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I hope that this Advent season has been a prayerful time of watching for the arrival of our Lord and Messiah in your life, and that your heart is prepared to celebrate Christmas together, here at our beautiful parish church of the Immaculate Conception. This pause of Advent has allowed us to meditate on what the birth of the Christ Child means to us, some 2,000 years later. As we prepare to leave the still and quiet darkness of Advent, and welcome the Light of Christ on Christmas Day, let us all enjoy the true joy that is represented by our Savior’s birth.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said that “... joy is the true gift of Christmas, not the expensive gifts that call for time and money. We can communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, a little help, forgiveness.”
When God is perceived as being absent in the world, there is fear and uncertainty. But where God is present, there is the true joy of Christmas, of which the Holy Father Emeritus speaks.
So, on this Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us be reminded that God is not absent in the world. He is present in our world always, and longs to be welcomed into each individual heart.
If you have been away from the Catholic Faith, and are joining us here on Christmas, we welcome you with the joy of the love of Christ. I encourage you to pray about becoming active in your faith again; perhaps this Christmas is the first step in that journey. As Pope Francis reminds us all: “God forgives us, not with a decree, but with His love, healing the wounds of sin.” It is never too late to return to God, because He does love you.
And if you regularly practice your Catholic faith, the arrival of the Christ Child reminds us to show the joy of your faith in your smile, in kind gestures, and with a forgiving heart. God is, indeed, present in this world, of which the celebration of Christmas reminds us. Let us then welcome Him into our hearts, for that is what the birth of the Messiah means, these 2,000 years later.
On behalf of our Parochial Vicar, Fr. Britt Taylor, and our parish office and school staff, I wish you all the true joy of a Blessed Christmas!
As we come to the end of the Church year (Advent being the beginning of the next Liturgical Year), I wanted to begin to share with you some insight and catechesis behind some of the more noticeable changes I have made in the sanctuary, and during the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass.
Father Taylor has undertaken the training of our altar servers, and you have most certainly noticed the reintroduction of the Sanctus bells, rung by our altar servers during the Liturgy of the Eucharistic within Mass.
Sanctus bells derive their name from being rung first during the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. They have been rung as part of the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Church for more than 800 years.
About the thirteenth century, outdoor tower bells began to be rung as "Sanctus bells" during the Mass, specifically at the Consecration (epiclesis) and the presentation of the Eucharist (elevation of Host and Chalice by the priest). Most Sanctus bells used today are small handheld bells, of three to five bells, that are rung in the Sanctuary during the Mass as directed in Chapter IV, paragraph 150 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).
Sanctus bells are first rung at the epiclesis, when the priest prays to the Holy Spirit to change the gifts of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
The bells are rung a second time as the priest elevates and presents the Body of Christ, and are rung a third time as the priest elevates and presents the chalice filled with the Precious Blood.
Sanctus bells may also be rung at specified times outside of the Mass, such as during Holy Benediction and during adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The Sanctus bells are more than an auditory signal meant to "wake up" the congregation to the consecration of the Eucharist. Sounding the bells at the moment Christ becomes present in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine is an audible sign of our joyous praise and thanksgiving.
I hope that the reintroduction of the joyful noise of the Sanctus bells helps to raise your hearts and minds to the Real Presence of our Eucharistic Lord on the Altar of Sacrifice.
As we come to the end of summer, our parish and school are certainly starting to buzz with excitement and activity. Our new principal, Ms. Margaret Beale, and her teachers and staff are welcoming new students, as they start an exciting year of renewal at Immaculata. I encourage all parishioners, and especially school parents, to become involved in building a strong PTO increasing overall parent involvement to support the mission of Catholic education.
Father Taylor will soon begin the training of altar servers, as we seek to bring a holy discipline to our service at the Altar of God. Servers should have already received Holy Communion, and should be mature understand the great responsibility of serving at the Altar with great reverence. Father Taylor will see that servers receive proper formation before they begin to function, including: appropriate guidance on maintaining proper decorum and attire when serving Mass; instruction on the Mass, and its parts and their meaning; objects used in the liturgy (their names and use); and the various functions of the server during the Mass and other liturgical celebrations. I encourage all young people, and especially young men, to see Father Taylor about joining in this important apostolate.
And finally, I would like to announce that, after consultation with the head of facilities and architecture at the Diocesan level, our Capital Campaign committee, and others, I am moving the Parish Offices to the newly acquired St. Joseph Center, hopefully in September. I want to honor the many contributions to our Capital Campaign which allowed the acquisition of this property, and properly maximizing the use of this wonderful building will support that end.
With our Parish Office located at the St. Joseph Center, along with Faith Formation and meeting space, the building will become a hub of daily parish activity. Our parish office staff will be able to work in a professional environment, all under one roof, and thereby extend ever greater customer service to our parishioners and visitors. Such an impressive building warrants being more than evening meeting space and, with this move, the St. Joseph Center becomes the face of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception. The current parish office space in the church basement will be repurposed for additional meeting space, youth and prayer group space (access to our chapel), and a dedicated choir practice space (underscoring the importance of that apostolate).
If you have not already done so, I hope this news encourages you to consider making a pledge to assist in bringing our Capital Campaign to the finish line. Be assured of the prayers of Fr. Taylor and myself for you and your families, through the intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Conception.
It is with great joy and excitement that I welcome Ms. Margaret Beale as the new Principal of our beloved Immaculata Catholic School! Ms. Beale comes to Immaculata after eight years at Asheville Catholic School, during which time she was an integral part of taking a struggling school, and helping to transform it into a growing and vibrant Catholic institution. The Principal Search Committee was very impressed with Ms. Beale’s accomplishments, her positive and uplifting attitude, and her strong work ethic.
Ms. Beale lives her life on a strong foundation in the Catholic faith, and is focused on promoting and maintaining positive, constructive relationships with parents, teachers, alumni, and our parish, to help build a strong school and parish community.
Ms. Beale has high expectations of herself, and her students and teachers, but guides students towards those high goals with a disposition of encouragement and love. I have every confidence that she will teach solid Catholic moral ideals to our children, instill leadership skills, and prepare our students academically, to live their lives in the fullness to which God calls them.
As your Pastor, I am looking forward to Ms. Beale bringing a new energy and enthusiasm to Immaculata Catholic School, but she needs your prayers, and your energy and enthusiasm, too. Now is a great time to get involved at Immaculata, so I encourage you to see me or Ms. Beale about energizing our PTO and parent involvement, and in sharing the value of a Catholic education with our community.
I also encourage you to enroll your children at Immaculata, if you have not done so yet. At the very soul of an Immaculata education is the education of the soul. Welcome, Ms. Margaret Beale, as our new Principal!
I want to thank you all for the warm welcome you have extended to me, as your new Pastor, and to our new Parochial Vicar, Father Britt Taylor. As you can imagine, the pace has been rather hectic since I became Pastor of Immaculate Conception on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.
I have shaken a lot of hands, I have heard a lot of opinions, and have not had time to unpack much of anything at the rectory! Change is a challenge for most of us, because we become set in our ways and comfortable with the environment in which we have become accustomed to living. So, during these times of change, we all must turn to the words of the Lord: “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” (Mt 8:20).
Christ is telling us that to truly follow Him, we must not become too attached to our comforts, whatever they may be. We must be ready to pick up our Cross, and follow Him wherever He leads us. Jesus was uncompromisingly honest; He never allows us the illusion that the Christian life is easy. And so we must not come to think that we can settle into our comfortable dens and nests; following Christ, then, always involves change.
To be followers of Christ means to be prepared to deny ourselves of our own will, and embrace His. We come to His Church on Jesus’ terms, not our own. But that does not mean our enthusiasm should be diminished; just that it should be directed by God’s will, and not one’s own agenda.
We have a lot to be excited about here at Immaculate Conception, and Immaculata Catholic School! Indeed, change is in the air; and yet, God is guiding us in very positive directions. And, as your Pastor, I ask everyone to discern what God may be asking you to do, in following Him. I am certain He is asking all of us to stretch ourselves beyond the comforts of our nest, and get involved in His saving Mission through the Parish and School.Be assured of my prayers for all of you.