November 4, 2018

This week we celebrate one of the most important days of our lives: we have the opportunity to exercise our right to vote and thereby do what our democracy is all about. Studies have indicated over and over that the percentage of eligible voters who actually vote in a mid-term election is relatively low. This is a sad commentary of how much we value this important aspect of who we are in these United States of America. If we do not vote, we have no right to criticize those who become our legitimate government officials. If the percentage of voting Americans turns out to be somewhere near or under 30%, we can hardly argue that “the people” actually elected these individuals.

 

I suspect you, like me, are tired of getting robo calls, flyers in the mail, all kinds of advertisements on radio and television, etc., telling us why we should vote for certain candidates and why we should not vote for others. These past two months or so you could not watch your favorite sit-com, the evening news, the Today Show, or any sports program without seeing any number of political announcements—some of them more than once within a period of thirty minutes. Perhaps you tape programs and then have the machine wipe out the ads before you watch, but we don’t have that perk in the friary, so our only recourse is the mute button, and I often wonder if the battery on the remote will soon die due to excessive use!

 

Let’s undertake a bit of a civics lesson for a minute. The United States Constitution did not originally define who was eligible to vote, allowing each state to determine who was eligible. In the early history of the U.S., most states allowed only white male adult property owners to vote. Freed slaves could vote in four states. Women were largely prohibited from voting, as were men without property. By 1856, white men were allowed to vote in all states regardless of property ownership, although requirements for paying tax remained in five states. On the other hand, several states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, stripped the free black males of the right to vote in the same period.

 

Four of the fifteen post-Civil War constitutional amendments were ratified to extend voting rights to different groups of citizens. These extensions state that voting rights cannot be denied or abridged based on the following:

 

            --Race, color, or previous condition of servitude (15th Amendment, 1870)

            --On account of sex (19th Amendment, 1920)

            --By reason of failure to pay any poll tax for federal elections (24th Amendment, 1964)

            --Who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of age (26th Amendment, 1971)

 

Following the Reconstruction Era until the culmination of the Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow laws such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and religious tests were some of the state and local laws used in various parts of the country to deny immigrants (including legal ones and newly naturalized citizens), non-white citizens, Native Americans, and any other locally “undesirable” groups from exercising voting rights granted under the Constitution. Because of such state and local discriminatory practices, over time, the federal role in elections has increased, through amendments to the Constitution and enacted legislation. These reforms in the 19th and 20th centuries extended the franchise to non-whites, those who do not own property, women, and those 18-21 years old.

 

Despite all of the above, some states are still to this day trying to find ways of restricting legitimate voters from actually voting. We hear of states wiping out the names of some voters on their rolls merely because there is no record of individuals voting in the past two election cycles (often citing the probability of these individuals having died in the meantime). Other reasons are still being used to suppress eligible voters, e.g., that they do not have a valid identification card such as a driver’s license, but many poor do not drive a car. One locale told students at a local college how they were to fill out their registration document and then changed the rule, causing the students the possibility to be denied when they appeared to vote. One state presently has 53,000 voter registrations on hold because of a misspelling of their name or the misplacement of a hyphen! And some states or counties can manipulate the voting patterns by placing the election place in an inconvenient location or by not having enough voting machines at a location so that voters must stand in line for extremely lengthy amounts of time.

 

To make our democracy work, we must do all in our power to exercise our right to elect the men and women we truly think are the best suited to make our government responsive to the needs of the people they are called to serve. So please study the candidates and their position on vital issues. Make sure you either vote early or plan how you will get to the polling place to vote early enough. Check to see if any of the poor and elderly in your neighborhood may need a ride to the voting place. Do your best to vote intelligently on Tuesday, November 6th.

 

THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

“Love God and love your neighbor” captures the essence of Jesus’ message. Today’s First Reading contains a passage known as the Shema Israel (“Hear, O Israel,” Deuteronomy 6:4), the central statement of belief of the Jewish people. A high point in the synagogue service still today is the recitation of these words. There is only one God, and God alone is Israel’s God. This belief calls forth a total dedication to God with “your heart, your soul, and your strength”—God must be loved with our entire being.

 

A scribe (someone well trained in interpreting the Jewish Law) comes to Jesus in today’s Gospel with a question: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” This was a much discussed question in Israel at that time with two main schools of thought: Rabbi Shammai was very strict, while Rabbi Hillel was more pastoral and taught that the whole law is summed up in the words “What you hate for yourself, do not do for your neighbor.” Against this background, the scribe wishes to see where Jesus stands. Jesus quotes the words of the Shema Israel but goes even further by adding a second part: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (from Leviticus 19:19). By bringing together these two commandments, Jesus makes an important point. While he upholds the Old Testament, he also offers a clear way of interpreting the numerous laws—through the lens of love: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

 

Jesus offers us today a path to follow in life: love of God and love of neighbor should direct every action. When faced with decisions, our first question must always be: How does the law of love of God and neighbor influence this situation?

 

The scribe in today’s Gospel is close to the Kingdom of God because he has grasped that God needs our love more than burnt offerings. In Deus caritas est, Pope Benedict XVI explains that Christ led his followers to a deeper faith. The pope states, “Christian faith has retained the core of Israel’s faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth. The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy, which expressed the heart of his existence: ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord.’ Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbor. Since God has first loved us, love is now no longer a mere command; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us. In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant” (#1).

 

For Your Reflection: How can you begin your day with a prayer that reminds you that the Lord is the center of your life? How does our faith community show their love for neighbor within the community? When have you looked to the Lord to be your strength?

 

FEAST OF THE DEDICATION OF THE BASILICA OF ST. JOHN LATERAN

Friday, November 9, 2018

 

Most Catholics think of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome as the pope’s main church, but they are wrong. St. John Lateran is the pope’s church, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome where the Bishop of Rome presides.

 

The first basilica on the site was built in the fourth century when Constantine donated land he had received from the wealthy Lateran family. That structure and its successors suffered fire, earthquake, and the ravages of war, but the Lateran remained the church where popes were consecrated. In the 14th century when the papacy returned to Rome from Avignon, the church and the adjoining palace were found to be in ruins.

 

Pope Innocent X commissioned the present structure in 1646. One of Rome’s most imposing churches, the Lateran’s towering façade is crowned with 15 colossal statues of Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and the 12 doctors of the Church. Beneath its high altar rest the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds Saint Peter himself celebrated Mass.

 

Another reason why this feast holds a special place for us at St. Peter’s where Franciscans are staff is that it was to St. John Lateran where St. Francis and his first twelve followers went to seek the approval of the pope for this band of brothers. At first they were not allowed in to see the pope, but during the night the pope had a dream wherein he saw Francis holding up the church as it seemed to be falling into ruin. The following day Francis was called into the presence of the pope and received papal approval. If ever you visit Rome and the Lateran, be sure to check out the wonderful monument there commemorating this great event.

 

Unlike the commemorations of other Roman churches, this anniversary is a feast. The dedication of a church is a feast for all its parishioners. In a sense, St. John Lateran is the parish church of all Catholics, because it is the pope’s cathedral. This church is the spiritual home of the people who are the Church.

 

RETROUVAILLE—A LIFELINE FOR MARRIAGES

 

The word Retrouvaille (re-tro-vi with a long i) is a French word meaning rediscovery. This program helps couples heal and renew their marriages and offers tools needed to rediscover a loving marriage relationship. Do you feel lost, alone or bored in your marriage? Are you frustrated, hurt or angry with your spouse? Are you constantly fighting? Have you thought about separation or divorce? Does talking about it only make it worse? Thousands of couples headed for cold, unloving relationships have successfully overcome their marriage problems by attending this program. Some couples come during the initial signs of a marriage problem and others are in a state of despair. The Retrouvaille Program consists of a weekend experience combined with a series of 6 post-weekend sessions. The tools learned here will help put your marriage in order again. The main emphasis of the program is on communication in marriage between husband and wife. It will give you the opportunity to rediscover each other and examine your lives together in a new and positive way.

 

You can go to www.retrouvaille.org for general information about the program. You can also find upcoming dates for Retrouvaille in our area as well as throughout the United States. For questions or further information contact Robin and Phil Kain (773-544-0498) or e-mail them at robin.kain@yahoo.com. Don’t delay; do it today!

 

ADORATION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

 

One of the marvelous gifts we have in the Catholic Church is the fact that we always have the presence of the Lord in our churches due to the reservation of the Body of Christ reserved in the tabernacle. But that presence is even more manifest when the Consecrated Host is placed in the monstrance and then publicly displayed for the veneration of the faithful in what we call the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Here at St. Peter’s we have the opportunity to visit Our Lord in this special way every Monday-Friday for the three hours between 1:45 and 4:45 in the afternoon. I hope you try to take advantage of this devotion at least once or twice a week. You need not stay for a longer period of time; even a short visit allows you to focus, to thank the Lord for blessings received, to acknowledge that you owe everything to His goodness and love, and to praise Him for all he has done and continues to do for you. It also gives you a bit of quiet time to just be in His presence and to give Him a chance to speak with you as He sees fit.

 

SAINT PETER’S MEN’S GROUP

 

You may not be aware that every Monday evening at 5:00 P.M. we have a meeting down in the auditorium called “Saint Peter’s Men’s Group.” You will find it listed every week in the bulletin in the Activities section. This group has been meeting for many years and has played a great part in the lives of many men who have been coming together for support and assistance as they grow and mature. The primary reason for the group’s existence is for men who are dealing with some aspect of sexual addiction: it could be pornography, masturbation, marital infidelity, visiting adult book stores, seeking massage for something other than relief of sore muscles, feeling sexual temptations to be too much to handle, etc.

 

At a meeting you will find you are not alone in what you are dealing with; others have been struggling with the same problems. You will also find individuals who can testify that there is hope because they are now free of their subjection to addiction. There will also be persons who are willing to be your sponsor, and you will find all this done in an atmosphere of confidentiality, spirituality and Christian love of neighbor. We invite anyone to try this Men’s Group who wants to get better. That’s Mondays at 5:00 P.M. in the St. Clare Auditorium. Spending this hour a week could very well save your life and save your marriage.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE

 

An older gentleman was working out in the gym when he noticed a very attractive young woman working out not far away.

 

He went up to the trainer nearby and asked him, “What machine do you think I ought to work out on in order to catch that lady’s attention?”

 

The trainer thought for a minute, looked him up and down, and then replied, “I think it might be best for you to go into the lobby and let her see you taking money out of the ATM.”