Is he calling you?

Dear Parishioners,

Being called and then responding appropriately is a theme this Sunday, as we return to the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. In the first reading, the youth Samuel is sleeping in the temple when he hears a voice call to him. After the third attempt, Samuel at last responds appropriately. “When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, ‘Samuel, Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening’” (1 Sam 3:9-10).

In the responsorial psalm, the psalmist is waiting for the Lord to call him. When the Lord finally does, his response is: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will” (Ps 40:8-9).

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Telling the Truth

As a priest leaves the sacristy of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, processing to whatever altar he is going to celebrate Mass, he is immediately confronted by a very large mosaic. The work was completed in 1604 by Cristoforo Roncalli and is titled "The Punishment of the Couple Ananias and Saphira." The scene is a portrayal of what occurred in Acts 5:1-11. Ananias lies to St. Peter about money he had obtained from the sale of property and, because of that lie, immediately drops dead. His wife Saphira, not knowing what has happened to her husband, likewise lies to the Apostle and she too dies. It is almost a scene out of Greek mythology.

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Railroad Ties

The American transcontinental railroad, built between 1863-1869, is one of the greatest accomplishments of mankind, and there are many spiritual lessons to take away from the story of its construction. It involved many moving parts. There were land surveyors to map the route across the plains, over the Rocky Mountains and through the Sierra Nevada. There were engineers to set the grade so flat track could be laid, not to mention build bridges and tunnels. Brawn was needed to clear away earth and spike the rails. There were Chinese, Irish, freed slaves, Union and Confederate veterans, and many other typical Americans who supplied the manpower. Then there were investors and financiers, running the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Corporations and ensuring there were enough funds to supply material for building the track and to pay the laborers. There were also lobbyists and politicians to ensure the government supported the endeavor in ways it needed. There were entertainers and saloon-keepers along the track to keep the laborers satisfied after hours, and priests to be sure they were not too satisfied.

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Day of Threes

Dear Parishioners,

The Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, which we celebrate today, recalls three events in the life of Christ: the visit to the child Jesus by the three Magi, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, and the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding feast of Cana. The divinity of Jesus was revealed in these three moments. Not that his divinity wasn't revealed at other moments, but we choose to focus on these three particular scenes for this feast day. “The mystery was made known to me by revelation” (Eph 3:3).

Focusing on the first image of this tryptic, as that is our chosen Gospel for this Sunday, we hear the coming of the Magi prophesied in Isaiah: “Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD” (Is 60:6).

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The Perfect Woman

Dear Parishioners,

As last weekend we had a 4th Sunday of Advent-Christmas Eve combo, so too this weekend we have a sort of Holy Family (Sunday)—Mary, Mother of God (Monday) combo. And a great combo it is. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and particularly Mary, are models for us.

If you read consistently my Tassel of the Cloak column, you probably know by now that I have a fervent love for the Blessed Mother. Instead of describing why, let me simply include a poem by William Wordsworth, "The Perfect Woman." Wordsworth had other poems explicitly about the Blessed Virgin Mary. This one, though not explicitly about Mary—it was about his wife and all of her good qualities—still speaks of the Mother of God.

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Parts of the Mass (2)

Today, I’m going to talk about the second part of the Mass.

2. Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: On Sundays, this reading is usually taken from one of the books of the Old Testament, except in the season of Easter. The place used by the lectors to read the Scriptures at Mass is called the ambo.

Responsorial Psalm: After the First Reading, a cantor sings the Psalm chosen according to the liturgical celebration. The congregation participates in the meditation of the Word of God by singing the response to the Psalm.

Second Reading: This reading is always taken from one of the Letters in the New Testament. The book that lectors use to proclaim the Word of God at Mass is called the Lectionary. At the end of the First and Second Readings, the assembly honors the Word of God just received by responding, “Thanks be to God.”

Gospel Acclamation: The assembly, standing, sings the Alleluia, followed by a verse from the Scriptures. The Alleluia is sung every Sunday of the liturgical year, except in Lent.

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Parts of the Mass (1)

Today and for the next four Sundays, we’ll be highlighting the various parts of the Mass in this column. These short explanations will hopefully enlighten your understanding of each unique moment in our liturgical celebration and help encourage you to participate in a more conscious way, uniting your voice to that of the whole community of St. Juliana, to praise, adore and give thanks to God.

The Mass is divided into four basic parts: Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, and Concluding Rites.

1. Introductory Rites

The Entrance: When people are gathered, the commentator reads the opening comment that introduces the faithful to the Mass of the day. Then, as the priest, deacon and ministers enter into the church, the Entrance Chant or hymn begins. The Altar Servers carry the processional cross and the candles. The deacon (or the lector when there is no deacon) carry the Book of the Gospels.

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Holy Days of Obligation

Catholics are expected to attend Mass every Sunday because “the Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practices,” as it is written in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2181. Our communal participation in the Sunday Eucharist is also “a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church.” Thus, Sunday is the primordial holy day of obligation. However, there are other days of obligation every year, such as the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity of the Lord, Mary Mother of God, the Epiphany, the Ascension of the Lord, Corpus Christi, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and All Saints. Some of these celebrations have been moved to Sunday in order to promote the participation of the faithful, while others remain on the specific dates on which they have been established.

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Season of Advent

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent. The season of Advent began in the evening of Saturday, December 2nd and will end in the afternoon of December 24th. Side note: Notice that the season of Christmas in the Church doesn’t end on December 25th, but it starts on that day.

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The Liturgical Year

Happy New Liturgical Year!

Sunday, December 3, 2017, marks the beginning of a new liturgical year and a new liturgical season. The liturgical calendar for Sundays is divided into three years: A, B, and C. Each year we read in a special way one of the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. What about John? We read the Gospel of John for special celebrations, such as the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday and during the season of Easter. Today, we begin year B, and on Sundays we will be reading from the Gospel of Mark, excerpts from Luke, and chapter 6 of John.

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