Express Announcements ~ January 11, 2015

Express Announcements ~ January 11, 2015

* Religious Freedom Day 2015: Today (Sunday) is the 238th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s writing the later First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution here in Fredericksburg. Come: 2pm at the monument on Washington Boulevard (see p. 8).

* You will not want to miss the Called and Gifted Workshop St. Mary is hosting Friday, February 6, and Saturday, February 7. Please register! Click on the link on the front page of our website and join us.

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

Looking Ahead:

* On January 17 and 18, the Council of Catholic Women will host a baby shower to benefit our local Pro-Life groups: Mary’s Shelter, Birthright, Catholic Charities, and Paul Stefan Homes. Unwrapped gifts will be accepted after all Masses.

* Upcoming Events

• January 22, March for Life

• January 25-31, Catholic Schools Week

• January 27, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity w/Bishop Loverde at Mount Olivet UMC in Arlington

• January 29, Catholic Advocacy Day in Richmond

From Our Pastor ~ January 11, 2015

From Our Pastor ~ January 11, 2015

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

It used to be after Christmas you could heave a sigh of relief that everything went so well and then slow down for a few weeks before Lent began. Not so, anymore! As I write this article on Monday, 1/5, we are exactly three months until Easter, a month and a half from Ash Wednesday and there is much to tell you about.

I want to tell you about the dialogue that began  today between six members each of Fredericksburg  United Methodist Church and Saint Mary —that will need to wait until another week. This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, the end of the quick Christmas Season and a day that we all consider the impact of this baptism event in our own lives. It means, among so many other things, that just as all this would be meaningless without Jesus’ Presence to us—in liturgy, in life, in ministry—especially and in a particularly remarkable way in the Eucharist—that it also requires that we also be present to him.

We have to be here, in his Presence, because to be present to the Love of God is to be transformed. This Presence must happen both ways.

This weekend we have surrounding us on the walls of the church photos of the children of the parish—at Holy Cross Academy and in our Religious Education Program—after we celebrated Family Week. We invited parents to attend RE classes with the children and prepare a photo, adding what gifts they have received from God that might actually be part of God’s calling them to the Consecrated Life as a Sister, a Nun, a Priest or a Monk. So many kids, so many gifts.

They are with us in the church to remind us of who we are, how we are called, how we need to be present to God night and day, how we must nurture and support these gifts which God has given us not for ourselves, but to build up his Church. They are a reminder of how we must pray for each other, and place ourselves in the presence of God every moment of our lives to learn the depths and beauty of this relationship to which God has called us, to live in his love.

Today, we are called by our baptism into his Loving Presence, he who is Love, to be transformed. And every moment is a new beginning.

So, as we seek to live into our baptism, here is a program of spiritual exercises I invite you to take advantage of this year. I challenge you to use any or all of these opportunities to their fullest, because they are a coming together of several programs just at the right time in the life and spiritual development of our parish, and we will grow together. It won’t happen again for a long time. Some of it you already know about. Begin with the Called and Gifted Workshop, use the season of Lent to build your small group skills while we catch up on all the one-on-one Gift Consultations, and then begin the Small Groups for Called and Gifted in learning and living  your gifts in everyday life.

February 6-7
Called and Gifted Workshop
Investigate the gifts that God has given you that make you uniquely suited to love and serve one another and participate in the life and ministry of the Church at Holy Cross Academy. 7—9:30pm Friday, 9—3:30pm Saturday; $20 for parishioners / $30 for others covers materials and lunch on Saturday.
Register by January 28.

Season of Lent
BETRANSFORMED Small Group Bible StudyConsider gathering a group of six or seven friends,  colleagues, associates or neighbors (“affinity” groups)  to study and share the Mass Readings each week before the six Sundays of Lent. Volunteer to host a group,  or sign up for groups that will be forming. DVD and book help lead discussion. You can get a glimpse now at www.lentenfriends.org $10 for materials. Watch for details and announcements and sign up soon. First week of  study is February 15 through Palm Sunday.

March 1-3
Forty Hours’ Mission:
“The Kingdom of God is Among You” Deacon Mark Cesnik, OP, of the Catherine of Siena Institute will lead the parish in a reflection on the spirituality of gifts. Weekend homilies April 30 and March 1, and at  7:30pm (following Mass) on Monday, March 2 and Tuesday, March 3.

This year let’s make the most of Lent together.

God bless you.

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ January 4, 2015

Express Announcements ~ January 4, 2015

* Join us for Family Week in Religious Education as classes resume this week! All parents are asked to accompany their children to class for a special program.

* You were Given in Love; you are Called in Love. Visit our website—stmaryfred.org—to find out more about the Called and Gifted Workshop to be held Friday, February 6, and Saturday, February 7. Please register!

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

Looking Ahead:

* On January 17 and 18, the Council of Catholic Women will host a baby shower to benefit our local Pro-Life groups: Mary’s Shelter, Birthright, Catholic Charities, and Paul Stefan Homes. Unwrapped gifts will be accepted after all Masses.

* Upcoming Events

             • January 22, March for Life

             • January 25-31, Catholic SchoolsWeek

             • January 27, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity prayer with Bishop Loverde

                at Mount Olivet UMC in Arlington

             • January 29, Catholic AdvocacyDay in Richmond

From Our Pastor ~ January 4, 2015

From Our Pastor ~ January 4, 2015

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Merry Christmas! What an amazing cycle of celebrations we had this year at Saint Mary! Every Mass was year-full or very full, everyone seemed at peace. The music was truly beautiful and led all of us more deeply into the beauty that lies at the center of the fact of the Incarnation: the love of God. Love was the spirit  everywhere, Masses both here at church and at Holy Cross Academy, everywhere, wishes of happiness and blessings.

It is the usual follow-up to be so very thankful to all who have contributed to making these liturgies happen—especially this year, it seemed like we all worked together so well, we were ready. To all our decorators and ministers of liturgy—to all our choirs, musicians, cantors—to everyone who helped decorate and put it all together here in the office, thanks. It really is the best work in the world to do. Thank you.

Something happens to you after you have been a priest for a while about these privileged seasons, something that I’ve only become aware of recently. This thanksgiving I feel has gradually extended in the form of sincere welcome to all who join us for Christmas. I think this needs to
be said. Too long we have stood in judgment of those who might attend at Christmas and Easter. And I want to be clear that what I’m about to say is not that it doesn’t matter if you miss Mass on Sunday and Holy Days—I am just so glad that so many attend Mass to celebrate the moments of Jesus’ Birth, his Passion, his Death and Resurrection.They are personal moments whose meaning we may not be able to express, exactly, but they move us at the center of our being. They are  sources of contentment in lives that otherwise lack something. They bring peace in the middle of any level of battle that you may be waging in your hearts or families. They remind us of God’s love which we cannot deny, no matter how hard the world may try to convince us otherwise. God’s love becomes visible. You can hold it.

Anyway, I’m just glad that people come. And filled with gratitude, where I used to think it was more of a bother to accommodate so many… I’m sorry for these attitudes in the past, I truly believe that they are in the past now.

The Church has always taught that to be minimally Catholic you must attend Mass and receive Holy Communion (if you can) at least once a year between Ash Wednesday and Pentecost Sunday. Of course, if this is the only time you might attend  Mass, then it also must necessarily involve sacramental confession. This is what has been  called (sadly) the “Easter Duty.”

It is a great temptation for those who attend every week to be judgmental of those who do not. Yet, who knows what somebody might be going through in their life? Some people really are busy (though some really aren’t) and have to put food on the table for their families, which  means that work schedules and family obligations keep them from joining us many Sundays. For many, especially those who are sick, or have  been abused (20% of people alive today?) or  abandoned, disillusioned about family, community, feel deep pain that is so hard to reconcile, are uncertain of their worthiness to be a part: it takes all they have inside of them to show up and be seen in the context of the family of God.

Are we not all sinners?

Imagine what damage we might do at that moment if we were to choose to judge them rather than be here to welcome them home. It might be a long, long time before they get the strength together to do it again.

Schedules are busy. That is why we have Masses at every waking hour during the weekend. If your weekend is so busy that you can’t make it to any of our Masses, then maybe your weekend is too busy. I ask you to do what you can to work that out.

This weekend we reflect on God’s epiphany:  how he is made manifest in the Christ child to the wise men from the East—to all those at the time who were not of the house of Israel, the chosen people—to us. God wanted to tell us that he is here for all people—even the fortune tellers and pagans. He calls everyone. So then, why shouldn’t we?

We are now in the process of bringing one another to the manger. The angels who bring the shepherds, the star that brings the wise men. We, who bring each other to come and see the Mystery that is before us today.

God bless you.

Fr. Don