From the Pastor’s Desk

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September 13 – Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

If there were ever words from sacred scripture that get right to the point and strike the heart, today’s first reading and Gospel are those words!  If there was ever a clearer and direct message in the scripture readings, today is the day!  It there was ever more difficult direction to live, today’s readings give it.  What am I talking about?  FORGIVENESS!  For the 39 years that I have sat in the confessional, forgiving someone who angered or hurt you is probably the sin I hear most frequently.  Why do we find it so darn hard to forgive someone – especially when we hear the warnings in today’s scriptures? These words from our first reading provide me with a lot of motivation to forgive:  “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.  The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for He remembers their sins in detail.  Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”  For many years, I withheld forgiveness from the hurt I experienced in a family relationship.  Even though I would say I do not care if I ever see that person again, that was simply a defense.  Deep down in my heart I wanted to restore that relationship, but wanted the other person to make the first move.  After many years, I realized that I was giving power to that person and hurtful memory to control my happiness now.  How stupid was I!  Unfortunately, because of my stubbornness, the reconciliation did not happen before that relative died.  Then I realized that I do not want to die with any unreconciled relationships in my life.  They say you can’t take it with you, and that is true of material things, but I think you do take with you the unreconciled sins, hurts, hardness of heart and anger that you’ve held onto in life.  That is why we Catholics believe in purgatory.  Purgatory is purification from all that kept us in this life from loving and forgiving as God is.  And, in the afterlife, you won’t get to heaven until you are willing to be seated at the heavenly banquet next to the person you hated most in this life!  So, I would rather shorten my purgatory by having less unreconciled relationships when I die.

Today’s Gospel parable should also provide the motivation to reconcile quickly.  The one servant who was treated with mercy and had his debt forgiven, which happens when we go to confession, went out and treated another servant without the mercy he received.  Because of this, he was severely punished.  Jesus concludes:  “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”  Remember, when you pray the “Our Father” you tell God to forgive your sins just like you forgive those who sin against you!  Do you really mean that?

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

September 6 – Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Where did we go wrong?  The idea that we need to be a rugged individualist, that we are not our brother’s keeper, that other people’s lives and actions are their business, not ours is just simply not scriptural.  In other words, this is NOT what God intends.  Ezekiel in the first reading today tells us that our responsibility for one another requires us to warn each other so as to “dissuade the wicked” from their ways.  If we fail to do so, says the prophet, then we are culpable.  God made us to be responsible for one another.  In today’s second reading from Paul’s correspondence with the believers in Rome, Paul reminds us of our mutual “debt.” We are to love one another.  We “owe” this to one another, says Paul.  In loving, we fulfill the law.  Because of our love for one another, we help one another to avoid sin and do what is right.  In today’s Gospel, Matthew gives us a glimpse of the inner workings of the early church.  In order to help one another to become more authentic images of God, the community had worked out a process whereby those who sinned might be made aware of their sin, then seek forgiveness and be reconciled to God and to their brothers and sisters in Christ.  I find though too often we skip the first step in this reconciliation process.  Most of us jump to the second or third step right away.  The first step says:  “If your brother/sister sins against you, go and tell him/her their fault between you and him/her alone.”  In other words, keep it to yourself!  Try to work things out between the two of you first before going and complaining to others.  When a parishioner complains to me about something someone on staff did or said, wanting me to fix it, I always ask, did you talk to that person first?  Step two and three in the Gospel story today should be a last resort….telling first one or two, or then the whole church.

Sometimes when hearing confessions, the person confessing confesses the sins of the other person, not their own.  Yes, we get angry at other people for something they said or did, but they did not make us sin.  We choose to react/respond in a way that is sinful or not.  Reconciliation is an art that unfortunately many have not learned or experienced.   Reconciliation is a grace from God – we cannot do it by ourselves.  The expression forgive and forget is impossible for humans – only God has divine amnesia!  While we never forget, we humans CAN forgive.  God’s grace empowers us to be agents of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Give forgiveness and reconciliation a try!  It is said that practice makes perfect!  Maybe that is what Jesus means when he says for us to become perfect as our heavenly father is perfect!!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

 

August 30 – Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Last week I ended my article indicating that Our Lady of Mercy Parish has a new relationship with All Saints Catholic Academy in Naperville.  Let me give you a little history about ASCA and our parish involvement.  Founded in 2005 as a regional inter parish Catholic grammar school, five area parishes were asked to make a financial commitment to purchase the building and property that was formerly Calvary School.  Those five parishes are St. Margaret Mary in Naperville, St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, St. Elizabeth Seton in Naperville, Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Naperville, and Our Lady of Mercy in Aurora.  Holy Spirit and Our Lady of Mercy were not able to make a financial commitment at the time to become a supporting parish.  Both parishes were either already in or planning to undertake a capital campaign for a building project.  In our case, we would be conducting a capital campaign to build the Parish Life Center.  The other three parishes committed $3.3 million paid over 15 years. Each parish paid $200,000 a year out of their Sunday income to fund this commitment.  Families attending ASCA from those three parishes received a reduced tuition rate. A higher tuition rate for families not from the three supporting parishes is charged. However, Fr. Hugh (and myself) want to support Catholic Education. Our Lady of Mercy parish pays the difference between the two rates of tuition for families from OLM who send their children to ASCA.  Our Lady of Mercy has also done that for our registered families who attend a Catholic grammar school in Aurora and elsewhere, even though those schools are not in the Diocese of Joliet.

The three parishes, St. Margaret Mary, St. Thomas the Apostle, and St. Elizabeth Seton have completed paying their $3.3 million commitment.  This past January, officials from the Diocese along with Bishop Pates met with the pastors of all five parishes.  There is still $4 million owed on the building and property.  The five parishes were asked to commit $60K annually for four years to reduce the debt that will be managed in the schools budget after four years.  You may remember that the Diocese was instituting a “tax” beginning this fiscal year on parishes without schools to help struggling schools.  Our tax would have been $60K and is in our budget.  Therefore, I agreed providing that our “tax” would now go to ASCA and not to a general fund for struggling schools. As a result, families from OLM will receive the “supporting parish” tuition rate instead of the higher rate of tuition.

Throughout the years, OLM has had many families attend ASCA.  In my 8 years of being associated with ASCA, I can testify that it is a great school!  I will be celebrating the 8:15AM Wednesday School Mass on a regular basis.  Check out ASCA, and any parents interested in sending their children to ASCA, please feel free to contact me.

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

 

August 23 – Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today we offer congratulations to parishioner Tony Leazzo who was one of 17 men from our Diocese ordained a Permanent Deacon yesterday by Bishop Richard Pates at the Cathedral in Joliet. Congratulations as well to Tony’s wife Jennifer and sons Tony and Michael.  The years of study and formation for the permanent diaconate requires much support from spouses and family.  Now if I can just get sons Tony, Jr. or Michael to become a priest, just think – their dad could deacon their first Mass!

It is important to remember that Permanent Deacons receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and ARE Ordained ministers of the Church. With Deacon Tony, we now have six permanent deacons serving Our Lady of Mercy parish.  Deacons Tim Kueper, Tony Martini, Mike Plese, Phil Rehmer and Art Tiongson.  What do permanent deacons do?  First, they are proclaimers of the Word and Service.  By proclaiming the Gospel at Mass and occasionally preaching, they evangelize.  By being of service to the parish and community, they serve the needs of others.  In addition to certain liturgical roles at Mass, they may baptize, witness marriages, conduct funeral rites, lead prayer services and conduct exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.  Each deacon has also taken on other specific ministries in the parish in addition to the roles mentioned above.  Deacon Tim is somewhat retired, but still continues the roles mentioned above.  Deacon Tony Martini is involved in baptism preparation ministry.  Deacon Mike is involved with EDGE and LIGHT.  Deacon Phil is involved with Hesed House.  Deacon Art is involved with the Charismatic prayer ministry and home blessings.  Deacon Tony Leazzo will be involved with the St. Peregrine prayer ministry and since he is a doctor, I’ve asked him to begin a support group for parishioners who work professionally in the medical fields.

Our permanent deacons are a blessing to all of us.  I thank them for their ministry and their wives and families for sharing their husbands and fathers with us!

I want to thank everyone for your patience and understanding as we have revised our Mass and confession schedule several times since the COVID-19 pandemic.  I want to inform you of one more change affecting the weekday Mass schedule.  Beginning this September, Mass on Wednesdays will be celebrated at 12:00 Noon, not at 8:00AM. I am the only priest at OLM on Wednesdays. This change in our Wednesday Mass time enables me to celebrate the 8:15AM Mass at All Saints Catholic Academy on a regular basis.  We have several families with children at ASCA.  In addition, OLM has a new relationship with ASCA that I will explain in my article next week.

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

 

August 16 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Just yesterday, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Since it was not a holy day of obligation this year because it fell on Saturday, I thought it is still worth writing about for today’s bulletin article.

The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary states:  “We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” (Pope Pius XII, November 1, 1950)  While this teaching is not explicitly stated in sacred Scripture, there are references to it in Church tradition as far back as the sixth century CE.

The Assumption is a feast wrapped in mystery.  We know very little about Mary – when she died, where she died, who was there.  Yet our faith and the ancient tradition of the church TELL THAT Mary was assumed in her full humanity – body and soul – to thee eternal, face-to-face vision of God.  A mystery of faith means we cannot fully understand or explain it, yet it teaches us something about God and God’s ways.  The Second Vatican Council taught that “The Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:  “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.”  Mary’s assumption holds out hope to all of us who struggle in this life.  The Feast of the Assumption is about God raising Mary – and all of us – to the fullness of life in Christ.

There are many ways to explain what it means to be a Christian, many paths by which we might describe how to follow Christ.  But today’s Scriptures present us with a very practical description: a Christian is one who reaches across boundaries.  We live in a world of boundaries.  We are divided, time and again, one against another.  Our planet is divided into different countries separated by distinct languages and customs. Our city is divided into neighborhoods.  Some of us are white, others are black or yellow.  Some of us are gay, others are straight. Some of us are rich, others are poor. Some of us are male, others are female.  Sometimes the argument is made that these divisions are healthy and that we will be most happy and most safe when we remain separated from one another.  When this viewpoint is translated into social policies, it gives rise to segregation, apartheid, or designing the master race.  It is a sad fact of history that a society divided does not lead to peace but rather to violence, war, ethnic cleansing, genocide, or holocaust.  Jesus reached across boundaries – we are called to do the same!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

 

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