On this first Sunday of December we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent and a new Liturgical Year. We begin a new cycle in our celebrations of the Liturgy. This year our primary Sunday Gospel will be the Gospel of Luke. Week by week, season by season, Luke’s picture of the person of Jesus will unfold before us. We will be telling our family stories. Some are humorous. Some are tragic. Most deal with familiar, common everyday events. These stories are life-lessons about birth, coming of age, dealing with hardship, sickness, death and all of the joys and struggles of life. These stories tell us who we are and where we are headed. Just as we take the time to listen to the stories of those we love and grow in our relationships with them, we are called to listen to the stories of our church family and grow in our relationship with God and each other. This new beginning is a new opportunity. Let us be grateful for the year that has been and for the year ahead of us.
One of the major themes of Advent is an invitation to recognize the presence of the Lord in the darkness and stillness of December. Our difficulty is that December is one of our busiest months. With all of the activity around us, it is easy to miss the simple “comings” of the Lord all around us. While we can’t change the pace of the month, we can try to build some quiet moments into our day where we can wait for the Lord in prayerful stillness. I have found that individual, daily quiet prayer is the key. Even a few minutes of daily personal prayer (especially silent, listening prayer) can change the tone of this season for us.
In addition to providing copies of the St. Joseph Missal 2019, we are also happy to make available an assortment of Advent devotional books this year, including the “Little Blue Books” for the Advent and Christmas Seasons 2018/2019. We also have Bishop Robert Barron’s reflections on the daily Gospels of Advent. If we can carve out some time for daily prayer, the effort will be worth the result.
Saturday, 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 Friday (Spanish) at 7:00pm and continue on Saturday at 8:15am, 10:00am and 11:30am (Spanish).
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). We have added additional Reconciliation times on the Fridays of Advent (excluding December 21st) following the 12:05pm Mass (12:35-1:30pm). Additional reconciliation times have been scheduled for the week before Christmas and for the grade school and religious education classes. Our parish Advent Reconciliation Service will take place on Monday, December 17th at 7:00pm. Additional priests will be available as confessors at this service. Please note these additional times to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for Christmas.
Looking ahead, we have two major celebrations taking place in our parish in the coming weeks. Wednesday, 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. Our main parish celebration will take place Wednesday evening with Mass at 7:00pm with a fiesta following in the Ministry Center. And then on Friday, December 21st, 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 cultural celebrations of our faith. All of our non-Hispanic and non-Filipino parishioners are welcome. I join with our Hispanic and Filipino communities in inviting you to join in these celebrations in the coming weeks.
As the 2018 Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal concludes at the end of the calendar year, we are now in the final month of the Appeal. This Appeal is the major source of funding for most of our Diocesan ministries and charities. We currently have paid $169,720 towards our parish goal of $179,200. Thank you to the 966 donors who have responded. We still need $9480 in paid pledges to reach our goal by the end of the month. Please be sure to keep up your payments to your pledge. Diocesan ministries and charities depend upon our continued generosity.
It is wonderful to see so many of our college students while they are home for the Thanksgiving holidays. We promise them our prayerful support as they return to school to complete this semester with all of its papers and exams. Once that is done, Christmas vacation will be a real vacation.
New beginnings are good. Advent is a very beautiful, though short season. Some of the most powerful readings in Scripture will be opened before us. Let’s take advantage of these opportunities, listen to our stories and enter the season as best as we can. I am certain that God is lurking in this new beginning and can readily be found. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy