Fourth Sunday of Advent

My dear sons and daughters in Christ,

On this Christmas Eve I pray that as we begin to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus, Our Blessed Savior may draw you close to Himself, and shower you with every divine grace and heavenly blessing. May you share in the inexpressible joy of His Holy Mother, Mary, and may she bring you to Him, and teach you how to love Him with all your heart. May St. Joseph keep you in his strong and tender care, and teach us all how to serve Our Lord with the total devotion and self-sacrifice he did. And may the Holy Family bring peace and charity to your families as you contemplate the day that changed all of history: when God the Son stripped Himself of the glory of Heaven to become one of us to save us from sin and all evil, and open to us the gates of Paradise.
On behalf of myself, Fr. Smith, Fr. Daly, Fr. Scalia and all the priests who have ministered in our parish this year, I wish you all a very blessed and merry Christmas!

Thanks. I also want to thank all those who have worked so hard to make Advent and Christmas such a special time for our parish. In particular, Elisabeth Turco (our Music Director), the choir, cantors, and musicians (especially our organist, Denise Anezin) for all the beautiful music. All those who assisted in special ways at the Mass, especially our great altar boys, lectors (led by Brenda Doroski), extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (led by Barbara Aldridge and Christine Spengler). The folks on our flower committee, especially Julie Mullen and her family, for so beautifully decorating the church and grounds. The ushers, especially Patrick O’Brien, who helped make everything run so smoothly. The Knights of Columbus, especially Pat Franco, for all they did in so many ways (sorry about the snowed-out Breakfast with Santa!). The various sacristans, especially Nena Brennan, for all their work in preparing the sanctuary for Masses. The Youth Group, for all the odd jobs they did around the parish. All who volunteered at with Senior Lunch (particularly Patty Miller). All those who volunteered in our Gift Shop, especially Maria Sanchez-O’Brien. All those who contributed so much in time and treasure to the Giving Tree. A special thanks to our dedicated staff, Jeanne Sause, Tom Browne, Kirsti Tyson, Eva Radel, Mary Butler, Mary Salmon, Vince Drouillard and Teresa Sierra, as well as our maintenance workers Laura Rodriguez and Luis Tapia, who worked so hard to serve us all. And finally, to Fr. Daly, Fr. Scalia and all the other priests helped out with Masses and Confessions; and most especially to Fr. Smith for his dedicated service to Our Lord and our parish. I know I’ve left out lots of folks that deserve special thanks; my apologies. Thank you all, and a blessed and merry Christmas to you.

And a Friendly Reminder. Remember, this weekend we are obliged to go to Mass for both Sunday (the 4th Sunday of Advent) and Christmas: that means two Masses.
Oremus pro invicem, Fr. De Celles

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His Holiness Pope Francis
“Urbi et Orbi” Message, Christmas 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!
Today the Church once more experiences the wonder of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the shepherds of Bethlehem, as they contemplate the newborn Child laid in a manger: Jesus, the Savior.
On this day full of light, the prophetic proclamation resounds: “For to us a child is born, To us a son is given. And the government will be upon his shoulder; and his name will be called “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:6)
The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power that created the heavens and the earth, and gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals. It is the force that attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence. It is the power that gives new birth, forgives sin, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God. This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise from the dead. It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace.
For this reason, the birth of Jesus was accompanied by the angels’ song as they proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14).
Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace….
Peace to all who, in different areas, are enduring sufferings due to constant dangers and persistent injustice….
Peace to all who have been injured or have suffered the loss of a loved one due to the brutal acts of terrorism that have sown fear and death in the heart of many countries and cities. Peace – not merely the word, but real and concrete peace – to our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters, to those who suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who in our day are subject to human trafficking. Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of a few, because of sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery. Peace to those affected by social and economic unrest, and to those who endure the consequences of earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.
And peace to the children, on this special day on which God became a child, above all those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults.
Peace on earth to men and women of goodwill, who work quietly and patiently each day, in their families and in society, to build a more humane and just world, sustained by the conviction that only with peace is there the possibility of a more prosperous future for all.
Dear brothers and sisters, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”: he is the “Prince of peace”. Let us welcome him!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Third Sunday of Advent

It’s Almost Christmas! I can’t believe the big day is almost here—as I wrote 2 weeks ago, this is the shortest Advent possible, 3 weeks and 1 day.
Today is called Gaudete Sunday or “Rejoice Sunday.” It takes its name from the “Introit” of the Mass (the “entrance antiphon” we say if we don’t sing during the entrance procession), taken from Philippians 4: “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Dominus enim prope est.” “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”
Today Holy Mother Church calls us to remember the true cause of our Joy in this season: the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ into the world 2000 years ago to save us from sin and evil, and invite us to share in His life of love, beginning in this world and perfected in the next.
It’s natural to ask, how do we “rejoice always,” when we so often have real reasons to be sad? Of course, there are times when we’re going to experience sadness and even terrible sorrow. But in Christ we find something more than smiles and laughter. We find a deep abiding joy, knowing that the Eternal Creator and Redeemer of all things loves us and will never abandon us to evil. So that even when weighted down by grief and trials we find hope and the grace to remain steadfast in our faith and love. This is “indeed” cause to rejoice.
Usually, Gaudete Sunday is about 2 weeks before Christmas, but this year Christmas is just 8 days away. I know there’s an awful lot going on in the next few days: last minute shopping, travelling, etc. But rather than allowing all the busyness to distract you, try to make real time to prepare yourself for this celebration. Avoid all sin. Try to show charity, patience and compassion to your neighbor, especially your family members, at every moment—be helpful, not harmful, to family peace. And love God above everything and with everything. Take time to pray, go to confession and weekday Mass. And throughout your day, wherever you are, take small moments to place yourself in the company and care of Mary and Joseph. Imagine them travelling on the rocky roads of Galilee and Judea, from Nazareth down to Bethlehem, exposed to the elements, walking all that way or, perhaps, aided by a donkey. Perhaps today, just 8 days before the birth, they were just setting out on their journey. Imagine how every day they were a little closer, but a little wearier and colder. Think of their struggle, but also their joy. For they were not traveling alone: “God their Savior” was with them in Mary’s womb. Travel with them these next few days in prayer. Stop from time to time at work, and wonder, “where are you now, Mary and Joseph, and Baby Jesus?” Come to church for a quiet visit, and say to them, “perhaps you are stopping to rest now—let me rest with you.” Accompany them on their journey—and do not get too distracted by the craziness of the “holiday season.”

Confession. If you haven’t been to confession this Advent, please go this week—there’s nothing like the joy experienced in having our sins forgiven, and no better way to prepare for Christmas. Remember, we have will have at least 2 priests, and sometimes 3, hearing confessions every evening this week, Monday through Friday. We will also have our regular confessions next Saturday, December 23, but we not have confessions next Sunday, December 24.

Next Sunday is Christmas Eve: What is your Mass Obligation? Because Christmas falls on Monday this year, the celebration of it obviously begins on the evening before, on Sunday, with Christmas Eve. This will cause some confusion for many of us. For example, do you have to go to Mass on both Sunday and Christmas Day (Monday)? Can you go to one Mass on Sunday evening to count for both your regular Sunday and Christmas Day Mass obligation? So let me try to clarify some things.
First of all, we all know that Catholics must go to Mass on Sunday. But remember, Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation, so you must go to Mass on Christmas too. That means you have to go to TWO Masses, one for Sunday and one for Christmas.
Now, the general rule for Sundays and Holy Days is that you can fulfill your Mass obligation by going to Mass on either the day of or on the evening before. So, to fulfill your obligation for next Sunday you can go to Mass on Saturday evening or on Sunday. And to fulfill your obligation for Christmas you can go to Mass on Monday (Christmas Day) or Sunday evening. But you must go to one Mass for each, two Masses!
Next Sunday morning, December 24, we will have a regular Sunday Mass schedule (7am, 8:45am, 10:30am and 12:15pm). But in the evening, instead of our usual Sunday 5pm Mass we will have three Vigil Masses for Christmas: 4pm, 6pm and 8pm (and also midnight). I recommend you fulfill your Sunday Mass obligation on Saturday night or Sunday morning, and your Christmas Mass obligation on Sunday evening or on Monday. That keeps things simple and clear.
[But if you want to complicate things…. If you go to one of the Sunday evening Masses (December 24th) you can “count” that EITHER for your Sunday obligation (since it is still Sunday) OR for your Christmas obligation (since it’s a Vigil Mass for Christmas). But you can NOT “count” it for both days—there is no “two for” here. If you count that evening Mass on the 24th for your Sunday obligation, you have to go to Mass again on Monday (Christmas Day); or if you count it for your Christmas obligation, you must also attend an earlier Mass on Sunday (or the Vigil Mass on Saturday evening). I hope that’s not too confusing. It probably is. Just remember: two Masses!]

Lessons and Carols. Wow! What a beautiful evening we had last Sunday. The readings from Scripture were inspiring, and our amazing choir out did themselves in singing various choral pieces and leading us in Advent hymns. Our largest L&C crowd ever—over 400 people—left filled with the joy and hope of the season. Thanks to our choir and organist, and especially to our inimitable Music Director, Elisabeth Turco. And thanks also to Eva Radel and Angelus Academy for the fun reception afterwards.

Correction to Missalette. In the introduction to last Sunday’s readings, the publisher of our missalette wrote that “The author of Second Peter wrote…about one hundred years after Jesus,” or about 130AD. Nonsense. Tradition and orthodox scholarship hold that the letter was written by St. Peter himself before he died around 66AD. I repeat my caveat: please be careful if you choose to read these introductions—they are so often wrong. I apologize for having to use them, and continue to search for a better missalette.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Second Sunday of Advent

Restoring Innocence. Last week in my homily I spoke about the temptations we have at this time of year to get all caught up in materialism, to think that gift buying/giving/receiving, decorating, going to parties, cooking/eating special foods, etc. are what it means to prepare for Christmas. But Advent is really about a different kind of preparation. As we prepare to celebrate the Birth of the innocent Baby Jesus, we recall that He came to earth because we are not so innocent, and to restore that innocence to us. So our Advent preparation should mean cooperating with Jesus in this restoration by working on our spiritual and moral lives—especially by growing in charity—as well as our knowledge of Jesus and His gifts.
When I say we need to work on “charity,” of course I include financial support for worthy groups or people, but above all I mean personally living a life of charity by being truly helpful and considerate to the people around you, especially those who are clearly in need or in pain. Being patient with your office mate who’s having a difficult time at home, and maybe taking that out on you. Instead of gossiping about people, come to their defense. Praise someone, instead of criticize; lift them up instead of pushing them down or simply letting them fall under the weight of their problems. Be the peacemaker, rather than the troublemaker.
And let this begin at home, with your family. This is a great time of year to remember how much we love our family. But if we love them, why don’t we act like it? Husbands and wives bicker over so many silly things, forgetting that they love this person. Think of this: most husband and wives tell me that they would readily die for their spouse. But then they refuse to be patient or forgiving over the smallest things. They would die for each other, but no way she’s gonna get the last word in an argument, no way he’s gonna be late for dinner again.
And one of the greatest ways to show charity is to tell people about Jesus and His Church. Bring a friend to church with you one Sunday in Advent. Or maybe, buy your family or friends Christmas gifts that will help re-kindle their faith—a bible, a rosary, a crèche, a statue of their favorite saint.
But also remember that drawing closer to Christ and His innocent love requires that we spend time with Him and get to know more about Him and His Church. So make sure you take time to pray, at home, at work and at church, and to take advantage of all the various activities made available in the parish this Advent, especially Mass, adoration and confession. Also, take time to learn, by taking advantage of our parish library, located downstairs next to the parish hall, where we have a lot of really good books, DVDs, and CDs that are treasure trove for anyone seeking to learn more about Jesus and Catholicism. (It might also give you some great ideas for Christmas gifts!). And don’t forget the CD rack in our narthex, and your free parish membership in FORMED.ORG. And, of course, my talk this Thursday on St. Joseph (see below).
Most especially, allow Jesus to restore your lost innocence through the sacrament of confession. As we do every Advent, we are hearing confessions every single day (until and including Saturday, December 23). In addition to the regular confession times a priest will be in the confessional every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evening from 6:15pm to 7pm (he may stay longer, but only if his schedule permits). Please take advantage of this sacrament, but don’t wait for the last minute, or for Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning—come during the week! And bring your whole family—show your kids how important confession is in preparing for a great Christmas!

My Advent Talk This Thursday: St. Joseph. As I mentioned last week, instead of my usual 3-part Advent Series this year I’m able to give only 1 talk this Advent, which will take place this coming Thursday, December 14 at 7:30 in the Parish Hall. My topic will be “St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer.” As I’ve been preparing for the talk, I’ve been reminded just what a wonderful gift St. Joseph is to us all. A gift first given to Mary, and then through Mary to Jesus, and then through Jesus to all of us. A true husband, father and masculine man—a great example, role model and patron, especially for men and boys, but also for women and girls (after all, all women/girls have fathers, and most have a husband or hope for one). I haven’t written my outline yet, but clearly, we’ll discuss the Scriptures related to St. Joseph as well as some of the legends and apocryphal writings, and what the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church have said about him, and how all this is reflected in the doctrines of the Church. I’m really looking forward to it, so I hope to see you there.

Lessons and Carols Tonight. Remember to join me, the choir and the lectors for Lessons and Carols tonight (Sunday) at 7pm in the church. Every year, as the word spreads, we get a larger turn out for this joyful and prayerful event. Part of its charm is its uniqueness—there’s really nothing else like it all year. And also, its peacefulness in the busyness of the “holiday season”: hearing the inspiring and joyful prophecies of the Old Testament and the first lessons of the Gospel, along with the beautiful strains of the choir—and the congregation—singing treasured carols and hymns, some so comfortably familiar, others delightfully new to our ears and hearts. Please come join us!

Senior’s Lunch. I want to remind all our seniors to join us next Saturday, December 16, for our annual Seniors’ Advent Luncheon. Please call the office for more details. I look forward to seeing you there.

Giving Tree. Please don’t forget to stop by the “Giving Tree” in the narthex, and help to make Christmas a little merrier for some folks who are having a rough time this year, by supplying Christmas presents for families in true need. This year we are helping about 17 families in our parish and 13 families from Our Lady of the Blue Ridge parish in Madison.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Lessons and Carols

Lessons and Carols are scheduled for Sunday, December 10th, at 7:00 PM with a reception to follow. For more information go to the link at the top of this website entitled “Lessons and Carols”.
(Snow Date: Sunday, December 17th, at 7:00 PM)

First Sunday of Advent

Season of Advent. Today we begin the season of Advent, in preparation for Christmas. Advent is usually about 4 weeks long, but this year, since Christmas falls on the day after the 4th Sunday of Advent, there is really no “4th week of Advent.” So that this year’s Advent will be the shortest possible—3 weeks and 1 day.
In any case, every year most people forget that the Advent season is primarily about preparing for Christmas, and instead spend these weeks pre-maturely celebrating Christmas, and doing so from a largely secularized perspective. And then when the actual 3 week Christmas Season begins on Christmas Day, they put all the Christmas things away and go on with life!
This pre-mature celebration isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if we see it as part of the strong influence of Christianity on our culture. Many Catholics see people around them start celebrating Christmas, and it’s such a wonderful feast they (Catholics) get all caught up in it.
But it’s not completely harmless. First of all, much of this early celebration is driven not by a Christian culture, but by commercial interests taking advantage of that culture. Sadly, much of this is nothing more than retailers playing on our emotional attachment to Christmas, in order to increase sales. Increasing sales is not a bad thing, but the reduction of Advent to a period of rampant commercialism/materialism and emotionalism is a terrible thing. All but forgotten is the spiritual/faith preparation to celebrate the wonder of the birth of the Baby Jesus, our Creator come to redeem us from our sins.
Please don’t let this happen to you this Advent. This is not to say you can’t take part in the “cultural” celebrations, as long as you make sure to also spend time preparing for the celebration of the Day that changed the world forever. Here are some suggestions:
— Catholics always prepare for Holy Days by doing penance. In Advent this shouldn’t take on anything near the severity of Lent, but we should do some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more than Christ, and that everything we do is for Him.
— Add extra prayers to your daily routine. The Rosary is an excellent addition to our prayers, especially meditating on the Joyful Mysteries, or at least praying one decade every day, meditating on one of the Joyful Mysteries.
— Reading Scripture is an excellent way to renew your faith in Christ. Perhaps challenge yourself to read one of the Gospels beginning to end in Advent. Or perhaps read short passages daily from the Christmas-related texts: Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1:1-17.
— Of course, charitable giving is a great way to prepare for the gift of the Baby Jesus. While it is a fine practice to give presents to people we love, it is an even better practice to give to those who do not know us and cannot give anything back to us. So, make sure you make generous charitable gifts—either directly to those in need or to worthy charitable projects/institutions. The parish Giving Tree is one good way to do this, as are some of the special collections.
— Receiving the sacraments is one of the most important things you can do in Advent. Consider coming to Mass and Adoration during the week, and make sure you go to Confession. As always, we will have confessions every weekday evening during Advent, which means confession is available every single day during Advent (except Christmas Eve).
— Most importantly, live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Follow the 10 Commandments, live out the Beatitudes. Forgive others, and be kind, patient, generous, and encouraging. Love one another as Jesus, who out of love for us stripped Himself of the glory of heaven to be born in a cold manger, loves us.
— Also: take part in the many special events and liturgies scheduled in the parish this Advent. Please find the insert of the Schedule of “Advent & Christmas 2017 Events” in this bulletin, look it over carefully and keep in somewhere central in your house (on the fridge door?). In particular, consider:
— Lessons and Carols. Next Sunday, December 10, I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir for “Lessons & Carols” at 7:00 pm. This is a wonderful program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings. Some people think “Lessons” means I’m going to give a lecture or something. Not at all. “Lessons” is simply an old English term for readings from Scripture. By weaving together prophetic readings from the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, the readers lay out God’s breathtaking plan for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular hymns and spreading their vocal wings in leading us in carols and a few more complicated choral pieces—they are AMAZING. And afterwards there will be an opportunity for joyful fellowship at a short reception (with delicious seasonal refreshments). Trust me, this is a really wonderful evening—you’ll have a great time. Every year the crowd gets bigger (last year we had several hundred!) because everyone who comes loves it. Please join us.
— Advent Talk. Usually I give a 3-part Advent Series on the first 3 Thursdays of Advent, but this year, because of the short season and this Thursday being the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception, I’ve reluctantly decided to give only 1 talk, on Thursday, December 14 at 7:30 in the Parish Hall. My topic will be “St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer.” We’ll go over what Scripture and Catholic traditions, customs and doctrines tell us about the life and holiness this great saint. I hope to see all of you there.

Immaculate Conception. This Friday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of obligation (all Catholics must attend Mass, and it is a mortal sin not to). This great feast is integral to Advent, teaching us about Mary’s perfect preparation to receive Christ. See below for special Mass times.

Lighting and Mural Capital Campaign. As I write this on Nov. 29, we officially have one day left on our Capital Campaign. As of today, we have just gone over $214,000 in pledges. While this is only half of our goal, it is not at all disappointing to me. Honestly, all things considered, especially our very soft-sell/low key approach to the campaign, while my dream was to cover the entire $400,000 cost of the project, I was realistically thinking/hoping we’d collect at least half of that. We’ve done that, and I thank all the generous donors. But let me make one final appeal: we’ll be happy to accept pledges for this anytime; please consider giving at least $25 or $50 sometime in the next few weeks. And please pray for the success of the actual project.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles