I. Strengthen Our Fearful Hearts: Sustain us, O God, on our Advent journey as we go forth to welcome the one who is to come. Plant within our hearts your living Word of promise, and make haste to help us as we seek to understand what we went out to see in the Advent wilderness: your patience nurturing your saving purpose to fulfillment, your power in Jesus making all things new.
For whenever the Good News is proclaimed to the poor, feeble limbs are made steady, and fearful hearts grow strong. Give us strength for witnessing, that we may go and tell others what we see and hear. Give us patience for waiting, until the precious harvest of your kingdom, when the return of your son will make your saving work complete.
II. Advent: A Time for Creating Silence. Is your life full of business, noise, and cacophony? Do you know anyone who is not busy? Are our lives like a pebble in a stream simply following the flow of our secular world? Do we appreciate silence? Are we afraid of silence? Have we lost the capacity to be quiet? It seems that our lives are so busy with gadgets and technology, that we have lost the capacity to sit with ourselves in solitude. I hear young people say they are “bored!” Is there an expectation that we be entertained at all times, even at Mass? Should we talk less and listen more to one another and to God? Let’s anchor our self in the real. Let’s focus on the true meaning of life and faith. Let’s take time to reflect upon our experience. Silence is a deeply human need, more desperately needed today than ever before. To walk in silence and peace is the best thing we can do to be open and creative. Pause. Reflect. Be comfortable with the quiet. Silence can open up our world to the sacred, becoming more aware of the presence of the divine. Let our Advent “wait” be meaningful!
III. Tremendous Opportunities: Although we are in times of mask wearing, distancing and excessive hand-washing, we can use these new talents to “distance ourselves from our bad prayer habits and pray in ‘excess.’”
A. Advent Holy Hours: We will be hosting four evenings of Prayer, Adoration, Reflection, and the opportunity for the sacrament of Reconciliation. Beginning this Sunday and each of the four Sundays in Advent, we will begin at 5:00pm with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. As we will (sadly but for safety reasons) not be holding our annual Advent Communal Penance Service, we want everyone to have the opportunity to celebrate Gods extravagant merciful love through the sacrament of reconciliation. We will have two or three priests available for this saving Sacrament. All are welcome to the Holy Hours—come and spend some time with the Lord!
B. “Best Advent Ever!” If you haven’t tried FORMED.org, now is the time. It’s free and there are so many tools available to you. Reflections, prayers, video’s, lives of the saints and so much more. Simply visit our website: ststephencathedral.org and click on the FORMED icon on the left side of the homepage. Along with the shopping, baking, and decorating, why not allow Best Advent Ever, a free email program, help you prepare for Christmas in a different way. Beginning today and continuing every day until December 26, you will receive short inspirational videos, practical tips, or free Christmas music that will help you “s l o w d o w n” during this bustling Advent/Christmas season to focus on what’s really important in life. It’s free! To sign up or learn more about the “Best Advent Ever,” visit https://dynamiccatholic.com/best-advent-ever.
C. Advent Small Groups (which began last week). Prepare for the Season of Hope–It’s not too late. We have two times available: Monday Evenings from 6-7:00pm and Tuesday mornings from 10-11:00am. Learn from others, share the Word of God, stretch yourself spiritually. In consideration of safety, the groups will be offered virtually. Please contact Rick Rhodes for more information, [email protected] or 270/683-6525.
IV. Visited the Church of Francis Xavier in Goa! While in India in February of 2019, I had the privilege of praying and seeing the body of Saint Francis Xavier in a church dedicated to him in Goa. Francis Xavier was sent to India where he spent eleven years as a young priest and missionary. In India he walked the streets ringing a bell which drew the children and many others to follow him. Then, he would stop and teach them basic prayers and the truths of the Gospel. Through the children he reached the adults. It was like homeschooling in reverse.
Francis Xavier (1506–1552) was born into a noble family in Spain. While studying at the University of Paris he met Ignatius of Loyola and that relationship changed Xavier‘s life forever. He was part of the first group of Jesuits and was sent as a missionary to the Far East, India, and then to Japan. Francis Xavier‘s mission was to bring sight and light to the spiritually blind. During this Advent season, we can honor this great missionary by trying to share our faith with one person, to help one individual see Christ in a new light through us. Like Saint Frances Xavier, we can bring someone to Christ by bringing Christ to them at their point of real need. I invite you to Mass this Thursday, December 3, to honor this amazing missionary.
V. God, COVID, and Stewardship: When we realize that everything is GIFT, we want to share our time, talent, and treasure. Whether you are single, parents of the young family, or grandparents, you need to take into consideration your personal situation, capabilities, and talents. Whatever we do, it should stem from an “attitude of gratitude.” While some of our ministries have been temporarily suspended, there are still ample opportunities to serve. If you have not returned your stewardship response form, please do so as soon as possible. Our parish needs you! Thank you!