Pastor's Message

It is my prayerful hope that your Lent has gotten off to a good start, and that you are entering more fully into a life of prayer, penance, and almsgiving. You were all made aware of some of the changes we had to make last weekend, after priests received a letter from Bishop Jugis on 28 February 2020, regarding the Covid19 Coronavirus situation.

I wanted to take a moment to address that situation more fully. Bishop Jugis has asked all priests “... to exercise special precautions during the celebration of the Mass and implement protocols ... to minimize the potential for coronavirus and flu [to] spread.”

In following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), the Bishop reminded us to remind you to cover all coughs and sneezes, to clean all “hightouch” surfaces regularly, to avoid shaking/holding hands, and to refrain from sharing personal items (dishes, cups, utensils, etc.).

To that end, the Bishop has requested that we not extend the Sign of Peace, distribute the Precious Blood at Holy Communion, and generally reduce occasions for infection. Therefore, Holy Communion will be distributed in only one form (consecrated Hosts) indefinitely; I ask you not to hold hands at the Our Father nor shake hands at the Sign of Peace, and to remain home if you are sick in any way.

In his letter, Bishop Jugis reminds us that you are “... legitimately excused from Mass if symptoms are present or [you] have any reason to suspect that [you] have been exposed to the virus,” be it the flu, coronavirus, or anything else.

Let us all act responsibly in our group interactions (at Mass, parish and school functions, etc.) to minimize the likelihood of infection and the disruption it would cause.

God bless you all, and be assured of my prayers.

Fr. Cook

We enter into the Lenten season of the Church calendar on Ash Wednesday, which is this Wednesday, February 26th. Masses on Ash Wednesday will be at 8:30am and 12:10pm in the main church, in which ashes will be distributed. Evening services led by our Deacons (to include the Liturgy of the Word and distribution of ashes) will be at 6:00pm (English) and 8:00pm (Spanish). While not a Holy Day of Obligation, Ash Wednesday is one of the more popular and wellattended days in Catholic parishes, thus the additional evening services for the distribution of ashes.

Ash Wednesday is also a day of obligatory fasting and abstinence in the Latin Catholic Church. For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.

As the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops reminds us, “No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season ....” And our Bishop’s Conference also reminds us that every Friday of Lent is a day of abstinence from meat: “In keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul's Constitution Poenitemini, we preserved for our dioceses the tradition of abstinence from meat on each of the Fridays of Lent, confident that no Catholic Christian will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice.”

Let us take care, here at Immaculate Conception, to enter into these disciplines, not in a spirit of merely following Church rules for their own sake but, rather, as a way to more fully prepare for a deeper understanding and enjoyment of the Easter mysteries for which Lent is the ancient penitential preparation.

Also during Lent, in keeping with the solemnity of the season, and in harmony with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, “... steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 54). So, we all look forward to our choir offering certain parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, as we learn together those beautiful chants.

As we seek to enter more deeply into this penitential season, I also invite you to take part in our parishwide study, a retreattype program in small groups, about which further details will soon be shared.

Let us continue to pray for one another, especially during this season of Lent, that we are given the Grace to enter into prayer, the service of almsgiving, and the selfdenial of fasting and abstinence, as fruitful observances in which we come to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called to the true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ's death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.

Father Cook

Our Lenten practices are renewed each year, and I know we can sometimes struggle with staying faithful to even the small sacrifices we have set for ourselves; almost as soon as we give up pizza as a penitential sacrifice, we may be halfway through a slice before we remember ... “Ooops, I gave UP pizza for Lent!”

But our Lord desires us to persevere in holiness, even if we fall. And should we fall, we do not despair; we dust ourselves off, seek His forgiveness, and continue to persevere in a life of holiness. And that is the focus for each of us during Lent.

As I mentioned last week, we are developing a Lenten Mass environment that will lend itself to quiet prayer and contemplation. And I am also putting into place more opportunities for you to avail yourself of the Sacrament of Penance during the Lenten season.

In that regard, I have a new confession schedule for Lent. On Fridays, the current confession time of 2:00pm will be replaced; confession on Fridays will follow the 8:30am Mass, and will be heard until 9:30am. So, Friday confessions will be heard from 9:00am to 9:30am.

The current Saturday confession time of 3:00pm, will be replaced; Saturday morning Mass at 9:00am will move from the chapel to the main church, and confessions will follow that Mass. Saturday confessions will now be offered from 9:30am to 10:30am on Saturdays.

Finally, we will now offer confessions on Sundays during Lent. Confessions will now be heard after the 7:00am, and 9:00am Masses. Our Sunday confession schedule will be 8:00am to 8:30am, and 10:15am to 10:45am.

These changes will be effective beginning the Friday after Ash Wednesday, February 28, 2020.

I hope you will find that these opportunities for the Sacrament of Penance lead you to practice that Sacrament more often, and to persevere in holiness this Lent. You remain in my daily prayers!

Fr. Cook

I continue to grow in my faith because of the tremendous examples of faith by the people of our Parish of the Immaculate Conception, and the students and teachers at Immaculata. As we approach Lent, just over two weeks away, I wanted to share with you some of the things we will do in our parish to assist us in entering into a more quiet, contemplative, prayerful, and penitential disposition during the upcoming Lenten season. 

Our practices before, and during, Mass will be adjusted, such that they lend themselves to a more still, prayerful environment, with less distraction; this will allow us to properly prepare our hearts and minds prior to Mass, and enter into a fuller sense of the sacred during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

To that end, the introduction to the Mass, by our Reader, will be more simple and abbreviated compared to our current practice, allowing all to more prayerfully prepare for Mass with minimal interruption. The use of the video screens during Holy Mass will be reduced, to mitigate much of the distraction many of the faithful experience from the use of video images during Mass; this should allow all of us to enter into a more deep, and fuller participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. 

Friday’s during Lent are days on which we offer, and participate in, the Stations of the Cross devotion. Therefore, our devotions on Friday’s will shift from Adoration to Stations; there will not be Adoration/ Benediction on Friday’s, so that we can give our attention to walking with our Lord on the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross. 

As a penitential season, our parish will be offering more opportunities for the Sacrament of Penance during Lent, and I will share the details of those additional times and days with you soon, as those plans are finalized. 

Be assured of my prayers for all of you, as we approach Lent; I pray that this Lent will be fruitful to your spiritual life, and help you grow closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father Cook

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!

Fr. Cook