For the entire bulletin with pictures, please click the following link: Bulletin for Sunday December 14, 2014

Pastor’s Corner: I am a weak man. When I first arrived in Rome, I determined that I would not take any time out to play; or at least very little. So far, so good. But, a few weeks ago, a couple from the parish emailed saying they were visiting the city with their niece, and asked if I could spend an hour or two showing them around. In a weak moment, I agreed.

So, this morning I met them in the Piazza Farnese, since they are staying with the Brigitine nuns: the same sisters who have a guest house in Darien. The four of us walked around, nothing out of the ordinary. Just walking around the neighborhood: we went into the Basilica of San Andrea della Valle: huge, magnificent dome, glorious frescoes: all light and color, built in the 17th century and dedicated to Saint Andrew, brother of Saint Peter. The first chapel on the right is that of the Barberini Family, and it is this chapel in which Puccini opens the first act of his opera Tosca: an artist, Mario Cavaradossi, is on a scaffold painting a Madonna and child. He is just completing the face of Our Lady, when his girlfriend, Foria Tosca enters the chapel and watches him. She looks at the painting and scowls, and confronts her boyfriend, demanding to know whose face it is that he painted as the Madonna’s, because it is obviously not hers! And the tragic love story proceeds from that first chapel on the left.

We then walked down the street to the Piazza del Pantheon: the largest and most perfectly preserved of the monuments of ancient Rome, built in the early 2nd century, possessing the largest dome in the city. First, we sat in the sun in the piazza—for one hour—sipping espresso, looking at the peerless façade and watched the crowds. We then slowly walked to the front pronaos, or front porch, intending to go inside. Standing under the forest of 40 foot high basalt columns, we were attacked—by a group of four Italian school children. They could not have been more than nine years old: two girls and two boys, each holding a clipboard with about a dozen pieces of photocopy paper, each with a picture of Santa at the top and about ten questions—in English. Their job was to ask tourists—in English—about Christmas. We were captivated; absolutely captured, and laughingly answered their Italian-English questions. One would start in English, get nervous, lose the train of thought, turn to the others asking, in Italian, “come si dice?”—“how do you say. . .?”, my guests answered in English [sometimes I had to translate, if the kids gave me some quizzical sidelong glance], and they filled in their questionnaires. You could see their teacher about ten feet away, watching everything, smiling. At the end of the interview, they all squealed, with heavy Italian accents, “Merry Christmas”. I decided to give them one Euro apiece—to total of my change. You’d think I gave them a billion dollars, and off they ran. We went into the Pantheon and looked around, and left about 30 minutes later. Outside, on the porch, there were for the four kids: all sad, and they ran up to us. “We can’t keep the money; our teacher said it wouldn’t be right”, they told me in Italian. So, I insisted—as the teacher stood nearby, and as crowds walked around us. “This is my Christmas gift”, I told them. Their next question was a classic: “What is a gift?” Since the only gifts they had experienced were from family members and friends, a stranger giving them something was unheard of. In the States, I would have been arrested!! So, I explained that a gift is something someone gives you and you do not have to do anything for it: no strings attached. And, if you don’t want it, you can refuse it. It is something totally free, which the donor gives you, asking nothing in return. “Are you sure?” they asked. And I told them, “This is Christmas: God gave us His greatest gift, His Son, and we did not deserve Him or even want Him. God gave us His Son because He loves you, and hopes that one day we will love Him, forever.” They starred at me for a moment, and then, almost as one, they said, “OK, Merry Christmas”—in their best English, and shook their heads in agreement, and ran off to their teacher. A nice visit from parishioners, and a nice gift for me and for the kids. —Msgr. DiGiovanni

Please pray for the sick: Elaine Mellace, Valerie McAleer, Victoria Campos, Barbara Wolf, Fernand Constant, Dominick Franco, Ro Clarke, Suzanne DePreta, Patrick and Rita Timon, Billy Therriault, Thomas Bernie, Harrie Humphreys, Diane Grant, Marie Augustin, Mary Churley, Lee Kaplan, Mary Bauer, Mary Rose Bauer, Paul Cavalli, Maggie Ward, Yvonne Saint Preuve, Sr. Anne-Marguerite, Peter Monks, Agnes Allen, Laureen Keenan, Bonnie and Dorothy Keyes, Ruth Coyle, Jacqueline Domingue, John Palumbo, Kristine Barron, Silvana Smith, Lena Cocchia, Christina Samon Ta-Chu.

Please pray for those who have recently died: Alice Dykes, Anthony Pellicci, Mark Cagle, Nicholas J. DiMatteo, Onide Jean-Guillaume, Canio V. Lorusso, John DePoli, Lilji Vasilji, Scott Therriault, Bill Detrick, Malcolm Pounds, Carol Sorbo, Bill Detrick, Stefano Pirolozzi, Teodoro DeBlasi, Erzulia Joseph, Dorothy Clements, Tommaso Marena, Martine Kelly, Arthur Sherry, Shirley Polcer, Joyce Considine, Mary Zimmerly, Pasqualina Bruzzese, Lucy Zabatta Carrigan, Jenny Gallagher, Ellen Green Tully, Thomas Hogan.

Retirement Fund for Religious Collection . . . Please drop your Retirement Fund for Religious envelope into the ONE basket that will be passed at the Offertory. There will only be one collection today.

Monday Evening Holy Hour: Monday nights 7-8:00 pm for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Rosary in the Basilica. Next Holy Hour, Monday, Dec. 15th.

Banns of Marriage: I Banns: Kelley Patrick Behm and Kelly Elizabeth Joyce.

St. Monica Latin Reading Group: Thursdays at 12:45 in the Rectory. We are beginning this Fall’s meetings with a review of Ecclesiastical Latin using Latin Grammar by Cora and Charles Scanlon. A basic reading ability in Latin is necessary. Please call the Rectory for information.

St. Monica Biblical Greek Grammar: Thursdays at 6:30pm. An intermediate grammar/reading class. We are translating the Gospel of John. Basic grammatical knowledge of Biblical Greek is required. Call the rectory for information.

RCIA: Classes meet Tuesdays at 7:00PM in the rectory. Anyone interested in becoming a Catholic, or adult Catholics wanting to receive 1st Communion or Confirmation, call the parish secretary (324-1553, ext. 21).

BAKE SALE: Our Christmas Bake Sale is this weekend. Hours are: Saturday, December 13th from 1PM til 5PM and Sunday, December 14th, 7:30AM til 2PM in the Monsignor Nagle Hall. It’s good fun for a good cause!

Coffee Hour: Will resume this Sunday December 14th after the 10AM Mass in the Monsignor Nagle Hall. There will be No Coffee Hour Sunday December 21st or Sunday December 28th. It will resume Sunday January 4th.

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION NEWS: December 14th:  Religion Class for all grades. December  21st: Last class for 2014. December 21st:  Frances and Clare -Mandatory Class 6-8pm, December 28th: No Classes

Weekly Sunday collection:
Sunday December 7, 2014 $ 14,073.50
Sunday December 8, 2013 $ 12,440.00

Please increase your Sunday offering by $5.00 each weekend.
“I ask you one thing: do not tire of giving to God, but do not give your leftovers.” —Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

December 21st, Sunday Readings: 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Rom 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38.

Home Schooling Families: All ages are welcome. For information, please contact Bridget Bethray: bridget.bethray@gmail.com, or Janet Lancaster: jmlancaster@optonline.net, or at 203-637-3301.

St John’s Flock (20’s and 30’s Young Adult Ministry):  The Flock is a group of Catholic young adults in their 20s and 30s. The group meets regularly each month on the first Monday for Holy Hour and fellowship from 7-9, and third Sunday from 5-7 pm for the 5pm mass and fellowship. For more details or to sign up, please email Mary at saintjohnsflock@gmail.com.

Francis & Clare: Our High School Youth Group. Students interested in being part of the Teen Leadership Group contact Sue Kremheller, D.R.E. at: religioused@stjohnsstamford.com. Service Hours are available for those who have already been Confirmed.

Project Rachel Ministry: Offers free and confidential help to those seeking healing after abortion. Come back to God, who is love and mercy. Please call (203) 416-1619 or projectrachel@diobpt.org.

Birthright: seeks volunteers: Support women to bring their babies to term, providing pregnancy tests, connecting women with medical, financial, legal and other resources. Flexible schedules; training provided. Call 348-4355 or www.birthright.org.

Prayers in Rome: If you have any prayer intentions, or people you’d like me to pray for at the Tombs of the Apostles, Saints and Martyrs while I’m in Rome for the upcoming year, please drop a note to Cindy in the parish office; just one or two intentions at a time, please. God bless you, Msgr. DiGiovanni.

The Christmas Giving Tree: This year is to benefit pregnant women and their families served by the Sisters of Life. At Christmas we celebrate the gift of the Christ child and every birth of a child is a renewal of this greatest gift. Thank you for helping us to celebrate! The name of an item is written on each tag in the Christmas basket that would benefit the woman in need.  Please take a tag or tags as you are able purchase the item on the tag and take the gift to the rectory.  All items are due back to the parish by this Tuesday December 16th.  Thank you so much for your generosity!

Sts. Maria Goretti & Dominic Savio Societies: Will meet this Sunday, December 14th after the 10am Mass in the Rectory. All boys and girls who are in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades are welcome! Please contact Anne Marie at 203-324-1553 or at:
religioused@stjohnsstamford.com.

Job Seekers: There’s no charge. Led by Melanie Szlucha whose company, Red Inc., a leader in helping find jobs. More info, see: www.redinc.biz or 203-866-1606: Next meeting: Monday, January 26th, 7:30PM Location: Cosi at 230 Tresser Blvd., Stamford (in front of the Stamford Mall).

Mass Intentions
+ Denotes Deceased
Saturday, December 13, 2014
4:00 +Mary A. Loglisci req. daughter
Sunday, December 14, 2014
7:30 Deceased members of the Sexton and Winter Families req. Hannah Sexton Young
10:00 +John and Theodora Kim req. Joseph and Mary Kim
12:00 Souls in Purgatory req. Fabiola C.
5:00 +George B. Cooper
6:00 +Patrick Kane and Family req. Estate of Catherine Kane and Family
Monday, December 15, 2014
8:00 Special Intentions Alexandra Nana
12:10 +Ann and Charles Gallaer req. John and Laura Pascale
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
8:00 +Rose Donahue and Mary Hynes req. Marie Carr
12:10 Deceased members of the Terenzio Family req. Millie Terenzio
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
8:00 +Salvatore Conte req. Anthony and Carolyn Conte
12:10 Father Walsh req. Millie Terenzio
Thursday, December 18, 2014
8:00 Lilian Ramos req. Maria Trivino
12:10 Souls in Purgatory req. Ferry G.
Friday, December 19, 2014
8:00 Padre Juan Pineda req. Maria Trivino
12:10 +Kathleen Wink req. Joan Fitzgerald
Saturday, December 20, 2014
8:00 +Wladek and Willemina Falek req. daughter
12:10 +Jean Boland req. CJ and Cristina Fioravanti

Baptisms: Are celebrated every day of the week, according to the schedule of the parish priests and the families. Baptisms at St. John’s are one-family only ceremonies: never groups. Please call Cindy (203-324-1553, ext 21).

Weddings: Couples must contact and begin meeting with one of the parish priests for at least 6 months before a hoped for wedding date at Saint John’s. Please call the parish secretary, Cindy, or one of the priests for an initial discussion.

Holy Name Society: For the men of the parish, meets Fridays in the Rectory, 7-7:50 a.m. for coffee, Eucharistic Adoration & Benediction. All men of the parish are welcome. We finish in time for the 8am Mass.

Moms & Tots: Moms and their kids meet in the Church each first Tuesday of every month at 10:30a.m.

St. Anne’s Family Society: A family society meeting four times a year on Sundays after the 5pm mass, with Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament and prayer, supper, and a lecture in the church hall.

Francis & Clare: Co-Ed High School Youth Group. Meetings are held twice a month in the Church Hall.

Pray to end Legalized Abortion: Wednesdays, 7-10:30a.m., Stamford’s Planned Parenthood, 1039 East Main St.

St. Dominic Savio Society: For spiritual formation of young men, 6th-8thgrades. Anne Marie 203-324-1553, x21.

St. Maria Goretti Society: For the spiritual formation of , young ladies,6th-8thgrades:Anne Marie 203-324-1553 x21.

Holy Hour: on Monday Nights, 7pm—8 pm. Adoration, Holy Rosary, and Benediction. All are welcome!

The Legion of Mary: Wednesday Evenings: 7:30 pm ’till 9:00 pm in the Msgr. Nagle Hall. All are welcome.

St. Monica Institute for Patristic Studies: —Latin Patristic Reading Group: Thursday afternoons in the rectory: basic reading ability required. Please call the rectory for information.

Intermediate Studies in Biblical Greek: Intermediate Grammar: Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm in a private home. Please call the office for more information.

Coffee Hour: After the 10:00 a.m. Family Mass in the Monsignor Nagle Parish Hall.

St. John’s in THE NEWS:

THE STAMFORD ADVOCATE:
150 years ago, or so:
Dec. 15, 1865: “The Second Annual Ball of the St. John’s Roman Catholic Benevolent Association takes place at Hoyt’s Hall, on Friday evening, Dec. 23. This is an excellent association and our Irish fellow-citizens will no doubt give liberally, and enjoy a happy social evening. President-Patrick McKeon; Vice President, Wm. Brennan; Treasurer, Michael Coughlin; Secretary, Nicholas Donohue. Floor Managers-Patrick Maron, Wm. Hickey, Eugene Drew.”

THE CONNECTICUT CATHOLIC:
130 years ago, or so:
Dec. 20, 1884: STAMFORD. “On Christmas day there will be four Masses celebrated in the church; one at five o’clock and the others at the same time as on Sundays.”

THE STAMFORD ADVOCATE:
75 years ago, or so:
Dec. 18, 1937: St. Anne’s Society To Aid Needy as It Has for 44 Years. “St. Anne’s Ladies’ Aid Society, 44-year old charitable organization of the St. John’s R.C. Church, is preparing for its annual distribution of Christmas baskets to the homes of needy families. The group expects to provide foodstuffs for about 200 families. A small organization in comparison with other religious lay groups, St. Anne’s Ladies’ Aid Society since its inception has spread holiday cheer at Christmas time to the young and old of poor families, and has carried on with other charitable projects during other seasons of the year.”

THE HARTFORD COURANT:
20 years ago, or so:
Dec. 16, 1995: “Sister Joseph Miriam O’Connell, 89, of the Sisters of Mercy, West Hartford, died Friday (Dec. 15, 1995) at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. She was born in Tipperary, Ireland, daughter of the late Thomas and Bridget (Galvin) O’Connell. She entered the Sisters of Mercy June 1930 and professed her final vows January 1938. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education from St. Joseph College, West Hartford. She taught in several parochial schools in the Diocese of Hartford.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: Sister Joseph Miriam was a first and second grade teacher at St. John’s School from 1940 to 1959. Her tenure at St. John’s School was the longest of any teaching Sister at the school.)

Bethlehem
-Fr. Terry Walsh

A couple years ago, the Bridgettine Sisters at the Convent in Darien prepared a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and invited me to join them. Many friends of the Sisters joined the pilgrimage and our number grew to about twenty. Upon entering the City of David, the city lights lit up the Domes and the Wall surrounding the Old City stretched around our view. Our pilgrimage began and ended with Holy Mass at the Convent in the “City of Peace.” And yet, in these tumultuous times, peace in the Holy Land seems so fragile. Barrier Walls have been constructed around the City, as well as in various other places around the country, that serve to divide territory between Israelites and Palestinians. The Israelites call it the Envelop of Jerusalem, protecting the City from harm, while the Palestinians refer to it as the Wall of Shame, dividing families. Even in the Christian Churches, there is division among the Catholic, Orthodox, and Armenian Churches, dividing up the “territory” within the Church itself. After Mass, we made our way to Bethlehem. “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern Israel”(Matthew 2:6). As we drove the short distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, we arrived at the Checkpoint guarded by soldiers wielding their machine guns. As we crossed the threshold into Palestinian territory, there was a notable decline in economic prosperity. Many have taken flight from Bethlehem in recent years. I quietly wondered what sort of “check-points” our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph might have had to endure as they made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census decree by Caesar Augustus. Did they have enough food to sustain them throughout their long and difficult journey? Were they able to have adequate shelter? Were the people along the way as cold-hearted as those they would later encounter in Bethlehem? Indeed, after their long and difficult journey from Nazareth, Mary and Joseph were greeted with the frosty Wall of Spiritual Poverty, closely guarded by uncaring people who were suffering the effects of hard-heartedness. Although Mary was very near her time to give birth, all they heard was “No room at the Inn!” Little did the people of Bethlehem know that the One who came to conquer the hard heartedness of mankind was in their midst. Little did they realize he would be born into the world right there in Bethlehem so that cold hearts could become warm, so that love and kindness could, with the help of His grace, wash away fear and despair and thereby heal spiritual infirmity. The same seems true today. Our Lord has come, He is in our midst, yet the walls of spiritual poverty abound. Bethlehem reminds us that we need to prepare a worthy place for him in the Inn of our hearts and humbly beg Him to take up residence in our souls and so heal us.

We drove along the hillside down into a valley of fields and arrived at the Chapel constructed in the midst of several excavated caves, which had served as shelters for the humble shepherds and their sheep during the time of our Lord. It was here in these fields that man first heard the joyful exaltation: “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” St. Luke writes: “And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch in the night. And the angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid…for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”( 2:8-11). And there we were, standing in this Holy Place, pondering the joy of the Shepherds. Indeed, the Prince of Peace had burst into the world to give life, teaching us that we must be “poor in spirit” in order to receive the healing graces that come to us most abundantly through sacramental Confession and Holy Eucharist. We gathered in the Chapel in the Shepherd’s Field for Mass and sang with the Angels the Hymn of Praise, “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” in the very place where it was first proclaimed. Moments later, Jesus became present in the Eucharist here in “The City of Bread”! After Mass, we made our way up to the birthplace of our Lord, just as the Shepherds had done after they were greeted by the angels on that first Christmas night. The Church of the Nativity was built over the Cave where Mary gave birth to Jesus. We entered the Church through the “Door of Humility” – a small doorway that could only be entered on foot with one’s head bowed. It was a gentle reminder to bow one’s heart in this Holy place. We joined the long line of pilgrims who patiently waited to enter the Grotto and venerate the very place where Jesus was born. There we knelt and prayed for a few moments, contemplating how the whole world changed the moment Jesus was born in this sacred place. There was a smaller niche adjacent to it where the manger was kept. Imagine the Blessed Virgin Mary kneeling there, adoring her son. “And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn”(Luke 2:7). Jesus has come to feed the world – if only man would open the walls of his heart to receive Him.