There is much to be thankful for as we enter today into this new liturgical year! We begin the sacred and penitential time of Advent in preparation for the coming of the Christ-child. The world is dark, not only in our short days but in the challenges that we all face, especially families. Families are always under stress and always will be, but we need more holy families to be witnesses to the world that Christ Jesus lives in the good holy Catholic family. So, what do we do about it? Pray, learn, study, and grow into who we are to be.
This is a perfect time to join with our families in a closer way, especially those families with small children. There are fun Advent crafts and activities all on the internet for your perusing. Make the faith come alive at home! The home is the primary church anyway! Advent readings and prayers, whether daily or weekly, an Advent calendar (with chocolates OF COURSE!), and the good ole Advent wreath are easy ways to begin our preparation for Christmas and the day when we meet the Lord. If you want something awesome to read, read Joseph Ratzinger’s (Pope Benedict XVI) Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. A fantastic read!
St. Paul is happy to tell us that in him [Christ Jesus] you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have everything we need if we would just ask the Lord to give it. If you’re wondering which prayer the Lord is looking to answer, asking the Lord for more faith is a better prayer than asking for more riches. I have John 14:14 in my head at the moment: If you ask anything in my name I will do it. God wants you to want him, to invite him, to receive him. I’m not promising you riches, but peace I can guarantee. The Lord will strengthen and fortify you against trial for He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. As we await him, make this Advent intentional! Proclaim the good news among the nations: OUR GOD WILL COME TO SAVE US!
– Father Mark Schoffner, November 29, 2020
Christ the King! Reigning over all of creation!
There is this image on the back wall of the monastery, St. Joseph Abbey, where Fr. Scott and Iattended seminary. The image is of the Final Judgement, and flanking the central image of Christ is people of all sort, every color, angelic and bodily, all streaming toward Christ seated upon the rainbow, symbolizing all of creation. Today is the celebration of Christ the King. Instituted that we, the faithful, may rightly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, over all, and all things are under his dominion.
Man was brought down in the fall of Adam, yet it is in Christ that we are raised up. Not simply raised up from the dead, but redeemed and justified by Christ’s sacrifice. This life is lived now! We do not need to die to live fully alive; we can do it now, today, insofar as we live in a manner according to Christ. We must strive to work every day, 100%, to respond to God’s graces that we may be fully alive.
We cannot know what it fully means to be human unless we know Christ. He reveals to man who and what we are created for, God. Pray constantly, make your tasks prayers and give them to the King. Pray in all we do and constantly turn toward him that he may show us who we are and what we are made for, greatness.
Christ is the first to rise from the dead. He is the first fruits of creation. In his coming again, we will be raised and glorified, judged, and either rewarded or punished according to our deeds. If we responded to his overflowing and abundant graces he bestows upon us every day, we will find the comfort of heaven; if not, well, you know the torment that awaits. St. Paul reminds us that Jesus will be all in all in the end.
Creation will give honor to God, the Origin of all life; and his reign is everlasting. Jesus is our King. Let us live our lives accordingly. Let us strive to be good, holy, and loving and always seeking Him in prayer. Have a good Sunday!
– Father Mark Schoffner, November 22, 2020
As To The Times And Seasons
We’ve all been surprised at some point. Caught off guard by something that was a blessing, or what felt like a curse. I’ve heard from many women and saw it myself when I worked in the hospital—labor pains come on no matter the day or the hour. Once they start, it’s go time! St. Paul is exhorting us today to be mindful of our readiness for the coming kingdom. Like a thief coming in the night, the day of the Lord will come and all the peace that was proclaimed by the world’s pleasures and comforts will be gone just as when the contractions begin with a pregnant woman. The unexpected nature of the final events will lead to true peace in Christ for those who know him and have built a relationship with Jesus where he knows us individually. This relationship is built through prayer and grace given to us through the sacraments. We heard this last week in the Gospel; Jesus told the foolish that he did not know them and they were locked out of the party. I don’t want that.
St. Paul pits one group against the other, the children of the light and those of the darkness. Those who live in the light, acting in accord with Christ Jesus, will not be caught off guard. The peace and security of a deep and intimate prayer life with him, where we strive every moment and day to grow closer to him, will be our safety in the last terrible day. Those who have continued to live a life of sin and darkness, not in accord with God’s will, will find themselves on the terrible end of that just judgement. It’s those who’ve received their rewards in this life that will find the next a self-induced cursed one.
This last Sunday of Ordinary Time though is an important reminder to live a morally vigilant and sober lifestyle, not giving ourselves over to man-made idols and foregoing our identity as true adopted sons and daughters of God. We are called to higher lives; we are all called to holiness. We cannot grow lazy in our striving to be watchful of the times and seasons. Stay awake, y’all! And have a great week!
– Father Mark Schoffner, November 15, 2020
“Vigilate” —this is the motto on the flag of the British Virgin Islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands do not have a motto that pertains to this article, so I’m just addressing the historical nature of their finding by Europeans. On his second voyage in 1493, Christopher Columbus found a grouping of islands and named them according to what they looked like and what story was conjured up in his mind by their likeness.
The Virgin Islands were called by Columbus “Santa Úrsula y las Once Mil Vírgenes,”—“Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins.” The islands on the horizon looked like a religious sister with her followers to the Catholic explorer. Back in the day when Catholics like him read the Lives of the Saints and prayed to be virtuous like the heroes of the faith, this story of St. Ursula was well-known. The name stuck and the Virgin Islands were part of this new chapter of history.
In the time of British colonies declaring their independence from the Crown, the British Virgin Islands took for their flag the standard British ensign with a coat of arms hearkening back to their discovery. Emblazoned on the fly was St. Ursula, standing with her lighted lamp and surrounded by 11 oil lamps representing those who followed her with the motto “VIGILATE,” to be vigilant or watchful. We hear in the gospel today, “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” This is the task of us all as Christians not to become weary or burdened by the world to the extent that we forget to always be looking for Christ. We should be looking for his coming at the end, but more importantly we should be looking for him in our daily lives. How we see him in our children, in our families, in our neighbor, and most importantly in our prayer! Would you be considered one of the wise ones who looks for and is prepared, or would you be caught off guard by Christ’s arrival? Be Vigilant!
– Father Mark Schoffner, November 8, 2020
November is the month when we focus greatly on mortality and the end. The final days of the Church year are approaching with the Feast of Christ the King. And, the readings will turn towards the end and the immediate need for conversion and repentance. There are in November the celebrations of the Church Triumphant (those in Heaven) and the asking of their intercession in our lives. There is also the liturgies and devotions around the Church Suffering (those in Purgatory) and the prayers we pray to alleviate their suffering in hopes of their entry into heaven. Here at Our Lady of Sorrows, we celebrate a novena (nine) Masses spread throughout the month of November just for those who have died. There is also the cemetery procession next Sunday where we’ll gather as the faithful to process through the cemetery and pray for those who have gone before us. Several opportunities exist then for us to gather and ask God’s mercy on the dead and their peaceful rest to be found in his presence.
Speaking of death, I recently finished an excellent book that I would highly recommend. A Time to Die: Monks on the Threshold of Eternal Life by Nicolas Diat, the famed French author who has published several books with the excellent +Robert Cardinal Sarah, the preeminent Cardinal in the world. In this book, he travels to eight of the grand monasteries in Europe and experiences events of and stories surrounding the deaths of monks over the history of the houses. These monks are following their vocation to pray and serve the Lord hidden away from the world and yet experiencing many of the same struggles we all face, namely death. Their closeness to death in prayer, renunciation, and sacrifice prepare them to meet their earthly end.
It seems that the closer they are to God in the Church, the better prepared they are to do what we live to do, die. We as Christians especially look forward to the day we die and go to see and hopefully join the Lord eternally. It is a really good read. Prayerful, thought provoking, I would highly recommend it. It’s not a downer and all sad; it's quite beautiful and hopeful. I hope you’ll give it a consideration. PAX
– Father Mark Schoffner, November 1, 2020