Today we mark the Second Sunday of Advent. As we move into the heart of this very short season in the Church Year, the figure of John the Baptist steps into the spotlight. His preaching to prepare a straight path for the Lord and to turn from our sins becomes the focus of these middle weeks of Advent.
I suspect for many of us, the Advent challenge is to truly clear that straight path for the coming of the Lord – not just on Christmas, but today and each day that we live. The tremendous amount of activity during the month of December is a major obstacle. We are busier this month than we are during most months. It is difficult to recognize the simple, everyday “comings” of the Lord all around us. Many of us are using the “Little Blue Books” for the Advent and Christmas Seasons 2016/2017 as our guide in our efforts to “spend some quiet time with the Lord.” Others are attending our weekday Masses at 7:00am and 12:05pm. A good number of people took advantage of our First Friday Eucharistic Adoration this past Friday and were here for 15, 30 or 60 minutes of quiet, personal prayer. Still others are taking additional prayer time in our Eucharistic Chapel either before or after Mass, or some time during the day. Whatever our practice, taking a few minutes for quiet, personal prayer each day can help us recognize those simple “comings” of the Lord all around us.
Thursday, December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a Holy Day of Obligation. Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the United States. Masses for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception will be celebrated beginning with the anticipation Mass on Wednesday at 7:00pm and continue on Thursday at 6:30am, 8:15am with the Grade School community, 12:05pm and conclude at 7:00pm.
Advent is one of those ideal times to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our regular times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation are on Saturdays, following the 8:15am Mass – 8:45 until 10:00am (or later if necessary). We have added additional Reconciliation times on the Fridays of Advent (excluding December 23rd) following the 12:05pm Mass – 12:35-1:30pm and on Wednesday, December 21st and Thursday, December 22nd. Additional Reconciliation services have been scheduled for the grade school and religious education classes. Our parish Advent Reconciliation Service will take place on Monday, December 19th at 7:00pm. Additional priests will be available as confessors at this service. Please set this date aside to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for the Feast of Christmas.
Aging religious need our help. Next weekend is the annual Retirement Fund for Religious national appeal. Thousands of senior sisters, brothers and religious order priests spent years working in Catholic schools, hospitals, and agencies – often for little pay. Their sacrifices leave their religious communities without adequate savings for retirement and eldercare. Since religious sisters, brothers and priests were not permitted into the Social Security system until 1972, their average Social Security benefit is about 60% less than the average American citizen. Our donations to the Retirement Fund for Religious help with the costs of their living and health care. Last year, more than 96 percent of the funds donated were distributed to religious communities for their retirement needs. We will tithe 5% of next Sunday’s collection to the annual Retirement Fund for Religious national appeal. If this is a cause close to your heart and you would like to contribute more to this appeal, please use the envelope included in the packets mailed to your homes or one of the white envelopes from the pew holders and label it Retirement Fund for Religious.
Looking ahead, we have two major celebrations taking place in our parish next week. Monday, December 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas. It is a very significant feast day for our Hispanic brothers and sisters. While celebrations take place throughout the day, beginning with a dawn Mass at 5:00am, our parish celebration will take place Monday evening with Mass at 6:30pm and a fiesta that will follow in the Ministry Center. And then on Friday, December 16th, our Filipino brothers and sisters will gather for Mass at 7:00pm for our local Simbang Gabi celebration. The celebration will continue after the Mass in the Ministry Center. These special ethnic celebrations are deep-rooted celebrations of our faith and welcome all of our non-Hispanic and non-Filipino parishioners. I join with our Hispanic and Filipino communities in inviting you to join in these celebrations next week.
Just as we are decorating our homes for the holiday season, so too is our church home decorated for the season. Our Art & Environment Committee coordinated the Advent preparations in both the Church and the Chapel. Thank you to all who worked hard to provide a fitting environment for our Advent prayer.
Now that we have begun a new Church Year with the season of Advent, our parish calendars for 2017 are now available in both English and Spanish versions. Thank you to Salerno’s Rosedale Chapels for providing our parish calendars.
There is a lot of activity going on around us, both within our parish and in our other commitments. I pray that we will be able to carve out some Advent quiet time in the midst of all of the December activity. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy