On this final weekend of August, we celebrate the 21st Sunday in the Ordinary Time of the Year and we continue our chronological reading of St. Matthew’s gospel. Matthew is the primary gospel in the cycle for this year and we will be reading from Matthew until the end of the church year in November.
We reach a turning point in the Gospel as Jesus asks the disciples to profess their faith. He asks two questions. First, “”Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And then a second, more direct question, “But who do you say that I am?” It is Peter who steps forward and speaks for the group – “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus responds by entrusting Peter with the leadership of the church. Even though Peter would fail again and again before his final profession of faith by his death, Jesus entrusted him with the leadership of the church.
I have mentioned before that one of the unique traits of our Catholic Christian faith tradition is our belief in the “communion of the saints.” We specifically celebrate this belief on November 1st with the Feast of All Saints. The saints are those heroes of our faith whom we look to for encouragement, those who refused to let their lives or personalities be stunted by the circumstances of the world around them. To neglect the saints is to miss some of the excitement of knowing God.
Normally this week we would celebrate the feast of two great saints in our church – saints who were related to each other. Monday, August 28th is the feast of St. Augustine. Normally, August 27th is the feast of his mother, St. Monica. Since this is today, the Sunday celebration replaces the celebration of Monica’s feast, but we can still remember her today. Since Monica’s non-Christian husband had no interest in a life of faith, she struggled to raise and educate her son as a Christian. Augustine was gifted with a sharp mind and a passion for learning. The secular honors that went with learning attracted him early on and he resisted taking the Christian way of life seriously. While he studied at Carthage, he lived a wild and secular life, living with a woman who bore him a son. His intelligence and thirst for truth eventually led him into the company of St. Ambrose. It was through him that his remarkable conversion took place. Not only was he baptized into the Christian faith, but he was also ordained a priest and later became bishop of Hippo, North Africa. Once the light of faith illuminated his mind and transformed his life, Augustine directed his passion for learning into studying the mysteries of faith and teaching what he had learned. He remains to this day a classical thinker and teacher of Christian truth, and is revered as a Doctor of the Church.
Augustine was both a philosopher and a theologian. He wrote extensively. One of his better known books is his Confessions. There he writes about his own personal restlessness and struggles that led him to a great realization: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Many of us can readily identify with his profound statement of faith. Our restless moments are invitations from God and lead us to God!
Behind the conversion of Augustine was the influence of his mother. She followed his intellectual career with genuine pride, unhappy only that he had wandered from God into immoral living. She prayed for him constantly, as a mother would. Initially she had hoped that a good marriage would change his life and settle him down. But God answered her prayers in ways far beyond her hopes and dreams. We honor her as the patron saint of troubled parents.
Many parents are drawn to the life and story of St. Monica. Parents constantly struggle with the issue of passing on the faith to their children. It is very natural for us to desire that our children adopt the values and principles of life that provide meaning and direction in our own lives. Monica gives us a very powerful example of a parent who prayed ceaselessly for her child. But I suspect that it was not only her prayers that helped in Augustine’s conversion, but also her example. It is on thing to “talk the talk” and a totally different matter to “walk the walk.” While our words are important, people notice what we do far more than listen to what we say. The steady and consistent witness of quietly living the values of our faith and regularly joining with the community at Sunday Mass is a much stronger invitation to embrace a life of faith than even the most eloquent words we can come up with.
With St. Isidore School beginning the new school year last Wednesday, our parish and grade school staff took some time last Tuesday for a Morning of Reflection. John Donahue-Grossman was with us as our guide for the morning. John is no stranger to our parish. He was a member of our parish staff in the mid-1980’s when he served as the first Youth Minister of our parish. He also served a term at St. Francis High School in Wheaton as Alumni Director. Currently he is on the Retreat Staff at LaSalle Manor Retreat Center in Plano, IL. He has been with us in the recent past directing numerous Days of Reflection, our 8th Grade Retreat day and our Parish Mission a few years ago. We were very happy to have him with us last Tuesday.
With this Friday being the First Friday in September, we will have the opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration in the church, immediately following the 7:00am morning Mass. We take a short pause to celebrate the daily 12:05pm Mass, and then resume throughout the afternoon, overnight and conclude with Benediction at 8:00am Saturday morning. All are welcome to come and go as they see fit. You can stay for as long or as little as you would like. It is a great time for us to simply be in the presence of the Lord, to share our thoughts and cares with him, and then to be quiet in his presence. The opportunity is here – give it a try and experience the peace and calm that can come from spending some quiet time with the Lord.
May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy