My Modus Vivendi

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 28, 2020

Dear Parishioners,

As a priest, I have taken to heart the Lord's words from the Gospel, "whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39). This is my modus vivendi, if you will; my philosophy, my operating procedure, my ethic. I love God more than anything in the world and have been called by him to completely follow him, abandoning everything for him. I seek to lose my life, so I can live for God. As John the Baptist said, "I must decrease, he must increase" (John 3:30). Or, in the words of Saint Paul, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

You might consider praying about that reality. Not praying about me (ha!), but rather about what it would mean for you to live completely for God. You are not called to the same radical lifestyle that I, as a priest, am: giving up father, mother, sons, daughters, houses, etc. But you are called to lose your life and live for God.

Jesus himself did this. He "emptied himself" and was completely obedient to the Father. We, as Christians, are called to imitate Christ. And this emptying, more than anything else, defined Jesus.
I am about to do something very unique in the life of a Catholic and in the life of a priest. I am making what is called "30-Day Retreat" based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. I am leaving this weekend and will not return to the parish until August. I will be in silence and out of any communication with the world for the next month. This is obviously quite significant. I, in fact, had to apply and be accepted to make this retreat, and Cardinal Cupich had to grant me permission to make it.

Okay, once your eyebrows have lowered to their normal level, please, continue to read and allow me to explain.

First, this is a common retreat. Well, "common" in the sense that this is part of the Ignatian spiritual tradition and I'm not the first person or first priest to have ever done this. I haven't lost my mind or hit a crisis. In fact, at the retreat house where I am making the "long retreat," as it is sometimes also called, there will be about twenty other people, both religious and laypeople, making the same retreat. We won't be in communication with each other, as it is a silent retreat, but we will be on the same property making the retreat.

A brief word on what I'll be "doing" for a month. In addition to Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours each day, I will pray five set holy hours. That is, five times spread throughout the day I will pray for an hour in the chapel at the retreat house. I will go to spiritual direction each day and then the rest of the day will be spent in solitude, either reading scripture or going for a walk. This was all laid out by Saint Ignatius of Loyola himself almost five hundred years ago and has been followed since.

Why am I doing this? Because I love God and desire simply to be with him.

Be assured of my prayers for you throughout this month of retreat. I will obviously not be able to respond to any message, so if there is an emergency, please be in touch with the parish office and Father Emanuel. I have written a supply of bulletin letters for the month ahead, in case you're wondering when you read my letter next week!

Thank you for your own faith and your own love for God. God bless you!

Yours in Christ,
Fr. James

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