January 5, 2014

Epiphany. Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, commemorating the visit and adoration of the magi to Christ in Bethlehem. It has historically been celebrated on January 6th since at least the 3rd century, but is celebrated in the U.S. on the Sunday falling between January 2nd and January 8th (inclusive). In the Orthodox Church and many of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches it also, effectively, celebrates the birth of Our Lord, i.e., Christmas. The visit of the magi is rich in symbolic meanings for Christians, first of which is as the revealing (“epiphany”) of the Christ to the gentile world, as even foreign wise men travel great distances to adore their new heaven-sent King. Thus it is an important reminder to us of our obligation to proclaim the Good News of Christianity to all around us, to reveal Him to the nations.

Feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort. This Tuesday, January 7, is the feast of our parish Patron. St. Raymond was born near Barcelona, in 1175, and was a diocesan priest and professor of civil and canon law for many before joining the Order of Preachers, “the Dominicans,” in 1222. In 1230 Pope Gregory IX commissioned him to codify the juridical laws of the Church, a monumental and historic task. The pope published Raymond’s work in 1231 as the authoritative source for canon law. In 1238 he was elected and served for two years as General (head) of the Dominicans. He continued his writing, preaching and pastoral work, as well many important responsibilities entrusted to him by various popes, until his death in Barcelona on January 6, 1275, at the age of 100. He is the patron saint of lawyers, both canon and civil.

Volunteer Reception. This Friday, January 10, is our annual reception in appreciation for all those who volunteer their time to support the activities of the parish. If that should include you, and you haven’t rsvp’d yet, please contact the parish office or your committee chairman asap.

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(Christmas Midnight Mass) Homily of Pope Francis
December 24, 2013

1. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).

This prophecy of Isaiah never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas Night. This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us – and within us as well – there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing.

Walking. This verb makes us reflect on the course of history, that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with Abraham, our father in faith, whom the Lord called one day to set out, to go forth from his country towards the land which he would show him. From that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way towards the promised land. This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. Because he is faithful, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). Yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience, and rebellion; times of being a pilgrim people and times of being a people adrift.

In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. “Whoever hates his brother – writes the Apostle John – is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:11). A people who walk, but as a pilgrim people who do not want to go astray.

2. On this night, like a burst of brilliant light, there rings out the proclamation of the Apostle: “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race” (Tit 2:11).

The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.

3. The shepherds were the first to see this “tent”, to receive the news of Jesus’ birth. They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks. The pilgrim is bound by duty to keep watch and the shepherds did just that. Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.

On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). As the angels said to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid!”. And I also repeat to all of you: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is mercy: our Father always forgives us. He is our peace. Amen.

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Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

December 22, 2013

The Lord is Near. 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, and in your prayer 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, walking all that way or, perhaps, aided by a donkey. Imagine the cold and even freezing weather over the several days’ journey. Perhaps today, just 3 days before the birth, they were almost at the end of their journey, just a few miles away from Bethlehem. Imagine how tired And every day were a little closer, and a little colder and more tired. Think of their struggle, but also their joy. For they were not traveling alone: 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 your now, Mary and Joseph, and Baby Jesus?” Come to church for a quiet visit, and think, “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 busyness of the season.

Advent Series. Thanks to all who attended and participated in our Advent Series on “Prayer: In Conversation with God.” We had an excellent turnout every week, but if you were unable to attend we’ve posted the audio of and handouts from all three sessions on the parish website.

Giving Tree. Thanks to all of you who gave so generously to the “Giving Tree”. Because of your kindness 34 families, 156 people, will have a little merrier Christmas this year.

Christmas Schedule. Please take time today to revisit our schedule for this week—found below in this bulletin—especially the Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Sunday schedules.

Volunteer Reception. Mark your calendars: January 10 is the day for our annual reception in appreciation for all those who volunteer their time to support the activities of the parish. (Where will we find a venue big enough?) Keep your eyes on the bulletin for details, or contact your committee chairman.

Financial Milestone. I am very happy to report that the balance on the parish’s loans just went below $2 million: we owe $611,457 to the bank and $1,369,196 to the diocese. Thank you for your continuing generosity.

[Don’t Read This Until Christmas!]
My dear brothers and sisters, my beloved spiritual children in the Lord Jesus:

Blessings and peace to you all as we celebrate the Birthday of Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of Mary, the Lord and Savior of the Universe! May Christmas be a day of joy greater than you have ever known. May it renew your faith and hope, that even in this troubled and fallen world, Christ has come to save us from sin and evil, from want and oppression, from hate and fear, to fill us with His light and grace and lead us to perfect happiness and peace. And may you rediscover, in the tiny Babe’s sweet smile, God’s boundless love for you and yours.

If you are traveling, may the angels carry you on your journeys and return you safely to us. If you are staying “in town”, I look forward to greeting you at Mass on Christmas Eve or Day.

On behalf of Fr. Kenna, Fr. Nguyen, Fr. Daly, the parish staff, and myself, may I extend our warmest wishes that you and your families have a Blessed and Merry Christmas Day, Octave and Season! May the Baby Jesus bless you and fill you with His grace, may His Mother Mary keep you in her tender embrace, and may St. Joseph protect you all the days of your life!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles