Dear Parishioners of our Beloved St. Paul:
Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary His Most Holy Mother! We come today to the Third Sunday in Advent- Gaudete Sunday meaning the Sunday of Rejoicing. Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I say Rejoice! Thus did our Father and Patron St. Paul write in his Epistle to Philemon. And we, too, follow his command as we rejoice today because our salvation is so near.
Immediately on this Sunday we notice that the priest has put away the somber violet for just one day and wears instead the lighter color rose. The candle of the Advent wreath is also rose. It dramatically reminds us that the Lord is near and in merely ten days we will see His glory as we kneel once more at the manger and behold the Light of the World, a light which no darkness will ever extinguish. Even nature itself will assist us, as we see at Christmas time the light return unconquered as the days begin to get brighter and longer.
What a wonderful time then to contemplate the wondrous light that Our Blessed Mother brought to the very center of the New World on December 12, 1531.
There once was a civilization that lived in a world apart. To their north was a great desert which no one had ever crossed. To their south was an enormous and endless jungle through which no one ever emerged. To their east and west lay the vast expanse of the Ocean Sea. These people were the Aztecs who inhabited the modern nation of Mexico but they called themselves the Mexica.
Perhaps because they were so isolated, the evil one enslaved them and the ancient enemy of our race, the prince of darkness and the father of lies (we never use capitals when writing of the devil) was openly worshipped. And he demanded what he always demands, human sacrifice. Ancient Mexico had become a river of human blood. In 1488 when the Temple of the Sun was dedicated, over 20,000 men were offered in sacrifice in three days’ time. But amidst the horror of their surroundings the people prayed that a River of Light would flow into their darkness. Their own prophets had foretold that one day the Mother of the True God would come to their rescue and stop the human sacrifice.
Although the Spanish had conquered the Aztec Empire by 1521 (having first arrived in Mexico in 1519), only the Immaculate One would conquer their hearts and souls. On December 9, 1531 (the day of the winter solstice because the Gregorian calendar had not yet been inaugurated) the Light burst into their darkness. Our Lady appeared on the Tepeyac hill to Juan Diego and asked that a Church be built on that very spot where, as she said, I will demonstrate, manifest, and make known my love and mercy for all who live united in these lands. In the course of four days Our Lady appeared five times to Juan Diego and on Monday, December 12, 1531, she revealed herself as the Virgin of Guadalupe (a name which means River of Light). On that day her miraculous image formed on the tilma of Juan Diego and it is enshrined in the great Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is a continuous miracle because it is an image not made by human hands but given to us by God Himself. In merely 10 years (from 1531 to 1541) twelve million of the Aztecs were baptized through Our Lady of Guadalupe
May the Holy Virgin enlighten our darkness and bring us to the true Light of the World.
How pleased must Our Lord have been when so many of you good parishioners came on First Friday to spend some time in quiet and recollection in adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. As you know the hours of adoration have now been doubled and on each First Friday there is Adoration from 12 noon until 8.00PM. Please make every effort to be with Our Lord on the next First Friday, January 3, 2014.
You will undoubtedly notice our beautiful new altar crucifix and candlesticks. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for these beautiful adornments to our Church and I will be ever grateful to those who donated them in memory of their loved ones. May God reward you! I am quite overcome with emotion to celebrate Holy Mass in such a beautiful setting that is worthy of the God of All Mercy and Goodness. They will continue to beautify our Church for many years.
You will notice that our wonderful Lectors now sit in the congregation and come forward to proclaim the Word of God. Such is the practice in most parishes (as those who watch the daily Mass from Telecare realize). It is a beautiful symbol of the hallmark of service which is so characteristic of St. Paul’s. The Lectors, like the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, come forth from the community to serve. We are ever grateful to them. You will notice that now the announcements will be made before Mass begins. We will keep the announcements to a minimum and, once again, I would ask you to take home our expanded bulletin which will have all the information we need to know.
Please be sure to save the Christmas schedule so that we may all make our Christmas confession. You will notice there are many hours for confession and it is my fond hope that very many will confess so that we may greet the Christ Child in humility and love.
And finally, on Saturday of this week (December 21st) we as a parish will observe the sixth anniversary of the going home to God of our beloved fourth Pastor, Monsignor Mario C. Costa. Unlike so many of you, I did not have the grace and joy to have known Monsignor Costa in this world; I hope that I will meet him in eternity. But in many ways I feel a deep friendship with him and sense his presence with this parish which he loved so well. So many lovingly speak of him that I know he was a priest after Our Lord’s own Heart. There can be no greater joy for a priest to love and be loved by his people, and that is certainly the case with Monsignor Costa. Holy Mass will be offered for the repose of his soul on Saturday the 21st at 5.00PM. In my office I have hung the beautiful laminated 1975 letter in which Bishop Kellenberg appointed the then Father Costa as the Pastor of St. Paul. I look at it each day and pray that like Monsignor Costa, I, too, may be a priest after Our Lord’s own Heart.
Let us all say a prayer for Monsignor Costa, and, perhaps, in your goodness and generosity, you will remember also to say a prayer for me who am so in need of your prayers and the Good God’s mercy.
Nos cum prole pia, Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda