April 9th, 2017
Dear Parish Family,
Two weeks ago, I presented five projects which are local needs that call for our immediate attention. With them, I called for a Capital Campaign to take care of the needs of our parish. Several of us began to pray for the success of this Capital Campaign. Allow me to share with you today a prayer which we wrote asking the Holy Spirit to guide us during this Capital Campaign.
Beloved Holy Spirit, Spirit of Justice and Wisdom,
thank you for the many blessings you have bestowed on our parish,
in particular, the gift of community and the gift of family life.
We, the families of St. Patrick Church,
Come to you asking for your guidance
as we care for the parish entrusted to us.
We acknowledge the sacrifices made by those before us,
and in turn, ask you to strengthen us
to be good stewards of St. Patrick Parish,
As we make our thoughtful response
to the St. Patrick Church Capital Campaign.
Enlighten us to make decisions and sacrifices
which will continue to make our parish
a welcoming place where we can joyfully
gather to pray, teach, learn, and glorify God.
Help us to see that our sacrifices will become
a spiritual blessing, not just for us,
but for those who will come after us.
We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.
I encourage you to continue to pray for the success of the Capital Campaign. I am looking forward to celebrating Holy Week with you.
God bless you all.
April 3, 2017
The Gospel of John invites us to reflect on life. Not only of earthly life, but also of eternal life. Several details that we can see here in this passage; For example, the great love that Jesus had for his friend Lazarus. As a human being, Jesus loved the people close to him. Jesus suffered from the loss of a loved one. This feeling demonstrates His human nature and divine nature. Many of us know what is to mourn the loss of a loved one.
The other detail that John presents to us is the power of Jesus. Jesus, as Son of God, has the power to raise up Lazarus his friend. With the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus Jesus reveals his divine nature and invites us to believe. As we can appreciate in the gospel, many people, including Jews, came to believe in Jesus for the work of this miracle. John wants us to understand not only of the human nature of Jesus but also of his divine nature. Therefore, the central theme of the passage is life, earthly and divine.
We must ask ourselves, what is the attitude we should have regarding earthly life? And what should be our attitude toward eternal life? Is it right to despise one and desire the other? How should we understand these two forms of life? And especially how should we live the earthly life with regard to eternal life?
There are people who suffer greatly from the presence of sin in their lives. Without realizing that sin is part of being human. We are called to fight against sin and to live in grace. However, we can not fall into despair because of sin. We can not condemn ourselves, precisely because God is merciful.
This kind of rejection of the human nature does not present the loving and merciful Jesus. Jesus did not preach contempt for the earthly life. Nor did he preach contempt for eternal life. Jesus taught us through his words and his works the mystery of life. Human life is that biological reality that is presented with, as the capacity for eternity. We are called to live the earthly life with hope and desire for eternity.
God bless you. Father Lopez
March 12, 2017
We have already begun the Lenten Season. Mother Church offers us these forty days of Lent so that we may celebrate Easter, with minds made pure, the great mystery of Christ’s resurrection. During this liturgical time, we embrace personal and communal disciplines. For instance, we go beyond the church’s request to fast just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Some of us embrace this Lenten discipline more often. We are always careful to observe the church’s law of abstinence every Friday of Lent including Good Friday.
We are invited during this season of Lent to pray the Stations of the Cross either at home with the family or in the church with the community. This beautiful devotion helps us to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s passion and death on the cross. The Sunday liturgy also reflects the spirit of Lent. We omit the Gloria, that beautiful hymn which invites us to celebrate the Holy Eucharist with great joy. We silence the bells all through Lent but we will ring them again at Easter. We conclude the Mass with a pray to St. Michael instead of the recessional hymn. There are no decorations or flowers in the Church. The liturgical color is violet.
Do we know the meaning; do we know the purpose of why we embrace these Lenten practices? We were given the answer through the liturgy of Ash Wednesday: so that we may turn away from harmful pleasures and may become worthy to celebrate the passion of Christ; so that we may enter into a spirit of compunction. The Lenten season is a time through which we are called to make a spiritual journey of humility and repentance. It is during this time that we are exhorted to recognize our sins and seek God’s mercy. I hope that every one of us takes the time to approach the Sacrament of Confession at least once during this Lenten Season.
I wish you a holy Lenten season.
February 26, 2017
The weather last week was amazing! I hope you had the chance to enjoy it. But don’t get too excited about it. March is still ahead of us. In fact, this week will be Ash Wednesday and with Ash Wednesday we begin forty days of the Lenten Season. The Lenten Season is always a great opportunity to seek spiritual growth. We are invited to participate in the disciplines of fasting, abstinence, and almsgiving.
The discipline of fasting consists of partaking of one full meal a day and not the customary three full meals. Some food is permitted for the other two meals but it cannot be equal to a full meal. We are asked to fast on Ash Wednesday, as we begin the journey of Lent, and on Good Friday, the day of Christ’s passion.
The discipline of abstinence consists on abstaining from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and every Friday of Lent. From this Lenten discipline comes the tradition of Fish Fries, since we are allowed to eat fish instead of other kinds of meat. Fish Fries are also opportunities to practice the discipline of almsgiving. Your donations on fish fries help to financially support youth ministry at St. Patrick Church.
The Lenten Season is also the time for devotion to the Holy Cross. Every Friday we gather to pray the Stations of the Cross. This devotion helps us to deepen our understanding of Christ’s Passion. I hope that everyone will also have the opportunity to approach the Sacrament of Confession at least once during the Lenten Season. Let us begin this Lenten journey reminding ourselves of our sinful, human nature and our constant need for God’s grace of forgiveness as we mark our foreheads with ashes.
God bless you all.
February 12, 2016
Saint Patrick is a community rich with a variety of devotions which are a part of the Church’s rich heritage and tradition. Through devotions we show our love to God the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels and the saints. Devotions help us to be more docile to God’s divine law.
One devotion which is close to my heart is praying before the Blessed Sacrament. I am glad that it is also a strong devotion here at St. Patrick. Some of us feel very comfortable and have developed a habit of praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Some might not feel the same with this devotion. Sometimes it is because we do not know what to do with this time before the Blessed Sacrament. I would like to share with you some of the ways I pray before the Blessed Sacrament:
Place yourself in the presence of the Lord by kneeling and making the sign of the cross, recite an Our Father and a Hail Mary or any other prayer that you know by memory. Speak to God in your own words if you feel the need to do so. Speak to God as you would to a friend and confidant.
1. Bring your bible and pray the psalms. You will always find a psalm for praising God, for giving thanks, seeking mercy, etc. Some of you might have the book Liturgy of the Hours. That book of prayers offers us a set of psalms and scripture passages to be recited throughout the day. For those of you who have smart phones or tablets there is an app called IBreviary. I have it on my tablet and use it for reciting the psalms and prayers.
2. Choose a passage from Sacred Scripture. You will find in the church the “Let Us Celebrate” bilingual missalette. There you can choose one of the readings for the following Sunday. Pray and meditate on it. It is always a good way to prepare for Mass on Sunday.
3. Read the life of a saint and pray with him or her. Most holy men and women have had a great devotion to Our Lord in the Eucharist. St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Maria Vianey, St. John Paul the Second, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta are just a few.
Read about them and pray their prayers before the Blessed Sacrament. Finally, it is important to listen to God. Sit quietly and just be in the presence of God. Think of a visit to the Blessed Sacrament as coming to see your best friend. Sit quietly and enjoy being in each other’s company. Instead of talking to the Lord, try listening to what He wants to tell you.
God bless you all!
December 18, 2016
We begin the fourth and last week of Advent. Mother Church has offered us these four weeks as a time to prepare ourselves for the upcoming Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Advent, therefore, has a twofold purpose. It is a waiting time leading up to the commemoration of Christ’s nativity. With great joy, we celebrate the pivotal historical event: God the Father sending His Son, Jesus, to be born into the world to a virgin. It is the mystery of God becoming a human being. This historical event totally changed the course of humanity. For the first time in history, people saw the face of God; God became flesh to be with us and to remain with us.
It is very evident, as we meditate on sacred scripture, that God will come a second time. When the disciples asked Jesus when this will happen, Jesus’ answer was, you do not know the day; therefore, always be prepared. The second purpose of Advent is so we are always ready, waiting in hope for Jesus’ second coming. We certainly do not know when He will come the second time or when He will call us to eternal life. Both of these events could happen tomorrow. Therefore, let us take Jesus’ advice very seriously and always be prepared. Let us reconcile with one another and seek God’s mercy during this Christmas Season.
Advent and Christmas could become a very busy and stressful season: the buying of Christmas gifts, the writing and sending Christmas greetings, preparing home for your guests. Dear friends, do not let the holy day season addle you from the core of Christmas. It is about commemorating the great event of the Incarnation. It is about renewing our commitment with God. It is about waiting in hope. The best way to celebrate Christmas is being part of your family gatherings and being with God by participating in one Christmas Mass.
God bless you all.
December 4, 2016
Dear Parish Family,
We lit the second candle of the Advent wreath. As we move forward on our Advent journey, we hear about the life of one of the first personages of Christmas, John the Baptist. Do we know who John the Baptist is? Where does he come from? What is his mission? In order to understand the life and mission of this biblical figure, it is necessary to look back at the priestly class. They were part of the upper class in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Many among this group of people were full of pride, overly indulgent, self-seeking, and religious only in external matters. The priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan is a clear example of them.
Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, belonged to the priestly class. Zechariah himself was a priest and his wife was the daughter of another priest, a descendant of Aaron the high priest. Certainly this couple did have high linage blood to be proud of. The priestly couple of today’s gospel, nonetheless, was different. They did not live in Jerusalem but in a small town in the country hill of Judea. They were righteous in the eyes of God, blamelessly observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. For many years they lived childless. As a priest, he was given the opportunity, by lot, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. The Angel Gabriel came and delivered an astonishing message to him, ‘Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John’ (Luke 1: 6-10).
John the Baptist was born to this holy couple as God’s answer to their prayers. This prophetic figure of the gospel wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. His message was simple and clear, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ and all Judea and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to be baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they acknowledged their sins (Matthew 3: 2, 5-6).
Dear brothers and sisters, let us listen to and make the prophet’s message relevant in our very lives.
November 27, 2016
Dear Parish Family,
It is hard to believe but it is already the First Sunday of Advent! I need to admit that being from Colombia, I don’t look forward to winter. But I do look forward to Christmas! Christmas for me is the beauty of the liturgy, music, novenas, gatherings, friendship and food. Every celebration which we are a part of, is pointing toward the great mystery of Christmas; the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ into this world. It is a very special time that, in fact, mother Church invites us to make a journey of four Sundays before the celebration of the Nativity.
December could become a very busy time for many of us. It is the time in which we go out shopping. It has become a tradition in our families in which we gather to exchange Christmas gifts and enjoy a meal. It is also the time in which we face a very aggressive market. We could become consumers of many things, offered by a market which we really don’t need. Let us be prudent and wise as we go shopping. We also want to be good stewards with our incomes, even during this holyday season.
Don’t let the busyness of December make you miss the reason for Advent. It is about preparing ourselves to celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is about the commemoration of that great historical event, God becoming a human being. Therefore, brothers and sisters, I urge you to also take time for the sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist. Despite the chilly weather out there, St. Patrick is always a warm place to come and celebrate Advent and Christmas. St. Patrick is your extended family; come and celebrate with us. It is also a time to extend an invitation to our friends to join us for Advent and Christmas.
May the hope of Advent become a reality for you with the coming of baby Jesus on Christmas Day.
October 30, 2016
Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector and therefore a wealthy man, has a great desire to meet Jesus. In order to express this desire, certainly he had heard about Jesus before. He was informed of his passing through his home town. He went out and waited to see him. A lot of people also went out to meet Jesus and it was impossible for Zacchaeus to find a good spot where he could greet him. He was too short in stature and he could not make his way through the crowd. His determination, however, to know Jesus moved him to overcome the obstacle. Zacchaeus, therefore, went ahead and climbed a sycamore tree! I assumed he wasn’t just standing in that tree. I think he was screaming aloud, “Jesus have mercy on me!”
Zacchaeus achieved his goal. Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly for today I must stay at your house.” Zacchaeus received Jesus with joy. I think about the importance of speaking about Jesus to those whom we know are in need of God in their lives. Since we come from God, we are always searching for him. There are many distractions which impede people from meeting him. If we are able to foster a great desire in them to meet Jesus, they will overcome the obstacles. After meeting Jesus and gradually getting to know him, a person’s life will change. That personal encounter with Jesus fostered in Zacchaeus’ life a great generosity and a sense of justice.
People noticed that Jesus went to stay at the house of a tax collector. They chattered about it. Even that did not stop Zacchaeus from opening his life to Jesus. He knew by then that Jesus had brought salvation to his entire family. Some people may experience a similar situation. Many people know us and they know our difficulties or limitations and will speak about them. ‘Look at him, every Sunday at Mass and yet…’ But even that should not stop us from strengthening our friendship with God. We know how much we need him and we know the great difference he makes in our lives. Jesus’ words to Zacchaeus are also for us, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.” And that is what matters.
God bless you all.
October 16, 2016
Dear Parish Family,
In today’s Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus tells his disciples a parable about a widow who pleaded several times with a judge for a just decision against her adversary. The evangelist tells us that this judge did not show any fear for God nor did he show respect for mankind. He ended up, nonetheless, granting a judgment in favor of the widow because of her persistence.
There is a lesson to be learned in this parable. Success in life consists of having convictions and being persistent in pursuing these convictions. The widow in the parable never wavered about a just judgement in her favor. The judge, as indifferent as he was in the beginning, ended up granting her what she fought for. I think about my journey towards the priesthood. It took me ten years. Those ten years were not easy. They came with many doubts and challenges. Despite all of that, I always kept my goal in sight. Endurance brought me to the day of my ordination.
Persistence in prayer is as important as everything else in life. We ask the Holy Spirit for the cardinal virtue of fortitude. This virtue gives us the template to be firm during times of difficulty and constant in pursuing the good. Often times we are tempted to give up our efforts in preaching the gospel of life. We become impatient because we do not see the fruits of our efforts right away. The parable of the widow and the judge provides us with a simple and yet important lesson: if your fight is for a good cause, keep fighting for it; do not waver on your conviction to promote and protect human life.
God bless you all.
Rev. Johnson Lopez
Father Lopez is Pastor of Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Rochelle, IL.