Blogs

Lord of our Hearts

Dear Parishioners,

“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts (1 Pet 3:15).” What an interesting exhortation from our second reading this weekend. First, it is amazing to think that we can sanctify Christ. Usually we see it the other way around—Christ sanctifies us. He does, yes, but we also make Jesus holy. One of the ways we make Jesus holy is when we make him the Lord of our hearts.

This is the second point. It's not by mighty works of charity or piety that we bless God, but by what we "" in our hearts. What we are called to "do" is to make Jesus the complete master of our hearts. This isn't as easy as it seems. I would argue, in fact, that it's easier to say a rosary, go to a soup kitchen, or attend Mass than to say with all sincerity that Christ, and nothing else, rules our hearts. Think of all the other things that occupy a space in our hearts: family, career, hobbies, and pleasures. Does Christ come first and is he above all these other things? That is, are all of these things regulated and determined by God? Christ might be in our hearts, but he is the Lord? Yes, that is difficult.

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Curds and Whey

Our Lady of the Whey. This is a title I have created for Mary, not to be confused with Our Lady of the Way, or Santa Maria della Strada. Mary brings us directly to her son, thus the Madonna della Strada is the fastest way to heaven. That feast day is celebrated on May 24th. Mine does not have a feast day (yet) and it deals with the process of making cheese.

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Happy Mothers' Day!

Dear Parishioners,

Happy Mother's Day! To all mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and any women who embody motherly attributes, thank you for who you are and all you do for us. You make the world a joyful, loving place.

To all the female parishioners at St. Juliana (as well as from my previous parish—Mary, Seat of Wisdom) who are like mothers to me because of the hugs, smiles, affirmation, meals you drop off, and so much more, thank you. I love you. To all the females on my staff who are like mothers to me, thank you. I'm sure you want to strangle me at times, like a son, but I love you. To my two sisters and sister-in-law who are like mothers to me, thank you. I love you. To my grandmother, thank you. I love you. And, of course, to my own mother: thank you. I wouldn't be the man and priest I am without your love and influence in my life. I love you.

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Chapter Three

My apologies for an administrative installment, but I want to let you know where we as a parish stand with regard to our finances and fundraising. Part of the Experience Jesus restructuring is meant to facilitate your involvement. It is also meant to make us as economical as possible. I take very seriously the call to be a good steward of your resources.

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Onward and upward, stat!

A Chicago Tribune article earlier this year (January 12, 2017) reported on the elevator boom in China. The country is rapidly urbanizing and, with it, immense skyscrapers are being constructed. Businesses not only want elevators, they want fast elevators to arrive at their destination as quickly as possible. The elevator at Shanghai Tower, in fact, is the fastest in the world, traveling at a speed of 45 mph. If only the Chinese knew that the fastest way to the heavens is not an amusement-park-like elevator, but Jesus Christ!

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Fishers of Men

Dear Parishioners,

Today is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It's a day, above all, to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Chicago. We need more priests, and not just warm bodies, but good, holy men willing to serve and bring Jesus Christ to the world.

Saint Peter was a priest, and a good one at that. In our first reading from Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2: 14, 36-41), Peter boldly proclaims Jesus Christ and baptizes 3,000 people in one day! Peter was effective. Obviously it was because his message was clear and attractive, and the subject of his message, Jesus Christ, even more attractive. The last line of our Gospel, a statement from Jesus, sums up Christ's attractiveness: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 1:10). But there was something else that made Peter effective, and it was more than his words.

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Chapter Two

At the end of June two members of our staff, Pam Francisco and Joyce Browne, will be retiring. Pam and Joyce have served our parish with such dedication for so many years. Pam arrived here in 1974 and has served both as Director of Religious Education and as Pastoral Associate, helping with the liturgies and working with a variety of groups. She originally taught at our Catholic school and quickly endeared herself to the community.

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La Belle Dame

This 10-inch statue of Mary and the child Jesus was found by workers underneath the floor of a cloister in Boulaur, France. It dates back to the 13th Century. Despite the statue's mutilation and missing limbs, she is called the "Belle Dame", or Beautiful Lady. I'm grateful to a priest friend of mine who took this picture.

There are several takeaways from this simple, yet elegant piece. Notice the smile of Mary. If you want to know what joy is, look at Mary's smile. She displays deep peace and contentment. When we are in possession of Jesus, we might not be jumping with elation, but we do have joy.

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From Emmaus to Edison Park

Dear Parishioners,

The Road to Emmaus. What a fascinating story from the Gospel of Luke (Lk 24:13-35)! The two disciples, walking away from Jerusalem downcast, do not realize they are speaking with Jesus Christ until the breaking of the bread. “And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”

The two disciples were unable to recognize Jesus in the discussion of the scriptures. Even though Jesus explained clearly the meaning of what was prophesied and what happened—“then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures”—they still did not understand. They needed to receive Jesus in the Eucharist to be moved. “He was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”

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Finishing Last to be First

“The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” I wonder if people following the NFL draft this past weekend noticed the application of this spiritual principle. The whole concept of the draft is based on the saying from Christ. (I'm taking this image, by the way, from a little book by James Penrice called Goal to Go: The Spiritual Lessons of Football.) The idea behind the draft selection is to create parity in the league. Teams select in reverse order of how they finished the previous season. A team that was once bad can, in theory, become good by adding quality players through high draft picks.

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Put your finger here.

Dear Parishioners,

Thomas was so close. His sainthood teetered on the edge. If our Lord had not been merciful and returned to show his wounds, Thomas might never have believed in the Resurrection and might not have remained a follower of Christ. He would not be a saint and would be grouped instead with Judas. Thomas was so close to forsakenness. He could have fallen away. But Jesus catered to Thomas' need for proof and kept him secure. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’“ (Jn 20:27-28).

Maybe you've been close to the edge, close to falling astray and away from Christ. Or maybe even you did fall and were away for a while. Thomas is your saint then.

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Chapter One

On Easter Sunday I unveiled a vision for our parish: Experience Jesus. People are attracted to good experiences in life: a Cubs game, a movie, a concert. Well, Jesus is the best experience there is, better than any movie or game. Putting Jesus front and center is how we will be strong as a parish. St. Juliana is being restructured so that we can best Experience Jesus. If you missed the announcement about Experience Jesus, and how Sunday, School, and Service are our three means to experiencing Jesus, please click here to read about it.

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