June 10, 2018
I have been writing recently about various aspects of Pope Francis’ new Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, “Rejoice and Be Glad,” which is Francis’ contemporary commentary on the universal call to holiness which the Second Vatican Council emphasized more than fifty years ago. What the Council and Pope Francis are saying is that not only clergy and religious are called to holiness but every single person. That call to holiness begins with our baptism and continues throughout our lives. We listen to the Scriptures, we celebrate the sacraments, we try to live the Commandments and the Beatitudes, and we examine periodically how we are doing both in overcoming our faults and in living the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
As part of this growth in our relationship with the Lord, many people engage in spiritual direction or “spiritual companionship” as it is sometimes called. Throughout the history of the Church there have always been men and women who listened to those wanting assistance with their prayer. From the desert fathers and mothers of the 4th century, through numerous saints and founders of religious orders, mystics and confessors, the Church’s sacred tradition of spiritual direction has been nurtured and safeguarded, remaining a venerable and vital spiritual practice for many today.
Spiritual direction focuses on helping a person directly with their relationship with God. Spiritual directors help people grow in their prayer life, nurture their relationship with God and enable them to become more attentive to God in daily life. In nurturing one’s relationship with God, the most fundamental issue in that relationship is: “Who is God for us, and who am I for God?”
Spiritual direction is help given by one to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication, to respond to this communication, to grow in intimacy with God, and to live out the results of their relationship with God. Spiritual direction has always aimed at fostering union with God.
Spiritual direction is separate and distinct from counseling, or therapy, or psychiatric sessions. While spiritual direction can be helpful if one is in therapy, it can never take the place of counseling or professional therapy, where that is necessary. It is not discussing personal problems or a theological question as such, nor is it about two people who meet to mutually support one another in their spiritual lives.
Everyone who is in a relationship with God would benefit from spiritual direction. Are you considering a major life change: Vocation? Marriage? Career move? Does God feel far away, even though you pray daily? Do you feel that everyone else has a fulfilling prayer life, and that somehow you are missing out on something? Are you troubled about the “worldliness” of your life and concerned about the will of God for you? Are you angry with God? If any of these questions resonate with you, spiritual direction may help you draw closer to God and discern His will for you. A trained spiritual director helps address God directly and to listen for God’s response. Spiritual direction is about a person and their director listening to and responding to God’s self-communicating.
The spiritual director and the person agree to meet for a specified length of time, usually an hour, and decide the frequency of meetings. A spiritual director maintains complete confidentiality with respect to everything that transpires during the meeting. The person coming for spiritual direction communicates what is happening in their life. Sometimes a spiritual director will give the person a Scripture or spiritual writing to pray with and to reflect on, and the person shares what surfaced during the reflection. The spiritual director may suggest spiritual practices such as journaling, contemplation or lectio divina.
The spiritual director listens intently, helping the person notice God’s presence and movements, and God’s will in the life of the person. The person coming for spiritual direction is open in sharing his/her prayer and life experiences, and more importantly, is open to receiving God’s communication, in spiritual direction, for God truly is the director.
We are fortunate to have two professionally trained spiritual directors available here at St. Peter’s. Sister Fran Sulzer, FSPA usually comes on Tuesdays, and you can call her for an appointment at 847-696-9026 or through her e-mail [email protected] Br. Guillermo Morales, OFM is someone you may know from the Front Office where he spends several hours each day. You may contact him by phone at 312-372-5111 or through his e-mail [email protected]. You may also contact any of the friar priests for possible spiritual direction; it is up to each one to decide whether they can be available or not.
Sister Fran and Br. Guillermo are going to present three programs in the auditorium in September. The first one will deal with what spiritual direction is, the second with what spiritual direction is not, and the third dealing with group spiritual direction. You might want to already plan on attending these three presentations if you would like to learn more about spiritual direction and what it can mean for the development of your relationship with God.
TENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Today’s readings remind us of two foundational aspects of our Christian faith: (1) the sinfulness in our world comes ultimately from pursuing our own will and not God’s will, and (2) God liberates us from our sinful condition through the Redeemer.
The First Reading gives an explanation for the presence of sin and evil in our world. God did not intend them when he created the world as “good.” But we humans have constantly used the gift of free will to choose our will instead of carrying out God’s will. Because we are so vulnerable to sin, God has promised us the gift of a redeemer who will liberate us from the powers of evil: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”
In the Gospel, we see that Jesus is this redeemer, but his own people refuse to accept his message. Instead, they say he is “out of his mind” and attribute everything to the powers of evil. They reject the workings of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Mark’s Gospel account makes the significant point that Jesus brought about a new kinship, founded not on flesh and blood, but on rebirth by the Spirit.
The Spirit enables Jesus’ followers to carry out God’s will. As the story of Adam and Eve and also the history of humanity have shown, without God’s help, human beings are incapable of using their free will to carry out God’s will. Instead, they follow their selfish desires. Only those who do the will of God are “Jesus’ brother and sister and mother.” The Spirit gives us rebirth into this new family of God and enables us to carry out God’s will.
In the reading from Genesis, the woman blames the serpent for what she has done. For millennia, humankind has sought reason for the good and evil that exist. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #285, notes that it is a human characteristic to seek an understanding for the state of the world. The Catechism states, “Since the beginning, the Christian faith has been challenged by responses to the question of origins that differ from its own. Ancient religions and cultures produced many myths concerning origins. Some philosophers have said that everything is God, that the world is God, or that the development of the world is the development of God (Pantheism). Others have said that the world is a necessary emanation arising from God and returning to him. Still others have affirmed that existence of two eternal principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, locked, in permanent conflict (Dualism, Manichaeism). This inquiry is distinctively human.”
Today’s Gospel portrays the way Jesus’ miracles could bring people to disbelieve as well as to believe. Where some see the work of God, others are sure that the devil is responsible for Jesus’ driving out the devil and for healings. The miracles can stir faith and bring one into the family of God, but the Catechism explains that the miracles are not an answer for the curious. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #548, states, “The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him, but his miracles can also be occasions for ‘offence’; they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic. Despite his evident miracles, some people reject Jesus. He is even accused of acting by the power of demons.”
For Your Reflection: What does the story of Adam and Eve in the garden say about the human condition? How does our parish help you look beyond what will pass away to the eternal? Do you sometimes wish for a miracle to be assured that God exists?
FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
There is perhaps no more loved and admired saint in the Catholic Church than St. Anthony. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195. His was a very rich family of the nobility who wanted him to become educated, and they arranged for him to be instructed at the local cathedral school. Against the wishes of his family, however, he entered the community of Canons Regular (Augustinians) on the outskirts of Lisbon. The Canons were famous for their dedication to scholarly pursuits. They sent him to their major center of studies in Coimbra to study Latin and theology.
After his ordination to the priesthood, Fernando (his given name) was named guest master and placed in charge of hospitality for the abbey. It was in this capacity, in 1219, that he came into contact with five Franciscan friars who were on their way to Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Muslims there. Fernando was strongly attracted to the simple, evangelical lifestyle of the friars, whose Order had been founded only eleven years prior. In February of the following year, news arrived that the five Franciscans had been martyred in Morocco, the first to be killed in their new Order. Seeing their bodies as they were processed back to Assisi, Fernando meditated on the heroism of these men. Inspired by their example and longing for the same gift of martyrdom, he obtained permission from church authorities to the leave the Augustinian Canons to join the new Franciscan Order. Upon his admission to the life of the friars, he joined the small hermitage in Olivais, adopting the name Anthony, from the name of the chapel located there dedicated to Saint Anthony the Great, by which he was to be known.
The new Brother Anthony then set out for Morocco in fulfillment of his new vocation. Illness, however, stopped him on his journey. At this point he decided to head to Italy, the center of his new Order. On the voyage there, his ship was driven by a storm onto the coast of Sicily. From Sicily he made his way to Tuscany where he was assigned to a convent of the Order, but he met with difficulty because of his sickly appearance. He was finally assigned, out of pure compassion, to the rural hospice of San Paolo near Forli, a choice made after considering his poor health. There he appears to have lived as a hermit and was put to work in the kitchen, while being allowed to spend much time in private prayer and study.
One day, on the occasion of an ordination, a great many visiting Dominican friars were present, and there was some misunderstanding over who should preach. The Franciscans naturally expected that one of the Dominicans would occupy the pulpit, for they were renowned for their preaching. The Dominicans, on the other hand, had come unprepared, thinking that a Franciscan would be the homilist. In this quandary, the head of the hermitage, who had no one among his own humble friars suitable for the occasion, called upon Anthony, whom he suspected was most qualified, and entreated him to speak whatever the Holy Spirit should put into his mouth. Anthony objected but was overruled, and his sermon created a deep impression. Not only his rich voice and arresting manner, but the entire theme and substance of his discourse and his moving eloquence held the attention of his hearers.
At that point, Anthony was commissioned by Brother Gratian, the local Provincial Minister, to preach the Gospel throughout the area of Lombardy in northern Italy. In this capacity he came to the attention of Francis of Assisi. Francis had held a strong distrust of the place of theological studies in the life of his brotherhood, fearing that it might lead to an abandonment of their commitment to a life of real poverty. In Anthony, however, he found a kindred spirit for his vision, who was able to provide the teaching needed by young members of the Order who might seek ordination. He thereby entrusted the pursuit of studies for any of his friars to the care of Brother Anthony. From then on, his skills were used to the utmost by the Church. While teaching was a skill he possessed, it was as a preacher that Anthony revealed his supreme gift.
Anthony died at the Poor Clare monastery at Arcella on June 13, 1231, at the age of 36 and was canonized less than a year later. His fame spread through Portuguese evangelization, and he has been known as the most celebrated of the followers of St. Francis of Assisi. He is the patron saint of his adopted home of Padua as well as his native Lisbon. He is venerated all over the world as the patron Saint for lost articles and is credited with many miracles involving lost people, lost things and even lost spiritual goods. Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946, he is sometimes called the “Evangelical Doctor.”
Here at St. Peter’s we will celebrate the Feast of St. Anthony on Wednesday, June 13, with a Solemn Mass and choir at 11:40. Please note that there will be no 12:15 Mass on this day since the 11:40 Mass will extend over the 12:15 starting time. We will bless the traditional small loaves of bread during this Mass and distribute them to those attending at the end of the Mass. If there are loaves left over, we will make them available at the 1:15 and 5:00 Masses. We will celebrate Solemn Vespers at 5:40 P.M. in church; all are invited. We invite everyone to participate in one of the Masses on this St. Anthony Feast since the Devotion to St. Anthony has been a hallmark of this church since the time of the great Chicago Fire many years ago.
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
The children were all lined up for their First Confession when Little Johnny’s turn came. The priest asked him to confess his sins, and the boy promptly replied, “Father, I threw a stone at Jimmy.”
“That was a very misguided thing to do, my son,” said the priest patiently.
“It wasn’t misguided at all,” said Little Johnny. “I hit him!”