Dear Brothers and Sisters,

What a difference a year makes. This time last year we were in a period of sede vacante following the historic resignation of Pope Benedict.  Several weeks later on March 13, 2013, the cardinals elected Mario Jorge Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires who chose his name Francis after our patron Francis of Assisi.  Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from the Americas – and in recent months has made the cover of Time Magazine, the Advocate, the New Yorker and Rolling Stone – quite a diversity of magazine covers.

In September when our parish pilgrimage had an audience in St. Peter’s square with Pope Francis, to be in his presence was exciting, his energy was electric.  In fact, it’s been said that an invitation to attend Pope Francis’ early morning Mass is a “hot ticket” in Rome.  Commenting on this, the pope said, “the Mass” (in his residence or anywhere else) “isn’t an event, but a time for entering into the mystery of God.”  Maybe someone would say, ‘Oh the pope’s morning Mass is on the Rome tourist itinerary,’ but he went on to say in his homily earlier this month, “All of you come here, all of us gather here to enter into a mystery, which is the liturgy. It is God’s time, it is God’s space, it is God’s cloud that envelops us all.  The Mass is one of those occasions when the Lord is present.  The Mass isn’t a social occasion or even a prayer meeting. It’s something else. In the liturgy, God is  present.”

Pope Francis said that when Catholics construct a Nativity scene, pray the rosary, or participate in the Stations of the Cross, they are remembering historical events which helps them to pray.  “But the Mass is something different, it’s not a re-enactment of the Last Supper,” he said. “It is the Last Supper. It is living again the passion and redeeming death of the Lord. It is a theophany: the Lord is present on the altar to be offered to the Father for the salvation of the world.”  The pope said it’s not right for people to look at their watches during Mass, “we must put ourselves there, in God’s time and space, without looking at our watches.”

Please come and learn more about the Mass we celebrate by joining Jim Wahl this afternoon (Sunday, 2/23)  for a workshop on the Eucharist entitled Lent Fashion Tips: Sackcloth and Ashes. This workshop will focus on our Lenten practices and why we celebrate these forty days. The session begins at 2:00 and will repeat on Tuesday evening (2/25) at 7:00 pm, both in the Siena Center for Lifelong Learning room 752.

Yesterday, February 22 was the birthday of the father of our nation George Washington, it is also liturgically the feast of the Chair of Peter and it was also the 50th anniversary of the ordination of Fr. David.  Fr. David does not want any special attention or party, but I couldn’t allow it to pass without at least a mention given his strong, loving, and wise faithful leadership of our community as pastor from 1987 to 1995 and since 2006 as associate pastor.  More than half of his priesthood has been serving here in the Diocese of Raleigh both at St. Francis of Assisi and Immaculate Conception in Durham.  When Fr. David was ordained a deacon, the bishop handed him the book of the gospels saying: “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”  Fr. David has indeed been a herald of the gospel to all he has served during the first 50 years of his priesthood, may he have many, many more fruitful years of proclaiming the gospel through his life and ministry!

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark