We invite all men of the parish to our next Men’s ACTS Retreat at the Omega Retreat Center in Boerne on January 19–22. The members of the ACTS community strive to assist members of the parish family attain a deeper relationship with our Lord and with fellow parishioners.
ACTS is an acronym for: Adoration, the call, acceptance, and response to God; Community, the love and caring for each other as members of the body of Christ; Theology, the study of our faith through Scripture; and Service, to God, each other, and our parish family.
“What a great experience! My ACTS retreat has helped me in so many ways. It deepened my relationship with God, it brought healing and new life to my marriage, it helped me feel connected to my parish community, it introduced me to some of the best friends I have ever known, and it helped me to focus on the things that really matter in my life. I am so glad someone had the courage and took the time to keep encouraging me until I finally agreed to go.” – A grateful St. Francis of Assisi ACTS retreatant
See how you can support the team members and retreatants by clicking here.
I Come to Do Your Will
Almost eight years ago, I was besieged by calls from Sister Frances. Her first question was always, “Rose, has the Holy Spirit spoken to you yet?” You see, she was trying to get me to say YES to ministering at St. Francis. I put her off at least three times. Each time, she persistently invoked the Holy Spirit!
I believe the Spirit came upon me at the Easter Triduum, when I experienced the St. Francis community for the first time. I tried to be anonymous, sat in a back pew, observed all that was happening from a visitor’s perspective. I was trying out a “fit.” You see, I could not imagine myself working in a parish. All of my life, practically, was situated in convent Masses—with adult women, primarily, related by congregational bonds. We were all Sisters, all women of different ages, all adults. For me, it was hard to imagine how I would fit in PARISH life.
And then something changed. As I experienced Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, I know the Holy Spirit visited me. I know that I never looked at my watch, not once, during the Easter Vigil. The music, the silent reflection, the readings, and then the adult baptisms and confirmations were like the movements in a symphony. I was captivated and captured. Suddenly, I knew that I could do this! I felt the Spirit.
The psalm response for this Sunday became profoundly real for me, almost as strong as my first profession of vows as a Sister of Divine Providence. “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”
In all of our lives, I think we all get chosen for something. It may not be for fame, greatness, or fortune. Rather, we know that we are called for something beyond what we would imagine, dream or choose. That’s when the Spirit comes upon us, usually out of the blue, and we find ourselves moving out of our comfort zones, to something that is good and probably “stretching” us to BE more or to DO more. It becomes clear that we can’t help but say YES.
When have you found the Holy Spirit calling you to something new? To stretch you? To grow sacrificially? And can you too respond, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will?”
I hope your life is filled with many responses of “I can do this!”
Are you looking for a way you can help out the parish? The parish office is seeking volunteers to cover the front desk once a month for two hours (9:30-11:30 am) on Sundays. If you are interested, please call Natalie at the front desk at 210-492-4600 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We sincerely thank you for your contributions to our parish—those of time, talent, and treasure. If you wish to receive your contribution statement electronically, please email our bookkeeper, Nikki Galdamez, at email@example.com or call 210-492-4600.
Wise Ones Still Seek
We conclude our Twelve Days of Christmas with the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. Some refer to this day as the Feast of the Three Kings. In my childhood home, we brought blessed chalk and holy water from church and blessed our home with prayers for safety and security for all who came into our home. We blessed our barns and our cattle too, asking that all activity would prosper and be for good. We marked the doorposts with the initials of the three wise men. The practice is etched in my memory. The meaning of the practice grows in me each year, especially when I focus on the images surrounding the three Wise Ones.
One of those strong images is the star—a star of wonder, a star of light that leads! We celebrate light—the light that comes in our darkness, the light that is the glory of God that shines, the light that is an invitation to walk in the light. Light also brings out the “radiance” of things. Look in the faces of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Kings, and we see radiance all around. What star leads us? Where does the light in our lives come from? And where does it lead us? Are we wisely seeking?
Another image in this story is journey—not knowing the destination, having to pay attention, looking for signs and knowing when to trust and whom to trust. Herod did not have good intentions. And the magi were crafty and clever, wisely choosing another way home. When do we struggle in knowing who to trust on our life journeys? What evidence do we use for choosing right paths? And when to we choose “another way home?”
A third image is that of gifts. The wise ones brought gifts to the child; they opened their treasures for the child. That image of “opening their treasures” is described as physical gifts in Scripture. For some time now, I have been discovering what it means to open my treasures for the sake of someone else. Do you remember O’Henry’s short story, “The Gift of the Magi?” The moral lesson in the story is that people are willing to give up what means the most to them for the person they love. In the story, the couple acts on impulse as each strives to please their spouse. Both the husband and the wife want to buy their love a meaningful Christmas gift, so they sell their most prized possessions. They do not consider the consequences of their actions as they are determined to make the other person happy. The wife cuts and sells her long hair to buy a fob and chain for her husband’s watch. And he sells his watch to buy her combs for her hair. In sacrificing possessions, they end up possessing an even greater, irreplaceable treasure: affirmation of their love.
What are the treasures that I want to open up in this new year of life? How will I offer them to the Christ child? To the Church? To my St. Francis community?
An epiphany is a moment of revelation, a moment that can occur when something long expected finally happens, or when something completely unexpected breaks into our lives. What are the epiphanies in my life? What is the light I seek? Where is the journey taking me? And what treasures do I open up out of love for others?
If you’d like to do the Chalking Ritual in your home, you can find the prayers and explanation by clicking here.
Becoming Artisans of Peace
One of the gifts of Christmas is peace! And peace is what we often long for in our families, in our communities, in our offices, and in our world. On this feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the World Day of Peace, we focus on Mary’s role in our salvation. At various times in our faith formation, we have come to know her as our Mother, Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. We also remember that she has the title, “Mary, Queen of Peace.”
Pope John Paul II recognized Mary’s role in his “Sollicitudo rei Socialis” (The Social Concern), an encyclical promulgated on December 30, 1987, the twentieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples). It is part of a larger body of writings known as “Catholic Social Teaching.” In that teaching, Pope John Paul II says:
“We present to the Blessed Virgin difficult individual situations, so that she may place them before her Son, asking that he alleviate and change them. But we also present to her social situations and the international crisis itself, in their worrying aspects of poverty, unemployment, shortage of food, the arms race, contempt for human rights, and situations or dangers of conflict, partial or total.”
When we read in Luke’s gospel that Mary pondered these things and treasured them in her heart, we imagine what those things were. This Sunday, we too are given the opportunity to give voice to the blessings in our lives, to name the things that we are pondering and wishing for, and to treasure with gratitude what God is doing in our lives. Praying the Magnificat and pondering the words, taking them to heart, would be a great response
At the birth of Mary’s son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will. We pray to Mary today for guidance in living that peace. Pope Francis wrote this in his World Day of Peace message for 2017:
“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers. In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. Nothing is impossible is we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.”
May the Lord look upon our St. Francis community kindly and give us peace in 2017. May we, like Mary, take God’s actions in our lives to heart, ponder them, and give praise and gratitude. And let us commit ourselves to being artisans of peace in 2017.
Happy New Year!
Lord, Teach Me to Pray is a 3-part prayer series based on Ignatian Spirituality. Part 1, “Praying Christian Virtues,” helps deepen prayer life and uncover what to do for dryness and obstacles in prayer. It also introduces the different methods of Ignatian prayer, meditation, contemplation, and Consciousness Examen. The next Part 1 for women series will be held on Tuesdays from 9:30-11:30 am in the Martha Room beginning on Feb. 7. The group will meet weekly with trained facilitators to pray and faith share through April 25. There is no fee to attend. To register, contact Nan Balfour at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 985. 373. 5077. Visit www.lordteachmetopray.com to learn more.
Love Came Down at Christmas
When I was in formation, learning to be a “Sister”, this was the title of one of our favorite Christmas hymns. We practiced it daily. The harmonies were beautiful and I can still remember the lyrics. This year, that hymn is on my mind. I hope it speaks to you as well.
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
This Christmas we pray that we might first hear the Word that is Jesus. We pray that we might understand this Word, and that we might live out of our understanding. We pray that this Word is imprinted deep in our hearts and souls and that when we speak, others hear the spirit of Jesus singing its love song to the world.
Joseph and the Nativity
Meet a man with a plan! Joseph has the situation in hand! Finding out that Mary, his fiancée, has become pregnant by another man, he prepares to do the right and proper thing—quietly break off the promise to marry. In his day, this was not only the “proper” thing to do; it would also spare her from shame. From his understanding of the situation, he is being merciful. He is being a good man.
But divine intervention comes to Joseph in the form of an angel and a dream. He learns that Mary has not been unfaithful, but rather has conceived her child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph is challenged to re-think his plan. Part of what makes Joseph a truly honorable man is his willingness to rethink how an honorable man acts once God enters the picture in an unexpected way. Joseph makes room for God and makes it possible to be a family.
As Advent moves toward Christmas, we are reminded of God’s capacity to surprise us, forcing us in turn to act in surprising ways.
Joseph is a model for all of us! He was receptive and flexible. Sometimes we too are asked to leave our well-thought out plans behind and to be flexible and receptive. Holding on too tightly to what we plan can keep us from being able to receive God’s unpredicatable, wonderful gifts.