From Our Pastor ~ Jan. 26, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Happy Winter. Finally it came. When I was a kid “They” always used to say in Kansas that you needed a good cold snap in order for all the flu bugs to die for the coming year. For years I pictured it in my mind like a swarm of gnats. May it be so. Our offices and school are closed two days this week on top of a holiday; I hope you got some rest out of all this, too. There was one parent who sent out an email for the school: “I hope everyone is enjoying the snow and the kids at home. I know I am. If only I could be off work!…” Amen. ‘Cause when the staff is off, guess who does the bulletin! I’m just focusing on all the flu we are beating come April.

You should be receiving your statements for 2013 giving this week in the mail. As I look through them and sign each one I am filled with gratitude for so many of you who really do support the life of the parish in a significant way. The percentages are small — you can see the analysis on page 9 of the bulletin today — the majority of support in every group, church or association in the world is always through the generosity of the minority, what they call the 80/20 rule. We are not really the exception. Although 46% of our families (2,231) have used envelopes at least once during the past year, those who give $20 or more each week to the first collection (20% of the parish, or 997 families) represent 88% of our total donations.

I’m going to study these results in more depth with more time, but a few quick observations are interesting. The level of giving in an otherwise, relatively consistent pattern of giving, indicates that Holy Days of Obligation are largely overlooked. One of the things I’ve been wanting to talk about is the importance of these Holy Days. Not for the collection, either — they are days that are precious to our life of faith and require of us a particular level of attention. All of them are, on a deep level, intimately tied to our identity and responsibility as Christians and days of particular thanks due to God. They are like the birthday party or anniversary of a close family member that you would not dare miss. Something like that annual family event that you might even go to great lengths with travel and expense to attend. In a post-Christian era like ours it is hard for many people to believe that something like one day (24 hours) might be holier than another. Also, the changes about which years they count as days of obligation and which years they don’t have people confused, I think. More about that later.

2014-01-26At any rate, I am so very grateful for your contributions. We have a lot to do here, a lot of work yet to develop and a debt to pay off, and I thank you for keeping it going. Please continue to help the parish as we move forward in our mission of grow together in holiness and witness to the love of God in our world, where it so badly needs to be known. These are uncertain times for so many — which makes your gifts more meaningful, as well as more necessary as we reach out to as many people as we can in charity and compassion.

Finally, let’s remember all our Sisters, our teachers and faculty, our school children and their parents and families this week as we celebrate the wonderful presence of Catholic Education in our parish this week. Catholic Schools Week is a time to reflect on the blessing of Catholic formation and what is for the Church, I believe, one of the most important (if not the most important) apostolate given us by God: to form and educate, nurture and protect these young people and help them find their place in God’s creation. May they go forth from us and bring about God’s new creation in peace and justice, and goodness and truth.

God bless you.

 

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ Jan. 19 2014

We encourage all St. Mary Parishioners to invite friends and neighbors who are not attending Mass with us each week to Come Back to our parish family on the weekend of January 25 & 26.

The Council of Catholic Women will hold a Virtual Baby Shower for area pro-life groups this weekend. Please bring your donations to the Parish Life Center.

Plan to join Christians in Fredericksburg for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year celebrated at Fredericksburg United Methodist Church on Tuesday, January 21 at 7:30pm.

Sign up today for the March For Life on January 22. See page 10 for more details.

We ecourage all families to register in the parish. Our next New Family Welcome Meeting is Sunday, January 26 at 11:30am in church.

SCRIP is on sale in the Parish Life Center after all Masses except Saturday 7pm and Sunday 2pm. Please use SCRIP, and a percentage of what you spend will be applied to our school.

Sunday Coffee Shop is open this weekend after the 7, 8:30 and 10am Masses.

From Our Pastor ~ Jan. 19, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

This weekend we get a glimpse of our theme, “Liturgy is Life is Mission,” in two ways. Throughout the year we hope to express in our limited way the reality that everything we are flows from the Mass, and everything we hope to accomplish brings us back to the Mass to give thanks and share in the offering of Jesus of himself to the Father, now as members of that same Body of Jesus.

At the Presentation of the Gifts this weekend, children from our Religious Education Program are bringing back to Mass what they love and what they pray for. Mostly photos of people — family, friends — whom they hope will be remembered in all our intentions at Mass this weekend.

They have completed, as families, a class on how the Mass is a powerful way of offering our intentions to God, and that the value of the Mass is infinite, great enough to include the desire of every heart in creation for all time, even if at just one Mass. Each family brought a photo of someone living or deceased, or drew a picture of someone, or included their prayer intention on a paper flower petal, which were then combined as classes where possible, so that these beautiful arrangements of prayers can be brought up the aisle with the gifts of bread and wine and made a living offering to God.

You may have heard of spiritual bouquets before — when you might give a gift to someone which says how many prayers, acts of kindness, or things you might offer up for their intention.

This is a bouquet of a different type: it is directly to God, not for our enjoyment or recognition, but a huge arrangement of photos and messages, longings that only God will see and each of which he will recognize in the Mass. This is who we are, as well, in the pews each time we gather for Christ’s Mass. We are the signs of thanksgiving and petition, and our lives are the petals of the arrangements which are presented to God, to be consecrated. Spiritual writers in the Church have said in their reflections that perhaps Jesus did this when he was on the cross: in that eternal moment he brought to mind every person who would ever live — every person — and remembered them to God, with their intentions, with their offenses, with their desire for  reconciliation. He represented us on that cross, and in that way presented us personally to the Father.

The other way we will see our lives flow out of the Mass today is at the end: we will have a sending forth prayer this weekend in which we will be sent to go out into the world and offer the invitation of Christ to someone to come home. To rediscover the real meaning of the Mass and open their hearts to God again and this community. We can be powerful instruments of the love of God when we offer that welcome, and give people a glimpse of the goodness that waits for them in Christ. I have seen it time and again. Sometimes the hurts are very old and the difficulty great for people to forgive. Sometimes it has been years. And sometimes people are just waiting for somebody to come along and ask them to come home.

The end of the Mass’ Latin text literally, after the final blessing, says, “Go, it is sent.” The word misa, “sent,” is where the word “Mass” comes from. The Mass is literally a sending, then, a time in which we receive everything, more than we can even imagine, but not for ourselves alone. What we receive must be shared. What we have learned, we must teach. What has nourished us must benefit the many who hunger for truth and peace. So it is we who are sent, and it is in this sending that we find our meaning. The mission to which we are sent is the beginning of our fulfillment.

God bless you.

Fr. Don

Express Anouncements ~ Jan. 12, 2014

This year marks the 237th Anniversary of the drafting of the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. Please join the Knights of Columbus at their annual celebration this afternoon. At 1:30pm, a parade will depart the Fredericksburg train station and proceed to the Religious Freedom Monument on Washington Ave. The ceremony will culminate with the laying of a wreath at the monument at 2pm.

The Council of Catholic Women will hold a Virtual Baby Shower for area pro-life groups the weekend of January 18 & 19. Please bring your donations (diapers, wipes, blankets, baby clothing) to the Parish Life Center that weekend.

Plan to join Christians in Fredericksburg for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year celebrated at Fredericksburg United Methodist Church on Tuesday, January 21 at 7:30pm. Details in this bulletin.

Sign up today for the March For Life on January 22. See more details in this bulletin and join us for this peaceful protest against abortion.

SCRIP is on sale in the Parish Life Center after all Masses except Saturday 7pm and Sunday 2pm. Please use SCRIP, and a percentage of what you spend will be applied to our school.

Sunday Coffee Shop is open this weekend after the 7, 8:30 and 10am Masses.