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Presentation Parish Family Series

My Dear Parish Family,

It is 40 days since Christmas! Today, the Feast of the Presentation, Joseph and Mary - after her time of purification - present baby Jesus in the Temple. And those Christmas-loving diehards finally put their decorations away. Rather than a spiritual message, this week I communicate some “nuts and bolts” of parish life.

Last week in the bulletin, we discussed the strength and future of our parish family, and in part, how it can be undermined with rumors. Building on that reality, I want to share with you some of the “new” that you may not be aware of.

Our Parish Family Commemorates Our Catholic School

My Dear Family,

This week is Catholic Schools Week. In the recent past, that has meant a wave of recruiting and tours, plans for next year. Above all, seeking to attract new families to our beloved institution. This year, as we prepare to close our school, a poignant shadow stretches across our doors. These months will be the last months of our little Catholic school on Main Street in Maple Shade. Instead, this week we are commemorating what our Catholic School has been for our students and their families. Look in the bulletin for more details.

Dear Parish Family,

There is nothing quite like the smile or laughter of a child! The fullness of expression, holding nothing back… all out there… full of the radiant joy in the moment. The smile of a child is contagious! Children’s laughter makes even the scrooges among us regain the twinkle in our eye.

We are in the midst of our series of family life and today we pause to focus on the child. Although granted, children can become the central focus of family, sometimes to the detriment of the whole family unit. In the order of love, husband and wife must be devoted first to their union and then to the children. To do otherwise neglects the trunk of the tree to concentrate solely on the blossoms. Only a strong and solid tree bears good fruit, and from solid and devoted couples healthy and mature children emerge.

Dear OLPH Family, IMG 9920

Happy Feast of the Baptism of the Lord! We are hip deep in our Message Series on the Family, focusing on our family life and seeking to learn from the example of the Holy Family as we journey with them over these beautiful weeks of the Christmas season.

This week we find ourselves with Jesus and his cousin John the Baptist at the edge of the Jordan River. Not an overwhelming body of water, although scholars speculate it would have been wider and deeper two millennia ago; our Rancocas Creek is more formidable. Still because its water flowed, the Jordan was a verdant symbol of life in an arid land bereft of excess moisture… unlike Maple Shade ;).

Today begins the public life of Jesus. We designate all that precedes this moment, the hidden life. Mother Mary shared with Saint Luke certain sparse events. We can appreciate the quiet life at Nazareth: work, prayer and fulfillment of the law. But today before many of his cousin’s disciples, Jesus is baptized and commissioned. Those present hear the striking words “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:13). John objects to Jesus being baptized. He recognizes the disorder in the action: he who is clean ought to baptize he who needs cleansing, but we are so grateful for this moment.

Growth, Family and Spiritual Families

Dear OLPH Family,

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Why not consider some spiritual resolutions? Of those presented in the link, two could be accomplished with one fell swoop. Resolve to Read one chapter of Rediscovering the Saints each day. This one promise will meet (#2) more time for spiritual reading, and (#8) make a new saint buddy. In fact, anyone who reads the whole book will likely have made several saint buddies! In Rediscover the Saints, Matthew Kelly brings the saints close to us in short chapters with practical lessons. How beautiful it is to connect with those who share in heavenly glory!

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: