From Our Pastor ~ Jan. 5, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

So.

If you are ever in a conversation and somebody says that, that means that they have no idea what to say next.

2014. If you’re my age you remember thinking as a kid how impossibly distant the year 2000 was and how we’d probably never get there anyway.

Sometimes when I’m giving a homily I wonder why anyone listens. It probably seems to people like all I ever do is preach. Because pretty much whenever we are together most, I have to preach. But I’m really a pretty quiet kind of person.

I’ve been thinking a lot this season of Christmas about how this only-begotten Word of God-made-flesh, Jesus, spent his first nine months in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary revealing the plan of God to us not saying a word. Here now he’s a baby and he doesn’t have a thing to say. Just baby-talk. Yet God still speaks to us through him —the invisible God made visible—even fully, somehow, in this helpless baby in a cave in a backwater town in the middle of  nowhere – who fully reveals him.

The baby is a great image. Sure, helpless, totally dependent, even silent. But also perfectly beautiful, absolutely innocent, pure, completely the best of what “human” means before we begin to make bad choices and discover independence and ego.

As I said in many of my Christmas homilies – but forgot to include in others – the silence of this time in the infancy of Jesus – the silence in the midst of poverty and danger, the silence proceeding into Egypt as they flee as refugees to save the Child’s life – the silence is what paves the way and gives meaning to the greatest silence 33 years later when suddenly this baby gives over his last breath and delivers his spirit to the Father. It is in the silence of his freely-chosen death that Jesus speaks the loudest words of his life. The work of salvation begun in incarnation – conception at the Annunciation, birth at the Nativity—the salvation begun today in this Christmas season finds it’s fullest expression in the Silence hanging on the Cross.

The wood of the tree encountered by the first Adam is the same wood of the cradle and the Cross by which the Second Adam rights the wrongs of all time and place and brings us back to God in joy and peace.

We get the glad tidings of comfort and joy early in the story; it gathers our families together to share in God’s gifts, it reminds us of our humble origins and the humility that is required for us to unworthily accept the limitless riches that God has waiting for us. It calls us back to the simplicity and total dependence on God of the Son of God himself, who has entered into our history to show us the way.

Remember? Pope Francis said we can’t understand Christmas unless we have found some silence in advance? Well, once that silence becomes a part of us, it is the path toward which we are able to understand the crosses of life, the suffering and death, the meaning of new life and resurrection. Christmas happens only in the middle of the context of Annunciation/Incarnation and Death/Resurrection.

The day of the Lord isn’t some day in the future. It is now. It is the manifestation of Emmanuel (“God with us”) to the Magi who have traveled afar to greet the new king. We are there. It is the revelation of God to all people today. God is saying to us: “Pay attention! Something remarkable and unfathomable is happening to us today!” The plan of God unfolds before our eyes, we who are wordless, helpless and silent; we can hear.

God bless you.

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ Dec. 29, 2013

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.

Our Mass schedule for the Holy Day of Obligation on January 1st, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is incorrect in the Parish Calendar that was mailed to you. Please note the correct schedule is 6pm on the 31st, and 7, 8:30, 10:30, 12:30 and 2pm (Spanish). There will be no 5 or 7:01 on January 1st.

Religious Education classes are on Christmas Break and will resume the week of January 5.

Due to the holiday, the Parish Offices will be closed on January 1. The office will close at 4:30pm weekdays from December 30 through January 3.

Sign up in the Church Vestibule for All Night Adoration immediately following the 8pm Mass on First Friday, January 3.

Join us on January 4 at our Monthly Family Dinner sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

From Our Pastor ~ Dec. 29, 2013

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

On this feast of the Holy Family it seems to me we have a lot to pray about. I’m thinking of the many conversations I’ve had over the holidays when troubled people have expressed their family struggles: lack of unity, refusal to forgive, members who have left the Church, members who have turned their backs on their families. A kind of voluntary estrangement that is the fruit of self-centeredness. You see, in our culture of individualism, addiction and self-absorption, it is tough for the family to survive. The voices of the world are so loud that they have captivated the ears of youth—and many adults—and the old sacred structures of family values based on an understanding of a Divine Plan have lost priority.

We see a lot of new confusing concepts of “family” based on individualism. A lot of marriages are really more arrangements which allow individual license, situations established to allow for personal satisfaction. Divorce is so common. Often, secular values have replaced religious values and the world doesn’t value life, or family, or tradition.

A family requires sacrifice, and a willingness to humbly submit to one another out of love. A time to willingly and gladly set aside our own wants and needs for the good of another. Family life is not easy (I think it gets harder and harder as the years pass), and the obedience and respect of children to parents is something that must develop into a mutual offering between adults when children grow to adulthood; the new generation needs the good example of the previous one to make good choices, and not reject it. But too often today the vital good example just isn’t there. People are just confused.

For years now we have known that Fredericksburg has one of the highest rates of pregnancy outside of marriage in the state of Virginia, and a recent statistic quoted to me (shockingly) states that of the pregnancies which have happened in the City of Fredericksburg this year, 43% of them have been aborted. It is a desperate society that would choose to terminate life and family in this way. And I can only imagine what kind of emptiness this can leave behind; it is hard enough to survive the loss of a loved one in a family when it is beyond our control.

So we must look first to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. A surprise family, to be sure. A great deal of trust in God, and obedience to a plan of faith. Remarkable hardship, poverty. Herod was seeking to kill Jesus. In his rage had all the boys under two years of age murdered throughout Judea. We just celebrated the Feast of the Holy Innocents Saturday this weekend, in memory of all those whose lives were not valued more than the self-will and hunger for control of King Herod.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph became homeless refugees fleeing for their lives to a pagan land—the land from which their ancestors had already fled from death—in order to save Jesus’ life. I wonder if they were welcomed any more than immigrants are welcomed today?

Thank God, St. Mary responds profoundly in support of life with our various pro-life ministries, and our refugee resettlement program. We try to teach our families the values of faith and love, reconciliation and hope, to reach out to those who are in need seeking the truth and answers to their questions. We want everyone to know that they never need to feel alone, fearful, without a solution.

But we need to do more. Families need help, and we need to strengthen each other. We need to keep the message of family and tradition fresh in the minds of our children, and teach by example more than by words. And we need to turn again and again to the Holy Family of Bethlehem, of Egypt, and of Nazareth in their many transitions to see how we might be able to adapt and respond faithfully, like them, to life’s many abrupt challenges and changes. May God strengthen you with his grace, and keep you together in his love.

God bless you.

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ Dec. 22, 2013

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

Our Mass schedule for the Holy Day of Obligation on January 1st, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is incorrect in the Parish Calendar that was mailed to you. Please note the correct schedule is 6pm on the 31st, and 7, 8:30, 10:30, 12:30 and 2pm (Spanish). There will be no 5 or 7:01 on January 1st.

Religious Education classes are on Christmas Break and will resume the week of January 5.

Due to the holidays, the Parish Offices will be closed on December 24, 25, 26 and on January 1. The office will close at 4:30pm weekdays from December 23 through January 3.

Sign up in the Church Vestibule for All Night Adoration immediately following the 8pm Mass on First Friday, January 3.