December 19, 2020 Column Father De Celles

THE LORD IS NEAR. We are now in the very 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. And I know that on top of all that many of you are concerned about the heavy problems weighing on us at this unique time in history, e.g., COVID and its social and economic effects, problems in the Church, problems in the election, fears of a probable new anti-Christian quasi-socialist administration, etc..

But, please, don’t let all that distract you from what’s most important right now: 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.

The day of which the Gospel tells us: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.’”

            Listen to the angels this week, and accept the grace of Jesus, and His “peace to men of good will.” And rather than allowing all the busyness and troubles 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 you have.

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. 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 in prayer these next few days. 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 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, but rest in the peace of Jesus.

CHRISTMAS SIGN-UP AND SCHEDULE.  I hope all of you have signed up (either online or by calling the office) for Christmas Eve/Day Mass. 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. Remember, due to the Bishop’s COVID capacity restrictions, if you’re not signed up, you may not be able to get into the church. I don’t want that to happen, so please sign up!

            Personally, I will miss seeing the 1000s of folks at Masses on Christmas, as I usually do. Christmas Midnight Mass will be particularly hard for me, as every year we’ve seen attendance grow to almost fill the church. But not this year—only 225 or so can be there. As I’ve told you many times, Midnight Mass is very special to me, and to many folks. Before Mass we usually sing Christmas carols starting at 11:30, but since this year our choir is on hiatus and congregational singing is discouraged due to COVID, our schola of 4 or 5 our regular cantors (all very talented professionals) will sing a selection of beautiful Christmas hymns. And then the ceremony begins with the chanting of the  proclamation of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, taken from the Roman Martyrology, formally declaring the birth of Jesus Christ. It opens with creation and relates the birth of the Lord to the major events and personages of sacred and secular history. Then the priest and ministers proceed into the church, with a young child carrying the “Baby Jesus” behind them, and they place the “Babe” in the Manger, as we remember that Christ was born in the “Holy Night.” The choir sings so beautifully, all the altar servers are so reverent and the congregation so devout. Obviously most of you won’t be able to make it this year, but you can join us “virtually” as we livestream the pre-Mass hymns and ceremonies and the Mass (at 12) starting at 11:30pm.

GOVERNOR NORTHAM. I’m sure you are aware of the Governor’s new COVID restrictions announced on December 10. But please remember, when it comes to activities in practicing our faith, we obey our Bishop, not the state. And although, once again, the Bishop has basically adopted the Governor’s new rules,

these new rules have almost no new effect on parish activities, including Mass—NOTE the midnight curfew does not apply to people going to and from religious services, e.g., Midnight Mass.

The most significant change that does affect the parish is the reduction of the attendance-limit for some gatherings from 25 persons to 10 persons. But this will not apply to most of our events, i.e., it will NOT apply to anything in the church or religious education, most youth group activities, prayer groups, etc.. Basically it will only apply to administrative and social meetings. Also, the Bishop asks that that persons wear face coverings outside when social distancing is not possible. 

            But while I’m at it, our Governor has once again shown his lack of concern for our basic rights. First of all, he has no business (in my humble opinion) in placing a non-science based curfew on law-abiding adults. But more importantly at the press conference announcing the new changes he stated:

            “Now, I’d like to take a moment to talk about our faith communities. This is a holy time for multiple faith traditions. …But this year we need to think aboutwhat is truly the most important thing, is it the worship or the building? For me, God is wherever you are. You don’t have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers…. worship online is still worship.”

Right…. But not all worship is the same. Catholics believe that Jesus wants us at Mass, to actually receive His Body, and that we don’t fully participate at Mass unless we are physically present! Jesus didn’t come down to earth virtually, but in a physical body to be really present to us. Moreover, Northam may worship in a mere “building”, but our “building” is the House of God, where Jesus really is Present in the Tabernacle. How dare he tell us how to worship? Prima facia evidence of his complete disregard for our basic human right of freedom to practice OUR religion the way WE deem fit, and complete dismissal of the First Amendment.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles