By Msgr. Francis X. Meehan
This column is not an easy one for me to write. For 25 years now, the Catholic Standard & Times has published my monthly column. And now, it is this very 25th anniversary that presses upon my mind and heart as a good moment to step aside. With prayer and discernment, I have made a decision to do just that.
It was in March 1985 that the then-editor, Father David Givey, kindly extended an invitation for me to become a regular monthly columnist. Over the years, this writing opportunity has been nothing but an absolute privilege for me. I was grateful back in 1985, and to all the editors through the years. I could not be more thankful to the present editor and staff for their unchanging receptivity and warm encouragement.
To you the readers, I owe a very special debt. I suspect that not everyone was absolutely pleased with everything I had to say. But I found the readers to be engaging, respectful, affirming and helpful – even when I raised issues not easy for some to hear.
In these past weeks I took some moments to review the material of the years. The columns covered areas of moral theology, spirituality and Catholic social teaching. As I look back, it was always my desire to do what I was trained to do; namely, to connect moral teachings with the Good News of what God has done for us in the Lord Jesus. I especially tried to root the Church’s moral and spiritual teaching within the Eucharist itself.
When it came to Catholic social teachings – teachings on peace, on caring for those who are poor, on capital punishment, on torture, on nuclear weapons, on the paramount dignity of the child of the womb – it was my desire never to indulge my own political preferences. I wanted to demand in my writing what I used to tell seminarians regarding their preaching, namely, never to use the pulpit for your own ideas. Be sure, rather, to root yourself in the mainstream teachings of the bishops and the Holy Father.
One of my desires was never to play the self-conscious prophet. I always loved the witticism that says: “Every prophet is a pain in the neck, but not every pain in the neck is a prophet.” To anyone who felt that I was only a pain in the neck, I express regret.
As I step away now, I do so with some inevitable pause. I know that in the future, there will be words that will be bursting within me. In those cases, I appreciate the Catholic Standard & Times’ already assuring me that a once-in-a-while postscript will be welcome.
May the Holy Spirit continue to guide the editors, the writers and, especially, you the readers. In these times, more than ever, we Catholics must open our hearts and minds to one another with respect and civility. As St. Paul urged us, we must try to live and speak in a manner worthy of the call we have received, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1)
Msgr. Meehan is a former teacher and pastor who now helps in spiritual direction for students at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.