The Month of November 2019

My Friends,

The End, the Beginning

          Scholas Occurrentes, a papal foundation created by Pope Francis in order to promote educational projects around the world recently held a conference. In a video message to the gathering, the Holy Father reflected on the meaning of death.  Let us read and reflect on his words.

          “Dear young people of Scholas Occurrentes gathered from so many nations of the world, I celebrate with you the end of this meeting. I want to stop there. I wish to dwell on this: the end.

          “What would become of this encounter if it did not have an end? Perhaps it wouldn't even be an encounter. And what would become of this life if it did not also have its end?

          “I know some will say: ‘Father, don't put on a funeral face.’ But let us think this through. I know from a good source that you kept the question of death burning throughout this entire experience. You played, thought, and created out of your differences.

          “Good! I celebrate and thank you for this. Because, you know what? The question of death is really a question about life. And keeping the question of death open, perhaps, is the greatest human responsibility towards the question of life.

          “Just as words are born out of silence and return to it, allowing us to hear their meanings, so it is with life. This may sound somewhat paradoxical, but... It is death that allows life to remain alive!

          “It is the end goal that allows a story to be written, a painting to be painted, two bodies to embrace. But watch out, the end goal is not found only at the end. Perhaps we should pay attention to each small purpose of everyday life. Not only at the end of the story – we never know when it ends – but at the end of each word, at the end of each silence, of each page that is being written. Only a life that is conscious of the fact that this exact instant will end works to make it eternal.

          “On the other hand, death reminds us that it is impossible to be, understand, and encompass everything. It comes as a slap in the face to our illusion of omnipotence. It teaches us throughout life to engage ourselves with mystery. This gives us confidence to jump into the void and to realize that we will not fall, that we will not sink, and that there is always Someone there to catch us. Both before and after the end.

          “The "not knowing" part of this question results in fragility that opens us to listening to and meeting other people. It is that rising above the commotion that calls us to create something, and urges us to come together to celebrate it.

          “Lastly, the question of death has driven different communities, peoples, and cultures to be formed throughout the ages and throughout all lands. These are stories that have fought in so many places to stay alive, while others were never born. That is why today, perhaps as never before, we should touch on this question.

          “The world is already formed, and everything is already explained. There is no room for open questions. Is that true? It is true, but it is also not true. That is our world. It is already fully-formed, and there is no place for unanswered questions. In a world that worships autonomy, self-sufficiency, and self-realization, there seems to be no place for the other. Our world of plans and infinite acceleration – always speeding up – does not allow for interruptions. So the worldly culture that enslaves also tries to put us to sleep so we forget what it means to stop at last.

          “But the very oblivion of death is also its beginning. And a culture that forgets death begins to die within. He who forgets death has already begun to die.

          “That is why I thank you so much! Because you have had the courage to confront this question and to pass – with your own bodies – through the three deaths that, by emptying us, fill us with life! The ‘death’ of every instant. The death of the ego. The death of one world gives way to a new one.

          “Remember, if death is not to have the last word, it is because in life we learned to die for one another.”

We Cannot Live Without Hope

          On Sunday, November 24th, the Church round the world celebrates the Feast of Christ the King. Though crowns  and scepters and orbs and kingdoms are not familiar reference points for many in our day, the true truth that this festival proclaims is a compelling one.  Jesus must be the center of our lives.  Jesus must be the turning point of our lives.  It must be, as the inscription in the weddings bands of a couple, friends of mine, asserts about their relationship: “You and no other”.  Is it so for you?  Our celebration of Christ the King turns on the truth that it is so!

          The Season of Advent, then, begins on Sunday, December 1st, as we inaugurate four-weeks-of-waiting for the three-fold-coming-of-Christ.  Spiritual writer Mark Searle, puts the meaning of the mystery of the Advent Season into perspective.  These are his words:

          “Human beings cannot live without hope.  Unlike the animals, we are blessed – or cursed – with the ability to think about the future and to gear our actions to shaping it.  So essential is this to human life that human beings cannot live without hope, without something to live for, without something to look forward to.  To be without hope, to have nothing to live for, is to surrender to death in despair.  But we can find all sorts of things to live for and we can hope for almost anything: for some measure of success or security; or for the realization of some more or less modest ambition; for our children, that they might be saved from our mistakes and sufferings and find a better life than we have known; for a better world, throwing ourselves into politics or medicine or technology so that future generations might be better off.  Not all these forms of hope are selfish; indeed they have given dignity and purpose to the lives of countless generations.

          “One of the reasons why we read the Old Testament during Advent is to learn what to hope for.  The people of the Old Testament had the courage to hope for big things.  Clearly their hopes were no different from ours: lasting peace, tranquil lives, sufficiency of food, and end to suffering, pain and misery.

          “We hope for the same things as the Old Testament people, but we differ from them in two ways.  First, the coming of Jesus in history, immeasurably confirms and strengthens our hope.  It is sure and certain.  Secondly, our hope is different from that of those in the Old Testament, because Jesus has revealed to us that God is not far off.  God is already in our midst.  Hence the importance in the Advent liturgy of John the Baptist and of Mary. They recognized this new circumstance.  They serve as models for the Church in discerning the presence of our Savior in the world”.

Getting in Shape

          As the end of the liturgical year draws ever closer with the beginning of Advent in just a few weeks, let us step back and reflect on our spiritual habits and practices during the past year. Let each of us ask ourselves and honestly answer the following:  Do I give God my undivided attention every day for even a small period of time?  Do I take the opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation at least yearly?  Do I attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation?  Do I actively participate in the Mass? Do I say the prayers and responses and attentively listen to the readings and homily?  Do I arrive fifteen to twenty minutes before Mass starts to prepare myself to listen to the Word of God and to receive His Body and Blood or do I arrive as the opening hymn is beginning?  Do I take a few minutes after Mass ends to kneel and say a prayer of thanksgiving?

          The most often “New Year’s” resolution made each year is to get in shape, lose weight and tone-up.  Let’s make a different resolution this year, let’s resolve to get into better religious shape.  The following prayer is a good first step.

Prayer Before Mass

          Come Holy Spirit and quiet my heart and my head, as I gather with my friends and neighbors to celebrate Mass. I am saint and sinner. Open my ears to Your words. Open my mouth in prayer and song. Open my eyes to see Your mystery in symbol and sign. Open my heart in love for You and my neighbor. Quiet the thoughts and distractions that will keep me from prayer. Strengthen me to take the Mass into my life this week. Amen.

Book of Remembrance

          Again this year, throughout the month of November our parish Book of Remembrance will remain in place near the Baptismal Font and the Easter Candle at the foot of the Shrine Altar of the Sacred Heart and its prominent image of the Risen Christ.

          The Book of Remembrance in the midst of these potent symbols speaks, in ways words cannot, of the hope that is ours because by dying Jesus has destroyed our death and by rising Jesus has restored our life.  You are welcome to enter the names of deceased family and friends in the Book of Remembrance throughout the month. We will pray for them, in the Prayer of the Faithful, each November weekend.

Giving Thanks

          As we look to Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, 28 November 2019, a prayer attributed to Alcuin of York, dating from the eighth century, expresses well the gratitude we might all voice:

          "Lord Christ, we ask you to spread our tables with your mercy.  And may you bless with your gentle hands the good things you have given us.  We knew that whatever we have comes from you.  And having received from your hands, let us give with equally generous hands to those who are poor, breaking bread and sharing our bread with them.  For you have told us that whatever we give to the poor we give to you."

In Brief

          The First Sunday of Advent this year is 1 December 2019.

          First-alert, for your long range planning for Christmas, the First Mass of Christmas will be celebrated on Tuesday, December 24th at 5:00 pm.  On Christmas morning, Wednesday, December 25th, Mass will be celebrated at 10:00 am.

Monsignor Delaney