October 1, 2017
For all of us associated with St. Peter’s, this is one of the holiest and important weeks of the year since we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Wednesday, October 4. I would like to have sufficient room in this bulletin and the time to write extensively about the life of Francis, but a summary with highlights will have to suffice.
Francis was born in 1182 in Assisi, Italy. He received his primary education at the Church of San Giorgio, probably under the guidance of one of the priests. His father was a cloth merchant and often travelled to France to purchase expensive materials which were used to fashion the finest garments for the women of Assisi. It was his father’s love for France that led to this child being named Francis. In his youth Francis tried to learn the merchant’s trade as he worked in the shop, but he knew he was called to something else. He loved to spend time with his friends, to sing and to dance, to compose poems and to absorb the beautiful colors of the landscape throughout the valleys surrounding Assisi.
He thought he wanted to become a knight, and he joined the military campaign of Walter of Brienne. He had travelled no further than Spoleto when he was laid low by illness. During his recovery, Francis had a dream that made him wonder if he were meant for a military career. He heard someone ask him, “Is it better to serve the lord or the servant?” “The lord,” he replied. “Then why do you serve the servant?” The questions haunted the young man and initiated an intense, restless search that was characterized by periods of solitude, pilgrimage and experimentation.
Later, while he was kneeling before a crucifix in the deteriorating chapel dedicated to St. Damian, he heard a voice say, “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.” He immediately began going from house to house begging for the materials he would need to rebuild this chapel—and several others as well. As he did so, his friends came out to see what he was doing, and they saw that he seemed happier than ever before. At one point he was attending Mass at the Portiuncula chapel and heard St. Matthew’s Missionary Discourse proclaimed. “This is what I want,” Francis declared. “This is what I desire with my whole heart!” As a result, Francis burst upon the world as a poor, itinerant evangelizer proclaiming a simple message of peace and salvation. He did so in such simplicity and with such energy that he was bound to attract followers, several of whom were his friends in his party days.
By 1209 there were twelve brothers. They set off for Rome to receive papal approval for their “form of life.” We do not know what the brothers showed Pope Innocent III, but the sincerity of Francis and his brothers inspired the pope to give them oral approval so that they could live under the protection of the Church without fear of being accused of heresy. So was born the beginning of the Order of Penitents, now known as the Franciscan Order.
Finally, with his brothers gathered around him, Francis died at Our Lady of the Portiuncula, the very place where he had first heard the gospel call. It was the evening of October 3, 1226. His body was slowly carried to the city for burial in the Church of San Giorgio (It was later moved to the magnificent basilica built in his honor). Within two years, his friend Cardinal Hugolino, now Pope Gregory IX, canonized him and, in doing so, sang the praises of God whose marvelous deeds are renewed in every age.
Please join us for the following special celebrations in the days to come:
Today, Sunday, October 1: The Blessing of Animals at 2:00 P.M. in front of church (in the lobby in case of rain): Saint Francis had a great love of all God’s creation since he saw God’s beauty and goodness reflected everywhere. He could walk in the valleys and fields around Assisi and go into ecstasy at what he saw. He loved to spend days and weeks at a time in the quiet of a cave to meditate on how God’s love was manifest in nature. He had a special love of animals (confer the story of the wolf of Gubbio as one example). And he even composed a beautiful poem entitled The Canticle of the Creatures which captures this spirit:
Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing,
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no one is worthy to mention Your name.
Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whomYou give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
We invite you to bring your pet(s) Sunday afternoon to be blessed and to allow us all to praise and thank our God for them and for all of creation. We welcome all animals—dogs, cats, snakes, gerbils, scorpions, fish, etc. In past settings I even blessed goats, sheep, pigs, and horses. The service will not take long, so don’t think your pet will get too distressed. The sounds of their voices will ring out God’s goodness—even shrills and howls.
Tuesday, October 3: At 7:00 P.M. on Tuesday evening we invite you to join us for the traditional Transitus Service, which is always celebrated on the evening before the Feast of Francis. This service recounts the passing of Francis from this life to eternal life. Francis asked his brothers to gather around him and pray as he gave himself back to God. We will gather in the lobby of church and then process inside to hear Brother Elias’ reflection on the life of Francis in his letter to all the friars announcing Francis’ death. We end the service in an attitude of prayer. This simple service is always a moving experience and a reminder of our own future passing from death to life.
Wednesday, October 4: The Solemn Mass begins at 11:40 A.M. and will continue through the 12:15 Mass time. This is truly a time for all the friars and for the many people who come to St. Peter’s either on weekends or on weekdays for Mass, confessions, for our renewal programs downstairs in the auditorium, to visit our Gift Shop, or to visit with a priest on the mezzanine. In a special way we welcome the Secular Franciscans to join us as part of the Franciscan family. The choir will sing to bring added solemnity to this celebration. We invite you not only to the Mass but also to the reception following in the auditorium.
At 5:40 P.M. or shortly after the conclusion of the 5:00 Mass, we will have Solemn Vespers for the Feast of Francis in the church. If you have never come to these Vespers before, we hope you will be able to attend this year. Vespers is the Evening Prayer of the Church, prayed each evening by priests, religious and many laity (and recited each Monday and Wednesday in church at St. Peter’s), but on this feast day everything will be sung, alternating between choir and congregation. In case you have to be concerned about time to get to your train, the service should last about a half hour or so.
Also on Tuesday and Thursday at 12:10 in the St. Clare Auditorium Fr. Bob Hutmacher will offer presentations, the first entitled “The Influence of the Franciscan Movement on Medieval Art” and the second entitled “What Inspires a Franciscan Composer?”
Friday, October 6: At 12:15 we will celebrate a Communal Penance Service in church. Instead of going to confession individually behind a screen, this service will consist of prayers, Scripture, a brief homily, time for an examination of conscience, and then face-to-face confession with a choice of a number of confessors stationed around the church. This manner of confessing stresses the fact that we are all sinners in need of mercy and forgiveness.
May the Feast of Francis and all the festivities of this week be spiritually enriching for all our many friends at St. Peter’s!
TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Chapter 18 of the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, from which today’s First Reading is taken, is designed to read like a legal case with God serving as the judge. The chapter opens with a question about whether a person’s children and grandchildren must pay the price of the parent’s sin. The judge says, “No! Everyone is responsible for their own wrongdoing.” The questions continue. “Will a sinner who repents still suffer the punishment of his sin?” The judge says, “No!” “What happens if a good person turns evil?” The judge says, “They shall die!” Finally, as today’s first reading opens, Ezekiel imagines someone grumbling about God’s ways being unfair. The response is unwavering: God has compassion on the one who repents, but those who embrace evil ways will pay the price.
The Gospel also has the tone of a courtroom, except that Jesus takes on the role of judge, and the learned men who are associated with the Temple discover, at the end of the story, that they are accused. Imagine their surprise! But Jesus is extremely direct with his words. Sinners who repent of their evil ways will enjoy the reign of God, but those who feign righteousness and pretend that they have no need of repentance are excluded.
In the same vein, the Second Reading offers a simple, yet challenging, guide to righteous living. Paul tells the community at Philippi that they should be united in every way and that they should have the same attitude (and pattern of behavior) as Christ Jesus, who emptied himself in obedience to the point of death and whom God honored by exalting above every creature to the glory of God.
The second reading tells us that we should regard others as more important than ourselves. The reading continues, explaining that our attitude should be that of Christ, who “humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” In the encyclical Deus caritas est (God Is Love), Pope Benedict XVI states that when doing charitable works, a person should give of themselves. “I must be personally present in my gift,” the pope writes. “This proper way of serving others also leads to humility. The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be. Christ took the lowest place in the world—the Cross—and by his radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid” (#35). When charitable works are approached with such humility, the giver, as St. Paul states, will participate in the Spirit and show compassion and mercy.
St. Paul notes in the reading from Philippians that God exalted Jesus, who emptied himself, became like us, and humbled himself, in obedience, to endure the cross. In The Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola explains that obedience to the law of God is the way that human beings humble themselves. St Ignatius states, “The first manner of humility is necessary for eternal salvation, namely, that I so lower and so humble myself that in everything I obey the law of God.”
For Your Reflection: Have you questioned God at times when life seemed unfair? How do you regard those for whom you do a charitable act? How does our faith assembly help members to look out for others’ interests?
COME AND SEE WEEKEND
We invite men, ages 20-45, to visit, pray and reflect with the Franciscan Friars for a weekend. It is an occasion to come away and be with others who are considering a vocation and who are on a similar path. This is a time of discovery, not necessarily of decision.
We will have a Come and See weekend here at St. Peter’s on October 13-15. If you would like to participate, or if you have any questions, we invite you to call our Franciscan Vocation Office and speak with either Br. Thom Smith, O.F.M. or Fr. Paul Gallagher, O.F.M. at 312-853-2384. Please do so at your earliest convenience.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE SEASON
After a very long and boring sermon, the parishioners filed out of the church saying nothing to the preacher. Toward the end of the line was a thoughtful person who always commented on the sermons. “Pastor, today your sermon reminded me of the peace and love of God.”
The pastor was thrilled. “Nobody has ever said anything like that about my preaching before. Tell me why.”
The person responded, “Because it endured forever!”