We have entered a time of the year when thoughts often center on our homes. It may be the home where parents live and that still represents what we remember as home. It may be the home established as a place to raise one’s own children. Home may be a memory of a place and time that are no longer immediately present to us. We may feel that we are looking for the home that we once had or maybe the home that we never had but dream about. Many host a Thanksgiving meal in their home or are invited to a meal. Many look forward to being home or going home for Christmas. It is comforting to be in someone’s home for a meal.
Our desire for the security and comfort of home can create tension during this time of the year. This may happen because of difficulty in a relationship with someone in one’s family. It may happen because one lives alone at home, and it sometimes feels lonely. The rush of events for preparation and celebration, many of which are crammed before December 25, leaves little time for peaceful reflection during Advent. Personal calendars need not be dictated by the commercial calendar. We can give ourselves permission for unscheduled time at home, to let Christmas extend beyond the 25th.
During Advent, scripture readings urge us to look forward to our in the future. The prophet Isaiah sees people from all nations going to God’s house. We are part of a people on the way toward their true home, a people bigger than my family or my tribe. The house we occupy here is vulnerable. Fire or flood may destroy it. Thieves may try to break in. Our ultimate peace is not in the homes we have now or the homes we remember from the past. If we do not experience complete peace or comfort during this season, it is not a sign that there is something wrong with us. We are still pilgrims on the way, following a savior who experienced lack of stability of place as a child and wandered to preach as an adult.
Fr. Brad Jenniges
For a few summers I was a nanny for a little girl named Lucy. Trying to keep up with her two older brothers, Lucy was a fearless, sassy little girl. She was unafraid to walk across the gravel driveway barefoot or jump into the cow pasture where animals ten times her size grazed.
One day we were sitting down for lunch and Lucy was unusually quiet. Halfway through her crustless peanut butter sandwich she looked up at me with seriousness in her four-year old eyes and asked, “Is God sad when I’m mean to my mom and dad?”. The calm reflectiveness of her question surprised me; it was truly out of character for her. I explained that God is sad when we’re mean to people we’re supposed to love. However, God also loves us very much. I told her that when we sin we can always ask for God’s forgiveness. Somehow these concepts of contrition and mercy must have registered in Lucy’s mind, because she dropped her sandwich and screamed at the top of her lungs: “I’M SORRY GOD!!!!!!”. Her shrill high pitched voice bounced off the walls and echoed throughout the house. Afraid my eardrums were about to burst I told her through my laughter, “I think He hears you, Lucy”.
God hears you. Your joy, sorrow, confusion, guilt, frustrations, excitement… God hears it all. Today let us have the confidence of a child in knowing our prayers are heard.
Colette Harrold, Youth Life Coordinator
Here’s a topic I’ve never addressed in any of my writings: the choosing of music. There are more things to consider than meets the eye. There are the obvious connections to be made: to the readings of the day, the liturgical season, and where a song might best be placed within the Mass. However, a Music Director should also take into consideration things such as the following:
-Is there a balance between traditional and contemporary?...between organ-based and piano-based selections? Are other instruments going to be used? Does the music fit those instruments and the players’ level of ability?
-Does the text reflect good theology? Does it use “we” language, stressing the communal nature of the Mass, or is it more appropriate for private devotions, due to a “it’s just me and Jesus alone” mindset?
-Do the texts I choose only give people what they “like to” have on their lips?...or do I sometimes risk challenging the community by using texts all of us probably “need to” have on our lips?
-Will the music be led by cantors?...a choir?...more than one choir on a given weekend? Can everything remain the exact same for both Masses?...or will it work better stylistically to vary a few of the song choices?
-Is there a seamless, harmonious flow and level of energy throughout the Mass from beginning to end?
-Is everything in the same key?...or the same time signature? (This will create boredom and monotony.)
-Are the songs in a comfortable range for singing?
-Not every song at Mass needs to be thematically related to the readings. Especially on Sundays during Ordinary Time, is there at least one selection that simply offers God praise and thanks, besides the “Gloria” of the Mass?
-Does the Gathering Song truly “invite” people into the celebration and give a sense of “Here we go!”?
-Similarly, does the final hymn of Mass truly communicate a message and feel that “sends us forth” to share what we’ve just celebrated?
Directory of Liturgy & Music
One of the greatest joys of my job is the proximity of my office to Saint Joseph Catholic School. Throughout my day, I hear the laughter and witness incredible lessons learned.
This benefit would not be possible without the tremendous financial support of parishioners and parish leadership’s dedication to investing in the future of our parish—or other parishes these students will call home.
As Business Administrator, part of my job is to consider the return on investment (ROI) on the use of parish funds. The ROI for the school is incredibly high.
These are gains I have witnessed:
For many people, Labor Day weekend marks a changing point in the year. It’s end of the summer vacation period. It’s a time when summer jobs are winding down. Some farmers in the area have been mowing hay. Crops have grown tall and full with the summer sun and rains. Gardens are yielding their abundance of produce that gardeners looked forward to through months of work.
Most schools start their new year just before or right after this weekend. For students it may mean having a new teacher this year and maybe some new students in your class. For some students the new school year brings a change in schools with many new people to know. Teachers notice how last year’s students seem to have grown so much since they saw them at the start of last year. Whatever happened in the previous year, we have an opportunity to make a new start. We may discover that something which was difficult last year, is not a big problem anymore.
May this changing of the seasons be a time when we notice the changes that are happening in our spiritual lives. For some it may be finding that prayers the for the health of a family member have been answered with a healthy birth or a recovery from illness. Perhaps there is a new or deepened friendship that has grown in one’s life. Some may discover that they are ready to forgive a great hurt that they suffered. Some are beginning a new year without someone who was close to them a year ago and discovering other sources of support or inner strength. May we notice where God has been present in our lives. May we pay attention to where God may be drawing us forward in a new season.
Something to ponder: When we want to give a gift to a parent, brother or sister, child, grandchild, etc., we give it freely. The gift is accepted. Do we pay close attention to the way the recipient received our gift, which came from our heart? Of course, we are interested in the way in which the one we gifted received our gift. Then, think about it: God gives us so many gifts throughout the day. How inclined are we to accept the gift? How much are we aware that the very breath we take, or our ability to see, to walk, to run or to work and all that we do is truly a gift from God? Do we simply take this all for granted? How do we accept the gifts we have been offered? God prepares so many gifts for us to receive, but numerous times we never show up to receive them. The greatest gift offered to us is receiving Our Lord in Communion.
Take this as an example: “Imagine that going to Mass is like Sunday dinner planned by your favorite grandmother. She set the table with her best dishes, made all your favorite foods, even wrapped presents for you, and waited. And you never showed. God waits for us every week hoping we’ll share the greatest meal ever prepared.” –A Book of Grace-Filled Days
Take time to show up! Take the time to show up for what really matters. Don’t wait until some illness or other restriction helps us turn to God. Too easily we make everything else in our lives more important than showing up for the meal Our Lord has prepared for us. We take time for innumerable things, but how much time do we give to what is really of consequence? Our spiritual life matters. We want to show up and nourish our soul! Plan on showing up for an extra daily Mass or at least a weekend Mass. Doesn’t Our Lord deserve this from us that we show up for greatest meal that has been offered to us?
Wowza! The scripture writers do not tread lightly I realized when reflecting on the scripture readings for this weekend. A couple lines highlighted here: “. . .for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines. . .all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” (Hebrews 12)
Many of us have our routine physical “workouts.” Going to the gym, or for a run or even just a walk We are often aware of the squeaky bones, sore muscles and need for rest after these physical workouts. Keeping our bodies active and in shape includes pain and hard work.
So, it is with our spiritual lives. We need to have “spiritual workouts.” This is not always easy. In fact, sometimes it is downright hard and takes a lot of discipline. In today’s fast paced and “I’m too busy,” world, sitting quietly with all devices turned off and “listening” to the God within is a workout of sorts. Hopefully an “exercise” that brings peace and perspective for our daily lives. The greatest source of prayer is Mass. It can be challenging to return to Mass after the hiatus the pandemic forced us to have. Yet, this is so important individually and as a faith community. Of course, except for the elderly and the ill who cannot physically attend.
As I prepare for another year of faith formation for all ages, I am reminded how challenging it is for us to take time out for God, to be involved and participate in the opportunities within our parish and to not rely on an “I’m too busy” mode of being or an “I don’t need that attitude.”
It is precisely when life gets to be so busy and our calendars fill up, we need to stop, reflect and be still in the presence of God. The physical discipline that is required for good health is essential. The spiritual discipline that is required for our spiritual health is essential. Endurance, not losing heart and not losing courage is asked of us as disciples of Christ.