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January 15, 2017

Pope Francis and the Feast of Epiphany

Cardinal Cupich’s Schedule

  1. Jan. 16: 8 a.m., 27th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast, Hyatt Regency, Chicago
  2. Jan. 22: 12:30 p.m., Mass, Immaculate Conception (44th Street), Chicago
  3. Jan. 24: 7:30 a.m., Celebrating Catholic Education Breakfast, Palmer House, Chicago
  4. Jan. 25: 9:30 a.m., Honoree at City Council, City Hall, Chicago; 7 p.m., Loyola Academy vs. St. Ignatius varsity basketball game, Loyola Academy, Chicago
  5. Jan. 28: 9 a.m., Archdiocesan Women’s Committee General Meeting, Quigley, Chicago
  6. Jan. 29: 9 a.m., 80th anniversary Mass of thanksgiving, St. Celestine Church, Elmwood Park; 1 p.m., Archdiocesan Celebration of Consecrated Life, St. Paul of the Cross Church, Park Ridge
Archbishop Cupich's Coat of Arms

Clergy Appointments

Cardinal Cupich approved the following appointments on Jan. 4:


Rev. William Vanecko, to administrator of Holy Angels Parish, East Oakwood Boulevard, effective from Jan. 2-June 7.

Professional/pastoral development of priests:

Rev. Kenneth Simpson, from pastor of St. Clement Parish, West Deming Place, to vicar of professional and pastoral development of priests, effective Jan. 1.

Historians often debate about which events in our past were most pivotal. Which event changed the course of history the most? Was it the invention of the printing press? The exploration of Columbus? How about the creation of antibiotics? Yes, all these moments changed history forever.

And, of course, there is the birth of Jesus, which we celebrate at Christmas. How the world has changed since the day that babe of Mary was born in a Bethlehem stable. Nothing has ever been the same.

Yet, there is something misleading about placing the birth of Christ alongside all these other earthshaking events. His coming into the world was not just one historical event among many with a beginning and an end. He came into the world to die and rise, so he is always with us, always working in our time. Jesus is not just a part of history; he keeps making history as the Lord of history.

Christ’s work in the world continues because he is the risen lord who is always doing new things, ever changing the course of history in ways we cannot expect.

All of this impacts the way we relate to and respond to God. God is not simply the one we turn to when times are tough. Rather, our interaction with God is a matter of being attentive and vigilant, discerning where God is leading us. That is how we look at all of human history, and also how we view the life of the church.

Pope Francis has written a wonderful magisterial letter, The Joy of Love, following two synods of bishops, one of which he invited me to attend. At the heart of his teaching is a call to live a life of discernment, attentive to the prompting of the Spirit as we live our lives as members of the church.

This call to an adult spirituality is an altogether different approach from a Christian life that focuses on the past and tries to live up to those standards. Yes, the past is important, for our lives are enriched by the tradition of our ancestors.

Their witness to the Gospel and the rules that sustained them are unique touchstones that aid in our discernment. But more is required of those who believe that Christ is risen, ever active in our time. We must be attentive to the impulse of the Spirit of Christ ever active in the world, who is always doing something new, as Pope Francis puts it.

The Feast of the Epiphany brings this into focus, for it tells the story of the Magi, who were drawn by Christ’s star. They consulted tradition and Scripture to test the validity of the path they were traveling. But those sources could only tell them so much. They continued their search for Christ by being attentive to the movement of his star. That faithful attentiveness brought them to an unexpected place that was not known to others, not even to those who knew the prophets and the law. And from that point, everything about the lives of the Magi changed. Their future changed, for we are told they went home by a different way.

Pope Francis offers a fresh understanding of the meaning of the Epiphany by urging us to live our lives in fidelity to the tradition of the church. At the same time, he calls us to be just as attentive to the promptings of the Spirit of Christ, who is making history, leading us in ways that might seem unexpected. How can we know whether a given way is faithful to the will of Christ? By discerning whether it is bringing us and others closer to Christ.

That will also be true for the life of the church across Chicagoland as we take up the work of Renew My Church. Let us search together, like the Magi, by keeping our eyes fixed on Christ. For, like the star moving through the heavens, he will lead us in ways that might be unexpected and new, but that will finally bring us closer to him, and therefore closer to one another.