Every year at the beginning of a new year Popes have issued a letter outlining hopes and dreams for the future and practical ways those can be realized. Pope Francis has continued in that tradition and, although I would have liked to share these thoughts last week closer to New Year’s, I did not have room in the bulletin due to writing about National Migration Week. However, what Pope Francis has written is well worth each one of us reading it but also pondering how it can be lived throughout 2016. His letter is too long to print in its entirety, so I have decided to select some of the most pertinent sections for your edification. The title of his letter for this year is entitled “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.”
“God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind! God does not abandon us! At the beginning of the New Year, I would like to share not only this profound conviction but also my cordial good wishes for prosperity, peace and the fulfillment of the hopes of every man and every woman, every family, people and nation throughout the world, including the Heads of States and Government and all religious leaders. We continue to trust that 2016 will see us all firmly and confidently engaged, on different levels, in the pursuit of justice and peace. Peace is both God’s gift and a human achievement. As a gift of God, it is entrusted to all men and women, who are called to attain it.
“Sadly, war and terrorism, accompanied by kidnapping, ethnic or religious persecution and the misuse of power, marked the past year from start to finish. In many parts of the world, these have become so common as to constitute a real ‘third world war fought piecemeal.’ Yet some events of the year now ending inspire me, in looking ahead to the new year, to encourage everyone not to lose hope in our human ability to conquer evil and to combat resignation and indifference. They demonstrate our capacity to show solidarity and to rise above self-interest, apathy and indifference in the face of critical situations….
“There are many good reasons to believe in mankind’s capacity to act together in solidarity and, on the basis of our interconnection and interdependence, to demonstrate concern for the more vulnerable of our brothers and sisters and for the protection of the common good. This attitude of mutual responsibility is rooted in our fundamental vocation to fraternity and a life in common. Personal dignity and interpersonal relationships are what constitute us as human beings whom God willed to create in his own image and likeness. As creatures endowed with inalienable dignity, we are related to all our brothers and sisters, for whom we are responsible and with whom we act in solidarity. Lacking this relationship, we would be less human. We see, then, how indifference represents a menace to the human family. As we approach a new year, I would ask everyone to take stock of this reality in order to overcome indifference and to win peace.
“Clearly, indifference is not something new; every period of history has known people who close their hearts to the needs of others, who close their eyes to what is happening around them, who turn aside to avoid encountering other people’s problems. But in our day, indifference has ceased to be a purely personal matter and has taken on broader dimensions, producing a certain ‘globalization of indifference.’
The first kind of indifference in human society is indifference to God, which then leads to indifference to one’s neighbor and to the environment. This is one of the grace consequences of a false humanism and practical materialism allied to relativism and nihilism. We have come to think that we are the source and creator of ourselves, our lives and society. We feel self-sufficient, prepared not only to find a substitute for God but to do completely without him. As a consequence, we feel that we owe nothing to anyone but ourselves, and we claim only rights. Against this erroneous understanding of the person, Pope Benedict XVI observed that neither man himself nor human development can, on their own, answer the question of our ultimate meaning. Paul VI likewise stated that ‘there is no true humanism but that which is open to the Absolute and is conscious of a vocation which gives human life its authentic significance.’
“Indifference to our neighbor shows itself in different ways. Some people are well-informed; they listen to the radio, read the newspapers or watch television, but they do so mechanically and without engagement. They are vaguely aware of the tragedies afflicting humanity, but they have no sense of involvement or compassion. Theirs is the attitude of those who know, but keep their gaze, their thoughts and their actions focused on themselves. Sadly, it must be said that today’s information explosion does not of itself lead to an increased concern for other people’s problems, peoples sensibilities and to some degree downplay the gravity of the problems. There are those who ‘simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poor countries themselves for their troubles. Indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an ‘education’ that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries—in their governments, businesses and institutions—whatever the political ideology of their leaders.’
“In other cases, indifference shows itself in lack of concern for what is happening around us, especially if it does not touch us directly. Some people prefer not to ask questions or seek answers; they lead lives of comfort, deaf to the cry of those who suffer. Almost imperceptibly, we grow incapable of feeling compassion for others and for their problems; we have no interest in caring for them, as if their troubles were their own responsibility and none of our business. ‘When we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure. Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off.’”
(continued next week)
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
Today’s feast marks the transition from the Christmas season to Ordinary Time. Today, for the first time since Christmas Day, we encounter an adult Christ.
Originally spoken to the exiles in Babylon, the text from Isaiah announces good news: God’s imminent redemption of the people and an end to their exile. “In the desert,” the prophet commands, “prepare the way of the Lord.” The earth is to be prepared for God’s coming, so the prophet speaks of a transformation in which “every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low,” for “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”
In the letter to Titus we hear that “when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared…, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” This is “not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy.” Our salvation is a gift from God; it is not the fruit of our labors. And through it we have “become heirs in the hope of eternal life.” Through the gift of God’s Son, we have become God’s sons and daughters.
The “expectation” of the people in John the Baptist’s day was based on God’s promises over the centuries to send a Messiah. John denies that he is the Messiah and prophesies that “one mightier than I is coming. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The crowd does not have to wait long, for Jesus appears and is baptized, after which “the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form,” and a heavenly voice declares him “my beloved Son.” Thus, the story of salvation enters a new chapter as the Messiah is revealed to the people.
For Reflection: In my spirituality, am I more comfortable with Jesus as a child or as an adult? How is the “fire” of baptism lived out in my own vocation? Do I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and therefore has the words of eternal life?
GOLDEN JUBILEES OF PRIESTHOOD
As we mentioned in the bulletin last week, today—Sunday, January 10—Fathers Glenn Phillips, Kurt Hartrich, and Thomas Ess are celebrating the golden anniversary of their ordination to the priesthood at the 11:00 A.M. Mass. They were ordained on January 9, 1966, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Teutopolis, Illinois, by then Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, William J. O’Connor. It was a cold and blustery day with a good deal of ice and snow on the ground which made it somewhat difficult for our parents and families to make it from all parts of the Midwest.
Looking at the twenty-two names of those ordained together, the Lord drew them from mainly Franciscan parishes in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska and Tennessee. One from Pennsylvania was a member of the Croatian Commissariat, and one was from Mexico. Two had already begun their preparation for working in mission territory in Brazil and returned to be ordained with their original classmates. Nine had been educated by the friars for fourteen years, beginning in a high school seminary class of 66 freshmen. The others joined the class at a later date.
Father Glenn spent most of his childhood years growing up in Quincy, Illinois. After ordination he has served in a variety of parishes in Chanhassen, Minnesota; Oakville, Missouri; Omaha, Nebraska; Quincy, Illinois; New Buffalo, Illinois; Petoskey, Michigan; Grambling, Louisiana; Bayfield, Wisconsin, and for the past twelve years as a confessor at St. Peter’s. He also received a Master’s Degree in marketing from Northwestern University and then taught for several years at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. While at St. Peter’s, he also has helped on weekends at parishes, served as spiritual director for the Secular Franciscans, and for several years was the weekend Mass chaplain at the Metropolitan Correction Center downtown.
Father Tom grew up in Carver, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul. After ordination he served as a hospital chaplain in Joliet, 20 years in Hispanic ministry primarily in the state of Texas, and parish priest for short periods in Teutopolis, Illinois; Petoskey, Michigan and Honolulu, Hawaii. He has served as confessor at St. Peter’s for 15 years, eight of which he divided between being at the Mariopolis Focolare Formation Center in Hyde Park, New York—six months there and six months here. He now is full time at St. Peter’s, but he is still involved in the Chicago Chapter of the Focolare Movement, serves as editor of several Focolare books and pamphlets, does weekend supply ministry for Chicago parishes, and is active in interreligious dialogue in the city.
Father Kurt grew up in Indianapolis. After ordination he taught at our high school seminary in Oakbrook, for eleven years and also earned a double Masters Degree in Guidance and Counseling and in Educational Administration from Notre Dame. He then served as Formation Director for our friars at Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park. He has pastored three Franciscan parishes: St. Mary’s in Memphis, St. Anthony’s in St. Louis and St. Francis in Quincy. He also served as Provincial Minister of the Sacred Heart Province for eight years. Since September 2009 he has been the pastor here at St. Peter’s. He now chairs the Board of Trustees at Catholic Theological Union and when he has some extra time, he loves to be involved with the Cursillo Movement and Teens Encounter Christ.
We invite everyone to join these friars in giving thanks to God for their priestly ministry today at the 11:00 Mass and then to visit afterwards at a reception in the St. Clare Auditorium.
FRIAR PERSONNEL UPDATE
We congratulate Br. Matthew Yang, O.F.M., who will be ordained a priest tomorrow (January 11) in South Korea. After his ordination he will spend some time travelling around his home province visiting the friars and then will return to Chicago and St. Peter’s on February 3. You will see him at the altar from time to time as he finishes his theological studies at Catholic Theological Union before graduating this May.
Father James Perluzzi was admitted to Northwestern Hospital a week before Christmas suffering from pneumonia. It was discovered that he had suffered a stroke sometime before that which affected his swallowing muscles in his throat and esophagus. As a result the doctors found that he had been aspirating, causing food to enter his lungs instead of into his stomach. He now has a feeding tube and will undergo therapy to see if his throat muscles will return to normal usage. At least for now he has been transferred to Felician Village in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where our friars needing special care live. Please keep Fr. Jim in your thoughts and prayers.
MARCH FOR LIFE CHICAGO
We invite you to join with many people in and around Chicago for the March for Life which will be held next Sunday, January 17, at the Federal Plaza, 50 West Adams, from 2:00-4:00 P.M. It is being sponsored by many organizations, including the Archdiocese of Chicago Respect Life Office. Speakers will include Archbishop Blasé Cupich, Melissa Ohden, an abortion survivor, Orthodox Bishop Paul of Chicago, and Pastor Wilfredo de Jesus of the New Life Covenant Church of Chicago. For more information, please go to MarchForLifeChicago.com. This will be an excellent way to make a positive statement about respecting life at all levels of existence.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE SEASON
A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal, its throat was very small.
The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible.
The little girl said, “When I get to heaven, I will ask Jonah.” The teacher asked, “What if Jonah went to hell?” The little girl replied, “Then you ask him!”