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Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
Each year the Pope chooses a particular topic for his message for January 1st, World Day of Peace. Two years ago he challenged us to overcome indifference and seek compassion. Last year he proposed nonviolence as a style of politics for peace.
This year his message is titled “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.” He begins with his best wishes for peace and calls everyone to embrace those who are fleeing war, hunger and persecution. Some excerpts follow:
Peace to all people and to all nations on earth! Peace, which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night, is a profound aspiration for everyone, for each individual and all peoples, and especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence. Among these whom I constantly keep in my thoughts and prayers, I would once again mention the over 250 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees, “men and women, children, young and elderly people, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace”[Pope Benedict XVI].
In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.
We know that it is not enough to open our hearts to the suffering of others. Much more remains to be done before our brothers and sisters can once again live peacefully in a safe home. Welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance and goodwill, vigilant and sympathetic attention, the responsible management of new and complex situations that at times compound numerous existing problems, to say nothing of resources, which are always limited. By practising the virtue of prudence, government leaders should take practical measures to welcome, promote, protect, integrate and, “within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good, to permit [them] to become part of a new society”[Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII].
Were we to behold one another with what Pope Francis calls a “contemplative gaze,” we would be more aware of the fact that we all “belong to one family, migrants and local populations that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the earth, whose destination is universal, as the social doctrine of the Church teaches. It is here that solidarity and sharing are founded” [Pope Benedict XVI, 2011]. Pope Francis describes fulfilling the promise of peace through this gaze of faith, which sees God dwelling in their houses, in their streets and squares, fostering solidarity, fraternity, and the desire for goodness, truth and justice (Evangelii Gaudium). The “mileposts for action,” he says are fourfold: Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating.
This past year we observed the 100th anniversary of the death of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, who devoted her life to the service of migrants and these mileposts for action. Most of our Church in the United States has origins in immigrant populations, whether forced or freely chosen. I claim grandparents who, themselves, migrated from Germany a little over 100 years ago, and great-great-great grandparents who were refugees, fleeing starvation in Ireland.
The Epiphany of the Lord, this great feast which we celebrate today recalls the revelation of God Incarnate to strangers who came to seek him from a foreign land. God himself takes the form of a Child whose family will shortly flee as refugees to Egypt to escape murder.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington has an honored history of working with the State Department and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in welcoming people and helping them get established as good citizens, but recent shifts in attitudes and policy have called into question the future possibility of these programs. The number of refugees permitted this year was limited to less than half the total our agencies anticipated. Security is fragile in this dangerous world, and we must proceed cautiously. Resettlement is a topic of heated debate with many good points made on both sides. But there are human beings at stake, people whose lives literally depend upon our generosity, and who are being forgotten as the argument continues. We’ve created a refugee community made up of people who helped our military and intelligence in their own countries, where now their homes have become places that are too dangerous.
Pope Francis ends with words of Saint John Paul II: “If the ‘dream’ of a peaceful world is shared by all, if the refugees’ and migrants’ contribution is properly evaluated, then humanity can become more and more a family, and our earth a true ‘common home’”(2004). Let us keep this dream before us.
God bless you.
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.