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From the Desk of the Pastor: December 11, 2021

December 11, 2021

Good morning everyone.

Here we are at the third Sunday of Advent.  This Sunday is called “Gaudate” Sunday and takes its title from the first reading for the Mass and the collect after the blessing of the Advent Wreath.  It would be very easy after the news of the week to ask, what exactly we are rejoicing about, and spend time burrowing down into that rabbit hole. Hopefully, we are instead keeping our gaze steady on the promise of what is to come.  There are no spoiler alerts for we know the story well.  Christ the Son of God came down and lived among us and we continue to see his glory.  The second aspect of Advent is also playing out for us to ponder:  we await the day that we will see him in glory when he welcomes us to the place that he has prepared for us.  This year I am struck by the readings at Mass from the prophets whose wisdom helps to guided the People of the Book during their time of darkness and despair in the Babylonian exile.  In the midst of bad news, the young prophets urge them to leave behind their sad songs and to sing again the songs of joy for their God is still with them and will not abandon them.  Last year I found this beautiful composition by the Mennonite composer Pepper Choplin and invite you to give it a listen: https://youtu.be/9Pv5Ns_BIgY   Beautiful, simple words with a deep and profound meaning.

I am delighted to participate in the end of term liturgies at the schools in the parish next week and to pop into each classroom to say hello which will take a few days.  School is out on December 17 which seems early until you realize that everyone is back again at the beginning of January.  We hope and pray for all of our families that this welcome break to celebrate Christmas and the New Year will be filled with laughter and joy and for everyone, a time to be safe and enjoy the company of family and friends.

We were overwhelmed with the response to the registration for Mass for Christmas last weekend.  As of this morning only a few spots are available.  The 4.00 pm. and 10.30 am. are completely booked and a few spots remain at the others.  Even with an additional Mass on Christmas morning, we are expecting a full church for each of the eight Masses.  To those who could not get a seat, please accept our sincere apologies.  You will be able to join us live on our parish website for Mass on Christmas Eve at 4.00 and 10.00 pm.  Mass on Christmas day will also be streamed live at 10.30 am.  A recording of Mass will also be available throughout the day and evening for Christmas until late on December 25th.  Please remember that Mass for the regular weekend is celebrated on Sunday, December 26 at 9.00, 10.30 and 12.00 only.  Please note that we will not have Mass for Sunday at 5.00 pm. on Saturday December 25.

A few of the 250 bags for our Advent Brown Bag Program remain to be picked up.  This was a fantastic beginning to this project and partnership with the Front-Line Outreach program in Oakville.  The brown bags can be returned anytime until the beginning of January (please, not on December 24 or 25).  The last few bags can be picked up this weekend after Mass or in the church until it is closed on Sunday at 6.00 pm.   Our parish Saint Vincent DePaul continues to do its amazing work and distributed its Christmas assistance package to just over 100 families and individuals last week.  This is an increase on previous year’s and we are very grateful for their 365 days a year ministry which touches those in need with gentleness, understanding and generosity.

Decorating the church for Christmas began this week with the front door of the church.  Yonge from Flower Deco on Lakeshore does a wonderful job despite the advice poured on him from several onlookers.  He keeps his head down and gets on with it.  On Monday the work begins in the church later in the morning and will continue during the week.  The final details including the crib will wait until the days before Christmas.  On Tuesday evening the Finance Committee will meet for the final meeting of the year to review our current finances and to propose a budget for the next year.  It will not surprise anyone that we have incurred a deficit over the last two years as our regular monthly income has decreased by a significant percentage.  At the meting we will receive information on the formation of a Pastoral Advisory Committee that will begin to meet in the New Year.  That is the good news.  They will also receive a report on the church tower which will demand significant work (and significant funds) in the late spring or early summer.  The diocese sent a technician with a drone to survey the tower a few weeks ago that revealed several problems including (we hope) the source of the water that trickles down from the base of the tower and through the roof when the wind and rain hits it in certain conditions.   Even though the “ask” portion of the One Heart, One Soul Campaign has ended, we are delighted to report that some parishioners have made donations over the last few weeks.  When the Finance Committee makes its annual report next year, they will give a full account of how the funds raised are managed and will be used for St. Andrew’s.

The National Day Of Prayer In Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples is celebrated this Sunday, December 12th, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. The 2021 Message for the day, drafted and approved by the Catholic Indigenous Council can be read here: https://www.cccb.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/2021-National-Day-of-Prayer.pdf Additionally, the apology issued to Indigenous Peoples by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is   now featured in a YouTube video here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v

The Executive Committee of the Canadian Bishops and the Bishops’ Working Group on Indigenous Initiatives met with the leaders of each of the National Indigenous Organizations met late last week to make final decisions about the advisability of the planned delegation to Rome. After careful assessment of the uncertainty and potential health risks surrounding the recent spread of the Omicron variant, it was collectively decided that the delegation to Rome would be postponed. With the heightened hope and expectation, this is a major disappointment for all parties. Pope Francis is committed to rescheduling the visit in the New Year.

On Tuesday evening this week we welcomed Fr. Joseph de Vivarios CR for a conversation on Pope Francis call for dialogue in preparation for the Synod of Bishops in 2023.  His insights were very good and worth hearing again.  You can catch it here: https://www.standrewoakville.com/synod-2021-2023/   Unfortunately, I had my microphone off for the first thirty minutes.  You can also catch some of the conversation in the church following the discussion.  Felix and I go back on call for the hospital next week until just before Christmas.  Both of us are registered for the Covid vaccine booster on the 21 and 22 of December.  I am watching the news a little nervously as I have plans to go on holidays for two weeks in mid January.  We are busily preparing for the Christmas Season and look forward to greeting you in person or online.  Richard and Marie are back from their short visit to Halifax and we are grateful to both of them for their time and energy to help with Mass and preparing them to go online.

In the meantime, a thought for the third week of Advent.  In the midst of our joy this weekend let us not forget that there is another word that covers the entire four weeks of Advent which is ‘longing’.  What is it that we are longing for during these advent days?  John O’Donoghue, the Irish philosopher, poet and spiritual writer, who died way too early a few years ago, has this beautiful paragraph about the meaning of longing in his book Eternal Echoes. “Longing is the voice of your soul, it constantly calls you to be fully present in your life, to live to the full the one life given to you. Rilke said to the young poet, “Live everything.” You are here on earth now, yet you forget so easily. You traveled a great distance to get here. The dream of your life has been dreamed from eternity. You belong within a great embrace that urges you to have the courage to honor the immensity that sleeps in your heart. When you learn to listen to and trust the wisdom of your soul’s longing, you will awaken to the invitation of graced belonging that inhabits the generous depths of your destiny. You will become aware of the miracle of presence within and around you.”

And on that note, have a wonderful week.  Live and celebrate these days with joy and may you find in the busyness a time to listen to your heart and to the and find there the wisdom of your soul’s longing.

Be well,

Fr. Con