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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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Respect Life

Last week I saw a news story that caught my attention. It seems that a dozen French bulldog puppies had been shipped from Jordan. As no one claimed them, they were languishing in the warehouse at the O’Hare airport. Some animal lovers were appalled that those poor, lovable pets were abandoned. As the federal government planned to ship them back to Jordan, some people rallied to raise a loud cry of protest. Even a state senator/representative threw his weight behind the cause to stop this terrible decision to send back the puppies. Finally, the authorities relented and as a result, those dogs can stay in the US where they will be adopted by loving families and individuals.

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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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Blue Ribbon Award

It is not every day that we get to celebrate big achievements, but in this column I am proud to celebrate our Catholic school. St Paul of the Cross School received official notification from the U.S. Department of Education that it has been given a prestigious award: The 2020 Blue Ribbon for Academic Excellence. Our school joins an elite rank of schools around the country that have been recognized as leaders in educating our children. This year only 50 private schools received this distinction and our Catholic school stands tall among those few. Every year our graduates eventually go on to colleges and universities all across the country including Ivy League schools.

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Love is the Key - Remembering Frank Dopek

Last week we lost a valuable member of our parish staff. Frank Dopek, who served St Paul in our maintenance department for almost two decades, passed away prematurely. He was diagnosed less than a month ago and after a brief treatment he succumbed to his illness. This has come as a tremendous shock to all of us. St Paul of the Cross parish and school will never be the same. All of us have lost a bit of sunshine.

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Forgiveness

Jesus was a master storyteller. His stories, parables as they are known, bring a fresh perspective to well-known truths. For instance, the entire Bible clearly declares that our God is full of kindness and mercy. In order to express this truth powerfully, Jesus recounts the parable of the merciful master and his merciless servant. We heard this gospel story last Sunday and it brings home the point that God’s forgiveness towards us is boundless and therefore we should extend that forgiveness to our brothers and sisters.

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Community

On September 6th, 1953, Cardinal Stritch, the Archbishop of Chicago, dedicated our church building and over the last sixty-seven years it has stood tall as an eloquent witness to our Catholic Faith. Within its walls, thousands have received the sacraments of the Church. A clear model of classic church architecture, it has become even more beautiful since we did the renovation three years ago.

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Christ, our Peace

Recent weeks and months have been a time of unprecedented turmoil and unrest. Protests on our city streets for justice and equality have been relentless. Sometimes peaceful protests have been taken over by trouble-makers who have resorted to violence and looting. Opposing groups have decided not only to stare down but also combat each other and, as a result, they force our police to enter the fray. All this has led to more violence and mayhem. If there is one thing we are longing for, it is peace. We wish that peace and serenity would return to our country and to our streets.

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Humor and Perseverance

We meet some interesting characters in the gospels. In addition to the usual suspects such as the apostles and the disciples, every now and then we encounter someone who makes an impression on us. In last Sunday’s readings, we met a Canaanite woman whom the Gospel of Matthew does not name. Even though we know hardly anything about her identity, her meeting with Jesus teaches us certain lessons that we cannot ignore. We have to keep in mind that she was a Canaanite, and the Canaanites were the ancestral enemies of the Jews.

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Why Sunday Mass

The Covid-19 virus has disrupted our lives and devastated our economy. Many of us keep wondering when we will be able to return to our “normal life” whatever it may look like. It also has affected deeply the practice of our Faith. In more than 38 years as a priest, I never imagined that we will shut down our churches and that people will not be able to receive the Eucharist. Things we have always taken for granted have become rarities. Even as I look forward to the day when we can have all our parishioners in church for Sunday Masses, I have a serious concern.

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First Holy Communion

I try to go to India once a year to visit my family. Unfortunately, because of this pandemic I don’t know when I will be able to do that again. Even though I look forward to spending time with all my relatives, I am not too excited about the trip itself. The very thought of sitting on a plane for 21 hours exhausts me. I also worry about security, immigration, and customs. I wonder whether my luggage will end up in a different continent from me. I prefer to get to my destination quickly and forget completely about the journey itself.

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Summer Rest

One of the things I really like in our country is driving on the highway. Just last week I drove to Cincinnati to pick up my niece, Jennifer, who is returning to India after two years. Accompanied by my brother, Bob, I drove early morning on Friday and returned late that evening. Whenever I drive on the highway, I love to set my car on cruise control and sit back. Most often I am listening to music in my car. 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. We miss enjoying the drive. We fail to notice the scenery.

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Kindness

Last week I saw a news story that really moved me. Mary Daniel, 57, took a part-time job as a dishwasher at RoseCastle in Jacksonville, FL, not because she needed the money. Her husband of many years was at that facility and this was the only way she could see him.  After scrubbing dishes and mopping floors, she can steal a few precious hours with her husband, Steve, who has Alzheimer’s. “It didn’t matter what I had to do to get there,” said Mary.  “I was willing to do whatever it took to fulfill my promise that I was going to be there for him every step of the way.”

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Time

The one common grievance that I hear from many younger and older parents is that they have no time. We are all over-stretched. We do not have the time even to do the things that we cannot neglect.

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Come To Me

This Sunday we heard one of my favorite gospel passages, a passage that flows from the tender heart of Jesus. As He looks at the masses that are overburdened and weary, the Master issues a summons: “Come to Me all you who are tired and I will give you rest.” How many times all of us have needed to hear that invitation! Especially during this pandemic that seems to drag on, we are sorely in need of refreshment. Jesus does not promise to take away our burdens. Instead He will give us strength to bear them.

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Fourth of July

As we celebrate our Independence Day, the nation seems to be on edge. With the pandemic increasing its threat in several states, with protests still filling our city streets, and with an election around the corner, citizens feel pulled in many different directions. Many of us feel fearful and anxious rather than celebratory. Some are even concerned that our perfect union may be fraying at the edges. How can we elevate our spirits and honor our national heritage as we should?

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Freedom

As someone who grew up in another country, I quickly learned that freedom is one of the greatest and most cherished American values. We Americans will not allow anyone to restrict or compromise our freedom in any way. The prototypical figure of the American ethos is the mythical cowboy who is a law unto himself and who establishes justice on his own terms. The battle lines that are often drawn in the cultural sand are fought over the definition and exercise of our freedoms. With the politicization of every issue nowadays, the struggle over our freedoms has become even more serious.

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Hard Sayings

I wonder if Jesus is coming back soon. We are living through some unsettling times. With a pandemic that is ravaging the world and the country that is in turmoil, some people are wondering whether the end times are near. Believe me, I do not believe in spreading fear because of what is happening around us. And yet, this unprecedented time in the history of the world and also of our country asks me whether the time is ripe for Jesus to return.

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Soul Searching

Our nation is bleeding. She is shedding tears because of what has happened in our country over the last few days. She is weeping because of what happened in Minneapolis last week – the callous extinguishing of George Floyd’s life. She is in tears also because while some are expressing their legitimate concerns and grievances peacefully, others are looting and destroying. All this is happening in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic that is ravaging our world. As people of faith, how are we to make sense of all this?

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Mary, Model of Intercessory Prayer

As we are coming to the end of the month of May, our thoughts inevitably focus on our Blessed Mother. While He was about to leave this world, the Master gave Mary to us as His parting gift. She is not only our mother and patroness; she is also our model. She can teach us how we can live the Gospel and conform ourselves to the image of Christ. In particular, she can help us become men and women of prayer. In this column, I would like to propose Mary as the model of one type of prayer.

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Fear of the Lord

Why is that even this raging virus cannot put a stop to the killing that goes on around our nation and especially here in Chicago? A couple of weeks ago we were shocked by the news of another mass killing, this time in Canada. Eighteen individuals 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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The New Normal

These days re-opening and returning to normal are on our minds. When can we go back to our lives? What will the normal look like? Will it be really normal? These are the questions that captivate not only the average citizen but also those in power. If these days of stay-home order have been so unsettling and unfamiliar, the “normal” seems to be a bigger unknown.

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Success and Failure

Some years ago I was watching the Australian Open final when Stan Wawrinka from Switzerland beat Rafael Nadal in four sets. Before the match no one expected that number 8 seed could beat the number 1 seed in a Grand Slam. The tennis world has been ruled for the last several years by the top three players – Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer. For Wawrinka, the taste of victory could not have been sweeter and for Nadal it was a bitter night. As the festivities continued and the crowds went gaga over the new champion, I could see Nadal disappear into the shadows unacknowledged and forgotten. That is when I began to think how our world loves a winner and does not care for losers.

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Church, Our Loving Home

One of the most touching post-resurrection stories recounts the encounter between Jesus and Peter on the shores of Lake Galilee. 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 at his denial. Instead, the Lord floors him with a simple question: “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

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Easter Letter

More than ever, we need Easter now. With fear and uncertainty hanging over us, we need the assurance of the Risen Christ Who has conquered sin and death. More than ever, we need the assurance of life when so many of our fellow Americans are falling victim to this dangerous virus. More than ever, we need the hope and joy that Easter brings because a heavy pall of darkness and sadness envelopes us.

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Holy Week

A great French Catholic writer, Pierre Babin, wrote, “Pain is the law underlying all masterpieces.” Come to think of it – his words are so true. No great masterpiece that has survived the passage of time was created without blood, sweat, and tears. Michelangelo was an old man when he lay on his back to paint the immortal frescos on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He suffered much not only physically but also mentally and spiritually as he sparred with certain ecclesiastics. Without Mahatma Gandhi’s sacrific, India would not have achieved her freedom from colonial rule.

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Faith and Fear

As I write this column, there seems to be a certain heaviness in the air. We are all locked up in our homes unable to go anywhere, unsure of what is happening, and uncertain of the future. If there is one emotion that we all seem to share, it is fear. We are experiencing fear of the unknown, fear of catching the virus and fear about when all this will end. Our fears will increase exponentially if we somehow pretend that we control our lives. We can allay our fears if only we can surrender to faith.

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Trust in the Lord

Through a clear directive, Cardinal Blase Cupich informed all the parishes in the archdiocese that weekend Masses and daily Masses will be canceled until further notice. Following the lead of our civic authorities, the Church is taking the necessary steps to mitigate the spread of this virus. There are far too many unknowns. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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Go to 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.

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Reconciliation

At the beginning of Lent, the priest or a lay minister said the following formula as they imposed ashes on our foreheads: “Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel!” The season of Lent is a time of grace because it calls on us to turn back to God. During many of our Lenten liturgies we hear the voices of the prophets who spoke in God’s name summoning us: “Come back to me with all your heart.” We often pray with the psalmist, “Take away our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh instead!” Change of heart then is a central goal for these forty days.

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Temptations

Every year on the First Sunday of Lent we read the gospel passage that recounts the temptations of Jesus in the desert. The Church wants Catholics to start this holy season thinking of their struggles with temptation and sin so that they will approach the Lord for His forgiveness. I am sure you have wondered: “Why did Jesus allow Himself to be tempted? After all, He is the Son of God and as such, He cannot sin.” 

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Sinfulness and Forgiveness

On any given day we are bombarded by thousands of messages. They come at us from everywhere. We do not even have time to process them all. Most of them fall by the wayside but a few catch our attention. Only very few continue to dominate our consciousness and life. Even as Catholics we hear so many things but how many do we hold on in our daily life? There is one truth we should always keep before our minds. That truth is pure and simple: All of us are sinners, but our God offers His forgiveness without question.

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Annual Catholic Appeal 2020

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.

Read more: Annual Catholic Appeal 2020

Transmit the Light

I dislike the dark, dreary days of winter when we do not see the sun for days. I cannot even imagine how people living close to the North or South Pole can endure months of darkness. As one who grew up in a country where the sun shone almost 340 days of the year, sunless days really get to me. Over the last week the sun has been no show for several days and I am afraid the lack of sunshine is having an effect on me. Researchers have identified what is known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that is caused by lack of exposure to the sun.

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Education Endowment

As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, our thoughts turn to the educational priorities of the parish. We often speak of Jesus as priest, prophet and king. As prophet, He taught people about the Kingdom of God. The gospels relate that Jesus spent much time instructing both the disciples and the crowds. Jesus was a preeminent teacher. Many people called Him “Rabbi” which means teacher. Following the example of the Master, the Church takes her teaching ministry very seriously. All over the world the Church is engaged in education, and in places like India – which is mostly non-Christian – she makes her presence felt through numerous schools, colleges and universities.

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New and Old

Christmas is over and the New Year has dawned. Hopefully we are not exhausted from our Christmas celebration – the shopping, the traveling, the parties and the exchange of gifts. People are eager to dazzle their loved ones with their amazing finds. The more unusual and more novel the gifts, the better! At the same time we hear that baby-boomers are looking for retro-gifts, artifacts that will remind them of their youth and the decades that they made famous. As I was contemplating our desire for things both new and old, a news story that took place a few months ago came to mind.

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Began with Mary

When I was a young seminarian we used to sing a Marian hymn composed by an Englishman, Kevin Mayhew. I can never forget the first line in the chorus: “It all began with Mary.” That statement is so true. It all began with Mary – indeed! St Bernard, in one of his reflections, pleads with Mary to say “Yes” to Archangel Gabriel. This is what he writes:

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Our Families

It is such a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our society that mass killings happen with a certain frequency and we keep returning to our normal lives. However, for those affected these senseless acts of violence the days ahead become unbearable. In those times of tremendous anguish family support is always crucial. 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.

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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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Jesus, Our Reconciliation

Five years 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.

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Come, Lord Jesus

We are well into the season of Advent. I don’t know about you, but this season always makes me smile. If Advent is here, then Christmas cannot be far away. I somehow turn into a little boy once again. There is a sense of expectation in the air. We are hopeful because the Lord is coming. The Season of Lent is a time of penitence when we prepare ourselves to celebrate the Paschal Mystery. On the other hand, the Season of Advent is a time for hope and expectation when we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord.

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Holy Is His Name

As we begin the season of Advent, I would like to propose our Blessed Mother as a model and inspiration in our preparation for the coming of the Savior. In her canticle, Mary sang, “The Lord who is mighty has done great things for me; holy is his name.” May these words become food for our reflection and the basis for our action! Hopefully the attitudes evidenced by Mary in this song will be our own as we await the birth of Jesus.

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Thanksgiving 2019

Just a few days ago we celebrated the dedication of St John Lateran Basilica which is the cathedral of our Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome. If you have been there you know that the beauty of that church lies especially in its ornate floor. When I walked into that basilica for the first time I was awed by the intricacy and colorful details of the artwork on the pavement. Then a thought occurred to me. Many men and women artisans and artists spent their entire lifetime decorating one piece of that huge floor. No one knows their names and no one will ever celebrate their memory. Yet they gave their all so that millions could enjoy the fruit of their labors for centuries to come.

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No Room for Error

Last week as I was watching the news on TV, one particular commercial caught my attention. It was for a pizza restaurant that was touting their new “delivery insurance” policy. They claimed that they would correct any mistake they made. If their delivery was delayed, or if they gave the wrong dipping sauce or if the topping was mistaken, they would make it up to the customer. I was smiling because I was once again reminded that in our market culture where the customer is king there is no room for human error.

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To Be Holy

Four years ago 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 gifted a great saint to the Church, St Therese of Lisieux.

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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 celebrate “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 have a special Mass of Remembrance on Saturday, November 2nd 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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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. Five years ago – to be precise, on September 26, 2014 – we were all given a dramatic demonstration of how one action of one individual can have far-reaching, dire consequences for thousands of people.

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St. John Henry Newman

This Sunday, October 13, Pope Francis will canonize one of the luminaries of the Church in England. Cardinal John Henry Newman will be declared a saint before thousands of the faithful, and I wish I could be among them. All through my life I have admired him and he has been an inspiration to me personally. Cardinal Newman has inspired Catholics not only in Great Britain but around the globe. Because of his intellectual stature, most universities name their campus ministry after him.

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Culture of 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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Holy Rosary

What is the one religious article that immediately conveys that the user is a Catholic? I would say, “The holy rosary.” Growing up as a child before the Vatican Council, I viewed the recital of the rosary as a typically Catholic practice. All through my youth we said the rosary everyday. I will never forget my dad calling us for family prayer which always included five decades of the rosary. For two of those decades we had to be on our knees. My brothers would try to find an excuse to avoid family prayer but my dad would always make them kneel down.

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Cost of Discipleship

Over the last few years you might have heard me calling on all of us to become “intentional disciples.” What does it mean to be intentional disciples? Most Catholics are tempted to believe that they have done their duty because they received the sacraments – baptism, reconciliation, communion and confirmation. We can easily conclude that we are following Jesus because we moved from one milestone to another. Becoming Jesus’ disciples does not happen automatically. The famous preacher Johnny Holliday used to say: “You don’t become a Christian by sleeping in the church for ten years any more than you become a car by sleeping in the garage.” We need to make a choice.

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Women and AOW

Every three years during Lent we hear the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. With his usual flair for story-telling, John weaves his theology into this encounter between Jesus and a woman of ill repute. Jesus takes the initiative and befriends the woman. From a casual exchange of pleasantries, the conversation moves on to more serious matters and finally the woman recognizes Jesus as the Messiah. In fact she runs off into the village and invites her fellow villagers to come and meet Jesus. She becomes an apostle of the Good News.

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Embrace the Moment

A few years ago on a busy morning I was driving to Queen of All Saints Basilica during rush hour when I noticed something. We were coming to some construction and the two lanes were merging into one. I am usually a calm person who does not get upset very 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 would have loved to block their progress. Thank God, I didn’t. As I was trying to calm myself down, I wondered why people were in such a hurry.

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Welcoming Strangers

As I sit at my computer writing my weekly column, I am thinking of a story in Luke’s gospel that speaks of two sisters. We heard that story during Sunday liturgy a few weeks ago. It tells us how Martha and Mary entertained Jesus in their home. Martha was anxious about many things because she wanted everything to be “perfect” for Jesus. In certain circles she has been unjustly belittled because Mary had “chosen the better part.” I do not believe Jesus intended to dismiss Martha’s place in the kingdom. I am sure the Lord enjoyed Martha’s hospitality and culinary prowess. We too need to acknowledge the Martha’s that serve among us. Where will our parishes be without the numerous Martha’ s – both men and women – who forget themselves and occupy themselves with a million details?

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Real Presence

A few days ago, the Pew Research Center, which studies trends in faith and religious behavior, published a disturbing statistic regarding American Catholics. It found that 69 percent of those surveyed believe that the Eucharist is only a symbol. In other words it would seem that two-thirds of American Catholics do not believe in the “real presence.” Such a conclusion is devastating for the Church.

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Points of Light

Last week as I was watching the evening news, I was particularly moved by a special story which involved a close-knit family. The two children remembered how their parents had sacrificed much for them and built a happy family. They noticed that in most of the family pictures, their white car, a Ford Mustang, was always prominent. Their dad loved that car tremendously. Unfortunately the mother got ovarian cancer and needed expensive treatment. As the medical expenses kept growing, the father was forced to sell his much-loved Mustang. For years no one knew where the car was.

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St. Ignatius

On July 31st 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.

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Mary Magdalene

Many saints fascinate me, but very few fascinate me as much as St Mary Magdalene. My fascination with her grew even stronger when that infamous novel, The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, was published. As it seemed to lead astray some good Catholics, I was eager to burst many of the myths and falsehoods which that book was propagating. As I was researching for my talk, I drew closer to this great saint to whom there was great devotion in the Early Church. 

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Patience

Summer is a time when we should take it slow. It is the season to sleep a little extra, to have a few unscheduled days and to do the things we love. Summer is the opportunity to get away from the constant stress of wanting to achieve and to be productive. As we have heard it said so many times before, we, Americans, have a hard time un-tethering ourselves from our work-stations and our computers. We all know that Europeans take much longer vacations than we do. We work harder than everyone else.

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Laborers in the 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 conversation starter. We must all find ways to address the situation.

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Milestones

I don’t know what you think about milestones. They make us pause, and they sometimes make us sad. Our birthdays are milestones that remind us that time is passing, and passing quickly. They beckon us to give thanks to God for all the graces He has showered on us during the previous year. They also help us remember the times we failed to use the opportunities for good that He sent us on our way. In addition they invite us to look to the future with hope.

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Corpus Christi 2019

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.

Read more: Corpus Christi 2019

Holy Trinity

Perhaps you don’t know how much I love music. All through my seminary years I played an instrument and/or sang in the choir. Particularly I love the hymns that we sing in most parishes, hymns composed by such well-known composers as Haugen, Haas, Cooney and Joncas. Yet I am always deeply moved by the golden oldies like “Amazing Grace”. There is one classic hymn that always gets me. It is: “How Great Thou Art.” Its solemn melody reverberates in my guts and somehow I palpably experience the grandeur of God.

Read more: Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity

Perhaps you don’t know how much I love music. All through my seminary years I played an instrument and/or sang in the choir. Particularly I love the hymns that we sing in most parishes, hymns composed by such well-known composers as Haugen, Haas, Cooney and Joncas. Yet I am always deeply moved by the golden oldies like “Amazing Grace”. There is one classic hymn that always gets me. It is: “How Great Thou Art.” Its solemn melody reverberates in my guts and somehow I palpably experience the grandeur of God.

Read more: Holy Trinity

Minority

I am disheartened by the election news that came out of India a couple of weeks ago. The same nationalist Hindu party that has ruled India for the last five years has been returned to power with a large majority. The ruling party openly declares that India is for Hindus. Therefore Muslims (who are almost 200 million) and Christians (who number around 25 million) are considered outsiders. The framers of the Indian constitution – the group included a famous Indian Jesuit, Fr Jerome D’Souza – guaranteed the rights of minorities and the law of the land even allows minorities to run their educational institutions funded by the government. Now the ruling party (Bharathiya Janata Party) wants to dismantle all these measures and re-write the Constitution.

Read more: Minority

Memorial Day 2019

All of you know that I was not born in this country. However, I have been an American citizen for the last fourteen years. A few times a year I feel particularly proud to be an American and Memorial Day is one of those occasions. We just celebrated it a few days ago. I do not believe that any other group of citizens feels greater appreciation and deeper gratitude for those who sacrificed their lives for the country.

Read more: Memorial Day 2019

Love as He Loves

From time to time, someone will say to me, “After the Vatican Council everyone talks only about love and how God loves us. We don’t hear much about sin or God’s justice. All this talk about love is diluting our religion.” There may be some justification for their concerns. However, if we look closely at the Gospel message we cannot deny that love is at the heart of our faith. The first commandment demands that we love God with all our hearts, with all our mind, and with all our strength. 

Read more: Love as He Loves

Vision for the Parish

I can’t believe that in a few weeks I will complete a decade among you as your pastor. Every day I thank God for giving me this privilege of tending God’s vineyard in this part of the world. The Lord has been gracious to me and I have so many blessings to count. It is strange that just a few years earlier I didn’t even know that St Paul of the Cross Parish even existed. Together we have done much over the last ten years. The parish has been a great blessing to me. I hope these years have brought you some blessings also.

Read more: Vision for the Parish

Welcoming Strangers

As I sit at my computer writing my weekly column, I am thinking of a story in the gospel that speaks of two sisters. It tells us how Martha and Mary entertained Jesus in their home. Martha was anxious about many things because she wanted everything to be “perfect” for Jesus. In certain circles she has been unjustly belittled because Mary had “chosen the better part.” I do not believe Jesus intended to dismiss Martha’s place in the Kingdom. I am sure the Lord enjoyed Martha’s hospitality and culinary prowess as well as Mary’s undivided attention and devotion. We too need to acknowledge the Marthas that serve among us. Where will our parishes be without the numerous Marthas – both men and women – who forget themselves and occupy themselves with a million details to serve others?

Read more: Welcoming Strangers

Daily Food

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: Daily Food

Second Chances

As 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. I have prayed for you and your loved ones during this holy season. May all of us enjoy the peace of the Risen Lord!

Read more: Second Chances

Holy Week 2019

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.

Read more: Holy Week 2019

In His Presence

Ask those who are no longer practicing Catholics 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.

Read more: In His Presence

Stop These Bills

Last week I watched a news story that brought home to me the apparent hypocrisy of our mainstream culture. A duck had gotten around its beak a plastic contraption that we use to hold a six-pack of soda. The poor bird as a result could not eat and many well-meaning individuals were very upset. They were calling on animal control to come to the aid of the unfortunate creature. Just then I realized that many of these kind-hearted people see no problem in promoting abortion. Even as we care so much about a bird, many in our society have no qualms of conscience to get rid of the unborn.

Read more: Stop These Bills

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: Lesson from St. Joseph

St. Patrick Chasing Out the Snakes

On St Patrick’s Day everyone wants to become a little Irish. I too! In fact I am very grateful to the Irish people because several wonderful Irish individuals have positively impacted my life over the years. First of all, I think of Fr Sean McFerran, a Salesian priest from Ireland, who nurtured my desire for priesthood and encouraged my vocation. He will always be one of my ideals of Catholic priesthood. Then there was Grace Schneider whose maiden name was Grace Mullen. She was my adoptive mother in Milwaukee and she watched over me with great solicitude. Then there are all the Irish nuns who taught in our Catholic schools and ministered around Madras, my native city. My younger brother, Robert, spent three years in Ireland as he pursued his theological studies at Maynooth outside Dublin. He has fond memories and loving friends from his time in the Emerald Isle. I am always in awe of that little island that has enriched the lives and culture of millions around the globe. For all that we are grateful to St Patrick who brought the Catholic faith to the Irish shores.

Read more: St. Patrick Chasing Out the Snakes

Jesus of Nazareth

A couple of weekends ago over 200 young men and women from our parish received the Sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop Robert Casey. During the Confirmation Retreat in December, I was speaking to the confirmation candidates, and during my talk I encouraged them to study at least one of the gospels as part of their preparation. As Catholics wanting to embrace their faith more fully, I insisted, they should come to know Jesus to whose image they should conform. Thinking about what I said, I realize that the suggestion is valid for all of us. We need to take the time to study the gospels and come to know Jesus personally.

Read more: Jesus of Nazareth

Confirmation 2019

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.

Read more: Confirmation 2019

Annual Catholic Appeal 2019

Some years ago I was sitting across the table from a priest who was the pastor of an inner city parish in Chicago. Our conversation revolved around our respective parishes and eventually I asked the inevitable question: “How much do you receive in weekly offerings?” He said that they got on average $3,000 a week. My jaws automatically dropped. I could not believe my ears. I asked him, “How do you manage to run a parish on that amount?” He replied, “That amount is not enough even to heat the church. We would be forced to shut down if the archdiocese did not come to our aid.”

Read more: Annual Catholic Appeal 2019

Sacrifice

When I prepare couples for marriage I make sure that I drive home a particular lesson. In my first meeting I say to them: “Relationships are hard work.” I should actually say, “Marriage calls for sacrifice.” Wide-eyed brides and grooms, all caught up in the frenzy of the wedding reception partying, can easily lose sight of the inevitability of pain and suffering in sharing one’s life with another. Unfortunately most people today appear to be oblivious of the meaning of sacrifice.

Read more: Sacrifice

Our Endowment Fund

As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, our thoughts turn to the educational priorities of the parish. We often speak of Jesus as priest, prophet and king. As prophet, He taught people about the Kingdom of God. The gospels relate that Jesus spent much time instructing both the disciples and the crowds. Jesus was a preeminent teacher. Many people called Him “Rabbi” which means teacher. Following the example of the Master, the Church takes her teaching ministry very seriously. All over the world the Church is engaged in education, and in places like India – which is mostly non-Christian – she makes her presence felt through numerous schools, colleges and universities.

Read more: Our Endowment Fund

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 jokingly say that I became a priest in order to avoid an arranged marriage.

Read more: God's Timing

God With Us & 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.

Read more: God With Us & For Us

Holy Family 2018

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.

Read more: Holy Family 2018

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.

Read more: Nativity Scene

Third Sunday of Advent

Four years 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: Third Sunday of Advent

St. Francis Xavier

On December 3rd, we celebrated the feast of a great Jesuit saint. He should receive much credit for the establishment of the Christian faith in many parts of Asia, especially India. His indefatigable zeal in preaching the Good News earned him the title, “Patron of the Missions.” He is St Francis Xavier.

Read more: St. Francis Xavier

First Sunday of Advent 2018

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.

Read more: First Sunday of Advent 2018

Christmas 2018

I want to wish each and every one of you joy and peace on this holy day. May the Christ Child fill you with His choicest blessings and may He walk by your side all through the coming year! You can be certain that I will remember you and your dear ones in my Christmas Midnight Mass and in all the other Masses that I will celebrate during this Christmas season.

Read more: Christmas 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

These days we priests have been quite busy – nothing unusual about that. We have been quite busy hearing the confessions of our children both in the school and in religious education. We are 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.

One thing always stands out in children’s confessions. Most of what they confess revolves around the family. The majority of the difficulties children seem to have in life originates from conflicts with siblings and parents. As I counsel them I try to explain to them the importance of family. I tell them that right now their brothers and sisters may be annoying but later in life they will become a blessing. I impress on them that as the big brother myself I thank God everyday for my younger siblings and my older sister too. I remind them that it is family that will stick with us through thick and thin.

When we examine our lives we all realize that most of our problems come from our families. At the same time the majority of our blessings come from our families. However, it is very easy to take our families for granted. The Italians have an expression for taking someone for granted. The phrase they use is: “Dare qualcuno per scontato.” We can translate that phrase as “To give someone away on a discount.” In other words, when a husband takes his wife for granted he is saying: “My wife is for sale, 50% off.” Unfortunately it is easy to give away our families on a discount. That is why it is good to have specially designated days when we explicitly express our love and gratitude to those we love.

As we gather around the dinner table this Thanksgiving, let us make a genuine effort to express our heartfelt thanks to each and every member of our family. Someone has said: “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” Let us take time to hold on to fond memories in the family. Sadly too many people hold on to bad memories and hurts that were given either deliberately or unconsciously. Let us erase those bad memories and let us mend some fences, if necessary. After all, the God above has forgiven us over and over again, and continues to hold on to only what is good in us.

All of us are familiar with the gospel reading that narrates the story of ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. Nine of them were so taken up with the incredible blessing they received that they forgot the Giver of that blessing. They were happy that they could rejoin the human family again but had no thought for their Benefactor. Only one – a Samaritan – returned to give thanks. We can detect a tinge of disappointment in Jesus’ voice as He asks the grateful man, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

I wonder whether that story is being repeated in our society and in our time. People gather in their homes to celebrate Thanksgiving and yet the churches are not full for the Thanksgiving Mass. Shouldn’t we start the day by participating in the Eucharist which is the greatest act of Thanksgiving? I would like to encourage all of you to take part in the Mass that will be celebrated on Thanksgiving Day at 10 am. Who deserves our thanks more than our Lord and God? All that we are and all that we have come from His loving hands. We need to gather around the Eucharistic Table to give thanks to God before we can sit around the dinner table to express our thanks to one another.

Let us remember the words of John Vianney who was also known as the Cure of Ars:

Jesus Christ found a way by which he could ascend into Heaven and yet remain on the earth. He instituted the adorable Sacrament of the Eucharist so that he might stay with us and be the Food of our soul; that he might stay with us and be our Companion.

I want to thank each and every one of you for all the ways you give to our parish. Thank you for building up God’s Kingdom here in Park Ridge. I want to thank our parish staff who work very hard and serve with great competence and dedication. I thank our numerous volunteers without whom we could not do the Lord’s work. I am grateful to our numerous benefactors, both living and deceased, who have blessed the parish with their generosity so that we may continue God’s work in this portion of His vineyard.

Have a heart-warming Thanksgiving holiday! Do enjoy your family and friends. May God bless you today and everyday!

The Power of Will

As I drive on the highway in summer weather and see a motorbike whizz me by, often a thought crosses my mind. I wish I were riding one of them. Many times I have told my dear friends that I would love to ride across the country on a Harley. Please don’t get me wrong! I don’t want to be a biker in the traditional sense of the term. As a priest and as a young seminarian, my ordinary mode of travel in India was the motorcycle. Of course our Indian bikes were smaller and had much less power. Since gas was so expensive and cars were considered a luxury, priests could only have motorbikes. Once I snap out of my fantasy of riding across the US, I get more realistic. I haven’t ridden a motorbike in decades. Will I still remember how? I know I will remember. You never forget such things. It is part of you and once you get on the bike it will come right back to you.

Read more: The Power of Will

Synagogue Massacre

Once again we have been rudely reminded that our world can be senseless. The carnage in a Pittsburg synagogue that left 11 dead and 6 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. How could anyone be filled with so much hate for a particular group of people that they will murder them in cold blood during their worship? I am totally shocked that someone can walk into a house of prayer with a premeditated intention to massacre? In my mind, this is an act of pure evil. It should be condemned from the housetops. We, as Christians, must reach out to our Jewish brothers and sisters who are mourning the loss of the members of their congregation.

Read more: Synagogue Massacre

Purgatory

A year after I came to Park Ridge, I got a new car. As I was driving around in the days following, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I loved the new car smell. However, every now and then the same thought would cross my mind: “How long will I be able to keep this car looking new? How long will it be before I put the first scratch or dent on this new car?” I tried not to pay attention to such negative thoughts. A couple of weeks later I was up in Wisconsin on my day off visiting my brother. They had moved into a new home and it was my first visit to their new place. Their driveway is rather tight and I knew I had to be extra careful in getting out. And yet, as I was pulling out of the driveway I heard a thud. I knew that I had banged into the stone wall on the right side. When I got out of my car to inspect the damage, I was quite upset with myself. I had done it! I had put the first dent on my new car. I was mad at myself.

Read more: Purgatory

Patience

When I started celebrating weddings here in the US more than 32 years ago, most of the church weddings took place over the summer. Now we seem to have more weddings in the fall. If you have been to many Catholic weddings you would have certainly heard a particular reading from St Paul to the Corinthians. We all recall the four sentences in that reading: “Love is patient; love is kind; love always forgives; love never ends.” In this column, I would like to reflect on the first sentence, “Love is patient.”

Read more: Patience

Mission Sunday

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 all over the globe in the Lord’s vineyard.

Read more: Mission Sunday

Spirit of Unity

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, the feast that changed the course of history. Twelve men, who had locked themselves in the upper room out of fear for their lives, threw open the doors and windows and boldly proclaimed the gospel. The movement that started on that day transformed the world completely. Jesus and His teachings have been embraced by billions of people and Christianity has remained an overwhelming presence and a formidable force throughout history.

Read more: Spirit of Unity

Resilience & Redemption

In my life I haven’t played a lot of golf. The few times I did play I was reminded that golf is the most frustrating game invented by man. You hit the ball hoping that it would go in one direction and it always ends up in the other direction. The last time I played the game – that was several years ago – I lost four balls in the first nine holes. I wish I would shoot my age rather than my weight. That is why I gave up playing golf. I don’t want to be the reason why my golf buddy engages in violent swearing.

Read more: Resilience & Redemption

Compassion, Not Judgement

In a few weeks the mid-term elections will be upon us. We are already being assaulted by a barrage of political ads which are high on pretense and low on truthfulness. Each candidate is vying with the other as he/she claims to be better than his/her opponent. While I am fully aware of the nature of these claims, I am uncomfortable with their sanctimonious attitude. No matter who runs for public office, the person’s character is scrutinized with a fine tooth-comb and their reputation is dragged through the mud. It is no wonder that so many good people decide not to enter the murky waters of politics.

Read more: Compassion, Not Judgement

Vocations

Over the last couple of weeks we priests have received so many gestures of support and love from you, our parishioners. During the picnic on Saturday, you even made a public gesture to stand with us. In the name of the three of us, I want to say “Thank you!” We feel the love. Not a day goes by when I do not thank the Lord for giving me the privilege to be your pastor.

Read more: Vocations

Exultation of the Cross

This week we will celebrate 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.

Read more: Exultation of the Cross

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.

Liturgical Schedule

MASS TIMES

   Monday through Friday

   8:30 am - Upper Church

   Saturday

   4:30 pm - Upper Church

   Sunday

   7:30 am - Upper Church

   9:00 am - HFC

   10:30 am - Upper Church

ADORATION

   Friday

   after 8:30 am Mass

   (must attend Mass first)

CONFESSION

   Wednesday

   3-4 pm

   Saturday

   8-9 am

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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

Monday - Friday

8:30 am - Upper Church

Saturday

4:30 pm vigil - Upper Church

Sunday

7:30 am - Upper Church
9:00 am - Holy Family Chapel
10:30 am - Upper Church