|Calling Joyful Shepherds|
This year we will ordain five new priests for the Diocese of Joliet. While this quantity is outstanding, so is their quality. These five men are young, intelligent, faith filled, pastoral and enthusiastic, and they all strive for holiness. They easily could have followed one of many good and exciting career paths offered by the world. Counterculturally, they heard the call of the Lord and responded by choosing to follow the call to the vocation of ordained priesthood.
We are blessed in the Diocese of Joliet to have 23 seminarians studying for the priesthood. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. Encouraging young men to consider the priesthood is the responsibility of the entire people of God.
The question becomes, “How do we invite and encourage others to discern a life to the priesthood or religious life?” Most of us, I hope, feel comfortable praying for vocations and donating to our Seminarian Endowment Fund to help cover the costs of seminarian formation. However, when it comes to proactively inviting others to it, we can become tongue-tied and need help as to what we should say and do.
For that reason, I just recently sent an inspiring little book to all the priests in the Diocese of Joliet called, “Five Conversations about the Priesthood,” by Father Michael Pratt. Studies show that the local priest is one of the most influential factors for their parishioners discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. This book provides a simple and solid roadmap to intentionally encourage others to discern a priestly vocation.
Father Pratt’s book gives five practical ways to talk about the following:
*The Eucharist in the priest’s life.
*The Sacrament of Penance.
While this book is geared to our priests, you might also want to consider reading it. A quick internet search of the title, or a visit to https://vianneyvocations.com will provide ordering instructions.
Just about all recently ordained priests throughout the country commonly report one of the reasons they took the leap of faith to actively discern the priesthood and to enter the seminary is that someone specifically invited them to do so. Just one voice has the power to break through all their doubts, fears and negative messaging about becoming a priest. My hope is that before we approach eternal life, we will be able to name someone specifically that we encouraged to discern the priesthood or religious life.
This may be hard to believe, but there are many parents who explicitly discourage their sons from considering the priesthood. While some parents claim it is because they want grandchildren or because they want their son to pursue a more prestigious profession and make a lot of money, the most common factor for their lack of support is because they think their son will be unhappy as a priest. Most parents’ greatest desire is for their children to be happy. If they think that priesthood is the road to unhappiness, then they tend to actively discourage the possibility of it.
Most studies reveal that priests are happy. While there are exceptions to this rule, most of us know many happy and well-adjusted priests. I, for example, empathically declare that as I celebrate 29 years of priesthood, I am happy! I say so without being naïve or sugarcoating the challenges. The priesthood, like all vocations, comes with an experience of suffering. But these moments of the cross also lead us through and to the joy of the resurrection.
In 2010, after completing five-years of living and working in El Salvador, I spoke with Cardinal George in eager anticipation of my next assignment. I clearly remember him saying to me, “Fr. Ron, I am assigning you to Mundelein Seminary to be the Dean of Formation.” Quickly brushing off my initial shock, I responded, “Well, thank you for that assignment. You know that I am obedient and will go wherever you send me. However, after spending five years in Central America and becoming fluent in Spanish, why are not sending me to be a pastor in a large, Hispanic parish, and instead sending me to the Major Seminary?” His answer surprised me, “Fr. Ron, you are a joyful priest…and the seminarians need to see your joy.”
As we give thanks for our five new priests, please join me in expressing my gratitude to the priests in the Diocese of Joliet. With them, let us all strive to joyfully and intentionally encourage others to consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. To learn about priestly vocations and also for ways to encourage them, please go to our website at https://vocations.diojoliet.org or contact our Office of Vocations at 815-221-6171.
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RPM Events & Trips
Through RPM teens will also have the opportunity to experience nationwide conferences like NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference) and the Steubenville Conference, which have the best speakers, music, workshops, and thousands of other Catholic teens in attendance. These weekends have been very transformational for those who have attended!
Join us for our annual summer mission trip! Each year we go for a week somewhere new to serve those in need. Projects include extensive painting, building wheelchair ramps, fixing decks/porches, yard work, and other house repairs. The times we aren’t working at our resident’s home we are enjoying free time or the fun Jesus centered programing. It’s a life-changing week not only for the resident you serve, but for you as well!
Spiritual direction is “help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.” (William A. Barry and William J. Connolly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction)
- Spiritual direction focuses on religious experience. It is concerned with a person’s actual experience of a relationship with God.
- Spiritual direction is about a relationship. The religious experience is not isolated, nor does it consist of extraordinary events. It is what happens in an ongoing relationship between the person and God. Most often this is a relationship that is experienced in prayer.
- Spiritual direction is a relationship that is going somewhere. God is leading the person to deeper faith and more generous service. The spiritual director asks not just “what is happening?” but “what is moving forward?”
- The real spiritual director is God. God touches the human heart directly. The human spiritual director does not “direct” in the sense of giving advice and solving problems. Rather, the director helps a person respond to God’s invitation to a deeper relationship.
Please contact Deacon Kurt, 630-615-7607, regarding more information on obtaining a Spiritual Director.
May 12 reflection by Deacon Jerry
Reflection for the 5th Tuesday of Easter
Acts 14:19-28 —John 14:27-31a
Todays’ reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a continuation from Monday’s reading. Paul and Barnabas were in Iconium spreading the word of God, and both the Gentiles and the Jews along with the religious leaders were planning at attack and stone them. They both fled to the Lycaonian cites of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding countryside continuing to proclaim the Good News.
In today’s reading in Acts these same Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived in the Lycaonian cities and with their false teachings won over the crowds. This crowd and the Jewish leaders stone Paul, drag him out of the city and leave him for dead.
The disciples gathered around Paul, he got up and entered the city. The following day he and Barnabas left for Derbe where they continued to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and the number of disciples grew.
Paul never gives up to matter the cost, even if it meant death, his mission, vocation, was to spread and tell anyone who would listen of all the good works of Jesus and what his relationship with Jesus was. His efforts, his passion, his drive strengthened the spirit of himself and of all the disciples that had converted and followed him. We read in this passage that Paul urged and encouraged them to persevere in the faith saying; “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God”
No truer words can be spoken and resonate with us to this very day. With our shelter in place directive, businesses, schools, places of worship all closed we feel the torment of this altered state of life. But Paul’s words of preserving in faith, and enduring hardships, difficult, as they may seem, should also lift our spirits. The darkness that we are experiencing is slowly fading, becoming moment by moment a little brighter. We will be able to gather again in small groups, socially and spiritually at some point in time. We just have to trust, and persevere to the truths that we believe in and in medical science that the church embraces.
A little spiritual food for thought as we continue to slowly emerge out of today’s darkness and into the light that is Christ.
Stay safe, pray, exercise, and have a blessed week.
Today we celebrate the Feast Day of Saints Nereus and Achilleus. Not being familiar with these two Saints I have included a very brief piece from Loyola Press on them. They both persevered in their faith and suffered the gravest hardship, subsequently entering into eternal life and communion with God the Father.
Saints Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs
Roman soldiers made good martyrs
Little is known about Saints Nereus and Achilleus, but we know is engraved in stone. Damasus, one of the first popes and later a saint himself, wrote the epitaph for the tombstone of Saints Nereus and Achilleus. In this epitaph he proclaimed that it was love for Christ and a desire to witness to their new faith that inspired Nereus and Achilleus to “throw away their shields, their armor, and their bloody spears.”
It seems that both men were Roman soldiers who obeyed orders in the persecution of Christians until they themselves were converted to Christianity. Because Christians were not allowed to bear arms, they resigned from the emperor’s army and escaped from Rome. Eventually Nereus and Achilleus were captured and put to death for their beliefs. They were among the first martyrs to be venerated as saints.
As in the case of many early martyrs, the Church clings to its memories though the events are clouded in the mists of history. It is a heartening thing for all Christians to know that they have a noble heritage. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have stood in the same world in which we live—militaristic, materialistic, cruel and cynical—yet transfigured from within by the presence of the Living One. The heroes and heroines who have gone before us marked by the sign of faith and the wounds of Christ enliven our own courage.
May 11 reflection by Deacon Kurt
Monday May 11, 2020
Happy Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter! I pray everyone and their loved ones and friends are safe and well. I’ll tell you, I had a slight sore throat and some heaviness in my chest on Thursday evening and Friday for most of the day and it kinda scared me. I thought, is this the beginning of me getting sick, and I began thinking about having to get tested (and how to go about doing that), calling my doctor, going to the hospital…it was quite unnerving. I was relieved, when Friday afternoon I began feeling better. And I felt foolish for, in my own mind, over-reacting to the situation. I prayed about it, asking God for calm and peace and the fortitude to accept and handle whatever comes my way. And I think it’s a good thing to pray about that normally, asking for the ability to accept whatever situation we are in and know, I mean really know and believe, that the Lord is with us and will carry us through that situation. Not worrying about, “what am I” going to do about this, but “what are we” (ourself and the Lord) going to do to get through the situation.
I want to focus on the reading from Acts today and the power of the Holy Spirit which filled Paul and Barnabas. As they preached and healed throughout their travels they came upon places where they were revered and placed they were revilied, as we see in today’s passage and in tomorrow’s (feel free to read ahead). And it struck me how similar to Jesus’ travels this was and how similar our own faith travels are. When we speak to people about our faith, our words can be met with many different reactions. Today, we see the people of Lystra treat Paul and Barnabas as the Greek Gods Zeus and Hermes, which angered the two Apostles. As we see so often in the Acts of the Apostles, these followers of Jesus don’t want adulation, in fact they considered it more of an honor to be persecuted in the name of God. So what do they do here, they speak in order to take the focus off thmselves and place it where it belongs to God and Jesus, the living God.
My friends, in this time in our world where spreading the word of God is so important and helping those who don’t know Jesus or who have fallen away from Him, to trust that the love of God is there for their taking as relief of their troubles, we cannot become discouraged. For just as Paul and Barnabas were filled with the Holy Spirit, so are we, that exact same Holy Spirit who gave them strength and wisdom and the words to speak is in us as well. We can speak the Good News, we can heal the affilicted with our words and our actions. We too must have the faith that Paul and Barnabas did in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, that we have the gifts to bring others to Christ. Reach out to those whom you know could use a shot of Jesus’ love and peace. Give them a call, drop them a note, send them a Holy Card or a old photo of the two of you together. We can all be missionaries right now, even though we can’t go anywhere. Use the tools we do have for communication to “reach out and touch someone.” How relevant this old marketing phrase is now, now more than ever. Stationary missionaries or I think today the term is “intentional disciples”. We can evangelize, we can heal, the words and actions of love, mercy and kindness can spread the Good News in very powerful ways.
So let’s make it a point this week to “reach out and touch someone” with the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer and the Ministry of the Word by Fr John
Do not let your heart be troubled by Deacon Len
Friday, 4th week of Easter 05/08/20
“Do not let your heart be troubled” = The Lord works in mysterious ways.
Today’s Gospel passage from John is very familiar to most of us. We often hear it at funerals and it gives us encouragement in time of despair. At funerals we come to realize that Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself”, so that we know our loved ones are in the presence of the Lord, and although we miss them, they are in heavenly peace. This passage is very comforting in that time of despair and loss.
This passage, however, is also meant for us in any troubling time. Jesus clearly tells us not to let our hearts be troubled. We let our hearts be troubled when we can’t see the “way” to better days. We can’t see the path to happiness. We can’t see “how this will ever work out.” It is at these very troubling times that Jesus tells us, just as he told Thomas, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve felt cornered. I’ve felt there was no way out. I’ve felt like, “well, I’ve really done it this time” or “why is this happening to me?”. (Well, I COULD tell you, but this would be a much longer reflection😉) Each of those times in my life, when I not only prayed to the Lord, but I completely abandoned myself to Him, saying “let THY will be done”, things worked out to be better than I ever could have imagined. They worked out better than if I had control of the situation.
The Lord DOES work in mysterious ways. The Lord CAN make the most troubling situations evolve into joy, happiness and peace. We just have to let Him. We actually have to get out of the way, because HE is the WAY. It’s only troubling and frustrating to us because WE are trying to fix it or rearrange it or cover it up. We can’t fix the Lord’s plan. We can’t rearrange His plan for us. And, we can’t hide or cover up anything from Him.
No matter who you are, this pandemic is probably starting to wear on you. Even if we started out trying to be positive and trying to “do our part”, it’s starting to get unsettling, to say the least. At first, we might have thought it to be “temporary”. We thought, well, “I can do this for a couple of weeks or even months”. But now there is a feeling of no end in sight. We’re being told that it’s not just going to go back to “normal” one day. It’s going to take time and change. We are not given a timetable, so there’s no end in sight. Our hearts are troubled.
Friends, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me.” I can’t claim to know how this is all going to work out. I can’t even claim to know how you feel, or how difficult this is on you. But I do know that if we trust in the Lord and listen to Him, He will show us the Way, the Truth and the Life. He will not abandon us, even if we have abandoned Him. We only need to get out of the way and stop trying to control what is not ours to control.
While the politicians are busy pointing fingers and blaming each other, we should be busy praising the Lord for His goodness and trusting in Him. Every time we think about what we don’t have and what we are missing, we should block that thought with something we do have and something for which we are grateful. After all, if we are disheartened by what we don’t have, doesn’t that mean that we have taken for granted all that He has given us?
I miss going out to a restaurant on a Friday night or a Sunday morning after mass. But I am grateful for the quiet meals with my wife with no distractions. I miss family gatherings for Easter, Mother’s Day, birthdays and other special occasions. But I am grateful to have people in my life to celebrate and that I truly miss and love. I miss being with each of you at mass and celebrating around the table of the Lord. But I am grateful that The Lord brought us together in the first place. I miss what I have become accustomed to in my daily life. But I am grateful for all that The Lord has given me. I have faith, hope and love. I have faith in The Lord. I have hope that what is to come is better than what we have now. And the greatest of these is love. I am grateful for His love, which I experience through all of you.
Easter Blessings and Peace to you, your families and friends. And a very special Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers, Grandmothers, Great-Grandmothers, Godmothers, pseudo-mothers and all women who show us tender maternal love.
May 7 reflection by Deacon Dan
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, synagogue officials ask if anyone would like to speak after hearing the readings of the day. Paul took advantage of this opportunity and began to speak about salvation history linking Moses to David to Jesus Christ. Paul, who was one of the most outspoken critics of Jesus, is now living out Christ’s commandment to share the Good News in every corner of the world.
We are all called to share the truth about Christ – perhaps not as missionaries like Paul, but we are commanded to teach our friends and family. This is not an easy request, but Jesus told every one of us do so.
Paul took many risks with his preaching. Some of the Jewish leaders may have been fascinated to hear about the true Messiah and were moved to conversion, others felt Paul was guilty of blasphemy and should be punished. When we take the opportunity to share our faith with others, we too, are taking risks. Our friends and family may feel uncomfortable, or irritated, but we need to take the opportunity to plant seeds and pray that they land on fertile soil.
For the last 6 months, I have been working with the Augustine Institute (AI) in Denver. The AI is creating some incredible Catholic content to make the process of sharing the Good News easy through first class videos, talks and teaching materials. Yesterday, the AI released a new series called The SEARCH, to help non-believers and those who do not affiliate with any religion understand the answers to the key questions in life: Why am I here? Is there really a God? Why is Church important?
St. Raphael has purchased access to The SEARCH and all AI material for all parishioners. To access this, go to the St. Raphael website homepage and click on the box: FORMED: On Demand. I highly recommend you take a few minutes today to explore FORMED and to watch the first episode of The SEARCH. There will be additional episodes each of the next 6 weeks.
We are all in search of answers, just as God is in search of our hearts. I’m grateful that St. Raphael is providing tools to help each of us on our journey.
May God Bless each of you.
– Deacon Dan