Express Announcements ~ Dec. 1, 2013

Sign up today for All Night Eucharistic Adoration following our 8pm First Friday Mass on December 6. 

Our Monthly Family Dinner, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, is Saturday, December 7 from 6 to 8:30pm in the Parish Life Center. 

On Monday, December 9 we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the United States and Patroness of our Parish. Masses are 6:30am, 9am, 12 Noon, 6pm & 7:30pm. There are no Religious Education classes on Monday, December 9. 

Christmas Tree Sales, by the Knights of Columbus have started and run through Sunday, December 22. Trees and wreaths will be sold at St. Jude Catholic Church, 10725 Courthouse Rd., Spotsylvania.

From Our Pastor ~ Dec. 1, 2013

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

This year with the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas being so short, with the Thanksgiving holiday and the First Sunday of Advent on the same weekend, it almost seems like we are invited to begin the new Year of Grace 2014 with an action of thanks. The word “thanksgiving,” when translated into Spanish becomes, literally, “accion de gracias,” action of thanks. We often consider our thankfulness at this time of year for all that we have been given, but might sometimes not include the second part of the word that might become more obvious if we put a space in the middle. Thanks Giving. It is an active word, an action in which we might participate fully.

If you were to go to your spiritual director he or she might suggest this as a meditation for the new year: consciously add to the familiar exercise of Thanks an active consideration of what your Giving might look like and how you might carry that out in the season of Advent. Consider one meditation each week:

Week One.

I consider all those who have cared for me: parents, family, friends. Maybe teachers, colleagues, religious or clergy. Those who taught me how to care. Heavenly Father I am thankful for them. Now help me to consider who in my life depends on me for care. Am I a caring person? I will find one person each day and reach out to them in a loving, perhaps unexpected, way. May my caring remind them of God, whose fullness of care we will see at Christmas.

Week Two.

I consider all those who have assisted me in times of need. Even all those whose assistance was not known by me personally, those who give anonymously to the greater good from whom I have found hope. Heavenly Father I am thankful for them. Now help me to consider who in my life might need my help. Am I able? Even if they may not learn of my involvement in their life? I will find one person each day and reach out to them at their moment of need, maybe a moment of doubt or weakness, a time when the road seems too long or the burden too heavy. May my help remind them of God, whose unsolicited concern we will see at Christmas.

Week Three.

I consider all those who have been patient with me (only God knows how often!) and have forgiven me when I have offended. Heavenly Father I am thankful for them.  Now help me to consider those in my life who may be challenging who still need my attention; who seek my forgiveness. Am I a patient, forgiving person? Am I willing to bear others’ wrongs patiently? I will find one person each day who I haven’t contacted in a while and find the strength to make amends where necessary. May my heart remind them of God’s desire for reconciliation with us which we will see at Christmas.

Week Four.

One of the hardest tasks for our culture today is learning not to be selfish, to place others first. I consider all those who have sacrificed their security, their comfort, their safety for me. Heavenly Father I am thankful for them. Now help me to consider who in my life might need my selflessness. Am I able? Teach me the way of self-emptying love.  I will find one person each day and figure some way to give of myself. May my sacrifice help remind them of God’s self-emptying love which is the meaning of Christmas.

Now there’s a plan. God bless you.

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ Nov. 24, 2013

It is not too late to contribute for Philippines Typhoon Relief. See Page 9 for more details! 

The Parish Offices will be closed Thursday and Friday, November 28 & 29, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. There will be no Religious Education classes this week. On Sunday, December 1 there will be no CYM Dinner or Youth Group. 

Join us on Thursday, November 28 at 10am for our Special Thanksgiving Mass. Please bring nonperishable food items. All donations will be given to the Food Bank. 

SCRIP is on sale in the Parish Life Center aer all Masses except Saturday 7pm and Sunday 2pm. You can start budgeting for your Christmas gift list! Please use SCRIP, and a percentage of what you spend will be applied to our school.

From Our Pastor ~ Nov. 24, 2013

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Every year we come to the Solemnity of Christ the King and we give a pause and consider what the end of time will be like. Christ our King and our judge will take some role as facilitator of justice as we pass from one age to the next, and we will be given the eternal reward of our goodness, or the corresponding eternal emptiness which will simply correspond to the level of life which we have chosen to live in God in this world.

We realize that there is still time to change. This is why God gives us the gift of time, because we can change. Pope John Paul II said that the person who is most perfect in this world is the one who has changed most often. That is also why God has given us the Church, because we need a safe place to belong while we look into that change. It is not an easy thing, it most often requires the support and prayers of a loving community.

I think, sometimes, that God will deal most harshly with those who have adopted an attitude that doesn’t seek renewal alongside others, who stand in judgment of sinners rather than extending the kind of love that alone is able to break through the division of sin and its devastation, touch the hearts of those who are struggling and welcome them home. Still remembering that home is a place of change, it is often too difficult for so many to try to open that door alone.

Yesterday I had a chance to go to Manarola, Italy, one of the most beautiful places on earth, I’m thinking. (As I write this I am in Siena, another of those places.) You should Google Manarola for images of this place, one of the world heritage sites because of its unparalleled beauty. So it was Sunday, and we worked our day in the Cinque Terre around getting to Mass at 11 in Manarola.

There is only one Mass for the whole region. There was only one Sunday Mass, and 34 people attended. I suddenly began thinking about how much we consider the end times to be a time of the few faithful who will remain, and the so many who will have either given up or denied the faith when faced with one of the several deadly isms of our day — individualism, secularism, pluralism, humanism, even indifferentism (we could also include stupidism) — the so-called “sacred remnant” who will still be paying attention on the last day when the Lord calls.

Mass in Manarola reminded me of that idea. Where are all the people? It has become a nervous joke in Europe. Where has everyone gone?

It worries me that we might not be so far behind in the United States.

Well, I refuse to accept the “sacred remnant” idea. To do so would be to give into the same kind of lack of regard that so many have shown in setting aside their faith. We have to be people who continue to fight and speak up and do our best to live the values we believe so that others might look again.

As I looked around that church I wondered why it has gotten to this point? The priest seemed engaged. I don’t speak fluent Italian but I got the gist of his good homily. The music was thin, but there was a lively group of six children in the front who sat together and helped with the Mass, bringing up the gifts, offering the prayers of the faithful. All in all, it was a beautiful Mass, it just wasn’t attended.

You and I have a lot to do at the end of the day in order to make sure that more than only a few make it to the finish line. We simply can’t settle for the minimal returns of a few faithful members in the Body of Christ when the personal investment of God is so great in the hopes of yielding a fruitful return. It is not okay what is happening in our world — and, though we aren’t powerful to make any real global change, we can start with our own houses and families, and get the word out to our parish.

God bless you.

Fr. Don