Dear OSJ Family,

 As we celebrate the last Sunday of Advent, we rejoice for Emmanuel, God is with us! Sadly, in the last few weeks we have seen how some people, in the face of the atrocities that have occurred both globally and nationally, have unfairly and inappropriately lashed out at people of several faith traditions and have disrespected God’s abiding presence by disrespecting God’s people.  I think of the so called “Evangelical Christians” that stormed several Catholic parishes in Las Vegas last week striking fear and anxiety into the hearts of worshippers at Mass as they shouted “the Pope is Satan” and “Repent, Catholics are idol worshippers.” These erroneous claims and offensive slurs, right in our very churches, are an affront to our religious freedom and violate our right to worship God in freedom and without fear of provocation and persecution. God knows that our early Catholics in the US, and in this very parish, a National Shrine of Religious Liberty, labored to overcome such discrimination against our Church and our most deeply held beliefs.

Closer to home, the thoughtless act of desecration at Al Aqsa Mosque in North Philadelphia where a severed pig’s head was tossed at the doors of the mosque two weeks ago has left people of all faiths saddened and further committed to rallying against such bigotry and harassment. I, myself, was happy to sign a letter issued by representatives of our Parish Council, Adult Education and Social Justice Committees that pledged our prayers and solidarity with the faith community at Al Aqsa in the face of such hatred and animosity.  Our letter echoed similar words of the Religious Council of Philadelphia, of which our Archbishop is a key member, and that of the Archdiocese. The OSJ letter accurately stated so well: “Our early history (at OSJ) includes being viewed as unwanted outsiders with attempts to prevent our worship. The Quakers extended their hand in friendship to us which was essential in our ability to establish a spiritual home. We now extend our hand to you.”  What a beautiful gesture of true Christian fraternity and charity. I am very proud of the words and deeds of these parishioners and so many in our community, yet another reason that our parish is such a wonderful community of faith. Copies of the letter are on our website and are available in the back of church.

With this, let us then continue to “extend our hands” to those in need of our prayers, service, and friendship and let us pray that the Newborn King, Jesus Christ, will continue to help our world to heal and to shed His glorious light amid the darkness that often surrounds us.

God bless us one and ALL!

With my esteem and prayers,

© 2015 Fr. Philip Florio, S.J.