Daily Advent Reflections

Start your day off right. Be inspired and renewed each morning with a brief reflection from Fr. Joseph Illo and a short video from Dr. Tim Gray.

Advent day 27, Dec. 23, 2022
This will be my last Advent email to you all, for tomorrow we enter the Christmas season. On December 24 there will be three Christmas Masses: the 1962 missal Mass for the Vigil of Christmas at 12noon, the 2003 missal Vigil Mass of Christmasat 6pm, and the Mass at Midnight from the 1962 missal. I hope you all had a beautiful Advent, and I wish you a merry and blessed Christmas season. Today will be a quiet day at the parish, and I will take the time to finish my Christmas cards, catch up on some reading, and visit the creche scenes of a few beautiful churches in town. I thank all who took the time to read my Advent reflections and spend quality time in prayer during these last four weeks. My gratitude as well to those who sent cards and gifts to the rectory, including many home-baked tokens of your heartfelt esteem and respect for parish and clergy.
In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth gives birth to John the Baptist, and all the villagers “rejoiced with her.” One of the most damning lies of atheistic feminism is that motherhood enslaves women. Christian feminism, rather, cherishes and supports women in their natural gifts of conceiving, giving birth, and nurturing children. Supporting women and children is a fundamental commitment of this Catholic parish in a city with precious few children. The many benefactors of our parish school, which provides the very best education of the whole child at a fraction of the cost of public education, is one proof of that support.  Five parish families that I know of are poised, on this day before Christmas, to bring a child to birth. We rejoice in this gift of new life right here at Star of the Sea!
The Mass schedule in the parish Christmas card did not mention the noon Mass tomorrow. Also, a few mothers have told me that a 6pm Vigil Mass is too late for their children (I’ll move it back to 4:30pm next year). Here is the Mass schedule for December 24:
8:30am English Advent Mass12noon Latin Christmas Vigil Mass3:15pm Confessions5pm      Lessons and Carols5:45pm English Vigil Mass12am    Latin Mass at Midnight
And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection: Advent Day 27 (Dec 23)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

Advent day 26, Dec. 22, 2022
It’s hard to believe that we are already 26 days into Advent. When Christmas falls on a Sunday, as it does this year, we have four full weeks of Advent. For 26 days we have been preparing for the Nativity, and now Christmas is only three days away.
Remember how, as children, we simply could not wait for Christmas to come? We trembled with joy and excitement as the Christmas tree appeared in the living room and gifts began to pile up underneath. Brightly-wrapped presents and glittering Christmas lights sparked in our children’s hearts a real Christian anticipation of Christ’s coming. Simple Christmas joy is a Christian culture’s gift to all the children of the world, announcing the good news that God is greater than all fear and sadness. A Christmas tree proclaims that “a light shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Our culture, having mostly lost its simple Christian faith, is in a dark place right now. All of us, disappointed with government and Church leadership alike, bitterly divided by politics and the culture wars, are tempted to isolate and despair. So it was at the time of the first Christmas, when Mary spoke her Magnificat (today’s Gospel reading). For generations the Hebrew people had been suffering war and disease and poverty, and many had given up the faith. But Our Lady sang these words as she felt the baby Jesus coming to life within her: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” 
Under your Christmas tree there is a gift. It is Christ, the Lord. He has come to save you.
And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection: Advent Day 26 (Dec 22)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

Advent day 25, Dec. 21, 2022
Over the last three weeks, the Advent liturgies have focused on Christ’s Second Coming as supreme judge, in awesome and terrible glory. From December 17 the readings shift to the Birth of Christ (today’s Gospel is the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, and the first meeting of their unborn children). 
Every morning, before facing the day’s troubles, I read a chapter of the Bible, from Genesis to Apocalypse. Since there are 1,189 chapters in the Bible, it takes me about three years to go through the entire Book of Books. This morning I read Our Lord’s description of the end times in Matthew 24:21: “For then there will be great distress such as, until now, since the world began, there never has been, nor ever will be again.” Let the reader understand. On the Day the Lord returns to render final justice, the terrible crimes and sins of priest and people alike will be burned away by fire, and who can survive that judgement? 
We usually don’t take Christ’s warnings as urgent. We will probably die in our beds, or perhaps sedated in a “care facility,” before those fearsome days take place. But after death each of us will held accountable for what we did in the flesh, and that Day will come upon each of us. Verse 22 continues: “And if that time had not been shortened, no one would have survived. But shortened that time shall be, for the sake of those who are chosen.” We cling to the First Coming of Christ, the irresistible smile of Jesus from His cradle in Bethlehem, in order to endure the Second Coming of that same Christ. God will render justice; he will “purify the sons of Levi” by fire, and not one of us will survive it, unless we take refuge in the Sacred Heart of the Babe in Bethlehem.
And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection: Advent Day 25 (Dec 21)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

Advent day 24, Dec. 20, 2022
The scriptures today both speak of “virgins” or “maidens.” Isaiah 7 prophecies that, in years to come, “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” Luke 1 tells the story of a “virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph.” Although sadly not normal today, God’s perfect plan is that every  women should be a virgin at the moment she allows her husband to join himself to her for the first time. 
In marriage, of course, she does not remain a virgin: she undergoes all the joys and sorrows, the glories and indignities, of being a wife and mother. Our Lady, however, remained a virgin. The Mother of Christ was given a singular grace to remain free of the messy business of marriage in a fallen world, but she also cooperated with this grace without compromise. She said Yes to the angel once, but she kept living that vow of wholehearted and free surrender to the Divine Will. She was a virgin once, and she remained a virgin. We also can regain our innocence, starting today, by joining the Blessed Virgin Mary in saying Yes to God, even when He demands much of us.
And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection: Advent Day 24 (Dec 20)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

Advent day 22, Dec. 18, 2022
Yesterday morning I was in a very snowy Yosemite Valley with priest friends, so you didn’t get a daily Advent email from your unworthy pastor. 
Today begins the “Christmas season of Advent,” the first of nine days counting down to the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. I celebrated the first of nine Simbang Gabi Masses (the second will be at St. Dominic’s tonight at 5:30pm), the Filipino Christmas novena open to all people of good will. My thanks to FAASTAR, our Filipino group, for a heartwarming reception last night after Mass, and to Mariella for helping set up. My thanks also to our Young Adults who decorated the wall on 8thAvenue and other parts of the campus for Christmas. Thelma and her crew set up the manger scene and Christmas trees in the church this morning at 6am!
Today the Archbishop is on campus for an Advent Day of Recollection, but he will also lead a Eucharistic Holy Hour at the Cathedral from 10am-11am, with a Dominican friar preaching on the Blessed Sacrament. Join me in praying at the cathedral this morning with him! And this afternoon Mary Ann Carr Wilson (who gave a lovely Advent recital last night with our organist Lynn) will teach her chant workshop in the gym from 12:30-4pm. Such joy!
And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection from yesterday: Advent Day 20 (Dec 16)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

Advent day 21, Dec. 17, 2022
Yesterday morning I was in a very snowy Yosemite Valley with priest friends, so you didn’t get a daily Advent email from your unworthy pastor. 
Today begins the “Christmas season of Advent,” the first of nine days counting down to the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. I celebrated the first of nine Simbang Gabi Masses (the second will be at St. Dominic’s tonight at 5:30pm), the Filipino Christmas novena open to all people of good will. My thanks to FAASTAR, our Filipino group, for a heartwarming reception last night after Mass, and to Mariella for helping set up. My thanks also to our Young Adults who decorated the wall on 8thAvenue and other parts of the campus for Christmas. Thelma and her crew set up the manger scene and Christmas trees in the church this morning at 6am!
Today the Archbishop is on campus for an Advent Day of Recollection, but he will also lead a Eucharistic Holy Hour at the Cathedral from 10am-11am, with a Dominican friar preaching on the Blessed Sacrament. Join me in praying at the cathedral this morning with him! And this afternoon Mary Ann Carr Wilson (who gave a lovely Advent recital last night with our organist Lynn) will teach her chant workshop in the gym from 12:30-4pm. Such joy!
And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection from yesterday: Advent Day 20 (Dec 16)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 19, December 15, 2022

In two days we move into the second part of Advent, focused on the First Coming of Christ in Bethlehem. I will offer the first of the nine Simbang Gabi Advent Masses tomorrow at 6pm (we thank our dear Filipino’s for providing a reception after the Mass). As of December 17, we can good and truly begin thinking about Christmas, and you have my permission to put up a Christmas tree (but don’t turn on the lights until Christmas Eve!). As of December 17, you have my blessing to hold a Christmas party. The Archbishop will be having his “Advent Party” on Dec 18, along with other groups of my friends all next week. Christmas trees (unlit) will appear in the church this weekend.

But… we are not at December 17 yet. Today we are still in the first part of Advent, focused on the Second Coming of Christ with great power and glory, on the clouds surrounded by fearsome angels, “to judge the world by fire,” at the end of time. If you have not yet made a good Advent confession, in preparation for this Second Coming, now would be a good time to do it. If you haven’t yet fasted, today or tomorrow (the last day of Advent Part One, which just happens to fall on a Friday) would be a good day to do it. God have mercy on us all!And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection for today: Advent Day 19 (Dec 15)

God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 18, December 14, 2022
Yesterday I received a Christmas letter from an old friend, Fr. Bernard Murphy, who recently gave a retreat in Rome. He described a visit to the Little Sisters of Jesus, near Tre Fontane, where St. Paul was martyred. “We entered a brightly lit wooden chapel bathed in the setting autumn sun. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed, arrayed with six candles and adored by a few attentive young adults…. The air had a faint scent of incense; I felt as though wrapped in a warm cloud of His Immanence. All I could sense in my mind and heart was ‘He is here; He is here; He is truly here!’”
How many of us have been wrapped in that same cloud of God’s Immanence while in the adoration chapel! In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the people to “go and tell what you have seen and heard….” We have seen God both in the Sacraments and in our strong community, and we have heard Him in the silence of our chapel. We must tell people that God is truly here, that they may share our joy. Abiding peace and love are here for all who ask, on Geary Boulevard. Thanks be to God that we have found Him! We must work hard at our faith, lest we lose Him, and we must work hard at witnessing to His Presence, that others may find Him.
And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection for today: Advent Day 18 (Dec 14)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 17, December 13, 2022
Today we commemorate St. Lucy, the saint of light (her name comes from the Latin word luxlucis, for “light”). Lucy is one of a half dozen Roman virgin martyrs, along with Saints Agnes, Agatha, Cecilia, etc. She died in 304 during the Diocletian persecutions, at the age of 21, and is celebrated on the old Winter Solstice, December 13 (before the calendar was adjusted in 1582). In Scandinavian countries, which have particularly cold and dark winters, St. Lucy’s Day is celebrated with processions of young women bearing lighted candles in their hair.
A similar arrangement can be seen in the Advent “Rorate Caeli” liturgies, Advent Masses celebrated in the coldest and darkest time of night (just before dawn). The altar and books are illuminated only by candlelight, manifesting the first words of the Mass, “rorate caeli” (from Isaiah 45:8)—”let the Savior drop down from heaven like dew”—like starlight from heaven to light up our dark earth. The Archbishop will be celebrating his annual Rorate Caeli Mass at the cathedral tomorrow at 5:30am, and I will be celebrating our Rorate Caeli Mass on December 20 at 7am. Last Advent we lit 85 candles to illuminate our vast church for the Rorate Mass. Rather than curse the darkness, let we light candles—lots of them!
And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection for today: Advent Day 17 (Dec 13)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 16, December 12, 2022
Happy and Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A dear group of Mexican parishioners woke me up at 5:30 this morning by singing to La Guadalupanaoutside my window! Let us pray our novena prayer one more time: Father of Mercies, on Tepeyac Hill you placed the Americas under the maternal heart of the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her servant St. Juan Diego, convert our hearts to the one true God, by whom all things live, that we may rejoice in eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
In the image imprinted on Juan Diego’s tilma this day in 1531, Our Lady is with child, indicated by the black sash encircling her womb. Our Lady’s robe is covered with flowers with many petals, but there is only one four-petal flower—right below the sash, over her womb. It is the “sunflower,” sacred to the indigenous Mexica people, marking the supreme divinity, the sun god, marked by the sacred number four. This sun god, so they believed, demanded daily human sacrifice in order to rise every morning, bringing light, warmth, and heat to the earth. 
In the image of the Holy Mother, the defeated indigenous people, and the conquering Spaniards as well, came to see that not the sun, nor gold, nor any other good thing on earth, compares with the Son of God. “I am the mother of the one true God,” she told Juan Diego, “by whom all things live.” There is only one God, and rather than demand human sacrifice from others, He Himself became human to provide One Sacrifice. Only the blood of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, can expiate the sins of men and save the world. 
Juan Diego built a little chapel for the image of the Holy Mother, then built a little hut for himself, and for the rest of his life told people what he had seen and heard. His name in the Aztec language, after all, is Cuauhtlatoatzin, “the eagle who speaks.” 3000 fellow Mexicas a day came to see the Holy Mother, to hear her words from Juan Diego, and to be baptized into the faith of her Son. And the beloved Mexica people began to offer the One Sacrifice, together with the humbled Spanish people, with whom they had been reconciled by the Mother of God. They began to offer the Sacrifice of Jesus on the altars of Mexico.
And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection for today: Advent Day 16 (Dec 12)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 15, December 11, 2022
In today’s Gaudete Mass prophecies (Ordinary Form Masses, first reading, from Isaiah 35; Extraordinary Form Masses, Gospel, from John 1), God promises that “the desert will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song.” That is exactly what happened on a little hill in the desert of Mexico on December 12, 1531. A beautiful woman, clothed with the sun, wrapped in a mantle of stars with the moon under her feet, appeared to a poor little indigenous man of great faith, whose name was Juan Diego. The cactus bloomed with abundant colors and the birds sang in marvelous song as the sun was about to rise, according to Juan’s testimony. 
On this Sunday of joy, when your priests clothe themselves in rose-colored vestments, “let nothing frighten or disturb you,” for is she not here who is your mother? God has sent his own Mother to be our mother, and that is why we will celebrate His Goodness with holy Mass today, and every day of our lives. Tomorrow the Masses for Our Lady of Guadalupe will be 7am with our schoolchildren in English, noon in English, and 6pm in Latin. Happy Feast Day!
Our novena prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe: Father of Mercies, on Tepeyac Hill you placed the Americas under the maternal heart of the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her servant St. Juan Diego, convert our hearts to the one true God, by whom all things live, that we may rejoice in eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. Amen.And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection for today: Advent Day 15 (Dec 11)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 14, December 10, 2022
Oops. I didn’t get my daily Advent email out yesterday, mostly because I was at a Carmelite Monastery (without my computer) for my monthly Day of Silence. When I returned to the parish in the afternoon things were so busy that I just forgot; my apologies.
Yesterday was the Feast of St. Juan Diego, the short, elderly, illiterate ambassador of the Queen of Heaven whose simple fidelity to her request brought the peace of Jesus Christ to the American continent. By God’s grace, Juan Diego’s humility achieved what the Imperial Spanish government could not do by force of politics and weapons. Juan, who indigenous name “Cuauhtlatoatzin” means eagle who speaks, spent the rest of his life at Tepeyac telling pilgrims what God had done for him. 3000 Mexican people a day came to see “the Mother of the One True God by whom all things live,” and to be baptized. 
Today we celebrate Our Lady of Loretto, a celebration of home. The Holy House of Loretto, like Juan Diego’s little hermitage beside the chapel of the tilma at Guadalupe, is a home away from home, a place of rest on the arduous path to heaven. Please join me in prayer for Kailash Duraiswami and Lily Sin, whom I will join in holy matrimony at 12noon today, in the presence of our Archbishop. They move to Denver to build a home as they continue their pilgrimage together to our true home in heaven.
Our novena prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe: Father of Mercies, on Tepeyac Hill you placed the Americas under the maternal heart of the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her servant St. Juan Diego, convert our hearts to the one true God, by whom all things live, that we may rejoice in eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. Amen.And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s Advent reflection for today: Advent Day 14 (Dec 10)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 12, December 8, 2022
Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, commemorating the conception of Mary in her mother’s womb, fourteen years or so before Mary herself conceived the Christ in her womb. Mary’s mother, St. Anne, was also singularly blessed, as was her father St. Joachim, to conceive a child with no stain of original sin. We all have been conceived in original sin, which causes so much sadness, but we have the hope of reaching God someday through the grace of Christ flowing through Mary.
I was preparing for an Inner Life radio program on Relevant Radio this morning, on which we will speak about God’s grace and the Immaculate Conception, when I found this from St. Therese’s “Last Conversations” before she died at age 24: “Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our father’s love – difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens, her needs – everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace because everything is God’s gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events to the heart that loves, all is well.” You must practice the little virtues. This is sometimes difficult, but God never refuses the first grace—courage for self-conquest; and if the soul correspond to that grace, she at once finds herself in God’s sunlight.”
Our Masses today will be at 7am in Latin, 10:15 in English with our schoolchildren, noon in English, and 6pm in English. And here is Our novena prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe: Father of Mercies, on Tepeyac Hill you placed the Americas under the maternal heart of the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her servant St. Juan Diego, convert our hearts to the one true God, by whom all things live, that we may rejoice in eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 11, December 7, 2022
As we move toward Christmas we celebrate several Feasts of Our Lady. Tomorrow is the Immaculate Conception, with a low Latin Mass at 7am, a sung school Mass at 10:15 with special guests from the newest Chesterton Academy High School, a sung English Mass at noon and sung English Mass at 6pm. On Saturday Fr. Sebastian will offer a special “Consecrate California” Mass at 10am, part of the statewide effort to dedicate California to Our Lady with Masses all over the state. More information HERE. Also on Saturday the Archbishop will be at our parish for the sung Nuptial Mass of two of our young adults, Kailash Durai and Lily Sin, at 12noon. They invite all the parish, but ask us please to dress appropriately for a wedding.
Next week, on December 12, we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe with our school Mass at 7am followed by a Mexican breakfast in the auditorium as school children put on a little skit of Our Lady’s visit to Juan Diego in 1531. The noon Mass will be in English and a 6pm Low Mass in Latin. Our two Simbang Gabi Filipino Masses will be December 16 at 6pm, and December 19 at 6pm. Following the Dec 19 Mass our school will put on their Christmas Concert in the auditorium, with refreshments.
Our novena prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe: Father of Mercies, on Tepeyac Hill you placed the Americas under the maternal heart of the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her servant St. Juan Diego, convert our hearts to the one true God, by whom all things live, that we may rejoice in eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. Amen.And is Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for today: Advent Day 11 (Dec 7)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 10, December 6, 2022
Today we celebrate St. Nicholas, the fatherly bishop of Myra (then a Greek city near the sea, now the Turkish city of Demre). Yesterday I told our schoolchildren how, around the year 310, he quietly left gifts at night for three poor women, saving them from misery. The children looked up in wonder as they made the connection: “Saint Nicholas … Santa Claus!” St. Nicholas provided for his people during the Great Persecution of the Emperor Diocletian. Today the Church is again under persecution, but in more subtle ways. Clever use of digital media trivializes the Gospel, cheap products and contemptible entertainment corrupt our hearts, and many Catholics have apostatized. Faithful clergy and parents ask what can be done as their children lose the joy of faith, becoming vacant-eyed dependents on their i-phones.  
The good bishop Nicholas did not lose his joy. Many families in our own parish have not lost the joy of knowing Jesus either. Parents and priests who constantly look to God will always be able to provide good gifts for their children. St. Nicholas, pray for us!
Our novena prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe: Father of Mercies, on Tepeyac Hill you placed the Americas under the maternal heart of the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her servant St. Juan Diego, convert our hearts to the one true God, by whom all things live, that we may rejoice in eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
And is Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for today: Advent Day 10 (Dec 6)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 9, December 5, 2022
Advent is a preparation for the Incarnation in three ways. We are preparing for Christmas, the liturgical feast of the Word Made Flesh in Bethlehem. We are also preparing for the Second Coming of Christ, when He will come in his flesh with great power and glory. But there’s a third “incarnation” for which we prepare, and this is the Eucharist. Advent focuses us on the Blessed Sacrament, both in prayerfully assisting at Holy Mass and in silently keeping watch in Eucharistic adoration. This Advent, give a gift to Jesus, either in daily Mass once a week or in scheduling a weekly holy hour. The Word Made Flesh will repay you many times over for every hour you give to Him.
Let us pray our novena prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe today: Father of Mercies, on Tepeyac Hill you placed the Americas under the maternal heart of the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her servant St. Juan Diego, convert our hearts to the one true God, by whom all things live, that we may rejoice in eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
And is Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for today: Advent Day 9 (Dec 5)

ADVENT DAY 8, December 4, 2022
On my birthdays (today is my 61st) I would always call Mom and Dad to thank them (I’ll call Dad later today). I would be most grateful if you would say a Hail Mary for my mother’s soul (she died last year) and for my father’s good cheer (he’s 96). And I will keep your dear parents in my heart during today’s morning Masses!
One of my fondest Advent memories was our holiday bazaar at my childhood school, St. Jerome’s in West Long Branch, New Jersey. We 2nd graders sang Away in the Manger after Sunday Mass and then everyone went a-browsing. I bought a handmade mug for 25 cents, my first very own cup, a premonition of the chalice I would lift up one day in the Holy Mass. Our parish school, Stella Maris Academy, hosts our holiday bazar today from 9am-3pm, so stop by after morning Mass for some interesting treasures. 
Today, we begin our parish novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The priests will lead this prayer after all Masses until December 12:  Father of Mercies, on Tepeyac Hill you placed the Americas under the maternal heart of the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her servant St. Juan Diego, convert our hearts to the one true God, by whom all things live, that we may rejoice in eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
And is Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for today: Advent Day 8 (Dec 4)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 7, December 3, 2022
Today is the First Saturday of the new liturgical year, so let us honor Our Lady by praying the joyful mysteries of the rosary (I will lead the joyful mysteries after the 8:30am Mass today; we pray the rosary after every weekday Mass). At the 2017 San Francisco Rosary Rally, Archbishop Cordileone consecrated the Archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the 100th anniversary of her apparitions at Fatima. He asked four things of “every Catholic in the Archdiocese of San Francisco:” 1) to pray the rosary daily individually and weekly as a family 2) to do penance every Friday, such as fasting or abstinence 3) to make a good confession every month 4) to do a weekly holy hour in Eucharistic adoration. You can read the his brief letter “Living the Consecration” HERE.
The family that prays together stays together; the parish that prays together stays together; the nation that prays together stays together. If our families, parishes, and country seem to be coming apart at the seams, the solution is simple, as the Archbishop pointed out. Pray the rosary!
Here is Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for today: Advent Day 7 (Dec 3)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 6, December 2, 2022
Last night some friends took me to the Andrea Bocelli concert at the Chase Center. “It’s been a long time since I haven’t been to San Francisco,” the tenor said in his charming Italian-English. Twenty thousand packed the stadium to see this gifted man who has been completely blind from age 12. Bocelli’s superb talent thrills audiences but it is his faith in God, refined through suffering, that fills a stadium.
Bocelli chose to sing almost entirely sacred music at his Christmas concert. Behind him, big screens showed pictures of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph between interior shots of magnificent Catholic churches. As he filled the stadium with Adeste Fideles, we had the impression of being within a great cathedral. He had transformed the Chase Center into a house of God with 20,000 worshippers. Getting away with his in secular San Francisco was clever and wonderful!
God took away Andrea Bocelli’s sight as a boy, but in his blindness he strove to see God in the darkness. Two blind men in today’s gospel beg Jesus to heal their sight, and he says in effect that their faith had already healed them. Bocelli is not perfect, but he believes in Jesus the Lord. His life and art point to the one thing necessary for every human life: to believe and trust in God.
Here is Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for today: Advent Day 6 (Dec 2)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 5, December 1, 2022
Let me be one of the first to welcome you to the month of December. Yesterday I began a short novena to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, and on Dec 4 I will add a novena prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe. We priests will pray the Guadalupe novena after all Masses from December 4 to December 12. 
We celebrate Guadalupe four days after the Immaculate Conception, and in fact Juan Diego was on his way to the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1531 (then celebrated on December 9) when the Immaculate Conception herself intercepted him! She said “I am the mother of the one true God, through whom all things live.” The Spanish and Indigenous peoples had become trapped in a war of mutual destruction, so the true God sent his Mother to rescue her all children from death. Truly beautiful are these Advent feasts, when Mary is preparing to give birth to her firstborn Son, the Lord of Life and Prince of Peace.
Here is Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for today: Advent Day 5 (Dec 1)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT DAY 4, November 30, 2022
The last day of November is the Feast of St. Andrew, the quiet man who introduced the first pope to Jesus but seemed destined to walk in his brother Peter’s shadow. Like Peter, Andrew died for Christ on a cross, although one shaped like an X (St. Andrew’s Cross is found on many national flags, especially that of Scotland).
Today I will begin the novena to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception for the conversion of our parish. St. John Vianney, model for all parish priests, prayed all his life for the conversion of his parish, and his prayers were answered. By the grace of the Almighty God, I hope to die having sacrificed my life for the conversion of the souls entrusted to me as a parish priest. 
This my daily prayer until December 8: “O God, who preserved the Blessed Virgin from every stain by virtue of the Death of your Son, may we at Star of the Sea Parish, through the intercession of the Immaculate Conception, be cleansed of our sins and welcomed into your presence forever in heaven, through our Christ Lord. Amen.”
And here is Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for today: Advent Day 4 (Nov 30)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, November 29, 2022
Today’s first Mass reading, from Isaiah 11, repeats the phrase “that day” several times. “On that day, the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the baby will play at the adder’s lair.” But … when will “that day” of universal love ever come? Some thought the era of love and peace had arrived in 1967, especially here in San Francisco, at the “summer of love” in Golden Gate Park, four blocks from our parish. But see how quickly “free love” degenerated into drug addiction, violence, and disappointment. When will God’s promise of  universal love ever come to us? 
God frequently asks us, in these Advent scriptures to “wait” for Him. The Bible uses the word sperare in Latin, meaning both “to wait” and “to hope for.” Yes, things are bad at the moment. The Church herself seems to be in collapsing under the weight of internal corruption. And if Christ’s Church is corrupt, how can the rest of culture function well? Well, we just have to wait, in hope, and be patient. Waiting hopefully means not just waiting for something to happen. It means prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, workingin faith for the Second Coming of the Messiah.
Here is Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for today: Advent Day 3 (Nov 29) God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, November 28, 2022
This first part of Advent (until December 17) focuses on the Second Coming of Christ. We are in a time of waiting, like the Jewish People before Christ. We too are waiting for our Messiah! But I, for one, grow impatient—how can God simply look on while his Holy Church and the world around us continue to decline? We are tempted to lose faith, as many of our children, friends, and relatives already have. Those who have stopped receiving the sacraments do not outright deny God, but they’ve given up on waiting for Him. They’ve lost hope in Messiah, turning to the “real world” of entertainment, money, work, politics, drugs or drink or food to make life bearable. I confess that it’s hard for me to get out of bed some mornings, especially in late middle age, when the new day will almost certainly bring the same old disappointments and frustrations. 
In today’s first Mass reading, from Isaiah 4:2, the Lord promises Israel a new day: “On that day….” It’s a favorite Biblical phrase, in dies illa, “on that day”, God promises us, “I will return, I will bring all truth, beauty, and justice to those who have waited for me.” This day, the second day of Advent, I will believe in His Second Coming. I will wait, I will hope, and I will expect His Return on “that day.”
Tomorrow I will tell you about the verb sperare (“to wait”) in the Bible. Meanwhile, here is Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for today: Advent Day 2 (Nov 28)
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, November 27, 2022

Dear Friends,
Yesterday evening you received the first of 30 daily emails I will send you throughout this season of Advent. Each email will include a link to Dr. Tim Gray’s 4-minute reflection for that day of Advent on the Formed.org platform. Here is today’s link: Advent Day 1 (Nov 27)
From now on I will send these emails before I go down for morning Mass so that you have it in your inbox before your morning wash up, coffee and drive to work (does anyone drive to work anymore?).
I will also include a few thoughts of my own for that day, such as these:
Many of you are returning to your homes after Thanksgiving week with your families, so I point out Our Lord’s most arresting command from today’s Sunday gospel: “Stay Awake!”  Stay away at the wheel as your drive home tonight! But stay awake at the wheel of life too. Advent prepares us for the “coming” of Christ, whether that happens on the day of our death or whether we make it alive to the Second Coming. Staying Awake is keeping our eyes on the prize, keeping our hopes on heaven, seeing the big picture, and playing the long game, which is eternal life. Friends, our eternity must be with God in heaven, not without Him in hell. So Stay Awake!
God bless you, Fr. Joseph Illo 

ADVENT FIRST VIGIL MASS, November 26, 2022

Dear Friends,
Tonight Fr. Michael offered the very first Mass of the new liturgical year, the vigil Mass for the First Sunday of Advent. Our sanctuary elves had scampered about all afternoon adorning the altar for the season, and Fr. Michael read Our Lord’s first words for the new year, from the Gospel according to St. Matthew: “The Son of Man will come.” I simply can’t wait for His arrival, when the Messiah will bring us all into Heaven with the Holy Trinity, the angels, and all the saints. May He come soon! And may He find us ready to go with Him when He does come!
Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Augustine Institute in Denver, has prepared a 4-minute video for each day until Christmas, beginning tomorrow. You may draw wisdom and joy from his reflections, and here is his introductory video: Three keys to a special Advent
Each morning until Christmas, I will send a brief email to you with a thought of my own, a picture of the day, and a link for Dr. Gray’s daily video. 
Happy New Year, Blessed Advent, and thank you for being part of our parish community.
Fr. Joseph Illo