May 23, 2021

In the second reading today from St. Paul we hear, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord…..To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” (1 Cor12: 4-7) On this feast of Pentecost we are reminded that the Gospel message Christ preached while he walked the earth has been entrusted to us who are his followers to continue to share the Good News of the Gospel.

Throughout the world there are over 1.2 billion Catholics. That's a lot of brothers and sisters in the faith (!) Over 40% of Catholics live in Latin America. The fastest increasing area for growth in the Catholic Church is in Africa. Catholics continue to be the largest single denomination in the USA with over 68,202,492 Catholics and the second largest single denomination is Southern Baptists with 16,136,044. (Statistics from National Council of Churches.)

From the very beginnings of our faith, we have welcomed a diverse group of people into the Church. For over 2, 000 years we have taken Christ's words from the Gospel, "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," as our guide and direction to living our faith.

On this Pentecost weekend we give thanks to God that Fr. Marc Sheckells, OFM, accepted a call from God to live the Franciscan life and bring the Gospel to others. On Saturday, May 22 with the laying on of hands by Bishop Robert Lombardo, CFR, Br. Marc was ordained a priest. Fr. Marc has studied many years here in Chicago both at DePaul University and Catholic Theological Union preparing for ordination. If you have been at any of the Masses here at St. Peter's this past year when Br. Marc preached the homily, you know he is a talented and engaging preacher. Fr. Marc is celebrating a Mass of Thanksgiving today (Sunday, May 23) at the 11:00am Mass. We wish Fr. Marc God's blessings as he will be moving to Cleveland, Ohio to teach at Padua Franciscan High School.

As I wrote in last weekend's bulletin, Fr. Bob Hutmacher, OFM, wrote an article for the May 2021 issue of The Franciscan Legionnaire. I found his words very challenging and worthy of reflection by all of us who profess our Christian faith. As Franciscans his words reflect the heritage left us by St. Francis of Assisi and the call by our Holy Father, Pope Francis to promote peace and justice in our world today. The first part of the article was in last weekend's bulletin.  You will find the concluding part of the article in today's church bulletin.

Fr. Michael

GUNS DESTROY LIFE

(Second part of Fr. Bob Hutmacher's article from May 2021 The Franciscan Legionnaire.

We Franciscans pattern our lives after a pacifist, a true man of peace who came to abhor violence of any kind.  In 1202 he begged his father to outfit him with the fine armor, weapons and trappings of a gallant knight to join Assisi forces against neighboring Perugia.  Francis barely made it a few kilometers across the plain below Assisi and was captured, imprisoned for a year and ransomed by Pietro Bernadone, his enraged and disgusted father.  Back to the business of selling fabrics ~ until he had another urge to do battle with the army of Pope Innocent III against the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, who was raised as an orphan by Innocent himself! 

Before he even reached the papal army in Apulia Francis had a dream.  Celano recalls it in his Life of St. Francis: It seemed to him that his whole house was filled with soldiers’ arms – saddles, shields, spears and other weapons.  Though delighting for the most part, Francis silently wondered to himself about its meaning. Francis initially interpreted it as a sign of great military success.  However, after deep prayer and discernment Francis came to understand his dream meant success of a religious nature.  He refused to go on to Apulia, sold his horse and armor and went into hiding at the little chapel of San Damiano outside Assisi. Francis experienced a darkness from lack of self-confidence simultaneously mixed with an ‘indescribable happiness never before experienced.’

Our founder saw first-hand the horrors of medieval warfare and was a POW. He probably contracted tuberculosis in prison that affected him the rest of his life.  His abhorrence of any kind of violence imbues his writings and our Rule of Life.  This is why the Franciscan movement has, for 800 years, stood in opposition to every major war, social upheaval, ecological and cultural disaster. 

We have no room for violence in our lives. In the Rule of 1223 Francis wrote: The rule and life of the lesser brothers is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, without property and in chastity.  The Lord Jesus is acclaimed Prince of Peace; we pray numerous times in the Eucharist that he “grant us peace.” We are bound to live what we profess, so there is no room for violence in any form.

We Catholics and peace advocates around the world have great support from Pope Francis.  In 2020 he lamented rising gun sales in the U.S. as a symptom of a “violent, unstable society.”  Francis, amid reports earlier this year of rising gun sales, called for world leaders to "dismantle the perverse logic that links personal and national security to the possession of weaponry. This logic serves only to increase the profits of the arms industry, while fostering a climate of distrust and fear between persons and peoples."  Amen.    

I fired a gun once in my life.  A neighbor took me to his grandparents’ farm and asked me to kill a frog. I fired his 12-gauge shotgun and the bullfrog disappeared.  I’ve ever touched a firearm since that summer day.  I never will. Every Christian is baptized into the life of the Gospel, the life of The Peacemaker.  My heart jumps out of my chest with every newsflash of guns used in a bar, at a party, in a front yard, on I-290, in a park and, most evil and disrespectful: in a mosque, a church, a synagogue, a temple.    

In his 1975 exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi Paul VI wrote (and this is his very first sentence!): There is no doubt that the effort to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today, who are buoyed up by hope but at the same time often oppressed by fear and distress, is a service rendered to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity.  Do NOT think you can do nothing to stem violence in this country. 

Pope Paul went on to write that to evangelize others, ‘I must first evangelize myself’. Read the Gospels about Jesus bringing comfort to those who mourned or cried for justice or begged for healing; each one he touched was given the gift of peace.  I cannot take on the CPD alone, nor drug lords nor those who twist the second Amendment into an excuse to own a $3,000 semi-automatic shotgun. However, I can be Christ in the world with words of reconciliation, good manners that offer respect to all God’s children, a smile to someone who’s suffering, bravely witness to the goodness of God’s love.

In the words of Francis: Humble yourselves that you may be exalted by Christ! Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, so that He who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally!   There are times we may not want to swallow pride, but we do profess Christ, the Humility of God. Stand up for justice, for gun control and an equitable society where everybody can play in the yard without fear.

We are deeply grateful for your constant care and support, especially during this COVID plague. We pray for you daily so we can bring God’s peace to others.  May God fill you with peace and everything that is good!

Fr. Bob Hutmacher, ofm