September 15, 2019

One of the things I like to do and try to do as much as possible is to read several periodicals published from countries outside the United States since you hear firsthand their particular take on some of the same questions and situations we are facing here at home. One of these periodicals is The Tablet, which calls itself “The International Catholic Weekly” and is published in Great Britain. While a good deal of its contents is focused on happenings in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, it regularly carries columns and commentary from parts of Europe, Asia and the United States.

 

The 10 August 2019 issue contained an editorial entitled “The Dark Side of the American Soul,” and I think the British perspective is both enlightening and worthwhile. In part, it reads as follows:

 

“America’s love affair with guns would have mystified the drafters of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Ratified in 1791, the amendment declares: ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ Only the second part of it is widely quoted, and the courts have refused to regard the first part as the qualification it was clearly intended to be. It represents the belief that citizens have the right to participate in a ‘well regulated Militia’ which can rise up to overthrow tyrannical rulers, which in 1791 the British were perceived to be.

 

“The obsession with the right to bear arms has been taken to the point where it applies even to those suffering mental illness. The United States Congress has so far failed to legislate even for this modest restriction, though the issue has taken centre stage again after the appalling events in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, the first of which killed 22 people and the second, another nine….

 

“Mr. Trump did not invent the US gun lobby, which managed to defy President Obama’s best efforts over eight years to rein it in. Nor can he order the Republican majority in the Senate to endorse the very modest gun controls being proposed in the Democratic-controlled lower house. There is clearly something deeply rooted in the American collective psyche that politicians cannot shift. In most of the world, it is almost axiomatic that the state should have a monopoly of violence; only in the United States is the opposite proposition treated as sacrosanct. And even if 99.9 percent of Americans can be trusted to own and use guns responsibly, that still leaves a third of a million people who cannot. It is no wonder the murder rate by firearms is through the roof.”

 

At the same time, I want to quote several paragraphs for your reflection from a statement of Bishop Mark Seitz, the bishop of El Paso: “Once again in our nation we see the face of evil. We see the effects of a mind possessed by hatred. We see the effects of the sinful and insipid conviction that some of us are better than others of us because of race, religion, language or nationality.

 

“In the last several months, the borderlands have shown the world that generosity, compassion and human dignity are more powerful than the forces of division. The great sickness of our time is that we have forgotten how to be compassionate, generous and humane.”

 

As I have been writing this article, the local police and the FBI have intercepted notes written by white men in their early 20s who were threatening to shoot innocent people congregating either in church settings or in other venues. All three were found to have assault rifles, rounds of ammunition, and special magazines to allow more shots to be fired without reloading. They were captured and arrested before their vicious deeds happened. One of these young men lived in Connecticut, another in Ohio, and a third in Florida. As far as we know, none of the three knew each other, but each of them had been known to be visiting white nationalist websites on the internet. Thankfully they were caught before they could initiate another mass murder, but it once again shows that we are living in a tainted world where individuals see it possible and necessary to kill others for ideological differences and purposes. Love, not hate, is what God has asked us to live by!

 

THE TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

As we look back over our lives, we recall with embarrassment and guilt sinful events we would rather forget. Each of today’s readings recalls such moments, but these are celebrated instead of forgotten.

 

In our reading from Exodus, the people of Israel, whom God had liberated from slavery, have turned away to worship false gods. In prayer, Moses mediates on their behalf and they experience the joy of God’s merciful love.

 

In his First Letter to Timothy, Paul recalls his former way of life as he persecuted Christ and his followers. Without excusing himself, Paul celebrates the forgiveness he has experienced through the Risen Christ’s call and transformation.

 

The Gospel offers three parables displaying God’s immense love and forgiveness. “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” This joy is captured in the parable that could be called the “Parable of the Forgiving Father.” After patiently awaiting his son’s return, the father sees him in the distance, runs, and embraces him. Such actions may have been extraordinary for a Jewish patriarch. The son begins to ask forgiveness, saying, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you,” but the father interrupts his prepared speech and throws a party to welcome him back. Forgiveness results in celebration.

 

The second part of the parable contrasts the father’s joy and forgiveness with the elder son’s inability to forgive. He cannot share his father’s joy. Undoubtedly, the father portrays the greatest example of God’s forgiving and embracing love.

 

Paul’s letter to Timothy names his many faults. He was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant.” Through the mercy of God, the grace of our Lord, and faith, his heart changed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that love is not one’s own doing but comes through God’s grace and love. “Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. Conversion is not just a human work; it is the movement of a ‘contrite heart’ drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God” (#1428).

 

In the reading from Exodus, God responds to Moses’ plea and does not take out his wrath on his people when they worship idols. This is because of God’s great love. Pope Benedict’s encyclical on love, Deus caritas est, notes that God possesses a forgiving love. The Pope states, “God’s passionate love for humanity is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. So great is God’s love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death and so reconciles justice and love” (#10).

 

For Your Reflection: How has another’s mercy benefitted you? When have you felt God’s grace bring you back into relationship with others? What does it mean to you to be loved unconditionally?

 

FEAST OF THE STIGMATA OF OUR FATHER FRANCIS

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

 

Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the Gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully without limit, and without a sense of self-importance.

 

Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi’s youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: “Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy.”

 

Francis was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the Sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade.

 

During the last years of his relatively short life—he died at age 44—Francis was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side.

 

On his deathbed, Francis said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, “Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death.” He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior’s permission to have his clothes removed when the last hour came in order that he could expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.

 

Francis of Assisi was poor only that he might be Christ-like. He recognized creation as another manifestation of the beauty of God. In 1979, he was named patron of ecology. He did great penance—apologizing to “Brother Body” later in life—that he might be totally disciplined for the will of God. Francis’ poverty had a sister, Humility, by which he meant total dependence on the good God. But all this was, as it were, preliminary to the heart of his spirituality: living the Gospel life, summed up in the charity of Jesus and perfectly expressed in the Eucharist.

 

WORLDWIDE MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER

 

Worldwide Marriage Encounter is a weekend for married Christian couples who value their relationship and desire a richer, fuller life together. By participating in a Marriage Encounter weekend you learn the tools needed to keep your marriage strong. It’s not a retreat, nor a marriage clinic, nor group sensitivity. It’s a unique approach aimed at revitalizing Christian marriage.

 

This is a time for you and your spouse to be alone together and to rediscover each other and together focus on your relationship for an entire weekend. Every marriage deserves that kind of attention!

 

            --Rediscover the spark that was there on your wedding day!

            --Rediscover the best friend you had when you were first married!

            --Join the millions of couples worldwide who have learned how to keep their marriage vibrant and alive!

 

The next Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend will take place at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Elk Grove Village on October 11-13, 2019. For more information or to register, go to wwme-chicagoland.org. Don’t delay; do it now before you forget or just put off making a decision.

 

MISSIONARY COOPERATIVE PLAN APPEAL

 

As we announced last week in the bulletin, this weekend we welcome Fr. Michael Moore to St. Peter’s to enlighten us about our call to be missionary disciples and to tell us about the work of the St. Patrick Fathers. Fr. Moore was ordained in 1984 and has worked in Malawi for ten years. Now his full-time ministry is travelling to parishes to raise funds and to heighten awareness of their missionaries working in various parts of the world.

 

The St. Patrick’s Missionary Society (also known as St. Patrick Fathers) was formally established on March 17, 1932. The Society was founded by Irish diocesan priests who initially had gone to work on a temporary basis in Nigeria, West Africa, but who later wished to dedicate their lives fully to the missions. Later, as the new missionary society grew, more work was undertaken, not only in Nigeria but also in Kenya (1951), Brazil (1962), Malawi (1970), Grenada (1970), Zambia (1973), Sudan (1983), Zimbabwe (1989), Cameroon (1989) and Homelands of South Africa (1989).

 

There are now 291 priests in the Society, of which 21 are newly ordained African priests. After a drop in vocations in recent years, there are now more than 50 students and two deacons preparing for the priesthood information centers in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

 

Most of the people among whom we work are extremely poor, and we have no means of training our seminarians and supporting our priests in their work other than the donations we receive. The second collection this weekend will be for the St. Patrick Fathers. May you be blessed for your generosity.

 

A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE

 

I deliver pizza to help cover my college tuition. One time I delivered a pizza to a customer who sent their seven-year-old son to pay me. As he approached the screen door, I noticed he was carrying a check in one hand and two dollars in the other, which I assumed was my tip.

 

To my dismay, he pocketed the bills before handing me the check, which was for the exact cost of the pizza.

 

“Could that have been a tip?” I asked, trying not to sound accusatory.

 

“Yep,” the boy replied proudly. “Not bad for just a walk from the living room and back!”