Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This feast marks the end of the Christmas/Epiphany cycle of the church year. On Monday we begin the cycle of ordinary Time, wearing green vestments and celebrating the First Week in Ordinary Time. Soon our Sunday Gospel reading will begin our continuous reading of Luke’s Gospel. This first part of the Ordinary Time cycle will last until Ash Wednesday on February 10th. The end of the holidays and the beginning of Ordinary Time does not mean that less than exciting things are happening in our lives. If our Christmas celebrations taught us anything, it is that God seeks to break into our lives in familiar, everyday ways. We are still called to grow closer to our God, but in ordinary, unspectacular ways.
Jesus’ Baptism was the inauguration of his mission in our world, his acceptance of his vocation. This is a good opportunity for us to focus on church vocations – those that arise from Baptism as well as those that are lived in the diaconate, priesthood and religious life. We now have the new 2015-2016 Joliet Seminarian poster displayed in our church, chapel and school. The poster highlights the fact that our diocesan seminarians come from parishes much like our own. Father Charles Banks, OMI is the first native son of St. Isidore’s to be ordained a priest and will be celebrating his 50th anniversary of priestly ordination in July. His parents, Elsie and Edward Banks were married here in 1938. Father Charles was baptized here in 1939 by Father John Ott, our second pastor. He attended St. Isidore School and graduated in 1953. He later entered the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and was ordained a priest in 1966. He currently serves as the religious superior of the Oblate Community in San Antonio, TX. We hope to be able to welcome him back to our parish, the seedbed of his vocation, on Sunday, July 10, 2016 when he will celebrate the 10:00am Mass. Today’s Feast of the Lord’s Baptism and Father Charles’ upcoming 50th anniversary remind us of the importance of praying for our young people and religious vocations from our parish. Vocations come from parishes much like our own!
Looking back over the weeks of December leading up to Christmas, we experienced a tremendous amount of activity in our parish. And with bulletin deadlines coming early to accommodate the holidays, I wasn’t able to share all of my thoughts on two major events involving our Hispanic and Filipino communities. These events were the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Saturday, December 12th and the celebration of Simbang Gabi on Friday, December 18th. Before we get too far from these celebrations, I’d like to share some additional thoughts.
Both the Hispanic and Filipino communities are large communities within our parish. Both communities are heavily Catholic communities and both bring their own traditions and flavor to living our Catholic faith in today’s world. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was a major turning point in the missionary efforts in the New World. Mary’s appearance as a pregnant Aztec maiden to Juan Diego inspired an entire nation to embrace Catholicism. We had a standing room only crowd for the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration. The story was retold and passed on to our young people so that they could appreciate their religious heritage. The entire parish was invited to this celebration. Those of us non-Hispanics who were there were deeply touched by the faith of our Hispanic sisters and brothers.
The very same dynamic was repeated again on the following Friday at our Filipino Simbang Gabi celebration. The novena of light is a traditional prayer that prepares the community for the celebration of Christmas. The stories were retold and the traditions passed on to our young people so that they could appreciate their religious heritage. Again, the entire parish was invited to this celebration. Those of us non-Filipinos who were there were deeply touched by the faith of our Filipino sisters and brothers.
Our parish is blessed to have two different, yet similar, communities as a part of our larger parish community. While the memory of these celebrations is still fresh in my mind, I want to encourage everyone to take advantage of the various ways our faith is celebrated within our community – especially within our Hispanic and Filipino communities. We are richer because of their presence among us. And their expressions of faith can lead us to a deeper appreciation of our own traditions and expressions of faith passed down to us.
Throughout this year, we are celebrating a Holy Year, the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The Jubilee Year began on December 8, 2015 when Pope Francis formally opened the “Holy Door” of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It will conclude on November 20, 2016 – the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. In his announcement of the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis said that the year will be a time for animating “a new stage in the journey of the Church on its mission to bring to every person the Gospel of mercy.” The Holy Year provides us with several opportunities to experience the gift of God’s mercy. Our Parish Mission (February 20-21-22) will lead us in reflecting on the amazing, incredible and unbelievable gift of God’s forgiveness. Please set the dates aside now. We will also have additional times to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation throughout the year, beginning with an added time on the First Fridays of the month, following the 12:05pm Mass. We open our hearts to experience this special year of grace.
As we conclude our celebration of the Christmas Season this weekend and move into the season of Ordinary Time, we are invited to recognize and celebrate God’s presence in the ordinary and routine moments of our lives. It is a time of thanksgiving and grace. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy