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 the majority of our time with the Gospel of Mark. Today, on this final Sunday in July and as we celebrate the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we divert from our reading of Mark’s Gospel 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 August 29th.
We continue our celebration of “summer saints” this week with the celebration of the feasts of additional giants in our litany of saints. Monday is the Feast of Saints Joachim and Ann, the parents of Mary, the mother of Jesus. That would make them the grandparents of Jesus. It is a good day to remember our grandparents and ask God’s blessing upon them. Thursday is the Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus. They were of the same family – sisters and brother and close friends with Jesus. It was Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. It is a good day to remember our close friends who are like family to us. On Saturday we have an additional giant in our litany of saints, the Memorial of St. Ignatius Loyola.
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.
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 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. Even though Ignatius died in 1556, his teachings speak to us in our own day. 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.
Thank you for the very hospitable welcome you extended to Kathy Favata last weekend. She is one of the board members of the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans here in Wheaton. She told us the story of this non-profit agency founded in 2007 that provides housing, supportive services and community outreach to help homeless and at-risk veterans. They operate on a vision of no veteran left behind due to homelessness, joblessness, poverty and/or mental health issues. As she spoke at our Masses last weekend, she helped us become aware of their work and provided us with an opportunity to assist them. She was deeply touched by the welcome you extended to her last weekend. I deeply appreciate your generosity and will be sure to let you know the final amount of our donations to their mission.
The Back-to-School advertising circulars are beginning to weigh down our Sunday newspapers. The month of August begins next Sunday. 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.
Fr. Jim Murphy