Sunday, November 26
Beginning to Bear One Another’s Burdens
By: David Philippart
If it sometimes feels like the weight on the world is on your shoulders, you are not imagining it. It is. Being a baptized follower of Jesus means growing in compassion. The word compassion literally means “to suffer (passio, from pati) together with (cum)” another, others. Being a baptized follower of Jesus means that we come to know and then choose to share in the suffering of others, that through us God may transform that suffering into life more deeply lived, love more broadly shared. “Bear one another’s burdens,” the apostle Paul writes to the church at Galatia, and to Old Saint Patrick’s, “and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
On our own, such a responsibility would kill us. Thank God–thanks to God–we are not on our own in this! As members of Christ’s body through baptism, through confirmation, through eucharist, we are able to shoulder the suffering of others with spirit, with the Spirit. Oh, it still costs us. It still requires sacrifice. It even still hurts at times. But now it cannot get the best of us.
It can only bring out the best in us. We easily see evidence of our growing in compassion as a church here at Old Saint Patrick’s. Take last week, for example. We hosted Camp Jaguar for some of God’s youngest children through Frances Xavier Warde School. We collected business clothes for the Cara Program, to help those the economy would label as un-employable, succeed at their new jobs. We sent ten or so of us to Nicaragua with support both material and spiritual to build a playground for kids living in a poverty we can scarcely imagine. We invited thirty or so young adults to ponder in Hughes Hall what it means to be merciful to people who are truly guilty of crimes. And a whole bunch of us spent time with our sisters and brothers in North Lawndale over the weekend to continue Martin Luther King’s dream of fair housing. Aid to addicts, the homeless, people with various disabilities, and the poor of Africa, India, and Peru flowed from our Mary and Bill Aronin Center for Social Concerns. And every day at Mass, including Saturday’s weddings, we lifted up to God those in need. “We pray to the Lord,” the lector or priest urged, “Lord, hear our prayer!” we all insisted. And God did.
Amazingly, this river of compassion flowing from Old Saint Pat’s, like the mighty Mississippi itself, has a most modest source. If you’ve not seen the marshy trickle of water from Lake Itasca in Minnesota that becomes the earth’s fourth mightiest river, it’s hard to imagine. Similarly, all that we do to begin to bear one another’s burdens flows from God’s answers to our prayers—specifically God’s answers to what we call the “prayers of the faithful” at Mass. These prayers may seem just a simple trickle of words. But they are the beginning of a robust flood of compassion. So as we enter into our annual Season of Social Justice next Sunday, let’s look more closely at the prayers of the faithful at Mass. We’ll sing our response to each petition for the next month to enter into the intercessions more deeply. And here in The Crossroads each week during August, I’ll share parts of the story of this life-giving way we pray. O Lord, hear our prayers. And send us into the world as part of your answer!
David Philippart is Old Saint Patrick’s Liturgy Director. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312.831.9367.
Who Are These Robbers?
By: Rachel Lyons
I want to know what happens to the robbers and the passers- by. is Sunday’s Gospel which is o en referred to as ‘ e Good Samaritan’ leaves out any details about the robbers who initially beat up someone and leave them on the side of the road. Who are these robbers? Why don’t they have enough money or food or clothing? What is so unequal in the society around them that they are not cared for? Who is taking too much? What hurt are the robbers carrying? And why do we o en only see them as one-dimensional, as robbers, and not as human beings or souls or children of God? For me, the robbers are a vivid wake up call to the broken bonds of community and of humanity. e robbers continue on the road and leave another person in pain, robbing a human of their dignity. And then two more people pass by this su ering human. And they, too, rob him of his dignity. Who is this priest and this Levite? And are they that di erent from the robbers?
We must be willing to call into community and into humanity and into divinity all of God’s children: the robbers, those who pass by the victims of their actions, and the victims themselves. Jesus is not asking us to measure out who deserves care and who wins the respectability politics game and who looks enough like those in power to be saved. No. Jesus shares a story of being neighbor in order to make concrete what it really is to love God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind. To love your neighbor as yourself. Let there be emphasis on personal acts of mercy to care for those abandoned in our city AND let there be a brave conversation with those who hurt others and those who ignore the victims. Robbers and too-busy-for-you speed walkers and apathetic citizens are neighbors, too. We don’t get a choice of who is in and who is out. e second reading today from Colossians emphasizes that all of creation is in Christ Jesus, “and in him all things hold together.” So then how do we nd opportunities to call back to community our neighbors who hurt and our
neighbors who pass by? I had an opportunity like this right on the front steps of Old St. Pat’s, and I missed it.
About a year ago, I was chatting with folks outside of church on the sidewalk before 5pm mass. As I approached the church steps, I saw a person asking for money to get on the bus. e person stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked up to the church doors. Another man stood at the top of the stairs, presumably waiting for a family member to join him before heading into church. e person at the bottom of the stairs got his attention and started to speak about the search for change to get on the bus. e man at the top of the stairs did not look at the person but merely waved his hand curtly as if to say, “Move along, you don’t belong here.” He then turned around and went into mass. e person at the bottom of the stairs narrowed his eyes, took a deep breath, and started walking away. I went up to him and talked for a bit, embarrassed by what just happened. While this choice seemed to be the best one at the time, I found myself with a whole lot of regret later. I think I should have approached the man at the top of the stairs rather than the one at the bottom. e man who was attending church at Old St. Pat’s should know that we do hospitality di erently here, and it does not look like wagging a nger at another human or waving them along. It involves eye contact. It demands interruption in your day so there is more room for the Holy Spirit to move, to breathe, to live, to foster connection. It echoes Jesus’ words and actions. I missed the man at the top of the stairs, and I am sadly certain he will go on to pass by more people. I could have had a conversation with him that invited a change in his heart. Now, maybe he would have ignored me. Fine. But I would sleep better at night knowing I tried. And I would not be writing about a man I missed at the top of the stairs at Old St. Pat’s one year later. I pray for courage in the days to come, that our community of faith is united as one in word, in deed, and in each confrontation that leads to re ection, growth, and transformation. It starts with us.
Rachel Lyons directs the Social Action Ministry at and leads a number of important faith and justice based programs at Old St. Patrick’s Church. You can contact her by email to email@example.com
Welcome Home, Bucko!
By: Katie Brandt
This weekend as we celebrate Memorial Day, let’s all take some time to remember the men and women who died while serving our country. We certainly owe so much to those who have fought for our country so that we may enjoy the many freedoms we have today. At the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC etched in stone are the words “Freedom is Not Free.” It does come at a price. Recently, I was priviledged to honor and welcome home 105 World War II and Korean War Veterans as they returned to Midway Airport after their day on Honor Flight Chicago #70. My Dad was one who was honored that day, and it was an incredible experience for him as well as for everyone in attendance. To witness these men, who are in the twilight of their lives, being honored and Welcomed Home was truly beyond words. Many were brought to tears – whether it was because of the kindness of strangers or memories of friends lost, this is a day that will be etched in their hearts forever. From the moment they got off the plane and all throughout the terminal and baggage claim area, people were clapping, waving American flags, holding up signs, shaking their hands and saying “Thank you for your service.” All of these men were in their 80’s and even one 98 years old. They each have their own story but were united by their love for this country. These men fought in two wars many moons ago, but we have many service men and woman today who are doing what these men did – serving our country. If you know of anyone currently serving or who has served, take this Memorial Day weekend to thank them. If you know of any World War II or Korean War veterans, please encourage them to check out HonorFlightChicago.org.
Katie Brandt is is Assistant Director of Family Ministry at Old St. Pat’s.
Praying with Pictures Not Words
By: Al Gustafson
My best friend is a Jesuit priest. I will always remember his inaugural mass. It was Trinity Sunday. As he talked about preparing his first ever homily as a priest, I still clearly hear my friend’s anxious words, “What can anyone really say about the Trinity?” Perhaps the significance of the Trinity is not found in what we say about it, but rather in how we pray about it. Here is a paradox. Education offers us so many advantages, but when it comes to the spiritual life, education can become a hindrance. We pride ourselves on our ability to analyze, conceptualize and explain our experience … the skills a good education affords us. For Christians, the doctrine of the Trinity seeks to describe the very nature of God. Yet, can we ever sufficiently conceptualize and explain our God of Infinite Love? This is where our less educated Christian ancestors may have had the advantage. They prayed less with words and ideas, and prayed more with silence and images. Christian icons may seem like an unsophisticated relic of the past, but for your prayer life, they can be as powerful as the processor in your computer. In 1410, Andrei Rublev created the icon pictured here. The icon depicts the three angels who visited Abraham at the oak tree of Mamre (Genesis 18: 1-15), but over the centuries it has come to be experienced as the icon of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that the nature of God is relational. We Christians speak of God as a relationship between persons. Perhaps not surprisingly, modern science is speaking of creation as fundamentally relational also … a relationship of energies. Enter the icon. … sitting around the table, Christ in the middle, the Father to the left and the Spirit at the right. Christ wears the blue of divinity, while the brown garment speaks of the earth and His humanity. His gold stripe represents kingship, two fingers rest on the table pointing to the cup. A tree in the background calls to mind His cross. The Father is a figure at rest within Itself. The blue garment is almost hidden by a shimmering robe, suggesting His creatures cannot see the One who is Creator. Behind the figure is a house as “In my Father’s house there are many mansions” … a place is prepared there for you. The blue robe of the Spirit represents divinity and the green robe new life. The Spirit touches the table, the material world, birthing the Divine Life of God. Behind the figure is a mountain. In the scriptures, mountains are places where people often encountered God, places where heaven and earth seem to touch. The three figures can be enclosed in a circle; however, they are not closed in upon themselves … not at all There is an open-ness. They are turned towards the one looking at the icon, drawing that one into their relationship. The image is full of symbolism, designed to take the viewer into the Mystery of the Trinity. Perhaps the most evocative detail of the icon is the small rectangle just below the cup. Scholars believe this was once a mirror and as the viewer gazed at the image, she would see her face within the circle of the Trinity. Imagine Christians staring lovingly and longingly at the icon not desiring to explain it, but rather only to encounter it. What can anyone really say about the Trinity? How about if try not saying anything? Let’s gaze at the icon, open and receptive, and let the Trinity speak to us.
Al Gustafson is a Spiritual Director at Old Saint Patrick’s Church. If you would like to schedule a meeting with Al, please contact Tammy Roeder at TammyR@oldstpats.org
What does it mean to hear in our native language?
By: Laura Field
I don’t know about you, but I’m completely taken by a line in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles: “How does each of us hear them in our native language?” As long as I can remember, this reading has brought to my mind an image of a lot of people with indecipherable quote bubbles over their heads and the sound of noise. This year, the text jumped off the page again, but not because the imagery is so vivid. Now it’s because as a practicing spiritual companion, the metaphor of God speaking to us in our native tongue is no longer just a metaphor. I’ve come to see how God communicates with us not in mysterious grand gestures (although that occasionally happens), but more often by speaking in our native language in our ordinary lives. Let me back up. In today’s reading, Jesus’ closest friends were squirreled away praying and trying to figure out what to do given that Jesus was leaving for good. Even though He had told them the Holy Spirit was coming, I imagine fear gripped them when the strong winds blew in and tongues of fire appeared. And, I can imagine their confusion when they realized they were all speaking and hearing different languages. But what strikes me as probably most surprising to them was when they noticed that foreign language-speaking Jews from all over – who had gathered because of the commotion – actually understood what was being said. In other words, while the disciples may not have understood what was coming out of their mouths, those who showed up heard what they needed to know. It makes me think about the times, someone has said something along the lines of “thank you for what you said the other day, I can’t tell you how much it’s helped me.” Often I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I thank God in those moments for communicating through me in that person’s native language. So what does it mean that God communicates with all of us in our native languages … to start I suppose it means God is multi-lingual knowing not just English, Spanish, and Polish, common languages here in Chicago, but also ones we don’t hear as often such as Arabic, Mandarin Chinese and Sign Language. Then there are the messages God delivers through nature and our daily circumstances. How awesome is our multi-lingual God who speaks in the commotion, whispers on the wind and sends messages via a burning bush? Isn’t it magnificent that we can pray in our mother tongue and God understands it? And how about the fact that God calls to us in the quiet and the chaos, in the voice of an old friend, the sound of a favorite song on the radio and the giggles of a baby? Listening for God in our own lives is a spiritual practice; it’s the essence of Spiritual Direction. In spiritual direction sessions, we listen by noticing what captures our imagination, excites our spirit and energizes our lives. We listen by paying attention to the places in our lives that seem bereft of God and noticing the nuances that distinguish life-giving experiences of silence from life-depleting experiences of emptiness. We listen for God in darkness and discernment. And through it all, we learn to trust that God speaks to each of us uniquely in our own native language. If you find yourself yearning to hear God’s voice more clearly, perhaps spiritual direction is calling to you today. Maybe God is speaking via an Old St. Pat’s bulletin article to you. If so, we’d be honored to listen with you.
Laura Field is one of many Spiritual Directors at Old St. Patrick’s. For more information on Spiritual Direction/Spiritual Companionship, please contact Tammy Roeder at tammyr@ oldstpats.org or 312.798.2350.
By: Clare L Hurrelbrink
Today’s reflection is dedicated to Sophie, one of our second graders at FXW who just lost her mother. At the celebration of her mother’s life, Sophie’s dad so eloquently and affectionately shared stories of his love.. his heart, although now broken, beats holding on to his memories of her. He spoke of Providence at work in their lives, describing how they met. Their love story was no coincidence. Friends and family will help Sophie and her dad in the coming days…for Providence placed them in their lives. Providence is defined as “divine guidance or care; God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.” God calling her home was providential. Mother’s Day is singlehandedly one of the most profound, emotional, and blessed days of the year. Witnessing Sophie’s strength and perseverance these past couple weeks has both inspired and saddened me, as the memories of my own mother’s untimely death 38 years ago came rushing through my heart. Back then I stumbled upon the first steps of my own journey as a ‘motherless daughter’. With a strong foundation of faith, I knew God had wrapped me in His loving arms…it felt like a warm and toasty blanket on a cold day. I believe today He has wrapped Sophie. I have long forgotten many details of those first few days, weeks and months after her death. What I haven’t forgotten are some of the memories that warm my heart…25 goodnight kisses every night, wearing Chanel #5, singing in her church choir, Lilies of the Valley, and sweetly singing “Good Morning Mary Sunshine” to us every morning. She left me with her spirit, her strength and her passion. Our loving God cares for all of us without ceasing so we can grow in faith and in His love. He helps us to abide always in Christ, our true vine. As mothers, our branches are endless, so also is our love. These branches of love constantly reach out and touch our children, spouses, families and friends. These branches of love know no boundaries. A mother’s gift asks nothing in return but a smile. There is a Chinese proverb “an invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.” Chinese folklore uses the image of the red thread to describe destiny. It says that invisible, red threads connect newborn babies to all the people who will be important in their lives. The threads shorten as these people, bound from birth, come together. Our belief that God guides our paths sometimes leaves the faithful troubled. How do we reconcile the idea that God has a divine plan with the reality of losing someone we love too soon? In the face of such difficult challenges, we often don’t know where to turn. As simple as it sounds, Jesus offers us an answer in John’s Gospel: “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The greatest lesson a mother can teach her young is how to love one another as well. Motherhood is filled with questions, comfort, discipline, hugs, words of encouragement, and unconditional love. Motherhood can also be filled with distance, uncertainly, fear, and harshness. Relationships between mothers and children are messy, complicated, frustrating and joyful all at the same time. Motherhood is by far the most demanding, exhausting, worry filled, joyful and celebratory job in the world. Pope Francis believes “To be a mother is a great treasure. Mothers, in their unconditional and sacrificial love for their children, are the antidote to individualism; they are the greatest enemies against war.” We remind ourselves that we are able to love as Christ loves because we are immersed in the Paschal Mystery. We must love with compassion, mercy, and forgiveness, and work for a just world. The worship aid from the celebration of Sophie’s mom included the following quote by Anne Lamott, “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” May God’s grace hold our mothers and those seeking motherhood in the gentle palm of His hand. Blessings for a delightful Mother’s Day!
Clare Hurrelbrink is a Religios Ed. teacher at FXW.
Go to that room were the Spirit can fill your heart with Peace and Hope.
By: Bernadette-Moore Gibson
Today’s Gospel of John, chapter 14, begins where Jesus tells the disciples, “Do not be troubled.” Jesus is giving his disciples this advice because he knows they will miss him deeply. They had been living, traveling, and doing ministry together up close and personal for three years. Jesus had been their constant teacher. What would they now do without his guidance, forgiveness, and power? How would they face the future without him? How could they not be troubled? A few weeks ago, I watched the movie “UP” with my nieces and nephews. I’ve seen that movie many times before and am always amazed at how what looks like an animated children’s movie is actually a very touching adult story about life’s joys and sorrows, disappointments and victories. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it’s about Carl, who loved Ellie his whole life. Now that he is mourning her death, Carl is faced with the dilemma of how to get on in his last years without Ellie by his side. Carl can remain a grouchy, grieving, negative old man, or he can become a nurturing, adventuresome senior citizen. Fortunately, through the course of the movie, Carl undergoes a positive transition. He obeys Ellie’s dream to take their house to Paradise Falls. He allows her spirit of adventure to comfort and guide him. And, finally, Carl realizes that there is something that goes beyond Ellie’s dream- -something greater that he needs to be a part of. That’s when Carl turns from being a disappointed and troubled soul into a happy and fulfilled human being, enjoying his new relationship with his young friend Russell. Transitions are tricky. Loss and grief are painful. When we have shared together deeply, we have a lot to miss. But, if we trust in the Holy Spirit, and if we believe that God is greater than death, our transitions might be a lot less troubled. Today’s Gospel message is one about peace. Where do we find peace when nothing goes our way? Where do you find peace when everything we have worked for, longed for, desired, falls apart at the seams? What happens when it seems that everyone is tugging at us and pulling at us? Like the Disciples, for those of us who know the Lord, the invitation for us is to hear God’s voice. The invitation is to go within and listen for God working in our lives. I am talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism and in Confirmation. There is a spot within us, we usually say, “within our hearts,” where there is a spot of peace in the whirl wind we call life. We are invited to that spot of peace within, by prayer. Prayer, in this instance is a pause in the day where we are reminded that this reality in which we live is not the true and ultimate reality. Jesus tells us in John 14 that whoever loves him will receive a room within them that is given by the Father in heaven. Jesus tells us that in his Father’s house there are many rooms and one of them is for us. John’s Gospel has a habit of being very sacramental: what we experience here has a gracefilled correlation in heaven. We receive that grace through the connection between the two. The room within us is connected to the room in heaven. We can enter into the peaceful spot within us and be taken to the room in heaven where there is peace. With Pentecost approaching, I pause, take a deep breath and feel myself breathing in the Holy Spirit and I find peace in a spot within. When I think of the peace that Jesus leaves us, the peace that Jesus gives us, I think it cannot be like the world gives. The peace we are given does not have to react to crazy people, who seem to be all around us. The peace left to us by Jesus and given to us by Jesus is not like the world of unreasonable and illogical conclusions that forget the goal of our entire enterprise: to love one another. The peace left to us by Jesus teaches us to be inclusive of women, children, the poor, the sick, and anyone else who is different or outcast. The peace of Jesus reminds us as faithful witnesses that death is never the end – that God always has the power to raise up new, and even better, opportunities for goodness and hope. The peace Jesus left to us, and Jesus gives to us absorbs what the world has to give and transforms it as we are transformed into people who live in the world but are not from it. So, I invite you to stop what you are doing today. Stop thinking about the illogical things that happen. Stop thinking about whatever it is that causes you to be troubled, timid with fear, and filled with frustration and anxiety and go to that room were the Spirit can begin to fill your heart with Peace and Hope.
Mental Spring Cleaning
By: Sarah Thompson
With the recent warm weather, it feels like Chicago spring is finally here. The energy and joy of new life surrounds us as the trees and flowers bloom and the joyful music of migrating birds early morning songs return. People seem to reflect that same change as well. Research tells us with the change of weather and an increased time outside, our mood, memory, and cognitive abilities improve. It is a time where we step out of a stagnant and enclosed mindset into an improved state of mind. As we put away our boots and gloves and bring out the sandals, it’s also a good time to focus the things we want to personally rid ourselves of moving forward. I like to call it mental spring cleaning. Like a favorite closet, our mind needs to be cleaned up and reorganized every once in a while. Information we thought we could use or that seemed important at one time become disorganized clutter, keeping us from finding what we want and need. Over time, ideas, memories, and concerns accumulate because they seem significant at the time. As we accumulate experiences the original value, importance, or interest often changes, and the closet of our mind can get overwhelming. Every time we avoid dealing with something we chip away at our self-respect. We might feel relieved in the short run when we put something off, but our self-esteem takes a hit over time. This is because part of our psyche knows we are avoiding our responsibility, and that usually adds wear and tear to the soul. When we deal directly with issues, even the unpleasant items, we typically feel better. But more often than not we toss things in the back of the closet of our mind to avoid them, and tell ourselves we’ll get to them later. Later never comes, and when too much builds up, we clog our soul. Self-care is an essential element of spiritual vitality. To neglect one’s own needs is not a sign of Christian piety, but rather a show of disregard for the very temple of God. In today’s Gospel, the command to love others as we love ourselves presupposes an adequate love of self. Self-love or self-care is not self-centered or selfish; they are Biblical prerequisites for loving and caring for others. We cannot give what we do not first possess; we cannot hold new wine in old wineskins of spiritual malaise, physical lethargy, and unresolved emotional issues. The human being is a complex amalgam of spirit, mind, and body; none of which operate independently from the rest. In order to adequately care for ourselves, a holistic approach is necessary. Proper diet and exercise benefit the body but also help keep our emotions balanced. Healthy spirituality involving regular prayer and worship feeds the spirit and also keeps us emotionally healthy. Caring for our emotional needs in turn opens our spirits to soar to the places to which God has called us. In Pope Francis’s landmark document “Amoris Laetitia” he asks us to meet people where they are. If we clean out our negative thoughts, our judgmental views of those different from us, we will be more open to understanding our fellow human beings in all their complexities and be more compassionate, open, and supportive of others. In combination with healthy spiritual disciplines and physical fitness, mental and emotional fitness is an essential component of a holistic and Biblical approach to self-care. Ultimately, finding the appropriate balance of these facets of self-care can improve our ability to reach out to others effectively and with the love of God. As Jesus tells us through today’s gospel, John 13:33-35 “Where I go you cannot come, so now I say it to you. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” For us to effectively carry out this commandment, we should first make sure we are on the journey to finding peace within ourselves. Sarah Thompson is the Parish Counselor at Old St. Pat’s.
What Happens When We Listen?
By: Rachel Lyons
Take a moment to think about all that you heard today. Voices, different languages, a sarcastic undertone, advertisements, songs on the radio, a political speech, a prayer you repeated to yourself, music on an elevator, an ambulance, car horns, birds chirping, rain drops, wind in the trees. Walk through your day and think about all that you heard today. Some sounds you probably heard and made it a point to remember, such as a loved one’s request or a troubling story on the news. Some sounds you probably heard and forgot about immediately, such as the blaring siren or the political ad that played five times in one hour. Yet you can recall these secondary sounds now if you pay attention. Some sounds you probably heard and cannot recall now, even though they are subtly shaping your environment, your thoughts, and your future choices. Especially within the context of various devices and outlets on phones, computers, billboards, advertisements, television, and so on, the constant cacophony of economic, political, and social messages sing and dance their way into our days moment by moment. These messages seep into us and wring out when we hum a tune from a commercial, or bring up a topic with a friend over lunch, or, even years later, when we choose brands and do not think twice about why we are dedicated to one type of soap over another. It just happens, we say. ‘Just’ seems inaccurate, though, both in the sense of recently occurred and in the sense of merely or only, simply. It doesn’t just happen, but the messaging is ongoing and incredibly powerful in shaping who we are, what we do, and how we feel. As someone who has grown up here in the United States, I have been hearing and absorbing and soaking up messages my whole life from a society that tells me to be competitive, to follow the rules, to buy objects to feel better, to take care of people who look and talk and think like me, and definitely to fear people who are different from me. In the first reading today, we see the apostles standing before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioning and interrogating them about teaching in Jesus’ name. They are going against the rules, they are caring for outcasts of society, they are listening to a different truth than what society’s messages are telling them. And so they are interrogated – and the apostles respond by stating, “We must obey God rather than men.” They say that because they are witnesses of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, they embrace the power of the Holy Spirit and can no longer follow the status quo. They can no longer do it. It is not an option, because they know different. They cannot go back to ignorance or denial. This is what happens when we truly listen to the still, small whisper of God with us. When we hear Christ in our neighbor. When we take the time to stop and shut out the noise of a day and open up to the voice of someone sharing their story. What would we hear if we placed our ears into alleyways, near the bottom of dried-up streams, on prison walls, on quiet hospital floors, in the soil of farmlands, in the midst of a protest, or in abandoned homes? What cries of the forgotten would we hear in those places and spaces instead of just focusing on the mainstream translation handed to us on a silver iPad? When do we decide to go back to the original texture of human connection? My prayer this week is for our church to call forth disciples who follow God’s word and God’s call for solidarity and compassion in the midst of messages that divide us. May we be one, may we be one, may we be one.
Rachel Lyons is the Director of Social Justice at Old St. Patrick’s Church.
Easter is the Celebration of Light and Mercy
By: Tim Liston
What a month of March! It’s hard to believe that St. Patrick’s Day was only two weeks ago – it seems like its been months. As many of you participated with us throughout this Holy Week, you saw the beautiful expressions of this Gospel lived out within our community. What I find particularly moving is all the uses of fire and water in our Catholic tradition. Fire often represents light and hope, but it also represents the burning away (like those of our palms to ashes) the dead to begin anew. Much like a farmer does a prescribed burn of his field to create the opportunity for new growth, so too do we need to clear out some of our “personal brush”. Water (like that which was used to baptize our new Catholics on Holy Saturday and to wash our feet on Holy Thursday) represents life and rebirth. There’s a reason that we need to recall our own baptism so often because that is the reminder of our own rebirth of faith. I find that in this Easter season and the beginning of our natural turn to Spring, we are invited to clear the old deadwood, splash some proverbial water onto our hearts and make room to start again. Personally, I plan to burn away some of my couch time to make more room for walking and exercising. I also need to give a rinse to clear away my impatience, and I need to allow for more understanding and restraint to grow. I need to quite literally make room for an addition to our family, but more importantly I hope that this new life will help to soften some of my edges and wash me with new love and hope in my life. Maybe its because these articles are referred to as Awakenings and its spring, but for whatever reason, the notion of Spring Awakening kept coming to mind (side note: this is NOT in relation to the terrible EDM music festival held every year in Chicago). Perhaps we all need a “spring awakening” during this Easter season. This year, we have plenty of opportunities to hopefully do just that. If you’re looking for a personal challenge of body, mind and soul, and you’re looking to meet new people working for the same goal. And if you want to succeed in this goal all while helping to support some of the wonderful partner organizations of Old St. Pat’s, maybe joining Crossroads Runners is your Spring Awakening. If you’re looking to hit the pause button on your often hectic life, and you want to share an experience of personal reflection and growth with others. And if you want to refine and “re-find” yourself all within the beautiful greenery of St. Mary of the Lake, then maybe participating in the upcoming Beloved retreat is your Spring Awakening. If you’re a young adult looking to be surrounded by the energy and joy of teens looking to give back to the world around them, and you think you could use a refresh with your own inner youth. And if you have time to devote to the spiritual development of yourself and others, maybe becoming a Foundations leader is your Spring Awakening. However you find the Spirit calling you, and in whatever way you feel that you can benefit from a rebirth, we encourage you to pursue that call. We know that sometimes it can seem intimidating to jump right in, but we have a friendly staff hoping that you will connect with us to get more involved. Please flip to the back pages of our staff directory to find the right contact. In other Old St. Pat’s news, we are doing a bit of spring awakening ourselves in a couple of ways: As you may know, we’re in the midst of creating a strategic plan for our mission to continue to make this experience of church the best we can. We want to boldly dream of how we can renew, and how we can act on these plans. You will be hearing from Fr. Hurley, our staff and the board of advisors on how you can get more involved. We have also been doing some serious spring cleaning of our rectory to begin the construction work for our new community center. We will begin work the week of April 18, so please pardon our dust while we are in this exciting time of rebuilding. Lastly, (as a selfish plug) we will be announcing the headliners of our World’s Largest Block Party next week, but until then please mark your calendar for Saturday, June 25. It’s going to be another great year with summer fun and great music!
Tim Liston is the Business Manager at Old St. Patrick’s Church.
Easter is the Celebration of Light and Mercy
By: Bernadette Gibson
We weren’t there on that first Easter morning with Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, peering into the empty tomb and seeing signs of resurrection. But we are here now as beneficiaries of the life and love that emerges from Christ’s death. John begins the Easter story with the words, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark . . .” It was still dark, John says, but light enough for Mary Magdalene to see that the stone had been removed from the tomb. Immediately, Mary seems to assume that the tomb is empty. She runs to tell Peter and John, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Peter and the Beloved Disciple take off at a gallop, apparently with Mary right behind them. But it is interesting what happened then. The Gospel says the two disciples – returned back to their homes. It was almost as if they thought well, we’ve checked this out and we can’t do anything about it. So back home they went still in the dark, heavy and with no thought of the darkness lifting. Mary on the other hand bravely endures what St. John of the Cross describes as “the dark night of the soul.” Mary stayed there, grief-stricken wondering what on earth could have happened to the body of her friend Jesus. Mary stayed by the tomb, and there she encountered the Lord, and her life was changed by encountering her fear. The darkness lifted. In John’s gospel Mary was the first witness to the Resurrection. Truth be known, until we have spent our share of time in the dark place, where hope is hard to come by, we are not quite ready to encounter Easter. When Mary was first addressed by Jesus it was a case of mistaken identity. She wasn’t expecting Jesus and mistook him for a gardener, so she asked if he had taken away the body. The Gospel tells us that darkness will last until someone believes in the risen Jesus. Love enables us to see things that have been there all the time, but which we could never see until the light shines. That is exactly what John means. God, also, does that. God reveals Love. God, through Christ, opens up the eyes of the heart and life comes into focus and Mary could see and hear clearly that she was encountering Jesus. This Easter morning, the risen Lord is seeking us out, calling us by name, and addressing us personally. The God of Easter is not distant, aloof or remote. Rather the God of Easter is a personal God who comes to us, entering into our very presence. The story is a challenge to have our eyes opened wide enough, and our minds sufficiently opened to allow ourselves to be encountered by the Lord. That challenge stares us in the face as we hear the Easter morning story of Jesus and Mary. Like Mary we will find Jesus: wherever stones have been rolled back and barriers torn down; where those who thought life had ended for them, and are given hope. We will be Jesus’ living witnesses whenever we feed the hungry, raise up the disheartened, nurse the injured, or become the voice of the voiceless. Jesus is living within us when we turn from what was destructive in our lives, when we have the courage to forgive one another, and when we gather the strength to begin anew. Jesus is not found among the dead, but among the living. Mercy is the name of our God. Mercy is the best and most beautiful news that can be told to us and that we should bring to the world. As our Easter God by His mercy always gives us a new chance, a new future, our mercy gives future to the other, and to a world that needs it so much. In the new light of Easter we can hear the voice of the risen Christ saying to us “Peace be with you” even when we are afraid of all we do not know or understand. Easter is the celebration of Christ passing over the darkness into the light of life. Easter is the celebration of winter passing over to spring. Jesus is the Great Light, shining upon our darkened lives, breaking through and teaching us how to become the kind of persons Jesus intended us to be, responding to the light like plants seeking the sun, opening, unfolding, and bearing the fruit of mercy for one another. We come here this Easter day in faith because, like Mary and the disciples, we too have seen the light, and we are grateful today for Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
Palms and Political Power
By: Rachel Lyons
A friend of mine chooses a word for each year of his life. He started doing this as a way to focus his attention and intention on a certain attitude or framework that reflects the evolution of his life. I asked him at the beginning of 2016, “What is your word for this year?” He told me, “Execution. I have been learning a lot, but right now, I am in a place where I am ready to implement what I know, take action, and execute.” I have seen my friend do exactly this, as he strives to live authentically to his values and his faith against the hardships of our current society. And this is the same mindset Jesus displays in the procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus does not hesitate nor back down – he is clear and confident. His personal clarity to execute God’s will draws others to him and mobilizes his followers. He shows political power through a procession into the city flanked by everyday people, “the multitude of his disciples,” who are praising God and rejoicing over this movement instead of the politicians and kings of the day. This was not a return of soldiers who had ravaged the people of another land and conquered them through violence and coercion. Quite the opposite. Jesus enters Jerusalem steeped in God’s will for a community of justice and active peace rather than the Roman occupation that was oppressive and brutal. And Jesus is not alone. He did not minister alone, eat alone, survive alone. Throughout his ministry, he surrounded himself with people pushed out by the dominant culture and made poor because the rich stole from them – and people who felt an ache for something more, whose hearts still held out hope. Palm Sunday is no different. People show up, word spreads, and palm branches and cloaks are laid before Jesus as he rides a donkey. Because of the relationships Jesus made with everyday people, he is able to bring together a multitude for this celebration and political action, recovering space for those so often forced to the margins. He rides in as if to say, “Here is where you belong. Here is where we belong. We will wait no longer. We are taking space now. We are celebrating with joy now!” Though people rejoiced in God with Jesus in this procession, there were also people who doubted, who thought Jesus was nuts, and who would abandon Jesus later on. The counter-cultural work of building a holy city is not easy. It takes time. It has failures. It can be fragile. Jesus knew about these ups and downs riding into Jerusalem. We see how this collective act of marching brings about strong emotions in Jesus, our brother. He weeps over the city as he approaches, and he ultimately arrives in the Temple with righteous anger at all the corruption happening. This authentic Jesus is again so clear and so open to God’s will that he allows the tears to flow, he allows the sadness and anger to get to him, and he takes action to disrupt the space of those in power in order to create a new configuration of the house of prayer, of God’s house, where people pushed out can once again belong. Where people do not have to wait any longer for justice. Where Jesus can now teach with people hanging on his words while the chief priests and scribes conspire to put him to death. His choice to execute, to be brave, to act in concert with a community of followers is what I hope for our church. We as people of Old St. Patrick’s have power together in the public actions we take to elect and follow leaders who have a preferential option for the poor, who commit to being accountable, who serve us as neighbors and constituents. We have power as people of faith in Chicago, working in coalition with the Kinship Initiative and Community Renewal Society, building relationships with everyday people as Jesus did in order to live into the Body of Christ and truly put some skin on it. We have power in a God who we can trust to give each of us “a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” Let the Spirit’s rousing word be heard this Palm Sunday and echo throughout Holy Week in our acts of mercy, in our righteous anger, and in our collective power to execute God’s vision of a holy city.
By: Tim Liston
Until I was about eight years old, I truly don’t think I knew there was another heritage besides Irish. My family was Irish, my friends’ families were all Irish and just about everywhere you look in Mt. Greenwood (my childhood neighborhood) there is a shamrock on something. As a young child that meant everyone else must be Irish too, right? As I grew older, I of course realized there are other cultures and ethnic backgrounds – my two best friends by 8th grade were of Italian and Mexican descent – but the Irish influence never went away. Even those two friends felt the need to say they’re of Irish heritage just to fit in with the rest of our pals. Now approaching St. Patrick’s Day, I took a trip down memory lane of my relationship with this wonderful patron saint of ours, and some of the misconceptions I had about the importance of this day. It seems somewhat poignant that I now work here at Old St. Pat’s, and that my Awakenings article happened to land on this Sunday. All growing up, I missed the whole point of why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. When I was a young kid, it was all about the pageantry – this day meant that we got our face painted and we went to the Southside Irish Parade (free candy!). As I reached my teen years, I thought the whole thing was hokey and I was ‘over it’ – I thought the tradition was dumb (come to think of it, everything was “dumb” when I was a teen). Into college and my early adulthood I thought the day was about putting on a goofy, green hat and partying too much. Now as I look at things much more differently, and as I take stock in what is really important in life, I’ve come to the conclusion of why we celebrate this great day. I may be stating the obvious, but when it comes to celebrating this day there are really only three things on which I now focus. Faith, family and festivities. Let me preface this by saying that I’m in no way implying that this is the “right” way to celebrate. I also think this translates to just about any culture or heritage. Faith I must remind myself that St. Patrick represents the country of Ireland through his commitment to the Catholic faith and his strength as a man trying to spread the good word. He used the simplicity of the shamrock to represent the Trinity, and he helped introduce this faith to so many native Irish whose descendants would come centuries later to America and build churches (like Old St. Pat’s!). We remember this saint because he is directly and indirectly the reason that many of us profess our Catholic faith – this is a day worth celebrating. Family Both of my parents’ families have roots in Ireland, so it was a natural thing to embrace this wonderful culture. More importantly though, my parents stressed the value of connectedness to family – which is not uniquely Irish, but how we express it is unique to our family. I remember my Grandma Patty O’Sullivan (I know, I couldn’t even make up a more Irish name if I tried) telling me of her parents coming to America and explaining to the kids the importance of staying close to your siblings and cousins. That’s something that has stuck with us all into our adult years. St. Patrick’s Day in the Liston and O’Sullivan households meant spending the whole day together, telling stories and remembering those that sacrificed to get us where we are today. I’m so grateful that this day continues to strengthen our family bond. Festivities Food and music really make up such a major portion of a culture’s identity, and while I love food and music from other ethnicities, Ireland always call me back home. My wife jokes that any time I hear a fiddle I stop in my tracks. During this week if you can find a local place with some musicians playing traditional songs, I highly recommend it – if you can’t find that borrow your parents’ Bing Crosby or Chieftains albums. This past Tuesday at a beautiful performance of Siamsa na nGael, Beverly O’Regan Thiele sang “Mo Ghile Mear”, and it moved me in a way that that song never has before. So rosin up the bow, and enjoy your corned beef and cabbage! We of course welcome all cultures to celebrate this faith journey together, but as we celebrate our patron saint I hope that we can call to mind what St. Patrick set out to do. To all, have a blessed and happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Fourth Week of Lent
By: Bernadette Moore-Gibson
Today’s Gospel narrates one of the most quoted parables in scripture. In response to the complaint of the Pharisees and Scribes, that Jesus eats with sinners, Jesus tells a long story about the prodigal son and his forgiving father. Given the context, the major lesson is one of forgiveness. Luke’s parable is a classic story filled with a surplus of meaning. We typically reflect on it with the question of forgiveness in mind. The younger son, perhaps spoiled, is foolish and ungrateful. He crawls back home only because he is flat broke and starving. While most narrations don’t describe the younger son as an admirable character, I have wondered about the courage it must have cost him to go back home again when he had lost everything. The father’s love goes far deeper than his son’s behavior, however, and he welcomes him home with open arms. Then there is the older, obedient, hard-working son who pouts because his father throws a party for the wayward brother. Dad makes it clear he is not playing favorites: “My son…everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” Relationally and spiritually it’s a challenging parable and it remains for us a profound resource for reflecting on the multifaceted theme of forgiveness: for example, the teaching and practice of Jesus, who ate with sinners and forgave his enemies; the mercy and compassion of God, who is always ready to forgive us, to wipe the slate clean, to offer new opportunities for growth; and the Christian responsibility to bring the gift of forgiveness to strained personal relationships. Luke’s classic parable, however, contains another theme that calls for further reflection. The older son, consistently dutiful to his father, is angry at the preferential treatment given to the wayward son and refuses to enter the celebration. Prodigal Son parable deals not only with the issue of forgiveness, but also with another major theme that is well named “reconciliation.” The father needs and wants a reconciled family situation. The forgiveness he generously offered to his younger son, as well as the heartfelt plea to the older son, are both part of a larger project of reconciliation, making harmonious family relationships possible. Pope Francis has recently asked this and some other very hard questions. As a Lenten practice I have read and been exploring the book, “The Name of God is Mercy”, a conversation with Andrea Tornielli and Pope Francis. Pope Francis seems determined that we are not to be a self-referential Church, a Church that sees membership not as food for the journey, but as the reward for arriving. In the New Evangelization with which this Pope is tasked, the Church must stand as a moral compass and guide to the essential narrative of the Christian faith. That essence is best expressed in the beautiful words of absolution: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your son Jesus Christ, you have reconciled the world to Yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.” That narrative, not our previously devised narratives, is the point of the Jubilee Year. Pope Francis is calling the Church, even defining the Church, as the place where the Holy Spirit is among us for the forgiveness of sins. The words of absolution are among the most beautiful words a human can speak or hear. I wish more people would have an experience of confession where they heard and felt the blessings of those words. They always make me feel like I have been swallowed up, with all my failings, in God’s mercy. These words ask us to consider a healing of memories that recalls the past without neglecting the good and without being overwhelmed by the negative. This is a great spiritual challenge for most of us. All forgiveness comes as a gift from God. Remembering how God has forgiven us can motivate us to share the gift of forgiveness with others. Genuine forgiveness recognizes the good in those who hurt us while refusing to identify them with their misdeeds; it also allows them to begin anew with us without confining them to their past failures. Viewed in this way, forgiveness is an essential component of the reconciliation process that seeks a more harmonious situation which reflects the love of God, the example of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to make all things new! And if (and when) we do leave God for a period of time, God patiently will look for us and wait for us until we return home! Then the celebration for us begins!
Bernadette Moore-Gibson is the Director of Pastoral Care at Old St. Patrick’s Church.