Service Matters – First Week of Advent

2 December 2013

First Week of Advent


A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, 

DeSales Service Works welcomes volunteers to join 

in service, prayer, and learning in our struggling neighborhood.



  •  Service Word
  •  Last Week in Camden
  •  Upcoming Events
  •  Links


1. Service Word       Isaiah 11:1-10

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,

and from his roots a bud shall blossom.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:

a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

a spirit of counsel and of strength,

a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,

and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Not by appearance shall he judge,

nor by hearsay shall he decide,

but he shall judge the poor with justice,

and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.


The backyard of the DSW house in North Camden offers an oasis that contrasts with the afflicted land that is our alley, and the drugs and dark spirits that have too much reign outside the fence.   There is a basketball hoop, a place to gather around a fire pit, and a beautiful garden.


As a gardener, my favorite part is that garden, with a statue of Mary holding her infant Son surrounded by vigorous herbs and perennials that take hold and grow beautiful each season.


Several tropical and mediterranean plants in big pots—oleander, hibiscus, bougainvillea, jasmine—need to be brought inside each fall.    We store them in the moist, cool cellar.  The plants go dormant, escaping the bitter cold, and avoiding the harsh cycle of freeze and thaw that would be the end of these tender plants.   By January the basement garden looks unpromising—lifeless stumps, dead leaves, bare branches.


Last winter some high school kids in the CASA  youth group were getting tools out of the basement with me for some project.   One, Chris, asked about the “dead plants,” as he called them.    I corrected him, “They’re not dead; they’re sleeping.”


A funny kid, he observed, “OK, that’s what they tell you about your pet or something when it’s dead: ‘It’s just asleep.’”


Much in life demands that we act on faith that there is life, hope, and potential—despite appearances.   This applies to slumbering plants, to a teen who is unresponsive, to someone addicted to poison sold on our streets, to people spending the winter with no place to take shelter, to a broken city.


I’ve been working closely with Don again.   As of the First Sunday of Advent, 2013, he counts 24 days sober.   Will the dormant stump sprout? the bud blossom?—going forward will he have a life free of crack cocaine?


I hope so, and work and pray for that.    But I try to remember that each positive moment counts—whether the 24 days will grow one minute at a time to 24 years—or not.    Wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, fear of the Lord—the gifts of the Holy Spirit sprout and stand against the drama, death, and darkness.


-In your life now are there any situations, people, relationships where you simply have to act in hope—no results visible?

-Can you observe the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your choices and attitudes today?

-Do you agree with me about the value of moments of grace and good—even in the face of prevailing sin and darkness?



2. Last Week in Camden

The work continued on the grounds at Joseph’s House, clearing the desert and making a straight pathway for the Lord—to apply the fitting imagery of Advent to our work.  The project is made possible by a generous friend who has a great heart for the poor and for our community.


The entire Cristo Rey school community had a day of service Wednesday.   Seventeen students and three adults came to Camden and worked with sandwich ministry preparing food, and giving out clothing—and Francis de Sales quotes.



3. Upcoming Week

Seven members of Holy Infant Parish in Durham, NC, will be here for an extra long weekend, Thursday to Tuesday.



4. Links

Pope Francis’ letter to the whole Church has gained wide notice because of its insight, practical worth and positive focus.   Read Evangelii gaudium—The Joy of the Gospel.


Two of my favorite public voices: America magazine’s Jim Martin, SJ, and Scott Simon from NPR’s Weekend Edition, Saturday, discuss Pope Francis’ letter and offer a summary.


Have a great week,

Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS

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