St. Gertrude builds God’s kingdom by celebrating the sacraments of life, spreading the gospel, and serving others.
We strive to be a community, growing in faith, that welcomes all and brings Christ’s love to others.
St. Gertrude extends a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, LBGQT, rich, poor, y no habla ingles. We offer special welcome to those who are young and old, or who have a crying baby. We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli, or more like me, who just tries.
We don’t care if you're more Catholic than the pope or haven’t been in church since little Timmy’s baptism. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60, but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome starving artist, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, and junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery and those who are still addicted.
We welcome you if your having problems or down in the dumps. We’ve been there too. We welcome those who don’t like “organized religion”. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, those who work too hard, those who don’t work, can’t spell, or came because grandma is in town.
We welcome those who could use a prayer right now, or thought you were on Clark Street, not Granville, and are here by mistake. We welcome those who are inked, pierced, or both. We welcome those who laugh at this, as well as those who gasped.
We welcome tourists, seekers, doubters, and bleeding hearts with all our hearts.
We welcome YOU!
My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Last Sunday's Gospel told us a parable that the Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, a pearl of great price. Finding the pearl is the result of a deliberate search. The protagonist must unload all his other possessions to obtain something even more valuable. In my time serving Saint Gertrude, I have encountered many of you who have discovered in this parish community a real treasure for their lives, a pearl of a parish, if you wish. I also know that over the years, our parish has been a welcoming place for many people who would not feel welcomed elsewhere. They, too, have found a home and a treasure in our parish. And I know how many of you give all that you can to make our parish and our neighborhood a reflection of the Kingdom of heaven. I am grateful for such wonderful examples of faith.
Over the last few months, the City of Chicago has been inundated with hundreds of asylum seekers and immigrants that have been shipped here from southern states. Most often, our parish community has rallied to the defense of the poor and immigrant and has stood as a beacon of hope for the downtrodden. However, the city recently decided, without seeking community input, that the Broadway Armory, which has been used for over a decade as a community center with numerous activities and programs, would be converted to "temporarily" house a few hundred of the immigrants bussed in from other places. That decision and the less of these wonderful programs has also created a rift in our community that challenges who we are as a Catholic Community.
Unlike the political world, the Church is best when we honor each other and find Christ in one another. Saint Gertrude is an amazingly diverse community and is a shining example of Christian unity within the Archdiocese of Chicago. That is why the comments I am hearing now have saddened me beyond belief.
We have always been a parish with diverse opinions and programs, but we have always supported one another and worked together. We have always had a bigger net, a wider welcome for those whose opinions are different. The pain of the Broadway Armory cancelling many programs and being used to house immigrants has torn that net as people cannot agree on a singular course of action in this moment we allow this moment to break our relationships with one another or can we find our point of unity?
l ask you to reflect deeply upon this coming Sunday's Gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus chooses Peter, James, and John to accompany him up the mountain. Remember, these two are the brothers who want to supplant Peter by sitting at the right and left of Jesus in His glory. Jesus chooses all three to see His glory, not siding with one or the other. Yet, all three must also climb the steep mountain and help each other along the way. Despite whatever differences they had, they all followed Jesus to see His glory, not seeking their own.
This weekend, I ask that we all come together and hold each other in prayer. We do not have to agree and may never agree about our course of action. We must believe that each one of us is following the Lord, each one of us is dedicated to Christ, and each one of us is seeking that hidden treasure of faith.
On certain days, following certain statements from the Vatican, I have wondered if there is a secret, hidden office in the basement of St. Peter’s where a group of bishops meets on a regular basis to come up with outrageous statements just to see how far they can push the “ridiculous” envelope on certain hot-button issues. Monday, March 15th, was just such a day.
At precisely the same time when some individual bishops and bishops’ conferences were discussing how the Catholic Church could extend an outreach to human beings in same-sex relationships, the official department in charge of “protecting” the faith issued a statement saying blessing such unions cannot now or ever be possible because human beings in homosexual relationships are intrinsically disordered and such relationships would be sinful. They also made clear that Pope Francis “signed off” on this statement.
In my own imagination, I now know what it must have felt like centuries ago when, a few hundred miles from here, the Salem Witch Trials were successfully concluded with the burning of some female members of the community for, supposedly, practicing witchcraft.
I feel quite certain that the logic used to forbid blessing same-sex relationships is about as sound as forbidding two left-handed people from getting married, or two people with mixed eye color.
What I had hoped would come out of the Vatican by now is a simple statement that would say something along the lines of, “Wow! We thought we had a full, complete, comprehensive understanding of how human beings operate and how human beings interact as sexual creatures. Boy, were we reaching way beyond our competence! Every time we think we’ve got it nailed down, something new pops up and we realize we’ve barely begun to understand just how complex and complicated humanity is. It’s in just such moments like this that we are grateful that the Son of God made the extraordinary sacrifice to become a human being and live a life exactly the same as ours to show us how we can live and how important love is to every aspect of creation.”
But such a statement would require a certain level of humility. And when it comes to speaking on moral issues, church leaders have long given the impression they have exclusive access to the mind of God on what’s right and what’s wrong.
To be sure, the Catholic Church has an extraordinary history of moral teaching. And part of what is most extraordinary about it has been its ability to continue evolving as new evidence comes forward.
But, quite frankly, it has also had such an overwhelming obsession with matters of sexuality that it gives the impression that absolutely nothing in all of the created universe can possibly come close to the good and bad of sexuality. Every sin in sexual matters is grave! (I’m not making this up. This was precisely the Church’s teaching on sexual morality – and is still believed by many of our church leaders today.)
I don’t know who first coined the expression, “Love is love is love”, but it seems to best summarize what Jesus was teaching us.
Perhaps this latest statement bothered me more than some of the other pronouncements that have come out of various departments over the years because recently I received a “save the date” card for my niece’s wedding – to her female partner. The card prompted me to send a note to Cardinal Cupich, which included a paragraph explaining I had received the “save the date” card and would really like the Church to stop saying things against couples like this. That, in fact, for many of our younger people, is exactly why they have abandoned the Church. It is because the Church first abandoned them. And contrary to the professed gospel of love, what they actually experience is profound prejudice, which provides cover for hateful members of society to verbally and physically abuse certain groups of human beings, sometimes even killing them, because they don’t fit into the accepted norm.
Sometimes my friends ask me why I stay a priest in this Church. I do because I am also acutely aware of the good the Catholic Church provides all over the world, the teachings on social justice, the environment/creation, the role of workers, etc. that has provided such positive groundwork for systemic change here in this country and in so many places throughout the world. Unfortunately, the people who actually live and witness those teachings are themselves often treated as second-class citizens. Women religious have a far better reputation for living the gospel than any random group of priests and bishops. When a well-respected columnist, Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times, writes about his travels to the far reaches of the globe, going to places of enormous poverty and injustice, who does he almost always run into? Bishops and priests? No. He runs into women religious spending their lives in service, working with the local population, trying to help people help themselves survive and move beyond their current circumstances.
So, to put it mildly, the Church is not perfect - and neither are any of its members. No big surprise there. And it is wonderful we still canonize imperfect human beings. Let’s also reflect that in over 2,000 years, the Church has also had the wisdom – even though it claims the “power of the keys” – to only ever proclaim certain people were definitely in heaven. So far, it has never made a proclamation that anyone is in hell. Bravo! That shows some sign of wisdom and humility.
When the Church is this myopic, it is not only disagreeable, it is life-threatening. Every time the Church makes any kind of official statement against same-sex unions, relationships, etc., it once again places in danger the lives of every same-sex couple throughout the world, providing refuge for the hate-mongers and homophobes who are prowling, waiting to pounce. That damning line of then-Cardinal Ratzinger about homosexuals being “intrinsically disordered” is such a hateful dismissal of all gay human beings that it is hard to believe it comes from a religious person.
The bottom line: either we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ that the first and greatest command is that we love, or we don’t believe it. But to claim it is our core, our touchstone, and then to exempt any category of human beings from that love is wrong: it is a lie and it is the groundwork of evil.
We are better than that. And if the bishops in those offices don’t know that yet, they should probably swivel around in their chairs and speak to the people working at the desks around them, many of whom are certainly gay, and ask them what they think. Or perhaps, even easier, they should just look into the mirror and ask that same question.
We are long past the time of wondering if God created homosexual human beings. And way beyond wondering if any human being “chooses” their sexual identity as some kind of option, like deciding which pair of shoes to put on today. When the “official” Church issues statements like this, lacking in basic science, severely lacking in any sense of Christian humility and understanding, we cheapen every other important and positive statement in every other area of human endeavor.
I want to thank Patrick Reardon for his thoughtful and reflective column in the Chicago Tribune on Monday. And also Fr. Arthur Murphy for his letter to the editor on Tuesday.
It is past time for the Church to stop talking about matters sexual until it gets its own house in order, stop pretending it knows everything, stop obsessing over matters sexual and re-discover the truth of the gospel. That or risk becoming a laughingstock, lacking relevance in the daily lives of countless people looking for healthy direction and spirituality.
~ Father Rich
The office is closed on Friday, December 8 for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Mass will be be held on Thursday, December 7 at 6:30 pm (Eve), and on Friday at 7:30 am, 8:30 am, and 6:30 pm