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Announcements ~ 29 December 2019

fleur cross logo The Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God is Wednesday, 1 January. This year, The Solemity of Mary is a Holy Day of obligation.  We invite you to join us at one of our Masses:  Tuesday  night Vigil at 5pm, Wednesday at 7:30am, 9am, 11am, and 1pm (in Spanish). There is no 5pm Mass.The Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God is Wednesday, 1 January. This year, The Solemity of Mary is a Holy Day of obligation.  We invite you to join us at one of our Masses:  Tuesday  night Vigil at 5pm, Wednesday at 7:30am, 9am, 11am, and 1pm (in Spanish). There is no 5pm Mass.


fleur cross logo The parish offices will be closed on Tuesday, December 31 at 4:00pm through Wednesday,  1 January. We will re-open on Thursday, 2 January.


fleur cross logo Don't forget:  RSVP no later than Friday, January 3 for the Night of Stars Volunteer Appreciation on January 11 so we know how much food to prepare.


fleur cross logo Mark your calendars and get the word out! For our next event in the Saint Bernadette Concert Series we will welcome GMU's musical theater ambassadors, The Mason Cabaret, who will present the Great American Songbook:  showstoppers, ballads and duets from the genius of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen and more.  Tuesday, February 4 at 7:30pm!


fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy:  Saint Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. If public schools are closed, our school is closed and all activities on the campus for that day and evening are canceled.  Check the parish website for weekend announcements regarding cancellations. 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.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 29 December 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,


Pope Francis' General Audience last week was a beautiful reflection on the simplicity and silence of preparing for Jesus' coming.


One of the easiest ways of preparing is setting up a nativity scene in our homes, churches, and public spaces, a tradition which began with Saint Francis of Assisi.  You literally prepare a space for the birth to happen, it provides a regular reminder of why we are here at all, and why it matters.  It isn't a political statement, or some kind of religious show.  It is, rather, a living Gospel that reminds us of God's love:  God comes to us, Pope Francis says, "in order to share our daily lives, hopes and concerns."


I have a friend who puts one of those old-fashioned light-up Jesus, Mary and Joseph sets in his yard and a realtor spoke with him one year about not putting it out because she thought the neighbor's house might not sell if they thought a religious fanatic lived next door.  I asked him how that affected him, and he said, "Well, I guess, I am a fan.  I'm not a fan of snowmen or elves, so I don't put that in front of my house."  If we don't speak about it, then we have not shared the good news that many people simply have not heard.


Yes, God comes to us to share our lives, but also to remind us that he gave us this life, and that he sustains it.  The Son of God became utterly dependent upon us, the Creator on his creatures, to show us how completely dependent we are on him.  And there is a marvelous connection here with the historical fact:  He comes to Bethlehem, and is laid in a manger.


The name Bethlehem, in Hebrew, literally means "House of Bread."  You see the word "Bethel" often, which means House (beth) of El(ohim), or God.  The living bread (lehem) come down from heaven... being found in a manger, a place where his creatures are fed.


The creche in our homes, then calls forth the image of the center of our homes, our dining room and kitchen tables, where we are fed and also are gathered together as a family.  Jesus is the center of our family life, and needs to be called to mind constantly throughout the daily activities of our family.  The creche serves as a reminder for us to pause in the middle of our crazy lives and contemplate what is truly important in life.  "Everything in the nativity scene speaks of the harmony and peace that only Christ the Savior can bring to our lives and our world.  As we gaze upon the lowly scene of Jesus' birth, let us invite him into our hearts, so that each new day can bring spiritual rebirth and preserve us in the joy of Christmas."


I started pulling out Christmas decorations this past week and realized that I already had three small nativity scenes in my office and three in my room at the rectory.  I had not forgotten to put them away, but had let that image be refreshed in my mind throughout the year.  I have been better for it.  (I'm not a fanatic, but I am a fan.)  It is a good thing to be reminded of love as much as possible when it is, sadly, sometimes rare in our world.


For many years in my after-Christmas homilies and articles I have suggested that, when you start to take down the decorations (Christmas season ends on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Sunday, January 12, by the way) to consider not putting all of them away, but rather to leave one out, to remind you to let the kindness and goodwill of Christmas leak out into the rest of the year.  Actively call to mind the love we celebrate on this beautiful and unlikely holiday, when the impossible is possible and hope is born again.  


We are still in the active feast of Christmas, the octave of days following Christmas Day when all eight days are Christmas Day.  There is still plenty of time to prepare that space for the birth to happen.  We are nourished, of course, by bread and all the wonderful foods with which we celebrate the holidays:  Might we also hunger for that living bread that comes down from heaven, and having eaten, never need to fear death.
To all who have made our celebrations so moving and beautiful at Saint Bernadette, our staff and volunteers, I wish every gratitude and blessing.  And, as doors open to the new year both with promise and uncertainty, let us find our hope in the witness of a loving God who has gone to great lengths to touch our lives.


Happy new year, and God bless you.

Announcements ~ 22 December 2019

fleur cross logo Please see the bulletin (to the right) or the announcements page of the website for our complete Christmas Masses and concerts schedule for Dec 24-25.Please see the bulletin (to the right) or the announcements page of the website for our complete Christmas Masses and concerts schedule for Dec 24-25.


fleur cross logo Don't forget:  RSVP by Friday, January 3 for the Night of Stars Volunteer Appreciation on January 11  so we know how much food to prepare.


fleur cross logo Our parish offices will be closed from Tuesday, Dec. 24 through Friday, Dec. 27.  Offices will be open with limited services for the weekend beginning Dec. 28.


fleur cross logo There will be no Religious Education Classes the weeks of 22 and 29 December and 5 January. Classes will resume on Sunday, January 12, 2020


fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy:  St. Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. If public schools are closed, our school is closed and all activities on the campus for that day and evening are canceled.  Check the parish website for weekend announcements regarding cancellations. 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

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 22 December 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
The Lord is near, so near.  Keep your eyes and ears open to go out to greet him when his visitation happens.  He is coming to each of you.  He is our hope.  I was reading the homily of Pope Francis from last weekend, and it is a great final meditation for our proximate preparation for the coming of Jesus in only a few days.
 
Pope Francis' Angelus, St. Peter's Square, 15 December
 
“Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
 
“On this third Sunday of Advent, known as the Sunday ‘of joy,’ the Word of God invites us on the one hand to joy, and on the other hand to the awareness that existence also includes moments of doubt, in which it is difficult to believe. Joy and doubt are both experiences that are part of our lives.
 
“To the explicit invitation to joy of the prophet Isaiah: ‘The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom’ (35: 1), the Gospel opposes the doubt of John the Baptist: ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Mt 11: 3). Indeed, the prophet sees beyond the situation; he discouraged people before him: weak hands, trembling knees, lost hearts (cf. 35: 3-4). It is the same reality that in every age puts faith to the test. But the man of God looks beyond, because the Holy Spirit makes his heart feel the power of his promise, and he announces salvation: ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance’ (v. 4). And then everything is transformed: the desert blooms, consolation and joy take possession of the lost of heart, the lame, the blind, the mute are healed (cf. vv. 5-6). This is what is realized with Jesus: ‘The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them’ (Mt 11: 5).
 
“This description shows us that salvation envelops the whole person and regenerates him. But this new birth, with the joy that accompanies it, always presupposes a death to ourselves and to the sin within us. Hence the call to conversion, which is the basis of the preaching of both the Baptist and Jesus; in particular, it is a question of converting our idea of God. And the time of Advent stimulates us to do this precisely with the question that John the Baptist poses to Jesus: ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Mt 11: 3). We think: all his life John waited for the Messiah; his lifestyle, his very body is shaped by this expectation. This is also why Jesus praises him with those words: no one is greater than him among those born of a woman (cf. Mt 11: 11). Yet he too had to convert to Jesus. Like John, we too are called to recognize the face that God chose to assume in Jesus Christ, humble and merciful.
 
“Advent is a time of grace. It tells us that it is not enough to believe in God: it is necessary to purify our faith every day. It is a matter of preparing ourselves to welcome not a fairy-tale character, but the God who challenges us, involves us and before whom a choice is imposed. The Child who lies in the manger has the face of our brothers and sisters most in need, of the poor who are ‘a privileged part of this mystery; often they are the first to recognize God’s presence in our midst’ (Apostolic Letter Admirabile signum, 6).
 
“May the Virgin Mary help us so that, as we approach Christmas, let us not allow ourselves to be distracted by external things, but make room in our hearts for the One who has already come and who wishes to come again to heal our illnesses and to give us his joy.”
 
~  ~  ~

Salvation, Pope Francis says, envelops the whole person and regenerates him.  But the new birth which we await necessarily requires a death.  That death is to ourselves and the sin within us.  Then he says something interesting:  the call to conversion is a question of converting our idea of God.  It is the idea of God that people hold—and not knowledge—that gets us into trouble today.  God for us is often a scapegoat or an unfaithful servant who doesn't give us what we want, or some kind of indifferent bystander who seems to watch his creation (us) go astray.  
 
God can't be far away, he is everywhere.  It is we who distance ourselves by claiming his deficiency.  How many times are his healings the result of one's faith!
 
That is why Bethlehem seems to reset the bottom line.  God is not here to fix our lives any more than could a child in a manger.  He is not here to bring anything but peace and unconditional love, as he places himself literally in our hands expecting our loving kindness.  And he asks our hearts to respond.  From the perspective of our attentiveness to him and his absolute love, our challenges and difficulties are no longer have control.
 

God bless you,

Announcements ~ 15 December 2019

fleur cross logo Tuesday Dec. 17 is our Parish Advent Penance Service at 6:30pm! Plan to join us with many priests present to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation in English and Spanish.Tuesday Dec. 17 is our Parish Advent Penance Service at 6:30pm! Plan to join us with many priests present to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation in English and Spanish.


fleur cross logo Please make sure your gifts from the Giving Tree are back in by tomorrow, Dec. 16 so that we can ensure their delivery in time for Christmas.  As always, we thank you for your kind and generous participation

.
fleur cross logo The annual Christmas Collection for Catholic Charities was last week: if you did not get a chance to make a contribution last week, please drop it in any collection clearly marked Catholic Charities.


fleur cross logo ALL are invited to join us for our school's annual Christmas Pageant.  All students in preK to 8th grade will participate in carols and the Nativity story presented by the third grade.  Thursday, Dec. 19 at 6:30pm in the Church.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 15 December 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,


Tuesday this week is our Parish Advent Penance Service and, as last year, I have two important requests for you.


1. If you are still 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 (14!) give up an evening for our parish, and we will accomplish more in one evening than Fr. Rich and I alone could do in over a week. But you must come Tuesday night, 6:30pm.


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 Tuesday.


You will find a valuable resource for examinations of conscience on the USCCB website:  usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/examinations-of-conscience.cfm

 as well as a guides to confession:  http://usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/index.cfm. There you will find links to many resources in both English and Spanish.

-  -  -  -  -

Reflection

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 no longer define us. 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).

The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

God bless you,

Announcements ~ 8 December 2019

Christmas GIVING TREE continues this weekend in the Church Vestibule! Our annual tradition of taking tags and returning gifts will benefit Catholic Charities, Christ House, ECHO, Project Gabriel/Project Rachel, ServiceSource, Saint Ann’s Center for Children, Bethany House and Refugee Resettlement!  Gifts must be returned to the vestibule by noon on Monday, Dec. 16.Christmas GIVING TREE continues this weekend in the Church Vestibule! Our annual tradition of taking tags and returning gifts will benefit Catholic Charities, Christ House, ECHO, Project Gabriel/Project Rachel, ServiceSource, Saint Ann’s Center for Children, Bethany House and Refugee Resettlement!  Gifts must be returned to the vestibule by noon on Monday, Dec. 16.


This weekend is the Catholic Charities Annual Christmas Collection for the poor among us.  Please help this most important collection which provides 10% of the annual budget for Catholic Charities.  If you were unable to participate this week, please consider bringing your contribution next week, clearly marked for Catholic Charities.


In addition to the beautiful Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we will celebrate a bilingual Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe on Thursday, Dec. 12 at 7:30pm.  The Mass will be preceded by a procession around 6pm, and followed by a reception.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 8 December 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,


Last Sunday several people expressed to me how Advent is their favorite season of the liturgical year.  I have to say yes, I agree.  There is something simple and meditative about it, unconfused and quiet.  It happens interiorly, doesn't it?  While the world is frantic outside.  We hold onto it as long as we can.  I had a rare, quiet moment in our church the other day thinking about decorating for Christmas—how great it is when all the decorations go up—and also how great it is when they all go away, too.  I used that “afterward” simplicity as a meditation on how much we should enjoy the present moment, a simple wreath, a single candle. While the world is frantic outside, shopping, honking, distracted by what's popular today.


In fact, in that moment, I found our church to be a perfect space for such a quiet season.  I guess at heart I am more like Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux than Abbot Suger of Saint Denis in Paris.  It is one of my favorite debates in history.  Saint Bernard, author of the Cistercian Benedictine reform, had a public debate with Abbot Suger and the Cluniac reform.  Paris was, as she is today, the place where the latest fads take place.  In the early 12th century the roots of humanism and the later Renaissance already were starting to grow.  Architecture was changing from the beautiful, classic simplicity of the Romanesque and literally going haywire with the Gothic. (I get a kick out of all the “traditionalists” who have revived the Gothic style for the last 150 years thinking it is the traditional form of church architecture—in the early 12th century it was over-the-top crazy modernism.)  And Saint Bernard didn’t like it.


Saint Bernard held that the invisible is to be preferred to the visible, that what we didn’t need was an architecture that would exalt man and call it praising God.  The Cistercians built with light, the way it fell on a simple unadorned stone wall from particularly ordered windows.  The space was constantly, differently defined in infinite expressions by the way the sun travels its path from east to west in shortening and lengthening days.  The purity and the integrity of the space was God present.  For Saint Bernard, decoration was nothing more than distraction, it was the catalyst for a lack of focus.  He even strictly limited the amount and kind of art which could be used.


You might call it visual asceticism if you are coming from a place where there are a lot of things to see.  But I think the light and the space is the starting point and people decorate who are not satisfied or even aware of the beauty that they possess.  It is a part of human history, sadly, that we always will be unsatisfied and want more, when we literally have all we need already.  The simplicity is already so filled with the real that there is no space for decoration.  From this perspective decoration seems like vanity.
I once had a friend who would ask people with crazy hair, “Are you wearing that hair or is that hair wearing you?”


Well, I found in our church a Cistercian simplicity.  Our architect, Mike Lemay, is a very serious, intentional architect and once explained to me that the simplicity of a contemplative space can have only one point of natural light, that directly over the altar, for a reason:  Any other lights would distract us and draw our attention away from the altar, which is the center of every worship space.  We become people of one mind, one heart, drawn together in that light.  Bricks and mortar are defined by us, not we by the aesthetic.


Part of me still wishes we had more windows, more of a relationship with what is on the outside of the church.  Maybe I still have some work to do this Advent, simplifying, preparing for the light to come and to simply find joy in its Presence.


God bless you.

 

Announcements ~ 1 December 2019

fleur cross logo Christmas GIVING TREE begins this weekend in the Church Vestibule! Our annual tradition of taking tags and returning gifts will benefit Catholic Charities, Christ House, ECHO, Project Gabriel/Project Rachel, ServiceSource, Saint Ann’s Center for Children, Bethany House and Refugee Resettlement!  Gifts must be returned to the vestibule by noon on Monday, Dec. 16.Christmas GIVING TREE begins this weekend in the Church Vestibule! Our annual tradition of taking tags and returning gifts will benefit Catholic Charities, Christ House, ECHO, Project Gabriel/Project Rachel, ServiceSource, Saint Ann’s Center for Children, Bethany House and Refugee Resettlement!  Gifts must be returned to the vestibule by noon on Monday, Dec. 16.


fleur cross logo There will be only one Special Mass at 10am on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 28. Again this year, we ask all you attending to bring non-perishable food items to Mass, to be donated to the St. Lucy Project for those in need. We hope you will join us and begin your day with prayer and thanksgiving. Please note, there will be no 9am Mass.


fleur cross logo The Knights of Columbus begin their Keep Christ in Christmas Cards sales after all Masses this weekend in the vesibule of the church. Join us in keeping Christ in Christmas.

 

Upcoming Events

  • December 9, Monday: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (moved from December 8, this year is not a Holy Day of Obligation). Masses at 6:30 and 9am, Noon, 7:30pm.

  • December 12, Thursday: 7:30pm bilingual Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the unborn.

  • December 13, Friday: Advent Lessons and Carols, 7:30pm

  • December 17, Tuesday: Parish Advent Penance Service, with many visiting priests! Begins at 6:30pm.

  • December 21, Saturday: Diocesan Simbang Gabi Mass and Reception at Saint Bernadette, 7pm.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 1 December 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,


Before starting this column, I wanted to tell you that we need about 10 more people for our trip to the Holy Land February 10-23.  I thought we were filling up - if you are interested, please call me. 

 

This week we have a message from Pope Francis at the start of Advent 2018, and then a letter from Bishop Burbidge.  First, Pope Francis:


“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord (Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, 9 May 1975).’”


“Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?”


Now, from Bishop Burbidge about a new diocesan spiritual campaign for Advent called #JustOneYes:

Bulletin Resource 2


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, 


Mary of Nazareth changed the world forever when she offered her simple “yes” to the angel Gabriel and agreed to give birth to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Because of her “yes,” God entered our world, died for our sins, and opened wide the gates of heaven. In humble acknowledgment of the power of just one “yes,” for the Advent and Christmas seasons, we are launching the Just One Yes campaign to encourage everyone in the Diocese to increase their connection to God through prayer, service of others, and self-sacrifice. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, your one yes will transform the world by turning darkness to light, division to unity, and chaos to peace.  

There are so many ways to “just say yes” to God. Each time you pray an Act of Contrition, a Rosary, or your favorite prayer, you chose Just One Yes that brings you closer to God. Each time you teach a child or a friend about Christ and His Church, you have said “yes” to God.

Whenever you spend time with the Lord before the Blessed Sacrament, you have said “yes.” The same can be said each time you donate food to the poor, bring clothing to the homeless, or offer up a personal suffering. Thinking about and then choosing just one yes draws you deeper into the heart of Christ who rejoices in our company.  

Each action, each “yes” to God, no matter how small, is a profound sign of devotion and humble acknowledgment of how much we need Our Lord to be in our lives. Once you say “yes” to God once, you will want to say “yes” many times over. Let us join together and commit to prayer, service and self-sacrifice during the Advent and Christmas seasons this year.  

Go to ArlingtonDiocese.org/JustOneYes to participate. 

Make this Advent and Christmas different than previous years. Commit to Just One Yes. It will change you, your family, your community, and, like Mary’s powerful “yes” to God, it can change the world. May Our Lord continue to bless you and your family, now and always.


Sincerely in Christ,


Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

 

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