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Urban Impressions of the Stations of the Cross

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ransom the Captive

“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13:3

”When I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:36

At first glance, when I reflected on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, I found it challenging to connect with Ransom the Captive (aka, Visit the Imprisoned). It appeared to me to be the most challenging of the Works of Mercy to identify with and difficult to put into practice. To fully embrace this Work of Mercy, it calls for us to separate ourselves from the labels and stereotypes that are cast on inmates – individuals who commit crimes against society and are imprisoned. Yet, as Christians we recognize that those in prison are human beings who have the same desire to be treated with dignity, to have their spiritual and physical needs addressed and who wish to be supported in their desire to change, to rebuild their lives. 

Ransom the Captive shines a strong light into the depths of our hearts so that we may see whether feelings of fear and judgment are hidden there. It challenges us to work to be merciful toward others who make mistakes. 

As I read more and more about this Work of Mercy and gained a better understanding of how Ransom the Captive is put into practice, I came to realize that there are many faith based organizations- Christian, Muslim, and Jewish - that minister to those in prison. 

Shortly after his election as the new pope, Pope Francis chose to visit a prison in Rome and celebrate Holy Thursday Mass with the inmates there. Through this selfless act, the Holy Father reminded us that Jesus himself had been arrested and imprisoned on the night before he died. He told the inmates that Jesus loves them without limit. He reminded them that he never tires of loving or forgiving anyone. 

His example reminded us that those confined to prison deserve the opportunity to hear the Word of God and find the truth of the message of Christ. 

One avenue to put Ransom the Captive into practice is to work as a volunteer in a prison ministry. One of the most well-known prison ministries – Kolbe House at Assumption Parish– is the Catholic jail ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Their calling is ‘to befriend and accompany detainees. To listen to one another’s stories, reconnect with each other, God and community, pray together, support one another, believing in the capacity to become whole and find love, joy and peace in the world.’

Kolbe House offers several opportunities for volunteers to help prison populations including one-to-one visits and pastoral counseling. They work with family members, provide emergency services to the incarcerated, and their families. You can learn more about Kolbe House by visiting their web site at:

Yet, one can see that there are many dimensions to this Work of Mercy that extend beyond its application to populations imprisoned. I came to recognize that being a captive can apply to individuals with addictions, individuals living in abusive situations, and victims of human trafficking. Many of us can relate to individuals in these circumstances who we encounter in our daily lives. We can ransom them by showing our mercy with gifts of ourselves – being present, listening and showing empathy, encouraging and supporting their spiritual needs. 

And, as I reflect on ransoming captives, questions come forward that apply to my personal experiences:
  • Have I ever stopped to think what it takes to be merciful toward others mistakes?
  • Do I know how to forgive and give second chances to those who are close to me?
I encourage others to reflect on their personal experiences within the context of this rich Work of Mercy - Ransom the Captive:

Is there a captive in your life? How can you help him or her to get free?

Submitted by Ken Henriksen, vice chair of the Faith Formation Commission and member of the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Lector Ministry. He has been a parishioner at Holy Name Cathedral since 1997. 

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.

One Word at a Time - Lavish

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Pew to Pilgrim: Forgive Those Who Hurt Us

This Act of Mercy is really hard. It requires us to fully embrace our belief that Christ died for our sins and we will be forgiven. As if looking in the mirror, we ask ourselves if we can be forgiven, why can we not forgive others? Yet Christ calls on us to forgive unconditionally.

Being hurt by someone is something we can all relate to. Often, it is a very painful and long-lasting experience, especially if caused by someone close to you or by someone you trusted. There is a feeling of betrayal, often making it that much harder to forgive.

Possibly one of the most difficult parts of Forgive Offenses Willingly is to forgive before the other person has apologized. This Act of Mercy calls us to proactively forgive without an “I’m sorry” or an “I was wrong.” To reach out and forgive in the absence of another’s accountability creates an incredible state of vulnerability. Again, this is exactly what Christ calls us to do.

Forgiveness has an incredible twist – by forgiving others, we realize an incredible peace. To hold onto offenses hurts us far more than the person we are angry with. We play it over and over in our head and the hurt gets repeated, grows and potentially becomes hardened. It becomes a burden that we carry, regardless of how the other person is feeling or thinking.

As humans, we often have a natural tendency to want to be “right.” We rationalize, we argue, we look for proof that supports our viewpoint that we are right. Letting go of this somewhat righteous view of ourselves is actually a key step in getting to forgiveness. Putting aside our own egos and taking the higher road defines us as Christians and Catholics.

But the Bible also calls for us to love our enemies. One example is Luke 6:28, Jesus says “Bless those who curse you.” In this instance, this means to speak positively about someone or be nice to them when you interact, regardless of how you have been hurt. Think about those in your life you consider “your enemy” – why is that? If you were to treat them differently, how might things change between you? Perhaps treating them with kindness might change how they think of themselves and how they treat others. 

Our society seems to be especially volatile at the moment. One act of hate seems to lead to another, growing as people seek vengeance on their “enemies.” This calls for incredible restraint and a willingness to put a stop to the vicious circle. By extending forgiveness instead of retribution, we offer the possibility of fundamental change. But to forgive does not mean to excuse or to be weak. It does not mean we should assume a passive or victim state. 

Father Mike Schmitz, chaplain for Newman Catholic Campus Ministries at the University of Minnesota Duluth has this practical advice for forgiveness:
  1. Acknowledge that there is something to forgive
  2. Count precisely what an individual has caused you
  3. Don’t say it’s OK or what they did doesn’t matter. Count the cost and then make a decision to release them of their debt
One important aspect of his advice – make sure you do it in the above order. Don’t skip one or do it out of order. It doesn’t work. 

Where to begin? Take the advice of this week’s Profile in Mercy – Stephanie McIntyre. Be patient, be prayerful and persevere. Forgiveness is a process, not an event. 

  • Read Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee as a daily prayer of inspiration
  • Pray for a person or people who have hurt you
  • Go to confession and share the resentment you may have for another person; ask for guidance to forgive
  • Send a card or a gift to someone who has hurt you – find some type of acknowledgement of their gift to you
  • Call someone you may have hurt and apologize
  • Read Pope Francis Bull of Indiction of The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy - “Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.”
  • Is there someone in your life that seems to be angry or upset with you? Take them out for a cup of coffee to find out what is wrong and apologize to them
  • Ask yourself how you judge others – reflect on how merciful God is to you – can you extend the same love to others?
  • Set a goal to go a whole day without saying a negative thing about another person
  • Stop someone from engaging in gossip with you – offer a forgiving perspective for them to relook at the object of their gossip 
  • Buy a bunch of balloons – write the names of all those who have hurt you or those you have struggled to forgive - release them and find peace in forgiveness
  • Attend a rosary session at Holy Name and dedicate the session to a particular person you are having a hard time with 
  • Sit down with a friend or family member who is holding a long-standing grudge against another person; see how they might find some peace through forgiveness 
  • Visit the graveside of someone who passed before you were able to forgive – pray and share your forgiveness
  • Confront your enemy – directly ask them why they do things that hurt you – do not make this a blame game and make them defensive; help them understand how you feel

Lori Doyle and Gabi Schultz are members of the Parish Pastoral Council, active with a variety of Liturgical Ministries as Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers, Cathedral Altar Servers and Ministers of Care at Prentice Hospital/NW Hospital. Both parishioners for about 6 years, Lori loves to travel and cook and is a proud mother of her son John, a UM Wolverine. Gabi enjoys trying new restaurants, running, cooking lessons and spending time with friends and family.

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


At the risk of a blog post title sounding like a song from the doo-wop era, I wanted to interrupt our Season of Mercy with some exciting news.

With WYD happening in Poland, a new resource has been released. You can access the DoCat as an app in Apple Store or Goggle Play. As of the posting of this, you can download the text of the book in the app for free due to the WYD special.

Should you be interested in the book itself, you can find it from Ignatius Press.

Oh, have I forgotten to share the content? It is a wonderful, contemporary guide to the social teaching of the Church.

In this Year of Mercy, understanding more about the social teaching of the Church is so very important. 

#TBT - St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
where there is injury, pardon; 
where there is doubt, faith; 
where there is despair, hope; 
where there is darkness, light; 
where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, 
grant that I may not so much seek 
to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood as to understand; 
to be loved as to love; 
For it is in giving that we receive; 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
-Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

At a time when so much violence and hatred, fear and mistrust permeate our society these words of St. Francis remind us of all that we are capable of. We are reminded of the grace and love offered to us by God that inspires, 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Contingent Forgiveness

Take some time to read through the passage, Matthew 6:9-15, then return to this reflection. 
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Our Father or Lord's Prayer is so well known. For many it is one of the first prayers we memorize as children. As children we recite it; as adults at Mass or in daily prayer we recite it. How often have you meditated upon the words? Have you ever spent time reflecting and praying through the implications of those exceptionally familiar words?

During this week we are focusing on forgiving others willingly. The Our Father adds a complication to this. We are given this prayer from Jesus with the discomforting line:
"forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors"
Take a moment to imagine the depth, breath, and all-encompassing nature of God's mercy and forgiveness that he offers to each and every human who has ever, ever walked the earth. That is the forgiveness we are asked to emulate. God's forgiveness is not contingent upon anything other than the human heart, mind, and soul turning to Him, asking forgiveness, and for the strength to live more holy in the future. 

Is that the forgiveness you offer to others?

Or does your forgiveness come with stipulations? Forgiveness offered only if the person admits to others their failings? Forgiveness only if we can dredge up the offense in the future so as to win our way or gain the person's acquiescence to our will? Forgiveness only after we have forced the person to endure uncertainty, pain, or ostracization?
"If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
It turns out there is a bit of a challenge that God places before us. If we claim to be Christian, if we claim to live like Jesus, then should not the lives we lead demonstrate God's forgiveness? If we hold those grudges and resentment, can we truly claim to be living like God, can we truly claim to be Christian? If we are not offering forgiveness, the first we need to do is turn to God and beg for His mercy. 

I challenge you this week to two things and two things only.

First, turn to God and seek his loving, merciful forgiveness. Participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

Second, begin the journey of forgiving others. Picka person you are struggling to forgive and be charitable towards. If you are yet unable to offer forgiveness, pray to more fully feel God's love and to see that person with His eyes. When you feel a flash of resentment or anger towards the person you are struggling to forgive, seek a charitable thought - some compliment, an admirable trait, or the fundamental reminder that even that person you so desperately struggle with is a beloved child of God, just like you.

Jennifer Delvaux
Director of Faith Formation

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Profiles in Mercy: Pay It Forward

To forgive offenses willingly takes courage, the same courage Stephanie McIntyre believes is needed to be a CHRISTian and a Catholic. It takes strength to extend forgiveness, let alone be the one to forgive even before someone says “I’m sorry.” As Catholics, we are asked to forgive all offenses and not just those we are ready to forgive. The strength comes through us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

You have probably seen Stephanie in liturgical ministry roles as Lector, Extraordinary Minister, the leader of the Cathedral Altar Server ministry or active member of the Faith Formation Commission. She seems to be everywhere, praying, listening and encouraging us to embrace a more merciful way of living.

A parishioner since attending the parish Cathedral school as a young girl, Stephanie is a “cradle-Catholic.” Devoutly, Stephanie heard the call from God to step out of the pew and actively “grow CHRIST’s Kingdom” during a pre-Lenten homily from her friend, Monsignor Dan Mayall.

A constant beacon of optimism, she encourages us to lean into our faith every day, especially when faced with doubt, worry or wound. “Each day is a new day. I smile, even though I may hurt, because I know GOD is working in me.”

I AM a sinner and a servant.

I AM a leader, and a follower; an organizer and a communicator…..and a unifer under GOD…..all for His Glory.

I pray first. Prayer changes EVERYTHING! I pray for the Holy Spirit to cover and guide my thoughts, my words and my actions. I try to observe, listen, discern, then respond with CHRIST-like Love. I AM still, so that when GOD calls, I AM able to BOLDLY OBEY. Whenver, whatever, wherever, how ever, because I have faith I will receive the grace that strengthens me to do His Will.

I live my life so that those who know me but don’t know CHRIST, yearn to know CHRIST because they know me.

Perhaps a coincidence, Stephanie is an expert thurifer, the one who carries the thurible, bringing incense to the altar for the archbishop or priest to venerate, bless and sanctify. For the rest of us, to get incensed more likely means to “make very angry,” often times a slow burn.

When faced with a difficult situation, Stephanie adopts a calm respect for the other’s point of view, letting her eyes and ears see and listen…and sometimes step away to pray. “Faith in GOD gives me the power to walk away when temptation wants me to sway.”

Her advice is to forgive unconditionally, to pray and keep moving forward– accepting that God’s purpose isn’t always understood. “Be kind to ourselves and others by looking at every interaction as a gift from God. Realize that disappointment and hurt are inevitable, and perhaps discouraging, but never give in.”

Many of us are in awe of the incredible forgiveness demonstrated by the victims’ families of Emanuel AME Church. Stephanie points out that forgiveness heals everyone. “It wasn’t just the killer who was forgiven. Forgiveness is a healing ointment for those who have been hurt. People say “I could never do it” but once said, you have made your choice and it won’t happen.”

Given her extraordinarily positive approach to life, I asked Stephanie if she ever gets upset with someone else – she laughed. “Yes I do, but I have learned to respond by respecting and reflecting that everyone is not like me.”

Her advice is three-fold: patience, prayer and perseverance. Forgiveness isn’t a single act but rather an ongoing process allowing us to move on and pay it forward. “Keep your eyes on The Cross and your focus on His Cause.”

So no matter what happens, pause, pray and say:

GOD Bless You and Thank You Very Much!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Media & Mercy: The Liar's Club

Arguably, the thread of Mary Karr’s unofficial trilogy of memoirs—The Liar’s Club¸ which simultaneously tells the stories of her troubled childhood and the warped romance between her alcoholic parents; Cherry, which chronicles her time as a teenage runaway; and Lit, in which she overcomes her own addictions and becomes a writer, mother, and Catholic—is forgiveness. This isn’t particularly surprising. For one thing, the parental offenses that Karr needs to forgive (which include neglect, deception, and two murder attempts) are gargantuan, and could easily take more than a lifetime to work through. And, for another, learning how to forgive offenses is one of the hardest things about being Catholic (or, at the very least, it’s proven to be one of the hardest things for me). It only stands to reason that she’d have a lot to say about it.

Before my conversion, I believed that forgiveness wasn’t particularly useful. Anger, however: anger was something that could save me. By clinging to old grudges, I thought that I was setting examples for myself of the things that I didn’t want to be. This is the approach that, for much of her life, Karr took towards her mother. By refusing to forgive the woman’s alcoholism or mental illness, she thought that she could avoid such afflictions herself.

For those who know better, it should be no surprise where this attitude leads her. By the events of Lit, she’s stymied by demons of her own, alcoholism and mental illness among them. Ultimately, anger and resentment do nothing for Karr. It’s only when she resolves to forgive her mother (a journey that, ultimately, leads her to God) that she’s able to move past the trauma of her past, reach her full potential, and appreciate the things her mother does have to offer. 

Far from setting an example, resentment only serves to mire us in old, destructive patterns. It’s impossible to see oneself clearly from such a perspective, to say nothing of another person. But once we’ve reached a place of forgiveness, we—much like Karr, I’d imagine—will be able to truly see the gifts of those around us, and share our gifts in turn.

Teresa de Mallorca is the pseudonym of a neophyte who just completed the RCIA program at Holy Name

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Forgiving Offenses Willingly

Forgiving offenses willingly is difficult, and without the help of Jesus, I would say it’s nearly impossible. Although I’ve been a Christian my whole life, and a Catholic for almost 5 years, my default “forgiveness strategy” has been to just try to ignore the offense. If I shove it wayyyyyyyy down inside and try to just forget about it, it’s gone – right? Wrong. Because something will always happen – maybe days later, maybe years later – that will trigger those old feelings. Then it hurts just the same as it did the first time, and maybe even more. 

True forgiveness is an action that affects you, the person doing the forgiving. It’s not a passive state of just ignoring or trying to forget. My favorite Christian thinker C. S. Lewis writes about the problem of forgiveness:

“. . . you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.
As regards my own sin it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought.
But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian character; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”
C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: Harper Collins, 2001; Originally published 1949), 181-183

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? We ask God in The Lord’s Prayer every Sunday to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Do you ever stop to think exactly what that means? We expect God to forgive us, just as he commands us to forgive others. In this Season of Mercy, remember that the forgiveness God grants flows through us to be freely offered to those who wrong us. “We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.”

Amy Greene
Amy and her husband Jeff are parishioners at HNC. She began working as Holy Name’s Stewardship Associate last year.

One Word at a Time - Forgive

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pew to Pilgrim - Wrap the Needy in the Fabric of Our Faith

Naked… we all know what the word means. However, you may not know that it comes from the verb “nake” (actually, I didn’t even know nake was a word). Though no longer commonly used, nake means to strip clothes off; to bare or to expose. To nake someone is to strip them of their clothing, inferring a public show of power over another. It implies a sense of vulnerability or even harsher, a removal of dignity.

Clothing holds significance and carries symbolic meaning in nearly every culture. In its most basic sense, it is practical, designed for warmth and protection. But it has evolved, now a message of personal expression or even a statement about one’s position in society. 

It’s said that it only takes seven seconds for our brains to make a judgement about another person, largely based on their appearance. Yet, for many people, access to clean and well-fitting clothes doesn’t exist. 

Matthew 25 calls for us to take action, not just reflect. Clothing provides a real sense of security, both as protection from the elements and also a sense of dignity. We may not need that shirt or shoes in the closet we haven’t worn for months or the other pieces of clothing that bury their way into the back of the drawer. But for someone else, it can make a world of difference. 

The Chief Design Officer of California Closets recently shared a shocking statistic: only 20% of the clothes in the average person’s closet are worn on a regular basis. The other 80% just sits there. So when hearing the Lord’s call to donate, think of what you could share with a needy man, woman or child.

Something to keep in mind – only donate gently-used and clean items you would feel comfortable giving to someone else in your family or circle of friends. Is the item too old to donate? Look for places to recycle the textiles. Another tip – for worn but well-made shoes, perhaps take them to the shoe repair for a new heel or sole before donating.

The quickest way to get started is right now – Holy Name Cathedral’s Human Concerns Commission is sponsoring a Clothing Drive on Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24 with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Trucks will be in the Cathedral’s parking lot.

Ask yourself – what could I do to restore a sense of security and dignity for another person through Clothe the Naked? 
  • Read Thrift Store Saints to learn about the faith journey of volunteers at a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store 
  • Create a reading group, use the Discussion Group Guide and reflect on how you can be in action 
  • On September 27, the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul, make it your Clothe the Naked day – read about his life
  • Read A Closetful of Regrets to learn more about why we buy what we buy and only wear 20%
  • Knit winter caps with our ACT II knitting group – together or at home; donations are made at Christmas – contact Helen McArdle
  • Donate hangers to charities – they can use wooden and plastic hangers for their stores 
  • Watch for Holy Name Cathedral’s Annual Drive for Winter Gloves for the homeless (October & November) – information will be in the Bulletin 
  • Think about what is in your storage unit – what could you donate to empty out – maybe get rid of the storage unit completely? 
  • Find a Catholic school in the Archdiocese that needs donations for school uniforms 
  • Gather all of your sample size or travel size toiletries – donate them to a homeless shelter, Emmaus Ministries, Catholic Charities Emergency Assistance Clothing Rooms 
  • Donate unused or partially-used gift cards to charity – try online or local charities 
  • Don’t just throw away clothing that is too old to donate – the textiles can be recycled – check out Planet Aid
  • Emmaus Ministries of Chicago needs clothing for their clientele (men only) as well as for their new storefront 
  • Next you are shopping and “just have to buy it,” stop, look at price tag and donate that amount to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul 
  • Volunteer at Catholic Charities’ Mary’s Closet to provide personalized attire consultation and interview preparation 
  • Think about what makes your home feel like home – what are ways to help others decorate their homes – what can you share with them by donating: 
  • Artwork, home decorations, picture frames, lamps, rugs, tablecloths, place mats, candles/candle holders, napkins, kitchen appliances, dishes, glasses 
  • Go to a retail warehouse club and buy bulk new socks, undershirts, boxers, undergarments to donate 
  • Become a Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteer
  • Keep less, share more – set an aggressive target to reduce your closet by 50% by donating half – you only use ~20% anyway! 
  • Organize a clothing drive for people in a developing nation (shoes are often in great demand) – understand what is really needed, how to gather and stage, and the logistics to ship overseas 

Lori Doyle and Gabi Schultz are members of the Parish Pastoral Council, active with a variety of Liturgical Ministries as Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers, Cathedral Altar Servers and Ministers of Care at Prentice Hospital/NW Hospital. Both parishioners for about 6 years, Lori loves to travel and cook and is a proud mother of her son John, a UM Wolverine. Gabi enjoys trying new restaurants, running, cooking lessons and spending time with friends and family.

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

#TBT St. Vincent de Paul

Do you feel you are clothed with the Spirit of God? Why or why not?

How can you seek God more fully in your life today?

How can you share the spirit of God with others today, clothing them with God's love?

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Long Game

Take some time to read through the passage, Matthew 25:31-46, then return to this reflection. 
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

.If you have been following these posts all summer, it might be surprising that it took us so long to finally come to this passage. It is one that people most frequently point to when we discuss service and the works of mercy. It is the obvious choice. Initially, that is why I avoided it for a while. There are so many beautiful and challenging passages in Scripture that relate to the works of mercy that I wanted to introduce as many of them as possible. Then there is this very well-known passage that is so very, very obvious.

While driving in to work today I found myself realizing that this passage is the elephant in the room. We need to talk about the obvious that we choose to ignore because it is a bit frightening to acknowledge it. Yes, Christ speaks of the works of mercy. We understand these – feed, clothe, visit. We nod along to the homilies that remind us of this. We murmur in agreement when we read of the works others are doing.

Then there is the elephant in the room. “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink…these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Living out our call as followers of Christ is about being his disciples as wholly and completely as we are able. It means developing our faith lives and spirituality – constantly (Confirmation is not graduation from your faith development). It means living lives of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. It means speaking truth with love.

Like the proverbial elephant, let us never forget we are looking to the long game, a very long game – eternity. We are looking at Heaven and Hell. Who we are and what we do here and now affects eternity. 
  • Who are you? What is your identity?
  • Who do you think God created you to be?
  • How are you living as a disciple today? How could you improve?
  • What are you doing to live the call of a disciple in the world through works of mercy and compassion?
  • How are you manifesting God’s love to others?
Jennifer Delvaux
Director of Faith Formation

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Profiles in Mercy - Society of St. Vincent de Paul

 “The poor have much to teach you. You have much to learn from them.” St. Vincent de Paul

Since I was a little girl, the word “charity” is always associated with St. Vincent de Paul. Their trucks seemed to always be around when it was time to help others in need. They came to our home to pick up furniture donations, they set up trucks in our parish parking lot for clothing drives and opened storefronts to create a local physical presence.

With an U.S. army of 160,000 trained volunteers donating over 11.5 million hours, their seemingly omnipresence becomes clear. Perhaps what is more inspirational is the impact they have in providing over 14 million needy recipients with goods and services valued at over $1 billion.

Founded in the mid-1800s, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is now active in over 130 countries and all 50 United States. Working for the past 180 years, “Vincentians" work to provide personalized services to individuals and families in need.

They are the epitome of Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me…”, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is driven by a spirit of “poverty, humility and sharing.” They encourage prayer and reflection to seek a more permanent eradication of poverty and its never-ending cycle.

 A true servant of God, St. Vincent de Paul was born in France in the late 16th century into a poor family. Ordained as a priest in 1600, he was captured by Barbary pirates, sold into slavery and lived in bondage for two years until his escape.

Landing in Rome, he continued his studies, eventually returning to France in 1609 to begin a life focused on providing merciful charity to the needy. He founded the "Ladies of Charity" (French: Dames de la Charité), organizing wealthy Parisian women to raise money for charitable missions and services including ransom for slaves. Appointed chaplain to imprisoned galley slaves (think Les Miserables), he brought much-needed spiritual hope and corporal relief to these tormented souls.

Becoming a parish priest and funded by a wealthy patron, he founded the Congregation of the Mission, or the "Vincentians,” a community of priests with vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability and devoted entirely to the people. Decades of zealous focus with both priests and lay persons, St. Vincent de Paul established charitable groups in each parish and launched the Daughters of Charity.

Living to be 80 years old, he was canonized in 1737 and declared by Pope Leo XIII to the patron saint of all charitable societies. A symbol of humility, he is known as a beacon of hope and mercy for all classes of people. His Feast Day is September 27.

Inspired by the charitable works of St. Vincent de Paul, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, a Sorbonne professor and his students founded the Society of St. Paul de Vincent in 1833, to assist the poor. Fast forward 180 years, this global charity is known for their personalized service delivered with dignity and relief from immediate suffering but also focus on creative, longer-term solutions. To quote their patron: "Charity is infinitely inventive."

You can become a part of this merciful work – donate your gently used and clean clothing this weekend, July 23 & 24, at our Holy Name Cathedral Clothing Drive, sponsored by the Human Concerns Commission. SVP trucks will be in our parking lot before and after all Masses.

Lori Doyle - Joined Holy Name Cathedral 6 1/2 years ago when I moved to Chicago. Currently the Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council, I also served as Chair of the Human Concerns Commission. Actively involved in our parish, I also serve as an Extraordinary Minister and a Minister of Care at Prentice Hospital/Northwestern Hospital. Was honored in 2015 with the annual Archdiocese of Chicago Christifidelis award

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Media & Mercy - Entering Their World

In general, I try to steer clear of generalizations; but, nevertheless, I would hazard that virtually everybody living in the United States has an opinion about poverty. There are plenty of people in this country who are apolitical, and for whom phrases like about welfare reform, support nets, and public policy mean nothing; but even they have opinions about the panhandler in the North Face jacket, or the mother buying Coca-Cola with her LINK card. Too often, living under the poverty line is part-and-parcel with living under a cloud of unsolicited criticism. The idea held by many is that, as a low-income individual, you must be incapable of having a healthy relationship with your possessions—that, if you struggle to provide food and clothing for your family, there must be something you’re doing wrong. 

Needless to say, this attitude exhibits little in the way of mercy. Instead of entering into the chaos of another, it stands outside and judges. From the interior, however, things look rather different. Oftentimes, what seems like wasteful spending to an observer is a survival skill for someone mired in a low-income situation.

Few books explore these circumstances in more detail than Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family. Among the many real-life single mothers she profiles, CoCo (who becomes a mother at the age of 15) is the most committed to keeping her five children in good clothes. For her girls, this means plenty of sequins and sparkles; for her son, this means nothing less than designer wear, since she believes that it isn’t otherwise possible to distinguish a well-dressed boy from his peers. This commitment does not waver even when she loses her food stamps, or their apartment becomes infested with so many cockroaches that her eldest daughter is obligated to wring them from her sisters’ clothes before they get dressed for school. 

However, what seems like an outrageous waste of resources is actually Coco’s way of preparing for their future. She worries that, if she allows her children to look poor, they’ll be written off as lost causes. Because people will be so quick to assume that they’ve been warped by their upbringings, they won’t bother to look for gifts or talent. 

Oftentimes, when trying to help, the urge to correct becomes overwhelming. Many readers of Random Family will probably feel compelled to grab CoCo by the shoulders and denounce the evils of materialism—I certainly know that I did. However, as Christ himself says, we should be mindful of the splinters in our eyes before we attempt to pluck them from those of another. What are we doing to clothe Coco’s children? Are we actually attempting to enter their world, and meet their needs—or are we limiting ourselves to the roles of judges?

Teresa de Mallorca is the pseudonym of a neophyte who just completed the RCIA program at Holy Name

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Naked and You Clothed Me

We humans come in to the world with nothing and exit much the same. Some of us are lucky enough to grow up surrounded by love and compassion and wear the goodness of our families like flesh and blood.

Others in our community have been stripped of the chance to feel a healthy self-esteem or a sense of personal dignity. You might say they haven’t fully experienced being “clothed in Christ.” (Galatians 3:26-27)

In the 2012 Scottish film The Angels’ Share* a group of young people are given one last chance at a new life. They will either go to prison or commit to community service ( Of course, hijinks (and * warning * a fair bit of gritty language) are in order but it can also be seen as a metaphor for discipleship. This scraggly group comes together guided by a very caring leader and proves that they are not the good-for-nothings that the world sees them as. They are merely people with a past that left them naked and vulnerable—without the ability to see themselves as good and whole people.

Our protagonist Robbie is fighting against a multigenerational lust for violence and distrust. He finally has the opportunity to make things right in his life when he meets a friend of the family who seems to have the perfect life and yet ‘gets’ what he is going through and offers him a beautiful home in a new neighborhood.

Robbie: Why are you doing this for us?
Grace: Someone gave me a chance once, and it changed my life.

Naked and you clothed me.

More than a cliché, Jesus took one look and you and me and said we were worthy to die for. He saw as naked; all of our bumps and wounds and scars and said, yup, you are my beloved.

Mercy looks at the Robbie’s on our path and helps us to help them put on the clothes of Christ.

* The Angels’ Share refers to a portion/share of the volume of whisky that is evaporated within oak barrels during the aging process

Julie Berggren, MA, is Director of Pastoral Care at Holy Name Cathedral. She is a spiritual companion and accompanies those who grieve. She is a gardener and lives with her husband and golden retriever, Poppy. Poppy is the best listener in the house.

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One Word at a Time - Resent

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pew to Pilgrim - Now That's a Prayer

In the movie Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey is encouraged to pray for something he truly cares about and not just recite something sounding like a beauty pageant participant. In that moment, he prays for a loved one to be seen “through the eyes of God.” A transformational moment even in the midst of a comedy.

This invitation is open to all of us – to pray for everyone – not just in sympathy but with empathy. While many of our prayers focus on something in our personal lives, Christ calls us to go beyond ourselves. Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support others. Joining together in prayer for the living and the dead entrusts us all into God's care.

The power of prayer, while often requested, is strong but God’s answer frequently does not reveal itself. We have to listen and watch for the opportunities to do what God intends.

Remembering that mercy means "disposition to forgive or show compassion”, Pray for the Living and the Dead calls upon us to pray for everybody, even those who have hurt us or perhaps the most difficult, for those who committed mortal sins through overt and repeated acts of evil. As Julie Berggren, HNC Director of Pastoral Care shares:

“When praying for someone who might have offended me, I ask God to enlarge my heart. I will place the person that I am struggling with in my heart and ask God for peace and to enlarge my heart for that person. Focusing on that person and realizing how very much God loves them removes my need to be right and eases the way toward love. Like all prayer, it’s a process not a one-time experience.”

Julie also provides rich advice through her insights as a spiritual director. “People sometimes tell me they feel their prayer life is dry or maybe doesn’t hold as much meaning as they would like. After asking them a little about their prayer practice, sometimes they might say that they are just reciting names. The way it is described can sound rather like talking at God rather than listening to God. I will sometimes ask them, what would it be like to simply listen to God?” Remember that another way of praying is to simply listen.

Prayer can achieve great things – healing people, avoiding or resolving conflict, supporting loved ones and strangers in times of need…all offering the comfort of mercy to the living. But there is the frequently overlooked or forgotten Praying for the Dead. Certainly at the time of one’s death, many prayers are offered up for someone to be in Heaven or a “better place.” But we know that many souls may be in Purgatory and prayers for their journey is perhaps one of the most important prayers we could offer.
  • When you do laundry, prepare a meal, take a shower, or go to bed at night, ask God to comfort those who don’t have clothes to wash, food to eat, running water to use, or a bed to sleep in.
  • Through prayer, entrust your cares and concerns for those around you to God
  • When you see a sunrise or sunset, smell fresh baked cookies, hear your favorite song, or taste something delicious, pray for those who are blind, deaf, or unable to experience life through their senses.
  • When you see a cemetery, pray for the souls of the people who are buried there, as well as the souls of your loved ones who have passed away.
  • Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who has passed away
  • Send a card to someone on the anniversary of their loved one’s passing
  • When you are impatient, frustrated, or going through a struggle in your life, pray for the poor souls in Purgatory who are patiently, painfully awaiting their entrance into heaven.
  • Join the Women’s Lectio Divina prayer group at HNC – every Saturday morning after 8a Mass
  • Register for the next Holy Name’s Women’s Retreat October 14-16; email Jennifer Delvaux
  • Become a Pastoral Associate – see Archdiocese of Chicago guidelines
  • Take the Prayer Quiz
  • When you pass a funeral home with a parking lot full of cars, pray for the soul of the deceased person, as well as that person’s family and friends.
  • When you hear a police car, ambulance, or fire truck siren, pray a Hail Mary for the officers, paramedics and victims
  • Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who is going through a tough time
  • Pray for the forgotten, for those who do not receive prayers – those who offend you, those who have committed mortal sins
  • Throughout November—the month devoted to praying for the deceased—pray a novena specifically for the souls in Purgatory.
  • Attend weekly Bible Study every Wednesday evening at the Rectory – no advance registration needed
  • Utilize the power of Centering Prayer. More information here
  • Consider all those you can pray for during All Souls Day – November 2; enter their names into the Book of the Dead
  • Make a regular practice of visiting the graves of relatives. A great month to start is November.
  • Volunteer to help with the All Souls Mass; contact Julie Berggren
  • Start your own Book of Intentions – keep people you meet, think of, hear from in your daily prayers
  • Become a Minister of Care at NW Hospital, the Rehabilitation Institute or for the homebound – contact Julie Berggren

Lori Doyle and Gabi Schultz are members of the Parish Pastoral Council, active with a variety of Liturgical Ministries as Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers, Cathedral Altar Servers and Ministers of Care at Prentice Hospital @ NW Hospital. Both parishioners for about 6 years, Lori loves to travel and cook and is a proud mother of her son John, a UM Wolverine. Gabi enjoys trying new restaurants, running, cooking lessons and spending time with friends and family.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Praying through the Summer

With summer comes the shifts in schedule - we travel more, we want to enjoy the beautiful weather, we catch more of the special events in the city. All these activities are wonderful and we shouldn't miss out on the advantages of summer.

However, with all these changes in our routine and the life of the city around us, prayer can often fall by the wayside. Here are some ideas for how you can keep yourself grounded in faith this summer with some creative and portable methods:

Do you have any other suggestions? Comment below with your favorite ways to pray on the go or to stay connected and grow in your faith during the summer.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

#TBT - Advice and Comfort from the Saints

Prayer is challenging for many people. Often described as a conversation with God, prayer seems like a very one sided conversation when you start. You are talking and, you hope, God is listening. It seems like an impossibility to expect to hear God's voice replying. Yet, we are called to keep that conversation going, no matter if we feel like we're hearing back. We're called to listen for God's voice, just as we would listen to the advice, compassion, and support a dear friend has to offer.

Why not explore what some of the saints have to say about prayer? Pick up a text from a bookstore or library by one of the Catholic saints. Whether you look to the earliest of the Church fathers and mothers, the poetry of the mystics, or one of our contemporary saints, there are countless offers of advice, support, and comfort from those who have walked the path of faith before us. 

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Praying with the Our Father

Take some time to read through the passage, Matthew 6:6-15, then return to this reflection. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Our Father/Lord’s Prayer as a 
Model for Prayer

It guides us in how to position ourselves, internally and externally.
We find a place where we can quiet our minds and hearts – perhaps it is a quiet corner of our home, a favorite spot in the park, or a pew in the Cathedral.
It reminds us of our relationship with God.
We open our hearts, minds, and souls to God, who hears and knows all. God, as Our Father, like all parents wants to hear our voice, telling Him of our day, our wishes, our dreams, our joys, our hurts. 
While God knows all and love us, God wishes for us to seek Him in conversation.
It offers a model of how to pray, the content of our prayer.

We offer adoration and praise to God – for His will, His Kingdom, His glory. We praise Him for who He is.
We ask for the needs we have – our daily bread, we ask for what will see us through this day, this moment.
We ask for forgiveness – and we ask for the grace to forgive others.
We ask for grace and strength – for the courage to face the temptations, big and small in our daily lives.
It reminds us of prayer’s role in our life and our community.
We pray not only for ourselves and our needs, but we pray for others. We pray that our hearts may soften, be more grace-filled as we interact with others. We pray to change our hearts so our words and actions may show God’s mercy more fully.

For your reflection 

What stands out, challenges, comforts, or otherwise speaks to you in this passage?

How do you pray?

Do you have a place or places that you feel closest to God? Why is this place so meaningful?

Which of the type of prayer content speaks to you? Why?

What helps you to talk with God?

What hinders your conversations with God?

How can you grow in your relationship with God between now and our next gathering?

Jennifer Delvaux
Director of Faith Formation

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Profiles in Mercy - Prayer is a Gift

The beauty of prayer is that it applies to every aspect of life (and death), to every person and to every situation. “Pray for the Living and the Dead” reminds us of the breadth of prayer, encouraging us to be generous and merciful.

Julie Berggren embodies this generosity of spirit in her daily life and her work as Director of Pastoral Care at Holy Name Cathedral. Joining the HNC just a year ago, Julie brings a wealth of life experience and wisdom on how to practice our faith.

“Meeting God in the simplicity of prayer has changed everything about what it means to me to be a Disciple of Christ,” says Julie. “As one who follows Jesus, I know that I can meet him anywhere at any time.”

Raised locally, Julie has an MA from Loyola University and is a Secular Franciscan and associate of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Inspired by Franciscan and Ignatian spirituality, Julie has elevated the HNC Ministry of Care program and introduced a variety of new ministries.

Julie emphasizes the importance of how to “pray with” someone. More than “pray for” – this is a special beautiful moment to share with someone. You are there to listen, not judge, be present for someone and bring the healing gift of prayer. Julie shares a ministry experience from a hospital visit:

“As I was bringing communion to the last patient of the morning, I saw that a large family group was gathered in a circle around the woman in the bed that, I soon discovered, had just passed away. Only one host was left in my pyx but I realized that there was potential in this moment that could never be replicated if it was interrupted.

We held hands, prayed for the soul of their loved one and then broke the bread of the one host—and there was enough for each person in the circle –to share the body of Christ.

It was a moment of prayer I will never forget and a gift for everyone in the room. It was such an honor to pray our sister home.”

Julie also leads the new bereavement ministry to support family and friends who have lost a loved one. Under her umbrella is also the important (but very quiet) Ministry of Praise, which provides prayer requests to people all over the Chicago area and nationwide. Volunteers experience the gift of what it means to hold the living and the dead in prayer as they devote themselves to this beautiful ministry.

“More than anything, prayer and especially the Act of Mercy of praying for the living and the dead is a gift. It doesn’t need to be complicated or overthought. It is simply being in the loving presence of the One who loves us just as we are. That, my friends is mercy.”

Lori Doyle - Joined Holy Name Cathedral 6 1/2 years ago when I moved to Chicago. Currently the Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council, I also served as Chair of the Human Concerns Commission. Actively involved in our parish, I also serve as an Extraordinary Minister and a Minister of Care at Prentice Hospital/Northwestern Hospital. Was honored in 2015 with the annual Archdiocese of Chicago Christifidelis award

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Media & Mercy - "The Office"

Ever since my conversion, I’ve been eager for a chance to interact with someone that I truly dislike.

I don’t have a particular person in mind. It can be anybody, really. The reason that I’m looking forward to it isn’t because I’m a glutton for punishment, but rather because it’s the area where I expect to see the most concrete changes in my behavior.

Before my baptism, the bulk of my adult life was spent as an irreligious Millennial living in a liberal American metropolis. And, like many members of that group, I firmly believed in the importance of “calling people out.” According to my previous mindset, anyone who erred or mis-stepped was obligated to reckon with their failings immediately. I truly believed that it was better to judge than forgive. Sure, forgiveness sounded nice: but only judgement and shame cut deeply enough to ensure that social circles could be kept clean of abrasive, unpleasant behavior.

It wasn’t until I became a Catholic that I was forced to consider what it meant to share a Body with people that made me uncomfortable. This, I think, is one of the main benefits of praying for the living and the dead. It’s tempting to pray exclusively for our friends and family; but praying on such a grand, cosmic scale can teach you how to replace your conception of community with God’s.

In retrospect, this idea sounds so obvious that I can’t help but wonder how I missed it. As such, I’ve been re-examining the media of my past, trying to figure out whether forgiveness and unity were really that foreign to me.

A surprising place where I saw them at work was in Steve Carrel’s version of “The Office.” I used to watch the show obsessively, even though it oftentimes left me feeling dissatisfied. I thought that Carrel’s character, Michael Scott, was forgiven for his boorish, bigoted behavior too often. There was a loneliness and sadness that underpinned his eccentricities; but I thought they failed to excuse the way he made the people around him feel irritated and uncomfortable.

Of course, by clinging to this opinion, I failed to realize the whole point of the show. The idea that there are certain characteristics that make a person “worthy” of being part of a community is inherently unmerciful. And, without mercy, people can barely manage to keep their heads above the miasma of life, let alone gain enough leverage to climb out and better themselves. Thanks to the faith that his co-workers placed in him (and regardless of the fact that he was never really “deserving” of it), Michael Scott managed to become a better man.

Before we can manage to help others, we need to be helped by others. And before we can achieve a feeling of connection with God’s creation, we need to open ourselves to all aspects of his creation—even those that leave us feeling uncomfortable.

Teresa de Mallorca is the pseudonym of a neophyte who just completed the RCIA program at Holy Name

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

One Prayer Helps Many

The letter arrives every month. 

It looks like any other bill or solicitation, but instead of wanting money or payment, this letter requests prayers.

It's the monthly message from Holy Name Cathedral's Ministry of Praise. It begins with a short reflection and then a page or two of people's prayer intentions.

Many churches have prayer lists in their bulletins. But through the Ministry of Praise, it's not just another item in the bulletin. The Ministry of Praise is an active request. These requests are sent out into the world - they come to you and seek you out. 

Prayer can do so many things in our lives. It can lift you up, help you navigate through a difficult time, renew or heal you spiritually and make such a tremendous difference in your life. I find great comfort that there is a community out there -locally and beyond - that will selflessly include other people's needs and desires in their daily prayers.

In the letter, some topics appear every month: Health or financial concerns or praying for eternal rest for those who have died and comfort for their families. And then a list of personalized intentions: prayers for peace, vocations, the sick, the state of the church, our country or city and an end to violence.

I always find the personalized pleas for prayer especially moving. Usually, they are just a first name and short line of description. Behind each request, there is a life and an individual story, where some need is offered up and where help is requested.

Through social media, I always see many people asking for prayers - for them, their families or other needs. However, I never realized the true power of those prayers until the past year when my family and I have been on the receiving end. Without actively soliciting help, I've had people come up to me and tell me they are praying us. What great comfort and solace that has brought.

Many people say they send kind thoughts or good vibes. Those are well-intentioned and appreciated, but an offering of prayers seems more intimate, personal and meaningful. It's about taking the time to ask God for help or for a saintly intercession.

Praying for others is one of the great spiritual works of mercy. It is a simple way to help without requiring a great deal of time of the participating person, but it can truly have an impact and relieve a person's spiritual suffering.

John Silver is a parishioner at Holy Name Cathedral.

More prayers are always needed. To join the Ministry of Praise at Holy Name Cathedral, email Julie Berggren, HNC director of pastoral care at or call (312) 573-4427. To add a prayer request to next month's prayer list, leave a message on the prayer request line: (312) 573-4493.

Share your thoughts below or on social media, tagging Holy Name Cathedral and using #SeasonOfMercy.