Letters from Fr. Francis
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Letters from Fr. Francis:
August 9, 2020 - Finding God Amidst the Storms of Life
In today’s Gospel, the Apostles are in their boat headed across the lake when a storm suddenly comes upon them and the wind and the waves begin to batter their boat. Even though many of them were experienced fishermen, they were afraid because of the intensity of the storm. Their safety was in doubt and they faced the very real possibility of sinking and drowning.
Jesus sees them struggling and comes to them. He comes to calm their fears and to save them from the storm. He even allows Peter to join him walking on the water. As long as Peter keeps his eyes focused on the Lord, he walks on the water. His faith is stronger than the storm. But when he focuses on the wind and the waves, his fear returns and he begins to sink.
The lesson is clear for all of us. We all face different storms in our lives. Right now, we are all facing storms brought on by: COVID, reopening schools, economic challenges, social unrest, political unrest, etc. It’s easy to focus on these storms and to feel overwhelmed by them. It’s easy to become fearful of what might happen to us or to those we love. But rather than focus on the storm, the problem, the sudden loss of control we feel, we should instead focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s in those moments that we should ask the Lord to be with us, to give us courage, to help us to remember that, with Jesus at our side, we are greater than any storm we might face in life.
How do we turn to the Lord? Through prayer. Not just by reciting a rote memorized prayer but by opening our hearts to the Lord. Cry out with all your heart! Talk to Jesus as you would talk to a friend. Let him know your fears, your doubts, where it is you are struggling. Ask him for the courage and the strength to overcome the storm and to calm your heart and your mind and to restore your peace and your confidence.
We can turn to the Lord in prayer in the quiet of our rooms, when we take a walk or as we sit in our garden. We can also come and sit with the Lord when we come to church for prayer and Adoration on Tuesday nights from 7-8pm. And the best way to encounter the Lord is when we receive him in the Eucharist at 10am Mass on Sunday or on Friday mornings at 8am.
It’s also there at the Mass that we experience the love and support of our community. We never have to go through our storms alone. We belong to a parish to walk through life together as disciples, as beloved sons and daughters of God our father, and as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. Loving each other as Christ taught us; forgiving one another as he taught; and lifting each other up as he taught us.
We all face storms from time to time. But with God’s grace, and our faith in Jesus Christ, we can overcome them together. As a parish community united in faith, we can help each other to keep our eyes focused on the Lord.
August 2, 2020 - Tuesday Holy Hour & Friday Mass
July 26, 2020 - Pope Francis - How to discern if God or Satan is speaking
The voice of God never forces us: God proposes Himself, He does not impose Himself. Instead, the evil voice seduces, assails, forces: it arouses dazzling illusions, emotions that are tempting but transient.
At first it flatters, it makes us believe that we are all-powerful, but then it leaves us empty inside and accuses us: “You are worth nothing”. The voice of God, instead, corrects us, with great patience, but always encourages us, consoles us: it always nourishes hope.
The voice of God is a voice that has a horizon, whereas the voice of evil leads you to a wall, it backs you into a corner.
Another difference. The voice of the enemy distracts us from the present and wants us to focus on fears of the future or sadness about the past – the enemy does not want the present – it brings to the surface the bitterness, the memories of the wrongs suffered, of those who have hurt us, many bad memories. Instead, the voice of God speaks to the present: “Now you can do good, now you can exercise the creativity of love, now you can renounce the regrets and remorse that hold your heart captive”. It inspires us, it leads us ahead, but it speaks in the present: now.
Again: the two voices raise different questions in us. That which comes from God will be: “What is good for me?” Instead the tempter will insist on another question: “What do I feel like doing?” What I feel like: the evil voice always revolves around the ego, its impulses, its needs, everything straight away. It is like the tantrums of a child: everything, and now. The voice of God, instead, never promises joy at a low price: it invites us to go beyond our ego to find the true good, peace.
Let us remember: evil never gives us peace, it causes frenzy first and leaves bitterness later. This is the style of evil.
The voice of God and that of the tempter, finally, speak in different “environments”: the enemy prefers darkness, falsehood, and gossip; the Lord loves sunlight, truth, and sincere transparency.
The enemy will say to us: “Close yourself up in yourself, besides no-one understands and listens to you, don’t trust anyone!” Goodness, on the contrary, invites us to open up, to be clear and trusting in God and in others.
July 12, 2020 - We Have A Mission
We all share in that mission. Jesus expects each of us to make that mission our own and to share this good news with others in the context of our lives. What that looks like for me will be different from what it looks like for a young person in their teens or a married couple with three kids or for one of our Boomers. We each have different gifts and we are at different points in our lives and spiritual journeys. As St. Paul says, “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” (1 Corinithians 12:4-11)
So regardless of where we are in life, God wants to work through each of us to proclaim the Gospel for the benefit of those around us. To be his witnesses in the world, to bear fruit and to build the Kingdom of God. That is our mission as baptized Christians.
To help re-instill that sense of mission, you’ll be hearing a lot from me throughout the year about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and what it means to be a member of St. Josaphat Parish. I also want to know your expectations of our parish, and how we can best serve you. Next Sunday I will explore that a bit more, but I thought we would start with what we at St. Josaphat expect of our parishioners: Worship, Serve, Grow & Give.
Worship - We expect our parishioners to come to Mass every Sunday either in person or online. This is not a Fr. Francis rule. This is an expectation from God, “Remember to keep Holy the Sabbath.” We come to church on Sunday to worship and praise God for the many gifts and blessings he has bestowed upon us in life and continues to bestow on us through the sacraments, most especially through the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that we participate in Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection and accept Jesus into our lives when we receive his body and blood. That’s why the Eucharist is considered, “the source and summit of the Christian life.” And by coming together as a community, we are reminded that we are called to be the Body of Christ in our world and to serve one another as Christ taught us.
Serve - We expect our parishioners to serve our parish community. As a friend recently put it to me, “Don’t just sit in the boat. Pick up an oar and row!” Being a parishioner is not a passive engagement with the Church. The Church has a mission and you’re a part of making that mission a reality. We need you. And we expect you to be an active and engaged member of this parish. You each have gifts and talents that God has blessed you with. Share them with the community. If you enjoy singing, join the choir. If you play an instrument, talk to Joe about playing with him at Mass. If you’re comfortable with public speaking, be a lector. Volunteer with Don’s Helping Hands by making sandwiches or handing out lunches to our guests. Lead a Bible study or start a faith sharing group. Get involved with our Finance Council or Facilities Committee. And if you like working with kids, consider helping with our Roots Youth Group or Religious Education program. Bottom line, if you have time you’re willing to give or a talent you’re willing to share, we’ll find a way for you to get involved in our parish. Just email me, and I will connect you. FrFrancis@stjosaphatparish.org
Grow - We expect our parishioners to keep growing in their relationship with God. Throughout the year we host a myriad of opportunities for people to come together and explore their faith and worship together. We offer Alpha, bible studies, the Men’s Spirituality Group and Women’s Group, Nativity Nights, our Lenten Parish Mission, Taize, etc. We want our parishioners to take advantage of these opportunities and grow in their relationship with God. There should never come a point when we feel like our relationship is “good enough.” Our God is a God of infinite love, infinite goodness and infinite mercy. He’s always looking for opportunities to draw us deeper into a relationship with Him. There’s always room for growth!
I hope these expectations make sense and illustrate how each of us is called to serve the Church and embrace the mission that Christ gave us. We will talk more about what it means to be missionary disciples throughout the year in homilies, bulletin articles and in sacramental preparation with parents and students in the school and religious education program.
My hope is that by working together we can claim our sense of mission as baptized Christians, that we can create a culture where every parishioner knows that they are important and valued, and that we can share our God-given gifts by building God’s Kingdom.
Your Brother in Christ,
June 21, 2020 - Happy Father's Day
you entrusted your Son Jesus,
the child of Mary,
to the care of Joseph,
an earthly father.
Bless all fathers
as they care for their families.
Give them wisdom and strength,
tenderness and patience,
and let their faith and love
shine forth for their children.
And grant that we, their sons and daughters,
may always show them the love and respect they deserve.
June 14, 2020 - Welcoming People Back to Church
I look forward to seeing all of you again soon!
June 7, 2020 - Deacon Arthur Bautista
June 3, 2020 - The Golden Rule
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
It is with great sadness that I write to you. By now we are all aware of the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd while in police custody. The video of Mr. Floyd lying helpless on the ground begging for help as he struggled to breathe is excruciating and heartbreaking to watch.
It is also with great sadness that we have watched peaceful protests turn violent in our city and others across the nation. The destruction by an angry few have marred this important moment for us to reflect on the tragic history of racism and inequality in our country.
There is an obvious desire to rush to a return to normalcy. For things to calm down and go back to the way things were. But that would be to ignore the problem. The way things were was broken. It is precisely the status quo in race relations and the way African-Americans and other people of color are forced to go about their daily lives that is prompting protestors to demand a change.
I think it is important for us to acknowledge the pain, the fear and the confusion we are experiencing in this moment and to see it as an opportunity to enter into solidarity with those who are treated differently because of their skin color. In this brief moment, we are experiencing just a small taste of what it is like to “walk a mile in another person’s shoes.”
But where do we go from here? How can we be the change?
The answer lies in our Catholic faith. Jesus teaches us to follow the Golden Rule, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) And again Jesus teaches us, “By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
If we want to see real changes in our country and in our world, we need to honor and respect each and every person we encounter. To treat them as we would want ourselves to be treated. Or even better, to treat each and every person as if they were Jesus Christ. This is at the heart of what it means to be Christian. That’s why Jesus tells his disciples, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) It is most especially in the poor, the marginalized and those different from us that Jesus wants us to see him. He wants us to love them as we would love him.
Our world will be healed when we live our Christian faith out to the full and teach others to do the same. That’s why we have to use our prophetic voices to challenge society when we see people being discriminated against and marginalized. We have to work for peace and justice not just for ourselves but for everyone.
Let this moment be a wake up call for us as to what it truly means to be Catholic and a disciple of Jesus Christ. The world needs us to step up. It is especially now that the world needs the Catholic Church. Catholic means to be universal. The Catholic Church reaches out all over the globe. We have disciples in nearly every nation on earth. Men, women and children of every race and skin color. We are blessed by our wonderful diversity while still maintaining our incredible unity. By the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are saved. And he has commanded us to bring that Gospel, that Good News, to all the world. To proclaim to all peoples that we have been made brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and beloved sons and daughters of God our Father. We are united in love.
May we proclaim that truth boldly and loudly! And may we make the Prayer of St. Francis our mantra during this time of darkness so as to bring light, hope and healing to our world.
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May 31, 2020 - Congratulations to Our Graduates!
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