Happy Father's Day!

Dear Parishioners,

We are completing this weekend the "quadfecta" of Sunday Feasts: Ascension, Pentecost, Holy Trinity, and now Corpus Christi. Today, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we focus on the Eucharist. The crucial passage from John 6, which is our Gospel today, lays out the concept of the real presence. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56). Saint Paul is fairly explicit as well: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16).

The Heart is Alive

This painting is one of my favorite depictions of both the crucifixion and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I'm afraid I do not know the artist, nor the date it was painted. I came across the canvas in a small chapel in an Italian town in the mountains about a half hour outside of Rome, called Rocca di Papa. (The town is actually where the Pope has a summer residence.) It was about six years ago and I was a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. I was so struck by the image that I pulled out my phone and captured a shot.

Adrift But Not Lost

Acts of the Apostles chapter 27 recounts the naval voyage of St. Paul to Rome. Paul was a prisoner in Jerusalem and, being a Roman citizen, was transferred to the capital for trial. During the voyage his ship encountered a severe storm. Badly damaged and having drifted out to sea, way off course, the crew was despondent. The captain and sailors had lost hope and were refusing to eat. All was lost. Then Paul, the least of the apostles, took charge. Standing up in chains, he exhorted the men. “I urge you, therefore, to take some food; it will help you survive. Not a hair of the head of anyone of you will be lost” (Acts 27: 34-35).

Is one the loneliest number?

When I hear the song One by Three Dog Night I hear a hymn about the Holy Trinity. "One is the loneliest number" is the refrain sung over and over again in the song. So true! One is lonely. That is precisely why God is not one, but three. “But I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (Jn 16:32). Our God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If God was not Triune—if he was one, that is—he would be alone, which means he would have needed to create the world. He would have depended on the world for companionship. This would make God jealous, angry, and vengeful. He needs our worship. He needs our love. If he doesn't receive our love, we will be punished. This is how the Ancient Greeks and Romans viewed God—and sometimes us too, I think. But, as it stands, this is not the case. God is not alone. He is already in relation with himself. He is independent and happily so. Thus, God does not need the world and he is not angry. The reason God chose to create the world was so that we could share the awesome love that he experiences in heaven in himself.

Let Go and Let God

There's a lot of evil and tragedy in this world. One way we can react to it is to fault God, to blame him for being absent. Or we can look a bit more closely and see perhaps how some good has arisen from the tragedy. What comes to my mind, as an example of this, is alcoholism. It's destroyed careers, families, even lives. In the darkness of alcoholism, however, God has brought forth a light. Just look at Alcoholics Anonymous. What AA fosters in the individual is the virtue of abandonment. The alcoholic learns it is not willpower or some intellectual conviction that will bring him or her out of the addiction. It is a surrender of the will over to our Lord. God's grace alone can bring the alcoholic out of the stranglehold. If the person hands himself over to Jesus completely, Jesus will save him. “With God, all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).

Feast of the Holy Spirit

Dear Parishioners,

Today is the Feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire descended upon the disciples and Mary in the upper room fifty days after the Resurrection. Like Easter and the Ascension, this is a monumental day in our Church. Without the Holy Spirit, we do not have the Church; we do not have the ability to intimately relate to God.

Instead of explaining the importance of this feast day, I will leave you with a beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit, known as the Veni Creator. Perhaps you might pray it at some point today.

Happy Memorial Day!

Dear Parishioners,

Happy Memorial Day! We remember all who have died in the service of our country, and particularly those from our parish. But let us also take the opportunity to remember and thank all of our veterans and parishioners currently serving in our armed forces.

One of my favorite hymns is "We Remember", by Marty Haugen. Here is the refrain:

We remember how you loved us to your death, and still we celebrate, for you are with us here; And we believe that we will see you when you come, in your glory, Lord, we remember, we celebrate, we believe.

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.

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.

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.