Happy New Year! This First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year and the countdown to Christmas. Today we bless our Advent Wreath as a sign of our growing anticipation of the joy of Christmas. I hope many of you keep this custom also in your homes. While God is timeless, we live in time. At every moment the story of human history is being written. The season of Advent is very much about the intermingling of the eternal and the temporal. God is both the author and goal of human history.
The Advent season calls us to look forward as much as it invites us to look back. “Advent” comes from the Latin word advenire, which means “to come to” or “to arrive at.” This Sunday’s liturgy tells us to be vigilant (watchful) for the Lord is coming again. We look back to what God has spoken through the prophets; we see those words fulfilled when Jesus Christ was born into this world as the Word made flesh; and we trust in his promise to come again. He comes both as judge and savior. For the sinful, that is an event to be feared; for the faithful, it means vindication and deliverance from suffering and death. “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” (Gospel)
This Monday, December 2, we will offer an opportunity for a Holy Hour of adoration of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament before the 5:30 Mass. Beginning with exposition at 4:15 PM, it will conclude with benediction at 5:15. One of the fruits of eucharistic adoration is a greater desire to receive him in Holy Communion. So then stay for the Mass and receive him whom your heart seeks. The usual Monday-afternoon confessions will begin at 4:45 and conclude in time for benediction at 5:15. This will continue on the first Monday of each month, if people participate.
This Saturday, December 7, Christian Brother James Miller, a Wisconsin native who grew up in our diocese, will be beatified. Born to a farm family in the Town of Ellis in Portage County in 1944, Brother James was martyred in Guatemala in 1982 by masked armed gunmen. (Portage County was transferred from the Green Bay Diocese to the La Crosse Diocese in 1945, so can we claim him as a native of our diocese?) Brother James incorporated his deep faith, his home-farm work ethic, his brilliant mind and his love for the poor into his vocation and ministry as a Christian Brother, the same order that once staffed McDonell High School here and Pacelli High School in Stevens Point, where he became acquainted with them and felt called to join them. He will be the second person from our diocese to be beatified, after Blessed Solanus Casey. You can find information about him on the internet and you may enjoy three short YouTube videos: “Br James Miller the Man,” “Br James Miller the Martyr,” and “Br James Miller the Mission.”
December 8 is usually the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation and the patronal feast day of the United States. This year it falls on the Second Sunday of Advent. So the solemnity is transferred to Monday, December 9; but the obligation to attend Mass is not transferred. Nevertheless you will find the special Mass schedule for the solemnity on page 4 of the bulletin.
The sacrament of penance is an important part of our Advent preparation for a worthy celebration of Christmas. There will be additional opportunities for confession as Christmas approaches. The priests of the Chippewa Falls Deanery will be making the rounds of the various parishes during December to increase the availability of this sacrament as well. Our penance service will be at St. Charles Church on Monday evening, December 9, at 7:00.
Pray the rosary this week for people in our community who are homeless, unemployed or needing health care. Pray for the safety of all travelling home on this holiday weekend. Pray for our military personnel serving in war zones and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.