Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Christ is born for us! Come, let us adore Him!"

"Today, our Savior is born; let us rejoice.  Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life.  The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness....Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God's own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition.  Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member.  Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God's kingdom." -- Pope St. Leo the Great

Pope's Message for Christmas

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Cookies and Carols"

Blessed Sacrament's Young Thespians
Thirty four angels, shepherds, innkeepers and even a Roman Emperor greeted the Holy Family on Saturday, December 10th, during the “Cookies and Carols” concert.  The annual nativity re-enactment, which formerly took place before the first Christmas Eve Mass at Blessed Sacrament, has been presented during the annual concert for three years now.  Parish children from both the religious education program and the school have the first of three rehearsals inNovember, working with parents and volunteers to memorize their lines and assemble simple costumes.  This year’sre-enactment featured Jimmy Young as Gabriel, Bella Williams as Mary, and Mikey Williams as Joseph.  Older sister Rosemary Williams narrated the brief play, which was well-received by the congregation.   Father Cregan said of the performance, "The kids did great."

The author, Susan Doyle, is the Director of Religious Education at Blessed Sacrament

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blessed Sacrament Celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Church honors Our Lady of Guadalupe -- “Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization” as Blessed John Paul II declared her in 1999 – on December 12 each year. 

Priests and parishioners of Blessed Sacrament observed the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at a special celebration on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 10 with 8:30 a.m. Mass, a reenactment of Saint Juan Diego receiving the image of Our Lady on his tilma (woven cloth) and a fiesta in Quinn Hall with doughnuts and breakfast tamales.

Father Killian, parochial vicar, celebrated the bilingual Mass and Father Cregan, pastor, concelebrated.  In his homily Father Killian noted that 480 years after Our Lady appeared to Saint Juan Diego in December of 1531, the image of herself that she gave to him on his cloak that is kept in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is still as fresh and vibrant as when it first appeared.  Saint Juan Diego was canonized by Blessed John Paul II in 2002.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe shows Mary with her hands folded in prayer, and her head bowed in humility, "the indispensable key" to authentic discipleship, Father Killian noted.  He added that Mary's motherhood "is for one purpose -- the unity of mankind."  Mary herself told Juan Diego, "I am your merciful mother" and the mother "of all mankind."

         Following Mass, priests and parishioners formed a line down the center aisle of the church to place roses at the foot of a large framed replica of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a sign of honor for the Mother of God.

     Blessed Pope John Paul II visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe when he gave his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America in 1999.

As we each respond in our own vocations to the call to the New Evangelization urged by Blessed John Paul II and again by Pope Benedict XVI, we can reflect on Blessed John Paul’s words from Ecclesia in America:

“I therefore invite all the Catholics of America to take an active part in the evangelizing initiatives which the Holy Spirit is stirring in every part of this immense continent, so full of resources and hopes for the future. In a special way, I invite Catholic families to be ‘domestic Churches,’ in which the Christian faith is lived and passed on to the young as a treasure, and where all pray together. If they live up to the ideal which God places before them, Catholic homes will be true centers of evangelization.”

May each of our homes and lives reflect the light of Mary, the first and model disciple, and “the Star of the first and new evangelization.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"I am the Immaculate Conception"

On December 8, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States, by attending Mass to remember in a special way Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and to honor her as Patroness of the United States.
Masses for this Holy Day of Obligation will be held at Blessed Sacrament at 7PM on December 7 (Vigil Mass) and 6:30AM, 8:30AM, 12NN, 7PM, and 8:30PM (Spanish Mass) on December 8.
From the earliest days of the Church, Our Blessed Mother has been honored and venerated.  At the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel greets Mary at the Annunciation with the words “Hail, full of grace!” (Luke 1:28) and St. Elizabeth proclaims, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42).   Through the centuries, Christians honored our Blessed Mother as a unique and highly favored creation, whose submission to God’s will, humility, and strength were to be emulated.  In 1854, Blessed Pope Pius IX, in Ineffabilis Deus defined as dogma that “The Blessed Virgin Mary in the first instance of her conception was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race.”  At Lourdes (France), Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette eighteen times in 1858 and proclaimed “I am the Immaculate Conception,” confirming for the world that she had been conceived without the stain of original sin.

As Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote, God granted our Blessed Mother the privilege of redemption “in advance, by way of prevention, in both body and soul, in the first instant of conception….She had this privilege, not for her sake but for HIS sake.  That is why those who do not believe in the Divinity of Christ can see no reason for the special privilege accorded to Mary.  If I did not believe in the Divinity of Our Lord – which God avert – I should see noting but nonsense in any special reverence given to Mary above the other women on earth!  But if she is the Mother of God, Who became Man, then she is unique….” (The World’s First Love)

Tomorrow, as you attend Mass, ponder the great friend and intercessor we have in our Blessed Mother, and how better you might emulate her love and humility this Advent.

Additional Resources

Monday, December 5, 2011

As a child, December 6 was one of my favorite days of the year.  Growing up, we never wanted for anything, but extras were reserved Christmas, birthdays, and Easter.  And December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas.  I remember carefully placing my shoe outside my door on the night of the 5th, wriggling impatiently in my bed until I fell asleep, and then oh so quietly opening the door the morning of the 6th.  With great glee, I would shake my shoe until chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil tumbled out, along with a chocolate marshmallow treat and some pencils, stickers, or a new hair bow.  It was amazing how much St. Nicholas could cram into my shoe! 

St. Nicholas is, of course, more than the shoe-filling, list checking, red-suited wrestler of reindeer that society has turned him into.  He was the bishop of Myra (in present day Turkey) in the 3rd/4th Century.  Much of what we know about him comes from The Golden Legend, written in A.D. 1275 by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of  Genoa, and is reinforced by the simple traditions for children.  For example, my golden wrapped chocolate coins?  They were meant to remind us of the story of St. Nicholas providing a neighbor with gold for dowries for his three daughters, thus saving the poor young women from lives of ill repute. 

Tomorrow, we should remember St. Nicholas, reflecting on his life of charity and his love for Christ.  We should not forget that behind the a jolly man in a red-suit is a real man, a real saint who is worthy of our veneration.  Take some time today to read more about St. Nicholas, patron saint of children, seaman, brides, and many others.

Father, hear our prayers for mercy, and by the help of St. Nicholas, keep us safe from all danger and guides us on the way of salvation.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

More Resources:
  1. Feast of St. Nicholas
  2. Life of St. Nicholas
  3. St. Nicholas of Bari
  4. St. Nicholas

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Prepare the Way of the Lord!"

On this second Sunday of Advent, we once again meet St. John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, who, challenges the people of Israel to repent and to prepare for the coming of the long-expected Messiah.  It is an immediate invitation that causes many to escape to the wilderness to meet St. John, to be washed in the waters of the Jordan, and to confess our sins.  We, too, await the Christ, not just as we commerate His birth, but as we wait to meet Him again at the end of our days. 

As Pope Benedict writes,

And it is today, in the present, that we decide our future destiny. It is with our concrete everyday behavior in this life that we determine our eternal fate. At the end of our days on earth, at the moment of death, we will be evaluated on the basis of our likeness or otherwise to the Baby Who is about to be born in the poor grotto of Bethlehem, because He is the measure God has given humanity.  Through the Gospel, John the Baptist continues to speak down the centuries to each generation. His hard clear words bring health to us, the men and women of this day in which even the experience and perception of Christmas often, unfortunately, reflects materialist attitudes. The 'voice' of the great prophet asks us to prepare the way for the coming Lord in the deserts of today, internal and external deserts, thirsting for the water of life which is Christ.

This Advent, consider one way in which you can better prepare to meet Christ.  Perhaps you have not sought Him in the sacrament of Reconciliation for months or years.  Emulate the people of Judea and run to meet Him in the person of our priests in the confessional.  Perhaps you might find time to meet Him more frequently in the Eucharist--come to daily Mass.  Or perhaps you might renew your intentions to meet Him in our brothers and sisters who are in need of help. Hasten to meet Him today!

Links for the Second Sunday of Advent:
  1. Blessed Sacrament Confession Schedule; Confessions are also heard M-F after the 6:30AM Mass
  2. Find Confession Times at other Parishes in Arlington
  3. Information on the Archdiocese of Washington's Come Home for Christmas Program
  4. Holy Father's Angelus Remarks

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Be Watchful! Be Alert!"

Jesus exhorts His disciples in today's Gospel to "Be Watchful! Be Alert!"  We, too, are exhorted to be watchful and alert as we prepare for the coming of Christ.  As we begin our journey this Advent, we are reminded, amidst shopping, cookie-baking, and holiday parties, that we are to prepare to celebrate the birth of Our Lord and to prepare for His Second Coming.  As St. Cyril of Jerusalem reminds us in a reading from today's liturgy of the hours,

We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but the second as well, much more glorious than the first.  The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom....At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manager.  At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment.  In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.  We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. 

Today, our Holy Father, in his Angelus, also reminds us to "heed the message in today’s Gospel by entering prayerfully into this holy season, so that we may be ready to greet Jesus Christ, who is God with us."  As you start your Advent journey, take a moment to consider how you are preparing to meet Christ.  Renew your commitment to prayer this Advent, to corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and to living an authentically Christian life.

Resources for the First Sunday of Advent

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Solemnity of Christ the King and Diocesan Consecration to the Sacred Heart

The Sacred Heart of Jesus
     This Sunday, November 20 is the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last day of the liturgical year.  As the Opening Prayer for Mass says, "Almighty and merciful God, you break the power of evil and make all things new in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe."

   Also on this day, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of our Diocese of Arlington consecrated our diocese to the Sacred Heart.  Writing about today’s consecration, Bishop Loverde said in his Nov. 9 column in the Arlington Catholic Herald, “At the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More at 9:30 a.m., I will consecrate our diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Similarly, each parish will be led in a consecration on that same weekend at each of the Masses.  As part of this consecration, parishioners will be provided with an image of the Sacred Heart to enthrone in their homes, with a place for families and individuals to sign their names in recognition of their own consecration to the Sacred Heart." 

    The Bishop explained how this consecration can help us grow in faith as we engage in the new evangelization, “I am concerned that our hearts are increasingly prone to distraction, anxiety, fear and sin.  Therefore, our need for the Heart of Christ is all the more urgent.  Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Divine Mercy have greatly helped me in my own life, and I cannot help but hope that others will find them worthy aides to faith.  We can’t share what we don’t have.  If we are not daily cultivating our gaze on the Heart of Christ, then we are not being all that we are called to be.  I hope Fountain of Life, Fire of Love will play a part in spurring men and women of faith to a deeper love of Jesus, and a deeper desire to share His love with others.  This is at the heart of the new evangelization.”    

   The Bishop's column, his pastoral letter on the Sacred Heart of Jesus "Fountain of Life, Fire of Love"  and many resources about the Sacred Heart are available on a new page on the diocesan website about of the Heart of Christ.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Father Cregan Attends Rome Conference on the New Evangelization

    As the Church looks ahead to both the Year of Faith (Oct. 11, 2012-Nov. 24, 2013) declared by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei (Door of faith) and the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith” our pastor, Father John Cregan, gathered in Rome last month with thousands of participants from around the world at a conference to discuss efforts in the New Evangelization.  The meeting was organized by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, established by Pope Benedict in June 2010, with the theme “New Evangelizers for the New Evangelization - The Word of God grows and spreads.”

Father Cregan said he was invited because he is a spiritual director for the international group Youth 2000. “The whole purpose was to gather input for this new office they have for the New Evangelization initiative and that will be presented to the bishops next year when they come for the Synod,” he said. On Saturday, Oct. 15 the conference participants met the Pope in the Paul VI Audience Hall and on Sunday, Oct. 16 they attended Mass celebrated by the Pope in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Knowledge of the faith was a key message of the conference. “If we are going to evangelize, we have to know our faith -- make sure that you are truly a faithful Catholic follower of Jesus, that you embrace all the teachings of the Church and that you know your faith,” said Father Cregan.  “We can’t give what we don’t have.”
           The Pope himself described the world’s need for the New Evangelization in June 2010 when he established the new Pontifical Council, saying its “principal task will be to promote a renewed evangelization in the countries where the first proclamation of the faith has already resonated and where Churches with an ancient foundation exist but are experiencing the progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God.’”
Father Cregan pointed out, “Where secularism and relativism come together is this loss of the understanding of moral absolutes, that there is Truth.  It is a reality.  … If we don’t embrace the Truth and see that there are moral absolutes it hurts us and we lose an awful lot.  The secular world basically doesn’t look up, they look this way (horizontal) and values are lost.”
How does someone participate in the New Evangelization? Father Cregan explained, “To me it’s one on one.  It’s (through) the people that God brings into your life and He wants you to be an instrument of the truth coming to these people.  (It’s through) little things, like you go to work and say to someone ‘I hear your mother is very sick.  I want you to know yesterday at church I prayed for your Mom.’  We’re showing ourselves as people of faith.”  He also encouraged families to have and read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and for young people to read YOUCAT, a catechism for youth that was distributed at the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain.
“When issues come up that are contrary to the teachings of the Church we can speak in a kind, compassionate but very direct way … to help people to see that people don’t go along with the flow,” he added.  “You give people something to think about.  But then through the joy of your life you make (the faith) very attractive.”
Father Cregan also stressed the importance of the Eucharist and how necessary it is “to develop a love for this gift because it’s a gift of love, it’s a sacrament of love.  It is a life changer because it brightens our life with hope and lifts us up above our weaknesses.  It’s such an incredible gift …If we stay in holy communion with Jesus through this sacrament, it’s a sure way to Heaven.”
The author, Jennifer Reed, is a Blessed Sacrament Parishioner.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Prayer for Veterans Day

Our Father, who art in Heaven: give us, we pray You, the courage and the strength to stamp out the threat of paganism and slavery that hangs over the world today.
Be merciful to all those who have died in the service of our country.
Console those who have lost their loved ones in the struggle.
Help our fighting men to be always clean of heart and therefore unafraid.
Soothe the wounded in battle.
Sustain the courage of those who suffer persecution for conscience’ sake.
Have pity on all those who have been insulted, robbed, tortured, defiled, enslaved by their conquerors.
Grant wisdom to our leaders, civil and military, that they may most effectively direct our efforts, at home and abroad.
Teach us all to walk humbly with You, so that we may be worthy to conquer, and having conquered may build a peace with justice, based on the Brotherhood of Man, under the Fatherhood of God.

– From the Wartime Prayer Book by Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Servant of God)

Thank you to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve, including our own Fr. Cregan.  May God bless you today and always.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church - November 10

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Leo the Great, who became pope in 440 and was made a Doctor of the Church in 1754. 

Pope John XXIII marked the Fifteenth Centennial of Saint Leo the Great's death in 1961 with the encyclical Aeterna Dei Sapientia (God's Eternal Wisdom) quoting a sermon by Saint Leo:

"The reception of Christ's Body and Blood does nothing less than transform us into that which we consume, and henceforth we bear in soul and body Him in whose fellowship we died, were buried, and are risen again" (Serm. 64. 7 on the Passion, PL 54. 357).

Saint Leo the Great, pray for us!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Feast of the Dedication Saint John Lateran - November 9

Today is the Feast of the Dedication of Saint John Lateran, "the mother and head of all churches of the city and of the world" (omnium ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis mater et caput), the cathedral church of Rome and the local parish of the Holy Father as the Bishop of Rome. 
 "Christians rightly commemorate this feast of the church, for they know that through her they were reborn in the spirit." (Office of Readings, from a sermon by Saint Caesarius of Arles).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Treasure to Behold: The New English Translation of the Roman Missal

We will soon experience the Mass in a way that is even closer to the Scriptures and more poetic than we have known.  After many years of careful work, the new English translation of the Roman Missal, the prayers of the Mass from the official Latin texts, will begin to be used at Masses in dioceses throughout the United States on the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, 2011.  But changes to the Roman Missal over the centuries are not new at all — these are simply the newest changes to the Missal.

With the new English translation, the whole Church in the United States has a new opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the Mass and how important it is in each of our lives, said Fr. Terry Cramer, Parochial Vicar at Blessed Sacrament Parish. “The attitude we should have is that this is an invitation to go deeper and deeper into the Mass,” he told parishioners gathered in Quinn Hall on Saturday, Oct. 29 for his presentation on the new translations.

“Why is the Church doing this? Changes the Church does are always for the betterment of our souls, “ Father Cramer said. “ The Church does change. Anything that is organic and living changes.  Think back to the early Church, when people gathered in people’s homes for Mass.  The Mass back then didn’t look like what the Mass looks like today.  But Who we worship and the essence of the Mass does not change.  It has remained exactly the same for 2,000 years.  The way we celebrate has to be adapted to times and places.”

The following provides an overview of how often the Roman Missal has changed over the centuries:

  • 1570 – Pius V promulgated the first Roman Missal as mandated by the Council of Trent (1545-1563)
  • 1604 – Clement VIII
  • 1634 – Urban VIII
  • 1834 – Pope Leo XIII
  • 1920 – Pope Benedict XV
  • 1962 – Pope John XXIII (used today for Masses in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, sometimes called Tridentine Rite)
  • 1970 – Paul VI
  • 1975 – Paul VI
  • 2000 - John Paul II

The parish is providing several resources to help: at the parish office booklets are available “Understanding the Revised Mass Texts” by Fr. Paul Turner, also laminated cards with the new words soon will be in the pews, along with new Ritual Song books which will have the whole Mass in the front of it.  Fr. Cramer said, “We’re not going to leave you high and dry. You’ll have the resources. ... In your prayer time, look over some of the changes to the prayers, take that to adoration and read over it. Allow these changes, these beautiful prayers, to sink into your soul and make a difference.”

After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) the amount of Scripture readings proclaimed in the Mass increased, so the Roman Missal was divided into two books, the Lectionary and the Sacramentary.  The big red book that you see on the altar that the altar servers hold up for the priest, the Sacramentary, which contains the prayers the priest uses, and the Lectionary for Mass, with the Scripture readings, make up the Roman Missal.  With the new English translation, the name of the Sacramentary will change to the Roman Missal.

In 1963, the revised rite of the Mass was called for in the Vatican II document Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy by Pope John XXIII.  Very soon after the Council ended in 1965, the revised Order of Mass in Latin with the people’s parts in the vernacular (language native to a region or country) was published.  The English translations from the official Latin texts, first issued in 1966, were done very quickly, aiming to get the texts out as soon as possible and to capture the spirit or essence of the Latin texts rather than a word for word translation.  Rather than a word for word translation from Latin, the Vatican document Comme le Prévoit (“So as to allow”) called for a “dynamic equivalent” translation to express the ideas that were in the Latin text.  For more on this, see this article by Father Bryan P. Babick, SL.L., the diocesan vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments of the Diocese of Charleston, SC, “Does the new translation mean we've been wrong?

For example, our current translation of the people’s response during the Liturgy of the Eucharist has “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  Fr. Cramer said, “That is nowhere near what it says in Latin, which is ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’”  We recognize the words “that you should enter under my roof” as the words the centurion said Jesus in asking him to heal his servant. “The centurion said …, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).

Fr. Cramer added, “The Latin Mass is not changing.  It is the standard text, so it will always stay the same.  This is not the new Mass. It is a newly translated Missal.”

In 1969, Pope Paul VI promulgated the revised rite of Mass as the definitive Latin text with his Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum, with the changes to be used beginning the First Sunday of Advent of that year. However, the revised Roman Missal itself actually was published in 1970.  It was translated into English and issued in 1974.  A second Latin edition of the Roman Missal was issued in 1975.  It was published in English in 1985 and is the one the priests use today in the Sacramentary.  For the Great Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II promulgated the third edition of the Roman Missal.   

To guide the translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal into the vernacular, in 2001, the Vatican issued a document Liturgiam authenticam (On the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publication of the Books of the Roman Liturgy) which called for “formal equivalency” in the translation from Latin to the vernacular. The document states, “it seems necessary to consider anew the true notion of liturgical translation in order that the translations of the Sacred Liturgy into the vernacular languages may stand secure as the authentic voice of the Church of God” (7).  It later says: “While it is permissible to arrange the wording, the syntax and the style in such a way as to prepare a flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer, the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses” (20).

Another reason for the need for the new Roman Missal is that more feasts have been added to the Church.  Under Pope John Paul II numerous saints were proclaimed in the Church, such as Saint Padre Pio and many others, but they’re not in the Sacramentary now. They are now in the new Missal.  Father Cramer noted, “Eventually, 20 years from now, 30 years from now there will be more saints and we will need to have a new Missal again.  It’s quite normal that throughout the centuries of the Church we get new Missals.  What’s more remarkable is that we don’t do it more often.”

The changes should be accepted as an invitation to pause and reflection on what, after so many years, we may have taken for granted, Fr. Cramer added.  “I can tell you that there is an absolute great need for this.” 

He said a middle school student asked him recently, “Why do the priests have that consecration prayer when the hosts come from the convent? Surely the nuns blessed them.”  The student did not understand that the Eucharist is confected by a priest by pronouncing the words of consecration in the Mass and that it truly becomes the Body of Christ, just as at the Last Supper.  “So many people don’t… grasp what the Mass is and Who the Eucharist is!  So hopefully this will help us go a little deeper, especially parents with children, grandparents …help your grandchildren understand what the Mass is.  Because if we believe (the Eucharist) is only a symbol, then … we’re no better than a country club that gets together because we like each other.  We are at Mass to be on our knees before God.”  He noted that among Catholics today, “not just children, but many adults believe the Eucharist is a symbol and not Christ Himself.”

Father Cramer said of the current changes, “I’d say within two years, at most, it will become a lot more natural for us.  The first several times it’s going to be very different. .. But the reaction shouldn’t be to pull back, it should be to dive in. The more work we put into it, the easier it’s going to be and the more beautiful it’s going to be.”

Pope Benedict XVI himself, to stress the connection between our daily lives and the Mass, wrote two of the new options the priest may choose from for the dismissal prayer at the end of Mass.  They are "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord" and "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."
The author, Jennifer Reed, is a Blessed Sacrament Parishioner

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our Visit to Blessed Sacrament's Sister Parish of San Marcos in Honduras

By Blessed Sacrament parishioner Marybel Enriquez

(left to right) Cesarina Berrigan, Father Luis Alonzo, Father Anthony Killian, and Edgar Enriquez
On Wednesday, September 14, Father Anthony Killian, Cesarina Berrigan, Edgar Enriquez and I, traveled to Honduras. The experience began when we were welcomed at the airport by Father Luis Alonzo and Senor Danilo. We had the opportunity to visit some communities that are part of the parish of San Marcos (Saint Mark), the churches and lay leaders who work with Father Lonchito, as he is fondly called by his parishioners.

The visit lasted eight days; a time of discovery during which we found out about the organization of a parish with 75 villages in 3 municipalities: Belen, La Iguala and Gracias. The parish is full of the Holy Spirit and courageous lay leaders that respond to the challenge of evangelization and to the constant “yes” to the call of their pastor, Fr. Lonchito. He is a shepherd who feeds his flock.

We visited almost a dozen church communities, including Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Puerta de Ocote Community; Good Shepherd Church, Matazano Community; Sacred Heart of Mary Church, Quelac Community; Santo Niño de Atocha Church, Sarzal Community; Good Shepherd Church, San Isidro Community; Holy Rosary Church, Belen Community; Church of La Merced; The Church of St. Martin; Santa Lucia Church; San Marco Church and Risen Christ Chapel of Juan Manuel Galvez Hospital. In most churches there is also a chapel for the Blessed Sacrament.

(left to right) Marybel Enriquez, Bishop Luis Santos, Father Anthony Killian
Among the activities in which we participated were the procession of Our Lady of La Merced (Mercy); selection of Godmother for the Virgin of La Merced; visit to the parish radio station, Radio Caleb, and lunch with the staff: Ivan Gomez, Freddy Perez, Gustavo, Blanca, Ana Luisa; and meeting with Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos of the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán.

San Marcos has a Parish Council made up of representatives from the eight areas in which the parish is divided, as well as the coordinators of each of the three ministries, Prophetic, Liturgical and Social, as well as members of the Economic Council. There are 135 basic ecclesial communities in the parish of San Marcos, each community consists of 10 to 20 people who meet every week to pray, meditate on the Word and help each other. Father Lonchito is responsible for the spiritual growth of the leaders and members of the community.

On October 22 and 23, 855 candidates will receive the sacrament of Confirmation. Every ecclesial community is responsible for the formation in the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Marriage and Father Lonchito advises and organizes the celebration for each of the Sacraments.

We met and had dinner with Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, a total of 40, and we observed that the leaders working with the Father Lonchito have an agenda and use it to take notes of what is discussed at the meeting.  We also had dinner with those involved in the parish’s Prophetic Ministry who are catechists and kerygma leaders, were able to share their mission experiences in spreading the faith.

With the Social Ministry, we had the opportunity to attend two Masses at the Presidio (prison) along with the prisoners and be part of a group of members from different communities that assist with the lunch service (chicken, rice, salad, drinks and hot tortillas), which provides 600 meals to prisoners and guards. It was remarkable experience to visit a prison that houses 544 men, to see some of them participate in the celebration of Mass as members of the choir or altar servers, and together celebrate God's presence in a place where He can be worshiped and praised as well.

A young parishoner
The whole community welcomed us with a smile. We also shared time with some families including Juan and Maria Isabel Pineda, Mario and Rosita Cruz and the Franciscan Sisters Nancy and Brenda. They hosted us with all the comforts we could ask for: hot water, fans, hammocks and tasty coffee all day.

Surrounded by mountains and clouds we celebrated Mass every day and experienced the simplicity of our Honduran brothers and sisters involved in activities of faith, giving everything they can give, and responding to Christ's call to serve. We have great pride in being Catholics, and at the same time we realized that Blessed Sacrament is not indifferent to the needs of other parishes, specifically to our sister parish in Honduras. We were able to witness how resources are used to spread the Gospel through radio and different ministries which remind me of our early church which communicated the good news of God’s kingdom through spoken testimony.

On behalf of all our brothers and sisters of the parish of San Marcos in Honduras, we express our deepest gratitude for your generosity and prayers.