“I See Him, But Not Now….” We are now in the last days of Advent, the final time to prepare for Christmas. I know there’s an awful lot going on in the next few days: last minute shopping, wrapping and mailing presents, travelling. But don’t let all that busyness distract you from what’s most important: we are preparing to celebrate the day awaited from almost the beginning of the creation of man, when God first promised that “the woman” would bring forth a son who would crush the serpent’s head. The day when God the Son, Creator of the Universe, to whom all angels bowed in worship, having been conceived in the womb of His mother Mary, entered the world as a poor, defenseless, vulnerable baby, to save mankind from sin and to offer us a share in his eternal life and love.
So rather than allowing all the busyness to distract you in the next few days, try to make real time to prepare yourself for this celebration. Avoid all sin. Try to show charity 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 5 days before the birth, they were just setting out, or maybe they were already half-way finished 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.”
Lessons and Carols. 5 years ago when we introduced the tradition of Lessons and Carols to our parish we had only about 80 people attend. Every year since attendance has grown a little bit, but as I sat in the church last December with about 120 folks listening in awe to the words of Holy Scripture foretelling the coming of our Savior, and the celestial strains of the beautiful Advent hymns sung by our amazing choir and the enthralled congregation, I thought to myself: “I’ve got to share this with more of my people.” So I decided that “next year” had to be different. And, thanks to the mercy of God and the hard work of Elisabeth Turco (Parish Music Director) and Monica Montanaro (Parish Secretary), and so many others, we made every effort we could think of to get the word out about the great Advent treat so many were missing. And it worked.
Last Sunday a crowd of over 300 joined in L & C, and most stayed to celebrate for over an hour at the reception afterwards (hosted by Angelus Academy). I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and said something like: “Father, thank you for this; this is our first time and it was amazing—the choir was incredible!” I hate to say, “I told you so,” but…
I mean, how can watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” compare to the reading of the Archangel Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary and Joseph? How can listening to “Jingle Bells” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You” compare to feasting on Biebl’s “Ave Maria” and Handel’s “Messiah: And the Glory of the Lord”? What a way to bring us back and lift us up to what Advent is all about! I’m so glad so many of you came—and next year I look forward the rest of you joining us! Thanks again to all (especially our great choir and musicians) who did so much to firmly plant L&C as a highpoint of St. Raymond of Peñafort’s Advent traditions.
More Thanks. As I sat listening to Lessons and Carols last Sunday, caught up in the wonder of the Gift of the Birth of God the Son, and looking out on so many of you sharing in this same wonder, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the sense of profound gratitude to the Lord for all He has given to me. That he would be born to save me from my sins, is amazing enough, but then to give me a share in His ordained priesthood, and to place me as spiritual father of his family at St. Raymond’s. And to allow me to witness His grace flourish so profoundly in the lives of so many of you. I thank Him for all this—and all the other gifts he gives me, too numerous to count—in these last days before Christmas. And I thank all of you for sharing the effects of His love and grace with each other and with your priests, especially me, by your prayers, reverent worship, volunteering, donating, and participating in parish life. And I thank you for all you have done for me personally. I am overwhelmed by God’s mercy, and your generosity.
A special word of thanks to parishioner Mark Maurer. Mark and his wonderful wife, Becky, have been among the most active parishioners since St. Raymond’s was founded. In particular, Mark has served from the very beginning until now as a member of the parish’s Finance Council, a very challenging role, especially during the building of the church and rectory. He has been an invaluable advisor to three pastors, but last week he retired from the Council, and I want to thank him for all he’s done, especially for me.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles
DO NOT OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS DAY!
My dearest sons and daughters in Christ Jesus:
It is my most sincere and cherished hope that you may continue to grow closer to Jesus Christ, flourishing in His love and grace every day. On this most blessed Day of Christmas, celebrating the most joyful event in the history of the world, the birthday of Our Beloved Savior, I pray that the Baby Jesus may shower you and your families with His grace, hope, peace and joy. And may His Holy Mother Mary keep you in her warm embrace, His adopted father St. Joseph guard you from all danger, and His Holy Angels protect you from every evil. And on behalf of myself, Fr. Kenna, and Fr. Daly (and “Fr. Scalia—sometimes” too), as well as the entire parish staff, I wish you all a most blessed, holy and merry Christmas Day and Season. Your father in Christ, Fr. De Celles