Twice a month the staff of St. Gregory the Great Church send out a spiritual reflection to all parishioners for whom we have an e-mail address. What follows are the most recent of these reflections. If you would like to have your name added to our e-mail reflection list, please e-mail us at info@stgregory.net, and we will add your name to our listing.



 Last week a group from St. Gregory’s attended a two day summit sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago as part of the Renew My Church initiative. At the end of each day we returned home with much to think about and with a myriad of feelings to process. Many insights were presented to us that included the process of evangelization, qualities of good leadership and ways of calling upon the power of the Holy Spirit individually and collectively, to help us embrace our call and be sent forth as missionary disciples. During my own reflection of this experience I was reminded of a story that I heard about a psychiatrist who told one of his client’s something like this: “Insight is the booby prize; transformation is what we’re after.”

I’m not sure that I can tell anyone what transformation looks like but I do have a sense of how it feels. There is a knowing in my heart, a change of attitude toward someone, even toward myself, that I did not make happen. Outside of my own abilities and power I am humbled, surprised, free. It takes hold of me to become more honest and authentic, to become the best of myself.

As we learn more about what the implications of the Renew My Church initiative means for us and for our Vicariate, we need holy guidance by the Spirit who makes all things new.

The words of Sunday’s collect prayer after Communion remind me of how intimately we are bound and how my hope of church renewal will take place: “May we be transformed into what we consume.”


Lately as a parish we have been dealing with loss, the loss of two guardians: Sr. Barbara, who tended our collective heart, and Patrick Godon, who tended our musical soul. And to make matters worse, the Church at large is in upheaval with a fresh round of abuse revelations, which has caused a loss of trust. 

So, when I went to mass this past Sunday, September 9th, I opened the front doors with a feeling of heaviness. I don’t know what I expected to find. A community that no longer felt full? A building hung with sorrow? A sense of defeat? Not much reason left to stay?

But immediately the greeter for that day, Sandra Martinez, glowing in a little green dress and bright jewelry, grabbed me and hugged me hard. As I walked into church I felt Sr. Barbara’s absence, the air quivering with that expectation of seeing her, but I was already smiling.

One of the ushers gave me his usual ribbing, about not being dressed up to altar-serve as I once had been when my children first started serving and were too nervous to go it alone. In his simple words, I felt the long familiarity of being part of a make-shift family, which only a parish can provide.

            I made my way up the center aisle to my standard spot, my hand brushing over the shoulders of people I knew, saying hello, hello. Within a few minutes, standing there in the second pew from the front on the right, I became more acutely aware, as always happens during mass, of my children and husband next to me. I reached out for their arms, hair, hands.

At some point my eyes drifted to the choir. They looked different. Now they stood up in the side chapel, rather than around the piano.  Now, as if stripped down to what matters most, they wore black with just the simple choir stole over their shoulders. And the entire choir stared intently, earnestly at Cheri Dahlen as if to show her that they could do it and that she could.

Then Fr. Paul stood up and urged us to be open to what comes. “Be opened,” Jesus said to the deaf man but seemed to address everyone who was there to watch.

And I watched people walk up for communion, some with babies in their arms, some limping with canes, some white or black or brown, some gay or straight, some with grimaces barely concealed, some laughing.

Finally, I saw the red light flickering in the Sanctuary Lamp. I seem to notice it most when I am down. Always it strikes me with its ever-presence. There it is, as it always has been. So quiet. Never making a sound. Never demanding that I notice. Shining just the same in the empty hull of the church when no one is there to look and in the crowded fullness of an Easter mass. Shining no matter who comes or goes.

And it struck me that being open to what comes means precisely being open to what had come that day, and would come again: Sandra, wide-armed and glowing, an usher making the world familiar with an old joke, pew after pew of people with their dear shoulders and faces, my own family brightly there around me, a choir transformed by their effort to live up to something big, the lines of people making their way in faith to the altar, and finally that presence that never goes out, waiting while we forget, waiting through our sorrow and sin, through the sin of the world, through our comings and goings, waiting always for us to be opened and notice.