February 16, 2020
Many parish families with school age children look forward to this week every February. I wish I would have had a week off in February when I was their age. We at least got President’s Day off if I am remembering correctly. I’m not sure why there is this week off and a week off in April for spring break from school every year; maybe it’s the 8th wonder of the world? Some chuckle and simply say, “Father, we need a week to ski!” Well, I guess have fun on the slopes and hopefully no one comes back in a cast next week. Bring back a bulletin from a parish in New Hampshire or Vermont for me, I’m always trying to “borrow” great ideas.
A great idea for all adult parishioners would be to sign up and attend this year’s 3rd Annual Diocese of Fall River Lenten Women’s and Men’s Conference hosted by Stonehill College on Saturday, March 7th from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. This year’s theme is a line from the Gospel of John (13:15) “As I have done you must also do.” There is always a variety of activities throughout the day revolving around three featured speakers and the closing Mass with our own Bishop da Cunha presiding and preaching at the Vigil Mass for the Second Sunday of Lent. It is a very good way to add in some prayer and reflection to enrich your Lenten journey this year. I have enjoyed availing myself along with many other priests from the Diocese for hearing confessions during the lunch hour. It is a wonderful opportunity to try a new confessor or stick with who you know!
Not to rush things but Lent begins with Ash Wednesday this year on February 26th. Feel free to bring in last year’s palms and put them in the marked box in the vestibule. I’ll burn them and add the ashes to our stock for Ash Wednesday. I hope you are enjoying these carnival days leading up to Mardi Gras on Tuesday, February 25th. I had the chance to stay with our Marianite Holy Cross sisters at Holy Angels Convent in St. Claude in New Orleans next to the 9th Ward for the final weekend of carnival back in 2010. I was amazed at how everyone takes time off to enjoy one another’s friendship and to have fun together at the morning, afternoon, and evening parades. Everywhere but the French Quarter is a family-oriented spirit of celebration with great music, awesome food and so so many beads! I saved a few hard to come by beads that I bring out this time of year to remember and celebrate from afar. If you ever get the chance “to go to New Orleans” (one of the famous songs), I highly recommend experiencing it at least once as a northerner. You can also check out some of the parades on live feeds from the local New Orleans news stations and listen to awesome music from Preservation Hall on YouTube. It will get you in the mood before the more somber days of Lent commence.
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! (Let the Good Times Roll!)
February 9, 2020
February 2, 2020
This year since February 2nd falls on a Sunday, instead of the Cycle A readings for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It commemorates Mary and Joseph presenting the baby Jesus in the Temple following the Mosaic Law that every first-born son that opens the womb be presented to the Lord. It is the day Jesus is also circumcised according to the Law and given his name. It is celebrated 40 days after Christmas and is traditionally referred to as Candlemas (Mass of the Blessing of the Candles) taking on meaning in reference to Christ being the Light of the World. Today we bless some of the candles used in our parish this year, especially those used for the Blessing of the Throats at the end of this weekend’s Masses for those who choose to stay in honor of St. Blaise whose feast day is February 3rd. I chuckle to myself because notoriously a few parishioners come down with a cold the week after the blessing and complain that the blessing didn’t work. It doesn’t help that we are at the peak of the cold and flu season, so keep washing your hands and try not to touch your nose, eyes or mouth after being around a lot of people until you do. If you do all that and still get sick, well then maybe we can say St. Blaise must be sleeping on the job!
I am grateful to the 67 parishioners who were not sleeping on the job this past Tuesday evening and participated in our first Emergency Preparedness gathering led by two active officers and one retired member of the Easton Police Department. They gave a very informative presentation on many areas of parish safety from knowing where emergency things like fire extinguishers and AED kits are kept throughout the church and parish center, to watching a video role playing an active shooter scenario and a beginning discussion about various safety measures to think about in reacting if it were real. It was a captivating evening that I realize likely left most of us a bit uneasy. Please know that our intention is not to worry parishioners or cause undue uneasiness in our sacred and very community minded space. Thankfully we have not, and I pray never will have to experience anything more than power outages and plumbing issues as a parish. Nonetheless, I call upon one of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit given to each one of us at Baptism and Confirmation – Counsel: the perfection of the cardinal virtue of prudence. We need to be prudent in doing what we can to be informed, alert and able to respond from the smallest accident to the unforeseen larger incidents.
Ginny Croak, who you heard speak at all the Masses last weekend, currently chairs the initial team of parishioners convened by me over a year ago to begin brainstorming how we can increasingly be as prepared as possible as a parish community. This is an ongoing and evolving endeavor that we hope and trust other parishioners will join. Please know you are invited and encouraged to offer your skills and talents to benefit the safety of us all. I will give periodic updates on the progress of the team’s meetings and work in future bulletin columns.
On a much lighter note, enjoy Super Bowl LIV tonight. Unfortunately, the Patriots are not playing this year, so I’ll mostly be watching the progress of my squares at the end of each quarter, the commercials and the half-time show. Be safe and have fun.
January 26, 2020
This Saturday 49 parish second graders trusted Jesus and his Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first of hopefully many times again in their unfolding lives. I can pretty safely say that none of them had any mortal sins (sins that break one’s relationship with God and the community of believers we name Church) that needed to be healed in this sacred sacrament. Most of them confessed what are still referred to as venial sins (sins that challenge but do not sever one’s relationship with God and the Church), which are forgiven every time a person receives the Eucharist or goes to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Like many of us, they were pretty nervous when they first sat in the chair and began “Bless me Father for I have sinned…”. However, as the child tells their sins and hears the priest speaking on behalf of Jesus saying they are loved and we can all do better, I wish you could see both the sorrow and contrition changed into joy and happiness as the Prayer of Absolution happens and the priest says “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.”
I wish and pray many more parishioners would take advantage of this healing Sacrament. When we likewise have the opportunity for the tenth graders to receive the sacrament leading up to Confirmation, the majority of them are more nervous than when they were eight. It is usually their second confession, now eight years later, and they haven’t given themselves the opportunity to become comfortable with how to go more less why it’s important. I can only surmise that parents and Godparents have not been the best teachers and examples themselves even though they promised to be at baptism. The catechists and priests can only do so much with the limited amount of time we have with our young people in Faith Formation. However, if I asked most students how to play football, soccer, basketball or volleyball, what their lines were in the last school play, or how to play their instrument, most would be very articulate and convincing. This is not meant to be an indictment. It is simply me sharing our reality here at Holy Cross Parish in the 21st century. We are not an anomaly in the wider Church.
There are many reasons and theories for why Mass attendance and regularly taking advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation has changed so much in the last few decades. The simplest reason is that family life has changed so much in the last few decades. Why should it be important to meet at the Lord’s Table and formally say one is sorry, if families rarely meet at their own table and even more rarely offer an apology and make amends? Each of us needs to focus on building up our self-worth, esteem and talents, but hopefully not at the cost of forming a lifelong and eternal relationship with the Lord and fellow believers. I do have hope. When I lived and worked among college students it was good to see friend groups walking to meals together and sharing about their lives with each other. It was also good to hear roommates work things out and many times become best friends in the difficult but rewarding process of ongoing communication and learning to give and depend on each other as friends. I would often silently admire and pray that these lessons would trickle into their married and family life, and relationships with colleagues and neighbors. This was at two universities the Congregation of Holy Cross founded and is still heavily invested in along side dedicated lay ministers and faithful leaders. There is a lot of life to prepare for beyond First Reconciliation, Communion and Confirmation. The solid foundation for the rest of life begins here in the parish supporting and encouraging families.
I ask all parishioners to pray for these young people evidenced by their handprints before the Lord. Also pray for their parents and Godparents as they continue their central role in teaching and passing on the importance and meaning of the Christian faith to the future generations of the Church. Finally, pray for the parish catechists and clergy as we remain committed to doing what we can week in and week out to teach and pass on the faith to all who choose to actively participate. I love Holy Cross Parish and trust that it will continue being the vibrant and lively community it has been for the past 54 years.