Search Results for: december 8, 2013

December 8, 2013

Scouting at St. Raymonds. In May of this year the Boy Scouts of America reversed its long standing policy on Scouting membership and same-sex attraction. The new policy, effective January 1, 2014, now prohibits packs and troops from denying membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

Before that May decision I had publicly stated that this change would cause me to end St. Raymond’s relationship with BSA. Since then, however, I have remained largely silent, responding to Bishop Loverde’s request that pastors refrain from any action until he gave us his formal guidance. Unfortunately, other important matters have understandably delayed the Bishop in issuing this guidance, and my long silence caused some confusion among St. Raymond’s scouting families. Ultimately, as more and more families made plans to join other packs and troops, I felt compelled to speak more frankly to the parents about my intentions, but always with the proviso: “depending on what the Bishop says.”

But time has run out on me: the charter for both St. Raymond’s Cub Scout Pack 683 and the Boy Scout Troop 683 will expire on December 31, and the Pack and Troop will be dissolved.

To be clear, it was my decision not to renew the charters. Few decisions in my priesthood have been so heart wrenching as this. BSA has provided boys many rich opportunities for personal growth for over a hundred years—in particular for our boys these last few years. But this new policy changes everything.

I in no way condemn or hold any ill will towards those who disagree with me—either other pastors, parents or scout leaders. While this deals with objective truths, it comes down to a prudential judgment. I respect those who disagree with my prudential judgment, and I particularly respect parents for doing what they think best for their children, but I could not respect myself if I did not do what I thought was right for my flock.

And let me thank all the scout leaders who have served the parish pack and troop so well and so long—there are too many to name here. I can’t tell you how much I deeply respect, admire and appreciate all you’ve done for our boys—all the sacrifices, dedication and love. I can’t thank you enough.

Trail Life USA. Some look at our Pack and Troop and see the Boy Scouts of America. But I see a ministry of St Raymond’s that has partnered with Scouts to serve our parish boys. Now that partnership ends, but the ministry will continue with a new partner, and I invite all the boys, parents and leaders to stay with us as we take on that new partner: Trail Life USA.

“Trail Life USA is a Christian adventure, character, and leadership program for young men. [It] centers on outdoor experiences that build a young man’s skills and allow him to grow on a personal level and as a role model and leader for his peers…Trail Life is a journey established on timeless values derived from the Bible. …Our vision is to be the premier national character development organization for young men which produces Godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens. …Our mission is …to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure.” (http://www.traillifeusa.com)

A group of parents has already begun the process of obtaining a TL charter for the parish, and I have pledged them my total support. There will be a meeting for interested parents (whether currently in scouting or not) on Monday 16 December, 7:15pm, in the Parish Hall.

I am very excited about this new partnership, and very hopeful that, with God’s grace, this will begin an exciting new chapter in our parish ministry to youth.

New Youth Director. Speaking of which, I am very pleased to announce that Jeanne Sause will be joining our staff as Director of the Youth Apostolate effective December 30. Jeanne is originally from upstate New York and is a graduate of Franciscan University in Steubenville. After graduation she travelled around the country as a NET Missionary for one year giving retreats to 4th-12th graders. After that she taught for three years in a Catholic grade school in Minnesota. She also has very extensive volunteer experience in organizing youth programs and retreats in New York and New Jersey.

And I’m very excited to have Jeanne join the parish, and thank the Lord Jesus for bringing her to us. May He bless her and our parish as we move forward in serving our youth and bringing them closer to Him.

Lessons and Carols Tonight. Remember to join me, the choir and the lectors for Lessons and Carols tonight at 6:30 in the church. Every year, as the word spreads, we get a larger turn out for this joyful and prayerful event. Part of its charm is its uniqueness—there’s really nothing else like it all year. And also, its peacefulness in the busyness of the “holiday season”: hearing the inspiring and joyful prophecies of the Old Testament and the first lessons of the Gospel, along with the beautiful strains of the choir—and the congregation—singing treasured carols and hymns, some so comfortably familiar, others thrillingly new to our ears and hearts. Please come join us!

Advent Series: Prayer. All are invited to join me this Thursday evening at 7:30 in the Parish Hall for my Advent Series: “Prayer: In Conversation with God.” This week’s topic will be “Praying with the Church,” as we spend some time discussing the Rosary and then have an introduction to the “Liturgy of the Hours.” Many Catholics are unfamiliar with the “Liturgy of the Hours” (or the “Divine Office”) but it is the prayer, anchored by the Psalms, that priests, religious sisters and brothers, and nuns and monks pray 5 to 7 times a day. The two “hinges” of this liturgy are “Lauds” and “Vespers,” or “Morning Prayer” and “Evening Prayer.” Come and learn more—whether you’re an experienced prayer looking for guidance or a beginner looking for new instruments to deepen your prayer life.

Senior’s Lunch. I want to remind all our seniors to join us on Saturday, December 14, for our annual Seniors’ Christmas Luncheon. Please call the office for more details. I look forward to seeing you there.

Correction. Two weeks ago I wrote about 2 disgusting ads promoting Obamacare (“My health care covers the pill…,” and “Don’t tap into your beer money to cover those medical bills…”), saying that they were government sponsored. That was incorrect. They were sponsored by independent groups. But they were still disgusting.

December 29, 2013

[Note, due to Christmas, this week’s bulletin deadline was December 20.]

Thanks. On behalf of the whole parish, I’d like to thank all those who have worked extra hard to make Advent and Christmas an extra special time in the parish. In particular the choir, cantors, musicians and Elisabeth Turco for all the beautiful music (very sorry y’all practiced so hard for Lessons & Carols and the snow canceled you out!). The Youth Group, especially for their work on Breakfast with Santa, all the volunteers who worked on the Senior Lunch (particularly Patty Miller). The Knights of Columbus, especially Grand Knight Mike Mullen, for all they did in so many ways, especially with the Christmas Trees and Christmas Cards. The various sacristans, especially Nena Brennan, for all their work in preparing the sanctuary for Masses. To the various ladies on our new flower committee, for all their hard work in decorating the church. To the ushers who helped make everything run so smoothly. To all those who contributed so much in time and treasure to the Giving Tree. To all those who assisted in special ways at the Mass, especially the altar boys (led by Mark Arbeen), lectors (led by Phil Bettwy), extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (led by Barbara Aldridge and Christine Spengler). A special thanks to our dedicated staff, Maria Ammirati, Mary Butler, Paul DeRosa, Patti Eckels, and Kirsti Tyson, who worked so hard to make everything come together so smoothly. And finally, most especially to my brother priests, Fr. Joseph Kenna, Fr. Paul Quang Nguyen and Fr. Jerry Daly, and also Fr. Paul Scalia, for their dedication in service to Our Lord and our parish. I know I’ve left out lots of groups and names that deserve special thanks; my apologies. Thank you all.

New Youth Director. This Monday, December 30, Jeanne Sause joins our parish as our new Director of the Youth Apostolate. I’m sure you will all welcome her with open arms. Sometime in the next few weeks, as things have settled down from Christmas etc., we will give her a more formal welcome. In the meantime, keep her in your prayers as she begins her service in the parish.

Year End Donations. If you are looking to make year end charitable donations I would recommend one of the following organizations: the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic Charities of Arlington, House of Mercy, Project Rachel, Gabriel Project, AAA Women for Choice (a pro-life group in Manassas), Mary’s Shelter (a shelter for pregnant women in crisis in Fredericksburg), the Poor Clares, and Angelus Academy. Also, one of my personal favorite charities is St. Dominic Monastery in Linden, VA, my dear cloistered Dominican sisters who pray for our parish daily. And of course, St. Raymond’s itself … still that big debt to pay off …

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Blessed John Paul II, Homily for Solemnity of the Holy Family, December 31, 1978, (the first of his papacy)

The Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, that is, the present Sunday, unites, in the liturgy, the solemn memory of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph …

The family of Nazareth, which the Church, especially in today’s liturgy, puts before the eyes of all families, really constitutes that culminating point of reference for the holiness of every human family. The history of this Family is described very concisely in the pages of the Gospel. We get to know only a few events in its life. However what we learn is sufficient to be able to involve the fundamental moments in the life of every family, and to show that dimension, to which all men who live a family life are called: fathers, mothers, parents, children …

The deepest human problems are connected with the family. It constitutes the primary, fundamental and irreplaceable community for man. “The mission of being the primary vital cell of society has been given to the family by God himself”, the Second Vatican Council affirms. (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11). The Church wishes to bear a particular witness to that too during the Octave of Christmas, by means of the feast of the Holy Family. She wishes to recall that the fundamental values, which cannot be violated without incalculable harm of a moral nature, are bound up with the family. Material perspectives and the “economico-social” point of view often prevail over the principles of Christian and even human morality. It is not enough, then, to express only regret. It is necessary to defend these fundamental values tenaciously and firmly, because their violation does incalculable harm to society and, in the last analysis, to man. No experience of the different nations in the history of mankind, as well as our contemporary experience, can serve as an argument to reaffirm this painful truth, that is, that it is easy, in the fundamental sphere of human existence in which the role of the family is decisive, to destroy essential values, while it is very difficult to reconstruct these values.

What are these values? If we had to answer this question adequately, it would be necessary to indicate the whole hierarchy and the set of values which define and condition one another. But trying to express ourself concisely, let us say that here it is a question of two fundamental values which fall strictly into the context of what we call “conjugal love”. The first of them is the value of the person which is expressed in absolute mutual faithfulness until death: the faithfulness of the husband to his wife and of the wife to her husband. The consequence of this affirmation of the value of the person, which is expressed in the mutual relationship between husband and wife, must also be respect for the personal value of the new life, that is, of the child, from the first moment of his conception.

The Church can never dispense herself from the obligation of guarding these two fundamental values, connected with the vocation of the family. Custody of them was entrusted to the Church by Christ, in such a way as leaves no doubt. At the same time, the self-evidence of these values—humanly understood— is such that the Church, defending them, sees herself as the spokesman of true human dignity: of the good of the person, of the family, of the nations.

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Anno Domini 2014. As we look forward to the beginning of the New Year of the Lord 2014, may the Christ Child shower you with His grace, may His Blessed Mother Mary keep you in her tender embrace, and may St. Joseph protect you in all you do. Blessed and Merry Christmas, and Holy and Happy New Year!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

December 1, 2013

Advent. In the last week or so most of you receive copies of our Bishop’s (Most Rev. Paul Loverde) pastoral letter on the New Evangelization: “Go Forth with Hearts on Fire.” This couldn’t come at a more opportune time as today we begin the Season of Advent, 4 weeks preparing for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. A time of preparing to celebrate the introduction of Christ to the world, the beginning of the proclamation of the Good News of our salvation. So Christmas is, in part, the celebration of the Original Evangelizing. So as we take the next 4 weeks to prepare for Christmas we must see these weeks in the context of evangelization—of sharing the Good News of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with all around us.

I often lament how the world around us has turned the days from Thanksgiving to December 25 into a time of nonstop Christmas-sales, shopping, specials on cable, songs on radio, and, of course, Christmas-parties. All this can tend to turn the Advent season of preparation into a pre-mature Christmas celebration, virtually making superfluous the actual season of Christmas that begins on December 25 and runs for 3 weeks after that.

We have to be careful of getting caught up in that secular celebration, especially to the extent it omits Christ himself from the celebration. Advent must remain for us, first and foremost, a season of preparation to celebration. And by that I meant we need to spend time thinking and praying about the reason we celebrate Christmas with such joy: that we are sinners, but that God has not left us in our sins. That in spite of all the bad and stupid things we do to offend God and our neighbor, God so loves us that He entered the world as a tiny baby so he could truly be one of us, and communicate that love so dramatically: person to person, offering each of us a personal relationship with Him. So that the preparation of Advent must be a time of remembering our sins, and opening ourselves and our whole lives to the love of Christ. It is only with this sort of preparation that we can begin to understand and experience the true joy of this most magnificent gift.

But note, this joy should build in us throughout our preparation—as we become more prepared, we become more joyful. So that there is nothing wrong if even in the midst of the penance and prayer of Advent we also increasingly partake of the joy of Advent. But we must not confuse the Advent joy of Christ with the sentimental feelings of the secular “yuletide” season. Rather, we should transform the secular fun by our Advent Christian joy. And in this context we can share the true meaning of Advent and Christmas with everyone around us: sharing the good news of the Original Evangelization with the world, the New Evangelization. So that while we go about our shopping and partying and caroling we never lose sight of either our sins or the one who so lovingly forgives them. And we never waste the opportunity to share this “Good News of Great Joy” with those around us who clearly are so desperately in need of it.

As your spiritual father, I beg you, don’t waste this Advent! Remember, before you share true Advent joy you must first [re]discover it yourself through preparation. Here are some suggestions for how to do this:
–Christians always prepare for Holy Days by doing penance. In Advent this shouldn’t take on anything near the severity of Lent, but we should do some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more important than Christ, and that everything we do is for Him.
–Add extra prayers to your daily routine. The Rosary is an excellent addition to our prayers, especially meditating on the Joyful Mysteries, or at least praying one decade every day, meditating on one of the Joyful Mysteries.
–Reading Scripture is an excellent way to renew your faith in Christ. Perhaps challenge yourself to choose one of the Gospels and read at least one chapter a day throughout Advent.
–Of course, charitable giving is a great way to prepare for the gift of the Baby Jesus. While it is a fine practice to give presents to people we love, it is an even better practice to give to those who do not know us and cannot give anything back to us. So make sure you make generous charitable gifts—either directly to those in need or to worthy charitable projects/institutions. The parish Giving Tree is one good way to do this, as are some of the special collections.
–Receiving the grace of the sacraments is one of the most important things you can do in Advent. Consider coming to Mass and Adoration during the week, and make sure you go to Confession. Once again, we will have confessions every weekday evening during Advent.
–Most importantly, live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Remember, Jesus said, “if you love me you will keep my commandments,” so follow the 10 Commandments and live out the Beatitudes. Forgive others, and be kind, patient, generous, and encouraging.
–Also: take part in the many special events and liturgies scheduled in the parish this Advent. Please find the insert of the Schedule of “Advent & Christmas 2013 Events” in this bulletin, look it over carefully and keep in somewhere central in your house (on the fridge door?).

Two parish “special events” I’d like to call your attention to in particular are:
Lessons and Carols. Next Sunday, December 8, I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir at 6:30pm for a program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings, called “Lessons and Carols.” Weaving together prophetic readings from the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, the readers lay out God’s breathtaking plan for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular hymns and stretching their vocal wings in a few more complicated choral pieces. Don’t miss this truly special event.
Advent Series. How can we have the personal relationship Christ wants to have with us if we don’t talk and listen to Him? So I invite you all to attend my Advent Series on the 3 Thursday evenings of Advent: “Prayer: In Conversation with God” The first session this Thursday will look at the basics of prayer: the why, how, when and where of prayer. This will be a good refresher for experienced pray-ers and a good introduction for those just beginning. Please see the bulletin insert for further info.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

November 24, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan. I want to begin this week by thanking all of you who contributed to last week’s second collection for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines suffering from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. I was a little concerned about surprising you with this collection, but decided to go ahead with it considering the immediate emergency need. And you responded in amazing fashion: we collected over $17,000, one of the parish’s largest second collections ever. For those of you who were unable to contribute last week we will continue to accept donations for the next few weeks, forwarding them to Catholic Relief Services. Thank you for your continuing generosity. And please remember to keep the Philippines in your prayers.

I am also keenly aware that many members of our parish may have friends or family back in the Philippines who may have been effected by the Typhoon. If there is anything more that the parish can do for you or them, please do not hesitate to bring it to my attention.

Obamacare. I really don’t want to wade into politics here, but I am distressed by some of the developments of the last few weeks related to Obamacare. Of course the worst is the lie our president and so many senators and representatives told us that if we like our insurance or doctor we could keep them. We have all come to expect politicians to exaggerate in trying to sell their programs to us, but this lie was really over the top. In any case, it reminds us how lying is becoming more acceptable to us when we are trying to get what we want. But the overwhelming negative reaction reminds us that lying is still a terrible thing. It completely destroys the trust necessary to building and keeping unity and friendship, whether in a nation or among individuals. Perhaps this is why trust in government is at an all-time low. Perhaps this is why there are so many problems in society too: lies, whether in advertising or social propaganda or in individual relationships, are taking their toll.

Speaking of advertising, a second distressing development related to Obamacare is the advertisements our government is using to encourage young people to sign up. In one ad a young woman is standing next to a young man saying: “Let’s get physical. OMG, he’s hot! My health care covers the pill…,” and then goes on to express her raunchy desires about the guy. Is our government promoting health insurance or promiscuous sex? And what is it with the pill and this administration? And don’t they realize that you and I read this and say, “I don’t want to pay for her immoral lifestyle, not to mention her physically unhealthily lifestyle?” This promotion of a physically unhealthy lifestyle just to sell their program is repeated in a second ad that shows three young men surrounding a beer keg (one with the hose in his mouth), saying, “Don’t tap into your beer money to cover those medical bills. We got it covered.” Seriously? Why spend your beer money on doctors, when you can let some hardworking middle class family pay for it out of their budget? And get drunk and don’t worry about the consequences, someone else will pay for it.

Maybe it’s not so much about healthcare. Maybe South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn explains it best: “what we’re trying to do is change a values system in our country.” Indeed.

Advent. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, as we prepare spiritually for the celebration of the birth of our Saviour at Christmas. In the very good busyness of Thanksgiving week, please take some time to plan ahead for Advent so that it will truly be a time of holiness, not merely the shopping time between Black Friday and Santa Claus Day.

Next weekend we will have an insert with the full schedule of Advent events but please plan on you and your family taking particular advantage of the increased confession opportunities (every weekday evening from 6:15 to 7:00) as well as the many existing opportunities for weekday Mass.

Also, I invite you all to attend the Advent Series on “Prayer: In Conversation with God” that I will be giving every Thursday in Advent. We’ll begin the first week discussing prayer in general: why we pray, how to pray, etc. The second week we’ll focus on making use of the powerful prayers the Church gives us, briefly revisiting the Rosary and introducing you to the basics of how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the beautiful prayers the priests, monks and nuns say five times during every day. Finally, in the third week we’ll discuss how to get more out of the Mass by actually praying the Mass with Christ and His Church. I’m looking forward to teaching this series and to seeing all of you there!

I also ask you to put another Advent event on your calendars: “Lessons & Carols” on Sunday, December 8, at 6:30pm. Please join me, the lectors and the choir at 6:30pm for a program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings, this year especially focusing on the Blessed Mother, as it falls on her Feast (Immaculate Conception). It’s a great way to help put things in their proper context this Advent.

Thanksgiving. Although it’s been a trying year in many respects, we all still have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, me especially. I thank the Good Lord Jesus for His saving love and grace that He continues to shower on me. I thank Him for my priesthood, especially the power to offer His sacrifice at the altar and to forgive sins in His name. I thank Him for my family who is always so supportive of me, and for the help of my brother priests, especially Fr. Kenna, Fr. Nguyen, and Fr. Daly (and the increasingly helpful Fr. Scalia). But most of all this year I thank Him for entrusting me with this parish, and with all of you, my spiritual children. Every year, no matter how difficult, is a year of grace from God that merits a devout and continuous thanksgiving from His people. Thanks be to Jesus Christ, now and forever! And a happy and safe Thanksgiving to you all of you and your families!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

October 13, 2013

Religious Persecution. Over the last few years I have often written and preached about the rise of religious persecution, at home and abroad. And I hope you have noticed the weekly short news article in this bulletin under the caption ìChurch Persecuted.î But somehow none of this seems to be enough. As Pope Francis said recently: ìSo many Christians in the world are sufferingÖ.Am I indifferent to that, or does it affect me like itís a member of the family?… Does it touch my heart, or doesnít it really affect me, so many brothers and sisters in the family are giving their lives for Jesus Christ?î
On September 27, 2013, Kirsten Powers published an excellent article on this subject in The Daily Beast. Powers and I disagree on many things, but agree on this issue. This is not a democrat or republican issue, nor a conservative or liberal issue. It is not even merely a Christian issue. Rather it is an issue that all people of goodwill and common sense should oppose from the rooftops. I publish her article in total.

A Global Slaughter of Christians, but Americaís Churches Stay Silent by Kirsten Powers

Christians in the Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded, and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity. One would think this horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of American churches. Not so. The silence has been nearly deafening.

As Egyptís Copts have battled the worst attacks on the Christian minority since the 14th century, the bad news for Christians in the region keeps coming. On Sunday, Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 85 worshippers at All Saintsí church, which has stood since 1883 in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan. Christians were also the target of Islamic fanatics in the attack on a shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya, this week that killed more than 70 people. The Associated Press reported that the Somali Islamic militant group al-Shabab ìconfirmed witness accounts that gunmen separated Muslims from other people and let the Muslims go free.î The captives were asked questions about Islam. If they couldnít answer, they were shot.

In Syria, Christians are under attack by Islamist rebels and fear extinction if Bashar al-Assad falls. This month, rebels overran the historic Christian town of Maalula, where many of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The AFP reported that a resident of Maalula called her fiancÈís cell and was told by member of the Free Syrian Army that they gave him a chance to convert to Islam and he refused. So they slit his throat.

Nina Shea, an international human-rights lawyer and expert on religious persecution, testified in 2011 before Congress regarding the fate of Iraqi Christians, two-thirds of whom have vanished from the country. They have either been murdered or fled in fear for their lives. Said Shea: ì[I]n August 2004 Ö five churches were bombed in Baghdad and Mosul. On a single day in July 2009, seven churches were bombed in Baghdad Ö The archbishop of Mosul, was kidnapped and killed in early 2008. A bus convoy of Christian students were violently assaulted. Christians Ö have been raped, tortured, kidnapped, beheaded, and evicted from their homes Öî

Lela Gilbert is the author of Saturday People, Sunday People, which details the expulsion of 850,000 Jews who fled or were forced to leave Muslim countries in the mid-20th century. The title of her book comes from an Islamist slogan, ìFirst the Saturday People, then the Sunday People,î which means ìfirst we kill the Jews, then we kill the Christians.î Gilbert wrote recently that her Jewish friends and neighbors in Israel ìare shocked but not entirely surprisedî by the attacks on Christians in the Middle East. ìThey are rather puzzled, however, by what appears to be a lack of anxiety, action, or advocacy on the part of Western Christians.î

As they should be. It is inexplicable. American Christians are quite able to organize around issues that concern them. Yet religious persecution appears not to have grabbed their attention, despite worldwide media coverage of the atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

Itís no surprise that Jews seem to understand the gravity of the situation the best. In December 2011, Britainís chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, addressed Parliament saying, ìI have followed the fate of Christians in the Middle East for years, appalled at what is happening, surprised and distressed Ö that it is not more widely known.î ìIt was Martin Luther King who said, ëIn the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.í That is why I felt I could not be silent today.î

Wolf has complained loudly of the State Departmentís lack of attention to religious persecution, but is anybody listening?

Yet so many Western Christians are silent. In January, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) penned a letter to 300 Catholic and Protestant leaders complaining about their lack of engagement. ìCan you, as a leader in the church, help?î he wrote. ìAre you pained by these accounts of persecution? Will you use your sphere of influence to raise the profile of this issueóbe it through a sermon, writing or media interview?î

There have been far too few takers.

Wolf and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) sponsored legislation last year to create a special envoy at the State Department to advocate for religious minorities in the Middle East and South-Central Asia. It passed in the House overwhelmingly, but died in the Senate. Imagine the difference an outcry from constituents might have made. The legislation was reintroduced in January and again passed the House easily. It now sits in the Senate. According to the office of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the sponsor of the bill there, there is no date set for it to be taken up.

Wolf has complained loudly of the State Departmentís lack of attention to religious persecution, but is anybody listening? When American leaders meet with the Saudi government, where is the public outcry demanding they confront the Saudis for fomenting hatred of Christians, Jews, and even Muslim minorities through their propagandistic tracts and textbooks? In the debate on Syria, why has the fate of Christians and other religious minorities been almost completely ignored?

In his letter challenging U.S. religious leaders, Wolf quoted Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed for his efforts in the Nazi resistance: ìSilence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

That pretty well sums it up.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

April 28, 2013

Boy Scouts of America and “Gays.” After months of taking criticism for proposing to admit active homosexuals as adult scouting leaders, volunteers, and members (boys), last week BSA announced they are changing their proposal (which still must be approved at their National Annual Meeting next month). The new proposal drops the change regarding adult homosexuals, but still provides that: “No youth may be denied membership …on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” While this at first seems like a victory for Christians, it isn’t really.

What has happened here is the typical strategy that leftist-activists have been using for decades to change traditional institutions. First, they make outrageous and sweeping demands to change the institution in a way that radically contradicts its values. Then, they argue that any opposition to change is fueled by bigotry and hate, appealing to and manipulating the traditional values (charity and kindness) of the institution’s members and society at large. And finally, they pretend to grant a major concession, backing away from their most radical demands, but leaving one important change on the table. The activists thereby paint themselves as “reasonable” and “willing to compromise,” and the institution’s members feel relieved and obliged to go along—and even feel like “winners.” But when you lose something important to you, that has always been unquestionably yours, you are, by definition, not “winners,” but “losers.”

The current policy of BSA is this:

“While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of …members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

That is completely just, charitable and kind. But the new policy, if approved in May, would be a statement that “gay is okay,” and would severely limit (if not completely prohibit) chartering organizations, like St. Raymond’s, from passing on its moral teachings about same-sex attraction and homosexuals.

In short, this new proposal does not change my previously announced decision: if it is adopted by BSA next month, St. Raymond’s association with BSA will end (effective in September). I continue to pray and hope that this does not happen. But if it does, I will give all the support I can to forming a new scouting group, independent of BSA, that will defend Christian values.

Dominican Nuns. On a much happier note…On Sunday, April 14, a small group of St. Raymond parishioners joined me at a dinner to raise awareness of the work of St. Dominic’s Monastery in Linden, VA, and to help raise funds in its support. I’m not a big fan of these kinds of dinners, but I go to quite a few to support worthy causes. But this dinner was different. First, because I feel very close to the Monastery and its work (I am one of its two confessors); and second, because no one from the Monastery was at the dinner! That’s because the Monastery is the home of 14 cloistered Dominican Nuns, whose work is to pursue a hidden life of worship, silence, prayer, study and penance. Like the Franciscan Poor Clares in Alexandria, these sisters never leave the enclosure of the convent except for absolutely essential reasons. Their life is totally dedicated to Christ.

While some say this form of life is a “waste of life,” the opposite is true. These sisters’ life and work embodies the greatest commandment: “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” Moreover, their community life together and their prayers for us embody the second greatest: “love your neighbor as yourself.” (They constantly assure me of their intercession for our parish, especially invoking our Dominican patron St. Raymond). And by their total pursuit of Christ and His love they set a striking example for all of us: while we do not all belong in cloistered monasteries, they remind us, in a radical way, to answer the call to love God and our neighbor in our own daily lives in the world.

I invite you to consider a visit to their mountain top Monastery in Linden (out near Front Royal), and to support the good sisters by your prayers. And if you are so inclined, you might consider supporting them financially. See their website: http://www.lindenopnuns.org/.

By the way, St. Raymond’s donated $5,000 at the dinner, and the dear Sisters personally asked me to pass on their deep gratitude to all of you.

Angelus Academy. St. Raymond’s has had a close relationship with Angelus Academy for over a decade. Before our church was dedicated in December of 1996, a lot of parish activities took place at Angelus’ facility, including daily Mass and weekly Religious Education (CCD). That close relationship was altered by the opening of the church (with the parish hall and classrooms) but it has not diminished the spirit of mutual support and cooperation between us: e.g., around 40% of Angelus’s students are our parishioners, the parish continues to lend it financial support, I am their chaplain, and Fr. Kenna and I offer Mass for the students once a week.

While I am supportive of all our children in whatever school they attend—public, private or Catholic—I especially recommend that children attend good Catholic schools, and particularly that parents consider Angelus Academy. Next Sunday, May 5, Angelus will be sponsoring our “Donut Sunday” in the parish hall (after all morning Masses) and representatives of the school will be on hand to share information and answer questions. Please join us.

Thanks. Marlene and Junior DiCola, long-time stalwarts of the parish, active in Legion of Mary, Adoration and many other activities. In particular, they have been responsible for coordinating the parish’s efforts of accepting (and sorting and delivering) donations of clothing to the House of Mercy in Manassas every week for the last 7 years. Marlene and Junior are stepping down from that responsibility now due to health concerns. But they will remain active in the parish. We thank them for their good and holy work—and especially for their holy example to us.

Remember: committed volunteering in the parish, done out of love for Christ and our neighbor, can be a source of great spiritual growth. What are you volunteering for?

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

January 5, 2014

Epiphany. Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, commemorating the visit and adoration of the magi to Christ in Bethlehem. It has historically been celebrated on January 6th since at least the 3rd century, but is celebrated in the U.S. on the Sunday falling between January 2nd and January 8th (inclusive). In the Orthodox Church and many of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches it also, effectively, celebrates the birth of Our Lord, i.e., Christmas. The visit of the magi is rich in symbolic meanings for Christians, first of which is as the revealing (“epiphany”) of the Christ to the gentile world, as even foreign wise men travel great distances to adore their new heaven-sent King. Thus it is an important reminder to us of our obligation to proclaim the Good News of Christianity to all around us, to reveal Him to the nations.

Feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort. This Tuesday, January 7, is the feast of our parish Patron. St. Raymond was born near Barcelona, in 1175, and was a diocesan priest and professor of civil and canon law for many before joining the Order of Preachers, “the Dominicans,” in 1222. In 1230 Pope Gregory IX commissioned him to codify the juridical laws of the Church, a monumental and historic task. The pope published Raymond’s work in 1231 as the authoritative source for canon law. In 1238 he was elected and served for two years as General (head) of the Dominicans. He continued his writing, preaching and pastoral work, as well many important responsibilities entrusted to him by various popes, until his death in Barcelona on January 6, 1275, at the age of 100. He is the patron saint of lawyers, both canon and civil.

Volunteer Reception. This Friday, January 10, is our annual reception in appreciation for all those who volunteer their time to support the activities of the parish. If that should include you, and you haven’t rsvp’d yet, please contact the parish office or your committee chairman asap.

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SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD
(Christmas Midnight Mass) Homily of Pope Francis
December 24, 2013

1. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).

This prophecy of Isaiah never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas Night. This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us – and within us as well – there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing.

Walking. This verb makes us reflect on the course of history, that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with Abraham, our father in faith, whom the Lord called one day to set out, to go forth from his country towards the land which he would show him. From that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way towards the promised land. This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. Because he is faithful, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). Yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience, and rebellion; times of being a pilgrim people and times of being a people adrift.

In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. “Whoever hates his brother – writes the Apostle John – is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:11). A people who walk, but as a pilgrim people who do not want to go astray.

2. On this night, like a burst of brilliant light, there rings out the proclamation of the Apostle: “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race” (Tit 2:11).

The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.

3. The shepherds were the first to see this “tent”, to receive the news of Jesus’ birth. They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks. The pilgrim is bound by duty to keep watch and the shepherds did just that. Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.

On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). As the angels said to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid!”. And I also repeat to all of you: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is mercy: our Father always forgives us. He is our peace. Amen.

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Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Second Trail Life USA Parent Interest Meeting, Trail Life Launch Email

The St. Raymond of Penafort Trail Life USA Troop held an initial interest meeting on 16 December 2013. Despite the short notice more than ten families attended and there are more than 25 boys potentially interested in joining the new troop.

To accomodate parents that were unable to attend the first interest meeting, the St. Raymond of Penafort Trail Life USA Troop will host a second information meeting for interested parents on Wednesday, January 8 at 7:30 PM in the Parish Hall at St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church, 8750 Pohick Road, Springfield, VA.

Trail Life USA is a Christian adventure, character, and leadership program for boys in grades K-12; centers on outdoor experiences that build a young man’s skills; and allows him to grow as a role model and leader for his peers. Please contact Keith Oswald or Vince Drouillard at TrailLifeUSA@straymonds.org for more information.

Please see the official Launch of Trail Life USA email below.

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Launch of Trail Life USA
For Immediate Release

Wednesday, January 2, 2014

MEDIA ADVISORY:

TRAIL LIFE USA CHRISTIAN ALTERNATIVE TO THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA LAUNCHED JANUARY 1, 2014

Orlando, FL – On Wednesday, January 1, 2014, Trail Life USA (TLUSA) officially launched its outdoor adventure program for boys and young men nationwide. TLUSA is a Christian scouting-like program for boys and young men ages 5-24. The program focuses on outdoor adventure, character, and leadership and is starting with approximately 500 troops in 42 states.

Trail Life USA is being birthed on the same day that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) officially implements its new membership policy of allowing “open and avowed” homosexual youth in their program. Around 60% of the new members of TLUSA are former members of the BSA and 40% have no BSA background.

Adults members of TLUSA are required to sign a Christian statement of faith and values, undergo Child and Youth Safety Protection Training, submit to background checks, and provide letters of recommendation from pastors that know the applicants.

However, the program will have an inclusion policy for youth members and will welcome families with boys from all faiths (or no faith) to participate in this unapologetically Christian outdoor adventure program.

TLUSA Chief Operating Officer, Mark Hancock, commented, “We could not be more excited about the organic growth and the explosion of interest we are seeing every day all across the country. There is a real need for a program that parents can trust to help them guide their sons to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure.

Chairman of the TLUSA Board, John Stemberger, is an Eagle Scout and a former scoutmaster with the BSA. He had two sons in Boy Scouts last year and removed them from the program. Describing the Trail Life USA program to parents and pastors Stemberger has stated, “This is not another church program to compete with Bible studies or youth groups. TLUSA is a masculine outdoor program that has the potential to change a young man’s life forever. Boys will love the fun and adventure-parents will love the focus on character and leadership.”

For more information, or to sign up to become a member or leader within Trail Life USA, go to www.TrailLifeUSA.com.

Second Trail Life USA Parent Interest Meeting

The St. Raymond of Penafort Trail Life USA Troop held an initial interest meeting on 16 December 2013. Despite the short notice more than ten families attended and there are more than 25 boys potentially interested in joining the new troop.

To accomodate parents that were unable to attend the first interest meeting, the St. Raymond of Penafort Trail Life USA Troop will host a second information meeting for interested parents on Wednesday, January 8 at 7:30 PM in the Parish Hall at St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church, 8750 Pohick Road, Springfield, VA.

Trail Life USA is a Christian adventure, character, and leadership program for boys in grades K-12; centers on outdoor experiences that build a young man’s skills; and allows him to grow as a role model and leader for his peers. Please contact Keith Oswald or Vince Drouillard at TrailLifeUSA@straymonds.org for more information.

For more information about Trail Life USA, please visit their website at www.traillifeusa.com.

Reminder: Trail Life USA Parent Interest Meeting

The St. Raymond of Penafort Trail Life USA Troop is hosting an information meeting for interested parents on Monday, December 16 at 7:15 PM in the Parish Hall at St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church, 8750 Pohick Road, Springfield, VA. Trail Life USA is a Christian adventure, character, and leadership program for boys in grades K-12; centers on outdoor experiences that build a young man’s skills; and allows him to grow as a role model and leader for his peers. Please contact Keith Oswald or Vince Drouillard at TrailLifeUSA@straymonds.org for more information.

Please download the flyer as a reminder.

For more information about Trail Life USA, please visit their website at www.traillifeusa.com.