Many, Many Thanks!

12-29-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Before the end of the year, I need to thank the parish for so much, both personally and as your pastor. First in my mind is the end of the Jubilee of 25 years of priesthood, which the parish celebrated with me so joyously in March. That celebration included the truly astonishing gift of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with my sister, Sr. Margaret Andrew, O.P. We were able to make that trip in July, and it is still resonating in my heart. This Christmas time, for example, I could not stop thinking of being in Bethehem and seeing the place of Jesus' birth and the Shepherd's Field with little caves like those that the Holy Family must have sheltered in.

As your pastor, I am grateful for the stability in faith of the parish in a year of many challenging circumstances. I have tried to deal with these situations prudently, and I appreciate your spiritually mature response as well. At the same time, there have been many positive developments in the parish. We have many new parish structures, for example: finance council, pastoral council, strategic planning committee, facilities committee, etc. I am grateful for the willingness of so many to serve and to be engaged. We have also just about completed some needed maintenance and upgrades in the church that I hope will serve us well for years into the future.


The Sign of the Cross

12-22-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

One important thing to remember about liturgical prayer is that it is expressed not only in words. Gestures are also prayers. We see this in the first prayer of the Mass: the sign of the cross. There are words accompanying this prayer: ''In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." But equally important as prayer is the gesture that actually gives the name to the prayer: the signing of the cross on our bodies. This gesture interprets the words for us. To accept the call to life in the Holy Trinity, it is necessary for us to be conformed the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is the way to the fullness of life, and there is no other way.



12-15-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

"Why do you chant so much? Why do you use incense so much? Why do you..." Let me offer you an explanation.

The liturgy is an enhancement of ordinary life. In the liturgy, we leave time and enter eternity; we leave earth and enter Heaven. The liturgy elevates us to greater heights of existence. Singing elevates speech. Incense elevates smell and symbolizes our prayers rising to Heaven. Vestments elevate ordinary dress into Heavenly attire. Ritual and symbolic actions elevate and provide meaning to our movement. If the rituals of a birthday party (including singing Happy Birthday and not just saying it) or of a football game matter, then how much more do those of the Mass?

The liturgy is not supposed to be ordinary. It should be as extraordinary as we can make it. To be present at the sacrifice of Calvary is extraordinary. To consume the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ is extraordinary. In the Mass, we intimately encounter Jesus. That's worth pulling out all the stops for! As an old evangelical hymn puts it, how can I keep from singing?


The Altar as Jesus

12-08-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

As the Procession reaches the sanctuary, the priest reverences the altar by kissing it. This might seem a bit odd as a way to reverence a piece of furniture, but that is exactly what the altar is not! The altar is the focus for the presence of Jesus at the Mass and so that kiss is a greeting for Jesus. Everything about the altar should be treated with the dignity we want to show to the Lord. The altar should be the focal point of the sanctuary. Even when the Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary, the highest reverence is paid to the altar during Mass. One should never pass in front of the altar without bowing, for example. The altar is where Heaven meets Earth, when Jesus becomes present in the Eucharist. We should never treat or consider the altar as an ordinary piece of furniture. The altar is Jesus!


We will go up to the house of the Lord!

12-01-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

This is the beginning of the Responsorial Psalm for this weekend:

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. I rejoiced because they said to me, "We will go up to the house of the LORD." And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem.

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity. To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD.

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.