May 17th | 6th Sunday of Easter

The gospel from John today situates us at the Last Supper, not post resurrection appearances. After calling on the disciples to trust him beyond all else, Jesus proclaims: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate.” That might make us think someone is impersonating Jesus at the table. It is as if Jesus were saying, “If you behave yourselves I’ll ask God so send you help.” That is one way to interpret this Gospel passage – it focuses our attention on the relative merits of our behavior with the hope that we can demonstrate enough virtue to pass muster. But that interpretation flounders, when Jesus goes on to speak of a Spirit of truth that the world cannot perceive. The idea of putting in great effort, pulling your own weight and earning everything you get is exactly the system of the world. Instead, Jesus is speaking of something else. When we listen carefully, we hear that Jesus is not talking about obedience but about loving him. He is talking about the transformation that happens when we fall in love with him. Falling in love with another person changes our perspective, we see the world differently and understand everything in relation to the beloved. People who love one another often take on some of the characteristics of the other. Long-time married couples often even start to look like each other! Such love points toward what Jesus is describing with his words. The love Jesus is talking about is devotion to the one who loved us first, whose love for us is immeasurable. This love is a commitment to the one who offers us a future of life beyond our imagining. The love Jesus is talking about orients absolutely everything else in our life. So when he says “If you love me you will keep my commandments,” we could easily rephrase that to say, “If you love me you will share my perspective and desire.”

In promising to send another Advocate or the Spirit, Jesus is promising that we will have help in perceiving or knowing the mind of Jesus so that we can remain true to who Jesus calls us to be. The role of the Spirit is expressed quite beautifully in the fourth Eucharistic Prayer which says: “That we might live no longer for ourselves but for him…he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe, so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.”

Loving Christ, open us to the Spirit who empowers us to bring Christ’s work to completion. Or as Jesus said so simply, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.”

Have a blessed Easter Season!

Fr Don

May 10th | 5th Sunday of Easter

BLESSING PRAYER FOR MOTHER’S DAY

(Pray Before Your Meal on Mother’s Day)

God of Love, listen to this prayer.
God of Holy People, of Sarah, Ruth, and Rebekah;
God of holy Elizabeth, mother of John, of Holy Mary, Mother of Jesus, bend down Your ear to this request and bless the mother of our family.

Bless her with the strength of Your spirit, she who has taught her child/ children how to stand and how to walk.

Bless her with the melody of Your love, she who has shared how to speak, how to sing, and how to pray to You.

Bless her with a place at Your eternal dinner table, she who has fed and nurtured the life that was formed within her while still helpless but embraced in her love.

Bless her today, now, in this lifetime, with good things, with health.
Bless her with joy, love, laughter, and pride in her child/children and surround her with many good friends.

May she who carried life in her womb be carried one day to Your divine embrace: there, for all eternity, to rejoice with her family and friends.

This blessing and all graces, we pray, descend upon the mother of our family: In the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen+

(Reprinted with permission. “Prayers for the Domestic Church – A Handbook for Worship in the Home” by Edward Hays Forest of Peace Publishing, Inc. PO Box 269, Leavenworth, KS 66048)

We especially honor our mother’s during this time of the Coronavirus pandemic and over month-long “stay at home order” for their keeping families together, children learning and occupied, in addition to all the other things they have been doing to keep families safe and healthy.

Fr. Mark and I wish all the mothers in our parish a very happy and blessed Mother’s Day!

Fr Don

Restore Testimony

Restore Testimony

Fellow Men of OLM,

Our world has completely changed, it seems, overnight with the Covid-19 pandemic. This has forced us into a lockdown that keeps us from getting together with our friends, extended family, neighbors, and fellow parishioners at Our Lady of Mercy. As Father Mark mentioned in a homily recently, we are currently suffering from not being able to receive the Holy Eucharist along with our brothers and sisters. This suffering can affect us in so many ways- spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

During this time of physical absence from the Lord’s house, the devil can work overtime to try and shake us from our faith. As has been the case for some time now, one of the biggest tools the devil uses to pull us from God is pornography. This can be a constant struggle for so many Christians, and the struggle can be exacerbated when stuck in the house with limited ability to be in fellowship with others.

I know about this struggle firsthand. I was addicted to pornography for over 20 years. I know the feeling of waking up in the morning with this vice at the forefront of my mind and knowing that it will not be far from my thoughts throughout the entire day. I know the feeling of thinking that I physically cannot function without pornography, and ultimately realizing that it has taken over every aspect of my life. It affected my friendships, my family life, and my overall happiness. Eventually, after so many years of struggling to overcome this full-blown addiction, I came to the conclusion that I would never shake this struggle, and would go to my grave unhappy due to the cloud under which I was constantly living.

Through the grace of God as well as the love and support of the men and women of Our Lady of Mercy, I have been free from pornography for over 2 years now. I can finally wake up in the morning with the confidence that, with God’s direction and help, I can fight the good fight and stay on the path that the Lord has carved out for me. It took me 20 years to finally realize that this battle cannot be won alone- I needed God to take control, and also needed the support of others. Over the last 2 years, I have learned that I’m not on an island- there are others just like me that want to break free from this addiction, and have been able to lean on them for assistance. As soon as I brought this issue out into the open with others, including my family, I was able to start fighting back against the evil one and make real changes in my life. I have finally started to become the husband and father that God has expected of me all along. I want others to know that they can begin winning this battle as well.

We have recently begun a new ministry at OLM called Restore. During our weekly Restore meetings, we will discuss the battles we face on a daily basis, lean on each other for support and accountability, and share ideas as to how to strengthen our resolve to stay on God’s path. All men are welcome, whether you have been free of pornography addiction for many years or struggle with it every single day. We understand that this can be a sensitive topic to discuss and have taken steps to ensure the privacy of anyone who may be joining us. Correspondence is done via email, and all participants are blind copied in any correspondence sent. You are welcome to share your contact information with any other men that may be in the group or can keep your information to yourself—whatever makes you comfortable and allows you to get the most out of the group.

If you are ready to start breaking free from the grips of pornography and want to Restore your life email us at Restore.olm@gmail.com to find out more information on when and where we meet.

May 3rd | Good Shepherd Sunday / 4th Sunday of Easter

FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK…….

Also Known as Chardonnay W(h)ines!!

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.”  Each gospel in the three-year cycle on the Fourth Sunday of Easter always speaks of Jesus in various aspects of Him being a good shepherd.  This Sunday has also been a good opportunity to preach on vocations to the priesthood.  My bulletin article today will focus on one aspect of the priestly vocation – being transferred!

Ever since it was announced on April 19 that Fr. Mark will be moving from Our Lady of Mercy at the end of June, I have been inundated with the question, “why does Fr. Mark have to move?”  We love him!  He has done so much for our parish!  We love his homilies and all the spiritual videos and information he has given us on the app and website during the stay-at-home order!  The children, teens, young adults all love his youthfulness and his way of speaking and teaching about Jesus and the Church.  His homilies are fantastic! They relate to him so well! He has only been here three years! Can’t he stay?  I concur with your observations about the tremendous gift Fr. Mark has been to our parish and to me personally.  However, moving on is a part, sometimes a painful part, of being a priest.  In my 39 years of being a priest, I have moved to a new assignment 7 times.  Each move was not easy because as a priest you love your parishioners and become close to them.  Each new assignment however brings new friends and opportunities.  I think it is good for the personal growth of the priest and the parish that priests do move on.

The current policy in the Diocese of Joliet is that a newly ordained priest stays in his first assignment for three years, then receives a new assignment. When I was ordained in 1981, a newly ordained priest stayed five years in his first assignment.   Over the years with the shortage of priests, associate pastors were becoming pastors sooner than in the past. I was ordained 12 years and in five different assignments as an associate pastor before I became a pastor.  Today, an associate pastor can expect to become a pastor after only four to six years ordained.  The bishop wants an associate pastor to have at least two different parish experiences before becoming a pastor.  That is why Fr. Mark is being transferred now.  While he has had a great experience at Our Lady of Mercy, it would serve him well to experience ministry at another parish before he becomes a pastor. I think he will make a GREAT pastor someday soon!  Fr. Mark is a holy, prayerful man who has a deep personal relationship with Jesus and a burning desire to share that with others – making others committed disciples of Jesus!  I have no doubt that he will do that wherever he is sent!

Have a Blessed Easter Season!  Fr Don

April 26th | 3rd Sunday of Easter

There is both hope and challenge for us in today’s gospel account of two disciples of Jesus journey to Emmaus. The hope being that we will see the risen Lord. The challenge being how we will see the risen Lord. We easily acknowledge Christ on the cross in church, but find it more difficult to recognize Christ when he comes into our everyday lives.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus in today’s Gospel did not recognize the risen Christ even though they had followed him, seen him perform miracles, and heard him preach. His appearance was not the same. Only the breaking of the bread opened their eyes. Mary Magdalene thought the risen Christ was the gardener on Easter morning until he spoke her name. The disciples on resurrection night in Jerusalem thought they were seeing a ghost until Jesus showed them the wounds of his crucifixion. The disciples did not recognize the risen Christ at the sea shore in Galilee until the marvelous catch of fish. So what prevents us from recognizing Jesus disguised in our everyday lives? As I mentioned, we easily recognize him in church, and in the Eucharist. Perhaps this time of church closures and “stay at home” order, Jesus is calling us to recognize him beyond what we already know and long for. Christ comes into our everyday lives, disguised as our family members, our co-workers, or drivers on the road. And we are called to serve the Christ disguised in our everyday lives. If we truly believed that every act of kindness we do for another we do for Christ, how would our actions change? How different our world would be! Recognizing Christ requires a response. Could you refuse a Christ needing a winter coat or a fan to cool himself in the summer? If Christ were mentally challenged or mentally ill, would you support a tax to provide services? Do you treat your employer as Christ? Your employees? What about our treatment of poor people or refugees? Who would we refuse at our borders? The solutions may not be simple, but our criteria for judging need to be Christ-centered. What about the neighbor whose dog barks incessantly, or the ones who don’t care for their lawn as we would? What about someone who cuts you off when changing lanes on the highway or takes 25 items into the fast lane at the grocery store? Hard to see Christ in them, huh? But we are more apt to see Christ in others if we try to be Christ to others! Dorothy Day once said, “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Something to think about!

Have a blessed Easter Season!

Fr Don

April 19th | Divine Mercy Sunday

Dear Lord, have mercy on us! Today the church throughout the world celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday and we certainly need it now! Some friends of mine, Marlene & Lothar, who live in West Chicago, but grew up in Germany during World War II e-mailed me on Palm Sunday saying “We are practicing social distancing, a challenge, but for the better. Yes, we are living in trying times. Both Lou and I are children of WWII, even during that trying time we had our House of Worship to go to, we felt safe there, it was a comforting shelter. However, 75 – 80 years later Churches are closed because of this invisible enemy, Covid-19. But we must not lose our Faith, God is there, God listens, God gives us words.” I would add that His mercy is always there too! So while we can’t come to church to celebrate Divine Mercy this year, I invite you to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet at home.

The Divine Mercy celebration developed with the apparitions of Jesus to Saint Faustina Kowalska. The venerated image under this Christological title refers to what Sr. Faustina’s diary describes as “God’s loving mercy” towards all people, especially for sinners. Sr. Faustina reported a number of apparitions during religious ecstasy which she wrote in her diary, later published as the book Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul. The two main themes of the devotion are to trust in Christ’s endless goodness, and to show mercy to others acting as a conduit for God’s love towards them.

Trusting in God’s endless goodness and mercy can at times be a challenge. Many of us grew up in a time where we believed that we had to earn God’s mercy and never deserved God’s mercy. We are right in knowing that we do not deserve God’s mercy, but we are wrong in thinking that we can earn it. God’s mercy is freely given. God’s mercy removes the punishment we deserve for sin. All we have to do is ask for it, and trust that God IS mercy. Receiving his Divine Mercy calls us to extend mercy to others.

For me, the words of Dag Hammerskjold, Secretary General of the United Nations (1953 through 1961), written in his diary Markings sums it all up: “Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean. The dream explains why we need to be forgiven, and why we must forgive. In the presence of God, nothing stands between Him and us – we are forgiven. But we cannot feel His presence if anything is allowed to stand between ourselves and others.”

Let us bless God for His Divine Mercy!

Fr Don

April 12th | Easter Sunday

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning and saw the stone removed from the tomb. She ran to Simon Peter and told him they have taken the Lord as the tomb was empty. Simon Peter and the other disciple came to the tomb and found it exactly as she said…..empty! On the first day of the week, two disciples of Jesus, Fr. Mark and Fr. Don, came to the church early in the morning, and found it just like the tomb….empty!! What a strange feeling overcame them! All due to an invisible virus that has stopped us in our tracks.

Easter 2020 will be remembered by all of us as the most surreal Easter ever! We’ve had snow on Easter, we’ve had storms on Easter, we’ve even had wars raging in different parts of the world on Easter, but we’ve never had no crowds on Easter! We all look forward to coming to Mass on Easter….the joyful music and choirs, the flowers and decorations, the signs of spring, the message of joy and hope, and most of all receiving the very body and blood of Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice he made for us on Good Friday to wash away our sins! And yes, the Easter bonnets and being all dressed up! Much of that we miss today. Yet, none of this changes the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and IS with us – even during this medical pandemic. When we started our Lenten “journey to the heights” none of us realized that the journey would be as challenging to our spiritual and physical life as it has been! We understood that as we undertook the journey, that the goal was to be a transformed person by the time we reached the heights of Easter. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to change not only our physical routines by staying at home, but spiritual routines as well. With churches locked, how was I going to be able to pray? During this time God has challenged us to grow closer to Him, but perhaps in new ways. Some created altar and prayer spaces in their homes. Keep them – even after the pandemic subsides. Some have taken more time to read the scriptures or other spiritual reading – keep doing it after the pandemic subsides. Some have experienced God by being more in tune to neighbors, family, or by taking walks in nature – keep doing that after the pandemic subsides. And never lose hope…..the risen Lord is always with us no matter how often we think not. After His resurrection the disciples did not immediately recognize Jesus when he appeared to them. We do the same. But perhaps this time of worldwide pandemic will open our eyes to recognize Jesus in ways we never saw him before! ALLELUIA!!

Blessed Easter to you All!

Father Don, Father Mark, the Deacons and the Parish Staff

April 5th | Palm Sunday

“The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while other cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” The words of Matthew’s gospel seem to ring a little empty this morning. There are no crowds here, no excitement and enthusiasm, no waving of palm branches to be blessed. It all seems so surreal. How is it that a virus has robbed Christians from celebrating the most holy and sacred time of the year? And quite likely it will be the same on Easter Sunday. These several weeks of no public Masses, no Holy Week liturgies, no Easter due to the COVID-19 virus has made me reflect on how lucky we are to weekly celebrate as a community the mysteries of our faith. It makes me reflect upon the Catholics throughout the world who only have a priest come once a month or even just once a year to celebrate Mass with them. How do they sustain and nurture their faith without weekly celebrating the Eucharist? It is so central to who we are as Catholics! They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder! I can only imagine their hunger. And now we get a taste of what some Catholics throughout the world experience throughout their lives. In the several weeks that you have not been able to receive communion, I pray that the absence indeed has made your heart grow fonder! And when we are able to celebrate public Masses again, I hope that you who come every week, and those who have been away for awhile will fill our church with loud Hosannas!!

Please be sure to check our website and app for resources to celebrate Holy Week at home. Let us not loose our sense of community…..join us for our livestreamed liturgies. In the meantime, know that Fr. Mark and I keep you in our thoughts and prayers. We miss you!! Have a blessed Holy Week!

March 29th | 5th Sunday of Lent

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we meet dead Lazarus brought back to life. In doing so, perhaps we meet ourselves!! If you haven’t caught my drift yet, I started my last two bulletin articles with the same line after the person we met in that week’s gospel…. “In doing so perhaps we meet ourselves!!” The gospel story two weeks ago of the woman at the well, the gospel last week of the man born blind, and the gospel of today, Lazarus all form the basis of the scrutiny prayers used each week with the elect who are to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. These prayers call not only the elect to see themselves in the character of the particular gospel and what Jesus does for those characters the prayers call us to see ourselves as well. So today, we all called to recognize what is dead in us, and ask Jesus to raise us from our sins so that we might live a new life NOW! Has love grown cold? Have hurts made us bitter and resentful? Have we isolated ourselves, unwilling to forgive? Certainly, Lazarus had human faults and failings. It is important to note in this gospel that Jesus resuscitated Lazarus back to the life in the time he was living. Lazarus got his same body back, he was the age he was when he died, he was the same person, given the chance to live again with the new life and ability to change that which was dead in him. Resurrection on the other hand comes at the end of time, and resurrection is something much more than resuscitation! At the resurrection, we are transformed in to the likeness of the Risen Lord – a completely new body! So, while we are still here on earth, we have the chance to live a happy life in this body if only we let Jesus heal what is dead in us!

The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly challenged one of the things we hold dearest…our independence. Many having to self-isolate, stores and restaurants closed, and worst of all, cancellation of public Holy Week and Easter liturgies. This pandemic has also made us more conscious of our mortality. This conversation between Martha and Jesus in today’s Gospel is a reminder to us not to fear. Lazarus had died. Martha said to Jesus “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha replied Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” May we live with the faith of Martha through this Coronavirus pandemic.

Fr Don