A FIRE WAITING TO BE GIVEN
Jesus tells us directly what His desire and intention is in this weekend's gospel. He came to set the world on fire, and He even says, "How I wish it were already blazing!" Consider the image of the Annunciation (front cover) that hangs in the hallway outside of Harkrader Hall. Perhaps you have noticed it on your way to an event or even to the restroom. Notice that Gabriel, the Lord's angelic messenger, bears on his head a flame. This is the flame to be given to Mary, once she speaks her words of consent, to allow the Holy Spirit to come upon her and conceive the Son of God within her womb. This gift of the fire of the Holy Spirit is not unique to Mary alone. The same tongues of flame will appear on the heads of the disciples at Pentecost, when they receive the Spirit. But, you can also notice the image of the Dominican looking on in the background, with blood on his head, indicating his martyrdom. This is a sign of the religious, who spiritually enter into this pivotal moment in salvation history by their prayerful meditation and contemplation. The practice of inserting one of the Dominican saints into the scene is a common theme employed by a number of religious artists, including Fra Angelico, who produced this image. Fra Angelico was a Dominican himself who would have understood firsthand how we enter in by prayer, as well as being inspired by the Dominican saints who went before him. This one is Saint Peter Martyr, who lived in Italy in the 13th Century. The image of this saint who lived centuries later truly being there is a powerful one, meant to show us the power of the Holy Spirit, who is at work within us in prayer (Romans 8), enabling us to do more than simply read about these encounters with the Lord in Scripture. By the Holy Spirit, we can truly enter in by prayer.
The goal of our various small group studies, prayer groups and households is nothing less than to help provide all of our parishioners with the opportunity to realize that this kind of prayer, in which the Holy Spirit is at work within us and we truly are drawn into the mysteries of God - not simply learning about them - is accessible to all of us. This year, it is one of my main hopes, desires and goals that various groups, which will be represented at next weekend's Saint Louis Celebration, would be both more simplified and more united around this basic goal. All of them will strive to be a comfortable and inviting space where parishioners can relate to one another, as they journey together into the mystery of prayer. These groups will provide the freedom to discuss honestly and frankly the challenges and difficulties faced, with others who are willing to humbly exchange ideas and offer one another encouragement and support, according to our own unique situations, to respond to the Lord's invitation to prayer. With this simplified and unified focus, you will even notice a lot more of the groups may be using some of the same resources to help facilitate this process (including Men's Study and Adult Bible Study). This will avoid the great multitude of options, which can leave people confused or overwhelmed by the diversity of topics. Instead of being overwhelmed by so many topics to choose from, this leaves parishioners with the freedom to choose a group based more upon the type of environment that they feel will best help them to enter into this joint journey into prayer. Many younger parents may prefer the Households, which give them the opportunity to join with other parents with children (of any age) in the home, while others might prefer to join with a more diverse group of parishioners. Some men may prefer joining with a group of other men (Men's Study), while others may prefer a mixed group (Adult Bible Study, Households, RCIA). Some women may want to join with other women to practice Lectio Divina (prayerful reading of Scripture) together in a group (Word of God Prayer Group), while again, others may prefer a mixed group. And of course, others will certainly have to decide based on their busy schedules, but it is my hope that this united focus will help simplify those decisions. I have seen beautiful things just in my two years with you all, through these different groups, and I am very hopeful about this next stage of the journey. Please join me in praying intentionally to the Lord that even more of our parishioners will be enriched by this experience in the coming year.
MORE ON FRA ANGELICO: His work was quite beautiful and inspiring. If you would like to make a short pilgrimage, which you can do easily in a day, to a place where you can meditate on his works, I have a recommendation. Saint Mark Church in Peoria (my previous parish) is filled with recreations of his work, to the extent that its stunning sanctuary is consecrated as a shrine to Fra Angelico. And as a bonus, it is only a five minute drive from the new tomb of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception.
SAINT LOUIS NOVENA: This past week, we began the novena to St Louis, in anticipation of our parish feast day. Copies are available in the pews. You are welcome either to leave it in the pew for the next person or take a copy home to pray on the days that you can't make it to Church. May this time of prayer bring ongoing renewal to our parish.
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!