(CNS photo/courtesy Gregory A. Shemitz)

Looking through the Eyes of Others

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Father David BonnarMany years ago, when my niece and nephews were very young, I remember joining them and their parents for a showing of Peter Pan at what was the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. My oldest sister, Mary Linn, secured tickets for a skybox, complete with cushy seats, a bird’s-eye view and all the food and drink we could ever want.

While I have always been a fan of Peter Pan peanut butter, I really did not know much about the fictional character. At one point in the performance, I turned to my sister and said, “I don’t get this. What am I missing here?” Without hesitation, Mary Linn said, “Dave, sometimes you just have to step back and look at things through the eyes of a child.”

Sometimes in life, we as human beings, even with the best of eyesight, cannot see things through our own eyes. The realities of understanding, compassion and empathy challenge us to look at situations through the eyes of others.

On July 1, 2020, I will begin a new pastoral assignment. The other day, Mary Linn and her husband accompanied me to my new parish — St. Aidan’s. The parish is newly formed, a merger comprising two campuses. When we arrived at the campus with the newer church, which is only two years old, we donned our masks and made a visit. The deeper we got into the church, the more I could not help but notice my sister’s eyes. They were filled with tears.

I wondered to myself what was spurring those tears. Was it sadness about the fact that I would no longer be her pastor? My sister and her family currently belong to the parish that I will be leaving. Was it excitement about a new adventure for me? Was it the majestic beauty and newness of the church?

As we walked out of the church, my sister acknowledged her emotions and noted that it was the first time in three months that she had been in a church due to the pandemic. She was overwhelmed. Even though she had never been in that particular church, it was a homecoming. Looking through her eyes made me realize just how much our faithful have missed being in church.

This past weekend, we had our first public Masses. In both of the parishes in which I currently serve, we opted for outdoor Masses. The weather was picture perfect. God is so good! Although the obligation to attend holy Mass remains lifted, many people attended. Before each Mass, I made a point to walk up and down between the cars and greet the people. During the Mass, the people sat in their cars and listened on the radio to the Mass, which was being broadcast by an $85 transmitter that we purchased. I was struck at the sign of peace, when everyone spontaneously honked their horns. As I distributed holy Communion, I was humbled by the tears of many of our faithful, who were receiving Jesus for the first time in three months.

Subsequently, I took this experience to prayer. My sister was so right. Sometimes one needs to pause and look at things through the eyes of another, be it a child or an adult. On that day, as I looked at the holy Mass through the eyes of the faithful, I saw so much — reverence, gratitude, and joy for Jesus.

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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