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Letters from a Pastor to His People- December 6, 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Well, this was an interesting past fourteen days.  God-willing by the time you are reading this letter this weekend, we are out of quarantine.  Our first Masses back at the parish will be this Sunday, December 6th: 7:30am, 9:30am, and 11am.  There will be no Saturday 5pm Mass on December 5th.  We will resume our regular daily Mass schedule at 8:30am Monday through Saturday.  We will also resume tomorrow, Monday, December 7th, our Monday Evening of Prayer, with Eucharistic Adoration from 6-8pm, Confessions from 6:30-7:30pm, and a talk on The Spiritual Exercises at 7:30pm. 

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The White Dawn

Watching the movie Red Dawn will leave you wanting for more.  We are best served watching and gazing, instead, upon the White Dawn: Mary.  Yes, Mary is sometimes referred to as "The White Dawn," the one who heralds in the new morning, the advent of the Messiah.  She is also the Morning Star, which in the sky is literally the planet Venus.  She reflects the light of the sun and ushers in the sunrise.  

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Our Lady of Divine Providence Patroness of Puerto Rico

Coming from a devoted Catholic family, the Christmas season started for us on November 19, the day of a liturgical feast in Puerto Rico Our Lady, Mother of Divine Providence. It was a day of celebration and gratitude for God’s providence to us through the intercession of our beloved Mother. I want to share with all of you a brief history of our devotion.

The devotion to Our Lady of Providence, the patroness of Puerto Rico, is rooted in Scripture and attributed to the Blessed Mother’s intervention at the wedding at Cana. Known to have originated in Italy in the 13th century, the devotion was brought to Spain where a shrine is built in Catalonia.

It was Catalonian Bishop Gil Esteve, who was named bishop of Puerto Rico, who brought the devotion to the island, putting his work in the hands of “divine providence,” after finding the cathedral and the finances of the diocese in terrible shape. Through his faithful devotion, the cathedral was fully restored in less than five years a remarkable feat.

Since then, devotion to the Virgin of Providence was established there. Soon after, Bishop Esteve ordered a carved image of the Blessed Mother holding a sleeping baby Jesus in her arms from Barcelona, Spain, that graced the cathedral for more than 65 years. It was replaced in 1920 by another image carved out of wood that remains that is what most Puerto Ricans are familiar with a sleeping, trustful baby Jesus on the lap of his devoted mother.

Source: Our Lady of Providence Patroness of Puerto Rico

Christian Melendez‐Cruz

Why do you let us wander, O LORD?

Letters from a Pastor to His People- November 29, 2020

Dear Parishioners,

I don't know about you, but I close my eyes a lot when I pray.  This is a personal preference.  I feel when my eyes are closed I am able to more easily clear away distractions and descend to the depths of my soul to be simply with the Lord.  Closing my eyes puts me in a posture of receptivity.  Not that I sunbathe a lot, but I think of people soaking in the rays on the beach.  Their eyes are closed as they relax to just be in the moment.

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Symbolism of Advent

In the Middle Ages, the Christians adopted the tradition of the Advent wreath as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas.  Advent is a season of waiting. We light candles on the Advent wreath to put ourselves in the spiritual place of the Israelite people, who, through many long centuries, waited for the coming of the Messiah. The wreath and its light is a sign of Christ's promise to bring us salvation. 

The wreath is a circle of evergreen branches, signifying continuous life, the passing of time, and eternal life. It also symbolizes the eternity of God, the immorality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. The wreath having no beginning or end reflects the complete and endless love that Jesus has for each one of us.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Each Sunday in Advent, one of the four candles is lit. The three purple candles are a sign of royalty and recognize a time of preparation and repentance symbolizing prayer, penance, sacrifices, and good works undertaken at this time. The single pink candle is a symbol of joy. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead. The light signifies Christ, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.

Traditionally, families light the Advent wreath at dinnertime after the blessing of the food.

On the First Sunday of Advent, the first candle, the prophecy candle or the candle of hope, is lit. We bless the wreath, praying:  O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth your blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive your abundant graces. Amen. The prayer continues for each day of the first week of Advent: O Lord, we beg you to come, and that with your protection we can be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved from all evils. Amen.  Then we light one purple candle.

During the Second Sunday of Advent we light the second candle, the Bethlehem candle or the candle of peaceWe pray: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for your only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve you with pure hearts and minds. Amen. Then we light the purple candle from the first week, plus one more purple candle.

During the Third Sunday of Advent, the third candle, the shepherd candle or the candle of joy is lit. We pray: O Lord, we beg you, incline your ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of your presence. Amen. We then light the two previously lit purple candles, plus the pink candle.

Finally, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the fourth candle, the angel candle or the candle of love, is lit. We pray: O Lord, stir up your power, we pray, that with the help of your mighty grace, your merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Amen. Then we light all of the candles of the wreath. 

Since Advent is a time to stir up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to strengthen this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, that CHRIST IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.


—Marie Dombai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Lady of the Redwoods

There is a monastery of Cistercian nuns in Northern California called "Our Lady of the Redwoods," and what a fitting title indeed for our Blessed Mother.  The Redwood, known as the Sequoia sempervirens (sounds similar to semper virgo, or ever-virgin), is the tallest tree on the planet, growing up to 300 feet and beyond.  It is also the oldest species of tree, dating back to 240 million years. 

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First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a time devoted to preparation for the coming of our Savior. As we wait, we recognize that Jesus was born to save us from our sins, for our salvation, and understand that God is with us always.

My favorite picture, that I’m sure many of you are familiar with, is the picture of Santa kneeling before baby Jesus.  For many of us, as we prepare for the coming of Christmas with a hectic month of trimming a tree, baking cookies, sending out cards, buying and wrapping presents, and spending time with family and friends (maybe not much this year), we need to STOP. We need to take time to see the real reason we celebrate this holiday‐the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child oftentimes is all about Santa and receiving presents.

This picture helps remind us that on Christmas morning it is not just about boxes with pretty paper tied up with bows but, the biggest, greatest gift we receive is Christ. This picture also helps us put together the make‐ believe of the season and the real reason for Christmas. We need to put aside all the commercialism of the holiday and make room, take time for the Christ child in our lives.

In today’s gospel Mark says that we should be “watchful,” “stay awake,” and be ready. We can do this every day year round, but especially during Advent as we prepare for the Messiah, the anointed one, who comes to take away our sins and the sins of the world. We can ready ourselves by doing our best to live lives of love, compassion, forgiveness, honesty, and integrity with those closest to you. Through prayer with the help of God our Father, we welcome the coming of Christ in our lives and in our world.

What are you doing during this Advent season to prepare your heart and soul for the birth of the Christ child?

Marie Dombai

Gospel November 29, 2020

Today, we begin the First Sunday of Advent which is the beginning of a new liturgical year. Today’s first reading from “Third Isaiah” deals with a very difficult time in Israel’s history: their return from the Babylonian exile. When the exiles return, they find their land has been stolen, and Jerusalem, including the Temple, has been destroyed. The Israelites struggled to rebuild their lives and Temple. The prophet Isaiah lamenting a prayer of frustration directed to God. Let us listen to what Isaiah has to say to his grieving and struggling people. 

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Happy Thanksgiving

Letters from a Pastor to His People - November 26, 2020

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Juliana,

Thanksgiving is a great and unique American holiday.  Countries have independence days, memorial days, and labor days, but not every country has a day totally dedicated to giving thanks.  We stop and force ourselves, in a way, to be grateful.  We break out of Ourselves and look beyond to an Other who is good and who has blessed us.  This fills us with consolation, peace, and hope.  Yes, Thanksgiving is a good day. 

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Christ the King Solemnity

Letters from a Pastor to His People- November 22, 2020

Dear Parishioners,      

I've always enjoyed the Solemnity of Christ the King, which we celebrate this weekend—the last weekend in Ordinary Time.  But the feast took on greater significance for me on my 30-Day Retreat with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola that I did this past July.

Ignatius begins the Second Week of the Exercises with a meditation titled, "The Call of the King." This profound meditation is like the ostinato of a symphony—a motif or melody that repeats throughout the entire piece.  The graces and insights from the meditation with Jesus the King will repeat not only throughout the next three weeks of the Exercises, but throughout one's life.

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Father William Doyle, SJ

Father William Doyle, SJ was a well-known preacher and spiritual director in the early 20th Century.  He traveled the world giving missions and retreats, helping bring people closer to Jesus.  And yet he wrote these words in his journal while making the Spiritual Exercises on his 30-Day retreat in 1907:

Each fresh meditation of the life of our Lord impressed on me more and more the necessity of conforming my life to His in every detail, if I wish to please Him and to become holy. To do something great and heroic may never come to me, but I can make my life heroic by faithfully and daily putting my best effort into each duty as it comes around.

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Happy Thanksgiving

I would imagine that for most of us, our Thanksgivings have usually centered around a large gathering of the extended family celebrating the occasion with a wonderful hearty meal, lots of desserts, and time set aside to recall the many blessings in our lives for which we are most thankful. For many of us, due to the ongoing surge in coronavirus cases, this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations will be limited to much smaller gatherings. While the pandemic has dramatically affected people throughout the world and brought substantial changes to our daily lives, we still have much to be thankful for.

My family is one of the blessings I am most thankful for. Even though several of our family members will be absent from our table and setting down to share a meal separately this year, we have plenty of ways to let them know how much we love them and how special they are to our lives. We have our hi‐tech phones to call, text, and FaceTime our loved ones. For those who handle technology far better than me, there are Snap Chat, Instagram, Zoom Gatherings, and Facebook Pages. There also is email, or even sending a card or a note in the US mail (or “snail mail” to some). The important thing is that we take the time to tell those close to us how thankful we are for their loving presence in our lives. Even if we need to stay socially distant for the time being, we can always remain in close communication with our loved ones.

Our faith and God’s loving presence in our lives is the other great gift for which I am most thankful. This time of year always reminds me that the word “Eucharist” itself has a Greek root meaning of “Thanksgiving.”   While our churches were closed during the Spring lockdown, we became accustomed to participating in weekly Mass remotely through livestreamed masses. Since June, many of us have been able to return to attending Masses in church and celebrating the Eucharist in person. Even at those times when we are not able to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we can also encounter Him in other ways in our daily lives though prayer, reading of scripture, contemplating the beauty of creation and the gift of our very lives. No matter how we are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday this year, we all should carve out some time to say “thank you” to the Lord for his many blessings.

Deacon Tom Dombai

Gospel November 22, 2020

Today the whole Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel images God as a Good Shepherd caring for his sheep. After the fall of Jerusalem, those still alive are taken into exile in Babylon. During their time in exile, the people had no shepherds, no leaders. Ezekiel, a prophet also in exile, tells his people that God alone is personally responsible to take care of his flock. God will tend to them, rescue them, pasture them, and give them rest. God will find the sheep that are lost and bring them back. God will bring order to God’s flock. Therefore, the Good Shepherd protects his sheep with strength, compassion, discipline, and love.  

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