It all adds UP: The Middle Man

Fr Charlie McCoy, CSC

Fr. Charlie McCoy has checked in with us in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday with his latest post from the University of Portland.

One of my best friends and mentors in Holy Cross once told me that what attracted him most to our congregation was the variety of our ministries. “I knew I’d be less likely to get bored or slip into an unhealthy rut,” he said with his usual matter-of-fact wisdom. Now I’m not a person for whom boredom is a real problem; life usually entertains or intrigues (or at the very least annoys) me enough to keep things interesting. But the variety of our Holy Cross ministries also has always attracted me, exactly because I have broad interests and like different types of people.

And so, like many Holy Cross priests at our universities, I have a semi-regular parish assignment on weekends: I say Sunday Masses and sometimes hear confessions at two or three churches in a “tri-community” about 30 minutes from campus. It is a great privilege to work for and minister to the bright young men and women who are my students and residents at UP, but it’s also a blessing to celebrate Mass and talk with these parish families, with parents and babies and grandparents.

One Sunday recently, a couple approached me in the sacristy after one of these Masses and asked if I could talk with them. Since I am just a guest presider there, I didn’t really know where we could have privacy, but a thoughtful sacristan overheard us and showed us to an open office. This couple was enduring some painful events that clearly were putting a strain on their marriage. I asked them if they had considered marriage counseling. “Yes,” they answered, “but our counselor wasn’t Catholic, and he didn’t seem to understand our values, and sometimes we didn’t feel that we could follow his advice.” As I nodded in understanding, they asked, “Father, do you know of any Catholic marriage counselors?”

Immediately, I thought of Dr. Paul Myers, the head of the health and counseling center here at UP. If Holy Cross ever wanted to produce a brochure (or a blogspot!) showcasing its collaboration with lay professionals, Paul Myers should be a headliner. Here is a man who has gone on the Les Mans summer program to understand Holy Cross history, mission, and spirituality. He is a man of deep faith, of deep prayer, of deep charity. And he’s a well-respected counselor. After checking with Paul that he does indeed work with couples, I referred the couple to him.

One of the titles for Christ that we tend to forget about is that of “Mediator.” It doesn’t have the immediate, obvious appeal of titles such as Lord, or King, Word, or Son. But even if it sounds less exciting to think of Christ as the “Middle Man” between God and humanity, this Mediation by the God-Man is exactly what we need to save us. On an infinitely smaller level, of course, my special role as a Holy Cross priest-professor — as a minister on this campus and a weekend “moon-lighter” at parishes — allowed me to be a kind of mediator for this couple. Far from just saving our priests from boredom or stimulating their many interests, the variety of Holy Cross ministries creates vital connections between people, connections that, we hope, draw us all closer to one another and closer to God.

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