From the Pastor – January 10, 2021

This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. For centuries, Christians have celebrated the season of Christmas as twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany.  The season ends with our celebration of the Lord’s baptism.

The public life of Jesus begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.  John hesitates, but Jesus insists. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”  Similarly to the visitation of the magi, this is an “epiphany” – a manifestation of Jesus as Messiah and Son of God.

The baptism of the Lord is the acceptance and inauguration of Christ’s mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners, and he becomes “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” – a title originally given to Christ by John the Baptist.

Baptism in water and the invocation of the Trinity is a real sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Romans: “Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.  For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.”

Through Baptism a Christian is sacramentally configured to Jesus, who anticipates His death and resurrection in his own baptism. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him.

The story of Christ’s Baptism reminds us that the Holy Spirit comes down upon us from heaven.  The voice of the Father reminds us that we are sons of God.

Theologically speaking, Baptism creates an indelible mark on the soul.  It makes us members of the body of Christ, and renders us able to receive other sacraments. Foremost among the gifts of Baptism is the ability – because we are configured to Christ – to praise and worship the Father in the Holy Spirit, and to be found pleasing to God through such worship.

In the early Church, the baptismal font was placed in the courtyard or near the entrance of the church, and the practice continues in many places today.  We “entered” the Body of Christ at the moment of our Baptism.  As you dip your fingers into the font and make the sign of the cross each time you enter St. Stephen Church, remember it is by the power of your Baptism that you render fitting and pleasing worship to God in your spiritual sacrifice of holiness of life and, most fully, the Eucharistic sacrifice.

If you ever have suggestions for us in the parish office, please let us know.  You can always email me directly at  I’ll do my best to respond in a timely manner.  And thanks for the prayers.

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty

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Sacramentum Caritatis

The Sacrament of Love: the Holy Eucharist

(part 1 of 3)

On March 13, 2006 the Vatican released an Apostolic Exhortation of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI entitled Sacramentum Caritatis – the “Sacrament of Love” – in which the Holy Father offered “some basic directions aimed at a renewed commitment to Eucharistic enthusiasm and fervor in the Church.” The document offers the Holy Father’s reflections on the Synod of Bishops called by Pope John Paul II at the conclusion of the Year of the Eucharist (October 2004 – October 2005).

Sacramentum Caritatis is the second major document of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict and must be read in the context of his first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est – “God is Love” – itself a meditation on the nature of love. Although the Holy Father uses many expressions to describe the Holy Eucharist in the Exhortation, the title, “Sacrament of Love” – a phrase used by St. Thomas Aquinas – provides a guiding principle to understanding the Blessed Sacrament.

The Exhortation is divided into three parts.  The first part, entitled “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Believed,” explains the teachings of the Church on the Eucharist.  The second part, “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Celebrated,” focuses on the celebration of the Mass and the worship of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.  And the third part, The Eucharist, “A Mystery to be Lived,” places the Eucharist into the context of Christian life.

“The Mystery to be Believed” summarizes the Eucharistic faith of the Catholic Church in beautiful language and imagery.  Because the Eucharist is “the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself,” “the Eucharist reveals the loving plan that guides all of salvation history (cf. Eph 1:10; 3:8- 11)” [where] the Triune God who is essentially love (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8), becomes fully a part of our human condition.   In the bread and wine under whose appearances, Christ gives himself to us in the paschal meal (cf. Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26), God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us.”  The Eucharist therefore is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life and mission since in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus, the true Sacrificial Lamb, is offered to His people again at every Holy Mass. The Pope is keen to make the distinction between the ritual meal of Passover in which context the Holy Eucharist was given by Jesus as his gift to the Church, and the anticipation of the sacrifice of the cross and the victory of the resurrection. The Mass is not just a repetition of the Last Supper but a radical reality, indeed the “substantial conversion” of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord.  As the Holy Father so eloquently states:  “the Church is able to celebrate and adore the mystery of Christ present in the Eucharist precisely because Christ first gave himself to her in the Sacrifice of the Cross.”  Christ loved us first, and for all eternity He continues to love us first.

In the first part, the Holy Father also puts the Eucharist into the context of the other sacraments, particularly the other two sacraments of initiation:  Baptism and Confirmation.  The whole of Christian initiation is in relation to the ecclesial community and the family, but the Eucharist must also be understood in a particular way as a “personal encounter with Jesus.”   In this section, the Pope gives a beautiful exposition of the intrinsic relationship between the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation. He states that in a culture determined to eliminate the concept of sin we are in danger of overlooking the need to be in a state of grace to worthily receive communion.  The Holy Father therefore urges the bishops of the world to renew their efforts in the catechesis of the sacrament of Reconciliation in their own diocese, encouraging frequent confession among the faithful.  He also urges priests to dedicate themselves with “generosity, commitment and competency” to the administration of the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Each of the seven sacraments is treated by the Pope in this first part.  In the subsection on the Eucharist and Holy Orders the Holy Father restates the Church’s teaching that priestly ordination is an “indispensable condition” for a valid celebration of the Eucharist, because the Bishop or the Priest presides in the person of Christ the Head.  And since the priest is above all a servant of others and a sign pointing to Christ, he should reflect Christ in “his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the Rite, uniting himself to [the Rite] in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality.”  In keeping with recent emphases made by the Holy See, the Holy Father also points to the complete configuration of the priest to Christ, especially in his celibacy, which must not be understood simply in functional terms.  The Holy Father reaffirms the nuptial understanding of celibacy and reaffirms “the beauty and the importance of a priestly life lived in celibacy as a sign expressing total and exclusive devotion to Christ, to the church and to the Kingdom of God.”

In his discussion of the Eucharist and Matrimony the Pope highlights the particular relationship of the Eucharist with the love of a man and woman united in marriage.  “By the power of the Sacrament, the marriage bond is intrinsically linked to the Eucharistic unity of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church.”  The Holy Father also confirms the Church’s teaching with regard to the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried, encouraging their participation at Holy Mass, albeit without receiving communion, and their dedication to a life of charity.

[Next week, part 2: “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Celebrated]

What are the “O Antiphons?”

The Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer in the Divine Office from December 17-23, a time called the “Golden Nights.” They are part of a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

The seven “O Antiphons” (also called the “Greater Antiphons” or “Major Antiphons”) are prayers that come from Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the “Golden Nights.”

Each Antiphon begins with “O” and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah, and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin “Ero Cras” which means “Tomorrow I will be [there].” Those titles for Christ are:

December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (O God is with Us)

Immaculate Conception

Holy Day of Obligation

Tuesday, December 8
6:30 am at St. Henry Church and 9 am and 6pm at St. Stephen Church

An interesting icon representing Jesus on the lap of the Virgin Mary who is herself on the lap of St. Anne, the mother of Mary.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:  The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854: DS 2803).

This doctrine was revealed through the Scriptures (Mary was “the absolute fullness of grace”) and the long Sacred Tradition of the Church.  But it was finally declared as dogma on December 8, 1954, exactly nine months before the celebration of the birth of Mary on September 8.  The doctrine is quite logical.  How could the flesh of the Son of God be formed through the flesh of one who was a slave to sin? Jesus redeemed his mother’s soul before her birth.  As one theologian has stated:  “Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit.”  Or, in English:  “God could, it was appropriate, therefore, He did it.”  O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us!

#iGiveCatholic on Giving Tuesday December 1, 2020

Donate $25.00 or more online or use the envelopes available in church for donations in any amount.

Advanced Giving Dates: November 16 – 30, 2020

Thanksgiving Baskets

The St. Vincent de Paul Society would like to request your help in providing Thanksgiving Baskets for the needy of our parish.  We would appreciate monetary donations and gift cards. As always, thank you for your GENEROUS support!

Remember to Pray for the Faithful Departed!

All Souls Indulgences

An indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; it is partial on other days of the year.

A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (as well as on the Sunday preceding or following, and on All Saints’ Day) piously visit a church. In visiting the church it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

To acquire a plenary indulgence one must fulfill the following three conditions: (1) Sacramental Confession, (2) Holy Communion, and (3) prayer for the intention of the Holy Father. The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the visit; it is, however, fitting that Holy Communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father be said on the same day as the visit.  The condition of praying for the intention of the Holy Father is satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary. A plenary indulgence can only be acquired once a day

Be a Good Steward

Good Shepherd Parish needs average weekly collections of $6,500 in order to fund parish operations.  Rarely does our collection exceed $5,000. Thankfully, we often cover our deficit with year-end donations by generous.  I encourage you to take this time to prayerfully consider whether you might increase your donations to our parish.  For those who are able, please consider an additional 10% per week.  Your help will make a big difference in our ability to meet our financial obligations.  One way to make this easy is to use our electronic giving program.  Simply sign up at our web site:  Go to the Online Donations tab at the top of the page to set up your online giving account.  You may also use the paper authorization form, available at the Online Donations tab or from Dianne Caverly in the parish office.  Call Dianne if you have difficulties.

Proclamation of Epiphany Sunday

The Proclamation of the Date of Easter on Epiphany dates from a time when calendars were not readily available. It was necessary to make known the date of Easter in advance, since many celebrations of the year depend on its date.

Although calendars now give the date of Easter and the other feasts in the liturgical year in advance, the Epiphany proclamation still has value as a reminder of the centrality of the Resurrection of the Lord and the importance of the great mysteries of faith that are celebrated each year.

Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of His return. Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: His Last Supper, His Crucifixion, His burial, and His Rising celebrated between the evening of the 9th of April and the evening of the 11th of April, Easter Sunday being the 12st of April. 

Each Easter – as on each Sunday – the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death.

From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the 26th of February.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on Sunday, the 24th of May, or Thursday, the 21st of May.

Pentecost, the joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the 31st of May.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ in the feasts of the Holy Mother of God, in the Feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history, be endless praise, for ever and ever.    R. Amen.

Christmas Giving Tree

Thanks to your generous contributions, were able to help 24 families with a total of 68children gifts, 24 family gifts and 5 adult gifts. We also provided 48 food baskets (20from Sacred Heart & 28from our church) to ensure a holiday meal could be shared. Words cannot adequately express how grateful the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for your generosity in our efforts to help the needy of our parish!

Feast of the Holy Family December 27

Consecration to the Holy Family

O Jesus, our most loving Redeemer, who having come to enlighten the world with Thy teaching and example, didst will to pass the greater part of Thy life in humility and subjection to Mary and Joseph in the poor home of Nazareth, thus sanctifying the Family that was to be an example for all Christian families, graciously receive our family as it dedicates and consecrates itself to Thee this day. Do Thou protect us, guard us and establish amongst us Thy holy fear, true peace and concord in Christian love: in order that by living according to the divine pattern of Thy family we may be able, all of us without exception, to attain to eternal happiness.

Mary, dear Mother of Jesus and Mother of us, by the kindly intercession make this our humble offering acceptable in the sight of Jesus, and obtain for us His graces and blessings.

O Saint Joseph, most holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary, help us by thy prayers in all our spiritual and temporal needs; that so we may be enabled to praise our divine Savior Jesus, together with Mary and thee, for all eternity. Amen.

Say the Our Father, Hail Mary & Glory Be 3 times.

Proclamation of the Birth of Christ

From the Christmas Martyrology
(traditional version read at Midnight Mass)

The twenty-fifth day of December.
In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens & earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;
the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses and the going
forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David’s being anointed king;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
he seven hundred & fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world,
Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed  since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh.
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

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