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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!
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.
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.