Christmas Tree, Wreaths and Garland Sale!

The Knights of Columbus are hosting their seventh annual Christmas Tree Sale now through Monday, December 18th. Hours of Operation are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 6-8pm (Closed Wednesdays). Saturday and Sunday hours are 9:30 am – 8 pm. Location is the Saint Raymond Church parking lot closest to Gambrill Road. Bring along the entire family!

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

(Due to Bulletin deadlines, I’m writing this on Nov. 15, well before it’s publication. Please excuse anything that seems out of date.)

Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a great and blessed Thanksgiving. Although it’s a secular holiday and not a Catholic Holy Day, it’s a wonderful day of celebration. It is really more than a “secular holiday,” which can have something of negative connotation in the Christian context; let’s call it an American “cultural holiday,” one that is the fruit of our heritage of having a culture deeply rooted in Christianity and Christian values.
In particular, the Christian virtues of fortitude and diligence (reflected in working hard to provide for oneself and one’s family), and charity (reflected in being willing to share the fruits of one’s labor or good fortune with others), and, of course most importantly and above all, gratitude or thankfulness to God for the gifts He’s given us.
In the end, everything we have is God’s gift. As St. Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Whether it’s material goods, health, family, love, faith, or human dignity, rights, and liberty, God is the giver of all good things.
Unfortunately, many people today treat Thanksgiving as a holiday to give thanks to one another, with no mention of God at all. Certainly, it’s good to thank other people for the good they do, but that is not the reason Thanksgiving was established as a national, cultural, holiday.
As President George Washington decreed on October 3, 1789, as he proclaimed the first Thanksgiving Day of the United States: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have …requested me “to recommend …a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God …Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted ….to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks …”
And as President Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1863, as he permanently established the official national holiday: “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…”

Shocked, Part Two. Last week I railed a bit against Hollywood’s debasement of our societal sexual values, and especially it’s sexual degradation of women and children. Reading over those comments it occurred to me that there were some other things I meant to say. So…
The national press is currently having a feast on the accusations against Alabama senatorial candidate, Roy Moore. If the disgusting allegations are true, he does deserve reprobation—as Ivanka Trump said, “’There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.” But that’s an important “if”—accusations are one thing, proof of guilt is another. Even so, sometimes the accusations or the accusers themselves are, in fact, so credible that we can make some level of judgment before the full course of due process is complete. So, voters in Alabama, and perhaps even leaders of the Judge Moore’s party, must make a judgment based on the facts as they understand them.
But it is interesting how when it comes to moral transgressions, folks on the left (I refer to those actively rejecting traditional moral values) are so quick to judge folks like the tradition-minded Moore, while being much more reticent to judge more left-leaning politicians. The classic example is the treatment of accusations against Pres. Bill Clinton who was (and still is) credibly accused of rape and abuse by three different women. For years the media worked hard to suppress or white-wash the allegations, and many left-leaning politicians, including Hilary Clinton, viciously attacked the women who accused him. It was only after he admitted to taking sexual advantage a young staffer that some on the left finally started to take his sexual misconduct even remotely seriously. But even then, they refused to deny him (or Hilary) office, as they are giddy to do with Moore today.
Let me be clear: I think it’s very reasonable, and often necessary, for voters to deny political office based on sexual misconduct, if they believe charges are truly credible. But it is hypocritical and unjust to use a double standard that gives every benefit of the doubt to left-leaning folks, but rushes to judgment on those who embrace traditional moral values, whether we’re talking in Hollywood or Washington, or Alabama.
And the thing is, all this could be largely avoided if we all just tried to follow the 6th Commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery,” remembering that “adultery” includes cheating on your spouse, fornication (pre-marital sex), homosexual sex, oral sex, pornography, and willfully entertaining lustful thoughts. It also includes looking at people with lust and tempting people to look at you with lust by deliberately dressing immodestly or provocatively.
And by “follow” I mean “strive to keep” the 6th Commandment, not merely talking about it or posting it in a courthouse and then ignoring it in practice. Where would there be room for sexual abuse or harassment in a culture truly formed by that Commandment? And yet Catholics and other traditional Christians are reviled for promoting the 6th Commandment, and related values.

Capital Campaign. The Capital Campaign for our Lighting and Mural Project has proceeded well, especially considering that I have purposefully kept it low key. Since I’m writing this so far in advance of publication, it would be useless to talk about specific numbers. But let me thank all the families and individuals who have made pledges so far. And since I was hoping to have all pledges in by November 30, this coming Thursday, let me once again encourage all of you who haven’t made a pledge yet to do so this week. Again, if you can’t afford the $500 pledge I recommend for each household, please give whatever you can.
And while I’m at it, let me give special thanks to the children of the parish who have made very special donations to the Campaign, particularly Molly and Brigid McDermott, who donated the proceeds from their sales at the Homeschoolers’ recent “Kids’ Mart.”

Advent…. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Start thinking about how you will make this a holy season and not just a holly season. More to come…

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Shocked, shocked!” The phrase “Hollywood sex scandal” is filled with redundancy, as “Hollywood” seems synonymous with both “sex” and “scandal”. For decades Hollywood, or the movie/entertainment industry, has been on the leading edge of efforts to shift America away from its solid Christian moral base into relativistic, confused, immoral society—and making a lot of money in doing so. One could debate which came first, the desire to make money from human weakness or the desire to promote human weakness while making money. But the fact remains, that “Hollywood” is, and has been for decades, the leading promoter of sexual depravity and abuse in our nation.
Which is why the current uproar about industry leaders’ personal sexual depravity, from Harvey Weinstein’s alleged raping of young starlets to Kevin Spacey’s alleged raping of young boys, would be comical if it wasn’t so horrible. I can’t help but think of the famous line in Casablanca when Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) closes down the gambling at Rick’s, even as he accepts his own gambling winnings: “I’m shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here.” What did we think was going on?
For years Hollywood has attacked the Church and all traditional Christians, for upholding traditional sexual moral values. They practically squealed with delight every time a Christian politician or a priest or minister got caught in a sexual scandal. And they absolutely relished the Church’s own sex abuse scandal a few years ago. And then they went on to make the most salacious films to profit from it all.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. Will they finally admit, or will at the least the rest of us, finally admit, that they are morally corrupt from top to bottom? Unlike devout Christians who weakly fail to be faithful to the high moral values they promote, Weinstein et all have simply been caught embracing the sick values they’ve been openly promoting for years.
Are there any moral men and women in Hollywood? I’m sure there are, maybe more than we know—we should pray for them. But as a whole, “Hollywood” has pretended to promote women’s rights, while degrading women both on the casting couch and the big screen: they have made 100s of billions of dollars treating women, and even boys and girls, as sexual objects. And they have glorified men who are sexually promiscuous and depraved.
Why do we allow them to have this power over us? Why do we watch their filthy movies at theatres and in our homes? Why do we follow their fashions, and even the example of their personal lives? Why do we modify our values because they say we should? And worse yet, why do we expose our children to all this?
And why are we “shocked, shocked” to find that Hollywood is depraved as it is?

Birthday Party for Sofi. This last Thursday, November 14, was the 7th birthday of Sofi Hills. As many of you will recall, as a newborn baby she was left in our parking lot, where she was found by a parishioner and rushed to the hospital. We continue to give praise to the Lord Jesus for saving her life that day, and that she has grown into a healthy vivacious little girl. And in celebration we’re having a birthday party for Sofi in our Parish Hall, TODAY, November 19, after the 12:15 Mass. All parishioners are invited and encouraged to come and say hello to our little Sofi!
I firmly believe that Sofi was given to us as a particular call for our parish to promote the Culture of Life, so I ask you today to renew your personal efforts in this regard. And I ask you to pray for Sofi and her family, and for her birth-mother whose name is unknown to us, but whose courage to save her baby will always be remembered.

Thanksgiving. I hope and pray you will all have a very blessed Thanksgiving Day this coming Thursday. We all have so much to be thankful for—beginning with the gifts of life and love, especially life in the love of Christ in this world and the world to come.
I would like to take a moment to give particular thanks to God for the parish staff He has given to us. They work so hard and devoutly to serve Jesus and you, and to help Fr. Smith and I serve Jesus and you. So, I give thanks to God for Kirsti Tyson, our Office/Business Manager, who has given so many years to the parish, especially to making sure we are responsible stewards of the financial aspects of the parish. Thanks for Eva Radel, our Parish Secretary, who’s talent, dedication, efficiency and warm attentiveness to your needs is so important in keeping things going day to day, not to mention keeping the Pastor on track. Thanks for Mary Butler, officially a Parish Secretary, but in reality, my go-to utility player, filling in where ever we need her, and heading up so many special projects for me. Thanks for Jeanne Sause, the hardest working and most loving Youth Director in the diocese—what would we do without her working so many hours on so many days and evenings, and traveling all over the place, with our kids? Thanks for Tom Browne, our Plant Manager, for doing a superb job in making sure the building is up and running at all times, especially as he heads the effort to fix our lights. Thanks for Mary Salmon, our Director of Religious Education, who has done a yeoman’s job in shaping the program to meet my very high expectations, all the while humbly showing us all her profound love for our children and our Church. Thanks for Vince Drouillard, our Religious Education Secretary and Child Protection Coordinator, who is the newest addition to the staff, but literally a real God-send in an often-thankless job. Thanks for Elisabeth Turco, our Music Director, the best in the diocese, who has done so much to lift our liturgies to be so reverent and beautiful, and patiently working with me, a taskmaster when it comes to all this. Thanks for Nena Brennan, our Head Sacristan, who despite her terrible car accident earlier this year keeps plugging away to keep our sacristy well-ordered and our sanctuary beautiful; and for her good husband, Marty Brennan, works so hard to help her and me. Thanks for Teresa Sierra, our housekeeper, who, despite so many personal setbacks this year, continues to take care of us priests and make sure we’re comfortable and well-fed. Although they are not technically our employees, thanks also to our “contract” maintenance workers, Laura Rodriguez and Luis Tapia, who keep the church clean and safe for all of us. And finally, although technically unpaid volunteers, thanks for Bob and Bev Ward, running RCIA and our famous Bible Study—they are two of the greatest gifts God has given the parish.
I thank the Lord Jesus for all of them, and I ask you to join me in thanking Him and praying for them this week.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Election. As I write this (Wednesday morning) I’m still recovering from the very disappointing news that Virginians have once again elected a pro-abortion, anti-marriage, anti-religious-freedom, anti-common-sense administration to govern us in Richmond. That is saddening, but not surprising, considering the voting trends in Virginia over the last 20 years. But what was surprising and more devastating than the results of the statewide races were the losses of strong pro-life, etc. candidates like Delegates Tim Hugo and Bob Marshall to pro-abortion etc. candidates. Marshall loss to a transgendered man (who calls himself a woman) was particularly troubling.
The media is trying to turn this into a rejection of conservative/traditional values by Virginia voters, but it seems pretty clear to me that the exit polls show that it was mainly a matter of voter turnout: the folks supporting abortion, etc., got their voters out in large numbers, while the folks supporting life, etc., did not. TURNOUT is the key in almost every election—Tim Hugo lost by just 68 votes!
Did you fail to vote? Or did you vote, but for the pro-abortion etc. candidates? Then maybe you need to go to confession this week.
In any case, while disappointed, I’m not going to get discouraged by this election. While I am not very optimistic about the immoral and illogical trends in our society and state, I remember that while a majority of voters voted pro-abortion etc., the facts remain that 1) it wasn’t a totality of voters, so that 45% of the voters voted pro-life etc., and 2) most of eligible voters didn’t vote. So, once again, a small minority of pro-abortion etc. voters are running our state. It doesn’t have to be that way. And with God’s grace, next time….
By the way, some people say I’m too political. But this is not about politics, per se, this is about the moral life, which is definitely my responsibility as a priest. When politics crosses into the moral life, we all have to stand up and speak—and vote.

Shooting in Texas Church. By now we’ve all heard about the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in the little town of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 were killed and 20 injured during a Sunday service. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims, and we pray for the souls of the dead, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We also pray for the soul of the killer—may God have mercy on his cold soul. And we pray for an end of this senseless violence.
I grew up only about 30 miles away from Sutherland Springs, in San Antonio, so I’m a familiar with the town and surrounding area. I know the good salt of the earth Texas Baptists, who don’t always understand Catholics, but share a great faith in and love of Jesus with us. So, I commend my fellow Texan Christians to the mercies of the Lord, who saw them massacred while worshiping Him, and perhaps to some extent even for worshipping Him. And I thank God for the simple bravery of the good old boys who armed themselves to stop and then chase down the crazed killer.
We may never know why the killer did what he did. It seems to me that he was clearly deranged. That derangement may have then focused on a domestic feud. It may also have focused on his atheistic/anti-Christian views, which may or may not have been fueled by the growing anti-Christian sentiment in some parts of society, especially in the media. I don’t know.
We can only ask the Lord Jesus to come to our aid in all these things, to protect us from those who hate us or mean us harm, and give us the hope and courage to move forward with Him. And to come to the aid of our brethren in Texas, and bring the souls of the dead into paradise.
Security Questions for Us. Every time something like this happens, especially a church shooting, I’m sure some of you wonder: “could that happen to me/us.” I remember after September 11, 2001, all sorts of rumors were making the circuit, including a rumor that a large church in my neighborhood was being targeted by terrorists. Thanks be to God, the rumors were completely unfounded. But ever since then I’ve thought a lot about church security, while at the same time refused to be controlled by fear of the unknown.
Could that happen here? Experience sadly shows that it can happen almost anywhere. But the odds of it happening in any particular church are so small it makes particular fears seem largely unreasonable.
Nevertheless, we want to take whatever precautions are reasonable and practical. But what should we do? I’ve discussed this issue with priests, parishioners and law enforcement folks, but no one has a definitive answer. Again, the possibility is so remote that it seems impractical and unreasonable to devote many resources to it. There is also the risk of stirring up undue fears that could distract people at Mass (especially children), or even discourage them from coming to Mass. Moreover, some proposals would seem unnecessarily unwelcoming to visitors.
Even so, we will try to take those precautions which seem reasonable in the circumstances. And if any of you have particular concerns or suggestions, I’m open to hearing them—feel free to contact me or Tom Browne in the office. Moreover, I always encourage you to be vigilant, and report anything clearly suspicious to the priests, staff or ushers. And at all times, I am greatly comforted to know that many of our parishioners are current or former law-enforcement officers or trained military veterans, and that many of them are constantly prepared to render proportionate forceful defense of their fellow parishioners. But above all I trust and pray that Jesus will send His angels to protect and defend us at all times.

Lighting and Mural Project. Thanks for all the overwhelming support so many of you are giving to our plans for the Lighting and Mural Project, both in your comments and in your donations. As of this morning (Wednesday) we have a total of just over $90,000 pledged. Excellent for the first 10 days. But we have a ways to go, so please consider making a pledge this week.
A few of you have expressed some concerns, or even disapproval of the project. I’m open to hearing from all you. One particular concern has been about the health ramifications of LED lights. We have discussed these with our lighting consultant, Chris Stroik, one of the leading lighting architects in the country. Until a few years ago, Mr. Stroik shared many of these concerns, but he assures us that from his extensive investigations and experience all those concerns have been addressed, so that now he exclusively recommends LED systems to his large-building clients. Moreover, the Diocesan construction office, which has overseen over a dozen similar lighting projects, reports no ill effects and few complaints related to LED lighting in other churches. If you have any further concerns about this, please contact Tom Browne in the office.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Vote Like a Catholic. This Tuesday, November 7, Virginians go to the polls to elect our state and local officials, including our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Delegates. Sadly, many Virginians, including many Catholics, will vote for candidates who embrace abortion, the “gay agenda” and the undermining of religious liberty. Many others will stay home and not vote at all.
It is our moral duty, as Christians, to vote, and I encourage all of you to do so on Tuesday, and to vote like the faithful Catholics you are. And I also encourage you to pray and do penance for the good of the Commonwealth.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (2239-2240): “It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community…. Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country….”

Today is also “Vocation Awareness Sunday.” God is calling many of our young men and women—members of our own families—to the special vocations of priesthood or religious life. It is so easy for young people to resist this call, and so difficult to accept it. It can be a demanding life, but no more demanding than the life of a spouse and parent, and it brings with it so many rewards in this life and the life to come. And there is nothing better than to live one’s life knowing that you are doing what God has called you to do. For myself, I can say, I was very reluctant to accept the call—I was very happy with my career, friends and home. Which helps explain why I started seminary 10 years after college. But I have never regretted answering the call, and I thank God for the great gift of my priesthood.
I encourage all of our young people to pray and consider if God is calling you to one of these special vocations. And I strongly encourage all families to help their children or siblings in pursuing this call. It is a great blessing to have a priest or friar or a nun in the family. Don’t push, but propose, encourage and support.
Let us pray for all those discerning a vocation to priesthood or religious life, especially those in our own families and our parish. And remember particularly those who are already in formation, including our former parishioners, Sr. Theresa Francesca Tolpa (already in First Vows with the Sisters of Life), and James Waalkes (Arlington Seminarian), and of course Mike Nugent, our Summer Seminarian.

Major Pro-Life Speaker. Next Saturday, November 11th, the Respect Life Committee hosts international pro-life apologist Stephanie Gray speaking on, “Effectively Bringing the Pro-Life Message to the Public Square with Clarity, Confidence and Civility.” Stephanie has educated the staff at Google headquarters, successfully debated national abortion leaders and late term abortionists and appeared on national television and radio stations. She is the author of Love Unleashes Life: Abortion & the Art of Communicating Truth as well as A Physician’s Guide to Discussing Abortion. In his visit in September, Fr. Tad Pacholczyk strongly recommended her to us, as a former student of his and a must-see speaker. The talk begins at 7:00pm, in the Parish Hall. I encourage everyone to come, and bring a friend!

Our Baby Sofi. November 14 is the 7th birthday of Sofi Hills. As many of you will recall, as a newborn baby she was left in our parking lot, where she was found by a parishioner and rushed to the hospital. For a while I called her “Baby Mary Madeleine,” until she was placed with a loving family which soon adopted her and named her “Anna Sofia Rae,” or “Sofi.” We continue to give praise to the Lord Jesus for saving her life that day, and that she has grown into a healthy vivacious little girl. And in celebration we’re having a birthday party for Sofi in our Parish Hall, Sunday, November 19, after the 12:15 Mass. All parishioners are invited and encouraged to come and say hello to our little Sofi!

Pro-Life “Thank Yous.” A quick but heartfelt thanks to all those who participated in “40 Days for Life”—and there we so many of you! Special thanks to Kurt and Beth Berger and their kids for heroically bearing witness well into the dark and rainy night.

Trail Life. For almost 4 years now Trail Life has been a parish organization that we can all be proud of, as it helps our boys grow into Christian manhood through a Christ-centered program of character and leadership building, especially through the adventure of outdoor experiences that build a young man’s skills and allow him to grow on a personal level and as a role model and leader for his peers. We now have about 50 boys in our very active troop, and I recommend it to all boys and young men in the parish.
I also recommend to all adults who might be interested in becoming leaders of the group, especially men. There are a variety of ways you can help, from administrative to leading campouts. This is great way to positively impact our culture by helping form boys into faithful Catholic leaders. Please see the bulletin “blurb” below for more information.

October Mass Attendance Count. As was announced at Masses, for the last 3 weekends the Bishop has required that all parishes in the diocese do a detailed physical count of attendance at all Masses. The results are in: we have an average Sunday attendance of 2,505. That’s about what I thought it was, but I suppose it’s good to have it confirmed. Just for your reference, we have 5,969 registered parishioners. Thanks for your patience, and I’m sorry if it was distracting. Thanks also to the folks who volunteered to conduct the count, mostly from the ranks of the ushers, Knights of Columbus and extraordinary ministers. Special thanks to Patrick O’Brien for coordinating everything.

Capital Campaign. Our fundraising for the Lighting/Mural Project is off to a great start with pledges and verbal commitments coming in already. I was very pleased especially by all the positive comments we received after Masses last Sunday. Thank you all for your support, and please don’t forget to get your pledge in soon. I’m hoping for $500 per family, but understand that some can’t give that much right now. So, give what you can, less or more! And pray to St. Raymond for the success of this campaign and the project itself.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Halloween. This coming Tuesday, October 31, most people will be celebrating “Halloween.” Sadly, for some—such as satanic cults and witches—it is an evening to celebrate evil. But, thankfully, for most people its simply a day to pretend to be something they’re not. Not much harm in that, unless we pretend to be something evil. This is especially the case with children—I pray none my children at St. Raymond’s would honor evil (even unintentionally) by dressing up as devils, vampires and the like. Dress up like a superhero, or better yet, a great Saint. Let’s keep this an uplifting and wholesome day, mainly for kids to pretend and eat candy. And pray for those who turn it to some other less moral purpose.

A Holy Week. With all the attention on “Halloween” this week, most people will forget what this week is really about: All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These days are particularly important because they remind us that the Church of Jesus Christ is more than just the people we see at Mass, or even the 2 billion plus Christians on Earth. Because countless numbers of Christians have lived and died before us, and many of those are in Heaven, or on their way there.
This is what the Church means when it speaks of the “Communion of Saints”—using the word “saint” as it is most commonly used in Scripture, to refer to all Christians, both those living and those who have died in Christ. And so, the one Church of Christ has three states, or parts: first, all Christians on Earth (“The Pilgrim Church” or “The Church Militant”), second, all those in Heaven (“The Church in Glory” or “The Church Triumphant”), and third, all the souls in Purgatory (“The Church Being Purified” or “The Church Suffering”).

All Saints Day, Wednesday, November 1, is a holy day of obligation (you must go to Mass, under pain of mortal sin) reminds us of our unity with the Church in Heaven. Throughout the year we celebrate the feasts of particular “saints” whom the Church officially recognizes as now living in Heaven—these are “canonized saints”. But on ALL Saints’ Day we also remember ALL the other countless numbers of souls who have gone to Heaven, including, hopefully, many of our deceased parents and grandparents, and so many of our little children who have gone before us. This is their feast day! So, we honor them, and pray to them, asking the whole multitude in Heaven to assist us on our way to join them.
All Souls Day, Thursday, November 2, remembers our unity with the Church in Purgatory. Unfortunately, nowadays even the mention of Purgatory often triggers reactions of disbelief or even ridicule—even among Catholics. Yet this dogma goes back to the Old Testament, as 2 Maccabees 12:39-46 makes very clear. Some see Purgatory as a place of horrible torture, or even a part of Hell, and the thought that their deceased loved ones could be there seems disrespectful, or even unbearable: they want to think of them as being happy in Heaven.
But remember, St. John tells us in Rev. 21:27 that “nothing imperfect shall enter into” Heaven. The thing is, who do you know that is perfect? Almost all of us have at least some venial sin we cling to, or have some inordinate attachment to earthly things. Does that mean that all of us imperfect people will not enter Heaven, and so go to Hell? Not at all. In His great love and mercy, the Lord takes all of us who die with any imperfections on our souls (but having, before dying, properly repented of any mortal—“deadly”—sins) and He perfects, or purifies, us. Another word for purification is “purgation,” so this time/place/state of purification is called “Purgatory.”
It is true that Purgatory is a place of suffering, hence it is referred to as the “Church Suffering.” Perhaps this suffering is best understood in the light of the suffering that comes with any change. For example, when we try to get into better physical shape, or when we try to learn a new subject, it’s difficult, “painful” (“no pain, no gain”). But this pain is not something we should shun—in fact, the pain becomes a source of joy, as we begin to recognize it as a sign of change to a better state.
So, is it a surprise that the change from imperfect to perfect will be painful? Or that in spite of their suffering, St. Catherine of Genoa, after receiving a vision of Purgatory from Our Lord, wrote: “I believe no happiness can be …compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise.” The souls in Purgatory suffer, but they rejoice as it brings them closer to Heaven.
Even so, we must pray for the Souls in Purgatory—because they do suffer. Just as we try to help those we love on Earth by praying for them, we should continue to pray for them after death to help them on their way to perfection. Even if we hope or think they’re already in heaven, we still owe them whatever help, in prayer, we can give them in death. So, even though it is not a day of obligation, the Church encourages us to go to Mass on All Souls Day to offer that greatest prayer possible for the “Holy Souls.”

Election. State elections are now only 9 days away. Sadly, many Virginians will not vote in this so-called “off year election,” even though it will decide who writes and executes the laws and policies that govern most of our daily lives at the county and state level. So, I ask all of you to join me in voting, and also praying from now until November 7, begging Our Lord to give us the best leaders possible. Please consider praying the daily Rosary and/or the Novena prayer(s) to St. Thomas More, and offering up small sacrifices.

Lighting and Mural Capital Campaign. In the last few days all registered parishioners should have received a letter/packet in the mail explaining the renovations we plan to make in the church next summer—replacing/upgrading all our existing lighting and installing two new beautiful murals (paintings) of St. Raymond. This project will be expensive, about $400,000. So I am asking all of you to make a special donation to help pay for it.
I will speak briefly about this at all Masses this Sunday and write more here in the coming weeks, but please read over the packets we sent to see all the details. There are also some pictures and diagrams in the narthex this week that might help you get a better understanding of the project. If you haven’t received the mailing yet, please call or email the parish office. Thanks for your generosity. Please pray to St. Raymond for the success of this work.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rosary. As most of you know October is the “Month of the Rosary.” Tradition attributes the Rosary to an apparition of the Blessed Mother to St. Dominic around the year 1200. The use of strings of beads to count prayers dates back to pre-Christian times and to the first centuries of the Church. By the end of the 8th century the beads were used to count the praying of the 150 psalms. In the 10th and 11th century the strings of beads were commonly used to count Our Fathers, but by the 12th century they were more widely used to count the 150, or 50, Hail Marys. In the 15th century the practice of meditating on the mysteries of the life of Christ while praying the Hail Marys became popular, and the devotion began to be called the Rosarium, (“garland of roses”). By the 16th century the division of the Rosary into the 5 decades of the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries became set. In 1999 Pope John Paul II proposed the “Luminous mysteries.”
October’s particular association with the Rosary goes back at least to October 7, 1571, when Pope Pius V attributed the miraculous defeat of the invading Muslim fleet in the Battle of Lepanto to the praying of the Rosary, and declared that day the “Feast of Our Lady of Victory.” Two years later this was changed to the “Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.” In 1883 Pope Leo XIII dedicated the whole month of October to the Queen of the Holy Rosary.
The Rosary remains a devotion that should be dear to the hearts of all Catholics, and Our Lady of Fatima reminded us to pray it daily. For centuries successive popes have recommended it. If anyone asks me how to improve their prayer life, my first response is always, “pray the Rosary”—every day, or at least once a week. Especially in October!

Fr. Smith’s Fatima Talk. Fr. Smith’s talk on Fatima on Friday, October 13, was well received by a large crowd of parishioners. Thanks to him for sharing his knowledge and experiences of Fatima, and thanks to all who attended.

Feast of St. John Paul II. Today, October 22, is the feast day of St. John Paul II. I’m always surprised how many people do not remember him or know much about him. They should.
Born in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920, Karol Jozef Wojtyla was one of three children. Sadly, he lost his mother when he was about 9 years old, and all of his immediately family members were deceased by the time he was 21. His career as a young university student, and amateur actor, was interrupted by the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and he spent the next few years working in forced labor in a quarry. Eventually he entered the underground seminary run by Krakow’s archbishop, and was ordained a priest on November 1, 1946. He went on to earn his doctorate in theology in Rome, and his doctorate in philosophy in Krakow. He then served as a parish priest, university chaplain, and seminary and university professor. He was ordained auxiliary bishop of Krakow on September 28, 1958. In 1964 he was named Archbishop of Krakow (at age 43) and became a cardinal in 1967. As a bishop and archbishop, he took an active role at the Second Vatican Council, making important contributions to the constitution Gaudium et Spes. As the popular young Cardinal-Archbishop of Krakow he became the nemesis of the Communist government of Poland.
During his years as a professor he was dearly loved by his students and their friends. Working with other Catholic theologians he developed a unique approach to teaching about the dignity of the human person, his relationship to God and the meaning of family, marriage and sexuality. This later came to be known as the “Theology of the Body,” which he presented as a gift to the whole Church when he was elected Pope on October 16, 1978.
His papacy began dramatically, as he was elected after the sudden death of Pope John Paul I, who reigned for only 30 days—some seeing this as part of a direct and extraordinary intervention of the Holy Spirit in choosing Wojtyla. This dramatic beginning, along with the fact that he was the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years, as well as his obvious physical vigor, keen intellect, and personal magnetism, made him an instant focus of world attention.
His 27 year reign was marked by innumerable and great accomplishments, including: being a critical figure in the fall of the Iron Curtain and Soviet Communism; clarification of Church doctrine in his prolific speeches and writings; promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; complete revision of the Code of Canon Law; pastoral visits to 129 countries (8 million saw him at one event in the Philippines); reform of the liturgy; establishment of World Youth Day; complete reorganization of the Roman Curia; canonization of 480 saints; and his unrelenting and outspoken defense of the unborn and marriage.
His example of personal holiness and prayer (spending hours every day in prayer, he seems to be a genuine contemplative and mystic) were a lesson to us all. But perhaps his most amazing accomplishment was attracting young people to the Church, who loved him for clearly speaking the truth to them.
There is not enough space here to explain all he did or what a great and holy man and Pope he was. At the end of his funeral four million mourners in Rome spontaneously and enthusiastically shouted, “Santo subito!”—“a saint right now!” Many call him “the Great,” and I am personally convinced that he will eventually receive this as a formal title (given only to 3 of his predecessors), and also be named a “Doctor of the Church.”
Saint John Paul, pray for us!

Parish Finances. Last week we published our “Annual Parish Financial Report” for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017, as an insert in the bulletin. Operating Income (mainly from offertory and debt-reduction collections, and other donations) was $2,351,131, only $5,587 (or .2%) less than the prior year, while OPERATING EXPENSES were $1,914,681, up $57,253 (or 3%) from the prior year, leaving us a Net Operating Income of $436,450, down $62,842. Most of the increase in expenses was due to increased salaries and benefits ($48,000), mainly relating to increased cost of medical benefits and an accounting anomaly of extra pay period (27 vs. 26).
We also had Capital Improvement Expenditures of $102,590, mainly related to the confessionals ($18,000), the new “donor wall” ($18,000), and office renovations ($54,000). This left us with a Net Surplus (the bottom line) of $333,860.
On the Balance Sheet side of things, we had $1,078,487 in savings (up $28,829, due to interest) and a loan balance of $387,917 (down $297,096 from the prior year). Note: we are on target to pay off the parish debt (the “building loan”) next summer, June 2018.
Please feel free to contact me or Kirsti Tyson in the parish office with any questions about the report.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles