Saturday, January 12, 2019

Arbor vitae

Every year I write about it.  That may be because every year I enjoy it; every year, Corine and Jackie and Carol and Norma and Dao and even Ron spend time admiring it.  This year, Father Magro encountered it for the first time; the rookies always find it useful.
It’s the Parishioner Tree, just next to the receptionists’ desk, where we hang just enough lights and a few ornaments, and then all the photo Christmas cards we receive.   It was late in “blooming” this year, as many cards arrived after Christmas, so we are keeping it up as long as we can to prolong the enjoyment.  It really is beautiful as a whole, and in each of its parts.
New parishioners don’t often grasp in their first year or so how much we like to see their cards here at the rectory, so it is the veterans who make sure we have their smiling faces to trim our tree. 
Of course, for Father Magro and anyone else who is still learning the parish, it is great to see who goes with whom, that is, all the family members together, and maybe string together a few names and faces. So again, I remind parents not to leave themselves out of the photos!  
Also significant now is the number of former parishioners who still send cards from wherever it is they moved.  Our former flock sends cards from New York and North Carolina, Olney and even overseas, that remind us of people whom we loved having around and still miss.  Before we hang them on the tree, we pass them around and read all the news.  Can Jackson already be twelve years old?  Look at little Steve with two younger brothers who are already big enough to play with! And don’t you think Jay is starting to look like his dad?  It is a source of wonder.
The Germans still put real candles on their trees, but it is your faces that light our Tannenbaum.  Please keep sending the cards, and try to come up with some excuse to stop by and enjoy the tree next time you have a chance.  We bundle and keep the cards each year, but we always hate to take down the Parishioner Tree.
In related news, I got an email yesterday from Father Grisafi.  Remember him? He’s only been gone four months, but it seems like ages already.  He’s now Parish Administrator of Saint joseph Church in Babylon, New York.  He just survived his first Christmas “in charge” and he sounded pleased, if completely gassed.  He remembers Saint Bernadette fondly.
Better than a card or email is a visit, and the one and only Father Nick Zientarksi is around this weekend to make sure you don’t need a picture to remember who he is.  He really has been the gift that keeps on giving.   With him, you are all ornaments on the branches of this blessed parish.  Every year I enjoy it, and I hope you do too.
Behold how the Cross of Christ stands revealed as the tree of life!
Monsignor Smith

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Beginning with the Family

The last weekend of the year was for the Holy Family of the Lord, that is, the Living God who entrusted himself to a mother and a foster father and counted on them to care for Him and teach Him.  All that the Lord allowed Himself to need, he trusted His family to provide.  
The past weeks gave us time to rejoice in our families. Those on whom we depend for everything, and who depend for everything upon us, are at the center of our schedules in the days after Christmas and as the new year commences.  This is what I think of when I think of “quality time.” 
I want to ask you to join me in thanking our brothers and sisters here in the parish for all they did that you may or may not have noticed to bring so much beauty to our family Christmas.  The amazing team who gave hours of their limited time on Christmas Eve morning to turn the church from somber Advent to dazzling Christmas; to the Holy Name men who assembled the outdoor crèche; and to the “arrangers” who arranged for things to be beautiful in the rectory as well as the church.  
The choirs, musicians, and their director who provided splendid music, from the gathering of the rowdy throng for the kids Mass into the wee hours of the night, then again from dawn until past noon; the leaders of the Children’s Liturgy; the ushers; and all the Extraordinary Ministers who helped distribute Holy Communion, especially at the vast Vigil Mass Christmas Eve.   I am particularly grateful to my altar servers, who are superb in their skill and service, and who make our Masses so good without drawing attention to themselves.  That is a gift!   All of this is true service.
Our sacristy team – first, second, and third shift, all of them mobilized – and staff worked like fiends, or at least elves, to handle all the logistics.  Picture what youwould have to do if nine hundred people were coming to yourhouse for dinner!  Then do it four more times.  Also our crew of collection counters put in a very long day at the table.  I hope that bodes well for the totals.
Also, while we are meditation on family, I get to thank myfamily for coming to visit me.  Mom and Dad were here for forty-eight hours of frenzy and festivity, and made the rectory quite homey for both me and Father Magro.  They’re pretty inconspicuous by nature, but thank you to all of you who greeted them warmly and treated them well.  It makes it more likely that they will come back.
I also want to thank you for all the generosity you have shown me personally over the last few weeks.  The gifts and goodies, the cards -- especially the ones with pictures, all of which are now on the Parishioner Tree; and double-especially the ones with newsletters (I really read and enjoy them all!) -- and for your encouraging words.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to be your priest.
There is no better way to nurture your own family ties, to thank and earn the gratitude of those who give you most and count on you most, than to come together to the Holy Mass.  In this great Family Feast, we receive the very life of our souls and our selves, and to receive Him together unites us in flesh and faith.  The frequent family dinner table is second only to this feast in building up what makes family, family; that includes gratitude. 
And so as you offer your thank-yous to everyone who gave to you in recent weeks, join me in giving thanks to everyone who made possible and beautiful and delightful what we the Church do that no other family can do, that is, the Holy Eucharist, wherein by feasting on Christ Himself, we give proper thanks to God.
Monsignor Smith