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