What do we hope for in this new year of 2022? Certainly, we continue to suffer the effects of the pandemic. COVID-19 has exposed many of the hidden maladies of our society, including a widespread sense of isolation and a desperate yearning for meaning and purpose in life. We have seen how social alienation is easily co-opted by political movements and ideologies that foment resentment and hatred toward this or that group, rather than gratitude to God and charity towards neighbor. My hope for this year is that as the pandemic subsides our parish might continue to grow as an authentic community of faith and mutual charity. For this to happen, we must remember that our Catholic faith is the most important thing that we share in common. It is more essential to our identity than our ethnicities, our languages, and socio-economic status. More than anything else, our faith should inform our politics and the way we do our jobs and the way we raise our families and live in our neighborhoods. Unfortunately, we’re not accustomed to thinking that way, which requires a conversion of heart.
But conversion is mysterious – even a little bit frightening. There is no “silver bullet” device of our own making that will lead to a sudden and widespread change of heart. God is in control, not us. But there are a few things that I think would help us to build up our community this year and open us more to the movement of grace. The first thing we must do is love others enough to persistently invite them to come back to Sunday Mass. Many have not yet returned, and we must reach out to them. I would also encourage parishioners who currently come on Sundays to start coming to daily Mass too, even if just once or twice a week. Going to daily Mass will change your life. If our 7:30am daily Mass doesn’t work for you, we are blessed in Stamford with plenty of other options in nearby parishes. Regular sacramental confession (at least every 3 months) and Eucharistic adoration are also life-changing. I would also encourage people to get involved in one of the many groups we have in our parish – Men’s Ministry, Bible Study, the Knights of Columbus, the Columbiettes, Youth Group, Spiritual Reading Group, Hospitality Ministry, and others.
We also must begin to cultivate a greater sense of our identity as members of the Church even when we’re not in church. My hope is that our families resolve to pray together more often this year, especially husbands and wives. I may be mistaken, but I suspect that many husbands and wives do not pray together. It might feel awkward at first or difficult to find the time, but Matrimony is a sacrament through which the spouses are supposed to grow in holiness together, so it’s important to pray not just as a family but as a couple. My hope is also that groups of friends from our parish will begin to pray and learn the faith together. It could be as simple as remembering to say grace before sharing a meal. Or it could be gathering a group of friends at someone’s home to say the rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet, or to read and discuss a good book on Catholic spirituality (there are some good options available in the kiosk located in the vestibule of St. Cecilia’s). These types of things strengthen the bonds of Christian friendship that exist among members of our parish, which would have the effect of creating an atmosphere of authentic joy and mutual charity in our community, grounded in a shared and living faith in Christ. This is something that people desire, and seeing it in us they will want to be part of it. These are some of my hopes for 2022. I pray it will be a year filled with blessings for you, your loved ones, and our parish.