Fr. Daniel Gifford
IDENTITY IN BELONGING
Dear St. Louis Parishioners,
“¿No estoy aquí yo, que soy tu madre?” (Am I not here, who am your mother?) Our Lady asked this question to Saint Juan Diego at a time when he was overburdened by the stress and trials of his life, that it was weakening his faith, as he was beginning to turn away from and avoid what the Lord was asking him to do through her. Though he saw himself as weak and poor, even as nothing, she cherished him as her dearest little child, thus causing her to own her identity as his mother. Hearing her identity herself in this way, as belonging to him, enabled him to see his own identity more clearly. Thus, he was renewed confidence and in faith. Mary freely and readily comes to know herself as our mother, because she first knows herself as God’s beloved- the daughter of the Father, the mother of the Son and the spouse of the Holy Spirit. She who saw herself as God’s lowly handmaid was greeted by the angel as “favored one,” even as “full of grace” (indicating the unique gift of Immaculate Conception, which God had given her to prepare her for her lofty mission). May we rediscover our dignity by coming to deepen our understanding of our identity as being a child of God in Christ, and thus a child of Mary, the Mother of Christ (Head and Body), a cherished member of God’s family. When we come to visit the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Life Garden (front cover), may we recall this deepest truth of who we are, and thus be renewed in our confidence and in our faith. May we recall what Pope Francis reminded us in his document on The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium 286). He reminded us how pilgrims to Marian sites of devotion “find strength from God to bear the weariness and the suffering in their lives. As she did with Juan Diego, Mary offers them maternal comfort and love, and whispers in their ear: “Let your heart not be troubled… Am I not here, who am your Mother?””
FUN FACTS ABOUT LAST WEEK’S INSTALLATION: First of all, let me say thank you to everyone for your overwhelming support and enthusiasm at last weekend’s pastor installation. It is a joy for me to deepen my identity as belonging to you all, as your pastor, as well as to renew my identity as a priest belonging to Christ and His Church, by renewing the promises of my ordination. We renew these promises every year at the Cathedral at Chrism Mass. But, there is something different and uniquely powerful, which I did not quite see coming, about doing so in your parish, in the presence of the parish family. Thank you all to all who attended that Mass and the many who offered your support in various ways, even if you were only able to attend one of the other Masses. In case any of you were curious about how the rite surrounding installation Mass came to be, here are some fun facts. The concept behind the vicar coming to represent the bishop actually goes back to situations, which used to be more common, when he would come to literally introduce the parish to their new pastor for the first time (which is of course not the case when he has served as administrator for several months prior). The traditional way of doing it is that the vicar would actually begin the Mass, while the new pastor would not even be present yet. He would tell the parish a little about their new pastor in the homily, and then sometime after the homily, you would hear a loud knock at the door. The vicar would then say, “Would the ushers please open the door for your pastor?” This is all very much like how a new bishop is installed, when he is instructed to knock on the door of the cathedral with his crozier. The pastor would enter and as well as making his oath and profession, there would be a long rite of presenting him to the parish, in which the staff, trustees, and various parish groups would come forward to greet him. Then, the pastor would preside over the remainder of the Mass (Liturgy of the Eucharist). This all seems superfluous when we’ve had so many months to get to know each other so well, and it would also make for a long and somewhat clunky liturgy. Thus, most of those elements are optional at best and rarely practiced in our current context. Nonetheless, it’s kind of interesting to think about.
TOTUS TUUS & VBS: I am very excited that Totus Tuus is only one week away! If you don’t know, it is a wonderful program that is meant to be a time of renewal for the whole parish. The daytime sessions consist of great camp-like programs for our younger children (1st-6th Grades) led by a trained team of young, talented and vibrant Catholics from around the diocese. The evening sessions are almost like a fun and engaging retreat, designed to help our teens grow as disciples of Jesus Christ in the heart of the Church, and have loads of fun in the process. Meanwhile, the parish potluck on Wednesday and the Masses (everyday at 11:15) are for the whole parish. More information to come on how we plan to make the potluck engaging for all. Lastly, our parish has a tradition of providing a Vacation Bible School for the youngest of our children, not yet old enough for Totus Tuus. I hope everyone can participate in this great week.
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!