All posts by Patti Lombardo

Epiphany Traditions – January 7, 2018

Epiphany means “manifestation” or “revelation”. When applied to Jesus, it refers to the revelation of His identity to the world – most notably in the visit of the Magi, who recognize the universal kingship of Christ. But other revelations of Jesus’ identity are linked to this feast, including His Baptism (where He is revealed as the beloved Son of the Father), and the wedding at Cana, where with the changing of the water in to wine, Jesus “revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

Epiphany is also known as “Little Christmas”, since it was the conclusion of the “12 Days of Christmas”, which linked the Feast of the Nativity on December 25 in the Roman Catholic Church with the traditional date of January 6 in the Eastern Orthodox churches. So it is perfectly appropriate to continue the celebration of Christmas at least until Epiphany!

The Proclamation of the Date of Easter:

The fullest manifestation of the identity and mission of Christ, of course, comes through His Resurrection. Easter typically falls on the Sunday following the first full moon of Spring, when eternity (represented by the Sun) is perfectly reflected in time (represented by the Moon). Since it is based on a lunar calendar, its date changes from year to year – it is a “moveable” feast. In the days before people had widespread access to calendars, the dates for Easter and other major celebrations were announced during the Mass of the Epiphany. In keeping with this tradition, here is this year’s proclamation:

Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us,

     and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of His return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord:

     His Last Supper, His crucifixion, His burial, and His rising

     celebrated between the evening of the Twenty-ninth day of March

     and the evening of the Thirty-first day of March

     Easter Sunday being on the First day of April.

Each Easter – as on each Sunday – the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed

     by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.

     From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the Fourteenth day of February.*

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the Thirteenth day of May.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter,

     will be celebrated on the Twentieth day of May.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the Second day of December.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ

     in the feasts of the holy Mother of God,

     in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints,

     and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history,

     be endless praise, for ever and ever. Amen.

* Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day this year, so you may want to make your romantic dinner plans for the weekend before – or even on Fat Tuesday!

The Blessing of Homes:

The Christmas and Easter seasons are traditional times for house blessings. While Fr. Matthew, Deacon Doug, Deacon Mike, and I are always delighted to visit and bless families in their homes, there is a special form of the blessing linked to the Feast of the Epiphany which you may wish to do yourself.

With chalk, which may be blessed for the occasion, write the following legend at the top of the door of the house: 20 + C + M + B + 18. The three letters stand for the Three Kings, who were traditionally known as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar; they are also an abbreviation of Christus Mansionem Benedicat, meaning “May Christ bless this house.” The numbers, of course, indicate the year in which the blessing was given, and the crosses mark a Christian home.

Then the following prayer may be said:

Lord God of heaven and earth,

you revealed your only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star.

Bless this house and all who inhabit it.

Fill us with the light of Christ, that our concern for others may reflect your love.

Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Solemn Vespers

This Sunday at 7:00 pm, we will be continuing our new tradition of Solemn Vespers for the Solemnity of the Epiphany. This is a sung form of Evening Prayer, part of the Liturgy of the Hours (or “Divine Office”), the Church’s official prayer outside of the celebration of Mass. With psalms, canticles, hymns, Scripture readings, and prayers, it is meant to lift our hearts in praise, thanksgiving, and petition to almighty God. The Liturgy of the Hours is unique in the liturgical life of the Church because “it consecrates to God the whole cycle of day and night, as it has done from early Christian times” (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, 10). It is designed for celebration in common but is also regularly prayed by individuals, particularly by priests and religious, who are required to say the Office daily for the good of the Church and the salvation of the world. The book used for its celebration is called the “Breviary”. In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church fulfills Jesus’ command to “pray always” (Luke 18:1; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Through this prayer, the people of God sanctify the day by continual praise of God and prayers of intercession for the needs of the world. Please join us in blessing God for the revelation of His Son at the Epiphany.

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A big thank-you to our Men’s Club for preparing and serving the “Feast of the Holy Family” Breakfast last weekend. A wonderful celebration for our patronal feast day!

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I am away on my annual retreat/vacation with a group of my brother priests through January 12th. Please pray for us, that this may be a time of refreshment and renewal; be assured, as always, of my prayers for you.

 

The Holy Family – December 31, 2017

The Feast of the Holy Family has a 3-year cycle of Gospel readings. The first concerns the flight into Egypt and the eventual settlement of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Nazareth (Matthew 2:13-23); the second – which is used this year – tells of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22-40); and the third relates the story of the finding of the      12-year-old Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52). What can we learn from these Scriptures?

For one thing, we learn the importance of discerning and  obeying God’s will. Joseph is able to protect Jesus from King Herod because he responds faithfully to the Lord’s commands; Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple in accordance with God’s Law; and Jesus Himself, we are told, was obedient to Mary and Joseph as He grew up – as He would be obedient to the will of His heavenly Father throughout His life. Family life is most firmly established when it is rooted in God’s holy will, which above all desires our eternal salvation, not merely worldly success.

We also find Mary and Joseph working as a team. Together they take Jesus to Egypt, present Him in the Temple, and seek Him when He is lost. In order to be effective parents, husbands and wives need to have a solid marriage relationship, one that models affection and love, dialogue and true partnership in service of a common vision. It is best when differences of opinion are resolved behind closed doors, allowing parents’ decisions to be more effective as well as prudent. The spouses’ relationship should not be neglected in the midst of the demands of childcare – the most important gift that parents can impart to their children is a strong, loving, and lasting bond in their marriage.

Finally, we see the tension between our natural desire to protect our children and the need to grant them independence when the time comes. As an infant, Jesus was helpless and in need of His parents’ protection – although He was fully divine, He was also truly human, developing as we all do. Already at Jesus’ Presentation, however, Mary is warned by Simeon that the day will come when she will have to let her Son go:

“Behold, this child is destined

for the fall and rise of many in Israel,

and to be a sign that will be contradicted—

and you yourself a sword will pierce—

so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

And when He was 12, the year in which a Jewish boy comes of age, Jesus left His family, staying behind in Jerusalem while Mary and Joseph returned home. But His time had not yet come – He still needed to prepare for His public ministry through His “hidden life” in Nazareth, working in the carpenter’s shop, immersing Himself in the Scriptures (which spoke of Him and His mission!), spending time   with Mary. These quiet, domestic moments were just as necessary for His work as the later miracles and teachings, for Jesus experienced everything about human life, except for sin.

Because of this we can look upon the Holy Family as a model and guide of virtue for all family life, in the midst   of the tensions and concerns of each day. May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph watch over, guide, and protect each of our families, and our parish family.

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There are so many people to thank for making our Christmas celebrations so beautiful and joyful. I would  especially like to acknowledge our Facilities team, under the direction of Tim Kennedy, for their hard work in decorating the church; Alice Kapperman and her team of sacristans for their care of the altar and the many items needed to celebrate Mass reverently; our Music Ministry; Tom Atkins and his team of ushers (who can always use more volunteers!); all of our liturgical ministers who serve the Lord and His people; and all of you for your faithfulness and for welcoming our visitors so graciously.

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The parishioners of Holy Family have again demonstrated enormous generosity, in your Christmas offering for the support of our parish, in our special collection for our St. Vincent de Paul Society and other outreach ministries, and for your continued contributions to our Mortgage Reduction Campaign. My gratitude is beyond measure!

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Nearly every Thursday evening, Mass is celebrated at the Regents Park nursing facility, and Communion is brought to the residents on Sundays. For many years, Bob Hawes has led the ministry at Regents Park, getting to know the residents and staff, whether Catholic or not, and providing a warm and supportive presence to all those he encounters. Bob has recently decided to step down from this role, and he and his wife Carol were recently honored for their service. I wish to offer my deep gratitude to Bob and Carol for carrying out the works of mercy for the sick and the suffering with such devotion and charity –   you will be missed!

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I wish all of you a New Year filled with every blessing of health, happiness, and success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish all of you a New Year filled with every blessing of health, happiness, and success.

 

 

Merry Christmas/Happy New Year – December 24, 2017

The church is brightly decorated, as we celebrate the One who was born in an unadorned stable.

We open our homes to family and friends, as we honor the One for whom no lodging could be found.

We look forward to a festive Christmas dinner, as we recall the One born to be for us the Bread of Life.

We exchange gifts, as we recognize the One who is the gift of God to humanity – the One who gave everything, even His life, for our sake.

The eternal God has entered history, limited to a particular place and time. The Word of God, through Whom all things were made, has silently become part of His creation. The Son of the Almighty Father has become a defenseless child. The Source of life has made Himself subject to death. The King of Kings has humbled Himself, taking the form of a servant (cf. Philippians 2:6-8).

“Though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). By taking on our human nature, He has offered us a share in the divine nature.

What an incomparable gift! So we join the angels in their great song of praise: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” Having heard the Good News  of Emmanuel, God-with-us, we hasten with the shepherds to Bethlehem. In thanksgiving for what God has done for us in Jesus, we bring our gifts with the Magi. We rejoice with all creatures as we recognize that “God so loved the world that  He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

O come, let us adore Him!

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Next weekend, we celebrate our parish’s patronal feast day of the Holy Family. Bishop Estévez will celebrate the 5:30 pm Vigil Mass on Saturday, December 30th. And on Sunday, our Men’s Club will offer the parish their annual Feast of the Holy Family Breakfast after all morning Masses.

Please remember that there will be no 5:00 pm Mass on Sunday, December 31st. On New Year’s Day (not a Holy Day of Obligation this year), we will have Masses at 8:00 am and 10:00 am.

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Many thanks to our Music Ministry for the beautiful Lessons and Carols service last Thursday evening. This has become a wonderful tradition at Holy Family. On Sunday, January 7th, at 7:00 pm, we will be continuing a new tradition: Solemn Vespers for the Solemnity of the Epiphany. This is a sung form of Evening Prayer, part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church’s official prayer outside of the celebration of Mass. With psalms, canticles, hymns, Scripture readings, and prayers, it is meant to lift our hearts in praise, thanksgiving, and petition to almighty God. In so doing, we follow the admonition of St. Paul: “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:20).   We hope you can join us!

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I wish all our parishioners, their families, and our visitors – friends new and old – a peaceful, joyful, and blessed  Christmas. May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph watch over us and keep us safe in God’s care now and throughout the coming New Year.

 

Advent and Christmas Celebrations

Advent and Christmas Celebrations

Each Saturday in Advent:  Mass at 9:00 am, followed by confessions

Festival of Lessons and Carols

Thursday, December 21st, at 7:00 pm

4th Sunday of Advent Masses

Saturday, December 23rd:  5:30 pm

Sunday, December 24th: 8:00 am, 9:30 am, 11:30 am

Christmas Masses

Sunday, December 24th: 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm

Monday, December 25th: 12:00 Midnight, 9:30 am, 11:30 am

Feast of the Holy Family

Saturday, December 30th: Bishop Estévez will celebrate the 5:30 pm Vigil Mass

Sunday, December 31st: 8:00 am, 9:30 am, 11:30 am

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

(not a Holy Day of Obligation this year)

Sunday, December 31stNo 5:00 pm Mass

Monday, January 1st: 8:00 am, 10:00 am

Solemn Vespers for the Feast of the Epiphany

Sunday, January 7th, at 7:00 pm

The Meaning of Christmas

For most Americans, the “Christmas season” begins in earnest at Thanksgiving (though decorations now often go up before Halloween!), reaches its climax on December 24th, and comes to a shattering halt sometime after the presents are opened on Christmas morning. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is often simply a time of rest and recovery before returning to the routine on January 2nd.

For Christians, however, the Christmas season begins in the afternoon or evening of December 24th, with the Vigil Mass of Christmas. (In days gone by, when Mass could not be celebrated after 12:00 noon, the first Mass of Christmas was, of course, at midnight.) It continues through the Epiphany (which concludes the “12 Days of Christmas” – or at least it did until it was moved from January 6th to the Sunday closest to that date) and ends with the Feast of Baptism of the Lord.

Now, Jesus was baptized around the age of 30. Why does the Church’s commemoration of this event belong to the “Christmas” season? Isn’t Christmas just about the baby Jesus? True, our focus on December 25th is on the Nativity of the Lord (the official title of Christmas), and many of the special days of the Christmas season are related to the infancy  narratives of Matthew and Luke (the Magi at the Epiphany,  the Feast of the Holy Family, even the Feast of the Holy Innocents), but even here there is more going on than we might think.

There’s a principle of Catholic theology known as lex orandi, lex credendi: “the law of prayer is the law of belief.” In other words, if you want to know what the Church believes, pay  attention to how she prays! Consider, first of all, the readings and prayers for the Masses of Christmas Day. (These are known as the “Propers” of the day—as opposed to the “Ordinary” of the Mass, which includes the parts that do not change, such as the “Holy, Holy, Holy,” the Lord’s Prayer, and the “Lamb of God.”) Midnight Mass is a good example: in the middle of the night, during one of the longest nights of the year, we hear the words of the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Isaiah 9:1-6). This echoes the opening prayer of the Mass, “O God, who have made this most sacred night radiant with the splendor of true light, grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of His light on earth, may also delight in His gladness in heaven.”

Just when all seems darkest, a light begins to shine, and a new day dawns. Christmas is not just about the birth of a child – it’s about the birth of hope in the midst of despair, a turning point in history, when a seemingly insignificant event, happening in a town of no importance to an obscure family, changes the world.

The Gospel reading for this Mass (Luke 2:1-14), so familiar to us, has some unexpected messages. For example, the child is born during the reign of Caesar Augustus, who is “Lord” of the known world, but the angels announce to the shepherds that it is Jesus who is truly Lord! In addition, He is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger – that is, clothed in a shroud and placed in a feeding bin as a sign that He will give His life for us and become our sustenance in the Eucharist. (Compare this to the symbolism of the gifts of the Magi that are recalled at Epiphany: gold for a king, incense for a priest, myrrh for one destined to die.)

The Prayer over the Offerings at Midnight Mass adds an additional message: “May the oblation of this day’s feast be pleasing to you, O Lord, we pray, that through this most holy exchange we may be found in the likeness of Christ,  in whom our nature is united to you.” This is similar to the prayer the priest or deacon says quietly when mixing the wine and the water in the chalice: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.” Through the Blessed Virgin Mary, we have given Jesus our humanity; in return, He has offered us His divinity! This is the ultimate meaning of Christmas – not just the birth of a child, however holy, but the Incarnation. In Christ, the divine has become human so that human beings might be divinized, that is, sharers in the very nature of God!

There are actually 4 sets of “Propers” for Christmas Day,   4 different sets of readings and prayers, but they all echo these same themes. In the Vigil Mass, the first reading     likens God’s relationship to us as a marriage – an irrevocable bond (Isaiah 62:1-5). Just as in a human marriage a man and woman “become one flesh” yet retain their distinct identities, so in Christ the human and divine are joined completely yet each remains distinct. In the Mass during the Day, we hear, not the story of Jesus’ birth, but of its deeper meaning in the beautiful prologue to the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth…. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him” (1:1-18). Or in one of the prefaces (the part of the Eucharistic Prayer before the “Holy, Holy, Holy”) for the Christmas season we hear: “For through him the holy exchange that restores our life has shown forth today in splendor: when our frailty is assumed by your Word not only does this human mortality receive unending honor but by this wondrous union we, too, are made eternal.”

There is much more that could be said by examining the entirety of the Christmas season. But we’ll conclude by considering the day after Christmas: December 26th is the Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon and First Martyr of the Church. What in the world does this have to do with the  little baby Jesus?!? Well, if we understand Christmas properly, quite a lot: Christ was born to bring human beings into communion with the very life of God. If that is so, then Christ’s followers should become like Him. And that’s exactly what St. Stephen does: the account of his death in Acts 7 parallels the Passion and Death of Jesus in striking ways, down to his forgiveness of his executioners and his final words, commending his spirit into the Lord’s hands.

This Christmas, may we come to a deeper understanding of the gift God has offered us in Jesus Christ: the gift of His very self, so that we can imitate His love and make the whole world holy.

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My thanks to Maria Petrotta, the Faith Formation Committee, and all who helped make our Parish Mission with Fr. Ken Geraci such a success last week. Fr. Geraci informed me that he has never experienced such a tremendous response in several years of doing missions.  (He will be sending additional copies of his CDs to us soon; they will be available in the Gift Shop.) I pray that this was a grace-filled time of healing and renewal for all of you.

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My thanks to the Holy Family Men’s Club for our wonderful “Breakfast with Santa” event last Sunday.  Well done, one and all!

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This Thursday, December 21st, the Holy Family Music  Ministry presents our annual Service of Lessons and Carols at 7:00 pm in the church. Come and pray, reflect on the Scriptures that tell of the coming of Christ, join in singing familiar carols, and listen as our wonderful adult and children’s choirs lift their voices in praise of the arrival of our Savior. What better way to get into the true Christmas spirit!

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There will be Mass and confessions next Saturday, December 23rd, beginning at 9:00 am – a final opportunity for your spiritual  preparations for Christmas!

A reminder: Since Christmas falls on a Monday this year, the 4th Sunday of Advent falls on Christmas Eve, which may cause some confusion. You are asked to attend Mass for both the Advent Sunday and Christmas. The schedule is as follows:

4th Sunday of Advent Masses

Saturday, December 23rd: 5:30 pm Vigil Mass

Sunday, December 24th: 8:00 am, 9:30 am, and 11:30 am

Christmas Masses

Sunday, December 24th: 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm

Monday, December 25th: Midnight, 9:30 am, and 11:30 am

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A Cause for Rejoicing

Please keep in your prayers Bishop-elect Thanh Nguyen, former Pastor of St. Joseph and Christ the King parishes, as he prepares for his Episcopal Ordination on Tuesday, December 19th.  Bishop-elect Thanh was recently appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Orange in California, where his  ministry will focus on the diocese’s large population of Vietnamese Catholics.  I will be leaving on Sunday morning to attend his ordination and will assure him of your prayerful support as he begins this new stage of his life and ministry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beginning – December 10, 2017

Last weekend was the beginning, in the Church’s calendar, of the Year of Grace 2018. It is also marked the beginning of Lectionary Cycle B. The Lectionary for Sunday Mass has a 3-year cycle of Gospel readings. Year “A” focuses on the Gospel of Matthew, Year “B” on Mark, and Year “C” on Luke, especially during Ordinary Time.

Mark is thought to be the 1st Gospel written, probably in the 60s. St. Mark was a companion of St. Paul on one of his missionary journeys (cf. Acts 15:36-41), and after they had parted company Mark joined St. Peter, with whom he eventually made his way to Rome (1 Peter 5:13). Because of this, Mark’s Gospel is believed to be in a sense the “memoir” of St. Peter, addressed to Roman Christians during the persecution of the Emperor Nero, under whom Peter had suffered martyrdom.

This helps to explain a number of unique aspects to the Gospel of Mark, especially the depiction of the disciples. They often seem to be fearful and uncomprehending (e.g., 4:37-41; 8:21). The original ending of the book (additions were made later) has the women at the empty tomb running away: “And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (16:8). Why would this be? Perhaps Mark was trying to encourage the young Church in Rome to overcome their fear of persecution and boldly proclaim the Risen Lord, as the women at the tomb obviously had!

Above all, the disciples in the Gospel do not understand who Jesus really is. But Mark gives the game away in the very first sentence (which we hear today): “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” But no one recognizes this fact – no one human, that is. From the outset of Jesus’ public ministry, the evil spirits know who He is (1:24; 3:11; 5:7).  The first and only human being to acclaim Jesus as “Son of God,” however, is a Roman centurion at the Crucifixion! (15:39) Whereas the disciples saw Jesus as the Jewish Messiah who would drive the Romans out of the Holy Land, it was a Roman who saw that it was Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice His life for others that revealed His true, divine identity.

Mark is the shortest Gospel, with only 16 chapters. Unlike Matthew and Luke, it has no “infancy narrative,” describing the earliest days of Jesus’s life on earth. Rather, it starts with Jesus’ baptism, where the voice of the Father reveals Jesus as His “beloved Son.” Most of the material in Mark has parallels in Matthew and Luke, but the latter have many elements not found in the older Gospel (e.g., the Sermon on the Mount, the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son). Scholars believe that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a foundation to which they added their own recollections and materials (Matthew having been an Apostle, Luke having been a companion of St. Paul and an acquaintance of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

In addition, because Mark is so short, there is not enough material to fill out the Lectionary for the entire year. Next week, for example, we will hear the account of John the Baptist from St. John’s Gospel. The following week, we will hear Luke’s story of the Annunciation (Mark, of course, not having recounted it). During the summer, we will stop reading Mark altogether in order to reflect for several weeks on the mystery of the Eucharist in the  “Bread of Life discourse” in the 6th chapter of John.

Despite all this, Mark is indispensable. Without him, the other Gospels might not exist as they do today, nor would we have the perspective of St. Peter himself – and of the city that would one day become the center of Christianity. Mark offers a breadth of detail often lacking in the other Gospels, and a view of Jesus not willing to waste a minute to bring His message of God’s healing and saving power to as many people, Jew and Gentile, as possible. Mark’s opening line, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” points to this being the first account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, yes, but also to a new beginning for us who receive this “Good News” (which is what the word Gospel means) and accept Jesus as Son of God and Savior.

 

Preparing the Way – December 3, 2017

The Season of Advent has 3 aspects: past, present, and future. The future actually comes at the beginning of Advent: we look ahead to the Second Coming of Christ in glory, the culmination of history. As the season proceeds, we move backwards in time towards the first Christmas, meditating on the events that led to the Incarnation, God becoming one of us and transforming human history. But we do this in order to recognize His continued presence among us, and within us, each day, and to recognize His Lordship over all history. To help us recognize His presence and action in our lives now,  we have scheduled a number of events in the weeks ahead:

  • Our Advent Parish Mission with Fr. Ken Geraci will take place this week, from Monday, December 4th, through Thursday, December 7th, at 7:00 pm each evening. In addition, Fr. Geraci will offer a version of his mission presentations each morning following the 9:00 am Mass. He will be available for confessions at 6:00 pm each  evening, and we will have additional confessors on Wednesday, both in the morning and evening. On Thursday evening, the Mission will conclude at the Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (a Holy Day of Obligation). The Mission is for all ages and for people at any stage in their faith journey. If you miss a session, don’t worry – just come to the next one! I hope you can join us as we answer the question, Why Be Catholic?
  • On Friday, December 8th, Masses will be celebrated for the Holy Day at 7:00 am, 9:00 am, and 7:00 pm. The Friday evening Mass will conclude with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament as part of the National Night of Prayer for Life. Please join us in praying to our Lord for a renewal of a Culture of Life in our nation under the patronage of Our Lady. Adoration will continue until  1:00 am.
  • Priests will be available to hear confessions each Saturday morning during Advent, following Mass at 9:00 am.
  • Our Music Ministry presents Lessons and Carols on Thursday, December 21st, at 7:00 pm in the church.

I wish all of you an Advent filled with hope and peaceful expectation.

Christmas Schedules

Since Christmas falls on a Monday this year, the 4th Sunday  of Advent falls on Christmas Eve, which may cause some  confusion. You are asked to attend Mass for both the Advent Sunday and Christmas. The schedule is as follows:

4th Sunday of Advent Masses

Saturday, December 23rd: 5:30 pm Vigil Mass

Sunday, December 24th: 8:00 am, 9:30 am, and 11:30 am

Christmas Masses

Sunday, December 24th: 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm

Monday, December 25th: Midnight, 9:30 am, and 11:30 am

The following weekend is our parish’s patronal feast day: the Feast of the Holy Family. Bishop Estévez will celebrate the 5:30 pm Vigil Mass on Saturday, December 30th.  Sunday Masses are at 8:00 am, 9:30 am, and 11:30 am. There is no 5:00 pm Mass on Sunday, December 31st.

This year, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God (New Year’s Day) is not a Holy Day of Obligation. Masses on Monday, January 1st, will be celebrated at 8:00 am and 10:00 am (note the special times).

In addition, our Men’s Club will help us get into the spirit of the season with 2 events: Breakfast with Santa after all morning Masses on Sunday, December 10th; and Feast of the Holy Family Breakfast after all morning Masses on Sunday, December 31st. My thanks to the Men’s Club for this service to our parish!

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Catechism Corner

What is the Immaculate Conception?

Through the centuries, the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

“The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” (Paragraph 491)

Pastor’s note:

Since the Redemption wrought by Christ affects all of time, His salvific actions were applied to Mary even though they had not yet taken place in human history. Since God dwells in eternity, all times are present to Him.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception takes place on December 8th; the Birth of Mary is celebrated on September 8th, 9 months later – a helpful reminder that the Immaculate Conception refers to the origin of Mary, not Jesus. (Jesus’ conception is celebrated on the Solemnity of the Annunciation on March 25th.)

 

 

 

Christ our Shepherd – November 26, 2017

The Solemnity of Christ the King was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in response to the claims of secular ideologies such as Fascism, Nazism, and Communism that there was  nothing above or outside the omnipotent State. The Christian response is that all authority ultimately comes from God, and those who exercise authority must answer to Him; as Jesus said to Pilate during His trial, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above” (John 19:11). There is a higher law to which the decrees of government must be conformed; simply saying that something is legal does not mean that it is moral.

This denial of any authority above human institutions is nothing new. In ancient Israel, the people were meant to be governed by God through the Law given on Mount Sinai, and not through any normal political arrangement. But eventually they decided that they wanted to have a king, like other nations. But Israel was not meant to be like other nations!     So when the people asked the prophet Samuel to appoint a king over them, the Lord told him, “Grant the people’s every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king” (1 Samuel 8:5-7).

Yet God brought good out of this situation, eventually raising up a young shepherd named David, who became Israel’s greatest king. After this, the kings of Israel were often referred to as shepherds. In many cases, however, these “shepherds” did not respond faithfully to their calling. Even David fell into grievous sin, and most of his successors were much worse: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing  themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? … You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally” (Ezekiel 34:2.4).

The failure of Israel’s shepherds ultimately led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Exile (c. 587 BC). Yet through it all, the line of David did not fail, for the Lord had promised him a dynasty that would endure (2 Samuel 7:16). This promise was fulfilled in Jesus, the “son of David”, the true and eternal King and Good Shepherd. As the Lord had told the prophet Ezekiel during the Exile, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep” (Ezekiel 34:11). In Jesus, God Himself has come to seek out the lost, bind the injured, and heal the sick (Ezekiel 34:16).

Yet even now, people reject His Kingship, not accepting the One who is “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion” (Ephesians 1:21). This is because we misconceive the nature of His rule. Due to the failures of  human kings (and queens) throughout history, we tend to consider a king to be by nature a tyrant who wishes to restrict our freedom. But Jesus offers a model of kingship which goes against the normal human presumptions about the exercise of power:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant…. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:25-28).

Indeed, as this weekend’s Gospel shows, the Kingship of Christ is expressed not through a desire to oppress, but to liberate; not through fear, but through compassion. We serve Him best through our care for the powerless; we reign with Him through mercy.

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Next Saturday, December 2nd, our usual 1st Saturday Mass will also include the celebration of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. If you are seriously ill, have a chronic condition, or are facing serious surgery, come and experience Christ’s healing presence in this beautiful Sacrament. The Rosary will be recited at 8:30 am, followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Mass is at 9:00 am, followed by confessions.

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On Saturday evening, our Advent Parish Mission with Fr. Ken Geraci begins – he will preach at all Masses next weekend. Please join us for a reception to welcome him to Holy Family following the 5:30 pm Mass.

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I would like to express my appreciation and admiration to Matt Daniel and our Music Ministry for the wonderful St. Cecilia Concert on November 17th. Our St. Gregory and St. Cecilia children’s choirs are developing their gifts beautifully, and our principal adult choir is exquisite! Well done!

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My thanks go as well to Donald Moynahan and our Cooking Ministry, who have been working overtime lately. They prepared Thanksgiving feasts 3 times in a week: for our Refugee Ministry, the Young at Heart, and our parish celebration on Thursday. Among many other things, they also assist with my monthly Rectory dinners. I hope you can join me at my home for a meal and conversation with fellow parishioners. Upcoming dinners are on Saturday, December 16th, and Saturday, January 13th , following the 5:30 pm Mass. Please contact the Parish Office if you would like to come.

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I am planning a Pilgrimage to Scotland and Ireland from June 26th through July 8th, 2018.  There will be an informational meeting, Sunday, December 3rd, at 1:00 pm in Room 217 the Parish Life Center if you are interested.

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Bishop Estévez wrote me last week to thank you for your extraordinary generosity in response to the disaster relief collections for Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria. All  together, you contributed over $40,000 to these efforts. I too am truly grateful for your concern for all those in need.