A word from Pope Francis ~ “For life is a gift we receive only when we give ourselves away.”
On this last Sunday of November, we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent and begin 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 Mark. Week by week, season by season, Mark’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. Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, this new beginning is a new opportunity. As best as we can, 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. Even with the COVID-19 restrictions, there is still 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 and the circumstances in which we live, 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.
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 following the 7:00am Mass (7:30-8:30am). We are hoping to schedule additional reconciliation times during the Fourth Week of Advent. For the present we are planning on having two Advent Reconciliation Services and are waiting for word from the Diocese to see if the COVID-19 restrictions would permit these gatherings. Hopefully, we will know for sure within a week.
Looking ahead, we are planning on simpler and smaller celebrations for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Saturday, December 12th and for the Filipino novena of Simbang Gabi on Friday, December 18th. Both events will have limited seating due to social distancing. Both Masses will be livestreamed so that as many people who want to participate in them would be able to do so. Like the rest of 2020, Advent 2020 will have a different look to it – all part of the “new normal.”
As the 2020 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 $162,961 towards our parish goal of $173,800. Thank you to the 872 donors who have responded. We still need $10839 in paid pledges to reach our goal by the end of the year. Please be sure to keep up your payments to your pledge. Diocesan ministries and charities depend upon our continued generosity.
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