Earlier this month I had the privilege of visiting our SDB community in Port Chester. While there, I was able to celebrate Mass with the students of Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary School on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The third graders were responsible for some of the Mass preparations, including acting out the Gospel of the Annunciation. After Mass, some of the older students did a great job with the skit of Don Bosco, the sacristan and Bartholomew Garelli. The faithful of Port Chester were up early for the mañanitas in preparation for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There was a six-hour vigil as part of the National Vigil for Life. (Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the right to life movement.) Fr. Pat Angelucci led a street procession from Our Lady of the Rosary Church to Our Lady of Mercy Church on Dec. 11, and on Dec. 12, the gym and church at Corpus Christi were both filled for the bi-lingual Mass in the evening.
I’m sure many of these same events were likewise celebrated in other Salesian presences throughout the province. Such events during this season of hope inspire us focus our attention on Mary, whom we could call the woman of Advent. As the Immaculate Conception, Mary shows us the beauty of being united with God. Remember how the dignified man in dream at the age of 9 told Johnny Bosco, “Start right away to teach your friends the ugliness of sin and the value of virtue.” (Memoirs of the Oratory, Don Bosco Publications, 1989, p. 18) Then the man gave John Bosco a teacher, who would show him how to fulfill his mission. As Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary reminds us that we are missionary disciples, bringing the Good News of Jesus into our homes, communities and neighborhoods.
The Scripture readings during the last days of Advent also present Mary as a central figure for our meditation and an example in preparation for the Nativity of our Lord. Whereas the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Guadalupe often times are festive, with dramas, Mariachi bands, hot chocolate and sweet rolls, the story of the Annunciation that we will hear on the fourth Sunday of Advent invites us to be quiet. Mary shows us how to ponder the mystery of God-with-us. Even in the midst of last minute shopping, cooking and decorating, posadas and parties, we can find the inner peace to welcome Jesus into our lives.
Whether with festive celebrations in honor of the Blessed Mother or in quiet moments of recollection, Mary, the women of Advent is our example of how to prepare for Christmas. Let us take advantage of these few days of Advent to follow her example, opening our hearts to the Word made flesh and giving witness to his Good News.
Last month, before we celebrated the first World Day of the Poor (Nov. 19), I invited communities to share what they would be doing to accomplish the purpose of that day, that is, to encourage believers to react against a culture of discard and waste, and to embrace the culture of encounter. I want to thank everyone who sent in brief articles and photos to Salesian News. One month after World Day of the Poor and a few days before Christmas, we once again recognize in our brothers and sisters living in poverty the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who for your sake became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. (2 Cor 8.9)
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.
Fr. Tim Zak