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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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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.

A Lesson from St. Joseph

How often we have all said: “Life is not fair. Good guys do not always win. I got a raw deal. I deserve more.” We can find such complaints even in the Bible. When we read the Psalms we see that the just man often laments because the wicked are flourishing while he languishes. In our experience we realize how God-fearing people do not have the easiest of lives. Jesus Himself was innocent and yet He was treated most unjustly. He never complained but we do.

Read more: A Lesson from St. Joseph

A Pope for All

As I write this column, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is on his visit to Brazil. Hopefully this will be the first of many journeys that he will undertake to strengthen the faithful and give hope to the poor. While the eyes of many are focused on St. Mary’s Hospital in London from where the royal baby will emerge, many others are following the Pope’s voyage. In the four months that he has been the head of the Church, he has managed to electrify many Catholics and has captured the imagination of non-Catholics.

Read more: A Pope for All

Abundant Bounty

As I write this column, we are still basking in the glow of Easter morn. Our hearts are filled with gratitude to God who gave us His only Son to be our Savior. From His resurrection springs our hope of life eternal. All blessings flow from the death and rising of Jesus. This Easter, more than Easters past, my heart swells with gratitude, because of what the parish has accomplished the last few weeks.

Read more: Abundant Bounty

Academics, Our First Priority

I am dedicating my weekly blog post to the young people and children of our parish. At the beginning of this new school year, I want to speak directly to all the students, whether you are in college, high school, or elementary school. While you concentrate your efforts on several life tasks at this stage in your life, I wish to propose one important task as your main priority.

Read more: Academics, Our First Priority

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.

Read more: Anger Management

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.

Annual Catholic Appeal 2014

This weekend we are conducting the in-pew pledges for the Annual Catholic Appeal. The theme of this year’s drive is: “You are the Temple of God.” God’s house is made up of living stones and each one of us contributes to this organism called the Church. In that sense we are responsible for each other. We belong to one family.

Read more: Annual Catholic Appeal 2014

Assumption

These days I hear so many people saying to me: “I can’t believe it is already mid-August. I can’t believe the summer is almost over and the children will be back in school.” They are right. When we are having fun, time flies by almost imperceptibly. Einstein once said: “When you are having a good time with your girlfriend or spouse, two hours seem like ten minutes; but, when you are sitting on a hot oven, ten minutes seem like an eternity.” That was his simple explanation of the Theory of Relativity.

Read more: Assumption

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

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?

Read more: Awe Before The Trinity

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!

Beauty and the Divine

God made us for beauty, truth and goodness. Beauty delights the soul. Some philosophers will go so far as to say that being in and of itself is beautiful. All things – coming from the hand of God – share in the essential beauty of the Creator Himself. Great saints recognized that beauty not only in the Creator but also in all His creatures. The story goes that St Francis of Assisi looked at the carcass of a dead dog and admired the beauty of its perfect teeth. Dante exclaimed, “Nature is the art of God.

Read more: Beauty and the Divine

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.

Read more: Begging on Church Campus

Boston Tragedy

Once again we have been rudely reminded that our world can often be senseless. The carnage in Boston that left three dead and more than 150 people wounded tells us that our world does not make sense. It is senseless not because God made it so, but because some humans choose to make it so. There are people who believe that violence is a viable solution to problems or an adequate way to express grievances. There are people who have no qualms about hurting innocent civilians for the sake of their ideology or cause. There are people who follow the example of Cain who killed his own brother out of jealousy.

Read more: Boston Tragedy

Building Bridges in Advent

A few days ago Pope Francis was in Turkey, a country that is predominantly Muslim even though it is deeply connected to Christianity over the last two thousand years. One of the historic gestures that the pope extended on his visit was to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the head of 300 million Orthodox Christians. The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church have been separated for a thousand years and the split came about over the authority of the papacy. Against such a historical background, the pope asked the Patriarch for his blessing. There was a time when patriarchs had to kiss popes' feet. At the end of a joint prayer service, Francis bowed to Bartholomew and asked for his blessing "for me and the Church of Rome," a remarkable display of papal deference to an Orthodox patriarch that expressed the Holy Father’s hope to end the schism. The papal gesture was an attempt at reconciliation between two major Churches.

Read more: Building Bridges in Advent

Bye, Fr. John

This time of the year tends to get busy for all of us. Last week our 8th grade students graduated and they are moving on. This coming week our school will close for the summer. Most of the ministries and activities will shut down for the summer. Families and especially children are looking forward to summer vacations. This year our parish is getting even busier as we await the arrival of two new associates and bid good bye to Fr John and Fr Muraya.

Read more: Bye, Fr. John

Bye, Fr. Muraya

Life is a series of hellos and good-byes. As we get older, there seem to be more good-byes than hellos. It also gets more difficult to say good-bye. When the seminary rector, Fr Barron, called me a couple of months ago informing me that Fr Muraya would be leaving, I could not believe it. Now it is happening.

Read more: Bye, Fr. Muraya

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.

Read more: Call to Mercy

Call to Service

This Sunday we had a guest-homilist at the 10:30 am Mass upstairs. Fr. Jay Jung, a Vincentian, concelebrated with me and delivered the homily. He is currently the pastor of St. Jude Parish, Tuba City, Arizona, the mission that we chose to be the beneficiary of our Lenten sacrifice. He was grateful to receive a check for $30,183.93 which bears bold testimony to your willingness to help those you do not even know. By our gesture we are re-enacting what the churches founded by the Apostle Paul did when they came to the assistance of poorer communities.

Read more: Call to Service

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. Thanks to Fr Sean’s initiative and encouragement, over thirty priests work in the Lord’s vineyard today.

Called to be Stewards

This week I am leaving for a quick trip to India. It was planned several months ago as I had to celebrate the wedding of one of my nephews. However, the wedding was called off a few weeks ago. I would have loved to change my ticket for the summer but it would have cost me almost as much as the ticket to make the change. That is when I decided to go home all the same. As I am getting ready, I cannot but marvel at the number of trips I have taken across three continents over the last three decades. Growing up in the fourth largest city in India, I never imagined that God would take me to all these places. Even though I came from a middle class family, we could not have afforded the price of these inter-continental air tickets. I am filled with gratitude to God for His bounty.

Read more: Called to be Stewards

Campaign Decision Process

By now most of you have already watched the campaign video. I am pleased to note that more than 600 individuals have seen it on-line. Over the last week all the households in the parish (4,800) received in the mail the campaign brochure as well as the pledge form. If you have already pledged your gift, please disregard the appeal. The mailing is meant to give you all the details of the campaign. The next question is: Where do we go from here?

Read more: Campaign Decision Process

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.

Read more: Cardinal Cupich

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.

Read more: Care for the Poor

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.

Read more: Catholic Schools Week

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. 

Read more: Catholic Schools Week 2017

Catholic Vote

As we draw closer to Election Day, I would like to talk about how we should approach our voting choices. I am not here to tell you whom you should vote for. I want you to consider the following as you prepare for your personal decision.

Read more: Catholic Vote

Centennial Promise

Monday night Fr Peter, Fr Matt, and I were at the Holy Name Cathedral witnessing the changing of the guard. We welcomed Bishop Cupich as we bade farewell to Francis Cardinal George. The several hundred priests who were gathered there gave Cardinal George a well-deserved standing ovation. A breath of fresh air was beginning to blow on the Archdiocese of Chicago and as we greeted this new shepherd, humble and gentle, we could feel the excitement and the anticipation. As I sat there in the quiet of that imposing edifice, I could not but be filled with joy for being Catholic. I kept reminding myself that the scene unfolding before our eyes is one of those things that make us proud as Catholics.

Read more: Centennial Promise

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.

Read more: Change of Heart

Christ in Christmas

Several years ago when I was much heavier, a friend of mine got me a tee-shirt with the following writing: “I am not fat, I am just fluffy.” It certainly got a lot of chuckles. It also pointed out our great desire to be nice. Another friend, Fr Mark, said to me on a different occasion, “Britto, you are not fat. You are gravitationally challenged.” That is an obvious nod to our culture’s attempt at political correctness.

Read more: Christ in Christmas

Christ, Our Peace

The days are getting shorter and the darkness falls sooner. We know that winter is here. It also means that our preparation for the Feast of Christmas has begun. To help us be ready for the birth of the Savior, every year our liturgy committee suggests a theme. This year the committee has chosen the following words of Scripture as our theme: “May the God of Peace make you perfectly holy!” What an appropriate theme for this Advent Season! By one count there are forty-one wars raging in different parts of the world. More than ever we need the Prince of Peace to reign in our hearts and in our world.

Read more: Christ, Our Peace

Christians in Iraq

Last Sunday two of our parishioners took the initiative to organize an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament on behalf of our Christian brothers and sisters who are being harassed and even murdered in Iraq by ISIS militants. In its April 21, 2014 issue TIME magazine featured an article entitled “Unholy Choices” which directly addressed the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Even our Holy Father Pope Francis expressed his concern over the situation of those Christians last November when he spoke to Middle Eastern Christian leaders. He said, “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians.

Read more: Christians in Iraq

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.

Read more: Christmas 2016

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?”

Read more: Church, the Loving Home

Collaboration, Not Competition

The Rio Olympic Games officially ended a few days ago. For about 17 days the nations of the world came together to celebrate our common humanity and for a brief period set aside their differences and even their hatreds and wars. Traditional enemies competed with each other in true sportsmanship trying to submit to the well-known dictum, “Let the best man (woman) win!” It was refreshing and even inspiring to see the various races and cultures of the world represented in the Maracana at the opening and the closing ceremonies. Dire predictions by prophets of doom that these Olympics would be a disaster never came to pass. Thankfully no acts of terrorism or violence were inflicted on the athletes or the spectators.

Read more: Collaboration, Not Competition

Commit to Faith

At the beginning of this Lenten season we are highly motivated to jump start our spiritual lives and we probably have made some practical resolutions. I would like to encourage you to use this time of grace for our spiritual growth. A few days ago, Bishop Francis Kane was at our parish to confirm our young men and women. During the confirmation liturgy, he gave a strong homily that challenged our young people to commit themselves to their Catholic faith. I believe his words will profit all of us if we put them into practice.

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Common Good

I was speaking about the Boston Marathon to some friends who told me that you can qualify to run in the marathon if you fulfill one of two conditions. Either, you run the 26.2 miles within a certain time. Or, you run for some charitable cause. In other words, the organizers are telling runners that you can run in the Boston Marathon if you have a cause even if you are not fast enough. In other words, the spirit of the marathon is all about the common good. It is so tragic that someone would use that event to wreak such carnage on innocent people. 

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Community Building

I am writing this column in Arizona where I spent three days with a group of our parishioners on a mission trip to St. Jude Mission in Tuba City. There were 23 of us who came to see for ourselves the work done by a Vincentian priest, Fr. Jay, and two Sisters of Charity, Sr. Margaret and Sr. Mary. To live on an Indian Reservation for three days was a moving experience as we learned firsthand the conditions of our brothers and sisters who have inhabited our land for thousands of years even before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Hopefully I can share many more reflections on our experience in future bulletins. Right now I would like to write about one aspect of the Navajo culture that made a deep impression on me.

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Confirmation

Two thousand years ago when the hearts of the apostles were in turmoil because the Master was leaving, He told them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the company of the Mother of Jesus they waited in anticipation and spent their time in prayer. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down upon them in the form of fiery tongues. Instantaneously they were transformed. Those uneducated, fearful men threw open the windows and doors of the house as they boldly proclaimed the salvation wrought by Jesus Christ. They became courageous witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and preached the Good News.

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Consequences

How often do we realize that our actions have consequences? Most people are not aware of how their individual decisions and behaviors can affect the lives of others. Last week – to be precise, on September 26, 2014 – we were all given a dramatic demonstration of how one act of one individual can have dire consequences for thousands of people.

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Consistent Moral Perspective on LIfe

During our weekend Masses this month we are reminded that October is “Respect Life Month”. I presume that as Church-going Catholics we align ourselves fully with the Magisterium of the Church with regard to all life issues. God is the Giver of all life and as such, He alone is the ultimate arbiter of life and death decisions. We affirm with the universal Church that we respect life from natural conception to natural death.

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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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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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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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Defining Moments

In the life of every individual there are certain defining moments that determine the course of one’s life. In the same way, in the life of a parish these defining moments not only trace its future course but also enhance or diminish its flourishing. I believe that right now we are living through one of those defining moments in our history. Our centennial year was one such moment.

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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.

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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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Easter 2013

On this day that the Lord has made, I want to wish each and every one of you the joys of this holy season. I will remember you and your loved ones at all my Easter Masses. May we all experience the full life that the Risen Lord brings! Let us continue to hold our parish community in prayer. We rejoice at Easter because death is swallowed up in victory. Death has lost its sting and we are assured of eternal life. The sadness and gloom of Good Friday make room for the triumphal joy of Easter morn. Easter always arrives in spring when life is in full bloom. This is not a mere coincidence. It reminds us of the profound  significance of this feast. If we are filled with the Easter spirit, we must be full of life.

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Easter 2015

On this day that the Lord has made, I want to wish each and every one of you the joys of this holy season. I will remember you and your loved ones at all my Easter Masses. May we all experience the full life that the Risen Lord brings! Let us continue to hold our parish community in prayer. We rejoice at Easter because death is swallowed up in victory. Death has lost its sting and we are assured of eternal life. The sadness and gloom of Good Friday make room for the triumphal joy of Easter morn. Easter always arrives in spring when life is in full bloom. This is not a mere coincidence. It reminds us of the profound significance of this feast. If we are filled with the Easter spirit, we must be full of life.

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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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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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Effective Love

When I first came to the U.S. thirty-one 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. About twenty-four years ago, one winter morning I was driving on an undivided highway south of Champaign, IL, and did not heed 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 to Champaign. I slowed down hesitantly as I wanted to help the person. The voices 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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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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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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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.

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Evangelize & Catechize

These questions have baffled me over the years. How is it that so many baptized Catholics do not hold on to their faith? How is it that more than half of our registered parishioners do not come to church for Mass or participate in any way? How is it that even some of those who come to Sunday Mass, feel no qualms about missing Mass every now and then? Why do we take for granted our Catholic faith which is the most important gift we have been given?

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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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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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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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Faith in The Church

As I write this column, the Cardinals are getting ready to go into the Sistine Chapel to elect the new Pope. The Church awaits with bated breath, wondering who the next successor of Peter will be. Bookies around the world are hedging their bets while the secular media pretends to be genuinely interested in the Bishop of Rome. As the faithful, we need to imitate the Early Christians who prayed for Peter. It is possible that by the time this column is published we will know the name of the new Vicar of Christ. I would like to take this occasion to reflect with you on the need for faith in the Church.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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First 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.

First Sunday of Lent

In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln emancipated the slaves while the country was still hurting from the Civil War. More than 150 years later, there are people still caught in the grips of slavery. This Lent we as a parish would like to follow the example of President Lincoln and reach out to an enslaved group living in faraway South India. They are called “Thurumbar”, which means “insignificant piece of dust or garbage.” In common parlance they are also known as “invisibles” because they are expected to leave their homes only at night. In the caste-ridden Indian social structure, they occupy the bottom because they are kept subservient even to the low castes. A young Salesian priest, Fr Val, has been laboring for more than a decade trying to improve their lot. He has been educating their children because education is the surest way to get them out of this oppressive cycle.

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Focus

These days our world seems so crazed and chaotic that we can easily lose our focus. So many electronic devices are clamoring for our attention that we can become totally frazzled. Numerous entertainment choices are gobbling up our time that we do not find time for family and friends. More than at any other time in history, humans seem to be overstressed.

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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.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

In my last column I shared my thoughts about Joseph and this week I would like to draw your attention to Mary. Besides Jesus, no other figure is more central to the Christmas story than Mary. There is no one else who can help us prepare better for the birth of the Savior than the Mother of the Savior Himself. We can only imagine with what tender love and eager anticipation she would have awaited His birth. His arrival changed drastically not only her life but also the course of human history. What lessons can we learn from this humble maiden from Nazareth whom God diligently transformed to become a worthy dwelling for His Son?

First of all, she is a woman of profound, prayerful reflection. In his infancy accounts, Luke uses twice the same set of words to describe the mental state of Mary: “She treasured all these things in her heart.” Many of the things that happened to her – the message from Archangel Gabriel, the praise of Elizabeth, the visit of the shepherds and the adoration of the Magi – were intriguing and she pondered them in her heart. In prayer she recognized the hand of God who was working out His plan quietly but surely. Even at the foot of the Cross, her demeanor is one of prayerful submission to God’s will.

Second, her trust in God is extraordinary. What young woman would not have recoiled in fear when the angel suddenly interrupts her peaceful life with an earth-shaking message from God? Even though she does not understand and is puzzled, Mary does believe that “nothing is impossible for God.” Putting her trust in the God who reached out to her, Mary humbly submits to His will. That same trust carried her through many moments in Jesus’ life – when He was lost in the Temple, when He left her to begin His public ministry, when He was rejected by His own people and finally when He was crucified as a criminal. She knew that through all those difficult moments God was holding her and that eventually Easter would dawn.

Third, she practiced the love for others that her Son so powerfully preached. Immediately after the annunciation Mary did not sit back to enjoy her new-found celebrity. Gripped by her concern for her elderly cousin Elizabeth, she undertook a difficult journey over the hills of Judea and spent six months to serve her needy neighbor. As the Word took flesh in her, she carried that Word to others in acts of loving service. That same spirit of service in her is evident in her intervention on behalf of a needy couple on their wedding day. It was she who noticed that they were running out of wine. In spite of her Son’s objections, she prevailed on Him to work a miracle.

We are three days away from Christmas and let us imitate Mary as we get ready. Amidst the hustle and bustle of our last-minute preparations, let us spend some time in prayerful reflection. Perhaps we can listen to some holy Christmas music that will remind us of God’s gift of His Son to us. Maybe we can read the story of Christmas as recounted by Matthew and Luke. Perhaps we can share that story with our children.

Even as we get Christmas presents for our friends and family, let us not lose sight of those who have so little. Perhaps we can volunteer our time in some form of service. Maybe we can donate money to a charitable cause. We can also pray for those who are suffering that someone may come to their aid. Let us reach out to someone within our family or among our friends and share an act of kindness. Let us do good to someone who cannot return the favor.

Finally, let us try to let go of the control of our lives. Let us learn to trust in our God who loves us. We need to remind ourselves – whether our lives are going well or not so well – that nothing is impossible for God. He is the God who continues to work wonders even in our time. Instead of carrying all our burdens by ourselves, we need to bring them to Him in prayer. He will lighten our heavy load and we will be refreshed.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say to you, rejoice! For the Lord is near.

Gingee Thanks!

You have done it again! Once again you have proved beyond doubt that St Paul of the Cross is an extremely generous parish. Whenever you come to know about the conditions of the poor and the suffering anywhere, you come to their aid in full force. I have seen it firsthand in the last five years. When that devastating earthquake hit Haiti, the poorest country in our part of the world, you reached deep into your pockets and provided over $40,000 to help the Haitians rebuild. Last year we went as a group to Arizona and handed a hefty check to support St Jude Mission that serves the Navajos. This year we embraced the “untouchables” in South India as the beneficiaries of our Lenten Sacrifice. As of May 4 we have raised over $60,000 and the funds will go towards the building of a community center.

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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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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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God and Family

Two weeks ago I went to St. John’s Abbey, north of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, to make my annual spiritual retreat. Usually guests are expected to stay at the guest house. However, since there was no room there, the monks were gracious enough to accommodate me in the monastery. I was very pleased to stay with those Benedictines and join them not only at prayer but also in their meals. Several monks spoke with me during mealtimes and gave me a firsthand perspective on monastic life.

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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.

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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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God's Timing

You may or may not know that most marriages in India are arranged by the family. The decision to marry someone is not the privilege of the individual but the result of a collective process in which the family, especially the parents, have the maximum input. After raising their child to adulthood, parents feel it is their duty to find a life partner for their offspring. In fact, mothers and fathers consider it their right to settle their children in life. In some families the child in question has very little effect on the final outcome. Sometimes I say jokingly that I became a priest to avoid an arranged marriage.

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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.

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Growing in Holiness, Wisdom, & Character

Usually I address my column to all the parishioners of St Paul of the Cross parish. This week, however, I would like to write a column especially for you as you are about to begin another school year. I am sure you are eager to get back into the swing of things. Even though you will miss the fun of summer, you will be happy to see all your friends.

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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. Besides being lost, they sought counsel from someone who was determined to destroy the Christ Child. 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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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!

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Holy Family

Probably you are recovering from your Christmas get-togethers and looking forward to the New Year. Between these two feasts there comes another liturgical celebration, namely, the Feast of the Holy Family. The Church invites the faithful to focus their attention on the holy trio – Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Hopefully we can all learn some significant lessons from them.

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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.

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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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Home Visit

I took a break from writing my column for several weeks and now I am back. Even though I returned from India a couple of weeks ago, catching up with things around the parish and school has consumed most of my time. This column is going to be light as I would like to share with you some highlights from my journey home.

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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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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.

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Indifference

In recent days the whole nation is becoming concerned about the Ebola outbreak.  Our fear-mongering media with their 24-hour news cycle are succeeding in scaring us into near hysteria about a possible epidemic.  Serious debates are afoot over whether we should close our borders and disallow any travelers from that part of the world from landing on our shores.  The temptation is to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.  And yet, experts are telling us that the best solution is to engage the problem in West Africa and eradicate it there itself.  In other words, we cannot pretend to protect ourselves by ignoring the problem. We need to face it head on.  We cannot afford to be indifferent to it because we think it is not our problem.

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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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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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Joseph the Worker

How wonderful it is that the weather is getting better! There is a spring in our steps and a 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 thefirst 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 all of us. I want to assure our children that we are accompanying them with our prayers and supporting them with our love.

Read more: Joseph the Worker

Kickoff Meeting

At the request of Archbishop Cupich, St Paul of the Cross parish will be undertaking the Parish Transformation initiative. We are one of many parishes that will complete this process. As of today more than 180 parishes have gone through this program.

Through Parish Transformation, we will evaluate how we are living out Christ’s mission in our parish community. Participation is open to all members of the parish. Here is a brief preview of the questions and topics we will reflect on:

Read more: Kickoff Meeting

Laborers in God's Vineyard

Often when I am at dinner with some of my friends or in the company of fellow priests, the conversation inevitably turns towards the alarming shortage of priests. Someone in the group – usually a prophet of doom – will predict that the Church is going to suffer drastic decline because of the shortage. However, hardly anyone suggests ways to stem the tide. I really believe that the scarcity of priests and nuns should not be merely a reason to converse. We must all find ways to address the situation.

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Last Judgement

Two international events that transpired over the last ten days have disturbed us deeply. When we get on a plane, we never imagine in a million years that the aircraft will be shot down by a missile. We cannot fathom the anguish that the families of the victims of Flight MH17 are enduring right now. Through all this horrific drama that is playing out before the eyes of the world, the perpetrators – namely the terrorist separatists and their champion, Vladimir Putin – seem totally unfazed by the tragedy. The power of international public opinion appears to have no impact on them.

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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.

Read more: Life Lessons

Light a Fire in the Heart of the World

If there is one thing that stands out about the new Pope, it is his exuberant joy. In so many pictures he is smiling or laughing. No other Holy Father has appeared with such manifest cheerfulness. His Apostolic Exhortation, “Gaudium Evangelii” is a summons to all Catholics to embody the same Easter joy, the joy that filled the hearts of the apostles after the resurrection.

Read more: Light a Fire in the Heart of the World

Little Retreats

Can you believe that in a few weeks the summer will be over? From time to time people have been asking me how my summer was going. I have to say that it has been busier than usual. Going to India for a wedding in June and then trying to catch up with everything, saying good-bye to Frs. John and Muraya and then helping Frs. Peter and Matt to settle down, doing many funerals and the Masses have kept me very busy. I don’t think I am ready to start the new school year as yet.

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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.

Read more: Looking for the Savior

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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