A word from Pope Francis ~ “Our life is made of time and time is God’s gift, and it is therefore important to make use of it by performing good and fruitful actions.”
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 March 6th. 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 2018-2019 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 was the first native son of St. Isidore’s to be ordained a priest. He returned to our parish on July 10, 2016 to celebrate his 50th anniversary of priestly ordination. 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 retired religious superior of the Oblate Community in San Antonio, TX. Today’s Feast of the Lord’s Baptism and Father Charles’ recent 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!
We spent some time at our staff meeting last Tuesday looking back over the weeks of December leading up to Christmas. We experienced a tremendous amount of activity in our parish. In addition to that, we had an unusually high number of funerals celebrated at our parish and beyond. Some were long-time faithful members of our parish – the people who built us up and made us who we are today. Some funerals were family members of our staff. Many of us are caring for older parents, spouses and siblings and that includes some of our staff members. On top of that, we hosted two major ethnic celebrations involving our Hispanic and Filipino communities – the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th and the Filipino Christmas novena of Simbang Gabi. The month concluded with the multiple celebrations of the different Feast of the Christmas season. It was an unusually busy month for us here.
With bulletin deadlines coming early to accommodate the holidays, I wasn’t able to share all of my thoughts on two major ethnic celebrations at the center of our Hispanic and Filipino communities. 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 nine days later when our parish hosted the Filipino Simbang Gabi novena 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. “Different” is not better or worse; it is just plain different. Different expressions of faith can lead us to a deeper appreciation of our own traditions and expressions of faith passed down to us by our ancestors – German, Italian, Irish, French or English.
As we celebrate a Day of Prayer for Vocations, I offer a Prayer for Vocations by Pope Francis:
God our Father, You made each of us to use our gifts in the Body of Christ. We ask that You inspire young people whom You call to priesthood and consecrated life to courageously follow Your will. Send workers into Your great harvest so that the Gospel is preached, the poor are served with love, the suffering are comforted, and Your people are strengthened by the sacraments. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
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