Merry Christmas & Happy Feast of the Epiphany! You will notice that our Magi statues began in the back of the Church (front cover), as they set out on their journey to join the rest of the Nativity scene, on this feast that commemorates their arrival in Bethlehem to worship the Newborn King. This great feast often makes me think of World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany. I did not attend, but it was the first World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI, who I came to truly love for his excellent teaching and preaching throughout my seminary years. Someone gave me a book of all of his addresses from that event and I was so struck by them that I designed an entire retreat based on them for the high school youth ministry group at my first parish when I was newly ordained. One reason it was significant is because the cathedral in Cologne contains the tomb of the Magi. It was also interesting because it was held in Benedict XVI’s home country, even though the location was determined under the pontificate of his predecessor, St. John Paul II. World Youth Days draw pilgrims from all around, from “the nations,” making
the pilgrimage of the Magi to Bethlehem a fitting reflection to base the theme upon. He addressed the young people, “as pilgrims in the footsteps of the Magi.” He continued: “Following their route, you too want to find Jesus. Like them, you have begun this journey in order to contemplate, both personally and with others, the face of God revealed by the Child in the manger. Like yourselves, I too have set out to join you in kneeling before the consecrated white Host in which the eyes of faith recognize the Real Presence of the Saviour of the world. Together, we will continue to meditate on the theme of this World Youth Day: "We have come to worship him" (Mt 2: 2).” Do we recognize, when we encounter Christ in the Eucharist, that we have come to do homage to the same King of Kings whom the Magi set out to meet? Do we consider the incredible access we have to that which would satisfy the desire of every human heart? Pope Benedict reflected also on those who have not yet received the Gospel, “who are waiting, without realizing it, for the star to rise in their skies and lead them to Christ, Light of the Nations, in whom they will find the fullest response to their hearts' deepest desires.” Do we allow this privilege we have to prompt us to share Christ with those who do not have Him in their life, as an invitation, an offer and an introduction? Christ would work in us in such powerful ways, to be a light to the world, if only we would give our hearts more to Him. Pope Benedict continues: “To all of you I appeal: Open wide your hearts to God! Let yourselves be surprised by Christ! Let him have ‘the right of free speech’ during these days! Open the doors of your freedom to his merciful love! Share your joys and pains with Christ, and let him enlighten your minds with his light and touch your hearts with his grace.” In these holy days of the Christmas Season (we still have another week left!), may we open our hearts even more to the King of Kings, who wishes to live in us and make us a light to the world.
CONSECRATION PREPARATION - WEEK TWO: This Saturday (1/4), we began the preparation to renew the personal consecration to Jesus through Mary. I preached on this on the Fourth Sunday of Advent and invited anyone interested to join me in preparing to make or renew your own personal consecration on the Feast of the Presentation (February 2nd). While most of the preparation is done individually, there is an optional gathering on Saturday mornings at 9:30, until the day of the consecration. Since there are five of these Saturday gatherings, we will reflect each week upon a different one of the Joyful Mysteries. The Joyful Mysteries were chosen because the preparation began during the Christmas Octave and leads up to the Presentation. Even if you are not able to join us in these Saturday gatherings, I would love to know who all is joining us; so please reach out to me to let me know if you are joining us in this beautiful, prayerful experience. Doing a preparation like this together is a great way to remember something that is always true about our personal prayer: it requires personal, individual initiative and effort, but it also unites us to the rest of the Body of Christ as we draw near to Him. We are not alone, but are in this together, and embracing Mary as our Mother is one great way to recall that we are a part of a family.
FIRST RECONCILIATION: Speaking of being a part of a family, this week is an important one to pray for some of the younger members of our parish family. Next Saturday (1/11), eleven of our children will celebrate their First Reconciliation. Please keep them in your prayers, as they prepare to celebrate the Baptism of the Lord by being restored to the grace of their own baptism, through the gift and mystery of this great sacrament.
CHRISTMAS MASSES - THANK YOU: These holiday bulletins all have to be written so early (while plans for Christmas are still being made), that I haven’t yet had a chance to thank EVERYONE in writing who helped make our Christmas Masses so beautiful! Thanks to Rita Tracey and her crew for the beautiful decorating. Thanks to Emilia Alm, Jeff Moore, David & Shelley Gorenz, Rachel Gorenz-Johnson, Dave Roden, and David Sims for the beautiful music at all of our Masses. Thanks also to all of our Liturgical Ministers: Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Altar Servers, Sacristans, and Ushers (and all those who get recruited on the spot to help set up chairs). All of your service throughout the year is most appreciated, but these special Masses in particular require many hands and hearts to give of themselves. I am most grateful. God bless you and your families this Christmas Season and into the New Year.
STATUS OF PARISH HALL BUILDING: This is the first chance I’ve had to put an update in writing on the status of the parish hall building, after the unfortunate incident of a burst pipe in the ceiling of Harkrader Hall, causing extensive water damage, as well as structural damage to the parish hall. As of the writing of this update (December 23rd), the clean-up process is well underway, but can be expected to take time, as well as the process of assessing damages, restoring what can be restored and replacing what cannot. Unfortunately, both Harkrader Hall and the Saint Jerome Room will be unavailable until further notice. If you have a group that plans to meet in either of those spaces, I would ask you to begin considering alternative plans. Parts of the school building may be usable, but this will require coordination and collaboration with the parish office. We are also experiencing some challenges in our office. I apologize for all of these inconveniences and assure you that we are working hard with the appropriate people to get things back in order. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!