Dear friends in the Lord,
As we begin a new Liturgical Year with the powerful symbols of the Advent season and the promise of grace and hope that the new Church year always brings, we turn first of all to the opening prayer for today’s Mass. In the powerful image of this opening prayer we read “Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming…”
Advent draws first in the mystery of the Lord’s second coming, and then to the mystery of His first at his birth. We run forth to meet Christ, who in turn comes to us. This encounter of Faith can be found in the people who cross our paths daily. As we enter now more fully this new liturgical year, I hope to return a little more often to reflect on these encounters of Faith in the people, prayer and events of the Diocese of Orange, as I did when I began writing this blog some years ago in Fort Worth. To that end, I would like to reflect on the events of this first Sunday of Advent in our local Church.
First of all, we gave thanks to God for the gift of rain this Sunday, which is the first in many months, and there is more forecast for this week. Interestingly, I now anticipate rain as much as I did the snow when I was back in the Midwest, in my home Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
The rain was evident during my time at Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Habra, which is on the northern boundary of our Diocese, next to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I was there to install Fr. Ed Becker as the new pastor, who succeeds the beloved Msgr. Justin McCarthy. Msgr. McCarthy was also present along with the parochial vicars, deacons and staff of the parish during this joyful celebration.
The afternoon saw a group of about 40 Knights and Dames of Malta gather for the rosary for the First Sunday of Advent, led by Abbot Eugene Hayes and members of the Order. The Order of Malta does great work with the sick and the infirmed, and many of these members (including myself) will be going on the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes in May with those who are ill and infirm and are referred to as malades. I have been to Lourdes three other times since 1976 and the days in Lourdes are always moments of great grace, healing and perspective on life and Faith. These are also moments to meet once more the Mother of God who said that “I am the Immaculate Conception” to St. Bernadette.
Finally, in the evening hours I was the main celebrant at a 7:00 PM Mass in Spanish at Our Lady of Fatima in San Clemente. This was an addition to the parish Mass schedule to help meet the needs of the many Hispanic families in the southern part of our Diocese who cannot for various reasons (employment and family) make the Spanish Masses during the day and in the afternoon. The Church was full! The response of the people to this additional Mass was one of gratitude to the Hispanic leaders of the parish and the dedication and vision of the parish priests, Father Jim Reis, pastor, and Fr. William Hubbard, parochial vicar and the parish staff and musicians. Viva Cristo Rey!