Pope Francis’s extraordinary Aug. 20 letter “to the People of God” undoubtedly inspired many people around the world to seek out this letter — published in seven languages only six days after the Pennsylvania grand-jury report — on the Vatican website.
By visiting w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html, you will have before you a most valuable English “portal” to the contents of the site.
Here is a very quick summary of the stance of the Catholic Church on the death penalty. This review is necessary because of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s recent proposal to reinstate capital punishment — abolished in Illinois in 2011 — for persons convicted of mass killings or the homicide of a law-enforcement officer. I write as one who, many years ago, testified before a committee of the Illinois General Assembly about the evolving teaching of the Catholic Church on this topic.
Two weekends ago I enjoyed two different cultural efforts: a concert by the Heartland Community Chorus at St. Jerome Church in Troy (this concert was repeated at Highland St. Paul), and the performance of Annie Jr. by the Drama Club of St. John Neumann School in Maryville.
Over many years, I have learned to appreciate the skills and attention needed to sing and act effectively. As a presider at worship, of course, I am always putting my singing into service. And although it has been 20 years since I last performed in a theatrical production, the proclamation of the Word of God always calls for a sense of drama.
First, a few words about Billy Graham.
I can remember that, in my youth, I would hear the Rev. Graham and others speaking about “accepting Jesus as your personal Savior.” My reaction was to think that salvation was taken care of by my being part of a “system” of salvation — the Catholic Church. I would wonder, “What’s this personal business?”
When I moved to Madison County in July, it was my intention to get involved with the Metro East Interfaith Partnership (MEIP). I was surprised when I received an invitation to join their steering committee. My reaction was: You don’t want a newcomer to be on your steering committee, do you? But this is how I was welcomed, and I have been on the steering committee since my arrival.
Thus far, in surveying types of prayer with the help of Bishop Ken Untener’s discussion in the Little Books of the Diocese of Saginaw, I have looked at verbal prayer and prayer which is essentially reflection on reading the Sacred Scriptures.
Before moving into meditation (thinking), I want to consider an activity which contains elements of reading and thinking.
Many of us seem to have been taken aback by the occurrence of Advent and Christmas this year.
First of all, there is the matter of Dec. 25 falling on a Monday. This means, of course, that the Fourth Sunday of Advent will be Dec. 24, and, after the regular Sunday Masses, we go immediately into the Christmas Masses on Sunday evening.
Returning now to a survey of kinds of prayer, I am taking a look at “divine reading,” or, if you like the Latin expression, lectio divina.
This is essentially a process of spending time with portions of the Bible. We may find it forbidding to contemplate a journey through the Scriptures. We may suppose that Biblical literature is so vast and varied that we cannot help but become utterly disoriented when we try to explore the literature on our own.
In July, at my first meeting of the steering committee of the Metro-East Interfaith Partnership, a Baha’i member mentioned the Buckminster Fuller Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
On Aug. 31, I was in the Fuller Center for the first time, as I had been asked by the Newman Club at SIUE to hear confessions that evening.
Fifty years ago, the geodesic dome, which Fuller patented in 1954, came into great prominence. The U.S. pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal was one of the outstanding symbols of that World’s Fair. The SIUE dome was built under Fuller’s direction in 1971; at the time he was in the Department of Design at SIU Carbondale.
Over the past 42 years since I entered the seminary, I have had plenty of occasions for considering what prayer is. I was instructed that a priest is a “man of prayer.” How to become such a person was less clear to me.
I discovered, some years ago, a discussion of prayer which I have found eminently practical. The source was one of the Little Books of the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan. People in many of the parishes of our diocese are familiar with this series which, perhaps most notably, takes us through the days of Lent and Easter with daily “six-minute meditations.”