We hear a lot these days about the importance of a New Evangelization. Usually that term is explained by discussing new ways to touch the hearts and minds of people, whether that be young children, young adults, older individuals who might not have learned their religious education in the faith all that well as youngsters, parents who want to teach their children well as they are growing up, new ways to influence all kinds of people in our ever-increasing secularistic society, etc. Often it refers to new approaches, new methods, new insights from an educational standpoint, but basically no matter how we approach the subject, it means that each one of us is called to live daily what Jesus and the Church has taught and to do it by our words, but especially by our actions.
We’ve heard that adage over and over, “Actions speak louder than words,” and that’s so true, isn’t it? While deep down we know this to be the case, we perhaps wonder whether it really makes a difference in the world we live in. Does basically just living our faith day in and day out actually influence how others might be moved to change their ways of looking at things or in particular to know Jesus Christ better? We certainly would like to think so, but seldom does anyone come up to us and tell us so.
Recently I came across two real life incidents that did just that, and I would like to share them with you. Both come from a professional sports background coincidentally. Monty Williams presently is an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder professional basketball team and the former head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. He has been married to his lovely wife Ingrid for twenty years, and they have been blessed with five children: Lael, Faith, Janna, Elijah and Micah. Unfortunately, Williams’ wife died on February 10 from injuries sustained a day earlier in an accident when her car was struck head-on by an SUV that crossed the center line after losing control. The other driver, 52-year-old Susannah Donaldson, also died.
In an emotionally charged eulogy at the funeral, Coach Williams spoke about the wonderful life he had had with his wife and how each day he looked forward to returning home after practices to be with her and his family. He said they often did very little exciting things; they usually just hung out together and enjoyed each other’s company. That’s what he will miss the most in the days ahead, he said. She will not be there as his loving wife and companion. Movingly he declared that she is not now lost. “She is with God where we all need to be, and I’m envious of that.” He recognized that the future would be difficult, but “God will be with us and will take care of our needs.”
He thanked all of the people who had been praying for his wife and for him and his family, but he was quick to add, “Let’s not forget there were two people in this accident, and that family needs prayer as well. We hold no ill will toward the Donaldson family.” Many NBA coaches and players attended the funeral. One of them commented afterwards, “That was probably one of the most powerful moments of my life, sitting there and listening to him have the strength to stand there in front of his children and ask everybody to pray for the other lady that lost her life. I thought that showed strength and courage I’ve never experienced in my life. Our hearts are with him. He’s clearly one of the best people I know. I don’t think I could be as strong as he is in that kind of situation.”
The second incident involves Scott Darling, who grew up in suburban Lemont and now is the backup goalie of the Chicago Blackhawks. Scott was in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the Blackhawks were staying prior to their game with the Arizona Coyotes, and he met a man on the street who was in need. They began to talk and the man shared a bit of his story. As a result, Scott took the man to a hotel and paid his rent for an entire month until he could get back on his feet. He even went out and bought the man some groceries to get started. Scott told no one about what had happened except his fiancée, but the story leaked out due to some interesting coincidences. An Uber driver had driven Scott and the homeless man to the hotel. The driver noted that Scott played hockey and was a goalie, but he did not get his name. He was so struck by the generosity of the hockey player that he wanted to know who he was.
Shortly thereafter, the same Uber driver picked up another customer who also had goalie materials with him (he played for a pickup team in the area). The driver told him the story, asked if he had any idea who the original goalie might be, and eventually through Google discovered it was Scott Darling. The Uber driver said of Scott, “I’ve never met anyone in my life who was so sincere. He really changed my life.” Had it not been for this Uber driver, Scott’s good deed would never have come to light.
Darling, more than many others, knows what it’s like to fall on harder times. He has had to battle alcoholism, was kicked off the University of Maine’s hockey team, and then spent a number of years winding through a number of minor league teams. He says, “I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for people battling stuff that other people don’t understand. He seemed like a really nice person. I’m in a position to help somebody like that. I’m happy to do it.”
These are just two examples of individuals that have given witness to the Faith. What are you and I going to do this week to give witness to ours?
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
The episode narrated in the Book of Joshua today tells of a new chapter in the history of the chosen people. Gilgal commemorates the place where the Israelites entered the promised land after their time in the wilderness. After 40 years they entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua and began settling in the land. Today we hear that they “celebrated the Passover,” commemorating their deliverance from Egypt under Moses. During their time in the wilderness, the Lord provided them with manna, but now we hear that for the first time “they ate of the produce of the land,” and “the manna ceased.” Now they begin to eat off the land God has given them.
Paul tells us that to share in the life of Christ is to be “a new creation.” Because of our sins we were alienated from God, but God is “reconciling the world to himself in Christ.” In saying God “made him to be sin,” Paul means that Christ became the offering to God on behalf of our sins. His death ransomed us from death and reconciled us to God.
It is significant that Luke tells us that today’s parable is addressed to “the Pharisees and scribes” who were complaining about the fact that Jesus is associating with “tax collectors and sinners.” In his introduction to the parable of the prodigal son, he calls us to focus on the complaints of the older brother, who was resentful of his younger brother and his father’s mercy. Like the older brother, the Pharisees and scribes complain about the mercy shown to “your son.” The older brother will not even refer to him as “my brother.” But the father invites him to “celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again.”
For Reflection: How can I share more fully in the life of Christ? Am I more like the prodigal son or the older brother? Do I understand and appreciate that often I share in the Father’s mercy just as they did?
SECOND COLLECTION THIS WEEKEND
The Church in Central and Eastern Europe
This collection helps to provide a stable future for the Catholic Church in Central and Eastern Europe, a region long suffering spiritual repression and economic hardship. The theme for this year’s collection is “Restore the Church, Build the Future,” and focuses on repairing and building Church structures, strengthening Catholic education and social services, and assisting in the development of Church leadership to ensure a solid future for the Church. In 2014, the collection funded 290 grants totaling $7.85 million benefitting the Catholic Church in 24 out of 28 countries served.
One funded project that focuses on caring for every human life is the Aregak Center, located in Gyumri, Armenia. The center offers resources and primary care for children with multiple disabilities. Created jointly by Caritas Armenia and Caritas Vorarlberg (Austria), it is the first center of its kind in the country to offer both primary care and integrative community programs. The Aregak Center serves as a meeting point where people with and without disabilities participate together in a variety of recreational and therapeutic activities. The center also runs the Daycare Center for Children with Multiple Disabilities, where professional staff and volunteers offer therapies and group activities designed to expand and stimulate the capabilities of each child. In these activities, the center works toward changing attitudes toward people with disabilities and breaking down prejudices that have stigmatized and segregated the disabled in Armenian society.
In the predominantly Orthodox Russian Siberia, the Catholic Church makes up just a tiny portion of the faithful population. Yet, many Catholic religious communities from around the globe continue to make their homes in Siberia despite its rural terrain and difficult climate. These communities tirelessly provide necessary care for orphans, the homeless, and families in need.
In the diocese of Irkutsk, the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Conception in Angarsk, Siberia, are no different. Operating out of a small, single family home, the sisters began to care for local children during the day while their parents or guardians went out to seek employment or report to work. Many of these children were hungry when they arrived in the morning and were poorly clothed during the harsh winters.
The sisters, providing for more and more children, began to outgrow their small home. With the help of a grant from the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, the sisters built a new, larger daycare center, complete with heat, indoor plumbing, and a kitchen. The sisters also constructed a small garden that the children are able to help care for in between their lessons.
These are just a few of the projects funded by this collection. Please be generous this weekend in this second collection so that even more might be done in the future.
CHIARA LUBICH MEMORIAL MASS
You are invited to the Chiara Lubich Memorial Mass here at St. Peter’s on Friday, March 11, at 5:00 P.M. There will be a reception with light snacks in the St. Clare auditorium after the Mass.
Pope Francis has encouraged everyone “to spread to the entire People of God the life and works of Chiara Lubich who, on answering the Lord’s call, has become a new light on the road to unity.”
Chiara Lubich has received the title “Servant of God,” and the process has begun for her eventual canonization as a saint. She was the founder of the Focolare Movement, also called the Work of Mary. The Focolare is present in 182 countries on five continents. Besides the 100,000 or so members at the core of the movement, it includes about two million friends and adherents.
Everything about the Focolare has to do with unity and the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer that “all may be one.” The Focolare is about every aspect of unity—unity with God, unity in the Church, unity in the family, unity in religious communities, unity in parishes, unity between old and young, between rich and poor, and unity between people of different beliefs, cultures and racial backgrounds.
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
Next weekend (Sunday, March 13, 2016) we begin Daylight Saving Time throughout the United States. Daylight saving time was begun as a way of saving electricity by extending the daylight hours longer into the evening and thereby encouraging people to not use lights in their homes until truly needed. It was also a way of helping to have children going to school in the daylight during the fall days of the school year. It has been argued over and over whether either or both of these goals has actually been accomplished, but the fact of the matter is that daylight saving time seems to be an accomplished reality for now and for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, be sure to set your clocks ahead by the witching hour of 2:00 A.M. next Sunday so that you will arrive in church at the correct time for Sunday Mass. We look forward to seeing you all here at St. Peter’s wide awake despite the fact that you may have lost an hour of sleep due to the time change. We will try to make our liturgies even more worshipful and our homilies more interesting to assist you in that process!
INSTITUTE FOR DIACONAL STUDIES
Are you interested in inquiring about becoming a deacon for the Archdiocese of Chicago? Please join the Institute for Diaconal Studies on Sunday, March 6, at St. Philip the Apostle in Northfield to celebrate the Eucharist at the 11:45 A.M. Mass, followed by an Exploring the Diaconate session from 1:00-2:00 PM. Directors of the Institute will welcome you and discuss all aspects of the archdiocese’s deacon formation program, including application requirements and all elements of the formation journey. Wives of potential applicants are welcome and urged to attend as well.
For more information, contact Deacon Bob Puhala at [email protected] or call 847-837-4564.
A CHUCKLE FOR LENT
A man went to a pet shop looking to buy a parrot. The shop had several parrots for sale, but one was priced much cheaper than the others. When the man asked why one was so much cheaper than the others, the pet shop owner assured the man that he did not want the cheaper one because it had a very foul mouth.
“I’ve tried everything, but I can’t get him to stop cussing,” he explained.
Eager to save some money, the man bought the parrot, sure he could teach the bird not to cuss. He, too, tried everything to stop the parrot’s foul mouth.
Finally, in frustration, he put the bird in the freezer to cool off. After a few minutes, he opened the freezer to find the parrot with a totally changed attitude. “Please, I’ll NEVER cuss again! Please let me out! By the way, what did that chicken do?”