession towards the sanctuary. I am reminded of these images as we approach November 1st, the Solemnity of All Saints.
Who are the saints? Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard sums it up in this way, “To be a saint is to will the one thing.” In other words, the saint orients his or her whole life toward God, moving forward in procession to “the one thing” that finally matters: heaven. Throughout the year our celebrations of Mass at Bishop Hendricken honor the saints in accord with the Church’s liturgical calendar, which assigns certain days of the year as “feast days” or “holy days” (hence our term holiday). The Catholic Encyclopedia provides a nice summary of the purpose of these feasts: “A feast not only commemorates an event or person, but also serves to excite the spiritual life by reminding us of the event it commemorates.” Throughout this year, Campus Ministry will highlight some of these feast days in our weekly emails to parents and alumni.
The artist who designed the Los Angeles Cathedral, John Nava, enlisted the help of a Hollywood casting agent to choose models who look like the saints in the tapestry. Our young men at Bishop Hendricken look for models as they strive to live the good life. If God were to send his own “casting agent” to look, not at our external appearances, but our interior lives, would he find people that model the virtues and holiness of the saints? As we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, let us reorient our lives to the one thing necessary.
The Sacrament of Confession: A perspective from the other side of the screen
In his best-selling autobiography, the Trappist monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton recalls his first confession after a radical conversion from a life of decadence to a spiritual journey that would lead to a monastery in Nelson County, Kentucky. Merton remembers kneeling down in the confessional and seeing the outline of the priest on the other side of the screen. As he prepared to confess a lifetime worth of sins he thought “Poor man!” and then began his first confession.
Twice a year, during Advent and Lent, we invite a dozen priests to Bishop Hendricken to hear confessions. I’m always proud of our young men who turn out in good number to take advantage of the opportunity. Confession presents a challenge for many people and raises questions such as, What do I say? Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest? and probably the most common, What will the priest think of me? My life as a priest answered this last question in a surprising fashion. We may approach the confessional like Thomas Merton, thinking our sins will either offend or embarrass or anger the priest. What I have discovered as a confessor is precisely the opposite. When a person comes to me to reveal their heart, my chief sentiment is deep reverence and respect for the penitent. What courage and faith it requires to acknowledge sin and trust in God’s mercy! I have never been surprised, hurt, or angered in the confessional. I have always been humbled. I share this with the hope that those who have any doubts about the presence of God’s mercy in confession might have encouragement through a perspective from the other side of the screen. Thomas Merton relates his feelings after his first confession, “I did not have any time to feel how relieved I was when I came stumbling out…but ever since that day, I have loved confessionals.” May the same be true for you and me.
About Our Chaplain
Fr. Christopher Murphy grew up a parishioner of St. Brendan Parish in Riverside. He graduated from Our Lady of Fatima High School and Providence College, then studied at St. John’s Seminary near Boston.
Father Murphy was ordained a priest in June 2012, at the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul in Providence. In addition to his role at Bishop Hendricken, he serves as an Assistant Vocations Director for the Diocese of Providence. Previously, he served as assistant pastor at St. Thomas More Parish in Narragansett.
Fr. Christopher Murphy
401.739.3450, ext. 149