June 21, 2020

It seems like an eternity since we had to close down on March 14 due to the direction of Governor Pritzker and Cardinal Cupich as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. It was the first time in memory that Catholic Churches throughout the Archdiocese all had to close for an indefinite time, and no one knew exactly what to expect as a result. We knew, of course, that this would be a great hardship for our people and, as the effect gradually sank in, that this ordinance would also have great impact on the finances of the parishes. Both of these aspects over time have certainly made their mark.

 

Now that over three months have passed since that fateful Saturday in March, we are finally beginning to reopen our churches. Since June 8 we have once again been hearing confessions here at St. Peter’s on Monday through Saturday from 10:30 to 3:00, although right now not in the confessionals in the church but rather in an open air setting in the auditorium on the lower level. We have been able only to allow ten people at one time within the church building and to do so under certain restrictions imposed by the Archdiocese. Even though this procedure is new and different, it has been proven to be workable, at least until we are allowed to return to the confessionals upstairs. We have only been able to offer confessions in this manner because of the generosity of a number of volunteers who serve as greeters, ushers and cleaners. I want to thank them all for their wonderful service and dedication.

 

The time has now come to begin celebrating public Masses on weekdays and weekends. Again we can only do so by observing all the mandated regulations passed on to us by the Archdiocese. Many of these practices will perhaps seem clumsy and foreign, but I ask your patience as we all try to get used to them while the danger of the pandemic remains with us. Beginning on Monday, June 29, and for the foreseeable future, we will celebrate two weekday Masses Monday-Friday at 11:40 and 1:15. There will be no Masses on Saturday. Our two Sunday Masses (the first ones on Sunday, July 5) will be celebrated at 9:00 and 11:00, with the church opening at 8:30 and closing at 12:30.

 

We are adopting this schedule basically for two reasons: given that we have no idea how many people will be working in the Loop after these months working from home, we are presuming that, at least initially, there will be many fewer than before, and secondly, in order to provide all the extra volunteers to make these Masses happen, we think two Masses a day is all we can manage for the time being. If later we see a need for additional Masses and we have the needed personnel to do what is necessary, we will accommodate accordingly.

 

One of the things that you will immediately notice when the church reopens is that the seating is reconfigured in such a way that people are six feet apart. As a result, an usher will direct you to what pew you should take and where you should sit in that pew. It is important that you stay there for the entire time you are in church except for the time when you come forward to receive Holy Communion. For Communion the usher will come down the aisle to direct communicants to come for Communion in an orderly way. Once you are near the front of the church, there will be a place for you to take hand sanitizer to use immediately before receiving Holy Communion in your hand. After receiving the consecrated host, step to the side, remove your mask to consume the host, replace your mask and then return to your assigned place.

 

Another new regulation for Mass is that you will be required to make a reservation to participate in the Mass you wish to attend. You will not be able to attend unless you have a reservation. This particular requirement is probably the most difficult to understand. The Archdiocese, together with the concerns of the Illinois Public Health personnel, is deeply concerned for the safety of everyone who comes to church and thereby gathers in a large group. The primary reason for the reservation is to ensure that, if by chance someone who is present at a certain Mass later tests positive for the virus, the others who were there can be notified of this issue. The reservation system, whereby you have given us your name and your telephone number, allows the social tracing to take place if necessary. Your privacy otherwise will be completely respected, and the information on the reservation format will be destroyed after 14 days have passed.

 

In order to register to attend a specific Mass, please call our Church Office at 312-372-5111 Monday-Friday between 9:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. or on Saturday between 10:30 A.M. and 4:30 P.M. Give the receptionist the date and time of the Mass you want to attend, your name and your current telephone number. Please speak slowly and do not engage the receptionist in other conversations so that he will be available for additional calls.

 

Another reason for the reservation system is to make sure that no more than 50 people are in the church for a given Mass. This is the determination of the Archdiocese for the present; it may be changed as time and circumstances dictate.

 

Everyone in the church building must wear a mask or face covering of some sort at all times. The only exception is when you are about to receive Holy Communion. As you approach the Communion minister, remove your mask, receive the consecrated host in your hand, put the host in your mouth, and then replace your mask before your return to your assigned pew.

 

At the end of Mass, please exit the church in an organized fashion at the direction of the usher. We ask that you exit the church immediately so as not to crowd the lobby space and also to allow the cleaners to come through the church to wipe down the pews as soon as possible. There will be receptacles at the exits of the church so that you may drop in your financial contribution. A collection will not be taken up during any of the Masses, so these containers will substitute for now. There will be no entrance procession, bringing up the gifts, or singing at Mass for the present.

 

We remind you that the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holydays has been rescinded for the present time. Therefore if you are not feeling well or if you are elderly and having some difficulties, you are asked at present to stay home and watch one of the streamlined Masses that are broadcast on the internet on a regular basis.

 

TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

Our reading from Romans provides a twofold contrast of the impact that Adam’s and Jesus’ respective acts have on humanity. First, Adam’s sin leads to death and condemnation (consider the Book of Genesis, starting with Cain’s murder of Abel, to all the violence and deaths that follow, including Noah and the flood). Jesus’ gift, however, brings about justification. Second, Paul uses the phrase “how much more” twice in quick succession to imply that Jesus’ gift has a potentially greater scale of impact, even or especially when Paul has already stated that Adam’s sin impacted “all.” This is understandable given Paul’s emphatic description of Jesus’ act as “grace” and a “gift.” Each of those terms signifies a sense of extravagant generosity.

 

A gift, no matter how generous, cannot be received until it is recognized. We see Jesus sending out the Twelve in Matthew 10 and, in the process, warning them of inevitable sufferings but also assuring them of God’s salvation.

 

Paul’s letter to the Romans will help us make sense of this juxtaposition of persecution and deliverance, which is also found in today’s Old Testament readings. In his contrast of Adam and Jesus, Paul presents a conflict of two powers, the old power of violence and death against the new power of justice and life. Receiving Jesus’ free gift of grace is to enter into this conflict, as Paul makes clear. These resistances, persecutions, and sufferings, however, point to and even prove the coming of the messianic age. That is why Paul suggests that current experiences of suffering can lead to endurance, character, and hope.

 

Jeremiah depicts being trapped and betrayed by associates, and even friends. The Lord, however, acts like “a mighty champion.” The prophet acknowledges that “the Lord has rescued the life of the poor.” Explaining that God saves, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Salvation comes from God alone” (#169).

 

In proclaiming how God rescues the poor from the wicked, Jeremiah prepares people to repent and to be faithful. God, who probes mind and heart, deserves sung praise. As the Catechism states, “Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to the Word of God” (#2584).

 

For Your Reflection: When have you felt alone in trusting that the Lord would protect you? Why is it difficult to put aside worry and completely trust in God? When do you see the Church speak God’s truth in the light?

 

SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

 

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John.” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “Yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Lk 7:28). John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.

 

His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His Baptism, he said, was for repentance. But one would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was, “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

 

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Mt 3:14). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. By making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

 

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

 

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. John himself would share in the pattern of the messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

 

John challenges us Christians to the fundamental attitude of Christianity—total dependence on the Father, in Christ. Except for the Mother of God, no one had a higher function in the unfolding of salvation. Yet the least in the kingdom, Jesus said, is greater than he, for the pure gift that the Father gives. The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil—all stem from his fundamental and total placing of his life within the will of God.

 

U.S. BISHOPS WARN OF CONTINUING RACISM

 

“We are broken-hearted, sickened and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversation.

 

“Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head-on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.

 

“While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.

 

“As we said eighteen months ago in our most recent pastoral letter against racism. Open Wide Our Hearts, for people of color some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option. As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue.”

 

A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE

 

A young clergyman, fresh out of seminary, thought it would help him better understand the fears and temptations his future congregations faced if he first took a job as a police officer for several months. He passed the physical examination; then came the oral exam to test his ability to act quickly and wisely in an emergency.

 

Among other questions he was asked, “What would you do to disperse a frenzied crowd?”

 

He thought for a moment and then answered, “I would take up a collection.”