Summer Is a Time of Abundance

Dear Friends,

We have finally entered the summer season! St. Theresa School will be closing its academic year this week, Religious Education finished a month ago and many of the organizations at St. Theresa will wind down and take some of the summer off.

This is the time of year when the days are warm and long, the barbeque grills are heating up and the sound of lawn mowers and songbirds fill the twilight hours. We watch our children and grandchildren play baseball and perhaps toss a few balls around ourselves, reliving our childhood and feeling young again. The flowers bloom and the garden grows, reminding us that summer is a time of abundance.

For most people, life   s  l  o  w  s   down, even if just a little bit, so that we can catch our breath before September rolls around and everything starts up anew.

There is an odd phenomena that takes place in Churches throughout this country this time of year and that is Mass attendance goes down during the summer months.

When I first became pastor of St. Bede Parish in Fox Lake 15 years ago, I presumed that because people would be flocking to the Chain O’ Lakes region on the weekends for some boating fun, that Mass attendance would actually go up there during the summer, but it didn’t take me long to realize that even with that draw for people, Mass attendance went down there, as well.

Why is that? Do we wake up on Sunday morning and decide we’d rather get in a round of golf than go to Mass? Do we get the boat out on the lake early and decide that God won’t mind if we miss a few Sundays? Do we go to soccer or baseball games with our kids because travel leagues and park districts don’t respect that Sunday should be set aside for worship anymore? Do we go on weekend trips and vacations and presume the Church says it’s okay to skip Mass when we travel?

Whatever the reasons, the reality is that the summer break frequently includes a break from worshipping at Mass on the weekend.

And yet, nothing changes in terms of why we go to Mass. We still need and receive the Eucharist, which we celebrate in a particular way this weekend on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, so that we can go off into the world and face the many challenges to our Catholic and Christian faith. We still pray as a community, so that we never need to feel alone in our faith. We still hear the word of God and apply its lessons to our lives.

One of the reasons I find Mass important to me (even when I travel) is that it gives me the opportunity to express my gratitude to God for all the gifts I have been given in life. No matter what challenges and obstacles I face, there are always many blessings and many reasons to be grateful to God. It seems to me that the summer months are an especially appropriate time to express that gratitude to God, because the things we love about summer are really an extension of the blessings God provides us. Without a consciousness of gratitude, we can sometimes transition to the negative experience of entitlement, which allows us to mistakenly believe that the blessings we receive in life are in fact solely a repayment for our own hard work and effort.

Let’s enjoy all that the summer season has to offer us and renew our dedication to worship and prayer through the Mass, so that we might express our gratitude to the God who made us and provides us with so many things to be thankful for, particularly in the beautiful summer season.

Enjoy the week and God bless you all.

Love,
Fr. Tim

Let Us Pray…

Dear Friends,

Every once in awhile, I get asked by people what they should be praying for. This week I thought I’d provide a short list of some of the things that are on my mind in regards to the need for prayer. This list is certainly not exhaustive, just a few ideas that I hope might help focus your prayer as we continue our Easter Season:

  • For world peace – we have been praying for this for as long as humanity has inhabited the world, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attend to this in prayer. The more people pray for this intention, the more likely it is peace will one day reign in our troubled world.
  • For an end to violence – there is way too much of this in the world right now, from war, to terrorism to crime.
  • For a respect for all life from conception until natural death. Enough said.
  • For our president and leaders of government around the world – that they may know God’s will and act on it and be attentive to justice and service for all the people in their care.
  • For our Holy Father, Pope Francis – I can think of no more challenging a job then being the spiritual leader of one billion Catholics as well as a voice of Christ’s love in the world.
  • For Cardinal Cupich and other bishops who lead dioceses around the world – that they may shepherd the people in their care well.
  • For our men and women who serve this country in the military, in gratitude for that service and that they might be kept safe from harm, and for all veterans who find the transition back to civilian life difficult and challenging.
  • For our brave men and women who are first responders, that they too may be kept safe from harm.
  • For an increase in vocations to ordained ministry and the religious life – particularly in the increasingly secularized society we live in which doesn’t support this calling like it used to.
  • For a greater appreciation of the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst – and a return to the sacraments for many who have wandered away.
  • For the poor and needy – that their needs might be attended to and that they might be able to sustain themselves in their difficult journey of life.
  • For the sick and suffering – may they be healed of their afflictions and know God’s comfort and peace in their lives.
  • For those suffering from mental and physical disabilities and challenges – may they and their families know God’s healing presence.
  • For senior citizens who reside in nursing homes and other skilled care facilities – that they may not know loneliness.
  • For young people – that they actively engage in their faith and that the Holy Spirit guides them on a path to what is right and good.
  • For the happy repose of the souls of all those who have died.
  • For the Renew My Church process we are currently engaged in with St. Colette, Misión San Juan Diego and St. Thomas of Villanova parishes, that the Holy Spirit might inspire us to make good choices for the future of our grouping… no matter the difficulty such choices might entail.

One of the other things that people ask me to pray for is their favorite sports teams. My response is usually something along the lines of “God has more important things to attend to than the wins or losses of sports competitions…” but what I think is fair to ask for is that God help our athletes to perform to the best of their abilities, so let’s pray that God assists players on the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs and White Sox to be the best athletes they can be on a day to day basis! 🙂

Finally, I encourage every person to always offer a prayer of gratitude to God for all the gifts we have been given, because despite life’s many challenges, we truly are a blest people.

Enjoy the week and may God bless you all.

Love,
Fr. Tim

The Lord Is Risen!

THE LORD IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! There is no sweeter thing to hear, no nobler statement to proclaim; there is nothing in this life that is more powerful than to echo the intense greeting of Easter. This is difficult, I admit, for 21st century scientific minds, or at least, minds that see science as an absolute and independent measurement of knowledge and value. The witnessing of an empty tomb is as unsupportable a claim for proof of a resurrection as is the invisibility of God a measurement of proof for His existence.

This is understandable. One can beat himself over the head with the doubts that sometimes accompany human reason – the Christian’s “what if,” the atheist’s “what if not,” or even the gross amalgamation of the two. Many of us have heard even from the pulpit by mislead preachers how Jesus was only “experienced” as resurrected by the Apostles, but not actually risen in the body. This third premise is such a compromise of faith and reason that I feel it doesn’t deserve any more lines in this limited bulletin, except to say that an “experience” of resurrection is not the same as a resurrection. We must remain, as it were, in the uncomfortable position of believing either that Jesus never rose from the dead, or of believing that He is truly risen, bodily. The latter is the hinge by which the door of our Catholic faith hangs.

St. Paul famously wrote, “…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). Easter is not just another nice holiday but is the historical shift between the old world and the new dimension of human life. Believer or not, one cannot remain intellectually honest and at the same time ignore the impact that the Jesus event had in the historical course of the world.

The nihilistic dirge of our post-modern crisis, “God is dead,” and its eventual climate of militant disbelief, is somewhat prophetic, almost as prophetic as the charge of Pontius Pilot, when he unknowingly inscribed a true statement on the cross of the crucified Christ with the intention to shame him through his crime, “Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum,” Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. The fact of Easter does assume the unintended truth behind Nietzsche’s remorse, “God is dead.” If Jesus has truly risen, then he also truly died. We can say that at some point in our shared human history, we killed God. God gave us his very heart, and we pierced it with a lance. What I can never get used to is not the thought that we killed God, but that God gave himself over to us so willingly.

God had truly died – not, as it were, due to the eventual death caused by the worship of the human ego, which we call sin, but by a love that was capable of self-gift, and thus, capable also of resurrection.  The god or gods ridiculed by modern atheism are incomparable to the God attached to what the Jews have called, “the living God,” and what the Christians call “the God who lives.” Honestly, I wouldn’t worship the god that so many militant atheists are trying so hard to disprove. It sounds boring, unattractive, and very petty. I’m far more interested in the Holy Trinity, and in the specific encounter between faith and reason, in the historical occurrence of the Incarnation of God. I’d rather base my life on the eye witness narrative of the closest friends of the man from Nazareth who was risen from the dead out of a selfless love that is beyond anything I have ever encountered in this world. Nothing makes me more certain of truth than the enigmatic person of Jesus, the Son, the Word through whom you and I are little words, little children, of God the Father.

I heard a man once say, “how can I believe that Jesus truly rose from the dead? I can believe He rose from the dead, because I know him.” At the end of the day, belief matters only insofar as I have a relationship with the object of belief. I am either in a relationship with my back turned to the one who is always near to me, or I can face him. To face in attention, to encounter the one who is looking at me, who is nearer to me than I am to myself – this is belief. It cannot happen by a simple benefit of the doubt, or an appropriation of mindless agreements. Belief, that is, faith, is not solely the mental capacity of being convinced about something. Being convinced would never have the power to change the world the way that the empty tomb and the corporal encounters of the risen Christ had in our history as an earthly civilization. Further still is it the leaving behind of logic in favor of the unreasonable. Faith and belief…these are resolute consequences, which change the dimension of my personal choices and my vision of the world – consequences, that is, after-effects of what comes first: a life-altering encounter with the risen Jesus Christ. Look into the empty tomb of your heart, turn around, and witness the One who is alive in order to love you.

-Fr. Matt Jamesson

The Desert Teaches us True Desire

AS A CHILD, I THOUGHT of Lent as my favorite Season of the Church’s Liturgical Year. Obviously, I would have never been able to formulate that description when I was seven or eight, but I do remember being so totally immersed in the oddness of Lent. My mother was a bit strict about our observance, having carried from her childhood a far more traditional understanding of the holiness of the season. Case in point: my brother and I were not allowed to watch any “non-religious” tv shows during our holy observance, and when Holy Week came along, it was considered a mortal sin in our house to sneak peak at our comic books (which was especially difficult for my brother and I, since we collected them like the Eagles collected decades before their first Super Bowl victory). Video games were even worse. During Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, anything other than EWTN or religious movies was anathema. Come to think of it, I never fully recovered from associating Charlton Heston from my personal experience of faith.

There was something very familiar about Lent. Every Friday, I knew we were going to have fried fish seasoned by Mrs. Dash. I already knew which programs between our 20 channels were permitted for entertainment, and which ones were just not Jamesson-approved. I also knew that for the next 40 and some odd days I would have to suffer the excruciatingly long services and Masses that periodically appeared out of nowhere to chastise me even more. I’d have to bear the humiliating large ash-marks on my forehead at school, while all my clean-headed classmates gloated at me and laughed. I was like Nia Vardalos in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” recalling her lunch room shame of having “Moose ka-ka” in her lunch box, or like Ralph Macchio, when he was the only dark-haired Italian boy in all blonde California in the movie “Karate Kid.”

I was, ahem, Matt Jamesson, the Catholic. Never mind the pinned medals of Mary or of angels that would appear on my clothes or backpacks, or the large brown scapular that she made me wear every day. As if we weren’t weird enough, let’s please place a large black dust bomb on my forehead in the middle of the school week, in case someone else missed the point. My mother never failed at making sure I knew my identity. And it worked.

There is something about the physicality of Catholic traditions – the sacramentality of it all – that grants everyday mundane things a transformative energy capable of making a little boy grimace at normal easy things. The desert is not a scary place, it is the great adventure of the heart. The strange sacrifices both in body and my ego made me realize how connected I was to something deeper, richer, more mysterious. In fact, these pious practices were so engrained in my imagination, that I first considered becoming a priest shortly after my Confirmation at the age of 12 and during the season of Lent. Heaven wasn’t just a fun idea in a book (cool story, bro), it was everywhere around me – I could smell it in the kitchen on Fridays, just like I could smell it in the church during those very smoky days of the Triduum. I heard it in the bells of the church and from the silence on my tv. I saw it in the stations of the cross every Friday and in the fingers pointing at me in the playground on Ash Wednesday. I tasted, and I felt, all that heaven could grant my 5 little senses to help teach me about my true home. Lent was the greatest teacher in the lesson of desire I have ever received.

I worry about the generation of children who no longer know what it means to be bored. Boredom helps the imagination grow – it is the gymnasium of the mind’s playtime. When one adds the elements of the Lenten season, with its rituals both in and out of church services and the little sacrifices we make through fasting and almsgiving, sacrifices which play sonnets to our ego, this playground becomes a seed-bed for the Gospel. In the silent stillness when the business of ordinary life is shoved to the side like the idol that it is, we can hear the strong roots of the seed, the Kingdom, begin to grow and whisper, “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.

You see, what I learned early on that I often forget as an adult is how the Lenten season is not about how great “I” make this season happen, or about how “I” should grant meaning to the season of Lent. Lent-ing correctly is rather the opposite. Lent gives me the opportunity to do nothing – to not be so consumed with making sure I’m always comfortable, or how well I’m performing at work, or how perfect I am at looking like a Christian. It is the doing nothing and the being who I am in Christ that is the harder task. It is always a good thing to do good, but a far nobler thing to just be – mainly, to be a child of God.

In preparation for this coming holy Lenten Season, the Church asks us, “what is the one thing or what are the things that I can lay aside for the next month-and-a-half that will enable me to take just one step closer to hearing the still and silent voice of God in an otherwise very crowded and very noisy portion of the God-shaped desert in my heart?” That is, pay attention to the God who made you, and shove to the side anything else that seeks to distract you from this one noble and simple truth: this same Creator is really Father, and this Father loves you. How far will you permit our Father to take you to your deserted places and to transform them this holy season?

— Fr. Matt Jamesson

Resolutions…

Happy New Year! As we all want to do this time of year, we frequently make resolutions to get us motivated in making this year better than the year before. If you are the type of person who likes to make commitments for the new year, might I suggest a few that pertain to our spiritual lives and St. Theresa Parish?

  • Pray more often. Find an opportunity to pray each day. If you are morning person, pray at that time, if you are the opposite, then pray in the evening. Routine is the key here. The more time we can spend in prayer the better, and you will reap the positive results in just about every facet of your life as well! I also encourage you to explore different prayer forms too. The Mass, rosary, adoration, novenas, meditation, Lectio Divina, Taize, Liturgy of the Hours and more are all beneficial ways for us to draw ourselves closer in communion with God.
  • Participate in the sacramental life of the Church. Attend Mass regularly. Receive the Eucharist as often as possible. Ask yourself this question: when was the last time I received the Sacrament of Reconciliation? What’s holding me back? Again, the sacraments are Jesus’ gift to us and their benefits impact our whole lives!
  • St. Theresa is your spiritual home. Make use of it! We offer all kinds of spiritual, social and service oriented opportunities to be engaged in parish life, whether as a participant or an organizer. We are here to serve you. In a world that seems to draw one further and further into isolation, our parish provides an opportunity to form communion as one family of faith.
  • Please support all that we do in the parish financially. Your donations go to providing the ministries and activities that make our parish the home that it is. We cannot do it without your support, as we are completely dependent on your generosity to make ends meet. Please continue to support our parish so that we can continue to do what we do. There is much to be excited about here at St. Theresa! And we need your continued support to make it all happen. Thank you! We are also encouraging people who work to find out if your place of employment offers matching grants for donations to St. Theresa Parish and/or School. That way your generosity can be extended that much further!

God bless you all!

Love,
Fr. Tim

Merry Christmas To All

Dear Friends,

As I sit here composing this letter a week before Christmas, I look outside and see that Palatine, Illinois is enjoying sunny skies and 48 degree weather, and as Bing Crosby once warbled, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!” … except here! Regardless of the weather outside though, the church tells us that Christmas has indeed come, as it does every year! This reality reminds me of what makes Christmas time special: the joining together of people of good will who joyfully celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

The world has great need of this type of witness, as we are constantly confronted with the secularization of Christmas. It seems that what we honor this time each year is becoming more distasteful to a country afraid to offend those who don’t believe in Jesus. All I can say is that here at St. Theresa we will celebrate the birth of Christ with much fanfare and great gusto!

M E R R Y   C H R I S T M A S   T O   A L L !

In wishing you a Merry Christmas, I want to offer you my gratitude as well. For those of you who are parishioners, I thank you for all that you do to make this parish the vibrant community it is. If you are a visitor to St. Theresa this day, I appreciate you joining us and adding to the festive quality of our worship. If you are searching for a spiritual home for yourself, I thank you for responding to the call of the Spirit which led you to our church.

I am very proud to be the spiritual leader of St. Theresa Parish. We have accomplished much in this last year. Thanks to your generosity, we have just completed Phase II of our Master Plan and our campus looks like new! Curricular changes at St. Theresa School have prepared us well to educate and form young people for a future life in service of the Church. Our Religious Education program continues to do the same. Our LIFT program engages our teens and gives them a place to call home in the midst of their high school years. Our Parish Pastoral Staff and Parish Pastoral Council continue to look for new ways to welcome people into our parish home and offer them opportunities to form their hearts, minds and souls. New for 2018, we are participating in “Renew My Church” and ALPHA, among other things. Please continue to look to our parish website, bulletin and other vehicles of communication to assist you in feeling more connected to our community of faith.

Please know how happy I am that you are worshiping with us. I know I speak for our ministry leaders and parishioners when I offer this invitation for all who are new to St. Theresa this day: please consider joining this community of faith. The Holy Spirit has called you to celebrate the Eucharist today; perhaps that same Spirit is calling you to a deeper relationship with him in this family of people we call St. Theresa Parish.

Please also know you are all in my thoughts and prayers as we gather to give glory to God in the highest and honor the entrance of God in our lives through the birth of His Son Jesus – a birth that reminds us God will never be far from us:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Merry Christmas once again and God bless you all!

Love,

Fr. Tim

In Everything Give Thanks

Dear Friends,

Every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving Day I like to offer a reflection on the great feast of gratitude that happens every year at this time. Sometimes I offer my own reflection, other times I look to the wisdom of others. This year, I found some quotes which speak well to the power of gratitude, so I share them with you. I don’t know all the people attributed to the quotes but I appreciate what they say! May you have a most blessed and enjoyable Thanksgiving Day and please consider joining us for Mass on Thanksgiving Day at 9:00 am in our church. You’ll be glad you did!

Thanksgiving Day Quotes 

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added… No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
– President Abraham Lincoln: Proclamation of Thanksgiving

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” – W.J. Cameron

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.”  – Harry Ironside

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton

“The Christian who walks with the Lord and keeps constant communion with Him will see many reason for rejoicing and thanksgiving all day long.” – Warren W. Wiersbe

“Each day is a gift from God. What you do with it is your gift to Him.” – T.D. Jakes

“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; serve the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful song. Know that the LORD is God, he made us, we belong to him, we are his people, the flock he shepherds. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name; good indeed is the LORD, His mercy endures forever, his faithfulness lasts through every generation.”
– Psalm 100

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

“What if, today, we were grateful for everything?” – Charlie Brown

Enjoy the week, give thanks to God and may God bless you all.

Love,
Fr. Tim

“Nothing will be impossible for God”

Dear Friends,

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20: 19-21)

Peace.

On October 1, 2017, a lone gunman on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada murdered 58 people and injured close to 500 people in a volley of gunfire. Tragically, it is another reminder of the violence which seems to have pervaded the very fabric of our daily lives, leaving all of us more afraid and definitely feeling more vulnerable than the day before. Where can we escape the fear of violence invading our lives, we ask ourselves, and then our lives change in response as we feebly try to protect ourselves and our loved ones from future mayhem that may come our way.

On Friday evening, October 6th, more than a hundred people gathered in our church to pray for peace and an end to violence. The service was created in a sense of immediacy as people (myself included) struggled to grapple with the enormity of the tragedy in Las Vegas and the desire to do something… anything… when confronted with such evil. So we prayed for peace and an end to violence.

Peace.

Dictionaries tell us that peace can be defined as: “a freedom from disturbance… a quiet and tranquility, as well as a freedom from or cessation of war and violence.” (from Google’s definition). But we also know that peace from a spiritual perspective is more than that – it is being in a right relationship with God and one another. It is a “wholeness” in those relationships.

Our desire to be whole leads us to pray for peace because we know that “…nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37).

It is important to remember, however, that peace must begin with us. Fr. Matt Jamesson reminds us that “The call for universal peace from God is preconditioned by an acknowledgement of the lack of peace and love in oneself. Psalm 51 is the calling for reparation (penance) or from the Latin “reparere” which is “to repair.” What should be repaired first is one’s own heart – by the acknowledgement of one’s own wrong-doings, one’s contribution to the atmosphere of death through selfishness. After this, the prayer for peace becomes a more powerful act of intercession.”

Once we are able to repair our own hearts, then we can begin the arduous work of being agents of peace in the world. This may seem a Herculean task but it really does happen one person at a time, just as violence and evil begins one person at a time. We all know that God is more powerful than Satan and that good conquers evil. As people of faith we know the power of love and that is precisely how peace will win the day – LOVE. The love of Christ modeled for us in his sacrifice and death on the cross… the love that is given to us at conception when God infuses in us the gift of faith… the love which offers us hope in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds. It is love which conquers violence and evil, and it begins with us.

I am an optimistic person. In spite of the force of evil alive in the world today, I still hold out hope and have faith that fallen humanity will redeem itself through Jesus Christ and the power of love. While I occasionally find myself discouraged by the lack of civility toward each other and the seeming futility in addressing evil in the world, I see signs of hope… from the many testimonials of love and sacrifice from victims of the violence in Las Vegas to quieter stories of people coming together in peace and love in our daily lives.

Let’s pray for an end to violence in the world, in our nation, on the streets of Chicago and in the communities in which we live. Let’s also pray for our fallen brothers and sisters who have been victimized by violence that they rest in peace. Finally, let us offer our prayers to a loving God that we might have the courage to be agents of Christ’s love in the world. Let our resolve to be agents of peace and love be assured by our faith that
“…nothing will be impossible for God.”

May God bless you always.

Love,
Fr. Tim

The Beautiful, The Ugly, and The Boring

AESTHETICS IS NOT an historically accidental phenomenon in the Church. Aesthetics, the principle of beauty, is a necessary element to a healthy Christian experience. Without the beautiful, the Christian faith would simply become untenable, unapproachable, undivine. Classically, three absolute principles called transcendentals, which are attributed to God, run as an undercurrent in the great schema of the Christian faith. They are: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Christian Philosopher Peter Kreeft qualifies a true thing as being connected in the following manner: “Truth is good and beautiful; goodness is true and beautiful; beauty is true and good.” Inasmuch as the Church proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ through her sacred texts (Scriptures) and her Apostolic Tradition, she is proclaiming a triad of interdependent realities, wherein if one were missing, the other two would cease to hold weight. It can then be similarly said that a thing is not true if it isn’t also good or beautiful; a thing isn’t good if it isn’t truthful and beautiful; a thing isn’t beautiful if it isn’t truthful and good. When the Good Shepherd says that his sheep hear his voice and they follow him, I suppose he meant it esoterically – that is, his voice is recognizable only by those who have spent time getting to know it. Recognition only comes through relationship, and it produces a type of reaction like that burning heart, which the two disciples felt after their encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

“From the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator…for the author of beauty created them” (Wis. 13:3,5).

In short, beauty is not an arbitrary brush stroke in the sacred history of our Catholic faith, and it is this very theme that I wish to write about in my first monthly column, which Fr. Tim has so graciously asked me to participate in. (Thanks for the confidence, Fr. Tim!)

The beauty of family, friendship, and belief is the first thing on my mind these days – perhaps because these very things seem to be the most fragile of systems in our current affair with the post-modern world, and I am utterly convinced that half of our political, emotional, familial, and religious issues all directly point towards a slow, albeit unintended, fading away of what is authentically beautiful. Note here, I am not speaking about the vain cosmetic repertoire of runways, or models, or movie stars. Our over-sexualized, over-stimulated, culture of utility knows very little about true beauty. Its standards seem professional, but there is often never anything honest about it in advertisement, and goodness is hardly its strongest quality. Cosmetic beauty is not what the Church means by beauty. Cosmetic beauty is an opium for a truer beauty beneath the human surface – a beauty far more dangerous and capable of expressing goodness and truth in every human person. And my mind is boggled as to why this is such a threat to our modern culture.

My favorite Irish poet, John O’Donohue once wrote:

“It has become the habit of our times to mistake glamour for beauty. Beauty is not glamour. Most of what the media, the fashion world, Hollywood, the art world has to offer is glamour. Glamour, like the art world itself, is a highly fickle and commercially driven enterprise that contributes to…the ‘humdrum.’ It appears and disappears, no one ever catches up to glamour…Glamour has but a single flicker. In contrast, the Beautiful offers us an invitation to order, coherence and unity. When these needs are met, the soul feels at home in the world.” Hence, when one is not glamorous, he/she is considered ugly. For example, when I walk around in my black clericals, when I shop in the mall with a collar on, I would, by the standard of glamour, be considered ‘ugly.’ Time and again, I am certain we all have felt the shame of doing the sign of the cross before a meal in a public restaurant. It simply is ugly to be a Christian today.

But a great and influential thinker of the 20th c. named Dietrich von Hildebrand once said that the opposite of what is beautiful is not what is ugly. The opposite of what is beautiful, he said, is what is boring. In his book, he claimed that whatever attractive thing lacks truth and goodness, whether in prose, or argument, or art or morals, is also equally boring. And I would agree with him. In a society where the truly beautiful is missing, we are filled with a people who are extremely bored. Is it any real wonder that we have a constant need for entertainment? Silence has no place in a world of boredom, that is, in a world where beauty is not permitted to be itself.

I am thinking, of course, about those stories we constantly hear about the girl who thinks her freckles are ugly, and so she covers them with a type of make-up that fits the standard of another person’s facial quality – or even vice versa. I am thinking also about the family, which wishes to be the perfect image of a family, and so neglects their true problems in exchange for an artificial image of perfection, all for the sake of fitting a standard that wants us to lie about ourselves. I’m thinking about the new mantra in society, the new call to express one’s own unique identity through bodily mutilation, surgery, and the enactment of laws that force the compliance of rational beings to become irrational, all the while creating a whole group of “unique” individuals who are now starting to look…well…the same.

And all of this is getting so boring.

The grand adventure, which is God, is the least bit boring, but it looks as though the general attitude towards religion is the reverse.  Religious affiliation in America and especially in Europe is steadily declining. The current young adult population, the Millenials, is less inclined to associate with any religious system. Check-box: none.  The pews are less and less filled, and consequently, vocations to religious life and the priesthood also seem to be declining. But here’s the thing: they’re not, at least not in a manner that is important. Recent polls (within the last 3 years) have suggested that out of the 3000 plus young men currently enrolled in major theological seminaries in the U.S. studying to be priests have a strange statistic of its own: From 2000-2014, a rise in younger priestly vocations has risen 75%, the largest age group trending between the ages of 25 – 29 (see Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate – CARA). I entered the seminary when I was 25. I took this poll 8 years ago. I’m in that percentage. In 2016, the number of ordinations for diocesan and religious order seminarians was at its highest since 1990 (~548 men).

What these fancy stats tell us is that despite the overall mistrust in organized religion; despite the clergy child-abuse scandals of the earlier part of this millennium; despite the decline in societal moral norms, the higher rates in divorce, or the overall declining number of priests in America; despite the overarching threat of secularism and an appeal for the new atheism, God is still faithful to his promise: “I will send you shepherds after my own heart” (Jer. 3:15).

Here is the beauty that I observe as a young, 33-year old priest: parishioners who are challenged to be more faithful than ever, and they are. I am blessed to witness a people who yearn to hear God’s voice and many who really do, because of the learned longing in their hearts for something more – something substantial – something that cuts to the heart. I am privileged to witness young men in the seminary and young women entering religious vocations today who have been filtered from the world as those who have a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty – who still hunger perhaps even for such strange things as poverty, chastity, and obedience. I am honored to have and continue to live with priests, who have deeply impacted my spirituality in ways I can only spend an eternity to fully realize and be thankful for.  I am deeply humbled to be trusted by a pastor whom I look up to and a parish who so willingly enables me to celebrate Mass, to preach, to hear confessions, to counsel, and to fundraise for a new statue of Mary – all for the sake of expressing what remnant of truth, goodness, and beauty God has made me custodian over for the sake of the people he brought into my life through St. Theresa. And with the recent loss of Fr. Ron, I am ever more aware of the appeal for love of neighbor, and even more so for love of friend, for love of family, for love even of enemy – that is, wanting what is good for them, not what is good for me.

Still, I wax and wane at this stringent thing called beauty, which has the power to bring an entire civilization to something great. With the lack of clarity in recent years over personal identity and dignity, or say even the lackluster behavior of world leaders and the diminishing quality of fatherhood and motherhood, I cannot help but think that beauty is somewhat replaced by what is artificial. So I am beginning these columns with an appeal to an open mind – to let go of some ideas that are convenient or even careful, and to explore with me the true beauty that the Church wishes to unleash. After all, by “beauty,” I do actually mean Jesus Christ.

-Fr. Matt Jamesson

The Answer is Christ

Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago I was on a weeklong vacation that required me to turn off my cell phone and computer and just relax. While the time away was wonderful, I missed out on the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in which a protest between white supremacists and counter demonstrators became violent when one of the white supremacists drove his car through some of the demonstrators, killing Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others. Heather was 32 years of age. The demonstration was organized by white supremacists to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville.

Racism is a word that makes most people very uncomfortable. Webster defines the word racism as follows: “A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

We’d like to think that we have come a long way in the 241 years since our nation declared its independence and in many ways we have. Yet time and again we are reminded that we still have so far to go to be the kind of country we all would like to be.

Like many realities in our democratic society, racism has become, among other things, a political topic; yet we as Christians and Catholics need to view racism through the prism of sin – a sin that strikes at the hearts of all who express racist beliefs. White Supremacism, Anti-Semitism, Neo-Nazism and Fascism are all inherently evil and racist. We as followers of Jesus Christ must be courageous in calling out this sin whenever we observe it – whether it be at work, at home, in the communities in which we live, or sadly, even our church.

The U.S. Bishops recently invited pastors to address the sin of racism with their parishioners and reminded us that almost 40 years ago a Pastoral Letter on Racism was authored by the US Bishops. One reflection stands out: “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.”

 In response to the violence in Charlottesville, the US Bishops further have said the following: The fundamental problem is this: too often we are apt to group people as either “us” or “them.” And when we see another as “one of them,” we tend to act out of fear – a fear of the unfamiliar and a fear that they will somehow harm us. This is the root from which racism too easily springs.

What answer is there to the sin of racism? Again, the US Bishops help us out by saying the following:

  • The answer is Christ, who proclaimed the oneness of the human family.
  • The answer is Christ, whose Church is a “house of prayer for all peoples” (Is. 56:7).
  • The answer is Christ, who came to heal the divisions of sin and death.
  • The answer is Christ, who commands us to do what is right and just (Is. 56:1).
  • The answer is Christ, who prayed to his heavenly Father, “so that all may be one…” (John 17:21).
  • The answer is Christ’s Kingdom where there are no divisions; where there is no separating us from them, and where there is no fear of harm from “them.”

In order to heal the sin of racism, like any other sin, conversion must take place. There is a corporate element to the sin of racism, however, that makes it more challenging. As a nation, we must confront racism whenever we see it. As a church, we must welcome those who are different than we are and be inclusive of all as children of God. Individually, we must humbly place ourselves in the loving hands of God and ask the Lord to convert our hearts if need be to heal the wound of racism.

As always, I have hope. Without it I would be destined for despair. I know it is within our power to heal the wounds of racism, but like most things, it must start closest to home and work from there. I’m realistic enough to know that a one page bulletin article will not heal all wounds, or even come close to addressing the complexities of the sin of racism, but I hope it inspires each of us to prayer – asking God to help us be messengers of his love, forgiveness and recognition that we are all made in his image and likeness. When I was a youngster, I remember a billboard that was created depicting two young boys holding hands – one African-American, the other white – along with the words, “No one is born racist.” How true! Let’s pray that there will come a day when no one feels the need to espouse racism to the young people of this world.

May God bless you always.

Love,

Fr. Tim