Listen to Him!

Excerpts from Fr. John’s article in the August 5, 2017 Bulletin:

It was also on that Mountain of Transfiguration that God says about Jesus: “This is my Beloved Son! Listen to him.” Every day Orthodox Jews say the Shema; “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one,” taken from Deuteronomy 6:4. The emphasis is on hearing God. The Rule of St. Benedict, which has guided western monasticism for more than 1450 years, begins with the word “listen”: “Listen, O my son, to the master’s instructions, and incline the ear of your heart…” One of my favorite commentaries on the Rule of St. Benedict is by Esther de Waal, Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict. She notes:

“The very first word of the Rule is ‘listen.’  From the start the disciple’s goal is to hear keenly and sensitively that Word of God which is not only message but event and encounter.  This is the start of a life-long process of learning, and the whole of the monastery is set out as a school of the Lord’s service, a place and a structure to encourage the dialogue of master and disciple, in which the ability to listen is fundamental.”

 

How do we listen to Jesus? God commands it, so how is it done 2000 years after he was born and lived among us? First, his words and teaching are recorded in Scripture. We need to study the Scripture, not just for information but to know the thoughts and heart of Jesus. There is a prayerful way of reading Scripture where we listen for the voice of God to speak in our hearts. St. Jerome, an early Church Scripture scholar, famously said: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

We also hear Christ speak to in the Liturgy of the Word in the Mass, as well as other sacramental celebrations. As the Catechism teaches: “Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations…He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church.” (CCC#1088)

 

The way we most experience God is in prayer, both liturgical and alone; we encounter God and receive his vision and are lifted up by his Presence. The mountain reminds us that we need to take time to go up the mountain to pray. It leads to transformation.

Download the full article:  Listen to Him

Catholics on the Move

COTM (Catholics On the Move) was inspired by a vision that began with Letty Valentin, our Pastoral Associate/Liturgy and Adult Faith Formation catholics on the move logoDirector, while she attended the annual Summer Scripture Seminar at St. Mary of the Lakes University in Mundelein, ILL.

I have been attending the Scripture Seminar for the last 10 years and each time I have returned inspired and energized by the knowledge and challenges the scripture scholars present to the participants. The year of 2015 was no different, except that the Holy Spirit inspired and guided me into a new vision. The topic for the 2015 Seminar was “Parables”. Although I still cannot figure out how the Parables led me to COTM, I was consumed by the fire of the Lord’s message to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel.

I suppose that part of it was that every speaker began and ended their presentation expressing a profound concern for what they described as a prevalent lack of understanding and adequate knowledge of the faith in Catholic communities. The ignorance or misunderstanding of our faith can make a Catholic vulnerable and susceptible to all kinds of misrepresentations that easily become a threat to our faith by misguiding us towards spiritually dangerous paths. This can lead to confusion, spiritual apathy or indifference, even for the most faithful and devoted Catholics.

This concern expressed by some of the finest Scripture Scholars in the country, echoed what has been shared by many of our parishioners at Holy Faith: “We want to learn more and grow more in our faith”. This need has been discussed and explored for many years at our parish in different forums and ways. Many needs and concerns have been expressed, including concerns for the future of our Catholic faith, the disconnection of our Millennial young adults, the challenges to our traditional Catholic values, and the confusion that comes from all forms of media propaganda, all claiming to represent the Catholic faith. What has been consistent in every situation is a profound hunger for understanding our faith and for opportunities to grow and encounter the Lord. Every time we talk, at every meeting, at Mass, at every gathering, there is a deep hunger and longing for understanding our faith and our Church. No doubt in my mind, the Holy Spirit has been moving among us awakening our hearts for a pretty long time!

COTM began embracing the principle that our adult Catholic faith can only be properly shaped and grow when we hold tight to our roots and our foundation: JESUS, in whom we move, and live, and have our being. Jesus formed us as a body, His Body, he sustains us as His Body, and he sends us in mission as His Body. Forming our faith has more to do with believing in Jesus and accepting the consequences of living in love! Our Adult Faith Formation journey is based on recognizing this Jesus every time he comes across and reveals himself to us: when praying, when listening, when learning, when serving, when loving, when hurting and when rejoicing. In each of these revelations Jesus is our first teacher and our guide. He sets the agenda and gives us the mission. Jesus gives us the curriculum, and everything we learn has to be put to the test against our apostolic mission to spread the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.

With our new building, beautiful and very impressive, the Lord has given us another opportunity to have a proper place to get trained for our mission, to be formed, to learn, and to gather. However, our first and most important lesson, our first encounter is always at the Liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the source and summit of all our activity. It is at the Liturgy, in the liturgical action of the Eucharist, where our lives are interpreted, our whole being is transformed, and we are sent out to do the work of the Lord.

COTM is not envisioned as a “program”. It is not a group you belong to or participate in. COTM is like a “the Catholic condition”. If you have been baptized, you are a Catholic On The Move. You may need to figure out how you are moving and where you are going, but you are on the move! The first thing to do is to recognize that Jesus is already present within each one of us, in our families, in our parish community, and in our Church. We don’t have to “make him present”. No matter how “ignorant” we feel, how sinful, how confused we are, Jesus is with and among us, all the time, every day, every minute of our existence. We don’t have to create a special “program” or an event, or a strategy to find him or learn from him. All we have to do is to recognize him at every moment and allow him to be our teacher, our guide, and our inspiration. We don’t have the luxury of growing stale or falling asleep! As Catholics, we must keep on moving, but moving in the right direction.

We publish a weekly Catholics on the Move flyer with updates to all events, gatherings and other opportunities, to help everyone get ‘on the move…’. Make sure to pick up the information flyer at the doors of the church, in the office or in the Parish Life Center.  You will learn more about COTM and you will see the list of some of the opportunities to encounter the Lord through prayer, learning, and coming together. These opportunities reflect not only new initiatives but also highlights the opportunities that already exist in our parish. If you are homebound or if you know of anyone who is, they also are part of COTM. They will also have the opportunity to pray and support specific brothers and sisters who are in need, especially in need of mercy and compassion. In doing so, they too will be witnesses of the Lord and will be on the move…

This initiative has been a year in the making with the help and support of our Adult Faith Formation Committee, our Parish Staff, and each person who responded to the survey in January 2016. What you see is the result of prayer, enthusiasm, and a great conviction that the Spirit is moving in Holy Faith Parish, strong, vibrant, and joyful!’

“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagle’s wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Let’s move and keep on moving!

Letty Valentin, Pastoral Associate / Liturgy & Adult Faith Formation Director 

Catholic Teaching on Cremated Remains

Right before the “Month of Remembering the Dead” (November), The Vatican issued a new document called “To Rise With Christ.” It reminds Catholics that when one cremates the body of the deceased, one should not keep the cremated remains at home or divide the cremated remains among family and friends nor scatter the remains. Obviously, the Church would not speak about such things unless they are happening more and more.

There was a time when the Church opposed cremation because it was often practiced by atheists to deny the resurrection of the body. This reason would be rare today and since the Second Vatican Council (in 1963), the Church permits cremation with funeral services while still preferring to have the body at the funeral Wake and Mass, though cremated remains are permitted. Then the remains should be buried, like a body (which it is, but as “dust”) in a grave or placed in a columbarium. The final resting place of a Christian should be sacred and so blessed.

Some may be surprised that the Church puts such emphasis on the body (and by extension, the cremated body). Some confused Christians have wrongly seen the body as the enemy of the soul. This is definitively contradicted by the Son of God being born in a human body. We not only reverence his Body but also the human body of every person. As Archbishop John Joseph Meyers, Bishop of Newark, wrote: “For a Christian, the body’s significance is good, inescapable, and central; Christianity itself cannot be understood apart from an appreciation of the body.”

St. Paul wrote: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The Church has now recently reminded us that just as the body of the deceased is handled with respect and reverenced in the funeral and lovingly buried afterward, so the cremated remains of the deceased should receive a similar respect. We would not keep a dead body in our home or cut it into pieces and scatter it about. Neither should we keep the cremated ashes at home or scatter them.

The new document also says that we bury bodies and so should also bury cremated remains (which are actually a body turned to dust) in imitation of Christ himself who died and was buried in a tomb.

But perhaps what might most make sense to us is the need to have a place which is a final resting place for the body (or its remains) where the person’s name is remembered and the time they lived and which can be visited by not only family, but by friends and future generations.

I was somewhat surprised as I was researching the web about cremation practices, that one site explaining how to scatter the cremated remains, in fairness gave a note of caution. It said one might consider the value of burial or internment for these reasons:

“The emotional value of establishing a permanent place to visit is worthy of consideration. Memorialisation is a tribute to the deceased, and also a service to the living. The gesture of visiting a site and seeing the deceased’s name can provide comfort. Memorialisation is not just for family and friends, but for everyone whose lives were touched by the deceased. It is also for the generations that follow who will want to connect with their heritage. Without memorialisation, all traces of the deceased are lost forever.”