For the entire bulletin with pictures, please click the following link: Bulletin for Sunday December 20, 2015

Pastor’s Corner: As we draw nearer to Christmas, our minds turn to the birth of Our Lord in Bethlehem. During the first thousand years of the Church’s life, much emphasis was placed upon understanding who Jesus is: is He God OR is He a man OR is He a man who became God? None of these is correct, nor does any answer the question, Who is Jesus? Our Lord asked His Apostles that question, as seen in the Gospel of Matthew [16: 16-17]: “Who do you say that I am?” And Saint Peter, enlightened by the Eternal Father, correctly answered: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” In other words, there, standing in front of Peter and the other Apostles, was the invisible, unknowable God who existed forever, the Creator of the Universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, in the flesh. While Nativity Scene the truth of the two natures—Divine and Human—of Our Lord was believed by all during the early years of the Church, the stronger emphasis upon His divinity, which made Him seem too distant a redeemer, unable to understand the weaknesses or difficulties of our daily lives. Even though the Christmas sermons by the Church Fathers such as Pope Saint Leo the Great, Saint Augustine or Saint Jerome were popular in tone, the official art and literature of the first thousand years of the Church’s life emphasized the Divinity of Christ, in answer to the various heresies of the times.

Mosaic or painted images of Jesus’ birth existed, but only in cathedrals and huge churches in big cities. Local parish churches were too poor or too small for great art. Saint Francis of Assisi began to change this by his preaching that by the Incarnation–Because God became a man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, born in Bethlehem, He actually does understand us. Why? Because God loved us so much that He became exactly like us, except without sin, in order to make us more like God. It was Saint Francis of Assisi who gave the Church the first Nativity scene or Crèche, and put it in the local parish church, designed for poor people of small villages, with simple statues of the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, the shepherds with their flocks and the three kings around the Infant Savior. Here is a God who understood human hardship and suffering from the moment of His birth as a human child in a cold stable. Saint Francis also introduced the Stations of the Cross, as a devotional aid for those people who could not afford a visit to the Jerusalem sites of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. In their own parish church, people could visualize the real human sufferings Jesus endured to give us eternal life.

At the heart of these devotions concerning both the Birth of Jesus and His Death and Resurrection, is the historical fact that at a specific time and place God—1st century Bethlehem—the Creator of the Universe, became man. No myth or pretty story! He took on our humanity with its weaknesses and strengths, free will, rationality, ability to love, and mortality, and intimately joined it to His Divine Nature, with its omnipotence, divine omniscience, and immortality, to our Human Nature in the man we call Jesus of Nazareth. Saint John, our patron, wrote that the historical fact that God became Man—the Incarnation—is so essential a reality, that anyone who denies that historic event and fact is the anti-Christ [I John 2:22-23].

In the Basilica sanctuary, the three stained glass windows above the High Altar outline exactly why God became man in Bethlehem [in the left window]: so that He could ransom humanity from sin and death by dying on the Cross [in the center window], and to give humanity eternal life in the flesh by Rising from the Dead on Easter Sunday [in the right hand window] in the human flesh he had taken in the womb of the Virgin Mother. God became man so in His human death all humanity could die to sin; and in His human Resurrection from the dead, all humanity could rise to eternal life in the flesh. And this was in fulfillment of His promise He had made to Adam and Eve immediately after their sin of disobedience. There, God the Creator promised to take on human flesh in the womb of a child of Eve [The Virgin Mary], in order to destroy the power of Satan. Speaking to Satan and to Eve, God said, “I put enmity between you and the woman, and between her seed and your seed: she shall crush your head, and you shall snap at her heel” [Gen. 3:15]. While Satan would snap at our heel by temptation, it would be the daughter of Eve—Mary—who would crush Satan’s head by giving birth to God in the flesh, Jesus. As Adam’s downfall came through the fruit of the Tree of Life in Paradise, now by a new Tree of Life, the Cross, the Second Adam, Jesus, would bring eternal life for the Sons and Daughters of Adam, who would become Sons and Daughters of God through Baptism and the Sacraments of the Church—the new fruit for a new Paradise, Heaven.

Because God became one of us, we can have a statue or a picture of Him: the Invisible God became visible in Jesus, in Bethlehem in the beginning of the first century. So, too, since God became one of us in Bethlehem, we can, through Christ, become life God, sharing in His everlasting life. So, during the next few weeks, visit our Creche on the Saint Joseph side altar, and let your heart be moved by this invention of Saint Francis, and thank God that the Eternal Son became a man so that we could become like God, through His Incarnation.  —Msgr. DiGiovanni

Please pray for the sick: Louise Morello, Chris Seely, Jacqueline Domingue, Mary Churley, John & Joan Kronk, Mary Lena Cocchia, Alexandre Laurent, John MacLean, John Murray, Karyl Suzanne Bearden, Kevin O’Byrne, Barbara Itri, Victoria Campos, Rita Timon, Diane Grant, Mary Bauer, Mary Rose Bauer, Catherine Longo, Paolo Cavallo, Silvana Smith, Josh Frank, Mildred Beirne, Joe Brennan, Betty Brennan, Nancy Gallagher, Billy Therriault, Loy Mulyagonja, Ben Castle, Jay & Catherine Olnek, Marie Augustin.

Please pray for those who have recently died: Suzanne DePreta, John Marena, Mary Fahey, Audrey Thorpe, Marie Martin, Doris Byrd, Santiago Collazo, Klebert Lorent, Susanne DePreta, Margaret Lupo, Stanton Parrish, Pauline Whitehead, Suor Ada Marchetti, Ilse Pollard, Marge (Longo) DiDonato, Richard Hughes, Michel Lops, Louise Munro, Rene Lafleur, Victor Lafleur, John Gannon, Richard Saunders.

Monthly Collection . . . The second collection today will be the monthly collection for the parish. Your generosity is appreciated.

Christmas Day Collection . . . The second collection on Christmas will be the for the parish. Your generosity is appreciated.

St. Joseph Votive Light Memorial: Deceased members of DeRosa and Kronk Family and Edwin Clark req. Joan and John Kronk

Our Lady’s Altar Votive Light: +Ed Cody, Bill Cody, Felicitas Cody req. Cody Family

Christmas Mass Schedule:
Christmas Eve: December 24th: 4 pm: Christmas Vigil Mass with Christmas Carols;
Christmas Day: December 25th: 12 midnight: Solemn Midnight Mass with choir; 7:30 am, 10:00 am & 12Noon;
THERE WILL BE NO 5PM or 6PM MASSES ON CHRISTMAS DAY.

Christmas Confession Schedule:
Christmas Eve: December 24th: 3-4 pm.
Christmas Day: December 25th: 7-7:25 am, 9:30-9:55 am, 11:30-11:55 am.

Christmas gift idea: One of the parish trustees, Dr. Joseph McAleer, has a book just being published by Oxford Press: Call of the Atlantic: Jack London’s Publishing Odyssey Overseas, 1902-1916: A fascinating narrative about America’s favorite adventure novelist. Order it on-line at Oxford Press.

The opening event for the 375 Anniversary of the Founding of Stamford at the Old Town Hall has been rescheduled for April. Details to follow.

Catholic Pilgrimage to Spain with Father Andrew Vill: April 11 – 21, 2016: Madrid, Toledo, Salamanca, Seville, Cordoba and Avila (St. Theresa). Cost: $3,299 per person (double occupancy) from JFK. Includes roundtrip airfare, all airline fees and taxes, hotel with daily buffet breakfast, taxes and surcharges, 1 lunch, 5 dinners, English speaking professional tour guide and sightseeing.  Information? call Frank Carpanzano at 203-975-8833 ext.3004.

A Day of Discernment with Bishop Caggiano: Saturday, January 9, 2016 9AM to 8PM – For men between the ages of 18 and 35 to consider the priesthood, at St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford; a day of prayer, Mass, talks, and individual meetings with priests. Come and see what God might have in store for you! Registration required. Please email the Office of Vocations: vocations@diobpt.org OR speak with Monsignor, Father Al or Father Vill.

Weekly Sunday collection:

Sunday December 13, 2015 $ 13,740.00
Sunday December 14, 2014 $ 14,501.10

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 27th, Sunday Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2:41-52.

Police: Please remember the members of our Stamford Police Department in your prayers.

Interested in Cub Scouting? We are considering establishing a Cub Scout Pack here at the Basilica. If you are an adult who would like to be involved as a scout leader, or you have a brother, son, nephew, cousin or grandson of elementary school age who is interested in becoming a Cub Scout, please email Father Vill at frvill@diobpt.org with the subject Cub Scouts to express your interest.

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.

Project Rachel – Entering Canaan Day of Prayer and Healing Saturday – January 16, 2016 – For women suffering from a past abortion. Come begin your healing journey and experience God’s hope and mercy. For more information and confidential registration contact Maureen at Project Rachel at 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 203-348-4355 or www.birthright.org.

St. Monica Biblical Greek Grammar: Thursdays at 6:30 pm, in the Rectory. 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 or Monsignor at spqrnac@gmail.com.

St. Monica Latin Reading Group:  Thursdays at 12:45 in the Rectory.  We are continuing our review of ecclesiastical Latin using Second Latin by Cora and Charles Scanlon.  Currently, we are reading excerpts from the Summa Theologica  of St Thomas Aquinas.  An intermediate reading ability in Latin is necessary.  Please call the Rectory for information.

Volunteers: FUTURE 5 is a non-profit organization to help motivated low income high school students in Stamford to improve themselves and their future. We need volunteers to do one-on-one student work, such as college coaches, job prep coaches, and teachers. For more information or to volunteer, please contact Fanny Moran: fmoran@futurefive.org

New Covenant House of Hospitality: St. John’s will begin volunteering at the local Catholic soup kitchen the first Wednesday of every month, beginning January 6, 2016 from 10:30 a.m. through 1:30 p.m. for the noon meal. If you are interested in lending a hand [food shopping, food preparation, help serve the meal and/or clean up], please call the Rectory and speak with the parish secretary, Cindy: 203-324-1553, ext. 21 or Monsignor at ext. 11. Let’s discuss how you can help the needy.

Job Seekers: Led by Melanie Szlucha whose company, Red Inc., a leader in helping find jobs. More info, see: www.redinc.biz or 203-866-1606: There’s no charge. Next meeting: Monday, January 25th 7:30PM Location: Cosi at 230 Tresser Blvd, (in front of the Stamford Mall).

March For Life January 22nd, 2016: We want to gage if there is enough interest to get a bus to go down to the March for Life in Washington DC this year. If you are interested please email Father Vill at frvill@diobpt.org.

Mass Intentions
+ Denotes Deceased
Saturday, December 19, 2015
4:00 +Faith Duklauer req. Diane Strain
Sunday, December 20, 2015
7:30 +Wladek and Willemina Falek req. daughter
10:00 +Denis Oliveira req. Lilian and Alvina Ramos
12:00 Thanksgiving to Immaculate Heart of Mary req. Joseph Kung and family
5:00 +Fr. Peter M. Rinaldi, SDB
6:00 +Patrick Kane and Family req. Estate of Catherine Kane and Family
Monday, December 21, 2015
8:00 Souls in Purgatory
12:10 Father Albert Audette req. Hope and Jim Jagodzinski
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
8:00 +John Maloney req. Mary Maloney
12:10 Special Intentions Terenzio Family
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
8:00 +Robert Monaco req. Hope and Jim Jagodzinski
12:10 Special Intentions Stevens Jeff Marcel
Thursday, CHRISTMAS EVE., December 24, 2015
8:00 +Joseph and Margaret Curtis req. Mary Maloney
12:10 Marion Morris req. Diane Strain
4:00 +Vito and Josephine Melfi req. Joseph Melfi
MIDNIGHT: People of the Parish
Friday, CHRISTMAS, December 25, 2015
7:30 +Brian and Margaret Mulhern req. daughter
10:00 +Feroze Aslam req. Abdul and Sarah Aslam
12:00 +Mary Ida Audette req. her son
5:00 NO MASS
6:00 NO MASS
Saturday, December 26, 2015
8:00 +Wladek and Willemina Falek req. daughter
12:10 Special Intentions Maria Trivino req. Lilian and Alvina Ramos

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. For more information, 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 are welcome. We finish in time for the 8a.m. Mass.

Pray: end Legalized Abortion: Fridays, 7:45a.m.-10a.m: Stamford’s Planned Parenthood, 1039 East Main St.

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

St. Monica Institute for Patristic Studies:— Biblical Greek: Intermediate Grammar: Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm in the rectory. Call Monsignor DiGiovanni for more information (203-324-1553, ext 11).

St. Monica Latin Reading Group: Thursdays at 12:45 in the Rectory.

Coffee Hour: There is no Coffee Hour this Sunday, December 20th, because of Christmas and there will be no Coffee Hour December 27th, because of New Year. Coffee Hour will resume Sunday January 3rd, after the 10a.m. Family Mass in the Monsignor Nagle Parish Hall.

St. John’s in THE NEWS:

THE STAMFORD ADVOCATE:
150 years ago, or so:
Dec. 22, 1865: CHURCH SERVICES. “The usual services will be held in the Roman Catholic Church on Christmas day.”

130 years ago, or so:
THE CONNECTICUT CATHOLIC:
Dec. 26, 1885: STAMFORD. “The singing and music in our church on Christmas Day in former years were always of a good quality; while this year it is expected not only to equal but to surpass anything ever before given. Special preparation has taken place for the singing, to be rendered on Friday at High Mass, and there is every reason to expect that the appropriate exercises will be satisfactorily carried out. With great pains the following programme has been arranged for that day:
Stearn’s Mass in “F.”

  1. Kyrie—Quartette and Chorus
  2. Gloria—Chorus.
  3. Gratias—Bass Solo—Bass and Tenor Duet.
  4. Qui Tolis—Alto and Baritone Duet.
  5. Quoniam—Chorus and Orchestra.
  6. Credo—Chorus and Orchestra.
  7. Et. Incarnatus—Solo and Quartette.
  8. Et Resurexit—Chorus, Orchestra and Organ.
  9. Ganods—”Ave Maria,” with obligates—Miss Weed and Mr. Collins.
  10. Sanctus—Chorus and Baritone Solo.
  11. Tenor Solo—Benedictus.
  12. Agnus Dei—Alto and Baritone Solo and Chorus.”

THE STAMFORD ADVOCATE:
75 years ago, or so:
Dec. 24, 1941: CATHOLIC CHORAL GROUP TO MAKE RADIO DEBUT WITH PROGRAM TONIGHT. “The initial radio appearance of a new choral group, under the direction of the Rev. Charles E. Hagearty of St. John’s Catholic Church, will be made this evening at 10. The group is comprised of voices from the Catholic Churches of Stamford and vicinity and they will be heard throughout the year on the Angelus Hour, which begins on Sunday, Dec. 28 at 5:30 p.m. In conjunction with the program of Christmas carols, there will be two short Christmas messages delivered by the Rev. N. P. Coleman of St. John’s and the Rev. J. J. Kelley of the Sacred Heart parish. Father Hagerarty, director of the Angelus Hour, will recite the “Prayer to be Used in Times of War,” taken from the Roman missal. Edward A. Connell will be announcer for this and the programs to follow.”

What’s in a gift?

-Fr. Andy Vill

As Christmas fast approaches, many of us, myself included, are still trying to figure out what to get for some of our friends and family as gifts. What goes into a gift? In gift giving, there is always someone who gives and someone who receives. When we think of the gift itself, there are a things we need which are practical (perhaps even requested) and then there are gifts which are thoughtful which, while not always needed, are definitely appreciated. When we give a gift, there is the deliberation over the appropriateness of a gift. What am I trying to say to this person with this gift? Will she like this? Is this something he could use?

Our God loves us so much that He gives us the gift of His own Son at Christmas. When God “deliberates” the same questions are asked and answered. “What am I trying to say to My people when I give them My Son?” You are loved by a God who IS love. “Is this gift something (someone) they need? Something they will appreciate?” We know that we definitely need God’s love in our life. We know that we ought to appreciate God’s gift of Himself, but do we show Him that appreciation? The process of the gift giving is not over once the gift is delivered, but when gratitude is returned. When we receive a gift, we receive the person giving the gift along with the gift itself. When we give thanks we acknowledge the person who has given the gift. The gift might be in itself practical or useful, but the giver of the gift is as important as the gift itself.

When we come together for Mass we offer the Eucharist. Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” In the Mass, we offer thanks to God for the gifts He has given us throughout the week and in our lives, but most especially we give thanks for the gift of His Son Jesus. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest says, “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received this bread (wine) we offer you, fruit of the earth (vine) and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life (our spiritual drink).” Mass is a joy-filled and unending exchange of gifts and thanks between God and His Church. God gives us the food we eat and we offer it back to Him. He gives us His Son and we offer that same Christ back to the Him who now intercedes for us. We give thanks “well” when we pray well and we thank God for all of our countless blessings.

What about that ugly sweater we all have in our closets from Grandma? Grandma was sweet in making it; the thought is there, but the gift seems to have missed the mark. “Did Grandma really think I would wear this?” Sometimes we feel that way about God. “How could you let this happen to me God? You said that you would bless me, but I can hardly call this suffering a blessing.”

Ugly sweaters are now a hot item with “Ugly Sweater” themed parties happening all throughout the country this Christmas season. My sister even asked me if she could borrow one that I have. Sometimes what first appears to be a useless or even thoughtless gift is exactly what the occasion calls for. What first seems to be a curse or burden from God can prove to be a blessing since it prepares us for something greater. Our greatest sufferings can turn out to be the best tools to make us holy. What initially seems to miss the mark might be exactly what the occasion calls for.

Let this Christmas be one filled with joy and peace. As we buy our last minute gifts, let us remember that we are giving ourselves when we give. When we receive, let us remember that it doesn’t end there, but that we are to give thanks. In giving thanks, may we grow in holiness and humility which will lead us ever closer to the One who is Gift, Jesus Christ.