Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
First of all, so many thanks to all those who put so much extra work into our Advent and Christmas celebrations. I realize the decorating task is more involved with special holidays. And we have all the extra ceremonies where more music is needed. In many ways the holidays create more work; but the special worship of our Lord in the great liturgical seasons is worth it. He is worth it! Thank you to everybody who made our Advent and Christmas celebrations beautiful!
Next, I learned there are some people who are pretty concerned about the way germs can be spread in this flu season as we shake hands at the sign of peace or hold hands at the Our Father. Please know that handholding and even the shaking of hands are not required in the Mass. When I’ve celebrated Mass for the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s order), I noticed that they all simply look at each other with their hands folded at the sign of peace, and they give a small head bow, and say the word “peace”. The Rubrics of the Mass don’t specify what the sign of peace has to consist of. Different cultures – even different parishes in the same culture – might do it a bit differently. If you are around somebody at Mass who does not extend a hand at the sign of peace or at the Our Father, please do not take it personally, and please do not assume that person is somehow in error. The Mass does not require these gestures. These gestures are not required at Mass, and certainly in flu season it is understandable that somebody would refrain from engaging in them. Please know that you also are not required to receive the Precious Blood from the extra Communion cups at Mass. In the host you are receiving “the whole Jesus”. Many people during flu season prefer not to receive from the cup. We did not get a notice from the Diocese suggesting that we refrain from offering the cup during flu season, so we have continued to provide it; but any individuals are always free not to receive from the cup. That is perfectly fine.
On a final note, we celebrate the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on January 1st. Because it falls on a Monday, it is not a holy day of obligation; and therefore we are only having one Mass on January 1st. I hope that one of your New Year’s resolutions is to know the Blessed Virgin Mary more fully in this coming year. A healthy relationship with her is key for the full spiritual life. Ponder deeply what it meant for Mary to be the Mother of God, i.e., the Mother of Jesus Christ, who is God. She had the awesome task of nurturing Him into manhood. Yet He was the Son of God. He was Love Incarnate. Mothers know things deeply about their children. They sense when things are even just a little bit off. Their hearts are moved intensely when the children experience all kinds of good things, i.e., victories and improvements, etc. And their hearts are moved deeply when their children experience various sorrows and defeats. The Blessed Virgin Mary’s heart was totally in sync with the life of her Son, Jesus Christ. Imagine the secrets, the wisdom, about living a life of divine and human love perfectly harmonized, as she watched Jesus in action throughout his entire life. If Mary’s heart is so formed by the life of her Divine Son, then she can continue to be an amazing help for the life of her Divine Son in us. The Holy Spirit dwells in us! There is really nothing in our life that we can’t give to the Blessed Virgin Mary, in order to bring that area of life under the reign of her Son Jesus Christ. In this coming year, may we all grow in our likeness to Jesus Christ – our holiness; and may the Blessed Virgin Mary mother us along this path.
Have a Blessed New Year!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,