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Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
One of my favorite themes in the Lenten Season is that we can’t afford to be spectators in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. As members of his Body we are in the thick of it: carrying the cross, abandoned, tortured, dying. All of this is so, that we will also know the real resurrection, brightness, unthinkable joy. The sacraments are acts by which we literally enter the mystery of God becoming Man—incarnation and transformation.
But the world doesn’t seem to get the realism of it all. I think in some respects that we have all settled for a discounted Christianity. Young people leave the church because we don’t have lively music and they aren’t entertained. “It is all so solemn...” someone told me, as if that were the problem. Well, it is solemn because something too important is happening for us to be distracted by a good feeling. A good feeling is somehow a cheap substitute and makes it all about me.
In some respects, even this concept of “what a friend we have in Jesus” falls short of the mark. The relationship is so very important, but it doesn’t exist for its own sake: it exists for a purpose—not so that we can stay in a holding pattern of bffs that never come in for a landing, or a kind of perpetual dating. Spiritual adolescence has to come to an end at some point, though many still may think of God in this way. When is the marriage going to happen? If we think of God only as a friend, then we must consider ourselves gods on an even plane, which we know isn’t the case. He is God. The relationship is not so that we can feel good, or loved, or connected. The relationship exists that we might come closer together. Bishop Robert Barron in our Sunday class says that God is beyond anything that may be thought, but also closer to us than we are even to ourselves. To know my true self, I must know myself as God knows me. Everything is contained, discovered, fulfilled in the act of entering into the Mystery of God.
The goal is not the relationship with God, though relationship is the instrument by which we realize our identity: union in God. All of this must be actively received, and requires a great deal of humility.
In my homilies last week I discussed humility. Humility is always our interaction with others. I must approach another as if every person is more important than me. Jesus, the Son of God, became one of us and gave his life in our place, showing that he considered us more important than himself. This is when Jesus is able to break through our weakness and sin: when we finally realize that love is true when the beloved doesn’t deserve it. He loves us anyway.
Faith formation is life-long. As we enter the Mystery of God at varying capacities and different seasons of life our ability to receive God himself deepens and matures. When faith formation is interrupted or is no longer valued the legacy of our faith inheritance is also broken. The old adage “You can’t give what you don’t have” awakens many new parents who realize they have to renew their own life of faith in order to pass something to their children about who they are as immortal beings loved by God. At a meeting this week with pastors and school principals and Bishop Burbidge, we spoke about the real need of parents today to recommit to their own faith formation. The lack of formation has produced now several generations of adults who approach faith and the Church (and Catholic Schools) not as partners, but as consumers.
What are you looking for? Are you looking for anything? God is ready to give it all away to whoever is paying attention and seeking union with him.
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We are going to do something a little different this year, and I would like everyone to participate. On Thanksgiving Day we will have only one Mass at 10am. At that Mass I ask everyone to bring a bag of nonperishable food, an offering of thankfulness. Bring the bag of food into the church, in your pew—don’t leave it in the vestibule. At the time of the offertory (there is no collection), we will ask everyone to bring their bag of food forward and place their offering for the poor and less fortunate on the floor in front of the altar as we sing a song of thanksgiving. After Mass is over, we can take our offerings and load them in a St. Lucy Project van so that Catholic Charities can distribute this food where it is most needed.
Also, I wanted to remind everyone that since Father William left I now have the south confessional in the church. Most people still think that it is a Spanish only—which makes my Saturday afternoon far too easy!
God bless you.
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
This weekend we are celebrating Catechetical Sunday a month late, after welcoming our new director of Faith Formation and getting our own religious education program for children off to a later start. Still we are short 14 catechists, and will probably have to cut some of the classes offered. Bishop Burbidge, in his September 17 letter to the Diocese, explains that the theme of this year’s Catechetical Sunday is “Living as Missionary Disciples.” As Pope Francis reminds us, “The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 23 ). “Each of us is called by the Lord to be a missionary disciple who bears witness to the saving and life-transforming power of God made known to us in Jesus Christ and kept alive in our hearts by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
“Our Catholic faith is a gift that is meant to be shared. On this Catechetical Sunday, we give thanks for all who hand on our faith to others, including the catechists and teachers who lead children, adolescents and adults to encounter Jesus Christ. These catechists accompany those they teach, inviting them to a deeper bond with the Body of Christ, the Church. What a beautiful privilege they have, as well as a great responsibility!
“As the Diocese of Arlington joins the Church throughout the United States to celebrate Catechetical Sunday, may we continue to pray for all catechists and teachers - including parents, guardians, women and men living the consecrated life, deacons, and priests - that through their dedication and witness they may continue to encounter the love of God in Christ Jesus and proclaim that saving love to everyone by their lives as missionary disciples of the Lord.”
I am also excited this week to present to you our new school logo. Seeking a closer connection to our parish identity and a fresher look, we have settled on a new logo that incorporates some familiar elements. Like our parish logo, a prominent feature of the new logo is the fleur de lis, a symbol of Mary, the Pure Lily, as well as a symbol of France where Saint Bernadette encountered her in Lourdes. It is superimposed over a gold cross, because from her came the Son of God according to the flesh in his Incarnation. It was her purity and her yes that made all of this possible. Mary’s words at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception” are the key to God’s will for her, and the vitality of her “yes.”
The upper silver field of the crest incorporates our beloved Cardinals, whose strength here is not represented as an individual, but as a community. The original Community, of course, the Blessed Trinity, is represented in iconography as a community of cardinals. As a school community grounded in the virtues, we name these cardinals faith, hope and charity. (On second thought, now in hindsight, I think this may cause confusion since faith, hope and charity are the supernatural virtues, NOT the cardinal virtues—justice, temperance, fortitude, prudence—but we can turn this into an opportunity to teach one another with regard to the virtues, which is not such a bad thing, either.
Recently we received a notice from the Diocese and the deadline (Nov 3) is approaching quickly so I thought I would mention it. The new Communications Director, Billy Atwell, has asked us to take a survey about what we think regarding his current efforts, and any suggestions we might have to improve our access to news and information.
There is a survey for parishioners in which you are invited to participate. In English – https://www.arlingtondiocese.org/2017-Diocesan-Survey/ In Spanish – https://www.arlingtondiocese.org/Encuesta-Diocesana-2017/
Don’t forget, our next class on the “Existence of God” is on Sunday Nov. 5 at 10am, and I am offering a special presentation of the talk I have been giving nationally on the Reformation 500th Anniversary here in the church Sunday, Nov. 5 at 7pm.
God bless you,