Letters from Fr. Francis
We are here for you!
Letters from Fr. Francis:
May 24, 2020 - Memorial Day
May 17, 2020 - Celebrating the Sacraments
The Archdiocese of Chicago in consultation with government officials and health experts is working on policies and procedures to slowly open our churches for the celebration of the sacraments and for personal times of prayer. I am currently recruiting volunteers from the parish to help us open the church and maintain a clean, healthy and safe worship environment. We will be going through a mandated Archdiocesan training program on how to properly sanitize the church to ensure that all of our parishioners experience a clean (yet welcoming) space when they come to pray or celebrate the sacraments.
We will be opening the church by phases. There are strict criteria that need to be met in order to open and hold services. In the first phase, we are limited to 10 people in church for prayer or to celebrate the sacraments. Consequently, we will not be getting back to our normal celebration of our Sunday liturgies for quite some time. We will begin with more manageable celebrations like baptisms, reconciliation, funerals and weddings for 10 people or less. And we will be working on offering opportunities for up to 10 parishioners to come and pray for short times. All of this will happen gradually and in accordance with all of the policies and procedures outlined by the Archdiocese of Chicago in consultation with state and local authorities.
I thank all of you for your patience during this time. Your health and safety are very important to me. So I want to assure you that we will do everything that the Archdiocese asks of us to open our church safely. We will be sending emails and posting information to our website and social media with the information you will need about when the church will be open, what to expect when you come to church, and how you should prepare yourselves for entering the church and practicing healthy distancing while you are here.
However, I also recognize that not everyone is going to feel comfortable coming back to church right away, even with the safety protocols in place. Many of you may decide to continue to shelter in place and practice more stringent social distancing either out of precaution for yourselves or those you love.
If this is your plan, I want to especially remind you that you don’t need to come to church to celebrate the sacraments. You are already living the sacraments each day as you go about your lives. When you exercise charity and concern for family, friends and neighbors, you are living out your baptism in being a disciple of Jesus Christ. When you offer forgiveness to a family member, friend or roommate who trespassed against you, you extend the mercy of Christ to them and participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When you exercise wisdom, prudence, temperance, right judgment or courage in dealing with this pandemic and making decisions to protect yourself and others, you are using the gifts the Holy Spirit gave you in the Sacrament of Confirmation. And when you show your spouse or your children love and take care of each other during this trying time, you are most definitely living out the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
In short, the sacraments are not prizes to be handed out in church. Disciples are meant to be the very embodiment of the sacraments they received. You are already living a sacramental life right now. The Eucharist, as the source and summit of our faith, helps us to be filled with grace to keep living a sacramental life. But we are not devoid of the sacraments without it. Indeed, many Christians around the world do not have the opportunity to receive the Eucharist on a regular basis because of a lack of priests, religious persecution or because of other obstacles, like pandemics, that make frequent reception of communion impossible. But they still live sacramental and saintly lives nonetheless.
I eagerly look forward to celebrating the Eucharist with all of you as soon as possible. But we must proceed with prudence and with caution. We will follow every guideline that the Archdiocese of Chicago and our government leaders and health experts advise. Not because politicians tell us to, but because Jesus does, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends... this I command you: love one another.” At St. Josaphat Parish we will continue to show our love for one another by how we care for each other during this pandemic. That means following the advice of health professionals and doing all that we can to ensure a safe and healthy worship environment when we gather for prayer and to celebrate the sacraments together.
I look forward to sharing more information as we plan for the reopening our church.
May 10, 2020 - Happy Mother's Day!
May 3, 2020 - Finding God Amidst the Delays
April 26, 2020 - Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos Challenge
April 19, 2020 - Guest Column by Deacon Jack Staub on Divine Mercy Sunday
In 1930s Poland, a nun from a poor farming family, Sr. Faustina, had a vision of Jesus in which he asked her to have a painting made of him with red and white rays coming from his heart. For many years she continued to receive messages from Jesus focusing on his Divine Mercy. She kept a diary of what she heard. Then Pope John Paul II declared Sr. Faustina a Saint in 2000 and declared that the second Sunday of Easter would be Divine Mercy Sunday.
That doesn't mean that we just discovered that God is merciful. We embrace Divine Mercy because it is a particular trait of God. He is merciful and has always been.
Is this the view of God that we have? We may think that mercy and justice are opposed to each other but they are not. They are intimately tied together. We cannot know mercy without justice. Does mercy mean that if I don't study for a class the merciful thing for the teacher is to give me a good grade? Of course not, because that would say there's no need to study.
Mercy is when love meets sorrow and attempts to remove the sorrow. Mercy can only exist because of injustice. In the situation we’re in right now, there are a lot of opportunities for mercy.
Think about the parable where workers went to work in the field. Some started early in the day and others started later in the day yet they all got paid the same. This seems like injustice to the workers who started early in the day. If that happened today there might be a lawsuit!
But the workers who arrived late have the same needs to provide for themselves as the early workers. The landowner, in mercy, met their needs, but he paid the price. Mercy involves someone paying the price for injustice.
Divine Mercy is the remedy for the misery of sin, which is a barrier to knowing the true love of God. Have you ever done anything that made you think you were beyond God's mercy? Like, “I blew it and there is no way back.”
In the parable of the Prodigal son, the younger son thought he had done something that was beyond forgiveness, yet his father offered mercy that is possible only with great love. Sometimes we can think that our sin is stronger than God’s mercy. That isn’t true or even possible. God’s mercy is infinitely stronger than our sins.
The ways of God are meant to open us up to love in ways that will lead us to conversion of our heart and mind. This happens when we stop saying to God "I have a better plan.” God always wants our return to him to be easy. He wants to take away the burden that sin puts upon us. He isn't looking to humiliate us when we return to him, but he happily welcomes us home
We have to be open to receiving God’s mercy. Jesus tells St. Faustina “Let my mercy in to act on your soul; let the rays of grace enter your soul.” God desires that we receive his grace and mercy, yet it’s our doubts and sin that keeps us from accepting all that he offers us.
What can we do to receive his Divine Mercy? First, we should recognize our need for it. We can show this most especially in the sacrament of reconciliation (when it again becomes available to us.) Do we think we're beyond God's forgiveness? Divine Mercy shows us that it is impossible to be beyond God's mercy and forgiveness.
We can bring God’s love to many by showing mercy in our own lives. God's mercy is so against what we see in our world that it will stand out and people will be drawn to it like a bear to honey. Our sin is so weak compared to God’s Divine Mercy.
Know that God loves you and desires that you know him and love him. There is nothing that we can do that changes who God is. He always wants us and he shows it through his Divine Mercy.
April 12, 2020 - The Empty Tomb
Have a Happy Easter,
April 4, 2020 - Celebrating Holy Week as a Parish, and as an Archdiocese
March 28, 2020 - Being Reconciled To God During COVID-19
Given that our churches are closed and a stay-at-home order is in effect:
- Individual confessions are currently not possible; this includes virtual or phone confessions, which are never permissible, nor drive-thru confessions. Despite the good intentions around such novelty, we must attend to our underlying theological tradition of the sacrament, as well as support the stay-at-home order and its intended purpose – to keep people safe in their homes at this time.
- In keeping with longstanding pastoral practice when penitents’ access to the sacrament is restricted, they can be assured that their sins are forgiven if they make an act of contrition with a firm resolve to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation after the stay-at-home order is lifted.
- The faithful should be encouraged to pray particular prayers or meditate on passages of the bible that you recommend to assist them in seeking the mercy and forgiveness of God and the grace of reconciliation.
- The Holy See has made clear with a recent decree concerning the Sacrament of Reconciliation from the Apostolic Penitentiary that the conditions for general absolution have not been met. The decree states that the primary place it would be permitted is in a hospital ward. However, our hospitals are not currently set up for this possibility. At the same time, any thought of using general absolution in a parish is moot given that gatherings of people in our churches are not permitted.
In short, it is not possible to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation from a priest at this time. But that doesn’t mean that the Lord doesn’t know our hearts and our desire for repentance. The Lord hears us whenever we call on him in faith.
Here are some scripture passages that you might find helpful in praying to God for mercy and forgiveness of your sins:
- Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2
- For the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9b
- Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:4-8
There are literally hundreds of passages in sacred scripture that speak of God’s never-ending mercy. And we know the season of lent is all about returning to the Lord with our whole heart. Our lenten hymn reminds us, “Return to Me with all your heart, the source of grace and mercy, come seek the tender faithfulness of God.”
My brothers and sisters, I pray that you may experience the tender mercy of God as we prepare for Easter. And know of my continued prayers for all of you as we journey together through this health crisis. I eagerly look forward to the day when we can celebrate the Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation together as a community.
March 20, 2020
March 13, 2020