From Our Pastor ~ December 28, 2014

From Our Pastor ~ December 28, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

As Pope Francis said in his general audience last week, Jesus chose to come to the world as part of a family. The mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, which opens a new chapter in the universal history of man and woman, “occurs within a family, in Nazareth. He could have come spectacularly, or as a warrior, an emperor… No, he came as the son of a family, in a family,”  he emphasized.

God can do anything he wants, and he doesn’t do anything by accident.

Today we are challenged to look at the family in its most basic form. Joseph was a man of integrity, righteous and true and loving. We imagine him providing a humble and safe home for his  wife, Mary, and her child, Jesus. It is clear that he was not affluent or proud. The silence of Scripture accounts shows him quietly protecting,  doing what is necessary to preserve this family, sometimes courageously. In the Bible he pays attention to God’s voice, but never speaks himself.

Mary, likewise, only points to her Son: “Do whatever he tells you.” So receptive, devout, reflective, yet so unmovable that she will not miss even a  moment by his side on the way to Calvary, at the cross, or at the tomb and beyond. In her lowliness lies the real power of God: “My soul magnifies the Lord.” What we see in the God-made-man, Jesus, in his humanity we must also see in her: hers was the only human DNA that gave birth to the Son of God.

They lived in relative obscurity. We don’t really know what he was up to for most of his life. Sometimes I think this is the most fascinating  and mysterious fact of the whole thing, that the most interesting Being ever to live on this earth, this God-man, stayed mostly invisible for most of his life, unknown. Nearly all of it, unless you all the time up to his presentation in the temple “public.” His work of three short years in the public eye, certainly his most productive years in terms of teaching and example, doesn’t mean that he wasted the rest of his years; the Son of God wouldn’t waste anything. He spent it in Nazareth,
where the family settled after they fled for their lives as refugees in Egypt, until the time he left Nazareth and came to the desert, afterward to be baptized by John.

The large part of Jesus’ life on this earth was spent in the context of this family life in Nazareth. I can’t imagine their family would have been any different than yours or mine, except that it would have been the simple life of the day. There would have been no electricity. Nothing that works by electricity. No running water. When I was in the Dominican Republic a great part of our day was spent just getting water from the river. In those days all a family could be was a family, together, always present to each other, eating and laughing, talking and praying, learning and teaching, growing together, working and hoping for tomorrow.

Somehow we need to get back to Nazareth. We are far from there.

The Pope continues: “Every Christian family – as  Mary and Joseph did – must first welcome Jesus, listen to Him, speak with Him, shelter Him, protect Him, grow with Him; and in this way, make the world better. Let us make space in our heart and in our days for the Lord. This is what Mary and Joseph did, and it was not easy: how many difficulties they had to overcome! It was not a false or unreal family. The family of Nazareth calls to us to rediscover the vocation and the mission of the family, of every family. And so what happened in those thirty years in Nazareth can also happen to us: making love, not hate, normal; mutual help common, instead of indifference and hostility. It is not by chance that Nazareth means ‘she who preserves,’ like Mary who, as the Gospel tells us, ‘treasured all these things in her heart.’ From then on, whenever there is a family that preserves this mystery, even if it should be at the outer reaches of the world, the mystery of the Son of God is at work. And he comes to save the world.”

They set a high bar to meet, right? I don’t think any of us can say that we came from a perfect family. Often, the ones who want to appear most  perfect are the ones that most need our love and support. On this feast of the Holy Family, let’s make a commitment. To defend the love between members of our family. To strengthen our marriages so parents can love their children from their own store of love. To look again at each other— to stop using the word “sibling” but consider truly what the word “brother” or “sister” means in the plan of God. Such an exalted and beautiful and blessed place to be, our families.

God bless you.

 

Fr. Don

From Our Pastor ~ December 25, 2014

From Our Pastor ~ December 25, 2014

Dear Good People of St. Mary,

When I was home recently I asked my brothers if anyone was interested in keeping the log that has sat on our hearth since 1968. You see, it isn’t any log, it carries for me many memories of our vacation in 1968 when I was seven years old and we went to Wyoming and Colorado. While in Wyoming, my Dad, who I now realize was twenty-five years younger than I am now, had this crazy idea to take a tree trunk from a petrified forest park in Wyoming. As I remember it, these logs were just lying around as if they had dropped from the sky, for miles. There was a broken-down fence with gates that were open; I clearly remember knowing that we were stealing, but it was very exciting. We—my Dad, me and my eight year-old brother John—hoisted this thing weighing what seemed like hundreds of pounds, into the little red wagon we had been dragging my brother Bob around in, then put it in the station wagon, and this log became our travel companion for the next week until it found a home on our hearth. Actually, we rescued a number of them, but this was the granddaddy of all that we pilfered.

The log is something of a marvel; it’s a little hard to wrap your mind around it. It looks like a tree trunk, with bark and all, but it is stone. It was a mature tree that lived 225 million years ago. I wonder what prehistoric bugs are still preserved inside?

Somebody asked me why I wanted it? Such a heavy log-looking rock. So I’ve been thinking about it. It is the same reason we take out the same Christmas ornaments each year and put them on a new (or a newly assembled) tree that takes up space in our home. Sometimes each one of these ornaments carries a different memory with it. I used to enjoy putting up the tree with the family, we would recall different things—this one used to hang on our grandparents’ cotton-white tree with the color wheel that threw changing colors up on it. This one we bought in Venice. That one we made the year we moved to the farm… We would put the tree right in the middle of our great room floor and invite all the memories back into our home.

It’s the same reason we come back around each year to familiar songs and prayers. We decorate with old and newly-created decorations hopefully so that when we walk into church it is newly-assembled to feel fresh and new, and worn, and familiar and home. We have a Eucharist, and in our thanks come to mind all the beautiful and even sometimes tired and always renewing miracles of Jesus. His call is today, throughout the years. The whole family is back in the room, even those who are gone, and we find our anchor, this is really our place, and God is here. I am grateful that you are here with us for Christmas.

Too many people are off on their own today without an anchor, without a story. Let’s write the story for our generation and generations to come, together, here. Let’s enter into the Mystery of Christ as it unfolds this beautiful season, and enfolds us in love.

God bless you, and merry Christmas!

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ December 21, 2014

Express Announcements ~ December 21, 2014

* The second collection this week is our parish’s Christmas Collection for Special Charities. This year we are supporting (1) the Creche Orphanage in Bethlehem (in the Holy Land) through the Holy Land Christians’ Society, (2) two elementary school classrooms for the Oblate Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales’ school in Rocafuerte, Ecuador, and (3) building a fund to help pay for counseling for children whose families can’t afford it at Catholic Charities Family Services/Fredericksburg.

* Christmas Vigil Masses are at 4pm, (at the Church and HCA), 6:30pm (at the Church and HCA), and 8:30pm. A Festival of Carols will be held at 11pm before the Midnight Mass. Christmas Day Masses are at 7am, 8:30am, 10:30am, 12:30pm and 2pm (Spanish). Please note, there are NO Masses on Christmas Day at 5pm, nor 7:01pm.

* Parish offices will be closed from noon on Wednesday, December 24 through Friday, December 26.

* SCRIP is on sale this weekend in the Parish Life Center after most Masses. Please use SCRIP and help our school.

From Our Pastor ~ December 21, 2014

From Our Pastor ~ December 21, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Already last weekend we had many people who were wishing us a merry Christmas and about to leave for parts all over to celebrate the holidays with family or enjoy a nice Christmas break vacation. For those who are traveling this week, we offer special prayers for safety. May all your visits fill you with joy and good memories; where reconciliation is needed, may unity endure; where understanding is sought, may it be found. May love be the guide for every word and situation. And may the mystery of the Son of God come to birth in a tiny child in obscurity always cause you to find wonder and awe at the desire of our loving God to “stoop down,” as the Fathers would say, to raise a suffering world with his caring love. Merry Christmas.

For those who are traveling, I want to remind you that you can always find our bulletins posted on line, so you don’t miss our greetings or any news about upcoming events in the parish. If you haven’t subscribed, all you have to do is go to our parish website (www.stmaryfred.org) and at the lower right corner of our front web page type your email address in the box and click on “subscribe.”

Giving can become such a complicated procedure. For many, Christmas has become the only time during the year when we remember each other with a card (how often do you buy stamps these days?) or bake something for our neighbors. I actually put “shopping” on my to-do list this time of year. We wonder if something has happened to someone because we didn’t get the usual Christmas card in the mail this year.

I have never liked shopping. I always wonder why I didn’t just get this done last summer when nobody was thinking about Christmas shopping yet? Every once in a while there is a nice spirit with so many people out and about and looking for that perfect gift for someone in particular, if you are lucky. More often than not I am grateful that some visionary invented the internet and the “shopping cart.”

I know a lot of families, especially older brothers and sisters, who have pretty much lost the spirit of giving. The calls come, eventually: “How much are you giving?” Of course, you don’t want to give more than somebody and make them feel bad. In the same way nobody likes to feel like they got the short end of the stick. For a while in our family we wrote checks to each other for the same amounts and basically exchanged bank balances, an equal transfer of funds. It was either give up on it all together, or re-think the meaning of why we give.

The truth is, giving can never become routine, or it isn’t giving anymore, it is just a habit. Giving is something that shapes us and makes us different from all other forms of life in God’s creation. We give because we are made in the image and likeness of God, who gives. He gives his Son. He gives his life on the cross. He gives his divine life in the sacraments. Jesus literally gives his Body and Blood, his life, his Mother, his Spirit, his Mission of blessing from the Father. How many times we read Jesus explain that the Father has given everything over to him, and all that he has received from the Father he has given to us?

Notice the gift is always the gift of self. It isn’t a gift card or a lottery ticket, or even a shiny new car with a big bow on the top. It’s something better. For this reason we often encourage our children not to think so much about buying something, but instead making  something of themselves to give at Christmas time. Something personal, because giving is meaningless if it doesn’t also involve a personal commitment of good will and love. The gift is only the expression of what is inside, a revelation, the invisible made visible.

Those actually are the words we use to describe Jesus at Christmas, the definitive Revelation, the fullness of love.

In these last days before the great Gift of Jesus, take a few moments in your busy day—commit to a few moments in each of the few days remaining—ask what might be your special gift to your family and those you love? To your parish family? What gifts has God given to you in particular? Ask God for the grace to be truly thankful for them, and truly strong in seeking ways to use them to make him known this Christmas, to bring him to birth in your life and make it visible. Above all, ask God for the ability to truly give yourself to him, and to those he loves.

God bless you.

 Fr. Don