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Why Sunday Mass

Every year in the month of October the archdiocese asks all the parishes to count the number of people who come to Mass on Sunday. I am always a little nervous about the “October Count” because it gives us a clear indication of the level of participation of our parishioners. Just a few weeks ago the number of registered families in our parish crossed 5,000. Even though we are probably the second largest parish in the archdiocese, I wonder how many do come to Mass on a regular basis. It is not enough that we have so many people as part of our parish. They should be active members.

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Called to be Missionaries

I owe my priestly vocation to many individuals including my parents. Among them stands out an Irish missionary who served in India for over forty years. Fr Sean McFerran came to India as a young man of seventeen and became a Salesian priest. He was the rector of the Catholic high school that I attended. Drawn by his charm and his holiness, I joined the Salesians of Don Bosco. Thanks to Fr Sean’s initiative and encouragement, over thirty priests work in the Lord’s vineyard today.

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Respect for Life

Across the Catholic dioceses of the United States October is celebrated as Respect Life Month when we invite Catholics to reflect on their duty to nurture the Culture of Life. Even though we should look at life issues as a seamless garment, as Cardinal Bernardin suggested, every now and then we should focus our undivided attention on the moral question of abortion. Writing in a parish bulletin I am aware that I am preaching to the choir. Yet it is important to remind ourselves of this terrible scourge that ravages most of the so-called civilized, Western world. We need to inculcate in our young people a strong abhorrence for abortion.

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Care for the Poor

When I first came to the US many years ago, my friends warned me about many things. They kept insisting that I should always resist the temptation to pick up hitchhikers on the highway. More than twenty years ago, one winter morning I was driving on an undivided highway south of Champaign, IL, and did not listen to their wise counsel and my better judgment. As I was driving back to the university after celebrating Sunday Mass at a little country church, I saw someone walking by the side of the road. It was cold. I kept telling myself that it would take the guy at least four hours of walking to get him to Champaign. I slowed down hesitantly because I wanted to help the person. The voices of my friends in my head urged me to speed up and escape... The young hitchhiker had already taken a look at me and he had seen my white collar. At that point, I had no choice but to stop.

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Spirituality of Brokenness

Last week I celebrated another birthday. Usually I get a little depressed on my big day, not because I am getting older, but because I feel I should have achieved more in my life. So many people kept wishing me on that day. I kept responding to them with these words: “At my age, a birthday is not a day for rejoicing but a day for reflection.” I truly believe those words. As I get older I keep asking myself how I am not better than I am right now. I thought by now I would have overcome all my sins and mistakes.

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Worry & Trust

My father was a very prayerful man. In my opinion no one prayed more than my dad. I saw him praying for a long time both in the morning and at night, both in church and at home. He made sure we all knelt down for the family prayer every evening. He hardly ever missed a daily Mass. Even though he was very prayerful, he was a worrier. Especially as he was approaching his retirement from teaching, he worried about the future of the family. With his three oldest children in the seminary and in the convent, and with the other four still in school, he had reasons to worry.

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Fear & Faith

This summer season has been extraordinarily stormy, to say the least. As I am writing this column, people in Texas are still in the grip of Harvey. So much water dumped on them in a couple of days has created so much devastation and havoc. The fourth largest city in the nation, Houston, has become paralyzed because it is still raining over there. Catholic Charities is assessing the situation and asking us to wait for them to tell us what assistance people may need. Right now we can make donations by going to the website of Catholic Charities, Chicago.

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To Children & Young People

Around this time every year I like to dedicate my column to our children and young people and I would like to do the same this year.  You have already returned to school and your new school year is already going into full gear.  In order to make this year a fruitful one and also to develop habits that will bear fruit in the long term, I invite you to reflect on and accomplish the following tasks.

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Continuity

I cannot believe that the summer is almost coming to an end. In a couple of weeks people will begin to return from their vacations and children will be nervously awaiting the beginning of another school year. Many of you who were on vacation would have attended Sunday Mass in some other church in another part of our great country or even in another country. You would have been pleasantly surprised that the Mass is the same no matter where you go. We may not understand the language sometimes, but the rituals and the core of the Mass are identical to what we do here at St Paul’s. In those moments we are reminded that we are Catholics, part of this large Body of Christ.

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Life Lessons

Last week I was all set to go for my annual spiritual retreat in Southern Indiana at a Benedictine monastery. At the last minute I had to cancel my plans because one of my priest-mentors suddenly passed away last Wednesday. Fr Ronald Lewinski was one of the important leaders in the archdiocese. He was 71.

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Pray Without Ceasing

A few days ago on July 11th we celebrated the feast of one of the greatest saints on the Church’s calendar, St Benedict. His influence on the Church and her spirituality cannot be exaggerated. He is known as the Father of Monasticism since most monastic communities around the world follow the rule written by St Benedict. Even active religious orders like the Jesuits were inspired by the wisdom of this great spiritual father.

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Awe Before The Trinity

Last week another act of terrorism was committed against the innocent in London. The whole world seems to be watching these senseless acts of violence almost helplessly. I am not a historian, but in my limited understanding of history, I wonder whether humanity ever lived through a period like this. How can human beings be united in their consuming hatred that they would perpetrate such barbarous, random acts of murder? How callous can they be that they can invoke the name of God to justify their killing His children?

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Uncompromising Fidelity

We just celebrated our Independence Day. As an American citizen, I am very proud of our country and I consider myself privileged. In no other country do we see so many flags flying as we see in the US. We are really proud and patriotic. At the same time, as Illinoisans we are not as proud of our city or state because of all the scandals that surround our politicians. The trial of our former governor was a ridiculous media circus that still hangs over all of us. With our budget troubles and poor bond status, we run the risk of becoming the laughing stock of the nation.

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How the Story Ends

I love to watch sports on TV. The one sport that I watch more frequently than any other is tennis. When the Grand Slams are on, my TV is on a little more. Leading up to this year’s Wimbledon, the Tennis Channel was playing some of the old matches. I was watching the 2014 Wimbledon Finals which was won by Novak Djokovic. As he lost the first set to Roger Federer, I started to get a little worried. Then I remembered that Djokovic would eventually win the Grand Slam. Since I had seen the original game, I knew the outcome. The ups and downs of that match did not bother me anymore because I knew how it would all end.

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Rest, Retreat, & Renew

Over the Fourth of July holiday record numbers of Americans took to the roads and visited friends and relatives. Some of them drove to national parks or other places of interest. Over the last several years I have made many, many road trips and I love each one of them. I love the open road. Most of the time, if not all of the time, I am alone in my car. Driving by myself, I have time to think and to pray. Last week I was visiting my brother and his family in Green Bay and there were lots of cars on the highway. On my drive back I was calmly driving my seven-year-old Camry which I had set to cruise at 70 mph. I noticed that practically every car was passing me. So many motorists were in such a hurry. I am sure some of them were annoyed that I was driving too slowly. Then a thought hit me. So many times we live just as we drive. We seem to be rushing from one place to another, from one activity to another, with scant time or energy to reflect on more important issues.

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Anger Management

I think America needs a course in anger management. All of us have witnessed glaring instances of road rage and outbursts of temper. Both in private and in public people do not hold back any more. We take offence easily and let people know that we are offended. America is probably the most litigious nation on the planet and we want someone to pay up if we perceive to be mistreated or incur a loss.

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Embracing the Present

Summer is a time to slow down, to smell the flowers and to take it slow. And yet people have so many plans and projects to complete that the summer may turn out to be more hectic than the rest of the year. I do hope that all of us will take the time to relax and enjoy the few days that we set aside from our busy lives for relaxation and refreshment.

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Back in His Presence

Ask those who are no longer Catholic what they miss the most. Many of them will tell you that they miss the Eucharist, the Mass. Among the treasures that the Risen Lord left with His Church, none is more precious than the Holy Eucharist because in the Sacrament of the Altar He left us Himself. In giving us this gift, the Lord fulfilled the promise He made to His disciples on the day of His ascension: “I will be with you till the end of time.” While we appreciate deeply the centrality of the Sacrifice of the Mass, we also cherish the presence of the Master in the tabernacle. In our daily challenges and in our spiritual struggles, we will find His presence in the Eucharist to be a great solace and a unique source of strength.

One of the best gifts that have been given to our parish is the Adoration Chapel. I firmly believe that Heaven showers numerous blessings on our parish community because of the incessant prayers of many committed adorers and others who spend time with the Eucharistic Lord. Our chapel which is open 24/7 is in sync with the magnificent Eucharistic chapel in St Peter’s Basilica. Pope John Paul II – who was declared a saint three years ago – brought nuns to the Vatican and their principal duty is to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. The holy Pontiff was convinced that their prayers were essential for the good of the Universal Church. In addition he showed us a great example by spending ample time in adoration. Even our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, spends much time before the Blessed Sacrament.

Often in passing I have encouraged you to pray at the adoration chapel. As we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, I would like to make a clear and deliberate appeal. If you want to grow in your spiritual life, if you desire to draw closer to the Lord, find the time to be an adorer. Even if you are not able to be a committed adorer right away, you can start by becoming a regular visitor to the chapel. If you have never considered adoration as a path to holiness, I would like to encourage you to try it.

I would like to offer some simple tips on how to benefit from your time before the Lord.

Take small steps. Many individuals are very ambitious and they want to spend an hour as they start out. Start by spending just ten minutes. It will be easier for you to keep yourself focused. Once you feel comfortable with a short period, then you can increase the time.

Keep a particular focus for each period of prayer. You can do this either by dedicating your prayer to a particular intention or by adopting one particular type of prayer. For example, you can use your time for the intentions of the Holy Father or the spiritual well-being of your children. Perhaps you can use your time to intercede for people or ask the Lord for His mercy. You can also spend the entire time thanking God for His blessings.

Prepare yourself before you enter the chapel. We often get distracted because we do not prepare ourselves for prayer. When we enter the chapel, we need to leave all our cares and concerns outside the door. We cannot keep our phones on vibrate and expect to hear God’s voice. Our ears are still waiting to hear the voices of the world.

Plan your time. Do not walk into the chapel without a plan. After your initial prayers of adoration and praise, you can sit comfortably and read the Scriptures or some spiritual book. You can pray the Rosary. You can also use prayers written by others. The better we are prepared to engage ourselves meaningfully in prayer, the more satisfied we will feel and more desire we will have to return.

Run to the chapel in moments of need or crisis. I have always found the Eucharistic Lord to be the greatest source of comfort in moments of crisis. When my cardiologist told me seventeen years ago that I had some serious heart condition, I was scared. But once I had spent some prayer time before the Eucharistic Lord I felt both relieved and reassured.

Bask in His presence. Sometimes we do not need to do anything in particular. We can just bask in His presence. There is a story told in the life of the great Cure’ of Ars. A woman used to come into his parish church and just sit there, staring at the Tabernacle. One day the saint approached the woman and asked her, “Are you praying? Your lips are not moving. You are just staring at the altar.” She replied: “Yes, I am praying. I look at Him and He looks at me.” What a heartwarming way to pray! Sometimes all we need to do is to spend quiet time in His presence, just looking at Him. It is even permissible to fall asleep in His presence. After all the apostles did exactly that on the first Holy Thursday night.

I hope you can begin to frequent our adoration chapel which is a boon to our spiritual growth. Maybe you will eventually become a committed adorer. The words of Martha to her sister Mary are addressed to each one of us: “The Master is here and He is calling you!” Will we hear His voice and spend some time in His presence? Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!

Spirit in The Church

Last Sunday we celebrated the Ascension of the Lord. After completing the mission given Him by the Father, Jesus returned in glory to the right hand of God. As He bade good-bye to His disciples He entrusted them with a task: To make disciples of all nations. The task was daunting and His followers felt alone. Jesus assured them of His presence with them.

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Tolerance

Over the last two weeks one of my brothers from India, Dominic, came with his family for a visit as his daughter, Nikki, would be graduating from NYU. It was great to spend time with them. I was able to drive them to Niagara Falls and I accompanied them for the graduation of my niece in New York. I have been to the Big Apple several times before, but this visit seemed to have given me a clearer picture of that great big city. It was overwhelming.

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Our Moms

This Sunday we celebrate “Mother’s Day!” Even though it is a commercial celebration, it is more than appropriate that we honor and thank our mothers. No matter how old we get, our mothers are always special to us. There is a Jewish proverb which says: “God could not be everywhere. That is why He created mothers.” More than anyone else, our moms teach us about love by the way they love us unconditionally and unfailingly. 

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Redemptive Work

How wonderful it is that the weather is getting better even though the last weekend was made for ducks! Flowers are beginning to bloom and the trees are sprouting leaves out of their bare branches. There is a spring in our steps and freshness in the air. People are smiling more. Children are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their summer vacation. I love this time of the year also because of our First Holy Communions. Over these two weekends almost 250 second-graders will be approaching the Eucharistic Table for the first time. They will take another step in their initiation and will be fed the solid food of the Body and Blood of the Lord. This is an occasion for rejoicing for the entire parish. I want to assure our children that we are accompanying them with our prayers and supporting them with our love.

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Faith in Spite of Fear

Last Sunday we celebrated Easter and during the weekday Masses we heard the moving gospel accounts of Jesus appearing to His disciples. The faith of the Early Church was based on these appearances. I am certain that in the midst of persecution those Christians found solace and strength in those stories. When you read those stories one fact seems to stand out. While the apostles and the disciples are filled with joy as they encounter the Risen Lord, the gospels indicate that they “were afraid.”

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Easter 2017

May the peace that the Risen Lord brought us by His death and resurrection abide in your hearts and your homes this Easter Season! No matter where you think your life is or is going, may you feel hope and joy because Our Lord has conquered sin and death! The sufferings of this world will pass away but our eternal reward in heaven will never pass away. Through His rising, Jesus has swung open the doors of paradise, and we have the certain hope of partaking in the heavenly banquet because of our fidelity to Him. During this Lenten season, especially during the Sacred Triduum, I have prayed for all of you. I shall also remember you in my Easter Masses!

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Crucifixion Goes On

In many parishes around the country Catholic congregations sing a Lenten hymn entitled, “Jerusalem, my destiny” in order to drive home the point that Jesus’ ministry had to move inexorably towards Calvary.  So many times in the gospels we read that Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem where He would ultimately be tried and condemned.  Jesus challenged His disciples to take up the Cross and follow Him.  Paul understood this pivotal obligation of the disciple when he declared, “I glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Rome Trip

Traveling and meeting people from different parts of the world have been some of my special blessings in life. Growing up in the fourth largest city in India, I never imagined that I would spend the major part of my adult life in another land. I never thought that people on three continents would become family to me. As I look back, travel has enabled me to realize these blessings.

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The Forgotten Saint

Five years ago as I was having my breakfast one morning, I was watching the Today show on NBC. They were holding one of their outdoor concerts on Rockefeller Plaza. An all-boy-band, One Direction, was performing for a huge crowd of screaming girls. Some of the girls were teens, others were in their twenties and some were even in their forties. They were all adoring fans who delighted basking in their idols’ presence. When Matt Lauer asked One Direction what they were planning for the next five to ten years, they replied that they were enjoying all the adulation and praise right at that moment. They admitted that they loved the limelight. The boy band was on top of their game and they wanted to stay there.

One Direction is not alone in this. Everyone loves the limelight. We all want our fifteen minutes of celebrity. We want to be recognized, to be praised and to be rewarded for everything we do. I am sure you remember the days when there was only one movie awards show – the Oscars? Now we have four because we have to show our appreciation to more individuals.

In recent years there has been a mushrooming of reality TV shows. People who should be forbidden to sing even in the shower get on national TV to show off their pitiful musical skills. They embarrass themselves and their families by their deplorable singing and yet they want that attention though negative it may be. People are willing to gulp down exotic foods in an attempt to show their survival skills in the wild. Others are prepared to race around the globe not merely to win a substantial monetary award but also to be on the national consciousness.

Unfortunately the same trend has crept into ecclesiastical circles in recent years. During the Pre-Vatican II years the church culture was awash with titles and awards, and awarding titles to loyal clergymen and faithful Catholics was the leadership’s way of solidifying its hold. After the council the titles went out the window. However in the last few years the trend is reversed as more and more dioceses are once again creating monsignors and awarding special recognition to some.

In stark contrast to this backdrop of our insatiable appetite for recognition and praise, stands a saint who is humble and obscure. Even though he was chosen by the Holy Trinity to play a very significant role in the history of salvation, he continues to vanish into the shadows. I am referring to St Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the chaste spouse of the Virgin Mother of God. Most Catholics, even today, hardly notice his feast or even his important place in the Church. His feast falls on March 19 which date is always during Lent. This year it was celebrated last Monday, March 20th, because the feast fell on a Sunday. Once again poor Joseph was pushed aside and I know he does not mind.

St Bernardine of Siena, a great devotee of St Joseph, wrote these words about the foster father of Jesus:

A comparison can be made between Joseph and the whole Church of Christ. Joseph was the specially chosen man through whom and under whom Christ entered the world fittingly and in an appropriate way. So, if the whole Church is in the debt of the Virgin Mary, since, through her, it was able to receive the Christ, surely after her, it also owes Joseph special thanks and veneration.

St Joseph was given all the responsibilities of taking care of Jesus but none of the privileges. He was asked to do the work but was not assured of any reward. He appears six times in the gospels with Mary but not once does he open his mouth. He spent his life playing a supporting role and did not occupy the main stage even once. He was content to do what God had asked him. For that he is considered a great saint and an important example for us to emulate.

I am sure you remember the gospel reading that we heard on Ash Wednesday. Jesus told His followers that in doing good, the right hand should not know what the left is doing. We should pray, give alms and fast in secret so that the Father who sees everything done in secret will reward us. If we seek the praise of people and their recognition, we will have already received our reward. St Joseph epitomizes faithful adherence to this gospel injunction. He responded fully to the evangelical call to live for God’s recognition only.

From time to time, all of us feel that we are not sufficiently appreciated or recognized. Parents can justifiably feel that way. In those moments when we are tempted to feel sorry for ourselves, let us think of St Joseph. Most of us may never write a bestseller or direct an Oscar-winning movie. We may never win an Olympic gold medal or people all over the world may never sing our praises. But if we can make a difference in the lives of some, even one person, God will reward us in the end. In the final analysis, only that matters.

Let us pray to St Joseph that he may intercede for us at all times. May he obtain for us humble hearts that long for God’s recognition and His reward for the good that we do!

Toward Jerusalem

If you have been to Rome, you probably have visited the catacombs. They are a very special place to visit because inside those underground cemeteries you can literally touch our early Christian history. The dark narrow trails that take us around the tombs of the martyrs who were killed in the Roman Circus carry us back to the first four centuries of our faith. Every time I visit the catacombs I come away feeling energized as a Christian. Most of those catacombs are situated along an old Roman road known as the Via Appia Antica (Old Appian Way). There is an old legend associated with that road and I would like to share it with you as we are fully into this Season of Lent.

When Nero started persecuting the Church around 60 AD, in the Eternal City there lived a small Christian community whose head was Peter. As many Christians were being killed, the community was fearful that it would be destroyed. In trying to preserve it, the Christians persuaded Peter to save himself for the sake of the Church. As Peter was fleeing the city on the Old Appian Way, he saw Jesus coming towards him carrying the Cross. Peter was puzzled and asked Jesus, “Where are you going, Lord?” In reply, Jesus said, “I am going to Rome to suffer and die once again.” Peter realized then that Jesus was dying again along with His Christians. Convinced that he could not then run away, Peter went back to Rome and was arrested by the Romans. He asked to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to be crucified like the Master as he had denied Him three times. That is what happened to Peter. As he was being led away to be crucified, Peter probably remembered the words the Lord spoke to him after the resurrection. St John the Evangelist records those words for us in the final chapter of his gospel. Here are those memorable words:

Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go. (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.)

The story of Peter is very relevant for us as we continue our Lenten season. By willingly dying for his Lord, Peter finally fulfilled Jesus’ call to follow Him. Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” During this Lent, we are also called upon to take up the cross and follow after Jesus.

In the gospels Jesus tells His disciples over and over again that He has to go to Jerusalem where He would be crucified and would die, but would rise again on the third day. The gospels indicate many times that “Jesus set is face towards Jerusalem.” He came into the world to fulfill the Father’s plan and he would do that by dying on the cross. Early in His public ministry, when Peter would try to prevent Jesus from going to Jerusalem, Jesus would chide him for thinking like a human being.

Our Lenten journey invites us to imitate the relentless march of Jesus towards Jerusalem. We must take up our crosses and follow Him up the steep slope of Calvary. I encourage each and every one of us to dedicate time to meditate on the suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord. Whatever we do – our prayer, our penance, and our almsgiving – let us ensure that we do it as an expression of our desire to follow the Lord on His painful journey. Let us join the parish for our Stations of the Cross that will take place every Friday of Lent. If we can, let us attend a weekday Mass and offer the sacrifice of Calvary once again. Let is unite our everyday sufferings – be they small or big – with the suffering of Jesus and make them redemptive. Let us transform the inevitable sacrifices of our state in life – being a mom or a dad, a spouse or a friend, a child or a sibling – into a fragrant oblation that will be pleasing to the Lord. Let us set aside time that we can spend in front of our Eucharistic Lord in the Adoration Chapel.

Let us then begin our journey. Yes, we walk towards the top of Mount Calvary where we will witness the ultimate sacrifice of the Master. But we will also journey with Him into the empty tomb where we will be filled with the hope and joy of the resurrection. With the Apostle Thomas let us then enthusiastically say, “Let us go with Him and die with Him!”

Let us not forget St Joseph whose feast falls this year on Monday, March 20th. In all our needs, both physical and spiritual, let us turn to him. He will take care of us just as he took care of Jesus and Mary.

I offer my daily prayer that all of us will have a fruitful Lenten season. Please keep the parish in your prayers. Invoking God’s abundant blessings on your Lenten sacrifice.

Change of Heart

We are firmly into the holy season of Lent. As the minister imposed the ashes on our foreheads, he/she said: “Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel!” The mark of the ashes on our foreheads reminds us that we want to put on an attitude of humble submission and sincere sorrow. The word used in the Scriptures for conversion is “metanoia” which means “change of heart.” The project of Lent is all about change – change of heart, change of attitude and change of behavior. During this time of grace we seek to move away from our sinful ways and align ourselves with the standards of the Gospel.

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Open Your Heart to the Lord

This past weekend more than two hundred of our young men and women opened their hearts to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They were confirmed in the faith. Having lived their Catholic faith for the past fourteen or so years, they declared publicly that they want to follow Jesus with all their hearts. Let us pray for each one of them that they will continue to shelter and make flourish the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

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2017 Annual Catholic Appeal

As many of you know, I just got back from India after making my annual visit to my family. Even though I was away for two weeks, the time was short because two days went in travel. Returning from India I was in airplanes and airports for over 27 hours before I reached my home here. While I was in line to board the plane at Frankfurt airport, I ran into one of our parishioners. What are the odds that someone would recognize me on another continent! I learned my lesson that I cannot get into trouble even across the ocean.

During my stay at home, I noticed how India has changed over the last fifteen years or so. Because of the IT industry and out-sourcing, millions of Indians have migrated into the middle class. In my own city, four huge shopping malls have sprung up and those are the favorite places my nieces frequent. These malls are stacked with upscale stores that we find anywhere here in the US or in Europe. I was surprised by the ease with which people spend money. At the same time a huge section of the population – between 50 and 60 percent – remains abjectly poor. Almost 600 million Indians live on less than a dollar a day. This dire statistic left me speechless.

Just as in India, these kinds of disparities exist within the Church. Even within our archdiocese while we are blessed to be financially strong, many schools and parishes struggle to keep their doors open. Many parishes cannot afford to repair buildings or to fix their heating and cooling systems for want of funds. Many ministries cannot survive without the help of stronger parishes. This is where the diocesan appeal comes in.

Every year when the Annual Catholic Appeal comes around we are reminded that we are part of the Archdiocese of Chicago. It is that time of the year again. The Cardinal, our shepherd, approaches us on behalf of many parishes, schools and communities that lack the resources that we here at St Paul’s can take for granted. The archdiocesan leadership has taken steps to trim the bureaucracy and reduce spending. Whether it is the department of canonical services or the legal department or the office for Catholic schools, we could not function without their help. The central offices have been particularly helpful over the last couple of years as we finished one capital project after the other.

We will be taking pledges to the Annual Catholic Appeal the weekend of February 18/19 and I encourage you to be as generous as possible. I am sure you give to many causes and organizations. As we say, however, charity begins at home. We try to help our own family and everyone in our diocese is family to us. The theme of this year’s appeal is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Following these words of the Master, let us give of our resources to help those who have so little.

In the past we have been a very generous parish in this regard. We have always exceeded our goal. I am encouraging you to continue to do what you have done in the past. I would invite those of you who have not given in the past to consider giving this year. The needs are many but worthy of our support.

I do have a selfish motive in encouraging your generosity. As you know, whenever a parish exceeds its set goal, the surplus money comes back to the parish. Thanks to your bounty, using the surplus we have been able to take care of certain needs and complete certain projects in the last few years.

Believe me, when I was in the seminary I hoped that I would not have to ask my parishioners for money. And yet, once I became pastor I realized that we do need money. St Theresa of Avila who was a wise woman said: “I alone can do nothing. Jesus and I can do many things. Jesus, I and money can do everything.” She is a doctor of the Church. She should know what she is talking about.

I leave you with the words of our shepherd, Blase Cardinal Cupich:

All of us in the Church need to be grateful for the ways that God is renewing the Church in our time. The leadership of Pope Francis and our own local efforts promise to reinvigorate our life together as God’s people and our mission in the world. Ultimately, the energy for this renewal stems from love, the same love echoed in the theme of this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself. With love, the Annual Catholic Appeal enables us to connect with each other and take responsibility for each other. The Annual Catholic Appeal makes our love of neighbor real and close. The Appeal helps to sustain Catholic schools and parishes, support programs of religious education, ministerial formation and the many initiatives for the protection of life and the promotion of peace and justice. Through Catholic Relief Services, the Appeal also funds loving help to neighbors who are far away but who are our neighbors in need. Join me and many others across the Archdiocese to express our love, our connection and our responsibility for one another.

May the God who knows the heart reward you abundantly for your gift to the Appeal! The prayers of the cardinal and of our parish will sustain you.

Catholic Schools Week 2017

On January 31st we celebrate the feast of a great saint who is known as “Don Bosco” or “St John Bosco.” I write fondly about him because he is the founder of the religious order to which I belonged for many years before I joined the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was born near Turin in Northern Italy in 1815 and his family was rather poor. His father died when he was about two and he was raised by his pious and determined mother, Mamma Margaret. From an early age John Bosco knew that God had called him to a special mission to the young. After he became a priest in 1841 he discovered the negative effects of the industrial revolution that was sweeping through Europe at that time. Young boys were leaving their homes in the countryside with a dream in their pockets that they would find a better life in the big cities. Often they were exploited by ruthless employers who made them work long hours with little pay. These boys had nowhere to go and eventually fell into lives of crime on the streets. 

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Unity in Church & Nation

Over the thirty-two years that I have lived in this country, I don’t think I have witnessed a more divisive and acrimonious presidential election than this one. The accusations and the claims on both sides of the political spectrum have plunged the already-polarized nation into a deeper crater of suspicion bordering on hate. As a new president is sworn into office – irrespective of whom we voted for – we cannot afford to perpetuate the divisions of the campaign. As a nation, we need to come together and engage in deep soul-searching. Politicians on both sides of the aisle should call for calm and a more civil political discourse. Hopefully out of this puzzling period in our history, there will emerge an America where the citizens and the leaders will engage in the democratic process without condemning each other or trying to get rid of each other.

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Path to Freedom

During the last election several states in the Union (including California) decided to make recreational use of marijuana legal and over the last few years many states have recognized gay marriage. The argument in both cases was that citizens should be allowed to do what they want to do. It is their right either to smoke pot or to marry anyone they choose. Over the last several months I have been wondering about the way we think about freedom.

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Jesus, Our Guiding Star

One of the intriguing symbols of the Christmas season is the Star of Bethlehem that led the Magi to adore the newborn King. Seeing that heavenly body, the Wise Men left their native lands in search of a new cosmic event that would bring unprecedented peace to humanity. As long as they kept their eyes fixed firmly on the star, their journey was on course. Once the star disappeared from their sight, they were lost. When they were lost, they sought counsel from someone who was determined to destroy the Christ Child. Their error was that they sought guidance from a self-serving tyrant who could lead them astray. Retracing their steps towards Bethlehem they found the star once again and their journey ended successfully with the adoration of the Baby Jesus.

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New Year Wishes

Let me wish you and your loved ones God’s choicest blessings as we usher in the New Year. May the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand and may you never feel alone! Just as I have prayed for you at Christmas, I will remember you and your intentions at all my Masses on the Solemnity of the Mother of God. Please keep the parish and all our parishioners in your prayers.

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Christmas 2016

One of my fellow countrymen, Rabindranath Tagore, who won the Nobel Prize for literature, wrote: “Every child comes with the message that God is not disappointed with humanity.” As we come to the Feast of Christmas we realize how true those words are because the Son of God comes to us with the definitive message of hope. St John put it beautifully: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that those who believe in Him will be given the power to become the children of God” (John 3:16). You can call it a one verse summary of the whole history of salvation. It says it all. God has given humanity a unique gift, definitive and unrepeatable. No other gift is necessary. God has said it all in His Son. Jesus is the sacrament of God’s saving presence among us. He is the ultimate gift of God’s validation of our human family.

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Witness of Joy

Christmas is just a week away. As we look around, people are rushing from one mall to another in a frantic effort to buy the perfect gift for a loved one. Even though Christmas is near, some do not seem genuinely happy. They seem to agree with Malvolio’s take on life as expressed in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “Life is a tale, full of sound and fury, told by an idiot, signifying nothing.” As David Thoreau wrote, “Many people live lives of quiet desperation.”

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One Step Enough

Contrary to my usual practice I would like to make this column personal. I hope you can indulge me. I would like to reflect on my priestly calling as I will be celebrating my 35th ordination anniversary on December 19th. Just as in marriage, every anniversary issues a call to reflect, give thanks and get motivated.

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Second Sunday of Advent

Many years ago the atheistic existentialist philosopher, Albert Camus, as a young man of eighteen was walking down the main street of Algiers in North Africa. He and his friend came across a crowd of people gathered in a circle around a mom and her wounded little son. A truck had run over the boy and the poor mother was wailing as she was holding on to her bleeding boy. Camus watched the scene silently for a while and then moved on.  After a slight pause, Camus pointed an accusing finger towards the sky and then reprovingly declared to his friend: “Look, heaven is silent!” One of the strongest objections to the belief in God has been atheists’ claim that God is too far away or too quiet in our suffering and pain.

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Thanksgiving 2016

In the coming days we priests will be quite busy – there is nothing unusual about that. We will be quite busy hearing the confessions of our children both in the school and in religious education. We will be trying to get our hearts ready for the Season of Advent and for Christmas. I firmly believe that getting our children to regular confession is important because they need to form good faith habits at a young age.

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Cardinal Cupich

On November 19th, Saturday, our own Archbishop Blase Cupich will join the College of Cardinals. This is a distinct honor that Pope Francis is conferring on our shepherd. This gesture is an even greater validation of the archbishop whom the Holy Father personally chose. Even though it is true that previous Archbishops of Chicago have always been cardinals, this selection sends out a clear message. Pope Francis endorses our archbishop completely because he resonates with the Pope’s mind and heart. The Supreme Pontiff is confident that Cardinal Cupich will accomplish in Chicago and in the US what he hopes to bring about in the Universal Church.

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Success & Failure

Everyone loves a winner. Whether we are die-hard Cubs fans or lifelong loyal White Sox fans, as Chicagoans, we are all proud of our Cubbies. Their relentless never-die spirit, their inexhaustible optimism and their ability to come back after being down 1-3 in the World Series have inspired us all. This well-deserved victory has infused a spring in our step and a song in our heart. In spite of all the problems facing our city and state, for a moment we can totally ignore those monumental setbacks.

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Prayer for Our Country

Over the last several months many people, both in Church and outside, have complained about this election and agonized over their choices. Believe me, I too feel anxious about the future. In these moments, all of us have to remind ourselves that only God can save us. We need to remember the words of the Poet Robert Barrett Browning: “God is in His heaven; all is right with the world.” We need to put our trust in the power of prayer. We need to echo the sentiment of Lord Tennyson who wrote: “More things are wrought by prayer than the world dreams of.”

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Refusal to De-Sanctify

We are proud to claim several policemen and women as members of our parish. I nurture a strong admiration and deep affection for them. I admire them because wherever there is a crisis they are there to help. When someone has a stroke or heart attack, they rush to their side. When there is a road accident they are there to bring aid. They are there to solve marital conflicts and family feuds. Even when crowds are protesting against the police, they are there to protect the very same people. I admire their willingness to serve tirelessly and even to sacrifice their very lives so that all of us can live in peace and freedom.

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Rebuild My Church

There is an old saying which goes thus: “See Rome and die!” In the old days everyone wanted to visit Rome before they departed this world because Rome was the center of civilization. For us Christians, the saying rings even truer because once we have been in Rome we understand our Catholic faith better. It was when I visited the Scavi, the archeological diggings under the main altar of St Peter’s Basilica, that my faith came really alive. I knew I was standing in the presence of the First Apostle, Peter.

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No to Compromise

This week we will celebrate our Independence Day. As an American citizen, I am very proud of our country and I consider myself privileged. In no other country do we see so many flags flying as we see in the US. We are really proud and patriotic. When I was a little boy, without even realizing I would tell people that someday I would live in America. I am grateful to God for so many wonderful people who have made me feel at home over the years. At the same time, we are not as excited to be living in Chicago or in Illinois because of all the scandals that surround our politicians. The stalemate in our state and city is turning into a ridiculous media circus and we run the risk of becoming the laughing stock of the nation.

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Reverence for the Eucharist

When I first came to America more than thirty years ago, I was touched by the profound respect people had for funerals and funeral processions. I still remember being part of the procession for a funeral I had celebrated in church. As the procession passed by, cars would stop and people would pause to let the cars pass. I even saw some men take off their hats and bow.

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When Will this End?

In reaction to the inhuman, devastating mass murder of 49 individuals and the wounding of 53 others in Orlando, we cannot but echo the insistent cries of the Jewish people in the Bible: “When, O Lord, will this end?” Enough is enough. We have had so many mass killings that we can become desensitized. And yet, each incident is more heart-breaking than the previous one. Our hearts go out to the victims, their grieving families, and to the wounded. Let us lift them all up in prayer.

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Personal Invitation

You probably do what I do on a regular basis. I make the sign of the Cross several times a day. I sign myself with the cross not only before meals but also when I get into the car or get out of bed. Just this morning I was thinking to myself: “So often I make the sign of the Cross without even thinking about what I am doing. Do I realize that I am celebrating two of the greatest mysteries of our faith when I sign myself?” We remember with gratitude the mystery of the incarnation and the mystery of the Triune God. Every time we sign ourselves we are reminded of the tremendous love of this God Who sent the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to open the gates of heaven for us.

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Seize the Day

Sometime ago I was driving to Queen of All Saints Basilica during rush hour and I noticed something. We were hitting some road construction and the two lanes were merging into one. I am usually a gentle person who does not get upset easily. However, the way some people drive really gets to me. While many of us were in the left lane patiently waiting, some drivers thought they were smarter than all of us. They tried to get ahead of everyone by cutting in. I was quite angry at their “I am better than you” attitude. As I was trying to calm myself down, I wondered why some people are always rushing. 

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Supper with the King

Tired of encouraging his parishioners to go regularly to Sunday Mass, a parish priest resorted to a more creative approach. Resourceful that he was, he published the following announcement in his parish bulletin:

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Begging on Church Campus

With the weather getting warmer, we are witnessing a phenomenon that seems to recur after Sunday Masses. I am talking about individuals and families asking for a handout on our church campus. A few years ago, a concerned parishioner e-mailed me expressing his distress over a family that was begging outside the church. In part this is what he wrote:

I'm sure you receive multiple questions and suggestions, and I know it’s incredibly complicated, but I wonder if in one of your columns you could address the appropriate Christian, Catholic response to begging. On our way out of Noon mass today there was a mother and child begging in the church parking lot. It was an incredibly evocative scene, but one which brings such a tangle of emotions.

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Fear of the Lord

A couple of weeks ago we were shocked by the news of another mass killing in Ohio. Eight individuals including a baby and children were murdered in cold blood. Whenever I read such crime stories many questions arise in my heart. How is anyone capable of perpetrating such horrible crimes? Do those criminals have a conscience? Do they believe in a God before Whom they will have to stand in judgment some day? Do they have any fear of God at all?

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Give in to Awe

The last couple of weeks I have been looking out of my living room windows admiring how the trees outside are coming back to life. Just a short while ago they were masses of dry, dead limbs with no sign of life. Suddenly green buds are raising their heads and in another few days the trees will be fully adorned with bright green leaves. Every spring I am moved by this relentless cycle of life, this movement from death to life. The experience fills me with awe. Growing up in a big city in India where we have only three seasons – hot, hotter and hottest – I was not a witness to this amazing dance of death and life.

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First Holy Communion 2016

The life of the parish is just like the life of a family. We rejoice when babies are born and we grieve when someone passes on. Every milestone our children cross becomes an occasion to gather together and celebrate. For our parish community the high points of our collective life are the celebrations of the sacraments. These two weekends almost 220 children will make their First Holy Communion and the family of the parish will come together to celebrate our oneness. Every one of these liturgies is joyful and gives us hope that the Church of God will continue to flourish in this corner of the Lord’s garden.

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Faith in Marriage

The wedding season has begun. Gorgeous brides and nervous grooms are stepping up to pronounce vows and promises to each other hoping that their wedding day will usher in unending bliss. Even though these couples are spending loads of money and planning every little detail of their big day, many seem to miss out on a very important aspect. Many, if not the majority, do not engage in any sort of pre-marital counseling or preparation.

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Doubt in Faith

On the Second Sunday of Easter every year we hear the same gospel story that speaks of Thomas who doubted. The apostle, who according to an ancient tradition went to India to preach the gospel, is identified with his doubts even though he laid down his life for the Faith. We are grateful that he refused to believe without hard evidence, because his refusal has made our faith stronger. By asking to touch His wounds and to put his hand into His side, Thomas ensured for all of us that the Crucified Lord was truly risen.

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Church, the Loving Home

One of the most touching post-resurrection stories recounts the encounter between Jesus and Peter on the shores of Lake Tiberias. I am sure you are familiar with that passage. Jesus prepares breakfast for His disciples and while they are smacking their lips and relishing the delicious fare, the Master takes Peter aside. I imagine that a million thoughts raced through the first apostle’s mind. He wonders whether Jesus would reprimand him or express His disappointment. Instead, the Lord floors him with a simple question: “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

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Easter 2016

The Church’s liturgy sings today, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it.” This is the greatest of all days because Christ is risen. Because of His resurrection the history of humanity has been rewritten and we have been reconciled with God. The doors of heaven have swung open and we are given entrance into paradise. May all of us enjoy the peace of the Risen Lord!

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Holy Week 2016

As we are entering the holiest of weeks, let us remove all distractions from our lives and set our hearts and minds firmly on the mysteries we celebrate. At the heart of this week’s liturgies stands the cross, lonely and tall. The empty tomb will be our focus next Sunday, but before we get there we need to stand in the shadow of the cross. 

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Ginjee Center

Two weeks ago I returned from India where I spent seventeen days with my family. Both my parents are up in heaven and so I spent my time with my brothers and sisters, and their families. It was a relaxing time and I have certainly re-charged my batteries. However, the time is always short and it was difficult to say good-bye. There was another interesting aspect to this visit. I landed in my city the day before Ash Wednesday. When we were children our family went on a completely vegetarian diet during the whole season of Lent. My siblings have maintained that tradition. I missed eating a lot of my favorite dishes, and so I can say that this visit was less than fulfilling. Jokes aside, my family thanks you for your kindness to me and sends their warm regards.

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Service

Just three weeks ago more than 250 of our young men and women received the Sacrament of Confirmation at the hands of Bishop Francis Kane. Today I would like to return to the same event for another inspiration. One of the requirements that the candidates have to fulfill during their preparation is some form of service to the community. You are aware of the service trips that our youth ministry has been organizing over the last couple of years. I want to congratulate our youth minister, Caroline Hopkinson, for organizing these successful service opportunities for our young people. They serve a dual purpose. They help our teens to express their love for their neighbor by giving up their summer vacation and engaging in acts of service. Second, these trips remind the entire parish community of our Christian obligation to give of ourselves to others because what we do for our brothers and sisters, we do for Christ Himself.

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Toward Jerusalem

If you have been to Rome, you probably have visited the catacombs. They are a very special place to visit because inside those underground cemeteries you can literally touch our early Christian history. The dark narrow trails that guide us around the tombs of the martyrs who were killed in the Roman Circus carry us back to the first four centuries of our faith. Every time I visit the catacombs I come away feeling energized as a Christian. Most of those catacombs are situated along an old Roman road known as the Via Appia Antica (Old Appian Way). There is an old legend associated with that road and I would like to share it with you as we begin this Season of Lent.

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Stand Up for Jesus!

Dear 2016 Confirmation Candidates,

I am writing this letter to you as you are about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this weekend. I want to congratulate you on taking this major step in your life of faith. Your parents, your families, our parish community and I are all very proud of you. Several years ago your parents carried you into church to have you baptized. Over the last thirteen or fourteen years, you have experienced this faith firsthand. Now you are old enough to understand the gravity of your baptismal promises. By stepping forward to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you are confirming the decision of your parents to baptize you as a baby. The Church in turn is confirming you with a holy anointing that will enable you to become a living witness to the Risen Christ.

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Catholic Schools Week

I hope by now you know how much I value the presence of our children and young people in our parish. In fact the strength and size of our Catholic school and the religious education programs were a huge attraction for me when I was appointed the pastor of this great parish. Our children and young people make all of us youthful and fresh because we are as old as our dreams and as young as our hopes.

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Annual Catholic Appeal

When our Holy Father Pope Francis invited the entire Church to contemplate God’s mercy during this Jubilee Year, he had a specific reason. He is concerned that as humanity we are losing our capacity for mercy. We seem to be so bent on seeking justice that we ignore the need for mercy. Addressing all Catholics, he writes:

Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!

He urges us to engage in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. I do know that in our parish we have numerous opportunities to heed our shepherd’s call. I am aware that we are an extremely generous parish especially when we are called upon to assistthe needy and the poor. Your generosity particularly during the Christmas season can take anyone’s breath away. In this column I would like to encourage everyone to participate actively in the Annual Catholic Appeal of the archdiocese. Archbishop Blase Cupich wants us to become the “Hands of God’s Mercy.” 

I am sure you give to many causes and organizations. As we say, however, charity begins at home. We try to help our own family and everyone in our diocese is family to us. Please do not be concerned that any of your donations will be used to settle sexual abuse cases. Our archbishop assures us that monies collected by the appeal will be used only for the stated purposes.  

When we travel outside the country, we often get a different perspective on life and the world. We discover that people in other parts of the world are so much like us even though we have different languages, customs and culture. We suddenly become aware that we are part of a bigger reality; we are, in a certain sense, members of the global family. In the same way, when we visit St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome we hear so many languages spoken there. We suddenly realize that we are part of the Universal Church. As Catholics, we are not identified merely with our local parish. We are part of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the global Catholic Church.

Every year when the Annual Catholic Appeal comes around we are reminded that we are part of the Archdiocese of Chicago. It is that time of the year again. Our archbishop approaches us on behalf of many parishes, schools and communities that lack the resources that we here at St. Paul’s can take for granted. More than two-thirds of the funds raised by the appeal go towards parishes and schools that do not possess the financial muscle to remain open.  The rest of the money is used to support the many departments and agencies that assist parishes and schools in the exercise of their ministry to their local communities. Over the recent years the central bureaucracy has become much leaner but it does provide an important and necessary service. Whether it is the department of canonical services or the office for Catholic schools, or the legal department or the office overseeing buildings and facilities, we could not function without their help.

You will be invited to make in-pew pledges to the Annual Catholic Appeal the weekend of January 30/31, and I encourage you to be as generous as possible. La St.year we did not engage actively in this appeal because we were in the middle of our own capital campaign.  In the past we have been a very generous parish in this regard. We have always exceeded our goal. I am only encouraging you to continue to do what you have done in the past. I would encourage those of you who have not given in the past to consider giving this year. The needs are many. 

I do have a selfish motive in encouraging your generosity. As you know, whenever a parish exceeds its set goal, the surplus money comes back to the parish. Thanks to your bounty, we have been able to complete several projects in the last few years. Six years ago we used the surplus (along with bequest money) to install new boilers in the church. Five years ago the surplus enabled us to acquire new software for the parish database and also to create a new website. Using these rebates we have been able to do many necessary capital improvement projects on our campus.

I leave you with the words our archbishop writes in this regard:

In a partnership of generosity, the Annual Catholic Appeal enables us to be The Hands of God’s Mercy in the world. The Appeal supports efforts to share the joy of the Gospel, inviting generations to become Jesus’ disciples. In addition, the Appeal helps to sustain Catholic schools, needy parishes, programs of religious education and ministerial formation, the many initiatives for the protection of life and the promotion of peace and justice, and the many other ways we as an Archdiocese proclaim the Gospel in our midst. The Appeal also funds Catholic Relief Services in reaching out to the poor and to those whose lives are devastated by natural disasters, illnesses, wars, and famines, no matter their religious affiliation.

Let us become the Hands of God’s Mercy to others! The prayers of our archbishop and of our parish will sustain you.

Indulgences

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception last year, our Holy Father, Pope Francis invited the Universal Church to enter into the Jubilee Year of Mercy. He opened the Holy Door in Rome and dioceses around the world followed suit by designating special churches which the faithful may visit to obtain indulgences. The Holy Father himself said in the document, The Face of Mercy: “A Jubilee also entails the granting of indulgences. This practice will acquire an even more important meaning in the Holy Year of Mercy.” (#22)

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Respect for Others

We are in the middle of a long, election campaign that is tiring and at times, nauseating. Some of us wonder when it will end. Political candidates who are bent on swaying the voting public will say anything to get attention and support. Some of their comments and declarations exude intolerance and sometimes border on hate. Level-headed citizens are appalled by the heat of the rhetoric employed by both political parties. They pray that there will emerge an America where citizens and leaders will engage in the democratic process without condemning each other or demonizing each other.

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God With Us and For Us

We have ushered in another year. Do we realize that we are into the second half of this decade? I marvel at how time accelerates as I get older. And yet, when I look at myself in the mirror I don’t see myself as old. Somehow I think I am as young as I used to be. Age creeps up on us and yet we are lulled into thinking that we still have lots of time.

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Strengthening Our Families

Just a couple of weeks ago, we were victimized in another despicable, mass killing. Certainly, it was an act of tremendous betrayal. The pain and sorrow of that day brought families and neighbors together. Without the solace of faith or the support of family and friends,we cannot survive such horrible losses in our lives. In these moments we need to retire to that safe haven that we call home. It is our family that sustains us in difficult times and nurtures us in ordinary times. As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family this Sunday, our attention focuses on the holy trio – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – and, at the same time we are called upon to reflect on the importance of family life.

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Nativity Scene

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The streets are decorated with lights. Radio stations are playing our favorite holiday songs and people are anxious about their shopping. In a certain sense you can say that Christmas is in the air.

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Call to Mercy

Our hearts are heavy with sorrow over the senseless killing of 14 individuals in San Bernardino, CA, by a married couple that professed their loyalty to ISIS. What parents in their right mind would leave their six-month-old child with her grandparents as they set out to commit this dastardly act? The husband had been given the privilege of citizenship while his wife was admitted through a fiancé visa. What a terrible act of betrayal to the country and a people that welcomed them with open arms! The obvious insanity of this killing has been weighing on me this whole week.

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Looking for the Savior

In the Old Testament there is a little book tucked away in the Wisdom literature. Hardly anyone knows about it. Certainly very few people have read it. It is called, “Song of Songs,” or “Canticle of Canticles,” or “Song of Solomon.” We will be shocked when we read it because it is nothing but graphic, passionate, earthy love poetry. It describes vividly the physical yearnings and longings of the beloved for the lover and the lover for the beloved. We may wonder how such a book could find a legitimate place within the Canon of the Bible. The answer is simple. By including it as the Word of God, the Church tells us that within the context of the committed relationship called marriage, physical intimacy is a gift given to the couple by the creator to strengthen their bond.

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Thanksgiving 2015

Someone has said: “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” All of us must encourage our hearts to remember – remember the kindnesses we receive everyday, the love we take for granted, and the blessings the Lord bestows on us on a daily basis. Unfortunately our memories find it easier to dwell on the bad stuff than on the good. I believe that most of us spend too much time complaining and not enough time being grateful.

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Offering Masses

November is here. When we think of the month of November, we think of our dear departed. On November 2nd we celebrated All Souls Day. In many parts of the world Catholics visit the graves of their loved ones on that day and pray for them. As is our custom, we had a special Mass of Remembrance on Saturday, November 7th for all our family members who passed away this year. As we remember our deceased, we offer not only a prayer of thanks for what they mean to us but also a prayer of intercession in case they still need our prayers.

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To Be Holy

In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis canonized a married couple, Louis and Marie-Zelie Martin on October 18 as part of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Rarely have married couples been canonized, especially parents who had children. By doing this our Holy Father once again reminds us that holiness is within the reach of everyone, no matter our state in life. This couple reached heroic holiness in their own life and at the same time gave a great saint to the Church, St Therese of Lisieux.

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Eucharistic Devotions

If you walk into any Catholic church, you will immediately notice something unique. The tabernacle occupies a prominent place and the sanctuary lamp is always lit. The central positioning of the tabernacle bears testimony to the way the Church views the Eucharist in our life of faith. For us Catholics the Eucharist is the center and the source of our spiritual life. All that we do outside the church converges on the Eucharist. And it is the Eucharist that gives us the motivation and the impetus to carry on the mission of Christ In the world.

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Feast of St. Paul of the Cross

No matter who we are or what we face in life, we all have enough reasons to be grateful. One of the blessings that I constantly thank God for is our parish community. From her humble beginnings in 1911 the parish has grown to be a spiritual home to thousands. As we approach the feast of St Paul of the Cross (October 20), we express our gratitude to the Passionists who founded our parish under the leadership of Fr Scannell. In this column I would like to reflect on our spiritual heritage.

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Respect Life Month

We are still basking in the after-glow of the visit of Pope Francis, and his words continue to resonate with both Catholics and non-Catholics. Even though he refused to resort to the harsh tone and adversarial rhetoric of certain Catholic leaders, he insisted on upholding Church doctrine in all his speeches. He spoke directly to the US bishops as he addressed a variety of issues and problems. Discussing the Church’s position of life issues, he said:

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Family Built on the Rock

What a wonderful time to be Catholic in the US! As I write this column, our Holy Father, Pope Francis is getting ready to come to our country. I wish he would come to Chicago just as Pope John Paul II (now a saint) did in 1979. I can only imagine the excitement that filled the air during that visit. I am hoping and praying that everything on this trip will go just right and produce the desired results. Please join me in praying for our Holy Father that he will be safe and that his visit will re-charge Catholics all over our great land.

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Exaltation of the Cross

Last week we celebrated an important feast that often goes unnoticed because it falls on a week day most of the time. Established to honor the central symbol of the Christian faith, the feast invites the faithful to focus their attention on the tree on which the Son of God died and won our salvation. It is called the Exaltation of the Cross, and is celebrated on September 14. I would like to take this occasion to reflect with you on the role of the Cross in our lives.

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Thank You!

As I am writing my weekly column, Fr Robert Barron is getting ready to be ordained an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Both in his public ruminations and in his personal conversations with some of our parishioners, Fr Barron reminisced over his positive pastoral experience as a newly-ordained priest here at our parish. His three years here afforded him his only full-time parish ministry before he left for graduate studies in theology. Fr Barron also said that he was indebted to Monsignor Quinn who taught him much about priesthood and priestly ministry.

Read more: Thank You!

Mass Etiquette

We know that an important part of parenting is to help our children form good habits. We teach them good hygiene or eating habits. Good habits, which are called virtues, are formed only through repetition. I hope and pray that our children will get into the good habit of going to Sunday Mass without fail. At the beginning of this school year, I would like to remind everyone about the good habits that we must cultivate as we come to Church for Sunday Mass.

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Hard Sayings

I wonder if Jesus is coming back soon.  In our faith we have been told – and we believe – that Jesus will return at the end of time to judge the living and the dead.  I ask myself whether that time is here.  Why am I saying this?  A couple of years ago there was a little boy at the Cellular Field (White Sox) sporting a tee-shirt which said: “Jesus said to the Cubs, Don’t do anything until I come back!”  Recently the Cubs have been winning so many games that I am afraid Jesus will return soon!

Read more: Hard Sayings

Growing

Usually I address my column to all our parishioners. This week, however, I would like to write a column especially for you as you are about to begin another school year. Even though you will miss the fun of summer, you will be happy to see all your friends.

Read more: Growing

Quiet Time

Life gets busy. Quickly. Several people have asked me the last few days, “Are you enjoying your summer?” They are full of concern and they want me to answer, “Yes, I am having a great time.” To tell you the truth, I don’t know where July went. Between weddings and funerals, Totus Tuus and Theology on Tap, life has not gotten to be slower. I don’t know where the time goes. A day begins and it is evening before I realize it. A week goes by and the next Sunday is already here. I recognize that this is still summer. The school is not open. Our religious education program hasn’t started up as yet. Most of our councils and organizations do not meet during this part of the year. And yet, life is busy.

Your lives are very busy. Those of you who are parents don’t find too much time for yourselves. Moms seem to run a regular limo service moving their kids from one activity to another. Life seems to be always a little hurried, harried. Every new technology that we acquire doesn’t make our life easier. It makes it more complicated. The time that we hope to save with the new device somehow slips through our fingers. Even summer seems rushed.

A couple of weeks ago the Sunday gospel reading spoke to this aspect of our lives. The disciples had come back after carrying out Jesus’ mission and they were very proud of themselves. They were reminiscing and recounting all their accomplishments. People were coming and going. Life had gotten so busy that they did not have time even to eat. That is when Jesus tells his disciples, “Come away to a lonely place and rest awhile!” I believe that those words are addressed also to all of us in our frenzied lives. Come away and rest! Take some time off to be quiet!

In our Christian spiritual tradition, aspirants to holiness are invited to make retreats. When I was a young seminarian and then a young priest, we participated in annual spiritual retreats that lasted five days. We had to spend time in silence and reflection. Even today every priest of the archdiocese is required to make an annual retreat. The Church knows that it is important to “retreat” to regain our perspective and to recoup our energy. I think that it is important for all of us make retreats on a daily basis.

Jesus Himself showed us a great example in this regard. His life was busy, very busy. Once His fame spread and people came to know of his healing power and preaching prowess, the crowds sought him out. Everywhere He went, people even tried to touch Him. He was so busy that He did not have time to eat. In fact the Gospel of Mark states that His family thought He was “losing His mind.” The same Lord who knew that the harvest was great, took time off to commune with His Father. He often retired to a deserted place, early in the morning to spend time in quiet prayer and reflection. In that quiet moment He found the energy to be available for the people.

I would like to invite all of us to follow the Master’s example. We need to retreat especially during the summer. I would like to suggest a few little ways you can “retreat” during the day:

  • Spend at least five minutes in quiet time before the Lord either in the morning or before going to bed.
  • Resist the temptation to check your phone or your computer for new messages every ten minutes.
  • When you are with family and friends, refuse to text.
  • While driving, switch off the radio and reflect on how your day is going.
  • Visit the adoration chapel for a quick conversation with the Eucharistic Lord.
  • If your schedule permits, find the time to go to a weekday Mass.
  • Before you go to sleep, read a spiritual book or a chapter from the Bible.
  • When you can get away, make a spiritual retreat.

In the midst of our hectic schedules, let us heed the voice of Jesus who beckons us. If we would be quiet, we can hear Him say: “Come to Me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest!

This Sunday I am driving to De Pere, WI, to make my spiritual retreat with the Norbertines at St Norbert’s. Please keep me in your prayers. I am going to thank God for you because through your generosity many wonderful capital projects will be completed in our parish this year. I for one will pray for each and every one of you. Please keep me in your prayers. I am so blessed to serve you.

Happy summer!

St. Ignatius

Last week we celebrated the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, one of the greatest saints on the Church’s calendar. He is the founder of the Jesuits, a religious order that has had more influence on the life and mission of the Church than any other. At one point there were more than 25,000 Jesuits around the world, serving in the “army of Jesus” as they are known. Today their importance has grown even greater because our wonderful Pope Francis is a Jesuit.

Read more: St. Ignatius

Holy Family Chapel Update

Over the last few weeks we have been celebrating Sunday Masses in the gym. Even though I would have liked to get us back into the Holy Family Chapel soon, I am afraid we will be in the gym for a few more weeks. Much has been accomplished in the chapel but several finishing touches need to be completed. I am hoping that we can return to the chapel with a minimum of interruption. The statues for the three shrines have been ordered from Italy and they should be on their way. Rigali Studio is in the process of making the main stained-glass window as well as the medallions of the Stations for the fourteen windows around the chapel. In this column I would like to give you an update.

Read more: Holy Family Chapel Update

At the End of the Parade

The Supreme Court Ruling regarding marriage shocked and disappointed many of us. I knew that that day would come, but I didn’t expect it to be now. A range of emotions ran through me as I heard the news. Perhaps many of you are wondering how to react to this dramatic change in our culture and society. I hope I can make some sense of this.

Read more: At the End of the Parade

Overcome Evil with Good

Happy Independence Day! How blessed we are to be part of this great country! Most of you were born and grew up here. Some of us became citizens when we were older. I am deeply grateful to this nation and to all of you for all that I have received over the years. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Let us gratefully remember all those who have gone before us, all those who made sacrifices so that we may live in peace and freedom. Let us pray for our country and all her people.

Read more: Overcome Evil with Good

Father's Day

Over the last several weeks, many of us have attended graduation ceremonies or graduation parties. We have celebrated our young people who have reached some milestone or other in their young lives. We congratulate all of them for their achievement. We entrust them to the care of our Heavenly Father as they move on to new pastures and new adventures.

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Corpus Christi

There are a few instances in the gospels when the reader can sense the sadness and disappointment of Jesus. The first moment happens when Jesus comes to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. When the Master realizes that His friend has been in the tomb for four days, he sheds tears. The Gospel of John puts it succinctly: “Jesus wept.” The Lord also was disappointed to see His glorious city, Jerusalem, ignoring Him, because “she did not recognize the hour of His visitation.” However, probably the most disappointed plea of Jesus rings out in the Garden of Gethsemane when He addresses His three closest disciples: “Could you not watch one hour with Me?” That painful plea of the Master has touched the hearts of many Catholics down the years and in response they have spent quiet prayerful hours in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord.

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Our Pipe Organ

For me this is a difficult column to write. Over the last six years I have tried to be transparent and in that spirit I want to share with you some unpleasant news. Our pipe organ is in serious trouble and we have to replace it. This news was a total surprise to me. Around last Christmas our organist, Andrea, alerted me that the organ was not working properly. It has had problems in the past, and I thought that we would be able to fix it. When our music ministry called in Mr Jeff Weiler of the Weiler Organ Company, to look at our organ, he discovered that the problems were rather serious. We commissioned him to carry out a thorough examination of the organ and to produce a report of his professional opinion.

Read more: Our Pipe Organ

God in Everything

In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes Paul’s visit to the ancient city of Athens, the cradle of Western civilization. Paul congratulates the Athenians who had dedicated an altar to “the Unknown God.” He tells them that the God they do not know is the God that Jesus revealed. In the same way there are Catholics today for whom one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity is unknown. I am referring to the Holy Spirit. Most of us think about the Third Person of the Holy Trinity once a year, on the Feast of Pentecost.

Read more: God in Everything

Our Campaign Projects Timeline

Six months ago if someone had said to me that we would exceed even our enhanced goal for our capital campaign, I would not have believed them. Right now we are inching closer to our dream goal of $4 million. Every day a handful of pledges is trickling in. Once again I want to thank the 567 households that have made their sacrificial gift, big or small. I also wish to encourage those who are still considering a gift; we do need and welcome your support. Now the parish may be wondering: “What next? When are we going to execute the capital projects?” I would like to dedicate this column to discuss the execution of our capital initiatives.

Read more: Our Campaign Projects Timeline

Eulogy Virtues

The season of graduation will begin in a few days. Commencement speeches will be delivered. Politicians, actors and media pundits will be asked to talk to new graduates about life and success, about happiness and character. One could easily question the competence and expertise of these “sages of our times” as some of them dish out easy platitudes and worn-out clichés. Every now and then some speaker hits the ball out of the park and the video goes viral on YouTube. Such a speaker was that professor who died of cancer a couple of years ago. He passed on genuine wisdom because he had come face to face with death and in the process with life itself.

Read more: Eulogy Virtues

Food for the Journey

When I lived in Rome I noticed a curious phenomenon from time to time. No matter with whom I was conversing, no matter what we were talking about, the conversation eventually, inevitably, drifted to food and wine. I would be talking to some egregious ecclesiastic. Or, I would be joking around with my students. Or, I would be having a relaxed conversation with some of my Italian friends. We might be talking about philosophy, religion, culture, theology, art or everyday life. In about fifteen minutes we would be talking about food or wine. I conducted this experiment many times. Every time the result turned out to be the same.

Read more: Food for the Journey

Remembering Cardinal George

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Francis Cardinal George because, but for him, I would not be here serving as a priest in the archdiocese. I met Cardinal George for the first time in April 1998 and I was still teaching at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome. I had been going through a process of discernment regarding my priestly ministry and at the suggestion of Fr Ron Lewinski I was considering applying for incardination into the Archdiocese of Chicago. Cardinal George made me feel welcome and even assured me that he would speak to my religious superiors if necessary. Encouraged by his openness, I finally decided to make my move and started the process in February 2000 as an associate at St Anne’s in Barrington.

Read more: Remembering Cardinal George

Divorced Catholics

Sometime ago a dear friend of mine called me on the phone and I could hear her sobbing. She was crying because she and her husband were filing for divorce. She was not only mourning the death of her marriage but was also concerned that she would be “excommunicated” from the Church. She has been a faithful Catholic all her life and could not believe that this was happening to her. For years, she had worked hard to keep the marriage together but finally it completely broke down.

Read more: Divorced Catholics

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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Contact Information

St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068


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Phone: (847) 825-7605
Fax: (847) 825-5186

Mass Schedule

Sunday

7:30 a.m. - Upper Church
9 a.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel
10:30 a.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel
12 p.m. - Upper Church
5:30 p.m. - Upper Church

Monday - Friday

6:25 a.m. - Upper Church
8:30 a.m. - Upper Church

Saturday

8 a.m. - Upper Church
4:30 p.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel