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. Pope Francis recently said, “Whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.” 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 2021/2022 as our guide in our efforts to “spend some quiet time with the Lord.” Others are using the daily on-line Gospel reflections of Bishop Robert Barron or Father Burke Masters. Others are attending our weekday Masses at 7:00am and 12:05pm. A good number of people take advantage of quiet time in our Eucharistic Adoration Chapel – it is like a gift exchange of time with our Lord. Whatever our practice, taking a few minutes for quiet, personal prayer each day can help us recognize the Lord’s presence all around us and especially in those simple everyday “comings” of the Lord.
This Wednesday, December 8th, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the patroness of our country under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Even though the dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is still in effect, we will celebrate extra Masses on that day. The Vigil Mass on Tuesday, December 7th will be at 7:00pm and celebrated in Spanish. Masses on the 8th will be celebrated at 6:30am, 12:05pm and 7:00pm. The weekly Grade School Mass will be at 8:15am. The special year-long celebration of St. Joseph also concludes on this day.
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 24th) following the 7:00am Mass (7:30-8:30am). Additional reconciliation times have been scheduled for the week before Christmas – following the regular daily Masses on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and from 3-5pm on Tuesday. Our parish Advent Reconciliation Service will take place on Monday, December 13th 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.
Retired and 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 they were not permitted in 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. Envelopes for this appeal are included in the monthly mailing for those who receive Sunday donation envelopes. Or you may use a white envelope in the pew racks and mark it “Retired Religious.” Or you may donate to this appeal on our website. Thank you in advance for your generosity next weekend.
Looking ahead – since the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe falls on a Sunday this year (December 12th), it is replaced by the Third Sunday of Advent. In order to appropriately honor Our Lady of Guadalupe with our Hispanic brothers and sisters, we will celebrate her feast on Friday, December 10th with the traditional early morning Mass and the evening celebration at 7pm. The Filipino novena of Simbang Gabi will be celebrated at our parish on Friday, December 17th with an evening Mass at 7:00pm. 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.
Since the 2021 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 pledged $159,859 and paid $156,756 towards our parish goal of $167,300. Thank you to the 681 donors who have responded. Please be sure to keep up your payments to your pledge. Last year we had 872 donors to the Appeal. COVID restrictions prevented us from doing an in-pew weekend to respond to the Appeal. If you have not had an opportunity to make your personal response to the Annual Appeal, please do so as soon as possible. Diocesan ministries and charities depend upon our continued generosity.
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 the silence and can readily be found. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy