Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

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June 13, 2021
In recent weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 has continued to decrease dramatically. Here in Illinois, the test positivity rate has declined to less than 2 percent, with more than half of the population fully vaccinated, and hospitalization metrics declining since early May. In light of these encouraging trends, government officials announced that the State of Illinois would enter Phase 5 beginning on June 11, which means that “businesses, large-scale events, conventions, amusement parks, and seated-spectator venues, among others, will be able to operate at full capacity for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Clearly, the full reopening of secular society means that the time has come for the Church as well to withdraw all remaining particular dispensations from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, and I have issued a decree to that effect effective on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saturday, June 12, 2021.
May 30, 2021
For over 10 years now most of the parishes in our diocese have been praying the Prayer to St. Michael after Mass, invoking his intercession to “defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.” I have seen how our faithful, including many young people who otherwise appear inattentive at Mass, proclaim this prayer with enthusiasm and zeal, apparently because they recognize the battle for our souls waged by the powers of darkness and evil, seeking to pull us away from all that is good, all that is beautiful, and all that is true. This battle is not just metaphorical, but is quite real. We see it every day in the secular media and popular entertainment that send very overt messages contrary to our Christian faith. We see how legislators and government leaders are corrupted by the donations they receive from Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union to pass laws that promote abortion, introduce distorted and harmful notions of human sexuality into the school curriculum, and turn the true meaning of marriage and family life on its head.
May 16, 2021
The front cover of the last issue of Catholic Times heralded the headline, “Confirmations and first holy Communions to take place at Cathedral.” Unfortunately, judging from the letters, emails, and phone calls to my office expressing concerns about moving the celebration of the sacraments of confirmation and first Eucharist to the Cathedral, it appears that some people have misunderstood the reasons and the implications for this change. Please know that it is my earnest wish and pastoral desire to stay as close as possible to the people of our diocese through the grace-filled opportunities this change will bring both in our parishes and in our Cathedral, the Mother Church of our diocese.
May 02, 2021
I wish to inform you of an important and exciting change in our approach to the initiation of our young people into the Catholic faith. One of the prominent changes called for in our Fourth Diocesan Synod in 2017 was the restoration of the original sequence of the sacraments of initiation, returning first holy Eucharist to its proper place as the pinnacle of Christian initiation, with confirmation taking place prior to first Communion. In our diocese, we are now celebrating both sacraments in the same Mass, at the ordinary age of third grade. We have seen the enthusiasm with which our children are embracing this approach, and I am confident we will see the graces of these sacraments bearing fruit for many years to come. Beginning in July 2021, we will celebrate confirmation and first holy Communion Masses at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, instead of at parishes, except when I come to a parish for an official pastoral visitation, which will occur approximately once every five years.
April 18, 2021
This issue of Catholic Times includes the listing of Official Appointments, most of which will be effective on July 1. These announcements of clergy transfers often bring questions from parishioners about why their beloved priest is being reassigned to another parish. Their departure brings with it a sense of separation along with anxiety about what the new priest will be like. There are a variety of answers to these questions on a number of levels.
April 04, 2021
Our celebration of Our Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday is a reminder that all of us will one day rise from the dead. This is an essential element of our faith, as we profess on Sundays and holy days in the Creed: “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” To whom does this “resurrection of the dead” refer? Jesus taught that “all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). Contrary to what the church has taught through most of her history, in recent years some theologians have suggested that no one is in Hell, but everyone will go to Heaven. Our Lord’s reference to “the resurrection of condemnation” indicates rather clearly that not everyone will go to “the resurrection of life,” but only “those who have done good deeds.”
March 21, 2021
Last year on March 14, 2020, as we began dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, I issued a dispensation for all Catholics within the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass until further notice. For the next two months, Masses were celebrated without a congregation present, while many people participated in Sunday Mass by watching via livestream video broadcast and making a spiritual Communion. As people began returning to attending Mass in person last May, I said that the dispensation would remain in place for an indefinite period of time, even after we began the re-opening, until there would be greater clarity and confidence that the overall risk associated with the virus is diminished. That time has now come, as the COVID vaccine has been more widely administered and the number of cases has substantially diminished in recent weeks.
March 07, 2021
The reference to “a hidden life” is also a very apt description of the life of St. Joseph, whose feast day we will celebrate on March 19. The Bible does not record any words spoken by St. Joseph. He is identified as a carpenter, and some brief references are made in the infancy narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke about his key role at the time of the birth of Jesus, but after the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, St. Joseph is not mentioned again. The details of his life are not known. They remain hidden. We do not know when he died or how he died. Yet, St. Joseph is a mighty intercessor for those who turn to him.
February 21, 2021
Lent has begun. Jesus gave us very clear instructions for what we need to do as Christians: “Repent, and believe the Gospel.” In the Gospel we heard on Ash Wednesday, Jesus was even more specific: We are to pray, fast, and give alms. He adds that we are not to pray, fast, or give alms like hypocrites, that is, doing these practices for show, for people to see and to win their esteem. Rather, what matters is that God sees what is hidden, and he will repay us accordingly. The church gives us even more details about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent. We are given additional opportunities to go to Mass, receive holy Communion, have our sins absolved in sacramental confession, and pray the Stations of the Cross, just to name a few of the more important practices of prayer.
February 07, 2021
Twenty-five years ago, on the weekend on Feb. 10-11, 1996, I gave a homily on “Reforming the Reform” at St. René Goupil Church and at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago, where I used to assist with weekend Masses when I was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago. My words drew strong reactions pro and con at the time, so I think they are worth revisiting now.
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