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Lenten Reflection for Tuesday, March 26, 2013 by Karen Bond

Parishioner Karen Bond wrote this for Tuesday, March 26, and due to my own backlog, I did not get to post it until now. I hope that you will read this and be as moved as I was. Her story about someone who discovers our parish and starts to attend mass, has moved me tremendously. Thank you Karen, your open heart is a gift – and you are most welcome. We hope that all know that they are welcome here. And thank you Karen!

pewI wanted to write something for today’s Pastoral Postings, but the words aren’t coming as easily as I had expected (or wanted) them to. I chose today’s date because it was one that was very significant to me.

One year ago today I began attending daily Mass during the week. It kind of came about accidentally, but in the last year, I’ve discovered that nothing is accidental.

Every day that I attended, I discovered something new about the Lord, the church and myself.

For one thing, I became calmer. I wasn’t looking for it, but it was a definite change in my mindset.

It began on my drives to church in the mornings. They had the effect of washing away the troubles and the bad part of the last night and the morning. I wasn’t trying to get rid of it, but my mind would clear itself and when I arrived at the church door, I was ready for whatever message was coming my way.

For another thing, more likely than not there was a question in my mind, a struggle, something that I needed help with and had nowhere to go, and nine times out of ten, the answer was there in the Mass. If it wasn’t in the Gospel or the Responsorial, it was in the homily.

As a child and young person growing up, I wasn’t Catholic, so the few times I would attend church for friends, for weddings or funerals, it was awkward. I was awkward. I understood nothing, I never knew when to stand, when to sit, when my eyes should be open or closed. How did everyone know what to say and when? I was uncomfortable whenever Jesus was mentioned.

However, from my first day here at Mass, I wasn’t awkward. I wasn’t looked at strangely. I was welcomed. I felt welcomed. My questions were welcomed. No one cared that I wasn’t Catholic, and they went out of their way to explain anything to me that I asked about. I was allowed to explore my faith and myself and the pieces of the church that I had never seen before or been exposed to, and discovered much more than a place to rest my depression or simply a place to go.
I still didn’t know what to do, but it didn’t matter. I stood when the person in front of me stood, and sat when they sat. When they turned to shake my hand, I shook theirs, and in that moment of touch, it was like a bolt of lightning. I felt my face alight with a smile and joy filled my soul and I looked forward to that touch every day; the connection as our eyes met, our hands met. I would close my hand and keep that touch in there for as long as I could. It gave me energy. It gave me hope. It gave me promise and purpose and love. And I held it close.

When I would forget, I could just close my hand and it would be back again.

One year ago I took refuge in the pews of the church, usually empty save for me or the occasional visit by the grounds keeper. Before I began attending the Masses, I would just sit and read the daily prayers in the Missal. I was lost and at a loss and just in the sitting and talking to G-d, I found something. I hadn’t realized it at the time; it took several months to realize how important my mornings with G-d meant to me and how they changed me in a positive way.
In the year since that first day, I have found many more readings that fit into my daily life and give me guidance and a hand to hold when I’m feeling alone.

Mass is not an obligation to me. I look forward to the Mass. And I’m never alone.

I have this deeper understanding of who Jesus Christ was and is and where He fits into my life. It is more comfort than I think I have ever felt.

The beginning of today’s Psalm reminds me of why I started coming and why I come nearly every day:
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
R. I will sing of your salvation.

It’s hot in here! A Lenten reflection

In today’s first reading we hear the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and their visit to the fiery furnace. This tale has a powerful message for all of us, just like all Scripture does, if we simply stop and listen, holding the words in our hearts.

15-01-02/ 4

This image is from the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome, Italy.

What would you do if faced with serving another god and making homage to an idolatrous statue and by doing so, reject God? And let’s up the ante… the punishment for not doing this would be a horrifying death in the fiery furnace?

If you are like me, perhaps you will say that you would never reject God. Well, that may be the case for you, but if I even think about this for a minute, I can see just where and how I reject God all day long. Perhaps it is even worse, because I do it so mindlessly, God forgive me.

We are at a critical point in our Lenten journey with Jesus. Jerusalem is calling to us; not a fiery furnace, but the cross awaits us, just as it awaits Jesus. Certain death. Suddenly this whole Christian thing is looking very uncomfortable. Very, very uncomfortable.

Most likely, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, could have rationalized their way out of this. I know that I could! “Le’s see, I think. I ‘pretend’ to follow King Nebuchadnezzar’s god, and when I get out, I will make good on what I have done wrong! Phew! No fiery furnace for me!”

Now as our new Pope Francis recently reminded us that “the Lord never tires of forgiving,” true enough. However, do we ever tire of making the wrong choices? I know that I feel like I tire of making them, but somehow, I… keep… making… them… *sigh*

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are a reminder, forerunners of Christ, of what happens when we make the correct choice. Often we lose it all – or seemingly so. Do we really lose it? Or do we gain? If our life is solely grounded in the material, then forget it. If we are solely grounded in how many hours we spend in church or in prayer, looking up at God, we might want to forget that, also. Once again, we find ourselves in the great both/and of life. We have certain obligations and responsibilities to our material life, true enough. And wouldn’t we want time in church and in prayer?

How do we hold the tension between heaven and earth and make the correct choices? Sometimes we have to choose the most difficult thing. Jesus lived that for us, he died for us. There were many before him who foreshadow what was to come, from Moses to Abraham to – I could go on and on – and including, our three friends in the hot spot.

This Sunday we will hear the Passion, and then we enter Holy Week. What awaits us? The same things that awaited Jesus. Choices between life and death, with the counter-intuitive choice of death bringing new life.

The fiery furnace and the Cross attract me, but do I really choose them? Luckily for us, our tireless God forgives us, but ultimately our choice will have to be made.

What will we do?

Thy will, not my will

blahblahblah2In today’s Gospel

Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Well, that is pretty clear, isn’t it? Sometimes I begin to pray and do I ever ramble.

Just like me in Continue reading

Fast day? I’ll have the rocky road, please!

In 1990, I went on a pilgrimage* as a means of thanksgiving for something that had happened. One day, I was part of a small group attempting to climb a path strewn with rocks, on a very, very hot day.

Someone decided, quite sincerely as I recall, that they should go up on their knees, an idea that lasted about sixty seconds. Others were known for doing it, so this person thought it was possible desirable even. I must admit, I agreed, but I was not going to try it.

A discussion of this practice began as we stopped to rest; it was a very hot day as I recall. Our guide, who had led people up and down this path many times, very gently asked why any of us thought we should do this. A few answers sprung up, most of them saying that we thought that God wanted us to make sacrifices. She shook her head, I recall thinking that her large blue eyes looked like seas of compassion, and she said that maybe we shouldn’t always be deciding what God wants. She went on to say that what if God wanted us to go home and forgive the person we had the greatest grudge against, rather than climb rocks on our knees?

Our small group fell silent. Who wanted to do that?

Can’t we climb rocks on our knees, please? I’ll have the rocky road, please!

Today’s first reading delivered me back to that rocky path in an instant, as I read these words from Isaiah 58: Continue reading

Thursday, February 14 – Lenten Reflection by Sean Caron

Mt. Nebo, Jordan. Where Moses addresses the people about to cross the Jordan, into the promised land.

Mt. Nebo, Jordan. Where Moses is believed to have addressed the people, about to cross the Jordan River to the promised land.

L’Chaim! To Life!

(today’s readings found here)Today’s readings resound with calls to Life. I think it’s interesting to see how the various Biblical Authors address the topic of life in these readings.In Deuteronomy, Moses speaks of a “long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Dt 30:20).  He also promises, “and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy” (Dt  30:16).For Moses, and in the Old Testament in general, the concept of “Life” often refer to “life on the land” – life lived here in the earthly kingdom – lived richly and well in the praise of God. Think here of “a land flowing with milk and honey”(Ex 33:3)! Promises also extend to the earthy future to the decedents of Israel living in the promised land.

David, too, picks up this theme in Psalm 1:

He is like a tree planted near running water, That yields its fruit in due season,and whose leaves never fade.Whatever he does, prospers.

These are beautiful promises, and they inspire Continue reading

Wanted: You. By whom? God.

(Originally published at the Times Union.)
What is it about Ash Wednesday? What calls so many people into church? Is it the desire to show off our marked foreheads? If so, that runs in contradiction to today’s Gospel.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;

But I got my ashes, shouldn’t people know? I mean, how can they not know?

I thought that I was announcing the Good News via the smudge on my forehead! Hey! Look! I went to church today and I am sorry for my sins! Can’t you see that? Continue reading

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