Dear Parishioners: advent-image-2013Advent is here! This great season of joyful anticipation of the coming of Christ is underway. Here at Our Lady of Mercy there are few things to note on the Advent Calendar. Confessions, prayers and musical festivities! Next Saturday, December 13th we are having All Day Confessions from 9:00AM until 3:00PM. There are to be four priests hearing Confessions at all times so we don’t expect lines and long waits. Priests from across the Diocese are volunteering an hour or two to hear Confessions throughout the day. I am grateful to Fr. Connors for organizing this great event for the parish. I encourage you to spread the word with your family, friends and neighbors that the best way to truly prepare for Christmas and Christ’s coming is by confessing our sins and cleansing our souls! Confession Guides are available if anyone has not been in a while and lots of merciful and loving priests in the Confessionals! So spread the word! If you are coming yourself, why not invite a friend, a neighbor or a family member to join you! God’s forgiveness and mercy is a Christmas gift no money can buy!

On Monday, December 15th at 7:00PM we have scheduled a joyful and prayerful celebration of Advent Vespers. Bishop Evans is to preside at the prayer service and Fr. Richard Valentine from St. Michael’s Church in Smithfield is to preach.0 Join us for a prayerful half hour of song, prayer and reflection. A great way to prepare for Christ’s coming! This coming Friday night at 7:00PM the children from OLM School gather for the Annual Christmas Pageant. It is always a great night of festive songs and prayerful devotion of the Christmas Story of the Holy Family. If you haven’t ever seen it, join us on Friday but arrive early to the church as its usually very crowded!

On Monday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Under this title she serves as the Patroness of the United States and it is a holy day of obligation for all Catholics. This great feast celebrates that Mary was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate" means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt immaculbnature original sin brings. Hence, when greeting the Blessed Virgin Mary the angel Gabriel said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you." (Luke 1:28). The grace given to Mary is at once permanent and of a unique kind. Mary was graced in the past but with continuing effects in the present. This year there is no Vigil Mass for this holyday because it falls on the Monday. We have three Masses on the Monday holyday, December 8th at 7:30AM, 9:00AM and 7:00PM. The 9:00AM Mass is scheduled to include the OLM School students, families and faculty. All parishioners are invited to attend and pray with the school.

In reflecting on Advent and the Blessed Mother Mary, Pope Francis has said: “The time of Advent that we begin again today returns us to the horizon of hope... there is always a need to restart, to rise again, to recover a sense of the goal of one’s own Pope Francis hears confession during penitential liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica at Vaticanexistence.  Mary serves as a model of this spiritual attitude, to this way of being and of journeying in life.”  Although she was just a simple girl she carried in her heart the hope of God. In her womb, the hope of God took flesh, became man, and made history: Jesus Christ. Let us be guided by her, she who is mother, she is a ‘mama’ and knows how to lead us. Let us be guided by her in this time of waiting and active vigilance.”  “O Come, O Come Emmanuel!” Let’s celebrate Advent with prayer and patience. Join us tomorrow as we honor our Advent Model, Mary, at Holyday Mass! I am away this week in Washington, DC at the Annual Winter Meeting of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors but return on Sunday night. God Bless. Go Pats!