It seems that it was only a yesterday that we were celebrating the birth of Christ at Christmas. Now we are at the beginning of Lent. The word lent itself comes from the old English word for Spring and of course, spring to most of us means a time for new life after the long cold winter. The spiritual meaning of Lent has a similar understanding as it is a time of spiritual new life using the three spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
The Lenten Schedule was in last weeks bulletin. There are extras in the church entryway. It shows all the opportunities available for spiritual growth. Many of the things are the same as last year – Station of the Cross, weekday evening Masses, Wednesday Night Soup Suppers, Adoration with guest speakers, and of course Knights of Columbus Fish Fries.
It is my desire that we have many different opportunities to grow in our faith and to build a strong parish family. I realize that folks have a busy schedule and as the weather gets warmer even more things will pop up on our calendars but, I truly want to encourage you to work hard this Lent and take advantage of every opportunity, especially the times of Reconciliation/Confession.
It is by living our faith and growing in our faith that we can come to inherit the promise of eternal life offered to us through the Paschal Mystery (Christ’s Death and Resurrection) revealed to us that first Easter and made present to us at every Mass at the altar. By following Christ in faith and love we will come to the fullest experience of Easter and the new life offered to us by God.
Blessings, Father Dooley
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT What do I remember most about Lent as a kid? Do I work as hard at spiritual growth as I need to? Does my life fill up with less important things than my discipleship?
The Diocesan Office of Worship offers these guidelines during the flu season which might be helpful in containing its spread. The most important preventative measures include vaccination, sneeze and cough hygiene (covering appropriately) and thorough hand washing.
Pastors should remind their parishioners to stay home if they are ill. It is NOT a mortal sin to miss Mass if one is sick or taking care of someone who is ill. If someone presenting symptoms does come to Mass, they should refrain from shaking hands or sharing in the chalice. Those who are prone to infections (for example, those who are older or are taking medications that suppress the immune system, or are pregnant) should also refrain from shaking hands or sharing the chalice.
The Sign of Peace does not require the shaking of hands – parishioners may acknowledge each other with a smile or bow.
Attention should be paid to cleaning surfaces, such as pews and doorknobs/ handles. There is nothing here that should not be part of good practice anyway. Having hand sanitizer and tissues available is encouraged.
While not forbidding handshaking and the use of the chalice at this point, awareness and mindfulness can help keep everyone safe. If the influenza season worsens, consideration will be given to other aspects of protection and prevention.
Blessings, Father Dooley
At one time or another we have been confronted with a difficult situation, either ours or someone else’s. It might be a death, an accident, a loss of a job, something hard to handle. We might even say “I will remember you in my prayers,” and then in the next breath we say “I wish I could do more.” Aren’t we forgetting that one of the most forceful powers at our disposal is prayer? Yet at times prayer is almost an afterthought, when there’s nothing else we can do we pray.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church prayer is the elevation of the mind and heart to God in praise…petition…thanksgiving… or intersession…. So when we pray we are asking for God’s grace and especially in a difficult circumstance we are doing the first and most important thing that anyone can do.
Think about it. Throughout history we have heard the stories about the power of prayer. Peoples lives have been drastically changed because of prayer. Armies have been defected through prayer. Miracles have taken place because people pray. Think about what happens at Mass. Of course, Jesus himself taught his disciple to pray and we are still saying the “Our Father.”
But prayer must not be the only thing that we do. We must be active in our role as servants of God. Pray first then act. God has given each of us an ability to act. It may be physically helping someone in need. It may be the ability to listen attentively. It may be our turn to write a check or make a donation. However we respond it should first be rooted in prayer.
No my friends prayer is not a last resort, it is the first thing, the most powerful thing that a Christian can do. Prayer gives light to the path in difficult times and helps us to respond to the needs of others with love. As St. Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.”
Blessings, Father Dooley
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT Do I experience prayer as a guiding factor meeting the needs of others? Have I experienced hope and strength when people pray for me? Do I believe in the power of prayer?
Just before the beginning of Mass the Faithful are invited to pray the Vocation Prayer together. I am not sure who or when it started but it is a beautiful reminder that it is up to us to not only pray for vocations to the priesthood and Religious Life but, we must also ask a young person to consider a vocation.
I was reading an article on vocations and one of the main points offered by a bishop was the need for individuals, families, parishes, and dioceses to rely on God’s grace. But there were some practical things as well. Vocations come from families who are devout. Families who consider their relationship with God most important. The spirituality of the parents becomes the seed bed of vocations. Another aspect is the Mass. Is it done with reverence? Does it have a transcendence quality or is the Mass just about us? The bishop said that the “Sacred Liturgy is supposed to put us in contact with the transcendent God.” The Mass should lift our hearts and minds towards the glory of Heaven. Flowing from the Mass is Eucharistic Adoration. This is another factor in promoting vocations. In the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, in the silence, we hear the Lord speak to us and inviting us to a vocation of love.
Thankfully, I believe here at St. Mary’s and St. Patrick’s we are doing many of the things that encourages vocations. Can we do better? Oh yes, I think so. While we continue to improve in these and other areas we accept God’s grace daily. If we are to continue as a Eucharistic Church we need vocations to the priesthood. If we are to be a church of service to the poor we need men and women in religious life.
Blessings, Father Dooley
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT have I considered a Vocation in service of the Church? Have I ever asked a young person to be a priest or a nun? Do I experience transcendence quality at Mass?
In last week’s column I referred to the formal name of St. Mary’s parish as St. Mary Mediatrix of all Grace. What does the word Mediatrix mean? It is someone who co-operates with a mediator.
The Second Vatican Council affirmed that we believe Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and the human family. His mediation is unique in its divine and human perfection so as to allow others to share in this one source of mediation to the Father. His mother, Mary, uniquely shares in the one mediation of Christ in distributing to the people of God the gifts of eternal salvation obtained from the cross. Lumen Gentium 62
Mary’s role as mother and intercessor is found in the New Testament. At the Annunciation, Mary says yes to the invitation to be the mother of the one mediator, Jesus the Christ. She is the God-bearer mediating Jesus Christ to the world. As mother she brought into the world the Uncreated Grace from which flows every other grace. Lk 1:38 At the Visitation Mary is a living tabernacle bringing the pre-born Jesus to Elizabeth and her pre-born child, John the Baptist, who is filled with the Holy Spirit and leaps for joy in the womb. Lk 1:41 At the Wedding Feast of Cana, Jesus the mediator reveals his glory and begins his ministry as the one mediator because of Mary’s intersession. As Mediatrix, Mary places herself between her son and those in need because of her role as mother. Jn. 2:1 Mary’s role is clearly established at the foot of the Cross. She is given to us by the one mediator as our Mother in the order of Grace. In entrusting Mary to beloved disciple and beloved disciple to Mary, Christ establishes Mary’s new spiritual and universal mediatrix in the order of Grace. Jn.19:26
The one mediator grants to his mother the role of mediatrix of the graces of redemption because she has uniquely shared in his work of redemption. The gift of eternal redemption comes from Calvary and redeeming work of the Savior, the one mediator Jesus Christ. His mother Mary has been given the role by God to bring the gifts of eternal salvation as Mediatrix. Christ is the fountain of Salvation and Mary is the conduit from which the graces flow.
Blessings, Father Dooley
I hope that parishioners have noticed a few new items purchased for St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s. At St. Patrick’s a set of parish vestments have arrived. Remember the Gold and Red Chasuble at Christmas. They were purchased from a store in Roma, Italy. I was told that the same style was brought for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI when he retired to a small monastery at the Vatican. There is also a different set of vestment on order for St. Mary’s.
Of course folks noticed the new Nativity set at St. Mary’s. The Parish Council also decided on a new five foot statue the Blessed Virgin Mary to be placed on the new pedestal in the courtyard. I thought it appropriate for it to be Our Lady of Fatima during the centennial year. I look forward to seeing the area surrounding it filled with roses. Then with the approval of St. Mary’s Parish and Finance Councils, we have used a generous gift from the Josephine Leslie to purchase a five foot crucifix for the sanctuary. It is more of a modern representation called “Mary Under the Cross.”It has the Virgin Mary catching the blood of Christ in a Chalice. I believe it represents the full name of the parish, “St. Mary Mediatrix of all Grace.” Our Risen Christ in the sanctuary will be placed in the entryway on the west wall commanding us to “go out and teach all nations” and when a casket is placed there before a funeral we will be reminded of Christ’s words “I am the resurrection and the life.”
I am very thankful for the generosity which parishioners have shown to both parishes and I hope that these changes will not only bring beauty to these Houses of God but will also elevated our hearts to heaven. Blessings, Father Dooley
Why is the Christ Child so minimally clothed in the Nativity Scenes? There could been any number of reasons. First, it could be just an artistic representation of the vulnerability that God has placed himself in. God is now exposed to the world in a unique way, as an infant, needing Mary and Joseph’s protection. Second, it could be a reminder that the new Adam, Jesus Christ, came into the world with no sin and therefore is naked without shame like Adam and Eve were unclothed before the fall. This new Adam has come to restore humanities original innocents. Third, it could be just the makers of the Nativity Scene’s artistic license and there is no deeper meaning to be found.
Remember that the Scriptures talk about swaddling clothes which were long, narrow bands of cloth used to wrap around the new born infant. These bands were used to bind the child for protection, keep them feeling safe, and limiting the child’s movement. Perhaps if we think about the swaddling bands as an image of the sin which binds and limits humanity we can think that the Babe of Bethlehem has come to undo those bands and set humanity free from sin. Then, to depict him with little or no swaddling clothes, is an expression that Jesus has come to set us free from sin.
Blessings, Father Dooley
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT What is my relationship to the Christ Child? Do I see how the Nativity of Jesus leads to the Cross? How can I accept the beautiful gift of salvation that Jesus brings? Do I desire to be set free from sin by the savior?