This has been quite a week for our nation. I see many who are excited and celebrating the Inauguration of a new President and Vice President, others are worried about what changes may come. Like most things in the fallen world that we live in, there will likely be good and bad to come. I keep thinking of the words of Job. “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21). I like to remember that verse that reminds us to be thankful for the good we see and to bear the ills we see patiently. We’re called as a Christian people to first cling to Jesus and his Church. In a fallen world, no matter what age we live in, things in the world aren’t always going to line up with what Christ calls us to. It’s our job as a Christian people to encourage the good, and work to change the bad. So, as a parish, as a nation, I hope we can do just that . . . learn the faith that Jesus has established, live the faith that Jesus has established, cling to the faith that Jesus established, and encourage those places where our world and our government fall into line with Christ’s teaching, challenging the places where it goes astray.
One of the things I’ve wanted to implement since I’ve been here are more opportunities to help people connect to our faith in a devotional way. I was pleased last March when we had the Coronavirus Novena and I saw not just some good participation, but also people who asked if we could do it again. Then, a few weeks ago, after the incident at the capitol, we held a Holy Hour and Rosary for our nation. For such short notice, I got many positive comments about that as well. It seems that novenas that work alongside concerns in our nation are a good devotional practice for our parish. With that in mind, I’d encourage those of you who have been praying the “9 Days for Life Novena” with us. Even if you got started a little late, all the Novena prayers are in the back of Church and available online at http://9daysforlife.com, so feel free to start today, and pray the novena with us. I’d also encourage everyone to join us this Thursday for a Holy Hour for Life. I’m still working out the format, but it will be similar to the Holy Hour for our Nation that we prayed a few weeks ago. It’s very exciting for me to see our parish coming together to pray together more. This is good work we should be doing as a Church.
We also had another exciting event happen this week. After nearly a year’s worth of organization and planning we had our first Parish Pastoral Council meeting this week. Committees were started and organization is beginning. I had a few people ask me: “Who’s on council?” For this year, our Parish Pastoral Council members are Jennifer Wilson, Erin Shutty, Bethany Barnosky, Diane Waksmunski, Chris Hoover, Steve Kirsch, Colleen Cedor, Steve Bender, Michalene Weiland, Jody Delosh, and Mary Kudlawiec. I’d like to thank all of them for their willingness to work together for the building up of our parish. While the meetings will be open to the parish, I’d ask you to give them a meeting or two to be able to gather and get committees organized before we bombard them with questions. Moving forward, the meetings dates and times will be published in the bulletin at least the week before. We’re tentatively planning a regular meeting time as the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 6:30pm, though that may changed based on the availability of the council members. Please keep them all in your prayers as we begin to keep things organized. In the next few months, I hope to post a few bulletin articles on what the functions of a parish council are, how they came about, and how we’re working to do those things here at Prince of Peace.
Meanwhile, on our religious education front, I hear our Sophomores had a successful confirmation session and our Juniors had the first part of their retreat. Just as a reminder, for all of our young people and their families preparing for first communion and confirmation, make sure to keep an eye out on our parish Website and for Sister’s emails about updates for Confirmation. Most of our young people have been keeping up remarkably well. It’s good to see so many new and creative ways our young people have been able to prepare for the sacraments with the realities of our world right now. However, we do have a responsibility as a parish to ensure our young people are properly prepared. If you’re not sure of confirmation or communion preparation requirements, please give Sister a call or send an email. We’ll do whatever we can to help any young person who contacts us to meet the requirements, but there are still requirements that need to be met.
In other news this week, we received two “Pandemic Policy” updates from our bishop this week. I just wanted to let everyone know about them ahead of time. First, on February 2nd, we’ll have our normal Blessing of Candles for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. That following weekend, we’ll have the Blessing of Throats. This year, we will not have individual throat blessings, but instead will have a communal blessing of throats. Similarly, Ash Wednesday will be a little bit different this year. Pope Francis has directed all Catholic Churches for this year will distribute ashes in the “European” way. Here in the US, we typically make the sign of the cross with ashes on a person’s forehead. In Rome and in much of the rest of the world, ashes are instead sprinkled on top of the person’s head. That means there won’t be a visible cross. I wanted to tell everyone about it a few weeks ahead just so we’re not surprised. In some ways, I find it fits a little better with the readings that day. The readings call us to “wash our face and not to let others know we are fasting.” So this year, that will have a little more reality for us.
Finally, I’m making one other change this year. Now that our parish database has been completed, we’re able to automate the process of printing Contribution Letters. Sometime this week, all parishioners who contributed more than $100 to Prince of Peace in 2020 should receive a contribution letter that you will be able to use for your taxes. I think it’s important that we make sure to thank all of you for your support of your parish. If you find any discrepancies with your letter, feel free to call us at the office.
Please know that you are always in my prayers,
I think we’ve all had those moments when it felt like we were taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. I know that’s what I’ve been feeling like this week. It’s easy for jobs that we think should only take weeks turn into months. I know it’s been a long time in coming, but I’m happy to say that our parish council will finally be having their initial meeting! I’m hopeful that as we get moving and get some committees going, we’ll both be better able to get parishioner input on what’s going on, better able to get some of our routine parish activities accomplished in a more reasonable timeframe, and better able to keep our parish active. I know it’s been frustrating for me the last few months, I’ve had a number of people willing to help with things around the parish, but until we get some organization to it, it’s hard to actually hand those things off to those volunteers. I’m really hopeful that by meeting as a council, we’ll begin to really make that process happen enabling you to better take ownership of this parish. I still remember when I first came, someone asked me “so what are your plans for your new parish?” and after thinking I responded, it’s not just my parish. It’s the Lord’s parish and it’s our parish. We’ve got to figure this out together.” I still believe that and it’s good to see progress in that direction.
Meanwhile, this has been a pretty busy week for our cemeteries. I’ve had a few people inquiring about graves, and I’m happy to say that we’ve made some major progress. It’s quite an adventure digging into the old cabinets and working through multiple maps. I had a meeting with the vendor who setup our database this week, and we’ve got quite a few sections pretty much completed at this point. It’s a long process, combining data from multiple sources and getting the paper information consolidated into 3-ring binders and the digital information input into the appropriate systems. We’ve got a ways to go, but it’s really good to see progress. The good news is that the sections with plots for sale are mostly completed.
So if you’re interested in a plot at St. John’s (flat or upright) or St. Stan’s (flat only) things are pretty clear and ready to go. In the next month or two we’ll be opening a new section at Mount Carmel, once that’s ready, we’ll be ready to go there as well.
As we all know, this pandemic had changed our lives dramatically. Coming up in the next week, is something that’s rather disappointing for me. For the last 15 years or so, nearly every year I’ve made the trip down to DC for the March for Life. Considering the realities of this year, that trip isn’t going to be possible this year. Even so, it’s important for us to support and pray for the unborn and their families. In light of that, the U.S. Bishops have encouraged us to celebrate a novena called “9 days for Life” beginning on Thursday, January 21st and ending Friday January 29th. Paper copies of the Novena will be available in the back of Church and an electronic copy will be on our website. I’ll be recording the reflections for each day of the Novena and they’ll be available on Facebook and YouTube. Then finally, since the folks who came really enjoyed the Rosary and Holy Hour for our Nation last week, we’ll have a Holy Hour for the final night of the Novena on Thursday, January 28th from 7pm-8pm. That will make hour Holy Hour coincide with National Prayer Vigil for Life held in DC. Our Holy Hour will conclude at 8pm just as the National Prayer Vigil begins. Our Holy Hour will be streamed and the National Prayer Vigil can be viewed on EWTN. I hope that many of you will be able to join us for the Holy Hour, and that you’ll join us in the 9 Days for Life Novena.
As we continue through Ordinary Time, please know that you are all always in my prayers and I hope I remain in yours.
Merry Christmas one last time! Today, with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, is the official end of the Christmas Season. After this weekend’s masses, all the Christmas Decorations will come down and we’ll have a few weeks of Ordinary Time up until Ash Wednesday. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who helped in any way this holiday season. Although things were still a bit more limited than normal, Christmas certainly felt a whole lot more normal than Easter. It’s good to start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
This week, we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Now, we all know that Baptism washes away original sin, but if that’s the only thing we think of, it seems strange for Jesus to be baptized. After all, John the Baptist said he wasn’t even worthy to untie his sandals and yet he baptizes our Lord. It’s sort of strange when we first see it, until we realize that Jesus’s Baptism is the very thing that makes our baptism possible. As God, when he is baptized, he makes all of the waters of the world holy, making our own baptism possible. When we are baptized, we’re reborn through our Lord, reformed into his image in a new way.
I think it’s especially meaningful this year, as we walk through the sprinkling rite, realizing that since March we haven’t had holy water in the fonts at the entrance of the Church. So this weekend, how much more it means when we’re sprinkled with that holy water.
Now, this being the new year, there are lots of exciting things coming up soon. Not all the details are put together yet, but it’s nice to at least have some idea of what’s coming. First of all, we just finished our first High School Religious Ed meeting this week. Our high school students are meeting online for this spring semester, we had most everyone present, and I know Sister and I are looking forward to what’s coming. We met with our Family Catechesis group already, and more information should be coming for our elementary grades this week. Please keep our religious education students and families in your prayers, it’s quite an adjustment for all of us.
As for Parish Council, we’re currently setting dates to have our first meeting. It should be sometime this month. I’m looking forward to getting things moving.
Every year in January, we celebrate the annual March for Life. With all the current COVID restrictions, things will be a little different this year. For myself, this will be the first time in many years that I didn’t go on a bus to DC for the trip. Instead, I’m looking for us to have a time of prayer for the unborn here in our Church. I hope to have some plans to share by next week.
At the end of the Month, beginning January 31st we’ll be celebrating Catholic Schools Week. This has been an especially challenging year for all of our young people between in-person and virtual school, and for our school as well. We had a number of new parishioners start at NCCS this year, and it’s been good to see them do well. Thank you to all those who have sacrificed to choose Catholic Education.
Finally, we’ve set a date for our spring dinner. I really want to thank everyone who helped us recover after our abruptly cancelled Turkey Dinner. This spring, we’re going to change things up a little bit. Since we had already ordered the Turkeys, we’re going to have our Turkey Dinner on Sunday March 21st in a take-out only format. We’ll then plan to hold our regular Halupki (pigs-in-a-blanket) dinner sometime later this summer. Let’s hope and pray that by summer, COVID will have calmed down enough that we’ll be able to have a real sit-down dinner when it’s time for pigs.
Another good thing that has been happening in our parish the last few weeks. I’ve just sat down with a few couples who are planning weddings this summer. Please keep them in your prayers that with all the restrictions we’ve been having, they might be able to have the wedding they’ve been hoping for.
Please know that all of you are always in my prayers,
PS: As a late addition, as the bulletin was nearly finished before Wednesday’s troubling events, I simply want to ask everyone to continue to pray for our nation, especially in our current days. We certainly need God’s grace in our own lives and we need His grace in our nation.
Happy New Year! I really hope that all of you had a wonderful Christmas, that you got a chance to visit with your family, whether in person or virtually, and that you had a good New Year’s. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, the next to last Sunday in the Christmas Season. It seems like Christmas comes and goes so very quickly. Yet, isn’t that the reality for all parents, it seems like a child is born and the if you blink, they’re all grown up. Just this week I was away visiting my brother’s family and when I only get out there a few times a year, it’s amazing just how quickly his kids grow up. Next Week, we’ll celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, the official end of the Christmas Season and the move into Ordinary time, the time of Jesus’s public ministry.
The Epiphany is such an amazing feast when we really think about what’s going on. Magi in the East, quite literally priests of a pagan religion, were watching the stars, and through the stars, they were able to see what was sitting there in the Middle of Jerusalem. They came to worship the new high king, while the crowned king, Herod, was jealous and tried to kill the child. It’s amazing how when we’re close to something, any change can seem threatening. How many times have we found ourselves fighting with our families, arguing about something? Maybe someone storms off upset, or someone else angrily starts yelling. We can then look at another family and say, man...they have it nice, I wish I had what they have. Yet, if someone walked in and said the very same thing to us, “man, I wish I had what you have” we hardly believe them. It’s so easy to take for granted things we’ve known all our lives. It’s so easy to find ourselves like Herod, feeling threatened by losing power, control, or influence. It’s easy to be afraid of change. When we have something to lose, it’s easy to feel threatened.
But isn’t that the mystery of Jesus Christ, of the whole Gospel, that we’re going to lose a lot? Remember, we’re following a guy who was nailed to a tree. Yet, in losing the whole world, we stand to gain everything. I think of those Magi. They could have done just like Herod, realized that the prophesy said that a Jewish King would rule over them, and decided to go and eliminate this Jewish King. Yet, they didn’t. They chose to pay homage to him, to bring him symbolic gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. I’ve included a short article on what those gifts were all about and why they were significant, (see page 8), but I’d like us to think seriously about the idea that instead of seeing Jesus as a threat, the way Herod did, they chose to accept the change, to accept him as their King.
In our parish, lots of things have changed pretty dramatically this last year. We’re now in a new year. This month, our new parish council will begin meeting. As we get things moving, there will probably be some changes, as there are with everything. We’re going to have to make some decisions as we move forward. I’m going to be looking for your input on those decisions through the council. I’m not thinking of anything specific, and I don’t know exactly what those changes will be until we really meet and get to hear from people, but as we do walk through whatever comes in this new year, I’d ask you to really consider. Am I thinking like Herod, or like the Magi? Am I welcoming the newborn king, or am I threatened by him? Do I welcome Jesus as Lord of my life or do I want to be lord of my own life? Am I looking for how we can together share the message of Jesus Christ with the world? Or am I looking to keep ahold of what’s comfortable and familiar?
As we begin this new year, let’s choose to offer our own offerings of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh to the newborn king. Let’s choose to offer our lives to the one who loved us first.
God Bless You & Happy New Year!
- Fr Matt
Didn’t I just see you folks yesterday? Every year that Christmas falls late in the week, it feels like we’re looking at a liturgical double-header. Yet, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Having just celebrated Christmas, this weekend we celebrate “Holy Family” Sunday, and Friday we’ll celebrate the feast of Mary, as the Mother of God. All of these feast days are “family” related. So with that in mind, especially this year when COVID has often kept us separated from our families in ways that we could have never imagined, it’s good to realize just how important family really is.
I know for my own family, my Sister and her family found themselves exposed as one of my niece’s roommates tested positive the weekend before Christmas. That meant that some of our Christmas holidays had to happen over video-chat, doing the best we could to keep everyone safe. I remember that a few years ago when, because of how the schedule worked out with my Christmas masses, I wasn’t able to make it out to go see my brother’s family for Christmas, so we had to ship the presents in the mail and open presents via video-chat. It was a novel experience then. Now it’s become for so many of us, the norm this year.
In those moments, we get to choose how we’re going to react to these realities. Of course there’s sadness that we can’t hug our families in the way that we’d want to. Yet, I know I’m also thankful for the technology that allows some contact in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. As we celebrate this Holy Family Sunday, can we take a moment to be thankful for our families, realizing that even for the struggles and issues we have, there’s someone out there who struggles even more than we do. Yet, so often, it’s precisely those moments that bring us closer together. Can we imagine Mary and Joseph, hearing that their child would be destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel, and hearing those words “...and you, yourself, a sword will pierce.” Can we imagine the flight into Egypt, unsure of what would come next? Yet, through all of that, they stood together and a family and trusted in God.
As we walk through this holiday season, can we take the time to be thankful for our families, even as we encourage each other to constantly grow in our relationships with each other and with our God?
I also want to thank everyone who helped with the Christmas decorations this year. It was a bit of a smaller group than usual, due to the contagion concerns, but I really want to thank the Burba and Wilson families for organizing and decorating this year!
To everyone, I hope you enjoy this Christmas season, and that you all have a very safe and Happy New Year!
God bless you and your families!
I think, of all the Christmases of our lives, this one is a Christmas that we’ll all remember, that we’ll tell stories about for years to come. It’s a Christmas unlike any other. In so many ways we can’t gather with our families in the ways we normally do. As someone said to me this week, it’s hard to get excited about things getting cancelled for a snow-storm when we’ve been stuck in our homes for the better part of the year. I think that kind of sums up the feelings of so many folks I’ve talked to.
I’ve spoken to folks who recently had contact with someone who tested positive and so aren’t able to attend Christmas mass for the first time in their lives. More than any other year, I think we’re all aware of our own mortality. I think we’re acutely aware this year just how easily so many things we once thought were unchangeable can change. I think we’re also aware just how helpless we can feel at times amid an invisible virus sweeping through the area. It’s easy to see the darkness of the world.
Yet, today is Christmas! As we hear in our first reading, the people in darkness have seen a great light. Never before in my lifetime have those words hit me so powerfully. Light has entered into the world. Today a Savior is born to us who is Christ and Lord. He is Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, and Prince of Peace! That is the promise! That is our faith! We look at a world in need of a savior...and he’s here!
I’m reminded of the words of CS Lewis in his book “Mere Christianity”:
Enemy-occupied territory - that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.
Christmas falls near the shortest, darkest day of the year, the winter solstice. From the moment when the world on the world seems the darkest, we, as a Christian people have real hope because in this enemy-occupied territory, the rightful king has landed in the most unexpected of places, as an infant in a manger, yet that little child, grown into a man, gave his life for us on the cross. He really is our world’s only real hope. As celebrate this season of Christmas, we pledge our lives to this new-born king, this savior, this Prince of Peace, that he really will bring light to the darkness of our world, that he will save us from our sins, that he will transform this world and lead us through it to our eternal home.
All of that begins today, with this feast that we are celebrating right now. Christmas is the day our savior has arrived on our shores. Today is born our savior.
As the old song goes, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!” With our last snowfall, we’ve got a bit of a winter wonderland outside and we just might have a white Christmas. Here at Church, we’re on the final preparations for the celebration of our Lord’s birth. This weekend after the masses, our decorating crew is going to be pulling out all the Christmas decorations and transforming our Church and Chapel for Christmas.
In this week’s readings we hear all the prophesies of the coming messiah. We hear the story of David being promised that his kingdom shall endure forever and his throne will stand firm forever. This Friday, we celebrate the fulfillment of that promise as the eternal king of all the nations is born to us.
This year has been like no other year I’ve experienced in my lifetime, and I think like no other year any of us have experienced. Decades from now, I think we’ll tell stories of what happened in 2020, stories that generations from now children will probably find almost unbelievable. From March when the shutdown hit until now has been quite a wild ride, with riots, murder hornets, a crazy election, masks & shutdowns, quarantines, online schooling, and all the other things that this year has brought. If, around last Christmas, someone had told us what this year would be like, no one would have believed us.
With that in mind, I’d like us to really reflect this week on how incredible that first Christmas must have been. Imagine that these events happened in about the same span as we’ve been dealing with COVID. The Christmas before, Mary was just a young girl still living in her parents house. Imagine telling Mary all the things that were about to happen. This young girl who was yet unmarried, would not only find herself married. She’d find herself with a child not to her husband, but carrying the Son of God in her womb. There would be a census, and she would give birth during the census. She and her new husband would be visited by Magi from the East, Shepherds, and more. They would have to make a narrow escape into Egypt to avoid King Herod slaughtering all the children under 2 years old, and then they would have to figure out how they were going to raise this child, who was the creator himself. It’s a crazy story when we stop to think about it. Yet, so was this year’s story. As the old saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. Neither are the sort of story we would have ever invented, yet both are so very real.
As we reflect on that reality, if you haven’t taken the chance to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation yet, please stop by this Sunday Night at 7pm to join us.
I’d like to also invite everyone to join us for Christmas mass this year. Our Mass schedule is published on the back inside cover of the bulletin. We’ve added masses to help with the numbers in the Church. Please do your best to spread yourselves out through the available options, make sure to ask any relatives who haven’t been to mass in a while to wear their masks and work as much as we can to keep us safe. While we’ve had a few cases among our parishioners and staff, we’ve not had any outbreaks here at Prince of Peace, and I think we’d all like to keep it that way. If you are under quarantine or have health concerns and are unable to join us in person, make sure to join us virtually. All of the masses at the Church will be streamed. It’s not the same as being in Church at Christmas, and if you do have to join us that way, please know that we look forward to the day when you can rejoin us in person to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
I also want to let everyone know that the week between Christmas and New Years, we will NOT have mass in Church. I’m going to be away from Sunday Evening through Thursday Morning visiting my brother for Christmas. I will stream mass from my brother’s house for a few days for those who would like to join us online on those days, and of course, I’ll be back in plenty of time for New Year’s Eve Mass at 4pm and New Year’s Day at 12:05pm and 6:30pm.
I do have some sad news to share for anyone who may not have seen. Sister Celeste, one of the sisters of Sister Karen’s order passed away from COVID this week. Please keep her and all of the Carmelite Community of the Word in your prayers this Christmas.
Finally, as so much of the Christmas commercialism shut down, let’s make sure that we really do our best this year to celebrate the real reason for the season, the coming of the savior into the world.
God Bless You!
Blessed Gaudete Sunday!
This Sunday we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete literally means “Joy” It’s a Sunday of hope, as we walk through this Advent together. This week, as we come to December 17th, the tone of Advent will change. During all of Advent, we prepare for the coming of the one true king. During the first part of Advent, we’re focused on the reality that Jesus will come again in glory someday. We’re focused on preparing ourselves for that day, so that we’re ready when he comes again on that last day. Then, on the 17th, things change a bit, we move out of that long-term preparation, and into what we normally think about in our preparations for Christmas, preparing to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ into the world those 2,000 years ago. Beginning the 17th, at daily mass, the entrance antiphons change, we begin the “O Antiphons” ancient names for Christ that we hear most commonly in the song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. Names like “O Wisdom of God most high”, “O Root of Jesse’s Stem”, and “O Key of David”. As we hear those, it’s a reminder to us that Christmas is quickly approaching, that the Lord is on his way.
This Saturday, we also celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. It’s an amazing story, of a native Aztec man, Juan Diego. He was one of the few converts to the Catholic faith in the early days. Yet, one day, as he was walking, a beautiful woman appeared to him. She asked him to build a Church in her honor. When he told the Bishop his request, the Bishop didn’t believe him and sent him back. The woman asked him to gather roses in his tilma and show them to the Bishop. When he did, they found that on the tilma was an image of the Blessed Mother. The symbols in that image, quickly convinced nearly the entire Aztec nation to convert to Catholicism, so that even today the vast majority of Central and South America is Catholic. That same tilma is still visible at Our Lady of Guadeloupe shrine in Mexico City. It wasn’t words that convinced the people, but the faith of one man, that God took and multiplied. Whenever we’re worried about where the world is going, the single most important thing we can do, is pray and work to become the sort of Christian that God wants us to be, to work on honestly asking God’s help and working toward becoming a saint. He’s capable of taking that and doing miracles with us too!
This week in our parish, we’ve got some exciting things starting to happen. First of all, we’ll be beginning our evening Confessions this week which will be available on the 16th, 17th, and 20th, at 7pm with an additional visiting priest each evening. Please join us as we get ready for the coming of our Lord.
We also had some exciting repairs happen this week. Our new heat pump for the church has finally been installed! Hopefully that should save us some electricity this winter, help the Church get up to temperature quicker, and help with the air conditioning in the summer. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our monthly collection. The money from our monthly collection goes toward major updates and repairs to our Church, like the new heat pump. This enables us to save up over time for those major purchases that sometimes have to be fixed at a moment’s notice.
On a smaller note, we just got a new storm door for the front door of the office. The old door had been a cheaper model and in one of the last windstorms, it hadn’t latched properly and the wind quite literally ripped it off it’s hinges! Please, if you stop by the office, on your way out, help us out by making sure that door closes tightly. I don’t want to lose another door to the wind!
I look forward to seeing all of you this week at one of our evening confession times! I’m very thankful as a priest for the opportunity to hear confessions. It’s so good to hear so many folks who while they struggle with their own temptations, really are dedicated to looking to the Lord for help to make changes in bad habits, to grow in their faith, and to work toward living the sort of life that Jesus calls us to live. Regular confession is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. Imagine that no matter how far we may have strayed off the path, all we have to do is step into Church, confess our sins, and Jesus can pick us up, turn us around, and point us in the right direction! That one little action can mean the difference in where we will spend all of eternity. Let’s not ignore that amazing gift that Jesus has given us, let’s make use of it!
See you Wednesday, Thursday, or Sunday Night at 7pm!
Happy Advent! I’ve got to say with all this snow outside, it really is starting to look a lot like Christmas. Just this week, we ordered some of the pieces for our Christmas decorations that we realized we needed when we got everything out last year. The shopping season has begun, even though if you’re like me and avoiding stores right now, I think most of my Christmas shopping is going to get delivered to the back door via either a brown or white truck. Still, please make sure to check out our baskets this weekend. I know it’s not quite the same as having it during the dinner, but there’s some wonderful potential Christmas gifts down there.
Although we won’t be able to have all the normal Christmas festivities and parties this year, maybe that’s ok. I think for all of us, this year’s Christmas will be unlike any other. It’ll be a bit smaller than usual, but at the same time, maybe that’s OK. At a wedding I just celebrated last weekend between two of our parish families, Julie Pawlikowski and Brian Laurito, we only had about 14 people present for the wedding due to covid restrictions. Yet, as we looked around, both of their families were there, and the bride commented, “Wow, I’m not nearly as nervous as I would be if we had all those people” and in a real way they were able to focus not on all the externals that happen at weddings, but really on what’s most important. Now I’m not suggesting that we do away with big weddings, it’s good to celebrate and gather with family, but when these sort of necessary changes happen, can we really take these moments to appreciate the real essential parts?
This year, as we make our Advent preparations, the world is a lot scarier than it’s been in the past. This year, I think the idea of preparing the way for the Lord that we hear in the Gospel takes on new meaning. Just this week I saw that Johnstown Hospital declared they were full and have been re-routing patients to Pittsburgh. Things are getting very scary. Yet, in these moments it’s the perfect time to really work to set ourselves right with God, to renew our relationship with Jesus Christ, to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. When the world looks like it’s in trouble, it’s then that we realize how much we need a Savior.
In that light, please don’t forget about the Immaculate Holy Day coming up this Tuesday, with a Vigil on Monday. Similarly, next week, on the 16th, 17th, or 20th, please take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you’re not sure, just ask yourself, would I be able to look Jesus in the eye and say, “send me exactly what I deserve?”. If we’re not ready to do that (and I know I’m certainly not) then we need the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to ask for God’s mercy, knowing that he’ll grant it, realizing that even though we don’t deserve to be forgiven, he still wants to heal our brokenness, pick us up, and save us from our sins.
Please take advantage too of so many of the amazing Advent traditions that we can each do at home, even in these days when we can’t gather. Pick up your Oplatki, set up that Advent wreath or Jesse Tree at home, read your scriptures, or watch some Christmas themed things on FORMED.org. I’d recommend the Advent series I posted last year, “The Boy Who Became Santa”, (the story of St. Nicholas), “Christoph and the First Christmas Tree” (the story of St. Boniface), or any of the St. Nicholas or Advent materials. There’s lots of great stuff.
If you’re a reader, I’ll share my favorite Advent book, it’s available on Amazon. It’s called “Mary, as the Early Christians Knew Her: The Mother of Jesus in Three Ancient Texts” by Frederica Matthewes-Green. She’s an Orthodox woman who shares one of the non-biblical accounts of the nativity story called the “Protoevangelion of James”. It’s a book I love to read during Advent as it tells about the little details of Christmas that would have surely happened, but aren’t included in the story. Probably my favorite is a scene where Mary realizes that it’s nearly time for the child to come, so St. Joseph goes around town to find a midwife to help deliver the baby and has to explain the story of how this woman travelling with him is his wife, but it’s not his child, but it’s ok because the child is conceived by the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile the midwife simply looks at St. Joseph and says “right….just show me where she is.”
Whatever reading or devotion, or practice you do as a family, make sure that in the midst of the craziness of the world right now that you stop long enough to really work on putting our relationship with God back where it should be, so that together we can fill in the valleys, make the mountains low and prepare a highways into our hearts for the savior.
May God bless you now and always,
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! It’s hard to believe that November has been breezing past us. Christmas will be here before we know it! Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent! Today we begin to make preparations for the coming of our savior at Christmas.
I think as we’ve walked through this pandemic for most of 2020, we’ve all become a little more aware of our own mortality. As we walked through the lockdown and all of the restrictions in our world, it’s easy for tensions to run high and for our patience to be tested. In short, it’s easy for us to see our own human weakness and temptations when we’re in the midst of something like this. At the same time, if we’re paying attention, that should also clue us in on just how much we all need a savior. The good news is that we not only have one, but he’s on his way. That’s the sense I’d like all of us to really reflect on this advent season. There’s so many ways to think of Advent, but this year, with all that the world has been through, can we recognize that we not only need a savior, but we have one, one that we can turn to when we’re in trouble, one that can actually help us. He’s given us his word and Sacred Tradition to instruct us, the sacraments to strengthen us on the way, and the Holy Spirit to empower us. As we walk through advent, I’d encourage you to take advantage of a program offered through FORMED that we subscribe to called “The Road to Bethlehem”. To sign up, go to their website https://advent.augustineinstitute.org/. You’ll receive a daily reflection in email, a weekly video and action item to help put advent into practice.
G.K. Chesterton once said that the Catholic Faith has not been tried and found wanting, but has been found difficult and left untried. Let’s together, this Advent, work to really dive into our faith. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this year, especially during the shutdown, it’s that while it’s easy to use to use the excuse that “I’d pray more if I had more time” when we suddenly were stuck at home with all kinds of time….did we pray more? If not, it’s ok...but why not start now? I know for myself, I’ve found that when it would be easy to put on music in the car, or when I’m working out, I find that after putting on one of those FORMED talks, really listening to something about the faith, I walk away with a deeper sense of my relationship with God. I’d challenge you to do the same this Advent!
In parish news, please make sure to stop by our Basket Party this weekend, during the week, or next weekend. We have 111 amazing baskets, many of which would make great Christmas presents.
We’ve also settled on our Christmas Schedule. I had wanted to leave the decision to parish council, but unfortunately, I had to get the schedule out this weekend before we could organize a meeting. Especially with the holy day coming up, I needed to make sure we got everything out there. Please take a look at the schedule that will be in the bulletin from now until Christmas.
Due to COVID, Advent Confessions this year will be a little different than previous years. Rather than have a single penance service with a lot of people and 6-7 priests, each church in our area will have 2-3 nights of confession with 1-2 visiting priests each night. Here at Prince of Peace, we’re going to have 3 nights of confession, December 16th, 17th, and 20th, each at 7pm. Each night will have myself and a different visiting priest. Once we work out the schedule, I’ll let you know who’s coming each night. Please take advantage of these opportunities for the sacrament!
This year, our Bishop has allowed us to celebrate an earlier Christmas Eve Mass than normal. Since our 4pm is usually the most crowded, we’ve decided to take advantage of that. Our Christmas Eve masses this year will be 2pm at the Chapel, 4pm at the Church, 6pm at the Church, and 9pm at the Church. Christmas Day will be 9am. Our Choir will sing for the 9pm Christmas Eve Mass. Sadly, we cannot do a children’s pageant this year. Our hope is that the large crowd who normally come for the 4pm Christmas Eve Mass will divide themselves between the 2pm and the 4pm. The 4pm and the 9pm Masses will be Livestreamed. Click here to see the full schedule.
I know everyone wants to come to Church for Christmas, so I ask that we work together to make sure that everyone can attend, and that we can do our best to keep everyone safe.
May God bless you now and always,
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.