Columnists Mark my words

People, like kites, are meant to be lifted up

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

“Tell it!”

It’s hard to believe that these two simple words influenced me so profoundly. While the finer details have become fuzzy over the past 40 years, the general impact has not.

At the time of this story. I’d been a priest about two or three years and was the associate pastor at Assumption Parish in Topeka. I was celebrating the funeral Mass of a wonderful Black parishioner. Because this woman’s goodness spread way beyond the parish boundaries, a good number of people in the congregation that day were non-Catholics.

I’d just finished telling a story to open my homily when I thought I heard a sound coming from the pews. I could have sworn it was, “Tell it!” After hesitating for a second, I went on, certain that my ears were playing tricks on me.

A few sentences later, I definitely heard the words, “Tell it!” This time, it was a bit louder. As I wound my way through the homily, there were more and more comments coming from the congregation. In addition to “Tell it!” I heard an “Oh, yaaasss!” And then, a flurry of “Amens,” “Um-hums” and “Alleluias.”

The next time I heard the “Tell it!” woman — who spoke bolder and louder — it felt like I was on fire with the Holy Spirit. I “told it” — the good news of our Christian faith — like I’d never told it before!

The vocal encouragement of that faith-filled congregation at that funeral has forever lifted my spirit, faith and enthusiasm.

I cherish that word “encouragement,” which derives from Old French and means “to hearten, to inspire with courage, spirit or hope.” Couldn’t our lives and our world use a good dose of that?

Now, while I really like the name Mark, I wouldn’t have minded if my parents had named me Barnabas instead. Why Barnabas? Well, that name means “son of encouragement,” and I certainly had two incredible parents who never failed to encourage and love me.

We read about Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles. In one passage (11:21-26), he’s sent to Antioch to witness the conversion of a “great number” of Gentiles who believed and “turned to the Lord.” After he arrives and sees these new converts, “he rejoiced and encouraged them all.” In fact, it was “in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.”

It’s miraculous what a profound impact encouragement can have on others. Sadly, we’re quick to discourage or criticize others and often reluctant to encourage and praise.

These next few weeks, though, can give us plenty of opportunities to turn the tide. First Communions, confirmations and graduations give us an ideal chance to acknowledge the faith and achievements of young people, to focus on all that is good and holy with them. A heartfelt card or gift might be all that it takes to spark a deeper faith and lift the confidence of the younger generation.

Maybe in the month of May, we can strive to be a Barnabas for many others. Look for ways to encourage: a kind word to a cashier, waiter or waitress; a compliment to a stranger; a thank-you to teachers or first responders; an acknowledgement of someone’s talent; a helping hand to someone struggling; career guidance for graduates; or kudos on a job well done by parish volunteers, musicians, office personnel or maintenance staff.

While encouragement is best done in person, a card, call, text or email would be just as much appreciated.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

I swear I can hear Barnabas saying, “Tell it!”

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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