Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Religious Freedom Week. This week we continue Religious Freedom Week, which runs from June 22 through June 29. The week begins with the Feast of 2 saints who were killed by their king to silence their religious opposition to his policies, especially with regard to marriage: St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. Normally these two saints are celebrated as one feast, but since St. Thomas is our Diocesan Patron Saint, we celebrate his feast alone, and move St. John to another day (I celebrated his votive Mass yesterday morning, Saturday). Today we celebrate another saint who was killed by his king to silence his religious opposition: St. John the Baptist, who, in preparing the way for Jesus publicly condemned King Herod’s public incestuous marriage. Then we end the week on the 29th, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, two saints who not only represent the persisting teaching authority of the Church, but who were also put to death by a king for their leadership of the Church, which he saw as leading people away from absolute obedience to his supposed divine authority. Like many people of our time, Emperor Nero and many Romans blamed Christians for many of the problems of their age. And all during this week let’s keep in mind St. Raymond of Peñafort, who also got in trouble with a king. Very briefly, we recall how when our saint condemned King James of Spain’s consorting with his mistress on the island of Majorca. When the King tried to keep Raymond from leaving the island by threatening to punish any ship who took him aboard, St. Raymond, went to the shore, said a prayer, and famously and miraculously sailed 160 miles back to Spain using just his great cape as both a skiff and a sail. Let us look to these great saints for intercession and as examples of peacefully opposing unjust laws that seek to oppress us in living our Christian faith in every day life.
Fairfax Schools. This last year has seen a lot of victories for Religious Liberty—changes brought about largely by the new Trump administration. But the oppression still continues. An excellent example of that is found in last week’s long expected decision by the Fairfax County Public School Board to finally approve their new Family Life Education curriculum and related policies that further implement their “transgendered” agenda in our schools. The vote was unanimous, except for the 2 pro-family Catholics on the Board, Elizabeth Schultz and Tom Wilson. This was even though 90% of the public respondents disapproved of the changes. So much for representative government. Parents and taxpayers admit it: you’re too stupid to know what’s best for your kids or your tax dollars. Thank goodness for elite leftist totalitarians. Now, you might say this is not a religious liberty issue, and in part you’d be correct. But only in that it involves several other types of liberty and rights as well. This includes the freedom of parents to educate their children as they see fit, and to be the primarily educators of their children; the freedom to elect truly representative government, and the right to have their representatives listen to them and enact laws that the voters approve of. But it is also definitely a religious liberty issue in that these elitist board members
are purposefully trying to teach our children to reject the moral values of the religions that their parents are raising them in. It’s as if they say, “Sure, parents, you can do and say whatever you want at homes or in your churches, that’s okay. We have them all day, five days a week (sometimes 6 or 7 with extracurriculars) so we can undo all the BAD stuff you taught them and teach them CORRECT values.” So we have to keep fighting. It’s not just enough to win a pro-religious-liberty seat on the Supreme Court, we need to keep fighting to make the Court, the Congress and the Presidency solidly pro-religious-liberty. And we need to win back control of our schools by running more and electing pro-religious liberty candidates like Schultz and Wilson. But more than that, we have to be involve ourselves. Parents, you must be actively involved in your kid’s schools and classrooms. You must organize with other parents and taxpayers and work with organizations that support your values. And perhaps its time to stop supporting government run schools by removing your kids from them. And of course, we have to pray. So please join in our prayers this week for Religious Liberty, both at Mass and in your homes. And join us for this Wednesday’s Holy Hour for Life, Liberty and Marriage from 6pm to 7pm in the church.
Youth Group Activities this Summer. Our teens are at WorkCamp this week, so please keep them in your prayers, that they may be safe and come to know the Lord more intimately through the ancient practice of “ora et labora”—pray and work. Pray also that they may come to appreciate the dignity and needs of those less fortunate, and so grow in true love of neighbor. From July 13 – 15, a group of our kids will also be off for a weekend spiritual conference at Franciscan University. These are great weekends that can have a profound effect on their lives for years, and decades to come. So keep them in your prayers then too. And there are lots of other activities going on for them this summer, thanks to Jeanne Sause and our adult volunteers. Make sure your kids don’t miss out.
Special Thanks. After many years of service, two of our outstanding parishioners are retiring from the Parish Finance Council: Joe Cox and Matt Wheeler. Matt and Joe have been on the council almost since the beginning of our parish, long before I got here. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the hard work they’ve done, and the invaluable assistance and advice they’ve given me. The Finance Council is a committee required by Canon Law to give advice to the Pastor on financial matters of the parish, but I rely them to advise me on a wide variety of parish issues.
Thanks to Graduating Altar Servers. Fr. Smith and I ask you to join us in thanking the four young men who have served at the altar for so many years, and are now preparing to go off to college: John Paul Spinelli, Michael Weyrich, Jarod Slaton, and Brendan Kapp. They are fine young Catholic men, and I’m very proud of them. We’re going to miss them, but we wish them the very best, and promise them our prayers.
Lighting Project. Remember that the work to install our new lighting will begin in one week, on Monday, July 2, and will finish by September 1. The Blessed Sacrament, Masses, etc., will be moved to the Parish Hall during the week. All weekend Masses etc. will be in the church as usual.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Father’s Day. This Sunday Americans celebrate “Father’s Day.” What a blessing for children to be raised by a devoted father partnered with his good wife, their mother. Together father and mother are naturally suited to teach their children how to love, serve and lead others: how to be good citizens, good workers, good friends, and good neighbors, and of course good brothers and sisters, good parents and good spouses.
A good father teaches his children, especially his sons, how to be good and holy men, how to be responsible, hardworking and creative, and both strong and caring, just and merciful, brave and compassionate. By the way he treats his wife a good father teaches his sons how to treat all women with respect and love, and how to be a good and faithful husband and father; and he teaches his daughters what to look for in a good husband.
Without good fathers, especially married to mothers, things get very hard for the family, for children, and for society. Over the last 50 years many have tried to diminish the importance of fatherhood, and the result is more domestic violence and heartache, as well as social upheaval. Is it any wonder we see so many problems in society, especially related to young men who have not had a strong and loving father to teach them what it means to be a real man?
Most especially, fathers, I urge you to take responsibility for the religious and moral formation of your children. You take care of all their physical needs, why would you neglect their spiritual and moral life? Life is hard, but it’s impossible without God’s grace. And when their life on this earth is over, you want to be with them blissfully happy in heaven, and not wallowing in the pain of hell for eternity. So make it your first priority to bring them up in the devout practice of the Catholic faith—first and foremost by your good example.
Fathers, I commend you for the good work done and sacrifices you’ve made for your families. Always remember that Christ will not abandon you to do it all on your own—He will give you the grace to be the great man He created and calls you to be. Happy and blessed Father’s Day.

The Catholic Education of our Youth. In the last couple of years I’ve been trying to keep you updated on the developments in Fairfax County Public Schools, i.e., “transgendered” policy and related changes in Family Life Education. As I write this on Wednesday (June 13) I think of tomorrow’s meeting of the FCPS Board at which they will cast a final vote on changes to the “family life” curriculum, including:
— Using the phrase “sex assigned at birth” instead of “biological sex” to teach children that biology has no impact on being male or female;
— Teaching students about pre-exposure prophylaxis. Also called PrEP, this drug is designed for use by those who are engaged in sexual behaviors which put them at high risk of contracting HIV;
— Removing “clergy” from a list of trusted adults with whom children should talk about their concerns regarding sex and sexuality;
— No longer teaching that abstinence is the only 100% effective method of preventing sexually transmitted infections or diseases.
I continue to fear that in spite of the many good people working in FCPS (especially many good St. Raymond parishioners), the philosophy and curriculum of our Fairfax public schools puts our children at risk spiritually, morally, intellectually and emotionally, and pose grave dangers to their eternal salvation. Therefore, as your spiritual father, I strongly urge you to consider either removing your children from these schools, or proving robust remedial efforts at home to offset the effects of these risks (CCD and Youth Apostolate activities are a good start, but not near enough to offset the dangers).
To that end, I strongly urge you to consider either enrolling your children in Catholic schools or homeschooling your children in the coming school year. No school is perfect, even Catholic schools and “home schools,” but they seem to me the best alternatives for most of our children.
I realize that either of these alternatives may require great sacrifice on your parts. But isn’t that what fathers and mothers do for their children? Please remember, the parish offers scholarships to our parish children to attend local Catholic grade and high schools. These scholarships are conditioned on the active involvement of the families in the life of the parish and are usually $500 for grade school students (or enough to make up the difference between “in parish” and “out of parish” tuition rates) to $1000 for high school students. Moreover, where the situation warrants, we will give additional tuition aid—ask me and I’ll do what I can! Also, remember that a special Diocesan fund offers financial aid to many students.
I also want to reiterate and emphasize our long-term special relationship with Angelus Academy, where I am Chaplain. It is an excellent school, and I encourage you to consider the possibility. Also, we also offer financial assistance to families who choose to homeschool and need help in paying for certain direct costs related to this. Please contact me if you need such assistance.

“Religious Freedom Week” Begins this Friday. The last few years we’ve joined the U.S. Bishops in keeping a “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 22 through July 4. Because of the significant gains we have made in the last year and half, especially with a new federal administration that has strongly reversed the anti-religious efforts of the prior administration, I have been thinking it would be prudent keep this practice going, but to scale it back somewhat from the past. As it turns out, the Bishops had a similar idea, and have replaced the “Fortnight for Freedom” (14 days) with a “Religious Freedom Week,” which begins on June 22, the Feast of St. Thomas More, and ends on June 29, the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul. We will adopt this timing and title, and keep this week in the following simplified way:
praying the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” after every Mass;
keeping our regularly scheduled “Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty” on Wednesday, June 27, at 6pm;
encouraging all parishioners to pray the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” daily at home, and perhaps also making the Novena to St. Thomas More.

I hope you will join in praying for our Church and our Country.

Lighting Project. Remember that the work to install our new lighting will begin in two weeks, on Monday, July 2, and will finish by September 1. We will not be able to use the church during the weekdays, so the Blessed Sacrament, along with all Masses, confessions, and all other church-activities, will be moved to Parish Hall from Monday through Friday. All Saturday and Sunday Masses and confessions will be held in the church. Thanks for your patience, and pray to St. Raymond for the successful completion of the lighting work.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

July 1- Sept 30 – All Group Activities Cancelled in Church Building

Due to Lighting upgrades within the church, all group activities are cancelled in our church from July 1 – September 30. All daily and weekend Masses remain the same except for the EFM (Latin Mass). Adoration of the Most Blessed Eucharist will be suspended over this period but Adorers are invited to still attend their holy hour in the Parish Hall during that time. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Parish Office at 703-440-0535.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Deacon James Waalkes. Congratulations to parishioner Deacon Waalkes, who was ordained a deacon yesterday, Saturday, June 2! He will be called a “transitional deacon” in anticipation of his being ordained a priest next June. He will serve his first Mass as a deacon and preach his first homily here today, Sunday, June 3, at 10:30.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Today is “Corpus Christi Sunday,” a feast established to remind us that, even as Lent and Easter are over, the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection and His continued presence on Earth remains with us in a most sublime way in the Eucharist. In particular, we remember that the bread and wine really become the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself—His Real Presence among us.
The Book of Revelation tells us that the angels and saints in heaven continually “fell down and worshipped” Jesus. So let’s consider how we react to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
— Do we show reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament? Do we genuflect before Our Lord present in the tabernacle whenever we enter the church (usually before sitting in our pew) or whenever we pass in front of the tabernacle? Do we chat loudly in church as if the Lord of Heaven were not present?
— How do we dress at Mass, especially on Sunday? Like we are going to the Wedding Feast of Our King, or going to the beach? Do we remember that skimpy clothing can be a near occasion of sin for others, and so dress modestly at Mass?
— How do we act during Mass? Do we focus prayerfully on the miracle transpiring on the altar, especially during and after the consecration? Do we chat and laugh with each other, ignoring the solemnity of the Mass? Do we turn the exchange of the “sign of peace” before Communion into a casual “meet and greet,” or carefully observe it as the ritual and prayerful sign of the peace of Christ that comes to us in the Eucharist?
— How do we receive Holy Communion? Do we observe the Eucharistic fast for one hour before Communion? Do we examine our consciences so we don’t receive unworthily (i.e., if we need to confess mortal sins or are otherwise prohibited from receiving)? Do we approach prayerfully, or are we looking around or laughing? Do we carefully show some sign of reverence immediately before receiving Holy Communion: bowing or genuflecting, or even kneeling? Do we prayerfully receive as a profound act of faith and love?
If we receive on the tongue: To avoid any chance of the Host being dropped, do we stand close enough to the priest, open our mouths and extend our tongues? Do we hold still our heads, tongues and mouths (not lurching, licking or biting) until we receive and the priest removes his hand?
If we receive in our hand: Do we wash our hands before Mass? Do we extend both hands, one on top of the other, forming a throne for Our King? Do we immediately step aside and reverently consume the Host in the sight of the priest or extraordinary minister? Do we examine our hands to make sure no particles remain?
— Do we remember that Jesus remains in the tabernacle after Mass? Do we stay a few minutes after Mass is over to give thanks, or do we rush out of church as soon as possible? Do we drop by the church during the week to visit Our Lord in the tabernacle? Do we spend time with Our Lord during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament? Do we share our faith in the Eucharist with others? Do we actively teach our children to do all these things?

I am continually moved by the Eucharistic reverence at St. Raymond’s. But sometimes we forget—myself included. And so, we redouble our efforts so as to give Him due worship.

Eucharistic Procession. To help us to refocus on our faith in the Real Presence, today, Sunday, June 3, immediately after the 12:15 Mass, we will have our annual Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession, walking with the Eucharist outside of the church while singing the Lord’s praises. Please join us in this ancient and eloquent witness to our faith in and love of our Eucharistic Lord.

Communion Rail. In September of last year, we introduced the use of a portable altar rail at the 8:45 Sunday Mass, in order to allow those who so choose, to kneel to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Although everyone has a right to choose whether to kneel or to stand for Holy Communion, it is very difficult and time-consuming to kneel without a kneeler. This is really unfair. The portable altar rail/kneeler solves this problem.
But you will recall there was another reason I decided to use the altar rail: kneeling for Communion can bring important spiritual benefits. Kneeling is well-established as an important expression of and means of encouraging adoration of the Eucharist, which is why we are required to kneel during the Eucharist Prayer and the “Behold the Lamb of God…” That is also why for centuries we were required to kneel for Communion.
I have been very pleased with the popularity of the rail at 8:45: even though they have the option to stand, almost everyone at that Mass freely choses to kneel for Communion. Many people at that Mass have told me how much they appreciate this option to kneel, and many others have asked me to extend this opportunity to the other Masses that they attend at St. Raymond’s.
That seems like a reasonable request and a great idea: why shouldn’t everyone at every Mass have the opportunity to kneel if they want to? So, for the next few weeks I will be prayerfully considering setting out the altar rail for use at all Masses at St. Raymond’s, giving people the choice to receive either kneeling or standing. (Note: for practical reasons, Communion would still continue to be distributed in the transepts as usual, without a kneeler/rail).
Some might be worried that this will lengthen the time it takes to distribute Communion, but in fact, the opposite is true: the altar rail actually speeds up the distribution. Others might be worried that they might feel peer pressure to kneel when they don’t want to. Don’t worry, there will be no more peer pressure to kneel than there is peer pressure to stand when you don’t want to.
Let me know what you think: I’m very interested in your courteous and well-considered comments, suggestions and opinions. Please email me at fr.decelles@gmail.com, or mail or leave a note at the parish office.
(By the way, I appreciate all the input I’ve gotten on the exchange of the Sign of Peace. I will be sharing my conclusions with you on this soon.)

Priest Transfers. The changes in priest assignments was announced on Wednesday, May 30. I’m happy to note that there will be no changes at St. Raymond’s. Also, congratulations to my good friend, Fr. Kevin Beres, on his appointment as pastor of St. Peter’s in “Little” Washington.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

LOT’S OF STUFF TODAY!!

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The most fundamental dogma of our Christian faith is the Trinity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 253-255) teaches:
“The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”. The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire….
“The divine persons are really distinct from one another. …”Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son” …
“The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: “In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.” Indeed “everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship”…”
It is extremely hard to fathom this mystery, and yet the Church has insisted on it since the earliest days as the sine qua non of being a Christian. And what would we expect of something that essentially reveals the inner life of the infinite and eternal God. And in this mystery we begin to understand what it means to be a Christian: to be invited to live life in unity and love with them.

Memorial Day. For many people Memorial Day has become a holiday marking the beginning of the Summer. But let us not forget it’s true meaning: to honor all the brave men and women who have died serving in the military of our beloved country. May we honor them tomorrow, and keep them in our prayers always. And may God reward them in eternity for their sacrifices on earth.

Parish Debt Paid Off. As I announced at last Sunday’s Masses, after 11 ½ years we have finally paid off our $10.5 million building debt: we are debt free. Thanks to so many of our parishioners, both current and former, who contributed so much to bring us to this day.
This a huge milestone for the parish and we plan to celebrate it in a special way at our annual picnic on September 16. I’ve already invited Fr. James Gould (my predecessor as pastor, the one who built the church) and Bishop Burbidge, and will soon send out invitations to parishioners who have moved away, especially those who were most actively involved in the building and the paying.
Thanks be to God for this great accomplishment!

Lighting and Mural Project Moves Forward. I’m also please to announce that this week we chose NOVA Power Systems in Sterling to install our new lighting. Work will begin on Monday, July 2 (in five weeks) and will finish by September 1. Although we will not be able to use the church during the weekdays, moving Masses, confessions, the Tabernacle, and all other church-activities to the Parish Hall, we should be able to use the church on the weekends.
To make this as simple as possible, we will be cancelling most events that would normally take place in the Hall (including weekends), unless they can be scheduled in a different location (including the Maurer Room, the Library or Angelus Academy). Parish Heads of Committees should contact the parish office to discuss any of their activities that might be affected.
We will also be temporarily curtailing some of the normal weekday liturgical events during this period, including Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the Extraordinary Form Mass on 1st and 3rd Fridays. I will let you know if there are any other temporary cancellations.
As I mentioned here about a month ago, the original bids that first came to us were way over our estimates—some twice what we had estimated. So, we rethought our expectations, keeping the basic goals the same. With that, we received several bids that are more or less in line with the budget. The company we chose, NOVA, was a little bit under our original budget, and will be implementing most of our original plans. Great news.

Lighting and Mural Capital Campaign. Thanks to all of you who made pledges to pay for the lighting and mural work. We have collected most of our pledges, but we still have about 23% uncollected. Please remember that we asked that all pledges be paid in full by June 30.
Also, if anyone feels that because of the changes in our plans for the lighting they need to rethink their pledge, I would understand. Please let me know if that is the case.
Finally, pray to St. Raymond that all works out as God wills.

Our Newly Confirmed. Congratulations to our 57 young parishioners who received the great Sacrament of Confirmation last Tuesday, May 22. Let us pray for them that they may be truly open to the graces and Gifts of the Holy Spirit they have received. And thanks to all those who worked so hard to prepare them for the sacrament—especially Mary Salmon and Vince Drouillard of our Religious Education office, as well as our CCD volunteer catechists and aides: Joann Alba, Cindy Leaf, Marcia Enyart, José Costacamps, Michael Turk, Ginger Avvenire, and Anne Gordon. Also thanks to the teachers at Angelus Academy, who prepared several of our kids as well. Thank you also to Jack & Kathy Campbell for organizing the reception following Confirmation.

Parish “Transitional” Deacon. Next Saturday, June 2, Mr. James Waalkes, from our parish (and former teacher at Angelus Academy) will be ordained a deacon at St. Thomas More Cathedral. He will be called a “transitional deacon” because we are anticipating he will complete his seminary studies next year and be ordained a priest next June. In the meantime, Deacon Waalkes will serve his first Mass as a deacon here next Sunday, June 3, at 10:30. More importantly, he will also preach his first homily at that Mass. Of course, all are invited to attend, and to congratulate him afterwards at Donut Sunday.

Next Sunday’s Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession. Next Sunday, June 3, immediately after the 12:15 Mass, we will celebrate Corpus Christi Sunday with our annual Eucharistic Procession. Processing with the Eucharist outside of the church building while singing the Lord’s praises is an ancient practice dating back at least to the early 12th century. By bringing the Eucharist outside of the church building and walking out into the world with the Blessed Sacrament, believers give public witness to their faith in Jesus Christ in general, and in the His Real Presence in the Eucharist in particular. Please join us in this ancient and eloquent witness to our faith in and love of our Eucharistic Lord.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost: Veni Sancte Spiritu! This Sunday’s readings tell us that the Holy Spirit first descended on the early Christians with “a noise like a strong driving wind,” and appeared like “tongues as of fire.” After this they “began to speak in different tongues” so that the people gathered in Jerusalem “from every nation under heaven” could hear them “speaking in his own language.”
That same Holy Spirit descended on each of us in Baptism, and came again to strengthen (“confirm”—see below) His gifts in us in our Confirmations. By the baptismal indwelling of the Spirit we were united to the Divine life of Jesus Christ, and in Confirmation we were given the gifts to live the fullness of the faith amidst the great challenges of world. These gifts help us individually to get to heaven, by loving God and our neighbor, but they are also meant to help us proclaim the Gospel to all those around us, just as the first Christians did.
And the Holy Spirit does not merely come to individuals, He comes and dwells in the Church as One Body of Christ. Because of this no gift of the Holy Spirit is meant merely for personal enhancement separate from the Church, or contrary to the unity of the Church.
Let us pray to Christ and His Father, to renew in us the powerful presence of their Holy Spirit within each of us and within the whole Church. And let us ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to use His gifts to become the Christians we are called to be.

Speaking of the Sacrament of Confirmation. (By popular request, this is basically a repeat from last year’s column). This Tuesday evening, May 22, Bishop Burbidge will be here to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to our 8th graders and few others. Congratulations to them all! The sacrament, however is not a “graduation.” Rather, it is the beginning of a new stage in the Christian life, as they receive the strengthening of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, along with His seven-fold gifts, to participate more fully in the Church’s mission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
Many people are confused about this sacrament. The key, it seems to me, to understanding this sacrament is to understand the word “confirm.” Webster’s gives two basic definitions for the word: “1: to give approval to: ratify … 2 : to make firm or firmer: strengthen…” It is the second definition that defines our sacramental use of the word: Confirmation is about the Holy Spirit strengthening us.
Some think, for example, that the word “confirmation” means that the sacrament is the opportunity for the young person to publicly “ratify” their faith in Christ and His Catholic Church (i.e., the first definition of the word in Webster’s), which they couldn’t do when they were baptized as babies. But that is not the case, and anyway, they do that every Sunday when they proclaim the Creed (I believe in God…). Remember, a sacrament is something God does, not something we do. As the Catechism (1308) teaches: “we must not…forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need “ratification” to become effective…”
Others think the sacrament is when the child “becomes an adult.” Again, a misunderstanding. As the Catechism tells us: “Although Confirmation is sometimes called the “sacrament of Christian maturity,” we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth…” Confirmation does give us the grace we need to live out our faith as adults, but the grace does not make someone who is a child into an adult—it only gives a child who is growing into an adult to face difficult adult decisions, etc. with the fullness of grace they will need.
Still others think that because Confirmation is usually the last of the “Sacraments of Initiation” (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) to be received that it therefore makes us “full members of the Church.” To be absolutely clear: we become full members of the Church at Baptism. However, Confirmation and Eucharist strengthen our bond with Christ and His Church, and enable us to live out our part in the Church’s mission more perfectly. So, Confirmation, “renders our bond with the Church more perfect” (CCC 1303).
A much more appropriate short description of the sacrament is that, “it makes us soldiers for Christ.” However incomplete it is, it still communicates the strength of the sacrament and the gifts given for determined (though peaceful) proclamation of the Gospel and defense of the Church.
But let’s consider the more full and comprehensive description given by the Catechism:

“1303 …. Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
– it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation [sonship] which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”;
– it unites us more firmly to Christ;
– it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
– it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
– it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross: “Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence…” [St. Ambrose].
1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.
1305 This “character” perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and “the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi Ex officio).”

Mormons and Boy Scouts. Last week the Mormon Church announced it was ending its 105-year partnership with the Boy Scouts of America (soon to be known simply as “Scouts BSA”). In their statement the Mormons said: “we need to…fortify all children and youth with gospel-centered growth and learning experiences now more than ever.” Sounds familiar.

Parish Debt. I mentioned here last week that we should be paying off the parish debt very soon…. I will be making a special announcement about this at all Sunday Masses this weekend….

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Christ House Committee Needs Volunteers to Cook and Serve For June 29th!

Saint Raymond’s Christ House Committee is serving up Dinner for guests at Christ House in Alexandria on Friday, 30 June.

We are serving up Chicken BBQ Sandwiches with Baked Beans, Mac n Cheese, House Salad, Watermelon, and Chocolate Cake. Suggested recipes and sign-up sheets are available in the narthex and via PerfectPotluck.com. Drop off your food items at the parish hall kitchen window on Thursday (6:30a – 7 pm) or Friday (6:30a – 12 noon). You may drop off your $ donation by the Parish Office and get a tax-deductible donation form. Feel free to contact Maria Sánchez-O’Brien at pmobrisan@gmail.com or via the Committee account at ChristHouseCommittee@StRaymonds.org to sign up or if you have any questions. Thank you for helping St. Raymond’s Committee in our service mission to feed the hungry and nourish bodies and souls.

Graciously in Christ,
St. Raymond’s Christ House Committee
Maria Sánchez-O’Brien and Patrick O’Brien, Joe and Karen Adelman, Jackie Kruse, Denise Anezin, Cindy Leaf, Beth Berger, Theresa Heaney, Betsy Ryan, Pat Greco, Leslie Schratz, Craig Sweigart, Mariel Spiritosanto, and Bob and Pauline Ferguson

Solemnity of The Ascension of The Lord

Ascension of the Lord. Today we celebrate the Ascension of
the Lord, the day in history, 40 days after the first Easter, that
Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended body and soul into heaven.
This great finale to the paschal mystery, along with the bodily
death and resurrection of Jesus, has many and profound
ramifications for us today. Perhaps most urgent is the reminder
of the great dignity and profound meaning of the human body:
that the body is not merely an empty shell temporarily
inhabited by our souls, but rather it is part of who we are, that
part that communicates ourselves to others. As St. John Paul II
used to say so often: “the body speaks!” The words of our
mouth talk to others, our hands express our creativity and
helpfulness, our feet take us to be with family and friends, etc.
Nowadays people especially forget that our bodies
communicate our sexuality—our maleness and femaleness—
and through that express our openness to the self-gift (of body
and soul) of marital, maternal, and paternal love. In a time of
great confusion surrounding sexuality, “gender,” marriage and
family, we need to open our eyes to the most basic, simple and
common-sense lessons our bodies teach us.
Mother’s Day. I haven’t forgotten you Moms! I’m sure you
haven’t minded me placing the Lord’s feast first—I’m “sure”
because that’s how Moms are! Always placing others first. And
that’s why we love Moms, and motherhood, so much, and truly
revere them. As I spoke above of the meaning and dignity of
the body, motherhood is yet another expression of this
meaning. What a miraculous gift and blessing—to mothers,
husbands, children and to all society—is the motherly love
expressed so tenderly and yet powerfully through a mother’s
bodily acts: carrying a baby in her womb for 9 months, the
sacrificial pangs of childbirth, nursing her baby at her breast,
holding her child in her arms, kissing the scraped knee, the
smile that makes everything better, or the tears of compassion
or pride.
Thank the Good Lord Jesus for the gift of mothers! On
this special day, and every day, may the Lord give us the grace
to show them the love that they deserve.
And, Moms: thank you for all you do and are for us;
may the good Lord Jesus bless you and may His Mother Mary
keep you in her tender embrace forever. And let us pray for
those who have gone on before us into death: may the Lord
forgive them for their imperfections, and reward them for their
great love.
Debt Payoff Celebration. I mentioned here last week that we
should be paying off the parish debt very soon. But one
parishioner wrote to remind me that we need to do something to
celebrate this milestone achievement, and I agree (thanks, G.).
Unfortunately, this is not a good time to plan a party, with
Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and Father’s Day, and finals,
graduations and vacations, etc. So, I’ve decided to postpone the
celebration until September at our annual parish picnic, making
that an extra special event. Fr. James Gould, my predecessor
who built the church and accumulated the debt in the first place
(raising an amazing $11 million in cash along the way!), has
promised to attend. Bishop Burbidge is trying to make it work
with his calendar as well. If you have any suggestions about
how we can spruce up the picnic, let me know. Save the date:
Sunday, September 16.
Parishioners Moving. I love the summer, but I hate all the
moves that take place, especially with all the military and
government employed families. If you are planning a move this
summer, please let the office know. And please let me know,
personally. I don’t know all of my parishioners nearly as well as
I wish I could, but I love you all, and pray for you constantly.
So, please, don’t forget to say good-bye.
Scandal, and the Met Gala. Most people tend to use the word
“scandal” to mean “an action or event regarded as morally or
legally wrong and causing general public outrage.” So, if an
“event” doesn’t cause outrage, if people consider it no big deal,
then it’s not normally considered “scandalous.”
But the Catholic Church has a different definition of the
“sin of scandal.” As the Catechism teaches:
“2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads
another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his
neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may
even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave
offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a
grave offense.”
“2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason
of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those
who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse:
‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to
sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened
round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’
Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office
are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the
scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves
in sheep’s clothing.”
“2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions,
by fashion or opinion….”
So, the sin of scandal is doing something, even simply
remaining silent, that leads other to sin, including leading them
to think that something evil is okay. So, for example, when a
father laughs at someone else’s dirty joke in front of his little
son, the father sins by leading his son to think dirty jokes are
okay. Or when a mother allows her daughter to dress in sexually
-provocative outfits, she leads her daughter to think that
tempting others is okay.
Last Monday’s (May 7) annual star-studded “Met Gala”
in New York was filled with this kind of scandal. Although the
theme was promising, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the
Catholic Imagination,” at the actual event famous entertainers
showed up wearing outrageously sacrilegious outfits (e.g., halfnaked
women wearing dresses embroidered with pictures of the
Blessed Mother). One, the singer Rihanna, reportedly wore a
bishop’s miter (the hat bishops wear at Mass) with a very
skimpy dress. This would be enough to cause great scandal on
its own, since these public figures were leading others to think
that nothing was wrong with this. But what made it most
scandalous was that some Catholic leaders in New York
reportedly seemed to endorse or make light of these folks’
actions. Maybe I have my facts wrong (you can never trust the
press), and I’m no puritan, but if this is true, it makes no sense to
me….
But let’s just try, personally, never to be the source of
scandal to others, and have confidence that, by the grace of God,
“the gates of hell shall not prevail” against His Catholic Church.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Sixth Sunday of Easter

First Holy Communion. This week was a big week for our second graders as yesterday (Saturday) they received Our Lord in Holy Communion for the very first time. What a great thing for these children, to receive our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; to have the Lord come to them in the flesh, and join them to Himself in this miracle. And what a beautiful thing to see these little ones receive with such innocence and faith. If only we adults could receive with the simple faith so many of these little ones have, and recognize the miracle of the Love we receive in this sacrament, our intimate Communion with Jesus. The Lord tells us “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Does this not refer in a particular way to the Eucharist, which is Christ Himself, who is the kingdom? The children believe simply because we assure them that Jesus is God, and so has the power to do anything He wants and will always tell us the truth, and that Jesus Himself said of the bread, “This is my Body.” And so they believe. So simple. Do we believe? If not, why not? The same simple logic of children should be logical to us adults: God can’t lie, God can do anything, Jesus is God, Jesus says “This is my Body.”
Let us pray for our little ones today, that they may always believe as they do today, and receive this sacrament with the openness they do today. But let us also pray for ourselves—that we may become like our little children.

May is the Month of Mary. Today (Sunday, May 6) after the 12:15 Mass we will mark this devotion with the “May Crowning.” All are invited to join us. Also, I encourage all of you to keep this devotion by praying the Rosary during this month—even every day. I especially encourage all families to pray the Rosary together at least once a week. In the words of Saint John Paul II: “The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the center, they share His joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in His hands, they draw from Him the hope and the strength to go on” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 41).

Spring and Summer. Spring has finally sprung, which means we will begin again to experience two things at Mass: more noise and less clothes. Both of these are somewhat understandable: as they become more active outside little ones seem to tend to be more active inside also, and as it becomes warmer outside, all of us tend to wear less clothing.
The only dress code we have St. Raymond’s is to use common sense, as well as Christian modesty, chastity and charity. Growing up in Texas, I understand all about dressing for the heat. But let’s remember two things. First, please try not to dress like you’re going to the pool when you’re coming to Mass. On the other hand, if someone does come to Mass in a t-shirt let’s assume they have an important reason for doing so. The second thing to remember is that the more skin we show the more likely we are to be the near occasion of sin to others. So I ask all of you, wherever you are this summer—whether on the beach, on a date, or at Mass—please consider the spiritual well-being of others.
Also, we love to have little children at Mass. But all of us (including their parents) would also prefer if they would be peaceful and quiet at Mass. But that isn’t always the way it is—especially at this time of year. So once again, I encourage all of you, in charity, to be patient and supportive of parents and children—parenting is very difficult in the present cultural environment, so we have to help them every way we can. On the other hand, parents, please remember to do what you can, and when a child gets really out of hand at Mass, or if they continue to make noise (especially talking or shouting) please consider moving to the “Family Room” or the narthex until they quiet down. God bless you parents and your little ones!

Narthex and Family Room. Which reminds me: during the Mass the Narthex is not a place for conversation—I consider it a part of the church where people who cannot be in the main part can reverently attend Mass. Some folks have little children who need a break from the pew, and some folks don’t feel comfortable sitting in the pews (for various legitimate reasons). I’m happy these folks feel comfortable in the narthex, and out of charity ask that we all respect their right to participate in the Mass in the Narthex without further unnecessary distractions. So, please, from when the announcements start before Mass, until the Hail Mary is completed after Mass, let’s keep the Narthex a prayerful place.
Also, please remember the Narthex and the Family Room are NOT play rooms. Out of respect for the other families present, children should not be allowed to run around or make excessive noise.

Italian Dinner. Thanks to the Knights of Columbus for reviving the Italian Dinner for us this year, taking place next Saturday, May 12. Like all of our other dinners and socials it is so important to the life of our parish in order to encourage and promote good Christian fellowship. I suppose such organized fellowship is not absolutely necessary—grace (and the sacraments), the teachings of Christ, and the life of prayer and virtue are the keys to salvation. And hermits live alone and flourish. But for the vast majority of us, weak as we are, the support we receive from the holy friendship of other Christians can make so much difference in our ability to live out our faith. Families are made to live and love together, and so is the family of Jesus. And while this familial life and love is experienced and renewed par excellence in the Holy Mass, the grace and lessons of the Mass should overflow and transform the rest of life. Dinners such as this give us an opportunity, an example, and a secure environment within which to grow in our practice of fraternal love for each other, loving one another as Christ has loved us.

Sign of Peace. I’m still accepting feedback on my questions/comments about the exchange of the sign of peace. So far, I’ve received more input on this than any other question I’ve ever posed to you. Lots of responses. I’m surprised how many people agree with my assessment of the problem, and want me to make a change. But I’m still accepting input, so please don’t hesitate to send an email to me or call the parish office. I read them all. (And thanks to everyone for their kind and respectful tone).

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles