A range of emotions stir inside us these days and admittedly it’s a challenge sorting through these feelings. We might ask ourselves – ‘what should be the response of Christians in times such as these?’
Thank you, each of you, for your efforts all along at bringing people together. It’s part of our job description as Christian leaders. We cannot rest assured that neighborly regard is structured effectively – even within the Christian community.
As if the health crisis wasn’t enough to stretch nerves to the breaking point; a series of policing incidents around the nation resulting in the deaths of several African Americans have ignited a powder-keg of frustration – exposing wounds festering for months, years and beyond with no clear solutions in sight.
We have so much in common as human beings but are shortchanged by our lack of contact, lack of mutual understanding, people with different experiences, different world views and even different assessments as to the foundations of today’s unrest. We are reminded that bigotry and indifference are woven in the fabric of America. Racial and economic inequality goes on. Systems and institutions and government have historically different approaches to white, black and brown thus erupting in situations out of control.
To make matters worse, COVID-19 alone has left untold numbers unemployed, under-employed, numbers ineligible for government stimulus, leaving people with no money yet with families to feed and mortgages and rents to pay. And when black and brown people push back hard mainstream America wonders why everyone’s upset. The surprise itself becomes an insult.
It is consoling to see the many people from around the country, white, brown, black, Asian, as peaceful protestors in wake of the Breona Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd killings. It is an encouraging sign that the concern is widespread and that there are many people out there wanting to be agents of good-will.
We are faced with the unfinished business of race in this country, the unsolved issues of poverty, opportunity vs lack of opportunity. We have hardly given second thought to the stratified society we live in thinking it to be normal –if you people would just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, it is often commented. But untold numbers of people have no boots with which to pull up straps.
Structures in a materially rich society have left large numbers disenfranchised from life such that they cannot, to use the words, “breathe” the air of a free and prosperous society like ours. While we are all the same, humans with sweat and tears, the differences allowed to fester among us are huge. And some insidious factions looking on are intent on keeping it that way.
We are believers. Instead of focusing on our anger, or attributing blame to whomever, feeling inconvenienced by the recent mayhem, maybe empathy is the right feeling for the moment – for the poor and the displaced and the mistreated and the forgotten are always just around the corner, down the street, and even the next door neighbor. How can law enforcement reorient themselves in face of individuals and communities in crisis so that the dignity of human life remains uppermost with methods of keeping order? How can we re-educate ourselves away from the visual and emotional dissonance provoked by skin color?
Our Church lives and works amidst these realities. Our gestures in all instances must be welcoming of everyone, corrective in face of injustice, formative in bringing people together across neighborhoods and natural boundaries and separate enclaves we have built for ourselves. We should be busy about the business of defying our comfort levels with single-racial churches, ministries and projects and going out of our way to schedule diversity in the things we are and do as church. It’s a daunting task in respects with its own level of fatigue. But we can’t give up. So much is at stake as evidenced by the messages issuing forth from the protests and demonstrations crying for something different. We Catholics can help lead the way.
An old rabbi once asked one of his students, “How can you tell when night is over and day has begun?” The student thought a moment and said, “Could it be when you see an animal in the distance and can tell if it is a sheep or a dog?” “No,” answered the rabbi, “think again!” The student did, but to no avail. The rabbi then said, ‘It’s when you can look into the face of another and see that it’s your brother or sister. If you can’t see this, it’s still night.”
So, what tends to keep me from seeing a brother or sister in the face of another? We are frightened when the image from close-up or from afar is black! Martin Luther King once said: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Thank you, each of you, for your efforts all along at bringing people together.
May your gift of the Spirit O God continue to enflame our hearts, that we might bring your peace and justice to a troubled world. Instill in people of every language, race and culture, a commitment to live justly and a desire to be one with you and with your Son, Jesus Christ. We acknowledge You to be Lord, forever and ever. AMEN
Our faith is a gift. We often speak of a good relationship in terms of one whom we love or a friend being a gift to us. We speak of our children as individual gifts. We consider a good job, having good health, all being singular affirmative donations to the experience of life. The religious among us might even consider these gifts coming from above and not of our own initiative.
But, our faith is a gift and a task – an unspeakable gift from God to us, a holy task we are called to do, meaning, we are called to live the life of faith and to invite others to share in the life of faith. Our faith touches the core of who we are and our faith fulfills us deeply.
We trust that along the path of life we have come to understand this entire religious experience as an affirming, positive gift, namely to know God and to live in His embrace and under his direction is a singular gift bar none – such a relationship with God is called “grace.”
It is often said that in our modern day living the life of faith is more of a challenge than in the past. Perhaps, we suffer under more distractions, preoccupations and self-determinations in our time. Nonetheless, I want to encourage our readers to stay the course.
The Christian feast of Pentecost is a wonderful reason why we should stay the course. At the end of his life of faith and service the Lord Jesus was taken up into glory. That, dear friends, is our future too. It is our horizon of hope at this time. Jesus assured his disciples that he would send the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit, to equip us with the strength and courage needed for the ordeal to come and then he would come back for us to take us with him.
Being a baby-boomer myself, born not long after the end of World War II, perhaps, like some of you I have read my share of war narratives, listened to my own father’s experience being in the US Army during that war in the European theatre and watched many a documentary about that war. Those accounts are usually gripping but they are never without aspects of the good and even of the heroic. If war brings out the worst in some people, it brings out the best in others, like all tragedies of one sort or another.
The late Pope John Paul II brought to our attention the horror of World War II when we read of him having experienced that war himself in his own displacement and the persecution and extermination of his own friends and acquaintances, Jews and fellow Catholic Poles and fellow priests. Pope John Paul II raised up to the honors of the altar many saints and martyrs of that terrible period 1939-1945, some whose names now mark our church calendars, such as Carmelite Sister Edith Stein, Franciscan Father Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Sisters of the Holy Family and others. Even now retired Pope Benedict XVI as a lad was forced to join the Hitler Youth and later escaped only to be taken prisoner by American troops till Germany finally surrendered.
I think it is the combination of the good and the heroic set against the background of the graphic and disturbing that has helped me to keep my balance in life and to taste its deeper meaning. The abject misery of people victims of war and conflict in the Middle East and in Africa today only forces me to count my blessings and give thanks to God for all I have.
Among my greatest blessings I count to be my Catholic faith. Since my faith and my life are inextricably tied up with the Church I must name the Church among my greatest blessings. The two of them – my faith and my Church – give me my energy, my identity, my horizon of hope at this time and at all times. These two gifts will carry me under God’s grace to heaven. They will do the same for you too.
I find myself then, not lacking the horizon of hope at all as I look at our Church in these challenging times. Besides, I realize that the Church is in good hands because it is in Christ’s hands. But, the Church is not only a gift that the Lord has given you and me it is also a care upon our hearts and a responsibility on our shoulders.
Every Sunday is a graced opportunity to give witness before God and the Church each our own enthusiasm and love for our Catholic traditions as we recite the Creed together, as this faith marks our lives indelibly shaping every thought and action of ours. This faith is the lens through which we view the entire world. In this sense, our religion is not a hobby that we have time for today but perhaps not next week or next month depending upon our mood. Our religion is a preoccupation of ours because we love and admire Jesus Christ.
One of the Second World War’s heroes of Christian resistance to the Nazis was the young Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was arrested by the Nazis in 1943, imprisoned in Buchenwald Concentration Camp and hanged at Flossenburg Concentration Camp just a few weeks before the war ended. The Nazis would not let him go even when they knew that Hitler’s regime was finished. They had an old score to settle with Bonhoeffer. He had been one of the Nazi regime’s harshest critics.
I am always impressed by what a Christian of heroic stature has to say about the Church because I know it doesn’t come out of a book when he or she is condemned to die for the faith, nor do their words come from blind loyalty but from the depths of that person’s soul.
Of the Church, Bonhoeffer had this to say: “The Church is not very influential, not a very imposing institution and always in dire need of improvement.” Nevertheless, he added, “The Church is an office from God.” [“What is the Church”, found in No Rusty Swords, Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press, 1977].
What Bonhoeffer says is true because the Church is easily dismissed by the popular culture that finds the Church an annoyance and the message we peddle an invasion of privacy.
The Church, of course, is essentially made up of flawed human beings, baptized, anointed, awaiting redemption in Christ. But these flawed human beings carry a message that’s not of their invention.
The Church is not a very imposing or influential institution and it is in dire need of improvement. But, we must not stop there forgetting the most important thing that Bonheoffer said about the Church: “The Church is an office from God.” By “office” he meant that the church is a care we have from God and a work to be done for the Lord and for the salvation of others. While the Church is not of our making it is of our implementation for which we need the mercy of God in carrying for its mission.
“The Lord worked with the apostles and confirmed the word through them,” says John’s gospel. Similarly, the Lord works with his Church in our time and in its difficulties and its accomplishments. And He confirms his message through the Church’s worship and sacraments, through its teachers and preachers, its prophets and saints, and even, praise God, through you and me.
Remember the beginnings of our religion were with a group of impoverished and hesitant individuals who probably would not make it in a typical contemporary job interview. They were largely from the poor and working classes. They felt keenly their oppressed, second-class status under subjugation by a foreign power, a hostile empire that would soon as nail them to a cross than ask questions or say ‘hello.’ They were people without defense, without influence. They searched for their dignity in their religion as descendants of Abraham, Jacob and Moses and their association with Jesus of Nazareth.
One of them was not sure about Jesus and for reasons of his own internal conflicts decided to betray Jesus to his enemies in exchange for some money. Another disciple denied that he ever met Jesus at a moment the Lord needed him most. This one went so far as to curse and swear up and down that he was never in Jesus’ company. Mysteriously, Jesus chose this one to head up his Church after his own departure.
The rest of the band ran in fear of the authorities and locked themselves in a hidden away upper level room in the city wondering what to do next. A few women stood by Jesus till the end even watching closely his grave. So much in pain were they over his brutal execution.
Another disciple could not quite believe the report that Jesus was seen alive again several days later, unable to grasp the pieces of Jesus’ teaching and message and the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy in his behalf.
Amazingly, this band of reticent followers was sent out into the world to win the world for God, in many instances, at the cost of their own lives.
Those first Christians may not have been sure of a lot of things and may have been guilty of their own missteps in life. You may say they were timid and afraid amidst their own disenfranchisement in a violent world. But one thing for sure those first Christians soon discovered they were sure about and that was what they were willing to die for. The test of our faith, friends, hinges upon what we are willing to stake our lives upon. Hopefully our faith is one of those things.
Should we be surprised then at weak Christians, hesitant, reticent Christians, flawed and sinful Christians who worship with us, some who even lead and teach the faith today? Let us never lose the horizon of hope. If Jesus worked with that first and original, fledgling group, a collection of timid and flawed human beings. If he works with us, should we not work with each other to improve this Church for the kingdom Jesus is establishing?
Pentecost is a feast of hope for the Church. Jesus had spent his life showing us how to find meaning and purpose and joy through a life of faith in him and a life of service to others. He has shown us how to live with the horizon of hope ever before our eyes. He has told us that glory is the reward of such a faith-filled servant life.
Then, as Jesus lived, so may we live. And as all ended in glory for him so may all end in glory for us. This is not a vain hope for a vague future. It is the actual future of which this feast of the birth day of the Church at Pentecost is a pledge.
God’s gift of the Holy Spirit animates us both as individuals and as Church to do the work God does, to be the people of God, to live the life of the Gospel. Pentecost celebrates the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and in our Church.
The Holy Spirit is God’s breath that animates us to do the work of the gospel of the Risen One, the strength to make God’s will our will, the power of God transforming us so that we might infuse his life and love into our broken world.
God breathes his Spirit into our souls so that we may live his life in the here and now; God ignites the fire of his Spirit within our hearts and minds that we may realize the coming of God’s reign in our own time and place.
Good Lord, we beg your blessing upon our family. We thank you for the children with which you have blessed us. Bless us as we use this day to give you praise. Help our children grow towards you through the various things they learn about the mysteries of life and creation sewn by your hand. Grant wisdom to me/us their parent(s), their teachers and others you have given to guide them. Preserve our efforts to give our children all that they deserve.
We pray you grace our children with faith, openness of heart, a willingness to learn, a desire to do good to others as you have taught. Keep them ever strong and ready for any test of character. As they grow in knowledge and experience inspire in our children a desire to serve you in holiness of life. In whatever walk of life they choose be for them a true path to your kingdom. May you find among our children generous hearts to serve you and the Church perhaps as a priest, or religious brother or sister. Should their Calling be to extend this family of ours, may theirs be a holy matrimony and family life after the example of your life with Mary and Joseph.
O Jesus, whisper in my heart how I might best serve you. Make me strong in faith, always attentive to people’s needs, ever spiritual, understanding and charitable. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you very much. Bless our priest(s) and religious who serve(s) us. Bless my parents, our bishop and pastors and all who help the Church’s work.
Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, increase the number of our priests and religious men and women. Preserve them for your Church. Keep them zealous in their vocation and successful in their labors. May they do all things for love of you and the Church. We pray through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. AMEN
A Blessed Holy Week and Easter to all our readers and CMCS-Men
We walk with the Lord this week in his suffering and keep vigil with him for his resurrection. The grace and merit given the death and resurrection of Jesus is communicated to us in our Baptism. We consciously absorb these mysteries and their graces by our participation in the Church’s liturgies this Holy Week:
Palm Sunday the Lord’s entrance into the city of Jerusalem; the commemoration of his Last Supper and arrest on Holy Thursday; his death and burial on Good Friday; the Holy Saturday Vigil where we move with some powerful scripture passages from darkness to light, receive new converts to Catholic faith and fellowship, renew our baptismal vows and celebrate the resurrection. Come the feast of the Resurrection next Sunday, Christians climb to the rooftops to shout out to the world, again, the greatest piece of news ever, namely, that our God in Jesus in alive, when evil men meant him dead and the life he now has is promised all of us who believe in him while we await His return to take us with him.
It helps not to skip to Easter Sunday unless we have walked with the Lord through his passion. We can’t experience Easter appropriate without having gone through Good Friday. This remains a metaphor for all our experiences of life. I think of it this way:
If someone we loved died tragically and we were not there with them, our affection for that person would drive us to want to know every detail every minute, every second of their passion and death. We would want to walk their path, rehearse each step, each place that led up to that loved one’s death, as if to be with that person vicariously when we could not be there with him or her when it happened.
We have heard of people traveling to Normandy, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, even the rough streets of the city for just this purpose. “I want to know!” “I need to know how it happened and why…” we say. It is the same with Jesus. Our love and admiration for our Savior leads us to rehearse the significant steps of his passion and the loss of his life for we could not be there yet we know what happened has impact on us.
Holy Week contains special days for our walk with the Lord. Due to the suspension of all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Chicago because of COVID-19, consult your parish website for Holy Week schedule for the times of services online. Involve your spouse and children with you so that the graces of this holy season can embrace you and your loved ones.
As we approach the feast of the Resurrection on Sunday, April 12, we may well feel like we are entombed by precautionary measures that have altered the rhythm of life these days given the threat associated with coronavirus. All this is certainly without precedent in our lifetimes. We struggle daily enough with the cold and flu and other physical discomforts and can find relief in most instances with over-the-counter meds. And, let’s admit it, we Americans are not used to plagues of this nature and scope that hit other areas around the world.
The austerity of Lent and what the season can mean faces us dramatically. What is God saying to us in this time of anxiety and misfortune? It is a time for prayer and sober reflection on our dependence upon the mercy of God. What prayer can we recite together as a household while we are waiting on the Lord? For we cannot heal ourselves. While churches are closed these days for sake of the fright connected with contagion, once they are reopened we hope many more unused to the regimen of weekly ritual focus upon God might be inclined to reorder their lives and join us.
I’ve been busy telephoning the priests of the vicariate, family and relatives and friends to make sure everyone is alright. With the exception of one of our priests who is hospitalized with the virus, everyone else appears to be alright. Thank God!
While we already have made necessary changes to our lifestyle and readjusted certain habits, we might measure which of these we might carryover once this is all over, what needs particular attention on our parts for a better quality of life and spiritual tone to our busy lives.
Certainly, a healing in response to a bad turn with health is one of the gifts of God.
“But first, seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all things will be added unto you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.”
Matthew 6, 33-34
Blessings and good health I wish for you and all who are important to you.
Biship Joseph Perry Archdiocese of Chicago CMCS Episcopal Liasion
O good Lord, I know well that thou art all perfect and are in need of nothing. Yet, I know that thou hast taken upon thyself the nature of man and, not only so, but in that nature didst come upon this earth and suffer all manner of evil and didst die for our sake. This is sacred history which has spilled from the heavens with light and glory and great promise for all who believe in thee.
O dear Lord, thou didst suffer in no ordinary way but unheard of and extreme torments. Indeed your agony still cries from the streets where we labor. This is the truth of the Gospel which has shaped my vision and my hope for all that is meaningful to me. You are the one foundation, Jesus Christ crucified. I know it O Lord, I believe it and I place this faith steadily before my eyes and heart.
And, here I am, a member of the police force, sworn to serve and protect the citizens of our city and in so doing bound to meet up with the two glaring portraits of life, sin and evil, goodness and virtue that collide on the streets of the living. I cannot do this task alone. All I know is that I am in sore need of your guidance and direction that I may judge wisely and discern truthfully; that especially in times of danger I may offer my life to you and for others and that in face of genuine encounters with the virtue of citizens I may praise them and be for them myself a symbol of honor and justice.
I left home this day to serve thee and thy people. I pray you bring me back home safely with my family and loved ones, only to again serve as I am want to do this day and every day. In all things honoring you as the Lord of my life, AMEN
Bishop Joseph N Perry – Archdiocese of Chicago – 2020
My late father was a World War II veteran who was assigned 1942-1945 to the European Theatre. That generation of men has been dubbed the greatest generation for reasons of their patriotism, their family values, and work ethic. It has also been suggested that many of the WWII veterans that returned home had been made pacifists by the ravages of experience connected with that war. The sons they spawned turned out the Vietnam War generation – my generation – who fought that war, others of whom became draft dodgers and pacifists, protesters through the streets for an end of a longer than long and lengthy conflict in Asia.
My father would not allow me as a child to have guns and holsters and toys that dealt with war. I was ill-equipped to play with the neighbor kids when they played war or Cow-boys and Indians or pretended to shoot each other. I did no quite understand it back then, only later in my adulthood did I begin to understand what my Father was doing with me that he could not quite articulate.
Ours is a different generation. We have gathered to pray, once again, for a new year safer for our children to travel the streets and sidewalks to school and church and parks and other places. We cannot confine our children to inside the home. It is natural for children to want to be outdoors. Continue to encourage them as you have always done to be aware of what’s in front of them, in back of them, on the side of them. More and more kids travel to school on busses or in cars these days. Yet even then, encourage your children and grandchildren to be vigilant, to speak up to parents and teachers when they see something wrong and where to take refuge if danger closes in on them.
When we were growing up my mother did not allow us to watch certain TV shows that were considered “adult entertainment”. In the 1950s, adult entertainment was Payton Place and The Untouchables. We had to go upstairs while mom watched her favorite TV adult shows. I wasn’t able to watch The Untouchables until I became an adult and then got a kick out of some floozy sitting atop a desk filing her nails while her gang lord crook wearing a gun and holster next to his rib was on the phone bringing booze into the city. Those images were off-limits for children of my time. How things have changed with the tenor of morals displayed on the viewing screen and the troublesome Internet!
Today is different. Notice, the popular video games with which children and teens are engaged. Most of them have to do with rabid violence, high powered weapons cutting down opponents and blood spurting every which way. Kids have these at home and work them with their coins in video arcades and at shopping malls. This is considered innocent youth entertainment. And we purchase these games for our youth. I suggest we should fast from these images and other movies where people like actors Stephen Seagal and Vin Diesel and others act out glorified violence. Unbeknownst to us these images work themselves in the consciousness of our youth getting across the idea that violence and killing are the only ways to be somebody. A gun in the hand always renders one a false sense of power.
Now, I am not saying my parent’s methods of raising us were the best. All I know is that I did not turn out the worse for it. I believe there is something to be said for steering clear of giving birthday gifts and Christmas gifts and gifts in between that symbolize violence and killing so prevalent in our city and other cities across the country. Follow through with the rearing of your kids and grandkids on this. Support your prayers and messaging by fasting from the images and instruments associated with violence. Then, sooner or later, the kids will understand.