July 12 – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Do you have hope?  In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the civil unrest in our country, the uncertainty of the future, add other personal difficulties and challenges, do you find it difficult to have hope?  How does one develop hope?  To develop hope is to cultivate mystery.  All too often, we are seduced into thinking that only the present counts.  We are encouraged to believe that nothing can really be changed.  We are constantly exhorted to hold that there is only one way to go – namely, the party line.  We thereby become victims of despair.  In such a debacle, only hope can save us.  But to develop hope is to cultivate mystery.

In the first reading today the exiles in Babylon had written off the Lord.  They accepted what they believed to be their fate.  For them the Lord could not do anything and, if he could, he was not interested.  This was the party line of ancient Near Eastern theology.  The prophet Isaiah counters with a message of hope:  “Cry out, do not fear!  Say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!” (Is: 40:9).  But it was a hope interwoven with mystery.  Their ways were not God ways.  God would again speak his creative Word.  To respond to that Word, however, was to give God the liberty to act as he chooses.  To develop hope is to cultivate mystery.

In the gospel the disciples had begun to write Jesus off.  Some were no longer walking with him.  Jesus, however, responded to this situation by noting the natural agricultural process of failure and success.  The mode of failure is readily explicable – the mode of success is rarely intelligible.  Yet despite the obvious failures, God is at work.  To hope is to let God work in his own mysterious fashion and not impose human restraints.  To develop hope is to cultivate mystery.

There are countless ways in which we may develop hope and thereby cultivate mystery.  Parents who refuse to calculate their children’s success merely in terms of academic achievement and personality point to another standard.  Career people who refuse to accept the manipulative practices of big business as the only way to go testify to another dynamism. The sick and dying who refuse to see their present pain as useless and worthless indicate another value system.  All such people restore God’s liberty to give as he chooses to give.  All such people attest that to develop hope is to cultivate mystery.

The Eucharist communicates this as well, reflecting Jesus’ anxiety before his death and communicating Jesus’ acceptance of the Father’s mysterious plan for him.  All who share in the Eucharist confess that the paths, rocks, and thorns of Jesus’ passion and death are transformed into the abundant harvest of the resurrection.  The Eucharist articulates a hope, but a hope based on God’s freedom to act.  The Eucharist asserts that to develop hope is to cultivate mystery!  Let hope and mystery be a part of your life!!

Have a Blessed Week!

Father Don

 

July 5 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend we welcome our new Parochial Vicar, Fr. James Gaurascio.  Just ordained a priest for our Diocese on June 20, 2020, Fr. James succeeds Fr. Mark Bernhard who served as Parochial Vicar at OLM for three years and is now at St. Mary Parish in Mokena. Fr. Mark was a newly ordained priest when he began at OLM.   I think is says a lot about our parish community when the bishop feels confident in assigning a newly ordained priest to OLM.  The first assignment of a newly ordained priest is critical in transitioning him from the academic seminary life to parish ministerial life of a priest.  Trust me, after 38 years as a priest, they do not and cannot teach you everything you need to know about being a parish priest in the seminary!  It is through the lived experience of being embraced by a community (parish) that is willing to forgive your faults, challenge you where you need to grow, and love you that forms you into the priest you become. That certainly describes Our Lady of Mercy parish! Parishioners have a lot to do in forming their priests to be good and holy priests.

As we welcome Fr. James (and that is how he prefers to be called), I am pleased to inform you he is bi-lingual and will be offering a weekly Mass in Spanish, as well as being able to hear confessions and counsel in Spanish.

Fr. James and three other priests of our Diocese are founding members in our Diocese of an association of Diocesan priests called “Companions of Christ.”  Please see the article in today’s bulletin regarding the “Companions of Christ.”  One thing to be aware of is that Fr. James and the other three priests will not be living at the rectories of their respective parish assignments.  They live at a rented home in Lisle.  They pay the rent out of their salary; there is no additional cost to the parish.

I look forward to mentoring and ministering with Fr. James.  Please warmly welcome him to Our Lady of Mercy parish!

As we celebrate this weekend the founding of our nation 244 years ago, let us pray for our citizens, our political leaders and our nation.  Founded as one nation under God, we need to turn to that God, and ask his help in embracing, once again, the vision that our founding ancestors enumerated….that all people are created equal, and ours is a nation of liberty and justice for all.  May God bless our work of uniting all people in peace.

Have a blessed holiday weekend!

Father Don

 

Father Mark – Thank You – from Father Don

June 28 – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sadly, today is Fr. Mark’s last weekend with us.  Most newly ordained priests find it difficult to leave their first assignment.  I hope Fr. Mark will carry with him treasured memories of his first priestly assignment here at Our Lady of Mercy.  I know I do after leaving my first assignment 35 years ago at St. Alexander in Villa Park.  I don’t know whether it is true or not, but it’s been said about priest transfers (to keep us humble I suppose) that 10% of parishioners are happy to see you go, 20% are really upset, and the rest just kind of go with the flow.  I suspect that a much greater percentage here at OLM are extremely sad to see Fr. Mark leave!  I join you!  I know that Fr. Mark and all of us feel short-changed with the COVID-19 restrictions. Not being able to express our gratitude, love, and best wishes to him with a proper reception and opportunity to greet him individually really stinks!  Priest transfers are strange in that this weekend we say goodbye to Fr. Mark, and next weekend, while we are still grieving the loss of Fr. Mark, we welcome Fr. James. And Fr. Mark is welcomed at a new parish.  A week hardly seems enough time to grieve!

I especially want to thank Fr. Mark for what he has done for our parish (the list is endless) and for me personally during his three years at OLM. As a priest nearing retirement, it was a special honor to have a newly ordained priest assigned to minister with me.  I have been a pastor 27 of my 39 years ordained, with eight different parochial vicars ministering with me during my four pastorates.  I cannot thank him enough for the youthful vision, hope, and hard work he has brought to ministry and rectory life. Fr. Mark encouraged me to embrace a new vision for the future church! – moving a parish from maintenance to mission.  Fr. Mark is an excellent preacher putting his heart and soul in preparing homilies.  I have said that he is the Bishop Fulton Sheen of our time!  His homilies at times challenged me in areas I didn’t want to be challenged.  He is a man with a deep spiritual life of prayer, lives a life of simplicity (compare his clothes closet to mine!) and is a convicted disciple of Jesus!  I once told his mother that I didn’t know if I was living with a future bishop or saint!!

While we have had our arguments over theology and rubrics of celebrating the Mass, we have had fun too. We have enjoyed bantering back and forth with each other at Masses to make you laugh. I just pray that one day his heart will be converted to liking dogs.  I hope so…his new pastor has 3 dogs!  God bless you Fr. Mark! May the people at St. Mary in Mokena be as blessed as we have been with your presence and ministry!

Father Don

 

June 21 – Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

BLESSING PRAYER FOR FATHER’S DAY

(suggested to be given by eldest child or mother of the family)

 

Blessed are You, Lord and Father of All Life,

  who has given to us the gift of the father of our family.

   today, we honor him, and we thank You for the numerous good things

   that are ours because of him.

His love for us has been a sign of Your divine affection

   and a sharing in Your holy love.

His continuous concern for our needs and welfare

   is a mirror of Your holy providence.

And so, as we honor him,

   we praise You, Father of All Peoples.

Bless him this day with Your strength and holy power

   that he may continue to be a sign of You, our God,

   and a priestly parent to our family.

May we who have the honor of bearing his family name

   do so with great pride.

May we, the members of his family,

assist him in his holy duties as a parent

   with our respect, our obedience and our deep affection.

Bless him, Lord, with happiness and good health,

   with peace and with good fortune,

   so that he who has shared of his very life

   may live forever with You, his God and heavenly Father.

This blessing and all graces, we pray,

   descend upon the father of our family:

   in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen+

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Father Don

 

 

June 14 – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

How long can a human live without food?  Given various circumstances, it varies greatly.  At age 74, Mahatma Gandhi, the famous advocate for India’s independence, survived 21 days of total starvation.  A Norther Ireland prisoner endured a 66-day hunger strike before he died.  The illusionist David Blaine had no food for 44 days in a stunt where he was sealed in a plexiglass box which was suspended over the Thames River in London.  A Japanese hiker who was lost went without food for 24 days and survived.  In the desert, Jesus went without food for 40 days.  There is an adage called the rule of threes:  You can’t live without air for three minutes, without water for three days and without food for three weeks.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us, “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”  Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi.  How long can you survive without consuming the Body and Blood of Christ?  During this COVID-19 pandemic and with our churches closed, I know many of you have been starving!  Livestreaming Mass and receiving “spiritual” communion has not quite been the same as receiving the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist.  With some restrictions lifted, we are now able to celebrate the Eucharist with the maximum of 100 people present in the church.  With the parking lot Mass, more people are able to receive the Eucharist, as the number of people are not restricted, but the number of vehicles.

But what about those who do not come to Mass regularly or not at all?  Surely they must be incredibly malnourished!  I began by asking how long we can go without eating before becoming starved to death. Of course, that is for our physical existence.  But there is more to us than our bodies.  We are not just flesh and blood.  We have a soul.  And that needs to be fed as well.  Maybe people just aren’t aware of that.  But maybe some are afraid of the implications of Jesus’ statement in the Gospel today that he is true food.  The people who heard Jesus speaking the words in today’s Gospel knew well that eating and praying together implied communion.  The shocking thing Jesus did by calling himself the living bread had nothing to do with cannibalism.  The scandal was the declaration that in his very humanity he embodied divine life being offered to them.  Jesus claimed that communion with him was the way to communion with God that he already enjoyed.  What tripped them up, and perhaps us too, is that he brought God too close.  A God who is majestic and unreachable is far easier to deal with than one who invites us to communion in the here and now.  It doesn’t cost much to worship a god to whom we can offer placating sacrifices and then go on with our lives as normal.  But God who initiates communion with us is going to claim everything we are as we come to abide in Christ and allow him to abide in us.

 

Have a Blessed Week in Communion with God!

 

June 7 – The Most Holy Trinity

Here it is, the first weekend in June and we are slowing emerging from two and a half months of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some have used the time as an opportunity to grow spiritually and accomplish some long put off goals or projects.  Others were stressed out with the lack of community and sense of a loss of freedom and new demands that life became burdensome of a challenge.  Which are you?  For me, I think I am a combination of both.  I did spend some of the time doing spiritual reading, but I never seemed to get around to most of the projects I had planned to do.  I did get one project done…..cleaned out the basement of the rectory. At other times, I felt overwhelmed by the ever-changing directives that came from the governor and bishop. I dealt with the stress by what I call the other COVID-19…..the 19 or more pounds I put on by eating every sweet and dessert in sight.  But that is now behind me…three things I resolved on Memorial Day weekend to do:  1. Start bike riding again, which I have done every day.  2.  Pay more attention to my diet.  I have stage III kidney disease since I had a kidney removed four years ago due to cancer.  I have to reduce protein, and avoid foods high in potassium, sodium and phosphorus.  And since glucose level is at 110, I need to STOP eating bread and sweets.  3. Laugh more!  They say laughter is the best medicine, and maybe it just is the best way to deal with all the stresses of this pandemic.  So, every night when I go to bed, I take my iPad, go to YouTube and watch an episode of “I Love Lucy” or the “Carol Burnette Show” or “Hollywood Squares” or animals doing goofy things. Anything to make me laugh!  And then I try to do something each day to make someone else laugh.  That’s been the penances I’ve been giving lately, do something to make yourself laugh and do something to make someone else laugh.  Pray for me St. Philip Neri….he gave goofy penances too!

On this Trinity Sunday, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit offers new pathways for us to reflect on his love for us and draw us into an intimate, dynamic, and life-changing relationship.  God the Father: “receives us as your own.”  The words of Moses remind us that God has created us as his own, loves us, and we belong to him. God the Son:  If we forget God’s love for us, we need only look to the cross to be reminded. God the Holy Spirit:  Our relationship with the Spirit is not an abstract proposition.  The Holy Spirit can impact our lives in concrete and life-changing ways.  The Holy Spirit pours out God’s love into our hearts.  The Holy Spirit transforms fear into freedom, isolation into community, and sends people out with purpose.  May the power of the Blessed Trinity touch your life!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

 

 

May 31 | Pentecost Sunday

Hooray! It’s Pentecost! The Holy Spirit has been unleashed upon us!! Thanks to the hard work of our re-opening leadership team, Fr. Mark, Jolene LeRoy, Bob Gancarz, Phil Zwick, Len Eickhoff, and Phyllis Anderson, I am pleased to inform you that our parish has received certification from the Diocese of Joliet to begin scheduling confession times, baptisms, weddings, funerals, private prayer times and Eucharistic adoration. We are the first parish in the Diocese to receive certification. ALL of these celebrations have the following requirements:

• 10 people maximum (excluding celebrant and assisting minister(s)

• Face masks must be worn at all times

• 6 foot social distancing must be maintained at all times (except those living in same house)

• Hand sanitizing upon entering and exiting church

Confessions will begin on May 26. The last week in May and first two weeks in June we will be scheduling confession times only. The schedule for confessions and directions for anonymously reserving a time are on our website.

We will add scheduled times for private prayer and Eucharistic adoration beginning the week of June 14.

We have also been certified by the Diocese to begin weekday and Sunday Masses. However, we may not begin celebrating public Masses, weekday or Sunday, until the Governor allows churches to open for public worship. When this happens, it will likely be limited to a certain percentage of our seating capacity. We have planned for 20% occupancy, which means 200 people at a Mass. We have planned to celebrate four Masses on the weekend. We will continue to livestream Sunday Mass at 9:00AM and weekday Masses at 8:00AM. Like confessions, an online reservation system will be used for Sunday Masses.

For those who do not have access to the internet, you can make a reservation for confessions (and Mass when we are permitted to celebrate) by calling Zara Tan at 331.707.5381.

I know this has been a very challenging and difficult time. You have missed reception of the sacraments and the solace and spiritual comfort they provide. You have missed the quiet and peace of praying in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. You have missed community, and we have missed you!! It has been a messy time for all of us, but remember, God is in the mess too! God is with us! And so too is the power of the Holy Spirit!!

Have a Blessed week!

Father Don

May 24th | Ascension Sunday

“Why are you looking at the sky?” Today we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus to heaven. For forty days after his resurrection, he had been appearing to his disciples and speaking with them about the Kingdom of God. We are told in today’s Gospel that Jesus and the eleven disciples went to a mountain in Galilee where he told them, GO and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to observe all that he commanded. This is why the disciples were asked as to why they were looking at the sky. It was time to get going!! Making disciples is our mission and vision here at Our Lady of Mercy. Since the shutdown of our church, offices and parish programs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been a challenge in making disciples without the one-to-one or group in person contact. None-the-less, our staff has risen to the challenge!!

I want to applaud and recognize our staff who have been constant in their devotion to making disciples – this time electronically! First, I am so very grateful to Fr. Mark and Zara Tan for their outstanding work in providing for the livestreaming of Sunday and daily Mass, as well as programs to keep us spiritually nourish us during this time. Thanks to Mary Jo Trapani our DRE, Dave Miserendino our Youth Minister, and Candy Rice our EDGE Director, as well as their support staff Jean Rehmer and Jean Palasz who have kept parents, catechists, and children supplied with on-line faith formation content. Trust me, none of them have been sitting home twiddling their thumbs wondering what to do!

I also want to thank parishioner Nick Meriage owner of Creative Digital Masters and his team Ann Meriage, Fred Harris, Deanna Trampani and Maddy Rusen for the professional services of livestreaming our Sunday Mass. Nick donated our first livestream Mass and has discounted by half all our subsequent livestreamed Masses. Our weekday Masses are livestreamed at no charge.

Also, making disciples, congratulations to parishioners Jason and Carrie (Beelner) Nadziejko, 2003 graduates of the University of Iowa who were recipients of The University of Iowa’s 2020 Fr. Ed Fitzpatrick Discipleship Award. Newman Singer alumni, they married in 2004, moved to Chicago and started a family in 2005. They settled in Aurora in 2007 and are currently the parents of two teenage girls. The family is involved at OLM as cantors, religious education instructors and altar servers. Both Jason and Carrie credit the Newman Center as being “a rock and constant” when they were college students and as adults raising a family. They said: “We looked for a parish family that exemplified that same stead and sturdy constant the Newman Center provided to us. We are thankful when we can use our time, talent and treasure to serve our faith family at OLM.” As recipients of the Fr. Ed Fitzpatrick Discipleship Award, the Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa has made a $500 donation in Jason and Carrie’s honor to Our Lady of Mercy Parish.

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

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