This Week’s Message
Becoming the Beloved of God
According to tradition, Saint Francis of Assisi once said: “Above all the graces and gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” Saint Francis means that the greatest grace in life is the ability to sacrifice self-interest for the love of God and neighbor. It means that we are called, by God and for God’s sake, to love Him and to love others more than we love ourselves. For most of us, answering the call to love is very difficult, especially in a culture that emphasizes self-interest and self-satisfaction above all else. And yet, this call to love is the ultimate challenge of discipleship and the gospel life.
If we seek to become disciples, to live the gospel, and to fulfill our vocation to love, then let us begin in earnest. If we seek to set aside self-interest for God and for others, then we must learn who we are, what we want, what we have to give, and what we are called to give up. We must begin by asking ourselves this difficult question: “Who am I?” In his book, “Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith”, Father Henri Nouwen, one of the most influential spiritual writers of the twentieth century, explains that in a busy, complicated, and stressful world, we sometimes lose track of our most basic spiritual identity. We become overwhelmed by the petty tyrannies of the world: ambition, finances, gossip, health, traffic, work, and the competing demands of family, friends, and making ends meet. And when we become overly distracted by these things, we can forget that we are beloved children of God and we sometimes seek solace in the often sinful temptations of the world.
Father Nouwen reassures us that this need not happen. He reminds us that our deepest value and truest identity is affirmed by the simple but profound truth that God loves us. Reflecting on the Baptism of the Lord, Nouwen reminds us that like Jesus, we, too, are the “beloved” of God. He writes: “As a Christian, I am firmly convinced that the decisive moment in Jesus’s public life was his baptism, when he heard the divine affirmation, ‘You are my Beloved on whom my favor rests.’ In this core experience, Jesus is reminded in a deep, deep way of who he really is.” According to Father Nouwen, within each person is an “inner voice of love” that seeks to remind us that we, too, are among the beloved of God; and that we should listen to this divine voice, rather than seek passing comfort in some worldly passion or vice.
All too often, however, we listen instead to the world. The noise of the world can easily overwhelm the soft voice of God that speaks to us in the silence and stillness of our hearts. We seem deaf toward the divine voice that speaks with a love that is boundless and a mercy that is beyond measure. The only cure for this spiritual deafness is the “discipline of prayer.” Father Nouwen writes: “I have come to define prayer as listening to that voice, to the one that calls me beloved…The discipline of prayer is to constantly go back to the truth of who we are and claim it for ourselves. My life is rooted in my spiritual identity. We must go back to our first love, back regularly to that place of core identity.” In this way, prayer is the act of listening for God’s gentle voice: a voice that speaks to us with love and places that love at the core of our human identity.
Earlier this week throughout the world, the Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In the Gospel for that day, we heard how the Father spoke from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).” And in this Sunday’s Gospel, we are reminded of Jesus’s baptism and the Father’s love for him. Of course, we know that Jesus is the Son of God and that we are merely human beings. Each of us suffers from the primal wound. Each of us sometimes fails to embrace our “belovedness” in the eyes of God. We sometimes fail to embrace the love that is God’s gift to us. We fall short of being the person who we are called to be. And we sometimes fail to do what we are called to do — to love God and neighbor.
Despite these shortcomings, we are invited to return again and again to the discipline of prayer that always leads back to God, to God’s great love for us, and to the “belovedness” at the center of our human identity. Sometimes prayer will console us. Sometimes prayer will challenge us. Sometimes prayer will inspire joy. And sometimes prayer will demand penance and reconciliation. And yet whenever we pray, we return to the central truth of God’s endless love for us, for each one of us, at all times, no matter what. In addition, when we embrace God’s love for us, we become better equipped to live the Gospel, to share God’s love without counting the cost, and to rebuild the Church, one soul at a time. As Saint Francis said so long ago: “Above all the graces and gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” Let us, then, begin the spiritual journey. Let us become the beloved of God by our every thought, word, and deed.
May the Lord give you peace!
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Note: On behalf of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, Father Jim wishes to thank Jody Cole of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, for allowing us to use her inspirational icon of the “Theophany” on our website and cover of our weekly newsletter. Prints of this icon are available for purchase. For more information, please visit: jcoleicons.com.
Holy Name Society
Monday, January 16th
All are invited to join the Holy Name Society of Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish for a “Penny Sale” on Monday, January 16th beginning at 7:00pm in Our Lady’s Hall. As always, the “Penny Sale” will feature great prizes, a 50-50 raffle, delicious homemade sweet bread, along with other homemade food and snacks. Donations will be gratefully accepted at our parish office (74 Pleasant Street). The Holy Name Society of Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish is a service-driven organization of men which was founded to support the parish through volunteering and fundraising. The Holy Name Society meets on the first Sunday evening of each month in Our Lady’s Parish Hall. New members are always welcome! For more information about the Holy Name Society and its good work in our parish, please contact Matt Parisi at email@example.com. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
A Prayer Vigil for America
Friday, January 20th
All parishioners, friends, and guests of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport are invited to join us for “A Prayer Vigil for America” on Friday, January 20th beginning at 12:00pm in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church. Our vigil will begin with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Daytime Prayer. At 1:00pm, we will pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. At 3:00pm, we will pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. And at 6:00pm, we will conclude with Evening Prayer and Benediction. In addition, Father Jim will hear confessions from 5:00pm until 6:00pm. All are welcome to join us for all or just part of this special day of quiet devotion, prayer, and worship for the intentions of peace, justice, and unity in our beloved country. For more information, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Adult Faith Formation
Sacramental Preparation Program
Begins Sunday, January 29th
If you are an adult (age 18 and over) and have not received the Sacraments of Baptism, First Penance & Reconciliation (Confession), First Eucharist, or Confirmation in the Roman Catholic Church, then please prayerfully consider joining our adult faith formation fellowship which will meet on Sunday mornings after the 8:15am Mass beginning on January 28th in Saint Ann Parish House. All books and materials will be provided. Over the course of the next four months, our program will meet regularly (for approximately on hour) to prepare interested adults for reception into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 15th. We will learn about the teachings and traditions of the Church and address the challenge of living a life of faith in the modern world. If you or someone you love would like to join us in preparing for the Sacraments of God’s Holy Church, then please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Youth Faith Formation
Confirmation Preparation Program
Begins Sunday, February 5th
For too many teenagers, Confirmation has sadly become a kind of graduation from the Church, rather than the joyful beginning of life as an adult disciple in the Church. We hope to end this tragic ambivalence by transforming sacramental preparation into an engaging process for the whole family. First, we will place primary focus on attending Mass. For more than a century, the Church has asked every parish to provide a sacramental preparation program for children. During recent decades, however, we have neglected to remind parents of their baptismal promise to be the first teachers of their children in all matters related to faith and morals; and that the most important component of that responsibility is attending Mass as a family. In our increasingly busy world, its has become common for parents to entrust their children to us for an hour of instruction but not join us for Mass each weekend. So, we will continue to ask parents to dedicate one hour each week to their child’s religious education — by bringing them to church!
In addition, all high school students (beginning in the ninth grade) are invited to participate in our two-year program of formation that will prepare them to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. During the first year, students will participate in a series of interactive workshops about the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. These sessions will begin on Sunday, February 5th and coincide with our weekend Mass schedule. During the second year, students will participate in four additional workshops (and a four hour mini-retreat) designed to help them grow in prayer, fellowship, and service; to prepare them to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; and to jumpstart their lives as faith-filled young adult disciples. If your child is currently in high school and wants to prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation, please complete a registration form (see link below) and return it to us as soon as possible. For more information, please contact Betsy Works at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Our worship sites include Saint Ann Church in Gloucester, Saint Anthony Chapel in Gloucester, Saint Joachim Church in Rockport, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church in Gloucester. We are a Roman Catholic faith community united in prayer, fellowship, and service. For more information about becoming a member of one of our parishes, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. Please join us! All are welcome!
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