COMFORTER OF THE AFFLICTED
As you read this, most likely, I am on a journey like the Magi to encounter Christ with the nations (young people from all around, although probably mostly within the U.S.) at SEEK, the conference hosted by Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), this year, in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, as we celebrate the Epiphany, we come to a great climactic moment in the Christmas Season, which brings us into the final week of the season, as we prepare to conclude it with our first Children’s Mass for the Baptism of the Lord. This week, as we consider the protection given to the Holy Family from Herod’s pursuit, we reflect upon the classic image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (front cov- er). Our copy hangs in the niche in the back of the Church, to the right/west side of the main entrance. If there is interest, I would love to do a little more with those niches to make them more attractive devotional spaces. For now, we do have a kneeler in front of the image, for anyone who would like to stop and offer a short prayer. I recommend stopping there, before or after Mass, some time this week as we bring the Christmas Season to a close. As we consider the providential care of God’s love for that Holy Family being hunted by a greedy and envious worldly king, there are few images better suited to guide in this meditation. The image depicts a young Christ Child, running to find refuge in His Mother’s arms, as He was being tormented by a vision of angels holding the instruments of His Passion. In the midst of our fear and our hurt, which we so often endure in this broken world, we must learn that we can turn to Our Blessed Mother. This is why one of the titles given to her in the Litany of Loreto is“Comforter of the Afflicted.” This is a very fitting time to recall where we can go to find refuge with the Lord. Sadly, the Church continues to suffer amidst ongoing revelations regarding the crisis arising from clergy abuse. There is so much that we must take into consideration, as we wrestle to navigate these tragic times. We continue to turn to Saint Michael with our duel intention every Sunday, considering both the reality of the purification of the Church that is taking place, through its usually painful process, and that of persecution, as sometimes it is difficult to distinguish what is being represented properly and what is not. Regardless of the representation, however, these matters are always tragic and rooted in a deep sickness and sins which are totally inexcusable. This is why we continually look for that place of refuge with Our Lord, who is Ever-Faithful, Ever-Just, Ever-Merciful, and Ever-True, Good, and Beautiful. He is the One who brings healing of these wounds and enables us to be all that we are made to be. Let us continue to pray for healing for victims, for justice and repentance for offenders, and for the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit in the difficult process of purification. Let us look to Mary, the Comforter of the Afflicted to rest in her arms with Our Blessed Lord, that we may rediscover the gifts of Peace and Joy in these final days of Christmas.
THANK YOU FOR CHRISTMAS MASSES: With early bulletin deadlines, this is the first letter I’ve written since our Christmas Season began. Thus, I want to take a moment to thank EVERYONE who helped make our liturgies so beautiful: to Deacon John, who so generously assists with all four Masses, to all of our Musicians and Cantors, to Rita Tracey and her team of Decorators, to Julia Mead, for the hard-work put into the ornaments given out to all of the children this year, to our Church Cleaners for keeping everything neat and tidy, to our Lectors, Ushers (and all who assisted with the movement of so many extra chairs for the four o’clock), Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Sacristans, and Altar Servers, to Dennis Thompson and his crew for getting our statues and gates mounted in time for Christmas, and to all who invited friends and family or helped show hospitality to our guests. All of these contributions, including those that I may have forgotten or that go unnoticed, helped bring Glory to Our God, whose Incarnation we celebrate with great joy! Thank you all!
PERSONAL THANK YOU: Yet again, I am overwhelmed by the generosity of so many during these holy days of Christmas! I think of the giant cluster of grapes, carried by Caleb and his companion in the altar rail gate I discussed in the Christmas homily, as I am again reminded of the overflowing bounty poured out as a sign of God’s goodness and faithfulness. This kindness is neither expected nor deserved, but neither is it taken for granted. Thank you very much to all who took the time and made the sacrifice to send me a card, a monetary gift, a reminder of prayers offered for me, or other gifts. The volume of these gifts is again so great that I ask your pardon that I will not have time to complete individual thank you notes. But, please know of my gratitude and my prayers for you, as well as my commitment to continue to work hard for the good of this parish, in return for your great kindness. Also, since a number of you reminded me of your prayers for my mother in your cards, I would like to share the update that she attended the 7 pm Christmas Eve Mass here at Saint Louis and it was the first Mass she has been able to attend, in her recovery process, since her recent surgery. What a blessing!
In Christ through Mary, Fr. Gifford
St. Louis, pray for us! Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!