at 98 Summer St, Portsmouth, 03801 United States
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In this Year of Mercy the following can lead us to a deeper appreciation of the value of making a good examination of conscience and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation: "The things we need to abandon, or cut out of our lives, can be of many very different sorts. Sometimes they may even be things that are good in themselves but which our own egoism, or our failure to rectify our intention, has turned into obstacles to our sanctity. Very often they will be nothing of great importance, but mere whims, habitual minor self indulgences, failures in complete self control, excessive preoccupation with material things, and so on. St Augustine said: 'Observe how the sea comes in through any leaky places in the hull, and little by little, fills the hold of the boat. Unless it is expelled, the ship goes down...Imitate the sailors; their hands never rest until they have bailed her out thoroughly...In spite of everything, however, the bottom of the ship will fill with water again, because the weak points of our human nature are always there; and you ll have to man the pumps again.' These obstacles and tendencies which we can not succeed in getting rid of with one determined effort, but which demand of us a continual and cheerful struggle, give us great help toward becoming more humble." (And, I would add, more merciful and patient with others! Humility keeps us keeping at it so we can be surprised by grace!) -Quotation from Francis Fernandez, In Conversation With God Blessings, Fr Gary
"Truly you alone are the Lord. Your dominion is our salvation, for to serve you is nothing else but to be saved by you! O Lord, salvation is your gift and your blessing is upon your people; what else is salvation but receiving from you the gift of loving you or being loved by you? That is why you willed that your Son should be called Jesus, that is, Savior...He taught us to love Him by first loving us, even to death at the cross. By loving us and holding us so dear, he stirred us to live Him who had first loved us to the end" -William of St Thierry Taking the initiative in loving, reaching out, embracing...that's what mercy is all about! What opportunity will today bring to me to imitate this great attribute of God? Blessings, Fr Gary
"The Lord God is in your midst, a mighty Savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in His love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals" Have you ever really stopped and lingered, pondered and 'rejoiced' over these words from today's first reading from the prophet Zephaniah? How about when the psalmist declares 'The Lord takes delight in his people'? We can think God is angry at me or disappointed or hurt, or, perhaps keeping track of all I have done and regret. But, this passage from Zephaniah would have us think about it a bit differently. When I sin, realize, repent, humble myself and stretch out my hand seeking forgiveness...He grabs it because He's the mighty Savior in our midst, right by our side! He's just watching for that hand and then, mercy overflowing, he rejoices over you! He sings our praises not because we always get it right but because we trust more in Him than in ourselves and we always get up and start anew! Think today of times you've made him smile. Think of how he rejoices when we don't give up, when we finally get it, when we don't disqualify ourselves, when we embrace His mercy and look back not at what we've done wrong but what mercy has done for us! So, the nearness of our God, His abundant mercy, is why we celebrate this as 'Gaudete' - the Sunday of Rejoicing, lighting the rose candle in the Advent wreath, donning rose vestments and passing the midpoint of Advent. As the rose streaks across the winter morning sky signal the nearness of dawn, so today we rejoice in the nearness of our God. So, rejoice! If you've yet to do so, give Him reason to 'sing your praises' to 'delight in you' - go to confession and discover the real reason to rejoice - Mercy!! Blessings, Fr Gary
"Listen and understand, there is nothing to distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care?" (Mary to Juan Diego) In these Advent days we ponder the humility of God: the creator becoming a creature, the all-powerful coming in the fragility of an Infant, the Lord of all seeking the human consent of his creature, that, at her 'yes' the Word might become flesh through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. If He chose to come to us through Mary is it not good for us to go to Jesus through Mary? She takes our hand and heart and leads us to Him since she knows him better than any. She tells Him what we stand in need of, even before we open our mouths in prayer. Remember Cana? Today, as we celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mary's apparition as a pregnant woman, we can renew our attachment to her, we ask her intercession for the dignity of all life to be respected, and ask from our hearts that she pray for all of us 'now and at the hour of our death.' Blessings, Fr Gary
"The mercy that forgives us would be like a stagnant stream if it did not run like a fast current through us, forgiving others. 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.' The first part, acknowledgement of the injuries that we ourselves have inflicted on others, prevents forgiveness from being manipulative. To say 'I forgive you' can be an act of domination, asserting moral superiority, unless it is moved by recognition of ones own defects. The purpose of forgiveness is reconciliation with God. Echoing the prophet Micah (1 Kings 22:17), Jesus looked wistfully upon the sheep scattered in the hills, and wanted to bring them back to him. He does this through us. Faith rescues people from the indignity of grieving over past injuries and fearing present threats, by gladly, and not begrudgingly, showing how Christ can heal the injurer as well as the injury. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, 'Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up." Blessings, Fr Gary
"I invite all Christians to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter them. I ask you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk. Whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that He is already there, waiting for us with open arms!" -Pope Francis (Apostolic Exhortation: The Joy of the Gospel, #3) Isn't this seeking, this receptivity, what we truly express when from our hearts we cry 'Come Lord Jesus'? It's not from far away but rather from right beside us that we feel his tap on the shoulder as if to say, "Yes? I'm right here". After all, his Advent nickname says it all: Emmanuel - God with us. Go into each day looking for a few moments at various points through the day - between activities, while waiting, after lunch, in the car, before an appointment - and let those be, even if brief, moments to say 'come' and you will begin to see how near He is. I often use those moments scattered through a day to do a decade at a time of the Rosary. One after sending this, another later between appointments, another after lunch and another before supper, then wrapping up before bed. It graces my day with mysteries and leads me to experience the rosary prayerfully and, to remember how he comes! Blessings, Fr Gary
The Jubilee of Mercy has begun! I was really humbled and taken in by the soul stirring and beautiful initial celebrations that marked our parish entrance into this Holy Year: the candlelight Rosary and reflection vigil and then last night's beautiful Solemn Mass. The meditation hymn refrain highlighted the section of the Magnificat where Mary sings of 'His mercy is from age to age...' I'm grateful for this gift from our music director that now gives this text, part of Evening Prayer each night, a link of focus on mercy - I found myself 'day dreaming' of the diversity of manifestation of His great mercy already! I think this will be a deep mine to explore! Following Mass I had the privilege of being his instrument of mercy in the confessional - and prayed that this aspect of ministry deepen for all priests as one of the fruits of this year! Finally, while cleaning up things in the sacristy with our pastoral associate, she was sharing how the day had been filled with people bearing some heavy burdens. She felt it tough to fight back tears... After, in my time of prayer in our little rectory chapel, I thanked the Lord for the gift of mercy that he gave her on day one!! Mercy is when our heart hurts for the hurt in another's heart. He was working powerfully in her and in her ministry yesterday! Let's move into this year open, receptive and with 'holy curiosity' as to how, through whom,and in what situations and encounters, He will reveal the truth that, indeed, His mercy is from age to age! May our heart, our look, our responses more and more 'magnify the Lord' so that no one will miss Him passing by in us! His mercy endures forever! Blessings, Fr Gary
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2677, we hear of Mary as 'Mother of Mercy'. Today, as we celebrate her Immaculate Conception, and open the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we can see a connection. God prepared Mary to be the way through which his mercy could enter into the world. What was lost by the disobedience of Adam and Eve would be restored by the obedience of the new Eve, Mary, and Christ her Son, the new Adam. At the foot of the cross the Mother of Mercy would hear her son cry out 'Father forgive them...' and she would be close enough to see his merciful gaze upon the repentant thief as he said, 'This day you will be with me in paradise.' And, she would be doing this supported by the embrace and leaning on the support of Mary Magdalene to whom 'much was forgiven because of her great love.' Certainly we can understand why we cry out to her 'Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope.' What better companion can we have to enter the Year of Mercy than the one Jesus gave us at the foot of the cross? If we want to have the merciful heart of Jesus in us more and more as this year progresses, who better to ask for prayerful support than the one who felt his heart beating beneath hers? So, let's enter this graced year of Mercy with the familiar prayer on our lips frequently: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee! Blessings, Fr Gary Thanks to all who joined us for the beautiful candlelight vigil of Rosary and reflections last night in our Immaculate Conception Church as we prepared to enter the Holy Year. We offered it to unite with Pilgrimage sites all over the world that had vigils if prayer. You are invite to join us at 7pm this evening for the Solemn Mass of the Immaculate Conception to open the Jubilee Year.
We continue our reflection on doors with this second focus on the doors of the church: "The church door is the silent witness to all the moments of our lives. It is at this door that the priest or deacon first welcomes the parents of the newborn child and reminds them of the joy that embraced them when they first held their child in their arms. The same Church door looks down years later when the child arrives to be married..." Then there are the many encounters of prayer, adoration, worship...the first Confession and passing through the door down the aisle toward the altar dressed as little brides and grooms - to celebrate on First Communion day their first sharing in the banquet of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. That is what Holy Mass is! As we grow in the Lord we enter those doors to be sealed in the Spirit and graced for mission in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Finally, our earthly remains are carried through the door, greeted with holy water and incense and honored as having been the dwelling place of God, and, those left behind enter to lovingly commend our soul to the loving embrace of the Merciful Lord, accompanying our passage in prayer. Every time we put our hand on the door handle of a church we should be mindful that the Church door is the door to salvation, therefor, and the portal of the Kingdom of God! Passing through it we encounter greatest moments of union with God we will have this side of heaven. Entering through them we enter into the presence of the Lord Himself - present in the heart of the Church, the Tabernacle, in the Most Blessed Sacrament. No wonder then, when a new church is dedicated, the congregation gathers outside first in front of the locked doors and, as they are unlocked and opened, the whole group only follows the Bishop in for the first time after hearing him proclaim the words of the psalmist: "Go within his gates giving thanks, enter his courts with songs of praise." Blessings, FrG
A week from today we will solemnly bless the open the Holy Door in our Immaculate Conception Church, since it has been designated a Pilgrimage site by our Bishop for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. As we prepare for that event, part of a tradition of Holy Doors for passing through as pilgrims that goes back centuries in the church, we would do well through this coming week to reflect on the doors in our lives. Here is a wonderful first meditation on the door to our hearts: "We live in an age which longs for the presence of God. Our hearts search endlessly for meaning and purpose, never at rest until the grace of God enables us to answer His call. Christ stands at our hearts and knocks. He calls tenderly to us, and as in that upper room where the disciples huddled in fear, he calls out to us: 'Do not fear, it is I.' And so the first Jubilee door I am called to prepare is the door of my heart. I am called to open my heart to Christ. Like Mary, who bore Him deep within her body, Christ gives us the grace to open our hearts to the conversion, unity and justice of the Kingdom of God." -Magnificat Year of Mercy Companion In the home of our heart is there any room with a locked door? Is their a part of us we are trying to keep God out of? Is He knocking and we are fearful of opening? Let's start there! Remember what he did for those huddled in fear in the upper room as He entered in as Lord of Mercy? Blessings, Fr Gary
"Look upon us, Lord, hear us and enlighten us, show us your very self. Restore yourself to us that it may go well with us whose life is so evil without you. Take pity on our efforts and our striving toward you, for we have no strength apart from you. Teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in desiring you and desire you in seeking you, find you in loving you and love you in finding you." -Proslogion by St Anselm We certainly can make St Anselm's prayer our own prayer and effort this Advent! Blessings, Fr Gary
Today is the feast of St John Damascene, a priest and Doctor of the Church who lived in the 8th century. In one of his works we writes of his own conversion, experience of mercy and vocation to the priesthood. His words really struck me as I embrace my vocation and pray for and support others with this vocation. I hope they inspire us all to encourage vocations and pray fervently for those discerning and all who've stepped out and are in formation! He writes: "...you have humbled yourself, Christ my God, so that you might carry me, your stray sheep, on your shoulders. You let me graze in green pastures, refreshing me with the waters of orthodox teaching at the hands of your shepherds. You pastured these shepherds, and now they in turn tend your chosen and special flock. Now you have called me, Lord, by the hand of your bishop to minister to your people. I do not know why you have done so, for you alone know that. When I open my mouth, tell me what I should say. By the fiery tongue of your Spirit make my own tongue ready. Stay with me always and keep me in your sight. Do not let my heart lean either to the right or to the left, but let your good Spirit guide me along the straight path. Whatever I do, let it be in accordance with your will, now until the end." Amen!! Pray for priests and for holy and zealous priests to be raised up from our Seminaries! Blessings, Fr Gary
Our Immaculate Conception Church has been designated a pilgrimage church with a Holy Door - the symbol of the open heart of Jesus - through which pilgrims can pass to draw nearer to the Father of mercies and to then go out to a world in need of experiencing that mercy! The Holy Door will be opened at the 10:30 Solemn Mass on December 13.