Anniversary of the Dedication of St. Matthew Church
But while celebrating and mourning, rejoicing and honoring may not seem to go together well, as the author of Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for everything, and a season for everything under heaven. And, in a way, celebrating this church is a great way to honor the pastor who helped beautify it, and kept this treasure going in downtown Flint.
A favorite phrase of St. Augustine for many is from his Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This church is a place of rest, a true rest area off the highway of life. Architecturally and aesthetically, a church is meant to bring one back to the Temple of Solomon, which itself pointed back to the Garden of Eden. In Eden, humanity did not labor, but rested in the presence of God. The dissonance of sin had not yet entered the world, so only harmony resonated between God and Adam and Eve, and between Adam and Eve themselves, and between Adam and Eve and the created world. As we enter this sacred building, the design of the arches is not meant to confound the eye (making, as it were, the parishioner wonder, ‘How does this stay up?’), but to let it rest in the solidity of the building. The precious materials used for the sacred liturgy, whether the altar, the ambo (where the Word of God is proclaimed), or the sacred vessels, remind us of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is decorated with all kinds of precious stones and metals. The stained-glass windows remind us that the saints worship with us, and call us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. Though we labor through pain and temptation during our daily lives, inside this building, our hearts are meant to be at rest.
Fr. Taggart also did his best to let the hearts of all who came here to rest in Christ. In his 57 years as a priest, only God now knows how many Masses he said for the living and the dead; how many confessions he heard so that hearts weighted down by sin could be relieved through the mercy of God; how many baptisms he celebrated, making children of God out of the children of men; how many weddings he witnessed as two hearts became one; how many families he comforted as they mourned the loss of their own loved ones and friends; how many hearts were poured out in spiritual counseling and guidance. In the Order of St. Augustine, Fr. Fred had found a place where his heart could rest in the Lord, and his pastoral ministry was a response to that love, and a desire to help others find that same rest in Christ. He strove to be a just man, and a light in darkness to the upright, as Psalm 112 (111) states.
[In particular for the Traditional Latin Mass community, Fr. Fred was instrumental in helping to have a fitting place to celebrate the more ancient Roman Rite. We celebrated the first Sunday Mass here at St. Matthew on 5 July 2015, and haven’t looked back. While he did not, to my knowledge, celebrate the Extraordinary Form Mass after the newer Mass came long, he did, I believe, use the older forms for baptism when requested, and always sought to celebrate the Mass reverently. And he certainly provided a church that would serve the needs of this important and necessary part of St. Matthew parish.]
Did he do this perfectly? Does this church always grant rest to our hearts and minds? No. Like any person, Fr. Fred has his own human weaknesses and failings. As a pastor, a father of the family, Fr. Fred sometimes had to make decisions that were not popular among all his spiritual children. One of the stories I heard about Fr. Taggart when I arrived was about his interaction with Ardith Goodroe and the choir here at St. Matthew. What strikes me as most important about that story is that he and Ardith, after a period of tension, could still be good friends. And that says something: when a difficult decision needs to be made, and feelings are hurt, that two people can reconcile and renew their friendship with each other. None of us are perfect, but with grace and understanding we can overcome hurt that we cause each other.
It is my hope, as your current pastor, and successor of Fr. Taggart, that I can continue help you find your rest in Christ. Through my ministry, I hope that you can experience the peace and love of God for which He created humanity. We are not the largest parish in Genesee County, but, as a family, we can help each other rest in God, and encourage others to find that same rest in God through participation in the Sacred Liturgy, service to the poor, and growth in our understanding of God’s never-changing truth. Like Fr. Fred, I am committed to preserving this temple so that God may be glorified and the intercession of the saints may be sought. Like Fr. Fred I will sometimes err, but I hope that, with grace and understanding, we can continue to be a family of faith the encourages each other to be the best we can be in Christ. Every human being is made for God. Every human’s heart desires to rest in God. May we, the people of St. Matthew parish, the sons and daughters of our spiritual father, Fr. Fred Taggart, engage in the mission of helping every heart rest in God and find the love and peace that each desires. Eternal rest grant unto Fr. Taggart, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen. May Fr. Fred’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God [the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit] rest in peace. Amen.