Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has declared this new liturgical year, beginning December 8 (the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception), as a “year of mercy.” As the “motto” for this new liturgical year, Pope Francis has chosen the Latin phrase, Misericordes Sicut Pater, meaning, “Merciful like the Father.” He has asked that we spend this next year reflecting on what it means to have a merciful Father, and how we can integrate God the Father’s merciful love into our daily lives. In his Apostolic Bull inaugurating the year of mercy, Pope Francis said, “At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.” As a response to Pope Francis’ call for a year of mercy, I would like to offer a few thoughts to assist us in our endeavor to discover anew God’s merciful love for us.
As we begin our contemplation of God’s merciful love, it would be fruitful for us to begin with an analysis of the Latin word chosen to capture the essence of God’s love. A linguistic breakdown of the Latin word, misericordia (mercy), provides for us an insightful glimpse into what is meant when we describe God’s love as, “merciful.”READ MORE
From 2012-2014, Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois performed a survey for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Illinois to discover the reasons behind serious declines in Mass attendance over the last decade in the Springfield Diocese. This study yielded major findings for both active and inactive Catholics in the Springfield Diocese.
As I was reading through the results of the survey, there was a major finding concerning active Catholics that I believe is worthy of some reflection:
“Parish priests or pastors were the most frequently given responses for what parishioners liked least about their parish and for those considering separating from their Parish, the Catholic Church or both.”
How is this possible? How did the priest acquire such importance? Why would someone’s relationship to a parish or to the Catholic Church itself depend entirely on an individual priest?
As many of you already know, I am an adjunct professor of Theology at Benedictine University in Mesa (the sister campus of Benedictine University in Lisle). In particular, I teach Sacramental Theology. At this time in our course, my students and I are reading through Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s (also known as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), The Spirit of the Liturgy. In this magnificent theological work Ratzinger mentions something that I believe pertains to the major finding as noted above.READ MORE
Isaiah 2:2: “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it.”
Isaiah 25:6: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wine.”
Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, ‘Your God is King!’”
Matthew 5:1-2: “When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them.”READ MORE
In light of this, we need to ask ourselves, “Is this how we normally act? Is this the order that we see in the decisions being made by ourselves and those around us?” Usually, the answer is no. What then actually happens? Unfortunately, we experience the opposite.
What normally happens is that we first experience an emotion. For example, another driver on the highway cuts us off and we immediately experience the emotion of anger. Then, we make a choice (an act of the will) governed by the experienced emotion. Concerning the example of the man who cuts us off on the highway, in anger we yell profanity out the window at the driver.
Third, after we have calmed down – after the anger has subsided, we then utilize our intellect to rationalize our behavior. For example, we say something like, “That guy deserved it because he was a jerk,” or “Someone needed to let that guy know that he was a bad driver.”READ MORE
When I was growing up, I enjoyed spending time at the mall. While my parents would make their way from Dillards to Footlocker, I would spend some time looking at the various vender carts outside the stores. One of my favorite vender carts was the Magic Eye cart. For those who are unfamiliar with Magic Eye, it is a series of books that contain autostereograms, which are patterns of shapes and colors that when looked at correctly cause some viewers to see three-dimensional images. At first glance, a Magic Eye image is uninteresting. It is merely a pattern of shapes and colors that are not very appealing. However, when looked at carefully, a three-dimensional image is hidden within the uninteresting pattern.READ MORE
One of my favorite stories about the life of Pope Saint John Paul II is the story of the beggar priest. One day a priest was walking through the streets of Rome on his way to a private audience with Pope Saint John Paul II when he recognized a beggar on the street as one of his classmates from seminary who had fallen into hard times, walked away from his priesthood, and become homeless. At the papal audience, the homeless beggar was so much on his mind that he decided to share his encounter with the beggar priest with the pope. To his surprise, the pope told him to find the beggar priest and bring him to the Vatican for a private dinner that evening.
The priest then found the beggar, bought him a change of clothes, allowed him to shower at his hotel, and brought him to the Vatican for the special dinner. Toward the end of the dinner, Pope Saint John Paul II dismissed everyone from the room except for the beggar priest. When the two of them were alone together, the pope then asked the beggar priest to hear his confession.READ MORE
On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court in the Obergefell v. Hodges case ruled in a narrow 5-4 decision that "the 14th Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state." In the wake of this decision many Catholics have found themselves asking troubling questions. "What does this mean for the Catholic Church?" "Will the Church participate in same sex marriages?" "How should I respond to my family members and friends who are in favor of the Supreme Court's decision?"READ MORE
John 6:52-66: (52) The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" (53) Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. (54) Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. (55) For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. (56) Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (57) Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. (58) This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." (59) These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. (60) Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" (61) Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? (62) What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? (63) It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (64) But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. (65) And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." (66) As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
For the longest time whenever I read chapter 6 of John’s Gospel I felt like there was something I was missing. I felt like there was some inside-story that I didn’t know about. There are several verses in this chapter of John that gave me this impression. In verse 52 we hear that the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat. Then in verse 60 we hear many of the Jews saying, This saying is hard; who can accept it? Then, in verse 66, many of the Jews left Jesus and returned to their former way of life. Somehow in less than 20 biblical verses, Jesus managed to say something so controversial that he lost a majority of his followers. Why? What did Jesus say that made everybody so upset that they left him and returned to their former way of life?READ MORE