From the Pastor: Big Celebrations This Week!
As you are all quite well aware, this week brings us one of the two Holy Days of Obligation of the month of December. This Wednesday, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We will have our usual morning Masses plus one extra high Mass at 7:00 pm. Just as a “heads up” for anyone new to Catholicism, the Immaculate Conception is not Jesus’ Conception! This feast comes just a few weeks before Jesus is born and oftentimes new Catholics think that it is strange that we would celebrate His Conception right before we celebrate His Birth. But that particular feast is named the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—which really confuses the newbies since it names Mary and not Jesus! But a few seconds of thought put into it and it all makes sense as on that day the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she was to conceive the Savior, she said “Fiat” and, Lo and Behold, Jesus was Conceived in her Immaculate womb. Our Lord’s Conception was celebrated nine months (not just a few weeks) before His Birth, so we already celebrated it on the 25th of March. At this week’s feast, we celebrate the conception of Mary, who was given the singular grace to be preserved from even Original Sin from the moment of her conception, hence, the Immaculate Conception. Her birth is celebrated nine months after the Immaculate Conception, so we will get to it on September 8. Oh, and the second December Holy Day of Obligation, in case you weren’t thinking too clearly due to reading this while shopping online, is Christmas!
The next big celebration, which, due to our parish’s sterling reputation as one having nothing but good little boys and girls, will be celebrated a bit early, is St. Nicholas’ feast day. The actual date for his feast is December 6 but he will make a special visit to us a day early, on Sunday, December 5. If you are reading this online before coming to Mass that day, don’t forget to have the children bring an extra shoe (with their name written inside) to lay on the tables next to the church. St. Nick likes to leave special gifts in children’s shoes during Mass!
Then there is the special Rorate Caeli Mass which you have all been waiting for! This coming Saturday, December 11, the morning Mass schedule changes. The 8:00 Mass (and confessions and Adoration which normally follow) have been canceled and instead, we will have a glorious candlelight Mass at 6:30 am followed by some—what else?— sugary snacks. The Rorate Mass is a traditional Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Advent. It actually can be celebrated on multiple days throughout Advent but we limit ourselves to just one. All is dark in the church with the exception of the altar, which is lit by as many candles as we can safely fit on it. Rorate Caeli (or Coeli) desuper et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem (Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior) are the opening words of the Introit of the Mass. They are taken from Isaias 45:8 and have, quite obviously, been seen as a prophecy about Our Lord’s birth. So, as we heard from St. Paul just last week, “now is the hour for us to rise from sleep”! For some of you living far away, you will have to rise very early, but “now our salvation is nearer than when we believed” and the early start to the day will be worth it! All of the altar boys, schola members, and sacristans will have to get there even earlier than you and they are the ones begging for this Mass every year! So set your alarm right away so you don’t forget.
Since I still have a small space left to write, now is as good a time as any to announce that last month we hired our new Youth Director (or Facilitator or Apostolate Coordinator whatever “new and improved” title they are officially called nowadays). Her name will soon be, if it is not already, well known throughout the diocese as well as at Epiphany, as she will be the very best Youth Director around. Jamiee Salcido has already been working for a long time with the high school youth group and will continue to do so. She is also working with the already-established Young Adult group, and they are planning on ramping things up so watch for that group to start advertising more and more functions. And, starting in January, Jamiee will be starting up an all-new Junior High Youth Group! So, for all of you with children in that age range, start paying attention to announcements, bulletin blurbs, Flocknote emails/texts, and other modes of communication. We have long had requests for activities aimed at this age group but have never had someone willing to lead the group full-time. Now we have one! She will need plenty of help, so be quick to volunteer. Those who volunteer will no longer have the worry (and a justified one at that!) that if they do just one project for the middle school children then they will be “stuck” as their leader forever, for that position is now filled. Of course, as in all positions dealing with children or vulnerable adults in the Church, volunteers must undergo Safe Environment Training put forth by the diocese (now done online at your convenience) and pass the fingerprint scrutiny, which helps to assure that the children are in good hands.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka