Saturday, October 14, 2017

Revelers great and small

It seemed to me last weekend that suddenly there were more, newer small people at Mass than I had seen previously.  It’s hard to get a count, but distributing Holy Communion and greeting folks at the doors, I saw more babies in bundles, or in buckets, some of whom were not bigger than a loaf of bread.
When visitors come to our church, it is rare that they do not marvel at the number of children and young families here.   Even regular parishioners often find occasion to remark on how loud it was at Mass on a particular Sunday, what Fr. Nick used to call the “chirping” of our small parishioners. 
In our day there are few public places left where entire families mingle freely with people of every age and state of life.  Our society has specialized, and stratified, in a way that make it rare for people to rejoice together in the full spectrum of human life in all its rambunctious glory.   Spaces are set aside for kids just like parks are designated for dogs, though perhaps not as many; and more and more other places and events operate on the expectation of “adults only.” 
This weekend, Jesus presents yet another of his parables that involves a wedding, in this case, the King’s wedding feast for his son.  Like in last week’s Gospel, there is much drama and even violence to distract us from the setting of the feast in question.  But over and over, from the time of His first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana in Galilee, Jesus associates Himself and what He brings, the Kingdom of God, with a wedding.   Both indirectly and directly, He repeatedly refers to Himself as “the Bridegroom.”  Who, then is His bride?  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev 21:2).  His bride is the Church!
Christian marriage is a microcosm of the reality of salvation through Christ in the Church.  Saint Paul states it plainly that when a man and woman undertake marriage, they are giving their flesh to the loving exchange of the Bridegroom Christ and His bride.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church (Eph 5:31-32).  Marriage is not simply one of the seven sacraments, but is in fact foundational to the Church herself.  In some ways, a timeline could be so constructed that the sacrament of Matrimony precede Baptism, as the Christian family formed when a man and woman freely and mutually promise one another permanent love, forms the necessary home for the new life, both earthly and eternal, that their physical union brings about.
Every once in a while, somebody shows up on the grounds of the parish and asks whether they can get married in our church.  Under some circumstances, that can work out.  But our church is not just another “venue” for somebody’s “special day.”  Rather, it is the banquet hall for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, to which Christ Himself alludes this weekend, and at which He provides His very flesh as food for the feast.
So it has been a source of delight for me this year that we have seen an unusual number of weddings here for parishioners who have grown up here, or spent significant portions of their lives here, participating in this holy and glorious banquet.   Some of the bridal couples have included people I have known since childhood; perhaps not since their parents brought them here in bundles, but a very long time nonetheless.
This why we, Catholics, marry in the “banquet hall of the Lamb;” in the church, and not on a beach or on a cliff or in our backyard or in a courthouse or in a garden or while skydiving or under water.  God who created us and called us to be made new, that is, re-created by the life-giving sacrifice of His Son, also calls us to offer the sacrifice of our lives to our life partners, our spouses, before Him in His dwelling place.

It is no wonder young parents can be a little self-conscious about the squawks and cries of their little ones!  But no, it is not inappropriate for them to be here in the Holy Place, to be frolicking under the tables at the King’s banquet.  Marriage makes possible new life.  As our heavenly marriage to Christ the Bridegroom in His bride the Church gives us eternal life in the Spirit, so do our earthly espousals bring about new life in the flesh. 
So it is true, good, and beautiful for couples who have already marked their 40th, 50th, or even 60th wedding anniversary to worship close by folks who are still waiting to reach their 60th day of fresh air and sunshine.  In fact, both groups have much to offer one another in this life, and on the path to glory, where we all hope to be together in the same “hall filled with guests.”  For that is no ordinary wedding reception, and this is not just another “venue;” our King’s wedding feast for His son is not for “adults only.”

Monsignor Smith

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Our Team's Plan

I love it when a plan comes together!  That was the tagline for The A-team, a goofy television show decades ago.  But I comes to mind now as I look back at last weekend.  What a great time!   Even the weather cooperated with our every specification, and made for a glorious Fall Festival for us and many of our neighbors.

Much of the day I spent starting conversations with people I had not previously met, or had only seen in passing.  It was a great opportunity for that, since nobody was in a hurry, and people were moving about in little groups, usually their families, but often also their friends.  This provided great context to help me get to know them, and remember them next time.  If enough of us from the parish expressed a friendly interest in them, that’s the best way to make sure there will be a next time.

Quite the plan it was, too.  While Divine Providence made the day and the weather inviting, our Fall Festival Genius Committee put things together with care; it was easy to see the fruits of all their labors.  Jasmine Kuzner, Maureen Dewey, Laura Konda, Lauren Draley, and Kristin Schrader, (l-r, below) even sported matching shirts to help people who needed them, find them! 

The “genius” part was finding something for everybody to do – and finding somebody for everything that needed doing.  I was truly amazed at the number and variety of people who helped out with everything.  To all of you who put your time and energy into making one of our events happen, know that you were the face of the parish that day for untold numbers of people.
Now for the follow up: in coming weeks, make a point of saying hello to someone you saw or helped or met at the Festival, someone you didn’t know or chat with before this.  As I pointed out a few weeks ago, it is a community builder, not a fundraiser.  But you can’t build a community in a single afternoon, no matter how gorgeous.  This is a great way to meet the people who are willing to meet us.  To bring them further into the mystery of our life in Christ is the goal of our being here in the first place; and that is a plan we all want to see come together.
Speaking of things coming together, let me commend you all on your progress with the music of the new Mass setting.   Since the new translation of the Missal was introduced at Advent of 2011, we have mastered two English-language settings of the commons of the Mass, the parts that recur at each Mass.   I have always thought we should have at least three English settings in our repertoire, and new music director Chris Mueller had composed this one.   September is the perfect time for the change, since we have been using the same music for months, since Corpus Christi in early June, and we have more than two months until we change to the music we use during Advent. 
It takes time for liturgical music to become familiar and integrated into our worship, but you already are well on your way to learning it.  Soon I think you will agree that it is excellent, every bit up to the standards of the two setting we had been using.   Some parishes are still using settings written for the old texts, with the new texts jammed in.  That is musically bad, and liturgically even worse.  Here at Saint Bernadette, we don’t settle for less than excellent in our worship of God; that too is all part of the plan.
Monsignor Smith

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Battle

For a while there a few years back, angels were wildly popular.  Posters and notecards, t-shirts and television shows, all featured angels or something purporting to be an angel.  Lately this enthusiasm seems to have faded, and now the public fancy has turned to robots or zombies or something.  But we members of the Body of the Lord are ever aware of the Angels, even though they have no bodies, for together we serve the Eternal Almighty.   And this weekend falls right in the midst of our annual liturgical observance of their importance.
Friday, 29 September, was the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels.  We know all of these Archangels from their missions recorded in Scripture.  Gabriel brought the message of the Incarnation of Our Lord to the virgin of Nazareth, whose name was Mary.  Raphael assisted Tobiah on his pilgrimage, and identified the healing balm for Tobit.  Michael is in charge of, shall we say, less delicate matters.  He wields a flaming sword, and in addition to various struggles in which he intervenes in the Old Testament, we see this:
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world -- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.  Rev 12:7-9

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while.  Rev 20:1-3

This is decidedly somebody we want to have on our side in our struggles, and someone with whom we want to have clear and quick communication.  The ancient Prayer to Saint Michael is indispensable, and we should know it and pray it.  In fact, we will be teaching it to the students by praying it at the conclusion of our weekly school Masses this year. 
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!  Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.
He is clearly one of “the big guns” we have for our fight against sin and death.  But that is not all of the angels we celebrate in these days.  Monday, October 2, is the Feast of the Guardian Angels, when we recall that God has assigned an angel to each one of us, to help us safely on our way to heaven:
For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:11-12
Where do we find the Angels, and how can we be united with them?  The Divine Office for the Archangels reminds us by quoting the Scriptures:
An angel stood by the altar, holding a golden censer; a large quantity of incense was given to him, and clouds of incense rose from the hand of the angel in the presence of the Lord.
Thousands upon thousands waited on him, and myriads upon myriads stood before him.  And clouds of incense rose from the hand of the angel in the presence of the Lord.
We are closest to the Angels when we are at the Holy Altar of God, worshipping Him.  That is better, longer lasting, and more accessible than posters and notecards, t-shirts and television shows ever will be.
Monsignor Smith