Once again this coming Wednesday, the Church sets out on her annual retreat – Lent. This grace-filled time in the Church’s calendar is a time of repentance and conversion, a time of a sacrifice and discipline – it is a time to re-commit ourselves to being true and faithful disciples of Christ and to casting aside anything which prevents us from being who Christ has made us to be. It is a time of prayer and fasting and almsgiving – a time of deepening our spiritual practices and spiritual discipline with the hopes that over these coming weeks these practices and discipline will become habits which we carry on into the Easter Season and beyond. This time of Lent is also a time to focus more fully on the sufferings and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ as we prepare to commemorate the sacred events of the Lord’s Passion during Holy Week. As we prepare to enter this season of grace, I wanted to outline a few ways that we as a parish will keep this season as a community.
The first is Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and abstinence. Please be sure to check the bulletin for rules on fasting and abstinence over the Lenten Season. Masses will be celebrated at 6:30 AM, 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Please also consider joining our annual Ash Wednesday Morning of Reflection hosted by the St. Mary’s Christian Women. The event is open to both men and women.
This Lent we will be adding more times for confession. If you recall, over Advent, we added confessions on Tuesdays at Noon and we will pick this back up starting the Tuesday after Ash Wednesday. In addition, I will be leading Stations of the Cross in church every Friday during Lent at 6:30 PM and will then hear confessions starting at 7:00 PM. With our normal confession times on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning there should be a time that will work in everyone’s schedules. You will also find this weekend, in the Atrium, copies of the book, “7 Secrets of Confession” by Vinny Flynn. These books are available for free – we would simply ask that only one copy per household be taken, so as to ensure that as many people who would like copies are able to receive them.
Once again, the confession times will be Tuesdays during Lent at Noon; Fridays from 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM and again on Friday nights during Lent at 7:00 PM (following Stations of the Cross at 6:30 PM) and Saturday mornings at 8:30 AM. If you have not gone in a while the priest will be happy to help you and there are numerous resources on the internet and even smart phone apps that have not only the ritual for celebrating the sacrament, but an examination of conscience to help in preparing. It is my hope and prayer that every member of St. Mary’s goes to confession at least once over the Lenten Season.
A reminder as well that the Stations of the Cross which we will be praying on Friday nights during Lent at 6:30 PM are a very powerful spiritual practice – consider making attendance part of your way of keeping Lent – St. Paul says, “if we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him.” Praying the Stations of the Cross was rooted in the inability of people to go to the Holy Land on pilgrimage to visit the sites of the events of the Passion and so, in a very real spiritual sense, when we pray the Stations we go on pilgrimage to visit and pray at those sacred sites. A plenary indulgence is available under the normal conditions for praying the Stations of the Cross.
Lent will culminate with the celebration of Holy Week which begins on Palm Sunday. Masses are celebrated at the usual times on Palm Sunday and begin in the Atrium with the proclamation of the Gospel and Blessing of Palms. Mass on Holy Thursday is celebrated at 7:00 PM, which concludes with the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose in the Atrium. Everyone is invited to spend time in prayer “in the garden” with our Lord. The time of adoration will conclude with the praying of Night Prayer at 10:00 PM. Good Friday’s celebration of the Passion of Our Lord begins at 12:30 PM. Stations of the Cross will be prayed again on Good Friday evening at 6:30 PM. On Holy Saturday we have the traditional Blessing of the Easter Food in the Atrium at 9:00 AM. The Easter Vigil will begin at 8:00 PM that night in the Atrium Gardens. Masses for Easter Day are celebrated at 7:30 AM, 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM.
May this Lent of 2017 be a season of grace for us as individuals and for all of us as a parish!
Over the course of the past year and a half we have spent time considering the Sacraments of the Church, we now come to the final sacrament we will review, that of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We have been using the various rituals of the Church which confer the sacraments as a way of guiding our study of each individual sacrament and we will do the same with Holy Orders. However, there are three orders in Holy Orders – the diaconate, the priesthood, and the episcopacy – each having its own ritual of ordination. Our most common experience with those in Holy Orders are those who are priests, so we will use that ordination ritual as our guide and, at the end of our study, look more briefly at the diaconate and the episcopacy.
Before we delve into the nature of Holy Orders, especially that of the nature of the priesthood, we must step back for a moment and come to a deeper understanding of the priesthood in light of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, because Jesus Himself is a priest, He possesses the fullness of the priesthood and is most truly our great high priest. The priesthood of priests cannot be fully understood without first examining the nature of Christ’s own priesthood, since all priests participate and are given a share in that priesthood.
The first question we must ask is where does Christ’s own priesthood come from? The Letter to the Hebrews which is, in many ways, a sustained reflection on the priesthood tells us where the priesthood of Christ comes from, we read, “Neither doth any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was. So Christ also did not glorify himself that he might be made a high priest: but he that said unto him: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place: Thou art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech” (Hebrews 5.4-6)
This points out something very important – that the priesthood of such grandeur that not even Christ in His Humanity can take it on Himself, it is something which His Father bestows upon Him. The Father bestows the priesthood on the Humanity of Christ at the first moment of His conception. At that moment, the Father acknowledges that Christ, is the one mediator between heaven and earth. We can rightly say that His consecration as Priest takes place at the Incarnation. In Christ Himself, all humanity is united in order to be purified and sanctified and to be brought back to God – in this we see that the very heart of Christ’s priesthood (and the priesthood itself) is to be the mediator offering oblations and sacrifices to the Father and in return the Father uses the priest to communicate His graces to mankind. As we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, “For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men, in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Hebrews 5.1). St. Thomas Aquinas points out the other dimension of the priesthood – that of handing over sacred things, as he points out that the Latin word for priest, sacerdos, means “one who gives sacred things.”
We now can turn to the second aspect of the priesthood of Christ which must be highlighted, that Christ is both Priest and Victim. In the Old Testament the priest and the victim are distinct. The priest offers up some victim or offering (usually an animal or perhaps the fruits of the field) in order to offer God the praise that is His due and as an offering to make reparation for the sins of the people. This Old Testament priesthood is a type of the priesthood to come, in Christ’s priesthood something radical happens – no longer are priest and victim separate, in Christ both priest and victim are one. His sacrifice constitutes the perfect homage giving glory to God and obtains for us the grace of eternal life. Christ as Priest gives perfect adoration and reverence. Christ as Victim gives also adoration but which finds expression in His acceptance of death. What is accomplished by this offering of Christ on behalf of His people? St. Thomas Aquinas points out that there are three reasons sacrifice must be offered: for the remission of sin, so man be preserved in the state of grace, so the spirit of man may be united perfectly to God. Christ confers all three of these on us. We can also rightly point out that Christ is the principal Priest and Victim at every Mass.
How does Christ exercise His priesthood? We can point to the way it is lived out over the course of His earthly life. From the first moment of His conception, Christ the Priest offered Himself up and this plays out over the course of His entire earthly life – constantly offering Himself up to the Father as a living sacrifice. This offering of Himself up comes to its culmination in the events of the Passion where He completes the sacerdotal act. At the Last Supper He offers Himself to His Apostles in the Eucharist, an action which prefigures the sacrificial offering of Himself on the Cross. We can see then in the Eucharist and the priest celebrating Mass, Christ, both Priest and Victim. At the Last Supper He institutes the Mass, the Eucharist and the Priesthood, all of which are intimately tied together. Christ’s priesthood comes to its pinnacle on the Cross when He offers Himself as a sacrifice to the Father for the forgiveness of our sins and in so doing renders an offering more pleasing to God than all sin has displeased Him. It is a priestly act full of love and obedience and becomes the source of all grace and mercy. Christ’s priesthood does not end with His earthly life, after His Ascension, but instead, Christ continues to have an “everlasting priesthood” (Hebrews 7.24). We enjoy the fruits of Christ’s priesthood in our own lives, for His priesthood is the source of graces received on earth and eternal life in heaven.
(This article is part of a series of articles on The Sacraments which will appear in the bulletin over the course of this year.)
St. Mary’s has been blessed, for nearly 32 years, with the gift of our Perpetual Adoration Chapel – day and night, week after week, on sunny days and snowy days, someone has been present in our Chapel praying before the Blessed Sacrament. The graces which have flowed from this Chapel are incalculable. I recently came upon this article that I thought would be worthwhile to include in the bulletin, because it points out the power of Perpetual Adoration in one city in Mexico. This article was originally published by the Catholic News Agency (www.catholicnewsagency.com) on January 26th of this year, it is written by Barbara Bustamante and tells of the dramatic changes that have occurred in Juarez, Mexico due to Perpetual Adoration, here is the article:
“Juarez, Mexico, Jan 26, 2017 / 02:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Juarez, located in the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico, was considered from 2008 to 2010 to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world, due to drug trafficking violence and the constant struggles for power and territory between the cartels.
However, the city of 1.3 million inhabitants dropped off this list thanks to a significant decrease in the number of homicides: from 3,766 in 2010 to 256 in 2015.
Although this drop can be credited to an improvement in the work of local authorities, for Fr. Patrico Hileman – a priest responsible for establishing Perpetual Adoration chapels in Latin America – there is a much deeper reason: Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
“When a parish adores God day and night, the city is transformed,” Fr. Hileman said.
The priest told Radio María Argentina that in 2013 the missionaries opened the first Perpetual Adoration Chapel in Juarez. At that time “40 people a day were dying because two drug gangs were fighting over the city to move drugs into the United States.”
It was the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, whose former leader Joaquín “el Chapo” Guzmán Loera was recently extradited from Mexico to the United States.
Fr. Hileman recalled that “the parishes were saying that the war wasn't ending because a group of soldiers were with one gang and the police were with the other one. They were killing people, burning houses down so they would leave, fighting over the city.”
One of the parishes that was “desperate” asked the missionaries to open a Perpetual Adoration chapel because they assured that “only Jesus is going to save us from this, only Jesus can give us security.”
The missionaries only took three days to establish the first Perpetual Adoration chapel in Juarez.
Fr. Hileman told how one day, when the city was under a state of siege, a lady was on her way to the chapel to do her Holy Hour at 3:00 in the morning, when she was intercepted by six soldiers who asked her where she was heading.
When the woman told them that she was going to “the little chapel” the uniformed men asked her what place, because everything was closed at that hour. Then the woman proposed they accompany her to see for themselves.
When they got to the chapel, the soldiers found “six women making the Holy Hour at the 3:00 in the morning,” Fr. Hileman said.
At that moment the lady said to the soldiers: “Do you think you're protecting us? We're praying for you 24 hours a day.”
One of the uniformed men fell down holding his weapon,“crying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The next day at 3:00 in the morning they saw him in civilian clothes doing a Holy Hour, crying oceans of tears,” he said.
Two months after the chapel was opened, the pastor “calls us and says to us: Father, since the chapel was opened there has not been one death in Juarez, it's been two months since anyone has died.”
“We put up ten little chapels in a year,” Fr. Hileman said.
As if that were not enough, “at that time they were going to close the seminary because there were only eight seminarians and now there are 88. The bishop told me me that these seminarians had participated in the Holy Hours.”
Fr. Hileman pointed out that “that is what Jesus does in a parish” when people understand that “we find security in Christ.”
He also noted that “the greatest miracles occur in the early hours of the morning. “
The early morning “is when you're most at peace, when you hear God better, your mind, your heart is more tranquil, you're there alone for God. If you are generous with Jesus, he is a thousand times more generous with you,” Fr. Hileman said.”
If you haven’t been to the Chapel in a while or perhaps have never been in it, I strongly encourage you to stop by and to spend time in prayer. If you want to visit after the door is locked, please simply call the Rectory for the combination. Also, please consider the possibility of committing to an hour a week, times where we need coverage are listed every week in the bulletin, along with a weekly reflection helping to deepen our faith and our understanding of the power of Perpetual Adoration. To all who so generously generate their time as one of our adorers, thank you!