From Our Pastor ~ March 23, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Lent came later this year and still took us by surprise. But it has been an amazing season so far. I wonder what God has in store for us yet; we already have such a full and particularly special season of events this year.

And you have responded. There is nothing more satisfying in ministry than when you realize that what you are blessed to offer is truly needed and a blessing to those in your care. We have rarely seen such a response as we had this week at the Parish Mission talks of Fr. Corrado. His message was so relevant and personal to everyone because he has a particular gift of speaking the truth in a way that we can hear it, I think. I saw a lot of people surprised by what they probably already knew but just never heard it put so simply and clearly. He has given us a message that needs to be shouted from the rooftops and deeply received in our hearts. Thanks for coming.

Again, the 5-week series on Scripture and the Mass… well, I didn’t think we would probably get even a dozen to come on Sunday nights. Typical to me, I had an announcement ready to say that we didn’t have enough response to keep it on the calendar and would try to reschedule later in the spring when people might have more time to plan. Well, the available room’s capacity is 60 and the response was so great that we had to add an additional Sunday afternoon class – both classes are filled to capacity. Thanks for coming.

Adoration this week for 40 Hours – well, perhaps thanks to new technology and online sign-ups – we had all the times completely filled for adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist for the entire cycle of hours. Last year we had difficulty, asking and asking. I get the sense a shift has taken place here, people are praying more, people are more involved. The message is heard and seen in our actions. So, again, thanks for coming.

We continue now in the season of Lent with a particular focus on all those who are preparing for sacraments. You may have noticed all the little sheep on the steps of the sanctuary. Each one was placed there when our children finished their First Reconciliation last week. At each prayer service throughout the week we listened to the parable of the Good Shepherd who goes out into the valleys and thickets and looks for the lost sheep. I asked the kids before confession, “Who is the lost sheep in the story?” Every time, they replied, “We are!” Reconciliation is a powerful reality, and the lambs on the steps are a strong visual of how the gift of reconciliation is given to our community in a new way through all these children. So, remember to pray for them during this season.

Also, we pray for all the Elect and the Candidates (adults and young people), who are preparing in RCIA or Religious Education to receive the sacraments – Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist – at the Easter Vigil. I had hoped to place their photos in the vestibule of the church this year so you can recognize them, maybe we will get it done for the season of Easter after they have become members of the Church… but we must remember to pray for all of them now, as they are in these last weeks of preparation. At various Masses coming up (3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent) we will have what are called “Scrutinies,” opportunities for the Assembly to pray for them at Masses, to help them to be ready for the grace and joy of the sacraments. These are also great reminders for ourselves, to renew our desire for the same grace and joy.

Finally, don’t forget the Living Stones on the steps in front of the altar. As in other years, you are invited to place a stone there for anyone you have invited to come back to the Mass, family members or friends who have been away. The Stones are powerful reminders for us to pray for them, too.

God bless you.

Fr. Don

40 Hours and Parish Missions Talks to be held as planned

Weather will not thwart the plans of St. Mary tonight!  We will proceed as planned with our schedule for 40 Hours and Parish Mission with Fr. Dennis Corrado this evening:  5:45 Vespers, 6:30pm Mass and Fr. Dennis’ talk at 7:30pm.  Please know you are most welcome for any and all of our gathering.  40 Hours observances will continue with 10pm Compline and beyond, with Adoration all night and continuing until the close of Mass tomorrow night.  Please see this week’s bulletin for a complete schedule of the week.  Thanks!

Express Announcements ~ March 16, 2014

Join us for our Lenten Soup Suppers on Fridays during Lent in the Parish Life Center from 6-7:30pm, followed by Stations of the Cross in the Church at 7:30pm in English and 8pm in Spanish.

We hope you will join us for the Parish Lenten Mission & Forty Hours Eucharistic Devotions – March 16 through March 19. Our guest is the Very Reverend Dennis Corrado, a nationally known preacher. This promises to be a spiritually enriching program.

As part of your Lenten almsgiving, we encourage you to take a Lenten Rice Bowl for your family, to assist the poor and suffering people in 91 countries throughout the world.

Come participate in our Mass with Anointing of the Sick, which will be celebrated on Saturday, March 22 at 9am.

SCRIP is on sale in the Parish Life Center after all Masses except Saturday 7pm and Sunday 2pm. Please use SCRIP, and a percentage

From Our Pastor ~ March 16, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

I attended the Micah Ministries Lenten Lunch prayer service this week at the United Methodist Church and Pastor Allen Fischer from the Presybterian Church was preaching. It was a treat to get to hear someone else preach for once, I am so tired of hearing myself talking all the time! (Although next week the poor folks will have to listen to me at Fredericksburg Baptist Church anyway!)

Anyway, Allen gave a beautiful homily that got me thinking more about the central reason of why we are here. He said one of the things I’ve been saying over and over these past few weeks: that the life of faith and prayer that we live is intended to perfect us as one People of God, not a bunch of individuals constantly seeking God’s attention, almost in competition with one another, focused only on ourselves and our advancement. He said it very simply, in true Presbyterian style: piety is not privatization. We are not here to isolate.

I’ve had plenty of friends who say, “I love the Church, it’s the people I can’t stand.” I’ve heard plenty of sins confessed (and am aware of plenty of my own) about how intolerant we can be of one another when others get in the way of our plans or desires—even when we call those desires spiritual—and we lose sight of the gift in front of us, talking to us, sharing our space, for a gift which we have set our sights on. It is too easy to get so wrapped up in ourselves that we totally miss the point of the present moment and those whom God has placed here with us.

Ultimately, the message is that we just aren’t as important as we’d like to think we are. Isn’t this one of the most remarkable gifts given to human beings that set us apart from other forms of life? That we can experience humility. Whether a momentary setback has caused this, or a starck realization of truth, or the compassion which might move us to help, to reach out to another human person and for that moment allow that person to be the most important thing in your life. We can choose to go last. We can set ourselves aside and recognize the value of a truth that we allow to guide us, or a love that we allow to change us.

We look to the cross in this season of Lent to unpack this mystery. How our human form is forever changed: in our lowliness God chose to reveal our high destiny by his divine touch, first in the incarnation, finally for each of us in baptism. We can never be unchanged, or changed back. And in that high destiny now charged with the divine and holy life of God’s Spirit we can choose, like Jesus did, like Mary did, like Joseph did, to live completely for another, to accept that once-and-for-all call that defines us by the one we serve. We see it most perfectly in Jesus’ total gift of himself on the cross.

For Mary and Joseph it is obvious. They were willing to respond to the Father’s call and dedicate themselves to Jesus. But look carefully at Jesus: he was willing to lower himself, taking upon himself our nature, so that we might be the object of his dedication, and that we might be a part of his identity, his Body, as Son of God. In him we see so quickly that lowliness is not seen as contrary to high dignity: they both co-exist. It might even be said that the high dignity of our humanity lies in its very lowliness. And lowliness is the state in which we are sanctified.

It takes a great deal of humility to be a person like Jesus, particularly when we begin to speak of forgiveness. Be sure to join us this week for our Parish Mission each night as we delve into the reality of forgiveness. It will prove to be a transformative week not only due to the talks, but due also to the special opportunities we have for prayer in the Presence of God during Forty Hours. Please come and spend time with us, and with God. May we grow deeply into his life this Lent.

God bless you.

Fr. Don