Something to Pray About During Lent. I have often written and spoken about the choices we have in the manner we receive Holy Communion. In one column I wrote, after giving my reasons, “I recommend that all of my parishioners prayerfully consider receiving Communion on the tongue. However, it is your choice…I respect your choice.” The same can be said for the choice to kneel or stand.
Given that, I refer you to a new book published (in Italian) which includes a preface by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (i.e. the Church’s head of Liturgy), in which he wrote about these choices. What follows is an extract from this preface (from LifeSiteNews). I ask you to read it prayerfully.
“…Before the apparition of the Virgin Mary [at Fatima], in the Spring of 1916, the Angel of Peace appeared to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco…[T]he children realized that the Angel…held in his left hand a chalice over which a host was suspended… saying: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” The Angel prostrated himself again on the ground, repeating the same prayer three times with Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco.
“The Angel of Peace therefore shows us how we should receive the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ…But what are the outrages that Jesus receives in the holy Host, for which we need to make reparation?
“…[T]he most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, by sowing errors and fostering an unsuitable way of receiving it. Truly the war between Michael and his Angels on one side, and lucifer on the other, continues in the hearts of the faithful: Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated Host. This robbery attempt follows two tracks: the first is the reduction of the concept of ‘real presence.’ Many theologians persist in mocking or snubbing the term ‘transubstantiation’ despite the constant references of the Magisterium…
“Let us now look at how faith in the real presence can influence the way we receive Communion, and vice versa. Receiving Communion on the hand undoubtedly involves a great scattering of fragments. On the contrary, attention to the smallest crumbs, care in purifying the sacred vessels, not touching the Host with sweaty hands, all become professions of faith in the real presence of Jesus, even in the smallest parts of the consecrated species: …The substance is the same! It is Him! On the contrary, inattention to the fragments makes us lose sight of the dogma. Little by little the thought may gradually prevail: “If even the parish priest does not pay attention to the fragments…then it means that Jesus is not in them…”
“The second track on which the attack against the Eucharist runs is the attempt to remove the sense of the sacred from the hearts of the faithful…. While the term ‘transubstantiation’ points us to the reality of presence, the sense of the sacred enables us to glimpse its absolute uniqueness and holiness. What a misfortune it would be to lose the sense of the sacred precisely in what is most sacred! And how is it possible? By receiving special food in the same way as ordinary food…
“The liturgy is made up of many small rituals and gestures — each of them is capable of expressing these attitudes filled with love, filial respect and adoration toward God. That is precisely why it is appropriate to promote the beauty, fittingness and pastoral value of a practice which developed during the long life and tradition of the Church, that is, the act of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling. The greatness and nobility of man, as well as the highest expression of his love for his Creator, consists in kneeling before God. Jesus himself prayed on his knees in the presence of the Father….
“In this regard I would like to propose the example of two great saints of our time… St. John Paul II[‘s] …entire life was marked by a profound respect for the Holy Eucharist…. Despite being exhausted and without strength… he always knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. He was unable to kneel and stand up alone. …Until his last days, he wanted to offer us a great witness of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. Why are we so proud and insensitive to the signs that God himself offers us for our spiritual growth and our intimate relationship with Him? Why do not we kneel down to receive Holy Communion after the example of the saints? Is it really so humiliating to bow down and remain kneeling before the Lord Jesus Christ? And yet, “He, though being in the form of God,… humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2: 6-8).
“St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta… had a respect and absolute worship of the divine Body of Jesus Christ…[F]illed with wonder and respectful veneration, Mother Teresa refrained from touching the transubstantiated Body of Christ. Instead, she adored him and contemplated him silently, she remained at length on her knees and prostrated herself before Jesus in the Eucharist. Moreover, she received Holy Communion in her mouth, like a little child who has humbly allowed herself to be fed by her God… The saint was saddened and pained when she saw Christians receiving Holy Communion in their hands…
“Why do we insist on receiving Communion standing and on the hand? Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God? …Let us come as children and humbly receive the Body of Christ on our knees and on our tongue. The saints give us the example….!
“But how could the practice of receiving the Eucharist on the hand become so common? …It was a process that was anything but clear, a transition from what the instruction Memoriale Domini granted, to what is such a widespread practice today… Unfortunately, as with the Latin language, so also with a liturgical reform that should have been homogeneous with the previous rites, a special concession has become the picklock to force and empty the safe of the Church’s liturgical treasures…
“I hope there can be a rediscovery and promotion of the beauty and pastoral value of this method. In my opinion and judgment, this is an important question on which the Church today must reflect…”
Knights of Columbus Food Drive. Thanks to all of you who brought in food (and food cards and checks) last week. We collected 4,500 lbs. of food for the St. Lucy Project. A great way to practice the penance of “almsgiving.” And a great example of the service the Knights provide for our parish and diocese. If you’re a Catholic man over 18 years old—why aren’t you a Knight? Maybe you could do that for Lent: commit yourself to service by joining and being an active member?
Lenten Series. My talks on “The Mass and the Eucharist” continue this Thursday at 7:00 pm in the Parish Hall. All are invited—you need not have come last week!
Reluctant to Go to Confession? Confessions are a very
important part of Lent, so don’t forget to go. And please come
early in the Season, avoiding the long lines during Holy Week—
if for no other reason, out of charity to your priests.
I know some people are afraid to go to Confession and
so haven’t been in years. Some are afraid because they are
embarrassed by their sins. But remember, you can confess
behind the screen, so the priest won’t even know who you are
(and we almost never recognize a voice).
Others are afraid because they think their sins can’t be
forgiven. But remember, Jesus says: “Truly, I say to you, all sins
will be forgiven the children of man…” As long as you are truly
sorry for your sins and want and intend to try to stop sinning, the
priest, with the power of Jesus, will forgive you.
Some are afraid because they think the priest will be
angry with them. But that’s just not true. In all my 41 years of
going to Confession I’ve only had one truly unpleasant
experience. Okay, priests have bad days like all of us, but even
on a bad day priests won’t get upset with you. Priests love
forgiving sins—the bigger the better. And just because a priest
seems stern in the pulpit doesn’t mean he’s that way in the
confessional. A father may sometimes be stern when he teaches
his children to behave, but when an apologetic child comes to
him in tears, that same father opens his arms with tenderness. “A
lion in the pulpit, a lamb in the confessional.”
Some think they will shock the priest by what they’ve
done. As Ecclesiastes tells us: “there is nothing new under the
sun.” I’ve heard about 25,000 Confessions in the last 21 years,
and I have heard almost every sin imaginable—really. Nothing
shocks me anymore.
And finally, some are afraid the priest will tell someone
about their sin. This just doesn’t happen. In all my life I have
never heard a priest reveal the sins of anyone in Confession.
Priests are forbidden, under pain of automatic excommunication
(that can only be lifted by the pope himself), from ever directly
or indirectly revealing the particular sins of a particular penitent.
This is called the “seal of Confession,” and extends even to
revealing things that are not sinful that are discussed in the
Confession. (A great movie dramatizing this is Alfred
Hitchcock’s “I Confess.”)
So don’t be afraid. Come to Confession! Soon!
FORMED.ORG. A great way to get reacquainted or learn more
about the Sacrament of Penance is to make use of the online
video program at FORMED.ORG, called “The Transforming
Power of Confession, A Lent to Remember.” This 4-part series
offers reflections on the Paschal Mystery and leads you through
a step-by-step examination of the Rite of Confession. There’s
also a special “bonus” 5th video for children on how to make a
good confession—something parents may want to watch too.
While this is meant to be viewed over 4-5 weeks, it can be selfpaced
as well. You might want to watch it as a family, or gather
some friends together to discuss it (there’s a special leader’s
guide website to help with this). This is FREE for St. Raymond’s
parishioners who are registered with FORMED.ORG. If you
have not registered, just go online to
www.straymonds.formed.org. If you have any questions, see
the FORMED.ORG bulletin board in the narthex, or contact
Mike and Sheri Burns at email@example.com.
Parents Beware: Fairfax Public Schools at It Again. (Adults
On February 8, 2018, the Family Life Education Curriculum
Advisory Committee (FLECAC) met to discuss infecting the
school curriculum with their twisted understanding of sexuality. I
was unable to attend, but a friend who did attend offered me these
notes from the meeting:
During the meeting, two regular citizen members of the
committee tried to offer amendments to the curriculum to remove
the phrase “sex assigned at birth,” which appears numerous
times in the lessons, along with the proposed teaching that it is
wrong for a delivery room doctor to say male and female
genitalia determine if the baby is boy or a girl.
Through parliamentary maneuvers, the amendment was
put off indefinitely without debate. The vote to cut off debate
passed 23-3. A motion for a roll call to put the members on
record was killed by voice vote so there was no debate and no
Another citizen member made a motion that, somewhere
in the numerous lessons about various contraceptive methods
taught beginning in eighth grade, there ought to be something
about the possible health risks of certain contraceptives. This,
too, was shut down without debate, by a vote of 23-3. A roll call
of the vote was shouted down by voice vote.
Another citizen member made a motion to include a
discussion in the lessons about the health risks associated with
hormonal and surgical “transitioning.” This, too, was not
One new member of the committee, was vociferous in
arguing that these motions should not even be discussed. One
high school student member said that transphobia stems from
One county employee member asked why there was no
lesson on sodomy for the seventh graders, after all, there was a
lesson on fellatio and cunnilingus–my terms here: they used more
graphic vulgar terms. The chairman assured her that the
discussion of sodomy begins in the eighth grade. The chairman
apologized to the adults present for using those graphic terms,
even though those terms are scripted into the lessons for children.
Florida School Shootings. We all mourn and pray for the victims
and families of the February 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas
High School in Parkland, Fla. Of course, now the finger pointing
begins, especially on partisan lines. I don’t know what the answer
is, but I think it is sadly ironic that most of the nation turns to God
in prayer after horrible events like this, while our schools refuse
to allow even any discussion of God before events like this. Is it
any wonder there is such violence in schools when we have
rejected and even mocked the teachings of the Prince of Peace? Is
it surprising that the national school system has suffered from
increasing violence and degeneracy ever since it began, a few
years/decades ago, to reject the Christian moral system that used
to teach our kids to know right from wrong?
February 14 was Ash Wednesday. Sin is the cause of all
these horrible things happening in society. And Jesus, and
repenting and believing in the Gospel, is the remedy. How is sin
effecting your schools, your family, your children, yourself? Lent
is a time to reflect on this. And to change.
Lenten Series. My talks on “The Mass and the Eucharist”
continue this Thursday at 7 pm in the Parish Hall. This week we
will look at what the Church’s Tradition teaches us about the
Eucharistic Mystery. All are invited—you need not have come
last week! Babysitting is available (call the office for
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles
Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday: (Except Holy Thursday)
Feb. 15 – March 16: 6:30pm – 7:00pm
March 19 –March 27: 6:00pm – 7:00pm
Wednesday: (Except Ash Wednesday, when there are no Confessions)
Feb. 15 – March 16: 6:15pm – 7:00pm, and after 7:00pm Mass
March 19 –March 27: 6:00pm – 7:00pm, and after 7:00pm Mass
Friday: 6:00 pm—6:30pm
Morning: 8:30am–9:00am, & after 9:00am Mass;
Sunday: 1/2 hour prior to 8:45am, 10:30am & 12:15pm Masses
(Sunday Confessions should end when Mass begins)
Lenten Series. I am very much looking forward to giving my
series beginning this Thursday evening at 7pm (a different
time than in the past). My topic will be “The Mass and the
Eucharist,” and this week we will be looking at what Scripture
and the Early Fathers of the Church had to say about the
I really do hope that you will join us, especially if you
don’t usually attend these kinds of things. This year we’ve
added on-site babysitting so some of our younger married
couples can come. It would be good to come to all the talks,
but if you miss one or even most of them you can still get a lot
out of coming to the ones you can.
Acts of Penance. During Lent, Holy Mother Church calls on
all who are able to perform acts of penance. I hope you’ve
already picked out your penances for Lent, and that you don’t
wait until Holy Week to put them into action.
The three classic categories of penance are 1) prayer,
2) almsgiving (acts or gifts of charity), and 3) fasting
(sacrifice: “giving up” something). I recommend you choose
to do penances from all three of these categories—maybe a
very small penance from two of them, and a larger “main”
penance from the third. Maybe you could resolve to add one
extra short prayer to your daily routine, maybe a Hail Mary,
and to set aside one dollar every day to give to the poor box,
and then do a larger penance of some sacrifice, like giving up
your favorite beverage or food all during Lent.
Also, remember to pick penances that you are able to
accomplish—don’t be overly ambitious and try to carry a
burden that is way to heavy for you. Penances should
challenge us, but not overwhelm us. What often happens is we
choose a penance that is too difficult for us in our present state
in life, and then when we fail to keep it we get discouraged
and give up, and Lent is lost. So pick penances that are
Also, penances should be things that you can easily
see that you are keeping. For example, if you resolve to just be
“nice” to everyone, how do you evaluate your success in this?
Rather, perhaps chose to try to be kinder to everyone, but to
do so in a particular way to a particular person—e.g., to bring
your office mate a cup of coffee every morning. Or if you
resolve to “pray more,” resolve specifically to pray an extra
Hail Mary before bed, or an extra 5 minutes in the morning.
Also, try to choose penances that may address
particular moral weaknesses you may have. For example, if
you struggle with the sin of gluttony, a sacrifice related to
food is a good idea. Or if you struggle from pride, maybe you
could say the “Litany of Humility” every day, or to humble
yourself by trying to hold door open for others whenever you
have the chance.
Daily Mass. Speaking of the Mass and doing penance during
Lent, one of the best penances is to go to Mass at least once
during the week—or even daily. We might not think of Mass
as a “penance”, but it is, of course, the greatest prayer of the
Church and puts us at the foot of the Cross, uniting our
prayers to the great prayer of Jesus on the first Good Friday—
what could be a better penance, especially during Lent?
Going to Mass during the week, especially daily,
strengthens us with the grace of the Blessed Sacrament so that
we can draw closer to Christ. Moreover, it also can change our
whole perspective on daily life, reminding us in a dramatic way
that our faith isn’t just for Sundays, but for every day and every
moment of the week.
The Sacrament of Confession. Lent also involves a second
type of “penance”—that is, the Sacrament of Penance (also
called “Confession” or “Reconciliation”). Two years ago I
published a small pamphlet called “Making a Good
Confession: A Brief Examination of Conscience and Guide to
Going to Confession.” Copies of this purple pamphlet can be
found by all the doors of the church and near the confessionals.
I hope you will find it helpful in preparing for and making a
good confession. Note: I am currently working on a version of
this “Guide” for children between about 11 and 14 years old,
and hope to have it in the church in the coming days.
The following paragraphs are taken from the
beginning of the “purple pamphlet”:
How do we make a “good Confession”? We begin by
prayerfully, and with honesty and humility, looking at our lives
to recognize the sins we’ve committed since our last
Confession, i.e., we make “an examination of conscience.” In
particular, we need to look for mortal sins, i.e., sins that
involve all three of the following criteria: 1) grave matter, 2)
full knowledge of the sinful character of the act, and 3)
complete consent. If any one of these is lacking it is not a
“mortal sin,” but may be a “venial sin.”
“Grave matter” means the act involves some very
serious moral evil, found either in 1) the act itself or 2) the
intention behind the act. Grave matter can be difficult to
identify, but not always.
Note that some sinful acts are grave matter when they
involve circumstances that are serious or very important but
are not grave matter if they involve only small or trivial things.
These acts that can be either grave or not are said to “admit of
parvity” (smallness). Many of the sins listed below would
“admit of parvity,” unless the word “serious” accurately
describes them. For example, a lie is always a sin, but lying
under oath is grave matter while lying about whether you like
someone’s outfit is not grave matter.
Also, in Confession you must distinguish the “kind” of
mortal sin committed: be clear about what the sin was, but
avoid graphic or long explanations. So it is not enough to
merely say “I had bad thoughts” or “I acted inappropriately,”
rather one should more specific, e.g. “I had lustful thoughts,”
You must also give the number of times you committed
particular mortal sins. Sometimes this is very difficult or even
impossible to remember, in which case, try your best give the
priest some idea of the frequency or number; e.g., “at least
once a month for several years,” etc.
Besides mortal sins, we should also consider
confessing (but are not required to confess) vices (sinful
habits) or other venial sins that are particularly problematic.
Have a blessed Lent.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles
LENT. This Wednesday, February 14, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season that calls us to meditate on and experience the immense love of God that would lead Him to die on the Cross for our sins. At the same time, it is also a time to consider our sins—how we have failed to love Him—and to work to overcome them, through our diligent efforts and His grace.
Ashes will be distributed at all 5 Masses on Ash Wednesday: 6:30am, 8am, 12noon, 5pm and 7pm. Since ashes are not a sacrament, they may be received by anyone who wishes to repent their sins—Catholic or not, in “good standing” or not. (Note: There are no confessions scheduled on Ash Wednesday).
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fasting and abstinence, and every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence. Failure to “substantially” keep these penances is grave matter (e.g., potentially a mortal sin). The law of abstinence requires that no meat may be eaten on these days and binds all Catholics who are 14 years old or older. No other penance may be substituted. The law of fasting binds those who are between the ages of 18 and 59. The Church defines “fasting,” for these purposes, as having only one full meal a day, with two additional smaller meals permitted, but only as necessary to keep up strength and so small that if added together they would not equal a full meal. Snacking is forbidden, but that does not include drinks that are not of the nature of a meal. Special circumstances can mitigate the application of these rules, i.e., the sick, pregnant or nursing mothers, etc.
Lent, of course, brings a much busier parish schedule, which we’ve laid out in detail in this week’s insert: please keep it in a central place to remind you of the many opportunities for spiritual growth the parish offers this Lent.
One important event on the schedule is the Women’s Retreat, which will be led by the Women’s Apostolate to Youth (WAY) on Saturday, February 24. I invite all women of our parish to bring their friends to what I think will be a very spiritually fruitful day. Please see the insert today for more details.
Lenten Series. As I mentioned 2 weeks ago, I will be giving this year’s Lenten Series, on my favorite topic: The Mass and the Eucharist.
How many times have I heard someone say that they don’t get much out of the Mass? I am convinced they would never say this if they really understood what was going on, not just in general, but thoroughly and profoundly.
If you want to get more “out of” the Mass, come to these talks, which begin next Thursday, February 22. IN FACT, I BEG YOU TO COME. In my experience, it seems to me that most Catholics have essentially an 8th grade level of understanding of what happens at the Mass, and those who have a better understanding often fail to adequately interiorize or spiritualize that understanding.
I love the Mass. You could say it is the reason I’m a priest; in fact, you might say that in a certain way it is the reason I am a Catholic, in that it draws me closer to Christ and His Church than anything else in my experience. Let me try to help you to share this love.
My first two talks will be about the Eucharist itself, beginning with the Biblical teaching, both in the Old and New Testament, then moving to what the early Church thought about the Eucharist, as explained in the writings of the early Fathers (Patristic), and then finally what the Church’s rich tradition teaches us today about the Eucharist.
Then the next three talks will focus more specifically on the Mass itself. First, I will explain how the Mass has developed from the first century to today. Then I will go through the Mass, part by part, with a mixture of explanation and meditation, trying show how the ritual brings the doctrine alive, and how the external actions of the Mass can be and should be expressions of our interior dispositions. And then finally I will give an in-depth explanation and meditation on the Eucharistic Prayer I, or “The Roman Canon.” A lot of folks ask me why I never use any other Eucharistic Prayer than this at Mass—I will explain why I think this prayer is so important to us.
This year we’ve also done two things which I hope will make it easier for some of you to attend: 1) we’ve moved the time to 7pm (from 7:30pm) and 2) we are providing on site babysitting (but you must call ahead and sign up for this, so we can have enough coverage).
I look forward to seeing you there on the 22nd and following.
Germain Grisez. I mentioned at my Masses last Sunday that the Church lost one of it’s greatest thinkers, as Dr. Germain Grisez passed from this life on February 1. Dr. Grisez is not well known by most Catholics in the pews, probably because his teaching style did not at all lend itself to television or radio appearances, or to popular reading. But every theologian and priest in the country knew he was one of the leading moral theologians in the world—of the first rank. His text book, “The Way of the Lord Jesus” (a four-volume tome), is used by most of the better seminaries in our country, and his writings in defense of traditional Catholic moral doctrine are standard reading for anyone who seriously studies Catholic theology. He was perhaps best known for his defense of Humanae Vitae in the 1960s and 70s, when he heroically stood out as the most outspoken and clearest thinking defender of the ancient teaching of the Church against the sin of contraception. He was also dedicated to systematically refuting the errors of proportionalism which infected the thinking of many moral theologians in the last few decades. He was a true “Lion” of the Church.
I was personally blessed to know and to take several classes with Dr. Grisez at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary, where he lived, taught and wrote. I was especially blessed to have him as my advisor for my Master’s Thesis. What an amazing mind! But also what a good heart, as he would tear up when he would talk about his beloved and saintly wife, Jeanette, or some other topic near to his heart, like the Eucharist.
Some will correctly point out that Grisez had some interesting personality quirks, or that some of his proposals were questioned by even his closest collaborators. Even so, he was deeply revered by all the faithful theologians in the Church. He made a huge difference in the lives of so many priests, especially mine. And he helped me to become a much better priest and theologian than I could have ever been if I had not come to know him.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.