December 24, 2017 – 4th Sunday of Advent

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December 24, 2017

4th Sunday of Advent

 

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.

May it be done to me according to your word.”

 

“And you shall name him Jesus

I would imagine that one of the joys (or perhaps dilemmas) of having a child is the great privilege of choosing a name for the child.  Many names are chosen from ancestors as a sign of family pride and unity.  Many children are also named after a saint who is important in the lives of their parents.  Others are given a particular name because their parents heard it somewhere and liked the name.  In all of these cases, the child is given a name as something that is significant to the parents and a desire or hope for the child’s own future.

In the case of Jesus, his name was not decided by his parents; rather, it was given to them directly from God the Father by the message of an angel.

We read in Luke 1:30-31, “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.’”

And again, in Matthew 1:20-21, “Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’”

The name Jesus is very significant.  The name itself means “God saves” (as the angel said to Joseph…“he shall save his people”).  Our English spelling of “Jesus” comes from the Latin “Iesus”, which comes from the Greek “Iesous”, which comes from the Hebrew “Yeshua”, and this means “Yah[weh] saves”.

Ever since Adam and Eve turned against God, the Lord has been planning to come and save us.  Throughout the Old Testament the people of Israel longed for God’s salvation in the coming Messiah.  And now in Christ, God has come.  He is Emmanuel, which means “God is with us”.  God has now come in the flesh to save his people.  In Jesus, God’s love for us becomes incarnate.

So let us be proud to call upon the name of Jesus.  Not only can we call out to him in prayer, but when we say his name, we also acknowledge that Jesus is our savior and that he is love.

I, and the rest of the Immaculate Conception staff, hope that you and your family have a very blessed and merry Christmas.

God bless you,

Fr. VanDenBroeke

December 17, 2017 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

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December 17, 2017

3rd Sunday of Advent

Gaudete Sunday

 

“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,

make straight the way of the Lord.”

 

The “O Antiphons”

Did you know that the verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel (which I call the “theme song of Advent”) are very symbolic and correspond with the 7 days leading up to Christmas Eve?

Each of the verses of this song begins with a title for Christ, which connects back to an Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah.  These titles for Christ have been called the “O Antiphons” because when the Church includes them in Vespers (Evening Prayer), it adds the “O” before the specific title to make it more solemn.

Here are the seven titles and the day when the Church includes this title in Vespers:

December 17 – O Wisdom

See: Sirach 24:1, 3-4, 7; 1 Cor 1:24

December 18 – O Lord

See: Exodus 6:6; 20:2

December 19 – O Root of Jesse

See: Isaiah 11:1-5; Revelation 22:16

December 20 – O Key of David

See: Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7

December 21 – O Dayspring

See: Isaiah 9:2; Luke 1:78-79; John 8:12

December 22 – O King of the Nations

See: Ezekiel 37:21-28; Revelation 19:16

December 23 – O Emmanuel

See: Isaiah 7:10-14; Matthew 1:21-23;

John 1:1-18

As we approach these holy days in preparation for Jesus’ nativity, I encourage you to meditate on the verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel (easily found online), and to look up in the Bible the scripture references (listed above) for each verse of the song.  Read it over, and then take a few moments to ponder God’s wonderful plan of salvation in sending us Christ, who fulfilled these promises of the Old Testament.  This might be a great way to do family prayers every evening this week: light the Advent wreath, read the scripture verses, and pray “Come Lord Jesus.”

You are in my daily prayers.  Please pray for me as we enter into these final days of Advent and prepare to welcome our Lord at Christmas.

God bless you,

Fr. VanDenBroeke

 

PLEASE NOTE

When sending mail to the Parish Office

or Fr. VanDenBroeke, our Mailing Address is: 

 202 Alabama Street SE

Advent Penance and Mass Services for Christmas and New Years

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Following is the schedule for special Advent Penance Services, and special Masses for Christmas and New Year’s. For the full Mass schedule, including regular weekend masses, daily masses and memorials, please visit our Mass Schedule page at churchoftheimmaculateconception.net/mass-schedule/

Monday, December 18
7:00pm – Penance Service at Most Holy Trinity, Veseli

Tuesday, December 19
7:00pm – Penance Service (here at Immaculate Conception)

Wednesday, December 20
7:00pm – Penance Service at St. Nicholas, New Market

*****

Sunday, December 24
4:00pm – Christmas Eve
9:30pm – Czech & English Christmas Carols
10:00pm – Christmas Eve

Monday, December 25
9:00am – Christmas Day

*****

Sunday, December 31
4:00pm – Vigil Mass, The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Monday, January 1
9:00am – The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Immaculate Conception Mass with Archbishop Hebda

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On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Friday, December 8, we were pleased to welcome Archbishop Hebda to our church! The feast of the Immaculate Conception is our Parish’s Feast Day.

Archbishop Hebda presided at Mass, with Father VanDenBroeke. After Mass, parish families and friends were invited to the Civic Center for coffee and goodies. Archbishop Hebda partook in the festivities, enjoying the treats and fellowship.

Please enjoy the pictures from this very special event!

December 10, 2017 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

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December 10, 2017

2nd Sunday of Advent

 

“I have baptized you with water;

he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

 

 

Holy Days of Obligation

What is a Holy Day of Obligation, why do we have them, and why is it so important that we attend Mass on these days?

A Holy Day of Obligation is a special day on which the Church celebrates a certain solemnity of Christ or the Saints.  We celebrate the various saints’ feast days almost daily, but some of them are so important that the Church has made them mandatory for us to attend Mass.

Unfortunately, it is easy to think of an obligation as something burdensome that “I’m being forced to do”.  I think it’s very important, however, to instead see these wonderful solemnities of the Church not so much as days of obligation, but rather as days of opportunity.  It is an opportunity for us to come together as the body of Christ, to celebrate our faith, and to show our love for God and his Saints.  Going to Mass on a great solemnity of Christ or the saints should be a day of immense joy and celebration.  We find it easy to see Christmas this way (one of the Holy Days of Obligation), now we need to start seeing all the Church’s Holy Days this way.

How many Holy Days of Obligation are there?  To answer that I want to begin by noting that Canon Law says that every Sunday is in fact a Holy Day of Obligation.  This is why we must attend Mass every Sunday (or the evening before).  Beyond Sundays, there are five Holy Days of Obligation (in almost every diocese of the United States, including our Archdiocese).  These five are:

  • January 1st – Mary, Mother of God
  • August 15th – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • November 1st – All Saints Day
  • December 8th – The Immaculate Conception
  • December 25th – The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

To make this just a little bit more complicated, we are always required to attend Mass for the Immaculate Conception and Christmas, however, when one of the other Holy Days of Obligation falls on a Monday or Saturday (i.e. next to a Sunday) the obligation is lifted.  They would still be a Holy Day, but not a Holy Day of Obligation that year.

This year as we approach December 25th and January 1st, it turns out that both fall on a Monday.  Thus, the obligation to attend Mass on Christmas remains, but the obligation is lifted for the Holy Day on January 1.  Note: I still encourage you to attend this wonderful solemnity of the Mother of God, but you are not obliged to attend this year.

Please note our Mass schedule for the upcoming feasts, since the Saturday + Sunday + Monday situation can confuse things a bit.

 

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke

 

 

CHRISTMAS/NEW YEAR’S MASS SCHEDULE

4th Sunday of Advent

Saturday, December 23rd – 5:00pm

Sunday, December 24th9:00am

(note the different Mass time for this Sunday)

Christmas

Sunday, December 24th – 4:00pm & 10:00pm

Monday, December 25th – 9:00am

 

 

Sunday after Christmas

Saturday, December 30th – 5:00pm

Sunday, December 31st – 8:00am & 10:00am

Mary, Mother of God

Sunday, December 31st – 4:00pm

Monday, January 1st – 9:00am

December 3, 2017 – 1st Sunday of Advent

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December 3, 2017

1st Sunday of Advent

 

“May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.

What I say to you, I say to all: ‘ Watch!’”

 

Thanksgiving (part 2) – Continued from last week…

 

Thus, the Eucharistic Prayer is the great prayer of thanks that we give to the Father.  It is said aloud by the priest, but all the faithful should join in the act of offering thanks by uniting their hearts to the words of the priest.

Immediately after the Eucharistic Prayer, we receive Communion, and following Communion we have a wonderful moment of personal prayer with the Lord.  Unfortunately, I think the Church has done a poor job of helping people understand how to fruitfully use this time after Communion.  Many people simply find themselves watching everyone else go up to receive Communion, and then watching the priest as he purifies the sacred vessels and finally goes to sit down.

I want to encourage you to foster a more fruitful time of prayer during this part of the Mass.  To do that, I recommend you close your eyes after you return to your pew from receiving Communion, or to look up at the crucifix, and to talk to the Lord in the depth of your heart, thanking Him for the great Mystery of Faith you just received.

To help begin to foster this time of prayer after Communion, I’ve decided that during Advent we will be having a special time of thanksgiving after the sacred vessels are purified.  I will not go to my chair as usual, but instead will kneel before the altar.  We will then sing a beautiful meditative song of Thanksgiving to the Lord.  I hope you are able to use this time to truly encounter the Lord who we have just received sacramentally into our very bodies!

Finally, as I conclude this reflection on giving thanks during the Mass, I want to emphasis that it is also important that we take a moment once Mass has ended to offer thanksgiving to God.  Our encounter with God at Mass is the most solemn and truly awesome (full-of-awe) moment that we can possibly have with God at any point during our day.  Even if we don’t feel the most uplifted on a particular Sunday, the reality is that we cannot be closer to Jesus than when we receive the Sacraments.

This is why it is important for us to pause after Mass to give thanks before we head home.  After the closing song, I encourage you to simply knee down, close your eyes, and pray for a short time before you leave.  Give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist, and ask the Lord to help you as you go home to live a good and holy life.

In fact, this giving thanks after Mass is so important that the Church actually makes it mandatory for priests.  The Code of Canon Law says, “A priest is not to omit dutifully to prepare himself by prayer before the celebration of the Eucharist, nor afterwards to omit to make thanksgiving to God” (canon 909).  Thus, although the laity are not included in the mandate of this canon, nevertheless, we can understand that if it is essential for the priest to pause and give thanks, it is likewise important for the laity to do so as well.

You are in my daily prayers, just as St. Paul says, “I do not cease giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Eph 1:16).

God bless you,

Fr. VanDenBroeke

 

 

 

November 26, 2017 – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

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November 26, 2017

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

 

“Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”

Thanksgiving (part 1)

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We have so many things to give thanks for in our lives: Faith, family, friends, housing, food, health…and the list could go on and on.  It is very important that we take time regularly to give thanks to God, even getting into the daily habit of thanking God during our daily prayer.

Did you know that the word Eucharist means Thanksgiving?  For example, in the Gospel of Matthew 15:36, when it says, “He took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples…”, and again in 26:27 when it says, “and He took a chalice, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them…”, the Greek verb used is “Eucaristeo” meaning “to give thanks”, from where we get the word “Eucharist”.  Thus, celebrating the Mass is to give thanks to God.

During the Mass, we give thanks to God constantly.  Let me just highlight a few parts.

During the Gloria we sing – “We give you thanks for your great glory.”

After the Readings – “The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.”

The most significant moment of thanksgiving during the Mass is in the Eucharistic Prayer.  As we learned that the Greek meaning of the word Eucharist is Thanksgiving, thus we could call the Eucharistic Prayer the great Prayer of Thanksgiving.

The Eucharistic Prayer begins with “…Let us give thanks to the Lord our God…”  It then continues, “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy…”  Why is it right and just to give thanks to God?  Thanksgiving should be our immediate response to God for the great love He has shown us in sending His own Son to us.

Then later in the Eucharistic prayer, during the Institution Narrative, the priest quotes Our Lord’s words, “…He took bread, and giving thanks, broke it….He took the chalice and, once more giving thanks

The Eucharist is the fulfillment and perfection of the Jewish “thank offering” found in the Old Testament.  One of the peace offerings the Jews offered to the Lord was called the Todah, which is the Hebrew word for “thanksgiving”.

“The todah offering involved sacrificing a lamb, consecrating bread, eating the meat and bread with wine, and singing songs of thanksgiving.  The occasion of the todah was deliverance from extreme peril, and the todah psalms tell a story of suffering and salvation.  They begin with a lament in which the psalmist retells his plight and calls upon the Lord, and they end with words of thanks and praise to God, often including language like ‘My vows to you I must perform, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.’ (Psalm 56:12)

“How does the todah relate to the Eucharist?  There is an ancient rabbinic teaching that in the Messianic age, ‘all sacrifices will cease, but the thank offering [todah] will never cease.’  Christians have long regarded the Eucharist as the fulfillment of the Passover, but it is only recently that biblical scholars have considered how the Passover matches the description of the todah.”  (Praying the Mass, by Jeffrey Pinyan, pg. 154-155).

To be continued…

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. VanDenBroeke

 

Leon Meger is leaving the parish staff,

and we thank him for his service to Immaculate Conception.

November 19, 2017 – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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November 19, 2017

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

“For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;

but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

 

Incense

Incense has been used in sacred worship since time immemorial, not only in Christian and Jewish worship, but in all kinds of Pagan worship as well.  So why is incense so common in worship, and what is it for?

Incense serves two main purposes: To be a sweet-smelling offering to God, and to be symbolic of our prayers ascending into heaven.  Just as the sweet smell of the incense is pleasing to us, so we pray that our sacrifice would be pleasing to God.  And as we offer our prayers to God on high, we see the incense rising from our altar to heaven.  We use incense, a physical, material thing, to show our love to God.  Of course, God doesn’t need incense—He doesn’t need to smell it or see it—but as human beings we use material things to express our spiritual devotion.

As we hear in the Psalms: “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2).

The use of incense in Jewish worship began at Mount Sinai when God instructed Moses to build an altar on which to burn incense: “You shall make an altar to burn incense upon…. And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it… a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations” (Exodus 30:1,7,8).

In the Old Testament, God that a new sacrifice and offering would one day come, and as we hear the Lord speak through the Prophet Malachi: “From the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering” (Malachi 1:11).  This prophecy is fulfilled in Christ and the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross, because it is the pure offering and perfect sacrifice.  Furthermore, this perfect sacrifice of Christ is made present once again on the altar every Mass.  This is why the Mass is also called the perfect sacrifice, for it is a renewal of the one sacrifice of Christ.  That is one reason why we use incense during the Mass, as it is symbolic of this prophecy from Malachi being fulfilled.

Additionally, incense is also mentioned in the book of Revelation.  We read: “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full if incense, which are the prayers of the saints….  And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God” (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4).

During the Mass, incense can be used to bless the altar, the crucifix, the book of the Gospels, the priest, the people, the bread and wine, and the Body and Blood of Christ.  All of these things are blessed with incense because they are set apart for God.  This is why not only the physical things used at Mass are incensed, but also the priest and people are incense, for through our baptism, we have all been set apart for God.

Thus, when you see incense at Mass, envision the prayers of your heart rising to the throne of God along with the smoke; and when you smell the incense, consider how pleasing the sacrifice of the Mass is to the Father in heaven!

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. VanDenBroeke

 

 November 12, 2017 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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 November 12, 2017

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

“Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

 

Preparing for Advent

We are still three weeks away from Advent, but I wanted to address this oncoming season beforehand so you have a chance to prepare.  It is a tradition during Advent to have an Advent Wreath, which consists of a small evergreen wreath and four candles.

The first Sunday of Advent we light the first purple candle as a symbol of Hope that comes from the coming messiah brining salvation.  The second Sunday we light the second purple candle as a symbol of Peace for Christ the Prince of Peace.  The third Sunday we light the rose candle as a symbol of Joy in honor of the shepherds who heard the joyful news about the Christ Child.  And the fourth Sunday we light the final purple candle as a symbol of Love in honor of God’s love for us.  As we read in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

The flame of the candles symbolizes Christ, the light of the world, and this light gets brighter as more candles are lit and we come closer to Christmas.  The wreath is in a circle as a symbol of God’s eternity and unity.

If you do not already have an Advent wreath, or need new candles for yours, we are going to put in a bulk order as a parish this Wednesday, November 15th.  To join in this order, please call or stop by the parish office Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of this week.  Here are the options and prices for us to do a group order:

Advent wreath (without candles) $10
Candles (3 purple, 1 rose) $3

Again, if you would like to take advantage of this group purchasing option through the parish, please let us know by Wednesday, November 15th.

Another wonderful family tradition for Advent is an Advent Calendar.  This special calendar has a scripture passage for each day of Advent which anticipates the coming of Christ at Christmas.  This is a wonderful tradition especially for families with younger children.  I loved doing this myself with my family growing up.  We have ordered several Advent Calendars and they will be available to you soon for free!

We will talk more about Advent soon, but I wanted to get you thinking about some great ways to celebrate Advent as a family.  Our world encourages us to jump right from Thanksgiving (or even from Halloween) right into Christmas, but we really need this beautiful season of Advent before Christmas to prepare our hearts to welcome the Christ Child.

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. VanDenBroeke

 

November 5, 2017 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

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November 5, 2017

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;

but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

Latin and the Liturgy (Part 2)

(Continued from article two weeks ago…)

 

The use of Latin in the liturgy has long been esteemed in the Church, and it shows the universality of the Church.

Additionally, it is common that people should worship in a sacred language.  This has been true about the Jews, who worship in Hebrew, although very few people speak Hebrew.  Even at the time of Jesus, everyone spoke Aramaic or Greek, yet Hebrew was used in worship.

Latin has the power to inspire us to mystery and beauty.  Consider my singing of the Ave Maria after Communion.  Most people don’t know the exact words I am saying (though they may know it is the Hail Mary), but they are inspired by the beauty of the song.  It has the power to lift our minds and hearts to God.  So too, when praying in Latin, we may not know every word we are saying, but we know the parts of the Mass, and know, for example, when we sing “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth” we are singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts”, because that’s the same time we sing that prayer every Sunday.  There is a certain sense of mystery and awe in using a sacred language.  Just as the Mass itself is set apart from the rest of our busy lives, so Latin is set apart and adds to the wonder and mystery of this great event.

In fact, St. Theresa of Avila, who prayed the breviary in Latin with her community, received a special grace to suddenly understand everything she was praying in Latin.  And she later commented that it did not in fact help her prayer, because she already was raising her mind and heart to God fully in her prayer of the breviary, even though it was in Latin and she didn’t understand everything she prayed.  Rather, her heart was encountering God in love and awe and mystery, not just in known words.

Latin helps form our identity as Catholics.  It reminds us that our faith is over 2000 years old, and that we stand in continuity with countless saints and martyrs that have worshiped together for thousands of years in one common language, Latin.  It reminds us that our faith is not isolated to one local area or one time period in history.  Down through the ages, our Roman Catholic faith has had a constant living tradition bound by one common language.  That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

The Church has a beautiful liturgical treasury.  We need to rediscover it, learn it, and embrace it.

Hearing Latin during mass should give us strength and give us pride to be Catholic.  It should enliven us and help us remember that we have been “set apart” for God, to be holy.  And it should remind us of the faith we share with all our brothers and sisters in Christ around the entire world.

In conclusion, I do plan to integrate a little more Latin into our IC Masses over time.  To begin with, the homeschool children are learning the Mass parts in Latin and will soon begin singing those for our Friday morning Mass.  In the future, I would love to have our whole parish learn the basic Mass parts in Latin, as Pope Benedict XVI suggested that we teach the faithful to “sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant” (Sacramentum Caritatis 62).

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. VanDenBroeke