We are currently embarking on our First Sunday in Advent. Of all the sacred seasons of the Church, Advent is the first four weeks in preparation before Christmas. Advent is a time of spiritual preparation in which believers (like us) ready themselves for the coming of the Lord. Advent typically involves prayer, silence, fasting and repentance in anticipation of holy days of hope and joy to come. Advent is celebrated not only by thanking God for Christ’s first coming at his birth, but also for his presence among us through the Holy Spirit today, and as well as his coming at the end of time. All these things come together as one; an awareness of the three-fold dimension of our faith in Christ. The word, “Advent” comes from the Latin word “Adventus” meaning “arrival” or “coming” of something very important. Advent began sometime in the 4th century as a time of preparation for Epiphany, not Christmas! Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the Magi and the Baptism of our Lord. At this time in history, new Christians were also baptized and received into the Faith, so the early Church instituted this 40 day period of fasting and prayer before. Later, in the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great was the first to associate this season with the coming of Christ for those of us who are already in the Church. Originally, it was not the coming of the Christ-child but rather the Second coming of Christ at the end of time. By the Middle Ages the Church extended the celebration of Advent to what we know today in preparation for Christmas. The prophecies of Isaiah remind us to prepare and wait. By December 17th, the pace quickens as we focus more directly on the events that surround Jesus’ historical birth. So you see with Advent we embrace a whole history of development in theology: past, present, and future as well. Here’s hoping your Advent season is one of true peace, of silent hope in our God! Shifting gears a bit on a more practical level, I feel I need to clarify some questions regarding the availability of our Staff members from both St. Peter and St. Paul as well as myself as your Pastor. This is directed toward those who may want to contact us. We live in a world much different from what it was even 30-40-50 years ago today. Gone are the days when both our parishes were staffed by 2-3 priests/priest associates. Gone also are the days when our holy Religious Sisters were made available to minister directly to many members of both parishes. With both financial and personnel constraints, sad to say, we are limited in our ability to respond in instantaneous ways. Today, we have 1 priest and 2 volunteer deacons along with a number of part-time lay staff including secretary, liturgists, faith formation, bookkeepers, parish nurse, maintenance staff, and other volunteers who do a wonderful job, but who have other varied responsibilities and commitments as well. Because of the new challenges we face, our Main Office has been “closed” on Fridays for the past several years. This is not to say, no one is working in the office, but it is really a time for staff to catch up on some of their work or simply not to put in so many paid hours. I personally am in the office off and on 6 days a week. Whenever we receive a call for questions or information our goal is to respond to these needs directly and in a timely way. This also would include any emergency with which our own St. Cloud Hospital Chaplains can help. Calling early always helps. Again, gone are the days when people can expect an immediate response, but we do try to do our best. This being said, I ask for your patience and support and help. The parish of today, the 21st century requires that we become “church” to each other in any situation that arises. We are, after all, all “the Body of Christ” and so everyone, to some extent, by their baptism is commissioned by Christ to be ministers to one another, to comfort, to support, to inform, and to work together for the good of all. Overall, I must say everyone has been doing their best, and most people are very supportive, understanding, and willing to do their part. Thank you and May God bless!