Five First Saturdays Devotion
At Christmas time we focus on the birth of Christ, even as we look ahead to His Passion, crucifixion, and Resurrection. On the Sunday after Christmas we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and we are invited into the Holy Family by becoming, as it were, adoptive brothers and sisters of Jesus and, therefore, adoptive children of God the Father. Remember, though, what Jesus said to St. John and the Blessed Mother as He hung upon the Cross, “When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.” On the surface, it seems that Jesus is asking St. John to look after His mother after He dies, but there is a deeper, spiritual meaning here. We are all the “disciple whom he loved,” and so Jesus, on the Cross, gives all of His to His mother and gives His mother to all of us, that she might be our mother, too. Therefore, we call Mary both the Mother of God and the Mother of all the Faithful.
On December 10, 1925, Sr. Lucia, who had received the visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, received another vision of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. They asked her to spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through what we now call the Five First Saturdays Devotion. The Blessed Virgin said, “See, my daughter, My Heart surrounded with thorns with which ingrates pierce me at every moment with blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, make sure to console me and announce that all those who for five months, on the first Saturdays, go to confession, receive Communion, say five decades of the Rosary and keep me company for 15 minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the purpose of making reparation to Me, I promise to assist them at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of souls.”
The purpose of the five Saturdays is to make reparation for the five kinds of offenses against the Blessed Virgin Mary: 1) blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception, 2) blasphemies against her virginity, 3) blasphemies against her divine maternity and refusing to accept her as the Mother of all men, 4) instilling indifference, scorn, and even hatred towards the Immaculate Mother in the hearts of children, and 5) direct insults against her holy images. Just as God chose to have His Son, our Lord, come into the world through the Blessed Virgin Mary and through her assenting to His plan for salvation, so the Lord God desires to bring souls to Himself through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I believe that it is only through her that fallen away Catholics, protestants, and Muslims will come to a catholic faith in her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Five First Saturdays Devotion is a way that each one of us can help bring down God’s mercy and grace on the world.
Christmas Homily 2019
Fr. Bryan Howard
The Nativity of the Lord – 25 December 2019
About 2,021 years ago our Lord Jesus Christ was born. God became man when Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, and on December 25 we celebrate His birth. The Bible doesn’t actually tell us the date of His birth, and modern experts disagree. Some think He was probably born around October and others think it was probably in the Spring. However, the earliest Christians, the ones close to when Jesus actually lived, celebrated Christmas either on January 6, in the Greek dominated Churches, or on December 25, in the Roman dominated Churches, but why pick one day when we can celebrate for the entire 12 days in between; hence the “12 Days of Christmas.”
While the rest of the country is starting their after Christmas sales and radio stations are going back to the normal programming, Catholics are just starting to celebrate Christmas. I don’t know about you, but by the time we get to Christmas I’m about done. So, why don’t we take these 12 days to shift our focus away from presents and parties towards the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation that He brings to us. When the angels appeared to the shepherds they said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
When we hear that quote we tend to think of Christmas pageants and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, but this was a world shaking event. This was revolutionary; a challenge to the powers that be. Anyone could have told you that the King of the World lives in Rome and his name is Augustus Caesar. Caesar is the one who was called “lord,” but now that title is being applied to Jesus Christ. When Caesar won a victory in battle they would send out messengers to all of the major cities with the good news, or evangelion, of the victory, and now the angel in saying that the true evangelion is the good news of the birth of Jesus. Caesar could call on the Roman Legions which, at their height numbered in the hundreds of thousands of highly trained professional soldiers, but Jesus has a “heavenly host” or heavenly army of angels who come not to destroy and kill but to sing praises, saying “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
If you think this is just pious exaggeration, remember what Jesus said to St. Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane. When they came to arrest him, St. Peter drew his sword and cut off one of their ears, and Jesus told him, “Put you sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. DO you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?” Then, when Pontius Pilate wanted to release Jesus, the Jewish officials said, “If you release him, you are not a friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” That’s why Pilate handed Jesus over to them, and why they put a sign on His Cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Jesus was born to institute a new kind of kingdom. The Kingdom of God doesn’t grow through armies or espionage or economic warfare. It grows through faith and love. There were times when Christian Europe tried to spread the faith with the sword, and it inevitably failed. The early Christians said that the seed of the faith is watered by the blood of martyrs, so we revere saints like the Roman martyrs who died in the Colosseum, the Japanese martyrs, the Korean martyrs, and the North American martyrs. We also revere saints who dedicate their lives to the service of the most needy, like Mother Theresa of Calcutta or St. Damien of Molokai, who was priest to the leper colony at Molokai and eventually contracted leprosy himself. We also revere those saints who dedicate themselves to their families, like Sts. Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.
To be great in the kingdom of God it is not necessary to be born into a noble family, rich, famous, or successful. It takes much more than that. We must recognize the great gift of salvation that our Lord came to give us, the great love that He showed us in the Cross, and strive to live it out every day of our lives. The Lord is still with us in the Eucharist, in our families, in our whatever place where people gather in God’s name, in the poor, and in one another. One of my teachers in seminary, Fr. Michael Chapagne, used to say that prayer is simply to look at Jesus, to look at myself, and then to make an adjustment. This Christmas season, let’s try to reflect on the birth of Jesus and His life, how He challenges us to put love of God and neighbor first in our lives, and try to live like Christ a little bit more each day by showing one another a little bit more kindness, patience, generosity, forgiveness, and compassion.
Homily for Sunday, December 22, 2019
Fr. Bryan Howard
4th Sunday of Advent – Year A – 22 December 2019
In 2005 researchers from the University of North Carolina published the results of 3,000 interviews with teenagers and young adults. They found that most of them believed that God exists and that He created the universe and ordered it and that He created human life and watches over us. They believe that God wants people to be nice to each other, to treat one another fairly, and to be tolerant, and that the central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about yourself. However, they also believe that God doesn’t really get involved in our lives except when He’s needed to fix something. I’m not here to belittle anyone who thinks that way; some of the members of my own immediate family fall into that category. I do, however, want people to understand that God is far more than just the creator, that morality is far more than just being nice to people, and that God isn’t content to just sit back and watch until we need Him. All of these points can be answered in just one word: Love. God is love, and He created the universe and us in order to share His love with us. God wants us to love one another as He loves us, and, because He loves us, He wants to be with us.
Our first readings today, from the prophet Isaiah, prophecies that the Messiah would have the name Emmanuel. How can Jesus, then, be the Messiah. He doesn’t seem to fit that prophecy. Our Gospel, however, points out that the word, “Emmanuel,” means “God is with us.” Jesus fulfills this prophecy not by being named Emmanuel but by actually being God with us. In the person of Jesus God shows His love for us by uniting a human nature, the man Jesus, to Himself in one person. The person Jesus is 100% human and 100% God, not a mix of both like some Greek demi-god, or a human being possessed by God, but a true unity.
However, God isn’t content to unite just one human being to Himself. In Jesus Christ we can all be united to God. On the Cross, Jesus Christ showed us the depths of God’s love for us by suffering and dying for us. In the Resurrection He offered all of us new life. In the person of Jesus, God showed His love to the world, but only the people living in that time in the area of Palestine would have even had the opportunity to see Him, let alone believe in Him and follow Him. Therefore, Jesus gave His Church the gift of the Eucharist. Just as Jesus Christ was God incarnate, which literally means “in the flesh,” so the Eucharist is God incarnate, the real presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the Eucharist humanity and divinity, man and God, meet through the flesh of Jesus. We play this out in every Mass. The sanctuary represents heaven, the nave, where the people sit, represents earth. After the Eucharistic Prayer we meet at the middle point to receive the Holy Communion. At that point heaven comes down to earth and earth rises up to meet her Christ. The Eucharist contains all the love of God, and is enough to make someone a saint from receiving it just once, if they place all their faith in God.
Once we have received the grace, friendship, and love that God is offering us in the Eucharist we must allow God to start to transform us form the inside out. God isn’t content with us being nice to people; He wants to make us able to love as He loves and truly take up our crosses every day and follow after Christ. Sometimes that means swallowing my pride and admitting that I’ve messed up, apologizing, and doing my best to make things right. It might mean coming to see Jesus in someone that’s particularly hard for us to get along with. Maybe it means giving up something that I love because I’ve realized that it’s hurting someone else. It could mean paying attention to someone else when all I want to do is sit back and recuperate after a long day, or recognizing that someone needs some space even though I really want to talk to them. In so many little ways, from taking out the trash without being asked to the greatest sacrifices of the martyrs, we love like Christ, by doing what He did, being with others and sacrificing for their good.
In every family the home needs to become a school of love where we can experience the unconditional love of others and learn to give that love ourselves. Sometimes our family members are the hardest people to get along with, but we also have the greatest responsibility to them. May we all look to Christ to see an example of love, receive the strength we need in the Eucharist, and then, in our turn, become examples of love to the people around us, starting with our families but not stopping there.
Become Like Little Children
During this Advent we’ve focused our homilies on the Sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and Holy Matrimony, asking the Lord to give us the grace to be renewed in the Faith, in our Church family, and in our families at home, that we might center our Church life around the Eucharist and our families around God. The mission of the Catholic Church is to spread the Gospel to all peoples and to give an example of God’s love, especially through service to those who are most in need. I believe that the most important job of the Catholic parish in fulfilling this mission is to give you and your families the support you need to live out the faith to the full through the Mass, the other Sacraments, prayer, learning the faith, and growing in virtue and holiness. What better time of the year to refocus ourselves on Jesus Christ than when we’re preparing to celebrate His birth?
Jesus said to His disciples, “Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven. And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me” (Mt. 18:3-5). We can take that to mean many things; that we should be innocent, free from malice, or honest, or not wanting to have honor and distinctions. All of these are certainly true and very good, but what does it truly mean to be humble like a child is humble? It doesn’t mean naïve, as the Lord certainly wants His disciples to understand the ways of the world, if only so they can avoid them.
What distinguishes childhood from adolescence from adulthood is how much we depend on our parents and other people to take care of us. Adults are those who are now able to take care of themselves, to speak for themselves legally, and, eventually, to take care of their own families. Teenagers and pre-teens are learning how to take care of themselves, how to discipline themselves, and how to provide for themselves, but they aren’t all the way there yet. Children, especially babies, are totally dependent on their parents. They depend on them for clothes, shelter, food, transportation, and, especially, love.
We must become like little children in regards to God. We have to realize that we are totally dependent on God for our lives, for our faith, and for everything good, because God is the source of everything that is good. Take the example of the saints. Saints aren’t people who never sinned or even, necessarily, who did great things or worked great miracles. The saints are people who realized their littleness next to God and depended on Him for everything. This didn’t make them wallflowers who were afraid to try anything; it made them daring and bold, because they knew that God was at their side. Consider St. Joseph Cho Yun-ho, a son of a Korean farmer. His family was Christian and he became a catechist, helping to spread the faith to other Koreans. He was arrested with his father and other Christians, refused to deny Christ, and was martyred by the Korean government on December 23, 1866. He was only 18 years old. He and the other Korean martyrs helped to sow the seeds of the faith in that country. May we humble ourselves before God, become like little children, and help sow the seeds of the faith in our country and our families.
Homily for Sunday, December 15, 2019
Fr. Bryan Howard
3rd Sunday of Advent – Year A – 15 December 2019
St. John the Baptist, Jesus’ own cousin, is the one who first noticed the Jesus is the Messiah. He had the mission to prepare the people for the Messiah and to point Him out when He came, and he accomplished his mission. However, by this point St. John the Baptist has been imprisoned by King Herod for questioning the legality and morality of his marriage. So, St. John is at a low point in his life and he’s beginning to doubt himself. Is Jesus really the Messiah? Did I get it right? Is the Kingdom of God coming? He sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus if He’s really the Messiah, the Christ? Jesus tells them to look at what He’s doing: giving sight to the blind, healing the crippled, cleansing lepers, making the deaf hear, raising the dead, and proclaiming the good news to the poor. He’s doing all of the things that the Messiah was prophesied to do, and He’s letting His actions speak for Him.
Actions always speak louder than words. It’s one thing to say that you love someone, and it’s another to put their needs ahead of your own, or valuing bravery verses risking your life for a worthy cause, or saying that generosity is important verses making a real sacrifice to help the needy. The prophets of the Old Testament understand that merely proclaiming the Word of God wasn’t enough, they lived out their prophesies. That’s what St. John the Baptist was doing. He lived in the desert, wore camel hair clothes, and lived on locusts and honey. This was a dramatic way of asking people if God was more important to them than comfort, honor, wealth, and luxury. Are we ever tempted to put aside our honesty to get ahead at work, or will we sacrifice worldly success to build up treasure in heaven? Are we willing to put aside our faith because we think people will think we’re strange or crazy? Are we willing to put aside our morality so we can hang out with certain people, the cool crowd? Now, let me be clear, money, honor, comfort, and success are all good things. Accomplishing things in life is good. Providing a good life for your family is good. But they’re only good in the context of a good, moral life. It’s the single minded pursuit of them and willingness to sacrifice our principles for them that is immoral. By giving them up entirely, St. John the Baptist was saying, in a dramatic way, that God must be first in our lives and that we should be willing to give everything else for Him.
We don’t usually think of it like that, but marriage is another way of living out a prophetic life. Catholics consider marriage to be a sacrament. Sacraments are visible signs of invisible graces. For example, the water of baptism symbolizes the effect that baptism has on the soul of giving spiritual life and spiritual cleansing. So in marriage the love of husband and wife for one another and for their children represent the love that God has for us. It’s hard for us to imagine the kind of love that God has for us because we don’t actually have any experience with it. The Bible compares it to the love of a spouse or a parent because that is the closest thing we have to it in this life, and yet, we’re only human, so we make mistakes and fail to show our love for one another. We show love or feel love, but God is love.
St. Augustine wrote about the three goods of marriage, and these are what the bride and groom promise to one another in the marriage vows: fidelity, indissolubility, and fruitfulness. The bride and groom promise to be faithful in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, and for richer or poorer. It’s easy to be faithful in good times and health, and for better and richer. What they’re really promising is fidelity in bad times, in sickness, for worse, and for poorer. God’s faithfulness is one of the primary ways that God is described in the Old Testament. He is faithful to Israel even when they sin against Him by worshiping false gods, breaking His laws, and taking advantage of the most helpless in society. When they forsake Him He allows them to go, even when it results in destruction, but He always forgives them and brings them back. He keeps sending them prophets to call them to repentance, and He eventually sends even His own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to die for them and for us.
The bride and groom promise to be faithful “until death do us part,” or “all the days of my life.” That’s a poetic way of saying that they are promising to love each other without limit. They give themselves to one another in every aspect of life and for their entire life. That’s what the Eucharist is for us. In Jesus Christ, God has given Himself to us. He even suffered and died for us, and He continues to give Himself to us in the Eucharist, body and blood, soul and divinity. Husband and wife promise that their love for one another doesn’t depend on they’re emotions, which can change, but that they will continue to place one another’s needs ahead of their own. It’s not just hard, it’s humanly impossible, so we go before God and ask for His help.
Finally, marriage is fruitful. Love always wants to spread, to grow, and to give life. After all, even though God has everything that He needs in the Trinity, He created the universe and gave us life in order to share His life and His love with us. The most obvious way this is shown in marriage is having children, who are a living expression of their love for one another, but it’s also shown in those who adopt children or reach out in love to those around them in so many different ways. The very witness of their love and care for one another is one of the greatest gifts they can give.
I’ve been focusing on marriage because it’s so important and families are under so much stress, but we are all, as Christians, called to be witnesses of love to one another, to live in a prophetic way, and to bring God into people’s lives. We’re each called to do that in our own way, but in this Mass let’s ask God to give us grace and strength through the Eucharist, the great sign of His love for us, so we can go out and be better witnesses to that love in how we treat one another.
Have you ever wondered why Catholic churches are designed the way they are? In the earliest days of the Church Christianity was under nearly constant persecution. First, the Jewish officials were trying to get the apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ to stop preaching about the Resurrection. Then, in the 60’s AD, the emperor Nero Caesar started the Roman persecution which would continue, with some interruptions, until the emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 AD (although the persecutions didn’t end immediately in every part of the empire).
Suddenly, after over 250 years of persecution, Christians could practice their religion openly and didn’t have to gather in people’s homes or the catacombs to celebrate Mass. The very first Churches during this time were converted from public buildings and meeting areas, but soon the Church in Rome was building the first great basilicas. These Churches took inspiration not only from Greek and Roman architecture but also from our Jewish roots.
The first holy places were on mountains. When the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt, the journeyed to Mt. Sinai where they offered sacrifices to God and received the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law. In the first book of Kings, the Prophet Elijah flees from King Ahab to Mt. Horeb where he encounters God. Also, Solomon’s Temple was build on Mt. Zion, in Jerusalem, which was considered to be a sacred mountain. That’s why Psalm 24 says, “Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord, or who shall stand in His holy place?” The mountain of the Lord is Mt. Zion, and the “holy place,” or sanctuary, is the Temple.
When Solomon built the Temple it was designed as a sort of artificial mountain. When you went up to the Temple to worship you would first ascend a flight of steps from the Outer Court to the Upper Court, which housed the bronze altar of sacrifice. Only the priests and Levites could enter the Upper Court. You would then go up another flight of steps into the Holy Place which housed the altar of incense, ten lamps stands, and a table holding bread (The Bread of the Presence) and wine. Finally, you would then ascend another flight of steps into the Holy of Holies, which was blocked off by a veil and housed the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a symbol of Jesus, since it contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a jar of the Mana that the Israelites ate in the desert after the Exodus and which was a symbol of the Eucharist.
If you look at the picture of St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, you can see how traditional Catholic churches are modeled after Solomon’s Temple. You would first ascend into the Church itself, where the people gather for Mass. Then, you ascend another flight of steps into the Sanctuary, or Holy Place, which has the ambo for the readings and the celebrant’s chair. Then, you ascend a final flight of steps to the tabernacle, which contains the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, just like the Ark in the Holy of Holies was a golden box containing the Mana.
You further you go into the Church, the more you are ascending the “mountain of the Lord” and the closer you are getting to Jesus. Ultimately, the sacred mountains in the Bible, Solomon’s Temple, and our Catholic Churches all point to something beyond themselves. They point us to heaven. Our goal in life should be to grow closer to God that we might one day ascend to heaven to be with Him for eternity.
In the Catholic Church we have patron saints for just about everything, from Alpine troops (St. Maurice) to zoos (St. Francis of Assisi). They’re an important part of Catholic spirituality, because we believe that the saints are still alive, that we are still connected to them through the Holy Spirit in the Communion of Saints, and that they can still help us with their prayers since they’re united with God in heaven.
We should each have our own patron saints as well. Mine is St. Joseph, which is my middle name and he’s the saint I chose for my Confirmation name. I chose St. Joseph because he’s the Protector of the Church, the patron for a holy death, and because he’s the foster father of Jesus Christ. He’s a paternal figure and example for the entire Church, showing us the meaning of earthly fatherhood and spiritual fatherhood. I ask St. Joseph to pray for me every day, and I often ask for his help with particularly difficult situations. Who’s your patron saint? Do you know about their life, and do you ask them to pray for you daily?
We also have a patron saint of the United States. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the patron saint of our nation under her title of the Immaculate Conception. Her feast day usually falls on December 8, but this year December 8 is a Sunday so we move the celebration of her feast day to Monday. It’s also usually a holy day of obligation, but you should already be going to Mass on Sunday, and the obligation doesn’t move with the day in these circumstances.
The Immaculate Conception refers to the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved even from original sin from the moment of her conception in the womb of St. Ann, the grandmother of Jesus. This was a special grace granted to Mary through her Son Jesus, even before He was born, to prepare her to conceive Him in her womb, which we celebrate at the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Confused yet? To put it another way, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception we celebrate that Mary was, as the Archangel Gabriel said, “full of grace.” From the very moment of her conception God was with her in a powerful way. She is a sign to us that God is also with us, and that we are destined to join Jesus and Mary in heaven, so long as we follow Him. That’s why we pray in the Hail Mary, “Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.” Tomorrow, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the patronal feast of the United States, let’s remember to ask Mary to pray for us and for our country now, and at the moment of our greatest need.
Homily for Sunday, December 1, 2019
Fr. Bryan Howard
1st Sunday of Advent – Year A – 1 December 2019
It’s been my practice since I started as pastor here to do a sort of financial assessment of the parish every September, where we go over the budget and talk about our plans for the future and what the Church needs to accomplish them. I was convicted recently that there is something more important than our financial condition, our spiritual condition. How are we doing as a parish and as a Church in our relationship with God and in our relationships with one another. What better time to ask that question than the First Sunday of Advent, when we begin to prepare for the birth of Jesus.
It’s dangerous to but too much stock in numbers, because there’s more to the health of the Church than how many people go to Mass, but we certainly want more people going to Mass and approaching the Sacraments. So, how is the Catholic Church doing? According to CARA, a Catholic research agengy, from 2000 to 2018, the US Catholic population increased by almost 9 million people, to 68.7 m. In 2018, there were 380,000 fewer infants baptized, over 70,000 fewer confirmations, over 200,000 fewer first Communions, over 100,000 fewer Catholic marriages, and the number of Catholic who attend Mass every Sunday dropped from 30% to 21%.
We know that the Church is struggling in the US, but how are we doing as a parish? In the past few years, the number of baptisms and funerals we’re doing has gone up, as well as weekday Mass attendance. We’ve instituted Bible Studies and have about 2 dozen people participating. We’ve stayed about the same on the number of weddings, only one each year I’ve been here. The best indication of the spiritual health of a parish, however, is to look at Sunday Mass attendance and the number of people going to confession. I would say that the number of people going to confession is about the same, or maybe a little bit higher, than when I started here, although we obviously don’t keep a count of that. The number of people going to Mass on Sundays, however, has definitely gone down. We always get over 500 people for Christmas and Easter and over 400 people for Ash Wednesday, but we’re averaging about 350 for a regular weekend where just a few years ago we averaged over 380.
Now, I don’t think that the Catholic Church is in danger of dying out; there are many places in the world where the Church is growing exponentially, like some parts of Africa and Asia. So, why is this happening here? Well, the clergy abuse scandal certainly plays a part. The bishops and priests who committed those atrocities forgot or ignored their responsibility to shepherd God’s people and many people stopped trusting the Church, and who could blame them. However, that doesn’t explain everything. The news broke in about 2002, but the decline in Mass attendance can be traced back to the 1970’s.
I think another reason for the decline is the cultural change that started in the 1960’s. As peoples’ morality and lifestyles changed and things that the Church considers to be grave sin began to be seen as normal, people began to label the Church as intolerant. When people identify something as part of their character or their right, then calling it a sin can seem like an attack on them as a person. The Church has a responsibility to preach the truth, but we all know that it can be very hard to hear the truth.
That’s a lot of bad news, but there’s also a lot of Good News. Remember what Mother Teresa said, “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful.” In other words, our part is to follow the Gospel, to live the faith, and to love like Christ. God is the One who brings success or failure. If we are faithful, and seem to fail, then we should look to the Cross. Christ seemed to have failed when He was nailed to the Cross, but through the sign of the Cross the Gospel has spread to every continent.
Today, I want all of us to renew our commitment to God, to be renewed in the faith and in the grace of God. Moving forward, we will be focusing on renewing ourselves in the faith through a focus on the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Matrimony. Let’s put the Eucharist at the center of our Church family and at the center of our families at home. The best way we can evangelize our community is to live out the faith with joy. Joy is contagious and addictive. When we see someone who is full of joy we want to be close to them and that gives us an opportunity to share the faith simply by living it out in a radical way. I see the mission of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church as helping your family to live out the faith and put Christ at the center of our homes and lives. As part of our focus on the Eucharist, we already have opportunities for Adoration every first Wednesday and every Friday morning. As part of our focus on the Family, we are working on starting youth ministry as well as more opportunities for Marriage Enrichment. We also want everyone to know that families and children are always welcome at every parish Mass and parish event, and if the topics being talked about are too mature for certain ages we’ll make that clear in advance.
Finally, this parish is already very committed to our patron saint, Our Lady of Lourdes, and we want to ask her to continue to pray for and bless our parish and our families. So, we’re going to be adding a Mass the First Saturday of every month which will be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I’ll be available for confession half an hour before Mass and we’ll pray a Marian devotion or prayer after Mass. The Mass will be the ordinary (Novus Ordo) Mass that we’re used to, but all the prayers will be in Latin while the readings and homily will be in English. This will give us an opportunity to experience Mass in the language that the Church used for over one and a half millennia, and the language that most Catholics and most of the saints heard Mass in.
Lord God, we ask you to bless our parish, our community, and our families. Renew us in the faith and in your grace through the Sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and Holy Matrimony, that we might all grow closer to you as one family in Christ. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.