Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Our version of the Holy Family
The Celebrations of December are almost over, but the joy of them lingers on.

In the last two weeks between the two communities we have had many celebrations.  At John Paul II nine days of Posadas were held which included a "Pastorilis", a humorous nativity play.  At Teresa of Calcutta we had our first soup and penance service.  Then last weekend was our first Christmas celebrations in both missions including the first communion and confirmation of John, our 81 year old harmonica player.  Each of these were wonderful experiences and each of them bonded us tighter as a family of God.

Pastorilis at Blessed John Paul II
The Posadas in Rutledge were terrific and grew each night.  The first night it was rainy, but we still had a great turnout.  I joined them for Sunday and the last three days.  Br. Craig and Angel joined on the other days.  The two highlights for me were Wednesday when they drove from Rutledge in caravan to hold the Posadas and Pastorilis with the Spanish speaking people of Blessed Teresa in Maynardville.  Over fifty people made the journey across the mountain.  The folks here were thrilled.  The Pastorilis is a little Nativity play which involves the shepherds journey to see Jesus.  The shepherds encounter the devils on the way and all sorts of humorous things happen before they get back to the right path.  Then on Friday the final night was held at our store front church in Rutledge and the folks from Maynardville traveled across the Mountain to join them.  The procession, the rosary, the Pastorilis, the "comida" (food), and the pinata were all celebrated with joy.   It was awesome to see folks working together, laughing and singing and praying.  What a beautiful unifying experience.
The altar at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

At Blessed Teresa of Calcutta on the Monday before Christmas we held our first soup and penance service.  This is something I learned from our Glenmary priest, Fr. Wil from his time in Mississippi.  People really enjoyed themselves.  Since part of reconciliation is healing relationships, it seems to make sense to have a time to eat together as families and as a church family as a sign of what we are about to celebrate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We had a good response, a choice of four excellent soups and variety of homemade breads.   Many individuals stated that the penance service itself was prayerful and meaningful for them.  This was a more important part of getting ready for Christmas than shopping.

Christmas Eve Mass at Blessed John Paul II
Christmas Eve Mass began at 5:00 p.m. at Blessed John Paul II with our largest English speaking attendance ever:  27 people!!  The joy of everyone was clearly present.  "Midnight" Mass began at nine o'clock at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and was a bilingual service.  We had several new families, some who saw the ad in the newspaper, thus, it was the first time they realized there was a Catholic Church in Union County, TN. 

Youth Christmas Choir at Blessed Teresa
Christmas day Mass at 9:00 a.m. was the highlight of all the celebrations.  The young people provided the music with their various instruments.  We had flute, piano, trumpet and saxophone as well as a soloist.  John joined in playing with harmonica.  Yet the greatest moment was John making his first communion and confirmation at age 81.  Br. Craig serve as his sponsor and his wife and daughter stood at his side.  The joy in his face in receiving the Body and Blood for the first time was obvious.  This is why Glenmary came to Union and Grainger county: to bring folks closer to Christ and grant them an opportunity to receive the sacraments.  What a beautiful blessing this celebration was for him and for our faith community. 

John making his first communion

John playing his harmonica
My last Mass was at 11:00 a.m. in Spanish where we had a smaller congregation than usual.  The joy of Christ coming into the World was celebrated in this quiet atmosphere of Christmas morning.

The Brothers and myself finished the day with a meal at 2 p.m. at one parishioners home followed by another meal at another persons home at 5 p.m.  This, of course, is the tough work of missionary life.  Eat, Eat and Eat.  All in the name of Jesus and community.  So Lord keep sending me the tough work of joyous celebrations filled with spiritual food and tasty meals.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers!!!
Pastorilis at Blessed John Paul II

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Guadalupe Celebrations

The drama of the Our Lady of Guadalupe at JP II
Sunday and Monday we held celebrations in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas.
A little preaching at JPII

For some this may be a new feast, but it is very ancient since the aspiration of "Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe" as it is called in Spanish, took place in 1531.  In a nutshell, with a bias towards evangelization, I often tell the story in this manner.   Christianity came to Mexico following the violence of the conquistadors.  The Friars who followed may or may not have participated in this, but many people were forced to convert or be killed.  Yet, Saint Juan Diego was a true Christian and a daily Mass goer.  On his way to church, Our Lady visited him and asked him to build a Church in honor of her Son, Jesus.  The Bishop of Mexico born in Spain did not believe him.  He tried a second time without success.  Another time, Juan Diego went a different route because he wanted to get a priest to cure his sick uncle and did not want to see Mary that day.  She came to him anyway. " Where is my Church?" she asked.  Juan had excuses.  So she had Jesus cure his uncle.  Then told him to pick flowers as proof to the Bishop.  He did has was told.  This time when to Bishop received him, he lowered his "tilma" and roses fell to the floor.  Furthermore on his tilma, which hangs today in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, was her image.
The dance of "los viejos" from a troop in Grainger County

It is the image of Our Lady that intrigues me to most.  The Azetcas worshiped the "lights"-- the sun, the moon and the stars as gods.  Mary demonstrates by her appearance that her Son, Jesus Christ, is more powerful than any of these lights.  The Black tie around her waist signifies that she is pregnant with Jesus.  This is why Blessed John Paul II appointed Our Lady of Guadalupe as patron of children, especially the unborn..  She is standing on the moon.  Her Son is more powerful than the moon.  She is standing in front of the sun because her Son is more brilliant than the sun.  She is wrapped in the stars because heaven is openned by her Son.  Her Child Jesus is the LIGHT of the WORLD.  He is the only true God!!!

Now that is a powerful message for a farmer to carry to the Bishop and for a people to understand.  This has lead to the conversation of millions of people and for many centuries has contributed to the strong Catholic faith of the Mexican People.  Blessed John Paul II, who visited the Basilica four times, appointed her patroness of the Americas.  In some ways it is the same message for the people in Eastern Tennessee.  Mary has visited them and told them form a Catholic faith community, develop a Church in honor of her Son. 

I have posted the pictures of the event at Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission on my facebook and will post some more for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta soon.

When you view these pictures, keep in mind that this is the first time for any celebration of Guadalupe in either county.  The leadership, the drama, the decorations, the food and the music were all planned are developed by the local people.  I am so happy about their leadership skills and the faith.  The Lord sure is blessing us here in these Tennessee Hills.
The closing dance at JP II
The Planning Committee for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Angel and an Altar

The New Altar at Blessed JP II
An Angel and an Altar arrived in the last two weeks.

Time has moved fast as we are preparing for many feasts.  Advent is half way through.  We just celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the United States.  This weekend and Monday we are celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas.  Then it is on to the Posadas, Christmas and New Year's.  All in all, a very busy but joyous time.

Many helpers have come along the way.  One is in Tom, a member at Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission in Rutledge, who constructed by hand our beautiful altar.  We are so grateful to offer the Holy Eucharist on this beautiful work of art.  Hopefully, when folks view it they give praise to God.

Mike, Maria and Angel preparing for English Mass
Another helper, has been Angel, a vocation prospect for the Glenmary Home Missioners.  He came just in time!!!  So far in the ten days he has been here, he has offered the adult education classes in Spanish in both places.  Furthermore, he is providing music at our daily Masses.  He is playing for Guadalupe festivals for both churches.  In Rutledge we are celebrating tomorrow all afternoon and Monday we will celebrate the feast in Maynardville.

Angel, an angel of joy
When he finishes this, he will most likely beginning organizing the Posadas.  We are blessed to have angels named Tom and Angel in our churches.  They join a choir of heavenly and earthly hosts who  make this mission alive in Holy Spirit.