As I continue to rejoice in Wednesday's unexpected and most welcome news that the Holy Father Pope Francis granted to Father Augustine Tolton the title of Venerable, I found myself looking forward to the day when we can mention Father Gus' name in the third Eucharistic Prayer. I know such a day is still quite some years away, and I may not live to see it, but I still long for it eagerly.
As I thought about that day, I began to ponder how we might name him. At first I thought we might simply call him Saint Augustine, as, for example, I do when I mention the Leper Priest simply as Saint Damien.
But then I began to wonder how I might mention him at the parish at which I presently serve as Pastor, that of Saint Augustine [of Hippo]. Surely, though I, I would not say "...with Saint Augustine and Saint Augustine, and with all the Saints..." That would be, to say the least, a bit odd and likely confusing to some, if not many.
Then I thought I might say, "...with Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Augustine Tolton..." but that did not seem to be right, either. So then I thought I might say, "...Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Augustine of Quincy..." That seemed right to me, but then I wondered if it would be more fitting to call him "Saint Augustine of Chicago" because he died in the Windy City. That, however, seemed very improper to me because his heart always remained in Quincy, in the Gem City.
All of this is what happens when I spend long hours in a car by myself.
As I continued to explore this scenario in my mind, I began to think about the other Saint Augustines. The only two that came to my mind were Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Augustine of Canterbury. Saint Augustine of Hippo was born in Thagaste but died in Hippo where he served as the Bishop. Saint Augustine of Canterbury was born in Tarsus but died in Canterbury where he served as the Archbishop.
From here, I returned to thinking that Father Gus could be Saint Augustine of Chicago, but I still did not much like this idea. Suddenly it occurred to me that Saint Thomas Aquinas died at Fossanova but is still known as "of Aquino," after the region in which he was born. But would that mean it should be Saint Augustine of Brush Creek? I was not satisfied with this, either.
In the end, I did not resolve my hypothetical dilemma.
This morning we received very exciting and unexpected news from Rome when the Holy See announced that the Holy Father Pope Francis recognized today the heroic virtue of eight people, one of whom is Father Augustine Tolton. With this recognition the Servant of God is granted the title of Venerable.
Every Christian is called to follow after Christ Jesus and to remain faithful to him throughout life. When the Pope recognizes that one of the faithful lived a life of heroic virtue, he confirms that the person lived the Christian life to an extraordinary degree and is therefore to be venerated, admired, and imitated.
It is not insignificant that, “when the
time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together” (Acts 2:1).
The place in which they were gathered was the Upper Room, the very place where
the Lord Jesus washed the feet of the Twelve and instituted the cause of our
gathering together today: the Holy Eucharist (cf. John 13:15; Matthew 26:26-29).
We, too, are in one place together, though not all of us are here.
On any given Sunday, a great number of our
parishioners – somewhere around 65% - are not present with us around this
altar. The reasons for their absence are many: laziness, work schedules, sporting
events, vacation, or even brunch and lunch plans. Sometimes these reasons are
legitimate, but, I fear, more often than not, their absence fundamentally comes
down to an under appreciation of the importance of the Lord’s Day and of the
parish community. Rather than planning their Sunday activities around the
celebration of the Holy Mass in their parish, many Americans – because of our
general mindset toward personal convenience – plan their Mass attendance around
their other activities, wherever it might “fit in.”
Pope Saint John Paul II frequently
stressed “the fundamental importance of Sunday,” a day which, he said, “is at
the very heart of the Christian life.”
Because the Christian life is lived out not simply in the world in general but
especially within the parish, he reminded us that,
among the many
activities of a parish, “none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday
celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist.” Mindful of this, the Second
Vatican Council recalled that efforts must be made to ensure that there is
“within the parish, a lively sense of community, in the first place through the
community celebration of Sunday Mass.”
This is why he also tells us that “time given to Christ is never time lost,
but is rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life
may become more profoundly human.” This is why the Church
reminds us that “great importance should … be given to a Mass celebrated
with any community, but especially with the parish community, inasmuch as it represents
the Universal Church at a given time and place, and chiefly in the common
The community which is formed by the
celebration of the Holy Eucharist should be different from the community formed
around the card table or the sports field. These are good bonds to form and are
necessary for a good human life, but there is a greater, a more necessary,
community formed in and by the Eucharist, if one enters into a true spirit of
prayer and participates in the sacrifice of the Holy Mass interiorly and
exteriorly. Indeed, the Christian community “is not just a vague sentiment, nor
is it a sign of indifference to the truth. It is grounded in the supernatural
reality of the one Baptism which makes us members of the one Body of Christ.”
It is within the celebration of the Holy
Mass, through the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the words of Institution
spoken by the Lord that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. Whenever
a Christian receives the Eucharist, we can rightly address to him or her the
words of Saint Paul: “Christ is in you” (Romans 8:10)! This is why we can say
that “wherever the Eucharist is
celebrated, wherever the Tabernacle stands, there is Christ; hence, there is
What do we keep at the center of our lives? Is the celebration of the Sunday
Mass at the center, or is there something else?
that we are obliged to participate in the Holy Mass every Sunday and holy day
of obligation out of gratitude for what the Lord has done for us and to give
him the worship that is his due. And while the Church does not require us to
join with our parish community each Sunday, that is certainly the preference so
as to build one another up in Christ and to be built up in Christ by others.
know, the Sunday Mass schedule here at St. Augustine’s will change on the first
weekend of July from 9:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. It is a change some will welcome,
and others will not. Whatever your reaction to this change, I urge you in the
Lord Jesus to make the parish’s Sunday celebration of the Holy Mass the center
of your Sunday and, indeed, of your entire week, around which everything else
is arranged. I know this will not always be possible – and I know I am
speaking, as it were, to the choir – but I ask you to make participation here a
of this request today is not lost on me, as this afternoon I will leave for six
weeks for my summer classes at The Liturgical Institute north of Chicago; I
plan to return the weekend of July 6th and 7th. As these
summer studies are part of my diocesan assignment as Director of the Office for
Divine Worship and the Catechumenate, obedience calls and I must follow.
By the time the change in our Mass
schedule here takes effect, we will again be within Ordinary Time. We call it
this not because it is normal and boring, but because – unlike the Advent and
Christmas or Lent and Easter seasons in which we focus on a particular event in
the life of Christ, - Ordinary Time is ordered around the whole life of Christ.
As we enter into this new chapter in the life of the parish, we have the
opportunity to more intentionally order our lives around the mystery of Christ.
As frustrating as change can be, such an opportunity can be welcomed and, if it
is, can become an outpouring of grace from on high.
Let us, then, implore the Holy Spirit to
descend upon us and take up residence in
our hearts. Saint Augustine reminds us that
God is not too
grand to come, he is not too fussy or shy, he is not too proud – on the
contrary, he is pleased to come if you do not displease him. Listen to the
promise he makes. Listen to him indeed promising with pleasure, not threatening
in displeasure, “We shall come to him,” he says, “I and the Father” (cf. John 14:23). To the one he had earlier called his friend, the one who obeys his
precepts, the keeper of his commandment, the love of God, the lover of his
neighbor, he says, “We shall come to him and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
Let us, then, not grumble too loudly, but
let us ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the graces present
to us now.
It may well be that this change in the
Mass schedule may help bring back some of our parishioners who have not joined
us here in some time; this is my hope. I ask you to reach out to them; it means
more if you invite them than if I do. Invite them to join you for the Sunday
Mass. Invite them to come and receive Jesus into their hearts and minds so we
might all grow together in holiness until we are all “distinguished from the
world by that love that moves those who are of one mind to dwell together in a
house. In this house the Father and Son make their home and impart that very
love” that is the Holy Spirit.
May the Holy Spirit bring us to together in the one Body of Christ, so that we
might all be in one place together now, and in the life to come. Amen.
 Pope Saint John Paul II, Dies
Domini, 3 and 7.
Ibid., 35. Cf. ibid.,
Speech to the Third Group of Bishops of the United States of America, 17 March
1998; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 42.