September 17, 2017



Today we are continuing the Labor Day Statement of the Catholic Bishops. Please consult last week’s bulletin ( if you did not have a chance to read the first section.


“Today, we are in the midst of a technological revolution, which has coincided with severe economic disparity and threatens to continue or accelerate due to many factors such as the growing presence of automation technology in the workplace. Once again, we see in many places the consequences of widespread failures to pay a just wage and to honor the dignity of work for each person. The root of the problem, which remains prominent, comes from an errant understanding that ‘human work is solely an instrument of production’ such that business leaders ‘following the principle of maximum profit, try to establish the lowest possible wages for the work done by the employees. A just wage, however, is not the principle of maximum profit; rather, it is ‘the concrete means of verifying the justice of the whole socioeconomic system and, in any case, of checking that it is functioning justly. This means of checking concerns above all the family. Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future….’


“When a parent—working full time, or even working multiple jobs beyond standard working hours—cannot bring his or her family out of poverty, something is terribly wrong with how we value the work of a person. All those involved in the determination of wages, in the public and private sectors, must grapple with this serious moral responsibility, for ‘the justice of the whole socioeconomic system’ depends upon it.


Greater Legal Protections for Vulnerable Workers:


“One powerful way to protect the dignity of the person is through the law. Legal protections cannot solve all problems when the culture itself must also change. Nevertheless, legal protections and important gains that humanize the workplace are vital and should be supported and strengthened.


First, workers’ legal rights to a just wage in exchange for work, to protection against wage theft, to workplace safety and just compensation for workplace injuries, to health care and other benefits, and to organize and engage in negotiations, should be promoted. Migrants and refugees should receive careful consideration, including the conditions that allow for dignified work and protection against trafficking. The law should also seek to avoid wage disparities for women, and exploitation of any kind. It should also encourage work environments that recognize and seek to end racism and its effects. The USCCB’s newly established Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism will be dedicated to addressing the sin of racism throughout our society, which includes the workplace.


Second, the law should encourage entrepreneurs to choose the best interests of workers and a healthy culture over exploitation and expediency. Pope Francis has said that the good entrepreneur ‘knows his workers because he works alongside them’ and ‘shares the joys of work, of solving problems together, of creating something together.’ These leaders find that laying someone off is ‘always a painful decision and he would not do it if possible. He always suffers, and sometimes from this suffering new ideas emerge to avoid dismissal.’ By contrast, the ‘speculator’ is without moral grounding and ‘uses, exploits, and eats people in order to reach profit targets.’ Business can be ‘friendly to people and even to the poor’ when it is run by good entrepreneurs, but under a ‘speculator,’ the economy becomes ‘faceless’ and ‘abstract.’ Laws should reward those who remember the faces of persons engaged in and impacted by the economy and discourage the abstraction that leads to exploitation.


Third, workers must be aided to come to know and exercise their legal rights….


The Crucial Role of Unions: Prophets and Innovators:


“Pope Francis recently reiterated the still essential role of labor unions in society: ‘There is no good society without a good union, and there is no good union that is not reborn every day in the peripheries, that does not transform the discarded stones of the economy into its cornerstones.’ The Pope laid out two ‘epochal challenges’ that unions must face in the world today. First, he explained that unions must retain and recover their prophetic voice, which ‘regards the very nature itself of the union, its truest vocation. The union is an expression of the prophetic profile of society.’ The union is ‘born and reborn’ whenever it gives ‘a voice to those who have none, denounces those who would sell the needy for a pair of sandals, unmasks the powerful who trample the rights of the most vulnerable workers, defends the cause of the foreigner, the least, the discarded.’ Without the prophetic voice, a union’s ‘actions within businesses will lose strength and effectiveness.’


“The second challenge is ‘innovation’: although the union must watch over those within its care, it must also work for those outside its walls in order to innovate and protect those ‘who do not yet have rights.’ Unions are especially valuable when they speak on behalf of the poor, the immigrant, and the person returning from prison.


Recovering Rest for Faith and Family:


“When workers do not have adequate time to rest, families suffer. Also lost is the necessary time for spiritual growth and building a relationship with God. Pope Francis has said it is ‘inhuman’ that parents must spend so much time working that they cannot play with their children. Surely many wish for more time, but their working conditions do not allow it….A culture that obsesses less over endless activity and consumption may, over time, become a culture that values rest for the sake of God and family. Employers ought to consider the total well-being of their employees and prioritize conditions that help them to thrive as human persons. Wages and working hours should support the fundamental needs of people to form and nurture families. The spiritual needs of workers must also be taken into account so that God may more easily draw them into deeper relationship toward their ultimate purpose.


Recovering the Sacredness of Work:


“Work, properly understood, can be a place of great sanctity, giving expression to the deep yearnings of the human person. Where people are permitted to—and, indeed, do—embrace work as a cooperation with God’s creative power, the mundane can become transcendent. As Pope Francis points out, many Biblical encounters between persons and God occurred at work: ‘Moses hears the voice of God calling him and revealing his name while grazing his father-in-law’s flock; Jesus’ first disciples were fishermen and were called by him while working by the lake.’


“This notion that work is sacred is essential, not only to understanding our work, but also to coming to know God himself. Nowhere do we see this more powerfully than in the Eucharist. The Holy Father calls us to drink more deeply of this idea: ‘Work is a friend of prayer; work is present every day in the Eucharist, whose gifts are the fruit of man’s land and work. A world that no longer knows the values, and the value, of work does not understand the Eucharist either, the true and human prayer of workers.’


Going Forth Toward Restoration:


“On this Labor Day, then, let us give thanks to God present to us in the Eucharist as we toil for our heavenly reward. Let us give thanks for the human vocation to work, and strive to make our businesses, our communities, our nation, and our world places where the human person can fully thrive. And let us give thanks, finally, for the opportunity to encounter Christ present in those in need, along with the great gifts that come in demonstrating care and concern for our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, including those experiencing great poverty in the area of work. May we all earnestly seek to adopt God’s ‘gaze of love’ as our own, to envision and make real a world of work restored ‘in deed and in truth.’”




Today’s readings challenge us to think in new and deeper ways about justice and mercy. The First Reading begins with a short poem about vengeance and concludes with a wise teaching about the consequences of hardheartedness and double dealing (that is, using one set of standards for oneself and another for others). The sage has two points to make. First, the revenge you seek will come down on yourself. Second, you cannot expect God to be merciful to you if you are not merciful to others.


The Responsorial Psalm reinforces this message by recounting the many ways that God is merciful to his Chosen People.


The Second Reading is part of a longer exhortation in which Paul tells his readers that they must be compassionate when dealing with fellow believers whose opinions differ from their own. Ultimately everyone will stand in judgment before God. Far more important than our opinions is that in life or death, we belong to the Lord.


The Gospel contains a powerful, though perhaps unsettling, parable about vengeance and mercy. First, Peter asks, “How often must I forgive?” In biblical times, seven and multiples of seven were understood to symbolize fullness or completion. Thus Jesus’ answer amounts to something like, “When you have forgiven someone as many times as possible, keep going!” The parable that follows is about a king who forgave an enormous debt owed by one of his servants and then changed his mind when he discovered that the servant was not, in turn, extending mercy. Justice and mercy are more closely intertwined than we might think.


In the Responsorial Psalm, we sing that the Lord pardons iniquities, heals ills, redeems, and bestows kindness and compassion. We, too, are to be virtuous, for as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God” (#1803). We cultivate virtue, as that paragraph notes, by a “habitual and firm disposition to do good.”


The person who continues to forgive, as Jesus commands in the Gospel, has taken the path of charity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it. Charity inspires a life of self-giving” (#1889).


For Your Reflection: Have you considered that God’s forgiveness of your sins is related to your forgiveness of another? How does our faith community help us all to view God as forgiving? Do you consider yourself as living for others?




Fr. Ken returned to Vietnam on September 12 to once again teach English and Franciscan Spirituality to the friars in formation. He still has some health issues, but his doctors gave him the green light to return to his missionary love. Please continue to keep him in your prayers. He will return to St. Peter’s on December 9 for his Christmas visit.




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.




On September 23-24 there will be a second collection in all parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago to help defray the costs of educating and forming diocesan seminarians at all stages of their preparation for the priesthood. This includes those who are studying English as a second language, those at St. Joseph Seminary College on the campus of Loyola University, and those studying theology at Our Lady of the Lake University in Mundelein.




Recently I bought a cartridge for my printer. It came in a box mounted on a card and wrapped in plastic. When I took it apart, I found that the printer cartridge itself was actually quite small, but they made the packaging unnecessarily large to make it harder to steal and to make the customer feel better about the high price.


I pointed this out to my wife and mentioned how my weight gain over the years of our marriage should have the same effect. It made me seem more valuable and also made me harder for other women to steal.


She’s still laughing!