June 25, 2017- Fr. Mike’s Letter
“Queen of Katwe”
Queen of Katwe is a wonderful movie that was largely overlooked among the many films released last fall. Now available on DVD, it’s worth seeking out. It’s a cut above the usual feel-good film– it’s not only inspirational but genuine.
The film is the true story of 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi. She lives in Katwe, a slum in the Ugandan capital of Kampala. She and her older sister and two younger brothers are being raised by their headstrong widowed mother. They struggle to make a living by selling corn on the busy streets of Kampala.
Phiona only comes across a children’s chess club run by a local Christian ministry because she’s hungry and they have free porridge. Although she cannot read, Phiona quickly learns the game– in fact, she masters it. Chess is a game that equalizes issues of class, education and income. Phiona likes the idea of “queening” because a pawn can make it all the way across the board, against all odds, and becomes a Queen. As one of the young chess players says, “In chess, the small one can become the big one. That’s why I like it.” For the first time in her life, Phiona aspires to something more than just surviving.
Phiona has a special gift for the game– but the film is about more than her becoming an internationally recognized chess master. She comes to realize that “winning” can be a complicated joy. Victory can mean redemption and happiness, money and fame– but it can also be confusing and isolating. Sometimes, winning can feel empty. At times, Phiona sees her talent as a weapon, as a way to knock her smug, wealthy opponents down a couple pegs; other times, winning brings on anxiety and self-doubt. There’s a responsibility that comes with “winning,” she discovers.
At one poignant moment in the film, her coach is explaining the concept of finding a “safe square” whenever her opponent is on the offensive. The idea prompts Phiona to wonder aloud, “Where is my safe square?” As she masters the game of chess, Phiona comes to see that her “safe square” is her family and community; the move to her “safe square” is by way of selfless compassion and generosity of heart; indispensable to finding her “safe square” is selfless humility and gratitude.
Phiona’s mastery of the pieces of the chess board becomes more than a distraction from the grinding poverty and racism around her. Phiona learns to bring the same strategies and vision to make her way to a life beyond those obstacles.
Phiona’s “safe square” is in the hand of God.
As are our own “safe squares.”
In Jesus’ Gospel of compassion, forgiveness, justice and peace, we can make our way through the dark “squares” of our lives; His Word is the light that illuminates the entire “chess board” we travel and recognize the many “safe squares” where God’s grace and love are ours. May we take on all of our life’s moves with the constant assurance that we are loved by our God, that we have nothing to fear as we make our way with one another to eternity.
Summer is quickly passing by. It’s hard to believe that next week we will celebrate Independence Day.
Last week our Bishop ordained two men to the priesthood. This week we celebrate Fr. Tim’s 50th Anniversary to the priesthood. It is up to all of us to pray for vocations to the priesthood, religious or consecrated life, and to the diaconate. Last weekend we celebrated Father’s Day and before that Mother’s Day. As parents, you are to pass on the gift of faith, family and tradition to your children. Your Christian, Catholic witness makes all the difference in the world in preparing your child for a vocation; lay or religious.
So today, we as a parish, are being invited to become a part of a new program being initiated here as well as in many parishes throughout the country. It is called the Parish Vocations Cross.
The Vocation Cross provides an excellent opportunity for families to pray for Vocations at home and teaches young children to appreciate the value of the Priesthood and Consecrated life along with the graces and blessing that come our way in praying for one another.
The program is very easy. Every Sunday a family, couple, or individual will be called at the end of Mass to receive the vocations cross. In receiving the cross they commit themselves to pray during the week in the name of our parish for vocations and to thank all of those generously sharing in Church ministry and in particular for the gift of sisters, brothers, priests and deacons.
A sign up sheet is provided to families and individuals to sign up and volunteer their participation. This list is placed at the back of the church on the Welcome Table. We ask you to sign up there.
As the end of the week you are to bring the Vocations Cross back which is then transferred to a new parishioner at the designated Mass. It is our hope that this experience will encourage ALL of us, not just the family with the cross for the week, to pray for the gift of vocations to priesthood and religious life. Thanks to Ralph Weidner for making our Vocation Crosses.
We believe the Spirit is calling forth men and women from our faith community to these roles of service. May our prayer help inspire young women and men to be attentive to the movement of the Spirit within them and to step forward in faith and with generous hearts to wherever the Spirit leads them. Remember faithful and persistent prayer is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and others!
Have a blessed week,