Father James Wallace

Counting Baals

Dear Parishioners,

The account of the Samaritan woman at the well from the Gospel of John—the third Sunday of Lent's Gospel—is an interesting one. Jesus knows that the woman has had five different husbands. The woman is floored. Seems odd. Any gossip in town would know this juicy piece of information. So why is the woman led to divine faith by the information our Messiah possesses?

John, our Gospel writer, usually tries to make some broader connection to the Old Testament in his passages. The word Baal in the Old Testament means false god. You may remember this word. The Israelites often got in trouble for abandoning God and worshipping Baal. But Baal had another meaning as well. Wives sometimes also used the world Baal for their husbands. Jesus is telling this woman she had five different Baals. Well, Samaria—the woman's homeland—was occupied by a foreign power who worshipped five Baals. And there was a prediction in the first chapter of Hosea that Samaria would be delivered from these five Baals after 700 hundred years by the Messiah, and this was the 700th year! The woman makes this connection, which is why Jesus' information leads her to become a disciple.

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A Real Character

Father Basil Maturin

“All things, everything great and small, most ephemeral or most lasting, everything that compels men to work or dooms them to idleness, everything that calls out a moment's interest or lays the grasp upon the heart, all these things, whether men believe it or not, or even think of it, have one supreme, one eternal result: the making of character.”

These are the words of Fr. Basil Maturin. The Irishman was a convert to Catholicism, highly regarded for his ability to preach, to write, and to counsel souls with compassion, particularly students. In his early 20th Century classic, Christian Self-Mastery, Fr. Maturin reflected on how every event or experience in this life is intended to mold us to our true self. That is, if we abide by the universal principle: do what you believe right, avoid what you believe wrong. Regardless of your culture or creed, everyone must do what is good for himself. If he doesn't, then he will have a poor character and will be unhappy.

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It's green week!

Dear Parishioners,

The Transfiguration. I see this event as a sister image of the crucifixion. We could even call the Transfiguration a shadow of the Redemption. Or perhaps it is reversed? Either way, there are several comparisons to make.

Jesus ascends two hills in both scenes: Tabor and Calvary. He is elevated with three individuals below him: Peter, James, and John while he is floating in the air; Mary, John, and Mary while he is suspended on the cross. Of course, two individuals are at his side both times: Moses and Elijah, and the two thieves. The Father in heaven above smiles over the Transfiguration; weeps over the crucifixion.

Christ is bathed in white on Tabor. On Calvary he is bathed in red. The colors are painful, each in their own ways. The bright white blinds, while the red is the blood from the lacerations. The colors are also beautiful. And this leads me to my last point.

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Christ the Cellist

The Cellist of Sarajevo, a 2008 novel by Steven Galloway, is a brilliant read and, in my opinion, contains an image of Christ. The basis of the story is a local cellist who plays every day at 4pm, for 22 days straight, the Adagio in G Minor by Tomaso Albinoni, a 17th Century composer. The cellist is unyielding in his resolve to honor the dead. He plays on the site of an attack that killed 22 people, despite mortar shells landing nearby and sniper bullets whizzing around him. In the midst of the war-ravaged city, this cellist's somber music is a beacon of light. His music allows the citizens to escape the desolate situation; to experience heaven in hell. Here, for instance, is the impact the music has on a female character of the story, a sniper named Arrow: “She didn't have to be filled with hatred. The music demanded that she remember this, that she know to a certainty that the world still held the capacity for goodness. The notes were proof of that.”

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A Beautiful Body

Mozart

Christ's physical body on earth was beautiful. Yet, it underwent much suffering. As a fresh baby Jesus was exposed to the cold air of Bethlehem and the hot, desert winds with bits of sand of Egypt. As a young man he labored as a carpenter and was surely cut at some point. As a man he walked hundreds of miles; slept in fields and caves; was hit by rocks in attempted stonings; smacked and scourged and suffocated and speared. Jesus's body was indeed beaten down. There is a reason in the Apostles' Creed we immediately go from “was born of the Virgin Mary” to “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” We don't want, in our Catholic faith, to give the impression that Jesus was a Greek God, never unharmed. Unfortunately sometimes artwork gives this impression. Paintings show Jesus with a perfectly groomed beard or milky white skin.

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Stephen Lilly

Advance Directives for Health Care

  • 16 February 2017 |
  • Published in Blogs

I saw an ad in a recent bulletin (January 8, 2017) about a booklet published by the Catholic Conference of Illinois which focuses on advance directives. What is that all about?

The Illinois Bishops Conference recently released updated information about designating a Power of Attorney for Health Care. A Power of Attorney for Health Care is an individual that one can appoint in order to make health care decisions in the event that one is not able to make those decisions for oneself. The document is not about giving another person power to make decisions while you are able to do so (unless you stipulate that). Rather, it is about giving you power to stipulate how you would like to be treated in the event that you are not able to make those decisions yourself due to some incapacitation. You can appoint the person that you trust, and you can provide general instructions about how you would like to be cared for. Therefore, the document is about empowering you. It is not about taking power away. Also, it should be noted that this is not the same as a Power of Attorney for finances. A Power of Attorney for Health Care only applies to health care decisions.

What makes the booklet that was recently published by the Catholic Conference of Illinois unique is that it provides a simple way for you to stipulate that you would like to be cared for in accordance with Catholic ethics. The document allows you to easily limit how your Power of Attorney for Health Care may act in order to ensure that he/she acts in accordance with Catholic teaching. This can take some of the burden off of loved ones because they know your wishes.

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Day in the Life of a Seminarian

  • 06 January 2017 |
  • Published in Blogs

What is a typical day like at the seminary?

This is a great question. Thank you for asking. Formation at every Catholic seminary is built upon four important “pillars,” and these provide the foundation for the typical seminary day. Namely, formation should target the Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, and Pastoral components of the candidate for priesthood. Not every day at the seminary looks the same, but regular activities center around strengthening these areas.

Human

The human personality of a priest should ideally act as a bridge by which others may encounter Christ. Therefore, seminary formation includes the fostering of an environment in which one may grow as a human person. Students spend time together, grow in relationship with one another, take time to eat and play together, and confide in one another. Thus, a significant portion of the day is spent doing very “human” things. They play basketball and soccer together, spend time talking about events or beliefs, and joke around. Growth happens because these things occur in a supportive Christian environment.

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Spirits and Ghosts

  • 19 November 2016 |
  • Published in Blogs

What is the Church’s perspective on spirits and ghosts?

GhostThank you for your question. These are subjects about which we might not often think. We live in an era where focus is most often on the material realities of the world. However, the Church has always maintained that there are spiritual realities. God’s creation is not just limited to the world that we can see. In fact, we maintain that human beings are themselves composites of the material and spiritual.

If we look at the diverse creatures of the world, it’s not a stretch to surmise that there might be a diversity of spiritual beings as well. The most common spiritual creatures, angels, are mentioned numerous times in the Bible. A quick search of the Bible brings up 295 instances of angels being mentioned. Rafael, Gabriel, and Michael would be the three identified by name. The Bible also affirms the existence of spiritual beings that are opposed to God. Jesus frequently expelled demons, demonstrating the power of God over the spiritual powers of darkness opposed to Him.

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A Presumption of Permanence

  • 25 October 2016 |
  • Published in Blogs

When did you first know that you were called to the priesthood?

Thank you for your question. Honestly, in some ways, I don’t believe that I will really know whether I am called to be a priest until the act of ordination. At that moment there will be no doubt about God’s will. Before ordination there is always some degree of uncertainty. Every candidate for the priesthood is called to do one’s best to listen for God’s will in his life, and, further, the Church as a whole is called to do its best to listen as well. Both the candidate and the Church need to make a "yes" for ordination to take place.

Nevertheless, as a man considers the priesthood and enters into and progresses through the seminary, there is the expectation that he will grow in what is known as the "presumption of permanence." He should increasingly grow in commitment to the priestly vocation, turning himself over to Christ to be formed in what is necessary for the priesthood. Like most other men considering the priesthood, this is something with which I wrestle and in which I am continuing to grow.

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Missionary travels and a changed perspective.

  • 14 October 2016 |
  • Published in Blogs

Having done mission work in other parts of the world, what have you learned that you can share with us?

Thank you for the question. Over the last few years I have had the chance to make extended stays in Ethiopia, Senegal, and El Salvador, and they have all taught me much. In each of these places I grew as an individual and as a Christian, but I also grew in appreciation for the Church and in knowledge the current state of the world. Here are a few thoughts:

We are a global church. The Church extends far beyond the borders of our community, and in the midst of the diverse places in which it has taken root, there are diverse expressions of the one Catholic faith. I believe that that is a sign of our strength. I have had the opportunity to celebrate mass in dusty cinder-block chapels, in simple mud houses, in beautiful colonial-era cathedrals, and even on top of mountains. During such celebrations I have heard ancient chants, bellowing drum lines, simple hymns, and vibrant community choirs. Yet, in the midst of all these places and worship styles, we all come to worship and renew our relationship with the triune God. We are all part of the body of Christ. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have a family larger than we might have ever imagined.

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