A word from Pope Francis ~ “We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”
We are currently in the second year of our three year cycle of Sunday Scripture readings. During this year, we are spending time with the Gospel of Mark. Today, on this final Sunday in July, we divert from our reading of Mark for a five week period to read from Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, the great Bread of Life discourse. It begins today with the account of the miraculous feeding of 5000 with only five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus follows this event with his teaching on the bread of life. We will have the opportunity to hear from this very familiar chapter in John’s Gospel over the next few weeks. It is a great opportunity to come to a deeper appreciation of the gift of the Eucharist. We will return to our reading of Mark’s Gospel on September 2nd. .
We continue our celebration of “summer saints” this week with the celebration of the feasts of additional giants in our litany of saints. Tuesday is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Wednesday begins the month of August with the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church. Saturday we have the feast of St. John Vianney, the “Curé of Ars” and patron of parish priests.
St. Ignatius Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits. Many of our parishioners have known the influence of St. Ignatius through attending a Jesuit sponsored school. Since my college and graduate education took place at Benedictine schools, I was not all that familiar with Ignatian spirituality until I returned to school 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. I hope that these reflections have been helpful.
Over the past several months we have been preparing for Be My Witness, a new initiative in our parish. Be My Witness invites all parishioners and potential parishioners to become partners in the New Evangelization by participating in parish-based small groups. Sharing faith within a small group is a proven way to encounter the person of Christ, reawaken and grow in our faith, and to share that faith in missionary outreach. In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis reminds us, “All of us are called to offer others and explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord….”
Be My Witness is coming to St. Isidore in October. It will be offered in both English and Spanish. The heart of this initiative will be small groups meeting throughout the parish on a weekly basis. Small group members will have the opportunity to explore key ideas from The Joy of the Gospel and learn some practical ways live their faith in their everyday life and to reach out to others as Christ’s missionary disciples. We already have a group of parishioners who are willing to lead a small Be My Witness group. They are very excited to be a part of this new initiative in October. But in order to offer as many small group opportunities as possible, we are in need of additional small group leaders. Please consider making a commitment to be a small group leader. It is actually easier than it sounds. Companion DVDs present the teachings and sharings for each small group session. Training on leading a group is provided. All that is needed is a generous heart to share you own faith and invite the growth of faith in others. Please consider the invitation to participate in a small group or even to lead a small group. Additional information is available at the Hospitality Desk and at www.StIsidoreParish.org/Be-My-Witness-2 .
The “Back to School” advertising circulars are beginning to weigh down our Sunday newspapers.
The month of August begins this Wednesday. 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 at this time of year. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy