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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel Gifford


“Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your Kingdom.” This weekend, we consider the words of a repentant thief and the response Our Lord gave Him. Among His final words is His promise to this truly repentant man. He promises that he will be there with Him when He enters into His Kingdom. In a room of the Vatican museum, which was once a papal library upon which the great Renaissance painter Raphael was

commissioned to paint frescoes (our copy hangs in the Sts. Louis and Zelie Room, where our Adult Bible Study has been studying prayer this semester), is a beautiful image of Christ in His Heavenly Kingdom. It is striking to consider that among the countless saints not pictured with Christ in that Kingdom is none other than that repentant thief, with Christ in His Kingdom. But, let’s consider what we do see in this famous image, known as The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (front cover). Central to the image, we see the Holy Trinity, with Christ in the center, the Father above, and the Holy Spirit descending down to earth, where He makes Christ truly present in the Eucharist, which sits on the altar in the monstrance. Radiating around this center, we see the Church Triumphant (in heaven) and the Church Militant (on earth), below a barrier of cloud. Among other things, the image shows how the Eucharist makes the Kingdom of Heaven present on earth. Surrounding Christ in Heaven, we have Our Lady and St. John the Baptist immediately to His right and left, respectively, as well as a variety of other Saints, including patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament. Surrounding the altar on earth, we see a myriad of theologians, some of whom are saints, while others are not, engaged in a disputation (an ongoing dialogue or debate) about how best to understand this profound heavenly mystery that is truly present in our midst. It is significant to note that this fresco is intentionally positioned directly opposite from another famous work of Raphael, The School of Athens, which features a parallel dispute of the pagan philosophers of ancient Athens (ie. Plato and Aristotle). Although the pagan philosophers were seeking the One Truth and found elements of it, sometimes in manners that built helpful frameworks for Christian philosophers like St. Augustine (pictured in the Disputation) and St. Thomas Aquinas to work within and build upon, Christianity offers the fullness of the Truth we all are seeking. Even more specifically, the Eucharist offers us a true foretaste of the Heavenly Kingdom. Any honest and humble pursuit of Truth has merit. But, there is no greater intellectual pursuit than pondering the mysteries of God, so as to share them with others even more effectively. As we ponder Christ the King this weekend, it is worthy to consider the mystery of that Kingdom in its fullness in Heaven, as well as the absolutely astounding and confounding mystery that this same Kingdom is truly present in the Eucharist, despite that its glory is hidden. What a profound mark of the humility of our King, that He chooses to be present with us throughout the ages, but does not overwhelm us with the weight of His glory! He leaves that glory hidden in a simple little Host that amazes even the most brilliant minds and the greatest of teachers. Let us approach that Host with humbled amazement, allowing our faith to be renewed as with the words used in the Psalm Response just a couple of weeks ago: Lord, when Your glory appears, my joy will be full.

ADULT BIBLE STUDY: Fitting that we discussed the image that hangs on the wall of the room used by our Adult Bible Study this weekend, because they have just recently completed their fall study on prayer, using the Oremus series from Ascension Press. I want to thank Diane and Mario Carlone for leading this study. Stay tuned for news about another study opportunity in 2020. THANKSGIVING & FRIDAY MASSES: As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I remind you about our Mass times for Thursday and Friday. On Thanksgiving itself (Thursday), Mass will be at 9 AM and this will be our only public liturgy, with NO evening Holy Hour, Confessions or Mass. You may recall that I decided, upon Sister Anne Germaine’s departure last summer, that our Thanksgiving Collection will continue to go to the African Missions of the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation. Lastly, you may recall that I began a new custom last year of moving the Friday Mass after Thanksgiving to noon. It will return to its regular time the following week. But, we will give ourselves the chance to catch up and sleep in right after the big holiday.

ADVENT CONFESSIONS: With the conclusion of the Church Year, that means Advent begins next Sunday. Since this season of prayerful preparation is a time when we prepare our hearts, which includes being cleansed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I am going to again employ the approach of attempting to offer as many opportunities as possible for people to celebrate the Sacrament. I have heard the comparison that Reconciliation is like brushing your teeth. When we were children, most of us waited for our parents to tell us when it was time to do it, but part of mature adulthood is knowing when it needs to be done and going by our own initiative. This is why we offer the sacrament three times each week all year round. During the preparatory seasons of Advent and Lent, we increase the number of opportunities in the following four ways: 1. Available six days each week: Monday, Thursday: 4:30-5 PM; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 7:45-8:15 AM; Saturday: 3-3:45 PM 2. Holy Hour with Confessions: Thursday, December 12th, 7 PM 3. Available after each Mass, Saturday, December 21st - Sunday, December 22nd. 4. Regional Penance Service, hosted at St. Valentine’s Church in Peru on December 19th at 6:15 pm.

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Gifford

St. Louis, pray for us!

Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!

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