January 17 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
This coming Friday, January 22, marks the 48th anniversary of the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. Ever since, the Catholic Church, along with some other Christian denominations and some non-Christians have taken up the campaign to reverse that decision. Over the years that sometimes took on violent confrontations and even bombing of abortion clinics. These, the Catholic Church has ALWAYS condemned. Just as our Bishops condemned the recent violence at our nation’s capitol. No matter what the cause one defends, violence is never an acceptable way to protest. Catholic across the country are encouraged to observe a nationwide prayer vigil from Thursday, January 28 to Friday, January 29, 2021. Since the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling, over 60 million abortions have been performed legally in the United States. Due to COVID-19 pandemic the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception where the vigil is held will be closed to the public. Instead, it will be televised live on EWTN. Here is the schedule: (Time listed is our time zone)
Thursday, January 28
7:00PM National Rosary for Life
7:30PM Opening Mass with Archbishop Naumann
8:45PM Holy Hour for Life
10:00PM Live-stream of holy hours throughout the night
Friday, January 29
7:00AM Closing Mass
We at Our Lady of Mercy are conducting a Novena for Life beginning on January 21 through January 29. The novena will be prayer before the weekday and weekend Masses those dates. You will also find the novena on our website. Friday January 22 is a National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. We will have Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction on Friday, January 22 INSTEAD of Thursday January 21. Let us pray for the conversion of heart of our new president, Joe Biden to defend the right to life of the unborn and promote the dignity of life from conception to natural death.
Have a Blessed Week!
January 10 – The Baptism of the Lord
Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. In doing so, we end the Christmas Season and move from the manger to the river Jordan. The baptism Jesus received was not the Christian baptism that we received, most of us as infants. Unlike us, Jesus did not need to be freed from the stain of original sin. He was like us in all things, but sin. The baptism of Jesus inaugurated his public ministry. In Jesus’ baptism, he was revealed and affirmed as the beloved Son of God. In our baptism, we were affirmed as adopted sons and daughters of God. In Jesus’ baptism, God spoke the words “Listen to him.” And in our baptism, we are called to grow as disciples of Jesus and listen to him. Our baptism was not only for the removal of the stain or original sin, but also a commissioning to become a disciple of Jesus, and to make disciples of Jesus. Our parish mission is to give each and every person a life changing encounter with Jesus, to make disciples, and send them on mission. And that mission is not in foreign lands. We are called to bring to good news of Jesus to our family, our homes, our schools, our places of work, our neighbors, our local community. So, as we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, let us remember our own and what it calls us to do!
Today I would like to recognize one group who have responded to their baptismal call of discipleship. That group is our permanent deacons who have served us at Our Lady of Mercy Parish. I thank our deacons and their wives for their selfless service to our parish community and beyond. Deacon Tim Kueper (Gail); Deacon Tony Leazzo (Jennifer); Deacon Tony Martini (Allyson); Deacon Mike Plese (Laurie); Deacon Phil Rehmer (Jean); Deacon Art Tiongson (Babes). We appreciate you and your ministry!
As you know, Deacon Mike and his wife have recently moved to Tennessee. But God has provided! In early December, I met with Deacon Guadalupe (Lupe) Villarreal who recently moved with his wife Carmen to Aurora. Deacon “Lupe” as he is known, asked to transfer his assignment from St. Dennis in Lockport to OLM. I have agreed, and he starts next weekend. He was ordained a permanent deacon in 2007. Prior to serving at St. Dominic in Lockport, has served the parishes of St. Isidore in Bloomingdale, Divine Savior in Downers Grove, St. Dominic in Bolingbrook (where Fr. James was a deacon). He has been Catholic Chaplain at the DuPage County Jail for 10 years and conducts a weekly communion service there. He is Hispanic and bi-lingual and will be a great help as we minister to our bi-lingual parishioners. He and his wife have five adult sons. We welcome Deacon Lupe and his wife Carmen to Our Lady of Mercy!
Also on the Permanent Deacon front…We congratulate parishioners Michael Raiz (Mass Coordinator at Sunday 8:00am Mass) and Carlos Briceno (Fit Shepherds and editor of the Diocesan Magazine) who have been accepted into the Aspirancy program to be ordained permanent deacons. They join parishioners Doug McIlvaine and Buggsy Sindac who are in their second year of studies for the permanent diaconate.
Have a blessed week!
January 3 – The Epiphany of the Lord
Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord! The tradition in some cultures is to exchange gifts with family and friends today. There perhaps is not a story from Sacred Scripture that does not evoke the Christian imagination more lively than this one. No Christmas crèche is complete without the figures of the three kings bringing three gifts to present to the baby Jesus. As important as these gifts may seem, what is more important is the gift that God gives to us through the Epiphany. The word Epiphany means “manifestation.” Today let us consider the gift of the Epiphany. The Jewish people had longed for a savior, one who would set them free from political oppression and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. But in the Epiphany, God reveals that through his son Jesus, God and his gift of salvation is not only for the chosen people of the original covenant with God, but that the God of Israel is God for ALL people and ALL nations. The gift of salvation is not limited – it is for everyone! With this revelation, perhaps it is a good idea to practice seeing beyond our stables to focus on the faces of those we would exclude from the gift of salvation. To love and accept those we think do not deserve God’s love, let alone ours. To rid ourselves of our racist attitudes lest we cooperate in Herod’s schemes just so that we might keep our comfortable-but confining stable walls around us. Let this gift change our hearts so that ALL people may see the salvation of our God!
In some cultures today is celebrated as “Little Christmas” with one last big family meal, one last present to the children, one last day to sing the carols and light the tree. So on this day of gifts, I join Fr. James in thanking all of you for your prayers, cards and joyful Christmas greetings. We also thank all who gifted us, and the staff with homemade or store bought goodies. We also are deeply grateful to all who gifted each of us personally. Your thoughtfulness and generosity is much appreciated!
In this one last week of celebrating the Christmas season – the Christmas season ends next Sunday with the Baptism of the Lord – may we all pray for God’s blessings on the new year 2021 and to bring the COVID pandemic to an end so that we can all be TOGETHER again when celebrating Christmas 2021!
Enjoy this final week of the Christmas Season!
December 27 – The Holy Family
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, and the majority of us probably think that our family is nothing like the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – especially when it comes to holiness! We say to ourselves that we could never be like “them.” But why not? Being a holy family does not mean everyone is perfect. Being a holy family does not mean no one ever sins or loses their temper. Holiness does not mean there will never be disagreements or discord. To think none of this happened with the Holy Family would be absurd. So what is holiness? Speaking from the experience of hearing confessions and counseling individuals for the past 38 years, I would say that the desire and effort to reconcile divisions within families is how a family becomes holy. Unfortunately, I have seen too many times where funerals or weddings bring out the worst in family relationships. How sad it is when family members refuse to attend a funeral or wedding due to an un-forgiven, un-reconciled grudge. I have seen it many times, and it breaks my heart!
Another way families become holy is by exercising kindness and patience. Again, speaking from my own experience and that of hearing confessions, I know how frustrating and at times embarrassing it is to care for a parent or family member suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia. My father had it for seven years before he died. The repetition, the confusion, the repeating over and over, the hurt if there is lashing out is all very difficult to be patient with. Then the embarrassing inappropriate outbursts in public! Yikes! It’s like role reversal…we become the parent and our parent becomes the little child! One of the options for the First Reading of today’s celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family gives us great encouragement! It is from the Book of Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14. It reads: “My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins…”
Knowing that God will not forget the kindness you show to your aging father or mother, even if their mind fails, and that God will account for that kindness toward the forgiveness of your own sins should make it all the easier to be patient, even when it is difficult!
I pray that all our parish families become holier through reconciliation and kindness!
Enjoy this blessed Christmas Season!
December 20 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
During the Advent/Christmas season, the company that publishes our Sunday bulletin has earlier than usual deadlines for getting each weeks bulletin to them for printing. As such, I am writing today’s December 20 article on December 8 – one full week ahead of the normal deadline. I am writing too as I am recovering from my unexpected surgery on December 3 to remove gallstones and my gallbladder. A little concerning during the middle of a pandemic!
And so, on this 4th Sunday of Advent, we are 5 days away from the celebration of Christmas! And what a different celebration it will be for all of us this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was brought home for me today as I received an e-mail from friends in Wheaton where I have spent Christmas the last 19 years informing me they decided not to hold the annual dinner gathering with me and three other families that have traditionally come to their home on Christmas. What a bummer! I’ve sure many of you are experiencing the same thing in various ways. For some, it doesn’t even feel like Christmas. But you know what? I’m OK with it, and even look forward to this Christmas alone (with the dog)! Please, no pity parties! I know that many of you would invite me to your house for dinner, and I appreciate that. But this Christmas IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT – maybe even a great one! Why? The answer lies in a YouTube video I ran across the day before I wrote this article. So, if you are feeling down about Christmas this year, I wish you would watch this 8 minute 30 second video.
Go to YouTube and search “This Could Actually be a Great Christmas” by Fr. Casey Cole OFM. This young priest gives an insightful reflection that lifted me from this Christmas possibly being a depressing one to one that could be great!
So, I’ll be just fine! After all the Christmas Masses, and still recovering from surgery, I know that I will be exhausted and I look forward to settling down for a long winter nap in the recliner next to the gas log fireplace with Chardonnay (the dog) in my lap and perhaps in a glass too. And my friends from Wheaton are bringing me dinner too! Life and Christmas, despite the pandemic, are grand!
Fr. James, our Deacons and wives, and all our parish staff wish you a most blessed Christmas. In the midst of the challenges of our times, the truth still isn’t changed – God is with us!
December 13 – Third Sunday of Advent
It was previously announced that December 20 would be the last weekend that Deacon Mike Please would deacon Mass before moving to Tennessee. Due to unforeseen circumstances, it has been moved to this weekend. So, on behalf of the parish family of OLM I extend to Deacon Mike our love, support, and thanks for his diaconal ministry at Our Lady of Mercy, and we wish him well in his new position with FedEx in Tennessee. God Bless you Deacon Mike and your wife Laurie and family! Deacon Mike shares his farewell message…..
Dear OLM Family,
It is with mixed emotions that I tell you I am leaving the only parish I have known for the past almost 30 years. I’m grateful for friendships made and for service to our parish as a deacon these last 4 years. I have talked about moving out of state for quite some time, but never had I envisioned this was going to take place so quickly. I guess I should have expected the unexpected this year, as 2020 was loaded with surprises. To cap off what has been a crazy year, I found out I’ll need to go under the knife for the first time on 12/21, nothing major though. What a way to end this year! Since we just had an offer accepted on a house in Tennessee, my thoughts turn to ministry at a new parish. While I will stay connected to many of you through my phone (call, text, social media), I understand we will have to make new friends and adjust to parish life in Tennessee. Wherever I end up, the parishioners might say the new deacon talks with a Chicago accent! I’ll do my best to try to bring a taste of Chicago to Murfreesboro (Portillo’s, Giordanos). As we all navigate the many changes that take place throughout our lives, just know you will always be in my thoughts and prayers, and this is just the next chapter in my life for which I am excited to begin. Turn the page!
December 6 – Second Sunday of Advent
Today is the Second of Advent and the feast day of St. Nicholas who unfortunately will not be making a visit today due to the Coronavirus. So, I thought I would share some information about St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra and is the basis of the legend of Santa Claus. He is a patron saint of Russia, Greece, and Sicily, and of many other cities and dioceses, as well as patron saint of children and pawnbrokers. Born at Patara in Lycia (southwestern Turkey), a province in Asia Minor, he became bishop of Myra, the province’s capital, where he enjoyed a reputation for piety and pastoral zeal. He was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution (303 – 305) and was later present at the Council of Nicaea (325), where he joined in the condemnation of Arianism, the heresy that denied the full divinity of Christ.
He died at Myra, and there was a basilica built in his honor in Constantinople by the emperor Justinian. In 1087 his relics were taken to Bari and a new shrine built in his honor there in 1095. Pope Urban II was present for the solemn opening of the shrine. From that time forward, Nicholas’s cult became almost universal in the West. He also has had an important place in the Byzantine liturgical traditions. He is thought to have been the most frequently represented saintly bishop for several centuries.
The tradition of giving gifts to children on his beast began in the Low Countries and became popular in North America through the Dutch settler of New Amsterdam. The Dutch also combined with the gift giving the Nordic legend of a magician who punished naught children and rewarded good ones with presents. His patronage of pawnbrokers is linked with yet another legend about Nicholas’s throwing three bags of gold through a window to be used as dowries for three young women who would otherwise have been given over to a life of prostitution.
The feast of St. Nicholas is also observed by the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the USA, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Let us take a deeper look at the legends surrounding St. Nicholas. Perhaps we can utilize the lesson taught by his legendary charity, look deeper at our approach to material goods in the Christmas season and seek ways to extend our sharing to those in real need.
Have a Blessed Advent!
November 29 – First Sunday of Advent
Today we hit the reset button! Liturgically speaking. Today, the First Sunday of Advent begins a new year of scripture readings for Sunday and weekday Masses. We are now in year B of the Sunday readings and cycle I for weekday readings. But Advent is more than just a change in scripture readings. Advent is a call to hit the reset button in our lives! And I can’t think of a better time than NOW to reset the direction of our lives. We are living in the midst of a pandemic. We are weary, and sometimes suspicious, of government mandates in response to the pandemic. We are weary of politics that has polarized us as a people, a nation, and a church. We are weary of zoom meetings and online learning. We are weary of minimal interaction with our family, friends, and neighbors. As I said in my homily a couple of weeks ago, I think we are all experiencing a low-grade depression. But you know what, things weren’t all that different 2,000 years ago when Israel was weary of wars and being ruled by the Romans. They longed for a Savior. We celebrate the birth of that long awaited for Savior at Christmas. Advent is a reminder that we long for the RETURN of that Savior. Advent is a time to refocus on the promise of Jesus that he would return in glory. We Christians have waited for two millennia. The season of Advent is a season that invites us to deeper conversion. As disciples of Christ, we learn anew what it means to wait as Christians. Our weariness should be comforted in the fact that our Savior HAS come…..and will come again! Let’s all hit the resent button, be a little more joyful, a little more patient with each other, a little kinder. Though the uncertainties of our time can frazzle our nerves, we know one thing for sure…Jesus redeemed us and will return in glory. Now that should bring a smile to your face!
Speaking of hitting the reset button, I share with you today that Deacon Michael Plese and his wife Laurie will be leaving the parish and moving out of state. Deacon Mike has worked as a delivery driver for FedEx for 33 years. He has accepted a new position to work out of their facility in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Deacon Mike and his family have been members of OLM for 29 years. Their adult daughters, Emily is married and lives in London, England, and Michelle will be married at the cathedral in Nashville in August 2021. Deacon Mike was ordained in 2016 and has served OLM as a catechist in the RE program, celebrated baptisms and weddings. He has participated in Communion Services and Benediction. He has taken the brunt of my teasing. I’m not sure how Red Robin on Ogden Avenue is going to stay in business after he moves! Deacon Mike starts his new job the first week of January 2021, and he and Laurie will be moving to the Nashville area with 2 dogs and 3 cats! I personally thank Deacon Mike and Laurie for his ministry at OLM. He has been one of the biggest recruiters for new permanent deacons from our parish. He will deacon the 10:00am Mass on December 20 and give a farewell message at all the Masses that weekend. We will miss you Deacon Mike!
Have a Blessed Advent!
November 22, 2020 – Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe
Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year A. On the last Sunday of each liturgical year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 with his encyclical Quas primas (“In the first”) to respond to growing secularism and hostility against the Church. Today reminds us that while governments and ideologies come and go, Christ reigns as King forever. During the early twentieth century in Mexico, Russian, and in many parts of Europe, atheistic regimes threatened not just the Catholic Church and its faithful, but civilization itself. Pope Pius XI’s encyclical gave Catholics hope and while governments around them crumbled, the assurance that Christ, the King shall reign forever. Pope Pius XI said that: “Christ reigns in the hearts of men, both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind.”
His encyclical continues to ring true today. The Holy Father speaks directly to the problem of what he referred to as “anti-clericalism” by which he meant the attitude of those who were seeking to extirpate Christian influence from political life. We see a version of this same attitude today when it is suggested that belief in Catholic teachings renders a person unfit for a judicial appointment. Aggressive secularist campaigns have sought to marginalize the Church and other religious institutions. Religious freedom today continues to be attacked. When our nation is beset by civil unrest, racial tension, and a pandemic, we do well to turn to Our Lord, who reigns over every people and nation!
As you know, after MercyFest 2018 we decided to discontinue MercyFest. That was probably a good thing because we would have had to cancel it if we had planned to have it this past October. We have closed the MercyFest bank account and spent the remaining $9,000 as follows: Donation to Hesed House; Replacement of two of the monitors in the narthex of the church and PLC; Installation of I-Wave air filtration systems in the church HVAC system that will purify and sanitize the air in the church (completed two weeks ago); retro fitting the parking light fixtures with LED lighting (cost split with Com-Ed, work yet to be scheduled). Again, thank you to all the chairpersons, volunteers and supporters of MercyFest over the years! Much has been accomplished!!
Fr. James, along with our Deacons and wives and parish staff join me in wishing all of you a very blessed Thanksgiving Day!
Have a blessed week!
November 15 – Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The liturgical year “A” featuring Matthew’s gospel is quickly coming to an end. Next Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King which is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. November 29th, the First Sunday of Advent, will begin a new liturgical year featuring the Gospel of Mark. Today I will share with you a quick and basic overview of Mark’s Gospel in preparation for it being the primary gospel we will hear in 2021.
In the late 60’s of the first century, nearly forty years since the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, he had not returned. The earliest Christians thought that the return of Jesus was imminent. But now, forty years has passed and Jerusalem was under siege by the Romans, and the persecution of Christians in Rome itself was intensifying. Peter and Paul had died, and few eye witnesses to Jesus’ ministry were left. Christians had told and retold the stories of Jesus’ ministry, Death, and Resurrection over the years, but Christians began to feel the need for written instruction. In these years, Mark, leaning on the teachings of Peter and others, wrote his Gospel, the earliest and shortest Gospel we have. It is likely that he wrote for his suffering community in the environs of Rome. His main concern was to record the basic facts and stay faithful to the tradition, and Mark wrote with a flair for the dramatic and a rich theological sense.
Suffering had thrown Mark’s community into a spiritual crisis. The crisis came not because of weak faith, but through a strong faith too focused on the privileges and glory of being the community of the Resurrection. Being disciples meant enjoying the benefits of Jesus’ victory. To counter this, Mark refocused on Jesus’ Death as the foundation of discipleship. Mark’s primary themes of the Kingdom of God, the identity of Jesus, and the call to discipleship each undergo dramatic development in the Gospel of Mark in light of the Cross. For Mark, everything, even Jesus’ glorious return, stands in the shadow of his Crucifixion. Discipleship is a key theme in Mark’s Gospel. So get ready to be reminded that discipleship comes with a personal cost!
On Friday, November 20 and Sunday, November 22 we will welcome Bishop Joseph Perry, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago to Our Lady of Mercy Parish. Bishop Perry will administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to 90 of our high school teens.
We thank all those who were involved in the preparation of our confirmation candidates. Congratulations to the newly confirmed and fully initiated members of the Catholic Church! We look forward to your continued growth in the Spirit and the sharing of your gifts and talents with our parish community!
Have a blessed week!