Lent offers time to reflect on our calling

During Lent, the Catholic Church recalls Christ’s 40 days of fasting in the desert. We Catholics try to focus more intently on prayer, sacrifice and generosity. Through the process of discernment, we try to find God’s will in our lives and try to figure out the best way to walk humbly with our God.

My parish is currently involved in a million-dollar effort to install artwork depicting a variety of saints on 34 panels surrounding the worship space of our church. The plan envisions glass mosaic panels designed “to bring the lives of the saints to life in our space” and as “a means of evangelizing through beauty.”

The cost of more than $30,000 per panel relies on the contributions of major donors and others. These monies are restricted to the art project and do not come from the weekly offertory collections.

The decision to embark on this effort was prompted by a small group of generous parishioners with the enthusiastic response of the pastor and with the apparent approval of the parish and finance counsels. The parish as a whole was not consulted on the decision to embark on this effort. In fact, very few members of the parish are aware of the details and the million-plus dollar cost.

I would suggest that we parishioners of St. Bede use this time of Lent to try to discern whether this million-dollar art project is appropriate for the parish and whether this effort is what the Holy Spirit is leading our parish to do.

This discernment should not focus on whether these funds might otherwise be more wisely spent; that is up to the donors. But I wonder what this enormous expenditure says about our faith’s call to humility, simplicity and Christ-like witness. At a time when the church’s need for transparency and full lay participation is so acute, I would suggest that a process of quiet reflection and prayerful discernment is in order.

Tim Murphy

James City County

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