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

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