The Altar Where Earth Is Touched by the Heavenly Jerusalem

THE PILGRIM has an insatiable pull to finding an answer to the disturbing homelessness in his own heart. Like an infant, nothing quite satisfies him. Neither the temperature, nor the food, nor the good company with whom he is surrounded by can finally appreciate the weight of his being, of his unique existence and appetite for God, and of God’s own singular pull towards him. Nothing, that is, except for the Eucharist.

Pilgrimage 3Each step of the sojourner, each twisted ankle or arthritic knee, bent at the direction of this divine attraction twitches the thread that connects the human child to the Almighty Father who is in her heart. There is nothing quite like the ache of a Christian in whose soul neither faith nor reason alone can satisfy. Neither the beauty of harmony, that of nature and the human body, nor the beauty of achievement, that of wealth and admiration, nor even those higher requisites for happiness, of art and music and poetry, or sacred architecture and leisure or even the comfort of modern and ancient things, can sequester the heart of a child who is crying out for her dad or for his mom.

In the final analysis, I see now how great a need it is to be like a child in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 18). The pilgrim is like such a child. She is not in control of the itinerary. He can’t even shop when he wants to, nor eat and sleep as he sees fit. The comfort of the day is to rest the blisters on his feet or to grow in excitement for what may come next as a surprise to her. Life is new again; the experiences of the day are those of an newborn child: stunned, perplexed, awed, tired, strangely energetic, and always hungry. Heaven is the great surprise. There’s no room for bored and boring adults in there. The heart of the saint is inevitably the joyous heart of a youthful God.

Pilgrimage 4Why is it that we attribute wisdom to older faces and joy to youthful ones and attribute the same human qualities onto God? I’d rather say that God is far more like a fine wine: the more aged it is, the greater ability it has to gladden the heart. The world seems to discard God, because he seems to be a thing appropriate only to the “past,” to those ancient days when humans were more naïve and when the new god called modern science had not yet been born to explain away all the Christian myths that led to its own genesis. Far be it from being boring, the God whom I worship inebriates me more exquisitely the longer He ferments in my blood. And the more I notice His loving gaze towards me, the more I realize that nothing else can satisfy. All other lovely things are icons, or windows to Heaven, and pale in comparison to the wild wind of that which lingers in me after God has blown through myriads of beautiful Liturgies.

The closest culture to which this reality can be expressed on earth is the Holy Mass. Having celebrated it in the dust and heat, in the unlikely altars, or even in the great basilicas and cave enclosures, I can say without any hesitation, that despite my own meandering feelings and distractions, aches and comforts, it is all the same-self heart of God, which breaks open the limited symbol of bread and wine to the transfiguring presence of Heaven. It is the only truly infallible form of beauty that we share with God.

As I close these three articles, I have only one final reflection worth sharing. In my final days in Jerusalem, we visited many amazing sites, but at the end of the day only one place really stuck out to me and still does. The altar. It is the altar where earth is touched by the Heavenly Jerusalem. This reality is as true in the Holy Land as it is right here on the altar of St. Theresa in Palatine. The love of God for his children cannot be outdone by time or place. His romantic gesture to his Church cannot be replaced by alternative forms of itself. The Mass is the privileged place for this encounter. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38).

–Fr. Matt Jamesson

Photos

Feature Image (above) – Photo courtesy of Jim Zmich

Pilgrimage 7 - altar tomb bed of Christ

Above: Altar atop the marble encasing within which is the tomb bed of Christ.

Pilgrimage 5 - Church of the Transfiguration

Above: Church of the Transfiguration atop Mount Tabor.

Pilgrimage 6 - Mass at airport in Spain

Above: Celebrating Mass at the airport in Barcelona, Spain.

Pilgrimage 8 - Calvary

Above: Site of Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus was crucified.

Pilgrimage 1

Above:  Fr. Matt and his traveling companions.

The Incomprehensible Surprise that Makes Us Walk on Water

“WHEN JESUS BEGAN his ministry he was about thirty years of age…” (Lk. 3:23). Technically, so was I, and that is perhaps the extent to which I can compare myself with Jesus. I was ordained a few days after my 30th birthday, on May 17th, 2014. You can imagine my excitement after realizing that I would be celebrating a lint anniversary where the priesthood all began.

Picture1After two nights in Bethlehem, we traveled to our next hotel stay near the seashore of Lake Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee. On our way there, we ended our first portion of visiting the sites of the early life of Christ by going to the village of Nazareth to visit the house of Mary during the moment when she heard the greeting of the angel Gabriel – the place where God took on flesh in the womb of Mary, and the same town where, after seeking refuge in Egypt due to Herod’s onslaught, Mary and Joseph raised the child Jesus. Most of these years are hidden to us in Scripture, only sparing silence some details regarding his birth, the manner of his birth and genealogy, and a fragmentary account of an incident in the temple when he was 12 years old. (cf. Luke 2). Next to the writings of Sacred Scripture, we only have ancient traditions, hearsays, and mystical accounts to envision the younger Christ. The rest is kept unrevealed in the sweet memory of his mother who, “kept all these things in her heart” (Lk. 2:51).

Above photo: A sketchy map of our pilgrimage route through the Holy Land. (It may be hard to see). The blue line depicts our route for the first 2 days, the red line for the next 3 days, and the green line for our final three days, as we followed the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

Pilgrimage MassWe continued our route to the location where Jesus lived during the remainder of his adult life, near Capernaum off the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Peter had lived as a fisherman. We stopped at the Jordan River, marking the location, as the Gospels tell us, where Jesus began his public expedition through his baptism by John, his exile into the desert for 40 days, and his eventual calling of the 12 Apostles. It was here on the Jordan River that I celebrated my fourth anniversary as a priest, the memory of which I will always treasure.

During the remainder of our time on the river, each one of us renewed our baptismal promises. After visiting Jericho for lunch (the oldest known human civilization in the world) we headed out to the desert land of the Essenes near the coast of the Dead Sea to view the sites where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered some 80 years ago. Afterwards, we took the afternoon to float on the salty water. The surface of the“Dead Sea” as it is appropriately named is the lowest elevation on earth, resting at nearly 1,500 ft. below sea level. The river Jordan empties out into the Dead Sea, but nothing ever leaves it. It is, as our tour guide told us, the great biblical image of the worse kind of death – the grabbing and unfruitful hoarding of God’s free gift of love.

Pilgrimage 2fWe stayed at a hotel near the shoreline in Galilee for three nights. During this portion of our pilgrimage, we visited as many sites as our group could handle in the 105 degree weather. We visited many shrines, ranging from Caesarea Philippi (where Jesus asked his apostles “who do people say that I am?” (Mk 8:27); to the Mount of Beatitudes; then to the Church of the Seven Springs in Tabgah, dedicated to the location where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes; even to the lake of Galilee on a boat tour. But my favorite stop for prayer and veneration was the Church of the Primacy of Peter. In our last stay in Galilee, we stopped by this church along the seashore, which is known as the place where Peter jumped out of the boat in the Gospel of John and swam to the shore to meet the risen Jesus.

Pilgrimage 2d.jpgHugging the withdrawn waterline by the church on the rocks stands an ancient boat harbor. Through the passage of the years, all that is left is what looks like boulders on an incline. Housing the venerated spot where the resurrected Jesus was making breakfast, stands a very modest church. Marked solely by “Mensa Christi” (Table of Christ) there isn’t much to see inside the church. Besides the large rocks and an altar, most of what is left behind requires a bit of imagination. Of course, at the time of Christ, the shoreline was significantly closer to where the harbor now sits, along with the church that now uses it as its foundation.

The rock-harbor just outside the walls of the church would have been immersed partially under water during the time of Christ, and the wooden spikes on which the boats would have been docked would also have been mounted in linearly submerged anchors of large stones. What the passage of years has left to our generation is a natural formation of heart-shaped rocks. It was right here, in the Church of the Primacy of Peter, that Jesus asked him, “Peter, do you love me…Peter, do you love me…Peter, do you love me?” (cf. John 21).

When I went to Jerusalem for the first time during seminary, the Sea of Galilee was my favorite part. It remains this way, though nothing ever really compares to the feeling one gets standing inside the tomb of Christ. That will follow in the next article. But the Sea of Galilee is a very peaceful place. Its landscape remains relatively immaculate, and visually speaking, it is far easier to imagine what Jesus himself would have seen. But most of all, there is something special about being by the mountains and the water. My inability to take it all and grasp it into my head, my heart, puts me directly into the biblical story. The true miracle of Jesus’ walking on these waters was not that he didn’t sink, but that he chose the perfect spot to reveal the essence of Christian faith: the incomprehensible surprise that makes us walk on water.

— Fr. Matt Jamesson

Photos:

Pilgrimage 2c

Pilgrimage 2e

Pilgrimage 2b

Pilgrimage 2g

 

Not Every Traveler is a Pilgrim

NOT EVERY TRAVELER is a pilgrim, though both can be said to be looking around for something that is worth the risk of security. A traveler, it seems to me, either searches for artifacts or currency to bring home, or he makes the itinerary itself a kind of dwelling. Similarly, the Christian pilgrim ventures out in order to find his true home, only he knows it is neither in the steps of his schedule nor in any location in the world. She might find clues to where heaven once touched earth, kiss an altar that is dedicated to a sacred event, or she might suddenly feel a mystical connection to a bygone saint or an unseen angel. Knowing meanwhile that space can never make up for lost time, the traveler knows he has become a pilgrim when the energy of the sacred consumes his heart with longing for the invisible power, which he now somehow understands has called him there. The pilgrim, you see, is foremost distinguished by a fierce hunger for the holy, which already preceded his mere natural curiosity.

For ten days, I travelled with a group of almost 60 pilgrims to Israel and Palestine. My friend Fr. Ervin Caliente from St. Mary’s in Huntley invited me to co-chaplain with him through the various holy sites of the biblical Middle East. We left on May 14th and set off for Tel Aviv, the very day that the U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem. The political unrest was the last thing on my mind, though admittedly, it was the primary concern for my family. While I strongly dislike flying, the excitement of returning to the Holy Land as a priest trumped any other reason to hesitate (pun unintended). I was, once again, a pilgrim.

Once all of us had arrived in Tel Aviv, we took a 1.5 hr. bus trip straight to our first destination toward the other side of the wall separating Israel from Palestine, and into Manger Square, Bethlehem. After celebrating a quick Mass (quick, because the dining room was going to close on us soon), we spent our first night unpacking, soaking in the new air, the new culture, and the (ever same) bourbon, while we got to know one another as new friends in a strange land. Sitting about a couple hundred yards from where Jesus was born, we could now say we were on holy ground.

This year mid-May was special to the three large religions. The beginning of Ramadan, for Islam (Wednesday); Shavu’ot (also known as Pentecost), for Judaism (Saturday); and Pentecost Sunday for Christianity, all fell within the same week. To say that we will be travelling at the busiest time of the year to Jerusalem would be an understatement. It seemed to me that half the world was emptied and travelled to this near Mediterranean coast. The air was cooler at night, perhaps at the low to mid-70’s in the mountains near Jerusalem and Bethlehem but warmed up to reach over 95 during the day. The heat was only exaggerated once we travelled below sea level and into the Jordan River, Jericho, and the Dead Sea (but that story is for the next article).

For the next two mornings, I was woken up by the Muslim call-to-prayer at 3:30. No closed windows or stone walls could stifle the loud recorded chants coming from the nearby Mosque, which, interestingly enough, was built to be near the church of Bethlehem where Jesus was born, as it was also considered a holy place to the Muslims. I surmise that its minarets were designed to be heard louder than the church bells could ring. While I was not too happy to wake up so early, I did find it rather mystical, and even beautiful in its own way. This land is different from America, not so much by culture, though that is in fact true. It is different in the sense that, while America and Europe and all the developing world cities make even louder noises in order to drown out the still, quiet voice of God and to be heard only from interested prospects, commodities that we now are, the biblically ancient part of the world that I now stood in was interested primarily in being heard by God.

While most of us in secular culture look at the Holy Land as a place trifled by religious wars and hallowed tension, people from the Holy Land look at secular culture as a place seduced by ego wars and shallowed tension. I took great pleasure in just sitting back and absorbing the loud bells and chanted prayers of the churches and mosques; the devotion for the Sabbath by very pious Jews, who still remember how to keep the Lord’s day holy; the unique outfits of Hasidic Jews; the guthra and serwals worn by the Arab Muslim men, or the burqa and partial headscarves worn by the Muslim women; the many crosses and crucifixes that Christian pilgrims wore every place they went; the many Orthodox and Catholic Cassocks worn by the Christian priests, among whom I proudly wore my own. I wanted to absorb it all, and I took great comfort in seeing our own Christian brethren becoming more and more enlivened by the holy cites they visited and touched with their rosaries and religious articles. This was no ordinary tourist destination; we were on the land where Jesus walked, and you can still feel the echoes of his footsteps on the very stones that stood or laid buried beneath our knees.

We split our stay in the Holy Land in three locations: First, we stayed in the Palestinian territory of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. The Christians form a minority here; somewhere around 2 or 3% of the main population are Arab Christians, with a mix of a few other nationalities in between, not a few of which were Filipino. During our stay in Bethlehem for two nights, we visited the Bridgettine Sisters, and while travelling in and out of the wall dividing Palestinian territory and Israel, we visited the home of Mary in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel announced she would become the mother of God; the site of the well in the (then) little town of Nazareth, where Mary and the other women of her time would have collected water; the venerated location (Shepherd’s Field) where the shepherds heard the multitude of the angels announcing the birth of one “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger;” and the (purported) home of St. Joseph, where he fostered the care of the young Jesus. In our short stay, we also journeyed to the home of Elizabeth and Zachariah, where Mary visited her cousin who was pregnant with whom we now call John the Baptist. The rest of our stay in the Holy Land brought us to the territory of Galilee for another three nights. This was the location where Jesus mostly lived out his adult life before being crucified and rising from the dead on the slopes of mount Moriah, where Jerusalem rests, and where we stayed for our final three days during pilgrimage. The latter two locations will be described in the following two articles.

Many thoughts ran through my mind during these days, but only the following stands out to me now:
The hunger of the pilgrim is a consuming fire (cf. Heb 12:29), the heat of which inevitably becomes the same gasping desperation of the saints before they are made into gods. True happiness comes to those who discover in their hearts the heavenly Jerusalem, and who now pant and cry in their poverty, a desperate plea even to the silence of rocks and dust, for a mere taste of that strange other whom “no eye has seen, nor ear heard…” (1 Cor. 2:9) but whose voice is the beautiful enfolding and terrible curse of well-trained lovers.

— Fr. Matt Jamesson

Photos

Above (featured image): We celebrated Mass in the lower portions of the Church in Bethlehem in the cave where St. Jerome studied and interpreted the Greek Scriptures into Latin. Behind the cave wall is the location of Christ’s birth.

Pilgrimage - church of Visitation

Above – Location: Ein Karim – The Church of the Visitation, the traditional home of Elizabeth and Zachariah.

Pilgrimage - home of Mary

Above – A view from the second floor in the church in Nazareth. The structures in the image are of the remnants of the home of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Pilgrimage - ancient manger

Above – An image of an ancient manger. This is the type of manger Jesus would have been born in – a feeding trough for animals.

Pilgrimage - Fr. Matt and companions

Above – Fr. Matt and his companions.

Pilgrimage - Fr. Matt and camel

Above – Fr. Matt and his new friend!

 

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