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Anniversary of St. Joseph on the Hill (Oct. 14, 1990)

Editorial Notation:  Given that St. Joseph’s Parish celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018, how is it that Msgr. Awalt preached in 1990 for is 100th anniversary?  It is all a matter as to when one starts counting. The parish actually started in 1868. The old temporary church was built in 1870. St. Joseph’s School was built in 1890 and was used as the church while the present structure was being completed.  That is why there was a celebration in 1990 (associating the church with the school).  The current church was dedicated on January 18, 1891 by James Cardinal Gibbons.

The Setting

This homily was given at St. Joseph’s Church on Capitol Hill at the 12:00 Noon Mass on Sunday, October 14, 1990 by Monsignor William J. Awalt.  It was based on the readings of the day:  the 28th Sunday after Pentecost, Cycle A.  To understand the references, it must be read in conjunction with these Scripture readings:

  • Isaiah 25:6-10
  • Phil. 4:12-14, 19—20
  • Matt. 22:1-14

The occasion was the 100th Anniversary Celebration of St. Joseph’s Church, commemorating the contribution of the German people to parish life.

It was noted by the homilist that any positive effect from his words would rightly be attributed to three elements:  (1) the grace of the occasion, (2) the inspiring remembrance of contributions from German immigrants, and (3) the inherent efficacy of the Word of God proclaimed at Mass.

The Homily

As one comes up the River Rhine in Germany, toward the City of Cologne, a mammoth and beautiful church dominates the skyline. In admiring what is the Cathedral Church of Cologne, one might entertain the question, “Haven’t I seen something like this before?” Smaller, but inspired by that cathedral, is St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill. This church was a gift of the German people who settled this area around the time of the Civil War, a very small replica of the cathedral that many left behind.

St. Joseph’s Parish was started to accommodate the German-speaking Catholics who thought it was too far to go to the German National Parish, St. Mary’s, at Fifth and G Streets, NW.  They dreamed of making this parish a national church for German Catholics of the United States. St. Joseph’s then became the second national church for Germans under the Jesuit, Father Wiget, who was Swiss, but like so many others, spoke German. The first three pastors were German. To find additional German-speaking priests, St. Joseph’s parish was staffed from the nearest source in Buffalo, New York. Cardinal Gibbons, whom a few might still remember, laid the cornerstone in 1868. The foundations are 7 feet thick, perhaps the reason they ran out of money for the superstructure in the way they envisioned it. The Cathedral of Cologne was 600 years being built. St. Joseph’s, a very small replica of the cathedral, was finished in two years. The total cost of the second structure on the old foundation was $68,854.52. One estimate is that 20,000 people from nearby and from Baltimore attended the dedication ceremonies. The parish was staffed by German-speaking priests from the Jesuit mission out of Buffalo, with the assistants more or less coming from the Maryland/New York Province.

In 1886, eighteen years after the cornerstone was laid, Father Valentine Schmitt, from the Archdiocese of Baltimore-Washington, a German-speaking priest, was to become pastor.  At his request, St. Joseph’s ceased to be a national German parish— one of the conditions of his coming here as pastor. The present church was built between 1890 and 1891, hence our celebration today and throughout this year.

The German people and their priests built this church on a hill, nothing compared to the Bavarian Alps, but a hill nonetheless, especially if taken in perspective with the other sections of DC like Swampoodle and Foggy Bottom. This hill today is known as Capitol Hill. From the point of view of our faith, this building is the more important building on the HiII. The mountain, mentioned in the first reading, Isaiah 2526-10, was not so much a topographical detail as a place where the Lord dwells: hence, Mt. Sinai, Mount of the Transfiguration, and Mount Calvary. The mountains are the places where God dwells and where God works. This use of the mountain was our human language trying to express the divine presence, transcendence and dwelling. Again, we speak of God “coming down” to earth and Jesus as “going up” to heaven; poor language attempts to express the Incarnation and the Ascension. The mountain and the hill are viewed as God’s dwellings. Ours is the great God who is not just one of us, except when Christ takes upon himself a human nature from Joseph’s spouse, Mary.  Here on the Hill, God has dwelt in a special way these many years; among his assembly, the parishioners, in the Eucharist, and in the proclamation of His Word.  St. Joseph’s Parish (the Church on Capitol Hill) is still a sign of God’s continued dwelling with His people.

I cannot point to anything extraordinary among the German people of those years other than that which is outstanding in itself, their fidelity, their obedience, and their observance of the law, both civil and religious. In that, they were like their patron, St. Joseph. They lived their lives as the yeast, the salt, and the leaven of the Gospel here at St. Joseph’s.  St. Joseph, himself, seems to come across in the Gospel, as we say today, “as laid back.”  But do not mistake that for indifference, weakness, or unfaithfulness. From the obscurity of the hidden life of Nazareth, St. Joseph under Leo the XIII becomes the patron of the universal Church. That makes sense. He, who is the protector of Mary, his wife, and the child, Jesus, is the protector of what we have called the family recently, the domestic Church. Now he is the protector of the Church Universal which is Christ extended into time. As Mary is patroness of the sister German parish and is Mother to us all; so too is Joseph charged with being Protector of the Holy Family and with us.

Scripture called Joseph the Just Man. That did not mean that he simply paid his bills.  The word “just” in this context meant he was an observer of the law. What a happy coincidence that a just man should be patron here on the Hill where our legislators are called upon to be men who enact just laws.  Joseph knew the law; e.g. that Jewish marriages take place in two stages: first, the betrothal and then the marriage.  In prayer he was given an answer to his dilemma.  He presumed that Mary was to be subject to the law because she was pregnant with the Christ Child before they came together. This also made her subject to the penalty that came with breaking the law.  Joseph’s answer was not to evade the law; rather his discovered in prayer that the law did not apply to the Blessed Virgin Mary— his wife that he had yet to take into his home.  He observed the law even when it was inconvenient.  Rome spoke: that everyone must go to the place of their origin to register for the census. The civil law was inconvenient for his wife was pregnant and near her time of delivery. Yet, he obeyed the law. For this just man knew that all authority came from God. Because he complied, we have the Christmas hymn, “0 Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Joseph knew the law. He fled the jurisdiction of Herod to go to Egypt when Herod wanted to kill the child.  Then from Egypt he took his family to another jurisdiction in the north, Nazareth.  In this he was not unlike the early parishioners of this parish. They came to a strange land, not knowing the language, and not having security.  Joseph, in all this, was a good patron for the German immigrants. Joseph taught Christ as the child grew in wisdom and age. He worked with his hands. He was a skilled laborer, probably something like a skilled cabinetmaker.  He was much in demand, for Herod had taken 1,500 carpenters to Jerusalem to work on the temple.  Joseph took Jesus to the temple on the Hill of Jerusalem to teach the child to pray. In this relationship of Joseph to Jesus, this wonderful experience of father and son, perhaps the seed of the prayer, “Our Father,” was planted.  Jesus saw a reflection of the heavenly Father in his protector, Joseph.  Jesus taught us to call God our Father by the affectionate name, “Abba.”  The German immigrants, like Joseph, kept the law, said their prayers, did their work, went to church, raised their families, and were good husbands and wives. What better patron could there be for these hard-working faithful people from Germany to choose than Joseph, protector of the Church?

Joseph died (as all of us will) before Christ entered into His public life of teaching, dying and rising from the dead.   We do not know much about Joseph during that private, hidden family life of thirty years. If Joseph were a German, I am sure, among his last words would have been that phrase that is so often on the lips of the German people, “auf wieder sehen” (till we meet and see each other again.  This is more than a perfunctory goodbye.  As Christians we believe we have here no lasting city in this world, but that “auf wieder sehen” in German is an expressed belief in eternal life and reunion. The Germans have a saying, “Those who live in Christ have not seen each other for the last time.”  Joseph, had he been German, could well have said this to his Holy Family. Those who preceded us in this parish could easily say that to us today, meaning, “I will see you again,” anticipating reunion, resurrection, family joy, and happiness. Joseph was a humane, compassionate, obedient, respectful, hard-working, powerful, and patient man.  He was one who found his place and his holiness in a simple or ordinary way of life.  What a patron for the Germans— indeed, for all of us!

One of my favorite insights into Joseph as a father, as a family man, a husband, and as the protector of Mary and Jesus, is a short literary piece dealing with the time between Jesus’ death and His resurrection, as the souls of the just throughout the ages wait patiently with Joseph for the news of their redemption. The piece is called “Limbo.”  It brings out the humanity of Joseph, patron of this parish and this Church. It is very characteristic of so many cultures and nationalities but also of the German parishioners who preceded us.

LIMBO by Sister Mary Ada

The ancient greyness shifted
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted
A shining face and said:
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead;
He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred
All souls.
They wondered if they dreamed—
Save one old man who seemed
Not even to have heard.

And Moses standing,
Hushed them all to ask
If any had a welcome song prepared.
If not, would David take the task?
And if they cared
Could not the three young children sing
The Benedicite, the canticle of praise
They made when God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them,
Stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering
The first fresh flowers,
The little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new ploughed
Or apple trees
All blossom-boughed.
Or some, the way a dried bed fills
With water
Laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
Remembered home.

And there He was
Splendid as the morning sun and fair
As only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy,
Knelt to adore
Seeing that he wore
Five crimson stars
He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung.
None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song.
A silent man alone
Of all that throng
Found tongue—
Not any other.
Close to His heart
When the embrace was done,
Old Joseph said,
“How is Your Mother,
How is Your Mother, Son?”

You heard in the Gospel today, God’s invitation not just to the chosen race, but to all mankind to come to the feast. The words used at the Mass before Holy Communion, “Happy are those who are called to His banquet” refer to the eternal banquet in heaven. Our communion is our food for the journey to that eternal banquet. With the invitation goes the clothing to be worn, freely given so that all are dressed alike at the feast, as was the custom. All are clothed with the same gift, God’s grace, freely given. During this year you heard about the Spanish, the Italians, the Afro-Americans, and now the Germans, all God’s children building up a living parish for these last 100 years. We are put on earth to be one family and yet look how we get along sometimes.  But God is optimistic. God keeps issuing the invitation and expects us to come and be together forever.

God invites us to his celebration. Don’t be too busy. Find time whether you are enacting laws, raising a household, earning a living, and making time for the kids.  Spend time with the Lord in prayer.  Accept one another regardless of culture, race, or economic condition. Christ sends out his invitation to all.  Put on the clothing of His grace. Freer accept one another. You’ll be surprised who is sitting next to you at the eternal banquet in heaven as you both turn to each other simultaneously and say, “I’m surprised to see you here.”

This is the mountain where God meets His people under the guidance and the example of St. Joseph.  Accept one another.  Invite others to come to the banquet. Be a living invitation to one another, calling them by your lives to come to the banquet. Remember you may be the only Gospel which that person may hear or encounter.

You cannot invite or come to the celebration if your heart is heavy.  God promises to wipe away the tears from all faces when the celebration begins.  But the celebration has already begun.  This Eucharist today is a foretaste of the final banquet. We don’t have to wait for God to come with the Kleenex.  God is here with us, waiting for us to start drying the tears of the grieving, the sick, the poor, the alienated, the lonely; and we do not have to look far to find them.  All of us:  Italian, German, Spanish, Back, Asian, all are invited as we have been for the last 100 years to God’s mountain on Capitol Hill on our way to the holy mountain where God will provide for all people. Let us go to the feast together.

“AUF WEIDER SEHEN”

Monsignor William J. AwaIt
Pastor, St. Ann’s Parish
Washington, D. C.

God’s Law is a Cause for Rejoicing

January 27, 2019

[69] Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Neh. 8:2-4A, 5-6, 8-10 / Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15 / 1 Cor. 12:12-30 / Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

The setting for the first reading is the reconstitution of Jerusalem under the authorities from Persia that have released the Jewish people. Ezra and Nehemiah are leaders in the Judean community.  They have been sent to provide both spiritual and political governance for the struggling group of returnees in Jerusalem.  Ezra is described as a learned scribe and as a priest.  He will teach them the commandments.  Later he will criticize their mingling and intermarriage with foreigners.  Many of these associations will later be broken to the lament of his people.  This disassociation with foreigners is the opposite of the gospel mandate that would make disciples of all nations.  Instead of the temple, the selection here has them gathering at the Water Gate.  This is a place where all approach so as to benefit from the natural water source on the eastern side of the city.  It is a familiar gathering place.  The Torah or the law is read with commentary by Ezra, illustrating his authority from God to give directives.  The pattern is one that will be revisited in the synagogue service where the Scriptures are read and explained.  Later it will be the same pattern for the Church where the Word of God is proclaimed and a homily is given by the priest.

God restores them to his holy city.  The people weep because they are cognizant of their infidelity to the commandments.  They fear the wrath of God.  Ezra tells them to rejoice instead because this is not a day of condemnation but one of restoration.  God is good and merciful.  The day is festive and holy, not one for fasting but rather for joyful feasting.  They are summoned to acknowledge their dependence upon the Lord.  While they are called to be faithful, salvation comes not through human arms or earning divine favor but because God is merciful and is their true strength.  God’s goodness is shown both in his creation and in his law; for having made the human race, he now establishes a renewed relationship with them and shows his people how to live.  This pattern is followed again in Christ where he would have the children of Israel rejoice in the law of God—the law of love— and not to suffer from the burden of the law as imposed by the Pharisees and elders.

The psalm response “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life,” is the affirmation in the Gospel of John to the extended Bread of Life discourse where our Lord tells his listeners that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood if we are to have a share in his life. It is a colloquialism, not denying the real presence as certain non-Catholic exegetes attempt to do, but rather stamping his words as truthful, no matter how many might mumble and walk away.  The Spirit cannot deceive.  What seems absurd can be made real by the power of God.  We, as Catholics, appreciate that the Holy Spirit comes upon the gifts of bread and wine and makes possible their transformation into the risen Christ— the food that feeds the soul and grants us a share in eternal life.

Just as the giving of the law establishes a people for God; the giving of the Eucharist would institute a new covenant and people in Christ.  The Decalogue finds its true meaning with the two-fold commandment of Christ to love God and to love our neighbor.  It is this law that brings us to wisdom, putting on the mind of the Lord.  It is this law that moves us to a loving response to God— bringing healing, “refreshing the soul.”  The promise given to the ancient Hebrews will be echoed to all who believe in Christ, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people.”  The psalm gives us the acclamation, “O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”  Jesus is the true Redeemer and the foundation stone for his Church.  He labels Simon as “rock” or Peter, because he will be the keeper of the keys for this new kingdom.  Jesus extends something of himself and his authority to his apostles, his first bishops and priests.

Paul speaks of the mystical body of Christ.  While there is a profound unity, the body has many parts, each with its own role and nobility.  The Gospel proclamation is given not to any one people but to all who would believe and follow Christ.  This appreciation is utterly revolutionary; indeed, it becomes a factor in the persecution of the Church by the Roman Empire.  The allegiance to Christ and his Church did not respect national boundaries or ethnicities.  Indeed, it calls into question many of the presuppositions of both pagan and secular culture and civilization.  There is also a seed planted that in time would acknowledge the right to life of the child, extend true dignity to women and a genuine emancipation to those who would be slaves.  How can one keep his brother in bondage?  If there is an equality of grace in Christ, then all life is sacred and all persons have an immeasurable dignity.  Many centuries and several millennia would pass for this seed to blossom and grow.  It is still growing.  Such is the hallmark of the Gospel, and the law of God, not as a stagnant message but one ever dynamic and alive.  It is as our Alleluia verse proclaims:  “The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, and to proclaim liberty to captives.”  The law of God does not bring bondage but liberty.  We are called to joyful freedom in Christ.

Addressed to Theophilus (a name meaning “loved of God”), Luke gives us his narrative or gospel on the life of Christ.  It is said that Luke wrote in Greek for the Gentile world.  Theophilus is evidently a person of high rank, perhaps even a military officer.  The parallel we have with the first reading and today’s Gospel selection is with Jesus speaking in the synagogue of Nazareth. He opens a scroll from Isaiah and reads:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”  Akin to a church homily, he sits down and teaches:  “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  He is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.  He is the good news of the Gospel.  The law of God is made real because God has the power and he has intervened in human history.  It is with Jesus that the face of God will be revealed.  He is forever and always the God of mercy and joy.  He reaches out to the poor, the oppressed and the hurting and he will make all things new.  Even the foreigner is embraced as a friend so as to become a member of the family of faith.  Unlike the first reading, it is not merely a holy day but a “year acceptable to the Lord.”  In other words, more than a calendar year, it is the season of salvation.

Colman McCarthy Misinformed about Excommunication

Letter to the Editor

(Please note this letter appeared in THE CATHOLIC STANDARD dated July 19, 1990.)

Maybe the taking of human life in abortion is a kind of poker for Colman McCarthy (WASHINGTON POST, July 8, “Calling the Cardinal’s Bluff”), but for others, it is a deadly serious matter.

Looking at the secular newspapers, most reporters who write about religion do not have an informed understanding of the Catholic faith and, in Colman’s case,  what excommunication means.

Playing the minor theme of anti-life people, “Personally I am opposed, but…” and the failed Nuremberg defense, “My boss made me do it– I didn’t want to” (read “constituents” for “boss”), Colman says he is against violently taking human life, but he is in favor of keeping it quiet.  In other words, do not disturb the people, just the babies.

To understand a little of what excommunication is, one has to understand what the Church is.  It is not a building or a club or an agreed-upon philosophy or just a listing of tenets.  It is a union with Christ, and not just Christ the individual, but Christ the community.

St. Paul has beautiful references to Christ being the Head and we His members.  We are personally in relationship with Christ but also incorporated into the whole Christ, the Church.

The reading on Sunday, July 8, 1990 says that the Spirit of God lives in you.  Excommunication has as its purpose both healing and remedy.  What the Church is saying is perhaps you do not realize how far you have strayed from the Spirit of Christ.  How can you live in Christ and Christ in you if you advocate killing His children?  “Let the children come unto me.”

Excommunication is instructive.  What it says is that God cannot possibly live in you if you advocate the killing of His little ones.  Those who do so, in effect, excommunicate themselves.  They walk away (by their own choice) from the community, which is Christ.

A bishop has the responsibility to instruct.  Through his predecessors he was instructed by Christ to  “teach all I have commanded you,” especially if we do not realize how far we have strayed.  If we are to be our brother’s keeper, if we are to practice fraternal correction (Matthew 19:15-18), how much more responsibility has our father in faith, the bishop, as he lets his children know how far they have strayed by their own choice and conduct from Christ (the Church).  Of course, if you do not have the gift of faith, you won’t understand that at all.

As far as being harsh, I would accept the bishop’s warning as gentler and kinder than those of Scripture.  “You are whited sepulchres, attractive on the outside but inwardly full of dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27).  Because you “are neither hot nor cold… I begin to spew you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15).

Thank you, bishop, for taking on the added burden and criticism for cautioning your faithful as to just how far they have strayed from home.

Msgr. William J. Awalt
Pastor, St. Ann Parish
Washington, DC

Something about Candles

Notes from the Pastor [5]

(Please note this is an archival post that is decades old.  Msgr. Awalt passed away a number of years ago.)

Perhaps the most familiar object in our worship is the candle.  It is a visual illustration of that familiar phrase from the Canon of the Mass, “All creation gives you praise,”  The humble but hardworking bee contributes the wax.  The wax is also the work of human hands as it is given wick and shape.  The candle plays an important part early in our lives with the baptism of children.  Once lit, it is presented to our godparents and through them to us as we are admonished to keep the Faith burning as the flame of the candle.  Thus we become a reflection of the one who is the Light of the World.  At the Eucharist we find candles near or on the altar.   Long ago it was a practical necessity so that we could see.  Now with electricity, it is essentially symbolic.  The candle is consumed while giving off light.  This action is analogous to ourselves being expended in the work of Christ.

The lighted vigil candle marks the real presence in our church where it is positioned near the tabernacle as a silent witness.

The candle dispels the darkness as it is greeted at the Easter Vigil services as the risen Christ, the Light of the World.  All light their individual candles and spread the light, candle to candle, indicating that we are to transmit or share the Word of God.  The Easter (Paschal) Candle is greeted in song as it enters the church.  It symbolizes the risen Christ.  It bears signs of the wounds from the crucified and risen Christ.

William J. Awalt

Returning to Sacrament of Penance Begins with First Step

Guest Opinion in the Catholic Standard (Sept. 6, 1990)

Msgr. William J. Awalt (Special to the Standard)

I have been encouraged to suggest a few more thoughts regarding the recent survey on the frequency, or rather, the infrequency of reception of the Sacrament of Penance, also called Reconciliation or Confession.

From letters and comments based on the first reflection (Catholic Standard, July 26), I would like to investigate those hesitantly expressed to me.

If a long period of time has passed since a person’s last confession, or if some hidden sin of which he or she is downright ashamed has occurred, then the penitent might ask, “How do I start?”  Furthermore, he or she would question, “How do I proceed to make my confession?”

First of all, prayer is an absolute necessity.  As we have no doubt all heard, the shortest prayer is “Help!”  Afterwards, a simple announcement of our problem would be in order.  “How do I begin, Father?”  “Would you help me?”  “I forget, I don’t know my prayers….”  “I don’t know what to say or how to say it.”

From a long and privileged ministry of offering the sacrament, I can say that these are most consoling and gratifying words for any confessor to hear.  Why?  Listening to these or similar words, the confessor discerns from the penitent both a real need, perhaps urgent, and a genuine contrition.

The priest is overjoyed to assist with what might be called a non-routine confession.  (I say this reverently.)  Because of the possible gravity of the penitent’s sins and their long hungering for God’s healing grace, the priest knows that these confessions may be far more imperative and important than the usual or more routine confessions.

As a petition, we all need to pray, “Help!” of God and to ask the confessor’s assistance.

Harking back to the first set of reflections on confession, we have to realize that Christ is the one present.  He is listening and saying, as He did in the first reading of the 18th Sunday of the liturgical year, “Come… Come… Come.”

Similarly, there is the quotation from the Gospel.  “Come to me you who labor and are burdened and I will refresh you.”  No matter how we ultimately get ro confession, it is always at God’s invitation.  It is not so much our idea as our response to the God who calls us.

I would ask readers to strengthen their faith in the presence of Christ in the sacrament; He is the one who is receiving, healing and forgiving us.  It may happen that penitents consider a priest too young or another too old.  But age or personality should not be the determining factors in going to confession.

The sacrament is more than the reception of some profound, hopefully competent, advice.  And even a young priest is going to be hard to shock, especially if he reads the newspapers.  We are not so much seeking him as we are coming to Christ.

From the confessor’s point of view, Paul’s words to Timothy are apropos, “Let no one look down on you because of your youth” (1 Timothy 4-12).  Of course, if a confessor is older, it is true that he understands the full weight of life’s trials.

If we need complicated advice, then it is best that we schedule an appointment for counseling outside confession.  In the sacrament, any priest, by virtue of his ordination, can make the healing, forgiveness, and comfort of Christ present to us in the Sacrament of Penance.  I suppose that all of us at some time or another have experienced a fear or at least an uneasiness going to confession.  Perhaps this has arisen from an unfortunate past experience.

One element of this anxiety or hesitancy can be attributed to the concern, “What is my confessor going to think?”  Sound familiar?  “All this time I have been away, I have done such and such.  I have been a good parishioner; what if he recognizes who I am?  I am so ashamed.

One of the best solutions I know to this dilemma came my way several decades ago.  It is in the form of a short piece on what a soldier’s confessor thinks of him.  I re-examine it from time to time when I wonder what my confessor thinks of me or when I want to comfort a penitent.

WHAT A SOLDIER’S CONFESSOR THINKS

“What will the priest think when he hears the load that I have to tell?”

“He’ll think how unworthy I am of such a privilege as this.  To be able to send this man out walking on air, forever freed of this burden that he’s been carrying.

“He’ll think what a time this lad must have had getting up the courage to come to confession.  What a grand, strong faith he’s got or he wouldn’t be here.

“He’ll think would I have had the guts to go to confession if I were in his shoes.

“He’ll think I’ll bet it’s his mother’s prayer that obtained the grace for him.  She’s probably been making novenas for this  for months.

“He’ll think this should call for celebration.  Didn’t Christ say, “There will be more joy in in heaven over one sinner who does penance than over the ninety-nine who need not repent?

“He’ll think that for the chance to hear this confession  I would wait a lifetime.  Thanks be to God.”

The Mingling of Water & Wine

Notes from the Pastor [4]

(Please note this is an archival post that is decades old.  Msgr. Awalt passed away a number of years ago.)

Let us consider a drop of water.  I have already mentioned blessing yourself with water as you enter the church.  Sometimes the Penitential Rite is conducted with the sprinkling of water upon the congregation, again reminding them of both baptism and as we beseech God for mercy and forgiveness.  Mercy does not mean just forgiveness; rather is is also asking for God’s help and presence in our lives– in living out the vocation He has given us.

While many drops are scattered in the sprinkling, there is a single drop of water placed into the wine of the chalice just prior to the offertory prayer.  The drop of water in the wine along with the bread will be consecrated into the body and blood of Christ.  The drop of water is symbolic of our union with the person of Jesus (His presence) at Mass as we go to the Father.  The prayer used at the mingling of water and wine is pregnant with meaning:  “Through the mystery of this water and wine may we share in the divinity of Christ who humbles himself to share in our humanity.”

What an incredible journey for this little drop of water… what a journey for us as we approach the Father through Christ!

William J. Awalt

The Use of Incense

Notes from the Pastor [3]

(Please note this is an archival post that is decades old.  Msgr. Awalt passed away a number of years ago.)

Incense is composed of granules that when ignited by fire from burning charcoal give off a pleasant odor, along with smoke.  The prayer that is said when it is used on solemn occasions gives insight into why it is used.  “May our prayer arise to you (God) with a pleasing fragrance.”  Our prayer comes from lifting up our minds and hearts to God.  The rising smoke reminds us of this.  The sweet fragrance tells us of God’s and the acceptance of our prayers.  The use of incense has taken on the added sign of honor for what and who is incensed.  It may be the corpse at funerals, the Gospel book at Mass, the host in the Blessed Sacrament, or the people at Mass.  Incensing reminds us of the honor and dignity of those who are incensed.  “You are a chosen race, a people set part, a royal priesthood.”  Incense reminds us of who we are– the delight we give the Lord with our prayer rising to His throne.

William J. Awalt