A new Year of Grace - 2010

Yesterday, in churches and chapels around the world, priests and sacristans moved the ribbons in the Sacramentary to the collects for the First Sunday of Advent and the Advent prefaces and in the Lectinary to the Advent scriptures. The ribbons for the Advent Sunday prayers and readings brings us back to the front of the liturgical books such that the left hand page of each does not easily lie flat but buckles up a bit against the right hand which holds a year's worth of pages yet to be prayed and proclaimed.

It's a simple gesture, moving these ribbons, but one which reminds us that the Church is beginning a new year, another year of celebrating our life in Christ and the saving events and grace that bind us together as the Body of Christ. As the seasons of nature repeat and bring us back to spring each year, so do the seasons of worship cycle back to these Advent days.

This first Sunday of a new liturgical year reminds me of how many times I've lived through this cycle as a priest: thirty-six Advent wreaths; thirty-six Christmases; thirty-five Lents, Holy Weeks, Triduums and Pentecosts: and more than three decades of Sundays in Ordinary Time! These thirty-six years have found me ministering in St. Ann Parish in Wollaston, MA; at Moreau Seminary and Morrissey Hall at the University of Notre Dame; at St. Ann Parish in Boston for Northeastern University and Emerson College; at St. Joseph Parish in Medway, MA and for the past 15 years at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish and now Holy Family Parish in Concord, MA.

That ribbon- turning began when I wasn't altogether sure of where the ribbons were supposed to go - and then through a few years of wondering if I should stay in or get out of the ribbon-turning ministry. I changed the ribbons in times early-on when I found the Sacramentary to be limiting and confining, and on into the years when the Church's missal became an old and trusted friend. I've actually worn out a Sacramentary or two and even before trading in for a new copy, the ribbons can and sometimes do need to be replaced.

I've turned that ribbon back to Advent in good times and in bad, in years of the Church's grace and years of its disgrace. Those ribbons and the book they mark have been with me for more than three decades and I thank God for the grace of all those years born of the prayers and rites the Sacramentary offers us. And now a new Year of Grace has begun and I found myself at 5:00 yesterday afternoon witnessing the lighting of the first candle on our parish Advent wreath and then opening the book to the page where the ribbon led and praying these beautiful words for the thirty-sixth time:

Father in heaven,
our hearts desire the warmth of your love
and our minds are searching
for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Savior
and give us the strength to grow in love,
that the dawn of his coming
may find us rejoicing in his presence
and welcoming the light of his truth.

A happy and blessed Advent to you all!



  1. And to you too. I am glad God gave you the grace to keep turning the ribbons !!

  2. You and priests like you, provide joyful hope. Happy new liturgical year to you!

  3. A question, Father. You mentioned the introductions to the formal Sunday readings that you've added, the ones by the late Bishop Utener. But I've read of all the controversy surrounding the new translation. I thought that only officially approved texts were to be part of the Liturgy of the Word. How can an individual priest decide on his own to add a set of readings?


  4. From the Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, Chapter II, no. 15:

    There may be concise introductions before the readings, especially the first. The style proper to such comments must be respected, that is, they must be simple, faithful to the text, brief, well prepared, and properly varied to suit the text they introduce.

  5. Am so very glad that you decided to stay in the ribbon-turning ministry! We are blessed to have you as our pastor and cyberspace pastor. May this season of anticipation and wonder be filled with many Advent blessings for you, CP.


  6. What Meredith said!
    CP, you provide hope to many of us who are frustrated and feeling disappointed with what is happening with our Church these days. May we all experience a year of grace and pray for the gift of seeing Christ in our midst.

  7. A lovely reflection as we begin a new liturgical year.

  8. Yes, excellent thoughts. I may keep this in mind as I make my way through this coming liturgical year. Thanks, as always, for your prayerful and sensible reflections. I don't say/write it often enough.

  9. Keep saving me, Rosemary, before I write something overly critical about the overly critical of CP and of the more charitable, knowledgeable, and thoughtful of God's children.


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