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Third Sunday of Advent - December 15th, 2019

Dear Friends in Christ:

The third Sunday of Advent is commonly referred to as Gaudete Sunday.

"Gaudete" is Latin for the first word in our introductory antiphon for this Mass, which is the word Rejoice.

The First Sunday of Advent we were instructed to “stay awake…you also must be prepared for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” The Second Sunday of Advent we were encouraged by Saint John the Baptist to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

Now we come to the Third Sunday of Advent and the Church calls us, in the words of Saint Paul to “Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord always”. It highlights the fact that as we started our advent preparation two Sundays ago, conscious of the need to really prepare our hearts and souls for the coming of the Lord, we do so with great rejoicing because it is only in God that we find the deepest and most profound meaning of who we are and what we shall be. We rejoice this Sunday because we are already half way through our advent preparation, marked with interior reflection and conversion so that when Christmas comes our hearts and our whole being can be the new stables to welcome Christ.

Gaudete Sunday elevates the somber advent atmosphere into a more joyful expectation for the birth of Christ. So what is joy? And how is it different from happiness?

Happiness is what we feel when everything is going well and smooth. Happiness is more dependent on our outward situations – our health, our work situation, our family life, etc. But joy is being at peace with whatever situation we may face, whether it is a happy or sad situation. Joy is that assurance that though everything does not always go right, life still makes sense. It is not dependent on outward circumstances, but rather on our own relationship with God. So what am I saying? Perhaps the difference is best clarified in an example. A person who might be suffering from a chronic illness may understandably not feel happy, but he/she can still remain joyful because of the love and care of those people around him/her or because of his/her faith and trust in God.

Advent is not just looking back to the birth of Christ more than two thousand years ago, but rather it is a period of spiritual reflection on how that first birth of Christ has impacted our own lives today, here and now. That is what Advent is meant to do. These days of preparation are meant to awaken within us an awareness of what the birth of Christ and his coming as one like us really means for us every single day. Advent is meant to transform us not only in the preparation of our souls to welcome Christ, the Light of the World, but also in the way we live out our faith with clarity and boldness bringing His presence and His light into the world around us. The true spirit of Advent should transform us into being better disciples!

In the Gospel today, John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus with a question “are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Have we ever come to a certain point in our life when we found ourselves questioning if there was really a sense to everything that we do here in the Church? Have we ever asked God if this faith that we profess is the real thing or not, or should we look for another? I think over the course of life everyone has some doubts either about the faith or even God Himself. When horrible things happen in our lives or when unexpected and unexplainable things happen without any reason like sudden death, illness or tragic accidents, people can understandably question where God’s love fits in all of these. And like John the Baptist, when we question God if He is indeed for real or not, we always find an answer in the wonderful and great things that He has done in our life in the midst of our weaknesses and sinfulness. And this is where we find the reason to rejoice in God always: that in the midst of our brokenness and sometimes feeling unworthy, God does not abandon us. In fact, in the midst of our brokenness and in the midst of a sinful world in His great love for us He sends His Son, Jesus, as Emmanuel (God is with us), to show us the way to the Father, and that, my friends, is the best reason to rejoice! Happy Gaudete Sunday!

Perhaps I can suggest something we can all do today to mark this Gaudete Sunday? As individuals or as a family, reflect on what you are thankful for in life. Write down things in your life that cause you to rejoice. Then, thank God for those blessings!

Indeed we here at Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish have cause to rejoice this

Sunday! The Lord has heard our prayers and sent us an excellent candidate as our NEW YOUTH MINISTER. It is with joy that I am pleased to announce that I have recently hired Regis O'Neill, Jr., to be our Youth Minister. Recognize the last name? A fun fact is that Regis is Father O’Neill’s cousin!

Regis was born and raised in Middletown, and he comes to Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish fresh off a year of service running Catholic retreats and a youth group in Garrison, NY, with the Capuchin Youth & Family Ministry. A 2014 graduate of Xavier High School, his faith has always been an important part of his life (he thanks his parents for raising him right). Regis earned a BA in Communications, Media & Journalism from the University of Hartford prior to spending the year with the Capuchin Ministry. He loves sports, movies, and the Lord.

Regis is a dynamic Catholic man who will be a great youth leader and minister. We look forward to him creating an impactful youth ministry for our parish family! Regis will begin working in our parish this coming Monday. Keep an eye out for a Youth Ministry survey in the next couple of weeks! Welcome Regis to our parish family!

We also welcome Sarah Santone to our Parish Family as our New Facility Coordinator.

As I announced back in September with the amount of programs, events, and activities taking place in our parish each day we are in need of a Facility Coordinator to welcome people to the school building and direct them to where they need to go as well as be present should an emergency arise. Sarah Santone comes to us with an extensive background filled with a variety of experiences and an enthusiasm to serve the Church. She will be working Monday through Thursday from 5PM until 9PM as needed. Sarah and her family live in Southington. She is currently owner and creator of A More Organized World where she seeks to help with whole home organization. She also will begin with Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish this coming Monday! Welcome Sarah to our parish family!

Consecration to the Holy Family…As we did last year, 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. Over the past few weeks in the bulletin and during the weeks prior to the Feast of the Holy Family we have been offering one practical way for your family to grow closer together. I hope these have been helpful to you! I especially liked seeing some parishioners posting their family mission statement on social media!

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 28 & 29, 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. If you are willing to consecrate your family to the Holy Family then I encourage you to do two things in the week prior (December 22-29):

1. Sit down as a family each evening and pray together asking that the Holy Family watch over your family and help you to radiate the presence of Christ to those around you.

2. Fast from something that would normally be consumed (food or beverage) or an activity that is regularly done (watching television or using social media perhaps). Fasting helps to discipline our minds and hearts and moves us to be more focused on God as we know from our annual Lenten fasts.

As always, 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 united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world.

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