Dear Salesian Sisters and Brothers,
We have entered the beautiful season of Advent. It is one of my favorite seasons of the Liturgical year. This season of Advent always invites me to a spirit of reflection, prayer, slowing down and connections with friends and loved ones. It is a time that focuses on preparation for the feast of Christmas but which sometimes includes more celebrations than preparation. And, Mary becomes an important focus, as a model of reflection, prayer, silent waiting but also connecting in service with loved ones like her cousin, Elizabeth. From December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception to December 12, feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the days just prior to Christmas when we read about Mary and her preparations of the birth of her son, Jesus, we see her as a “constant.” She is there waiting, listening, discerning, contemplating on the events of her life and what God wants from her. She is open and willing to serve. As a humble servant, she opens herself to receive God’s grace. At the same time she is also open to receive all who enter her life, from God, to her husband, Joseph, her cousin Elizabeth, the Shepherds, the simple and poor around her and the magi.
In celebrating the feasts of Mary, which we celebrate during this Advent Season, the Church reminds us of her powerful intercession in our lives, her prayers for us and her tender care and concern for those who are considered vulnerable and insignificant. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a particularly beautiful and tender feast. It is a reminder to a people who suffered oppression and loss of hope in Mexico, assuring them that God would not abandon them. Mary becomes that symbol of hope, which is also a very strong Advent virtue, expressed powerfully in the Liturgical readings at Mass. God intervenes for his people and, despite their sufferings and their exile to a foreign country, the people of Israel hear messages of hope, visions of new and beautiful things to come and a renewed future described as more beautiful and “magical” than their pre-exile days in Jerusalem.
As we enter this season of Advent and listen intently to the liturgical readings, let us ask what God is asking of us. As we encounter some difficult events in our world and province, we put our trust in a God who loves us and shows us his care and hope through his Mother, Mary. We must always interpret these events and what happens to us with the eyes of faith and with the trust which Mary exemplified in her life. In her moments of doubt and fear, she trusted what the Angel Gabriel said to her. Mary is called blessed precisely because she trusted. She trusted that God’s words of hope, strength and accompaniment were true. He would be there! He would not abandon her! Let us take to heart Mary’s example and her openness.
Last Wednesday we celebrated Fr. Leo Baysinger’s life with a Funeral Mass in St. John Bosco’s school chapel. The chapel was packed and you could sense the love and respect many, especially, the alumni, had for Fr. Leo. Several stories were shared by those attending. Fr. Joe Nguyen gave the homily or reflection, as Leo preferred to call this time after the Gospel. Joe Nguyen stressed Fr. Leo’s humility and deprecation as a way to have others shine. His mission was clear: to be with the young. And, this he did rather easily and with grace. He had no problem, even in his golden years, to simply walk among the kids. While others would be hesitant to mingle with kids they did not know well, Fr. Leo would simply walk to young people and ask them questions. Fr. Leo would remember young people’s names and birthdays. Fr. Leo also loved the Liturgy and was a stickler for liturgical details but never in a mean or obnoxious way. On Friday of that same week, the Province Salesian community once again gathered to remember Fr. Leo at a Mass in our Salesian community chapel in Richmond, followed by the burial in our local Salesian cemetery. That particular Mass was mostly attended by Salesian brothers and priests, novices, two pre-novices and a few lay people who came to pay their respect to a man they admired. Fr. Leo will be fondly remembered for his generous service throughout the province and his kind spirit. Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord! And, let perpetual light shine upon him.
Today I am in Watsonville to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the parish community of Our Lady Help of Christians. I will preside at the evening Mass, at the parish, for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This feast is celebrated in most of our parishes where there is a large Latino population. It is a beloved feast which attracts thousands of devotees to her shrine and to parishes and holy sites where she is being honored. A sign of the times is to pay attention to what is happening around us and be with the people who come to venerate our Lady and reaffirm their faith in her care and motherly tender love. “Que viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! VIVA!”
On December 13th, I will drive to Los Angeles for a Salesian Family Retreat being held on Saturday, the 14th at St. John Bosco High School. And, on Sunday, I will drive up to St. Luke’s, Stockton, for our Provincial Council meeting and meeting with the province delegates.
A happy and prayer-filled Advent to all of you. And, may our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast we celebrate this Thursday and who was declared patroness of the Americas by Pope Pius XII, continue to bless and guide us through this Advent journey.
With warm regards and gratitude,