News from San Antonio Church – December 3, 2023

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Weekly Bulletin December 3, 2023

by Terrie Evans

  Our San Antonio Church community welcomes everyone on this 1st Sunday of Advent.  In Western Christianity, Advent is the beginning of the Liturgical year as we anticipate the “Coming of Christ.”  In the Catholic and Lutheran Churches, Advent signifies the preparation for the threefold coming of Christ:  First if the Incarnation at Bethlehem, Second, in the perpetual sacramental presence in the Eucharist and Third, at His Second Coming and the Final Judgement.  The readings for Advent relate to Jesus Christ as a Savior and to his Second Coming judge during the weeks in Advent.  The candles on our Advent wreath symbolize the stages of salvation, Creation, the Incarnation, our Redemption from sins, and the Last Judgement as we await the messiah.  As the Candles are lit, we anticipate the Christmas light approaching that will bring us hope and peace while we make the journey through darkness.  The first candle we will light today on our Advent Wreath is the Prophets Candle that symbolizes Hope. The Advent Wreath comes from ancient symbols with the round form symbolizing victory, the greenery a sign of hope and life and the four candles highlight the four Sundays in the season of Advent.  

Also, on this 1st Sunday in Advent, Mt. St. Joseph University will host the Westside Community Band for a Christmas Concert.  Many talented west side musicians will perform all the popular   holiday favorites at this free event.  They will be collecting new unwrapped toys to bring Christmas Joy to children on the west side.  The performance starts at 2:00 PM with the Nutcracker Suite and ends at 4:00 PM with everyone’s favorite, Sleigh Ride.  This is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit, so bring your family for this enjoyable afternoon. 

On Monday, December 4th, we celebrate the feast of St. John of Damascus (675-749) venerated in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran Churches born to a Christian Arab family in Syria.  He is considered as one of the Fathers of the Eastern Orthodox Church who was known for his strong defense of icons.  In the Catholic Church, he was given the title Doctor of the Assumption due to his writings on the Assumption of Mary.  He is the patron of theology students and is known as the “Last of the Greek Fathers in Catholic Theology.  John of Damascus was also known to compose hymns for the Byzantine Rite Liturgies.  He was canonized Pre-Congregation and was added to the General Roman Calendar in 1890 when Pope Leo XIII declared John of Damascus a Doctor of the Church. 

On Wednesday, December 6th, we honor St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (270-343) an early Christian Bishop of Greek descent during the Roman Empire.  St. Nicholas Church was built on the orders of Theodosius II 200 years after his death on the site where he had served as Bishop.  He is the Patron saint of all of Greece and its Hellenic Navy and is also a favorite of all Italians especially sailors, fisherman, sailors, and cities who maintain harbors.  Saint Nicholas is sometimes shown in a boat rescuing drowning sailors.  On his feast day, St. Nicks Day, secret gift giving will take place, and, in some places, coins will be left in the shoes that are left out for him.  He is venerated in many churches:  The Eastern Orthodox Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Finland, with his Major Shrine, the Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Italy where his relics are enshrined.  In 2000, a bronze statue of St. Nicholas was placed in front of the medieval church dedicated to him by the Russian Government.  A Prayer to St. Nicholas:  We call upon Your mercy, O Lord. Through the intercession of St. Nicholas, keep us safe amid all dangers so that we may go forward without hindrance on the road to salvation. 

On Thursday, December 7th we honor the 82nd National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day to recall the surprise military attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.  There were 2,403 Americans killed along with 1,178 wounded on “a date which will live infamy.”  The base was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese Aircraft with all U.S. Navy battleships damaged along with cruisers, destroyers, anti-aircraft training ships and a minelayer.  More than 180 of our aircraft were lost along with the USS Arizona.  We will never forget the attack at 7:48 Hawaiian Time that led the United States to formally enter World War II on the side of the Allies on the following day.   Many 1sts generation Italian American men from South Fairmount answered the call to duty with those sons, brothers, and husbands fighting overseas for many months or years.  We can never forget the sacrifices they made to defend our great country.     

On December 7th we also honor St. Ambrose (339-397) known as a theologian and statesman who was the Bishop of Milan from the years 374-397 at the age of 34.  He converted St. Augustine to Christianity by his sermons, Baptizing him in 386.  St. Ambrose wrote important doctrines and is considered one of the greatest Doctors and Defenders of the Church.  The Ambrosian Rite, the rite of the Mass and Divine Office in practice for centuries in the territory of the Archdiocese of Milan is attributed to him.  The Ambrosian Chant, melodies ascribed to St. Ambrose were used by his followers used in the Ambrosian Rite.  St. Ambrose is often depicted holding a Church in his hands. 

December 7th is also the first day of Hanukah that begins at sundown and continues to Friday December 15th.  Hanukah is the Jewish feast recalling the rededication of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus in 165 B.C. and the miracle of the oil when one day’s supply lasted for eight days.  It is custom to eat foods cooked in oil, so many fried foods are prepared for Hanukah, which is also called the “Feast of Lights”.  Families will come together to recite blessings and at sunset, light the first candle in the Menorah, the eight branched candelabrum.  The next night of Hanukah, two candles will be lit until all are aglow for the 8 days of Hanukah.  Many will exchange gifts such as books or games as they prepare dishes for the festival of lights.  Popular recipes are cheese latkes, warm pasta salad, and mint stuffed zucchini with ricotta.   Families will pick an organization to donate to or volunteer their time for a good cause.  They will perform a good deed, a Mitzvah as an individual act of human kindness as “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  A good deed is one of the Torah’s 613 Divine Commandments. 

On Friday December 8th we honor the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary affirming that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved at her conception by a singular grace and privilege of God free from all stain of Original Sin as stated by Pope Pius IX in his declaration of his Dogma on December 8, 1854.  She who was to bear the Savior of the world should herself be preserved by Him from sin and its consequences and so be the first to benefit from what He would obtain for the whole human race.  In 1847, the Catholic Bishops of the United States petitioned Pope Pius IX to declare the Blessed Mother the Patroness of the United States under the title of the Immaculate Conception.  With the approval of the Holy See, plans were made to erect a monumental church to be named the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The cornerstone was laid in 1920 and formally dedicated on November 20, 1959.  It is the largest Catholic Church in the United States covering 77,500 square feet raised to the rank of a Basilica in 1979 by Pope John Paul II. 

On Saturday, December 9th we honor Juan Diego, the first Catholic saint who is indigenous to the Americas.  He was born in 1474 in modern day Mexico who developed a strong dedication to the Virgin Mary while caring for a sick uncle.  When Franciscan Missionaries arrived in Mexico in 1524, and after his baptism was granted apparitions of the Virgin Mary and became regarded as a Marion Visionary.  Mary is said to have appeared in Juan Diego on December 9th & again on the 15th in 1531.  When she appeared, Mary requested a Shrine be built on the spot where she appeared to him but, no one would believe him not even the Pope who requested a sign.  On the second visit from Mary on the 15th of December, he was told to collect roses.  When the Pope had an audience with Juan Diego, when he opened his cloak, the roses fell from his cloak with the image of Mary imprinted on the inside of the cloak.  This image is now venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe where the shrine to the Virgin has existed on the site since 1556.   It is thought she chose Juan Diego as a way to draw the peoples of the New World to faith in Jesus Christ.  The movement for the canonization of Juan Diego became stronger 500 years after his birth in 1974. 

Pope John Paul II opened the Cause for Canonization of Juan Diego in 1987 when he was declared Venerable and was Beatified on May 6, 1990, during Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico city.  He was then declared “Protector and Advocate of the Indigenous Peoples” with December 9th established as His feast day. Pope John Paul II praised his virtues when he said “His simple faith nourished by catechesis and open to the mysteries; his hope and trust in God and in the Virgin; his love, his moral coherence, his unselfishness, and evangelical poverty.“   In the 1942 movie, Ramon Navarro portrayed Juan Diego in The Saint Who Forged a Country and in 2013, a documentary, The Blood and The Rose portrayed the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a way to bring the story of the apparition to North American audiences. Juan Diego is known as The Messenger of Guadalupe.

San Antonio parishioners have been asked to donate hats, gloves, and socks for children and adults.  We will be collecting these items during the month of December.  Please bring your donations to the hall after Mass.  If you have any questions, please see Janet Reiff or Connie Dalessandro.

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