St. Agnes Church

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When Steven and I travel, we’re always on the lookout for Catholic churches in case we want (or need) to stop sometime.  This is why the sign for St. James Catholic Church in Sanderson caught our eye as we drove US Hwy 90 to Marathon on our way to Big Bend National Park Thursday morning.

“Three o’clock Mass on Sunday?” we both asked in disbelief.  Quite late in the day, but something to keep in mind.

Since Segy (our youngest) and I attended Mass at Big Bend, August 1993, we’d anticipated that a priest would most likely visit for Sunday Mass this time, too.  If not, we’d figure something out.  And Sanderson seemed doable.

Change in plans

We’d intended to remain at Big Bend through Monday, April 18, until we learned Friday afternoon that the park hosts only an interdenominational Sunday service at the Chisos Basin amphitheater.

“Do you want to do that?” we asked each other.  “Could we be okay with that?”

We agreed that we could do confession before Mass the following weekend, but it just didn’t feel right.  We decided instead to leave Big Bend by no later than seven-thirty Sunday morning to attend ten-thirty Mass at St. Agnes in Fort Stockton and maybe even stop by Notre Dame in Kerrville off Interstate 10, viable choices that would get us home between seven and nine that evening.

First impressions

The morning was chilly, so we quickly opened the door and stepped into the spacious vestibule at St. Agnes Church.  We could see and hear a class in progress in the large adjoining parish hall.

Since we’d arrived half an hour early and no one else was around, I explored my surroundings by taking photos until a man with two teenaged boys arrived.

“Good morning!” I smiled.

The man engaged us in small talk before making his way to his pew.  “The church will be filling up soon!” he beamed.

I had no doubt that the church community would be just as welcoming as the sacred space was beautiful.

St. Agnes Church

As more and more parishioners arrived, I wondered about the time.  The church was filled with too many tantalizing treasures— exquisite stations, paintings, statues, stained-glass windows, and more— to do them justice; so I turned off my Coolpix and changed gears, hoping for a subsequent visit someday.

I walked over to the intriguing duo— a friendly woman and an equally affable man— occupying the folding chairs to the right of the sacristy’s doorway, complimented their vibrant church community, and inquired about the stations of the cross.

Sweet parishioners, Mary Gonzales and Johnny Cordero were so eager to tell me about St. Agnes that I learned quite a bit before the opening song that prompted the start of Mass.

And the big reveal?  Besides St. Agnes and St. Joseph in Fort Stockton, St. James in Sanderson is the third mission that Fr. Serafin Avenido shepherds as part of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.  Small world, though not so much for Father, who travels more than sixty-five miles to Sanderson to celebrate Sunday Mass at three o’clock.

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Deacon’s homily (edited from the audio recording of 10:30 A.M. Mass)

We sit here, and we listen.  Last week we heard a long gospel, and today’s is very short.  You wonder, “What is the Holy Spirit trying to tell us?”

So today I’ll tell you a story of a good shepherd whose flock asked questions as they walked together.

Why do we continue celebrating Easter?”

The good shepherd tells his followers, “Remember the Good Shepherd who opened salvation— all the gates of heaven— to us, his faithful.”

“How did he do this?”

“God, the father, gave up his son, the true lamb, as a sacrifice for all of us.”

“What does that mean?  Why do continue to celebrate Easter?”

“It takes our response to Easter to pass on [the faith], to help each other out.”

“How can we with all these faults; all these failures; all these weaknesses, disease, violence?  How can we continue the celebration of Easter?”

“Through [Christ’s] sacrifice, the Holy Spirit, and [all that the Church offers], God graces you with his infinite love and mercy.”

“How do we know this?”

“As you walk with me [and] live your lives, what I’ve asked you to do and what I do for you [gives] you strength [through] grace and forgiveness.”

The shepherd’s followers think back on the graces received that helped them with their problems— the times they received sacraments, the times they were embraced when they were most in need, the times they were forgiven, and the times they forgave someone— and they begin to understand why celebrating Easter is so necessary.

“So what do we do?”

“Celebrate Easter.  Be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and the resurrection.  You are today’s disciples.”

Members of the flock exchange glances.

“Where does this lead us?  What do we do?”

“Look for the good shepherds.  Look especially for the Good Shepherd who will lead you if you follow his ways.  Be good disciples, and lead others as well.  Remember that each of us was baptized to be priest, prophet, and king.  Remember that God sacrificed his own son to open heaven to all, that the Good Shepherd called us to be good people, holy people, to lead each other to the divine pasture, heaven.”

By this point, the shepherd’s followers are inspired.  They know they can walk through the dark valley of tears [through faith].

“So how about this celebration?”

“Let me tell you.  It’s not about a great deal of music, food, dancing, drinking, partying, flowers, and barbecue.  No!  It’s not that kind of celebration.

“It’s responding to God’s call with your mind, heart, and soul,” the good shepherd continues.  “It’s responding with gratitude, praise, thanksgiving, and forgiveness.  It’s asking, ‘What am I to do, Lord?  What is my mission?  Wake me up where I am.  Let me follow you.  How am I to respond within my family, my community, my parish?  What am I being called to do?’  Then just do it.

“Don’t worry.  God will give you what you need.  He’ll provide the grace, the strength, the forgiveness to get up and follow that divine Shepherd.  Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.

“And then there you’ll be, entering the most divine pasture that you’ve ever seen, with anything and everything that you’ve ever wantedAmen.”

Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame.  Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr, Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you.  Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

June 10, 2016

Jesus, you are my rock!  Deepen my faith in your love, your wisdom, and your provision— no matter what collapses around me (the Word among us, June 2012, p. 49).

January 21, 2017

“You may stain your sword with my blood; but you will never be able to profane my body, consecrated to Christ” (St. Agnes).

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Links of interest…  Fort Stockton: about / attractions / county seat…  Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish…  Missing Mass on vacation…  Santo Niño de Atocha: miracle / novenaprayers / requests / Sanctuario de Chimayo (website) / Traditions (blog)…  St. Agnes: about (more) / devotions (more) / eve & day / feast day (more) / for kids / martyr (more) / novena / prayer (more)…  St. Agnes Church: Catholic directory / Discover Mass (bulletin) / facebook / parish history / pastoral team

WP pages…  Praise…  Saints…  St. Joseph

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Faith and prayer…  Finding St. Rita…  Forever grateful…  Grapes of generosity…  Guadalupe Church…  Kateri’s sainthood…  Little gifts…  Living one’s gifts…  Notre Dame revisited…  San Giuseppe…  Slice of heaven…  Sorrowful redemption…  St. Elizabeth Church…  St. Michael chaplet…  St. Monica…  St. Peregrine relic…  Today’s Beatitudes…  Vattmann church

Concrete abstraction

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A few days before Easter I received a surprising message in a dream: A man told me, “I want you to write about the resurrection.”

Hmm.  And just what am I supposed to say when I’ve never questioned it? 

What to do

The request weighed on me like a term paper.  I thought and thought, tried to ignore the request, felt discomforting disequilibrium beyond the beyond, and hoped it would go away.  Yet I knew the message would bug me until I dealt with the assignment.  So, even if I didn’t want to comply, I felt obliged to do so.

Shared thoughts

The following month Mary B stayed at her beach house, so I rode my bike over for an afternoon visit.  I took my Bible and the Word among us, since I’d read an interesting article I wanted to talk to her about.

SJC102613-76“What do you think about the resurrection, Mary?” I brazenly asked.

She wasn’t surprised.

We talk pretty much about everything, namely out beloved grandkids, but our spirituality is so intricately woven into our everyday lives that we don’t discuss our religious perspectives as a separate topic.

Both of us attended Catholic school as kids even though she’s Methodist.  We respect and value each other’s thinking and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, so I told her about the dream.  And she didn’t make fun of me.

Restored understanding

Cool, I thought.  And, suddenly, I found myself explaining the resurrection aloud not to Mary, but to myself with the classroom in mind.

“You know, Mary, this is just what Sharon Wells does with her approach to teaching math.  Kids have to work with the concrete before they can understand the abstract.
At the start of each week’s math concept, kids work with hands-on activities.  Then, midweek, they progress to the mental math.  In my classroom, we reviewed, quizzed, and retaught on Thursday to gauge mastery for Friday’s test.  My kids were great teachers.  They cheered each other on.  We were all responsible for our success.”

I couldn’t believe it.  From that perspective, the resurrection made perfect sense!

Mary B just sat there grinning as I continued.

“God knew that people couldn’t fathom the abstract without first experiencing the concrete.  This is why he sent Jesus to live among his people.  And, when Jesus vanished from the tomb, Jesus appeared to his mother so she’d tell the others.  Then, when Mary, the apostles, and the others who loved Jesus were in hiding, Jesus appeared once more.  He wanted Thomas to see him and touch his wounds so he’d stop doubting.  The Paraclete on Pentecost was the transition between the concrete and the abstract.”

Epiphany

Wow!

The way I checked for understanding through Thursday’s quiz was the way God checked for understanding through Jesus.  Once the apostles and the others in the room on Pentecost understood what was about to happen— that Jesus had to leave for the Paraclete (the Comforter, the Helper, the Holy Spirit) to be among them— God knew he’d successfully taught his lesson.

The Holy Spirit is the abstraction that helps restore the concrete memory of Jesus!

How awesome is that?!!

The bigger picture

Still, I believe that Jesus was just an instrument in God’s master plan.  God understood human nature, that seeing is believing.  So, for people to believe in himand know he’s real— he had to reveal himself through Jesus.  Otherwise, how would we know that he’s always here for us and that his love is unconditional?

“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).

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Prayers

O Holy Spirit, in these days of doubt, confusion, and uncertainty, come into our hearts with your light, your strength, and your consolation.

Come with the light of truth and teach us the will of God in our daily living, especially now when God’s basic laws are challenged or ignored.

Come with your strength that purifies our heart and our desires and guards us against the danger of pride and self-conceit.

Bring your consolation so that, with a heart attuned to your holy love, we may live in peace and harmony in our families and give to our communities the spirit of cooperation, tolerance, and understanding.

O God, you have instructed the faithful with the light of the Holy Spirit.  Grant that, through this same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise and enjoy his consolation always.  Amen.

OLCC6714-69Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.

O God, you have taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit.  Grant that, by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart with your holy gifts.

Let my weakness be penetrated with your strength this very day that I may fulfill all the duties of my state conscientiously so that I may do what is right and just.  Let my charity be such as to offend no one and hurt no one’s feelings, so generous as to pardon sincerely any wrong done to me.

Assist me, O Holy Spirit, in all my trials of life, enlighten me in my ignorance, advise me in my doubts, strengthen me in my weakness, help me in all my needs, protect me in temptations, and console me in afflictions.

Graciously hear me, O Holy Spirit, and pour your light into my heart, my soul, and my mind.

Assist me to life a holy life and to grow in goodness and grace.  Amen.

Holy Trinity…  Glory be to the Father, who by his almighty power and love created me, making me in the image and likeness of God.  Glory to the Son, who by his precious blood delivered me from hell and opened for me the gates of heaven.  Glory be to the Holy Spirit, who has sanctified me in the sacrament of baptism and continues to sanctify me by the graces I receive daily from his bounty.  Glory be to the three adorable persons of the Holy Trinity now and forever.  Amen.

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Contact information

To receive prayer leaflets like the one on the Holy Spirit (R-12 R), contact Father Primo at Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598.

January 10, 2013

God was incomprehensible, inapproachable, invisible, and hard to imagine.  He became man, came close to us in a manger so that we could see and understand him (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153).

August 24, 2013

Come, Holy Spirit, open my eyes to the glory of God that is all around me.  Help me to see Jesus with the eyes of faith, so I can become his witness
(the Word among us, July/August, p. 74).

October 30, 2013

The Spirit comes to the aid of our weaknesses for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.  And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will (Romans 8:26-27).

January 2, 2014

“The spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings perfection to those who are making progress” (St. Basil the Great).

April 20, 2014

Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra!  The resurrection of the Lord is our hope! (St. Augustine).

May 29, 2014

“If the sun is going down, look up at the stars” (Father Lasance).

July 3, 2014

O Glorious St. Thomas, your grief for Jesus was such that it would not let you believe he had risen unless you actually saw him and touched his wounds.  But your love for Jesus was equally great, and it led you to give up your life for him.  Pray for us that we may grieve for our sins, which were the cause of Christ’s sufferings.  Help us to spend ourselves in his service and so earn the title of “blessed” which Jesus applied to those who believe in him without seeing him.  Amen.

August 1, 2014

“Realize that you may gain more in a quarter of an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament than in all other practices of the day” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).

August 2, 2014

“Happy is the soul that knows how to find Jesus in the Eucharist, and in the Eucharist all things!” (St. Peter Julian Eymard).

August 6, 2014

“At his Transfiguration, Christ showed his disciples the splendor of his beauty, to which he will shape and color those who are his: ‘He will reform our lowness configured to the body of his glory'” (Philippians 3:21; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae).

May 14, 2015

From the first till the last, every grace has passed and will pass through Mary.  Just as she prayed to the Holy Spirit to come upon the apostles, she will do for all till the end of the world (Blessed James Alberione).

May 15, 2015

Whom do we want to win the battle for our mind: the flesh or the Holy Spirit?  If we want the Holy Spirit to prevail, we’ll need to take an active, rather than a passive, approach.  Unless we actively present our minds to the Lord, we’ll allow our thoughts to welcome among them the voices of evil.  Taking active concert for our minds involves both refusing the influence of the flesh and yielding to the grace of the Spirit (Bert Ghezzi, 2001).

May 17, 2015

Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone?  He burns with the desire to come into your heart (St. Thérèse of Lisieux).

May 19, 2015

The Holy Spirit is the fire of charity which burned up the apostles from the moment of Pentecost, when it kindled in them the flames of divine love until there was no longer love of self left in their souls.  “Our God is a consuming fire” (Dom Hubert Van Zeller in How to find God).

May 23, 2015

Be ever mindful of the Holy Spirit who is within you, and carefully cultivate purity of soul and body.  Faithfully obey his divine inspirations so that you may bring forth the fruits of the spirit— charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity (Chaplet of the Holy Spirit, 1892).

May 24, 2015

“Father of Light from whom every good gift comes, send your Spirit into our lives with the power of a mighty wind and, by the flame of your wisdom, open the horizons of our minds” (Pentecost morning prayer).

November 14, 2015

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

December 10, 2015

“Those whose hearts are pure are temples of the Holy Spirit” (St. Lucy).

December 25, 2015

God was incomprehensible, inapproachable, invisible, and hard to imagine.  He became man [and] came close to us in a manger so that we could see and understand him (St. Bernard of Clairvaux).

God becoming man is the great message of his love.  In it we humans see God’s face (St. Hildegard of Bingen).

April 10, 2016

“Faith in the resurrection of Christ never misleads us and hope in our own resurrection never deceives us because God… restored our Lord to life and will restore us to life, too, by his power” (St. Bede the Venerable).

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Links of interest…  28 different ways to pray (book / more)…  Alleluia…  Ascension & our Christian vocation…  Before the Age of Starbucks…  Bert Ghezzi: aboutblog & more / booksGetting free: How to overcome persistent personal problems (more) / interview…  Catholic Exchange…  Chaplet to the Holy Spirit: beadslitany (more) / prayers: one & two…  Come, Holy Spirit…  Defending the truth of the resurrection…  Dom Hubert Van Zeller, OSB (1905-1984): about / books (more / titles) / correspondence with Merton / Gospel priesthood / How to find God / spiritual master / writer’s cramp…  Easter Sunday: articles / death to life / homily (video)…  Holy Spirit: asking a favor / five ways to incorporate / gifts / homily / invokinglitany (more) / promptings…  Monasteries: Cistercian / Clairvaux / lessons from…  Novena to the Holy Spirit: audios (Poor Clare Sisters) / brochure / for the seven gifts / indulgences & more / kindle a fire within / prayers: one & two – printable (pdf)…    Resurrection: first Easter / forgotten tenet of Christian faith / meaning / why we get our bodies back…  Seeing & believing…  St. Bernard of Clairvaux…  Ten ways to open up to the Holy Spirit…  Thinking Faith…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Backtracking…  Dear God…  Dying to live…  Growing pains…  Our music…  Picturing God…  Prayerful ways…  Seven dwelling places…  Simple yet profound…  Two angels

Church time blues

SJC3611-29A few days ago, I decided to look for answers to some questions I’d been lugging around for a while.

For instance, what’s the difference between the liturgical year and the church calendar?  What are lexionary cycles?  And why does Steven prepare for the Sunday readings using workbooks marked A, B, or C?  Why does Ordinary Time come around twice?  Why is it called Ordinary Time?  What signals a season’s start and its ending?  Are blue vestments now worn to differentiate between Advent and Lent?

Of course, during the search and find process, new questions always come up; but here’s what I’ve found in the meantime.

Liturgical year

The liturgical year is divided into four parts.  Its two themes, or cycles— Christmas and Easter— are based primarily on the Gospel of John.  Each cycle has its seasons and colors.

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The Christmas cycle consists of Advent, Christmastide, and the time after Epiphany.

The Easter cycle has four seasons: Septuagesima; Lent (Quadragesima); Paschaltide, or Eastertide; and the time after Pentecost.  Moreover, the last two weeks of Lent are called Passiontide.  Holy Week with its Sacred Triduum— Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday— begins with Palm Sunday and is the second week of Passiontide and the last week of Lent.

Ordinary Time, on the other hand, isn’t associated with a theme; hence, its name.  Its thirty-three or thirty-four Sundays are divided into two sections, which recount the life and work of Christ based on the three remaining gospels.  The first part lasts from Monday after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord through Tuesday before Ash Wednesday; the second, Monday after Pentecost until Saturday evening following the Feast of Christ the King.  This holy day ends the liturgical year, after which the new year begins with the Christmas theme.

Gospels are presented in three-year cycles: Matthew, A; Mark, B; and Luke, C.  First readings, based on the Old Testament, support the message in the corresponding day’s gospel.  Second readings are taken from the apostles’ letters in the New Testament.  Although the letters are delivered sequentially, Peter’s and John’s are read during the two church themes: Christmas and Easter.  Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians is read at the start of Ordinary Time in Years A, B, and C, since it covers assorted topics and is rather lengthy; James’s Letter to the Hebrews, in Years B and C.

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Church calendar

The church calendar refers to four types of remembrances.   Feast days denote the dates when saints died, or entered heaven.  Memorials honor saints, dedications of churches, or other such special times in church history.  Commemorations are celebrations during which parts from two separate Masses are combined to acknowledge both special days, since they can’t be transferred to other dates.  Holy days, usually observed with a Vigil Mass, glorify events in the life of Jesus, Mary, or other important saints.

Lexionary

A lexionary is a book of lessons that contains the scripture readings sequenced in such a way that the life of Christ is told from beginning to end each calendar year.

Colors

The colors of liturgical vestments depend on the occasion. 

vestments2White  is for Easter, Christmas, and Holy Days; red, for Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Pentecost Sunday; green, for Ordinary Time; violet or purple, for Advent, Lent, and Requiem Masses; violet, white, or black, for funerals; and rose, for the third Sunday of Advent and the fourth Sunday of Lent.  Vestments that are either festive or different in color may also be worn.

In the United States, gold- or silver-colored vestments are also allowed on solemn occasions.

Church time blues

And, personally, I like the idea of royal blue for Advent not only to distinguish the season from Lent, but also to signal that the birth of the Infant is near: a joyous occasion, blue, as opposed to a somber event, purple.  However, ten of the twelve online articles I read expressed their dislike, disdain, disgust, and/or disapproval of blue vestments.

One priest referred to a musical parody on the color blue.  Another saw red at the sight of a priest wearing blue.  If he closed his eyes, he wrote, the colors would blend as purple, which meant compliance with church rules.  A couple mentioned blue is worn on special occasions in other countries, while two others noted that Protestants have adopted the color blue for Advent.  One blogger was tickled pink to see Pope Benedict XVI wearing blue, and a different source described blue in optimistic shades of patient anticipation.

Maybe I won’t see blue vestments become a reality in my lifetime, but I can dream.

After all, blue is Father Xaviour’s favorite color, as well as the color of the tile near the walls in our new church building.  But, no, I haven’t asked Father’s opinion on blue vestments yet.

Links to explore

In the meantime, I’ve got some excellent links to follow (on homilies, church customs, and celebrations) before revisiting the Fish Eaters’ list of recommended movies to view during the liturgical year.

Maybe you’d like to do the same?

November 29, 2010

On entering church for eleven o’clock Mass yesterday, the first day of Advent, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Blue on the altar?  Amazing.

Since replacing the photo on the left (2009) with the photo on the right (2010) on our church blog yesterday, I’ve revisited Sunday’s post numerous times.

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The blue is so bright and uplifting compared to the subdued purple that the altar appears to be signaling a glorious event.

I wonder, Will Father Xaviour wear blue to match next year?  Will I see blue vestments during Advent in the Catholic Church in my lifetime?

Links of interest…  Advent blues…  Approved colors (meaning / more)…  Blue: chasuble / color / not a liturgical color / not for Christmas / rant & poll (more – still more)…  Calendar of saints…  Catholic fidelity (why I am Catholic)…  Gospel: homilies / Luke / page: index – introduction…  LectionaryMatthew, A / Mark, B / Luke, C…  Liturgical: calendar / colors / feast days / memorial (liturgy) / seasons & cycles (more) / time travelvestments (more) / year…  Movies with Christian themes…  Ordinary time (symbols)…  Proper of saints: Sanctoral cycle…  Seasonal customs…  Solemnity…  Why do priests wear green in Ordinary Time

WP post…  Blue heaven…  Call of service…  Concrete abstraction…  Growing pains…  Prayer power…  Prayerful ways…  Simple yet profound…  Sweet Jesus