December 2, 2018
The First Sunday in Advent
We come today to the First Sunday of the Church’s New Year of Grace, the First Sunday in Advent. As we know, the Church Year does not follow the calendar year but rather it begins, not on January 1st but rather on the First Sunday in Advent. Thus, today we begin to place our feet along the way of holiness once more.
The season of Advent is grace filled for it is the time of preparation for the coming of Our Divine Savior on Christmas Day. It is said that in true darkness one can never judge the light in the distance. Sailors have discovered this phenomenon at sea as have travelers in the desert. They may see light in the distance but cannot judge how far away it is…is it five miles or five hundred? For the ancient Jews it was much the same as they awaited the coming of the Messiah.
They had been told on that most tragic day, the day of the ruin of our race, that one day a Savior would come who would crush the head of the ancient enemy of our race, the accursed serpent, the devil. But how long would it be…5 years, 50 years, or 500 years? No one was certain. And thus the ancient people of Israel awaited the coming of the Messiah and watched and waited.
Finally, the long wait ended on that first Christmas night when God became a man. In the world of nature we see the nights growing darker and longer right until the time of Christmas. Then suddenly the sun returns and the light shines ever greater on each day. So we are reminded that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the light of the world, a light no darkness will ever extinguish.
Let us use these days then to prepare for the coming of the light and to live in intimate union with Our Lady and St. Joseph as they too await the light.
MONSIGNOR JAMES M. MCDONALD: On Friday, November 16th, Monsignor James M. McDonald, the Pastor of St. Aidan in Williston Park, was called home to God. Monsignor McDonald was a great friend to St. Paul’s. He was here many times to preach Evenings of Recollection, speak at the Marian Guild/Knights of Columbus Communion Breakfast and to celebrate Mass. He was the holiest priest in the diocese and countless priests and bishops from all over the country would seek his counsel. I first met Msgr. McDonald in the summer of 1975 when I was a college student at Catholic University in Washington DC. It was the summer between my junior and senior year. Since the day I met him he has been a mentor, confessor, and spiritual director to me. In fact, may I let you in on a secret. Msgr. McDonald was the shadow pastor of St. Paul’s since I arrived. I write that because I would always consult him on any decision affecting the parish. He was filled with charity and zeal and great wisdom. He was the most respected and loved priest in the diocese. I had invited Monsignor McDonald to live here at St. Paul’s in his retirement. He loved the peace and serenity of St. Paul’s and he was very fond of saying Mass in our daily Mass Chapel. In fact, on days that he did not have a Mass at St. Aidan’s he would ask if he could spend some time in our chapel and say Mass here. We began to remediate the structural problems in the south suite of rooms in the Rectory and it was finished in June of this year. He would often ask about the progress of his rooms. But in God’s providence Monsignor would never retire (he died, as they say, with his boots on). He will not move to St. Paul’s, but we call and will always call, that suite the Monsignor McDonald Suite. When Bishop Murphy came to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Paul’s last May I showed him the suite. He loved it and its décor so much he asked if he could move in. I told him that Msgr. McDonald had first dibs on the room and he said that Msgr. McDonald was much more deserving than he.
But the McDonald Suite is empty and will not be filled. Msgr. McDonald was a unique and extraordinary priest and we will not see his likes again in our lifetime. In fact, even while writing this article for a second, I thought I had to call him to ask his counsel on a situation that arose today…but there is no one to call. I have telephoned his cell after his death just to hear his voice, but there is a simple recording that the call cannot be completed.
When I was appointed a Monsignor on September 3, 2007, he immediately called me, and in his own characteristic way, congratulated me and said he was very happy. When last I saw him a few days before his death at MICU at St. Francis, on a respirator and heavily sedated, he said that he was very happy…I had the sense he was seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary.
There will be a Solemn High Requiem Mass in the Traditional Latin Rite (sometimes called the Extraordinary Form) for Monsignor McDonald here at St. Paul’s on Saturday morning December 15th (month’s mind) at 11 AM. Monsignor McDonald celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass three times a week at St. Aidan’s. This will be a most fitting tribute to him. My fond hope is that many will attend this Mass.
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE: Wednesday, December 12th, is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Empress of the Americas. It is under that title, the River of Light, that Our Lady is the Protectress of all the peoples of the Americas, both North America and South America. Our Lady appeared to a humble Aztec St. Juan Diego on the Tepeyac Hill outside Mexico City four times between December 9, 1531 and December 12, 1531 – 487 years ago. There she said I have come to make known, to manifest, and to demonstrate my love, for all the peoples of these lands (North and South America). She asked that a Church be built on the Hill and finally she left us the miraculous image that is the most visited object on earth in the Basilica in Mexico City. In these days the images of Our Lady and St. Juan Diego will be on display in our Church. Both beautiful images are from Mexico and I brought them to New York myself on one of my thirteen trips to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I have not been to Mexico since I have become Pastor of St. Paul’s, and in all likelihood, will never go there again. I pray La Guadalupana will remember my 13 visits and intercede for all of us here at St. Paul’s.
FIRST FRIDAY: Friday of this week is the First Friday of the month. There will be adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament beginning at noon and concluding at 5PM. Please note the early ending of adoration due to the Holy Day of Obligation of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, December 8th.
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda