October 13, 2019

As I begin to write this article for the bulletin, the 2019 General Assembly of the United Nations is in full swing with leaders from many nations of the world in attendance, and it reminded me of the visit of Pope Francis to the United States in 2015 along with his historic speech to a joint session of the United States Congress on September 24th of that year. Pope Francis said some very important words and shared many insights back then and now, four years later, it seems to me that his vision is just as timely now as it was back then. Let me refresh your memory for a few minutes.

 

Pope Francis told the members of the Congress that the past, the promise and the potential of the United States must not be smothered by bickering and even hatred at a time when the U.S. people and indeed the world need a helping hand. In his speech he gave the sense that he sees the United States as a country divided, one so focused on calling each other names that it risks losing sight of how impressive it can be when its people come together for the common good.. That is when it is a beacon of hope for the world he said. He condemned legalized abortion, the death penalty and unscrupulous weapons sales. And referring to himself as a “son of immigrants”—and pointing out that many listening to him are too—he pleaded for greater openness to accepting immigrants.

 

“I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money, and to build a better life for their families,” he said. “These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.”

 

You might remember that he used four iconic U.S. citizens as relevant models of virtue for Americans today: Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did; when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed as Dorothy Day did by her timeless work; the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.”

 

Describing political service with the same tone used to describe a vocation to religious life—“you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you”—the pope recognized the weighty responsibility of being a member of the U.S. Congress. “Dialogue,” he said, “is the only way to handle the pressure and fulfill the call to serve the common good, promoting a culture of hope and healing, of peace and justice.” “It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. The dialogue the country needs must be respectful of our differences and our convictions of conscience.”

 

“The creation and distribution of wealth obviously is important for continued efforts to reduce poverty in the United States and around the globe. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable.” “Business is a noble vocation” when it seeks the common good. And today, he told legislators, the common good includes protecting the environment and taking bold steps to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

 

I find it interesting to reflect on these words of Pope Francis four years ago to the Congress and to the American people when right now these sessions at the United Nations are taking place when the issues of climate change, the Peace Accord with Iran, the bombing of the oil storage tanks in Saudi Arabia, etc. are being discussed and debated. While things change, in some ways they do not change, but the principles and truths that are needed for permanent solutions remain the same. Pope Francis continues to remind us of these as we are hearing once again currently at the Synod of the Amazon in Rome. May we listen with open ears and open hearts to the voice of authority and experience.

 

TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

Today’s readings offer two examples of people whose lives were transformed through miraculous healings and return to give thanks. In the First Reading, the leper, Naaman, is an army commander who was healed of his disease. Despite his initial reluctance, he followed the prophet Elisha’s instructions and bathed in the Jordan River seven times. Instead of returning home, he first sought out Elisha to thank him and offer him a reward. Elisha declined his gift but allowed Naaman to take home some earth to build a shrine to the God of Israel. Naaman found faith as well as healing.

 

In a similar way, in the Gospel, Jesus heals ten lepers (nine Israelites and one Samaritan) but only one returns to give thanks to Jesus, “Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Not only does this foreigner, a Samaritan, find healing; he also finds faith.

 

In both readings, a foreigner returns to give thanks. In both readings, their healings lead to thankfulness that generates faith. Their physical healing is an external manifestation of their spiritual healing. Jesus deliberately drew attention to the faith of this Samaritan to illustrate that  faith and salvation in Jesus Christ extend beyond the borders of Israel to all people. As Paul states in the Second Reading, “The word of God is not chained.” Faith, salvation, thanksgiving: all are intimately connected in today’s readings as they are in the Eucharist that we celebrate.

 

Naaman, a Gentile, came to know the love of God after being healed of leprosy. Upon his conversion, his allegiance was to the Lord. It did not matter to the prophet Elisha that Naaman was other than an Israelite; he had compassion for him and instructed him. The Church aims to evangelize throughout the world so that each person may have a relationship with Christ. Pope Francis states in The Joy of the Gospel, “Its [the Church’s] joy in communicating Jesus Christ is expressed both by a concern to preach him to areas in greater need and in constantly going forth to the outskirts of its own territory or towards new sociocultural settings” (#30).

 

Psalm 98 proclaims that the Lord has revealed his justice “in the sight of the nations.” It is important to keep in mind that God has called us as a people. Pope Francis states in The Joy of the Gospel, “The salvation which God has wrought, and the Church joyfully proclaims, is for everyone. God has found a way to unite himself to every human being in every age. He has chosen to call them together as a people and not as isolated individuals”(#113).

 

The author of the Letter to Timothy relates that his mission is to preach the Gospel. Despite the sufferings that come with doing so, he stays focused on spreading the Word of God. The Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et spes explains that the Church’s mission is to assist people in encountering the love of God. The document states, “Whether it aids the world or whether it benefits from it, the Church has but one sole purpose—that the kingdom of God may come and the salvation of the human race may be accomplished. Every benefit the people of God can confer on humanity during its earthly pilgrimage is rooted in the Church’s being ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for humanity” (#45).

 

For Your Reflection: Has an event ever caused you to re-examine your relationship with God? What does it mean to you to die to self and to live in Christ? When has something extraordinary happened to you that you later realized was from God?

 

MEMORIAL OF ST. TERESA OF AVILA

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

 

Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. She was born before the Protestant Reformation and died almost 20 years after the closing of the Council of Trent. The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman, she was a contemplative, and she was an active reformer.

 

As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man’s world of her time. She was “her own woman,” entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical, intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience, a mystic, yet an energetic reformer—a holy woman, a womanly woman.

 

Teresa was a woman “for God,” a woman of prayer, discipline, and compassion. Her heart belonged to God. Her ongoing conversion was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged, and opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful. She struggled with her own mediocrity, her illness, her opposition. And in the midst of all this, she clung to God in life and in prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical and graceful. She was a woman of prayer, a woman for God.

 

She was a woman “for others.” Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She travelled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform, in herself, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched. She was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.

 

Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers. In 1970, the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: Doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena were the first women so honored.

 

BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE

 

Once again this year we will have a Book of Remembrance so that you may write in relatives and good friends who have died. This book will be in the rear of church from now until All Souls Day on November 2, when it will be placed at the St. Joseph Altar. The book will remain there during the entire month of November, and those who are written in the book will be remembered in the Masses celebrated at the main altar throughout November. Please be judicious in deciding the number of names you place in the book so that there will be room for others to also take advantage of this opportunity.

 

SECOND COLLECTION NEXT WEEKEND

 

Next weekend we join with the Catholic Church across the globe to celebrate World Mission Sunday. This annual Second Collection provides critical support to communities of faith in some of the most economically disadvantaged regions of the world. Working with limited means, these local churches bear witness to the Gospel amid poverty and turmoil, addressing all forms of material and spiritual need. On World Mission Sunday we stand in solidarity with them through prayerful and financial support.

 

Who does the World Mission Sunday Collection serve?

 

            --Approximately 75 percent supports efforts of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith to help sustain over 1,000 mission dioceses in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands.

            --Nearly 10 percent supports the work of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association to alleviate poverty, foster Christian Unity, and promote interreligious dialogue in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India, and Eastern Europe.

            --About 15 percent supports the operations of the Mission Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago, which builds bridges of love and support between global missionaries and members of the Church in Chicago.

 

In his message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis states that “No one is so poor as to be unable to give what they have, but first and foremost what they are.” Those serving in mission at the global peripheries, especially communities and individuals who follow the command to serve despite their own financial struggles, witness this message of service and self-sacrifice. By joining with them, we in turn bear witness to a message of love and compassion so needed in our world today.

 

CHICAGO MARATHON

 

This weekend we welcome the runners and their guests for the Chicago Marathon. No doubt there will be a good number of runners who will come to our Saturday 5:00 PM Vigil Mass as they have done in the past. We are pleased that these individuals take time out of their immediate preparation for the run to participate in Mass as part of that preparation. We will call up the runners for a special blessing after Communion at that 5:00 Mass. In the past, we have also had runners who had completed the marathon who came to either the 12:30 or 6:00 PM Masses. It is our hope and prayer that everyone enjoys the event and that all complete it in safety. We will look forward to seeing you next year as well.

 

OPEN HOUSE CHICAGO 2019

 

Organized by the Chicago Architectural Foundation, Open House Chicago is a free annual event that takes visitors behind-the-scenes to more than 350 great places and spaces across the city. The eighth annual Open House will be held next weekend, October 19-20. This city-wide festival is a unique, once-a-year opportunity for the public to experience Chicago’s rich architecture, culture and history by participating in self-guided explorations of the city and its diverse neighborhoods.

 

This year St. Peter’s will again be participating in the Open House by opening our doors to those who are interested on Sunday, October 20, from 1:30-5:00. We would welcome assistance from any volunteers either to welcome people in the lobby or to show them the church and tell a bit of our history. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Jo Ann Bednar in her office on the lower level of the church or by calling her at 312-853-2376. This would be a great opportunity to meet many people and to tell them about our church and the people we serve.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR THE FALL SEASON

 

A little boy watched, fascinated, as his mother gently rubbed cold cream on her face.

 

“Why are you rubbing cold cream on your face, mommy?” he asked.

 

“To make myself beautiful,” said his mother.

 

A few minutes later, she began removing the cream with a tissue. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “Are you giving up?”