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This is Commitment Weekend for the public phase of our Capital Campaign for Community, "Make All Things New." The private gifts phase has already placed us above $2.7 million for a $5 million goal and we appeal to you to truly support this opportunity for depth and growth for our community. Hopefully you had an opportunity to really pray about how important this parish is to you and how we need space to be together. This weekend please fill out a commitment card and place it in the basket. Cards are in the pews. You'll notice there is no envelope: we are asking you for a commitment over time, not just a one-time gift. Our society needs to put Church back into the center of its life.
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
As we get back into the swing of things with the school year it is great to see so many people at Mass, so many more. it seems, even than last year. Despite what we hear, here we see more people at Mass, as well as have steady enrollment again in the school this year, when almost all Catholic schools are showing a decline. These are very hopeful signs and we are grateful.
I'm also VERY excited about the Alpha Series that we are opening up to both Adults and Youth this fall. Both are series with a limited number of video meetings—an indefinite commitment is not necessary. After the Called and Gifted Workshop on Saturday we took the presenters Charlie and Jona out for dinner and were speaking about it. When Jona was Director of Evangelization for her archdiocese, she started Alpha in many of their parishes and said that she never saw anything build up community like Alpha. The program responds to a real need for people my generation and younger, those between 40 and 60, who more or less missed out on good catechesis and formation in the Faith and didn't have it to teach their own children. These were the years after Vatican II until the Church was developing the Catechism of the Catholic Church and new formation programs. Look around, they commented, it is this age group that you will not see in church.
Well, we don't know what we don't know—I realized this only when I got to the seminary at 28 years of age—despite the fact that I went to Catholic elementary school and a Catholic college. And nobody wants to feel exposed about what they don't know. This is why Alpha seems to be so successful: it is a safe place where everyone comes to watch a video together and discuss the topic. It takes very basic realities of life and challenges people to apply faith. And to do it, in many cases, for the first time. It has had great success with Millennials because of the challenge it makes without confrontation. At least, this is what I understand it to be. I asked our presenters Charlie and Jona if they thought I might participate in the Series and they told me what I already suspected. No. If I were there, people would be uncomfortable speaking up. You'll have to let me know your impressions after going to the Series.
Fr. Rich and I are going to put together a list of basics that maybe people need to hear, things perhaps they suspect but don't know for sure, because we don't know what we don't know. As I said last week, just because we aren't aware of our poverty, it isn't a good reason to stay impoverished, especially since we know that it is God's plan that we be rich in his life and the life of his Church. There are many things people take for granted, too, to which we should at least define limits so that people might be informed, then form their consciences and respond with integrity.
One of the things I would like very much to talk about is how we attend Mass. Sometimes when Mass starts there are very few people in the church, as much as 75% of the assembly arrives late. When we start Mass I'm concerned that we are consecrating too many Hosts, and then after Communion we almost run out. Everyone rushes to everything anymore, I wonder if we could adjust our clocks to rush to 10 minutes of silence and peace before Mass actually begins, so that when it does we can be truly present to God as he is really present to us? A lot of people pack into the back corner of the church because they come in late, then Holy Communion takes literally twice as long on that side because people are not evenly distributed. If you are late, please just trust that people will not judge ( I do not), and come up closer to the altar.
A difficulty I have with daily Mass is that everyone sits so spread out (are people trying to make Mass a private affair?) that when the assembly responds to the prayers I often can't even hear the responses, or at least only a murmur. It often feels like I am doing Mass alone, except that I can see people out there. So many times I have asked and nobody moves. Come forward and take your place, experience your voice blending, interacting as the assembly. Mass is not ideal in our football stadium except on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. Together, everyday, we are (must be!) the voice of Jesus making his prayer to the Father. Alone?—well, we are just alone.
It is a goal that we also have, to have silent time before and after Mass. We have asked the choirs and musicians not to rehearse in the church before Mass so that this will be possible. Silence is so important—and so rare in our lives today—and we need it badly. Give yourself this gift to be centered and recollected to prepare for your encounter with the Father as the Body of Christ. Take the time to think of what you are offering to God at this Mass today, allow your self-gift to deepen and mature with the practice of silence in God's presence. You will be delighted with what happens. In the same way, as Mass ends, you may leave during the recessional hymn if you wish, or you may stay for a prayer. We hope to keep the church quiet after Mass as well. Please help.
Save the date: Holy Land Trip, February 10-23, 2020!
God bless you.