On September 30, 2019, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter entitled “Aperuit Illis” Instituting the Sunday of the Word of God. He chose this date to commemorate the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Jerome, one of the early scholars who translated the Scriptures into several languages and who both studied and wrote about the Word of God in light of the circumstances of his day. In this letter, Pope Francis established that henceforth on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time the Church would now celebrate a Sunday of the Word of God. In order for all of us to understand the thinking and teaching behind this decision, I offer the following paragraphs from the pope’s letter for your reflection.
“’He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’ (Lk 24:45). This was one of the final acts of the risen Lord before his Ascension. Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples, broke bread with them and opened their minds to the understanding of the sacred Scriptures. To them, amid their fear and bewilderment, he unveiled the meaning of the paschal mystery: that in accordance with the Father’s eternal plan, he had to suffer and rise from the dead in order to bring repentance and the forgiveness of sins. He then promised to send the Holy Spirit, who would give them strength to be witnesses of this saving mystery.
“The relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and sacred Scripture is essential to our identity as Christians. Without the Lord who opens our minds to them, it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth. Yet the contrary is equally true: without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and of his Church in this world would remain incomprehensible. Hence, Saint Jerome could rightly claim: ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ’ (Commentary on the Book of Isaiah, Prologue: PL 24,17B).
“At the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I proposed setting aside ‘a Sunday given over entirely to the word of God, so as to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people.’ Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world….
“With this letter, I wish to respond to the many requests I have received from the people of God that the entire Church celebrate, in unity of purpose, a Sunday of the Word of God. It is now common for the Christian community to set aside moments to reflect on the great importance of the word of God for everyday living. The various local Churches have undertaken a wealth of initiatives to make the sacred Scripture more accessible to believers, to increase their gratitude for so great a gift, and to help them to strive daily to embody and bear witness to its teachings.
“The Second Vatican Council gave great impulse to the rediscovery of the word of God, thanks to its Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, a document that deserves to be read and appropriated ever anew. The Constitution clearly expounds the nature of sacred Scripture, its transmission from generation to generation (Chapter II). Its divine inspiration (Chapter III) embracing the Old and New Testaments (Chapters IV and V), and the importance of Scripture for the life of the Church (Chapter VI)….It is fitting, then, that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride, that she may grow in love and faithful witness.
“Consequently, I hereby declare that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God. This Sunday of the Word of God will thus be a fitting part of that time of the year when we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. This is more than a temporal coincidence: the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.”
Pope Francis invites local communities to find ways to “mark this Sunday with a certain solemnity.” He suggests that the sacred text be enthroned “in order to focus the attention of the assembly on the normative value of God’s Word.” In highlighting the proclamation of the Word of the Lord, it would be appropriate “to emphasize in the homily the honor that is due.”
The Bible is not meant for a privileged few, the Pope emphasizes, but it belongs “to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words.” The Bible cannot be monopolized or restricted to select groups either, because it is “the book of the Lord’s people, who, in listening to it, move from dispersion and division towards unity.”
“Pastors are primarily responsible for explaining Sacred Scripture and helping everyone to understand it,” writes Pope Francis. This is why the homily possesses “a quasi-sacramental character.” The Pope warns against improvising or giving “long, pedantic homilies or wandering off into unrelated topics.” Rather, he suggests using simple and suitable language. For many of the faithful, he writes, “this is the only opportunity they have to grasp the beauty of God’s Word and to see it applied to their daily lives.”
The Pope uses the scene of the risen Lord appearing to the disciples at Emmaus to demonstrate what he calls “the unbreakable bond between Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist.” Since the Scriptures everywhere speak of Christ, he writes, “they enable us to believe that His death and resurrection are not myth but history, and are central to the faith of His disciples.” When the sacraments are introduced and illumined by God’s Word, explains the Pope, “they become ever more clearly the goal of a process whereby Christ opens our minds and hearts to acknowledge His saving work.”
“The role of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures is primordial,” writes Pope Francis. “Without the work of the Spirit, there would always be a risk of remaining limited to the written text alone.” The Pope continues, “This would open the way to a fundamentalist reading, which needs to be avoided, lest we betray the inspired, dynamic and spiritual character of the sacred text.” It is the Holy Spirit who “makes Sacred Scripture the living word of God, experienced and handed down in the faith of His holy people.”
Pope Francis invites us never to take God’s Word for granted, “but instead to let ourselves be nourished by it, in order to acknowledge and live fully our relationship with Him and with our brothers and sisters.”
The Pope concludes his Apostolic Letter by defining what he describes as “the great challenge before us in life: to listen to Sacred Scripture and then to practice mercy.” God’s Word, writes Pope Francis, “has the power to open our eyes and to enable us to renounce a stifling and barren individualism and instead to embark on a new path of sharing and solidarity.”
MEMORIAL OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
By universal consent, Thomas Aquinas is the preeminent spokesman of the Catholic tradition of reason and of divine revelation. He is one of the great teachers of the medieval Catholic Church, honored with the titles Doctor of the Church and Angelic Doctor.
At first he was given to the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino in his parents’ hopes that he would choose that way of life and eventually become abbot. In 1239, he was sent to Naples to complete his studies. It was here that he was first attracted to Aristotle’s philosophy. By 1243, Thomas abandoned his family’s plans for him and joined the Dominicans, much to his mother’s dismay. On her order, Thomas was captured by his brother and kept at home for over a year.
Once free, he went to Paris and then to Cologne, where he finished his studies with St. Albert the Great. He held two professorships at Paris, lived at the court of Pope Urban IV, directed the Dominican schools at Rome and Viterbo, combated adversaries of the mendicants, as well as the Averroists, and argued with some Franciscans about Aristotelianism.
His greatest contribution to the Catholic Church is his writings. The unity, harmony, and continuity of faith and reason, of revealed and natural human knowledge, pervades his writings. One might expect Thomas, as a man of the gospel, to be an ardent defender of revealed truth. But he was broad enough, deep enough, to see the whole natural order as coming from God the Creator, and to see reason as a divine gift to be highly cherished.
The Summa Theologiae, his last and, unfortunately, uncompleted work, deals with the whole of Catholic theology. He stopped work on it after celebrating Mass on December 6, 1273. When asked why he stopped writing, he replied, “I cannot go on…All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.” He died March 7, 1274.
We can look to Thomas Aquinas as a towering example of Catholicism in the sense of broadness, universality, and inclusiveness. We should be determined anew to exercise the divine gift of reason in us, our power to know, learn, and understand. At the same time, we should thank God for the gift of his revelation, especially in Jesus Christ.
BI-LINGUAL (ENGLISH-SPANISH) MASS
We are pleased that a large number of Spanish-speaking individuals come to St. Peter’s to pray, to participate in the Mass, and to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation. Unfortunately we only have three friar priests at present who speak Spanish fluently. If you would prefer to confess in Spanish, you may call the receptionist in the Office (312-372-5111) in order to find out when either Fr. Carlos Ruiz, Fr. Tom Ess or Fr. Ed Shea is scheduled to hear confessions. We also offer a bi-lingual Mass (English and Spanish) every Wednesday afternoon at 1:15 P.M. Parts of the Mass prayers and the homily are proclaimed in both languages. We welcome primarily Spanish speakers and those of Hispanic cultural background to any of these services. And don’t forget to visit the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine at the front of church on the west side.
One request that we frequently hear at St. Peter’s is whether we have anyone available for spiritual direction. Well, the answer is YES. We have two individuals who are well-qualified spiritual directors: Sister Fran Sulzer and Br. Guillermo Morales, O.F.M. Sister Fran has been doing spiritual direction here for a number of years. She is usually at St. Peter’s on Tuesdays, when she works out of a room on the mezzanine. She also has a practice in Park Ridge. If you would like to contact Sr. Fran, she can be reached at 847-696-9026.
Br. Guillermo has a certificate in spiritual direction from the Claret Center in Hyde Park and a Master’s Degree in spirituality from Catholic Theological Union. You may contact him at gamorales05gmail.com or through the general telephone number for St. Peter’s—312-372-5111.
We are very pleased to have both Sister Fran and Br. Guillermo on our staff to offer the opportunity for spiritual direction. I hope you will find them helpful if you are seeking direction in the near future.
ADORATION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
One of the marvelous gifts we have in the Catholic Church is the fact that we always have the presence of the Lord in our churches due to the reservation of the Body of Christ reserved in the tabernacle. But that presence is even more manifest when the Consecrated Host is placed in the monstrance and then publicly displayed for the veneration of the faithful in what we call the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Here at St. Peter’s we have the opportunity to visit Our Lord in this special way every Monday-Friday for the three hours between 1:45 and 4:45 in the afternoon. I hope you try to take advantage of this devotion at least once or twice a week. You need not stay for a longer period of time; even a short visit allows you to focus, to thank the Lord for blessings received, to acknowledge that you owe everything to His goodness and love, and to praise Him for all he has done and continues to do for you. It also gives you a bit of quiet time to just be in His presence and to give Him a chance to speak with you as He sees fit.
SECOND COLLECTION THIS WEEKEND
This weekend our second collection supports the Church in Latin America. For many living in Latin America and the Caribbean, a rising secular culture, difficult rural terrain, and a shortage of ministers makes it difficult for people to practice their faith. Your donations fund catechesis, marriage and family programs, and seminarian formation so people can grow closer to Christ. Please prayerfully consider supporting this collection to share your faith with our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean. Thank you so much.
A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE
One Sunday morning when my son was about five years old, we were attending church in our faith community. It was common for the preacher to invite the children to the front of the church for a small lesson before beginning the sermon. He would bring in an item they could find around the house and relate it to a teaching from the Bible.
This particular morning the visual aid for the lesson was a smoke detector. He asked the children if anyone knew what it meant when an alarm sounded from the smoke detector.
My child immediately raised his hand and said, “It means Daddy’s cooking dinner.”