August 12, 2018

NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

All three readings have examples of people complaining in different ways. Paul contrasts two ways of life. One way, a complaining and dissatisfied life, results in “bitterness, fury, anger.” In the other path, the life of the Spirit, others are treated with love and compassion, and everyone strives to be “imitators of God, as beloved children who live in love.”

 

In the First Reading, the prophet Elijah is despondent. The king and queen of Israel seek to kill him because he had destroyed the prophets of Baal. Afraid, Elijah calls upon the Lord to end his life, saying that he has suffered enough. In the midst of his complaint, the Lord strengthens Elijah with food. This food renews Elijah, and he sets out to “the mountain of God, Horeb,” where the Ten Commandments were given to Moses (Deuteronomy 5:2).

 

The people of Israel also complain against Jesus in John’s Gospel today as the “Bread of Life Discourse” continues. Jesus contrasts the bread that he is to give with the bread that their ancestors ate. Their ancestors ate the bread and died. On the other hand, Jesus, the true living bread, guarantees eternal life for all who eat of it.

 

 John goes on to explain that “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The idiom “flesh and blood” is a Hebrew way of referring to the “whole person.” Here John deliberately connects the death of Jesus and the Eucharist. By eating of his body, the bread of life, Jesus promises the fruits of his death and Resurrection: eternal life and a living relationship with God. As God sustained and renewed Elijah’s life, so Jesus now sustains his followers through himself, “the living bread that came down from heaven.” The Eucharist is the true food for our life’s journey.

 

In the Gospel we hear Jesus describe himself as bread that gives eternal sustenance. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Pope John Paul II pointed out in Ecclesia Eucharistia that Christ continues to feed the Church through the Eucharist. In that document, he calls people to experience the sacrament anew. He states, “I cannot let this Holy Thursday pass without halting before the ‘Eucharistic face’ of Christ and pointing out the centrality of the Eucharist. From it the Church draws her life. From this ‘living bread’ she draws her nourishment. How could I not feel the need to urge everyone to experience it ever anew?” (#7).

 

Since they are familiar with Jesus’ family, the townspeople doubt Jesus. Addressing this doubt, Jesus says that “only the one whom is from God has seen the Father,” and “whoever believes has eternal life.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that Jesus is the only one who can reveal God to others because he has seen him and knows him (#151).

 

For Your Reflection: When all in life seems against you, how do you seek refuge and strength from the Lord? Do you understand that your willingness to forgive is an indicator of the degree to which you are willing to follow Christ? How do you become bread for the world through the Eucharist?

 

 

FEAST OF ST. CLARE OF ASSISI

Monday, August 13, 2018

 

Clare of Assisi was born on July 16, 1194, and died on August 11, 1253. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious Order for women in the Franciscan tradition and wrote their Rule of Life—the first monastic Rule known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the Order she founded was renamed in her honor as the Order of St. Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.

 

Clare was born in Assisi, Italy, the eldest daughter of the wealthy Favorino Scifi and his wife Ortolana. Ortolana was a very devout woman who had undertaken pilgrimages to Rome, Santiago de Compostela, and the Holy Land. Clare was always devoted to prayer as a child. When she turned fifteen, her parents, especially her father, wanted her to marry a young and wealthy man, but she originally wanted to wait until she was eighteen. But by the time she turned eighteen, she had heard another citizen of Assisi preaching about Jesus Christ and going about rebuilding churches, i.e., Francis Bernardone. His preaching was beginning to change her life. He told her she was a chosen soul from God.

 

Soon on Palm Sunday, when people went to receive their palm branches, she stayed in her place, and the bishop came down to her with her palm. On that very night she ran away to go to follow Francis. When she arrived, he cut her hair and dressed her in a brown tunic and a veil, with a cord around her waist similar to the one he wore. Clare was at first housed with the Benedictine nuns near Bastia and was almost pulled away by her father, for he truly wanted her to marry. Clare and her sister Agnes soon moved to the church of San Damiano which Francis himself had rebuilt. Other women joined them there, and San Damiano became known for its radically austere lifestyle.

 

San Damiano became the focal point for Clare’s new religious Order, which was known in her lifetime as the Order of San Damiano. San Damiano was long thought to be the first house of the Order, but recent scholarship strongly suggests that San Damiano actually joined an existing network of women’s religious houses organized by Cardinal Hugolino, who later became Pope Gregory IX. Hugolino wanted San Damiano as part of the Order he founded because of the prestige of Clare’s monastery. San Damiano emerged as the most important house in the Order, and Clare became its undisputed leader.

 

Unlike the Franciscan friars whose members moved around the country to preach, St. Clare’s sisters lived in enclosure since an itinerant life was hardly conceivable at that time for women. The life of the Ladies consisted of manual labor and prayer. They wore no shoes, had poor clothing, ate no meat and lived basically on what the townspeople gave them. Because of the holiness of their lives, the people of Assisi admired them and wanted them to have all the necessities they needed in order to both survive and thrive.

 

For a short period of time, the Order was directed by Francis himself. Then in 1216, Clare accepted the role of abbess of San Damiano. As abbess, Clare had more authority to lead the Order than when she was the prioress, who had to follow the orders of a priest heading the community. Clare defended her Order from the attempts of prelates to impose a Rule on them that more closely resembled the Rule of Saint Benedict rather than Francis’ stricter vows. Clare sought to imitate Francis’ virtues and way of life so much so that she was sometimes titled “Another Francis.” She also played a significant role in encouraging and aiding Francis, whom she saw as a spiritual father figure, and she took care of him during his illnesses at the end of his life, until his death in 1226.

 

After Francis’ death, Clare continued to promote the growth of her Order, writing letters to abbesses in other parts of Europe and thwarting every attempt by each successive pope to impose a Rule on her Order which would water down the radical commitment to corporate poverty she had originally embraced. She did this despite the fact that she endured a long period of poor health until her death. Clare’s Franciscan theology of joyous poverty in imitation of Christ is evident in the Rule she wrote for her community and in her four letters to Agnes of Prague.

 

On September 17, 1228, the pope sent her letters because she had filled him with admiration. On August 9, 1253, Pope Innocent IV confirmed that Clare’s Rule would serve as the governing Rule for the entire Order. Two days later, Clare died at the age of 59. Her remains were interred  at the chapel of San Giorgio while a church to hold her remains was being constructed. On August 15, 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare as Saint Clare of Assisi. Construction of the Basilica of Saint Clare was completed in 1260, and on October 3rd of that year Clare’s remains were transferred to the basilica where they are buried beneath the high altar. Some 600 years later—in 1872—Saint Clare’s remains were transferred to a newly constructed shrine in the crypt of the basilica, where they can still be seen today.

 

Pope Pius XII designated Clare the patron saint of television in 1958, on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room. In art, Clare is often shown carrying a monstrance or pyx in commemoration of the time when she held off the soldiers of Frederick II at the gates of her convent by displaying the Blessed Sacrament and kneeling in prayer.

 

Here at St. Peter’s we will celebrate the Feast of Clare on Monday, August 13, with a Solemn Mass at 11:40 A.M. We hope many people will be able to join us on this festive occasion. Please note that, because of the length of this celebration, there will not be a Mass beginning at 12:15 on this day.

 

We also invite everyone to join us for Solemn Vespers on this feast of St. Clare. Vespers will begin at 5:40 P.M.—shortly after the conclusion of the 5:00 Mass—and will last approximately a half hour. What a magnificent way to end the day on this great feast.

 

THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

 

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is always celebrated on August 15th, and this year it falls on this coming Wednesday. The feast of the Assumption is one of the holydays of obligation in the United States, so this means that all Catholics are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on this day. Here at St. Peter’s you have the opportunity to fulfill this obligation at any one of thirteen Masses: at the 5:00 P.M. Vigil Mass on Tuesday afternoon, and on Wednesday 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. Please plan ahead now for which Mass is most convenient for you, and don’t hesitate to invite someone else at work to join you.

 

The Feast of the Assumption celebrates our belief that Mary “was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #966, quoting Lumen Gentium #59). This unprecedented act by God anticipates “the resurrection of all members of Christ’s body.”

 

In our readings today, we encounter Mary as an expectant mother visiting Elizabeth and sharing with her the joy of motherhood. Tradition locates the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth several miles outside of Jerusalem. This means that Mary’s journey from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea would have taken about three days. There is a heightened sense of joy in Luke’s description of the meeting of the mothers. Even John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb in response to Mary’s greeting and the presence of the Messiah.

 

 The text in Revelation presents an image that has been applied to Mary over the centuries: “a woman clothed with the sun” and who “was with child.” The mother and child are both threatened by a “huge red dragon.” But the child is “caught up to God,” while the mother “fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.” Ultimately the dragon is defeated by the child and his supporters.

 

In Corinthians, Paul speaks of Christ as the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Christ’s resurrection is not intended to be unique; it is a foreshadowing of our own resurrection at the end of time. The Bible tells us that death is a result of sin. But “just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” Mary’s assumption, an anticipation of our own resurrection, is on account of her life lived without sin. Not having sinned, she does not face the consequence of sin and so shares in the resurrected life immediately.

 

PRAYING VESPERS AT ST. PETER’S

 

We invite you to join us for Vespers (Evening Prayer) in church on most Mondays and Wednesdays shortly after the conclusion of the 5:00 P.M. Mass. This is a common prayer with both the friars and laity together praying this liturgical hour of the Church. We provide the book in which the prayer can be found; all you have to do is bring yourself and a desire to join with people around the world who pray this prayer every single day. We are always finished by 6:00, so you should be able to make your train or your bus if you decide to join us. Just come up to the front of church by the St. Joseph altar, and we will show you how the prayer is recited. We hope many people will consider this way of ending your day on a pleasant note.

 

CHICAGO SHARES

 

Some of our bulletin readers may not be familiar with Chicago Shares, a way that you can help the homeless but not actually give them cash. You can purchase Chicago Shares in our Front Office anytime the office is open. They come in packets of five (each slip worth $1.00) and they can be used to purchase food, toiletries, and other basic items at a number of stores in the Loop and in the South and North areas beyond the Loop. These shares cannot be used to purchase liquor and tobacco, nor can they be redeemed for cash. If you would like more information about Chicago Shares, you may go to www.chicagoshares.org, or you may stop at the front office to pick up a list of the stores that honor these shares.

 

A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE

 

One of the world’s greatest scientists was also recognized as the original absent-minded professor. One day, on board a train, he was unable to find his ticket. The conductor said, “Take it easy. You’ll find it.”

 

When the conductor returned, the professor still could not find the ticket. The conductor, recognizing the famous scientist, said, “I’m sure you bought a ticket. Forget about it.”

 

“You’re very kind,” the professor said, “but I must find it. Otherwise, I won’t know where to get off!”