Archives for December 2010
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to tune into a local FM radio staton. For me, it is a beautiful way to put myself in the spirit of the Christmas season. The music in my car cheerfully escorts me while driving between home and work.
These festive songs are a pleasant reminder this truly is “the most wonderful time of the year.” In addition to Christmas songs that are played throughout the entire day, stories, reflections, prayers and seasonal wishes are shared by both listeners and DJ’s. While driving home one evening, the following revelation was shared, adding another profound dimension to the Christmas story for me. As most of you can recall from sacred scripture, around the time of Jesus’ birth, a census was decreed by Caesar Augustus. Each and every person in the entire Roman world was to travel to his own town to register. Joseph, being of the line of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register his family. When they arrived in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph began to look for shelter throughout the town. Every single inn they journeyed to was overbooked and overcrowded, and as the story goes, they were turned away.
This is where the account becomes “significant”… the town Mary and Joseph traveled to, this town of Bethlehem, is of Joseph’s lineage. Therefore, not only was Mary who was a mere 13 or 14 years old, and very much pregnant, turned away from warmth, protection and shelter for herself and her newborn baby, but Joseph was turned away from his very own family members. While they may not have been his brothers or sisters, uncles or aunts, they were very likely his cousins or distant relatives. These relatives, mindful of their heritage and family connection with Joseph, closed the door and turned him away from the inn to a crude stable where Mary gave birth alone. If only these relatives had opened their doors, and opened their hearts to Joseph and Mary, just imagine… they would have witnessed God’s greatest miracle and gift to us all.
Too often, we get caught-up in the business of life, most especially around Christmas. How often have we closed our hearts to compassion, to empathy, to kindness and concern for others? How often have we closed the door to other people, or even to our own family members, unable to support or care for them in their time of need, too busy with our own agendas or important matters that fill an entire day’s worth of activity, or fearful that by putting others ahead of our own needs, we may very well neglect ourselves and our own desires? How often have we closed our hearts to life-giving moments that could have a profound impact on our own life, or the way in which we live?
Ajahn Chah, a Buddhist monk, likens the heart to the hand. “If you hold out your open hand you realize that you can rest things on the open hand, but its use is limited. If you close your hand to a fist you realize it can grasp things, but again its use is limited. It is only because we can close and open our hand in response to circumstances that we realize our hand truly works for us.” It is the same with the heart — we realize we can sometimes close our hearts, knowing we can save ourselves from experiencing sadness, or heartache, or unfamiliarity, or even uncomfortable, demanding and exhausting situations.
Knowing we can open our hearts provides us with the sympathy, kindness and gentleness to act lovingly towards all, to act with peace and joy, and to be compassionate to everyone in our lives. Opening our hearts affords us the opportunity to experience the every day miracles, as well as those miracles that a tender child, the Savior of the world, brings to us. When you open your heart, you are not saddened by the past, or anxious about the future, but you are content with the present. You are able to fully give yourself to each and every life-giving moment in which you find yourself, or that may be presented to you. I pray you continue to open your hearts this Christmas and throughout the New Year.
Jaclyn Mullooly is Coordinator of Liturgy at Old St.Patrick’s Church.
The casting has taken place for the pre-school nativity play. My daughter called me a few weeks ago to tell me the news: her firstborn, and the apple of all our eyes, had been chosen to be…the donkey! I think the proud parents had been hoping for an angel at least, given that she is—though I may have some bias—a very cute little 18-month-old with the fuzzy beginnings of what might become golden hair. But no. The donkey. I was thrilled and I said so. The donkey is something very special. How often have I found myself particularly drawn, in prayer, to the simple, warm-breathed, burden-bearing donkey.
Thoughts of the donkey turned my attention to a couple who live on our street. Let me call them Mary and Joe, and let me tell you a little of their story, because it is its own Nativity story.
My neighbors were willing to take children of any age and any degree of disability.
Mary and Joe are as normal and regular a couple as it gets. They have a grown family and are actively bringing up their small granddaughter so their daughter, a single mom, can continue to work. They struggle to keep going in today’s economic climate, but they are the kindest neighbors anyone could ever wish for. I bless the day they moved into our neighborhood.
Earlier this year they were accepted as foster parents for children who have been taken into the care of the social services department because of sickness, abandonment or abuse. I could not believe my ears when Joe told me they were willing to take children of any age and any degree of disability or difficulty and that they just thought it would be good to make some small difference to a few young lives and share the little they have.
So what’s with the donkey? Well, I have seen the donkey—in the form of the social worker’s car—come by three times now over the past few months and park outside Joe and Mary’s humble “inn,” carrying a needy mother and child on its rough back.
The first placement took us all by storm. Three teenage boys arrived—imagine three troubled teenage boys arriving in your home for an indefinite period. But these were three very special boys. They spoke hardly any English. They needed halal food and opportunities to pray five times a day. They did not know whether their families were alive or dead.
They were refugees from Afghanistan. Their father had been killed in the conflict, and their mother had courageously smuggled them out of the country to save them from the Taliban and the killing fields. After six months crossing Asia and Europe in a truck, they arrived in England and were granted refugee status. Mary came around a few days after their arrival to invite me to meet them. I looked into the sad and gentle eyes of these war-torn children and saw the face of another middleeastern Child, fleeing conflict and bringing peace.
Next came two little boys whose father had upped and left and whose mother was doing drugs. They too were gently laid into Joe and Mary’s “stable,” where their deep woundedness was tended by loving hands until their own family could look after them. There were no shepherds, no wise men, just a little taste of tenderness from caring strangers.
The present incumbents of Joe and Mary’s “crib” came a couple of weeks ago: a 6-week-old baby girl, taken into care because she already had been assaulted by her natural family and, along with her, her 15-year-old mother, who had also suffered abuse and domestic violence. This teenage mom is a child herself, still in shock and badly needing Mary’s parenting guidance. The baby girl now sleeps safely at night. Perhaps the angels hover over her as once they did in Bethlehem. Perhaps a lone star rises, carrying a prayer that her life might become something better than its brutal beginning. But change like that does not come down with the Christmas sparkle straight from heaven. It comes through the daily struggle of good people like Mary and Joe, who labor to bring a little more love and hope and trust
into the world and who welcome whoever the “donkey” brings.
Mary and Joe don’t go to church. Should I be “converting” them? Or should I be asking for the grace to let my own heart be converted by their example?
When I see my own little donkey next week on her big day, with her homemade big ears, I shall be torn, I’m sure, between smiles and tears. And I will be praying that she grows up to be a woman with room in her heart for the ones without another human heart to beat for them.
Margaret Silf lives in Staffordshire, England. Her latest books are Companions of Christ: Ignatian Spirituality for Everyday Living and The Gift of Prayer.
Reprinted from America Magazine, The National Catholic Weekly, December 14, 2009.
If someone were to ask me how I might translate the greeting of Merry Christmas, I think I would use the expression located just above these words: WELCOME! If there is one conviction I believe so deeply in my heart and one that people seeking a Church need to hear, it is this one. So on behalf of the marvelous staff of extraordinary people who pastor this Church each and every day in the spirit of wanting to create a unique, life-giving, experience of Church rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Welcome!!! We are absolutely honored and privileged to open wide the doors of this Church to all of you who found your way here to celebrate the mysteries of Christmas. If you are here for the first time, welcome to this historic place of worship as we usher in the 155th year of grace, beginning with our ancestors in faith who gathered in this building for the very first time with Midnight Mass, 1856.
For the past few months, beginning in September, the vibrant mission of Old St. Pat’s has been centered around a thematic expression which has been at the heart of our programming and prayer: Life Without Borders! We believe the borders and barriers that separate the human family prevent us from being fully alive. In turn, such obstacles make it impossible for us to know and to experience the truly life-giving presence of God reflected most deeply in the solidarity of the human community. Yet, we believe, as St. Paul emphasized: nothing shall separate us from the love of God.
We are absolutely honored and privileged to open wide the doors of this Church to all of you who found your way here to celebrate the mysteries of Christmas.
The mysteries of Christmas celebrate our God who crossed the ultimate border into our humanity and became One with us as One of us. Jesus lived life as a border crosser. His mission was to cross the cultural, political, and sociological barriers of his day in order to teach, preach, and live the Kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of solidarity and welcome.
Today, in our world, there are many barriers that divide us. May our celebration of the Prince of Peace this Christmas help us to welcome more deeply the mysteries of the God who calls us to respect and communion, rather than division and exclusion.
To the people of God, of whom we are all called: pitch your tent and make your home here.
Most importantly, as you come to Old St. Pat’s during these Christmas days, if you hear nothing else, please hear and believe the sentiment that I express wholeheartedly as pastor and on behalf of a place that tries so hard every day to be a great experience of Church: WELCOME! There are too many people who have been hurt by our imperfect Church and only reluctantly come here this Christmas. If you are struggling in any way with the journey of faith, I hope this Christmas will be a new beginning. To the people of God, of whom we are all called: pitch your tent and make your home here. Feel your place here and welcome again the mysteries of the Incarnation. Let no barriers prevent our God from being born in us once again!
Welcome, Merry Christmas, and Thanks for being here!
Fr. Tom Hurley
It seems to many that the true spirit of Christmas disappeared from American life some time ago. The traditional manger, with shepherds and angels adoring the infant Savior, is no longer seen in department store windows, and when one appears in a public space, it quickly becomes an occasion for litigation. Offering the traditional greeting “Merry Christmas” has become an affirmative act of Christian self-identification. In advertising and casual conversation it has been replaced by “Happy Holidays,” because, though the vast majority of Americans profess to be Christians, in this age of interfaith sensibilities Christmas shares billing with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
All the religious feasts of the season, however, are swallowed up in a consumerist frenzy of spending. Economists and broadcast journalists take the fiscal pulse of the nation by counting off the length of the shopping line at Best Buy on Black Friday. The biblical Christmas stories have been replaced by “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Frosty the Snowman.” Even Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which attempted to redeem the spirit of generosity, in tune with the Gospel message, from the grasp of unregulated capitalism, has been replaced as a Christmas ritual by the nonstop broadcast of Jean Shepherd’s satirical film “A Christmas Story.” Culturally there is no doubt the Christian Christmas has been displaced, subverted and buried under a mountain of commercial trivialities and cultural kitsch.
It would be comforting, of course, if the wider culture reenforced our faith and if pious Christian customs, like manger scenes and caroling, had broader appeal. The crass secularization of the season, however, could well spur us to reflection on a kind of spiritual asceticism that renounces unchallenging sentimentalism about Christmases past. For appropriating the Gospel spirit of identifying with the poor, as presented throughout Luke’s narrative, or with the persecuted and refugees, as in Matthew’s account of the flight into Egypt, is far more important for Christians than preserving reassuring public images of the Nativity.
Such attitudes are also more in keeping with the Evangelists’ intentions than the representation of their narratives. Neither Mark’s Gospel nor John’s contains an infancy narrative, and John’ s majestic prologue—“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”—focuses on the mystery of the Incarnation and our share in its blessings. If we feel deprived by the vapid secularity of “the holidays,” we would do well to consider instead how we who belong to the body of Christ can extend the grace of the Incarnation to our contemporary world.
Knowing that every person shares in the grace of the Incarnation, how should we celebrate? First, let us rejoice that God is with us, not just at Christmas but at all times, and that there is no corner of the world in which Christ is not present. The rest of the answer will be found in the morning headlines and evening television news from Afghanistan, Haiti and the Sudan. We will find it in a walk through the soup kitchens, homeless shelters and crime-ridden neighborhoods of our hometowns. There we will find, as Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., wrote, “Christ plays in ten thousand faces/ lovely in limb and lovely in eyes not his.” Our hearts will tell us what to do next. It is in our service of the world, in our defense of human rights, in our welcoming of migrants, in the promotion of forgiveness and the fostering of unity among peoples that the power of the Incarnation courses through today’s world.
At the same time, we should not neglect works of imagination that attempt to infuse the popular mind with the Christmas spirit. When Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol,” he intended to redeem the bleak work ethic of Victorian England with a renewal of Christian charity, just as in the wake of the Great Depression Frank Capra sought with “It’s a Wonderful Life” to revive a sense of community and the common good. Transforming imaginations is integral to incarnation. We who are the church—especially artists, writers, filmmakers, advertisers and broadcasters—need to do today what Dickens and Capra did for their times.
New campaigns of evangelization should enlist artists of every sort and utilize every new medium to spread the good news. Christian artists and communicators must find one another and imagine ways to communicate God’s love in an urban, digital culture, as St. Francis did with his crèche in the pastoral Italy of his day. Those with other talents should offer financial support and patronage to the promotion of new Christian art. Even as we live out the Incarnation in charity and social commitment, through our creativity and inventiveness, Christians need to retell the Christmas story in ways that awaken the hearts of today’s Scrooges to the meaning of Christmas present.
Reprinted from America Magazine, The National Catholic Weekly, December 20, 2010.
Thank you to everyone who attended and supported Deck The Hall, December 2, 3 and 4, 2010. The concert raised vital funds for the ongoing operations and programs of Old St. Patrick’s, including our wonderful Liturgies and music.
We also are grateful to all the volunteers who helped make this event happen!
Congratulations to the 2010 Deck the Hall Twelve Days of Christmas Raffle Winners!
Roundtrip airfare for two to Ireland on Aer Lingus plus roundtrip limousine service from O’Hare-Midway Limousine.
Two-night stay at the InterContinental Chicago on Michigan Ave plus a gift certificate for Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
“Chef for a Day” at Moto Restaurant.
Bed and Breakfast Package for two at the Chicago Hilton.
Sunday Brunch for two at the Four Season’s Hotel Chicago.
Two tickets to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Six passes to “Adler After Dark” at the Adler Planetarium plus a gift certificate to Palace Grill.
Tickets for the 2010-11 Chicago Wolves season and a gift certificate to Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
A one-night stay with breakfast for two at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Downtown Chicago.
J. P. Lotarski
An overnight stay for two at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza.
An overnight stay at The Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro Hotel and a gift certificate to Rosebud Restaurants.
Two tickets to 2011 Deck The Hall Concert/Reception and a gift certificate to The Signature Room at the 95th.
A personal training assessment at Blakely F.I.T. and two tickets to Old St. Patrick’s 2011 World’s Largest Block Party.
If Not for You
We gratefully acknowledge the following companies and individuals for their generous donations to Deck The Hall.
Berghoff Catering & Restaurant Group
Catering by Michael’s
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Wolves Pro Hockey
Four Season’s Hotel Chicago
Hill & Valley Rock Island Illinois
Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites – Downtown Chicago
Michael Krayniak, Sound Production
Margaret Nelson, Lighting Design & Production
O’Hare-Midway Limousine Service
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Strategic Hotels & Resorts, Inc.
The Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro Hotel
The Signature Room at the 95th
Work of Art Cake
This week, we are invited to join in the “gift” of pause. I am talking about slowing down long enough in our everyday lives, no matter where we are, no matter whom we are with, to consider for a moment what the gift of the Incarnation means to us. As Mary might say, to ponder the gift.
“Ponder” is an old word. To me it means ‘“to try to take in all the things of importance.” The actual meaning of the word is “to throw together information and to try to make meaning or sense out of a situation.’” For the most part, pondering is a lost art. We know Mary pondered often. We are told Jesus went off alone to pray, but I believe for what that is worth, Jesus also went off to ponder, or to think about important matters of the Kingdom.
Dean Willimon writes “Christmas is a delightful disruption of the way things normally go.” I like that phrase “delightful disruption” because it catches the spirit of the Gospel Luke that we ponder at Christmas.
We are told Jesus went off alone to pray, but I believe for what
that is worth, Jesus also went off to ponder, . . .
One moment you are tending the sheep in the middle of the night, the next you are scared out of your wits by an angelic choir. I do not know how delightful that is, but it is definitely a disruption, and typically disruptions cause us to pause, to ponder, to look for the grace.
The older I get the more I discover how much grief people live with every day:
- the loss of one who was so vital that a part of you died when they died,
- the loss of a relationship you dreamed would sustain you through your life,
- the loss of a dream for your life or your career — what you hoped to do in the world,
- the disappointments we have to live with regarding our lives, how we have been treated, or how we have treated others.
For most of us — how we live with great loss — is one of the most central questions in our lives. We have much to learn from those who have survived the loss of almost everything: home, warmth and health —and yet have learned to continue in faith. As we pause this coming week in the midst of the Christmas busyness, might we ask ourselves the question of how we hear tidings of great joy from behind the locked doors of grief, fear, shame, guilt, and anger?
To intentionally pause together at Church is to do Church. Church happens when people gather in truth and allow God to make them into lovers.
In my experience, again and again, I discover those who love profoundly have experienced great losses, but when they come together with others something else happened so they were able to transform those losses into a source of healing, energy and passion for justice in the world.
Christmas is a delightful disruption of the way things normally go.
Might I suggest we pause in this season of numerous commitments to contemplate the work of God in the world, not in some distant time and place but right here, right now. This week, we are given an opportunity to quiet down and be alert to the possibility of seeing God in the beauty of a peace-filled quiet sanctuary in the middle of a vibrant downtown community on one of the darkest nights of the year.
Two thousand years ago, God gave us a gift wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Today, Jesus is just as much God’s Christmas gift to us as He was to Mary and Joseph so long ago. As we pause this coming week to reflect on the crib, let us pray we hear the voice of an angel saying “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people.” I believe when we quiet ourselves, we hear God.
Will you join me for a Night of Pause and Prayer at Old St. Pat’s on Wednesday, December 22? The Church will be open from 5:30 p.m. to midnight with a Reflection Service scheduled at 7:30 p.m.
Bernadette Moore Gibson is Director of Pastoral Care at Old St. Patrick’s Church.
Just a Thought…
I love this 4th Sunday of Advent and particularly this story about good old Joseph. Because Matthew the Evangelist is writing to a primarily Jewish community, he wants to tell us this story today about the angel who appears to Joseph and the connection between Jesus, Joseph and the lineage of David. What fascinates me about this Gospel story is that in the midst of this “angelic” encounter, Joseph does not say a word. In fact, throughout all of the scriptures, of the brief “air time” he receives, Joseph has no recorded verbiage. And while there may not be any words of Joseph for us to ponder, his life example and the role he plays in the Christmas story is extremely inspirational and profound. Even though he doesn’t speak, we know already that Joseph was one “stand up” kinda guy! For Mary to have been pregnant without a husband meant, according to the law, Joseph could have had her stoned. But what we discover is that Joseph is compassionate, kind, and truly loving. He doesn’t throw her under the bus, per se, and after being challenged by the angel, Joseph rises to the occasion and takes a big risk by making this journey with Mary. What I love about Joseph is that he is a quiet guy who does all sorts of good things.
The character of Joseph causes me to pause during these holy days of Advent and give tremendous thanks for all the unsung heroes in my life and yours. I think about and marvel in the lives of good people who truly live the Gospel without any need for recognition or fanfare. In my head right now is a litany of names I could easily type in this column but I resist the temptation in honor of my Joseph-like heroes who I know would rather remain anonymous. They are parents caring for children under difficult conditions; they are children caring for their aging parents; they are simple people who just like to do good things for others; they are wealthier people whose quiet generosity is exemplary; they are people who respond and step-up no matter what the request; they are people who just love the work of Church and the Gospel; they are healthcare workers who find themselves in tough situations daily and yet do their work with such compassion; my list of “Josephs” goes on and on, thank God.
To all who will be away from Old St. Pat’s this coming week as you travel to see family and friends, be well and be safe. We will pray for each other at the Lord’s Table. Thank you for being the Incarnation of God’s goodness to Old St. Pat’s and have a very Merry Christmas!
Peace to you,
Fr. Tom Hurley
HE DWELLS AMONG US
St. Ignatius Loyola’s classic text, The Spiritual Exercises, leads a person by a series of imaginative meditations through the life of Christ. And Ignatius asks the retreatant to begin before the earthly life of Jesus even began.
In one of the loveliest of his meditations, St. Ignatius asks us to imagine the Holy Trinity in heaven. Looking down, they gaze upon all of humanity and see men and women greatly diverse in dress and behavior: “some white and others black, some at peace and others at war, some weeping and others laughing, some healthy and others sick, some being born and others dying….”
In their compassion, they decide that the second person of the Trinity should become human. “And thus when the fullness of time had come, they send the Angel Gabriel to Our Lady,” writes Ignatius. Christmas marks the time when God, out of compassion, became human, or, as the Gospel of John has it, “pitched his tent among us.”
Today the Holy Trinity watches over a world that would be virtually unrecognizable to the men and women in firstcentury Palestine. Just in the past decade, technological advances have enabled millions, at least in the West, to enjoy better health, increased educational opportunities and other unforeseen advantages.
But the Holy Trinity also sees a world surprisingly similar to that of first-century Palestine, a world with “some weeping.” Jesus was born into a violent time. Today terrorism, its complex roots maddeningly confusing, frightens millions, from India to Indianapolis. Likewise, the poor in Jesus’ day were, as today, powerless, marginalized and disenfranchised. Even St. Joseph was not exempt from financial woes. Like Palestinian peasant farmers, as the Rev. John Meier, a noted Scripture scholar, points out, he led a “precarious existence, sometimes at subsistence level.” How similar this is to our world this Christmas, when the poor are still marginalized and millions of middle-class Americans fear for their future in the wake of the frightening collapse of the financial markets.
Into such a place came Jesus: a world riven with differences between rich and poor, facing the threat of violence and, like that world, hoping for salvation. To enter this world, Jesus was born into the Holy Family, each of whose members offers a distinctive lesson for believers during Christmas— especially for those facing hard times, financial or otherwise.
Again we turn to Joseph, who is often relegated to second-class status in the Nativity scenes. A “righteous” man, as the Gospel of Matthew has it, Joseph shoulders the confusing task God has given him. Not only is he asked to accept the strange message from an angel about the miraculous circumstances of his wife’s pregnancy; he is also charged, later, to guard his family in their perilous trip to Egypt. This would have been a particularly hard road for a Jewish family—Egypt lies in the wrong direction. Joseph trustingly accepts God’s upending of his expectations.
Mary’s great yes to God offers not only a model for women, but for any disciple. Indeed, Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel offers a model of discipleship for those under duress. When God invites Mary to accept a strange future, she initially hesitates and, like any believer, voices her honest emotions. “How can this be?” she asks in the Gospel of Luke. In reply, the angel points to the example of her cousin, Elizabeth, in essence saying, “Look what God has already done.” How often this happens in our own lives. When doubtful, we are invited to look backward, to see God’s hand more clearly and magnify our trust. But even after Mary’s Fiat, her story provides a lesson. “Then the angel left her.” Then comes the part that we know well: faith.
Mary’s son came, as one hymn has it, “not as a monarch, but a child.” The Word of God chose to dwell among us in that most fragile of human states—as a newborn. When the Magi arrived, they may have wondered, “This little child is the king?” Entering into perilous situations and accepting the need to be protected, to be cared for and to be nurtured by others is another lesson that God offers us at Christmas. “The secret of life,” said Blessed John XXIII, “is to let oneself be carried to God.”
The Holy Trinity chose “in the fullness of time” to enter into the complicated world of first-century Palestine. Christ, in his Spirit and in the church, continues to dwell in our lives. Christians are also called to insert themselves into what is becoming a more complicated world. For ways to do this, we need look no farther than the crèche, to the example of the Holy Family.
Reprinted from America Magazine, The National Catholic Weekly, December 22, 2008.
Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I reflected on the abundance in my life (it has been a great year for me!), and all that I have to give thanks for. This summer I was fortunate enough to spend almost three weeks at the shore (Delaware beaches) — I am deeply grateful for this opportunity. The beach is an abundant experience for me; there is joy in it all — sand, sun, surf, food and conversation, both light-hearted and deep discussions. I love the beach, and each year I return with family, friends or by myself to relax, rest and re-encounter the beauty and wonder of God. For me, God is present in the balmy moments of the sun rising (or setting) over the sea. At the beach there is an incredible peacefulness, knowing that all shall be well — the ocean waves remind me that God’s love continues to wash over us, and it is perpetual and powerful!
I am well and truly blessed, rarely have I had a summer without a beach vacation. You see, my Dad and uncle own a beach house, and I have great (and cheap) access to this wonderland. Each summer my return is a wonderful homecoming. This July was particularly special as my parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, all 18 of us, enjoyed six days at the beach together. We traveled from all corners of the continental U.S.—Atlanta, Boise, Chicago, Dallas and Dayton — to be together. As such a gathering only occurs every two to three years, we soaked in each others’ presence, broke bread, enjoyed music, laughter and a variety of games. It was our family Thanksgiving celebration.
“Remember, where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”
In an ideal world, I would have a second home at the beach and would make plans to retire there; however, my wallet is not able to support my ideal vision and retirement is not in the near future. So, my efforts are to create home and to recognize God’s endless love where I find myself, and for the last 18 years I have called Chicago home. As my family is dispersed all over the nation, I have created a Chicago family and Chicago home that supports and sustains me — a very significant part of my Chicago life and family is the community of Old St. Patrick’s Church. It is in being part of this community that I know myself as a Beloved Daughter of God. The Old St Pat’s community has given me much more than I can ever return or re-pay; the Old St Pat’s waves of hospitality and caring regularly wash over me and provide assurance that all shall be well. During Sunday Liturgies I am reminded that life is good and there is a net which will support and catch me when I take a risk, try something new or when the rug is pulled out from under me.
To whom much is given, much is expected … this is a principal that I have understood from an early age. I have been given much and am honored to give back to the Old St. Patrick’s community in every way I can — with my time, talents, and yes treasure. I know many for whom making a financial commitment to a Catholic Church is a difficult task. They are fed-up with the scandals, the lack of inclusiveness, and the inability of the institutional Church to accept responsibility for many wrongs and sins. I cannot disagree with this sentiment and grow weary myself of defending my faith which is connected to the institutional Church; however, I have to remind myself that Church and my home in Chicago is not the “institutional Church” but it is the community of Old St Patrick’s. Just as the early Christians gathered in the communities of Corinth, Alexandria and Phillippi to remember the life of Christ and break bread, I come to Old St. Patrick’s to listen to the Word of God, be inspired by beautiful music and be in communion through the Eucharist. If I and all members of the community do not give of our treasure, how can we sustain this community? From where will the funds come for the pastoral care, lights, program development, heat (a must right now!) and the staff that support all the initiatives we develop?
“Remember, where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” (Matthew 6:21) My heart and home are not only at the beach, but they are also here with the community and Church of Old St. Patrick’s. This is why every month there is a contribution taken directly from my checking account and deposited with the Old St. Pat’s community. To sustain this endeavor that we call Church, to know that I can come each week to be nourished and give thanks, I must make a commitment of my treasure.
Where is your treasure? Is it where you find your heart, home and community?
Anne Gross is a long-term member of Old St. Patrick’s Church.
The theme of this year’s Freshman-Sophomore Retreat was to love like crazy, following in the footsteps of how Jesus loved his disciples. What better way to kick-off the Retreat than with a skit from Jersey Shore, better known as Jesus Shore, showing the love we have for one another, but also adding in a couple of jokes to get the rest of the group just as excited as the teen leaders. Before the trip, the teen leaders planned activities during our many meetings in order to have a fun-filled weekend of getting to know one another and learn to show our true selves. At the beginning of the Retreat, most of us showed our “outside masks” for a variety of reasons, but when Sunday came around our “inside masks” were more prominently displayed.
Four brave souls, two adult leaders and two teen leaders, shared stories about their “inside” and “outside” masks with all of us. The stories told were some of the most important aspects of the Retreat. The teens could relate the stories to their own lives. It was revealed that the situations we are dealing with in our daily lives, whether it be at school or at home, are happening to most teenagers. It is a time in life where the transition from grade school to high school can be hard and frustrating at times, but listening to these four inspirational stories helped us to understand that the future holds many bumps for us to overcome. One of the stories was from a teen who had a difficult time making friends while showing his “outside” mask. By the end of the story, he had found the group of people who loved him by showing his “inside” mask and not trying to be someone he was not. The point of the story emphasizes it is better to be yourself around others and have people accept you for who you are, rather than pretend to be someone you are not.
. . . it is better to be yourself around others and have people accept you for who you are, rather than pretend to be someone you are not.
Another story from an adult leader focused on a topic that is still a tough thing for him to talk about. As we walk through the hallways of our high schools, we see kids being bullied or maybe we just turn away from noticing it going on. This particular talk motivated us to stand up and speak for those who are treated badly. It made everyone think about how the person being bullied feels and what it does to their emotional state. Sharing with us the perspective of a person who was bullied growing up really hit a tender spot in all of us. We may not be directly affected, but so many others are affected by bullying. To hear what those who are bullied feel and what they convinced themselves they had to do in order to make it through was heart wrenching.
The courage these four leaders had in order to talk to a group of peers was incredible. We all took home new perspectives and, hopefully, started applying them to our daily lives. Aside from the talks, we spent time outside playing games, journaling about the activities, and were grateful for the awesome Fr. Richard who traveled ninety miles to celebrate Saturday night Mass. This year’s Locuras Retreat was a blast to be a part of and helped the Foundations teens show their crazy “inside” masks.
Lauren Bradley is a sophomore at Jones College Prep. She, along with five other Sophomores, led the Locuras Retreat this past November.
Just a Thought…
If you had the chance to attend the 17th annual Deck The Hall concert last weekend, then you know already what I am going to type: Outstanding!!!! And Thank You! How lucky we are to have such a creative and energized music ministry at Old St. Patrick’s. I am so grateful to Bill Fraher, our Music Director, and to the countless women and men who dedicate so many hours to rehearsals, not only for the concert, but also for our Sunday Liturgies and the next big show: Too Hot to Handel (January 15 and 16, 2011 at the Auditorium Theatre on Congress). The two words that kept coming to my mind during Deck The Hall were passion and excellence. I believe passion and excellence reflect what we try to do with the mission of Old St. Patrick’s. Our mission was genuinely reflected during each night of the Deck the Hall concerts last weekend. Thank you for all of your support of the concert and the accompanying raffle. And a special thanks to the staff and volunteers behind the scenes whose dedication to passion and excellence make programs like Deck The Hall great events! We are a very fortunate Church.
Today is December 12 and despite the prominence of the Third Sunday of Advent, many are celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is a huge day for many Latin Americans, especially the Mexican community as we celebrate this day in honor of Mary. I am mindful of the brilliant, inspired homily our intern, Krista Kutz, proclaimed this past Wednesday at the 5:30 p.m. Liturgy: “God goes where God needs to go.” Mary, as Guadalupe, went where Mary needed to go. In the mid 16th century, Mary went to a people who needed hope and reassurance. She appeared as a young Aztec princess and her message was one of great affection and love for the Aztec people. On this sacred day in honor of Guadalupe, may we be reminded of our passionate God who does indeed go where God needs to go and sends great messengers like Mary to reassure us we are loved.
Attention runners: although the details are still being worked out, Old St. Pat’s is pleased to announce we are going to be an official charity running group for the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. I am really excited about this opportunity for us at Old St. Pat’s. While more information will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, I hope you will start discerning the possibility of running on behalf of Old St. Patrick’s and the many countless people being served through the mission and outreach programs of our Church.
May these Advent days be holy for you.
Fr. Tom Hurley
Just a Thought…
To those who were able to join us, thank you for creating a prayerful, robust Liturgy on Thanksgiving Day this year. It was Old St. Pat’s Liturgy at its finest again. To those who were not able to join us, believe me: you were with us every prayerful step of the way! Never does the Church gather without always being in communion with all its members. What a great day to gather and pray in thanksgiving for the blessings of this Church we are lucky to create with God’s help. On Thanksgiving, as part of the homily, I shared with you a letter from an anonymous person whose story of transformation and indeed resurrection was both inspiring and powerful, to say the least. If not for the significant work of the Cara Program, I am not sure that person could have ever written that letter. Although they have successfully “outgrown” the space in our Social Outreach Center, Old St. Pat’s will forever be proudly affiliated with the mission of Cara. They help people find their way from homelessness and joblessness to a life of promise and self-sufficiency. Many people have asked me for a copy of that letter I received from Mr. Tom Owens, the founder of the Cara Program. You will find that letter printed below. Please continue to pray for the great success of our partners in the Old St. Pat’s Social Outreach Center. They are a wonderful part of the hopeful life found on this campus each day.
May these Advent days be holy for you.
Fr. Tom Hurley