This Sunday (December 7), the First Sunday of Advent, is our New Year celebration. Yep, that’s right, not January 1. Our celebration is much more modest than what the world celebrates, which is properly called the Festival of Janus. We don’t have a crystal cross descending or throngs of people watching a clock tick at the local cathedral; we celebrate Mass.
You might ask, “What is this Festival of Janus that’s celebrated on January 1st?” Glad you asked! Most of the world participates in this rite whether they believe in Janus or not. Who is Janus? Janus is the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, endings, and time in Roman cult and worship. In fact, the month of January is named after him. In art, he is depicted with having two heads looking in opposite directions; one looks to the future and the new while the other looks to the past and the old.
Ancient history tells us that this celebration included the large consumption of alcohol as well as making resolutions for the next year. Amidst the celebrating, there is the exchanging of sweet dates, honey, and coins. Everyone had to celebrate for fear of Janus. If someone was found not to be participating they would have bad fortune for the next year.
When Constantine became Emperor, he recognized the celebration for what it was and by law, made it a day of fasting for the Lord not feasting for Janus. Unfortunately, after his demise, the pagan traditions continued. In 567, the Church, at the Second Council of Tours in France, abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year. And, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII re-established January 1 as New Year’s Day with his calendar reform.
This paved the way for the Church to begin marking its year with the First Sunday of Advent. This New Year’s celebration is traditionally exercised by taking time for reflection and meditation since the Church was entering into a little Lent. Advent, even today, is a time of waiting, conversion, and hope. It is meant to be a time focused on making room in our hearts for the King of Kings through meditation on Sacred Scripture, penance, and fasting. It is a time to enter into the silence and darkness of our hearts in order to experience the joy, jubilation, and the light of Christ triumphant and the child Jesus. In fact, during the first two weeks of Advent, the Church focuses on the second coming of Christ. It is only during the last two weeks that we turn towards the mystery of the Incarnation and the “Christmas story” (CCC 524). To be honest, it is only in the season of Christmastime (the Solemnity of the Nativity- December 25 through the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord) that all our Christmas carols and jubilation are designed for.
This Sunday, commit to making it a day of celebrating the new liturgical year – a year of grace and salvation. The official cult of Janus has disappeared although their liturgical rites endure even today. Interestingly enough, Holy Mother Church encourages us to pass from December 31 to January 1 with sentiments that “give rise to a dual feeling: of penance and sorrow for the sins committed during the year and for the lost occasions of grace; and of thanks to God for the graces and blessings He has given during the past year.”
In some places Holy Mass is offered but it is more common that the pious tradition of a Holy Hour is celebrated. These religious exercises are encouraged in order that we may celebrate “merely as a reaction to the thoughtless dissipation with which society celebrates the passage from one year to another, but as a vigil offering of the new year to the Lord.” Why? Eternity will be the true celebration. This life is but a preparation for the eternal party.
You might think that the Church is being a killjoy for January 1st but really she is celebrating the salvific mystery of Christ. But remember that we do not conform ourselves to the world (Romans 12:2) but sanctify time through our liturgical seasons. We are also but pilgrims (1 Peter 2:10) on this earth. We glory in the fact that Jesus has invited us to join in His mission of salvation for everyone we meet. We are called to make new resolutions every evening at the beginning of Night Prayer (Compline) – not once a year.
We no longer have to fear what the future holds or if we will find joy and happiness in the next year. Jesus, the Lord of History, rules! As the Carthusian motto proclaims, “While the earth continues to change, the cross endures.” In Him, the Christian cares little for the old pagan rites – we reject them. They glory in their Lord and celebrate the liturgical year which is the preparation for the rhythm of eternity.
So, where do you profess your allegiance? With Christ or Janus? May the calendar year pass by in obscurity while the first Sunday of Advent fill your heart with anticipation and joy for the birth of a King.
Happy New Year!…Almost…
written by Deacon Marques Silva
We live in a weird time. We’re able to communicate in real time with a stranger across the globe, yet we often feel like no one knows us. We share our photos, our locations, our likes and dislikes, our brutal honesty and our deepest fears with hundreds of people daily, and still it’s hard to fight the feeling that we’re all alone.
This semester in youth ministry we’ll be talking about the sacraments. I don’t know what your experience of sacraments have been; maybe they seem like great moments of grace or maybe they just feel like hoops we have to jump through to keep our parents happy.
The reality is that the sacraments are 7 opportunities where we can reconnect with God in a personal and privileged way. In the Sacraments, we find that we are seen, heard, known, and loved more than we could imagine.
After all, isn’t this what the whole world is after?
Come join us for Sunday Night Live this semester.
Reconnect with God.
Connect with old and new friends.
Reconnect with hope.
In our media-saturated, easy-going, say-what-I-want world, it can be so easy to forget to guard our words and actions. As some of our peers are using foul language and sleeping way past Mass on Sunday, it’s so important to remember that the Lord calls us on to something with not just earthly benefits, but heavenly rewards.
The Church gives us the four cardinal virtues to help us along in our quest for holiness. The cardinal virtues are Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude. They are the four virtues on which every single other virtue is “hinged”, we could say. Prudence, we could say, helps set us up for success with the other three.
St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most brilliant Catholic minds of all time, says that prudence is “right reason in action”. Prudence helps us to decide what is right, and then to do it.
Every day, we are called to be prudent. We may make the decision to get up an hour earlier to get to Sunday Mass. Maybe we’ll have to walk away from a conversation where others are tearing people down. Or maybe, like I had to do this last weekend, we’ll have to choose to fulfill a task we’ve committed to doing instead of attending a niece’s soccer tournament.
You see, prudence doesn’t only help us in our spiritual lives, but in our daily lives with our family or in school as well. Prudence tells you that it wouldn’t be good to eat a whole box of cookies, or to sit in the middle of the road at night.
Or the one I have the most difficult time with: not leaving paper-writing to the night before a big assignment is due!
So what are the best ways to grow in prudence? Well, the first thing we need to do is to pray. Use scripture to guide your prayer – Proverbs has lots of verses about being prudent in our speech. It’s also important to surround ourselves with other people who are prudent – these people can be parents, priests, youth ministers, older siblings, or teachers, to name a few.
Lastly, before you make a big decision or say something you might regret, stop. and. think. Even if just for a moment, that moment could be the difference between a prudent decision and something you’ll regret. Use that little moment to say a small pray- something like “Jesus, I trust in You”, or “Lord, give me prudence right now”.
This week, pray that the Lord will show you how to be prudent. It’s easy to identify situations where we need prudence, we just need to ask God for the gift of prudence and then we need to cultivate the habit of this virtue through our actions.
Put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, and see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven for you, and pour down upon you blessing without measure! (Malachi 3:10)
This year’s Lent Challenge is going to be different from those we’ve offered in the past. Most of us are familiar with giving up things for Lent, but do we even know why we give them up?
From the beginning of the Church, fasting has been an important part of our faith. Throughout Scripture, God invites His people to fasting as an essential part of their relationship with Him. Fasting serves two purposes: it prepares us for the great feast that God wants to prepare for us and it is a powerful method of prayer.
The sacrifices we make and the things we give up for the 40 days of Lent help us to hunger for the 50-day celebration of Easter. Lent is a pilgrimage, a reminder that our life on earth is a difficult journey. At the end of this pilgrimage, we hope to reach the eternal banquet of Heaven that is repeatedly described in Scripture as a wedding banquet. Though our time on earth is challenging and full of suffering, it is nothing compared to the eternal glory and joy that God has prepared for us (Romans 8:18).
Fasting also adds power to our prayers. Because we are made of both body and soul, our relationship with God must involve our bodies and our souls. For the past 2,000 years, the Saints speak constantly of the importance and power of fasting. Even Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert to pray and prepare for His public ministry.
Our challenge this year is simple. We’re asking you to fast, to give something up, as a prayer for other teens. Instead of just giving up chocolate for your own health, what if you gave it up for 40 days as a prayer for other high school students in our parish? Imagine how powerful it would be if we were fasting and sacrificing for every teen at St. Mary’s.
Here’s how it works:
- You pick something that you’ll give up. Make it something challenging, something that will be difficult to fast from.
(examples include: coffee, soda, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, video games, the internet, chocolate, candy, snacks, music, texting, these ideas, these other ideas, or whatever else you can come up with)
- I’ll send you a list of 10 names of high school students to pray for.
- You’ll pray for these 10 students each day during Lent, keeping them in mind when you hunger for the thing that you’re giving up.
We’re not just praying that the teens of our parish have a good day, we’re praying that they will grow closer to Jesus and come to know His love even more in their lives. I guarantee that we will see big things happen if we’re willing to step up and sacrifice for others. You don’t have to take my word for it; here’s what God promises for those who are willing to sacrifice for Him:
If you’re up for the challenge, email me and let me know what you’re giving up. Father Barkett said that he will join us and that he will be fasting for each of you this Lent.
As we finish out this last week of advent and prepare for the coming of our Savior at Christmas, make sure you take time to slow down, be silent and listen.
When I was five, I was sure I would be a princess. As royalty I would marry a rich prince, travel the world, wave to people and eat all the candy I wanted. I would have a closet full of ball gowns and stacks on stacks of shoes.
When I was 15, I was determined to be a world famous wedding cake maker. I loved to bake and I was sure that I would get a job decorating the wedding cakes of celebrities
Now, as a senior in college I am not a princess or a wedding cake maker. As I grew up I realized that I could not continue to plan my life around things that could change. I decided that it made sense to live for the one thing that won’t change. God.
Thy Will Be Done
“The world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
(1 John 2:17)
How do we even begin to seek His will? I get this question all the time, and truthfully I have asked it just as many times. It seems like it is complicated, or there is a procedure that MUST be followed, directions that ensure a prompt, uniform response.
This is not the case and it never will be. If God were able to be quantified and qualified, if He were able to be predicted with certainty, in other words if He operated like an ATM or Siri, He would not be God.
It is a beautiful and wonderful thing that our God does stuff his own way and we cannot know all of those ways. That means He is GOD!
So How Do We Listen?
God the Father wants you to know His will for your life. He wants you to be able to follow it. So He will tell you. He will tell you where He wants you to go, what He wants you to do.
We need to prepare ourselves to hear the Lord speak:
1. We must desire to hear Him: We need to examine ourselves and our lives and decide – do I want to hear what God has to say.
2. We must make that desire known: Pray. Ask. Pray again. Tell the Lord you want to know Him and are ready to listen.
3. Make yourself available to hear Him respond: We cannot hear the Lord’s voice, or His answer to our prayer, if our lives are consumed with the noise of the world. We need to carve out time each and every day to sit in quiet and just listen.
4. Learn what God’s voice sounds like: The Lord is speaking to you all the time. That is a guarantee. We do not always hear what He is saying – because we are not listening or we have not taken the time to get to know His voice.
Did you know parents can pick out the cry of their infant in a room of babies? Their ears become attuned to the specific cry of their child. Did you know that babies can also identify the voice of their mother and father? Their specific voice has the power to calm the child.
Your relationship with God the Father works the same way. He already knows and can hear your cry. Learn to hear His voice.
Then Go. Act on His Will
Once we know God is calling us to something, we must act. We must pray, but then get up and go and trust that God is blessing our decision. We cannot constantly worry – “what if I heard incorrectly” or “I’m just not sure.” Trust that the Lord will guide your actions, even as you carry out His will.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I will give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
This is His promise to you: hear His voice, follow Him and you will have eternal life. He protects you as a loving Father does.
Pray. Listen. Then go, trusting you are doing the Lord’s will.
We’re really excited to announce our schedule for next summer’s trips.
This past summer we went to Diocesan Workcamp, we brought a group to a Steubenville Conference, and we took teens to Northbay…
Next summer, here’s what we’ve got planned:
June 23-29: Steubenville Mission Trip (Steubenville, OH)
combining service, a youth conference, and an amusement park
August 3-7: Northbay Camp (North East, MD)
5 days of fun, food, and Jesus
MONDAY NIGHT LIVE (all summer)
our regular Sunday night program will switch to Monday nights and continues all summer!
We have fundraising opportunities all year long to help make these trips more affordable.
You can easily fundraise to make your summer trip free!
If you’re interested in any of these trips,
email me and i’ll send you more information.
Hey everyone, welcome to the new site. Hopefully this one’s more friendly for your mobile devices. We’re excited to be back on the parish’s main website, and we plan to keep this site fresh so you can come here for updates, encouragement, and the best videos Brian can find.
Make sure you’re following us for updates, invites, and gluten-free goodness:
The reason for this site, the reason for all that we do in Youth Ministry, is to remind you that you have a home in the Church. You are loved, you are welcomed, and you are needed in our Church. We’re here to help you in any way that we can, so please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.
The Best Video in the Whole Wide World (for now)