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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Nativity Scene

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Belonging to the Church

During our lifetime we belong to certain clubs and organizations. Membership in those groups comes with varying expectations and calls for diverse qualifications. In addition, we consider ourselves part of other groups such as fan clubs and consumer groups. We are made to feel part of “a family” because we drive a particular car or use a certain product or watch a particular show. Belonging to such diverse groups may confound and confuse our understanding of what it means to be part of the Church. I hope I can clarify.

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Sins of the Clergy

You have probably seen the devastating story coming out of Pennsylvania last week. The revelations contained in the Grand Jury report on the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in six dioceses in that state were absolutely devastating. The details of the abuse were heart-wrenching and made you want to throw up. How could priests do such awful things to innocent little children? Even worse, how could bishops cover up these crimes and not bring those predators to justice? Greater blame should be laid on the shoulders of bishops who turned a blind eye to these atrocities. Instead of protecting helpless, vulnerable children, these bad shepherds chose to guard the “reputation and image” of the Church. These crimes were perpetrated over a period of 70 years by 300 priests. They are reprehensible, horrible and indefensible. Every Catholic should be outraged.

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Precious Life

Five years ago I lost a priest friend and mentor. I was thinking about him just today. Fr Tom Enright was our neighbor. I got to know him when I came here to St Paul nine years ago. He was not merely an acquaintance; he was my occasional spiritual guide and trusted confidant. When you are a priest and are used to hearing the confessions of others, you look for a wise, older priest who can elicit trust to be your confessor. He was that priest for me. I used to go to him for confession. He always gave me solid spiritual counsel and encouragement. He had been a pastor in two different parishes and had a lot of experience leading congregations. When I had a doubt or a question regarding my role as pastor, I could always call on him. Over several years, he had been serving as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Ransom in Niles.

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Glory of God

On July 31st we will celebrate 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 St Peter’s Basilica the statues of the important founders of religious orders stand proudly bearing witness to the charisms that these saints brought to the Church and to the world. The statue of St Ignatius has the greatest prominence because he looks down on the centuries-old ancient statue of St Peter himself 

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Sinfulness & Forgiveness

On July 22nd we celebrate the feast of St Mary Magdalene who loved Jesus with a passionate love. For a long time in the Church there was this unquestioned belief that she was a prostitute. Even though certain gospel texts may bias us towards that assumption, it was Pope Gregory the great that firmly established this stereotype. In his Easter sermon he applauded her conversion from being a sinner to becoming the “apostle to the apostles.” She was the first one to encounter the Risen Lord and He entrusted her with the earth-shaking truth of His resurrection. We will not know for sure whether she was a sinner or she was a pious woman who ministered to Jesus from her resources. One thing is, however, certain: she loved the Lord passionately. She stood by the cross while His disciples ran away. She sought to anoint his body on Easter Sunday and was distraught because she could not find Him. It is her passionate love for the Lord that made her one of the most important figures of the Early Church.

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Family Life

Every time a national tragedy occurs (such as Park Land, FL) and young people are harmed, my heart goes out to the families that lost their loved ones. I cannot even imagine the tremendous sorrow and anguish that those families experience. In those horrible moments, friends and neighbors come together to sustain them. Without the solace of our faith or the support of our family and friends, we cannot survive such horrible losses in our lives. We need to retire to that safe haven that we call home. It is our family that sustains us in difficult times and nurtures us in ordinary times. As we enjoy more deliberate time with our families during the summer, I would like to invite us to enjoy our time together and, at the same time reflect on the importance of family life.

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God's Love

You know that popular saying… Time flies when you are having fun! Indeed, I don’t know where my time goes. On July 1st I completed nine years as your pastor. I want to thank each and every one of you for putting up with me. I am grateful to the Lord for having given me the privilege of serving in this faith community. None of us knows what the future holds. But looking back, I feel content that together we have done much to further God’s Kingdom here in Park Ridge.

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Our Father

As we draw closer to the Fourth of July, our thoughts and prayers automatically revolve around our nation. The present political climate and the tenor of our civic discourse give us cause for serious concern. Recently someone told me that last year families canceled Thanksgiving dinner because family members were so divided by their political affiliation that the dinner would turn into a riot. What a sad commentary on where we are! I wonder what the Fathers of our nation must be feeling right now. Everyone decries the animosity and rancor that are so manifest and yet no one knows how to bridge the chasm.

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Sts. Peter and Paul

On June 29th the Church celebrates the memory of two great saints, Peter and Paul, the patrons of the Eternal City. This celebration offers us an opportunity to reflect on the life and mission of these two stalwart apostles on whom our faith and Church are founded. While Peter was the head of the apostolic college who received the faith from the Master Himself, Paul was the great preacher who developed the Christian theology and took the Good News to distant shores. Even though they are two different individuals, on one thing they both concur – their intense, passionate love for Jesus Christ, the Lord.

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Who Goes to Hell

Over the last several weeks I have been mesmerized by the tantalizing images of the relentless lava flow on the main island of Hawaii. While my heart goes out to those who lost their homes to the volcano’s awesome destructive power, I cannot but marvel at the magnificent display of Mother Nature’s might. One day as I was staring at the images of glowing red lava starting fires everywhere set in bold relief against the darkness of the night, one question kept recurring in my mind: “Is this what hell looks like?”

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Who Goes to Heaven

The three Sundays that followed the Feast of the Ascension placed before us three important mysteries of our faith: The descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church, the Holy Trinity and the Eucharist. Even though these fundamental truths affect us here below, they also remind us of our destiny to be with the Lord in heaven. Just like the apostles on the day of the Ascension, we need to look up to the skies eagerly awaiting our reward in heaven. Because our earthly lives especially here in the US have improved so much in the last few decades, we can be earth-bound and lose sight of our heavenly destiny. We need to remember that we are meant to return to the garden from where we came.

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Reverence for the Eucharist

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

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Part of the Bigger Church

Just a week ago we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, the day the apostles received the Holy Spirit in the company of the Blessed Mother. On that day the Church was born. As Peter spoke of the mighty works of God in his own language, people speaking various other tongues understood him completely. God was bringing together people of every race, language and culture into His family of faith.

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Baptismal Font

From time to time someone would remark to me how beautiful our church looks! Ever since we did the painting and the re-decorating, the beauty of our church has been further enhanced. However, there is one piece that needs to be improved.

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Mary, Our Model

As we are in 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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First Holy Communion 2018

As you know, I try to go to India once a year to visit my family. 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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Vocations

This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday. On this day the gospel reading always speaks of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Traditionally on this Sunday we pray for vocations – to the priesthood, religious life and lay ministries in the Church. The Church needs shepherds who can tend the sheep. The shortage of priests in recent years makes the need for shepherds even more keenly felt. As more and more priests retire or die, there are not enough young men joining the ranks to fill their shoes.

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Mutual Support

Over the last few months we have celebrated three funerals of young people. I had to do a couple of those difficult funerals. I could not find the right words to console the grieving spouse or parent. Nothing I could say could lessen their sorrow or fill the hole in their hearts. In fact at one of those funerals I broke down. I could not remain emotionless while everyone else was in tears.

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Faith & Doubt

On the Second Sunday of Easter every year we hear the same gospel story that speaks of the Doubting Thomas. 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 2018

I wish each and every one of you the blessings of the Risen Lord. As we rise from the gloom of Good Friday, may our hearts be filled with the joy and hope of Easter! I have prayed for you during our Holy Week liturgies that the Risen Lord will dispel fear and doubt and fill us with courage and optimism. He has conquered sin and death, and what have we to fear? We are called to be the Easter people who bear witness to the power of His Resurrection.

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Palm Sunday 2018

Another season of Lent is almost over. We are now entering into the holiest of weeks when we will celebrate the mysteries of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. We are now ready to witness the end of our sojourners’ journey towards the Easter sacraments. How shall we celebrate our high holy days?

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St. Joseph

This Sunday the parish will celebrate “Festa” that enlists the services of numerous volunteers of every age, shape and form. It is a veritable parish celebration. For me it is heartwarming to see so many parishioners sharing food, conversation and fellowship with their friends and family. I am grateful to each and every one of the many volunteers who make this possible. I hate to say this, but it is true. This is our last Festa. After gloriously maintaining a parish tradition for forty-five years, this event is saying good-bye. I am grateful to all those who gave of themselves over the last four and a half decades in ways big and small to make this a truly St Paul of the Cross success. In particular I want to thank Tony and Rita Russo, and Paulette and Jim Marino who have carried the burden of leadership the last several years.

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Lent Almsgiving

In recent years and months, we have had so many natural disasters that devastate the lives of people – forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. Every time people appeal to us for help and every time you have responded generously. When I look back on the years I have been with you, this parish has given so much to so many to alleviate the needs of people near and far. While I applaud you for the way you attempt to ease the burdens of others, I want us to remember that helping those in need is a Christian duty. Our faith calls us to give and give without expecting a return.

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Penance

A group of Catholic grade school kids came up with the following definition: “Fast days are those in which you are supposed to eat in a hurry.” That explanation may make us smile but we know that fasting is very Catholic. For most of us, the season of Lent is synonymous with giving up something. Fasting is the second pillar of our Lenten observance. This season resounds with the Master’s call: “Deny yourself, take up your Cross and follow Me!”

Giving up food partially or totally for religious motives is found in virtually every religion. In the Hebrew Scriptures fasting was a means of repentance for sin, of remembrance of God’s deliverance from past sin, of supplication in time of calamity, of mourning for the dead, and of preparation for a great undertaking. In every case, fasting was considered a symbolic act of prayer and humility before God.

Influenced by Hellenistic philosophy, Early Church adopted fasting from food as a way of achieving bodily discipline in an effort to prepare the mind for contemplation and communion with God. When the period of Roman persecution was over, early Christians looked for another way of uniting themselves with the sufferings of Christ. In denying themselves food and drink, they found an effective way of becoming one with Christ on the Cross.

Doing external acts of penance is meaningless if it is not an outward expression of our inner conversion. The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes this point in the following way:

Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance. (#1430)

The practice of self-denial has a long tradition in our faith. Even though fasting from food is a good way to practice renunciation during Lent, there are many other ways of following Christ’s call to self-denial. For instance, giving up meat is not much of a penance for me because I enjoy eating fish. Giving up sweets or chocolate would cost me more. Giving up my time for others probably will be the greater sacrifice. For some of us, more than giving up food, being kind to those who are not kind to us will be a more meaningful penance. All of us are called upon to seek out ways to unite ourselves with the Suffering Servant of God.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Give up something meaningful.
  • Spend time with someone who is difficult to love.
  • Listen to an elderly person who tells the same story over and over again.
  • Resist the need to talk badly of another person.
  • Be kind to someone who disagrees with you on certain issues.
  • Be patient with a difficult co-worker.
  • Try not to grumble about Chicago weather.
  • Pray for those who hurt you.
  • Refuse to criticize someone who fails to meet your standards.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in traffic.
  • Delay gratification.
  • Refuse to air your complaints.
  • Don’t protest if someone slights you.
  • Be a humble servant when someone treats you like one.

Let us remember that often the best mortifications are not those that we seek out, but those that come our way. As St John Vianney (The Cure of Ars) said, “There are people who make capital out of everything, even the winter. If it is cold, they offer their little sufferings to God.”

By doing these little acts of penance, we attempt to partake in Jesus’ suffering. In some way we are concretely responding to the call of the Master Who said, “If you want to be my disciple, deny yourself, take up your Cross and follow Me!” It is not the size of our penance that matters. What matters is the spirit with which we mortify ourselves. What matters is our heart.

May we partake of Christ’s suffering in some small way so that we can partake fully in His glory!

Lent Prayer

We are already into the Lenten season. The ashes we received on Ash Wednesday remind us of Christ’s call to repentance as expressed in the words said during their imposition: “Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel!” Borrowing the words of Paul we can say, “Lent is the acceptable time, a time of grace.” As we begin this holy season I would like to invite all of us to embark on a journey of conversion and spiritual renewal.

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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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Self-Promotion

Thank God the year 2017 was not a major election year and we were spared the barrage of political advertising. Every time I am relieved once the election season is over. Especially these days, political campaigns seem to be unending. More than the endless stream of ads, what irks me is the negative tone of those TV commercials. As the years go by, we are witnessing more negative and more mean-spirited campaigns.

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Martin Luther King

I cannot believe that fifty years have passed since our nation lost one of her greatest sons. Last week we remembered Martin Luther King Jr. Thanks to his tireless efforts not only African Americans have seen a new day. The whole nation has been transformed and a radical consciousness has been awakened regarding the fundamental dignity of every person.

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Cognitive Monority

Sometime ago I heard a remark that I have heard so many times before. My friend said, “The one ‘ism’ that is totally acceptable today in America is anti-Catholicism. The one group you can ridicule and get away with is the Catholic Church.” Even though I fully concurred with her observation, my mind went in a different direction. I feel that anti-Catholic feelings will continue to persist because of what we stand for and because of what the world prefers to espouse.

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True Freedom

After my arrival in the US 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 or anything to restrict or compromise our freedom in any way. That is why the fight over such issues as abortion and gun control will never end. 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.

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The Holy Family

I hope that you have recovered from the stress of preparing for and celebrating Christmas. I also hope that the celebration brought you much joy and peace, that it brought your family together. No matter how old I get, I always have a special feeling around Christmas. The Nativity scene, the carols, the Midnight Mass, and the happy faces of people make me want to bottle that feeling and hold on to it for the New Year. 

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Christmas 2017

On behalf of the entire parish community, please accept my sincere wishes for a blessed Christmas and a grace-filled New Year. May the Christ Child fill you and your loved ones with His peace and joy, and may His gifts stay with you always! I will certainly remember you and your family in my Christmas Masses.

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Love & Believe

What better way is there to prepare for Christmas than to reflect on the individuals who were central to the birth of the Lord? Next week we shall look at Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This week I would like to call your attention to that just man, Joseph, who quietly collaborated in God’s plan of salvation. Only the Gospel of Matthew offers details about him. The evangelist contrasts Joseph with Herod, the wicked king, whose sole mission in life was to destroy the New-born King of Israel. In the mind of the gospel writer, Joseph is like his namesake in the Old Testament. Like Joseph of old, he receives God’s message through visions and dreams; and, like Joseph of old, he furthers God’s plan in spite of setbacks and paradoxes.

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Rejoice in the Lord

With the First Sunday of Advent we move towards the great feast of our salvation. With Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi, we prepare ourselves for the birth of our Lord. In the Gospel of Luke, Mary is presented as the joyful woman of faith who rejoices in God her Savior. Having seen the mighty works of God wrought in her and in her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, she gives praise to God. During this Advent season let us keep before us the words of our Blessed Mother as our focal point: “My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior” (Luke 1:47). We are invited to join Mary in recognizing the presence of God in our lives and rejoice in God, our Savior.

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Have Thine Own Way, Lord

As she sat in a prayer meeting early in the last century, Adelaide Pollard was so depressed that she could hardly concentrate. She had felt a heavy burden in her heart for the continent of Africa and was convinced that God wanted her to go there as a missionary. She had been on the verge of preparing to sail when it was evident that the necessary funds could not be raised and her plans had to be canceled. Into her dark mood a few words filtered. They were part of the prayer of an elderly lady she knew: “It’s all right, Lord! It doesn’t matter what you bring into our lives; just have your own way with us!” As soon as she muttered those words, her burden was lifted. In her submission to God’s will, she had found peace.

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His Way

For us Americans kings and queens are as exotic and unfamiliar as are dragons and dungeons. On the last Sunday of the liturgical year we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Often I wonder how much Catholics understand the significance of this celebration. What do we really mean when we say that Christ should be the king and center of our hearts?

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Thanksgiving 2017

Some time ago I was in the car with another driver and she was driving. At one point, some other car wanted to get in from one of the side roads. The traffic was heavy and everyone was trying to get ahead. The driver in my car, out of the goodness of her heart, let the car in. After the other driver pulled ahead she just kept going. My friend in the car was quite upset because the other person did not even acknowledge the gesture.

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Remembering the Dear Departed

 November 5th we celebrated a special Mass for all those who passed from our parish and entered eternal life. It afforded us a moment to grieve and at the same time to gratefully remember the love we have for all our dear departed. Masses offered for the dead constitute a uniquely Catholic practice that expresses a fundamental Catholic belief. We believe that once they cross the bridge the deceased are unable to help themselves. However, we the living can always intercede with the Lord for them.

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Blessed Newman

Every year, just before the Feast of All Souls the Church celebrates the memory of saints who have not been raised to the honors of the altar. These are the unsung heroes of our faith – our parents, friends, relatives and others – who have lived the Gospel in their daily lives. With this feast the Church wants to remind us that holiness is within our reach and that it comes in several different forms.

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Pilgrimage to Rome

From the earliest days of Christianity going on pilgrimages has been a laudable and sacred undertaking. Even in other religions the faithful brave the hardships of travel so that they may obtain forgiveness for their sins. Observant Muslims go to Mecca for that purpose and so do Hindus to the River Ganges. The purpose of a pilgrimage is not merely to see some sacred places but to recommit oneself to one’s faith.

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Why Sunday Mass

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

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Called to be Missionaries

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

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Respect for Life

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

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Care for the Poor

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

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Spirituality of Brokenness

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

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Worry & Trust

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

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Fear & Faith

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

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To Children & Young People

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

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Continuity

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

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Life Lessons

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

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Pray Without Ceasing

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

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Awe Before The Trinity

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

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Uncompromising Fidelity

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

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How the Story Ends

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

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Rest, Retreat, & Renew

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

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Anger Management

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

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Embracing the Present

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

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Back in His Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spirit in The Church

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

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Tolerance

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

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Our Moms

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

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Redemptive Work

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

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Faith in Spite of Fear

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

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Easter 2017

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

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Crucifixion Goes On

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

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Rome Trip

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

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The Forgotten Saint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toward Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change of Heart

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

Read more: Change of Heart

Open Your Heart to the Lord

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

Read more: Open Your Heart to the Lord

2017 Annual Catholic Appeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholic Schools Week 2017

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

Read more: Catholic Schools Week 2017

Unity in Church & Nation

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

Read more: Unity in Church & Nation

Path to Freedom

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

Read more: Path to Freedom

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

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Contact Information

St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068


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

Mass Schedule

Sunday

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

Monday - Friday

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

Saturday

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