Mid-afternoon Saturday, Steven asked, “So where would you like to go for Mass?”
My response was quick.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) beckoned, so we arrived early enough for me to photograph the altar.
How delightful to see a priest conversing with a woman outside the south church entrance as we drove up.
“Are we going in that way?” I asked, motioning toward the priest donned in purple.
“No, let’s go this way. It’s closer,” Steven said, already making his way across the parking lot.
Opening the door, we were totally taken aback. Father Darryl was waiting for us!
How did he do that? we wondered, eyeballing each other with stifled amusement and disbelief. Who is this man that he can be there and here so effortlessly?
“I remember you,” Father Darryl said, extending his hand to shake Steven’s. “I haven’t seen you since the men’s ACTS retreat.” Then he asked us to carry the Advent candle in the opening procession. “Will you do it?”
Steven and I, still grinning from dumbfoundedness, didn’t respond quickly enough.
“It’s not difficult,” Father Darryl insisted, telling us what was expected.
“Sure!” I smiled.
But how did he know we’d say yes? And what else did God have in mind?
Wholly immersed in the ritual before Mass, I observed every little movement through perfectly timed photographs that only my third eye, sans Coolpix, could capture.
From the confident, knowing hands that filled the incense cup in the wreath’s center to the graceful, attentive hands that received the candle, every moment was recorded mind, heart, and soul. In the swirling incense permeating the air, I instinctively affirmed as heartfelt traditions renewed Father’s prayers, the altar server’s lighting of the candle, and all blessings bestowed not just for the Advent season, but for our continued faith journey as a married couple, too.
Happy anniversary, darling!
Prayers from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
God of a thousand years and the blink of a millisecond, grant me the willingness to cast aside the demands of this world, now in the days of these weeks before Christmas, that my heart may be humbled to receive more fully the gift of the Christ-child and my life enlarged to await more hopefully the return of my Savior and Judge. Amen (Rev. Dr. Cathy Brall).
Almighty God, it is truly good to spend time in your house praising your name. We give you thanks that you do not stand far off, but that you enter into our suffering. Teach us to be advocates for peace in this restless world, in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen (K. J. Norris).
Precious Lord, it is with great humility that we turn our attention from the demands of this season to focus on you. We need you, we trust you, we hope in you. Let your steadfast love be upon us. It is in your most holy name that we pray these words. You, the alpha and the omega, from ages unto ages. Amen (Dr. Michelle Keane Domeisen).
Come, holy savior, Jesus Christ, God with us. How we need you! If our night is dark, shine all the more with the radiance of your light. Amen
(Rev. Dr. Ron Cole-Turner).
Lord God, the well waters of poverty are rising around us while a select few sit on the perimeters with full water buckets in their hands, poised to add to the misery of others. Grant relief to the suffering and the hearts of those inflicting pain. Remind us all of why it was that you came. Amen
(Rev. Dr. John Welch).
O God, you “are enthroned forever, and your name endures to all generations.” But our days are “like an evening shadow.” Therefore, we lay before you our every weakness— the brevity of our lives are but signs of our failure to live as your people. We trust ourselves to you, O God; and we pray that, by your grace, we might live securely in your presence now and forevermore. Amen (Psalm 102:12, 11; Rev. Dr. Jerome F. D. Creach).
Lord, we thank you for the wonder of this season. We thank you that you are our refuge and strength, and we ask you to help us follow you even when it is difficult. Amen (Rev. Derek Davenport).
Sunday reflections from the OLPH bulletins
People who have had health issues or near-death experiences generally have a greater appreciation for each day being a gift from God. The rest of us usually take for granted that we will be around tomorrow. But when you start to look at each day as a gift, you realize all the little miracles that happen daily and grow in gratitude for all that we have been given (November 27, 2016).
Do you bear good fruit for Christ? Or do you spend your time, talent, and treasure constantly acquiring more toys, clutter, and junk? Our time, talent, and treasure are gifts that God has given us. What we do with them is our gift back to God. What gifts are you planning to give to the Lord during this upcoming Christmas season? (December 4, 2016).
Patience is… one of those things many of us struggle with. We want things to go according to our plan and our schedule. Any change brings anxiety and fear. Through daily prayer we better align ourselves with God’s will and his plan, which is far better than anything we can come up with on our own (December 11, 2016).
Putting our complete trust in the Lord without expecting anything in return. Striving to put God first in all things and follow him wherever he may lead us. As we prepare for the birth of our Lord, pray for the strength and courage to be a model of discipleship, just as Joseph was (December 18, 2016).
November 28, 2016
“Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of divine love growing in silence” (Caryll Houselander).
From the gospel we learn the happy news of our salvation. Learning it, we rejoice in it. We behold God’s glory, and we glorify him. Let us rise to the high places, to the sublime part of ourselves; let us rise above ourselves to seek God in himself and, with the angels, to rejoice in his great glory (Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Advent).
“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives” (Russell M. Nelson).
This Christmas, when Christ comes, will he find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern (St. Teresa of Kolkata, Love: A Fruit Always in Season).
November 29, 2016
The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace (St. Charles Borromeo).
December 3, 2016
Where do you look for your life? Forward or behind? May the Lord grant you the grace to leave things behind, even those which you consider precious in this life; and may he allow you to look ahead, where Christ is waiting for you for a glorious meeting that will open the gates of eternity
(Gus Encino, Aleteia).
December 5, 2016
“With faith I await this blessed day, on which you will receive the name of Jesus, the day on which you will be my Emmanuel, always with me, amid so many temptations and peril” (Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Advent).
December 9, 2016
Pope Francis reminds us again and again that we bring the Word to life each and every day in the way we reach out to others with the love and mercy of God, the way we bring the light of Christ to a world too often shrouded in clouds and darkness, and the way we show to others a face that mirrors the face of God (Diane M. Houdek, Franciscan Media, The Joy of Advent).
December 10, 2016
“Advent is a time for renewal… because God brings his forgiveness to us in the shape of his Son” (Catherine Doherty).
December 21, 2016
Mary sustains our journey toward Christmas, for she teaches us how to live this Advent season in expectation of the Lord. For this time of Advent is a time of waiting for the Lord who will visit us all on the feast, but also… in our own heart. The Lord is coming! Let us wait for him! (Pope Francis).
Links of interest… Advent: announcing the coming / anticipation & hope / blessed & broken / daily prayers / deeper meaning in Latin / four attitudes & comings of Christ / from fear to faith / Gaudete Sunday (not pink, rose) / history / how can this be / lift up your heads / maybe you’re doing it wrong / meditating on Mary & keeping me from being a slacker / O antiphons (hope – retreat – soothing balm) / one who is to come / our hope not in this world / passion for the possible / pregnant with expectations / preparing our hearts / real meaning of Christmas lights / reorienting ourselves to a slower pace / season (forgotten repentance) / seven counter-cultural ways / song of trust & acceptance / St. Joseph’s teachings & kissing him / time: for greater silence & prayer & of waiting / tradition / what is / when it’s not yet Christmas / wreath (about – history – prayers – symbolism) / yoke that is easy & light… Awake from your sleep… Difficult art of being present… Faith is not a philosophy, but an encounter with Jesus Christ… Holy Communion nourishes your supernatural life... Homilies: Christ is the solution / lighting candles in the dark / recipe for readiness… Make a resolution to start being brave… OLPH: facebook / Mass times / website… Open to dreams… Pittsburgh Theological Seminary: Advent & Lent devotionals… Reflections of family & faith… “Rorate” Mass… Seven endearing books to read to children at Christmastime… Signs of salvation… Six ways to tune out distraction & be more attentive… Slouching toward BethlehemSlouching toward Bethlehem… Want to know what God wants from you? Try total immersion…
WP posts… Advent prayers… Blue heaven… Christmas blessings… Christmas year ’round… Church time blues… For all time… Gifts… Letter to Santa… Oh, happy day… On being Christian… One prayer… Our Lady… Picturing God… Promise of hope… Santo Niño… Second looks… Sweet Jesus… Thanksgiving prayers… Twelve candles… Undeniable familiarity