Story: Every Sunday morning I awake at five to begin my final preparation for Mass in Division 6, Cook County Jail. Men serving time or waiting for their trial make up the congregation. Some are in protective custody, some sexually diverse, most are not Catholic, and all of us are standing in the need of prayer which we often sing for an opening hymn. It is a privilege as well as a bit of a challenge, this weekly opportunity to connect with society’s outcast in prayer and song praising God who is not Catholic, as Pope Francis reminds us.
It can be humbling to enter the secure area needing to pass through check points similar to the screening airline passengers are subjected to – first in the gatehouse then back outside for a long walk to the division entrance for another screening. Once inside a call goes out for Catholic Mass while I prepare the multipurpose room with its broken bleacher seats and hope the noise will decrease during our service.
The men are grateful and I am blessed to be there with them. There within the walls behind tall gates topped and bottomed with razor wire you come close to those whom society is to ready to keep at a distance.
In his book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (p. 14), Bryan Stevenson’s grandmother tells him, “You can't understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close.” In the assembly of the incarcerated, praying, proclaiming the Sunday’s scripture readings, singing and gathering at the table of reconciliation to partake of the Super of the Lamb is getting close through unity in the body of Christ. Hezekiah Walker sings in a current hymn, “I need you, you need me. …I need you to survive. We're all a part of God’s body.”
I recently read a phrase that says so well what it means to get close. The author Andrew Fletcher wrote that Martin Luther King Jr. was “attracted to human hardship; he did not react to suffering by simply rising to the occasion when he came across it. He sought it out.” We get close by seeking out – by pulling in close to us those estranged or outcast.
Prayer services and visits in the County Jail, visits one-on-one with youth in the Juvenile Detention Center, accompaniment in courtrooms (juvenile, adult or appellate) bring one close enough to America’s broken justice system to see the absence of mercy. Pope Francis asks us, during this Jubilee of Mercy year, to be like Jesus and put mercy before judgment … and certainly not leave it out all together in the court of law.
Refection: Peter, John and James were pulled in and embraced by the radiant presence of Jesus, Elijah and Moses. So close, they wanted to stay. Have you ever felt like you don't want a rich, fulfilling experience to end? It’s like you get too close, pulled in and you don't want to leave. Proximity brings on intimacy.
Brian wanted another hug from his grandmother “because it made me happy to be wrapped in her formidable arms.” There are times when we are happy to feel the depth of God’s loving, merciful presence and know “it is good that we are here” wanting to stay. Occasionally I've not been ready to leave at the end of Mass with the men in the county. I have sat in silence for long moments with a youth incarcerated in detention after a prayer together. When one is with the least of our brothers or sisters, getting close is getting caught up in the presence of the Lord, in the spirit of the Lord, in the healing of the Lord. When did we get close to you, Lord? As long as you got close to one of the least you got close to me and I pulled you in like a grandmother wanting to keep you close in my formidable arms.
Ckick below for:
Scripture Passages to Reflect on Daiy
Lenten practices for this week
This Week’s Daily Prayer
This Week’s Point: During this Jubilee year of Mercy year, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)
This week’s author is Fr. Denny Kinderman, C.PP.S., a priest of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. Ordained in 1967 he has been pastor and director of lay associates called Precious Blood Companions. Fr. Denny moved to Chicago in 1999 and continues as a mentor at the Precious Blood Center for Reconciliation at 51st and Elizabeth in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. He volunteers for Kolbe House as a chaplain at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center and at Cook County Jail. *****
For more information about Kolbe House, visit www.kolbehouseministry.org
INSEARCH is for post-college men with a serious interest in diocesan priesthood. Meetings are held every week in the evenings in downtown Chicago. It provides a weekly opportunity to engage the question about priesthood. In addition, a small fraternity develops among the men who participate in INSEARCH, sharing a common bond in the search to gain clarity around the question of priesthood
The Church’s Theology of Priesthood - Role and Mission
What Does it Mean to ne a Diocesan Priest?
How to Live A Healthy & Happy Life as a Celibate Priest
Leading Prayer & Celebrating the Sacraments
Being A Pastor in Today & Tomorrow’s Church
Meeting Chicago Priests: Who are they and how they stay alive
What do the people of God want from their priests?
Becoming a Man committed to the Word of God and Deep Spirituality
What Skills Are Needs for Priesthood
Transitioning Into the Seminary
Contact: Fr. Francis Bitterman at email@example.com or 312-534-8298
No one has to tell us that the world as we know it is a place of suffering, travail, and woe. Just watch the nightly news, or walk through a forest preserve or nature preserve and see the slaughterhouse of the animals. You’ll see injustice, violence, and blood everywhere.
In light of that, let us take a look at Paul’s mysterious and wonderful letter to the Romans: “I consider that the sufferings of the present time are as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed for us. For creation was made subject to futility…in the hope that creation itself would be set free… We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now” (Romans 8:18-22).
These are wonderful and yet puzzling words. Paul gives us the magnificent image of groaning in labor. The gestation of a baby is a slow and often uncomfortable process, and the act of giving birth—especially in Biblical times—is often horribly painful.
So the world, in all of its travail and woe, is like a maternity ward where millions of mothers are laboring to give rise to life. Or the world, in all of its travail and woe, is like a garden that stands in constant need of pruning and hoeing and cutting.
Think of an old, gnarled tree whose beauty is largely due to the signs of its struggle with life, or the beauty of an old person’s face, which arises from the twists and turns and agonies of making it through the human journey. These are signs of suffering in the present life.
And yet all of this is in service of God’s deep purposes, even when we can’t clearly see them
Jesus has a vision for your life.
What does radical mean? It means to get to the “root” of things.
Jesus was interested in getting deep down to the root of things. He was interested in what was essential—not the fluffy periphery, but the core, the center, the heart of things.
Jesus wasn’t trapped by the notion of political correctness. He wasn’t burdened with the need to be liked by people. He wasn’t moved by the desire for expediency or convenience. Instead, he simply allowed truth to reign supreme.
Truth is radical.
To abide completely by the truth in every situation in our lives is incredibly difficult. It requires both the heart of a saint and the diplomacy of an experienced ambassador. Every day we are tempted in dozens of ways to have a casual relationship with truth. Many situations emerge each week in which we are tempted to ignore the truth, or bend it, stretch it, or massage it, out of political correctness, a desire to be liked, expediency, or convenience.
But Jesus didn’t have a casual relationship with truth, and that is radical. He was interested in getting to the root of things. Through this lens of truth Jesus places everything in its proper place, bringing order to every aspect of life, and demonstrates the true value of things. We all yearn for this divine ordering. The challenge is to surrender and allow God to put our lives in order. The fruit of this surrender is the peace and joy that we all desire.
Excerpt taken from Chapter 8 of Matthew Kelly’s new bestseller Rediscover Jesus. Get your free copy here (just pay shipping).
Is God calling me to be a priest? How can I know for sure? What’s the best way to make such an important decision?
As you contemplate what to do with your life, be confident that God has a specific plan for you, and that you can discover it through prayer. Authentic prayer goes beyond saying Our Fathers and Hail Marys in a church pew. The deepest kind of prayer is a heartfelt conversation with Christ. Prayer helps us to achieve union with God, the vocation of all Christians. No matter which vocation God has in mind for you, it is essential that you learn to pray well. While you can pray about your vocation anywhere, it is often helpful to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.
1. Read inspiring Scripture passages
Prayerfully reading scripture can spark a great conversation between you and the Lord. Here are a few suggested passages to get started:
(Matthew 19: 16-30) Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man
(John 1:35-51) The calling of the first disciples
(Luke 14:25-33) Following Christ no matter what the cost
2. Contemplate life changes
Everyone, no matter how holy, can always live more perfectly. Think about the things in your life which may be holding you back from making commitments to God. Start with the little things – but don’t be afraid to tackle the big ones!
3. Talk to God about your friends and family
If you make the decision to begin studying for the priesthood, your parents may not understand. Your friends may be skeptical. If so, ask God for guidance in these relationships. Remember that Jesus himself had family and friends who didn’t always understand him; he can sympathize with what you are going through.
4. Confront your fears and ask for courage
For a healthy single man, considering a celibate life without the comforts of a wife and family is difficult, since our nature draws us toward family life. Many men are afraid seminary will be too challenging or that public speaking will prove too difficult. Speak to God about these concerns, then ask for courage and peace. If you confront your fears now, with God’s help, your discernment will be much less complicated.
5. Ask God to show you your strengths
If God is calling you to priesthood, he will have given you certain qualities that will make you a good priest. Spend some time examining your personal gifts, then imagine how you can use them to help others as a priest. You may discover you have a lot to contribute to the Church!
In the end, spending time with Jesus should be like a conversation with a good friend.
Story: In his book Just Mercy Bryan Stevenson tells of being exhausted after spending a long day in court waiting for some paperwork to be filed. He had just won the release of two men who had been on death row for years. An older black woman sat on the marble steps of the courthouse. She looked tired and wore what he calls a “church meeting hat.” He had seen her often in that courtroom and, in fact, recognized her from being in that courtroom each time he came to New Orleans.
He must have been staring at her because she saw him and waived him over. When he walked over to her she smiled and said, “I’m tired and I’m not going to get up, so you’re going to have to lean over for me to give you a hug.” He smiled back at her as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
Bryan asked about whether she was related to one of his clients, but she said no. She went on to say that she came to that courtroom years ago when her grandson was killed. “My sixteen-year-old grandson was murdered fifteen years ago.” She said, “I loved that boy more than life itself.”
She grieved and grieved and came to the courtroom for the first time for the trials of the two boys who were eventually found guilty of killing her grandson and who the judge sentenced to “forever” in prison.
She continued, “I sat in the courtroom after they were sentenced and just cried and cried. A lady came over to me and gave me a hug and let me lean on her. She asked me if the boys who got sentenced were my children, and I told her no. I told her the boy they killed was my child.” She hesitated. “I think she sat with me for almost two hours. For well over an hour, we didn’t neither one of us say a word. It felt good to finally have someone to lean on at that trial, and I’ve never forgotten that woman. I don’t know who she was, but she made a difference.”
“I’m so sorry about your grandson,” he murmured. It was all he could think of to say.
“Well, you never fully recover, but you carry on, you carry on. I didn’t know what to do with myself after those trials, so about a year later I started coming down here. I don’t really know why. I guess I just felt like maybe I could be someone, you know, that somebody hurting could lean on.” She wrapped her arm around his.
“When I first came, I’d look for people who had lost someone to murder or some violent crime. Then it got to the point where some of the ones grieving the most were the ones whose children or parents were on trial, so I just started letting anybody lean on me who needed it. All these young children being sent to prison forever, all this grief and violence. Those judges throwing people away like they’re not even human, people shooting each other, hurting each other like they don’t care. I don’t know, it’s a lot of pain. I decided that I was supposed to be here to catch some of the stones people cast at each other.”
For more more topics ckick below for:
Scripture Passages to Reflect On This Week
Lenten practices for this week
This Week’s Daily Prayer
This Week’s Point: To make our Lenten journey fruitful, we must recognize and acknowledge the pain in our lives.
Fr. Dave Kelly is a member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood and has worked with Kolbe House Jail Ministry for the past 30 years. He is, also, director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, a restorative justice hub on the south side of Chicago.
For more information about Kolbe House, visit www.kolbehouseministry.or
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants…so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (Matthew 13:31).
The first Christians understood Jesus to be speaking of his Church, the mystical body that began in the smallest way, but has come in time to be home to the nations of the world. The mustard seed of the Church began with a thirty-year-old man, dying on an instrument of torture, his disciples having fled, and his enemies mocking him. But it grew into the Body of Christ composed of billions of people in every country on the planet, and many more in heaven.
Watch this pattern repeated up and down the centuries. Francis of Assisi was something of a drifter, a young man who had repudiated the way of his father and was following the prompting of the Lord. Most people saw him as crazy, dangerous, and deranged. Soon, he attracted followers, and their number grew into the hundreds. The first Franciscan missionaries were stoned, chased away, or killed. But within a hundred years of Francis’s death, they were a world-wide organization—a mustard seed, indeed.
Mother Teresa left the relative comfort of her convent behind high walls in Calcutta and walked out into the streets of the worst slum in the world. Anyone seeing her with ordinary eyes would have written her off. But soon enough, she attracted followers who established her order in Calcutta, then around India, then in Venezuela, Rome, New York, London, and around the world. Another mustard seed.
This Lent, what mustard seed can you plant that might grow into a great tree where the birds of the air make their nests?
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Fat Tuesday was indeed a very beautiful day for us here in the Holy Land with temperatures as low as 42 and as high as 62 degrees. Our day started with a celebration of Mass at the Basilica of the Annunciation; it is the site where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah. Behold you will conceive and give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus. (Luke 1:31) After breakfast we had a tour of this two-story church which has a spire that towers high over the city. It is a site you would never miss when you arrive at the town of Nazareth. The interior is decorated with wall paintings that portray scenes in the life of Jesus during his formative years in Nazareth as well as mosaic murals of Our Blessed Mother from the different countries of the world. Next to the church of the Annunciation is a Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel which claims that its church is built on Mary’s Spring which, according to this tradition, was the spot where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. A couple of feet away is the Church of St. Joseph’s built over St. Joseph’s home and workshop in Nazareth. This area is said to be the area where the boy Jesus worked with his father Joseph.
God loves new beginnings.
One of the things I love about our faith is that our God is a God of second chances, fresh starts, and new beginnings.
In the Bible we read these epic tales of the incredible ways that God transformed people and their lives: Moses, Noah, Jonah, Jeremiah, David, Joseph, Mary, Peter, James, Matthew, Zacchaeus, Paul, Lydia, Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, and so many others whose names we don’t know. Why not you and me? Why not now?
God is always waiting on us. Sometimes we may think we are waiting for him, but that is never true.
What’s happening in your life right now? What’s not working in your life? What great question are you grappling with in your heart? Why did you sign up for Best Lent Ever?
Do you need a fresh start too?
Whenever I get to a place in my life where things aren’t making sense, it always seems that I need to rediscover Jesus.
Jesus is the ultimate new beginning.
Excerpt taken from Chapter 1 of Matthew Kelly’s new bestseller Rediscover Jesus. Get your free copy here. (just pay shipping)
In what area of your life is God inviting you to experience a new beginning?
Commit to making yourself available to God this Lent.
We recommend that you write this commitment down and keep it somewhere you will see it every day during Lent. (It can be as simple as, “Jesus, I am 100% available to you this Lent.”)
(It’s Ash Wednesday! Don’t forget to fast and abstain from meat today. For more information, click here.)
Jesus, help me to believe that a new beginning is
In so many of the great figures of salvation history—Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, David, etc.—a period of testing or trial is required before they can commence their work. We see the same thing in the initiation rituals of primal peoples, and you can see it in Luke Skywalker’s initiation in Star Wars.
The goal of the Biblical initiation rituals is to convey this simple truth: your life is not about you. It is about God and God’s purposes for you.
This was the purpose of Jesus’s forty-day sojourn in the desert, which we model during Lent. The desert represents a stripping away of our attachments, so as to make the fundamental things appear. In the desert, there are no distractions or diversions or secondary matters. Everything is basic, necessary, and simple. Either one survives or one doesn’t. One finds in the desert strengths and weaknesses he never knew he had.
So are you ready to visit your desert? Are you prepared to deal with your particular temptations to pleasure, power, money, and honor? Even if, in the past, you have not succeeded in the ways you wanted, remember that our God is a God of second chances. It’s never too late to start again.
On this Ash Wednesday, let’s recommit ourselves and together journey into the desert.
Matthew Kelly reminds us that there is more to life than getting what we want. May the Holy Spirit guide us to what God wants for us.
Pope Francis gives the homily at an early morning Mass with Capuchin friars in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 9. (CNS/Paul Haring)
By Junno Arocho Esteves
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Confessors have two choices: to be like Jesus who readily forgave sins or like the devil who always condemns, Pope Francis said.
“You can either do the work of Jesus, who forgives, by giving your lives in prayer (and) through many hours seated there or you do the work of the devil who condemns and accuses,” the pope said during Mass Feb. 9 with Capuchin friars from around the world.
The Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica was held in conjunction with the veneration of the relics of two Capuchins, Sts. Padre Pio and Leopold Mandic; Pope Francis requested their relics be brought to the Vatican for the Year of Mercy.
Both saints, the pope told the friars, spent long hours in the confessional as ministers of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Recalling the day’s Gospel passage, in which the Pharisees and scribes condemn Jesus and his disciples for not observing traditions, the pope reminded the Capuchins that confessors are called to be “great forgivers in the confessional.”
“The confessional is for forgiving,” he said. “And if you cannot give someone absolution, please, do not ‘beat’ him.”
The pope repeated the story of a former Capuchin provincial who was sent to a shrine as a confessor after his retirement. The friar, who usually had a long line of people waiting for him, “always found a way to forgive or at least leave that person’s soul in peace with a hug.”
However, the priest expressed concern that he was forgiving too much. “And what do you do when you feel that way?” the pope recalled asking him.
“‘I go to the chapel in front of the tabernacle, and I tell the Lord: ‘I’m sorry Lord, forgive me, I think I forgave too much today. But Lord, it was you who gave me a bad example,'” the friar responded.
Forgiveness, the pope explained, is a “caress from God” and confessors who do not forgive become like the scribes in the Gospel “who are always there to accuse,” much like “the great accuser in the Bible: the devil.”
Pope Francis also called on the Capuchins to be humble and sincere if they are not up to the task of forgiving with mercy.
“If you do not feel it, be humble and say: ‘No, no, I’ll celebrate Mass, I’ll clean the floor, I’ll do everything except confess because I do not know how to do it well,” the pope said.
FROM: Very Reverend John Kartje DATE: February 8, 2016
Choose life,...choose the cross.” (Deut 30:19 and Luke 9:23)
Of the many powerful readings for Mass during Lent, I have always found those from the Thursday after Ash Wednesday to be among the most striking. We begin by recalling Moses’ challenge to the Israelites in the desert that they have a choice with awesome consequences: either choose the life that comes from embracing the Lord’s covenant (and all its attendant responsibilities) or else accept the death that follows from rejecting it. The responsorial psalm, Psalm 1, seems to reinforce this basic logic: the one who chooses to follow the Lord’s path is the “blessed” and happy one; the one who rejects that path is rendered wretched. So far, so good. Everything seems sensible, even if difficult in practice. But then comes the gospel, in which Jesus informs us that “choosing life” actually entails choosing the instrument of death: the cross. It is at this point, if we are honest, that all common sensibility of Christianity founders.
Most of our seminarians were raised in a culture that shuns human limitations and frailties. To choose our culture’s definition of weakness or vulnerability is rarely seen as a higher expression of love. And while we are all familiar with the language of Lent—“dying to self,” “giving something up,” “letting go and letting God,” “fasting, prayer, and almsgiving,” etc.—actively choosing to embody such language does not come naturally. It is no exaggeration to say that the primary goal of seminary formation is to convert a man’s mind and heart from shunning to choosing the cross, so that “giving up for Lent” becomes “giving up for life.” Only then is his heart purely receptive to the love of Christ, and only then can he lead others to that same place at the foot of the cross.
So how does this Lenten conversion happen for a Mundelein seminarian? To be sure, it entails immersion in study and contemplation of the finest theologians of the Paschal Mystery, from Origen to von Balthasar, and beyond. It requires many quiet hours in prayer, both when that is a sweet experience and when it seems sheer drudgery. But ultimately, the choices of Lent can only be fully embodied by encountering the cross as a lived reality in the world.
Many of you reading this know the power of Christ’s cross far more viscerally than do we on our placid seminary grounds. You have humbly been led to the heart of Christ through struggling in marriages, grieving lost loved ones, caring for aging parents, or searching for dignified employment. You know what it means to come before the Lord with nothing more than the Lenten desire for his love. And you know, better than many of us, the Easter joy of truly welcoming and receiving it. During this sea-son of Lent, I encourage you to share your lived experiences of the cross with the semi-narians and priests in your lives and to pray that we will listen with open hearts. We have much to teach other when we encounter the Paschal Mystery together as the one Body of Christ.
Together with you in Christ, we are Mundelein. We form parish priests.
Fr. John Kartje
Matthew Kelly encourages us to ask God to set us free of our sinful habits.
If you have ever thought about being a priest, this suggestion 1 of 5 may be clues to a future priestly vocation.
1. Suggestion: Reach for the dominate interest.
In discernment there is always a confusion of options, because there are many things that stir our interest.
2. Suggestion: Follow the leads that are in front of you.
In discernment the decision-making process is a complicated process because there are layers of decisions in shaping any real direction in life.
3. Suggestion: Trust what you know.
In discernment the present moment always feels a bit uncertain because we only get a partial glimpse of life in that present moment … never the full picture that we want.
4. Suggestion: Explore the depth of love in making an important decision.
In discernment you will always encounter a certain amount of inner resistance because there is real risk in making any significant decision.
5. Suggestion: Take one step at a time.
In discernment the road is always a bit foggy because the future remains a bit hidden from our view.
In today’s three readings Isaiah, Paul and Pete are being called by God to bring his word to his people. Each of them felt unworthy. They said yes to God and God gave them the grace they needed to do God’s will.
God is still calling men to be his priests. Pray that they hear the call and they say yes.
Matthew Kelly offers a way to be a better Christian.
If you have ever thought about being a priest, this sign 5 of 5 may be clues to a future priestly vocation.
1. God has placed in your heart a desire to be a priest.
If Jesus has placed a desire in your heart for priesthood, no matter what your age, don’t ignore it. Talk to a priest you admire about how you feel.
2. You have a deep love for Christ and His Church.
A priest functions in persona Christi capitas—in the person of Christ, head of the Church. Thus a man who wants to be a priest must love Jesus Christ above all else. And like Jesus, he should have a deep love for the Church, the Bride of Christ. In general, a man who wants to be a priest will find himself drawn to Church teachings and “all things Catholic.”
3. Other people have mentioned that you would be a good priest.
Often other people will notice a “priest’s heart” in a young man and say to him, “Have you ever thought about being a priest? I think you’d make a good one.” In fact, many men report that they grew tired of people making such comments—but that the encouragement eventually led them to seminary!
4. You desire to live a life of virtue and prayer.
Pope Benedict spoke about what people expect of their priests. To paraphrase, he said that people do not expect priests to be experts in anything but the spiritual life. Thus, a good candidate for priesthood attends Mass, prays frequently, receives the Sacrament of Confession, serves others, and strives to grow spiritually.
5. You want to help others grow closer to Christ.
A priest brings Jesus to people and people to Jesus. For this reason, a man who wants to be a priest must have a deep concern for the people of God. He wants to help them grow in holiness; he wants to teach them the truths of the faith; he wants to minister to them during the trials of life. The vocation of priesthood is about leading others to heaven.
If you’ve thought about the possibility of priesthood, but don’t yet have all these signs and qualities, don’t despair! All people must strive for holiness. And future priests go through a long and intensive formation period, precisely to help them grow in virtue and be effective in their ministry.
Matthew Kelly reminds us that Jesus is real. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)