I've always loved this picture and the thought of how many difficulties Mary & Joseph had to endure to keep their family safe and do God's will even if nobody understood.
On Apr 1, 2011, at 8:33 PM, Marijanna Lokitis wrote:
Dear Fr. Landry,
Peace! After prayerful discernment, Shaun and I have decided for personal reasons to leave St. Anthony's. We've been praying about this for some time. I wanted to inform you as I'm sure you'll notice the change to the cantor schedule and assumed you would no longer be interested in having me cantor if I'm no longer a parishioner. Thank you for your continued prayers for us.
...well after days of no reply and not going out of his way at all to connect with either Shaun or I as we volunteered at this weekend's Pancake Breakfast run by the Knights of Columbus at our former parish, I was not surprised, but left it as it was. Then today I opened my email and saw that I finally had recieved a reply days later. The response is as follows:
From: Fr. Roger J. Landry
Date: Apr 5, 2011 2:57 PM
Subject: Re: Leaving Parish
To: Marijanna Lokitis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Your email implies, by your mentioning your praying for discernment for some time, that God is suggesting or commanding you to leave the parish. While God clearly does call people to move (e.g., Abraham), it's a rare thing that he calls people to switch parishes, and I would guess that in your case he's probably not.
If in your discernment you thought you heard the same voice suggesting that the appropriate way to communicate your leaving would be by email or that God preferred that you cancel a commitment to cantor the 4 pm Mass here at 8:45 the night before (I actually informed the organist who made the schedule the previous week and was not informed that I was scheduled anyway, but out of courtesy wrote again to make sure the organist knew I had a family commitment. Somehow this became my fault) in order to have more time to hang out with Cheyenne (this is Shaun's daughter) — so that there would be no cantor at the Mass celebrated — I'd be on much firm theological and pastoral grounds in saying that such suggestions almost certainly would not be coming from above.
I'd encourage you to remember that even in prayer, the devil can deceive us. When he does, he tries to lead us from one bad decision to another, to foresake relationships, commitments, and other goods intended by God by suggesting to us seemingly justifiable but ultimately mistaken rationalized justifications — apparent goods.
I say this because there's a lot of talk going around the community by people who know you that, if true, would clearly show in your decision to leave the parish the devil's draw play. I am pretty oblivious to this stuff and found it incredible at first but, over time, it's become more plausible, and might suggest a diabolical, not a divine, context for your present decision to withdraw.
Several people said you seemed to be showing at your wedding. I didn't notice a thing, even after others mentioned it. Others when you sent out ultrasounds said that they had never heard of ultrasounds showing babies the way yours was showing fewer than seven weeks after. My reaction was, in the face of others' calling me naive, that the technology must be getting better. Then a couple of mothers started wondering whether you were carrying sextuplets because of how much you're showing.
Let me get to the point: If you happened to conceive a child before you were married and you think that withdrawing from your parish will be a way to eliminate a possibility of scandal to others or dealing with any shame yourself, please know that not only it would really be too late for that but that also the devil would be trying to use your fear of causing scandal or of dealing with shame to reel you into a continued pattern of deceptions rather than living in the light and the truth. He'll use such pretensions to destroy the trust others have for you, undermine the vertical and horizontal bonds you have with others, and finally seek to cut you off so that you can be his.
If all the rumors and innuendo are totally baseless — the real or another ploy of the father of lies — please know that your withdrawing from the parish will nevertheless only exacerbate them, because people will be wondering the real reason for your departure. (see below) The only thing that would probably put the rumors to rest would be your giving birth to a child around Labor Day.
My prayers for all three of you. Please know you're welcome here if you discern that what you heard in prayer was not in truth the Lord's voice.
Fr. Roger J. Landry
I was debating whether to post this here, but feel that if such rumors are circulating (as I'm sure they are... and Fr. Landry has so generously and gently informed me) it's best I dispel them myself... without shame.
Shaun and I concieved during our honeymoon and not before for a REASON. If we had struggled with chastity to the point where I had fallen and concieved beforehand... I would have had to "practice what I preach" and accept this child and challenge as a gift from God and opportunity to humble myself in walking in my faith even when it was difficult. As it is, we were blessed right off the bat in our marriage... thank you Lord!
I did start showing early and went to my midwife right away to see if we were expecting multiples (which we would have accepted gratefully... even had they been sextuplets). We were not and my midwife was not concerned. We went for a 10 1/2 week ultrasound (not less than 7 as is implied here, but even if we had, a baby would still have been visible) and that is the image I happily shared with the world. I didn't have morning sickness (another blessing) so my body absorbed every calorie and held onto it. The one time in my life I will be happy to be "HUGE" (even in the face of the tactless people who feel no reason to restrain their lips in telling me I look so)
Shaun & I are expecting baby Fullen on October 4th, 2011.
I am certain that those who know me will not be wavered in their confidence in me... and even if they ever do, I am who I am before God. Nothing more. Nothing less.
For those who are interested in joining me at our NEW parish and celebrating with us in our happiness there. You can follow the progress and the growth of my abdomen by sitting beside us in Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help on North Front Street, New Bedford. Beware, though... homilies there are sure to inspire hope, and love and a desire to grow in holiness as opposed to depression and dejection and a feeling of worthlessness... if you want that kind of a homily... St. Anthony's is right down the street.
As for your questions, comments, concerns or desire to get to the bottom of any "rumors" you may have heard circulating... feel free to let loose here.