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  • Writer's pictureChurch of St. Mark

From the Heart of the Shepherd

By Fr. David Hottinger, PES - Pastor

From the bulletin for The Third Sunday of Easter (Apr 14, 2024)

Third Sunday of Easter

April has been officially declared “St. Mark Awareness Month” by our communications director, who has due authority to declare such things for the entire parish territory (says his pastor). And so I ask you: how aware are you of St. Mark the Evangelist? Like, 8? Mostly aware? Fairly unaware? Speaking about this (surely), St. Paul warns, “Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason to boast with regard to himself alone, and not with regard to someone else; for each will bear his own load” etc. (Gal 6:4-5).

I would wager that in 2024 A.D., it is relatively easy to go about life with next to no awareness of our parish’s great patron. Hence the need for a month dedicated to his memory. Other parishes, perhaps, can live with that state of affairs. We do so at our own hazard. It stands to reason that there are many who arrive to the particular judgment having underutilized their guardian angel, for example, and who woefully rue it on that dreadful day! Perhaps a similar thing occurs with parishioners and their parish patron saint, who was willing to help them in oh-so many ways, but of whom they remained… tragically unaware!

Lest our comms director’s declaration remain a dead-letter, the parish apparatus is kicking into gear to provide the following opportunities to make St. Mark more present in your life this month: the Easter Bible Study dedicated to the life of the Saint, the preparatory novena we will pray in anticipation of his feast (beginning April 16), chanted vespers and a special holy hour on the big day (April 25, in case you didn’t already have it tattooed on your wrist!), and hog roast and community celebration the day after (featuring, perhaps, some St. Mark trivia led by the pastor!). Add to that a huge rummage sale kicking off on the solemn feast day, the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence for visiting the church on the same, and a pair of morning Masses at which Fr. David will probably try to sing too much, and you have the makings of a whole lotta Marcan Awareness at your local Living Water-ing hole! And next year, just imagine the holy bedlam that will erupt if our Director of Mission succeeds this year in her overseas assignment (the real reason for her travels abroad!) to beg and obtain a relic of St. Mark from his resting place in the St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. 

Now, some skeptical bulletin readers (there are a few!) read this and respond, as donut crumbs fall from their chops, “What’s the big deal? Why’s all the hullabaloo? What all is there really to be aware of? St. Mark wrote the second Gospel. Now he is in Heaven and will pray for us if we ask. What else must we be aware of?” 

Don’t worry. I know that you will ask this out of ignorance, and so I have already refrained from attributing any malice or impiety to the poorly worded questions. If we do our job, after this month you will be retracting the question. But allow this logic to suffice for now: patronal feast days are like birthdays. Traditionally, in many Catholic countries, “birthdays” were known as “saint days”, i.e. the feast of the saint on whose day you were born. Our saint day, therefore, is comparable to the birthday of our parish. 

Now, I used to think that it was virtuous to make as little a deal about our birthdays as possible. Even try to get through the day without as few people as possible noticing. But after having almost succeeded once on that account, and some people getting very angry with me that I didn’t let them know it was my birthday, I realized: birthdays are not about us, really. They are occasions for ourselves and others to celebrate the gift of our God-given existence. Even more so, they are occasions to thank God for so lovingly giving that gift, and all the gifts that have gone along with it. April 25, therefore, St. Mark Day, is our chance as a parish to celebrate the gift that is our local church, this ark of salvation God has built in our midst, and all the many gifts that flow from it: the true faith, the sacraments, the community these nourish, our shared mission in Christ, etc., etc. And so it behooves us to make a big deal out of it. And to be mindful of the saint who not only provides the occasion, but gives a name to this gift that keeps on giving!

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