Many ask about why the parish is called “St. Mary of the Angels” and not “Queen of the Angels” or “Our Lady of the Angels”?
The name “St. Mary of the Angels” goes back to a little chapel on the outskirts of Assisi called Santa Maria degli Angeli—St. Mary of the Angels— rebuilt by St. Francis. According to local accounts, the church dates back to 364 when Pope Liberius erected this chapel for the Hermits of Josephat. In 516 the Benedictines took possession of the chapel but by the time of St. Francis it was in severe disrepair.
Before founding the Franciscan Order, St. Francis had a vision while praying in the chapel of San Damiano in Assisi. In the vision, the image of the crucified Christ came alive and said: “Francis, Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” His initial thought was that Jesus was referring to the chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli. So, to his father’s chagrin, he sold his horse and some other items and restored the church—our St. Mary of the Angels was also in disrepair and closed, only to be entrusted to priests of Opus Dei in 1991 and then restored with the help of many… there seems to be an interesting pattern here.
It was in the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels that St. Francis discerned his vocation and began the Franciscan order. The Benedictines entrusted the chapel to St. Francis to build the mother house of his new foundation. This was where St. Francis received the first vocations to the Friars Minor and St. Clare to found the Poor Clares. And in St. Mary of the Angels is also where St. Francis died in 1226.
Feast of St. Mary of the Angels—August 2
St. Francis had another vision in 1216. After experiencing a strong carnal temptation one night, St. Francis jumped into a thorny bush outside his cell. As he landed in the bush it sprouted beautiful roses without thorns. Two angels then took him to the little chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where he saw Christ and the Virgin Mary enveloped in light and sitting on thrones and surrounded by numerous angels (this vision is portrayed behind the high altar of our church). Jesus then asked St. Francis what reward he wanted for his heroic act, to which he answered: “An indulgence for anyone who enters into this chapel, repents and confesses his sins.” As Pope Benedict XVI described:
“Today we are contemplating St Francis of Assisi’s ardent love for the salvation of souls, which every priest must always foster. In fact today is the feast of the ‘Pardon of Assisi,’ which St Francis obtained from Pope Honorius III in the year 1216, after having a vision while he was praying in the little church of the Portiuncula. Jesus appeared to him in his glory, with the Virgin Mary on his right and surrounded by many Angels. They asked him to express a wish and Francis implored a ‘full and generous pardon’ for all those who would visit that church who ‘repented and confessed their sins.’ Having received papal approval, the Saint did not wait for any written document but hastened to Assisi and when he reached the Portiuncula announced the good news: ‘Friends, the Lord wants to have us all in Heaven!’ Since then, from noon on 1 August to midnight on the second, it has been possible to obtain, on the usual conditions, a Plenary Indulgence, also for the dead, on visiting a parish church or a Franciscan one” (Angelus Message, August 2, 2009)
Our church has a wonderful name and link to mercy. Let’s prepare for the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, beginning December 8, encouraging many souls to take advantage of this full and generous pardon in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which we offer so abundantly here at St. Mary of the Angels.
Fr. John Waiss
How easy it is to take the Eucharist for granted. The ability to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion is a great gift, one worth dying for. In fact, Christians did die, just to go to Mass and to bring Holy Communion to the sick.
St. Tarcisius—Martyr of Eucharistic Love
In the middle of the third century, severe persecutions against Christians broke out in Rome, during the reign of emperor Valerian, around 258. Christians were often subjected to arrest, cruel tortures, and execution, often taken to the Coliseum for sport, to fend off lions and other wild beasts before spectators who usually cheered on the devouring animals.
The Roman emperor decreed death to all Christians; those who would offer pagan sacrifice to the Roman emperor as a god could save their lives. Christians who remained faithful to Christ were executed, as well as any bishop, priest, or deacon. To avoid arrest, Christians would gather for Mass in secret. After Mass, deacons would bring Communion to Christians who were sick and those who were in prison, especially those condemned to death. Although the catacombs—underground cemeteries—were originally considered safe, out of respect for the dead, now even they became risky.
One day the persecution became particularly fierce, such that one day no deacons appeared for Mass. So, no one was available to take Holy Communion to the Christians in prison after Mass. Tarcisius volunteered. He was a 12-year-old acolyte—an altar boy—who had experience assisting the deacons on past occasions when they brought the Eucharist to the sick and imprisoned. The bishop asked Tarcisius if he was OK with doing this, and he said “yes,” knowing that it was risky. He also knew that the Roman soldiers would not suspect a young person like Tarcisius. The bishop then wrapped the Sacred Hosts and put them into a little pouch, which Tarcisius carried around his neck as he left.
On the way to the prison, a group of neighborhood boys saw Tarcisius. He knew these boys and as a group they had played their boyhood games and sports together. They approached him, wanting him perhaps to hang out and play with them. Tarcisius clutched the linen pouch containing the Sacred Hosts and told them he was busy.
Seeing that he was carrying something valuable, the boys try to get Tarcisius to show them his little treasure and then to hand it over to them. He refused, holding the pouch even tighter to his chest. One of the boys spouted out: “He is a Christian carrying a mystery.” They then began to taunt him, and call him embarrassing and shameful names. He remained silent.
The gang of boys tried to pry the pouch from his hands, but he resisted with strength that surprised them, who—like a pack of dogs—began to shove and beat Tarcisius with sticks and stones; they then pushed him over and kicked him, while trying to pry the pouch loose from his hands. Tarcisius lost consciousness; but he would not release the pouch.
A Christian soldier heard the commotion. He rescued Tarcisius and carried him back to the catacombs where he died. The dead boy would not release the pouch he was protecting until the priest came and touched his body; then Tarcisius released the pouch containing the precious treasure of the Eucharist. Tarcisius was then buried in the catacombs of St. Callixtus.
Christ told us: “Greater love than this no man has than a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13): Jesus did so for Tarcisius and for all of us. Tarcisius returned the gift by laying down his life for Jesus. May we learn from him to value the Eucharist with our life.
Fr. John Waiss
We have new leadership in the Archdiocese that is directing all of us to become better stewards of the financial resources entrusted to us. For us at St. Mary of the Angels, we have set the goal to put our operations “in the black” by the end of the fiscal year, which comes at the end of June. With the grace of God and your generous help, our parish will reach that goal.
This past year, we made extraordinary progress toward eliminating the parish’s deficit and pay down our South Tower loan ($57,300 remaining). In addition, our parish and school has raised $88,000 for the Fr. Hilary Mahaney Scholarship Fund, half of which will benefit the school this year and half will be set aside to build up this fund for the future. Our portion of the To Teach Who Christ Is account has reached $31,000 to add bathrooms in the church. Also, we have begun to receive rent from Catholic Charities for the use of the old convent, which will help meet our expenses in the coming years. (PS: In August we will publish the full annual report for St. Mary of the Angels).
Yet, as of May 22, we have about $38,000 in the bank to pay $216,000 in outstanding bills for the parish and school. We are behind, in part, due to higher heating costs for the last two brutally cold winters (this year we had to pay $25,000 for heating cost beyond our budget for the 2014 winter and an additional $24,000 beyond what was budgeted for this year’s, 2015, winter). To help us make up the $178,000 difference (=$216,000 – $38,000), we ask you to please consider an extraordinary “Christmas in June” contribution. May God reward you for your ongoing generosity.
Cold and hot weather takes its toll on the finances in other ways as well, as bad weather often causes attendance at Mass to drop off. This means that our Sunday collections go down. Fortunately, God’s generosity does not drop off with the weather, but he continues to pour out his blessings upon us in good weather and in bad. Let’s do the same with our tithe—the gift of the first fruits of our labors. Our gift to God shows our gratitude to him for all the good he has given to us, it acknowledges that he is the number one priority in our lives, and it shows him that we entrust our future wellbeing to his almighty providence.
So, if bad weather, vacations, or other circumstances ever keep you from coming to St. Mary of the Angels and showing your gratitude and trust in God, would you consider online giving, where your contribution is donated automatically from your credit card or checking account. We appreciate those of you who are already doing this.
To set up online giving, go to www.GiveCentral.org and search for St. Mary of the Angels (search on our zip code—60622—for example). Then click away and start giving. If you have any problems, just call the parish office and Maria, Martha, or Gary will give you a hand.
Thank you for your ongoing support in our joint work of evangelization. I keep you all in my prayers and please keep praying for the continual growth of St. Mary of the Angels.
Fr. John Waiss
We celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the day when God the Father communicated the Holy Spirit to the apostles in Christ’s name (see John 14:26), and in a few days—Tuesday—some 75 of our parishioners, school and CCD students will receive His outpouring in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
After the gift of Baptism (whereby we become God’s children) and the Eucharist (whereby we become one body with Christ), Confirmation is the greatest Gift—the gift of God’s Spirit—whereby God’s New Life comes to dwell in us, conferring upon us a share in Christ mission. This Sacrament gives our lives purpose, a reason to keep living as Confirmation calls us to nurture the new life of grace in us so as to bring others to the joy of knowing true Love: Jesus Christ.
Consider the apostles’ joy on Pentecost. They were “drunk” with the Holy Spirit. All fear and sadness had disappeared as the Holy Spirit moved them to preach the Gospel with boldness to their fellow Jews (see Acts 2). He gives us this same joy at Confirmation as we are sent forth. This joy keeps arising in us over and over again as we serve others, especially when we share our Faith with others; when we see our shared Faith take root in them, bringing them the joy we have received.
Graduation is a similar kind of moment. We have eighth graders graduating on to high school, seniors graduating on to college, and college students graduating on to “real” life. This fills them and their families with great joy. With graduation there is a real sense that each on of them is being sent forth anew; they are now ready for new challenges and new opportunities to witness to Christ in a world antithetical to their Catholic Faith.
Just as our Lord prepared his disciples to take on the responsibility to bear witness to him (see John 15:26-27), St. Mary of the Angels’ families and school has been preparing our young people for their mission in the world as witnesses to Christ. Along with the Faith, we have preparing our young men and women by teaching them the three R’s: “Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic” as well as a smattering of History, Science, Foreign or Classical Languages, and perhaps Calculus, in due time. These give our young people the ability to speak to and to engage the world on its own terms.
As we share the joy of our young people as they are being sent forth, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide them and set them on fire with love for God and their neighbor. May Today’s good citizens of the family, community, and Church become Tomorrow’s good spouse-parents, friend-leaders, and saint-apostles. May they too have an impact on their family, friends, and the world.
Fr. John Waiss
We have been reviewing the Beatitudes and the Sermon of the Mount, which is a wonderful summary of Christian morality.
When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17, he goes on to develop the full meaning of those Commandments and their consequences in the following chapters (Exodus 20:18-23:33). Similarly, our Lord develops the full meaning of the Beatitudes throughout the Sermon of the Mount, linking each Beatitude with the Commandments so as to explain their consequences. Toward the end of the Sermon of the Mount, Christ reminds us the ultimate goal of Christian morality:
“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Beatitude is about reaching “kingdom of heaven”—“being comforted,” “inheriting the earth,” “being satisfied,” “obtaining mercy,” “seeing God,” “being children of God,” rejoicing with a great reward in heaven (cf. the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12). And to reach this heavenly reward, it is not enough to teach our Faith to others (“prophesy”) or to help other people overcome their “demons” or to do great “works” of philanthropy; no, we must do the will of God the Father who is in heaven. His will is nothing else than the whole Sermon of the Mount, which is summarized in the Beatitudes.
Another wonderful summary of Christian morality is our Lord’s description of the Last Judgment:
“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him…, he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats… Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty…, a stranger…, or naked…, sick or in prison…?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food…’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
St. Pope John Paul II tells us: “This Gospel text is not a simple invitation to charity: it is a page of Christology which sheds a ray of light on the mystery of Christ. By these words, no less than by the orthodoxy of her doctrine, the Church measures her fidelity as the Bride of Christ” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). Let us be faithful to Christ by living out the Beatitudes, by seeing him in the needy, and by living out his Gospel in all our actions.
Fr. John Waiss