Dear Parishioners: One of the most popular songs of  this time of preparation for Christmas is the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The word ‘Emmanuel’, as you know, means “God is with us.” This is the great message of Christmas.   Christmas is not just a remembrance of a past event where God was with us when He was born and then for the next 33 years. Nor is it just our hopeful anticipation of His coming at the end of time. Christ is with us here and now, at all times and in every circumstance.

Just before He ascended into Heaven, He made this promise: “behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” God is faithful to His promises. We, in faith, are called to trust those promises, especially when we do not understand or cannot see His presence in the midst  of our difficult circumstances in life.

So we must turn to our patroness Mary and look to her example for inspiration.  She found herself in a seemingly impossible situation when told by the Angel Gabriel that she would bear the Son of God. She naturally asks a question of the angel.  It is not a question born of doubt but from wonder at how this great mystery would be accomplished through her.

Following the example of Mary, when we find ourselves facing that which is seemingly impossible, we are called to make an act of faith, trusting that God is indeed with us and that with God “all things are possible.” It does not mean that we cannot ask the question ‘how’ or ‘why,’ but we have to be content that we may not receive an answer right away, or at all on this side of eternity. We place our faith completely in God without any reservations or conditions, trusting in His presence among us.

As we draw close to the  Feast of the Incarnation and the celebration of the birth of the Lord, let us be reminded that by His entrance into the world, He has come to remain with us. His birth has brought a great light to “the people who walked in darkness.” As we hear in the Gospel on Christmas morning, that “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” No darkness can ever overcome the light of Christ dwelling among us. Christmas is a time for us to renew our faith in that promise and to remain steadfast in following that light which leads us to Him in Heaven. During this final week of Advent, let us open our hearts that we might be prepared to welcome Emmanuel, God with us, at  Mass, at Christmas, and every day of our lives. Let us truly believe in the meaning of Christmas, that God is with us yesterday, today and forever.

I invite you to consider making a good Confession before Christmas and truly prepare yourself spiritually for the feast.  Pope Francis reminds us: “God never ever tires of  forgiving us! ‘Well, the problem is that we ourselves tire, we do not want to ask, we grow weary of asking for forgiveness. He never tires of forgiving, but at times we get tired of asking for forgiveness.” On Monday, December 19th we have added an extra hour of Confession time at Our Lady of Mercy.  Beginning at 6:00pm until 8:00pm there will be two priests available each hour to hear Confessions.  We’ve invited some guest priests to help.  So take the time to examine your conscience, confess your sins, and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.  It is the best gift you could get for Christmas!

I am happy to announce that Fr. Connors will indeed be home from Rome for Christmas and is staying with us at OLM.  Also Fr. Nathan Ricci, who was ordained just last June for our Diocese,  is also coming home from his studies in Rome and is also to stay with us at OLM.  You will see both of them around OLM at Christmas  as they will be celebrating Masses during their stay here.

I offer my gratitude to the many parishioners who were so generous to the OLM Outreach Collection this month.  These funds help us serve the poor and needy locally with Christmas food and gift cards.  Also we are able to financially support the homeless and hungry across our state through various Catholic Charities like Emmanuel House and McCauley House.

Also thanks to some  generous OLM School families we were able to help several  Refugee Families who have been relocated to RI by our Diocesan Office of  Refugee Services.  These refugees from across the world arrive here with nothing but the clothing on their backs. The generosity of our school families is  greatly appreciated.

Take some time this week to pray and reflect on Christmas.  Be sure to go to Confession before Christmas! O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! Be well. Do good. God Bless. Go Pats!  A very Merry Christmas to all!