Inclement Weather Policy – Mass Will Never Be Cancelled

In the event of Weather or Emergency closings, St. Raymond’s Parish will follow Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) decisions on closings and cancellations. This information is normally available on radio (e.g., WTOP) and TV, and on the FCPS website (http://www.fcps.edu/news/emerg.shtml).

In short, if FCPS cancels “all activities,” so does the Parish: no parish office hours, no CCD classes, no prayer meetings, no privately scheduled meetings with a priest, no Knights of Columbus, no Soup Suppers, etc…., nothing.

There are only three exceptions to this policy:

1) regularly scheduled Masses will never be cancelled,

2) meetings of very small groups that receive the pastor’s personal permission, in which case members will be notified of the exception personally by their group leader, and

3) if the FCPS cancels all activities but keeps their administrative offices open, the parish offices will be open, to the extent possible and safe.

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Pope St. John Paul II
Homily, Epiphany, 6 January 1979

“Arise (Jerusalem), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you”, the Prophet Isaiah cries out (60:1), in the eighth century before Christ, and we listen to his words today in the 20th century A.D. and admire, really admire, the great light that comes from these words. Through the centuries, Isaiah addresses Jerusalem, which was to become the city of the Great Anointed, of the Messiah: “And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising… your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms… A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (60:3-4; 6).
We have before our eyes these three—so tradition says—three Magi Kings who come on pilgrimage from afar with camels and bring with them not only gold and incense, but also myrrh: the symbolic gifts with which they went to meet the Messiah who was awaited also beyond the frontiers of Israel. We are not surprised, therefore, when Isaiah, in his prophetic dialogue with Jerusalem, carried out through the centuries, says at a certain point: “your heart shall thrill and rejoice” (60:5). He speaks to the city as if it were a living man.
“Your heart shall thrill and rejoice”. On Christmas Eve, finding myself together with those participating in the eucharistic liturgy at midnight here in this Basilica, I asked everyone to be, in mind and heart, more there than here; more in Bethlehem, at the birthplace of Christ, in that stable-cave in which “the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14). And today I ask the same of you. Because the Magi Kings, those strange pilgrims from the East, came just there, to that place, south of Jerusalem. They passed through Jerusalem. They were led by a mysterious star, the star, an exterior light that moved in the firmament. But they were led even more by faith, the inner light. They were not surprised by what they found: neither by the poverty, nor the stable, nor the fact that the Child lay in a manger. They arrived and they fell down “and worshipped him”. Then they opened their caskets and offered the Child Jesus gold and incense, of which Isaiah speaks, but also myrrh. And after having done all that, they returned to their country.
Because of this pilgrimage to Bethlehem, the Magi Kings from the East became the beginning and the symbol of all those who, through faith, reach Jesus, the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, the Saviour nailed to the cross, he who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb at the foot of Calvary, rose again on the third day. These very men, the Magi Kings, three according to tradition, from the East, became the beginning and the prefiguration of all those who, from beyond the frontiers of the Chosen People of the Old Covenant, have reached and still reach Christ by means of faith.
“Your heart shall thrill and rejoice”, Isaiah says to Jerusalem. In fact the heart of the People of God had to dilate in order to contain the new men, the new peoples. This very cry of the Prophet is the keyword of the Epiphany. It was necessary to dilate the heart of the Church continually, when more and more new men entered it; when, following in the steps of the shepherds and the Magi Kings, from the East new peoples kept arriving in Bethlehem. Now, too, it is always necessary to dilate this heart according to the needs of men and peoples, ages and times.
The Epiphany is the feast of the vitality of the Church. The Church lives her awareness of God’s mission, which is carried out through her. The Second Vatican Council helped us to realize that the “mission” is the proper name of the Church, and in a certain sense defines her. The Church becomes herself when she carries out her mission. The Church is herself, when men—such as the shepherds and the Magi Kings from the East—reach Jesus Christ by means of faith. When in the Christ-Man and through Christ they find God again.
The Epiphany, therefore, is the great feast of faith. Both those who have already arrived at faith, and those who are on the way to arrive at it, take part in this feast. They take part, rendering thanks for the gift of faith, just as the Magi Kings, full of gratitude, knelt before the Child. The Church, which becomes more aware of the vastness of her mission every year, takes part in this feast. To how many men it is still necessary to bring faith! How many men must be won back to the faith, which they have lost, and that is sometimes more difficult than the first conversion to faith! But the Church, aware of that great gift, the gift of the incarnation of God, can never stop, can never tire. She must continually seek access to Bethlehem for every man and for every period. The Epiphany is the feast of God’s challenge….
Once more, therefore, I borrow the words of Isaiah to express the wishes “Urbi et Orbi” and say: “Arise! Your heart shall thrill and rejoice!” Arise and sow the strength of your faith! May Christ enlighten you continually! May men and Peoples walk in this light. Amen.”

Feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort. Tomorrow, January 7, is the feast of our parish Patron. For those of you who don’t know much about St. Raymond, I invite you to read the 32-page biography we published about 3 years ago. If you don’t have one, come by the parish gift shop or the office and pick one up.
As a brief reminder…Raymond was born in 1175, and at a young age he was named a professor of civil and canon law and at the University of Bologna. On August 1, 1218 Raymond received a heavenly vision from our Blessed Mother (“Our Lady of Ransom”). In 1222 he entered the Order of Preachers (“Dominicans”), and published the Summa Casuum, a book guiding confessors and moralists. In 1230 he was appointed confessor and theologian to Pope Gregory IX, who also assigned him the daunting task of codifying the entirety of the juridical laws of the Church. In 1238 he was elected Master General of the Dominican Order. He resigned after 3 years, but continued his writing, preaching and pastoral work for another 37 years until his death on January 6, 1275, at the age of 100. He is the patron saint of lawyers, both canon and civil.

St. Raymond of Peñafort, pray for us!

Oremus pro invicem! Fr. De Celles

The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Merry Christmas! As the Octave and Season of Christmas continues, I want to wish all of you a Blessed and Holy and Merry Christmas. I hope that your Christmas Day was wonderful and filled with holiness and good cheer, and that you were all able to spend time with your family and friends.

Thanks. I’d like to say “thanks” to all those who worked so hard to make Advent and Christmas so special this year. In particular, the choir, cantors, musicians (especially Denise Anezin) and Elisabeth Turco for all the beautiful music. All the volunteers, young and not so young, for their work on Breakfast with Santa, Lessons and Carols and the Senior Lunch (particularly the Trail Life boys and American Heritage Girls). The Knights of Columbus for all they did in so many ways. Nena Brennan and her family, and all the other sacristans, for all their work in preparing the sanctuary. Julie Mullen and her family and the rest of the flower committee, for decorating the church so beautifully. To the ushers who helped make everything run so smoothly, especially Patrick O’Brien. To all those who contributed so much in time and treasure to the Giving Tree. To all those who assisted in special ways at the Mass, especially the altar boys, lectors (led by Brenda Doroski), extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (led by Barbara Aldridge and Christine Spengler). Also thanks to our custodial workers from Spring Cleaning, Luis Tapia and Dania Ochoa, for keeping the church so clean. A special thanks to the rest of our dedicated parish staff, Tom Browne, Mary Butler, Vince Drouillard, Eva Radel, Mary Salmon, Jeanne Sause, and Kirsti Tyson, who all work very hard during Advent. And finally, to my brother priests, Fr. Charles Smith and Fr. Jerry Daly, as well as Fr. Paul Scalia, for their dedicated service to the parish. I know I’ve left out lots of groups and names; my apologies. Thank you all, and God bless you all.

New Year’s. I look forward seeing all of you on New Year’s Eve or Day, to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (a holy day of obligation). Maybe I’ll see some of you at Midnight Mass: we keep things simple at this Mass, but it’s the perfect way to bring in the New Year. May the Christ Child bless you in the New Year, and may His Blessed Mother keep you in her care. Blessed and Merry Christmas, and Holy and Happy New Year!

Pope Saint John Paul II, Homily for Solemnity of the Holy Family, December 31, 1978, (the first of his papacy)
The Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, that is, the present Sunday, unites, in the liturgy, the solemn memory of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The birth of a child always gives rise to a family. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem gave rise to this unique and exceptional Family in the history of mankind. In this Family there came into the world, grew and was brought up the Son of God, conceived and born of the Virgin-Mother, and at the same time entrusted, from the beginning, to the truly fatherly care of Joseph. The latter, a carpenter of Nazareth, who vis-à-vis Jewish law was Mary’s husband, and vis-à-vis the Holy Spirit was her worthy spouse and the guardian, really in a fatherly way, of the maternal mystery of his Bride.
The family of Nazareth, which the Church, especially in today’s liturgy, puts before the eyes of all families, really constitutes that culminating point of reference for the holiness of every human family. The history of this Family is described very concisely in the pages of the Gospel. We get to know only a few events in its life. However what we learn is sufficient to be able to involve the fundamental moments in the life of every family, and to show that dimension, to which all men who live a family life are called: fathers, mothers, parents, children….
The deepest human problems are connected with the family. It constitutes the primary, fundamental and irreplaceable community for man. “The mission of being the primary vital cell of society has been given to the family by God himself”, the Second Vatican Council affirms. (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11). The Church wishes to bear a particular witness to that too during the Octave of Christmas, by means of the feast of the Holy Family. She wishes to recall that the fundamental values, which cannot be violated without incalculable harm of a moral nature, are bound up with the family. Material perspectives and the “economico-social” point of view often prevail over the principles of Christian and even human morality. It is not enough, then, to express only regret. It is necessary to defend these fundamental values tenaciously and firmly, because their violation does incalculable harm to society and, in the last analysis, to man. no experience of the different nations in the history of mankind, as well as our contemporary experience, can serve as an argument to reaffirm this painful truth, that is, that it is easy, in the fundamental sphere of human existence in which the role of the family is decisive, to destroy essential values, while it is very difficult to reconstruct these values.
What are these values? If we had to answer this question adequately, it would be necessary to indicate the whole hierarchy and the set of values which define and condition one another. But trying to express ourself concisely, let us say that here it is a question of two fundamental values which fall strictly into the context of what we call “conjugal love”. The first of them is the value of the person which is expressed in absolute mutual faithfulness until death: the faithfulness of the husband to his wife and of the wife to her husband. The consequence of this affirmation of the value of the person, which is expressed in the mutual relationship between husband and wife, must also be respect for the personal value of the new life, that is, of the child, from the first moment of his conception.
The Church can never dispense herself from the obligation of guarding these two fundamental values, connected with the vocation of the family. Custody of them was entrusted to the Church by Christ, in such a way as leaves no doubt. At the same time, the self-evidence of these values—humanly understood— is such that the Church, defending them, sees herself as the spokesman of true human dignity: of the good of the person, of the family, of the nations.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Forth Sunday of Advent

The Lord is Near. We are now in the very last hours of Advent, the final time to prepare
for Christmas. I know there’s an awful lot going on in the next few days: last minute
shopping, wrapping and mailing presents, travelling. But don’t let all that busyness
distract you from what’s most important: we are preparing to celebrate the day awaited
from almost the beginning of the creation of man, when God first promised that “the
woman” would bring forth a son who would crush the serpent’s head. The day when God
the Son, Creator of the Universe, to whom all angels bowed in worship, having been
conceived in the womb of His mother Mary, entered the world as a poor, defenseless,
vulnerable baby, to save mankind from sin and to offer us a share in His eternal life and
love.
 
So rather than allowing all the busyness to distract you in the next few days, try to make
real time to prepare yourself for this celebration. Avoid all sin. Try to show charity and
compassion to your neighbor, especially your family members, at every moment—be
helpful, not harmful, to family peace. And love God above everything and with
everything. Take time to pray, and in your prayer place yourself in the company and care
of Mary and Joseph. Imagine them travelling on the rocky roads of Galilee and Judea,
from Nazareth down to Bethlehem, walking all that way or, perhaps, aided by a donkey.
Imagine the cold and even freezing weather over the several days’ journey. Perhaps
today, just 2 days before the birth, they were almost at the end of their journey, just a few
miles away from Bethlehem. Imagine how tired! And every day they were a little closer,
and a little colder and more tired. Think of their struggle, but also their joy. For they were
not traveling alone: their Savior was with them in Mary’s womb. Travel with them these
next few days in prayer. Stop from time to time at work, and wonder, “where are your
now, Mary and Joseph, and Baby Jesus?” Come to church for a quiet visit, and think,
“perhaps you are stopping to rest now—let me rest with you.” Accompany them on their
journey—and do not get too distracted by the busyness of the season.
 
Advent Series. Thanks to all who attended and participated in our Advent Series on
“Looking at the Nativity.” We had an excellent turnout every week, but if you were
unable to attend we’ve posted the audio of two of the sessions and handouts from all
three on the parish website.
 
Giving Tree. Thanks to all of you who gave so generously to the “Giving Tree”. Because
of your kindness over 32 families and 177 people (the most we’ve ever helped), will have
a little merrier Christmas this year.
 
Christmas Schedule: Please take time today to revisit our schedule for this week—found
below in this bulletin—especially the Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Sunday
schedules.
 
Let me extend a particular invitation to the Christmas Midnight Mass. I have preached
several times about how such a Midnight Mass many years ago was the occasion of an

important moment in my own personal spiritual life. There is something very special
about that Mass, which begins with the placing of the “Baby Jesus” in the Manger, as we
remember that Christ was born in the “Holy Night.” The choir sings so beautifully, all the
altar servers are so reverent, and we usually get a large (not too large, though) and devout
crowd. Think about joining us this year. (Just a fatherly word of caution: it can be a little
tough on the very little ones, that late; so parents, please be prudent).
 
Volunteer Dinner. Mark your calendars: January 5 is the day for our annual reception in
appreciation for all those who volunteer their time to support the activities of the parish.
Keep your eyes on the bulletin for details, or contact your committee chairman.
 
Accused Priest, Part 2. Last week I wrote about a priest of the Diocese who was placed
on “administrative leave” for “boundary violations” (not “abuse”) “involving a minor and
adults.” This last week, in a surprisingly quick turn of events, the Loudoun County
Sheriff's Office announced that their “investigation has concluded, and there are no
criminal charges.” However, in an abundance of caution Diocesan officials stated,
“Having received this news, the diocese will conduct an investigation of matters that
pertain to its Code of Conduct for Clergy and report its findings in a timely way.”
I can’t say strongly enough how I feel about the absolute need to clean the filth out
of the Church and punish abusive and lying clerics. But good and innocent priests need to
be protected as well. Pray for all concerned in this case, and for a quick resolution by
Diocesan officials.
 
[ Please Don’t Read This Until Christmas!:
My dear and beloved spiritual children in the Lord Jesus:
Blessings and peace to you all as we celebrate the Birthday of Jesus Christ, Son of
God and son of Mary, the Lord and Savior of the Universe! May Christmas be a day of
joy greater than you have ever known. May it renew your faith and hope, that even in this
troubled and fallen world, Christ has come to save us from sin and evil, from want and
oppression, from hate and fear, to fill us with His light and grace and lead us to perfect
happiness and peace. And may you rediscover, in the tiny Babe’s sweet smile, God’s
boundless love for you and yours.
If you are traveling, may the angels carry you on your journeys and return you
safely to us. If you are staying “in town”, I look forward to greeting you at Mass on
Christmas Eve or Day.
On behalf of Fr. Smith, Fr. Daly, the parish staff, and myself, may I extend our
warmest wishes that you and your families have a Blessed and Merry Christmas Day,
Octave and Season! May the Baby Jesus bless you and fill you with His grace, may His
Mother Mary keep you in her tender embrace, and may St. Joseph protect you all the
days of your life!]
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Third Sunday of Advent

Good News. Bishop Burbidge writes about his recent surgery: “I am pleased to report
that, upon meeting with my surgeon yesterday, I received a clear pathology report…”
Praised be Jesus Christ, and keep the Bishop in your prayers as he continues to recover.
 
3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. Today is “Gaudete,” or “Rejoice,” Sunday, as
we look forward to the joy of Christmas and heaven. Last week we celebrated the
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. These
feasts remind us that as this holy season of preparation and expectant joy continues we
follow the example of she who was first prepared for the birth of Jesus, and who has
always found the most joy in it, is His Blessed Mother, Mary.
Of course, in a certain sense Mary was prepared from all time for the coming of
Jesus, as God promised in the Garden of Eden that He would send “the woman,” free
from sin, who would bear a Son, also free from sin, who would crush the devil and free
us from sin. In fulfillment of that promise Mary was then conceived in her mother’s
womb without the stain of original sin, and was filled with grace all her life, so that she
never committed any actual sin herself. Thus prepared for Jesus’ birth, she was to be the
perfect Mother for the Divine Son. In imitation of Mary we should be preparing for
Christmas by ridding ourselves of sins, and accepting the grace the Lord pours out on us
in this holy season.
But besides preparing ourselves we must also help others prepare. When Mary had
heard the news of the Incarnation she “departed in haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth,
and so truly bringing the tiny Baby Jesus in her womb to Elizabeth, who responded with
exuberant joy. Similarly, when the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico
in 1531 she appeared to him as a pregnant young woman, again bringing Christ to all of
Mexico, Latin America, and, in a sense, to all the “New World.” Our Advent preparation
must also include this: imitating Mary by bringing Christ to those around us. We do this
first by, as I wrote above, eliminating sin our lives, and so live in charity and justice with
our neighbors. But we must also be more pro-active: we must proclaim to all who will
hear, a clear invitation to receive the Lord who came to us first at Christmas.
There are a thousand ways we can do this: giving presents that effectively
communicate the Christian message (Bibles, Hand Missals, Rosaries, Catholic spiritual
classic books, etc.); putting up Manger scenes (crèches); praying and singing holy
Christmas songs with our families; talking about Christ and sharing our belief in and love
of Him; and especially, bringing others (our children, fallen away family members,
interested friends and co-workers) to church with us—to Mass, to Confession, to
adoration, etc..
As Advent continues let us turn to our Blessed Mother to help us to prepare in joy
for Christmas, by her example and through her intercession.
 
Giving. At the first Christmas, God gave Himself to us by stripping Himself of the glory
of heaven, and becoming a baby born into poverty. So I encourage you to consider
carefully what you will give to those in need this Advent, whether individuals you know
or charitable organizations that continue Jesus’ work on earth.

When you give to charitable groups, make sure the group is solidly in line with the
teaching of Christ’s Church so that your money isn’t diverted to unworthy uses. Let me
recommend a just few organizations (there are many more organizations worthy of your
help): the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic Charities of Arlington, House of Mercy,
Divine Mercy Care, Project Rachel, Gabriel Project, Mary’s Shelter (in Fredericksburg),
the Poor Clares, Angelus Academy, and St. Dominic Monastery in Linden, VA (the
wonderful cloistered Dominican sisters who pray for our parish daily). And of course, St.
Raymond’s itself is a charitable organization—special Christmas donations to the parish
are greatly appreciated.
 
Confessions. As I noted above, one of the best tools to help us to overcome sin is the
Sacrament of Confession. First, the confession/admission of our sins to the Church and to
God (through the priest) helps us to identify the sins we must overcome, to take personal
responsibility for them and to affirmatively reject them. Second, the grace of the
sacrament repairs the rupture sin causes between us and God, especially if there are
mortal sins, and strengthens us to resist those sins in the future. So… go to confession
this week. Monday through Friday this week we will have 3 priests hearing confessions
every evening at 6:15.
 
Lessons and Carols Last Sunday. We had another amazing Lessons and Carols last
Sunday, as over 400 people could attest. Wow. The choir was amazing—I just can’t get
over how a parish our size and location could have such a great choir, the best in any
parish in the Diocese, I’m sure. Thanks to Elisabeth Turco and all the musicians and
choir members. And thanks to the lectors, and to all who provided an elegant reception
afterwards, especially the volunteers from Angelus Academy and Eva Radel, who
coordinated everything.
 
Seniors Luncheon. The seniors also had a very special lunch last Saturday. Thanks to the
leaders and scouts from our Trail Life and American Heritage Girls troops for making
everything come together, and to Christine Gloninger and her culinary students at
Annandale High School for preparing most of the food.
 
Advent Series: Looking at the Nativity. I invite you all to my last session of the Advent
Series this Thursday, December 20, at 7:30pm, when I will be going through St. Luke’s
account of the Nativity. I’m looking forward to seeing all of you there.
Accused Priest. Last week a priest of the Diocese was suspended for “boundary
violations” “involving a minor and adults.” (He was never assigned or in residence here).
The Diocese gave no further details, but told the Washington Post “that the alleged
behavior…was …‘a boundary violation,’ not ‘abuse.’” Now, that seems to me a very
important distinction, although I’m not sure exactly what boundary violation could
warrant such a strong response.
I have assured you before that our Diocese will not cover up abuse: accused priests

nowadays are immediately suspended if the accusation is at least “credible.” But a
“credible accusation” does not mean he is guilty, only that they can’t yet say that he is not
guilty. So, to “be safe,” they suspend him, pending police investigation. Let me be clear:
if a priest is guilty he deserves the punishment he gets. But if he is not guilty, and later
exonerated, the process itself can be devastating on the priest, not to mention ruin his
reputation.
So in mercy and justice, I ask you to pray for all involved here, including the
accusers and the accused, and those who are investigating.
 
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Second Sunday of Advent

CATHOLIC ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS. This time of year is filled with all sorts of traditions. Unfortunately, many of us have lost sight of the Catholic origins of many of the traditions that dominate the secular celebration of Christmas and Advent.
Consider the Christmas tree. There are many different efforts to explain the origins of the Christmas tree, including many that try to separate it completely from Christianity. For example, some try to say that since many different ancient non-Christian cultures used evergreens as a sign of life or health that therefore evergreen “Christmas” trees are not “Christian,” or that Christians “stole” the symbol from the pagans. But there is no conflict or stealing here. Since Christianity converted many ancient pagan cultures it was natural for those new Christians to keep the symbols that had meaningfully expressed their long held spiritual desires that were ultimately answered only in Christianity. So, if an evergreen tree expressed a pagan culture’s desires for eternal life, it was natural for them to carry that symbol into Christianity, which is fine with the Church.
The specific Christianization and “Christmas-ization” of the evergreen tree can be traced at least to the early 8th century in Germany. It seems one Christmas Eve the great missionary St. Boniface and his companions came upon a group of pagans gathered around their sacred tree, the “Oak of Geismar” (“Donar’s Oak”) to worship their god, Thor, and to sacrifice a little child to please him. Horrified by what he had found, Boniface struck the Oak, which the people believed to be indestructible, and suddenly a great wind came and blew the tree over, tearing it out of the ground by its roots and into four pieces. When the tree fell it revealed a small evergreen tree that had grown behind it. St. Boniface then told the people: “This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace, for your houses are built of the fir. It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.” The people then took the tree to the great hall of their village and decorated it with candles, as Boniface told the story of the Baby Jesus. The whole village, including the pagan priest, were converted that Christmas Eve. (For a beautiful retelling of this tale see The First Christmas Tree, by Henry van Dyke).
This seems to be the oldest story of the Christmas tree, and stands as the inspiration for later developments in its use. It was popularized later in the middle ages through the German “Paradise Play” depicting the creation of man, with the evergreen decorated with apples to symbolize both Eden’s Tree of Life (evergreen) and Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (apples). When the play was performed in churches the Paradeisbaum (Paradise Tree) was surrounded by candles. Eventually the Paradeisbaum made its way into homes and the rest is history.
Santa Claus. Another tradition of the secular celebration of this season is Santa Claus, if its correct to call a real man a “tradition.” Once again, we often forget the Catholic origins of Santa Claus, who is none other than Saint Nicklaus (“Santa Claus” derived from the Dutch for “St. Nicholas”). Again many will argue about non-Christian or pagan predecessors, but it is clear that our Santa is St. Nicklaus. One reason for the two seem to be disconnected in America is because of the English Protestant and Puritan origins of our nation—after the “Reformation” the English downplayed the reference to Saint Nicholas as sounding too Catholic (in England Santa is still called “Father Christmas”).
But Catholics remember the wonderful stories about St. Nicholas, who was bishop of Myra (in modern Turkey) in the early 300s. The story of how he rescued three sisters from being sold into slavery by dropping three bags of gold through their window at night. And how he raised three little boys from the dead after they had been murdered. Not to mention the many stories of his other amazing miracles—he is called Thaumaturgus, or Wonderworker. And we should not forget that after being tortured for his faith in the last Roman persecution, he attended the Council of Nicaea where he boldly defended the divinity of Christ, and Mary’s status as “Mother of God” against the arch-heretic Arias. Add all this to his reputation for giving treats to the children he met in the streets and you see the same man who is now the beloved and saintly giver of gifts on Christmas.
Now, so that no one misunderstands me, especially little children, what I am saying is that Santa Claus is real, and is also known as St. Nicholas. Although the Bishop St. Nicholas went to heaven on December 6, 343, Catholics know that as a saint he now has eternal life. And then it seems that God sent him back to us to be the great gift-giver of Christmas. This doesn’t mean that other stories that we read or see on TV about Santa Claus are not true or bad—I think they’re interesting and sometimes amusing, and even touching. It just means that WE know the REAL story, the rest of the, story.
Which reminds me: make sure you come to say hello to Santa Claus/St. Nicholas next Saturday morning, at our traditional parish “Breakfast with Santa.”
Lessons and Carols. Tonight (Sunday, December 9) at 7:00pm, we celebrate another Advent tradition: a program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings called, “Lessons and Carols.” Taking prophetic readings from the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, our parish lectors lay out God’s amazing plan for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir then adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular Advent songs and a few more complicated choral pieces, reminding us of the angels singing over Bethlehem. This “tradition” is rather new, especially to Catholics, originally introduced by the Anglican Church at Cambridge’s King’s College in 1918, but it has recently become very popular in Catholic circles. I first experienced it almost 30 years ago as a layman at a Catholic parish of Anglican converts in San Antonio. I’m happy to say it’s become an Advent tradition at St. Raymond’s. Please join us, and stay for light reception afterwards!

Don’t Forget. Go to confession during Advent—we have confessions every single day of Advent, except Christmas Eve. And come to my Advent Series, “Looking at the Nativity,” this Thursday at 7:30pm. And don’t forget to stop by the “Giving Tree” in the narthex today, and help to make Christmas a little merrier for some folks who are having a rough time this year—families of our parish and Our Lady of the Blue Ridge parish in Madison.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

First Sunday of Advent

Advent. Today we begin the Season of Advent, 4 weeks preparing for the celebration of
the Birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. Sadly, the culture around us has turned the days
from Thanksgiving to December 25 into a time of nonstop sales, shopping, television
specials, radio carols, and, of course, “Christmas parties.” All this can tend to transform
the religious Advent season into a pre-mature and secularized Christmas celebration.
But We have to be careful of getting so caught up in that secular celebration that
we wind up omitting Christ Himself from the celebration. Rather, Advent must remain
for us, first and foremost, a season of preparation to celebration. And by that I mean we
need to spend time thinking and praying about the reason we celebrate Christmas with
such joy: that we are sinners, but that God has not left us in our sins. That God so loves
us that He entered the world as a tiny baby, so He could truly be one of us, and
communicate that love person to person, and eventually go to the Cross to die for our
sins. So Advent must be a time of remembering our sins, and opening our whole lives to
the love of Christ. It is only with this sort of preparation that we can begin to understand
and experience the true joy of this most magnificent gift.
But note, this joy should build in us throughout our preparation—as we become more
prepared, we become more and more joyful. So there is nothing wrong if even in the
midst of the penance and prayer of Advent, we also increasingly partake of the joy of
Advent. But we must not confuse the Advent joy of Christ with the merely sentimental
feelings of the secular “yuletide” season. Rather, we should transform the secular fun by
our Advent Christian joy.
So how do we prepare? Remember:
–Do some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more important
than Christ, and that everything we do is for Him;
–Add extra prayers to your daily routine, for example, the Rosary, especially
meditating on the Joyful Mysteries;
–Read Scripture especially the Gospels;
–Give, making generous gifts either directly to those in need or to worthy
charitable projects/institutions (e.g., the parish Giving Tree and the special collection for
Catholic Charities);
–Receiving the grace of the sacraments is one of the most important things you
can do in Advent. Go to Mass and Adoration, and go to Confession;
–Live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God and
your neighbor as yourself, beginning with keeping the Commandments.

Two Special Advent Events. I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir next
Sunday, December 9 th at 7pm for “Lessons & Carols.” Every year more and more folks
come to this, and LOVE IT! The “Lessons” refer to the reading of prophetic texts from
the Old Testament and Gospels, laying out God’s incredible plan for the birth of His
Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in
popular hymns and spreading their vocal wings in leading us in carols and a few more
complicated choral pieces—they are AMAZING. Afterwards, we’ll have some time for
Advent fellowship at a short reception, with delicious seasonal refreshments. Trust me,
this is a really wonderful evening—you’ll have a great time. Please join us.
I also ask you to attend my three-part Advent Series: “Looking at the Nativity: Mary,
Jesus and the Holy Night,” on the first 3 Thursdays in Advent. Last Advent we
discussed the life of St. Joseph, so this year I thought I’d continue to consider the
“characters” and the story of the Nativity. This coming Thursday, at 7:30, we begin with:
“Mary: What do we believe?” Last year about 200 people came, and they seemed to
enjoy themselves. So please join us this year. See today’s bulletin insert for further info.

Bishops’ Scandal. This last week brought more confusion regarding the Bishops’
Scandal. First we heard that Pope Francis had appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of
Chicago as one of the coordinators of the meeting of Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences
in Rome this coming February to address the scandal. This was confusing in that Cardinal
Cupich has a very controversial record on the scandal. For example, former Papal Nuncio
Archbishop Vigano has pointed him out as a protégé of former cardinal McCarrick.
Moreover, he is a frequent defender of the pro-gay subculture in the hierarchy, and
strongly denies the link between that subculture and the molestation of adolescent boys
by priests. Finally, speaking about scandal last September he stated: "The Pope has a
bigger agenda. He's got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and
protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We're not going to go down a
rabbit hole on this."
I was also confused by news of the death of Bishop Robert Morlino, of Madison,
WI, last week, of a heart attack at the age of 71. “Confused,” in that I don’t understand
why God would take such a good bishop from us right when we seemed to need him
most. Bishop Morlino was one of the most forthright and courageous bishops I ever met.
For example, when the sickening news about former cardinal McCarrick came out last
summer, Morlino wrote a strong letter to his diocese, stating in part:
“I am tired of this. I am tired of people being hurt, gravely hurt! I am tired of the
obfuscation of truth. I am tired of sin.…I am tired of the regular violation of sacred duties
by those entrusted with immense responsibility from the Lord for the care of His
people….[Regarding] the allegations of former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s …sexual
sins, predation, and abuse of power. The well-documented details of this case are
disgraceful and seriously scandalous, as is any covering up of such appalling actions by
other Church leaders who knew about it based on solid evidence. …It is time to admit
that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is
wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord…”
If I am often mystified by God’s choices, I am often bewildered by Pope Francis’
choices. In the end, I simply trust in the all-wise and loving God, and pray for the Pope,
and for clarity and true reform.

Immaculate Conception. This Saturday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the
Immaculate Conception (“IC”), a Holy Day of obligation (all Catholics must attend
Mass, and it is a mortal sin not to). Please note that you must attend 2 Masses this
weekend, one for IC and one for Sunday. [FYI: Technically, you can attend the Saturday
Vigil Mass (which will have the prayers of Sunday in Advent) and count that for your
“IC” obligation, if you also attend a second Mass on Sunday itself to count for your
Sunday obligation]. See the Mass times below.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Formed Advent and Christmas Events

FORMED ADVENT & CHRISTMAS RECOMMENDATIONS

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Click here to link to the parish 4-week Advent study entitled “Prepare the Way: An Advent Journey”

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