October 2 – Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October is the yearly attendance count for the Diocese. We track how many people show up to Masses each weekend in October so that over the course of the years we can compare and see whether attendance is rising or falling. Don’t worry, we don’t keep track of who it is while counting (though we used to do that year round based on your donation envelopes in the basket!). So, in order to satisfy my own curiosity, I’m wondering how many people actually read the bulletin articles. If you would therefore please send me an email right now at  FrJames@OLMercy.com   with the subject line or content being READ THE BULLETIN, I’ll be happy to report the results to my boss! It’ll also look good on you, unless of course I receive the email during one of the Mass times. Then I’ll just know you weren’t paying attention during Mass!

Thanks. Now that that’s over, October is also the month of the rosary. While the origins of the rosary are long debated and have several variations, let’s just say that it has a long historical pedigree. The 150 Hail Mary’s of all three sets of mysteries are often connected with the 150 psalms, making the rosary the ‘layman’s psalter’ of sorts. Another origin story calls the practice a “rosarium”, or, “rose garden”. Given the fact that St. Therese of Lisieux kicks off this month with her feast day, and the fact that her prayer cards are often adorned with the prayer: “St Therese, the Little Flower, please pick me a rose from the Heavenly Garden and send it to me with a message of Love,” I enjoy the idea of our rosaries being like us picking roses one by one and laying them at the feet of our Mother Mary! Nevertheless, the rosary is so universally revered in the Catholic world because it is so wonderfully universal! It leads us into vocal, meditative, and contemplative prayer alike, while inviting us into both Scripture and Tradition and ultimately a deeper relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ. This month, let’s count off those beads and offer the fragrance of our prayers to Our Lord through the hands of Our Lady of the Rosary!

Father James

 

September 25 – The Feast of Our Lady of Mercy

This weekend we are celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Mercy.   As I reflect on my first assignment as pastor, I truly believe the Lord is inviting me into His school of mercy through the instruction of Our Lady of Mercy.  I say it is a school because I continue to learn and be transformed by His mercy through our Mother’s beautiful example.

I have encountered brokenness in my own body through various physical ailments. I’ve experienced brokenness in my relationships with my friends and family.  I’ve also seen my relationship with God experience strife and difficulties.  One thing that is clear; I am a person in need of God’s mercy and healing.

Our Lady of Mercy is a beautiful teacher.  Mary was the first to receive Jesus at the Annunciation.  She was the first to hold her son and embrace him at his birth.  She initiated Jesus’ ministry at the wedding feast at Cana.  As she stood at the foot of the cross, her heart was pierced, and she became a teacher of her son’s mercy to his disciples.

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.  John 19:26-27 

Next week, starting on the first Saturday of October, which is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we will begin 7 continuous days of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament ending on the first Friday of October celebrating the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  I would like to encourage everyone to consider joining Our Lady of Mercy in adoration of her Son in the Blessed Sacrament. Come spend time in silence with our Lord and enter into His school of Mercy.  Sign up for adoration hours may be found online and in the Narthex after all Masses.

Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us!

Father Michael

 

September 18 – Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Recently I learned another little factoid about the Mass that I wanted to share with all of you. Have you ever noticed that the priest bows slightly right before saying the words of consecration? This is first of all because the big red book called the Roman Missal tells the priest not only what to say, but also what to do while saying it. At the most important point of the Mass, the Missal instructs the priest with these simple words, “He bows slightly,” and then, in all caps, tells him to repeat the words of Christ, “TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU…”

Why bow? On the one hand, we may be tempted to think that the priest should simply be looking at the people and saying these words standing straight up because, in a certain way, he is re-enacting the scene of the Last Supper where Jesus said this to the disciples. However, the Mass is so much more than a re-enactment. If that were all it is, I’m sure you could find much better actors and singers at the Paramount Theatre!  Something substantial and miraculous is happening when we follow the Lord’s command to “do this in memory of me.”

In medieval times, kings would send messengers on their behalf to share a message. In order to make clear that what they were saying was from their lord and not from them, the messenger would bow while pronouncing their king’s words. Not only would this convey a certain reverence for their king’s words, it would also be a simple way to distinguish between who was saying what. During the Mass, the priest does much the same. He takes the words of Jesus as his own because of his ordination into the priesthood of Jesus Christ—“THIS IS MY BODY…THIS IS MY BLOOD”. This is an amazing and beautiful moment for priests, as it reminds us to give up our own bodies, to give up our own blood in service to our people. But the priest also bows while saying these words to show that he is merely a servant of the True Priest, a messenger of the High King.

At Mass we not only remember what Our Lord did for us, we encounter His very self—Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity—offered to us, and for us. May we, at each and every Mass, keep our gaze fixed not simply on the messenger, but on the True High King and His good news of great joy.

Father James

 

September 11 – Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My dad’s first cousin is a priest for the Diocese of Des Moines.  My dad’s step-brother was a Jesuit priest and professor at Creighton University.  My great-aunt was a Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) sister and taught in Chicagoland area.  My mom’s first cousin is a Franciscan priest in the Holy Land and was the former pastor at the Church of Nativity and the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth. If you ask my mom, she could list even more distant cousins with religious vocations.  Needless to say, religious vocations have been present in my family.  However, it might surprise you to know that while growing up, the idea of priesthood never entered my mind!

Now that I am older and I can reflect back, I can see signs of the invitation, but at the time I was completely absent-minded to the Lord’s call.  You could say I grew up in the Lord’s house, the Church; by going to Mass on weekends and Holy Day of Obligations, but I was unaware of the Lord’s plan for me.

Whenever I hear the story of the Prodigal Son, I see a similar a struggle; both sons fail to see the invitation of the father.  The first son wanted to find his identity away from his father, while the oldest son thought he only need to live under his father’s roof.  But the father was offering something more than just shelter, food, and work to both of them.  He was offering his very self, his very heart.

I believe we as Catholics continue to miss out on the invitation given to us by Our Father in heaven through his Son.  We are personally aware that many have left the faith like the younger son, but how many of us in the pews, or should I say those in the presider’s chair, fail to realize the invitation to the Father’s heart through the gift of his Son?

Some may think that it would be the job of the pastor/priest and our ministries is to get people into the Church.  But that would miss the point of the Gospel and the lesson that needs to be learned by the older son in the parable. The goal of the priest and our ministries at OLM is to make people aware of the beautiful invitation before them.  The invitation to God’s heart!  I’m truly grateful for all the ministries at our parish that invites each and everyone of us to enter more deeply into the Father’s heart.

Father Michael

 

September 4 – Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Normally when we think of voluntary poverty, we think of religious brothers or sisters. Indeed, the catechism tells us, “The life consecrated to God is characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.” (CCC 944) However, it also tells us, “Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple.” (CCC 915) Really? Yup. We hear it this weekend: “Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

Of course, we can’t all be mendicants, but the evangelical counsels have proven for two thousand years to be the surest way to perfection. Since we’re all called to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), we’re also all called to some form of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

I’ve sought to do so in my own vocation through my priestly association, the Companions of Christ. For example, we pursue poverty by having a $200 spending limit. This means, if I’m going to make a purchase over $200, I know I’m going to have to run it by my fellow Companions. Sometimes that’s all it takes to discourage me from being so quick to spend money on myself!

This trifecta of holiness directly combats the three major temptations. Chastity fights the lust of the flesh, calling us to the selfpossession that frees us to make a gift of ourselves. Poverty fights the lust of the eyes (greed), calling us to the healthy detachment that frees us to store up our treasure in heaven. Obedience fights the pride of life, calling us to the humility that frees us to serve God rather than our ego.

For us, practicing obedience may simply mean a humble submission to the circumstances of life, trusting that “all things work together for good for those who love God.” (Rom 8:28) Chastity may mean googling for the “parents’ guide” before beginning a new TV show or movie. Poverty may mean setting aside a percentage of our income for OLM, the Diocese, and our favorite charities like Hesed House or Waterleaf. Each disciple’s circumstances are unique, but every disciple is called to the perfection
of heaven. Let’s ask God this weekend how He is asking us to live
out poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Father James

August 28 – Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Let us never assume that if we live good lives we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon. But men are hopeless creatures, and the less they concentrate on their own sins, the more interested they become in the sins of others. They seek to criticize, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others.” ~ St. Augustine

I am always drawn to this quote by St. Augustine, because it points to the fact without seeking God’s mercy and growing in humility, we end up falling into pride and judgment of others.  Have you ever noticed when you push down on in an object, you in return push yourself up?  I don’t know if we subconsciously know this or just out of our brokenness and sinfulness, but we love to pass judgment on others.  When we judge others or when we gossip about others faults, we lift ourselves up in our pride and we glorify in the fact that at least we are not like them.

Clearly this is sinful and we need to reject this inclination because this is contrary to the life and mission of Jesus Christ.  Jesus, who is the Son of God, had every right, as God, to push down through judgement, but he doesn’t.   From the power of his infancy narrative where Jesus comes not in majesty and power, but in simplicity and poverty.  Jesus enters into the midst of our lives not to push us down, but by his life, death, and resurrection, lift us up in his mercy and love!

That is what our readings are encouraging us to do; to continue to grow in humility.  By doing so, we not only find favor with God, as our first reading says, we act more and more like Christ.  When we humble ourselves, we allow God to exalt us.  May we be strengthened by our readings and the Eucharist to always seek to grow in humility, seek God’s endless mercy, and lift those around us up.

Father Michael

 

August 21 – Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Congratulations to our two newest permanent deacons, Deacon ‘Bugsy’ Sindac and Deacon Doug McIlvaine, who were ordained yesterday at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Joliet! You’ve seen them up in the sanctuary as Eucharistic ministers, lectors, and visitors to the homebound, but now they’ll have their own chair in the sanctuary, proclaim the Gospel, perform baptisms, witness marriages, offer blessings, and even preach! Like for priests and bishops, the sacrament of holy orders is not just a position, or even an occupation, but a vocation—a calling. It’s a call to diakoneō, the Greek word for service.

Sacraments, simply put, are visible signs of invisible realities, instituted by Christ, which give grace. While all of us are meant to be visible signs of Jesus in the world (we’re part of the Mystical Body of Christ after all!), and while all of us are called to some form of service, when it comes to deacons, they’re consecrated as sacramental signs of Christ the servant. They’re called from within the parish community to serve at the altar, at the parish, and at the margins of society in a uniquely sacramental way. Whether it’s at Mass, in our many ministries, or at Hesed House, their configuration to Jesus in the sacrament of holy orders gives them a special authority to act on behalf of both Jesus and His Church in various ways.

Of course, the only reason why bishops, priests, and deacons have any ‘special authority’ at all is because Our Lord Himself chose to share His authority with His Church in a sacramental way. He mirrored the structure of His new covenant after that of the old: with twelve apostles mirroring the twelve sons of Israel; and with bishops, priests, and deacons mirroring the three-fold hierarchy of the Temple: high priest, priests, and Levites. These structures are like the structures of the human body with each part relying on the other in for its own unique contribution. (cf. 1 Cor 12) So, just as the old covenant Temple system was meant to be a bridge between God and man, we look forward to the ways in which these men will be a bridge for our parish community to the God who “came not to be served but to serve”! (Matt 20:28) May God bless Deacon Bugsy and Deacon Doug!

Father James

 

August 14 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sometimes I fall into my autopilot responses.  When I am in conversation with my family such as my parents, sister, aunts and uncles, I can find myself ending our conversations with “Okay. Love you, Goodbye.” But you have to be careful with these responses, as they can possibly get you into trouble.  A few years ago, at my previous parish, the church secretary reached out to me about an upcoming funeral.  As we worked out the details and we were coming to the end of our conversation, I went into my autopilot response.  “Okay. Love you, Goodbye.”  I hung up the phone and then I realized I had just professed my love to my church secretary.  What I learned that day: going into autopilot responses can be dangerous.

I hope after the reading of our Gospel this weekend you didn’t just go into autopilot and say, “Praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ.”  Jesus in the Gospel brings a difficult truth to the Gospel: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Did you pause to reflect on how this is in the Gospel?  How is this Good news?

What we need to come to realize is the division isn’t from God, the division lies in our own hearts.  None of us is perfect and we all need God’s mercy.  But, to receive that mercy, we need to acknowledge the need to change.  Change can be difficult and painful.  Hence, people’s rejection of change leading to division.

Why should we truly say “Praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ” for this Gospel?  We should claim it all the more because the Lord loves us so much.  God desires to not leave us where we are at.  He desires to draw us to Himself.  He calls us to become a new creation in him.  Let us ask God for the grace, as St. Paul says to “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

Father Michael

 

August 7 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We live in a culture supposedly driven by science and results. So when it comes to hearing our second reading, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen,” it is easy to understand why some may be skeptical or quick to dismiss things of faith.  However, most people’s understanding of faith is misconstrued, not realizing that the God’s work in our lives is actually concrete and tangible.

Faith is experienced and encountered through relationships with another person.  I am able to have faith in my friends, my family, and God because I have experienced their faithfulness in my life in real and tangible ways.  Faith involves an act of trust, which is unseen, but not untested.  So, how do we come to grow in our faith and trust in the Lord?

I’d like to list just two ways. First, we look to the Incarnation; God becoming flesh.  Our Lord Jesus reveals our Fathers love for us in a physical and tangible way, as seen in his ministry ending in the cross. Coming to know Jesus allows us to have a deeper faith in God and allows us to trust in his promises of his presence in our lives and the promise of everlasting life!

Another gift as Catholics, are the Sacraments.  They allow us to experience the Lord’s love in very tangible ways.  For example, the Eucharist, his Body and Blood, allows the Lord to enter more deeply into hearts and souls as we are united into the mystery of God.  In reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we actually hear the words of absolution and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.

So even though the act of faith is invisible, the Lord’s action in our daily lives are very tangible!  Let us not be too quick to dismiss. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen!”

Father Michael

 

July 31 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bonus points if you can name the title of the movie from this short quote; “Squirrel!”  It’s a humorous line in reference to a short attention span of a dog.  But I also use the phrase and smile when it applies to my own life and short attention span.

Hopefully, we are all well aware that the human heart and mind can get distracted easily.  When trying to do menial tasks at home or at work, but even when we are praying, our mind wanders.  One thing that is necessary to fight the fickleness of our hearts and minds is to stay focused, or constantly draw our minds back to our ultimate goal.  This is the beautiful witnesses of the Saints and their story, on how they remained focused on Heaven and the Lord.  Even in the midst of possible distractions, they remained faithful to keeping their eyes set on the Lord.

That is what our readings are trying to do this weekend.  From Ecclesiastes to our Gospel, the readings seem grim; with vanity of vanities to the parable stating, “you fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.”  The intention of the readings is not supposed to be one of fear, but to remind us of our ultimate end. Things of this world are fleeting and what we need to do is set our sights on the Lord in Heaven, which is our final end and desire.  Hence, in the Our Father prayer we say – Our Father, who art in heaven!  It is meant to point us to heaven.

So let us be encouraged by Saint Paul in our second reading, “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”  As we come to the Eucharist, a foretaste of heaven and union with God, let us continually draw our minds and hearts to the ultimate end that we seek. Communion with God in Heaven!

Father Michael