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Inclement weather policy: St. Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. You may also call the Parish Office for a recorded message. Please take this policy into account when scheduling use of Parish facilities during winter months.
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
Monday this week is our Parish Advent Penance Service and, as last year, I have two important requests for you.
1. If you are planning to come to confession before Christmas, please take advantage of this opportunity. There will not be a guarantee that we can cover demand later, or at the last minute. It is a great blessing to have so many priests (12!) give up an evening for our parish, and we will accomplish more in one evening that Fr. Vu and I alone could do in over a week. But you must come Monday night, 7pm.
2. This one is just as important. Come prepared, and do not plan on a counseling session or spiritual direction. Already have done the work of examining your conscience, know your sins, say them, receive a penance and absolution. Our goal here is simple: serve as many people as is humanly possible as efficiently as possible. One of the reasons people give up on confessions is that they get stuck behind someone (or maybe several people) who take up so much time that there is no more time. I used to be a lay person, remember? And I remember this one clearly. If you wish to have a longer conversation, plan on another day, or make an appointment with one of us, please.
I am not proposing an irreverent practice of the sacrament, but have done this before. If people know they aren’t going to get a lecture, you’d be surprised how many come back after many, many years. People already know the lecture they should get, that is why they come to confession! I believe in treating everyone like an adult. As of that evening we will have offered confession already to every student in the school as well as our Religious Education program.
It was not always so: when I was first ordained I liked confessions because it was an opportunity for me to cast my pearls of wisdom on poor penitents, solicited or not. I made it a point in every confession to admonish, to inspire and to affirm. Eventually I realized that most people don’t actually care. There is something to be said for the simple acknowledgement that I have sinned, that I can’t fix this without God, and I need certain forgiveness. As I always tell the kids, if you truly forget something, it is okay, because Jesus already knows all of it, even the ones we are indifferent to. The one thing he can’t do for us is say “I’m sorry and I intend to do better from here on.” Let’s keep it simple and welcome hundreds of people back to the sacrament of Reconciliation on Monday.
You will find a valuable resource for examinations of conscience on the USCCB website: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/examinations-of-conscience.cfm as well as a guide to confession: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/upload/Bulletin-Insert-Penance-ENG.pdf. - - - - -
The apostle Paul reflected in his letter to the Romans how Christ’s coming fulfilled the hopes of patriarchs and prophets and brought joy to his people:
For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”
Again, it says,
“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”
And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15: 8-13)
Rejoice in the Lord! The pain, the suffering, the unfulfilled longings will all meet their end. We have a Savior. He is coming. Rejoice!
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” Zephaniah 3:16-17
It’s not to late to find the joy that fills the waiting!
God bless you.
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
Once Thanksgiving comes we always say fasten your seatbelts, soon it will be Easter! These days come faster and faster, don’t they? and it doesn’t help this year that the Advent and Christmas Seasons are literally as short as they can be. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, we might also note that you will have to eat your chocolate valentines a day early this year, because Ash Wednesday is sitting on St. Valentine’s day. Very early.
I always take note about the passing of time, because it seems to be speeding up.
These past weeks have been a real blessing for our parish. I sense a growing warmth, a generosity in our community. Many people comment on what a welcoming and friendly bunch you are. I am very grateful for you, for all the work you do for one another, for the many unsung ways that you care for God’s creation and one another. I hope that you can feel it, too. When we grow in our awareness of God-with-us, we grow together. Maybe you’ve heard this one a hundred times, but it is like the spokes on a wheel: whenever we move toward the center, Christ,, we grow closer together to each other as well. Relationships are discovered, the Holy Spirit’s bond of love is palpable.
One of the goals I would like to shoot for in the coming year is to somehow get all of you to feel more comfortable around the altar. You see, if you sit closer to the altar, you can all sit closer to each other, too. We might hear each other pray and sing and experience prayer as a community, not just a big room full of individuals. I think I wrote about this once before, after the electricity went out one day when I invited everyone to come out of the dark corners of the way back of the church into the light that came from the skylight above the altar. At first, nobody moved. But as more and more people came forward I realized something that I have missed since I have come to Saint Bernadette: I have missed hearing the congregation pray at daily Mass. Our church is so large and people speak so quietly that it often seems like no one is there. If you sit in the back sections I can make out your shapes, not your features and it just seems strange, so impersonal during something that is so intimate as a Mass. I speak about this because it may indicate a general lack of understanding of the Mass, and why we pray together and not just on our own. The Mass is the thing that makes us one: it connects each one of us into one Body. It isn’t a taking, it is a receiving, and a receiving of each other, too.
As I write this article we have just finished Advent Lessons and Carols. I hope everyone who wanted to come was able to be here. There is something so unique about Advent that is generally forgotten, something that is vital to our spirituality. We must have the opportunity to know what the world is like without Jesus, so that when he comes we can fully appreciate the gift of his presence. So we wait, but the time is not passively spent. We anticipate, we long for, we live in a kind of animated hope with out ears and eyes open, watching. That is what Jesus said in last week’s Gospel: don’t fall asleep - watch! Thanks, Choirs, for a beautiful evening.
The music tonight reflects this waiting so beautifully in a repertoire of music that only exists for these few weeks of waiting. Most non-Catholic churches are already deep into Christmas carols! I was reminded tonight that once you discover the longing in your heart for God, you find him everywhere. Of course, he comes at Christmas. It is the same coming at the end of time, though it will look quite differently, I think. The manger in Bethlehem and the lightning flashing across the sky will be quite a contrast. Don’t forget, he comes to us everyday in the silent humility of bread and wine. What do all three of these have in common? The preparation that you and I must do to be ready for his coming. Though the comings are different, the preparation is the same for all. It requires time, and this is why we have the season of Advent, to consider our state, make amends where necessary, turn to God in wonder and know his mercy and love.
God bless you.
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
This weekend we will begin praying a parish prayer after Communion at all the Masses, a prayer that asks God to help us focus and truly be one in him. These things aren’t going to happen magically, we must ask, and ask again! The text is here on the left. I encourage everyone to use this prayer at the beginning of parish meetings, classes and gatherings as well as, if you would be willing, one of your family prayers at home.
This new Year of Grace 2018 (Happy New Year!) which begins today is filled with opportunity. We ended the last year with a strong message to take inventory and decide what we intend to change this year, and ACT on it! David Mathers, at our staff meeting this week, read a quote for our reflection and I want to put it here for you. It is a quote from Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Workers’ Movement and truly remarkable woman: “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” We were suddenly silent.
There is so much to be done with this gift of new time. The season of Advent is a lesson in patience; not all is done quickly and completely. We are works in progress—as long as we progress by work. Commit with me to cooperate with the creative grace of God in your life this year and not ignore it. Our dignity is in our capacity to conversion.
We are still in need of a few good catechists, particularly for the classes to help the children who are behind in receiving sacraments. I know you are probably tired of hearing the appeal, I am tired of giving it, too, but this is another example of how we can unlock the potential of faith in others. Please contact Martha, our hardworking Director of Faith Formation. By the way, because of her good work, we have several hundred more students in our religious education program and more than three times the number of catechists we had when she arrived. She is a blessing, and good to work with. Please consider this invitation.
Next weekend, finally, is our annual Catholic Charities Christmas collection, the second collection at all Masses. I will be speaking at all Masses except for Saturday (I will be at our annual State LARCUM Conference in Richmond).
Basically, here is the reason everyone needs to contribute to this collection: whether or not we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the marginalized, visit the lonely—has everything to do with whether or not we have fulfilled God’s plan for us and will be able to spend eternity with him in heaven. It is so simple if you think about it, you have to care for someone else more than yourself.
But we have busy, busy lives. We can’t personally do all these things and keep up with our obligations with family and job. Catholic Charities is the most effective way to accomplish these things, but can only do so with your help. Please, help. We serve together.
God bless you.