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Lent is almost upon us!  If you have not prayed about what to do for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, please do so and seek help not only in this bulletin but through friends and other resources (perhaps Formed.Org or another website).  I hope to see you Friday evening for some or all of the Lenten series on the service prayer.  It is going to be a good reminder of one of the particular charisms of our parish family.

The final hoorah before we say goodbye to meat (“carne”-“vale”) with our season of fasting, is available to us this Monday, the 12th at University Park Mall’s Five Guys burgers.  This is a fundraiser for the parish youth group, helping fund teens trip to the Steubenville Retreat that is so impactful for their faith.  Anyone who goes to Five Guys on February 12th and shows the required voucher, we will get 20% of their purchase and an extra $1 of every milkshake.  It’s a great way to help the parish and to enjoy a nice meal on “fat Monday."

Some interesting topics came up during both a staff meeting and a parish council meeting that I think are worthy of expression.  It is the perennial question of reverence at Mass and sharing the space of prayer with each other, including children.

First and foremost, patience is required from all sides as none of us are owners of God's house, but we instead must all share it.  Secondly we have an obligation to support each other in this communal prayer.

I have also mentioned before in the bulletin about the importance of silence in the liturgy, most recently from Robert Cardinal Sarah.  He makes a good point that there are two types of silence: exterior (no sound) and interior (mental peace and rest).  The liturgy is meant to be a place for both of these types of silence and stillness in us.

I must stress that we want children at Mass.  I understand the difficulty of training them to pray quietly and not make a lot of noise, and I admire parents for their perseverance in that regard.  Another important thing to face is the fact that we do not have in our church anything like a "cry room" that allows for temporary relocation while still allowing adults to participate somewhat in the Mass.  This means the entire congregation must learn to pray with the occasional noise that is inevitable in a growing parish family.  They are the future of our parish, of our faith, and we must rejoice at the sound of new life among us.

The lack of a separated narthex ("gathering area") in our church poses a challenge not just for prayer during Mass, but also before and after Mass.  We are here at this parish because we feel at home here, and that often means being connected with the people here.  Naturally, then, the church is no longer quiet when Mass finishes, and sometimes there is conversation before Mass as well.  I don't think it is realistic to expect this to stop, but I would encourage (especially before Mass) for a lowering of voices and an honest attempt to maintain a spirit of prayer as best as possible.  After Mass, if conversations could move towards the exits, it would allow people to remain in prayer in the pews if wanted.  This is another way of trying to balance the reasonable desires and concerns of our whole parish family.

Finally, there are some ways we can extend a greater respect for the liturgical action itself, especially the readings at Mass and the Consecration.  It is good to keep movement to a minimum at such times and try our best to maintain silence during these moments.  If we have arrived late for whatever reason, please wait for a reading to finish before moving towards a seat — listen to the reading and allow others to focus on the Word of God spoken to us.  When all are kneeling for the Eucharistic Prayer, try our best to remain still with attention to the Lord's' work before us until the great Amen is finished and we stand for the Our Father.  Sometimes this is understandably not possible.

I think it would be a good practice to allow the church bells, which typically ring 5 minutes before Masses begin, to be a good reminder for us. The bell of Christian churches was, and still remains, a call to prayer.  Let us allow the time after the bell finishes ringing to help us focus our attention to the Lord, to show love of neighbor by allowing them the opportunity to let the silence and communion around them to enter their own hearts.

Saint Thérèse, the Little Flower, pray for us!