To the Witnesses

Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than teachers, 

and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.
— Pope Paul VI, from his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi no. 41

When the media can find more stories of darkness than light in the Church, they are overlooking the witnesses of Jesus’ love. Jesus' love is moving people to do incredible things in the world today. It doesn't happen in the lightning bolts or potato chips that look like the Virgin Mary. It is more in the small, everyday things where I see ordinary people carry our Catholic faith. It's the church, the body of Christ, who has reached out to me even when it was not convenient. To the witnesses of faith in my life, who may never get recognition for being part of a larger group of witnesses God has surrounded me with, I am sorry I never said thank you earlier for the impact your ‘yes’ to God made to my life. So here we go:

 

To you faithful Catholics who came early and stayed late at Mass, and made my family feel welcomed by your hospitality.  To all those who filled the collection baskets week after week so the heat stayed on and roof never leaked in my parish. To every person who donated to a bazaar, a garage sale, let me wash their car, came to a bake sale and even more so, to those who bought baked goods from me (the Catholic woman who cannot bake!). To the truck driver who took the day off to drive the parish float in the parade. To the artists who painted banners and made decorations for my first communion.  Thank you for being a witness. 

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To the usher who always looked delighted to see me. And years later, the usher who tried to help me find a diaper in my purse and then held my baby while I found it. To the two little old ladies who sat behind me at Mass, who spoiled me as a child, with candies in your purses and prizes from cereal boxes. To the lady with the big hat and pink lipstick that dressed in her best for Jesus. To the countless strangers who prayed for my little brother when his kidneys failed. And then prayed again in thanksgiving for the miracle of his continued life with us. For my Catholic school teachers who made praying so routine it was like breathing. For the ladies who surprised us with a kitchen full of pies for our family while my mom was busy with our sick brother. Thank you for being a witness.

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To the neighbor who asked my 6th grade class to sing at her wedding. For the beautiful hymns she taught me and I insisted be sung at my wedding. To the huge extended family that never sat down for a meal without giving thanks. To the residents in our area that included Jesus in their home and Mary in their gardens. For the farmers who always worked harder and longer than others to make sure we had food on our table. And, in haying and harvest season, who still took time to clean up and get to Mass even if the weather was about to turn. Thank you for your witness.

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To the Sisters who lived in the convent across the street from our parish and school.  To the moms who sewed confirmation stoles. To those that gave me prayer cards I still have today. To the parents and teachers who decided that a class trip to the shrine of a saint would mean more to me now as an adult than a trip to the water park.  To the teachers who patiently treated us with the love of Mother Mary and smiling wisdom of Pope John Paul II. Thank you for your witness.

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To all the priests with homilies that you poured your heart into so that your words would pierce my soul. To the men who hand out the bulletins and the women who take an afternoon to fold them. To you who accompanied me, discerned with me, and kept me engaged in my faith. Thank you for your witness.

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To you who pray by singing. To you who gifted my world with statues and murals and high ceiling churches.  To you who fold table legs and stack chairs with a smile. To you who decorate the altar, turn on the lights, lights the candles, and test the sound. To you who speak and proclaim. To you who carry gifts. To the parent who gives another parent the look of new found solidarity when toddlers act up at Mass. To the parent who has a van for every mission trip.  To the chaperone who said “never ever” and still went on the trip.  Thank you for your witness. 

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To you who have suffered, been broken, been bitter, felt invisible, lonely or unwanted. To you who felt depressed, have been unemployed, disheartened, disillusioned or disappointed and still have hope and know God has a plan for you. To you who found it a real struggle even just to pray and did it anyway. Thank you for your witness.

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To you who kept my faith real and never cheapened it with smoke and mirrors. To you who took all my hard questions. To you who engaged me in social service and activated the fire inside for a just world. To you who began as the youth choir and grew grey, all while still being youthful. To you who celebrate every birth, death, sacrament, and fundraiser. To you who carry a rosary or wear a cross. To you who made my faith my solid ground. To you who showed me the love of God. Thank you for your witness.

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Thank you for inviting, teaching, and making our shared faith truly an example of God’s warm and welcoming love.  You taught me to be a witness by example.  Now it’s my turn.  Our church will continue to change as it faces challenges. I saw a lot. I witnessed a lot. And to my surprise, I needed a lot. I still do.  Thank you for your accompaniment thus far. Thank you for bringing light to darkness. Thank you for showing God’s love and mercy. Thank you for being Catholic. Thank you for your witness. Thank you. Thank you.

Mary Helen Moes