»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
An Advent Reflection
Nov 29th, 2014 by Father Chris

 

Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown.

The Meaning of “Advent”

The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture reading for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Spirit of Advent

Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!

It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and now anticipates anew, the reign of an Anointed One, a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.

Part of the expectation also anticipates a judgment on sin and a calling of the world to accountability before God. We long for God to come and set the world right! Yet, as the prophet Amos warned, the expectation of a coming judgment at the “Day of the Lord” may not be the day of light that we might want, because the penetrating light of God’s judgment on sin will shine just as brightly on God’s people.

Because of this important truth, especially in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Season of Advent has been a time of fasting and penitence for sins similar to the Season of Lent. However, a different emphasis for the season of Advent has gradually unfolded in much of the rest of the church. The season of Advent has come to be celebrated more in terms of expectation or anticipation. Yet, the anticipation of the Coming of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament and Judaism was not in connection with remembrance of sins. Rather, it was in the context of oppression and injustice, the longing for redemption, not from personal guilt and sin but from the systemic evil of the world expressed in evil empires and tyrants. It is in that sense that all creation groans for its redemption as we witness the evil that so dominates our world (Rom 8:18-25).

Of course, there is the problem of longing for vindication from an evil world when we are contributors to that evil. This is the power of the images of Amos when he warns about longing for the “Day of the Lord” that will really be a day of darkness (Amos 5:18-20). Still, even with Amos’ warning the time of Advent is one of expectation and anticipation, a longing for God’s actions to restore all things and vindicate the righteous. This is why during Advent we as Christians also anticipate the Second Coming as a twin theme of the season. So, while some church traditions focus on penitence during Advent, and there remains a place for that, the spirit of that expectation from the Old Testament is better captured with a joyous sense of expectancy. Rather than a time of mourning and fasting, Advent is celebrated as a time of joy and happiness as we await the coming of the King.

There will be time enough during the rest of the journey through the Church Year to remember our sins. It begins in Epiphany when we hear about the brotherhood of the Kingdom, and realize our failure to effect it. Then as we move toward and through Lent we realize that the coming of Jesus served more to lay bare our own sin than it did to vindicate our righteousness. There will be time to shed Peter’s bitter tears as we realize that what started with such possibility and expectation has apparently ended in such failure.

It is only as we experience that full cycle, beginning with unbridled joy in Advent that slowly fades into the realization of what we have done with and to the Christ, that the awful reality of Good Friday can have its full impact. And in that realization we can finally be ready to hear the Good News on Resurrection Sunday! That is the journey that the disciples took. And so there is value in taking the same journey beginning with the anticipation and joy of Advent!

So, we celebrate with gladness the great promise in the Advent, yet knowing that there is also a somber tone as the theme of threat is added to the theme of promise. This is reflected in some of the Scripture readings for Advent, in which there is a strong prophetic tone of accountability and judgment on sin. But this is also faithful to the role of the Coming King who comes to rule, save, and judge the world.

Because of the dual themes of threat and promise, Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isa 9)!

The spirit of Advent is expressed well in the parable of the bridesmaids who are anxiously awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom (Matt 25:1-13). There is profound joy at the Bridegroom’s expected coming. And yet a warning of the need for preparation echoes through the parable. But even then, the prayer of Advent is still:

Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel!

The Colors of Advent

Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King.  Purple is still used in some traditions (for example Roman Catholic).  The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week.  This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the “Word made flesh” and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection. To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent.

In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for “rejoice”). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candles reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season.

In recent times, however, Advent has undergone a shift in emphasis, reflected in a change of colors used in many churches.  Except in the Eastern churches, the penitential aspect of the Season has been almost totally replaced by an emphasis on hope and anticipation.

In many churches the third Sunday remains the Sunday of Joy marked by pink or rose. However, most Protestant churches now use blue to distinguish the Season of Advent from Lent. Royal Blue is sometimes used as a symbol of royalty. Some churches use Bright Blue to symbolize the night sky, the anticipation of the impending announcement of the King’s coming, or to symbolize the waters of Genesis 1, the beginning of a new creation. Some churches, including some Catholic churches, use blue violet to preserve the traditional use of purple while providing a visual distinction between the purple or red violet of Lent.

This does not eliminate any sense of penitence from the Season.  With the focus on the Advent or Coming of Jesus, especially in anticipating His Second Advent, there remains a need for preparation for that coming. Most liturgical churches incorporate confessional prayers into the services of Advent that relate to a sense of unworthiness as we anticipate His Coming. It is appropriate even in more traditional services of worship to incorporate confessional prayers as part of the anticipation and preparation of the Season.

With the shift to blue for Advent in most non-Catholic churches, some churches retain pink among the Advent colors, but use it on the Fourth Sunday of Advent.  It still remains associated with Joy, but is sometimes used as the climax of the Advent Season on the last Sunday before Christmas.

Red and Green are more secular colors of Christmas. They derive from older European practices of using evergreens and holly to symbolize ongoing life and hope that Christ’s birth brings into a cold world. Although red and green are often used as part of the church decorations (see below), they are never used as liturgical colors during Advent since those colors have other uses in other parts of the church year.

Evergreens and The Advent Wreath

The beginning of Advent is a time for the hanging of the green, decoration of the church with evergreen wreaths, boughs, or trees that help to symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus the Christ. Some churches have a special weekday service, or the first Sunday evening of Advent, or even the first Sunday morning of Advent, in which the church is decorated and the Advent wreath put in place. This service is most often primarily of music, especially choir and hand bells, and Scripture reading, along with an explanation of the various symbols as they are placed in the sanctuary.

Advent WreathThe Advent wreath is an increasingly popular symbol of the beginning of the Church year in many churches as well as homes. It is a circular evergreen wreath (real or artificial) with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. Since the wreath is symbolic and a vehicle to tell the Christmas story, there are various ways to understand the symbolism. The exact meaning given to the various aspects of the wreath is not as important as the story to which it invites us to listen, and participate.

The circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life. Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.

The colors of the candles vary with different traditions, but there are usually three purple or blue candles, corresponding to the sanctuary colors of Advent, and one pink or rose candle. One of the purple candles is lighted the first Sunday of Advent, a Scripture is read, a short devotional or reading is given, and a prayer offered. On subsequent Sundays, previous candles are relighted with an additional one lighted. The pink candle is usually lighted on the third Sunday of Advent. However, different churches or traditions light the pink candle on different Sundays depending on the symbolism used (see above on Colors of Advent).  In Churches that use a Service of the Nativity, it is often lighted on the fourth Sunday of Advent, the final Sunday before Christmas.

The light of the candles itself becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God’s grace to others (Isa 42:6). The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lighted over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lighted at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the hope and promise of long ago have been realized.

The first candle is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope (or in some traditions, Prophecy). This draws attention to the anticipation of the coming of an Anointed One, a Messiah, that weaves its way like a golden thread through Old Testament history. As God’s people were abused by power hungry kings, led astray by self-centered prophets, and lulled into apathy by half-hearted religious leaders, there arose a longing among some for God to raise up a new king who could show them how to be God’s people. They yearned for a return of God’s dynamic presence in their midst.

And so, God revealed to some of the prophets that indeed He would not leave His people without a true Shepherd. While they expected a new earthly king, their expectations fell far short of God’s revelation of Himself in Christ. And yet, the world is not yet fully redeemed.  So, we again with expectation, with hope, await God’s new work in history, the second Advent, in which He will again reveal Himself to the world. And we understand in a profound sense that the best, the highest of our expectations will fall far short of what our Lord’s Second Advent will reveal!

The remaining three candles of Advent may be associated with different aspects of the Advent story in different churches, or even in different years. Usually they are organized around characters or themes as a way to unfold the story and direct attention to the celebrations and worship in the season. So, the sequence for the remaining three Sundays might be Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels. Or Love, Joy, Peace.  Or John the Baptist, Mary, the Magi. Or the Annunciation, Proclamation, Fulfillment. Whatever sequence is used, the Scripture readings, prayers, lighting of the candles, the participation of worshipers in the service, all are geared to unfolding the story of redemption through God’s grace in the Incarnation.

The third candle, usually for the Third Sunday of Advent, is traditionally Pink or Rose, and symbolizes Joy at the soon Advent of the Christ.  It marks a shift from the more solemn tone of the first two Sundays of Advent that focus on Preparation and Hope, to a more joyous atmosphere of anticipation and expectancy.  Sometimes the colors of the sanctuary and vestments are also changed to Rose for this Sunday. As noted above, in some churches the pink Advent candle is used on the fourth Sunday to mark the joy at the impending Nativity of Jesus.

Whatever sequence is adopted for these Sundays, the theme of Joy can still be the focus for the pink candle. For example, when using the third Sunday to commemorate the visit of the Magi the focus can be on the Joy of worshipping the new found King. Or the Shepherds as the symbol for the third Sunday brings to mind the joy of the proclamation made to them in the fields, and the adoration expressed as they knelt before the Child at the manger. If used on the fourth Sunday of Advent, it can symbolize the Joy in fulfilled hope.

The center candle is white and is called the Christ Candle.  It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. However, since many Protestant churches do not have services on those days, many light it on the Sunday preceding Christmas, with all five candles continuing to be lighted in services through Epiphany (Jan 6). The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

Celebrating Advent

Advent is one of the few Christian festivals that can be observed in the home as well as at church.  In its association with Christmas, Advent is a natural time to involve children in activities at home that directly connect with worship at church.  In the home an Advent wreath is often placed on the dining table and the candles lighted at meals, with Scripture readings preceding the lighting of the candles, especially on Sunday. A new candle is lighted each Sunday during the four weeks, and then the same candles are lighted each meal during the week. In this context, it provides the opportunity for family devotion and prayer together, and helps teach the Faith to children, especially if they are involved in reading the daily Scriptures.

It is common in many homes to try to mark the beginning of Advent in other ways as well, for the same purpose of instruction in the faith. Some families decorate the house for the beginning of Advent, or bake special cookies or treats, or simply begin to use table coverings for meals. An Advent Calendar is a way to keep children involved in the entire season.  There are a wide variety of Advent calendars, but usually they are simply a card or poster with windows that can be opened, one each day of Advent, to reveal some symbol or picture associated with the Old Testament story leading up to the birth of Jesus.  One unique and specialized Advent calendar that can be used either in the home or the sanctuary is a Jesse Tree.  (We have available an online Advent calendar with devotionals for each day of Advent as well as Christmas through Epiphany Day: NazNet’s Advent and Christmas Celebration).  All of these provide opportunities to teach children the significance of this sacred time, and to remind ourselves of it as well.

In congregational worship, the Advent wreath is the central teaching symbol of the season, the focal point for drawing the congregation into the beginning of the story of redemption that will unfold throughout the church year. For this reason, members of the congregation are often involved in lighting the Advent candles and reading the appropriate Scriptures each Sunday.  While in some churches it is customary for this to be done by families, it can also be an especially good opportunity to demonstrate the unity of the entire community of Faith by including those without families, such as those never married, divorced, widowed, elderly who live by themselves, or college students away from home.

Small Things and Possibility: An Advent Reflection

We live in a world in which bigger and better define our expectations for much of life. We have become so enamored by super size, super stars, and high definition that we tend to view life through a lens that so magnifies what we expect out of the world that we tend not to see potential in small things. But as the prophet Zechariah reminds us (Zech 4:10), we should not “despise the day of small things,” because God does some of his best work with small beginnings and impossible situations.

It is truly a humbling experience to read back through the Old Testament and see how frail and imperfect all the “heroes” actually are. Abraham, the coward who cannot believe the promise. Jacob, the cheat who struggles with everybody. Joseph, the immature and arrogant teen. Moses, the impatient murderer who cannot wait for God. Gideon, the cowardly Baal-worshipper. Samson, the womanizing drunk. David, the power abusing adulterer. Solomon, the unwise wise man. Hezekiah, the reforming king who could not quite go far enough. And finally, a very young Jewish girl from a small village in a remote corner of a great empire.

It never ceases to amaze me that God often begins with small things and inadequate people.  It certainly seems that God could have chosen “bigger” things and “better” people to do His work in the world. Yet if God can use them, and reveal Himself through them in such marvelous ways, it means that He might be able to use me, inadequate, and unwise, and too often lacking in faith that I am. And it means that I need to be careful that I do not in my own self-righteousness put limits on what God can do with the smallest things, the most unlikely of people, in the most hopeless of circumstances. I think that is part of the wonder of the Advent Season.

I am convinced that one of the main purposes of the incarnation of Jesus was to provide hope. While most people today want to talk about the death of Jesus and the Atonement of sins, the early Church celebrated the Resurrection and the hope it embodied. It was a proclamation of a truth that rang throughout the Old Testament, that endings are not always endings but are opportunities for God to bring new beginnings. The Resurrection proclaimed that truth even about humanity’s greatest fear, death itself.

Both the season of Advent and the season of Lent are about hope. It is not just hope for a better day or hope for the lessening of pain and suffering, although that is certainly a significant part of it. It is more about hope that human existence has meaning and possibility beyond our present experiences, a hope that the limits of our lives are not nearly as narrow as we experience them to be. It is not that we have possibility in ourselves, but that God is a God of new things and so all things are possible (Isa 42:9, Mt 19:26, Mk 14:36)

God’s people in the first century wanted Him to come and change their oppressive circumstances, and were angry when those immediate circumstances did not change. But that is a short sighted view of the nature of hope. Our hope cannot be in circumstances, no matter how badly we want them or how important they are to us. The reality of human existence, with which the Book of Job struggles, is that God’s people experience that physical existence in the same way that others do. Christians get sick and die, Christians are victims of violent crimes, and Christians are hurt and killed in traffic accidents, bombings, war, and in some parts of the world, famine.

If our hope is only in our circumstances, as we define them to be good or as we want them to be to make us happy, we will always be disappointed. That is why we hope, not in circumstances, but in God. He has continually, over the span of four thousand years, revealed himself to be a God of newness, of possibility, of redemption, the recovery or transformation of possibility from endings that goes beyond what we can think or even imagine (Eph 3:20). The best example of that is the crucifixion itself, followed by the resurrection. That shadow of the cross falls even over the manger.

Yet, it all begins in the hope that God will come and come again into our world to reveal himself as a God of newness, of possibility, a God of new things.  This time of year we contemplate that hope embodied, enfleshed, incarnated, in a newborn baby, the perfect example of newness, potential, and possibility. During Advent, we groan and long for that newness with the hope, the expectation, indeed the faith, that God will once again be faithful to see our circumstances, to hear our cries, to know our longings for a better world and a whole life (Ex 3:7).  And we hope that as he first came as an infant, so he will come again as King!

My experience tells me that those who have suffered and still hope understand far more about God and about life than those who have not. Maybe that is what hope is about: a way to live, not just to survive, but to live authentically amidst all the problems of life with a Faith that continues to see possibility when there is no present evidence of it, just because God is God. That is also the wonder of Advent.

Happy Thanksgiving
Nov 27th, 2014 by Father Chris

We today as a nation we gather to thank  God for His abundant blessings to us.  In a particular way I thank God for all of you our parishioners, family and friends who are so good to our parish to us your priests who serve you throughout the year. 

My prayer for each one of you is that God continue to bless you for many years to come with good health, much happiness. family and friends.  

Psalm 107 above really represents well our feelings today:  “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.”  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

2014 State of the Parish Address
Nov 17th, 2014 by Father Chris

STATE OF THE PARISH ADDRESS

DELIVERED AT ALL MASSES ON THE WEEKEND OF

NOVEMBER 15th and 16th 2014

BY

FATHER CHRISTOPHER MONTURO

PASTOR OF SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA CHURCH

This weekend I am happy to come before you once again, as I have every year during the last seven years to report to you on the “State of our Parish”.  Also, this weekend our parish finance committee is pleased to publish our annual parish financial report. 

As you know the members of the Parish Council, Finance Committee and I always work closely during the course of every year on issues which face our parish community.  This is especially the case when important decisions must be made about our parish’s life and future.  Our goal, which is the aim of all of us, is to always make continuous improvements and enhance our parish on every level.  This is our spiritual home and it is the place we turn to every day when we need solace, inspiration, hope, encouragement and love.

Today I would like to very briefly touch on a few areas of interest which are important for all of us to know about. 

Thanks to Mrs. Jean Jacksen and our dedicated catechists who are providing a truly exceptional religious education experience to our children, our S.T.A.R.S. Religious Studies Program has grown over the last 3 years from 245 students to now 360 students enrolled this year.  And, more continue to register even as we speak.  We believe we are achieving our goal which is to provide each student with a dynamic, innovative and interactive learning experience.  To further assist us in this goal we will soon be adding “active boards” to all of our classrooms in our school building so that we can take advantage of the latest technology and enhance the learning experience of our young parishioners by being on the cutting edge of technology in the classroom.  This addition will truly revolutionize the way our catechists teach and our students learn.

We are all aware of the beautiful campus we enjoy and the buildings and grounds which make it up.  All of these require a lot of work throughout the year to maintain and it is a constant responsibility.  I am happy to tell you we have an ongoing program to maintain our buildings and to take preventative measures to see to it that “major” repairs can be kept to a minimum.  There were a couple of major items we did need to address this year.  One was some rather extensive roofing work on both the church and school buildings and also we added lighting around the outside perimeter of the school building and in the parking lot.  This was long overdue and extremely important since over the last couple of years several people were almost hit by cars in the evening after Religious Education classes because the parking lot was so dark.  The new lighting is a very much appreciated addition both from a safety and also a security standpoint.  In the coming months we will be completing necessary tree work and repairs to the exterior of the church and rectory.  I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the special collection for “Repairs and Maintenance”.  Your generosity in this collection has helped defray some of these costs and it has been very helpful.

If you have not ever seen or do not often visit our parish website I encourage you to do so.  We launched our website 4 years ago and it has become THE way we communicate information and happenings in our parish to a large number of our parishioners.  By any standard our parish website is one of the best around especially since it is updated every day and there is always something new to see on it.  Our goal is to always use the latest technology to be ahead of the curve to communicate with our parishioners.  In the New Year we will be updating the website and adding some new features.  We hope you find this helpful and informative. 

A special word of thanks is owed to all of you who work so hard on our fundraising efforts throughout the year especially to all who donate so much time and effort to our annual Festa Italiana.  Last summer we had three beautiful days of weather which allowed us to raise $74,600 which is $10,000 to $15,000 dollars better than most years.  This goes a long way in helping defray the church’s weekly expenses which exceed the amount contributed in our weekly collections by $5000 to $6000 dollars.

I also must thank all of you who contribute so regularly and so faithfully to the financial support of our parish through the weekly and holiday collections and through our annual fundraising activities.  And this weekend I am happy to announce that in March we will have another “Jammin’ in the Gym” night.  Last year, as you recall, we had a performance by “Lights Out” a tribute group to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  This year on Saturday March 7th we will feature “Dancin’ Machine” – New York’s only authentic eleven piece 70s disco band.  So, take your neuru suit and polyester dress to the cleaners and get your bell bottoms ready.  It’s going to be a night to remember. 

One last serious observation on finances, as you will notice on the financial statement in the bulletin, despite all of our efforts to raise money our parish still had a slight deficit of $12,000 last year.  So, as I have always done in the past I ask that each family consider your weekly offering and if it is possible to increase your weekly contribution to the parish please do so.  Even $2 or $3 dollars a week from each family would go a long way in helping us meet all of our expenses and keep our parish financially stable. 

As you are aware our average weekly Mass attendance is about 800 people.  These numbers increase, of course, at special holidays like Christmas and Easter.  Increasing our Mass attendance is an important factor in the stability of our parish for future years so I encourage you to ask family members and neighbors who might not be attending Mass for whatever reason or who may have wandered away from the practice of their faith to invite them back.  Please tell them they are welcome here whatever might have happened in the past.  There is a place for them in this church which is their home.  They are always welcomed back.  And if I can make a call or a visit to them to extend a personal invitation please let me know and I will be delighted to do so. 

Many of you contribute to our poor boxes and you give our parish money to be used for those in need.  I want to thank you for your generosity.  Sometimes you might wonder, “where does the money I contribute go?”  That is a good question and you deserve an explanation.  Over the last few weeks we have used your donations to do several things.  We have purchased food for several families who were genuinely in need.  We bought some clothing for at least one family in need of heavier winter clothing.  And, we helped offset the cost a funeral for a family who are suffering financial hardship and wanted to have a funeral here at Saint Anthony’s and burial at Mount Calvary Cemetery.  In the next few weeks we will also provide meals at both Thanksgiving and Christmas for several of our parish families who are not otherwise able to provide for themselves.  And we will also be supplying toys for children of these families so they will have a happy Christmas morning.  All of these things I have mentioned are corporal works of mercy and charity is being extended right here at home and your kindness is making it all possible. 

The most important thing we do here at Saint Anthony’s is pray.  After all we are a church and we are the Family of God.  So, the Liturgy is the highlight of our life here at this parish.  Everything we do flows from the Liturgy and to the Liturgy.  And we are so fortunate to have some of the most beautiful, prayerful and inspiring liturgies of any parish I know anywhere.  We have received many comments about the effort that so many have given to try to maintain a spirit of prayerful quiet before and after Masses in church.  This has helped continue to create and add to the prayerful spirit of the liturgy here at Saint Anthony’s.  Thank you for that.  I continue to be extremely grateful to our music director, Laurence Broderick, our choir, our lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, ushers, Altar servers and all who help make our liturgies so beautiful.  Each one of you treats what we do here as a prayer not a job and that makes all the difference.  So, thank you and please keep up the great work!

I would like to conclude with two important initiatives.  One has been ongoing for the past year or so and the other will be new to our parish.  First, “Making All Things New”.  We are all aware of the announcements which were made a couple of weeks ago here in the Archdiocese of New York.  Roughly 1/3rd of our parishes in the Archdiocese will be affected by this important strategic parish planning initiative.  We are fortunate that over the past several years we have worked very carefully to stabilize our parish on every level.  We have taken proactive steps and have constantly been ahead of the game in every area.  And you will also find it interesting that over the last couple of years we have seen growth in our parish family.  We have seen the number of parish families registered here at Saint Anthony’s increase from 1305 to 1460.  That is a very positive sign which indicates life and growth.  So, at this time our parish will likely see very limited effects from “Making All Things New”.  Yes, we will collaborate with our neighboring parishes and we will cooperate any way we must to use our resources in the best possible way.  But it is possible you will not even notice anything has changed.  Count yourselves very blessed.  Countless numbers of people and priests in the Archdiocese are not in this position.  So, let’s keep them all in our prayers especially as the next few months lead to the next phase of “Making All Things New” which is implementation.  You should also be aware that “Making All Things New” is NOT a once and forever thing.  For now many people are breathing a sigh of relief but the reality is that every parish in the Archdiocese, including Saint Anthony’s, will be evaluated every two years as we go into the future to assess the parish’s life, vitality and stability.  This is why it is so important that our buildings continue to be well maintained, our parish remain financially viable and that our Mass attendance and parish involvement continue to grow.

To this end I am happy to announce this weekend a Parish Renewal and Revitalization Program which we will undertake in the spring of 2015.  I have been working with the Parish Council and Finance Committee on planning this over the last couple of months.  This Parish Renewal Program called “Forward in Faith, Renewed in Hope”, will commence in January and will continue until the end of May.  During each month in the winter and spring months we will evaluate and add to every aspect of parish life here at Saint Anthony’s.  In Advent there will be boxes at the exits of the church and we would ask parishioners to make meaningful and thoughtful suggestions to how we can improve our parish during this special time of renewal.  We would like everyone to be involved in some way.  And as we look to the future we want to make the great things we are doing here at Saint Anthony’s even better if that is possible.  You will be hearing more about this initiative in the weeks to come.  But please plan to be a part of it as we bring our parish into the future – “Forward in Faith and Renewed in Hope”.

Our town has a motto, “Harrison is a great place to live”.  It is and Saint Anthony’s is a great place to worship and be part of too.  Our parish is great, in part, because of you who make up this unique family of faith.  You always outdo yourselves in generosity and service and for that, as your pastor, I am grateful!  So often parishioners and people from outside our parish who visit here tell me, “Father there is a great Spirit in this church!”  They tell me, “I can’t quite describe it but it is different than other churches where I go”.  And I think they are all right.  There is a Spirit and a Presence here and that Spirit, that Presence has a name – Jesus Christ!  He is the ONE who makes our parish great because, after all, this is HIS house and we are HIS family!  How fortunate and how blessed we are to be part of it. 

This weekend please be sure to look at the financial statement in the bulletin and also please take time to read my letter which is on the back of the same page.  If you have any questions please let me know.  Thanks to all of you for your friendship, your confidence and most importantly, your faithfulness.  God bless every one of you and your families and may He continue to bless this parish family of Saint Anthony of Padua we all love so much.

Andrew Gurgitano,We Miss You, We Love You, God Bless You!
Nov 11th, 2014 by Father Chris

andrew

Andrew Gurgitano

Our parish and our community has suffered a great tragedy and a great loss.  The sudden death, on Saturday, of one of our community’s brightest young people has shocked us to the core.  Our prayers, support and love are extended most especially to Andrew’s parents, Sergio “Fabian” and Sue, his sisters and grandparents and extended family.  

What can we do during such uncertain times as these except call on our faith and on the Lord of Life to be with us and comfort us.  While we do not have the answers to the questions we have we do have the Love of the Lord and His assurance that He will always be with us and we will never be alone.  This is the reassurance I have tried to impart to the young people of our community over these past few days. 

The opportunity that we have tomorrow at the wake and on Thursday at the Funeral Mass to come together to pray and receive blessing and grace will, I hope, be a consolation to every one of us who has been so deeply effected by this terrible tragedy myself included.  

I would like to repeat what I have offered to everyone in our parish and community over these last few days, namely, that if anyone is in need of counseling, a supportive presence or just a listening ear and an understanding heart, Father George and I are available any time here at the parish to assist in any way we can.  Please do not hesitate to call on us at any hour day or night.

Below I have included an article which was published today in the Journal News:

For the second time in a week, Harrison High School has called in social workers and grief counselors over a death in the school community.

But while last week the school was dealing with the death of a parent, this time it’s a classmate.

Andrew Louis Gurgitano, a well-known and well-liked junior and lefty pitcher on the varsity baseball team, died Saturday at his home of what the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office said was a rare spontaneous stroke. He was 16.

“He was the kid who got along with everybody, an intensely funny kid. Everyone wore orange today because it was his favorite color,” high school Principal Steven T. Siciliano said Monday. “A number of students were very close to him. There were a lot of expressions of grief. Kids are still upset … we’re just preparing for the rest of the week.”

Gurgitano made the varsity baseball team as a sophomore and played first base and outfield, but “his forte was on the mound,” said Marco DiRuocco, the Harrison baseball coach.

“He was a phenomenal athlete,” DiRuocco said. “As a pitcher, he really came into his own. He went out and just shut down the opposition. At our last game against Tappan Zee in sectionals, Andrew got the start. He had earned it.”

Survivors include his parents and two sisters.

The school opened its doors Saturday and Sunday and had counselors, coaches and other staff on hand for students and teachers affected by the death.

“We just told our players to use Andrew as an inspiration,” his coach said. “Andrew was just always smiling, always was warm and loving to everyone, not a bad bone in his body. This is extremely difficult.”

Last week, the school community was dealing with the death of Reyda LaMadrid, whose son, Joseph Lopez, is a sophomore and member of the junior varsity soccer team. The soccer team is playing a fundraising game in LaMadrid’s honor on Friday with proceeds to help the family pay for funeral expenses, including flying her body to Peru.

Visitation for Andrew will be held from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at Coxe and Graziano Funeral Home in Mamaroneck.

The Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in West Harrison with Father Christopher Monturo, Pastor, serving as main Celebrant and homilist.

 Donations requested to Friends of Harrison Baseball, 2 Dinsmore Place Harrison, 10528 or www.friendsofharrisonbaseball.org.

Theresa Viscome, 100, A Great Teacher of Life and Love!
Nov 11th, 2014 by Father Chris

 

theresa

Theresa and I during a visit at her home

I ask all parishioners to keep the family of Theresa Viscome in your prayers over these days.  Theresa passed away at the age of 100 a few days ago.  She was a great teacher of life and love. 

Theresa M. Viscome, 100 years old. Born August 4, 1914 to Samuel and Rose (Vumbaca) Viscome. Theresa passed away on November 7 in her home of 90 years, surrounded by her loving family.

Theresa was predeceased by her parents and brothers: Patrick (Anna), Frank (Elsie), Louise (Rose), John (Laura), and Sullivan. She is survived by her many loving nieces and nephews.

Theresa graduated, class of ’37, from Marymount College with a B.A. and received her M.A. from Columbia University in education. She taught math and science at Parsons Memorial Elementary and LMK Middle School in Harrison until her retirement in 1978 after 40 dedicated years.

Theresa was a lover of the wonders of nature. An avid bird watcher and astronomy enthusiast, she transferred these interests into the classroom for students to experience first-hand learning. Her “number one” passions were shopping, gadgets, cooking, traveling, and family.

The family would like to express their sincere gratitude to her Hospice team of Westchester for their comfort and counsel. Also a deep appreciation to her daily companions through the years, most recently Nana and Julia, providing all of their loving attention and understanding for our beloved “Aunt Tess”.

In lieu of flowers please send donations to Hospice & Palliative Care of Westchester.

Visiting hours are Tuesday 5-9pm. Mass of Christian Burial Wednesday 10am at St. Anthony of Padua Church. Interment to follow at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.

 

 
 
A Veteran’s Day Prayer
Nov 11th, 2014 by Father Chris

veterans-Day-2012-jpg

I offered the prayer below after the annual Veteran’s Day Parade at the Veteran’s Memorial in Taylor Square in West Harrison.  Thanks to all of our Veteran’s who have given so much for our nation and for each one of us.  May God always bless you and this nation we love and you served so well.

God of all nations, you are our Strength and Shield. We give you thanks today for the devotion and courage of all those who have offered military service for this country: For those who have fought for freedom; For those who have laid down their lives for others; For those who have borne suffering of mind or of body; For those who have brought their best gifts to times of need. God, in your mercy and love, we thank you for their lives. On our behalf, oh God, many have entered into danger, endured separation from those they love, labored long hours and born hardship in war and in peacetime. God, in your mercy and love, we thank you for their lives. We ask today that you would lift up by your Spirit those who are now at war; encourage and heal those in hospitals or mending their wounds at home; guard those in any need or trouble; hold safely in your hands all military families and bring the returning troops to joyful reunion and tranquil life at home. Give to us, your people, grateful hearts and a united will to honor these men and women and hold them always in our love and our prayers until your world is perfected in peace and all wars cease. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior,

All Saints Procession
Nov 1st, 2014 by Father Chris

all saints picture

This Sunday brings two great highlights of our year here at Saint Anthony’s – one is our Anuual Spaghetti Supper and the other is the Annual Saint Procession of our S.T.A.R.S. Students.  

I invite all parishioners to join us at the 10:30am Family Mass on Sunday November 2, 2014 to witness the great spectacle of the procession of Saints.  You don’t want to miss this.  The students have been working for the last couple of weeks on their projects which have included learning about their favorite saint.  They have done research on the saint and will present their findings in creative form at the Mass and most will dress as their favorite saint for the procession. 

Thanks the Jean Jacksen, all of our catechists, parents and students for all of your hard work.  We look forward to watching as “the saints go marching in” on Sunday at 10:30!

All Souls Novena of Masses
Nov 1st, 2014 by Father Chris

allsoulsenvelope

All Souls Day which we celebrate this Sunday gives us a wonderful opportunity to pray for all of our loved ones who have gone before us.  On the next 9 days and throughout the month of November we will offer special Masses and prayers for our deceased loved ones who have been enrolled in our Novena of Masses for All Souls here at Saint Anthony’s. 

If you would like to enroll your loved ones please write their names on the All Souls envelope which you should have received in your mailing. and place within it your contribution.  You may also find these envelopes at the exits of the church.  These names will be especially remembererd during the Masses offered here at Saint Anthony’s by the priests during the entire month of November. 

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.  And let perpetual light shine upon them.   May they rest in peace.  Amen.  May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.  Amen!

Spaghetti Supper!
Nov 1st, 2014 by Father Chris

 
Annual Spaghetti Dinner
Date: November 2, 2014
Time: 1-6PM
Location: Saint Anthony of Padua School Auditorium
 
Cost: Adults $12, Children under 12: $6
As in the past, we ask you for your help to make this event a success by means of your kind donations.
 
We are looking forward to another great spaghetti supper this year.  I hope all parishioners will plan to be with us tomorrow afternoon and evening for what is surely one of the highlights of the year for our parish.  Please feel free to bring other family members and friends.  I look forward to seeing everyone there!
 
Items Needed:
Spaghetti, Ground Beef for Meatballs, Canned Tomatoes, Tomato Paste, Olive Oil, Vegetable Oil, Wine Vinegar, Bread Crumbs, Salt, Coffee Regular/Decaf, Tea, Sugar, Sweet & Low, Onions, Garlic, and Paper Products.
We are also in need of men and women to help set up and clean up for Saturday & Sunday.  Baked goods are needed for Sunday dinner.  Please drop off donated items at the Parish Office during Office hours marked “Spaghetti Dinner”.  Thank you for helping us in any way that you can! For more info, contact Bruna Barbieri at 428-0532.
»  Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa
© Saint Anthony of Padua, West Harrison NY