March 3, 2019
I hope you are enjoying these last festive days of Carnival, or what many commonly refer to generally in this country as Mardi Gras. Technically, Mardi Gras in French is “Fat Tuesday.” Traditionally it was the day to use up all the fats in the kitchen, such as lard and butter, before heading into the Great Lenten Fast from rich foods. Back home in South Bend, Indiana it is a Polish custom to make paczki (Polish donuts) filled with various jams as a sweet treat before Lent begins. Have some fun today, tomorrow and Tuesday before changing pace this coming Wednesday.
It has been a few generations since Lent was so strict, but there are still the following expectations as a Church we should strive to follow. All adults from 18-59 fast on Ash Wednesday (March 6th) and Good Friday (April 19th). Fasting is described as limiting oneself to one full meal that is meatless, and two other meals, sufficient to maintain strength, but should not equal another full meal. Everyone 14 years and older abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, all the Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday, out of reverence for Jesus’ flesh offered on the Cross for our salvation. Anyone who is ill or pregnant should take the sustenance they need to get better and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
All members of the Church should heed the directives in the Gospel of Matthew read on Ash Wednesday setting the tone for all the days of Lent in preparation for the glorious Easter Season. Throughout the upcoming 40 days of Lent and the sacred Pascal Triduum, we should challenge ourselves to be more giving of our time, talents and treasure (almsgiving), make time for personal and communal prayer (prayer), and fast from anything that holds us back from strengthening our relationship with God (fasting). Children are often taught to pick one thing to challenge themselves to fast from: candy, TV, or video games. Parents hopefully introduce praying together before meals or before bedtime if this not already a family custom. Families choose something to do for the good of others such as volunteering together or using the parish almsgiving box. Whatever individuals, families, or couples choose to refrain from or add into the daily routine, hopefully all of these Lenten disciplines are a freely given sacrifice or addition done in love for the God who first loved us through the sacrifice of his Beloved Son, Jesus.
Ash Wednesday, March 6th is also the last day to register for the Diocesan Women and Men’s Conference to be held next Saturday, March 9th at Stonehill College. This would be a great way to add some prayerful reflection and participation into your life as Lent begins. Stations of the Cross begin this Friday, March 8th in church at 7pm. The opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and some prayer time with Jesus in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Saturday morning in Lent begins this Saturday in church from 10:30-11:30am. Next weekend we will again welcome the Daughters of St. Paul to the parish with printed and digital resources to enrich our Lenten, Easter or Sacramental (1st Communion, Confirmation or Wedding) prayer life. Please also take home a Lenten prayer booklet from the Word Among Us and a white alms giving box. Consider making a donation to My Brother’s Keeper for their Blanket Drive through the month of March. Our first of two Lenten Parish Fish Bakes will be a week from Friday, March 15th from 5-7pm in the great room.
February 24, 2019
You may have noticed I was not around the parish last weekend. The Tuesday deadline for the bulletin came and went before I knew that the father of one of my best friends in our religious community would pass away late last Tuesday evening. I learned of the funeral plans Wednesday evening and asked our local superior if I could travel to western Illinois to attend the funeral. I was able to fly with another community member and we both were grateful to be with Fr. Steve Wilbricht, C.S.C. and his mother, other community members and Fr. Steve’s extended family and many friends to celebrate the life of his father, Deacon David Wilbricht.
Fr. Steve and I have known each other since I entered the undergraduate seminary in the Congregation of Holy Cross at Notre Dame in the fall of 1993. Steve was in his second year of temporary vows at Moreau Seminary when I arrived at Old College as a sophomore undergraduate. We really got to know each other when we were tasked with planning the following year’s seminary orientation meeting in Deer Park, Maryland. Steve and I spent the nine hour drive together there and back discussing the schedule and details of the program while also getting to know one another better. Never did I expect that twenty five years later I would be concelebrating Mass at his father’s funeral as he did with me when my dad passed away ten years ago.
Funerals are one of the most pivotal moments in our lives. Initially for most, they are for an older relative, a first experience of praying beside a casket and learning to express sympathy to a relative or friend for their loss. As the years go by, the death of more immediate family members of friends happen. I remember being a pall bearer for the first time at my maternal grandfather’s funeral. It was the first time I saw the casket lid close after my grandmother and mom and the rest of the family said goodbye to grandpa and made their way to our cars for the procession to the cemetery. There is definitely a finality in death in this life.
The preface to the Eucharistic Prayer we prayed during the Funeral Mass last Saturday uplifts grieving hearts when we hear, “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.” Our entire Christian faith hinges on our belief in resurrection into everlasting life. The promise is first made to us in baptism when we die with Christ in the waters and rise with him to new life. God’s promise to us is fully realized when our soul is judged when we die, and on the last day, when our body and soul reunite and are fully present with Jesus and all the saints forever.
None of us looks forward to saying goodbye for a while to loved ones and friends, but it is a necessary part of life. It is moving to assist and pray with parish families through the funeral liturgies of wake, Mass, and committal. I hope the reality of death does not affect you any time soon, but if it does, remember Jesus’ last words to us on earth, “And remember, I am with you always until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). It was a good trip but I am glad to be back.
February 17, 2019
It was a good but busy weekend last weekend. Saturday morning forty six second graders received God’s love and grace through the forgiveness of their sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It was the first of hopefully many more times in their lives when they turn to Jesus for healing and strength when they make mistakes. It is also a reminder to all of us to take the opportunity to renew our trust in the sacrament. Each Saturday one of us priests is in the reconciliation room from 3:15-3:45 p.m. and available by appointment. Additionally during Lent one of us will open a Holy Hour on Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m. and be available for confession until closing this prayer time in church at 11:30 a.m. I am hopeful this will be a great Season of Lent bringing us all closer to Christ.
Also last Saturday afternoon and evening the second half of this year’s Confirmation class gathered for their retreat in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation on March 24th. Many of you prayed with them at the 4:00 p.m. Mass. They reflected on where God has brought them in their first fifteen years of life, who God is for them now, and where God is calling them as they finish high school and head into the future with much hope and responsibility for themselves, their families and the future of the Church.
Then on Sunday we welcomed ValLimar Jansen and her husband Frank as piano accompanist to Holy Cross for two very lively and spirited G.O.L.F. (Generations of Living Faith) sessions. Val led everyone through spoken reflections and songs to better understand the fundamentals of our faith and to literally experience God’s love for us and our love for each other as she taught us body movements to the songs. Her rendition of “How Great Thou Art” at the conclusion of the story of creation shook the rafters! This is the third year we have brought in an outside presenter for the winter G.O.L.F. Session and each year the presenter has helped young and old deepen their faith.
Another upcoming opportunity to deepen your faith is coming up on March 9th at Stonehill College for the Women and Men’s Conference. Please prayerfully consider signing up online at www.fallriverdiocese.org or by filling out and sending in an application available by the doors of the church. This year’s conference is entitled, “Living in the Light of Hope.” Doors will open at 9:00 a.m. and the concluding Mass begins at 4:00 p.m. There will be dynamic presentations, interactive panel discussions, prayer, music, opportunities for Reconciliation and Adoration, lunch, and many Catholic vendors offering resources to enhance your prayer life and connect you more fully to life in the Church beyond Holy Cross Parish.
Enjoy the upcoming week. Supposedly an early spring is on the way after this year’s Ground Hog Day. All we can do is wait and see.