May 31, 2020

So much of our time these days is spent on wondering when we all will get back to a semblance of what we have known in the past. We have tried to listen to professional medical personnel as they have outlined what they thought was absolutely necessary in order to address all the aspects of this Coronavirus pandemic. We have heard what people in Washington, D.C. have outlined as far as what is needed for a recovery not only from the virus but also for the recovery of our economic situation in the United States, both on the federal, the state and the local levels. We have listened intently to our Illinois Governor’s daily briefings in order to find out how and when we will have arrived at the point to move through the five stages he has outlined for the recovery of our state.

 

We have also witnessed a variety of protests in Illinois as well as in other states in which people were basically objecting to the length of time they have been under Stay at Home ordinances. Many wanted small business of all kinds to be able to open sooner even with some restrictions as to how many people could be in a business at one time, whether they had to wear masks, how they were to remain socially distant, etc. Most of us can readily understand why so many people are getting on edge. We friars have also been shut in with all the church doors locked for now two months and a half. It has been excruciating to have had no public services of any kind and no income for the church and friary except for some wonderful benefactors who have continued to gift us.Nerves everywhere have been stretched and restretched.

 

What all of us have missed most is not being able to celebrate the sacraments, especially Eucharist and Reconciliation. We long to come together as a people of faith to hear the Word of God, to pray together, to receive the Lord in Holy Communion, and to be strengthened individually and communally. It is difficult enough when we are ill for a short time and therefore not able to come to church for nourishment, but we most likely never have had to “go without” for close to three months. To be quite honest, we probably never gave what has actually happened a passing thought because we never imagined such a thing would ever take place.

 

Well, I am happy to tell you that we now are working at putting together a gradual church reopening process. Last week in the bulletin I published a letter from Cardinal Cupich in which he announced that good news for the churches of the Archdiocese, although he did not go into detail about how it would occur. All the parishes have now received a very well thought out and detailed plan for this purpose. The plan is designed to slowly but surely open our churches for sacramental worship and to do so with the safety of both clergy and worshippers very much in mind. The Cardinal mentions in his letter that all this has been done with the restrictions of the governor and the governor’s plan in mind.

 

Phase 1 of the Archdiocesan plan addresses the issues of baptisms, weddings, funerals and reconciliation. Here at St. Peter’s only reconciliation applies. In preparation to comply with the conditions to be implemented in this phase, each parish had to put together a Leadership Team and a group of volunteers to address the need for greeters, cleaners and ushers. In this first phase, only ten people at a time are allowed to be present for confession. As they are finished, another group of no more than ten will be allowed inside for the same purpose. We have decided that at least for the beginning of the reopening process, we will celebrate reconciliation in one (and if necessary) two stations in the auditorium. After each confession the chair used by the penitent will have to be disinfected. We will hear confessions only from 10:30-3:00 Monday through Saturday.

 

Another aspect of this phase one is that the main doors of the church will continue to be locked. Anyone wishing to come in for confession must enter through the handicap door so that we will be able to make sure that only ten people will be inside at one time. We have marked the hallway on the lower level with tape to indicate how those waiting will remain six feet apart at all times. After a penitent has finished his/her confession, we will ask that they exit the building immediately so that others may be ushered in if they are waiting. No one will be able to visit the nave of the church during this phase one process.

 

Phase 1A allows for ten people at a time to come to church for private prayer. The church space will be marked in such a way that each person will be at least six feet from each other. Where you will be allowed to be seated will be marked with tape and, just as in the hallway downstairs, the aisles will also have tape to indicate being six feet apart. You will be asked to please stay in your place while you are in church rather than walking around the church. We will have to disinfect each space where an individual has been kneeling or sitting before the next group of ten will come in for private prayer. If others are waiting to enter, we will ask you to limit the time you are in the church.

 

All of these precautions above are meant to gradually open the church and to have people avail themselves of our church home but to do it with the safety of the friars and of the faithful to be preserved to the extent possible.

 

Phase 2 deals with the beginning of public weekday and weekend Masses. I will outline what we will be doing in this regard in next week’s bulletin. Please continue to pray for yourself, your loved ones, and all those trying to adapt to these new realities over these next weeks in particular. We are not used to having our availability to come to the church, whenever it is convenient, controlled, but hopefully by observing patience and charity for the time being we will both address our spiritual needs and do it safely for ourselves and others.

 

Please check our website at www.stpetersloop.org for the latest details on the gradual reopening of our church in accord with these phases above. To some extent, the actual dates for the beginning of each phase will depend on our certification from the archdiocese for each phase and our ability to implement all the requirements for each phase. The number of people inside the church building at any one time may also depend on the latest information from the Governor and the Mayor. Stay tuned and visit the website frequently.

 

THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST

 

A miracle of language takes place when the Holy Spirit descends on the Church. Only verse four in the second chapter of Acts notes the speaking of various languages, but seven verses emphasize the ability of people to hear and understand. Despite the presence of people from “every nation under heaven” and hence of multiple languages, people are able to hear and understand each other.

 

If Acts 2 associates the Holy Spirit’s coming with hearing and understanding, the verses in John 20 link it with peace and forgiveness. Forgiveness can help to bring peace, but forgiveness seldom occurs without hearing and understanding, which enable one to put oneself in another’s shoes.

 

Perhaps one of the reasons for our difficulties in hearing, understanding, forgiving, and being at peace with others is our failure to learn that difference is a gift of the Holy Spirit, as today’s Second Reading makes clear. The same Holy Spirit does not bring about uniformity; instead, we are gifted with different abilities, roles, and functions.

 

The reading further emphasizes that we are given gifts by the Holy Spirit “for some benefit.” In Acts 2, what people hear and understand are “the mighty acts of God.” Likewise, the giving of the Holy Spirit in John 20 has to do with the disciples being sent out on mission. That Jesus needs to give his peace pronouncement twice may indicate that the disciples’ rejoicing is premature. They did not understand yet that they too will be sent out, and in doing so, they may experience what Jesus experienced in his hands and side.

 

We find this larger purpose of Pentecost again in Psalm 104 as our response to the First Reading. The Holy Spirit works to renew all creation and the face of the earth. Pentecostal peace involves more than peace among human beings.

 

During the Second Reading, we hear St. Paul tell the Corinthians, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Paul is explaining that the Spirit has a part in what occurs through Jesus. Later in the Reading, Paul relates the formation of the Body of Christ, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the Son and the Spirit are sent together. “When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is the Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him” (#689.

 

In the reading from Acts, the Apostles testified to their faith while speaking in many tongues. Evangelization, though, occurs in ordinary ways at quiet moments. Pope Paul VI pointed out in Evangelii nuntiandi that evangelization is simply telling people of the love of God. The apostolic exhortation states, “To evangelize is first of all to bear witness, in a simple and direct way, to God revealed by Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to bear witness that in his Son God has loved the world—that in his Incarnate Word he has given being to all things and has called all people to eternal life” (#26).

 

For Your Reflection: When has the gathering of many types of people been a witness to the work of the Spirit? How have you used your spiritual gifts to build up the Church? Who may be awaiting your offer of peace?

 

 MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH

Monday, June 1, 2020

 

By issuing the Decree on the celebration of the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, Pope Francis wishes to promote this devotion in order to “encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety.” The decree reflects on the history of Marian theology in the Church’s liturgical tradition and the writing of the Church Fathers.

 

It says Saint Augustine and Pope Saint Leo the Great both reflected on the Virgin Mary’s importance in the mystery of Christ.  “In fact, St. Augustine says that Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, because with charity she cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church. St. Leo says that the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, thus indicating that Mary is at once Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of the Mystical Body, which is the Church.” The decree says these reflections are a result of the “divine motherhood of Mary and from her intimate union in the work of the Redeemer.”

 

Scripture, the decree says, depicts Mary at the foot of the cross (cf. Jun. 19:25). There she became the Mother of the Church when she “accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal.”

 

In 1964, the decree says, Pope Paul VI “declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as ‘Mother of the Church, that is to say, of all Christian people, the faithful as well as the pastors, who call her the most loving Mother’ and established that ‘the Mother of God should be further honored and invoked by the entire Christian people by this tenderest of titles.’”

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

 

During this time before we have the opportunity to celebrate weekday and weekend public Masses, I encourage you to frequently pray the prayer below, a prayer composed by St. Alphonsus Ligouri. It is a way of uniting ourselves with Jesus, the Bread of Life and with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament:

 

“My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR PENTECOST

 

It was Saturday morning as Jake, an avid hunter, woke up raring to go bag the first dear of the season. He walks down to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, and to his surprise, he finds his wife, Alice, sitting there, fully dressed in camouflage.

 

Jake asks her, “What are you up to?”

 

Alice smiles, “I’m going hunting with you!” Jake, though he had many reservations about this, reluctantly decides to take her along.

 

Three hours later, they arrive at a game preserve just outside of San Marcos, Texas. Jake sets his lovely wife safely up in the tree stand and tells her, “If you see a deer, take careful aim on it and I’ll come running back as soon as I hear the shot.”

 

Jake walks away with a smile on his face, knowing that Alice couldn’t bag an elephant—much less a dear. Not 10 minutes pass when he is startled as he hears an array of gunshots. Quickly, Jake starts running back. As Jake gets closer to her stand, he hears Alice screaming, “Get away from my deer!”

 

Confused and frightened, Jake races faster towards his screaming wife. And again he hears her yell, “Get away from my deer now!” followed by another volley of gunfire.

 

Now within sight of where he had left his wife, Jake is surprised to see a Texas cowboy, with his hands raised high in the air. The cowboy, obviously distraught, says, “Okay, lady! You can have your deer! Just let me get my saddle off it!”