FROM THE PASTOR’S CORNER:
We continue to deal with the day to day situations of the coronavirus pandemic. Just when we thought the curve was flattening out, we’ve seen a surge in the number of new cases in several states around us. New restrictions are issued each day. Face masks and social distancing are the “new norm” for us. I received an email from a friend that said “I never thought I’d see the day when I would walk into a bank wearing a face mask and ask for money.” There are a lot of things that we never thought we’d see that we have seen over the past few months. And we are not done with it yet.
For the most part, our weekend Masses have been taking place as best as can be expected. We have dealt with a few hick-ups with reservations and seating at our Masses. And we have found that it takes much less time for our cleaning crews to sanitize the church, narthex and bathrooms than we expected – and that is wonderful news. Yesterday we celebrated the first of three First Communion Masses. Because of the restrictions that we must work with, we have scheduled two additional First Communion Masses over the next two Saturdays with very limited seating. Our young people have waited so long for this moment and I am very happy that we can now welcome them to the table of the Lord. We will have a few additional First Communicants at the Sunday 11:00am and 1:00pm Masses over the next few weeks. Congratulations to all of our First Communicants and their families who have brought them to this moment in their lives.
As I have mentioned before, if anyone is uncomfortable gathering in a larger group for Mass (even with social distancing and face masks), please stay home and join us for our live-streamed Masses at 11:00am and 1:00pm (Spanish). We will continue providing this service until such time as we can all gather together without any worries.
Over the past few weeks, our Gospel readings from Matthew’s Gospel have come from Jesus’ Sermon of Parables. Seated in a boat near the shore, he teaches the crowds gathered on the shore about the Kingdom of God. Today on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus concludes this sermon with three parables about the Kingdom of heaven. The parables do not give a definition of the Kingdom of heaven, but present images or pictures that are windows into the mystery of the Kingdom. Three parables – a buried treasure, a fine pearl, and a net thrown into the sea – invite us to consider different dimensions of the Kingdom.
We continue our celebration of “summer saints” this week with the celebration of the feast of an additional giant in our litany of saints. Friday is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 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 did some post-graduate work at Creighton University in Omaha in preparation for 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.
1. As I review the events of this day, for what am I grateful?
2. As I review the events of this day, where did I experience God’s presence?
3. As I review the events of this day, what do I sense God inviting me toward?
4. How will I respond to God’s invitation tomorrow?
5. Ask God for whatever I need to respond.
The Examen seems to be about three significant points. First, it invites us to notice the presence of God in all of the events of our day. Then 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 challenges us to listen and helps us 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, follow Thee more nearly, day by day.” There is a lot of practical wisdom here. Even though Ignatius died in 1556, his teachings speak to us in our own day.
Many other things are taking place in our parish. Please check the online weekly bulletin posted on our website, the emailed Flocknotes and other notices posted on our parish Facebook page. As always, I pray that God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy