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Wednesday 9:30 am - 1 pm 
9252 Miller Rd, Swartz Creek, MI 48473
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The Rev'd Fr. Gene Geromel SSC Ph.D.

Fr. Gene in the uniform of a Police Chaplain with his Granddaughter, Olivia.

After receiving his B.A. in Psychology, Fr. Geromel attended the Philadelphia Divinity School. Upon completion of his Master of Divinity degree in 1973, he was ordained Deacon and Priest in the Diocese of Bethlehem. He served parishes in that Diocese and in the Diocese of Ohio before being called to St. Bartholomew's in 1984.

For nearly a decade, Fr. Geromel served on the council of Forward in Faith North America and was Vice President. He and his wife Alicia formed ESA, which later became FIFNA, in Michigan with the assistance of Bishop Donald Davies.

He has published over one hundred articles in various publication from Review for Religious to Business Week and the Wall Street Journal. His books cover the topics of Ministering to the Family: How to help the Christian Alcoholic in your Family; How to Care for Aging Parents; How you can help your engaged child prepare for Christian marriage; and Family Spirituality.  Besides his M. Div. he holds a M.A. in Psychology, M.S.A. in administration and a Ph. D. in Education. For over twenty years he has been an adjunct professor at Spring Arbor University. He is also a Police Chaplain for the Mt. Morris Township Police Department and the Swartz Creek Police Department.

He is married to the former Alicia Marsland of Greene, New York and they have four grown children and three grandchildren.

The Rev'd Mr. Steven Maas, Deacon

Deacon Steve is married to his wife, Lisa, and have two children, Matthew and Andrew. He assists Fr. Gene at Mass, reading the Gospel and serving the Chalice. He also helps with sick calls, taking the Blessed Sacrament to those in need.

The Right Rev'd Paul C. Hewett SSC

Bishop Paul Hewett is the Bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Cross

A Brother and Two Sisters  
By: Fr. Gene Geromel SSC Ph.D.

I cringed at the thought.  After all, I was thinking these thoughts about three biblical Saints.  But the thought would not go away.  What if these three were members of my congregation? Or were members of your parish. Would I survive as the Rector?  What harm would occur to the parish?  What type of disaster could descend upon us?  How many parishioners would get caught up in the drama and how many would end up leaving the parish?

             What is the pastoral disaster am I contemplating?  Simply this: if Mary, Martha and Lazarus were members of a congregation today all hell would break loose.  Think about the two biblical accounts of this family.  The first is in the tenth chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel.  Martha comes to Jesus and complains that her sister Mary isn’t doing enough.  In the Eleventh Chapter of St. John’s Gospel we see the grief over their brother’s death.

             First of all, in both cases we are dealing with a family; an active family in the church; an important family in the church; a well off family in the church; a family which is the pillar of the church.  Most importantly they were an unhappy family in the church.

             In Luke’s account we see one sister complaining about the other sister not pulling her own weight.  Does Jesus say with all the sensitivity of a CPE trained cleric, “Martha I hear you are saying that you are feeling abandoned and neglected.”  Does he say with all the skill of a CEO, “This is an issue the two of you must settle.”  No, he says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”  Not only is he taking sides but he is saying that there are some things more important than others.  How judgmental!  In any church which I have served parishioners would immediately take sides.  “But Martha was doing the work.  She is always doing the work in our church.  How dare he hurt her like that?”  Even friends of Mary would probably say something like, “Mary just loves God, but the Rector could have been more sensitive.  After all, the church can’t do without Martha.  Look at the harm he has done to that family” Then there would be all the other parishioners who would say, “I deal with conflict every day at work and at home.  I don’t come here for more conflict.  If it continues, I’m going to the Methodist church.”

             The death of Lazarus raises pastoral problems which occur in every parish.  Not long ago I attended a seminar on post traumatic stress.  The seminar leader talked about normal reactions to death.  How often have we heard someone say, “I knew he wasn’t feeling well.  It’s my fault that he died! I should have forced him to go to the doctor or the emergency room.  He would be alive today if it weren’t for me.”  The truth is that it is easier to blame themselves then it is to face the crushing reality that their loved one is gone.  If we do not blame ourselves then we find someone else to blame.  All you have to do is watch the advertisements on TV to see how this plays out in our society.  There are advertisements which constantly remind us that if we have lost a loved one there is always a doctor we can blame (and sue), a chemical company we can blame (and sue), a pharmaceutical company we can blame (and sue).  None of which will bring back our beloved husband, mother or child, but it will keep us from facing, for a short while, the reality that they are gone.

             Let us go back to the death of Lazarus.  Jesus delays going to the village of Bethany.  When he arrives, Martha meets him.  What does she say?  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Mary meets Jesus she uses the exact same words, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  Is there any doubt that they are laying the blame on Jesus?  More important, we can see that this is something that they talked about over and over again.  Even the neighbors were in on this rumination.  They said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”  Our Lord was not given the benefit of the doubt.  He was the object of their anger.  Does anyone doubt that Mary or Martha said these words in anger and hurt?  Had he really cared about Lazarus he would have been there.  Had he really loved them and Lazarus he would have healed Lazarus before he died.  It didn’t matter how far away Jesus was.  It didn’t matter that Jesus had to place his life and the lives of his disciples in danger by being that close to Jerusalem.  Thomas proclaimed the danger when he said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  No, they only knew the grief they were experiencing.  They could not see beyond their grief.

             So it is in our congregations.  How often do you see someone stop coming to church after the death of a loved one?  When you see them at the store they may say, “I just can’t bring myself to go back.  I have the memory of her funeral in my mind.”  More frightening, how often have you seen the person turn on the Rector or Vestry?  Rarely, do they mention that their anger has anything to do with the funeral.  In fact, they themselves do not connect the two events.  A few months later they get angry at him because he decided to change the service time, or asked for donations to repair the belfry.  Frequently, they profess anger because of the way he treated someone else.  Whatever the stated reason, it really has little to do with the actual situation.  After all, they cannot tell others that they are angry at God for taking their beloved.  But they can transfer that anger to God’s local representative the mean, insensitive, blankity-blank Rector.  Anyone who has taken Psy.101 knows of the defense mechanism called transference.  Unfortunately we ignore it in parish life. (It occurs in various manifestations in church life.  The priest or bishop often becomes the battle ground for conflicts with parents, authority figures and past traumas. Whenever there is an excess of emotion far beyond what the present situation warrants, we can safely assume that transference is occurring.) But we ignore it to the detriment of our beloved church, not to mention our immortal souls.

             Why didn’t Lazarus, Mary & Martha strike out at Jesus in the same way many of our priests and bishops are attacked?  In all honesty, we really don’t know their immediate reaction(s).  Did Martha storm off and throw a plate when Jesus told her that Mary chose rightly?  Did Lazarus remonstrate with Jesus because he would have to listen to the banging of pots and pans for the next week?  The point of the story had nothing to do with the next week.  It had everything to do with eternal life.  The meaning to both events only became clear after the Resurrection.

             They undoubtedly also had a sense that Jesus offered more than they could truly understand.  Like Peter, they knew “where are we to go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  They knew nothing of a cafeteria religious culture.  They couldn’t go from church to church seeking what they wanted to hear. They couldn’t take their church from jurisdiction to jurisdiction until they found the perfect diocese or bishop. He had the words of eternal life.  Your parish or diocese also has the words of eternal life. 

             My experience is that when I read a passage of scripture I do not like or hear my confessor’s advice which I do not want to take, then I am being offered the opportunity to grow in Christ.  When I try to circumvent emotions rather than work through them I do not grow.  When I refuse to live in Good Friday I cannot live in the Resurrection.  What is true for me is true for all.  Growth does not occur because everything goes our way.  It occurs when we reach a barrier experience.  We grow not because we want to, but because we must.  But we don’t do it alone.

             The Catholic faith reminds us that we are part of the Body of Christ.  If you were to see Martha get angry at Jesus, or even the Rector, would you feed her anger, go into hiding or would you suggest, gently and lovingly, that he might have a point?

             After the funeral would you be one of those who says, “See how much he loved him” or would you be part of the crowd who fed the grief by saying, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”  Are you one of those who stir the pot, or hide from conflict or one who seeks to bring truth? Remember it is not only your priest and bishop who are responsible for the souls in your church.  You are as well.. We cannot let pastoral problems become political ones.

Forward in Christ  Vol. 3  No. 3 - June-July, 2010

A Family Church Preaching and Teaching Traditional Values
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