Dear Friends in Christ:
Third Sunday of Advent…Gaudete Sunday begins our Third Week of Advent. Gaudete is a Latin word which means to “rejoice.” The spirit of joy that marks our celebration today and throughout this week comes from the words of Saint Paul in the second reading today, “Rejoice always.” This joyful spirit is marked by the third candle of our Advent wreath, which is rose colored, and the rose-colored vestments often used at the celebration of Mass on this Third Sunday of Advent.
Yes we continue to prepare in these coming days of Advent but we do so feeling the joy of the closeness of the coming of the Lord. We move through this week mindful that our longing for the coming of the Lord has prepared us to believe that the reign of God is at hand; that the birth of this Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, the One who will save his people from their sins, is ever close. That is cause for joy! That is reason to rejoice always!
Today we also move to begin using the Second Preface of Advent, which I find to be so thought provoking and spiritually rich about the coming of our Messiah. It really can be a prayer for us in the coming days:
For all the oracles of the prophets foretold him, the Virgin Mother longed for him with love beyond all telling, John the Baptist sang of his coming and proclaimed his presence when he came. It is by His gift that already we rejoice at the mystery of his nativity, so that he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise.
I pray the Lord may truly find each of us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise when He comes!
WOW! I could not believe it. We went live with the Christmas Mass reservation system at Noon on this past Monday and within less than 10 minutes one of the Masses was filled, and then within twenty-four hours five of the Masses were filled. Once again, you have proven to me your love for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but you have also shown me something else. What is it? I am glad you asked! You have shown me the importance rituals and traditions hold in our lives. Thank you for that! Thank you for your deep faith!
One of our rituals in this Season of Advent is typically confession. (By the way we have never stopped offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation…throughout the pandemic we have held “drive-up” or “walk-up” confessions outside every Saturday at 3PM until heard. Here is a picture of Father Federico in the rain one day hearing someone’s confession) Heeding the words of Saint John the Baptist, the precursor for the Lord, we seek to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” (Mark 1:3) These words we heard last Sunday remind us all that the Season of Advent is a time of preparation and purification. One of the many ways we as Catholics get ready for the coming of Christ, both at His birth and at the Second Coming, is by ridding ourselves of sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). Sadly this can often be overshadowed by all the other “stuff” we busy ourselves with in preparation for Christmas. We “normally” busy ourselves so much with cooking, baking, SHOPPING, partying, and entertaining that we often lose focus on what we really SHOULD be doing during Advent and that is preparing our hearts and our souls for the coming of Christ.
Perhaps this year, with all the restrictions in place due to COVID, more of us will take the time to TRULY prepare our hearts and our souls for Christ. Advent is a perfect time for reconciliation and penance because of two reasons: One, it allows us to ritually (and) sacramentally acknowledge our own incompleteness. Second, it allows God to touch us, and give us the completeness, the healing, the fullness, that only he can give. In Advent, we also cannot ignore that nagging feeling that all is not perfect in our lives. In a deep way that we can scarcely articulate, we long for the completeness that can only come from Jesus Christ.
I was listening to Catholic Satellite Radio the other day while in the car and the host asked his guest, what advice would you give local Catholics to make a good confession this Advent? The answer was simple and yet profound, Go! Just do it! YES. The more I thought about that response the more I wanted to say to you JUST DO IT. Any reason you can think of for not going is just evil working against you. There is a saying that we are only as sick as our deepest secret. Well, if that is true — and I believe it is — then God obviously wants us to be healthy. When the priest, in the name and person of Jesus Christ, says, “I absolve you from your sins,” there is very little in life to compare to that feeling. JUST DO IT and you will see for yourself what I am saying!
But Father I am nervous and it has been a REALLY long time…IT IS OK! Tell the priest it has been a long time. Tell the priest you don’t know the prayers. Tell the priest you are scared or that you can’t remember everything you’ve done. And then be freed from your sin! It is quite a feeling! Don’t miss this chance!
We are holding a Penance Service LIKE NEVER BEFORE!!! Due to COVID, we have had to get creative to make sure our parishioners can receive the Sacraments while maintaining the health and safety of all involved. We have really had to think outside the box these past nine months. It has stretched us. It has tested us. It has pushed us to work together in ways we never have before. And a Penance Service is just one more example. We would “normally” gather in Saint Thomas Becket Church, hear a priest give a short reflection on the Sacrament, and then have the opportunity for individual confessions in the classrooms while music was played in the Church for prayer and reflection time. This cannot take place this year due to the restrictions placed on us during this pandemic.
SO, what can we do? Father Federico and I were discussing how successful the Drive-Through Holy Communion Day was in November and how we would like to do that again in December for our parishioners who are not coming “in-person” to Mass and as we were talking about it, a thought came to me, “what if we could get other priests to help and have Confession and Eucharist?”
NEXT SUNDAY, December 20th, we have four priests coming to assist us NO MATTER what the weather is! They will be in the lot behind the rectory for the Sacrament of Reconciliation from 2-4PM! THIS IS OPEN TO EVERYONE! Enter through Cherry Street and follow the directions of the Knights of Columbus who will be directing traffic! If you are alone in the car you will be able to do a drive-up confession without leaving your car, and if you have more than one in your car you will be directed where to park to enable you to do a walk-up confession (please make sure you remain socially distant for your safety and that of your confessor). After you have experienced God’s mercy then you will be directed to leave the lot by the exit on Main Street!
For our virtual parishioners we will, at the same time, be offering the opportunity for Drive-Up Holy Communion…here are the details…
For those wishing to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation please enter the property by way of Cherry Street and follow the procedures outlined above.
Once you have gone to Confession you will be asked to exit to Main Street!
If you already attended Mass that morning, then you can simply go home freed from your sin!
If you are a member of our Virtual Family of Faith then you can enter the church parking lot on the other side of the rectory, follow the signs around the church, and receive Holy Communion.
If you are not going to Confession for whatever reason, you can simply follow the same pattern by entering the church parking lot by the driveway between the rectory and the church and following the signs.
Please be sure to consume Holy Communion before pulling away from us!
The whole experience will be as safe as we can possibly make it. You don’t even need to leave the car!
Consecration to the Holy Family…As we did the last couple of years, together with the local council of the Knights of Columbus, Santa Fe Council 2978, I am very excited to announce we will be participating in the Consecration to the Holy Family. This initiative is meant to help strengthen the families within our Parish Family. The Knights of Columbus, together with Father Federico and I, invite each family of our Parish to consecrate your family to the Holy Family and to devote yourselves to the ideal model of familial love set by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Consecrating your family to the Holy Family provides you great intercessors to help you as a family to follow their model of living lives obedient to God’s Will, strong in faith, persevering in prayer, diligent in work, and generous towards those in need.
We will invite all families to consider standing up at Masses on the weekend of December 26 & 27, the actual Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and to pray together the Prayer of Consecration to the Holy Family. Our local council has purchased prayer cards for each family to use during those Masses and take home with you which they will be handing out at the doors of the Church that weekend at ALL MASSES.
As always, please remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and Blessed Father Michael J. McGivney, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world.