Today we celebrate the Fourth and final Sunday of Advent. We are in the second and final phase of our preparations. Earlier, the Advent Scriptures have challenged us to prepare for the Lord’s final return in glory and to recognize his presence already among us today. We have responded to John the Baptist’s call to repent and will celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a community on Monday evening. Additional Reconciliation times are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. This year, our Fourth Week of Advent lasts a full week. Our daily Scripture readings are helping us to retell the story of how the Lord came among us in the past through his birth as one of us. On Saturday evening we begin the great celebration of God’s presence among us.
Our Christmas and New Year liturgical schedule is printed on the front page of this week’s bulletin. It was also included in our Advent 2016 Brochure and is posted on our parish website www.stisidoreparish.org. Please note the dates and times of all of our additional celebrations. We are anticipating capacity congregations at each of our 4:00pm Christmas Eve Masses in the Church, the Ministry Center and the Chapel. These Masses will begin as each space is filled, beginning with the Church. This means that Mass in the Church will begin once the Church is full. This could happen as early as 3:35pm. Then people will be directed to the Ministry Center and Mass there will begin once that space is full (probably around 3:45pm) and then the final Mass in the Chapel at 4:00pm. So please do not drop off a family representative to “hold seats” in the Church with the rest of the family arriving later. Once the Church is near capacity, we will fill in any “saved seats” and begin the Mass. Please bring your entire family with you when you arrive so that you will be able to attend the Mass of your choice together. We have found that this staggered beginning of our 4:00pm Masses also allows for a staggered exit from the parking lot. If you would like to avoid the crowds on Christmas Eve, please consider the 7:00am or 8:30am Masses on Christmas Day. Either Mass should be an excellent choice for seating and parking.
One of the more popular Christmas carols heard over the airways these past few weeks has been “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Even though Costco and a number of local retailers have proclaimed the twelve days of Christmas as those leading up to December 25th, Christians have always kept Christmas as a season of twelve days from December 25th through January 6th, the traditional date of the Epiphany. The church calendar today even extends the Christmas celebration until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this year the Monday following Epiphany.
In order to continue our celebration, the church has placed a number of notable feast days on the calendar immediately following Christmas. On Monday we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, a Deacon and the first martyr. Tuesday gives us the feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, and Wednesday is the feast of the Holy Innocents, the martyred infants of Bethlehem. Since both Christmas and the feast of Mary, the Mother of God fall on Sundays this year, we will celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on Friday. Please note that our weekday Masses during Christmas week will be celebrated at 7:00am. Next Sunday we will celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. We will have our regular schedule of Masses for next Sunday’s celebration, beginning with the anticipation Masses on Saturday evening.
Thursday, December 22nd marks the first anniversary of the death of Bishop Joseph L. Imesch, the third Bishop of Joliet. Bishop Siegel will celebrate a Mass at the Cathedral today in memory of Bishop Imesch and all of the priests and deacons who have died this past year. We prayerfully remember Bishop Joseph L. Imesch, Fathers Mark Fracaro, John Moriarty, Lee Ryan, Henry Slade, Thomas Wolter, and Deacons James Dennison, Kevin Helwig, Robert Josse, John Leonas, Roger Schmith and Ronald Witman.
The celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th were very moving celebrations. The same was true with the Simbang Gabi Filipino celebration last Friday night. Both the Hispanic and Filipino communities bring much to our community. We are blessed to have both of these communities reminding us of the larger church.
Many of our college students have already made their way home for their Christmas break. Congratulations on a successful completion of your Fall semester. We are very happy to have you home with us!
Our parish office will be closed on Friday, December 23rd, Monday, December 26th, Friday, December 30th and Monday, January 2nd. It is important that our parish staff have the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with their families.
As we gather again Saturday evening or next Sunday for our celebration of the feast of Christmas, I ask that each of us be as generous as possible in remembering your Christmas gift to our parish. Like everyone else, we are facing increases in our fixed expenses. I am very grateful for your faithful support throughout the course of the year and thank you in advance for your continued support at Christmas.
As we complete our observance of Advent and begin our celebration of Christmas next weekend, please know that all of you are especially remembered in our prayers. We ask God’s blessings on those who are traveling and will be away at Christmas. Wherever Christmas may find us, may our celebration this year renew our hope and restore our peace as we recognize God’s closeness. As always, may God continue to bless is with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy