One of the great changes in the modern papacy has come about because of the availability of international travel, especially with the advent of jet airplanes. Prior to the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, Popes seldom ventured anywhere outside Italy. In fact, most of the time they spent in Vatican City with the consequent effect that they had to rely almost entirely on others to keep them abreast of world affairs. Popes depended upon their representatives spread around the world for information about local and national churches, and one of the reasons for the bishops’ ad limina visits to Rome every five years was to inform both the Pope and the heads of the Curia departments on developments in their dioceses. While both of these purposes are still important in our day, now the Pope has the possibility of visiting the people in various parts of the world himself, and each one over the past fifty years has seen this aspect of their ministry as essential to spreading the Good News of Jesus.
This past weekend Pope Francis spent five days in the nation of Korea—his first visit ever to the continent of Asia. Catholicism in Korea is relatively young and is also unique in that it owes its beginnings to a few laity who had converted elsewhere and then migrated to Korea and eventually asked the Holy See to send priests to minister to them. They also are a church that has grown as a result of some of the earliest Catholics and Christians being martyred for their faith. In the midst of much distrust by the people in power in those early days, these strong believers preserved the faith and passed it on to their families. Missionaries continued to sow the seeds of faith along with these faithful men and women so that now the Catholic Church is a thriving and growing group with considerable influence not only in Korea but in other parts of Asia. It is estimated that Catholics are now approximately 10% of the population.
Ostensibly the occasion of Pope Francis’ pastoral visit was to participate in the Asian Youth Days to both encourage and to challenge the thousands of young people gathered there. However, as in all papal visits, it also accorded the Pope the opportunity to speak and to invite all segments of the society to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and to specifically address certain issues in that region of the world. Let’s listen to what Pope Francis has said and then reflect on how we can apply it in our own circumstances here at home.
To the Young People of Asia: “This afternoon I would like to reflect with you on part of the theme of this Sixth Asian Youth Day: The Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You. Just as the Lord made his glory shine forth in the heroic witness of the martyrs, so too he wants to make his glory shine in your lives, and through you, to light up the life of this vast continent. Today Christ is knocking at the door of your heart, my heart. He calls you to rise, to be wide awake and alert, and to see the things in life that really matter. What is more, he is asking you and me to go out on the highways and byways of this world, knocking on the doors of other people’s hearts, inviting them to welcome him into their lives.
“This great gathering of Asian young people also allows us to see something of what the Church herself is meant to be in God’s eternal plan. Together with young people everywhere, you want to help build a world where all live together in peace and friendship, overcoming barriers, healing divisions, rejecting violence and prejudice. And this is exactly what God wants for us, for only us. The Church is meant to be a seed of unity for the whole human family. In Christ, all nations and peoples are called to a unity which does not destroy diversity but acknowledges, reconciles and enriches it.
“How distant the spirit of the world seems from that magnificent vision and plan! How often the seeds of goodness and hope which we try to sow seem to be choked by weeds of selfishness, hostility and injustice, not only all around us, but also in our own hearts. We are troubled by the growing gap in our societies between rich and poor. We see signs of idolatry of wealth, power and pleasure which come at a high cost to human lives. Closer to home, so many of our own friends and contemporaries, even in the midst of immense material prosperity, are suffering from spiritual poverty, loneliness and quiet despair. God seems to be removed from the picture. It is almost as though a spiritual desert is beginning to spread throughout our world. It affects the young too, robbing them of hope and even, in all too many cases, of life itself.”
Homily on the Feast of Mary’s Assumption: “Today, in venerating Mary, Queen of Heaven, we also turn to her as Mother of the Church in Korea. We ask her to help us to be faithful to the royal freedom we received on the day of our Baptism, to guide our efforts to transform the world in accordance with God’s plan, and to enable the Church in this country to be ever more fully a leaven of his Kingdom in the midst of Korean society. May the Christians of this nation be a generous force for spiritual renewal at every level of society. May they combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife. May they also reject inhumane economic models which create new forms of poverty and marginalize workers, and the culture of death which devalues the image of God, the God of life, and violates the dignity of every man, woman and child.
“As Korean Catholics, heirs to a noble tradition, you are called to cherish this legacy and transmit it to future generations. This will demand of everyone a renewed conversion to the word of God and a passionate concern for the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in our midst….
“This hope, dear brothers and sisters, the hope held out in the Gospel, is the antidote to the spirit of despair that seems to grow like a cancer in societies which are outwardly affluent, yet often experience inner sadness and emptiness. Upon how many of our young has this despair taken its toll! May they, the young who surround us in these days with their joy and confidence, never be robbed of their hope!”
Address to Korean Laity: “The Church in Korea, as we all know, is heir to the faith of generations of lay persons who persevered in the love of Christ Jesus and the communion of the Church despite the scarcity of priests and the threat of severe persecution. Blessed Paul Yun Ji-chung and the martyrs beatified today represent an impressive chapter of this history. They bore witness to the faith not only by their sufferings and death, but by their lives of loving solidarity with one another in Christian communities marked by exemplary charity.
“This precious legacy lives on in your own works of faith, charity and service. Today, as ever, the Church needs credible lay witnesses to the saving truth of the Gospel, its power to purify and transform human hearts, and its fruitfulness for building up the human family in unity, justice and peace. We know there is but one mission of the Church of God, and that every baptized Christian has a vital part in this mission. Your gifts as lay men and women are manifold and your apostolates varied, yet all that you do is meant to advance the Church’s mission by ensuring that the temporal order is permeated and perfected by Christ’s Spirit and ordered to the coming of his Kingdom.
“In a particular way, I wish to acknowledge the work of the many societies and associations directly engaged in outreach to the poor and those in need. As the example of the first Korean Christians shows, the fruitfulness of faith is expressed in concrete solidarity with our brothers and sisters, without any attention to their culture or social status, for in Christ ‘there is no Greek or Jew’ (Gal 3:28). I am deeply grateful to those of you who by your work and witness bring the Lord’s consoling presence to people living on the peripheries of society. This activity should not be limited to charitable assistance, but must also extend to the practical concern for human growth. Not only the assistance, but for the development of the person. To assist the poor is good and necessary, but it is not enough. I encourage you to multiply your efforts in the area of human promotion, so that every man and every woman can know the joy which comes from the dignity of earning their daily bread and supporting their family.”
TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
In today’s Gospel, we encounter the first use of the word “church” in the Gospels. The Greek word ekklesia is only found here and in Matthew 18. While common in Acts and the New Testament letters, it is rare in the Gospels. Jesus usually uses the term “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God” rather than “church.”
Caesarea Philippi was the site of a shrine to the Greek god Pan. Previously called Paneas, it was part of the territory of Herod the Great, and a shrine there was dedicated to the emperor Augustus. Herod’s son Philip rebuilt the city and named it after Caesar Augustus and himself. It is at this location, where the Roman emperor is venerated as a god, that Jesus’ identity as the “Son of the living God” is revealed and acknowledged.
In the text of Isaiah, the prophet is sent by God to declare a new “master of the palace,” replacing Shebna, who has displeased the Lord. He is to be replaced by Eliakim. Like Peter in today’s Gospel, Eliakim is to receive authority to rule: “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder.” He will be given authority over the people.
Paul reminds the Romans that God’s ways are “unsearchable,” for we cannot know the mind of God. The mysteries of God are beyond our comprehension. Quoting the Hebrew prophets, he reminds us that no one can know “the mind of the Lord,” nor can we give anything to God that would put God in our debt. It is God who has called and saved us. “To him be glory forever.”
For Reflection: Why do you think Jesus preached “the kingdom” instead of “the church”? Though God’s ways are “unsearchable,” is there a way that Scripture and prayer can bring us closer to beginning to understand God’s mind?
SAINT LOUIS IX, KING OF FRANCE
Monday, August 25, 2014
Louis IX, King of France, son of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile, was born at Poissy, April 25, 1215. He was twelve years old when his father’s death made him king. At that time, his mother, Queen Blanche, was declared regent and remained an important influence throughout his life.
Louis had tutors who made him a master of Latin, taught him to speak easily in public, and to write with dignity and grace. But Blanche’s primary concern was to implant in him a deep regard and awe for everything related to religion. She used to say to him as he was growing up, “I love you, my dear son, so much as a mother can love her child, but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should commit a mortal sin.”
At nineteen, he married Marguerite of Provence, and the couple had eleven children: five sons and six daughters. Louis was a model father, and his children received careful instruction from him in the Christian life. He personally would hear each one of them recite their catechism lesson each night before they went to bed.
Louis admired Francis of Assisi and quickly joined the lay Franciscans, now known as the Order of Franciscans Secular. He took seriously the call to live a simple life and, even as a king living in a palace and surrounded by servants of all kinds, he tried to apply this principle in his life both at home and abroad. He was a loving and generous king. The poorest of the poor were recipients of his charity and alms every day. Beggars were fed from his table. He ate their leavings, washed their feet, and ministered to the needs of the lepers. Daily he fed 120 poor people. He founded many hospitals and houses: the House of the Felles-Dieu for reformed prostitutes and the Quinze-Vingt for 300 blind men.
Louis was a faithful Christian sovereign. One of his first acts as King was to build the famous monastery of Royaumont, with funds left for the purpose by his father. Louis gave encouragement to the religious Orders and assisted his mother in founding the convent of Maubuisson.
Louis led an exemplary life, secretly spending long hours in prayer, fasting, and penance. He attended Mass twice daily. He died near Tunis on August 25, 1270 and was canonized in 1297 by Pope Boniface VIII.
ANOTHER PERSONNEL UPDATE
When I last wrote about friar personnel in the bulletin, there was one friar who was still a bit unsure about his future. Now we know that Br. Lazarus Kwon, O.F.M., a friar from the Korean Province who has been living with us for the past six months and studying English at a language school in the Loop, will be moving to Oceanside, California, to complete his theological studies at the Franciscan School of Theology. Br. Lazarus has completed two years of theology back in Korea before he came to the United States; hopefully he will finish his required courses for priesthood ordination in two more years. We wish him well as he continues his studies.
DIVORCED AND SEPARATED
One of the wonderful programs we have here at St. Peter’s is a support group for those who are divorced and separated. After years of marriage and then finding oneself alone, it can be very difficult: one can feel odd among friends and acquaintances, perhaps a bit alienated even in the parish community, looked upon differently by others who wonder what may have gone wrong, an outsider in a world of relationships, etc. We invite any who are divorced or separated to consider joining this support group; they meet every Monday from 12:10-12:50. I think you will find a great deal of support, understanding and ways of coping with the implications of your new situation in life. If you would like further information, contact Carolyn Jarosz at 312-853-2376 or just come to the next meeting of the group on Monday.
YEAR OF THE SACRAMENTS
One Word at a Time
Life can wear us down. Our spirits can sag. We may feel caught in habits—sometimes sinful ones—that erode our confidence and hope. Our perspectives narrow and generously become more and more of a stretch for us.
“Come to me,” Jesus says, “all you who find life wearisome and who carry heavy burdens.” Come, he says to us today, to the sacraments that renew you. Come to Penance, confess your sins, and receive forgiveness. Be relieved of the burden and find the courage and strength to live in a new way. Come to the Eucharist and find in the absolutely generous self-sacrificing love of Jesus—my body for you, my blood for you—a way to widen your love and feed your generosity.
The sacraments remember and make present the saving work of Jesus. They also offer us a breathtaking map of our renewed future that seemed to have eluded us.
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
A pregnant woman gets into a car accident and falls into a deep coma. Asleep for nearly six months, she wakes up and sees that she is no longer pregnant. Frantically, she asks the doctor about her baby. The doctor replies, “Ma’am, you had twins—a boy and a girl. The babies are fine. Your brother came in and named them.” The woman thinks to herself, “Oh, no, not my brother—he’s an idiot!” Expecting the worst, she asks the doctor, “Well, what’s the girl’s name?” “Denise,” the doctor says. The new mother thinks, “Wow, that’s not a bad name. Guess I was wrong about my brother. I like Denise!” Then she asks the doctor, “What’s the boy’s name?” The doctor replies, “DeNephew.”