Second Sunday of Advent

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Jerome,

Pax Christi semper vobiscum!

Since the beginning of the pandemic restrictions in March, there have been plenty of changes to our parish liturgical life. The participation of our liturgical ministers, especially our altar servers, became limited. It was a sad reality because there were some of those with whom we also lost contact and who opted not to return to church when we re-opened in June. I think this is a similar situation with some of our parish members. Our sense of connection was challenged, especially our communal and sacramental life. I simply remember them who chose not to come or could not come in my prayers hoping that they will be around soon. For this Second Sunday of Advent, I asked our young altar servers if they are still interested to commit to their service at the altar. A good number of them have responded positively.  It was a daring decision, as they know that there might be a lot of unstable circumstances that could be encountered again in the coming weeks. Please pray for them so they remain patient and flexible according to the current situation of our parish life.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is one of most important celebrations in the liturgical year. It summarizes God’s orchestration of saving us from death through the Paschal Mystery as participated in by the Blessed Mother. Her discipleship is, indeed, our model and inspiration. From the beginning until the end, the Blessed Mother remained faithful to her commitment as Daughter of God the Father, as Mother of God the Son and as Spouse of the Holy Spirit. The act of consecration that some members of our parish will profess during the Solemn Mass on December 8th at 7:00pm is worthy of our spiritual support. We ask the Lord that those who have chosen to be consecrated to the Blessed Mother may by their lifestyle be our inspiration to discipleship. Let their act of consecration not simply remain as an ordinary ritual; but rather, as a lift of faith and a realistic devotion of imitating the obedience, the humility, the faithfulness, and the love of the Mother of God.

Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration will be different this year. Because of the restrictions, I am already anticipating that the church will not be packed as in previous years. There will be no Mariachi band or a long line of processions at the beginning of the Mass. No cultural dancers will be offering homage to Our Lady of Guadalupe. There will be no fellowship after the Mass nor any traditional food that reminds us of our homeland. No blessed flower petals will be distributed to take home after the Masses. There will be no pilgrimage to the Shrine in Des Plaines nor a reception of the torch from the pilgrims early in the morning. Yes, the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be quiet, simple, distant, and perhaps lonely for some. It is in this kind of mood that perhaps we would be preceded to another meaning of the celebration on Her feast.

The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531 become a voice of freedom for the insignificant generation of Mexican people.  Her appearance to Juan Diego was indicative of the simplicity that She wanted to portray behind her elaborate love for the those who were considered poor. The appearance of Our Lady was an opportunity to bridge the gap between the Indios, the farmers and the uneducated who were distant from the civil and ecclesiastical authorities as well as from the noble class in those eras. Her motherhood was touched by the outcry of the abandoned, the pleading of the disenfranchised, and the loneliness brought by the subversive power of the authorities to the people that She loved. This is what it meant to commemorate Her feast amid the pandemic. The silence, the simplicity, the distance, and the loneliness that we may feel during this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe this year, should bring us a better understanding of the reason of our festive celebration.

We are challenged to go back to the core and meaning of Her apparition. Her appearance was an assurance of Her Motherly protection which we often respond in a form of a superficial response by bringing flowers to church on the day of her feast. No, instead of flowers, she asks that we hear the call to personal conversion and respond to it by changing our way of life. We like to dress our little children with sarape and the cloak of Juan Diego or the veil of Our Lady, but we often forget to tell them also the message that the Mother of God would like us to hear. In past years, we simply defined December 12th as a day of a religious cultural commemoration, but we often ignored Our Lady’s call to trust God by way of spiritual conversion. The signs of the times call us to stop and reflect for a while so we can realize meaningfully why the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is important to us.

Stay safe. Be always thankful. We are blessed.