The Name of God is Mercy: A Review of Pope Francis’ Latest Book

01-31-2016Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

On the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I scheduled an appointment to take my car into the auto shop on account of a recent recall. While waiting for the work to be done, I brought with me Pope Francis’ new book, The Name of God is Mercy. It is a combination of two documents: His Papal Bull declaring this year as a year of mercy, and a transcription of an interview between Pope Francis and Andrea Tornielli, where our Holy Father elaborates on his personal experiences with the mercy of God and his desire to call for a year of mercy for the entire Church.

As I began reading it, I found that I couldn’t put it down. I read for two and a half hours without interruption. When the service representative came to tell me that my car was ready, he asked me if I wanted to stick around for a while and continue reading my book. I almost said yes, because I realized I was only a few pages away from finishing the interview. Let me declare with confidence, Pope Francis’ new book is a wonderful read!


Excerpts from Salt of the Earth: Pope Benedict XVI’s Insights Into Important Questions

01-24-2016Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

As many of you know, spiritual reading is a significant part of my daily life. I read for an hour or more nearly every day. Recently, I finished Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium. This is a published interview between Pope Benedict XVI and Peter Seewald, recorded in 1996 when Pope Benedict XVI was Cardinal Ratzinger and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). In this interview, Pope Benedict XVI offers some profound insights into his personal life and what it means to participate in the life of the Church, and he addresses some important questions about the Church in today’s world. I thought it would be nice to invite you to participate in my spiritual reading by sharing some excerpts from this interview.

What were your concerns when Pope Paul VI made you the bishop of Munich?

“I had, of course, very great doubts at first whether I should or ought to accept this appointment. I had little pastoral experience. I felt that, in principle, I was called from the beginning to teach and believed that at this period of my life - I was fifty years old - I had found my own theological vision and could now create an oeuvre with which I would contribute something to the whole of theology.

I then took counsel and was told that in an extraordinary situation such as we live in today, it is also necessary to accept things that don’t seem to be in the direction of one’s life from the beginning. Today, the problem of the Church is very closely tied to that of theology. In this situation, even theologians have to be available as bishops.” (Excerpts from page 81)


The Father's Merciful Love: The Fulfillment & Destiny of Every Man

01-10-2016Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

In light of the Father’s merciful love made incarnate to us through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, we come to see how man finds his fulfillment and destiny in mercy. Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church’s relationship to the modern world, says:

“The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light…Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear…He Who is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1:15), is Himself the perfect man…For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man” (Par. 22).

If Christ is the Father’s merciful love made incarnate, and Christ has united Himself in some way to every man, and in so doing reveals man fully to himself, then every man is somehow destined to re-discover himself in mercy.


The Meaning of Mercy

12-20-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

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.”


Looking Together at the Lord

11-29-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

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.


At the Foot of the Mountain: Changes to the Distribution of Holy Communion

10-04-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

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.”


Hitting the Mark

09-20-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

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.”


Sacramental Worldview

08-30-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

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.


How to Go to Confession

08-02-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

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.


Perseverance after Obergefell v. Hodges

07-26-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

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?"


John 6: The Body & Blood of Christ - The Real Meaning of Corpus Christi

06-07-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

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?