Happy New Year! Though this is the time when people make resolutions, I would invite us to make not a resolution but a New Year’s intention. It is adapted from a spiritual exercise suggested by Sister Joan Chittester. The intention is: “I pray you hope now and in the future.”
We say it first to ourselves, silently, to remind ourselves of the hope that is kindled in our own hearts. Then, we remember a person who could use a dose of hope, who may be dangling at the end of their rope; or a situation or event that has left some scar tissue around our souls and say, “I pray you hope now and in the future.”
Then, we make it our intention for each person we encounter. Whether at work or school or on the street or at those meetings where eye contact with certain people is difficult because we don’t see eye-to-eye, say silently, “I pray you hope now and in the future.” This New Year’s intention invites us to make a conscious decision each day to be people of hope.
2019 promises to be a year of historic possibilities for our community. Some of these dates are already marked on the 2019 Calendar you received in the mail. They include the 2019 Electoral Assembly April 29-May 2 at the Hilton Hotel at the Kansas City International Airport. We have several important decisions to make at this year’s Assembly, including an official vote on the New Creation to become one province of Missionaries of the Precious Blood in the United States. We will also elect a new Leadership Team for the province who will shepherd the process of the New Creation into the future. In addition, we will elect one delegate who along with the newly-elected Provincial Director will attend the XXI General Assembly that will be held September 1-21 in Czestochowa, Poland.
As I mentioned in my November 28, 2018 letter, the theme for the XXI General Assembly, Becoming New Wine, will discern the vision and priorities for the next six years and elect a Moderator General and Council who will lead us in implementing the vision. At the conclusion of this letter, I have once again included the Prayer for the XXI General Assembly and invite all of us to pray it each day as we prepare our hearts for the important decisions we face as a province and as a Congregation in 2019.
The Installation of the new Leadership Team of the Kansas City Province will be Monday, June 10, 2019 at Savior of the World Center in Kansas City, KS. Following the banquet and Installation Ceremony, the incorporated members will enter a time of retreat with Father Robert Schreiter, C.PP.S., that will focus on the Biblical Foundations for the New Creation. We will be inviting the members from the Cincinnati Province to join us for this retreat.
Later this month, the provincial councils from the Cincinnati and Kansas City Province will be meeting at Precious Blood Renewal Center in Liberty January 28-30. We count on your prayers for this important meeting.
On behalf of the Leadership Team, a Healthy, Happy and Holy New Year! We pray you hope now and in the future!
With peace in the blood of Christ,
Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.
Prayer for the XXI General Assembly
September 1 – 21, 2019
Becoming New Wine
Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
Embrace and enflame us
in your heart of fire.
Soften our hardness—transform us.
Give us the courage to accept
into our open hearts
the grace of your vision for us.
Bring life to our dryness—drench us.
May our lives be chalices of compassion
that satisfies those that thirst for justice.
Send us to proclaim a time of blessing
and welcome to those that are far off.
You who are over and within us,
who heals and sustains us,
anoint us to discover together
the passionate commitments and leaders
that will create the Congregation of the future.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
Make us new wine for the Church and the world!
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” the prophet Isaiah proclaims tonight, “upon those who dwelt in a land of gloom, a light has shown.”
If ever there was a year when those words capture the importance of Christmas, it is 2018. The darkness this year has been overwhelming at times with school shootings, children separated from their parents at the border, the deep divisions that exist in so many segments of society reflected daily in the divisive discourse that floods social media, and the ongoing scandal in the church. We have witnessed disasters that have taken so many lives, homes, and livelihoods in hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, as even now the death toll continues to rise in the aftermath of a tsunami in Indonesia.
There seems to be a dark cloud hanging over the earth making the world a “land of gloom.”
But tonight, we celebrate the birth of light that reminds us no matter how deep the darkness is around us, there is a light that dwells within that has the power to overcome the night. We have seen this light, experienced this light, know this light: it is Christ the Lord!
Fifty years ago, December 24, 1968, the world was in a very dark and dangerous time eerily like today. You remember 1968. We have been reminded often this year of the 50thanniversary of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. The country was divided by a contentious election and polarized over issues of race and the war in Vietnam. College campuses were erupting in opposition to the war as people took to the streets to shout their resistance.
Amid this land of gloom, a voice came from the heavens. Three voices actually—the voices of astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders who as they approached the moon and began their lunar orbit, they sent Christmas greetings to the world by reading the first ten verses of the Book of Genesis. The Christmas message from the crew of Apollo 8 became the most watched television program ever at the time.
When they quoted the first words spoken by God in Genesis, “Let there be light,” a new hope was born in the hearts of people around the world. I was 13 years old at the time, but I remember how we all gathered around the old black and white television set and witnessed this remarkable event. We were seeing the “man in the moon” up close and personal. We were listening to the voices of astronauts recalling our creation story. In a very real sense, they were reminding us that God is in charge and God still believes in us.
News reports from that time talked about how bitter enemies on opposite sides of the issues like the war in Vietnam hugged or joined hands as the mission of Apollo 8 and the message of light amid darkness brought people together. For a moment, at least, there was peace, there was light, there was hope.
Tonight, we gather around the manger and the altar to listen not to astronauts but angels calling out to poor shepherds tidings of great joy. Like most messengers from the heavens, they tell the shepherds and us, “Do not be afraid.” No matter how dangerous the world seems; no matter how distant the light appears, tonight there is hope: “For behold, in the city of David, a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord.”
The sign for this new hope, this new creation, could not be more counter-cultural: “You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” This is the sign that will transform the darkness in a land filled with doom and gloom. This is the sign that will turn on the light in the hearts of every person—the light that reminds us who we are as children of God. This is the sign that will turn us from “godless ways and worldly desires” to live as brothers and sisters who await the “blessed hope” of God-with-us.
Make room tonight for that light that is born again in each of us. See it in the eyes of children when they realize Santa has brought them just what they wanted.
Make room for the light that shines within us that reminds us who we are as God’s beloved. See it in the hands of those who spend Christmas at food pantries or serving a meal at the homeless shelter.
Make room tonight for the light that will overcome the darkness of the world and bring us peace. See it in the gratitude of those who receive the kindness and love of strangers who remind them they are not alone.
Yes, make room tonight for that light to shine once again in our lives. Merry Christmas to you and all those you love and serve so faithfully!
With peace, hope, and light,
Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.
from Gabino Zavala, Justice and Peace Director
The US Bishops, in a vote of 241- 3 with one abstention, approved a pastoral letter against racism during their November meeting in Baltimore. This letter examines the “persistent” history of racism in our nation. This report is particularly timely in that the FBI recently reported that hate crimes have increased 17% in 2017 with the most common bias being “race/ethnicity/ancestry.”
The Bishops call Racism a particularly destructive and persistent form of evil that infects our nation. This pastoral letter, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, addresses a growing concern in our country based on a continuous history of discrimination and violence along with extreme nationalist ideologies. With a posture of humility, the words of the Prophet Micah are highlighted in the letter as a way of acknowledging that history of racism as a call to overcome the sins of omission when it comes to combating racism and in working for racial reconciliation.
You have been told, O Mortal One, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Mi 6:8)
The Bishops go on to say that racism not only resides within our hearts, but also in the social structures of our culture and institutions. Therefore, justice is required so that we can put our world in right relationship with God, one another and creation.
The Bishops look at the Native American experience, the African American experience and the Hispanic experience to show how racism has been part of our past and continues in the present.
Read the pastoral letter, Open Wide Our Hearts: Our Enduring Call to Love.
from Gabino Zavala, Justice and Peace Director
Today we commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human rights which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 . This declaration is just as essential to peace and justice now as it was when it was adopted. It continues to be both a guide to present action and an evolving set of ideas for future human rights agreements among nations, individuals, and non-governmental groups.
The 30 articles of the Declaration begin with Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
As members of the Precious Blood family, we recognize the significance of this anniversary and the power that this document still exerts. Over the last 70 years the Universal Declaration on Human Rights has been a great source of inspiration for those who work on nonviolence. It motivates many to expand the understanding and protection of human rights around the world.
Read the text of the Declaration of Human Rights here.
by Maureen Lahiff, Companion and Member of the Justice and Peace Committee
So why is the Irish girl writing about La Virgen de Guadalupe, La Morenita [the Little Brown One] del Tepeyac? Because she belongs to us all, not just to those of Mexican heritage. Or perhaps I should say, we all belong to her. She’s a perfect companion for Precious Blood people, because she represents the presence of God’s love and care for those who are on the margins; for those who have been defeated; for those who are mestiza as she is, a mixture of ethnicities, heritages and cultures.
I also belong to Guadalupe because, although I was born in Ohio, I now live in Alta California, where there is no majority, and where we were part of New Spain and then Mexico before we were part of the US.
You are probably familiar with the story: The apparitions on Tepeyac hill in December 1531, just ten years after the brutal conquest of Tenochtitlán [Mexico City] the capital of the Aztec empire, under the leadership of Hernán Cortés, to the Catholic Aztec Cuauhtlatoatzin, Saint Juan Diego. (His feast is on December 9, the date of the first apparition; we lose it to the Second Sunday of Advent this year.) The appearance of Mary with mestiza features and in native dress, with a belt that is a sign of pregnancy. Her words to Juan Diego; “You have nothing to fear; am I not here who am your mother?” The Castilian red roses that she caused to appear as a sign for Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, and her image on his tilma when he opened it to show the roses to the bishop.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was identified with the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet,” from Revelation 12 by Miguel Sanchez in 1648. This text is one of the options for the first reading for the Mass for her feast. There are also two choices for the gospel at Mass, the same one as the Annunciation story that presents preachers on December 8 with such a challenge, and my preference, the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. Alas, only the first sentence of the Magnificat is included. (The Magnificat is my personal touchstone for Mary, especially the kick-ass setting The Canticle of the Turning by Rory Cooney.)
Our Lady of Guadalupe has accompanied people seeking their rights since 1810, when Father Miguel Hidalgo rallied the people of New Spain under her image in the Mexican Revolution. More recently, she accompanied United Farm Workers, Pilipino and Chicanx, and now she accompanies migrants and refugees. Xicana feminists identify with her, too, re-imaged in contemporary dress.
After two centuries of local celebrations, Pope Benedict XIV approved the liturgical texts for the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours and proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of New Spain. Popes since then have given her various titles. Pope Pius XI declared her patroness of the Philippines in 1935. Pope John Paul II proclaimed her Patroness of the Americas. (If you remember the series of synods leading up to the jubilee, John Paul II insisted on treating North and South America as one continent.)
This is not the place for a detailed history of the image, its possible connections to Aztec images and deities, its veneration, and the shifting dates for the feast. However, she got here, she is with us now as a symbol of the presence of God’s love in the mestizaje , the challenging and thrilling mix that confronts the US and the Catholic Church in the US. Guadalupe can bring us together, as the opening prayer for her Mass proclaims.
God of power and mercy,
you blessed the Americas at Tepeyac
with the presence of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe.
May her prayers help all men and women
to accept each other as brothers and sisters.
Through your justice present in our hearts
may your peace reign in the world.