Bulletin (December 11, 2005)

This week’s bulletin contains the final report on our 2005 Parish Stewardship Drive. I would like to thank all those who took the time to fill out a pledge card. If you have not yet done so, we will gratefully receive your pledge at any time. There are still some pledge cards in the pews, and even if you cannot locate a card, all you need to do is to write on a piece of paper the amount you wish to pledge each Sunday, along with your name and address. I realize, of course, that some give without filling out a pledge. There is no problem with that. What counts is your steady support, which enables us to provide vital services and to maintain our buildings and property.

I was greatly heartened to see an increase in pledges. Last year 267 families made Stewardship pledges (total of $242,879.50 pledged). As you can see in the flier, this year 436 families made financial pledges to support Holy Family Parish. A good number were first time pledges and many of those who pledged did increase their amount from the past year. Back in October our Parish Finance Council estimated that we need an average increase of two dollars per family if we are to properly administer this parish and have basic programs to serve those who belong to Holy Family. Many of those who pledged did make a two dollar per Sunday increase. Some (God bless them) made an even greater increase in their pledge. That increase already seems to be reflected in our Sunday collections. Thank you, one and all!

Some have asked me what percentage of those who attend Sunday Mass actually made a pledge. That is a good question, but I am not sure how to answer it. When we did our annual Mass count in October, we had an average weekend attendance of 2,432 people. Some of the households in our parish have ten or more members, others, have only one member. So how many people are represented by the 436 pledges? Your guess is as good as mine. If our average household has three members, then about half of those who attend Sunday Mass here actually made a financial pledge. (Others, as I mentioned above, do give without making a formal pledge.) My goal is that every family who attends our parish take an active part by Stewardship of time, talent and treasure.

Another question that people sometimes ask is how we are doing regarding Mass attendance. The average attendance of 2,432 people does represent an increase from ten years ago when our Mass count showed an average of 1,791. However, if you compare it with six years ago, we have dropped in attendance. In October of 1999, the average weekend attendance was 2,658. The biggest drop is in our 12:30 p.m. Spanish Mass. It has decreased from 1,045 to 772. Those who are good at math can see that the drop in attendance at the noon Mass more than explains the reduced attendance over the past six years.

This drop in attendance at Holy Family Parish is not necessarily bad news. In recent years nearby parishes, such as St. Philomena in Des Moines and St. Thomas in Tukwila, have inaugurated Spanish Masses. People who previously attended our noon Mass are now going to those parishes. We do continue to draw people from those areas, as well as Kent and Renton, but more and more people naturally attend the Mass closest to their home. We do still have a large Hispanic outreach, but more and more, it is being shared by other parishes. It is vital to the future of the U.S. Catholic Church that Hispanics in our country continue the practice of their faith. Evangelicals, as well as groups like Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses, are aggressively proselytizing Hispanics. And, of course, our secular culture does its own kind of proselytizing. We are involved in an intense competition for people’s hearts and souls. Fortunately, we are not alone. In these days we recognize our greatest intercessor: the Blessed Virgin Mary. I invite you to join in honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. This Sunday evening we will have a celebration called “Mañanitas.” It will begin with a procession from St. Bernadette’s to Holy Family beginning about 6 p.m. From 7 p.m. on we will have music and prayers in our church in honor of the Virgin. The following day, December 12, we will have Masses in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe at 8:30 a.m. (English) and 7 p.m. (Spanish).

Next Sunday is the final Sunday before Christmas. If you are able to help with the church decorations, please see the announcements in the bulletin. I would like to thank the children of Holy Family School for their donation of $182 for Christmas flowers. With the new lights (after appropriate adjustment) I believe our church will be especially beautiful this Christmas.

Finally, on a completely different note, some have asked what they can give to Samwise this Christmas. Of course, dog treats and rawhide bones are appreciated, but he does have a special need. When I took Sam to the vet, she told me he needs some protection for the pressure point on his chest. He has a chronic open sore, which would be helped if I could get some kind of vest to protect it. I went to Petco, but all the vests they had are for smaller dogs. It would require someone who could take his measurements and then make some kind of vest that would stay in place. If you can do that, let me know.

La imagen de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe es el Evangelio en forma de dibujo. Ella, como describe Revelación 12, es “una mujer vestida del sol, con la luna a sus pies.” Los que lo han visto, se dieron cuenta que ella es mayor que el sol, luna y estrellas que antes adoraban como dioses. Par gente de hoy es una señal que no deben adorar los poderes de la naturaleza.

Pero ella no es una diosa. Tiene las manos dobladas en oración, sus ojos mirando para abajo con humildad. ¿A quien está rezando? La pista esta en el broche bajo cu cuello. Tiene una cruz pequeña. Ella no solamente reza Dios, sino tiene a Dios dentro de ella. La cinta negra bajo sus manos simbolizaba el embarazo. Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe está trayendo a Jesús para los pueblos de las Américas.

Por estar encinta con su hijo, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe es la patrona de movimiento pro-vida. Es protectora de los niños no nacidos – y de sus mamás, especialmente los que están enfrentando un embarazo difícil. He dicho a mujeres que han tenido un embarazo que miran a Maria. Es tan importante porque muchas veces la causa raíz del aborta se puede encontrar en su relación con su propia madre.

Se puede ver la compasión en la cara de la Virgen. Muchos han comentado sobre la cara bella, notando el color moreno de su tez. Han sugerido que ella le apareció a Juan Diego como una indígena. Puede ser, pero hay otra explicación posible. María, por supuesto, era hebrea y probablemente tenía cabello negro y piel oscura. Quizás lo que tenemos es un retrato de cómo María era cuando caminaba en esta tierra – y estaba embarazada con Jesús.

Los científicos no pueden explicar como la imagen fue impresa en la tilma ni como ha durado por casi cinco siglos – tan brillante como se nos fuera dada ayer. Quizás no es ni un dibujo. Algunos han dicho que cuando primero se acercan a la imagen, da la impresión de estar viva, como si tuviera la presencia de una persona real. Esto corresponde al modo en que los griegos entiendan un icono. No solamente representa al santo, sino en un sentido misterioso contiene su presencia. Por eso, antes de hacer un icono, el artista reza y ayuna por mucho tiempo.

La imagen de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe es tal icono. No solo representa a Maria, sino para sus hijos comunica su presencia real. Se puede apreciarla especialmente al mirar a los ojos. Cuando los científicos de NASA y otros hicieron sus estudios, tomaron fotos de los ojos y los magnificaron muchas veces. A su asombro, vieron el reflejo de un hombre en su ojo. Desde luego es San Juan Dios, el “más pequeño” de sus hijos. Pero la virgen mira no solamente a él sino a ti y a mí. No solamente para corregir cuando caminamos por un sendero peligroso. Nos mira como una madre que puede pasar horas y horas contemplando a su hijo recién nacido. Es una mirada de amor y cariño.

La fiesta de hoy y mañana nos da la oportunidad de acercarnos a nuestra Santa Madre. Ella conoce nuestras angustias y tribulaciones. Nos quiere dar el don mayor, su propio Hijo Jesús.

Narnia, December 13, 2005, with Holy Family Fourth Grade