As we come to the final Sunday of July, we celebrate the 18th Sunday in the Ordinary Time of the Year. Week by week we have been reading from Luke’s Gospel. This weekend, we first hear of a quarrel between two brothers for which Jesus refuses to play the role of judge. Greed blinds the brothers to the truly important things of life. Jesus uses the moment to teach that one’s possessions don’t substitute for the real stuff of life. He then offers a parable to drive home his point. He concludes with a blunt warning to “all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” Even in the more relaxed months of summer, we are challenged to keep “what matters to God” before us and to act on it.
Thank you for the hospitality you extended to Father Val Peter last weekend as he shared with us the story of the restoration of the Catholic Church in Eastern Russia following the demise of the Soviet Union. I couldn’t help but come away with a much deeper appreciation of the religious freedoms we enjoy in our country. His Mission Society has worked hard to re-establish the Church and provide charitable assistance to the poor. 5% of our Sunday collection last weekend and the previous weekend will be sent to his Mission Society.
One of the blessings of the summer months is that our church liturgical calendar celebrates the feasts of many of our great saints during the summer. Last week we celebrated the feasts of St. James the Apostle (Monday), Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus (Tuesday), and St. Martha (Friday). This week we will celebrate the feasts of St. Alphonsus Liguori (Monday), St. John Vianney, the patron of parish priests (Thursday), and the feast of the Transfiguration (Saturday). Normally the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola is celebrated on July 31st. Since that day is today, the Sunday celebration takes precedence over a feast and St. Ignatius Loyola is not celebrated this year. Since many of our parishioners have known the influence of St. Ignatius through attending a Jesuit sponsored school, I’d like to share some thoughts on his life.
St. Ignatius Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits. Since my college and graduate education took place at Benedictine schools, I was not all that familiar with Ignatian spirituality until I did graduate work at Creighton University in Omaha to supplement my term on the faculty at Mundelein seminary. There I was introduced to the wisdom of St. Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises.
Ignatius developed a very simple and practical prayer form for his followers to use. He called it the “Consciousness Examen.” Unlike the examination of conscience, which begins with our failures (“Where did I sin?”), the Consciousness Examen begins with gratitude. The prayer invites us to review the events of our day by considering five simple steps.
- As I review the events of this day, for what am I grateful?
- As I review the events of this day, where did I experience God’s presence?
- As I review the events of this day, what do I sense God inviting me toward?
- How will I respond to God’s invitation tomorrow?
- Ask God for whatever I need to respond.
The Examen seems to be about two significant points. It invites us to give thanks each day, and to be attentive to the ways we need God’s healing love. It is a good opportunity to slow down and take notice of the things we have experienced in the previous 24 hours. It can be done at any time of the day. I find it most helpful as part of my prayer at the end of the day. It can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on the time that we have. We don’t need a book or any other aides – only a desire to spend some time with God. In the end, it helps us to notice and to become more aware of the subtle and gentle ways God has been present to us that day.
Ignatius invites us to encounter God in our everyday experiences and to recognize that we are called to ongoing conversion. His daily prayer was “to know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.” There is a lot of practical wisdom here. He is a great summer-time saint. He invites us to slow down and recognize God’s presence all around us.
Summer projects – first the curbs and sidewalk around the church were repaired. During this past week the parking lot in front of and behind the church was resurfaced. It was a major project that temporarily closed some of the entrances to our parish campus. Thank you for your patience in taking detours to whatever place or office you need to visit while the work was being done. Your understanding is deeply appreciated!
The “Back to School” advertising circulars continue to weigh down our Sunday newspapers. The month of August begins tomorrow. Many of our college students will be leaving us in just a few short weeks. Let’s enjoy the time that we have. And we remember in prayer all those who are traveling. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy