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Kicking off Family Message Seriesbb601e

My Dear Parish Family,

Today, the Sunday after Christmas, the Church presents the Feast of the Holy Family. As noted last week, this is the season of feasts! The Solemnity of  Mary, the Holy Mother of God follows on January 1st. A holy day of obligation, Masses will be offered at 5pm on New Year’s Eve and 11am New Years Day. Come and begin the New Year honoring Mary with your parish family.

As we behold the Holy Family, Mary and Joseph with Jesus, we recognize immediately that Jesus was not born into an ideal situation. Although he arrives in the fullness of time, as the Scriptures teach us, our heavenly Father’s perfect timing does not appear to coincide with what a modern family would call a “planned pregnancy”: little savings, no home, no healthcare, no life insurance, no college savings plan.

Today in the Gospel we learn that when the Magi departed, Joseph fled to Egypt with his family. And after a number of years, they finally settled in Galilee. So the Holy Family were immigrants, transients and day laborers. Joseph needed to find work that his family might eat. A tenuous situation for any family, let alone the family chosen and prepared to raise the Son of Man. Jesus even gets lost in the temple at twelve, but that’s another story.

Pause and Wonder at the NewBorn King

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This letter carries through the last days of Advent preparation and includes that Silent Night on which Joy was brought to the World! On behalf of the whole faculty and staff of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, I wish you and yours a Blessed and Holy Christmas Season.

As Christmas fast approaches, preparations can draw to a fever pitch. Please set aside some time to pause and ponder during these days.  Look at your creche and stare with great love at the empty crib. Await with wonder the coming of the Christ, that Key of David who unlocks what our first parents locked away.

The last O Antiphon in our series: “O Key of David, opening the gates of God's eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness.” We address Jesus as the Key of David, the one who unlocks heaven for us, who frees the prisoners of darkness… that’s us. Jesus came to set us free from slavery, a slavery to sin, to place us firmly in the light, in His light. First through Baptism, and then continually through our participation in the life of grace, Christ Jesus frees us from that bondage into which our first parents fell, and which clings to us still through concupiscence, that tinder for sin which keeps us from perfect fidelity to the life of grace. 

Christmas, like Advent, is a whole season. Christmas is not limited to one day...hardly! In fact, we celebrate Christmas as an octave, which means that liturgically for eight days we keep Christmas. Think of Christmas as a feast too grand to be contained in one day; rather the joy bursts forth and spreads to incorporate the whole week! 

Next Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.  During this time of celebration in our Church’s year, we will be concentrating our themes on the family.  Beginning with the Feast of the Holy Family, and then Mary the Mother of God, Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord, and Presentation of Jesus all in succession, it is fitting to focus on the family.

It is also the time of year when - for better or for worse - we spend more time among family and friends. Those momentous gatherings that bring out the best in us: the warmth and strength of our closest ties; they can also bring out old hurts, divisions and rivalries. Foreknowledge at times remains insufficient to thwart strong reactions. Prayer before and after gatherings is so helpful. Wrap the party in prayer. Imagine Mary, the Queen of Peace, at the heart of the gathering with her loving countenance and motherly gaze. Pray 3 Hail Mary’s on the way over. You will be glad you did! 

We commemorate the arrival of Emmanuel, God-with-us, and like the shepherds on that holy night and the holy magi who follow, we come to adore the beautiful Babe of Bethlehem, who humbles himself to be born: homeless in a cave, a refuge soon to be in flight to Egypt, a king of unusual kind whose ministry becomes plainest by his taking the lowest place: the manger, the cave, the footwashing, the cross.

This Christmas, our parish staff extends to you the gift of a Christmas book: Rediscover the Saints by Matthew Kelly. In an approachable style with short chapters and practical lessons, Kelly presents the saints as very human, very much like us, as people from which we can learn a great deal. Not because they are far above us in heaven, but because they lived what we live. They know us. They share our experience. And in the midst of life, the saints made heroic choices. Each day, we have the opportunity to make heroic choices. Small at first: biting our tongue before an unkind word surfaces, then ever greater.

These are women and men who went before us and who now share in the glory of heaven. These heroic figures love us and they offer for us breadcrumbs of virtue and grace that we can follow on our own pilgrim journey home.

Make a friend of the Saints and you make a friend of Jesus. 

Once again, may your Christmas be full of the light of Christ!

With deep affection and prayers,

Fr. Wilson

With Tears, Rejoicing

My Dear Parish Family,

I would be remiss if I did not first share the sad news that this year will be the last for our beloved school. After this year our school will close. Our school has been such a source of life for our parish family. How many times over the course of the past two years have I heard the words, “Oh, I went to OLPH!” Seems at one time all the Catholics in town came here, and this was a very Catholic town!

A Father Who Keeps His Promises

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the first reading today, we hear a promise from the Lord God: “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD,” (Isaiah 11:1-2).

From these two simple verses we receive not only the allusion to the Stump of Jesse, but also the gifts we associate with the Holy Spirit and the Sacrament of Confirmation. Officially the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, Fear of the Lord (W U K C F P F… mnemonic device: "We Forgot Keys Under Frank's Cactus Plant")

O Antiphons and Advent!

Dear OLPH,

“Oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine!” Crying out “Oh” is an older form of direct address. Today we might say: “Hey Clementine!” Although my sixth grade grammar teacher would chime in, “Hay is for horses and grass is for cows!” Oh my! How far we have strayed from good grammar!

Today we seize upon “O” - that powerful letter which communicates in English that we would like to address someone. We find it in some short prayers: “Oh dear Jesus!” or “Oh my God!” Sometimes those words slip out, not as prayers but as an exclamation(!) in which case we are not giving God’s holy name the dignity it reserves.

During Advent, we have a beautiful tradition of O Antiphons during evening prayer as we approach the arrival of the Christ-child. Four of these antiphons will frame our message series for Advent. They embrace themes from the great prophet Isaiah which are sprinkled through all of Advent, especially this year.  Here are our four:

A Deeper Thanksgiving

My Dear Families,

A dear friend of mine was traveling through the south one time. At an airport he encountered some evangelical preachers. One saw the crucifix about his neck, pointed to it and said: “You believe in a dead God! We believe in the God of resurrection and life!” My buddy, taken aback, asked the young man if he had a Bible handy. Thankfully, he was able to turn quickly to the words of Saint Paul.

Tribulation and the Battle Cry

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Jesus never promised to keep his followers from suffering. Jesus promises to accompany us in our sorrows and to sustain us with his grace, even when all seems lost. An important lesson for every Christian is that the journey for us, just as for Jesus, leads to the cross of Calvary. We place our hope in our Lord who has gone before us, given meaning to life’s travails, and has been raised on the other side of death.

Dear Family in Christ,

Today we receive a teaching from Jesus on the institution of marriage. Students can ask very unusual questions of their teachers. Today the Sadduccees, who are experts in Jewish Law, pose a quizzical question to our Lord. Jesus uses the question to instruct everyone about one of the beauties of marriage. For those already in heaven, marriage is not a covenant they enter into. Angels do not get married and neither do those in heaven (see Luke 20:27-38).

Now marriage is a sacrament: an outward sign instituted by Christ that communicates grace. Marriage has been given to humanity for the unity of husband and wife, the procreation and education of children, and the strengthening of the community of believers. When a woman and man come together in marriage, they enter into a covenant that binds them “all the days of our life” or “until death do us part” - depending on the wording of the vows. Hence the reason why widows and widowers are free to enter again into marriage. The bonds of marriage do not endure into the next life. We cannot conclude that spouses are strangers in heaven - hardly! The bonds of love which knit us together in this life endure unto the next, but not the particular covenant of marriage.

Dear OLPH Family,

It’s November already, the month to remember and to pray for all of our family and friends who have gone before us. We usher in the month with the glorious commemoration of All Saints: the day to recall all of those sharing in the glory of Heaven whose names have not been officially recognized or canonized. While it may not be obvious at first, if one is in heaven, one is a saint. Heaven is full of saints, angels and the glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! 

On November 2nd, we commend all our faithful departed to the mercy of God. This year at OLPH, we are renewing the ancient tradition of a Novena (nine days of Masses) dedicated to all the departed carefully noted on the envelopes with accompanying sacrificial offering. It is not too late to fill out an envelope to commend those who have gone before us to the mercy of God. 

Dear Parish Family,

Today we wrap up our message series, Mercy and Our Response, which began in mid-September. For six weeks now, Saint Luke has shared with us various accounts of Jesus’ teaching and healing. We began with the epicenter of mercy, Luke 15: an exhibition of what is lost, but on deeper inspection a beautiful illustration of “the nature of God, as that of a Father who never gives up, until he has forgiven the wrong and overcomes rejection with compassion and mercy,” in the words of Pope Francis. Two weeks ago, we recognized that despite a universal personal need for the mercy of God, only sometimes do our hearts swell with deep gratitude for the mercy and blessing that God showers upon us.