My Dear Friends in Christ,
It’s a natural reaction isn’t it? We hear of bad news OUT THERE and immediately we think, God forbid that should happen here. This is Peter’s reaction after Jesus bears a difficult truth for the disciples. Jesus has just told them that He (Jesus) will have to undergo much suffering, persecution and even death. Peter doesn’t want that for Jesus, his best friend and teacher and shepherd. Peter wants Jesus to show God’s glory but doesn’t want Jesus to suffer. Let alone die. Jesus doesn’t want it either; He’s no masochist who revels in the physical pain and humiliating degradation that come with the Cross. No Jesus doesn’t want it either and that’s why His response to Peter is so sharp. It’s a scary reality that Jesus will not turn away from or bypass by taking an easier way out. Jesus will head through the suffering to the Resurrection on the other end.
Not sure about you, but I must admit that I’m often in this boat with Peter. I hear of or encounter some horrible news, either for myself or for someone I love. God forbid… Do something to stop it, heal it, fix it. And when “nothing” happens, I begin to ask why. How could it be? Why didn’t God do something? And I also have to admit, that sometimes it’s not only about the suffering of others. There are times when I don’t want to pick up my cross. I’m tired. It’s too heavy. I want to lay this cross down to take up a smaller cross, one that doesn’t hurt so much, cost so much or take so much from me. Like Peter for Jesus, I want God to forbid my suffering as well. We know, though, that it doesn’t work that way.
Even in our suffering, Jesus carries our cross with us. The sharpness of Jesus with Peter that was prodded by the seriousness of the coming suffering doesn’t last long. Jesus does not remain angry with Peter and continues to walk with Peter, to share Peter’s suffering, to forgive Peter’s sins. Over and over again, both before and after His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Jesus will reach out to feed (literally!), nourish, and strengthen Peter. This Gospel can serve to remind us that even we suffer and struggle, even when darkness seems to reign, even when we face evil (sometimes of our own making), God will not abandon us. God remains present. God still loves us. And God has a plan to bring good even from our suffering, darkness or evil. God’s plan will not alleviate my immediacy or pain, but God can bring HOPE.
In the face of so much already this year, allow this Gospel to speak HOPE into your lives and into our community. God forbid that so many people are dying from COVID-19. God forbid that black people suffer injustice, even at the hands of some police. God forbid that our police are in danger even as they try to protect and serve. God forbid people should get cancer. God forbid that children die. Even though God has not forbid these horrible tragedies, God will bring good from them. We call on God, then, together as a community, for HOPE. God, help us to trust when so much in our world and in our lives seems broken and disjointed and out of order. God, help us to know Your Presence and feel the warmth of Your love. God, help us understand Your plan for us: our growing stronger, our trusting more and our serving better to bring Your HOPE to others. God forbid we should let suffering stop us.
Congratulations to Fr. Justin Gough who celebrated Mass for you today only a few days after he was ordained to the Priesthood. I’m including the excellent article on Fr. Justin from THE CATHOLIC REVIEW by Christopher Gunty. You can also see some other pictures of Fr. Justin here on the Catholic Review website.
Future priest shaped by priest-mentors, now intercessors
Christopher Gunty July 28, 2020
By Christopher Gunty
Filed Under: Feature, Local News, News, Vocations
Editor’s note: Five men were to be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Baltimore June 20, a rite which was pushed back to Aug. 22 by the coronavirus pandemic. This is the third of five separate profiles of the men, which will appear once a week on CatholicReview.org.
When Deacon Justin Gough lifts the chalice for the first time at his first Mass after ordination as a priest, he will remember a man who was a priest for 69 years, Monsignor Arthur W. Bastress, who died July 16.
Monsignor Bastress had already intended to give the chalice to the young priest. In fact, Deacon Gough had planned to visit the monsignor July 16 to receive the chalice – which had been replated and engraved with the new priest’s name – when he found out his mentor had passed away earlier that day.
Archbishop William E. Lori used the chalice during the consecration at Monsignor Bastress’ funeral. The family asked Deacon Gough to come to the cemetery for the final commitment service. “After his body was put into the ground, his brother Paul presented me the chalice on behalf of the family,” Deacon Gough told the Catholic Review. “So, I’ve got it, and it looks beautiful.”
The next time it will be used will be for his first Mass. According to Deacon Gough, no one enters a priestly vocation without having some priestly mentor. In addition to Monsignor Bastress, he recalls two other priests who had a profound impact on his life, both of whom are also deceased. The first was Father Kevin W. Brooksbank, an associate pastor at Deacon Gough’s home parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Baynesville, who died in 2008 at age 35. “I’d say he was really the first priest that I looked up to,” he told the Catholic Review a month ahead of his Aug. 22 ordination. Like Deacon Gough, Father Brooksbank had a great love of music. He also had a great personality and sense of humor. “When I was first thinking about priesthood,” Deacon Gough said, “he was the model priest I had in mind.” Father Michael Carrion, the longtime IHM pastor who died last November, was another shining example of the priesthood. Father Carrion arrived at the parish when Justin was in second grade, taught him to serve Mass and gave him his first holy Communion.
“And then he took a real big chance on me when I was in eighth grade. I had been playing piano for the contemporary group,” Deacon Gough said, of a group Father Carrion asked him to lead. “He put a 14-year-old kid in charge of adults and told me I had to teach them how to sing,” Deacon Gough recalled in a December 2019 interview in Rome, where he was studying at the Pontifical North American College. Deacon Gough isn’t sure that putting him in charge of the group was the most prudent thing to do, but knows that the experience of working closely with Fathers Carrion and Brooksbank inspired him. “That had an incredible effect on me and my discernment because it gave me firsthand knowledge of what parish ministry is like,” he said.
While he acknowledges that he will miss his priest-mentors, Deacon Gough said, “It’s good to have that hope that on the other side now there’s an intercessor – and that is even more helpful, in a sense, than having their friendship and companionship in this life.” Tom Bozek, director of music and liturgy at Immaculate Heart, has known Deacon Gough since he began serving at the altar in third grade. He said a lot of people saw in him early on the qualities that would make a good priest, earning him the nickname, even as a boy, of “Father Justin.”
Deacon Justin Gough of the Archdiocese of Baltimore presents Pope Francis a Ravens jersey signed by Coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Lamar Jackson Dec. 3 in Vatican City. (Courtesy Archdiocese of Baltimore)
Bozek said the deacon wants to serve others. Assisting at the parish as a deacon since he returned from Rome in March, he has already been officiating at baptisms and marriages. “He’s relishing those things, being involved in and being around people,” Bozek said. Back in December, Deacon Gough said he looks forward to accompanying parishioners “in every stage of life from baptizing their children, to hearing their confessions, to saying Mass every day, to being there when it’s a difficult moment” or a crisis or death in the family. “You know, I mean, it’s everything. And sometimes all that happens in a single day,” he said.
After ordination, Deacon Gough is supposed to return to Rome for a final year of education, but that may be on hold for a while. As a student, he would be allowed to return, despite the European Union travel ban on Americans, but he would have to quarantine for 14 days – as he did when he came back to the United States at the height of Italy’s dealing with the pandemic. “I would like to not do that again,” he said wryly. Until he can return to Rome, Deacon Gough will attend his classes online. He will also be formally assigned for sacramental assistance at Immaculate Heart, where he expects to celebrate one Mass a weekend, with new pastor Father Jeffrey Dauses taking the others. He will also help out at other parishes as a “utility player.” He hopes to be able to continue playing and composing music, even if just as a hobby.
Deacon Justin Gough
SPONSORING PARISH: Immaculate Heart of Mary, Towson
FAMILY: Lisa Gough and Gerard (Jerry) Gough; no siblings
EDUCATION: Immaculate Heart of Mary (pre-K–8); Calvert Hall College High School, Towson; Our Lady of Providence Seminary (college seminary) and Providence College (B.A. in philosophy); Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas “Angelicum” in Rome, (S.T.B.; currently working on S.T.L. in Dogmatics and Fundamental Theology)
PASTORAL ASSIGNMENTS: Catholic Community of Ascension and St. Augustine, Halethorpe/Elkridge; St. Michael, Frostburg, St. Joseph, Midland, St. Peter, Westernport, St. Ann, Grantsville, parishes that became Divine Mercy Parish; Our Lady of Grace, Parkton; St. John the Evangelist, Severna Park; Immaculate Heart of Mary d.