October 28, 2018

Believe it or not, the Permanent Deacon Program in the United States is now fifty years old! Many Catholics these days cannot remember when there were no permanent deacons. The first program in our country began right here in the Archdiocese of Chicago back in 1968 and has prospered ever since. As far as I know, Chicago has more permanent deacons than any other diocese in our country. They assist at the altar, preach, conduct Word services at nursing homes, visit the sick in hospitals and those who are home-bound, work in chancery offices, sometimes administer parishes in lieu of a priest, work with the poor and the homeless, chair RCIA parish programs, teach religious education, minister at truck stops, etc. Some of these deacons are retired from full-time jobs, but many others still have full-time jobs and are husbands and fathers.

 

The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, congratulated these men and their wives as follows: “Permanent deacons have shown themselves to be able co-workers with their bishops, priests, and the lay faithful in many dimensions of ecclesial life, including apostolic works, sacramental preparation, administrative and financial matters, hospital and prison chaplaincies, and in many other important ministries making God’s love known through humble service.”

 

As of last year, there were a total of 18,287 permanent deacons in the United States and 45,609 throughout the world. Deacon preparation programs have changed somewhat over the years as new needs of the Church have developed, but the average time for the diaconate program before ordination is 4.5 years. One of the good additions in some of the programs is that 35 dioceses, including Chicago, offer the program in Spanish, which is a great opportunity for the Hispanic community.

 

This may be a good time for men to consider whether they might be called to this vocation within the Church. Don’t be afraid to talk with a permanent deacon in your home parish or to a spiritual director about this possibility. If you would like more information about the diaconate program, you may contact Deacon Bob Puhala at the Institute for Diaconal Studies bpuhala@usml.edu or 847-837-4564.

 

At the same time I want to alert men and women who would like to prepare for a full-time position in Church ministry to think about preparing for such by studying to get a certificate in Pastoral Studies or a Masters in Pastoral Studies or a Master of Divinity Degree with specializations in a variety of areas. The Renew My Church program for the parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago is underway with some parishes already in Phase Four of the process. It is evident that more and more well trained lay ministers will be needed in order to be involved in new dimensions of ministry as parishes begin and develop new ways of serving their people and reaching out to those who either dropped out of the Church or who have never begun.

 

Two excellent institutions for this purpose are Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park Chicago (admissions@ctu.edu--773-371-5410 and the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University (312-915-7400.) These educational institutions will give you a comprehensive background in theology and ministry so that you will be well prepared to serve in a variety of positions that will be needed for the Church in Chicago and elsewhere. If you are looking for a very fulfilling career and vocation—one that will both challenge you and bring you great joy in life—this is where you need to look. I hope you will be open to the Spirit in your life and will consider this possibility for your future.

 

THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

In the First Reading we hear that in the midst of devastating wars and deportation among the nations, the prophet Jeremiah offers his people God’s vision for the future. God promises to unite his people from the places to which they have been scattered. And in particular, God shows special concern for the most vulnerable of society by “gathering them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading shows Jeremiah’s vision being realized. By healing the blind man, Jesus fulfills Jeremiah’s prophecy: “The blind and the lame in their midst” follow Jesus into Jerusalem where he will establish God’s Kingdom. As Jesus passes through Jericho (some fifteen miles from Jerusalem), Bartimeus, who is blind, is among the crowd lining the street. He shouts out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

 

The scene is vivid and contains significant aspects. Bartimeus is persistent—he is desperate and knows that Jesus can help him. Jesus calls Bartimeus over, and the man’s response is immediate—he rushes over to Jesus. Jesus asks him simply, “What do you want me to do for you?” His reply is direct: “Master, I want to see.” Jesus sends him away, telling him, “Your faith has saved you.” Bartimeus regains his sight and follows Jesus. Bartimeus demonstrates the characteristics of a true disciple: persistent request, immediate response, faith, and dedication.

 

In last Sunday’s Gospel the disciples’ ambitions prevented them from seeing and understanding: they were spiritually blind to Jesus’ message. Today’s account of the blind beggar, Bartimeus, offers a contrasting picture of the qualities of authentic discipleship. The true disciple sees more clearly, appeals to Christ for help, places faith in Christ as the only source of life and light, and is dedicated to following Christ.

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus made God known not only to the blind man but also to the disciples and the crowd. As Christians, our main work is to allow the Spirit to work through us so that others can know and follow Christ. In the Aparecida document, the Latin American bishops tell us that challenges may beset us but do not define us. Christians, they write, have the Lord’s service as their priority. “The Lord tells us: ‘Do not be afraid.’ We have no other happiness, no other priority, but to be instruments of the Spirit so that Jesus Christ may be known, followed, loved, adored, announced, and communicated to all, despite difficulties and resistances. This is the best service—his service—that the Church has to offer people and nations” (#14).

 

The disciples tell Bartimeus in today’s Gospel, “Jesus is calling you.” They knew what that meant, for they had been called. In the Aparecida document, the bishops explain: “In daily shared life with Jesus, the disciples soon discover two completely original things about Jesus. First, it was not they who chose their master; it was Christ who chose them. Second, they were not chosen for something (for example, to be purified, learn the Law) but for Someone, chosen to be closely bound up with his Person” (#131).

 

As the blind man addresses Jesus, he experiences an encounter with God, which is what Pope Benedict XVI defines as faith in his encyclical Deus caritas est. Faith, he explains, frees reason from whatever blinds it. The Holy Father states, “From God’s standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly” (#28).

 

For Your Reflection: What would you like your faith to help you see? How do you acknowledge the great things the Lord has done in your life? What encounters have deepened your faith?

 

THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Holyday of Obligation

 

The apocalyptic symbolism in the text from Revelation (our First Reading) can make the passage challenging to comprehend. Apocalyptic literature speaks of the end-time and often contains destructive images of what will happen to the earth. We hear of an angel from the East with the living God’s seal calling out to four other angels who had the power to harm the earth and sea. Before the group of angels damages the earth and sea, the angel with God’s seal wants to mark God’s servants. A very large number, but still a finite number, 144,000 will be sealed. One hundred forty-four is the square of the number twelve, perhaps representing the twelve tribes of Israel.

 

The number of people who stand before the “throne and the Lamb” is a “great multitude.” God’s chosen ones come from every nation, people and language. They profess salvation from God and the Lamb. The blood of the Lamb has saved the multitude from trial and distress. This faithful gathering is a vision for us of the saints who also professed salvation through the Cross. Through Baptism, we are a part of this glorious communion and hope one day to enjoy the glory of the throne alongside God and the Lamb.

 

As God’s children, our identity rests on the Father’s love for us. “We are God’s children now,” we hear in the Second Reading. We do not need to wait for the future to be God’s children. We know the Father now and he knows us. And, we believe in the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, whereas some in the Christian community then had difficulties believing in one or the other. Those who believe rightly, then and now, and whose lives consistently live out their belief in Jesus, hope one day that they “shall see him [God] as he is.” That will occur at the resurrection of the dead on the last day.

 

In the Gospel, we hear that the “blessed” are those whose spirits are poor, who are meek and merciful, possess clean hearts, are peacemakers and are persecuted, and have been insulted and slandered. These are God’s chosen. These are the ones who live as disciples of Jesus. They form the Communion of Saints, some of whom are canonically recognized and others, like most of us, did their best to live out their faith.

 

We hear, too, of the gifts of blessedness: comfort, satisfaction, seeing God, an identity as the children of God, and the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew wrote for a predominantly Jewish-Christian audience, so one of his goals was to show how the Kingdom of Heaven was also open to Gentiles, It is not one’s prior life that dictates entry into the Kingdom, but coming to faith in Jesus now and living as his disciple. Would that our example of living the Beatitudes would lead more people in this world to be kingdom people.

 

This year the Solemnity of All Saints on Thursday, November 1, is an obligatory holyday of obligation. This means that all Catholics are required to participate in Mass on this day not only to honor the Saints but also to remind ourselves that each one of us is called to become a saint as well and that we should do our best to help others to holiness by the good example and the affirmation that we give. Now is the time to plan on what time is best for you to attend Mass on that day. Here at St. Peter’s we will celebrate the following Masses for the Feast: Wednesday, October 31, at 5:00 P.M. and on November 1 at 6:00, 6:45, 7:30, 8:15, 9:00, 10:00, 11:15,

 12:15 (Festive Mass with choir), 1:15, 4:30, 5:15 and 6:00 P.M. We offer all these times for Mass so that you will be able to accommodate one of them with your work schedule. We look forward to seeing you on this beautiful holyday.

 

ALL SOULS DAY/BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE

 

Once again this year we have a Book of Remembrance so that you may write in the names of relatives and good friends who have died. This book will be in the rear of church from now until All Souls Day on November 2, when it will be brought up in procession to the St. Joseph Altar during Solemn Vespers at 5:40 P.M. on that day. The book will remain there during the entire month of November, and those who are written in the book will be remembered in the Masses celebrated at the main altar throughout November. Please be judicious in deciding the number of names you place in the book so that there will be room for others to also take advantage of this opportunity.

 

END OF DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

 

Next Sunday, November 4, Daylight Saving Time ends in the United States. Therefore before you go to bed on the Saturday night before, you want to set your clocks back one hour so that you will not arrive for Mass on Sunday at an incorrect time. My experience is that most people remember to do so, although we usually do have a few individuals coming to church wondering why the Mass schedule has been changed.

 

 

CATHOLIC EXTENSION MAGAZINE

 

The Fall 2018 issue of Catholic Extension’s magazine, Extension, recognizes the importance of building faith communities during this difficult time for the Catholic Church. In many regions of America, the Church is growing and thriving, such as in Hidalgo, Texas, where a new church was recently constructed. It also features a story about Catholic Extension’s new pastor immersion program where priests from largely urban and suburban areas are traveling to mission dioceses within the United States to see a different side of the Church.

 

Pick up a free copy of Extension magazine in the Front Office bookcase. Its inspiring stories will help you understand the diversity and scope of the Catholic Church in America—in places where faith is strong but resources are limited. A digital version of the magazine can be found at www.catholicextension.org/extension-magazine-newest. You may also contact the Catholic Extension Society at 150 S. Wacker Dr., Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60606 or magazine@catholicextension.org.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR THE SEASON

 

A college student at a recent football game challenged a senior citizen sitting next to him, saying it was impossible for their generation to understand his.

 

“You grew up in a different world,” the student said loud enough for the crowd around him to hear. “Today we have television, jet planes, space travel, man has walked on the moon, our spaceships have visited Mars, we even have nuclear energy, electric and hydrogen cars, computers with light-speed processing…and, uh….”

 

Taking advantage of a pause in the student’s litany, the old geezer said, “You’re right. We didn’t have all those things when we were young….SO we invented them, you little twit! What are YOU doing for the next generation?”