January 1, 2023

On behalf of the Franciscan Friars and the lay staff of St. Peter's Church, I wish to all of you a Blessed and Peaceful New Year. As we begin a new year, let us pray and work together so that the peace of Christ may guide all people of the world. In his message for January 1, 2023, the 56th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis reflects upon the need for peace throughout our world today. In this week's bulletin and in next week's bulletin I have included the Pope's Message. I encourage you to take some time to reflect upon the Pope's words and may each of us do whatever we can to promote peace among one another.

Our celebration of the Christmas Season is due to the hard work and dedication of many, many people. Thanks to our great parish staff, dedicated volunteers, the Franciscan Friars and so many others we are able to continue to provide a place of prayer and peace here in the Loop, continuing a presence that was begun in 1846. As we begin a new year, let us give thanks to everyone who contributes to help fund our ministry here in the Loop. The faithful support of many people, even in these difficult times, helps keep St. Peter's open for all who come seeking the peace of Christ. May God bless you all!

Please note that the church is closed on Monday, January 2 in order to give all our employees a day to be with their families. The regular hours for Masses, confessions, gift shop, etc. for the church resumes on Tuesday this week.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL! 

Fr. Michael

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS FOR THE 56th WORLD DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 2023

“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (First Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians, 5:1-2).

  1. With these words, the Apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonian community to remain steadfast, their hearts and feet firmly planted and their gaze fixed on the world around them and the events of history, even as they awaited the Lord’s return. When tragic events seem to overwhelm our lives, and we feel plunged into a dark and difficult maelstrom of injustice and suffering, we are likewise called to keep our hearts open to hope and to trust in God, who makes himself present, accompanies us with tenderness, sustains us in our weariness and, above all, guides our path. For this reason, Saint Paul constantly exhorts the community to be vigilant, seeking goodness, justice and truth: “So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober” (5:6). His words are an invitation to remain alert and not to withdraw into fear, sorrow or resignation, or to yield to distraction or discouragement. Instead, we should be like sentinels keeping watch and ready to glimpse the first light of dawn, even at the darkest hour. 
  1. Covid-19 plunged us into a dark night. It destabilized our daily lives, upset our plans and routines, and disrupted the apparent tranquility of even the most affluent societies. It generated disorientation and suffering and caused the death of great numbers of our brothers and sisters. 

Amid a whirlwind of unexpected challenges and facing a situation confusing even from a scientific standpoint, the world’s healthcare workers mobilized to relieve immense suffering and to seek possible remedies. At the same time, political authorities had to take measures to organize and manage efforts to respond to the emergency.

In addition to its physical aspects, Covid-19 led to a general malaise in many individuals and families; the long periods of isolation and the various restrictions on freedom contributed to this malaise, with significant long-term effects. Nor can we overlook the fractures in our social and economic order that the pandemic exposed, and the contradictions and inequalities that it brought to the fore. It threatened the job security of many individuals and aggravated the ever-increasing problem of loneliness in our societies, particularly on the part of the poor and those in need. We need but think of the millions of informal workers in many parts of the world left without a job and without any support during the time of the lockdown.

Only rarely do individuals and societies achieve progress in conditions that generate such feelings of despondency and bitterness, which weaken efforts to ensure peace while provoking social conflict, frustration and various forms of violence. Indeed, the pandemic seems to have upset even the most peaceful parts of our world, and exposed any number of forms of fragility. 

  1. Three years later, the time is right to question, learn, grow and allow ourselves to be transformed as individuals and as communities; this is a privileged moment to prepare for “the day of the Lord”. I have already observed on a number of occasions that we never emerge the same from times of crisis: we emerge either better or worse. Today we are being asked: What did we learn from the pandemic? What new paths should we follow to cast off the shackles of our old habits, to be better prepared, to dare new things? What signs of life and hope can we see, to help us move forward and try to make our world a better place?

Certainly, after directly experiencing the fragility of our own lives and the world around us, we can say that the greatest lesson we learned from Covid-19 was the realization that we all need one another. That our greatest and yet most fragile treasure is our shared humanity as brothers and sisters, children of God. And that none of us can be saved alone. Consequently, we urgently need to join together in seeking and promoting the universal values that can guide the growth of this human fraternity. We also learned that the trust we put in progress, technology and the effects of globalization was not only excessive, but turned into an individualistic and idolatrous intoxication, compromising the very promise of justice, harmony and peace that we so ardently sought. In our fast-paced world, the widespread problems of inequality, injustice, poverty and marginalization continue to fuel unrest and conflict, and generate violence and even wars.

The pandemic brought all this to the fore, yet it also had its positive effects. These include a chastened return to humility, a rethinking of certain consumeristic excesses, and a renewed sense of solidarity that has made us more sensitive to the suffering of others and more responsive to their needs. We can also think of the efforts, which in some cases proved truly heroic, made by all those people who worked tirelessly to help everyone emerge from the crisis and its turmoil as best they could.

This experience has made us all the more aware of the need for everyone, including peoples and nations, to restore the word “together” to a central place. For it is together, in fraternity and solidarity, that we build peace, ensure justice and emerge from the greatest disasters. Indeed, the most effective responses to the pandemic came from social groups, public and private institutions, and international organizations that put aside their particular interests and joined forces to meet the challenges. Only the peace that comes from a fraternal and disinterested love can help us overcome personal, societal and global crises. 

  1. Even so, at the very moment when we dared to hope that the darkest hours of the Covid-19 pandemic were over, a terrible new disaster befell humanity. We witnessed the onslaught of another scourge: another war, to some extent like that of Covid-19, but driven by culpable human decisions. The war in Ukraine is reaping innocent victims and spreading insecurity, not only among those directly affected, but in a widespread and indiscriminate way for everyone, also for those who, even thousands of kilometres away, suffer its collateral effects – we need but think of grain shortages and fuel prices. 

{The remaining section of the Pope's message on peace for 2023 will be in next weekend's bulletin.}