Twenty sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Praying for our Country. We really need to pray for our country. No surprise I’m sure. But the depths to which political acrimony has sunk, especially on the Left, is sickening. (I write this on Wednesday, the day before Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford are scheduled to testify before the Judiciary Committee). Of course right now we see the way the Left is ready to crucify Judge Kavanaugh for an unproven and uncorroborated allegation from 36 years ago, an allegation that runs completely contrary to everything everyone who’s ever known him has to say about him and his character. We see senators actually saying that we can’t believe what he says and must presume him guilty of the charges simply because of his judicial philosophy, even though his legal peers (on the left and right) say he is an excellent judge and brilliant lawyer. And we see the Media and Hollywood Left finding him guilty, without even hearing either him or the accuser—only reading a few snippets of accusations in the media.

What about innocent until proven guilty? What about due process, and fairness? What about assuming the best about people? What about 30 years of exemplary government service? What about the hundreds of friends and ex-girlfriends who praise his outstanding character and kindness, especially toward women, going back to grade school?

What about Jesus’s saying: “If your brother sins against you…take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” [Matthew 18: 15-16].

“No, he’s guilty. Period.” They say.

Personally, I presume Judge Kavanaugh is innocent, because that’s what we should all presume, until someone proves him guilty—not in a court of law, but after bringing convincing evidence. From what I gather, not much evidence is available to support the accusations, and evidence to the contrary is abundant. The only real evidence that seems available is Dr. Ford’s sketchy memories of something that happened 36 years ago at a drunken party she says she attended. I will presume goodwill on her part, and we have a duty to respectfully listen to all possible abuse victims, but I have trouble placing a lot of weight on partial memories effected by psychological trauma, possible alcohol use, and the passing of almost 4 decades.

But the truly nauseating thing is the Left’s political manipulation of the accusations. From Senator Feinstein’s rotten tactic of hiding Dr. Ford’s accusations until after the hearings were done and then not releasing her letter to the Committee (this is evidence), to Senator Hirono saying, “Guess who’s perpetuating all these kinds of actions? It’s the men in this country. And I just want to say to the men in this country, just shut up and step up.”

The question comes up, but what if they can’t figure out who’s telling the truth—should we let a possible abuser sit on the Supreme Court? Think of this: If someone were guilty of things the Judge is accused of when he was a 17-year-old kid, but had lived an absolutely exemplary and outstanding life since then, would he still be unworthy of a place on the Court? I don’t know. But I do know that when Bill Clinton was credibly accused by multiple sexual assaults on women when he was the grown-up governor of Arkansas, the Left defended him and thought it was okay for him to be our President. By that standard, if there is doubt, the accused can serve on the Court.

 

Of course, all this manipulation and acrimony seems to be the new reality in leftist politics, fueled by Marxist principles that include, “the ends justify the means,” that you can do, literally, “whatever it takes” to win, including demonizing, terrorizing and destroying the lives of your opponents and their families. Consider also the Left’s vicious mob harassment of Republican officials and their families at their homes and in restaurants, or shouting down conservative speakers at universities or rallies. This has just got to stop.

Let us pray for our country, Judge Kavanaugh, and Dr. Ford. And let us pray that God may grant us the Supreme Court Justice we need.

 

God Bless Fr. Scalia! From The Beacon, Portland, OR, September 19: “Hundreds of students lined the sidewalks outside the Chapel of Christ the Teacher Wednesday night for a silent demonstration protesting the appearance of Fr. Paul Scalia, who was the keynote speaker at a dinner following [University of Portland’s] annual Red Mass [for lawyers]. Scalia, who is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has triggered controversy for some things he has said and written about homosexuality, as well as his leadership in an organization called Courage. The organization encourages people with same-sex attraction to be chaste.”

 

Pictorial Directory. I hope you all picked up your directories last week and are happy with them. I think it came out very well, and I hope you do to. Everyone who stood for picture has a copy reserved for them, and anyone can buy one for $8.60 (our cost). Please contact the office for your copy.

 

Molita Burrows. After years of service as sacristan at 8/9am daily Mass, Molita Burrows has decided to step down from her duties. I guess when you reach the age of 95 years you’re entitled to relax a bit. I hope all of you will join me in praying for her continued good health, and thanking her and God for her service to our parish. God bless you, Molita!

 

Altar/Communion Rail. Well, it looks like the Communion rail has been a success, as I would estimate that 90% of you are choosing to kneel to receive. I had no idea it would be that popular, but I am very happy it is. And for those of you who don’t choose to kneel, I hope you feel comfortable standing at the rail—that seems to be working okay too.

When Bishop Burbidge was here on the 16th he commented to me how well it went at the Communion rail: he complimented your piety, and noted that the distribution actually moved faster than when you come up and just stand in line.

A few things to remember: 1) There’s no need to wait for the rail to be empty for you to go forward to kneel; just take the next empty spot that’s convenient. 2) When you receive in the hand at the rail you should consume the host there at the rail before walking away (please do not walk away with the host). 3) When you receive in the hand while kneeling please lift your hands up so that the priest doesn’t have to bend down to reach your hands.

 

Oktoberfest. Next Saturday evening, October 6, our Knights of Columbus are sponsoring an evening of delicious German food and live music. Besides being a very fun event, this is a great way to meet new friends and become more involved in the parish. Please join us!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

TEXT: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 23, 2018

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 23, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,there is disorder and every foul practice.”

 

Phrases like this in scripture can be very troubling.

Not so much the thing about jealousy and selfishness,

but that apparent condemnation of “ambition.”

Is ambition wrong, or only “selfish ambition”?

What’s the difference between the two anyway, is there a difference?

Isn’t all ambition, at its root, selfish?

 

____

Actually, ambition in and of itself, is a good thing,

if we understand it as

“the will or desire to succeed or achieve a particular goal or end.”

You want to be all your talents and gifts allow you to be

—to be all you can be, to live up to your fullest potential.

You want your gifts not to be wasted, but to be used to their fullest extent.

You want to give your children the best things you can give them,

especially the best education and spiritual formation.

You want your children to be the very best they can be.

And you want to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.
What’s wrong with that?

In fact, isn’t it actually wrong when we don’t want to do those things

—when we don’t want to be the best we can be?

 

Related to this is a humble but an honest assessment of our talents.

The fact is all of us have certain gifts and talents,

and some of you more than the rest of us,

and it’s important we recognize those gifts

—not to feel good about ourselves, or to be prideful,

but how can you use a gift, or be thankful for it,

if you don’t admit you have it?

 

Remember, God is the giver of all gifts, He doesn’t want us to waste them.

Think of the parable of the talents:

the master going on a trip gave his servants different amounts of money,

and to those who invested and grew that money

he rewarded them by giving them more,

but of the one who simply buried the little he’d been given

the master said:

“cast this worthless servant into the outer darkness.”

 

So, in this sense ambition is good and necessary.

But like all good things, it can be corrupted, especially by the passions

—our own selfish desires.

As St. James says today:

“where do the conflicts among you come from?

Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? ”

 

The key problem is selfishness

—placing yourself and your desires first,

thinking not so much of being the best,

but how to best meet your own self-interest,

whether that self-interest is oriented to

your personal pleasure, or to being famous,

or rich, or respected by society, .

“What do I want?…“How do I want to use my gifts.”

This is “selfish ambition,” and it’s directly related to jealousy:

“I want the best for me, and I want the best you have, for me.”

 

____

I’ve said it a million times, now a million-and-one:

God is love, and God created man in his own image, created us to love:

first to love God, and then to love his neighbor,

beginning with spouses, children and parents,

and then, ultimately every single human being.

God created us with a plan, at the pinnacle of a well-ordered world,

to be and live a certain way,

in a world of peace and serenity founded in God’s love and man’s love.

And all the gifts He gives us,

taken together as a whole, or individually as unique persons,

are all ordered to love as well.

So that when we use those gifts in ways contrary to love,

when we are driven by inordinate self-love, “jealousy and selfish ambition,”

everything gets confused, and messed up, as St. James says:

“there is disorder and every foul practice.”

 

But when love of God and our neighbor is our starting point and our goal,

and then we try our very best to use all our gifts to their fullest extent,

in keeping with self-less love

—when ambition becomes not selfish but self-gift

then life becomes more as it should be,

as it was created to be.

So that even in the middle of the disorder all around us,

our lives, and lives we touch, become, as St. James continues:

“peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits,

without inconstancy or insincerity.”

 

____

In today’s gospel we read:

“They had been discussing among themselves on the way

who was the greatest.”

Jealousy and selfish ambition, right there among the apostles.

They argued about who was the greatest, but the greatest what?

the greatest martyr? the greatest example of charity?

I don’t think so.

They still hadn’t come to understand what being a disciple was all about.

“No servant is greater than his Master,” Jesus said.

Yet, they all apparently wanted to be masters, not servants,

even though their master had said:

“the Son of man came not to be served but to serve,

and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

And so He would tell them, as we read today:

“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him,

and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”

This was his plan, and His Father’s plan for the salvation of the world,

God’s plan to return things to their proper order,

where one man’s perfect life, and death, in love

–in humble service to the Father and to man–

could bring peace to those who would accept it.

 

_____

This, my friends, was true and perfect ambition:

Not selfish ambition, as Jesus constantly ran away

from those who wanted to make him a worldly king,

so that, as we read today, when he

“began a journey through Galilee,

but he did not wish anyone to know about it.”

His ambition was not even simply to reign in heaven as God, as is just and right.

No, His ambition was to love and serve His Father and us, no matter what it took.

So, as St. Paul’s writes elsewhere:

“…though he was in the form of God,

[Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,

…he humbled himself and became obedient unto death,

even death on a cross.”

And it is in that servanthood that He achieves His ambition,

reconciling man to the love of God.

 

But, as we read today, even after he tried to explain all this to his disciples:

“they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.”

What were they afraid of?

Maybe they remembered what he had told them only days before,

as we read last week:

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,

take up his cross, and follow me.”

 

Of course, eventually, his apostles came to understand and accept this teaching.

With the exception of Judas,

all of them became true servants of God and their neighbor,

and all but John followed their Master to a martyr’s death.

Making their own the loving and selfless ambition of Christ.

 

_____

All of us should be ambitious to be the best we can be,

to use the gifts God has given us,

whether they are small and humble, or prodigious and phenomenal,

in love for God and neighbor.

Because this is what we were made for

and this is what these gifts were given to us for.

And if this is not our ambition, we will always fall short of our true potential,

never truly be the best we could be.

And our lives will always be marked by “disorder” and “foul practice,”

and never know fully the “purity” and “peace,” the “mercy and good fruits”

God has planned for us.

 

___

Some say, but I pray every day,

asking God to help me be the best I can be, and yet I keep falling short.

But what do we pray to be the best at?

The best lawyer, or scientist, or doctor, or teacher or homemaker

or student or mother or father, or priest?

And how do we keep falling short:

in having fun or pleasure, or making lots of money or being famous

or well thought of by your peers or the public?

 

It’s fine to pray to be the best lawyer, doctor, teacher, homemaker or priest,

but only if we pray to do that as

the best servant of God and neighbor we can possibly be,

To be whatever God in his wisdom has planned and wants us to be,

what He created us to be and do?

Do we even care that we fall short of that constantly.

As St. James tells us today:

“You ask but do not receive,

because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

 

____

Today the Lord Jesus Christ has spoken to us in Sacred Scripture,

just as surely as he spoke to his disciples that day 2000 years ago.

And He comes to us, humbly under the sign of what looks like a piece of bread,

but truly the eternal glorious Word made flesh,

really present here in his crucified and risen body.

His greatest ambition now is to use all His gifts to save all mankind

—to save you and me from sin—

to pour the grace of his Cross into our hearts

and transform our selfish-ambition into selfless-ambition,

to lift us up to be the great men and women he created us to be.

 

But He cannot do this alone—this must be our ambition too.

Will we understand this?

Will we ask Him not for the wrong things, but rather:

“Lord, what is it that you, in your divine and perfect wisdom,

want me to do with these gifts you’ve given me

to serve you and your people?”

Will we ask Him, or will we, like those first disciples, be “afraid to question him”?

 

Friends, hear Him today,

and open your heart to His will and His grace, to His plan for you.

And let there be no more “jealousy and selfish-ambition”

no more “disorder and …foul practice” among us.

But rather open your hearts, and become selflessly ambitious,

to be the best you can be,

to love, and be “the last of all, and the servant of all.”

Twenty fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Picnic. Last Sunday’s picnic was a huge success, by any measure. We had a record turnout—at least twice as many as any had ever seen before. As I made the rounds, visiting with everyone, I was so pleased to find everyone having a great time, enjoying the good food and music, the games and rides, and the company. What a great day.

I was especially happy to see my predecessor Fr. Gould grace us with his presence, and to see so many of you enjoy visiting with him. What a great man and priest! I don’t know how he built this church—just amazing to me. I struggled getting the lights replaced, and worried over paying off the $7million debt I inherited. But he built this whole plant, with all the crazy ups and downs involved in that (including dealing with 2 different general contractors), and raising $7.5million in cash, plus paying off $3.5million on the loans. Just amazing. But more than that, he built the wonderful parish, the “community,” of St. Raymond’s. From a few hundred people to 6,000 in just 10 years. And a parish with solid foundation in Catholic teaching and Christian fellowship. I have so much to thank him for: and not just handing me this wonder parish with its beautiful church and comfortable rectory, but also being my vocation director for 5 years—I would not be a priest today without his help.

I was also very pleased to have Bishop Burbidge join us for Mass and stay with us at the picnic for 2 hours, just walking around and mingling with people. I think we overwhelmed him with our welcoming, and our joy. He really seemed to enjoy himself, as was evident as he sang our praises as I helped him carry his Mass vestments to his car as he was leaving. Thank you Bishop, for joining us!

And most of all I was overwhelmed by God’s generosity. I fretted all week about whether I should cancel the picnic due to the weather, after reading all the gloom and doom forecasts of rain and flooding (it wasn’t just a matter of rain on Sunday, but would the grass be too saturated to work with). In the end, it was hard to tell what to do, so I just had to trust in Jesus. And as always, He came through, and in magnificent fashion. I had to laugh when the sun burst out right near the beginning of the picnic, and then again when it started to rain just minutes after the picnic ended—God and his unfathomable sense of humor! As I told the Bishop: “Jesus really loves St. Raymond’s.” He does indeed. Praised be Jesus Christ!

Thanks be to Him. And thanks to all who worked so hard to make it a success, especially volunteers like Phil and Alice Bettwy, Pat O’Brien, Pat Franco, the Knights of Columbus, American Heritage Girls, and Trail Life. And thanks to the parish staff for all their hard work—especially Tom Browne, Kirsti Tyson, Mary Salmon and Vince Drouillard, and most especially Eva Radel, who worked like a field general in the planning and the set up.

 

Novena to St. Michael. Next Saturday is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. As you know, St. Michael is the great warrior-archangel, who Scripture tells us leads the hosts of heavenly angels to defeat, with the power of God, the fallen angels, led by Lucifer, Satan, the devil. With the current scandal in the Church it seems a very good time to invoke the aid of St. Michael. The Church, especially the bishops and priests, are clearly under assault by Satan.

Now, some folks seem to think that the devil is merely wickedly exposing the bad acts of otherwise good bishops and priests, in order to cause “scandal” (discouragement, doubt, despair, etc.) among the faithful. While it is true, that the devil is doing that, that is not his principal attack. His principle attack on the Church (at least regarding the current situation) is preying on the weaknesses or moral laxity of priests and bishops who then willingly accede to the devil’s temptations and commit sins and even atrocious crimes—whether of lust, lying or abuse of power. Then, and only then, is Satan using those willful sinful acts to further tempt the faithful to doubt their faith and mistrust all bishops and priests.

Clearly, we need to invoke the Divine Power that God has committed to St. Michael to defend the Church. So, I ask you all to join me from today until next Sunday, to pray the “Prayer to St. Michael” every day, for a purification of the Church, especially her seminarians, priests and bishops. And to defend each of us from discouragement, doubt, or despair.

“Saint Michael Archangel, // defend us in battle, // be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; // may God rebuke him, we humbly pray; // and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, // by the power of God, cast into hell // Satan and all the evil spirits // who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. // Amen.”

 

Kavanaugh. A lot of you have been asking me about the accusations made by Dr. Ford against Judge Kavanaugh last week. At this time of heightened awareness and shame within the Church with regard to covering up sexual abuse, I am keenly aware of the need to give a just hearing to alleged victims, and of the reality that even apparently saintly men can sin gravely. On the other hand, being a priest at a time when some people accuse all priests of being bigots and haters, and even pedophiles and predators, I am also aware of that people often make cruel and false accusations, and of the need to give a just hearing to the accused.

I also know that politics has become a grotesque blood sport, especially as it’s being played by the radical Marxist left, that as a principle holds that “the ends always justify the means.”

Let us act with and pray for charity and justice for all, accuser and accused. And, trusting in God, we ask Him to give us the Supreme Court Justice He wants us to have.

 

Election Day is November 6th. The deadline to register to vote or change your address for voting is October 15th. The deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is Tuesday, October 30, 2018. The deadline to vote an absentee ballot in-person is Saturday, November 3, 2018.

There is a voter information table in the narthex this weekend, September 22/23, with the necessary forms for registration, or voting absentee. Please stop by for forms or with any questions you may have.

Remember, generally speaking, we have a moral duty to vote, and to vote with a conscience formed by our faith in Christ and His Church. If we do not vote, we have no right to complain about how our government functions, or doesn’t function.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

TEXT: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 16, 2018

24th  Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 16, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

“Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am?”

In a way, this question of Jesus is perhaps the most important question

any man can ask himself: “Who do I say Jesus is?”

And St. Peter gives the most important answer any man can give:

“You are the Christ,” the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord.

 

This is the answer every Christian must give

—it is the Christian’s fundamental profession of Faith.

Without this, then the rest of the Gospel is useless

—if for no other reason than Jesus admitted that He was the Christ

—and if Jesus wasn’t the Christ He was a liar—not to be believed at all.

And everything He said and did was useless.

 

But Jesus is the Christ

—and because we believe that, all the other things He said make sense,

and we can believe in them

and be open to the grace and the life they offer.

 

Faith in Jesus as the Christ—the Redeemer, the Messiah, the Son of God—

is the key to our salvation.

 

___

But is faith all we need?

Some of our protestant brothers and sisters, especially evangelicals, think so.

In the words of Martin Luther in the 16th century,

many protestants believe that we are “saved by faith alone”: “Sola Fide”.

Maybe you haven’t encountered this directly.

but I bet most of you have been asked, or at least heard,

the question:

“have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”

This question is really another way of saying: “who do you say Jesus is”?

And to answer, “yes,” is to say, “I have faith in Christ.”

And because they believe that faith in Jesus is all you need to be saved,

when they ask this question, they are really asking “are you saved?”

 

Now, let me be clear: not all Protestants accept this doctrine nowadays.

But Luther and his modern day disciples,

believe that there is nothing we can do to be saved

—that Jesus did it all for us on the cross

and He pours the grace of the cross on us today

—so we can do nothing but believe in what Jesus does for us,

and that belief will save us.

It doesn’t matter what else you do—

—if you do or don’t sin, do or do not obey the commandments,

or if you do or don’t receive the sacraments,

or if you love your neighbor or not

—as long as you believe in Jesus.

As Luther wrote: “sin boldly, but believe more boldly”.

 

Now, Luther didn’t just make this notion of salvation by faith alone out of thin air

—he based it on several statements made by St. Paul,

and by Jesus Himself.

For example, St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:

“a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

And Jesus says:

“he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

So if you were to take these kinds of statements on their own,

they do seem to affirm that faith is the only thing that matters.

 

And Luther was not the first one to fall into this false understanding of faith.

Some of the early Christians were also tempted to make this same mistake.

And so St. James wrote to correct this error.

As we read in today’s 2nd reading from St. James:

“What good is it…if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?

….faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
And as St. James goes on to say just a few verses later:

Even the demons believe–and shudder….

You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

 

And of course, St. James is not the only one to reject “faith alone”

and acknowledge that our works are essential to our salvation.

St. Paul also taught this.

As he went on to write the Romans:

“On the one hand, to those who persist in good work,

…he will give eternal life.

But for those who …reject the truth and follow evil,

there will be wrath and anger.”

 

But most importantly Jesus himself taught this.

 

He tells us to be saved we must follow the commandments:

when the rich young man asks him,

“Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?”

Jesus replied: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

 

He tells us to be saved we must love our neighbor:

when a lawyer asked Him:

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied: “What is written in the law? How do you read?”

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

….soul, …strength, and …mind;

and your neighbor as yourself.”

And Jesus replied, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”

 

He tells us we must do good works:

“I was hungry and you gave me no food,

….‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these,

you did it not to me.’

And they will go away into eternal punishment,

but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

And He gives us the sacraments which He tells us we must partake in:

For example, Baptism:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit,

he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

And of course the Eucharist:

“Truly, truly, I say to you,

unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood,

you have no life in you.”

 

Think of all that: that’s a lot we have to do to be saved.

 

___

Now some Protestants who follow “sola fide”

counter the idea of the necessity of doing good works

as simply being proof of our faith:

if someone believes, naturally they’ll do good things.

And if they say they believe but don’t do good things,

then, they never really believed in the first place.

 

But if that’s true why did St. Paul—who surely was filled with faith—

write that he was afraid of losing his salvation

by not doing what he should?

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete,

but only one receives the prize?

…I do not run aimlessly…but I pommel my body and subdue it,

lest after preaching to others

I myself should be disqualified.”

 

______

Faith is the key to salvation.

But it is not all there is to salvation.

The key of faith opens the door

to all that we need to know and to do to be saved.

 

In today’s Gospel Peter is the first to declare the Church’s faith in Christ.

In St. Matthew’s Gospel, the evangelist records that Jesus tells Peter

that this insight has come from directly from God, his Father.

But later on when Peter refuses to believe Jesus

when he explains that he has to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die,

Jesus says: “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Friends, to think as God does, is to believe in Jesus and His Gospel.

But the thing is, that Gospel has a content—Jesus taught us what God thinks,

and how God wants us to live, and do and love.

And to say we believe in Jesus,

but reject the content of his teaching,

including the things he said we must do to gain eternal life,

whether it’s keeping the commandments,

or loving God and your neighbor,

or being baptized,

or receiving and adoring the Eucharist as his body and blood,

or following the teachings and discipline

of Peter and his successors, the Popes,

if you reject those, well, as St. James says today: “what good is that?”

 

Jesus goes on to tell us today:

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,

take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,

but whoever loses his life for my sake

and that of the gospel will save it.”

It is true that Christ’s Cross—and the love it expresses—

is the only thing that saves us.

But unless we live as he did, love as he loved, do as he commanded,

even if it means suffering for others,

or even losing our lives for the sake of what we believe–the Gospel

—we cannot live as he lives:

in the eternal and perfect joy and glory of heaven.

 

____

I am confident that our Protestant brothers and sisters who hold to “faith alone”

believe in Jesus Christ.

I am also confident that they also love the Lord Jesus,

and do many good works.

But we must not be confused between the relationship between faith and love,

and between believing and doing.

Eternal life comes to us not because we believe it will,

but because God loves us

and allows us to chose live in his love today and forever.

 

So let us have faith in Christ and live out the entirety of his teachings.

Including the teaching passed on to us by St. James:

“faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Twenty fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Parish Picnic Celebration. As I write this on Wednesday, Hurricane Florence looms in the Atlantic, and I’m not sure what we’re going to do about the Celebration scheduled for today. I hope we can still have it, in some form at least, but if we can’t… In any case, fiat voluntas Dei—God’s will be done.

 September 11, 2001. Let us pray for all those who died, on 9/11 and in the “War on Terror…” … Eternal rest grant unto them Oh Lord. And send Your holy angels to defend us and to protect all who risk their lives for our safety.

And let us pray also for the brave souls who continue to fight to protect us, and for the conversion of our enemies. And let us pray for our nation’s safety, and that, with the strength of Christ and tempered by His wisdom and mercy, we may defeat those who seek to harm us.

Humanae Vitae Conference. Last weekend’s conference on Humanae Vitae and its ramifications for the world, was a huge success, with over 150 attendees. Our speakers, Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, Dr. Robert Royal and Bob and Gerri Laird did an excellent job in helping us understand the importance of the encyclical and the devasting effects contraception has had on our Church and our culture. Thanks to them, and to our staff and volunteers, especially Eva Radel, Tom Browne, and Liz Hildebrand, who made it all go so smoothly. And thanks be to God!

 

Some Happy News. I’m delighted to write that Brigitta Sanchez-O’Brien, daughter of parishioners, Patrick and Maria (and my goddaughter!), graduated as valedictorian of her class at John Paul the Great University last month. I’m sure you all join me in congratulating her and her family. Please keep her in your prayers as she begins graduate studies this month at Pepperdine University.

 

St. Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church. One of my favorite saints, is St. Peter Damian, a great and fiery advocate of clerical reform in the 11th century. I commend him to all of you as a heavenly patron in this time when reform of priests and bishops is so important.

Born in 1007, Peter was the youngest of a large noble, but poor, family. Left an orphan at an early age, he was adopted by an elder brother, who ill-treated and under-fed him while employing him as a swineherd. The child showed signs of great piety and of remarkable intellectual gifts, and eventually another brother, took him away to be educated. He made rapid progress in his studies, first at Ravenna, then at Faenza, finally at the University of Parma, and when about twenty-five years old he was already a famous teacher at Parma and Ravenna. But, he could not endure the scandals and distractions of university life and decided (about 1035) to retire from the world, entering the hermitage of Fonte-Avellana.

Both as novice and as professed religious his fervor in prayer and penance was remarkable. He continued his thorough study of Holy Scripture and was appointed to lecture to his fellow-monks. In 1043 he became prior of Fonte-Avellana, which he remained till his death.

Although living in the seclusion of the cloister, Peter Damian watched closely the fortunes of the Church, and like his friend Hildebrand (a key assistant to several Popes, who would become the future Pope Gregory VII), he strove for her purification in those deplorable times.

In 1045 when the reforming pope Gregory VI (John Gratian) was elected, Peter hailed the change with joy and wrote to the pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the church in Italy. In 1047 and 1055 Peter attended and addressed synods at the Lateran and Florence at which decrees were passed condemning clerical unchastity and simony (the buying or selling of holy or spiritual things or church offices).

In 1051 Peter published his venerable and famous treatise on the vice of sodomy among the clergy of his time, the “Book of Gomorrah.” (Sodomy refers to homosexual acts and what we would call “homosexual lifestyles”). It begins: “Alas, it is shameful to speak of it! It is shameful to relate such a disgusting scandal to sacred ears! But if the doctor fears the virus of the plague, who will apply the cauterization? If he is nauseated by those whom he is to cure, who will lead sick souls back to the state of health?”

The book caused a great stir and aroused widespread enmity against Peter, and still does today. Although sometimes excessively harsh in rhetoric, it is also compassionate, especially to innocent victims and truly repentant sinners. It is filled with penetrating insights and lessons that would seem to apply aptly to the Church today.

In 1057 the abbot of Monte Cassino, was elected as Pope Stephen X, and was determined to create Peter a cardinal, so he could better assist the Pope in reforming the clergy. Peter resisted the offer, but was finally forced, under threat of excommunication, to accept, and was consecrated Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia. The new cardinal was impressed with the great responsibilities of his office and wrote a stirring letter to his brother-cardinals, exhorting them to shine by their example before all.

In late 1059 Peter was sent as papal legate to Milan by Pope Nicholas II, where the clergy had been corrupted by widescale simony and unchastity. Things had gotten so bad, that benefices (church offices) were openly bought and sold and the clergy publicly “married” the women they lived with. But the faithful of Milan strove hard to remedy these evils. When Peter arrived, the irregular clerics raised the cry that Rome had no authority over Milan. At once Peter acted, boldly confronting the rioters in the cathedral, and proving to them the authority of the Holy See with such effect that all parties submitted to his decision. He exacted first a solemn oath from the archbishop and all his clergy that for the future no preferment should be paid for; then, imposing a penance on all who had been guilty, he re-instated in their benefices to all who under took to live chastely.

In July 1061, Pope Nicholas II died, and a schism ensued. Damian used all his powers to persuade the antipope Cadalous to withdraw his false claim to the papacy, but to no purpose. Finally a council at Augsburg, at which a long letter by St. Peter Damian was read, formally acknowledged Pope Alexander II as the true pope.

Over the next few years Peter was sent as papal legate to settle various disputes and establish reforms in Florence, Ravenna, France, and Germany.

Early in 1072 he was seized with fever near Faenza, and after a week’s illness he died. He was never formally canonized, but he was venerated as a saint from his death at Faenza, Fonte-Avellana, Monte Cassino, and Cluny. In 1823 Leo XII extended his feast (February 23) to the whole Church and pronounced him a Doctor of the Church, thus officially recognizing Peter’s status as a Saint of the Church. (Condensed largely from The Catholic Encyclopedia).

St. Peter Damian, pray for us.

 

Oremus pro Invicem. Fr. De Celles