March 13, 2022

On Ash Wednesday (March 2) we heard in the first reading of Masses and our scripture services a reading from the Book of the Prophet Joel, "Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children...." (Joel 2:12-18). I must admit right from the opening of the doors of the church until they were closed hours later "the congregation" the number of people who came to St. Peter's to receive ashes, attend Mass, celebrate confession and pray in church surpassed the expectation of myself and the entire church staff. 

After not having enough hosts consecrated for the first Mass, we made adjustments and realized we all were in for a very busy day. Staff members, some of those attending services and my own reflections made us all aware that somehow God was working in the lives of people that day. The weather could not have been better for the first week of March. The mask mandate had just been rescinded earlier in the week and many folks found their way to church to begin the Lenten Season.

I want to publicly express my THANKS to all our hard-working St. Peter's staff members, both lay and friars for their work on Ash Wednesday. Thanks also to our volunteers who helped keep everything going smoothly throughout the day. The generosity of so many people who contributed financially to the support of St. Peter's ministry continues to enable us to keep our doors open and provide a variety of ministry here in the Loop.

I encourage you to participate in the various Lenten services we offer, attend daily Mass, pray the Stations, come to Adoration, celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), join in one of our Lenten programs or come out of the noise and hustle of the Loop and be at peace in the stillness of the church throughout the day. If you are looking for some good spiritual reading check out the many possibilities in our book store. Ask me, one of the book store staff or one of the friars for our Lenten book recommendations.

May God be with all of you who come here to St. Peter's and place yourself in the presence of the Lord this Lenten Season.

RENEW MY CHURCH

Last week, I shared with you some thoughts about the Archdiocese and RENEW MY CHURCH. I wrote, that in our time, the dangerous trap we can fall into is to think the Church is dying or not meeting the needs of people in our world today. When I have listened to people tell me of their concern and in fact for some, their fear that the Church is dying, I remind them to study the history of the Church. I remind them that before Christ returned to his Heavenly Father at the Ascension he left his disciples and us a message and a promise. Jesus said to them [disciples] , "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of time." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Since Christ walked the paths and streets of the Holy Land, the Church has continually needed to share the message of Christ in ways that makes sense for the hearers. Whether it has been changes in language, adapting the Gospel to cultures much different than first century Palestine, adapting church structures and ministers or many other ways our Church has preserved the message of Jesus and tried to share it in a way for all people to understand.

In a couple of paragraphs from the Archdiocese RENEW MY CHURCH booklet we read, "Rather than retreat from the world, this is a time for the Church to increase its mission in the world. We have now entered what is being identified as a 'New Missionary Age' where, despite numerous challenges, "'the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel' are opening before us, as Pope John Paull II stated." In response, the Church must approach her mission in traditionally Christian spaces with a "renewed missionary impulse, an expression of a new, generous openness to the gift of grace" that invites people to encounter Jesus Christ and to become his disciple. In this era of missionary outreach, as Pope Francis teaches us, we are called to be a "Church which goes forth....forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the 'peripheries'  in need of the light of the Gospel."

As we undertake this work of renewal, we are reminded of the account of how St. Francis of Assisi received his calling to work for the renewal of the Church. As St. Francis was praying before the crucifix in the dilapidated Church of San Damiano, near Assisi, he heard Christ speak to him from the Cross, saying, "Go, repair my house." At first, St. Francis took the message literally. So he started rebuilding the physical building around him, brick-by-brick. However, soon he understood Christ was calling him not to reconstruct a material structure, but to renew the Church itself. This account, and the image of that crucifix, have been a guiding light for us in this time of renewal. Just as thecru cified Christ gave St. Francis the mandate to renew the Church, we pray that Christ will inspire us to have the discernment necessary to know what we need to rebuild and what needs to be made anew in service of renewing his Church.

I will share more about our participation in RENEW MY CHURCH in the coming weeks.

PRAY FOR PEACE & AN END TO THE WAR IN UKRAINE

Recently, Pope Francis appealed for Peace. He said,

"In recent days we have been shaken by something tragic: war. Time and again we have prayed that this road would not be taken. And let us not stop talking; indeed, let us pray to God more intensely.

Those who wage war forget humanity. They do not start from the people, they do not look at the real life of people, but place partisan interests and power before all else. They trust in the diabolical and perverse logic of weapons, which is the furthest from the logic of God. And they distance themselves from ordinary people, who want peace, and who – the ordinary people – are the real victims in every conflict, who pay for the follies of war with their own skin.

I think of the elderly, of those who seek refuge in these times, of mothers fleeing with their children… They are brothers and sisters for whom it is urgent to open humanitarian corridors, and who must be welcomed. With a heart broken by what is happening in Ukraine – and let us not forget the wars in other parts of the world, such as Yemen, Syria, Ethiopia... – I repeat: put down your weapons!

God is with the peacemakers, not with those who use violence. Because those who love peace, as the Italian Constitution states, “reject war as an instrument of aggression against the freedom of other peoples and as a means for the settlement of international disputes”.

Please pray for an end to the killing and destruction in Ukraine. You will find a copy of Pope Francis' Peace Prayer at the Baptismal Fount.

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Let us all continue to use good hygiene practices as we transition to mask-optional protocols. May you have a safe and prayerful Second Week of Lent!

Fr. Michael