From the Pastor’s Desk

May 22 – Sixth Sunday of Easter

Today we joyfully congratulate Thomas Logue, III our transitional deacon intern the past two years.  Yesterday at St. Raymond Nonnutus Cathedral in Joliet, Bishop Ronald Hicks ordained Tom and two other men priests.  I was glad to see many parishioners from Our Lady of Mercy in attendance.  Please pray for God’s blessings on our new priests!  Fr. Tom will be celebrating a special Mass at Our Lady of Mercy on Saturday, June 4 at 6:00pm for the Vigil of Pentecost.  All are welcome to attend the Mass and reception following.  Fr. Tom will celebrate the 10:00am Mass at OLM on Sunday, June 5th and will be at all the Masses for you to greet and extend your best wishes to him.

Here is an update on my retirement plans! As you know, June 30, 2022 will be my last day as pastor of Our Lady of Mercy.  My retirement comes after serving 40 years and 8 months as a parish priest at eight different parishes in our Diocese.  While I am retiring from parish ministry, I am not retiring from priestly ministry.  I accepted the opportunity to serve as part-time Catholic Priest Chaplain at Marianjoy Rehab Hospital in Wheaton.  I will celebrate Mass there on the 2nd and 4th Sunday’s of the month in addition to 10 hours weekly of pastoral presence/ministry at the Rehab Hospital.  Additionally, I will celebrate Masses and hear confessions at area parishes requesting help.

Many of you know that I was considering retiring permanently to California.  I have decided against that since I have too many friends and connections here in Chicagoland.  Considering my health issues, I also wanted to be near my doctors.  I will however spend several of the winter months in Sonoma County California.  This Thursday I will be moving to my retirement condominium in downtown Glen Ellyn.  I had hoped to find a place in Wheaton since I had been pastor of St. Michael’s for 11 years, but found none available during my search.  Glen Ellyn is the town just east of Wheaton.  You might be wondering why I am moving this week when my retirement isn’t until June 30.  I’m moving now because I will be gone June 5 – 15 escorting the Oberammergau Germany Passion that was supposed to happen two years ago but was postponed until this year.

Moving now gives me 11 days to get settled in my new place and prepare for the trip.  I will commute to OLM those 11 days.  When I get back on June 15, I have several medical tests and doctor appointments the following week and I wouldn’t have time to do a move. Then the following week is my last 4 days here.  Moving this early also allows adequate time for the OLM rectory rooms to be cleaned, rugs cleaned, painting done in preparation for the arrival of your new pastor!  I will put my new address and email in the bulletin starting in June.

Have a blessed Easter Season!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

May 15 – Fifth Sunday of Easter

On behalf of the parish family of Our Lady of Mercy, I extend our congratulations and prayerful best wishes to all the children of our parish who received their First Holy Communion May 14th and 15th.  We also have some children who will be receiving their First Holy Communion during a Sunday Mass later in the month.  I thank their parents, catechists, and all who helped prepare them for this special day.  As they receive Eucharist for the first time, it is always a good time for us who have been receiving communion for a long time to renew our wonder and gratitude to Jesus for nourishing our spiritual life and helping keep us close to Him.  I also encourage you to begin a habit of Eucharistic Adoration……spending one hour in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  We offer Eucharistic Adoration on Monday’s from 8:30am to 6:00pm.  Wednesday’s from 8:00am to 12:00noon.  Thursday’s from 8:30am to 6:00pm.  Eucharistic Adoration is held in the church.  Also, be a part of our Eucharistic Procession on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, held on Sunday, June 19th following the 12:00 Noon Mass.  More details will be forthcoming!

In the Gospel today, Jesus gives us a new commandment – to love one another as he has love us.  So what’s “new” about love?   We love our family (most of the time). We love our friends. So how are we to love one another as Jesus loved?  Jesus’ love is unconditional.  Jesus’ love was sacrificial.  Jesus loved social outcasts as well as the rich.  Jesus treated all as equals.  Jesus’ love was compassionate.  Jesus sometime broke the letter of the law to follow the law of love.  Today we benefit from one of Jesus’ greatest gifts of sacrificial love:  the gift of himself in the Eucharist.  His spirit, alive in us, helps us now to continue loving as he did.

Have a blessed Easter season!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

May 8 – The Good Shepherd

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States and Canada and over 80 other countries around the world.  I wish all Our Lady of Mercy mothers, expectant mothers, and women who have been a mother figure in our lives, a blessed Mother’s Day!  And may God grant eternal life to those mothers who have died whose memory we lovingly recall this day as well.

Today is also known, because of our gospel reading, as “Good Shepherd Sunday”.  Perhaps the Good Shepherd is an appropriate image for mothers too.  While Shepherds are seldom seen by us today except in rural settings, the manner and mission of the shepherd is one of the most poignant and powerful descriptions of God and of Jesus in the scriptures.  Unlike contemporary sheep ranchers who control their herds with dogs, horses, pick-up trucks or other methods, shepherds in Jesus’ day knew their sheep individually.  Each had a name to which it responded when called by its shepherd. Our parents gave us our name.  Moms know their children and can distinguish their voice, their cries, even in a crowd.  Rather than prod them from behind, the ancient shepherd would walk ahead of the sheep, striking a safe path, and search for good grazing and water.  Moms sacrifice much to guide and provide the best for their children.  When a sheep was missing, the shepherd sought it out; when a sheep was injured, the shepherd carried it and tended its wounds.  Our moms have done just the same.  Jesus laid down his life to secure the safety and salvation of sinners.  I haven’t known a parent who wouldn’t lay down their life for their child, who doesn’t agonize when their child is sick, who would suffer themselves if it would take away any suffering of their child. In this way, moms (and dads) model the Good Shepherd.  Unfortunately, there are some who have not experienced Jesus the Good Shepherd in their mother or father.  May the love and nurturing you missed be found through another person(s) Jesus has put in your life.  And may we all have the grace to forgive those who have hurt us in any way.

So on this Mother’s Day, let us honor ALL the women in our life who have nurtured our faith, modeled the Good Shepherd, and loved us as a mother would, no matter what!

Blessings to you all on this Mother’s Day!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

May 1 – Third Sunday of Easter

Today I would like to share with you some thoughts about my last time to preside for the liturgies of the Sacred Triduum.  The liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil are in reality one single liturgy over three days.  More recently in parishes with more than one priest, it has become more common to have one of the priests preside for all three days instead of dividing the presiders for the three days.  So, for my last time before retiring from parish ministry, I had the privilege to preside for the Sacred Triduum.

Holy Thursday was a step in faith for me.  In the past every parish I have been in we selected those to have their foot washed before Holy Thursday, and while we did pre-select two, the Holy Spirit urged me to invite people from the assembly that very evening to come forward for the foot washing.  While I got a lot of skeptical feedback from what I was going to do, I had faith in the people of OLM!  And boy did you come through!  It was so fun and joyful for me to see your response.  And when I asked for a young man who might be discerning a vocation to the priesthood, and he came forward, it was truly inspiring to see the assembly’s reaction – enthusiastic applause!  I had many people say how moved they were, and one woman came to my office, and hugged and thanked me saying she has never been involved in anything in church before, but came forward when I invited those in the assembly. This Holy Thursday liturgy will rank in one of my best memories!

As you know, I am a Vatican II priest, which simply means that I believe the laity have a voice and active role in the church, and we must not always be confined by rubrics.  I bet there was no other church in the Diocese of Joliet that celebrated Holy Thursday the way we did!  That brings us to Good Friday.  In the past, I always remembered that the priests and clergy held the cross for veneration.  Once again, why not the laity?  It moved me to tears to see just ordinary men, women, and children take turns holding the cross for veneration.  Jesus’ death and resurrection was for ALL of us – no particular class.  Thanks to all who held the cross of veneration!

The Easter Vigil is always the highlight of the year, and this year was no exception. The fire, the many scripture readings, baptizing two adults and two children – one a screamer! – then receiving two adults into the Catholic faith and confirming the four adults and giving them the Body and Blood of Christ for their first time – nothing compares!  The whole assembly renewing their baptismal promises, plus the beauty of the flowers and music – it was a little bit of heaven on earth!

Have a blessed Easter Season!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

April 24 – Divine Mercy

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  Someone asked me if I could give a simple explanation of what the Divine Mercy devotion is all about.  It’s as simple as ABC.  A – Ask God for His Mercy.  God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.  B – Be merciful.  God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others.  He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.  C – Completely trust in Jesus.  God wants us to know that all the graces of His mercy can only be received by our trust.  The more we open the door of our hearts and lives to Him with trust, the more we can receive.  It’s that simple!

Today’s gospel has long be labeled as “Doubting Thomas.”  Scripture scholars maintain he doesn’t deserve that label.  Whether he does or not, rare is the person who has never experienced the grey cloud of doubt in his or her spiritual life.  Thomas is acquitted of doubt based on this precise definition of doubt:  “The refusal to believe even after one has received confirming evidence.”  As soon as he experienced the in-person confirming evidence (seeing the nail marks and putting his hand in Jesus’ side) Thomas confessed his faith. Doubt is not proof of a weak faith, nor is it an act of disloyalty.  Mother Teresa spent years feeling God was so distant that she doubted whether he truly cared, loved, or sometimes even existed.  Yet she continued faithfully carrying out her mission of lovingly caring for the poorest of the poor.  Thomas Merton, the American monk whose spiritual writings are still read by millions, wrote, “Faith means doubt.  Faith is not the suppression of doubt.  It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it.”

So, when in doubt, turn to God’s Divine Mercy!

Have a blessed Easter season!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

April 17 – Easter Sunday

It is a heartfelt joy that I welcome all of you to Easter Sunday Mass!  There is no greater celebration for Christians than Easter!  It is good that you are here!  But for a moment, let us travel back in time to that first Easter morning.

Since the death of Jesus, all who knew and loved him have been laying low.  They’ve been grieving.  They’ve been stunned.  They’ve been trying to retrace the path of events that led them to this horrible and despite all Passion prediction to the contrary unanticipated crisis.  Were they wrong to have entered Jerusalem?  Was there a fatal mistake that could have been avoided earlier in the plan?  Whose fault was it that things turned deadly so quickly?  If Jesus foresaw all this, why didn’t he prevent it from happening?  It’s safe to say the friends of Jesus have spent the past 36 hours trying to understand.

Then, the empty tomb is discovered.  Mary of Magdala dashes through the dark and reports directly to Peter.  Her interpretation? “They – the enemies of Jesus – have stolen his body.  Peter runs to the site, sees every detail of the remaining contents of the tomb, but draws no stated conclusions.  Another disciple goes with him, “sees” and “believes”  – but we aren’t told precisely what he saw or what he believed.  The evangelist comes to his own bottom line of all this frantic running and bewildered seeing:  “They did not yet understand the Scriptures that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”

We now have the luxury of 2,000 years of Christianity and a sworn allegiance to this faith in the resurrection.  When we hear the story of Easter morning from our vantage point, it’s easy to wonder what part of the Resurrection didn’t those early believers understand.  Empty tomb, stone rolled away, burial cloths neatly piled up.

Ah. If only it were that simple.  Many of us run all around the territory of religion, reporting and seeing and believing – but understanding little and incorporating less.  Genuine understanding of the empty tomb isn’t an “aha!” moment that’s over and done with on Easter morning.  It’s demonstrated in how you perceive every empty, lost, lonely, abandoned situation in this world and in your life.  Is it hollow, or full of divine promises?

On behalf of Fr. James, Deacon Tom, our permanent deacons, pastoral and support staff, I wish you and your family a most blessed Easter day and Easter season!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

April 10 – Palm Sunday

Due to the COVID pandemic, there has been a dispensation in the Diocese of Joliet from the obligation to attend Mass in person. Today is the effective date in which Bishop Hicks has re-instated the obligation to attend Sunday Mass in person.  Of course, those who are sick, homebound, have compromised immunity, and other illness are not required to attend Mass in person.  Easter Sunday will be the last Sunday that we offer communion in the parking lot during the 10:00am livestream Mass.  We will continue to livestream the Sunday 10:00am Mass and weekday Masses for the homebound.  Communion can be arranged to be brought to your home.  Please contact our Pastoral Care Coordinator, Jolene LeRoy, RN who will schedule a trained Minister to the Homebound to bring you communion at your home.

Sometimes I have wondered why palms are so important to people.  They show up in the unlikeliest of places:  behind bedroom mirrors, tucked away in taxicab visors, woven into crosses, and placed behind crucifixes and other holy pictures. A rather sarcastic view about church being fuller than usual on Palm Sunday is to say it is because we are giving something away free.  But let’s think about the meaning of palms, as they do tell a story. These simple palm branches remind us of The Greatest Story ever told – a story so boundless that we Christians repeat it every year and revere it as the most significant spiritual event that ever took place.  But more than that, these palm branches also tell our story, the story of our own faith life.  Five weeks ago, we received ashes on our foreheads and were once again reminded of our sinfulness and our need for a radical change in our lives.  But those ashes did not come from the bottom of someone’s fireplace.  They were the result of blessed burned palms.  Today we are five weeks older.  The palms we now hold in our hands are new green leaves, reminding us that we are a part of this great story: that it isn’t just something that took place 2,000 years ago; that this drama is ongoing; and that we are each involved in our own way in being a part of the conspiracy and the betrayal that happened that night.  These palms can remind us that we have played the role of Peter in our own life by lying and denying.  They can remind us that we played the role of John when we abandon others in need. They can remind us that we have played the role of Judas in betraying our commitments.  But here’s the good news about palms:  They can also remind us of the miracle of reconciliation that can be ours.  Lent begins with palms and ends with palms.  The question is:  What will we do with their promise and the challenge?

Have a blessed Holy Week!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

April 3 – Fifth Week of Lent

Bishop Hicks has re-instated the obligation to attend Sunday Mass in person effective April 10 – Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.

 Catholics in the Diocese of Joliet received, from the bishop, a dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass in person during the COVID pandemic.  Now that the State has removed the mask mandate, bishop feels it is time to remove the dispensation.  Those with underlying health concerns, those who are ill and not feeling well, those with compromised immunity may use their conscience on deciding to attend Mass in person.  We will continue to livestream the Sunday 10:00am Mass and our weekday Masses.  Easter Sunday will be the last Sunday that communion will be distributed in the parking lot.

Those who are ill or infirmed who wish to receive communion, please contact our Pastoral Care Coordinator Jolene LeRoy, RN and she will arrange a trained Eucharist Minister to the homebound to bring you communion at home.  We look forward to seeing and celebrating the Mass with all who are able to attend.

Now that four months have passed since we made our new year’s resolutions, some of us can look back and lament our weaknesses.  We try, we fail and sometimes we prevail.  We may console ourselves by shrugging, “We’re only human,” as others condemn us with their eyes.  We may feel shame because we are all the woman brought before Jesus in today’s gospel story.  But no matter how many times or how hard we fall, Jesus says to us the words that close today’s Gospel reading:  “Neither do I condemn you.”  And in that hope, we can claim our salvation and walk in his grace.

Have a blessed final week of Lent!

Father Don

 

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

March 27 – Fourth Week of Lent

As a parish family, during Lent we support and pray for those who are to be baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.  As I explained in my article last Sunday, on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sunday’s of Lent they participate in a liturgical rite called the Scrutinites.  We celebrate these rites at the 10:00am Mass and use the A cycle readings.  If you are not at the 10:00am Mass, you hear the readings of the cycle we are currently in, which is the C cycle.  To support our Elect in their final preparation to receive the Easter Sacraments, I share with you a few reflections about the A cycle readings for the 10:00am Scrutiny Mass.  In the story of the man born blind, we see a number of people reacting negatively to a miracle of healing.  Today many people have laser eye surgery to correct vision and reverse conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma.  It’s become quite commonplace, but we rarely regard these medical advances as miracles.  Visual sight is a powerful metaphor for our attitudes toward the world around us and the people who come into our lives every day.  Although our medical technology is far advanced from the time of Jesus, our spiritual blindness hasn’t always changed.

In the Gospel, few people recognize the healing that’s at the center of the story.  Jesus heals because life and healing are in his very nature.  The man who is healed moves from physical to spiritual sight.  But nearly everyone else misses the point.  The disciples are puzzling over the sin that must be at the heart of the man’s blindness.  The religious leaders see only a threat to their power and status quo.  Even the man’s parents prefer to disown their son rather than risk trouble with the authorities.  We might wonder why no one sees what Jesus is doing.  But our own reactions to the wonders of God’s world can be similarly obscured.  Our faith calls us to learn to see the wholeness that God sees.  We can get so caught up in our own priorities, our anxieties, and our various ideologies that we miss the wonder of the word around us.  Spend today consciously look for signs of God’s love and mercy in the people you meet, in the natural world, and, yes, even in the daily news.  Goodness is there if we open our eyes to it.

I would like to extend my appreciation to all of you for your prayers for my health and a special thanks to all who have sent cards and prayer enrollments.  The love, care, and support I feel from my OLM parish family strengthens me.  On March 3rd I had a whole body bone scan and the results showed no cancer in my bones.  Thank God! At present, my oncologist feels it is not necessary to start treatment. I next meet with the oncologist on June 23rd after at CT Scan on June 20th to compare to the previous CT I had in January.  The results of that visit may or may not require the start of treatment.  I will eventually have immunotherapy to treat the kidney cancer that spread to my lungs.  Your continued prayers are appreciated!

Have a Blessed Lent!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

March 20 – Third Week of Lent

It’s that time of Lent again!  The Scrutinies!  What are they? The scrutinies are part of the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA). At the beginning of Lent, catechumens are elected by the bishop for the Easter sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. These Elect, as they are now called, begin their final period of “purification and enlightenment” before Easter. On the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent we celebrate these special rites for them.  At OLM, we will celebrate the Scrutinies with our elect at the 10:00am Mass on March 20, March 27, and April 3.

The scrutinies are meant to help the Elect in two ways:
First, the Elect are reminded that they are sinners (as we all are) — but that is not a cause for despair or discouragement. The reality that we celebrate at the Triduum is that we have salvation in Christ. By knowing the truth about ourselves we come to know our need for God — and thirst more and more for life-giving waters. Second, the scrutinies are meant to help heal what is sinful and strengthen what is good in the Elect. Part of the scrutinies is a prayer for freedom and protection from the effects of sin and from any influence of the devil — what we call a “minor exorcism.” That may sound a little scary or conjure up some bad Hollywood images, but no one is saying that the Elect are possessed! Rather, for the Elect, this final season of preparation can be a time of fatigue and temptation. They need our prayers. The scrutinies, then, are a way for us — the Church — to help support the Elect on this final leg of their journey to the font and table.

The readings from Cycle A of the Lectionary are used when the scrutinies are celebrated because the Gospel selections for those days have been traditionally associated with baptism: the Samaritan woman at the well, the healing of the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus. By recounting these stories, we not only help the Elect understand where they are going — we remind ourselves of where we’ve come from. We are reminded that in baptism we are given to drink of life-giving waters, we are given new eyes of faith, and we are given new life. We are reminded that Christ is the living water, the light of the world, the resurrection and the life. The special Mass prayers used on these days reinforce those powerful images.

As we observe these Sundays of Lent, let us keep our Elect — and our candidates (those to be received in the Church during the Easter Season) — in prayer. Let us remember, too, the truth of the scrutinies: We are all sinners in need of healing and forgiveness; we all need the salvation offered by Christ Jesus.

Have a Blessed Lent!

Father Don