From Our Pastor ~ October 12, 2014

From Our Pastor ~ October 12, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Once in a while our music director, David Mathers, invites people to practice various pieces of music before Mass begins. Thanks for being so responsive, I realize that for some this is a moment for individual prayer, which is important, of course. But we come to Mass to gather as one voice—not as individuals, but as one voice. And sometimes that requires a little practice. The perfect preparation.

We change out the music for the Mass and try new things during the year for various good reasons. The best of these is that the variety of our repertoire of faith will also help us to see the many facets of the prayers we pray. Sometimes a hymn will touch us in a certain way, or call to mind and solidify the message we heard in the Word of God. It helps us mark the changing of the seasons and feasts of the church in a certain way: we can develop a sense of joy, victory, wonder, penitence, patience—whatever might be the attitude of the day— in the many forms and expressions of centuries of song. We are united simply by the key or meter in which a piece of music is written; sometimes the austerity of not using a musical instrument can speak to us of the simplicity which lies at the heart of a liturgy.

Our choirs have grown and become so rich and full in sound. We owe thanks to our music ministers who help shape the quality and dignity of our prayer. The choir is there to lead all of us—but not to replace us—when they are here. Lately I’ve heard the congregation singing maybe a lot more softly because the choirs are there. Don’t do it! Make that choir sing even louder! No matter how “cute” the children’s choir may be, don’t let them replace you in your participation in the Mass. It is the Mass, not a concert! If anything, the choir can add to our singing the harmonies and descants that will enhance the sound of our assembly.They have their time for the regular anthem. Yes, as I think of it, this is exactly what I want to say: you are the choir. It’s like you are the cake, and the choir is the icing on it.

Did you know some parts of the Mass are intended for you, the assembly, alone? We haven’t been too strict about this, but we are going to try more and more to follow the book. On both the Memorial Acclamation (“When we eat this Bread…, or We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection…, etc.) and the Great Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer (A-a-a-men, A-a-men. A-a-a-amen) the Roman Missal says, after the priest is finished with his prayer, “The people acclaim…” That’s you! I think sometimes I sing because it doesn’t seem like people are responding. Maybe all this time I’ve been stealing your lines. I’m trying to stop singing your parts.

If you think about it, how amazing it is that you, the assembly, have the response to the words of the Last Supper at the Consecration; you have the “Amen (So be it, I believe!)” to the beautiful prayer, “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.” Amen, indeed!

God bless you,

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ October 5, 2014

Express Announcements ~ October 5, 2014

* Please remember to return your completed Commitment Cards soon so that we may compile our lists of responses and ask our Ministry Leaders to contact you in a timely manner.

* We have a lot of meetings and classes this week and ask that you read the bulletin carefully so as not to miss anything!

* SCRIP is on sale this weekend in the Parish Life Center after all Masses except Saturday 7pm and Sunday 2pm. Please use SCRIP and help our school.

From Our Pastor – October 5, 2014

From Our Pastor – October 5, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Pope Francis, in his message for this year’s World Day of Prayer on January 1, wrote:

“Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace. We should remember that fraternity is generally first learned in the family, thanks above all to the responsible and complementary roles of each of its members, particularly the father and the mother. The family is the wellspring of all fraternity, and as such it is the foundation and the first pathway to peace, since, by its vocation, it is meant to spread its love to the world around it.”

Last Sunday night our Diocesan Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs hosted our annual dialogue on peace at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Triangle, and this year we took this quote as our theme. Four women, representing the Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Catholic (Sr. Clare Hunter, FSE) faiths, spoke about the values of family, relationship, brokenness, and how our world might, as Pope Francis seems to suggest, apply the same kind of fraternal values to world situations between nations to seek a new kind of tolerance, even forgiveness and reconciliation.

Those who were present not only remarked about the power of the theme, but also the remarkable power of hearing these four women’s voices speaking from the same place, a common value of family, and expressing the same concerns and hopes.

You see, dialogue isn’t so much about all of us trying to be the same. Such an activity would be not only meaningless, but untrue. We are not the same. But as we approach one another and speak honestly what is true, and seek to act in truth, and really listen to what each other has to say, divergences begin emerge.Our commonality becomes clear, despite our diversity and distinctions of culture, race and religion. Such distinctions still exist, but coexist with the greater reality that is shared, and become less reasons for divisions as opportunities to learn, and grow.

Nobody had all the answers—any answers,really—to the big questions of what would a family of nations do to try to reconcile their own? How would one culture approach another in the accepting stance of a kind of adoption?How would an enduring love based in our common humanity and unity be able to overcome the pain of separation and rivalry, of pride and jealousy? At the end of the day, aren’t all the members of the family equal in rank and role? Doesn’t that relationship of brother and sister count for something?

Sometimes when I am in the confessional I hear children always refer to their brothers and sisters as “siblings.” How clinical and impersonal! I always ask them what they mean by that. I am always my brother’s keeper, but I’ve never thought much about being my sibling’s keeper.

Such valued relationships require a new set of considerations. When your brother sins against you you must first go to him and seek to be reconciled, Jesus said. How often do we go directly to the tribunal and seek damages?

There was a great moment when Pope Francis was speaking to a group of Pentecostal pastors in Texas earlier this year. He was telling the Bible story of Joseph and his brothers, who had sold him into slavery, short of killing him. “They came to Egypt to buy food in the middle of a famine,” the Pope relates. And it so happened that their long-lost brother was in charge of the food. “What brought them all back together was hunger. Clearly, they had money, they came to Egypt to buy food.”

All of us have our riches of our cultures and our systems of faith. But, as the Pope adds, “You can’t eat money. It is within the context of the relationship that we are fed.”

God bless you.

Fr. Don

From Our Pastor ~ September 28, 2014

From Our Pastor ~ September 28, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

First of all, I hope everyone had a chance to stop by the ministry booths under the tents outside Mass last weekend. What a wonderful, generous group of people and what a beautiful spirit seemed to fill the event. Our thanks to all the ministry leaders and representatives who gave up a good part of a weekend to tell our parish story. My special thanks go to the coordinators of the day: Dawn Miller, Beth Merriman, Patti Kaila, Pam Biedenbender and Rick Caporali. Thank you!

This weekend is Commitment Sunday, when we take all that we have learned about opportunity and decide what we plan to do about it this coming year. You’ll notice on the commitment card that there are places to state your intentions to be involved in the parish life of prayer, service in ministry and faithful support of the parish mission that is the life of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Please, again— each and all—consider doing at least one thing this year as a sign of your good will and thanks for God’s love for you. We have been given so many gifts in love, and are called to use them to advance God’s plan in loving service.

Commitment, Abraham Lincoln said, is what transforms a promise into reality. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t speaking directly about the spiritual life, but it is a fascinating reflection when you consider the ways we are invited to respond to God’s promise. The realization of God’s promises always requires a personal investment of self, an offering, a giving away.

God doesn’t accomplish anything in our lives or the life of our parish without us, fully involved. Consider a vocation, and how a vocation can’t be successful without a commitment. You could have a vocation as a mom or dad, or as a priest or religious, or even as a peacemaker or teacher, but it means nothing if you don’t respond. The word vocation, based on the Latin word voco, vocare (to call), has intrinsic to its meaning that someone has to answer the call. Otherwise it is of no value, unfulfilled.

This Thursday we keep in our prayers one of our parishioners, Joe Farrell, and our seminarian from this summer, Rich Miserendino, both of whom will be ordained as transitional deacons at Saint Peter Basilica in Rome by Archbishop Donald Wuerl of D.C. We pray for their commitment in this step toward being ordained priests here in Arlington next June, and for our church and the commitments we make.

May they be a good example and source of inspiration for all of us to follow through with the good intentions we have, to follow God’s will in our lives and, by our actions, transform God’s promise for us and our parish into reality. Congratulations, Joe and Rich!

On a final note, I promised a parishioner that I would mention his disappointment when
he came back to his vehicle after the 8:30am Sunday Mass and found that someone had
backed into it and driven off, leaving considerable damage. This is not the first time this has happened, sadly. There were other instances of rude behavior which people related. We can only apologize for the parking lot we have for so long. It is all we have. If you do not wish to be parked in, it would be wise not to park in a place where that will likely happen. Choose one of the spaces along the trees, or on a street nearby. Above all, let us make the commitment to take responsibility for our mistakes, and be charitable and kind with each other and with our neighbors.

God bless you.

Fr. Don