Dear Members and Friends of St. John's,
This is the first of what I hope will be weekly editions of an emailed "Evangelist," containing mainly announcements
but also occasional supplemental content of a newsworthy variety.
I have one newsworthy thing in particular to share, and that is that this coming Sunday, May 24th, a reporter and photographer from the Providence Journal will be with us at the 10 o'clock service. The 24th is the Day of Pentecost, so I invite everyone to wear red to Mass this Sunday.
While there are many reasons the press might be attracted to St. John's, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that it is in response to a letter that a devout Roman Catholic man from
sent to several media outlets regarding the 12th station of the Cross hanging in our church, and
specifically, a mysterious red substance found on the wall below it
Daryl Gonyon noticed that this streak of red seemed to flow directly from Jesus' bleeding feet on the Cross, and took it upon himself to share his discovery with the media. The Newport Daily News already ran an item on this phenomenon, and the Westport and Sakonnet Times is planning on running a story, as well.
Now I want to be clear that w
e are not advertising this as a miracle; nor are we making any claims. The mark has been there for years--washed off from time to time, as I understand it, yet reappearing
. People have noticed it and remarked upon it before. Some find it deeply moving, located as it is directly beneath the bleeding feet of Jesus. I know I do.
Because we are making no claims as to
it is, we have no plans to have it tested.
We do not know what it is. What it means, however,
is an entirely different matter, and whether one scoffs at the notion of miracles or not, one thing is
evident to those of us who love this place, and that is
: Christ is present at St. John's. One doesn't need a red mark on the walls to see this, though for some people who look with the eyes of faith, such a mark may in fact serve as a sort of exclamation point!
I don't anticipate that any article in ProJo will set off a media circus. Some will find it amusing, others perplexing; some will be moved, some repulsed. Some will scoff, others will be entirely indifferent. What others make of it is of no concern. What does concern me is what
will make of
whom we encounter here as a result: Will we greet every stranger, whether saint or scoffer, as we would greet the crucified and risen Christ himself? Will we be as welcoming to those coming through our open doors as the fresh breezes that blow in off the bay? And will they see the Spirit at work in us?
"God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform." So wrote William Cowper in 1774. The Spirit moves, sometimes miraculously, sometimes mundanely
in our lives. We never know
will bring a person to St. John's -
or what will keep that person coming back. But we always know
brings that person here. When we keep that in mind, w
e will, I hope, be mindful of what we assume about or say to the people who come here, whether out of curiosity or devotion or any other motive.
As for the media attention: If approached by a reporter and asked to comment, don't feel like you have to provide and answers or explanations,
or even give your opinion. If you don't want to
go on record, you don't have to. You
are free to express whatever is on your mind, of course, but bear in mind that whatever you say will be read as a reflection of St. John's and its people as a whole, even if you intend it merely as your own opinion. When in doubt, give glory to God and refer the reporter to a member of the clergy.
What is significant to me is not so much the attention we are getting over this phenomenon, but the fact that we would not
have gotten any attention all were we in the habit of keeping our doors closed and locked. But thanks be to God, we are an open church, and because of that, the Spirit of God blows through this place and bring people here who
are moved by its very walls. "For thy servants take p
leasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof".
I hope to see you on Pentecost Sunday at St. John's. And remember: wear red!
Yours in Christ's Service