Advent Letter, 2020
Dear Our Lady of Lourdes family,
Blessed Advent to all of you! From the first Sunday of Advent through December 16, the readings at Mass prepare us for Christ’s second coming at the End of Time. “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come” (Matthew 13:33). On December 17, the Church begins the “Novena to Christmas” with the reading of the “genealogy of Jesus Christ,” preparing us for His Nativity. During this sacred season, let’s take time to pray and to meditate daily on the Face of Christ. I recommend a daily rosary.
I would also like to introduce our parish’s new website at www.ololcc.net. It will be a great way for us all to stay connected. New people are moving into our neighborhood! With this website, newcomers can register and more easily settle into our community. It will be simpler for everyone to arrange baptisms, confirmations, marriage preparations, funerals, religious education, events and more. The new website will allow travelers and visitors to quickly find our parish, and I can readily touch base when there is something to announce.
Some special Holiday Mass and Confession times to keep in mind:
December 21-23 – Confessions at 7:00PM
December 24 Christmas Eve Masses – 5:00PM * 9:00PM
December 25 Christmas Day Masses – 9:00AM * 11:00AM * 2:00PM (Spanish)
Holy Day – Mother of God (New Year’s)
December 31 Vigil – 5:00PM
January 1 Masses – 9:00AM * 11:00AM * 2:00PM (Spanish)
During this COVID-19 pandemic, there are things we can do at home – and away from computers! – to make this Advent and Christmas season special. Some of you may be alone this Christmas because of the pandemic. Some of you may find it a bit lonely. However, even without your usual gatherings with family and friends, there are opportunities to make the sacred season memorable. This may be an opportunity for a more prayerful Advent and Christmas Season. I recommend taking some extended time to pray in solitude, like the monks! Take your time and meditate on the life of Christ by reading the Gospels. Or, read the prophecy of Isaiah, who foretold Christ’s coming! The Psalms and Proverbs also make great reading when you have time alone. I offer you here some tips for personal prayer, to make this sacred season truly holy and fruitful.
Tips for Personal Prayer
“We pray in words only that we may one day be free of words,
and adore, praise, and love in silence that ‘Beauty which closes all lips.’”
(Rev. Dom Paul Delatte, Commentary on The Rule of St. Benedict)
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
(St. Therese of Lisieux)
Preparation for prayer
Confession. Prayer is most fruitful when we are in a state of grace.
Invoke the help of the Holy Spirit or the Virgin Mary before all prayer.
Spiritual reading is often helpful in order to feed the mind with thoughts that pertain to God. Reading from Scripture, the writings of a saint, or a good devotional book may be helpful. St. Teresa of Avila never went to the chapel without a spiritual book.
Vocal Prayer is words, spoken aloud or silently, addressed to God or the saints, intended to arouse an inner sense of devotion or adoration. Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, and novenas are public vocal prayers. Vocal prayer is also private, such as when we personally say the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Rosary, speak to God in our own words, or make petitions to Him. When praying privately before the Blessed Sacrament, vocal prayer should be done silently. Two requirements of vocal prayer are attention and devotion. Vocal prayer can never be completely omitted from our prayer life. It prepares the way for meditation.
Meditation is using the mind or the imagination to dwell on – or “chew on” – a revealed supernatural truth, such an event in the life of Christ, the wisdom of Holy Scripture, the life or writings of a saint, the Mass, Sacraments, a Church teaching, or a virtue. Spiritual reading is sometimes necessary before meditating, because the mind needs to be fed with “spiritual food.” Meditation on a supernatural truth should lead to affections – or willed acts of love – toward God. In other words, meditation moves from the “head” to the “heart.” When this happens, we call it “affective prayer.”
Prayer of Simplicity sometimes follows upon affective prayer. It is only a simple and loving “gaze” on the presence of God, with the “vision of faith.”
Contemplation is purely mystical prayer. We cannot actively practice supernatural contemplation. Rather, it is purely an act of the Holy Spirit within us, working through the Gifts of Wisdom and Understanding. It is a favor from God, and the key role that we play is to be attentive. It is like an “invasion by God,” experienced as a delightful love for Him, and a peaceful and pleasant inner harmony of mind, will, and affections.
These are the major grades of prayer, though spiritual masters have identified others.
The test of authentic prayer is (1) joy and freedom of spirit; (2) disdain for sin; (3) profound confidence in God; (4) love of self-denial and suffering; (5) humility; (6) detachment from worldly pleasures; and (7) growth in all the virtues, especially Charity.
Have a blessed Advent and Christmas Season!
Fr. Frederick Edlefsen