Advent is here! "Be watchful! Be alert!” as we are reminded in the Gospel this week. Advent is the season when we hear that wake-up call repeatedly. The master of the house, Jesus said, could come at any moment. Later, the first Christians expected the Second Coming of Jesus in their own lifetime, but as time passed they had to get used to a longer perspective.
The great mystic of the 14th Century, Julian of Norwich, prayed to God for a deeper longing for God. She longed to long more for God. She called it a wound, “the wound of longing.” Our world no longer struggles with this idea. On the contrary we look for complete fulfillment through our own work and pleasure. We expect nothing to happen. Many now expect nothing really from their religion, and some even see it as an obstacle to life.
Of course, the myth of the secular mind is to think that pleasing only oneself doesn’t close the mind. Yet we know that nothing closes it more effectively. Let us pray that we may feel some opening of the “wound of longing” in this Advent season. We need to be reminded again to look up from our frenzied lives, to wake up from our slumber, and to awaken our spirit to the Master who can come at any moment.
Let us truly prepare the way of the Messiah this Advent with more intense prayer, a renewed relationship with the Lord, our faithful attendance at Mass and frequent Sacramental Confession of our sins. Let us truly long for the Divine Messiah to come and make room for Him in our lives!
I recently received some great news. You may remember a couple of years ago that Father Mark Spalding of Louisville led our parish on the Annual Lenten Mission. On November 21st, the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis named Father Spalding as the 12th Bishop of Nashville, Tennessee. He and I studied together for the priesthood at the American College in Belgium and have remained good friends these many years. He is to be ordained a Bishop on February 2, 2018 on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Please pray for Bishop-elect Spalding.
I also heard good news from Fr. Connors last week. He is coming home for Christmas on December 15th. It will be good to have him back with us at OLM through the holidays. He is working hard on his doctoral dissertation and expects to defend it in early June 2018. So be sure to welcome him home when you see him around the parish.
On this Friday, December 8th, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics and so there will be four Masses celebrated. A 5pm Vigil Mass on Thursday and 3 Masses on Friday at 7:30am, 9:00am and 7:00pm. There are certainly ample opportunities for us to fulfill our obligation and attend Mass on the Holy Day.
In 1854, Pope Pius IX solemnly proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the declaration of this dogma he stated: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”
It took many years for this important doctrine to develop. While many Fathers and Doctors of the Church considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, they often had difficulty in seeing Mary as sinless—either at her conception or throughout her life. The teaching indicates that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset.
I am away this week attending the annual meeting of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors in Washington, DC and I return Sunday night. See you at Mass on the Holy Day! Our Lady is the patroness of our parish and our nation, so come celebrate her special feast! Advent is here! Prepare the way for the Messiah! Do good. Be well. God Bless! Go Pats!!!