News from Japan (and a great story—and poem!—as well)

OUR DEAR SISTER CLARE MARKS has just sent an email full of news and other things; they — and her story — are too good not to share. Those attending Mass September 20th had the opportunity to meet Clare, participate in her Reception and Confirmation, and hear a bit of what lead to that blessed event; for those not so fortunate here is the background showing — on the one hand — how far even a rather small community’s influence can now extend; and — on the other — how very complex and long-prepared are the provisions of God.

In August 2014 an email arrived via our website’s contact form:
As someone who was raised Episcopalian and came to true faith at an evangelical church in the last year I have been feeling more and more powerfully a call from the Holy Spirit to join, or at least learn more about, the Catholic Church. When I learned about the Ordinariate it struck me this might be a good place to start…Obviously in a normal case I would just walk in one Sunday and introduce myself but at the moment I live and work in Japan. However, my family is from the Boston area, which is why I felt I should contact Saint Gregory’s when I looked at the Ordinariate list. I wanted to know if there might be a parishioner (or Fr. Liias himself) who’d be willing to answer occasional questions via email (once a month or so). Generally things I’ve tried to run by a priest or mentor here haven’t made it through the language barrier…I know it’s a peculiar request to make, but I’m hoping and praying for a positive response from someone! A year of just such communications followed between not only Clare and Father Liias but also a fair number of other members and friends of our community as need or occasion suggested; we also began to pray for Clare’s discernment both individually and corporately in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I think Clare was probably as surprised to hear her name go by during the Prayers of the People as we were to find she was among us when — unannounced — she attended Mass with her mother in May — what joy! A month after her return to Japan we received another email from Clare: It was such a pleasure to meet you in person when I visited Saint Gregory’s…In my recent correspondence I mentioned I’ve had a few conversations with the priests here about being received into the Church, that I really feel that I can’t avoid or deny the call to it any longer. [Id like to] inquire about the possibility of being received/confirmed at Saint Gregory’s on my next visit which will be the latter half of September — I really feel the continual prayers of your congregation have been instrumental in my discernment, so it would mean a lot to me to be received in your midst.
And, as you already know, that came to pass — praise God!

Since returning to Japan Clare has been keeping in touch with our community
— and hers! — by following our posted Mass Propers week-by-week and keeping an eye on other happenings via our main website and FaceBook page. And — to return to the beginning of this post — she found time to fill us in on her own doings. Here’s a peep at the life of our furthest-flung parishioner and [currently] newest Catholic: Thanks for putting me on the email list — I do enjoy keeping up with Saint Gregory’s news. How wonderful to see you’ve had visitors from other Ordinariate groups! I plan to be in the Tokyo/Yokohama area during the New Year, and I thought I would contact the teeny-tiny Ordinariate group there and find if I could visit them. If it pans out, let me know if you have a newsletter or something for me to bring them, in the grand tradition of the apostolic Church :>) Of her new life in full communion as a Catholic, she sent something she had written to a generous woman who assisted in her discernment, formation, and catechesis: Well, I have landed safely in the arms of Mother Church, and it is really amazing how different it feels. I hadn’t expected there to be a big difference between my pre-Confirmed and post-Confirmed state, since my mental conversion to the truths of Catholicism had happened earlier. But there really is, isn’t there! I find myself more dedicated to prayer and scripture, and it’s suddenly noticeably easier to resist temptations to sin, even sins that I had previously considered besetting sins. Gosh! These sacraments are serious business! Also, Jeremy and I are now officially engaged! I’m attaching a couple of the engagement photos we took during my visit [with Clare and Jeremy’s kind permission, you can see one of them on our homepage’s slider — and what a lovely picture it is!] He really enjoyed my Confirmation Mass, by the way, and at his suggestion we’ve asked Fr. Liias to do our premarital counseling and officiate at our wedding, which will hopefully be next fall. As an aside: he and his son Jayden recently had a conversation on the topic “What We Would Do If We Won the Lottery.” Jayden said he would buy Saint Gregory’s a church building “because Clare loves them so they must deserve it!” And then he would spend the rest on video games. He’s got his priorities in order, that one… Finally, I wanted to share a poem my friend Tristan wrote on the afternoon of my Confirmation day. He was truly moved by the experience.

A Confirmation Mass at Saint Gregory the Great Church, Stoneham, MA
by Tristan MacDonald

This sprawling body—incorporating
heartsick men with missing ribs,
women grown from broken-off bones,
messengers made of living light,
the deceased, the breathing,
mitres, and monks’ robes—
is not something closed,
but a cell whose walls
are riddled with pores
meant to welcome in
the outside world.

It has even absorbed
this Anglo-Catholic mass
of half-timbered churches
and Common Prayer words
crafted from the finest English,
and this kindly older man
with a priest’s white collar
and a golden wedding band,
and my friend who now weeps
at the laying on of hands
as she welcomes in the peace
of saints and sleeping lambs.

And I too weep,
struck by gratitude,
and my nose runs,
pierced by allergies,
until my whole being
feels like it leaks,
my body no longer buffered,
my faith no longer contained,
my soul no longer closed
to the cleansing fire
and the washing rain
of the falling Ghost
who stokes divine desire.


I don’t think there’s really any way to worthily follow that. Thank you, Tristan. The last little bit is one of the most interesting in a certain way: Clare’s grandfather was named Elwood Bray. He was an Episcopal Priest — in fact he was rector of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Malden — right down the road from Stoneham — from 1979 to 1990. Father Liias was Rector of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, Malden — from 1975 to 1990. And there could also be found our dear Father Roger Wootton, Father Liias’ comrade-in-arms of many years and now — God be praised! — received into full communion in his ninth decade. He and Elwood Bray were classmates in Cambridge’s Episcopal Theological School. Clare’s parents arranged for her to be baptized in a Catholic parish with Reverend Bray assisting the Priest — her Baptismal Certificate is signed by both the Catholic and Episcopal clergy. How remarkable that all these stories — stretching across thousands and thousands of miles and almost half a century — come to a still point of balance at the laying on of hands, not five miles away from where they started. We may hope, in the Communion of Saints, that Reverend Mr. Elwood Bray was present — along with his old colleagues — to see his granddaughter received into the fullness of the Catholic Faith. 


Clare Emily Marks