I was very much taken by a front-page story in the News & Observer the week before last which told of an encounter of a Raleigh police officer with a man who, in a fight, threatened him with a knife. The moment was tense, but nothing came of it. A year or so later, the officer encountered the man again on the street and learned that he had begun to turn his life around. The officer said that the man apologized to him, and the officer went on to say, “I had forgiven him a long time ago. It was never personal…no one is ever lost forever.”

“No one is ever lost forever….” These are words of grace, forgiveness, and hope that are rarely heard in a culture that seems all too quick to condemn and to categorize. Along with the story in the newspaper, there was a photograph of the two men together, with another quote from the officer, “I was glad it ended well for us both that day, and I am ecstatic now to learn that he has turned his life around and we can embrace as friends.”  The whole story reads like a kind of parable from one of the gospels.

Both this weekend and next we invite everyone to bring a bag of groceries for our Catholic Parish Outreach food drive. You can find a list of needed items on page 8 of the bulletin. Our parish is a major supporter of Catholic Parish Outreach and the food we collect here goes toward helping the more than 10,000 people a month that CPO serves. Thanks to everyone involved in this important outreach ministry.

Next weekend is a big weekend here as we celebrate our patron, St. Francis of Assisi. We have our annual blessing of the animals in the grassy area next to the chapel at 8:30 am on Saturday, October 3. Bishop Burbidge will be present for that and he will stay for two confirmation services, one at 10:00 am and the other at 1:00 pm, both on Saturday. The blessing of the animals reminds us of the love that St. Francis himself had for all of creation, captured in his song/poem “Canticle of the Creatures.”

I remember last year’s service, meeting people here and seeing how important dogs, cats, and other creatures are in our lives. I grew up with dogs and cats, and one of the best things was the reaction of our dog to the invitation to go for a run in a field behind the school up the street from our house. It’s the simple things in life.

And finally, a major event here on Sunday, October 4 is our annual FrancisFest. If you’ve attended before, you’ve seen our campus filled with all kinds of events for children and adults. The food trucks were a big hit last year. There are some new events this year, including a Franciscan Tasting Room, and a Catholic Culture Exchange which involves our incoming neighboring parish Our Lady of La Vang and also the St. Sharbel Maronite mission, which uses our chapel on Sundays throughout the year.

Blessings on your week!

Fr. Steve