The Month of February 2018

My Friends,

“Let us not waste this season of Lent…
Pope Francis has a message for all of us in Lent, the Great Season of Grace, which begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14th (Valentine’s Day) this year.  The message of Pope Francis is simple, it is food-for-thought, it is practical.  Allow yourself the benefit of a reflective reading:

“As we anticipate the coming Forty Days of Lent, prepare yourselves so that you live the season of Lent more intensely.  Allow it to be a privileged moment to celebrate and to experience God’s mercy.

“The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and his people Israel. God shows himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat his people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth. Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images – as in the case of the prophet Hosea – show to what extent God wishes to bind himself to his people.

“This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth his boundless mercy even to making him ‘mercy incarnate’.

“This is the very heart of the gospel, in which divine mercy holds a central and fundamental place. It is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead, that first proclamation which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another. Mercy expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering each a new chance for self-examination, conversion, and renewed faith, thus restoring his relationship with God in Christ. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride.

“God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbor and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged!  I hope that all of you will reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy!  This will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy... For in the poor, the flesh of Christ becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exile who are to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us.

“In the light of this love, which as Scripture says is ‘strong as death’, the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep. Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical temptation of the Evil One to Adam and Eve, ‘you will be like God’ which is the root of all sin.  This illusion can also be seen in the sinful link to the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies.  They close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

“For all of us, then, the season of Lent is a favorable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practicing the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need.

“Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favorable a time for conversion!”

Lenten Weekday Masses
The Forty Days of Lent begin, this year on Ash Wednesday, February 14th with a 7:10 morning Mass here and the imposition of Ashes following immediately after the Gospel & Homily of the Mass.

Afterwards, weekday Mass in Lent, Monday-Friday, will be celebrated not here, but at the Old Cathedral on the Riverfront at 7:00 a.m. and at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church at Lindell and Grand at 7:15 a.m.

The norms for Lenten Fast and Abstinence are detailed below.
Could participation in daily Mass, at least once or twice each week, be an opportunity for grace-abounding as part of your Lenten Itinerary, preparing yourself to celebrate Easter with mind and heart renewed?  Think about it!

Discarding Excess Baggage
Fasting and abstaining from foods, favorite diversions, critical judgment & gossip, habits or routines, excessive use of the internet or social media, that have become part of our regular agenda, are just some ways of discarding the excess baggage in our lives.  We simplify our lives.  We create space better to hear God and are freed to live more credibly the Gospel. 

Have you begun to plan your Lenten itinerary so that you are ready to inaugurate it?  You will be better for it come Easter!  You will be more Alive in Christ!

The minimum that the Church prescribes as norms for our Lenten Itinerary are:
Ash Wednesday (February 14, 2018) and Good Friday (March 30, 2018) are days of abstinence for all Catholics over the age of 14. On these two days, fast, as well as abstinence, is also obligatory for those from the ages of 18-59.

Abstinence means refraining from meat. Fast means one full meal a day, with two smaller meals and nothing between meals (liquids are permitted). No Catholic will lightly excuse himself or herself from this obligation.

All Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence from meat. Here again Catholics will not lightly excuse themselves. If a serious health problem exists, this obligation does not apply.

Alive in Christ
            In my January All That Matters reflection here I began with the age-old conviction of the Church.  It is that, in the celebration of Mass, we not only receive the Body of Christ in Holy Communion, but we become the Body of Christ in Holy Communion.  Nourished by the Eucharist to be still more Alive in Christ we are transformed so that, each individually and all together we embody Christ for one another, and especially for the troubled and troublesome among us.

This happens most effectively when the parish family is gathered together at Mass, in name and in fact, as “one body, one spirit, in Christ”.

Over several months I have included here observations about the numbers of people regularly attending the three scheduled Sunday Masses of Obligation.  The reality is that, over the last year, regularly, the attendance at each of the three weekend Masses rarely exceeds twenty-five people.  Frequently there are fewer than fifteen people participating at a Mass. Often enough, of those, the majority are visitors/tourists, rather than parishioners. 

I have discussed this, several times, with our parish pastoral council.  The members have concurred that it is appropriate and timely, now, to review and revise our weekend Mass schedule.  It is likely that there will be one Vigil Mass of Sunday on Saturday evening and one Sunday Morning Mass.  I hope, by email to all households of record, in coming weeks, to invite you to express, as a recommendation, your preference for the Sunday Morning Mass time.

A decision, then, and the implementation, will take place after sufficient time for notification is published for parishioners and at the various apartments, condominiums and various venues which make our Mass schedule available on the request of their residents or guests.  This will not take place before Easter Sunday.

This, then, is a “second word” concerning our Sunday Eucharist.  In coming weeks, further reflection on the Sunday Eucharist, as well as specific details, will come your way here or by email.
Contribution Statements
Contribution Statements for the calendar year 2017 were mailed, as promised, by January 31, 2018.  If you have questions regarding your statement, please contact the parish office.  Please do so only by email at:  Our parish staff will provide clarification or correction in a timely way as you begin your 2017 income tax preparation.
            Again, too, thank you for your generous support of our mission and our ministry!

For Safety Sake
You likely have read recently about some security issues and the reasons in and around our part of center city.  A committed and persistent group of concerned residents here, and other stakeholders in our neighborhood here, have been tireless in pressuring city and police leadership about the need to address effectively the causes and the remedies.  We owe them a real debt of gratitude in what has, often, not been an easy initiative!

For now it is enough to say that: 1) if at any time you experience discomfort because you see or encounter strangers whose behavior seems inappropriate immediately call 911 and report the situation.  The police department wants and welcomes this.  They caution, too, that you should not engage in any exchange with an intimidating individual which might provoke an unwanted response; 2) if you are approached by an individual asking for money, no matter what reasons are offered, decline.  The monies given, in good faith, often go for drug related activity.  The police department asks and encourages this response; 3) it is best, when in church for Mass, especially when the congregation is small, to sit up front and in close proximity to the others present; ; 4) lastly, it goes without saying, never leave valuables -- purses, cameras, iPads, cell phones, in the pew, when you come forward for Communion.

Our Downtown West neighborhood association, together with other center city stakeholders, are determined and committed to eliminating anything which compromises our sense of well-being as we are out and about in the neighborhood or gathered together indoors anywhere.  Join them in this initiative, please, with these simple strategies!

Monsignor Delaney