During the month of October, throughout the Church in the USA, we focus attention on our call to promote Respect for all of Life.
On Monday, October 4, we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis showed care and concern for all, especially the poor. He reverenced God’s hand in all creation. He lived his life so faithful to that of Christ that he is called alter Christus, another Christ. As we honor this saint known throughout the world, I urge all parishioners to pray and work hard for a deeper respect for all of God’s creation, all of life. Francis began life in a small Italian town that saw war and destruction constantly. He lived in a time of scandal in the Church and in society. Francis' approach to the many problems and issues of medieval Italy can also teach us much about being faithful to the Gospel in our own turbulent times.
Francis heard God's call in the small church of San Damiano on the outskirts of Assisi. Gazing upon the large cross in the church he heard God, Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling completely into ruin. Initially Francis thought God wanted him to repair the physical church where he was praying. However, under the guidance of God's Holy Spirit, Francis realized his real task was to bring healing and repair to a broken Church. Under God’s inspiration he brought peace and respect between all classes of people. God continues to call us to do no less…..respecting all of life in the world, in our country and right here in Chicago.
Franciscans throughout the world remember the passing of St. Francis of Assisi to eternal life today, October 3rd. The Franciscans here at St. Peter's invite you to join us for this prayer service to commemorate the death of St. Francis. It will be held in the church this afternoon Sunday, October 3 at 1:30 pm. Tomorrow, Monday, October 4 we celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi at the 11:40 am and 1:15 pm Masses. Yesterday, Saturday, October 2, we had our annual blessing of animals at the front of the church.
As we gather this weekend to celebrate the Eucharist, I encourage each of us to contemplate these words of Pope Francis who challenges each of us to promote respect for life. The Holy Father said, All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable….. The sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.
Throughout the Gospels we hear Jesus call everyone who wishes to be his followers, to promote life. As the Pope continues to remind us…the role of the Church is to be missionary. In other words we are not to rest on our past glories or on our present actions. As the Pope reminds us we are to bring the Gospel stories and the message of Jesus to our world today. In his Apostolic Exhortation (The Joy of the Gospel, 2013) the Pope wrote:
Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbors or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home.
Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey. In this preaching, which is always respectful and gentle, the first step is personal dialogue when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs. Only afterwards is it possible to bring up God’s word.
The message of God’s love has to be shared humbly as a testimony on the part of one who is always willing to learn, in the awareness that the message is so rich and so deep that it always exceeds our grasp. In this way they will have an experience of being listened to and understood; they will know that their particular situation has been placed before God, and that God’s word really speaks to their lives. (#127)
I encourage you to pray the following prayer during this October. It was published by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Respect Life:
Virgin of Guadalupe, Patroness of unborn children, we implore your intercession for every child at risk of abortion.
Help expectant parents to welcome from God the priceless gift of their child’s life.
Console parents who have lost that gift through abortion, and lead them to forgiveness and healing through the Divine Mercy of your Son.
Teach us to cherish and to care for family and friends until God calls them home. Help us never to see others as burdens.
Guide our public officials to defend each and every human life through just laws. Inspire us all to bring our faith into public life, to speak for those who have no voice.
We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who is Love and Mercy itself. Amen.
In light of the deadly increase in shootings and killings, especially here in Chicago, I urge each one of us to do whatever we can to try and end this senseless violence. The shootings, especially of children and young adults, innocent men and women in their homes or driving on our highways calls out to each of us that we must try and do something to end this slaughter of our young people and innocent adults. Whether it is showing respect to others in all you do, or contacting our city, state or federal representatives we must not sit idly by as more and more people are injured or killed. As Pope Francis and Popes before him remind us, Respect for life begins from our conception until our natural death. Let us together promote respect for all of life and all of God's creation!