Photo: Dupont Media World

At our 5:00 Mass this weekend, for the first time in my parish, we celebrated a Quinceañera for Cady and Juliana (with their parents in the photo above). What’s a Quinceañera?  Among Spanish-speaking countries and among many Hispanics in the United States there is the custom of celebrating the passage from childhood to adolescence with a ritual that expresses thanksgiving to God for the gift of life and asks for a blessing from God for the years ahead.  Although customarily celebrated by girls, there are instances of boys celebrating this rite of passage as well.

This prayer which a girl offers at her Quinceañera sums up well the meaning of this celebration:

Heavenly Father,
   I thank you for the gift of life, 
   for creating me in your image and likeness
   and for calling me to be your daughter through baptism.
Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to save me 
   and your Holy Spirit to sanctify me.
To that which in your goodness and love you will for me, 
   I say, “Yes.”
With your grace I commit myself
   to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ all my life.
Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, I dedicate myself to you.
Since you are my model of faith,
   help me to continue learning from you 
   what I need to be a Christian woman.
Help me to hear the Word of God as you did,
   holding it in my heart and loving others, so that, 
   as I walk with Jesus in this life,
I may worship him with you in all eternity.

• For more information on the Quinceañera, see these 15 FAQ's on the US Bishops' page.

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

Audio for homily

We live in a culture of networking and social media
of high-speed and high-tech communications
that promise to keep us connected to as many folks as possible.

And we like being connected, don’t we?
That’s why we ask you now at the beginning of Mass
to sever your electronic connections for 45 minutes to an hour
so you can be unconnected from the wifi world
and connected to the real world, here, of God’s people at prayer.

We all know what it’s like to feel connected
and we know what it’s like to feel unconnected…
and we know what it’s like to feel disconnected…

Every human heart longs to be connected
and fears being unconnected or disconnected.
Perhaps it’s our first human experience
that nurtures in us this desire to be connected:
that first intimate connection shared by a mother
with the child growing in her womb.
We begin life -- connected.

Like the vine and the branch,
without that connection with our mother,
we cannot live.

And then, once we leave the womb,
once the cord of connection is cut,
we spend the rest of our lives seeking to be connected.

We want to hold someone. We want to be held.
We want to belong to someone else.
We want someone to belong to us.
We want to be with. We want to be near.
We want to be close.
We want to be connected...

We connect in marriages and families,
in friendships at work and at school
and in neighborhoods, parishes and towns.

And as much as we desire to be connected with one another
so does God desire to be connected with us.

That’s what all the vine and branches talk is about in this gospel here.
God desires an intimacy with us, a connection with us that will never fail,
never come undone, never be disconnected.

The Lord wants each of us to be a branch on the vine of his life
and for us to thrive there so well
that we would never want to be cut off, disconnected,
from the vine or God’s life.

The church, our parish, is a community of sacred connections.

We gather here to connect our own prayers with the prayers of others,
gathering them into one chorus of praise and petition.

In hearing the Word of the Lord in the scriptures,
we connect with God’s truth and wisdom.

The Eucharist we celebrate here is the sacrament of connection
in which the Lord makes of our bodies a dwelling place
for his body and blood
even as a child makes of its mother’s womb a home
for the fragile beginning of its life.

Cady and Juliana, our Quinceañeras, come today in prayer
to celebrate their sacred connections, begun in their mothers’ womb
blessed in the waters of baptism
and nurtured in their family’s life.

As they grow from girls into young women,
they come to the Lord’s altar and pledge to keep alive
their connection to the life and grace of God.

And they come to do this in the company of their families and friends,
in the company of the parish,
in the company of all those with whom they’re connected
in the Body of Christ, the Church.

In fact, the teen-age years are often a time
when young people disconnect from the life of the Church.
It’s not something they want to do anymore.
It seems silly, or odd, or foolish – a waste of time.
Juliana and Cady are giving us this day
a wonderful model and example
of wanting at this time in their lives
to strengthen and deepen their connection with Christ
in the community of faith at Holy Family Parish.

What we do at this table connects us, every week,
to what Christ did for us on the altar of the Cross.
He is the vine, we are the branches:
the sap of his blood, shed for us on the Cross, flows through us
in the Cup of the Eucharist;
and the fruit of his sacrifice nourishes us
in the Bread of this Sacrament.

We share the Eucharist in order to celebrate and strengthen
the depth and unity of our connection with God in Christ.
We are, indeed, the Body of Christ:
he is the vine and we are the fruitful branches.


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