Dear People of St Anthony’s, St. Mary’s and Holy Family:
“But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
Advent ponders the three comings of Christ: his coming in history, in mystery and in majesty; but not quite in that order. This first Sunday of Advent the scriptures speak of his coming at the end of time, in majesty. The next two weeks the focus shifts to John the Baptist and finally, on the fourth week, to Mary and his birth in history. Christmas day is our celebration that in some way—in mystery—he is born among us today.
In all three cases “the powers of heaven will be shaken.” But we should stand erect because our “redemption is at hand.” Redemption: God’s desire for us is that we find life with him in glory. God is doing all that he can with his infinite wisdom and power to get us home. He is reaching out to us with hope and love. And God asks us to extend his hope and love to all others. Or in the words of our beloved Pope Francis, He is a God of Mercy so we must be a people of Mercy.
Drawing upon the many writings of Pope Francis that speak of God’s Mercy, our Sacred Worship Committees have set as our Advent theme: Preparing for the Mission of Hope and Love. We need to prepare by opening ourselves to receiving God’s Mercy. Only then are we able to extend it to others.
Pope Francis has declared a Holy Year of Mercy beginning December 8
th, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Here in the Diocese of La Crosse, the beginning of the year will be marked with the opening of the Holy Year Door in the Cathedral on December 13
th. Margaret Ouimette and Joyce Rondorf will be heading down on our behalf for the 10:30am Mass and ceremony. It would be wonderful to send a busload down to take part in this celebration. Those who go will bring back our Holy Year Materials including the prayer books the diocese has prepared. They will have prayers and spiritual exercises for each day of the month. You are invited to take one and use it to help you open your heart to God’s Mercy and prepare you to share that Mercy with others. Please contact Joyce or Margie if you would like to go along. They will be bringing back 250 of the books and we can always order more if needed.
In addition to personal prayer we have much to look forward to in this Year of Mercy. We are laying the foundations for the Alpha Program in our parishes. Promoted by our Diocese and used with great success throughout some 70 countries, Alpha is a tool for bring back fallen away Catholics. It is based on the principle that people first need to “belong,” then they will “believe,” and only then will they “behave.” Or said again, when people feel loved and accepted, they can begin to consider changing what they believe, and only then will their lives begin to change. You will be hearing more about this new ministry in the months to come, but if you would like to help us develop it, please contact, Margie Ouimette, Judy Morrow, Seth Duprey, Stephanie Duprey, Rhonda Fulwiler, or Joyce Rondorf.
Our three parish Mission February 28, 29 and March 1 will also be aimed at preparing us for the Mission of Hope and Love. Deacon Tom Kinnick from Chippewa Falls created a lot of excitement when he went door to door in his parish and brought back many who had fallen away. Since then he has grown to be a national figure in the Catholic evangelization movement. When I spoke with him he was pondering an offer to teach at a Catholic University. He has done Parish Missions all around the country. We are fortunate to be able to get him. And his message is all about our call to share Christ’s hope and love.
The Saturday before, February 27
th, we will be aiming at the hearts of our youth by bringing in a Catholic praise and worship band and retreat team called: Traditional Division. It will be a full day retreat for upper middle and high-school students from the area. Please start working that day in to your family calendar!
And of course our Saikeri Barn Raising Project this Advent is hoped to be just a first exchange in a long-term friendship with our sisters and brothers in Kenya. Several people have already expressed an interest in visiting our sister parish to share gardening tips, and to bring hope and love. Our Social Concerns Committee, with my full support, will be working to make that happen.
We prepare now for the coming of our Redeemer. Not in fear, but with head’s erect, we prepare to share in his Mission of Hope and Love.