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Urban Impressions of the Stations of the Cross

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 30 - Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Things Not Seen

Today’s readings have a common theme of faith in things not seen and living your faith in order to believe in those things that are promised, yet unseen.

The first reading emphasizes how faith and action are intertwined. There is no way to experience what we expect from God without believing and acting at the same time. You would not be able to expect something without taking action to achieve that goal. Likewise, you would not be able to have achieved something without setting a goal or the expectation that your consistent efforts would lead to achievement. In order to realize what is promised, we must take the first step, and that first step, literally and spiritually, is to walk with Jesus and proclaim what he has promised by acting and believing at the same time.

In the responsorial psalm, we also respond with “Your words Lord, are spirit and life”. Not only is the Lord’s promise in belief, but also in those things that are seen, the life that we experience daily. Faith and action again are seen as intertwined.

The second reading is an extension of what the first reading is about. Those who follow the Lord are still fishermen. However, in addition to their vocation, they are able to also leave everything behind and follow Jesus. Even though we may become dedicated to what we do in everyday life, it is not meaningful unless we take time to reflect on the word of God. While we may think that there is no time to reflect, it is only in reflection, faith and belief that we are able to continue living the word of God and what the Lord has promised.

When have I been so attached to the outcome of a situation that I have completely forgotten the word of the Lord? Can I let go and let Jesus lead me according to God’s will and be okay with that?

Noelle Bond
RCIA sponsor and member of the Young Adult Board

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 29 - Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Hear Us O Lord!

He shall rescue the poor when he cries out 
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him, 
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; 
the lives of the poor he shall save.
Psalm 72

God knows how to watch over the disabled, broken hearted, widow, and widower. He appoints and anoints others to pray, speak out, and help those that are in need. There are seasons when we all may feel afflicted or broken hearted; and during this uneasy transition it is important to remember there is a God who knows how to comfort us during this hurtful process. I would like to pose a question, “When was the last time you went out of your way to help your fellow brother or sister in need?” May you always remember to count your blessings no matter how big or small. 

Heather B. Duke member of Young Adult Ministry.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Reflection from Florence

While we were in Rome, pilgrims in our group prepared reflections to share. Each day, as we were in a different location with different daily readings, we heard thoughts from the women and men with whom we journeyed.

Here is a reflection that was shared by Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight on our first full day in Florence while we were at the Duomo. You may want to take a glance at the day's readings, found here.

As we start the second day of our pilgrimage we ask you, Lord to place ourselves in your presence in a deeper way then we’ve accomplished before. We are yours and yours we wish to remain always.

First of all, in recognizing you we recognize the specialty of this sacred place. This place where many of us have never been before. In the book, “The Lure of the Lord, a sense of place in a multicentered society.”, Lucy Lippard directs us to the sacredness of place. Today we celebrate with you the sacred place at the Basilica of St. Maria de Fiore her in Florence where we put our prayerful mark on this side of the planet. Lippard states, “This land is important to me but even more important is the idea that it becomes a sacred place because someone has lived there, been there and loved someone in this place. We are here Lord with you in a special way.

In the Scriptures for today, Jesus tells His disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. 

It seems to be a curious pair – the Gospel reading from Luke and the reading from the 3rd letter of John - The Gospel seems to encourage personal advocacy in prayer. We are to be as determined as the widow in thw story who comes again and again before the unjust judge demanding a just decision against the judge’s adversity. John, however, urges us to be faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters especially for strangers. Assuming that all you do includes prayer, it is to be done for others and in a particular way for strangers. One seems to focus inward in regard to prayer and the other seems to focus outward. 

Luke presents a picture of a woman who will not relent. If we are unrelenting and unwavering in bringing the needs of the stranger before God, if we are unrelenting and unwavering in working with and for the stranger, we can be sure of one thing – the strangers will cease to be the alien in our midst, becoming the one who is known and near, in our hearts and in all we do. 

Today, I beg of you my Lord, for all of us, to remove anything which separates me from You and You from me.

November 28 - Monday of the First Week of Lent

Faith, Courage, Love

Jesus love for all humanity 
the Kingdom of God is open to all who Believe and have Faith! 

Imagine yourself as the Centurion. You have 100 men under your military command. You have heard of Jesus' healing ability, at all cost and reverence, you must reach Jesus quickly to have your beloved servant healed and his life saved. Your servant is your best friend, he has served your family for ages.   
Can you imagine going to Jesus and asking him to overlook your sins and make expedient healing under your roof to save your best friend? 

Imagine the love the Centurion felt not only for his servant most importantly the faith, love and hope in the Kingdom of God he has for Jesus. 

What are the people of the gospel thinking? Here is a man, a military officer in search for Jesus who is not accepted by the upper class of his time the pharisees and Sadducees! He has the courage to bypass the political climate of Jesus' time to save his servant and introduce himself as a believer and demonstrate his love and fidelity to Jesus. 

How can you inspire others such as the Centurion to follow Jesus? As a result of his actions, he convinced Jesus to open the door for all gentiles to be included in the Kingdom of God, not just the Israelites. 

Martha Medina
RCIA sponsor

Sunday, November 27, 2016

November 27 - The First Sunday of Advent

The Coming

The word “Advent” is from the Latin “Adventus” which means “coming.” Advent is the beginning of the new Liturgical Year in the Church as we switch from Year C to Year A and begin reading from the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew quotes Jesus speaking about the need for wakefulness, for watchful waiting, for the coming of the Son of Man.

The Gospel selection is perfect for the season, which is intended to be a period of preparation, much like Lent. Prayer, penance and fasting are appropriate during Advent as we prepare for the celebration of Our Lord’s birth on December 25. 

Matthew’s Gospel focus is not on the birth of Jesus, but rather his second coming in glory at the end of time. The message in the Gospel passage is more about the manner of waiting rather than preparation for the Lord’s coming. Jesus compares our waiting to that of a homeowner who knows the plans of a thief. He tells us to be watchful and prepared for the moment of his return, for like the thief, it may come at any time.

Nick O’Hearn, parishioner and RCIA team member

Saturday, November 26, 2016

No Knowing

Here we are, at the conclusion of this little project. One month with the challenge to spend just five more minutes with God. To make yourself a bit more aware of God’s presence in your life. To acknowledge God’s presence in the world. To challenge yourself to more fully live your faith in the world. To give thanks for all that God has blessed you with.

The journey with Christ does not end today. It is a journey that continues until our dying breath. Like most things, this blog will now transition. With the conclusion of this series and the conclusion of the liturgical year, we are on the eve of Advent. Tomorrow the daily Advent reflections written by a wide spectrum of parishioners will offer you a way to journey through Advent while continuing to take one step closer to God.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring, “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” This is a good reminder for us on our faith lives. We must pay attention to where our feet are and where we are heading. The world is full of that which wants to push us off course. May you mind your feet and walk ever more closely with your God.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sights of Color

Today is Black Friday - a day normally associated with getting up before the sun rises, standing in long lines for a store to open, racing around a store gathering up the deals...all to get what we want. Black in this context signifies money being spent, revenues growing and moving retailers "into the black."

Black is a solemn color, frequently marking a major passage. For Catholics, black is normally a sign of mourning. We see it used on Good Friday and the recent All Soul's Day.

Our day of thanks with family is now in the rear view mirror. We are now off on a race for the next month to "get ready for Christmas." Perhaps we can pause on Black Friday as a moment to prepare for the upcoming Season of Advent. Consider reflecting on who you want to "be" during Advent in addition to all you need to do and what you want.

Maybe get up early and be thankful for all you have been given by God and how you can share it with others. And if you do go out on Black Friday, spread the "thank you's" generously today and throughout the Advent Season.


As Catholics, we use color as an important signal of the various parts of our liturgical year. We see it in our priests' vestments and the colors of decorations and flowers present in the church.

  • White and gold - Most appropriate for Christmas and Easter - Symbol of purity, it is used on all Feasts of Our Lord except those relating to the Passion, all Feasts of Our Lady, and on the Feasts of Saints who are not Martyrs.
  • Red: For on feasts of the Passion of Jesus and for the Holy Spirit, representing red tongues of fire, in addition to being worn for the feasts of martyred saints, who shed their red blood for Christ.
  • Green: The color of vestments used during ordinary time. (Ordinary time is the rest of the year that’s not the Christmas or Easter season)
  • Purple or violet: Symbol of penance, it is part of Advent and Lent, and along with white and black, these colors may also be used at Funeral Masses
  • Rose: These are a substitute for violet on the Third Sunday of Advent and the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the color rose may be worn as a sign of anticipated joy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Be Blessings

Most of us are probably double checking that the turkey is defrosting or that our reservations are set or that we have the right channel for the big game. We are looking forward to a day off work and a day spent how we like, surrounded by people we care for, enjoying a bountiful meal.

Most of us probably don’t know what it is like to be a refugee. Most of us probably don’t know what it is like to exist in a giant camp, with a flimsy tent protecting us from the cold and the rain. Most of us probably don’t wonder whether the aid workers will have enough supplies to offer us our daily meal. Most of us, thankfully, are not refugees.

Thanksgiving of 1943, Norman Rockwell painted this Refugee Thanksgiving cover for The Saturday Evening Post

As we prepare to celebrate our abundance, our blessings, there are 65.3 million refugees*. This exceeds even the record number of displaced persons from World War II, the time of Rockwell's painting. There was a refugee team at the Olympics; if those 65.3 million people were a country, they would be the 21st most populated country. You might be surprised to learn that Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran have the greatest number of refugees they have allowed into their nations. The fourth on that list, Lebanon, a country of just 4 million, hosts 1.1 million refugees.

As we give thanks, may we remember those who are thankful merely to be alive, to have escaped war, torture, terror, and the specter of death. May we remember that we are called to welcome the stranger to our table, whether it be for a simple meal or a new home in our nation.

Let us give thanks for our blessings.

Let our actions be blessings to those without home or shelter or nation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song

- Opening lyrics to In Christ Alone

Listen to Glad sing “In Christ Alone” and take some time to reflect on what God has done for you!

What does it mean to be a Comforter? A Cornerstone? What does it mean to be bought by His Precious Blood?

God wants nothing more than a relationship with us. What can you do today to get “one step closer” to Him?

Amy Greene
Stewardship Associate

Monday, November 21, 2016

Joy and Peace

I love that this section that focuses on giving thanks to God has the header of joy and peace in my Bible. I think that these things are closely woven together: gratitude, joy, peace. Each feeds the other.

Recognizing all that we have to be thankful for and offering our thanks, daily, for those blessings leads to a sense of joy and peace. If all we focus on are the things we wish we had or that which is just out of our reach, we will never be at peace, never able to recognize the holiness in the present moment.

Today, spend some time with this passage from Philippians.

Spend time today praying and pondering upon, “whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Let your prayers of thanks be heard. 
Let your heart rest in God’s peace. 
Let that peace become joy.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Cardinal Cupich & His Titular Church

This evening in Rome, Cardinal Cupich took possession of his titular church, San Bartolomeo all'Isola.

While we'll be posting more pictures & descriptions of the close of the Jubilee of Mercy, we wanted to get a few things out to the Holy Name Community ASAP!
San Bartolomeo all'Isola

The interior of San Bartolomeo

Cardinal Cupich enters, blessing the people with water.

See our other Year of Mercy Pilgrimage Posts here.

If this pilgrimage sounds of interest to you, 
I invite you to consider joining us on the 2017 pilgrimage 
to Lourdes, Spain, and Portugal. 

See details here.

Give Thanks

Thank God for coffee! - a routine thought on an early morning after a late meeting the previous evening. Thank God! - a sigh from the depth of our soul when we hear good news after a night of uncertainty. Thank you - a note we write after receiving a gift. Thanks - a quick word tossed over our shoulder to the stranger who held the door for you.

We offer thanks and gratitude for little and large things. We use the words, “Thank you,” perhaps just out of routine.

In this week where our whole nation spends a bit more time focusing on giving thanks, take some time to find the meaning behind those simple words.

  • Take a minute to list five things you are grateful for today.
  • Take a minute to thank God for the people you are blessed to know.
  • Take a minute to thank God for the physical blessings in your life, such as your home, work, and belongings.
  • Take a moment to thank God for the encounters you had with God in the past week.
  • Take a moment to thank God for the immeasurable love God has for you.

One Word at a Time - Enliven

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Consistory

Pope Francis opens the Consistory.
 I am going to jump ahead to what we just returned from - the consistory.

Today was the day that was so very unexpected when we began planning this pilgrimage. We never thought the timing would be such that we could attend the consistory that would elevate our Archbishop Cupich to Cardinal Cupich.

Yet there we were amid thousands of others trying to find our way through security in time to get seats. While we did no get seats, for most of us our positions allowed for better viewing.

As I can't resist the opportunity for a bit of formation, let me explain what the consistory consists of -

The liturgy begins with prayers - opening prayers that we are quite familiar with in style and form. The Pope then prays a prayer. A Liturgy of the Word follows; we heard from Luke 6:27-36. The Pope then gave a homily. The Creation of New Cardinals comes next consisting of prayers, the new Cardinals reciting the Creed, and each individual Cardinal promising fidelity and obedience. Once each Cardinal does this, he receives the biretta, his ring, and the titular church. There is the sign of peace, the Lord's Prayer, a prayer, and a closing hymn.

Despite the crowds and the size of St. Peter's basilica, I think you'll find the photos helpful to see a bit of what happened.
Cardinal Cupich receiving his biretta, ring and titular parish in Rome.

A view of the Cardinals under St. Monica's watchful eyes.

Following the consistory, we headed over to the Pontifical North American College for a reception. The reception also afforded us the opportunity for fantastic pictures.

If this pilgrimage sounds of interest to you, 
I invite you to consider joining us on the 2017 pilgrimage 
to Lourdes, Spain, and Portugal. 

See details here.

To Rome!

Assisi offered us a day of rest and quiet. With so much time to enjoy prayer and reflection, fellowship and laughter, we were ready to journey on to Rome.

On the way to Rome, we stopped in Orvieto. The town of Orvieto seems to be precariously set on the top of a butte. In fact, to reach the city, we had to take a funicular up the side of the hill. Our first destination was the Duomo of Orvieto.

The facade of the Duomo is astounding. Our guide rightly called it a summa theologica of our faith - Old Testament stories, the Gospel, Revelation, stories of Mary, the Apostles...these were all visible in the reliefs, sculptures, and mosaics covering the duomo.

We have seen so many churches that illustrate our faith - literally. Some themes and images repeat. Other aspects are unique. Yet each artist brings a different representation of the faith to his or her work. Each piece of art - be it sculpture, relief, painting, fresco, or mosaic - invites us to see God a bit differently, a bit more clearly.

As Orvieto is so small, there was only a small amount to see beyond the Duomo. After a great lunch (a recurring theme in Italy), we boarded the funicular again to head back down the butte to our bus.

The drive to Rome was unexceptional so many took advantage of the time to nap.

We reached Rome and before even heading to our hotel we went to the Catacombs of St. Callisto. Here we had a memorable moment on our pilgrimage.

The excellent guide took us far below ground into the catacombs. He told us the stories of how they were created and used (and not used - people never lived in the catacombs). He shared the haunting story of when people were martyred in the catacombs as they prayed Mass together.

When our journey through the caverns was complete we found ourselves in a room barely large enough to hold our group. With the backdrop of empty tombs and the reality of the stories we heard settling into our hearts, we celebrated Mass.

The Mass used the readings many of us have heard at funerals. During the intentions we were invited to offer the names of our deceased friends and family members up in prayer. With the weight of what we had witnessed in the catacombs and the personal weight of lost loved ones, all were affected. Tissues were shared as we shared the sign of peace.

As we climbed out of the catacombs, the daylight seemed so shocking and so comforting. It was an appropriate metaphor for pilgrimage and our experience of Mass below the ground on which we stood.

The rest of the evening was uneventful as we settled into our hotel, ate dinner, and relaxed before our first full day in Rome.

Again, if this pilgrimage sounds of interest to you, 
I invite you to consider joining us on the 2017 pilgrimage 
to Lourdes, Spain, and Portugal. 

See details here.

The Deepest Gratitude

Before reading today’s reflection, spend a moment reading the Mass readings for this Sunday’s Mass.

Brothers and sisters:
Let us give thanks to the Father,
who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. 
He delivered us from the power of darkness
and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:12-14

This week the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. We spend a day focusing on family, friends, turkey dinners, football, and the start of the holiday season.

Yet, as Catholic, as all Christians, we are called to look to a greater source for our gratitude. We have a God, a Father, who sacrificed himself so that we may have eternal life. We are offered redemption, forgiveness, and life everlasting. 

Take some time to offer God your thanks for salvation. Offer your thanksgiving for God’s forgiveness. Give thanks for the unimaginable love that sacrificed for you.

In the face of such generosity, what else can we offer besides the deepest gratitude?

Friday, November 18, 2016

On Pilgrimage

Before moving on to the next regular post describing a day in our pilgrimage, I waned to step back and look at the idea of what a pilgrimage is, what it means, why we do such a thing in this modern age.

Pilgrimage is an ancient tradition. It has been a part of our Christian faith for a very long time, though it is not exclusive to Christianity.

I was first introduced to the idea of pilgrimage in a novel I read as a middle schooler. This book was a fictional account of a town during the Crusades that was torn apart by the many years of separation between families and soldiers. Time and distance divided the community. The two main characters were asked to take intentions for the town on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. They walked from England to Spain bearing the expectations of the community they were to govern, the upheaval of familial relationships, and much more. This idea of a journey that can be of great spiritual, relational, and mental significance was new to me. Over the years of experiencing pilgrimages, I have only come to see that this first impression was quite accurate.

Pilgrimage is that wholistic. It involves all aspects of our being - body, mind, and soul.

In our modern lives we compartmentalize so much. We play many distinct roles as we move through each of those compartments. As we play those roles, we can easily lose sight of our identity, our values, the meaning and significance of our lives.

Pilgrimage brings us to an encounter where we are removed from all those compartments and placed in an utterly new situation. There we have no more roles to play or masks to hide behind, we reminded that we are in the presence of God. We invited to encounter God in new ways, places, and people.

Pilgrimage is an encounter with God. We follow in the footsteps of men and women of faith who offer wisdom and prayers to guide us. We visit relics, churches, holy sites as ways to find the moments when someone said, "Look! Here is God! He is present!" We visit the holy places in the world to find the holy places within. We look to find the places where we can say, "Look! Here is God! He is present!"

When we have that encounter with our ever-present God, we can return home transformed. We can face those many compartments and roles from a new place. We remember our pilgrimage journey as a way to live our one true call, no matter the circumstances - the call to be a disciple of our God.

Pilgrimage is a call in a particular time and place to journey with God, so that we may remember that at all times and in all places, we are called to walk with our God.

If this pilgrimage sounds of interest to you, 
I invite you to consider joining us on the 2017 pilgrimage 
to Lourdes, Spain, and Portugal. 
See details here.

Embrace the Call

In Luke 6:36, we hear "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" as Jesus is sharing lessons on the need to express love for enemies. We often struggle with this mandate as extending mercy to those who have shown us hate or harm is so much more difficult than providing it to those in need (e.g. the hungry, the homeless).

A new Catholic-produced one-hour documentary, "The Face of Mercy," explores real-life stories of people who have stood in the face of evil and shown mercy. Produced by the Knights of Columbus, it is now running on various ABC-affiliates through mid-December.

The overview of the film as described with the YouTube trailer:

"Pope Francis has inspired millions by urging the world to embrace Mercy. The essence of this call is revealed in The Face of Mercy, an extraordinary new documentary film narrated by Jim Caviezel. 

Meet the woman who found freedom in forgiveness after seeing her family wiped out by genocide; the former-NFL linebacker who walked away from football to share Christ’s mercy with the homeless; the baseball player who traded MLB ambitions for the monastery; and the young widow who chose mercy towards her husband’s killer. 

These moving testimonies offer compelling proof that Divine Mercy is not some abstract theology – it is alive, it is present, and it will transform the world."

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Peace of Assisi

A morning view as we approached
the Basilica of St. Francis
Monday, November 14 we had a quiet day - quite literally. Assisi, the home of St. Francis and St Claire, is a quiet, smaller town perched on a hill in the Italian countryside.

The morning opened with Mass at the tomb of St. Francis. The crisp, clear morning could not have been more perfect. Heading straight to the Basilica of St. Francis was simultaneously humbling and inspiring. We were able to spend time following Mass in prayer and reflection at the tomb of St. Francis and his companions or in the basilica above.
Fr. Brad & Fr. Matt at Mass

Cheryl gave a wonderful, heartfelt reflection

Soon we met up with our guide who gave us a detailed and faith-filled tour of the Basilica of St. Francis and the Basilica of St. Claire. We also stopped in the main square where some key moments in the life of St. Francis occurred.
A view of Assisi from St. Claire's

Due to the size of Assisi and the compact nature of this little town, we only had a half day of tour. However, we were able to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the city on our own. Yet again, we formed into small groups, often mingling with new people, to find a spot for lunch, purchase a few religious items to commemorate the day, and explore the other churches and significant places of prayer or history in the hamlet.

The sun began to set and the evening grew cool; we were all glad to reach the bus to return to the hotel. Some decided to later head back to the walled area of Assisi for dinner. Others ate in the hotel or in a nearby restaurant. Everyone enjoyed relaxing after a day of climbing up and down that hill!
A statue of St. Francis returning home from war -
uncertain regarding his calling

Sunset over lower Assisi and St. Mary of the Angels

Again, if this pilgrimage sounds of interest to you, 
I invite you to consider joining us on the 2017 pilgrimage 
to Lourdes, Spain, and Portugal. 
See details here.

A Key

The older I get, the more I notice how much I enjoy giving. Sure, opening a present on Christmas morning is great! But what’s even better – much better – is watching my 5-year-old niece open the present that I gave her. The pure delight of seeing her enjoy something I picked out especially for her is the best gift I could ever ask for. The look on my husband’s face when he realizes that I remembered something he mentioned months ago, and put it under the tree for him, is priceless. The joy of watching my sister enjoy something she loves, but might not have been able to afford, is gift enough for me. This is what Christmas is about. It is better to give than to receive. 

What gifts do you get from Holy Name Cathedral? Beautiful liturgies, meaningful opportunities for spiritual growth and development, the chance to serve others less fortunate than you, comfort in times of distress, and a community of devoted Catholics in the heart of Chicago, just to name a few. The clergy, staff, and lay leadership work tirelessly to ensure that our parishioners and visitors alike feel at home here. What gifts do you give to Holy Name Cathedral? Your weekly or daily attendance at mass? Your volunteer hours that keep our many programs vibrant and thriving? What about giving of your treasure?

As we approach the end of the year, please consider your monetary giving to your parish. Everything we have is a gift from God. Sharing of ourselves and our financial resources is a loving and just act, a way to give back in gratitude, a way to say THANKS BE TO GOD for all he has blessed us with. If you give regularly using your offering envelopes or online – thank you! We are so grateful for your faithful generosity. If you do not give regularly, please consider supporting Holy Name in that way. An easy way to do that is by committing to monthly automatic contributions. The advantage for you is not having to keep track of your envelopes or checkbook, and the advantage to the parish is a consistent amount of money that we can depend on each month for the operations of the Cathedral.

If you’re interested in auto-giving, please click here to sign up. You can also call me, Amy Greene, at 312-573-4467 with any questions, or for help with setting up your monthly contribution.
Amy Greene
Stewardship Associate

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

From Florence to Assisi via Siena

Morning overlooking Florence
On Saturday we made the journey from Florence to Assisi with a stop in Siena.

We began our day with breakfast at the hotel before beginning the trek to Assisi.  Outside of the city of Florence, we stopped at an overlook that offered a breathtaking view of the city. With morning clouds and wisps of fog, it was as picturesque as one imagines Italy to be.
Florence in the morning.
A beautiful sight!
Toreend and Michael

Our fearless spiritual leaders, Fr. Brad and Fr. Matt
with familiar faces from the PPC - Olivia, Stephanie, and John

We arrived in Siena midmorning and began with time at the Basilica of St. Dominic, known due to it being the spiritual hoe of St. Catherine of Siena for most of her life.

The winding, steep, and often challenging walk (at least for those of us who lacked a bit of coordination on the cobblestones), continued as we journeyed to the birthplace of St. Catherine. We were able to see the chapel built in the building that used to house her family and see paintings that illustrated key moments from her life.
A view of the Siena Cathedral from below

We journeyed a bit deeper into her home and we able to see and pray near her room, where a stone sat that served as her pillow.

As we continued walking up the hill to the cathedral, our excellent guide helped us to understand more about this city, its rich cultural traditions, and the famous horse race.

The race is between the 17 neighborhoods of Siena. The neighborhood that won had gone a whole quarter century since winning the title. There were a few raised eyebrows as we laughed about how that is really not that very long by Chicago sports standards.
Basilica of St. Dominic in Siena

Our first stop within the cathedral complex was the beautiful, ornate baptistry. With statues carved by Donatello along with other gifted craftsmen, we were able to spend time reflecting on the power of baptism and, thanks to a beautiful altar piece, the roles Mary plays in our faith.

Exterior of the baptistry of the Cathedral of Siena
We continued to climb in order to reach the square that rests at the entrance of the cathedral where our guide explained a bit more about the building and its story. We continued to the square where the horse race is run before saying goodbye to our guide and enjoying a bit of lunch.

The afternoon gave us just a few free hours. Again small groups wandered off on their own agendas. Many revisited the cathedral so we could enter in and spend some time in reflection and prayer.

Far too soon we had to carefully make our way back down the hill to the Basilica of St. Dominic where we celebrated Mass together.

After a lovely Mass we boarded our bus again and began the trek to Assisi. With the fall hours, dark fell while we were on the road and so we saw St. Maria degli Angeli in the dark, lit as a beacon.
St. Maria degli Angeli, Assisi

Our next stop was the hotel where we were able to settle in before dinner and some time enjoying one another's company.

Stay tuned for our day in Assisi!

Wish you were on pilgrimage with us! We do too! 
Consider joining us on the pilgrimage next summer - all details are found online here.

Photos from Florence

Since there were a few technical challenges with adding photos to the previous post, here are some photos from the time in Florence on November 11!

The Duomo

Our slightly jet-lagged group started the day with a guided tour.

Another exterior of the Duomo.

Kevin & Flor in front of the Duomo.

Cheryl, Lauren, Courtney, and Patricia enjoying the sun with the Ponte Vecchio bridge in the background.

Dusk over the Arno River.

Seeing Things Differently

Sometimes engaging our faith leads us to look at the world entirely differently than those outside of our Catholic faith. We see the same world, the same problems, the same joys, but they look a bit different to us, these common place things have a bit of a difference in meaning.

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh embodies this for me. A familiar scene - a small town at night - becomes wholly other through the eyes and paint of Van Gogh. Suddenly the stars become beacons and the wind a brush through the heavens. The common trees look to be more like seaweed, swirling in a cosmic ocean, not some common fir tree in a field.

Recognizing God in our lives challenges us to look at the world differently - to see the world as God does. We are called to see the presence of Christ not only at Mass but in the homeless person on the street or the cab that cut us off in our evening commute. We are called to see the holy in the church steeple and the steel skyscraper. We are called to see the immense love of God for us and the immense need to love one another.

May you see a Starry Night when you look up. May you see the world, not as it is, but as God sees it. May you work tirelessly to build God’s kingdom on earth.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Greetings from Italy!

Mea culpa! My apologies for the delay in our first post from the pilgrimage to Italy. A combination of jet lag and wifi connectivity issues delayed my updating you!

If you are new to the idea of pilgrimage, I invite you to join us as way to understand this beautiful tradition of our faith. The posts with the tag, Year of Mercy Pilgrimage, will offer you some highlights and reflections from the current pilgrimage.

As we are a few days into our journey, I will have a few posts scheduled to go up once or twice a day (usually first thing in the morning and last thing at night in Italy - so remember the time difference and you'll have a ball park of when to expect some new posts.

We arrived safely in Florence on Friday afternoon, November 11. Today's post will have some details on the Friday and Saturday steps in our journey.

Our flights were uneventful and we were grateful to reach our lovely hotel in Florence and have a few minutes to settle before we headed to our first Mass. Our Mass was said at St. Joseph's, just a few minutes' walk. As it was raining and a bit chilly, we didn't mind how close the church was!

Fr. Brad and Fr. Matt led us in a wonderful opening liturgy for our pilgrimage. Part of what makes pilgrimage so different from that European vacation you may have taken, is that we are rooted in prayer - as individuals, in community, and through Mass. Please know that while we are offering our own intentions, we are praying for you too.

However, the exhaustion of an overnight flight left us all barely awake for dinner after Mass and we all turned in early.

After a good night's rest, we were ready for a day in the city of Florence. Our Saturday morning took us on a walking tour through many of the major sites of Florence. From seeing The David to the Duomo to the major squares, we were given a great taste for the beautiful city.

The walking tour also helped us gain our bearings for our afternoon that would be free and to help us determine what we wanted to do and experience during those free hours.

In addition, the multitude of religious art in the city offered us a chance to see as if through snapshots moments in the theological understanding of our faith, glimpses of how we humans see the divine, and steps in humanity's journey to better relate to our God.

In the afternoon and evening, we dispersed into small groups. Some went to the museums, some found new churches to explore, some wandered the streets taking in the reality of their presence in this new country.

A few of those groups found each other in the hotel for dinner where we were able to share stories from the day, some wonderful time getting to know each other better, and quite a few laughs over fantastic pastas and Florentine steak!


As humans, we often struggle facing our daily challenges while maintaining our commitment to live as a Disciple of Christ. And sometimes, we wander off into territory where we begin to use our human perspective to define what is our path. The never-ending and seemingly growing global and national strife and divisiveness can distract us and create even more conflict and separation.

But the reminders that God is in control is all around us. It is God that continually calls us to embrace our faith and lead a life of mercy. We have people all around us that need our help. We are called to get out of the stands and onto the field to become an active Disciple of Christ.

Noelle Garcia and her husband, David McHugh, wrote the following song, Control, that is the perfect reflection for today.

Take a listen and reflect on what God is calling you to do, to become. Are you resisting an embrace of His view?

Click Here to Listen to Noelle Garcia's song Control

Verse 1

We're fighting wars, exploiting the poor
We play God in matters of life and death
Then we wonder... What are we fighting for?
In our dying breath there's things that matter more, things that matter more.

There's still a wideness to the skies
In the beauty of the sunrise
Reminding us there's so much we don't know
The awesome fury of the wind
Reminds us once again
That God is in control, Lord, You are in control

Maybe we're not on the front lines,
But there are people in our own lives
Needing love and forgiveness, needing our presence
But we play God in judging hearts, hearts we cannot see
Hearts we cannot see

What if they were Jesus?
What if they are wounded?
What if they are scared?
Would you turn away, not even lift your eyes to pray

Noelle uses music, story, witness, and prayer to spread the Gospel. Her ministry is lived through her vocation as wife and mother to three (and one on the way!) beautiful children. Her husband, David, often travels with her as fellow musician and speaker. Learn more about her work and music by visiting her website:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Giving off the top

Maybe you’re not used to thinking of prayer as a form of stewardship. But dedicated time for prayer is a crucial step toward becoming closer to God! The time we commit to the activities in our lives is a big indicator of their importance to us. How much time do you spend watching TV or on the internet? How much time do you spend on hobbies? How much time do you spend cultivating relationships with others? God wants you to cultivate your relationship with Him as well. 

The key to stewardship is planned giving – giving off the top, not “what’s left over.” That’s what can be hard about prayer. We all pray now and then, but having a regular prayer time every day can be difficult. Not that it’s all that hard to pray. It isn’t. Prayer is usually enjoyable. But our daily schedules can get full and when the day comes to an end, we realize that our prayer time got squeezed out again. 

The fate of our prayer time day after day – whether it’s “planned giving” or “what’s left over” – is a good measure of whether we’ve made stewardship part of our lives. In his First Letter to the Thessalonians, Saint Paul urges us to “pray without ceasing.” This does not mean we have to attempt to pray all day long, but rather that we’re in it for the long haul – day in, day out.

Spend some quiet time with God today. Adore Him, confess your sins, give thanks, and ask for guidance. He loves spending time with you.

Amy Greene
Stewardship Associate