This past Friday, January 22, 2016, thousands of people descended on Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court 43 years ago. I am always so edified by so many individuals and groups who travel long distances and with great sacrifice to be present in order to give witness to the many facets of pro-life teaching of the Gospel of Jesus. Busloads of college and high school youth join the march, participate in several huge Masses, attend catechesis sessions and try to get some sleep in between all this activity. Adults and chaperones often accompany these groups or arrive by plane, car or train for the same purpose.
In our day we may take protest marches almost for granted since they seem to occur much more frequently than they used to, but this Washington March for Life and similar ones such as that at Federal Plaza here in Chicago last Sunday are much different. They are meant to highlight some basic teachings of the Church, e.g., that human life begins at the moment of conception, that already in the womb a baby should be treated with great care and understanding, that those who are elderly and ill should receive great love and respect, that those who are incarcerated still have basic rights that must be respected and that all this impacts our position on capital punishment, that the poor and the homeless deserve our attention, etc. The anniversary gives us the opportunity to reflect on these and other similar issues from a faith perspective and to examine our consciences to see if we are living these truths daily by our words and actions.
Recently I came across the following letter written by a mother to her two-year-old daughter. As an unwed, pregnant mother-to-be, she decided to keep her unborn child and now reflects on that decision and what it has meant to her. I think this mother’s thoughts are very apropos as we consider the meaning and the importance of what these past days have meant.
“I have tried to write this letter for a long time, but there is always something to do at home, and every time I sit down in front of the computer, you are determined to drag me away from it.
“I love being your best friend. I enjoy it every time that you impatiently request my attention. But sometimes I have to pay the price! It is impossible for me to make a phone call or to send an email. Not to mention when I try to clean up a mess or do any other thing! You grab my hand with your beautiful bossy attitude, and you make me sit by you to watch cartoons or to help you color your books.
“I have a few minutes today, so I am going to try to describe in a few lines all the love that I have in my heart for you, from the moment you came to my life until today.
“Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night just to watch you sleep. It feels like a second all the time that has gone by. It is hard to believe how big you are now. Sometimes I cannot believe how beautiful and perfect you are. I love your endless energy and your love for life. I am fascinated by your eagerness to learn new things.
“I am impressed by the way you socialize and the way you communicate with everybody. You are so confident, so fearless! You want to know everyone, and you want to tell them everything about yourself. You don’t care much about cultural barriers or language differences. You only want to get close to people and have delightful conversations.
“I never thought I would find this kind of happiness in my life. I never thought I would be so thankful for my life and yours. Being your mom has been the most extraordinary thing that has ever happened to me. I never thought that a human heart was capable of loving so much, so intensely. I never understood these supernatural levels of love and happiness until I experienced the miracle of motherhood….
“My beautiful little girl, I have something to confess to you today. When you were younger and tiny, and when I realized for the first time that you were inside me, I faced the darkest moment of my life. At that moment, it was really hard to understand how much I was going to love you one day. I felt very lonely and sad. I felt like my whole world was closing on me. I was mad at everyone, and I was terribly mad at myself.
“I want you to know, my beautiful little girl, that in spite of all my mistakes and in spite of being away from God’s ways for so long, your life is not a mistake. You are not a mistake! You have always been in God’s perfect plan. And the plan he had for me, for my conversion, for my salvation and for my happiness.
“You, my beautiful little one, have saved my life in every possible way. I honestly don’t know what would have become of me if you wouldn’t have come to show me what real love is. You helped me understand how big and pure is the love that God has for us, his children, regardless of our mistakes.
“God used your beautiful existence to make me a new person, willing to give everything for you. Because of you, the darkness has disappeared from my life. Two years ago you became my light, my hope, my dreams, but most importantly, you have become my way back to God. Thanks to you I found an extraordinary meaning to my existence, and even though we are just starting this journey together, these two first years have been for me of great happiness.
“If I could go back in time, and I had the chance to choose, I would choose to be your mom again, and nothing would make me happier than having you in my arms again, the way you were, so little and so fragile. Nothing would make me happier than being able to live these two years again, that I can describe like the most wonderful years of my whole life.
“I love you with all my heart. Love, Mommy.”
We hear all too frequently about the right of a person to choose an abortion, but not enough about the joys and goodness of choosing not to have an abortion, even under extremely precarious circumstances. Perhaps reading the above letter can help underscore that such choice has blessings far beyond what might be imagined. God will never be outdone in generosity.
THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The opening verses of Luke’s Gospel tell us much about the author and his text. As we are beginning the year of Luke in the three-year lectionary cycle, it is worth examining the text more carefully.
Our evangelist, anonymous in the Gospel but traditionally known as Luke, tells us that there are other texts concerning Jesus already in existence. “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative,” he says, “of the events that have been fulfilled among us.” For Luke, a key theme in his Gospel is the connection between God’s promises and their fulfillment in Jesus.
Luke is not a first-generation Christian, an eyewitness to Jesus. He distinguishes himself from “those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning…who handed them down to us.” “Them” refers to the oral traditions about Jesus that circulated in the early church; that was how the gospel was first transmitted, beginning with the apostles and disciples: they spread the “good news” by preaching it and teaching it to others.
Our evangelist writes with a deliberate sense of providing an accurate picture of the Jesus tradition. “After investigating everything accurately anew,” he had decided “to write it down in an orderly sequence.” Scholars remind us that “orderly” does not necessarily require chronological accuracy. Comparing Luke’s text to that of Matthew or Mark, we find that sometimes the order of events disagrees. Luke purposefully structured his Gospel as a writer, editing it to create a well-ordered narrative.
The name Theophilus, apparently the addressee of the text, is thought by some to be symbolic, as the name means “friend of God” and therefore could refer to any Christian. Other scholars argue that being modified by the term “most excellent,” Theophilus refers to a person of rank within the empire, some of whom were addressed as “most excellent.”
For Reflection: Do I approach the Gospels with an appreciation for the work of the evangelists in compiling the texts? What can I do this year to better understand Luke’s text? Might this be an invitation to join a Bible study either here at St. Peter’s or at your home parish?
COME AND SEE WEEKEND
Single Catholic men between the ages of 20-35 who are considering a call to religious life and service to the Church are invited to participate in a Come and See Weekend here at St. Peter’s from February 5-7, 2016. It is an opportunity to meet Franciscan Friars and learn about their prayer, community and ministry, as well as about their founder, St. Francis of Assisi, and his message for everyone. For more information, please call our Vocation Director, Br. Thom Smith, O.F.M. at 773-753-1925 or email him at [email protected].
SECOND COLLECTION THIS WEEKEND
This year we celebrate the important milestone of 50 years of solidarity with the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Church there faces many challenges, including lack of access to resources the faithful need to nourish their spiritual lives. Often, there are too few priests to meet the needs of the many communities they serve, or the communities themselves are simply too isolated to have access to other important resources for the faith. Strategies to train and support evangelization leaders are vital to reach those who are disconnected from the life and mission of the Church.
For the past 50 years, through the Collection for the Church in Latin America (CLA), you have helped the Church in 25 countries in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean to address challenges to the faith. Only with your committed support can we continue to help develop evangelization and catechetical programs and fund activities that promote an encounter with Jesus Christ, so that the faithful can become missionary disciples. Your renewed support helps fund several ministries and projects that ensure the people in Latin America and the Caribbean can share their faith and strengthen connections with members of the church community.
In Peru, the 14 villages of Chazuta, in Moyobamba are all located away from the city center, with the most remote only accessible by boat. The faithful in these communities do not have access to catechetical formation, and members often feel separated from the life of the universal Church. Through a grant from the Collection for the Church of Latin America, the religious congregation of the Missionaries of Jesus was able to provide faith formation, spiritual retreats and workshops to nearly 250 people. Upon completion, participants were better equipped to help others deepen their faith and answer questions. The program also renewed their sense of commitment to their parishes and created stronger bonds within their own families. Through this program, members of the Chazuta villages felt the love and support of the universal Church.
In the Archdiocese of Santiago de Los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic, many people are very dedicated to their parishes but do not have access to formation resources to fully understand the mission of Jesus to spread the gospel message. To address this problem, the archdiocese developed a three-stage plan to prepare people to become missionary leaders. Thanks to a grant from the CLA, the archdiocese was able to implement the first stage of the plan to provide workshops, retreats and door-to-door missions.
Through projects like these, the Collection for the Church in Latin America empowers the people of Latin America and the Caribbean to deepen their faith and share it with the world. For more information on how you can help the Church in Latin America, visit www.usccb.org/latin-america.
MINISTERS AT THE ALTAR
St. Peter’s would never be able to function without wonderful people who volunteer for our ministry, serving as readers, acolytes, thurifers and Communion ministers at weekday and weekend Masses. Many people who come to St. Peter’s may never have considered serving at the altar in some capacity, but I want to invite you to look at that possibility. Even though it may seem that we have plenty of ministers already, we could use more. Individuals go on vacation, have work responsibilities that take them away, become ill, are transferred from the Loop workplace, or retire and therefore do not get downtown as regularly. When any of those circumstances come into play, we must try to find a temporary or a permanent replacement.
If you would like more information or are ready to volunteer, contact Mr. James Kapellas at 312-853-2418. We appreciate your thoughtfulness.
A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE
An elderly gentleman of 83 arrived in Paris by plane. At the French customs desk, the man took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry-on bag. “You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked sarcastically. The man admitted he had been to France previously. “Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”
The American said, “The last time I was here, I did not have to show it.”
“Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France!”
The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained, “Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn’t find any Frenchmen to show it to!”