Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

For friends of every faith tradition I share this song of the season. 

It's one of my favorites by one of my favorite Celtic singers Loreena McKennitt. 

Enjoy.  Peace...

White are the far-off plains, and white
 The fading forests grow;
 The wind dies out along the height,
 And denser still the snow,
 A gathering weight on roof and tree,
 Falls down scarce audibly.

The road before me smooths and fills
 Apace, and all about
 The fences dwindle, and the hills
 Are blotted slowly out;
 The naked trees loom spectrally
 Into the dim white sky.

The meadows and far-sheeted streams
 Lie still without a sound;
 Like some soft minister of dreams
 The snow-fall hoods me round;
 In wood and water, earth and air,
 A silence everywhere.

Save when at lonely intervals
 Some farmer's sleigh, urged on,
 With rustling runners and sharp bells,
 Swings by me and is gone;
 Or from the empty waste I hear
 A sound remote and clear;

The barking of a dog, or call
 To cattle, sharply pealed,
 Borne echoing from some wayside stall
 Or barnyard far afield;

Then all is silent and the snow falls
 Settling soft and slow
 The evening deepens and the grey
 Folds closer earth and sky
 The world seems shrouded, far away.

Its noises sleep, and I secret as
 Yon buried streams plod dumbly on and dream.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing...

"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast and forever peaceful."
Isaiah 9:5-6
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
Matthew 1:23

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Blessed, Peaceful and Joyous Christmas to you and yours

"Peace on earth" is a favorite saying this time of year.  
The words fits so perfectly the needs of our humanity.
So, from our family to your family, Merry Christmas.  Peace on earth, good will to all.
And may your 2013 be bright and filled with an abundance of God's blessings.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent

Micah 5:1-4a
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45

Today we hear the story of the visitation. 

It’s a beautiful story filled with awe and wonder, hope and anticipation, as we await the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Christmas is almost here. 

As we reflect on the story of Mary’s visit with her cousin Elizabeth today, I encourage us to see clearly what’s happening here. 

Mary is all alone in her predicament.  She has yet to tell a single person about her conversation with the angel Gabriel and what he revealed. 

She probably thinks no one will believe her and understands she’ll be an outcast for being pregnant out of wedlock.   

In her aloneness, Mary seeks out a close relative who is bearing a miracle of her own.  Elizabeth and her child are filled with nothing, but pure joy when they encounter the Mother of our Lord and Christ in the womb. 

There‘s a beauty to letting the Virgin Mary enter our homes and our hearts as a way of getting closer to Jesus -- especially when we feel all alone.

Sometimes in life we lose hope.  We feel abandoned by God.   We feel alone. 

It is at times like these the Prophet Micah in the first reading encourages us never to lose hope.  God will fulfill his promise of a Messiah to bring us hope, a future King to lead us all in peace.  

Hope is about to dawn on a troubled world. 

I’d like to share with you the story of another visitation.

It happened at a hospice where I was serving this time last year in a pastoral internship. 

I felt called to this hospice because it catered to patients with HIV/AIDS and because, frankly, I was very afraid of death. 

In our diaconate formation, we were encouraged to go to places where we could face our greatest fears in order to grow.

It wasn’t the disease AIDS that made me fearful. 

No, I was afraid of death.  And especially fearful of the idea of dying alone. 

My pastoral supervisor was an Episcopal minister and the Director of Spiritual Care at the hospice.  She was an excellent mentor each Sunday as I spent hours a week walking the halls and visiting the dying.

She encouraged me to face my fears as a way of growing in my faith in the Lord.

She also helped me to understand that sometimes people near death need to be alone in order to die peacefully.  When family is present sometimes it can be difficult for the dying to leave this world because they’re still clinging to all that is precious in life. 

This made sense intellectually, but did not dispel the fear I had of dying alone.

       It was there I met a meek, humble, “gentle spirit” named Monique.  Monique was a native of Africa who was abandoned by her husband shortly after her diagnosis of late stage HIV-AIDS.

She had a son in his 20s, but had lost touch with him in recent years.

Monique was in a Seattle hospital with no family at her bedside.  She was in her 40s, in her final weeks of life and all alone.

        Monique spoke in a very slow, deliberate manner reminiscent of someone struggling to find words after experiencing a stroke. 

I didn’t know if this was due to the symptoms of late stage AIDS or some abuse she may have experienced.

        During our visits, I brought her communion and found her faith to be quite strong.  We had wonderful conversations. 

She’d been Catholic all her life.  As we would pray together, I sensed such a deep presence of God in our weekly chats.  It was hallowed ground every time we’d meet and speak and share Jesus Christ. 

         The Eucharist brought her much peace and strength.  It was beautiful to be a part of this experience. 

         One day I stopped by to see Monique.  The end was near. 

As I walked into her room she was in a lot of pain, both physical and emotional, and crying out loudly.  I told her I was there and she looked me right in the eye, but she could not speak.

I asked her if she was afraid.  She cried and slowly shook her head, yes.  I asked her if she felt alone.  And she “cried out in a loud voice.” 

I said, “You’re not alone.  Jesus is right here.”  And I held up the pix containing the body of Christ. 

I asked her if she wanted communion.  She slowly nodded yes.

We have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  We heard that in our second reading today from Hebrews.

        I did the Communion service, blessed her with holy water and tried to find words of comfort, but felt the fear closing in on me.  Monique was going to die alone.

        I said a Hail Mary before departing. 

Now, I’ve always found comfort in the Rosary in times of need.  After all, we Catholics know the Hail Mary comes from both the scripture of today’s Gospel reading and the visit by the Angel Gabriel Mary was so eager to share with Elizabeth.

        As I departed, I grabbed Monique's hand, looked her in the eyes and told her I would see her again.  She gave a weak smile and appeared peaceful as I left the room.

         Sadly I would never see her in person again.

         But that’s when Monique’s visitation happened.

         A few days before her death, Monique’s sister, cousins and other family members traveled from far way to be at her bedside in her final week of life.   

        The staff only knew Monique as a round-faced, bald woman with a gentle spirit and soft-spoken nature.

Little did they know that Monique was the most spirited member of her family.  She always seemed to be the center of attention. 

They loved her so much and wanted to be there for her, their beloved sister, aunt and cousin in the end.

They were with her every moment of her final days, praying and singing together.  Monique did not die alone.

        Today’s Gospel said, “Blessed are you who believed.”   

Christ entered that room and brought peace to all there.  Christ’s abundance of loving mercy prevailed in a time of great sadness and aloneness. 

“For now his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.”  Today’s reading from Micah is right. 

God in His abundant mercy gives us signs that Jesus Christ is in our midst.  Even in our darkest moments, we are not alone.  God doesn’t abandon us. 

Current events may make us wonder where God is, but we are never alone.  God was with Monique.  God is with families grieving in Newtown, Connecticut. 

Jesus Christ is with each and every one of us connected to Him by the sacrament of Holy Communion. 

So, may your hearts be filled with awe and wonder, hope and anticipation.  May you invite the Virgin Mary into your home and welcome baby Jesus into our world to remind us all we are never, ever alone.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Good Works - Act of Random Kindness Benefits Pregnancy Aid

+ A newsletter about the good works being done by members of the IC-OLPH community
December 22, 2012                                                                                  Editor: Deacon Dennis Kelly
2012 Volume – Edition 3                           Please send story ideas to: deacondennismkelly@gmail.com
     When you can get a group of frenetic teens to channel that energy into a service project, you know you’re doing something right.
     Students at IC-OLPH parish school have a long history of serving the poor and marginalized in our community.    
     Right now students and teachers are collecting canned goods in a Husky versus Cougar fan competition, an all-school Apple Cup battle that helps ensure the cup runneth over at the food banks. 
     There’s also a giving tree at the school and it looks like everyone on the tree will have a Merry Christmas. 
     But the project that got the attention of this scribe (and even The Herald this week) was an effort to make blankets for the new, young moms helped by Pregnancy Aid. 
     The idea was the brainchild of 8th grade parent Candyce Eugenio who has watched her son Logan and his classmates “click this year.”  She said, “They’ve come full circle and grown closer.”  The project was a natural.
     As we prepare for the birth of our Lord, the class came together a few weeks ago to create special fleece blankets for expectant mothers and their newborn babies.  In all, the group of young people made 25 blankets for Pregnancy Aid. 

     “It’s very easy to do and it’s fairly inexpensive,” Candyce said, adding the parish community donated fleece for the project thanks to a note in the bulletin.
     Pregnancy Aid Executive Director Angel Metcalf says this is the first time students have donated blankets “and it’s been wonderful.’  She added, “New moms get everything a new mommy needs for bringing a baby home. The blankets swaddle the babies.  In fact, the blankets wrap everything in the gift basket” given to the new moms by Pregnancy Aid.  
     It was really fun to work on (the project) with your friends and a nice thing to do for people who are pregnant and need new blankets for their children,” said 8th Grader Khloe Wilfley.  Her favorite pattern was one with baby ducks.
     Her classmate Logan Eugenio said the best part was taking the pictures after all the work was done. 
     “We all were in a hyper mood after finishing the project in a single day and decided we had to pose for a picture wrapped in the blankets,” Logan added.   
     He said the most meaningful part of the project for him was to help babies, saying, “If you’re not going to help babies who else are you going to help?  Because that is the future.”  Wiser words were never spoken by an 8th grader.
     If that wasn’t enough, the IC-OLPH School Show Choir made up of 7th and 8th graders dropped by Charles Gipson Senior Center and Everett Plaza Assisted Living Center this week to share the festive music of the season with residents there.
     Music Teacher Mary Chris Goldstein wanted the Show Choir to do a service project and performed a half hour of music with all sorts of special songs for residents of these communities. 
     Our parish school is alive with Good Works this holiday season and year round.  The kids are living out Catholic Social Teaching in beautiful and meaningful ways.

Find out more about Pregnancy Aid in Everett