Some of you may remember the television show Frasier that aired from about 1993 to 2004. It was one of those shows that you could watch week after week and not be afraid of all kinds of off-color jokes being part of the scripts. One of the character actors on that show was John Mahoney, who played the dad named Martin Crane. John was born in Manchester, England and emigrated to the United States when he was nineteen, joining the Army for three years before becoming a citizen and then enrolling in Quincy College—now University—a Franciscan college founded by and now sponsored by our Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart.
John really did not know exactly what he wanted to do after graduation, and he had very little money to support him during these college years, so he got a job as an orderly in a local hospital. About those college years he opined, “I must have given a thousand enemas and catheterized a thousand people. I just think that somehow being around all that sickness and illness, yet seeing people’s resilience and faith, I noticed that the people to emulate were the people who loved, and who loved God, and loved their fellow man, and weren’t selfish.”
People who have known John Mahoney for some time often describe him as one of the kindest persons they have ever met. But John is the first one to say that his focus on kind living evolved over time. “I was very, very self-centered when I was young. I thought the world revolved around me. It even affected my work when I became an actor. I used to think about how great I had to be and how wonderful I had to be on that stage instead of honoring the playwright or honoring the screenwriter and becoming a part of something that was wonderful.”
While he can’t put an exact date on it, John believes his mind began to change when his heart did, around the time he had what he describes as an “epiphany,” and this happened one day when he was downtown in Chicago’s Loop around 1975. “I was in the Loop, and I went into St. Peter’s and went to Mass, and it was just about the most emotional thing that ever happened to me. I don’t know where it came from—I just had a little breakdown of some sort, and after that I made a conscious effort to be a better person, to be a part of the world, and to try to revolve around everyone else instead of expecting them to revolve around me.”
“I think maybe it was the intercession of the Holy Spirit. I’ve always prayed to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and for understanding and knowledge. I think he answered my prayers when I stopped in the church that day. My life was totally different from that day on. I saw myself as I was, and I saw into the future and saw what I wanted to be. And I sort of rededicated myself to God and begged him to make me a better person. It wasn’t fear of hell or anything like that. I just somehow knew that to be like this, like what I was, wasn’t the reason I was created. I had to be better. I had to be a better person. And I think I am now. I like myself this way.”
Reading these thoughts of how John described himself after this encounter with God reminds me of the words of St. Paul written to the Ephesians (chapter 4, verses 29-32): “Never let evil talk pass your lips. Say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.”
John Mahoney has had a full life. He has been a member of the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago since 1979. Through the years since then he has returned often to star in many plays, the last of which was in The Rembrandt from September to November 2017. John died in a Chicago hospice on Sunday, February 4, 2018, of complications from throat cancer which was originally diagnosed in 2014. He had suffered from colon cancer in the mid-1980s and had completely recovered. At the time of his death he was 77 years old.
John truly loved God and loved everyone he came to meet, and they loved him as well. While I did not know him personally, I admired him for his willingness to always live his faith and let everyone know how God had blessed him. He stayed close to Quincy University and helped over and over to raise funds for the university. He was very involved in civic affairs in his adopted home of Oak Park, Illinois. We pray that many others will be touched by God during this Lenten Season at St. Peter’s as John has told above that he was.
Some of the quotes in this article are taken from a chapter in The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006).
SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
On first view, today’s First Reading and Gospel appear to have little in common: Abraham nearly sacrifices his son, and Jesus is transfigured before two of his disciples. When we dig deeper, however, we discover in both readings a profound message about God’s mercy and faithfulness in times of trouble.
The First Reading comes from a story that our Jewish friends call the Akedah, the binding of Isaac. It is referred to in the prayers of Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish calendar year. On this day Jews all over the world pray that God will overlook human sinfulness and remember the compassion that he had for Abraham in sparing his son, because Abraham was willing to fully obey God. Ultimately, the story reminds us of our need to depend fully and without question on the tender mercies of God.
In addition to some superficial similarities between the sacrifice of Isaac and the Transfiguration (both are set on a mountain, and in both a voice from the heavens speaks) they both teach about God’s Restorative love and mercy. To recognize this in the Transfiguration story we need to remember that in Mark’s Gospel the Transfiguration episode comes directly after Jesus tells his disciples that he must be killed before he returns in the Father’s glory. The transfigured Jesus on the mountain prefigures this return, evidence of God’s faithfulness to Jesus and to anyone who sinfully obedient to God’s will.
The Second Reading reinforces the teaching of the other two readings: Paul speaks with wonderment about the greatness of God’s love for us—so great that he would sacrifice his son for our salvation.
At the Ascension, Peter, James, and John would be directed to spread the Gospel, but first they had the chance to see Jesus transfigured, and event that left them changed. In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis explains that those who spread the Good News should show by their lives that they have been changed by an encounter of God. Pope Francis states, “Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence” (#259).
Through the liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI explains that Christ continues to encounter and change us. In Sacramentum caritatis he states: “The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his Body and Blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of ‘nuclear fission,’ to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all beings, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all” (#11).
For Your Reflection: When have you felt dependent on God’s mercy? When do you consider Christ as interceding for you? How does the Eucharist continue to change you?
SAINT KATHARINE DREXEL
Commemoration on March 3
St. Katharine Drexel is the second American-born saint to be canonized by the Catholic Church. This amazing woman was an heiress to a large bequest who became a religious sister and a brilliant educator. Katharine was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 26, 1858, the second child of a prominent banker, Francis Anthony Drexel and his wife, Hannah Langstroth. Her mother passed away just five weeks after Katharine was born. Her father remarried to Emma Bouvier in 1860 and together they had another daughter in 1863, Louisa Drexel.
The girls received a wonderful education from private tutors and travelled throughout the United States and Europe. The Drexels were financially and spiritually well endowed. They were devout in the practice of their faith, setting an excellent example of Christian living for their three daughters. They not only prayed but practiced the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The couple distributed food, clothing, and provided rent assistance to those in need. The Drexels would seek out and visit women who were too afraid or too proud to approach the home in order to care for their needs in Christian charity.
After watching her stepmother suffer with terminal cancer for three straight years, Katharine also learned that no amount of money could shelter them from pain or suffering. From this moment, Katharine’s life took a turn. She became imbued with a passionate love for God and neighbor, and she took an avid interest in the material and spiritual well-being of Black and Native Americans.
When her father passed away in 1885, he donated part of his $15.5 million estate to a few charities and then left the remainder to be equally split among his three daughters. As one of their first acts following their father’s death, Katharine and her sisters contributed money to assist the St. Francis Mission of South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation, but Katharine soon concluded that more was needed to help the Native Americans, and the lacking ingredient was people. In 1887, while touring Europe, the Drexel sisters were given a private audience with Pope Leo XIII. They were seeking missionaries to help with the Indian missions they were financing. The Pope looked to Katharine and suggested she, herself, become a missionary.
When she came home, she took the Pope’s words to heart and became a religious sister,
ultimately founding a new religious congregation, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, to work with Native Americans in the West and African Americans in the South. Sister Katharine suffered a heart attack at age 77 and was forced to retire. She spent the remainder of her life in quiet and intense prayer. Mother Katharine died on March 3, 1955 at the age of 96. At the time of her death, she had more than 500 Sisters teaching in 63 schools throughout the country, and she had established 50 missions for Native Americans in 16 different states. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.
LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR
On this coming Tuesday, February 27, 2018, the Little Sisters of the Poor will be visiting our parish as they have done for many years on the Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent. They will give a short explanation of their ministry during the weekday Masses and then accept your donations afterwards in the lobby. Here in Chicago this is one of over 180 Homes operated by the Little Sisters in 31 countries throughout the world. Your support will enable them to continue their mission of caring for the elderly poor in a spirit of joy and dignity. Any assistance you are able to give will be deeply appreciated. Blessings! To learn more about their apostolate, please go to www.Littlesistersofthepoorchicago.org.
ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL
I want to thank everyone for listening to the presentations about the Annual Catholic Appeal for this year and for those who made a gift or a pledge to the Appeal itself either by mail or by the in-pew contributions. I feel certain that not only will we make our goal of $13,582.00 but that we will surpass the goal to a great extent as we have during the past six years. We will use whatever monies we receive back from the Appeal to support our efforts for outreach for the poor and for our midday evangelization programs in the auditorium. It is good to know that the goal portion of the Appeal will be used by the Archdiocese for programs such as Pro-Life activities, education and formation of lay catechists, support for religious education in poor parishes, chaplaincy efforts at jails and prisons, continuing education of clergy, disaster relief for victims of hurricane and warfare territories, etc. The end result of all these efforts is to make missionary disciples and more dynamic parishes throughout the Archdiocese.
EMPLOYMENT AND SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES
The Archdiocese of Chicago has many current openings and exciting career opportunities. The Archdiocese offers attractive compensation and other benefits. We invite you and encourage you to invite others looking for employment to visit our Career site to review our open positions: http://legacy.archchicago.org/Employment.
A CHUCKLE FOR LENT
A man had just finished reading the book Man of the House while riding the commuter train home from work.
When he reached home, he stormed into the house and walked directly up to his wife. Pointing his finger in her face, he said, “From now on I want you to know that I am the man of this house, and my word is law! You are to prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I am finished eating my meal, I expect a sumptuous dessert afterward. Then after dinner, you are going to draw my bath so I can relax. And when I’m finished with my bath, guess who’s going to dress me and comb my hair?”
His wife thought for a moment and responded, “The funeral director is my guess.”