Well, my brothers and sisters, we are about to begin one of the most sacred times of the year, namely, Lent. We have been moving along nicely during this month of February, sometimes hesitantly because of the many overcast and dreary days and other times with uplifted spirits because of sunshine and higher than normal temperatures, but now is the time to double down and try to see the advantages of this special Lenten season. Are you ready? You know Mardi Gras is this coming Tuesday, so if you are going to celebrate that tradition of partying the night away, you’d better get your duds ready and your reservations made!
Lent really began when Constantine made Christianity the primary religion of the Roman Empire. Literally thousands of people, many of them pagans, began asking to join this religion, and the Church had to find a way to teach and to bring about good moral behavior based on these teachings to these candidates. In most places this became the catechumenate: a three year period of instruction and modeling before the candidates were ready to be baptized. During the final six weeks before the Easter Vigil, those preparing for the sacrament intensified their prayer and those already baptized accompanied them in prayer. This became the original Lent, so Lent today still has this baptismal accompaniment as one of its elements.
However, human nature and original sin also were things that each individual had to continue to deal with in his/her life. Therefore the Church also exhorted the baptized to use this Lenten period as a time of renewal, purification and penance. From early times, fasting and abstaining from meat (sometimes other foods as well) became means of disciplining ourselves to ward off temptation and to come closer to God. How often and for how long these were mandated varied from place to place, but there was a common strain of both throughout the Christian world.
Lent, then, is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation for the celebration of Easter. In the desire to renew the liturgical practices of the Church, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican Council II stated, “The two elements which are especially characteristic of Lent—the recalling of baptism or the preparation for it, and penance—should be given greater emphasis in the liturgy and in liturgical catechesis. It is by means of them that the Church prepares the faithful for the celebration of Easter, while they hear God’s word more frequently and devote more time to prayer” (#109).
Over the years, modifications have been made to the Lenten observances, making our practices not only simple but also relatively easy. Ash Wednesday still marks the beginning of Lent, which lasts for 40 days, not including Sundays. The present fasting and abstinence rules are very simple: On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the faithful are to fast (having only one full meal a day and smaller snacks to keep up one’s strength) and abstain from meat, but not eggs, milk products, or condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat. On the other Fridays of Lent, the faithful abstain from meat. The rule of fasting applies to everyone between the ages of 18 and 59; abstinence applies to all those 14 years of age and older.
Our bishops have always encouraged prayer, acts of self-denial, almsgiving and works of personal charity during Lent. A few examples of what these might be are attending Mass daily or several times a week, praying the rosary, making the Way of the Cross either individually or communally (at St. Peter’s at 4:15 on the Fridays of Lent), spending some time each week before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, reading to the blind, helping at a soup kitchen, visiting the sick and shut-ins, giving an overworked mother a break by babysitting, etc. What is important is that each of us decides to do something that is doable and that we can really commit to for Lent. Last year I recommended that you consider putting into your Lenten observance the actual living of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy; that could be excellent this year as well. Don’t try to do them all; rather, single out one or the other and set up a practical way of accomplishing that one or two throughout these six weeks of Lent.
Now is the time to plan how you will begin Lent on Ash Wednesday. We will celebrate Masses at 6:00, 6:45, 7:30, 8:15, 9:00, 10:00, 11:15, 12:15, 1:15, 4:30, 5:15, and 6:00. Confessions will be heard continuously from 7:00 A.M. until 6:00 P.M. Ashes will be distributed down in the auditorium beginning at 6:00 A.M. and continuing uninterruptedly until 7:00 P.M. The Gift Shop will be open for your convenience from 6:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. Don’t hesitate to invite some of your friends from work to accompany you to St. Peter’s on Ash Wednesday. Non-Catholics may receive ashes; they may be excited to know that you thought enough of them to invite them to come along.
We look forward to seeing you often during this Lenten Season. Let’s together make it one of the most productive Lents in a long time. After all, we can all support one another in the faith community by the example we give, by our joyful countenance even when we are fasting and abstaining, by our works of charity, and by our prayer for each other.
SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
All of today’s readings involve Jewish purity regulations. Cultural anthropologists suggest that purity regulations are a kind of symbol system in which whatever constitutes an orderly cosmos (everything in its place) should be considered “clean.” Whatever interferes with this orderly cosmos should be considered “unclean.”
The First Reading describes how early Judaism treated one issue involving ritual purity—namely, skin infections. In an orderly cosmos, the skin is supposed to be intact. Therefore, someone with a rupture of the skin, especially an oozing sore, was declared “unclean.” Although it is often translated as such, the Hebrew word tzaraat does not refer to leprosy or Hansen’s disease. The ancient rabbis believed that tzaraat was a skin disease that doctors could not heal because it was caused by sin.
This is what makes today’s Gospel reading so extraordinary. A man who was known to have tzaraat defied the Law and approached Jesus. In response, Jesus did the unthinkable! He had compassion for the man, touched him, and healed him. The point of the story is that the coming Kingdom of God is not about excluding sinners but welcoming them and treating them with compassion so that they can be healed.
In the Second Reading, Paul expands on Jewish purity regulations in another way. He tells the Corinthian community that, whatever individuals decide to do about kosher regulations and the like, they should seek to do what is best for others to the glory of God and the salvation of all.
It is hard to imagine the life of oppression of those who lived with the skin disease that today’s Gospel notes. Not only were they prevented from mingling with people, they needed to warn others of their existence. To approach Jesus was unthinkable for the afflicted man, and still he did so. To touch the leper was unthinkable for a person during Jesus’ time; still Jesus did so. The 1971 World Synod of Bishops document Justice in the World (Justitia in mundo) states that the Christian is to unite with those who are on the margins of society. The bishops state: “Listening to the cry of those who suffer violence and are oppressed by unjust systems and structures, and hearing the appeal of a world that by its perversity contradicts the plan of its Creator, we have shared our awareness of the Church’s vocation to be present in the heart of the world by proclaiming the Good News to the poor, freedom to the oppressed, and joy to the afflicted” (#5).
As Jesus touched the leper, he modeled a way for us to live, a way of living that embraces the poor. Pope John Paul II wrote of the option or love of the preference for the poor in his encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis. This option, the pope states, “affects each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ” and should be part of decisions in our daily life as well as those in the political or economic fields. The pope directs, “Love of preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and, above all, those without hope of a better future” (#42).
For Your Reflection: How can you grow in compassion during Lent? Is there an area of your life that needs to be healed? Will you call on the Lord for healing? How can our parish assembly help members understand the option of preference for the poor?
2018 ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL
“Come, Follow Me”
This weekend our parish will be conducting a Follow-Up for the Annual Catholic Appeal so that any regular weekend participants at St. Peter’s who were not able to be here last weekend may have an opportunity to make a gift or pledge to the campaign. Please remember that the Annual Catholic Appeal is much different than a one-time special collection. It is a pledge campaign where you can make a gift payable in installments.
The ACA theme, “Come, Follow Me,” was selected to remind us that our contributions to the Annual Catholic Appeal enable the funded ministries and services to share God’s love with many others in our parish and in our Archdiocese.
Each pledge makes a difference because all parishes participate in the campaign and the gifts of many enable our Archdiocese to deliver needed ministries and services. Once we have reached our goal of $13,582.00, all monies received above that amount are returned 100% to St. Peter’s in order to help us pay our regular bills.
Thank you for your prayerful consideration and generous response.
MINISTERS AT THE ALTAR
Once again I want to invite you to consider volunteering to serve in some capacity at our weekday and weekend Masses. Without the participation of our faithful readers, acolytes, thurifers, cross bearers and Ministers of Communion, we would not be able to sustain our large number of Masses which we offer for the people who come into or who live in the Loop. We have been fortunate over the years to have so many dedicated ministers to assist us, but things change over time due to retirements, job transfers, change of address, aging, death, and work differences. Right now we are in particular need due to people getting the flu or colds as well as some people going to warmer climates for the winter.
Therefore I am asking you to see if you might help us in some capacity. You can decide how often and when during the day you might be available. Please call Mr. James Kapellas at 312-853-2418 for more information and answers to any of your questions. We will train you so that you will be well prepared to fulfill your ministry, and we will try our best to accommodate your personal schedule. I think you will actually find if you volunteer that the Mass will take on a deeper meaning since you will be more actively involved in the liturgy.
RENEW MY CHURCH
Report of the Downtown Cluster
Some time ago I reported to you that the Archdiocese had determined that St. Peter’s would be in a cluster along with Holy Name Cathedral, Assumption in River North, Old St. Pat’s and Old St. Mary’s. For some months now a few representatives from each of these parishes have been meeting to discuss possible ways that we all might collaborate in some new ways in order to serve our people better and yet not have to necessarily duplicate a number of services. Our most recent meeting was held at St. Peter’s on Tuesday, January 30, and we plan to continue meeting on a regular basis.
We want to find ways of informing each faith community of good programs that are already happening in each of the parishes so that more people might be able to participate. We also want to see if there are some areas of evangelization and/or areas of need that are not being addressed at present in any of the parishes. Sometimes it may seem from articles in the secular press that Renew My Church is only about trying to restructure or consolidate several parishes or schools. In some cases this is the conclusion that a cluster might arrive at.
However, here in our cluster we might find that we all together could begin something new that would help to make more “missionary disciples” and to address some pressing issues more dynamically. All of this is taking place on an informal basis rather than directly under the auspices of the archdiocesan Renew My Church team. We will keep you posted periodically of the progress we are making and to ask your assistance in what is developing.
LENTEN COMMUNAL PENANCE SERVICES
Some individuals who come to St. Peter’s to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation like to do so at a Communal Penance Service rather than in the confessional. Therefore I am alerting you to the two Penance Services we will offer during Lent, namely on Friday, March 9, at 12:15 and on Tuesday, March 20, at 12:15. You might want to put these dates and times in your personal appointment calendars now so that participation in them can be part of your Lenten observance.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE LENTEN SEASON
A police car pulls up in front of Grandma Bessie’s house, and Grandpa Morris gets out.
The polite police officer explained that this elderly gentleman said he was lost in the park and couldn’t find his way home.
“Oh, Morris,” said Grandma. “You’ve been going to that park for over 30 years! So how could you get lost?”
Leaning close to Grandma so that the police officer could not hear, Morris whispered, “I wasn’t lost. I was just too tired to walk home!”