Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

List of Accused Priests. Last week Bishop Michael Burbidge, Bishop of Arlington,
released a list of 16 priests of the diocese who have been at least, as he says, “credibly
accused” of abuse of minors. I hope you know that I believe strongly that priests who are
guilty of these sins are despicable, and deserve every punishment they get in this world
and in the next. As Jesus says: “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 around his neck
and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
But as you consider that list, it’s important for your own wellbeing of spirit, your
own peace of heart, to remember a few things. First, a “credible accusation” is not the
same as being found “guilty”—it might be compared to a civil judge saying there’s
enough evidence to begin a trial, it is not a final verdict of “guilty” in that trial. But about
half of the priests on the list never had any kind of trial in the church or in civil courts,
because they were accused after they had already died, and so never had a chance to
defend themselves. And there is at least 1 on the list who maintains his innocence and his
case is still being considered (i.e., no “verdict” yet). And there is 1 on the list that Rome
has decided that there’s not enough evidence to find him guilty, and they have allowed
him to take medical retirement, as a priest, albeit without any public ministry–case
closed.
Nevertheless, I’m not making excuses for anyone, and some of those on the list
were found guilty by the Church. Again, if they are guilty, let them be punished on earth
and in hell or purgatory, according to God’s justice and mercy.
 
Vatican Summit on Abuse. As I write this on Wednesday, the leaders of the Bishops’
conferences from around the world are assembling in Rome for their summit meeting
with the Pope to discuss clerical sex abuse. The meeting runs from Thursday, February
21 to Sunday, February 24. You will remember that when the American Bishops were
assembled last November, to put into place rules addressing abusive or lying bishops, at
the last-minute Pope Francis ordered them not to pass any rules, but to wait for the
outcome of this week’s summit in Rome. Well, after so much delay in addressing the
open and bleeding wound, the summit now takes place.
Sadly, as I remarked last week, it doesn’t look like this will be a very productive
meeting, if for no other reason that many of the bishops come from countries where
sexual abuse hasn’t become an open issue as it has in the U.S., and so it seems to me that
a lot of time will be spent on convincing them that this is a huge problem, instead of
spending necessary time on fixing the problem. Even the Pope has told us that
"expectations need to be deflated.”
Nevertheless, we need to pray that the Lord brings something out of this
conference. And that the purification of the Church will continue to expand in the coming
months.
St. Peter Damien. Importantly, the summit begins on February 21, the Feast day
of St. Peter Damien, the great reformer of the clergy in the 11 th century. His letter to Pope
Leo IX, sometimes called “The Book of Gomorrah,” is a full-throated attack on the
sexual depravity, especially homosexuality (“sodomy”), of the clerics of his day.

By the age 25 Peter Damian was already a famous professor at the Universities of
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, where he became prior in 1043 until his death in 1072. In 1057 he was
reluctantly made Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia.
Living in the seclusion of the cloister, he watched closely the fortunes of the
Church, and strove for her purification in those deplorable times. From 1045 till his death
he cajoled and worked with the various popes for the purification of priests and bishops.
And in 1051 he published the “Book of Gomorrah,” which caused a great stir and aroused
widespread enmity against Peter, and still does today. Although sometimes 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.
So I encourage you to pray to St. Peter Damien, today and in the future, for the
purification of the priests, bishops and cardinals of the Church.
Some quotations from the Book of Gomorrah:
— “For God's sake, why do you damnable sodomites pursue the heights of
ecclesiastical dignity with such fiery ambition?”
— “Listen, you do-nothing superiors of clerics and priests. Listen, and even though
you feel sure of yourselves, tremble at the thought that you are partners in the guilt of
others; those, I mean, who wink at the sins of their subjects that need correction and who
by ill-considered silence allow them license to sin.”
— “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?”
— “It is not sinners, but the wicked who should despair; it is not the magnitude of
one’s crime, but contempt of God that dashes one’s hopes.”
 
Security Cameras. For years I have been increasingly concerned about the safety and
security of parishioners and visitors to our church. I especially worry about unattended
children being in the downstairs hall and hallways, especially during Sunday Mass. Also,
as time has gone on, I have been made aware that there are sometimes drug deals done in
our parking lot at night, and I worry that a parishioner might stumble upon these or other
unsavory activities. So, after an extensive process of consultation with police, insurers
and other security experts, and evaluating several bids from reputable security
companies, I have signed a contract to install multiple security cameras on our property.
Cameras will cover almost the whole outside property, as well as most of the interior of
the public spaces of the buildings.
For security purposes, I am not inclined to reveal more information about the
system, lest any “bad guys” find out information useful to them. Suffice it to say, we will
have the cameras, and they will be on 24 hours a day. If any parishioners want more
information, or have any concerns, please feel free to contact me or Tom Browne in the
office.

I will make a further announcement about this at Masses once we have the
cameras in place.
 
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Washington. Tomorrow, Monday, 2/18, is the national holiday most people seem to call “President’s Day,” but which is actually officially called “Washington’s Birthday.” It’s sad that we forget this, because we should celebrate the birth and life of the Father of our country. He was a remarkable man. An intelligent man, largely self-educated, an industrious and successful farmer, business man and entrepreneur, a loving husband and father, a loyal friend, a victorious general and unrivaled statesman. But above all, he was a patriot—he loved his native Virginia and the new nation he helped found, making great sacrifices for both. And while certainly being an ambitious man, after winning the Revolutionary War the victorious and beloved general could have contrived to have himself named king. But instead, he worked for the establishment of a federal republic. And while achieving so many great things for his country, he repeatedly and strongly credited the intervention of God for the success of the Revolution and Founding.
It is true that he was a slave owner. But he also advocated for the abolition of slavery. Like many well-meaning men of his times, he struggled to find a solution to the issue that would be just for the slaves and still not rip apart the peace and unity, and so the very survival, of the fragile new nation.
Humble, dedicated, industrious, loyal, intelligent, courageous, moral, and God-fearing, but also flawed like all of us. He stood head and shoulders above his peers, literally and figuratively, and so became the only American president elected unanimously by the electoral college, without an opponent.
I wish the leadership of our nation today would take their example from him—in all parties and all branches of government. And I hope that we all remember that example as we celebrate his birthday, and pray for our leaders today.

McCarrick. As I write this on Wednesday, the rumors abound that sometime in the next few days—maybe before you read this—the Vatican trial of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, will conclude, finding him guilty of various charges of sexual misconduct/abuse. Word is that his punishment will be the harshest penalty the Church can give a priest: laicization/defrocking. The rumors seem to come from every credible source in Rome, and so I can’t help but think they’re true.
If this IS true, thank God! If he has been found guilty and defrocked, the damage this villainous priest has perpetrated be finally be recognized, and he will be driven from the ranks of active priests. And the Pope would have taken decisive action against one of the powerful leaders of the homosexual cadre of priests, bishops and cardinals that have had so much influence behind the scenes in the halls of power in the Church.
However…Much is left to be done. McCarrick may have been a leader of the “lavender mafia,” or “gay mafia,” but he was old, 88. It may turn out that he is merely a sacrificial goat, and his punishment may end any further investigation into the other members of the cadre, which will go on, unhampered in power and influence. Recall that the sexual accusations against McCarrick came with three other accusations: that 1) Vatican officials knew and covered up his sins and crimes, 2) Pope Francis undid the punishment/sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on McCarrick and restored him to powerful influence in the Church, 3) McCarrick had influenced the Pope in promoting other homosexual (or homosexual-friendly) priests to become bishops, and cardinals.
Will there be any follow up investigation to these accusations? Whenever Pope Francis has spoken about McCarrick he has treated it as an isolated case, as if it has no consequences beyond this one offender. And as if there has been no coverup, and no cadre behind him.
Since 2002, when the American bishops came up with new rules under the so-called “Dallas Charter,” the bishops have largely dealt with the problem of abusive priests relatively effectively (note: the vast majority of the cases in last summer’s Pennsylvania Grand Jury report were cases arising before 2002). But their effort hasn’t been entirely successful with regards to offending priests, and it has not been successful at all with regard to bishops and cardinals who are themselves predators or have protected predators. Literally, the rules that have applied to priests since 2002 in no way apply to bishops.
Vatican Summit, This Week. Many hoped that would change when the American bishops met last November in Baltimore, specifically to enact rules to punish offending bishops and cardinals. But that hope was dashed on the night before the bishops’ conference, as the Pope ordered them not to vote on any changes, but to wait for the results and conclusions of a special summit of bishops from all over the world that he was convoking in Rome from February 21 to 24—this coming week.
Since then, however, hopes have dimmed that that summit will yield any immediate meaningful changes. In November, Pope Francis announced that Cardinal Blase Cupich would be one of the leaders of the summit; recall that it has been alleged that Cupich was appointed Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago through the efforts of none other than McCarrick. Cupich also publicly stated about the accusations surrounding McCarrick: “The Pope has a bigger agenda. He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants …”
Moreover, in the last few weeks Pope Francis himself has made it clear that not much is going to happen at the summit. On his flight back from Panama on January 27, the Pope told reporters: “The expectations need to be deflated…The problems of abuse will continue. It is a human problem, everywhere….We felt the need to give a ‘catechesis’ on this problem to the bishops’ conferences.” Not very encouraging.
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit intervenes to bring some good out of the summit this week. And let us pray, and advocate, that a full investigation be done into the web of sins and lies exposed by the McCarrick case. Enough is enough.

Correction. Last week I referred to “Senator Harry Byrd” of West Virginia as being a former leader of the KKK. That was my typo: I meant to write “Senator Robert Byrd”. My apologies.

Clarification. Three weeks ago, in my homily on volunteering, I made the claim, “I don’t need your help.” Since then, several parishioners have made it clear to me that they were so stunned and upset by that isolated statement that they didn’t hear very clearly what I said right after that. And that’s my fault: I was probably not very prudent in the way I presented it.
But when I said, “I don’t need your help,” I immediately went on to say, essentially, that my request for volunteers isn’t about helping me to make my life easier, it’s about making the parish better. And I then concluded, by saying, “And for that, I do need your help!”
So, to be clear: I ABSOLUTELY DO NEED YOUR HELP to make this the best parish possible. My apologies if wording or approach was clumsy.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles
Washington. Tomorrow, Monday, 2/18, is the national holiday most people seem to call “President’s Day,” but which is actually officially called “Washington’s Birthday.” It’s sad that we forget this, because we should celebrate the birth and life of the Father of our country. He was a remarkable man. An intelligent man, largely self-educated, an industrious and successful farmer, business man and entrepreneur, a loving husband and father, a loyal friend, a victorious general and unrivaled statesman. But above all, he was a patriot—he loved his native Virginia and the new nation he helped found, making great sacrifices for both. And while certainly being an ambitious man, after winning the Revolutionary War the victorious and beloved general could have contrived to have himself named king. But instead, he worked for the establishment of a federal republic. And while achieving so many great things for his country, he repeatedly and strongly credited the intervention of God for the success of the Revolution and Founding of our nation..
It is true that he was a slave owner. But he also advocated for the abolition of slavery. Like many well-meaning men of his times, he struggled to find a solution to the issue that would be just for the slaves and still not rip apart the peace and unity, and so the very survival, of the fragile new nation.
Humble, dedicated, industrious, loyal, intelligent, courageous, moral, and God-fearing, but also flawed like all of us. He stood head and shoulders above his peers, literally and figuratively, and so became the only American president elected unanimously by the electoral college, without an opponent.
I wish the leadership of our nation today would take their example from him—in all parties and all branches of government. And I hope that we all remember that example as we celebrate his birthday, and pray for our leaders today.

McCarrick. As I write this on Wednesday, the rumors abound that sometime in the next few days—maybe before you read this—the Vatican trial of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, will conclude, finding him guilty of various charges of sexual misconduct/abuse. Word is that his punishment will be the harshest penalty the Church can give a priest: laicization/defrocking. The rumors seem to come from every credible source in Rome, and so I can’t help but think they’re true.
If this IS true, thank God! If he has been found guilty and defrocked, the damage this villainous priest has perpetrated will finally be recognized, and he will be driven from the ranks of active priests. And the Pope would have taken decisive action against one of the powerful leaders of the homosexual cadre of priests, bishops and cardinals that have had so much influence behind the scenes in the halls of power in the Church.
However…Much is left to be done. McCarrick may have been a leader of the “lavender mafia,” or “gay mafia,” but he was old, 88. It may turn out that he is merely a sacrificial goat, and his punishment may end any further investigation into the other members of the cadre, which will go on, unhampered in power and influence. Recall that the sexual accusations against McCarrick came with three other accusations: that 1) Vatican officials knew and covered up his sins and crimes, 2) Pope Francis undid the punishment/sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on McCarrick and restored him to powerful influence in the Church, 3) McCarrick had influenced the Pope in promoting other homosexual (or homosexual-friendly) priests to become bishops, and cardinals.
Will there be any follow up investigation to these accusations? Whenever Pope Francis has spoken about McCarrick he has treated it as an isolated case, as if it has no consequences beyond this one offender. And as if there has been no coverup, and no cadre behind him.
Since 2002, when the American bishops came up with new rules under the so-called “Dallas Charter,” the bishops have largely dealt with the problem of abusive priests relatively effectively (note: the vast majority of the cases in last summer’s Pennsylvania Grand Jury report were cases arising before 2002). But their effort hasn’t been entirely successful with regards to offending priests, and it has not been successful at all with regard to bishops and cardinals who are themselves predators or have protected predators. Literally, the rules that have applied to priests since 2002 in no way apply to bishops.
Vatican Summit, This Week. Many hoped that would change when the American bishops met last November in Baltimore, specifically to enact rules to punish offending bishops and cardinals. But that hope was dashed on the night before the bishops’ conference, as the Pope ordered them not to vote on any changes, but to wait for the results and conclusions of a special summit of bishops from all over the world that he was convoking in Rome from February 21 to 24—this coming week.
Since then, however, hopes have dimmed that the summit will yield any immediate meaningful changes. In November, Pope Francis announced that Cardinal Blase Cupich would be one of the leaders of the summit; recall that it has been alleged that Cupich was appointed Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago through the efforts of none other than McCarrick. Cupich also publicly stated about the accusations surrounding McCarrick: “The Pope has a bigger agenda. He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants …”
Moreover, in the last few weeks Pope Francis himself has made it clear that not much is going to happen at the summit. On his flight back from Panama on January 27, the Pope told reporters: “The expectations need to be deflated…The problems of abuse will continue. It is a human problem, everywhere….We felt the need to give a ‘catechesis’ on this problem to the bishops’ conferences.” Not very encouraging.
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit intervenes to bring some good out of the summit this week. And let us pray, and advocate, that a full investigation be done into the web of sins and lies exposed by the McCarrick case. Enough is enough.

Correction. Last week I referred to “Senator Harry Byrd” of West Virginia as being a former leader of the KKK. That was my typo: I meant to write “Senator Robert Byrd”. My apologies.

Clarification. Three weeks ago, in my homily on volunteering, I made the claim, “I don’t need your help.” Since then, several parishioners have made it clear to me that they were so stunned and upset by that isolated statement that they didn’t hear very clearly what I said right after that. And that’s my fault: I was probably not very prudent in the way I presented it.
But when I said, “I don’t need your help,” I immediately went on to say, essentially, that my request for volunteers isn’t about helping me to make my life easier, it’s about making the parish better. And I then concluded, by saying, “And for that, I do need your help!”
So, to be clear: I ABSOLUTELY DO NEED YOUR HELP to make this the best parish possible. My apologies if my wording or approach was clumsy.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Pro-Life Rally at South County. Last week I wrote about Springfield State Delegate
Kathy Tran’s barbaric proposed legislation which would have essentially legalized
abortion on demand up to full term. After I wrote that on Wednesday, the folks at the
Susan B. Anthony Foundation (SBA) sent out the word that Tran had scheduled a
Townhall meeting for that Saturday. Long story short, the word got around and pretty
soon it seems so many pro-lifers would be there that Tran cancelled the meeting
(although she said it was for safety and security reasons, as if pro-lifers are a risk to
safety). In any case, SBA went on with the press conference they had scheduled before
the townhall, and between 700 and 1000 pro-lifers showed up, standing outside the
school in freezing temperatures for almost an hour, to support them and speakers from
various other pro-life organizations in the Commonwealth. Thanks to all the St. Raymond
parishoners who showed up. We cannot back down from our defense of life against of the
radical agenda of so many of the extremists in Richmond and Washington.

Northam Troubles. Of course last week I also wrote about how our governor had made
a gruesome statement about what happens when a late-term abortion fails, and the baby is
born alive. How he basically said the decision to let it live outside the womb was up to
the mother—which is pretty much an endorsement of infanticide.
But soon after that, news came out of a picture in his medical school year book
supposedly depicting him as wearing “black face” or a KKK costume. Of course, in the
eyes of the leftist media a 30-year-old horribly racist joke is much worse than last week’s
endorsement of killing a baby on the operating table, so that latter story took over the
news, pushing infanticide to the side.
It seems unnecessary, except in these hypercritical times, for me to state the
obvious: this kind of racist activity, whether joking or serious, is disgusting and
unequivocally unchristian, and to remind you that racism is a sin, and often a mortal sin.
And a racist should not be given a place in modern representative government.
But it does worry me a bit that a sin or mistake someone committed 30 years ago,
is used so readily as a bludgeon to attack any politician. I recall that when former Senator
Harry Byrd died in 2010 he was treated as a venerable statesman, even though he had
been an actual leader of the KKK in West Virginia in the 1950s. In this case, he had
repented long ago, and his sin had largely been forgiven by virtually everyone. Which
goes to show that people change over time—I know I have. And when that change shows
in the way they live, I think they deserve some credit for that, and forgiveness of the old
sin.
That is not to say that I am minimizing Northam’s bad behavior of 30 years ago.
Rather, I am simply encouraging us all to consider that people can change. I am certainly
not supporting him, especially considering his embrace of abortion and infanticide. In
fact, it occurs to me that his indifference to the dignity of some human life may have,
over time, simply switched over time from targeting African Americans to targeting
another vulnerable group: unborn babies.

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax. With calls for Governor Northam’s resignation

pouring in from all sides, especially from his own Democratic Party, attention shifted to
the possibility of Lt. Gov. Fairfax stepping up to take his place. But then it came out that
Fairfax has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago, when he was a
young lawyer and Democratic Party operative. It’s interesting to compare that case to
another similar case: when Judge Brett Kavanaugh was accused of a similar offense that
had happened 35 years ago, when he was an 18-year-old. Both charges are leveled by
very credible women, both college professors, but it is strange how the leaders of the
Democratic party have responded so differently to the 2 allegations. In Kavanaugh’s case
we kept hearing senators and congressmen say, “I believe the accuser,” even before
hearing any evidence or testimony. But in Fairfax’s case, we hear nothing like that.
Instead, the Democratic Party of Virginia issued a statement saying only that the
allegation against Fairfax, should be "taken with profound gravity….We will continue to
evaluate the situation regarding Lieutenant Governor Fairfax.”
Why would they be treated so differently? Could it be their different stands on
abortion? Clearly that was why they attacked Kavanaugh so severely. Perhaps the
opposite is true with Fairfax, who is a strong supporter of abortion and in 2016 served as
the board vice-chair of the Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington Action Fund.

Altar Rail and Pulpit. I want to reiterate my request for comments about my proposal to
install a permanent altar rail and replace the current pulpit with a smaller but beautiful
new one. See last weeks column for more details. But I really would like your comments
and advice. My mind is not made up, and I want to know what your thinking, email me at
fr.decelles@gmail.com.

Vestments. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would be discussing the vestments of the
priest at Mass. Today I’d like to discuss the amice.
The amice is the first vestment the priest puts on for Mass. It is a piece of linen or
cotton cloth, about 30” by 20”, that is draped over the shoulders and wrapped around the
neck, usually tucked in to cover the collar. It is then tied in place by two attached
cords/ribbons that wrap around the back and tie in front of the chest.
The origins of the amice date at least to the 10 th century, and various sources
propose that it was introduced either to cover the regular clothing of the priest, to protect
the costlier vestments from the perspiration of the face or neck, or as a winter muffler
protecting the throat of those who had to take care of their voices for singing the Mass.
These are all still part of its practical purpose.
From the middle ages the amice was also often ample enough to be used to cover
the head of priest at certain points of the Mass like a hood (later this would normally be
replaced by the biretta) or a helmet. This practice is still in place in some religious orders.
From this it derives its spiritual symbolism as a spiritual helmet of the “armor of God.”
Today this is seen in the custom of the priest to lay the amice first over the head before
sliding it to his shoulders, as he prays, the prayer, “"Impone, Domine, capiti meo galeam
salutis, ad expugnandos diabolicos incursus" –Place upon me, O Lord, the helmet of
salvation, that I may overcome the assaults of the devil.”

Note the amice is required, unless the alb is designed to “completely cover the
ordinary clothing at the neck” (i.e., the black and white “roman collar” of the priest’s
normal shirt or cassock should not be visible).

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Never Let Up the Pro-Life Fight. The last few days have been a reminder to all of us that we can never stop fighting the good fight to defend the right to life, especially for unborn children.
New York. On January 23rd, one day after the 46th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that will allow unborn babies to be aborted at any stage of the pregnancy, even just before full-term birth. It also allows non-doctors to perform abortions, redefines a “person” as “a human being who has been born and is alive,” and describes abortion as a “fundamental right.”
One of the side-effects of the law is that it will no longer be a crime for someone to kill an unborn child even if the mother is not seeking an abortion, e.g., if unborn baby dies as the result of an assault on 40-week pregnant woman, the baby’s death is not a crime.
This is nothing short of barbarism. Think of this: a healthy unborn baby, who comes to full term, one day before his mother would normally give birth, may be killed with the state’s approval. One day later, that same baby, now born, is a human being and killing it is the crime of murder. One day. Nonsense.
Cuomo, a baptized Catholic, went on to brag about his barbarity, and to mock his Catholic faith: “The Catholic Church doesn’t believe in a woman’s right to choose…I understand their religious view…I’m not here to represent a religion.” Let’s rephrase that for him properly (my own rephrasing): “The Catholic Church doesn’t believe that anyone has a right to kill an unborn human being,…I understand their rational human view…but I’m not here to represent rational humans.” Killing babies, born or unborn, is wrong because they are human beings, “persons”, no matter what the law of New York says. It is not simply a religious view, it is the scientifically informed rational truth. And Cuomo is a bloody barbarian, and he should be excommunicated, for his own good and the good of God’s people.
Virginia, and Springfield. Then comes the news this week that our very own state Delegate from Springfield, Kathy Tran, freshman Democrat, has introduced a bill similar to the one in New York, HB2491. It would allow abortion up to 40 weeks (including outpatient late term abortions), repeal informed consent and abdominal ultrasound requirements, eliminate the 24-hour waiting period, allow abortionists to self-certify third trimester abortions, and exempt abortion clinics from health and safety standards.
This is just sickening. Consider this back-and-forth between Republican Delegate Todd Gilbert and Tran on the House floor last week:
Gilbert: “So how late in the third trimester could a physician perform an abortion if he indicated it would impair the mental health of the woman?”…
Tran: “I mean, through the third trimester. The third trimester goes all the way up to 40 weeks.”…
Gilbert: “So where it’s obvious that a woman is about to give birth, she has physical signs that she’s about give birth, would that still be a point at which she could still request an abortion if she was so certified? [pause] She’s dilating?…
Tran: “My bill would allow that, yes.”

We must stop this. Did you vote in the state elections in November 2017? Or did you stay at home? Did you vote for this woman who thinks it’s okay, a right, to kill a baby when it’s ready to be born? Who even wants to do away with all common-sense medical protections for the mother’s physical health?
Please contact Delegate Kathy Tran to voice your rejection of this abhorrent bill. Contact info:
Richmond: Pocahontas Building, 900 E. Main St, Richmond, Virginia 23219; Phone: (804) 698-1042.
Springfield: P.O. Box 2731, Springfield, Virginia 22152; Phone: (703) 828-7173.
Email Address:DelKTran@house.virginia.gov

Thanks be to God, the small pro-life majority in the House of Delegates will most certainly not pass this bill. But our narrow advantage could easily be wiped out in the state elections this coming November. If we don’t stop them. Peacefully, with charity and reason, but also forthrightly, with clarity and truth. And with speaking out in the public square, to our friends and in the voting booth!

March for Life—Thanks. Thanks to all parishioners and friends who participated in this year’s March for Life on the Washington Mall on January 18. Once again it was a great success for us, as we took 4 bus loads to the March, and were joined by dozens of other parishioners who drove or “metroed” in. Not to mention all who participated at home, work or in church, by praying, and all those who prepared a wonderful chili dinner for the marchers in the parish hall afterwards. Special thanks to Liz Hildebrand and Sherri Burns for all their hard work in organizing things.

New Altar Rail and Pulpit. Over the last few months I have been approached by many parishioners asking me to make the altar rail more permanent. So I’ve asked a church designer to come up with some proposals. We would most likely install a marble rail, and extend the sanctuary out a few feet to where the current wooden rails are now. To ease the flow of traffic a bit, we would probably remove the first row in front of the sanctuary (this would eliminate only 10 – 12 seats, which would only affect us on Christmas and Easter). I’m also thinking of installing altar rails in front of the statues of Mary and Joseph, so that folks sitting in the side transepts could also make use of the altar rail. If I do that, I will also replace the carpeting in front of those statues with marble, so as to make that area more a part of the sanctuary (while still allowing access to the votive candles).
Also, I am considering replacing our pulpit. Unfortunately, our current pulpit presents several problems: 1) it is not constructed very well (as you can see if you actually stand near or especially at the pulpit); 2) it is oversized and does not fit aesthetically with the rest of our sanctuary; 3) its size tends to unnecessarily block the view of the sanctuary from the pews on the “Mary”-side transept; 4) although large on the “outside”, it is actually rather narrow for someone standing inside of it (and so uncomfortable for larger readers and priests).
So I’m thinking of commissioning a local marble worker to design and craft a new smaller but beautiful pulpit.
I’m not sure when we would do the work on this in the church, but I would hope it would happen this summer. Also, before that we would have to raise the money from a special fund drive/capital campaign.
But it’s just in the planning and thinking stage now. Nothing is final. I want your input. Always with charity and respect. But tell me what you think—email, write or call me. I’ll report back to you in a few weeks when I have a better feel for what the parishioners are thinking, and what the designers, etc. are proposing.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Shutdown Troubles? I encourage all of you to pray for a just end to the federal partial shutdown, and for all those directly affected by the shutdown. Please be aware if that if any parishioner directly affected by the shutdown needs financial help, even a short-term loan, the parish can help. Just contact me or Eva in the parish office.

Gillette Commercial. I must say something about Gillette’s new commercial lecturing men about what it refers to as “toxic masculinity.” While perhaps in some ways well intentioned, Gillette has clearly bought in to the popular and false ideological notion behind the term “toxic masculinity.” That is, first of all, that all traits that we traditionally have defined as being clearly masculine (or feminine) are actually merely culturally or socially conditioned (i.e., learned, not genetic/natural). Second, it is held that certain “learned masculine” traits are inherently destructive and must be suppressed, including aggression/violence, hypersexuality, competitiveness, and suppression of emotions/feelings.
It is well documented that males and females are very different physically, mentally, and emotionally, and this is rooted in their male or female genetics—they were born this way. I commend you to the work of anthropologist Lionel Tiger (The Decline of Males and Men in Groups) and philosopher Christina Hoff Summers (Who Stole Feminism? and The War Against Boys). And I would argue that each of these so-called “learned” “toxic masculine” qualities are rooted in good healthy masculine traits which are defined in male genetics.
For example, aggression/violence. Although this trait is often discussed in a negative-pejorative sense, no one thinks it evil when a security guard aggressively disarms a crazed school shooter by force (i.e., “violence”) When we see little boys playfully wrestling with each other or pretending to shoot at each other using their fingers as guns, that is not toxic. Rather, it is an expression of a natural and good masculine trait.
The key is understanding that they gifted with this violent/aggressive tendency not in order to hurt innocent people, but rather to readily defend self, family and community. This is a good and natural thing. And it is the corruption of this good trait that is the problem. Which is why Jesus and His Catholic Church have never rejected aggressiveness or violence, but rather promoted self-discipline and self-control, to govern these traits with reason and with love. This has been one of the great contributions Christianity has brought to the world, and it is the loss of this Christian perspective that have led to the abuse of these traits.
So while men should exercise self-control in reason and charity, especially in their treatment of women—in particular by following the teachings of Jesus—but they should not be ashamed of being masculinity.

Covington Catholic Boys. By now you’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding the boys from Covington Catholic High School (Covington, Kentucky) at the March for Life on January 18. While it was first reported that the boys were insulting to an old Indigenous American Indian, the facts eventually proved they were innocent, and were in fact themselves the victims of abuse by two different radical groups.
Of course, everyone ran with the original false story of the boys abusing the old man, and condemnations rained down on them from all over the place. Most despicable was the almost immediate condemnation by their school and by the spokesperson for their Diocese of Covington, and so by their own Bishop.
This makes me ill. Isn’t this a form of “child abuse”? Why are Church officials increasingly so quick to blame or condemn their own, even our children, before the facts are known. It seems sometimes they are too afraid of being blamed for the bad behavior of others. Isn’t that a big part of the reason for the cover up of sexual abuse—officials trying to avoid looking bad?
Of course, fortunately, not all of our leaders are this way. But let us pray that all Catholic leaders will always have the courage and integrity it takes to apply true justice to all entrusted to their care. And let’s pray for the boys from Covington.

News you might have missed. Due to the snow on January 12-13 you might have missed these topics covered in my column that day. I want to re-publish them (abridged) for your benefit today:
Update on Lighting and Murals Project. I just wanted to let you know that our lighting project, which was complete in August, is completely paid for and came in under budget. The total actual costs were $363,831.80 (including the millwork and initial costs for the paintings), compared to our budget of $372,207.90. The only thing that remains to be paid for is the murals themselves and their installation, which is fixed at a cost of $67,200.00.
Offertory Collection. I want to thank all of you for giving so generously to various collections over the last few weeks, and for your special year-end donations to the parish.
But I’m a little concerned too. Because for the last few months I’ve been watching our collections and other donations very carefully and, unfortunately, they’ve been going down. For the six months ended December 31, 2018, we’ve seen a decline in “revenue” of $93,000, or down 8% from last year at this time. That’s a lot of money.
Now, frankly, I have been expecting something like this for years: I figured once the building loan was paid off some of you would stop seeing the need to give as much.
But there is probably another factor affecting this: the abuse-coverup scandal. A lot of people think the only way to get the bishops and the pope to do something is to hit them in their pocketbooks, so they’ve decided not to give to the Church, or not to give as much as before.
I understand that. But only 8% of the parish offertory collection (we call it the “cathedraticum tax”) goes to the Bishop for diocesan expenses. So by decreasing your donations to the parish you are affecting the parish much more than you are affecting the Bishop/Diocese. So if this a concern, please reconsider. And remember, contributions to the Maintenance Fund or to the parish separately from the Offertory Collection are not subject to the cathedraticum tax, and 100% goes to the parish. [To be clear: I am not in any way expressing support for withholding donations to the Bishop].
The thing is, we will survive and be okay with the decline in contributions. But we will be limited in our planning for the future, and in what we can do today. And I don’t want the parish to be just “okay,” even financially. I want us to flourish.
So I once again thank you all for your generosity. And I just ask you to please prayerfully consider the level of your giving, and give what you think is right to the parish.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Snow and Vacation. It looks like the parish weathered last weekend’s snow pretty well. No damage to the church or facilities, and no severe damage or injuries reported by parishioners. Praised be Jesus Christ.
If you couldn’t get to Mass last Sunday due to the weather—whether from being snowed in, or out of serious fear of maneuvering in the snow or ice—be assured that no sin was involved. On the other hand, for those of you who did make it to Mass, I want to tell you how proud I am of your effort. I know God will give you a little extra grace for that.
And I’m sorry I couldn’t be here with you to endure/enjoy the snow and cold. Unfortunately, I was in Florida, golfing in 80 degree and sunny weather.

Parish Volunteers. As we begin a new year we all make certain “new year’s resolutions.” I hope this applies to us especially when it comes to resolutions about growing in our Catholic Faith.
One of the best ways to grow in your Catholic faith is to become active in one or more parish groups or committee. It may not be as essential as receiving the Sacraments, reading the Scriptures or studying the Catechism, but getting involved in parish activities can be an important means of discovering the meaning of Christian service, as well as the support of your fellow parishioners. Moreover, it can lead you to discover other opportunities the parish provides for spiritual growth.
I know when I was a 20-something year-old Catholic lay man that was an important factor contributing to the deepening my faith. Sometimes the Church, and even the parish, can seem so huge and impersonal. But by being involved in a particular small group or activity of the parish you can really become involved in the life of the whole parish. Not only does this create a personal and familial sense of belonging, but it also draws you deeper into the life of the whole parish and the whole Church—you meet more people and make more good Catholic friends who help and encourage you in your spiritual and moral growth.
So this year I encourage you to resolve to take a more active part in the life of our parish, and to do so as did the Lord Jesus, who “came to serve, not to be served.” Resolve to become a committed volunteer for one or more activities or groups in the parish.
Many St. Raymond parishioners have a strong history of committed volunteerism (God bless you!). Sometimes, however, this causes others (especially newcomers) to think that their help isn’t needed. But the reality is just the opposite: we constantly need fresh ideas, younger muscles, new voices, etc. And, frankly, some of our volunteers are stepping back due to age, and others are just worn out because they don’t get the help they need!
Moreover, we can’t grow or improve, much less keep current services going, if we don’t have more help, and new help! So I encourage folks who aren’t committed to some volunteer parish activity now to do so in 2019, especially those who are newer to our parish. And I encourage those of you who are volunteers already to invite other parishioners you meet to join you!
I know everybody’s busy, and many of you are already serving the Lord in many ways outside of the parish. But I beg you to think and pray seriously about the specific ways you can volunteer in our parish. We need your help. To jog your thoughts here, see the insert in this bulletin for list of the various parish committees/activities that need your help.
In particular, I know of immediate needs among the Ushers, the Choir, and the Knights of Columbus. But, look over the insert, and ask God to show you where He wants you.

The Maniple. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about the vestments the priest wears at Mass. But one priestly vestment that you may not even be aware of is the “maniple.” This vestment is about a yard long and 3-5 inches wide and is worn over the priest’s left forearm.
Historically, the maniple probably derives from the small towel or handkerchief, a “mappula,” than ancient Romans wore on their left arms to wipe away sweat or tears. The use of this as a liturgical vestment dates at least to the 6th century in Rome, and very early on came to symbolize the tears and sweat related to the toils of the priest. St. Alphonsus Liguori tells us that it, “was introduced for the purpose of wiping away the tears of devotion that flowed from the eyes of the priest; for in former times priests wept continuously during the celebration of the Mass,” (The Dignity and Duties of the Priest). Other symbolic meanings are often attached to it as well, such as relating it to the ropes or chains that bound Jesus during His Passion.
If you’re not familiar with this vestment, don’t worry—it is hardly ever used anymore. In 1967 the Vatican allowed that, “The maniple is no longer required,” (Tres Abhinc Annos, 25), and when the new Roman Missal was published in 1970 the maniple was omitted from the list of required vestments for the “Novus Ordo Missae” (New Order of Mass) or the “Ordinary Form of Mass.”
However, it continued to be worn by priests celebrating the “Extraordinary Form of Mass” using the Roman Missal of 1962, or the “Old Latin Mass.” Because of this, some priests have asked Vatican officials if the maniple may still be worn even in the Ordinary Form. In response to this and other questions about vestments, in 2010 the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff issued an explanation of the vestments worn at Mass, in which it reminded us that the maniple was never forbidden and so is still a legitimate vestment in the Ordinary Form: “It fell into disuse in the years of the post-conciliar reform, even though it was never abrogated.” (See “Liturgical Vestments and the Vesting Prayers,” http://www.vatican.va/).
As a priest who celebrates both the Extraordinary Form and Ordinary Form of Mass I have often thought of wearing the maniple during the Ordinary Form, i.e., our regular Sunday Mass. One reason it fell into disuse is that it is a bit cumbersome/awkward having a long piece of cloth tied to your forearm during Mass. But to me this awkwardness serves as a constant reminder both that priestly ministry involves the hard work and suffering (sweat and tears), and that I must say Mass with profound reverence and devotion (i.e., St. Alphonsus’ “tears of devotion”).
So, I’ve decided to wear the maniple, at least at some of my Sunday Masses. We’ll see how it goes. But I thought you’d like to know what was on my mind in doing this.

Oremus pro invicem, Fr. De Celles

Bake Sale this Weekend!

The Youth Apostolate will be hosting a bake sale this weekend. Donations of individually wrapped, unpriced, baked goods are needed and may be dropped off at the table in the Narthex starting at 4:00pm on Saturday and anytime before the start of the Sunday 12:15pm Mass. •100% of the bake sale proceeds will go towards our many Youth Apostolate endeavors, including-but not limited to WorkCamp, Steubenville, youth group meetings and events.

The Baptism of the Lord

Christmas Ends, and Continues. Today we end the season of Christmas. But as this special liturgical celebration of Christmas ends, the celebration of the essence and meaning of Christmas must continue. By that I don’t mean the secular or sentimental celebration of Christmas, but rather the celebration of the fact that the eternal God the Son condescended to be born a vulnerable baby, in order that He may enter fully into our human life, and by His human life, death and resurrection transform that life. Christ came to change us, so let’s allow Him to change our lives, and go into this new year recommitted to truly love Him and our neighbor as He taught and showed us, to live the life of grace, hope, faith and love. The life of Jesus Christ, who came to us on Christmas day to change us and to remain with us throughout the year, and all our lives.

March for Life. This Friday, January 18, hundreds of thousands of Christians and other people of goodwill will participate in the 46th annual “March for Life” on the Mall in Washington, commemorating the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade creating the so-called “right to abortion.” Perhaps no court decision or legislation has so directly and fundamentally had such a wide and terrible effect on our nation. And not only in the devastation of 60 million or so babies it has killed, or the millions of mothers whose lives it has ruined. But also in its shaping of our American culture into a culture that degrades human life more and more every day, transforming human beings from persons whose lives have value and meaning in themselves into things that have value and meaning only to the extent other persons who have power over them chose to give them.
Some people tell us we should not talk about this, or at least not talk about it so much, or so loudly or so vehemently. But how can we be silent, when we remember that it is all intimately related to the radicalness of God’s love and His commandment to love our neighbor.
On Friday four busloads of St. Raymond parishioners will drive down to the Mall to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Life, including the Lord’s call to all of us to love our neighbor, even if our neighbor is a tiny unborn baby. Please join us. Sign-up sheets for the bus are located in the narthex of the Church today.

Update on Lighting and Murals Project. I just wanted to let you know that our lighting project, which was finished in August, is completely paid for and came in under budget. The total actual costs were $363,831.80 (including the millwork and initial costs for the paintings), compared to our budget of $372,207.90. The only thing that remains to be paid for is the murals themselves and their installation, which is fixed at a cost of $67,200.00.

Offertory Collection. I want to thank all of you for giving so generously to various collections over the last few weeks, and for your special year-end donations to the parish.

But I’m a little concerned too. Just a little. Because for the last few months I’ve been watching our Offertory collection very carefully and, unfortunately, it has been going down. For the six months ended December 31, 2018, it has declined by $139,000 compared to the same period last year. Happily, this has been partially offset by an increase in our Maintenance Fund (formerly “Building Loan”) collection and other Donations by $45,000, but that still leaves a decline of $93,000, or down 8% from last year at this time. That’s a lot of money.
Now, frankly, I have been expecting something like this for years: I figured once the building loan was paid off some of you would stop seeing the need to give as much.
But there is probably another factor affecting this: the abuse-coverup scandal. A lot of people think the only way to get the bishops and the pope to do something is to hit them in their pocketbooks, so they’ve decided not to give to the Church, or not to give as much as before.
I understand that. The thing is, though, of the parish offertory collection, only 8% (we call it the “cathedraticum tax”) goes to the Bishop for diocesan expenses, and none of it goes to “Rome.” So by decreasing your donations to the parish you are affecting the parish much more than you are affecting the Bishop/Diocese. So if this a concern, please reconsider. And remember, contributions to the Maintenance Fund or to the parish separately from the Offertory Collection are not subject to the cathedraticum tax, and 100% goes to the parish.
The thing is, we will survive and be okay with the decline in contributions. But we will be limited in our planning for the future, and in what we can do today. And I don’t want the parish to be just “okay,” even financially. I want us to flourish.
I know that sometime in the next few months, someone from the Diocesan staff will call and tell me I have to do a hard sell campaign to get you to increase donations. That is something I do not want to do, first of all, because it’s your money, not “ours”, but also I just don’t think that’s right during this time of confusion and scandal.
So I once again thank you all for your generosity. And I just ask you to please prayerfully consider the level of your giving, and give what you think is right to the parish.

Rest in Peace. Last week we heard the sad news that long-time parishioner, Cathy Conway, had passed away. Cathy and her family joined St. Raymond’s in 2004, and she was active in the parish, especially with our Special Needs Apostolate and the youth group, for many years. She also served on our Finance Committee for many years, including as chairman under both Fr. Gould and me. She was a great help to me in my first year at the parish. Please keep her and her family in your prayers. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles