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).

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).

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.

Immaculate Conception

From a homily on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

My parents, when I was a child, emphasized manners. One improper enterprise of mine, for which I was often called to task, was drinking milk or Gatorade straight out of the bottle. Having a requisite glass to a drink is a courteous gesture. The rest of my family suffered from my inelegant action. It reminds me of Hilaire Belloc's limerick:

Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is Courtesy.

Thanksgiving Homily

From a Thanksgiving Day Homily

The giving of a gift is a prerequisite to gratitude. We cannot be thankful if nothing has been given to us. To be a thankful person, therefore, means we understand there to be a source behind all good things. For good things do not merely happen. Good things are given by someone. A thankful person recognizes this, which, by the way, makes the virtue of thankfulness the antidote to the dangerous vice of entitlement. Entitlement destroys the concept of gift. Everything, to the entitled person, is owed, not graciously bestowed.

Daily Mass Homily

From a daily Mass homily.

We hear this morning a wrenching account of martyrdom in the second book of Maccabees. “Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord” (2 Mc 7:20). The mother would not let her sons apostatize, but rather encouraged them to bravery.

Chapter Five

The past several months have been quite busy around Saint Juliana. Several committees have been formed and are currently meeting with architects and contractors for both the back of the church and the courtyard. I hope to have these plans to show you in the next month or so. For the back of the church, we desire not merely to improve our restroom facilities and accessibility, but to create a gathering space. This space, added to the exterior of the church towards Oketo, would allow folks to meet and socialize before and after Mass without disrupting the liturgy, as well as give us the space to hold a Children’s Liturgy of the Word and other functions. The courtyard in the school would give our children a playground and a place for recess when the parking lot is unavailable. It would serve also as overflow for events in the Ahearn Center. A prayer garden, alongside additional green space, will make this a very attractive feature of our growing parish and school. Finally, we are in the process of putting an elevator in the building.

Cave-Man Christmas

Dear Parishioners,

“Father James,” asked the St. Juliana students upon my abrupt entry into the classroom, “are you a caveman?”

Stroking my chin to see if I had shaved that day, I responded, “Um, no, I think not.”

“Ah-ha,” some of the class responded with glee, “we were right!”

I scratched my head and looked at the half of the class that was mournful. “What, you thought I was a beast?”

Everyone laughed and proceeded to tell me what they meant by their inquiry. Was I of the camp that believed Jesus was born in a stable or that which believed he was born in a cave? Was I a "cave-man" or a "stable-man"? Jesus was most likely born in a cave. You can see the actual cave today in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. So, I am indeed a cave-man on that historical point.

Borderline of Salvation

Dear Parishioners,

John the Baptist, the cousin of our Lord, baptized on the Jordan River, as we all know. What's the significance of, as St. Hippolytus called it, “the Grand Jordan”?

Hebrew for "the descender," the Jordan River flows south from the Sea of Galilee into the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee, the largest freshwater lake in the region, teems with life. It is, of course, where Jesus spent most his time during his public ministry. The river Jordan connects this vivacious sea with its antithesis, the Dead Sea. The lowest point on earth, this body of water is one of the saltiest on earth, allowing nothing to grow, hence its name. The Jordan River is the connection between life and death.

Get Shocked!

Dear Parishioners,

I taught recently the 4th graders in school during their religion class about the liturgical season. We spent, of course, a decent amount of time on Advent. Why purple for Advent (and Lent as well)? (My brother-in-law, who is from Minnesota and is a Vikings fan will love this post.)

Purple, a fusion of red and blue, is an interesting color. Blue symbolizes calm, steadfastness, and stability. Think of a deep blue sky or sea. Red, on the other hand, symbolizes passion, energy, and movement. Think of fire. Purple combines the steadiness of blue and the fervor of red. In Advent we are called to be focused, recollected, and somewhat solemn as we prepare for our Lord's coming into our lives at Christmas. But we are also called to be alert and excited—and for the same reasons.

The segment from Isaiah (Is 40:1-5, 9-11) in our first reading has this mix of emotions. “Comfort, give comfort to my people,” we hear in the opening line. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” continues the prophet. This is quite blue.

But it turns red quickly. “A voice cries out...cry out at the top of your voice.”