September 3, 2017
I had intended to make this article a summary of the Bishops’ annual Labor Day Statement as I have done ever since becoming a pastor, but this year the statement had not been published by the time I had to send my section of the bulletin to Carolyn in the Activities Office so that it could be e-mailed to the printer. Therefore I will include here a few of my own thoughts about Labor Day and do the summary next weekend.
Labor Day was established some time ago as a means of labor unions emphasizing the importance of work and the justice issues that surround the rights of workers. Of course it was meant to offer a holiday not only for workers but also for their families in order to celebrate the meaning of the holiday through parades and picnics organized for this purpose. Labor unions in times past were a powerful force to insure workers of a safe environment, health and retirement benefits, a just and living wage, and the ability to join together as a force to negotiate with employers for the good of all. The Church has been in the forefront of underscoring the right of workers to organize, dating back to the time of the Industrial Revolution and the early 1900s.
In our day it seems that labor unions have lost some of their luster, especially in some states where they are actually discouraged or undercut. What matters most is that job production is heightened so that qualified candidates can find a decent job and that job security is assured. There certainly are some companies that have established a solid relationship between management and labor where a union is not necessary and where profit sharing and other benefits are put in place to the advantage of all parties. Employers and investors have a right to a reasonable profit as long as employees who do the work also receive a just return for their labor. Most importantly in an age when machines and robots have advanced to sometimes replace the human work force, we need to balance the good of workers with the development of new techniques for manufacturing a product.
In order for a society and an economy to prosper, it is necessary that all levels of the populace have jobs available to them in order to make a living. It is true that just because jobs are available does not mean that everyone will apply for them. Some people may be left out because of their particular circumstances, e.g., health problems, physical disabilities, etc., but unless individuals feel jobs are available, they will be led to despair and sink into debilitating behaviors. We must do more than merely talk about the need for jobs at all levels; those in government leadership and owners of companies must work diligently to create them.
It is not sufficient to hang out a sign stating that a company is hiring; the pay for the work provided must be just. I suppose the argument about what should be the amount of the minimum wage will go on for years to come, but we must become more realistic about it. A worker cannot be subject to all the ways that costs go up monthly and yearly and then be told that his/her own pay will not be increased year after year. Governor Rauner has just vetoed a bill passed by the legislature in the State of Illinois that would have increased the minimum wage over a period of the next several years to $15.00 an hour. How are these workers expected to pay their bills today and in the future if their pay remains at $8.25, the same it has been for a number of years?
A final consideration in this discussion is the fact that educational opportunity and experience is absolutely necessary in order for workers to be prepared for today’s jobs. The quality of our educational system is at the heart of individuals becoming prepared for a variety of possible employment positions. Teachers must be trained well in order to create classroom situations for learning, but parents also must encourage their children and supervise their attendance at school. Truancy must be addressed, but to do so requires that sufficient people are hired to make it work. If children, especially adolescents, are not properly supervised, they will not get a good education and will often get into troublesome behaviors. While not everyone will be able to graduate from a four-year college, I fully endorse the programs of our community colleges and of our schools that teach trades and all kinds of practical skills that we need in order for our lives to benefit and flourish. With proper attention and marketing, we can do better.
TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The fourth-century theologian Augustine of Hippo once prayed to God, “You have formed us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Confessions, 1.1.1). Today’s First Reading is a prayer straight from Jeremiah’s restless heart. God told him to deliver a message of disaster on Jerusalem, and he did as he was told, but where did it get him? Pashhur, the priest in charge of the Temple, punished him by putting him in the stocks near the Temple so that every passerby could jeer at him and harass him. This is the context for his vociferous complaint that God duped him. As distressed as he is, he says that he cannot stop himself from responding to God’s call to prophesy.
In the Gospel, we can imagine Peter’s deep distress as Jesus tells the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem where he will suffer at the hands of the elders and chief priests, be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter practically pounces on Jesus, telling him, “No! This is not how it will be!” The tension rises even further when Jesus rebukes Peter for not recognizing God’s plan in the events that were about to unfold. And how will he and the other disciples find peace from this disastrous prospect? By taking up their crosses and following Jesus. Incomprehensible!
Neither Jeremiah’s prayer nor Peter’s taking up of his cross appears to offer resolution in the short term, but today’s Responsorial Psalm and Second Reading point the way forward: “cling fast” to the Lord, surrender yourself to God’s grace, and you will find peace.
Jeremiah had the freedom to refuse God, but the message of God burns in his heart and he cannot hold it in. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that freedom “attains its perfection when directed toward God” (#1731).
The Catechism also considers passion, which is evident in Jeremiah in the First Reading and Peter in the Gospel. “The most fundamental passion is love,” the Catechism notes. “Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it” (#1765). Mindful that the people did not acknowledge God, Jeremiah spoke of the Lord, even though it brought him imprisonment.
For Your Reflection: Have you trusted in the Lord, even when you were derided for your faith? The Second Reading tells us not to conform to this age. How difficult is that for you? How does our faith assembly help the community understand the necessity of taking up their cross?
LABOR DAY SCHEDULE
Labor Day, Monday, September 4, 2017, is a national holiday and one that many people consider a transition from summer into fall. It’s a time for people to gather and to enjoy each other’s company in a variety of settings. For many young people it is the beginning of a new school year. It is also a holiday here at St. Peter’s, and therefore we will have only one Mass on Monday, September 4th. The church will open at 9:00 A.M., the Mass will be celebrated at 10:00 A.M., and then the church will close at 11:00. Please note this change of schedule as you make your holiday plans. We hope you will include Mass in those plans if at all possible.
A MARRIAGE MISSION STATEMENT?
Recently I was reading an article entitled “A Mission of Love” written by Father Dave Bonnar in The Priest magazine (February 2017). In the article this pastor was reflecting upon a retreat he had made with a number of other priests, and the retreat master had suggested to them that during the course of the retreat each priest try to write an individual mission statement. He described this as a way of trying to focus their energy specifically on their priestly ministry and how they would hope to incorporate the values Jesus outlined into their daily lives as parish priests. The author found this exercise to be very helpful as he returned back to his parish after the retreat.
One day as he was preparing to meet with a couple for their marriage preparation session with him, the thought crossed his mind that perhaps suggesting to them that they, too, work together to write a marriage mission statement for themselves. He proposed that, after they had finished it, they could place it on the wall of their bedroom and periodically modify it as needed. To his surprise, their faces lit up with excitement, and without hesitation they embraced the charge.
This couple built their mission statement with building blocks. First, they identified a fourfold purpose for their marriage: to love each other unconditionally; to love their future children; to work every day to make their marriage better and stronger, and to encourage each other. Second, they agreed on five values for their marriage: honesty, trust, thoughtfulness, kindness and patience.
Third, they established some basic practices that they wanted to commit to as husband and wife: they pledged to set aside time for each other with monthly dates. They pledged to make decisions together and to strive to think about how it will affect the other. They pledged not to get upset with each other and to always listen to the other side of the story. They pledged to communicate and have a sense of humor with each other, and they pledged to respect each other and love thoughtfully through thick and thin.
From these building blocks, they crafted the following marriage mission statement: “We, strengthen by God’s grace and our love for each other, vow to be honest, patient, thoughtful, kind and dedicated. We pledge to love and respect each other unconditionally, not only when it is easy, in happy times, but also, when it is difficult. Forever and always.”
After they had finished this exercise, this couple said the following, “Writing the mission statement brought us even closer together. We were able to put on paper our most intimate thoughts, values and goals for our dedication to each other. We were able to pledge our commitment to keep God in our marriage and to know we are strengthened by his grace. We were very humbled by this experience and definitely would recommend writing a personal mission statement for other engaged couples starting their married life together.”
I think this is an excellent suggestion not only for couples in the process of preparing for marriage but also for those who are already married but have not done something like this. I would suggest that those of you who are reading this bulletin and are married that you give a copy to your spouse and then talk about the wisdom of such an approach. You might readily find a usable tool to strengthen and deepen your commitment to God and to each other.
YOUNG ADULTS AT ST. PETER’S
We invite young adults between the ages of 20-40 to come to the weekly sessions of Saint Peter’s Young Adults on Mondays beginning at 5:30 P.M. with some refreshments and continuing with some input and discussion at 6:00 P.M. The Young Adults Group has taken a few weeks off during the month of August, but they will resume meeting on Monday, September 11.
Once a month the group meets in the friars’ chapel for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and reflection on a passage from the Scriptures. Often there is faith sharing and discussion of topics current in the group. Other times there are elements of fun, e.g., an outing in the city such as a baseball game or skating at Millennium Park. Periodically there are also service opportunities at Franciscan Outreach. We promise that each session will conclude by 7:00 P.M. so that you can plan the remainder of your evening according to your needs. Coming to these meetings is a great way to meet new friends and to deepen your Catholic faith. You may stop down to the Saint Clare auditorium at any time; you don’t have to be a member of the group from the very beginning.
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 LABOR DAY
A man is flying in a hot-air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man below. He lowers the balloon farther and shouts, “Excuse me! Can you tell me where I am?”
The man below says, “Yes, you’re in a hot-air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field.”
“You must be an engineer,” says the balloonist.
“I am,” replies the man. “How did you know?”
“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but it’s no use to anyone.”
The man below says, “You must be in management.”
“I am,” says the balloonist, “but how did you know?”
“Well,” says the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you’re going, but you expect me to be able to help. You’re in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault!”