Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

What Price Catholicism? In the news the last few weeks we’ve heard two important news stories about people who have paid a great price for holding on to their Catholic faith. The first story was about a Catholic woman in Sudan, named Meriam Ibrahim, who had been imprisoned in Sudan, awaiting execution. The week before last, after months of intense negotiation by the Italian government and the Vatican, the Sudanese government freed Meriam  and she was flown to Rome to meet with the Pope. It was a great story.

But the real story was the reason she had been in prison in the first place. You see, Meriam’s mother was an Eastern Orthodox Christian and had raised Meriam as a Christian. Shortly before she married her Catholic husband in 2011 Meriam had converted to Catholicism. But because her father was a Muslim, Islamic law considered her to be Muslim also, and soon after her marriage she was accused of apostasy from Islam. When she refused to recant her Christianity and “return” to Islam, the Sudanese government sentenced her to death.

The second news story was about the plight of Christians, mainly Catholics, in Iraq, who have increasingly become the target of persecution by the terrorist army called the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” or “ISIS.” The week before last ISIS in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, issued an ancient and familiar order to these Christians: “submit or die.” (This after terrorists posted to the internet pictures of Christians crucified in Raqqa). But the Islamist terrorists were “generous,” in their own corrupt way: by “submit” they meant either convert to Islam, or stay Christian but pay heavy taxes for the privilege of  becoming permanent, subservient and silent second-class citizens (dhimmitude); and by “die” they meant either be executed or leave the country and everything you own.

According to news reports, hundreds of Mosul Christians have been killed, and almost all of the rest, 10s of thousands, have left everything behind rather than convert or remain under the thumb of thugs, having to comprise their Christian faith more and more every day. And for the first time in 16 centuries no Mass was said in Mosul last month.

Last week we read the parables comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a treasure found in a field and a pearl of great price found after long searching,

that when one finds it he “goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

The story of the pearl of great price has a real meaning to Meriam and the Iraqi Christians. What does it mean to us? Would we be willing to give up everything we have in exchange for our Catholic faith? Think of all the compromises we make with secularism every day, the doctrines—especially the moral doctrines—that many Catholics in America publicly deny every day. Some because they’d have to change their lifestyles or lose some friends, and some simply because their time is too valuable to spend on trying to understand the Church’s teaching. But in the end, it’s simply because it would cost too much, and they are not willing to pay the price.

Meriam Ibrahim and the Christians in Iraq have found the pearl of great price, and they have traded everything they had to possess it. Do we? No one is threatening to kill us or forcing us to leave our homes. At least not yet. But they do threaten us that if we want to be Catholic, it may cost us more than we can bear.

We must all pray for our Christian brothers and sisters being persecuted around the world, especially those in Iraq and Mosul. And we must also pray that we may always follow their example of fidelity to Christ and His Church.

 

A Religious Vocation. Most of you will remember Teri Tolpa, who was the chair our Respect Life Committee for several years until 3 years ago when she moved to Denver to go to graduate school. Her parents, Debbie and Ted Tolpa, are still active members of St. Raymond’s. I’m delighted to report that Teri has been accepted to enter the Sisters of Life as a “postulant” on September 6th, 2014.

I’m sure you all join me in congratulating Teri, and in thanking her for responding to God’s call. She will be visiting Virginia near the end of August to spend some time with her family before she enters the convent, so we should have the chance to thank and share our support with her personally. Please keep her in your prayers in the months and years ahead.

The Sisters of Life (www.sistersoflife.org) are a contemplative-active order of religious sisters, founded by John Cardinal O’Connor in New York City in 1991. They take a special vow “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”  Their convents are primarily in the NYC metro area.

The vocation to be a religious sister (or a nun) is one of the greatest gifts God can give to a woman, and to her family and parish. It is truly a “pearl of great price.” To give oneself totally to the Lord in vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience is to have an undivided heart for Him and to serve Him first in all things. As St. Paul says: “the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband” (1 Cor. 7:34). Because of this religious sisters are often called “brides of Christ,” as they give themselves completely to Him.

At some time in their life every Catholic girl and unmarried woman should discern whether God is calling her to this magnificent vocation. If any of the girls or women in our parish would like help in this regard, Fr. Kenna and I would be happy to talk to you, and/or introduce you to some religious sisters in the area. Don’t be afraid—if God is calling you to this, be assured He has something wonderful in mind for you.

And parents, make sure you encourage your daughters in this regard. Don’t push, but pray, propose and support. And don’t ever be afraid of losing a daughter or not having grandchildren. If your daughter is called, God will reward you generously for betrothing your daughter to Christ.

 

Sung High Mass (EFM). August 15 is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. As previously announced, the 7pm Mass that evening will be offered as a Sung High Mass of the Extraordinary Form (a.k.a., the “Tridentine Mass” or the “Traditional Latin Mass”). I invite all of you to experience this very beautiful ancient form of Catholic Mass. (Next week I will explain more about this form of Mass and its importance to all Catholics). We will, of course, also have our regular (Ordinary Form) Masses the evening before (Vigil) and during the day.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 27, 2014

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 27, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today’s gospel tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like

a treasure found in a field,

or a pearl of great price found after long searching,

that when one finds it he “goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

It is beautiful imagery, and evokes keen appreciation of the wonderful treasures

that await us in the kingdom of heaven.

But the thing is, the kingdom, as Jesus tells us, is already here;

not perfectly, but nascently,

as on earth we share in the treasures of the kingdom

that exists here on earth in the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

The Church is the Kingdom on earth.

 

This begs the questions:

Do we recognize the treasures we find in the Church?

And most importantly:

how many of us would trade everything we have

in exchange for the treasures of Christ’s kingdom?

 

This last week we heard about two different stories of people who did just that.

The first story was about a Catholic woman in Sudan, named Meriam Ibrahim,

who had been imprisoned in Sudan, awaiting execution.

This week, after months of intense negotiation by the Italian government

and the Vatican,

the Sudanese government had freed Meriam

and she was flown to Rome to meet with the Pope.

A great story.

But the real story was the reason she had been in prison in the first place:

her only crime was that she had converted from Islam to Catholicism

and now refused to recant her Christianity and return to Islam.

And for that they sentenced her to death.

She had literally traded everything she had—including her very life—

to be faithful to Christ and His Church.

 

The second story was about the plight of Christians, mainly Catholics, in Iraq,

who have increasingly become the target of persecution of

the terrorist army called the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” or “ISIS.”

This last week ISIS in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq,

issued an ancient and familiar order to these Christians: “submit or die.”

But the Islamists were “generous,” in their own corrupt way:

by “submit” they meant either convert to Islam,

or stay Christian but pay heavy taxes for the privilege of

becoming permanent, subservient and silent second-class citizens;

and by “die” they meant either be executed

or leave the country and everything you own.

 

Almost all of them, 10s of thousands, decided to leave,

and to leave everything behind

rather than convert or remain under the thumb of thugs,

having to comprise their faith more and more every day.

 

——–

The story of the pearl of great price has a real meaning

to Meriam and the Iraqi Christians.

What does it mean to us?

 

Today many Christians in the West see the faith as merely a source of comfort.

They focus on passages of Scripture like those we find in today’s psalm :

“O Lord…Let your kindness comfort me…

Let your compassion come to me ….”

But when it comes down to it, they value gold and comfort more than God

and silver and pleasure more than his Church.

So that the rest of the words of today’s psalm fall on deaf ears:

“The law of your mouth is to me more precious

than thousands of gold and silver pieces….

I love your command more than gold, however fine.” And the idea of giving up all that they have on earth

to gain the treasures of the kingdom of heaven is inconceivable.

 

In today’s first reading, God tells Solomon:

“Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”

And Solomon responds:

“Give your servant…an understanding heart                    to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”

And then it says that God “was pleased” that he had

“asked …not for a long life…, nor for riches…                    but …[to] know what is right.”

 

God gives us many wonderful gifts,

but one that is crucial for us to enjoy all the others is

“To know what is right and wrong.”

This is the gift God gave to Solomon, and the gift the Psalmist referred to

when he wrote of God’s “law” and “commands.”

 

And so among the many gems in the treasure chest of the kingdom

he gives us particular teachings about what is right and wrong,

like so many diamonds and rubies—and pearls.

But too many Christians reject them,

because they conflict with their comfort,

or they would cost too much to follow.

 

For example, 46 years ago this last Friday, on July 25, 1968,

Pope Paul VI issued his famous encyclical Humanae Vitae,

reiterating the apostolic teaching of the Church

on the procreation of human life.

A teaching that is not just a matter of what is wrong with contraception,

but also about what is the right way to understand procreation.

A teaching that reveals the right understanding the meaning of man,

as male and female,

being created in the image of the God who is love.

A teaching that reveals that God creates us just

so that he can give himself totally to us in love

and we can give ourselves totally to him in love.

A teaching that reveals that God builds this total-self-giving love

into the very nature of man,

most fundamentally in the relationship

of male and female as husband and wife.

A teaching about how this mutual-self-giving love

is expressed in the bodily act of total-mutual-self-gift: sexual intercourse.

A teaching about how God’s incredible loving generosity in giving life to man,

is imitated as husband and wife give life to children

through the act of physical love.

 

A teaching that is not merely one jewel,

but a whole jewelry box discovered inside the treasure chest,

a jewelry box filled with the gems of Christ’s teachings on

love, sexuality, family,  procreation and marriage itself.

Diamond’s, jades, rubies, sapphires, emeralds—and pearls of great price.

 

And yet many, actually most, Catholics reject this whole jewelry box

—and all the precious jewels in it.

Some because they think the wisdom of the world about these things

is wiser than the wisdom of Christ and his church.

Some because they have been convinced

that there is no real “right and wrong.”

Some because they think they’d have to give up to much if they accepted it.

And, sadly, some because even their time is too valuable to spend on

trying to learn and understand the Church’s teaching.

But in the end, it’s simply because it would cost too much,

and they are not willing to pay the price.

 

——-

But what happens if we’re not willing to pay the price

for the treasure of the kingdom?

In today’s Gospel after Jesus tells the parable of the treasure

he gives us a very different parable.

“The kingdom of heaven” he says, “is like a net thrown into the sea,           which collects fish of every kind.           ….what is good [is put] into buckets. What is bad they throw away.” And to make sure we understand his point, he speaks plainly:

“Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out

and separate the wicked from the righteous

and throw them into the fiery furnace….”

 

On the one hand the “righteous,” and the other hand “the wicked.”

On the one hand “right” and the other hand “wrong.”

On the one hand “treasure,” on the other hand the “fiery furnace.”

Christ freely offers both, and we freely accept one or the other.

 

So, we have a decision to make: is the treasure of Catholicism,

including the knowledge of right and wrong,

worth the price?

Meriam Ibrahim and the Christians in Iraq have faced that choice.

They have found the treasure, the pearl of great price.

And they have sold everything they had to buy it.

 

Do we?

No one is threatening to kill us or forcing us to leave our homes.

At least not yet.

But there are strong cultural forces trying to tell us

to abandon the fullness of our Catholic faith.

They tell us that it’s anti-social and anti-freedom.

That it’s contrary to new enlightened ideas of “what is right and wrong.”

That it’s rooted in bigotry and hate.

 

And so while they don’t threaten to cut our heads off,

they do threatened to cut us off from mainstream of the culture.

And they may not force us to leave our homes and country,

they do threaten to ostracize us from family and friends.

In effect, they tell us if want to be Catholic, it will cost us more than we can bear.

But in reality they are telling us, submit or die.

 

——-

My friends, in just a moment

we will kneel before our Lord Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament

–one of the most precious jewels in the treasure chest

He’s given to us in his Church.

As we kneel before him, let us thank him for this treasure—all of it.

And let us thank him for the gift of the heroic example

of our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Sudan,

and beseech his mercy to keep them safe

and reward them for their fidelity.

And let us beg him to give us the grace to follow their example,

in recognizing, accepting and cherishing

the fullness of treasures of His Church,

in standing against those who try to force us to submit

to false notions of right and wrong,

and in being willing to give up everything we must

in order to be truly faithful Catholics.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 20, 2014

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 20, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today we read a rather unusual gospel text.

If I asked you what it was about, most of you would probably say

it was the parable of the weeds among the wheat.

But if we were paying close attention we noticed that in the middle of the text

we find that Jesus gives us two other parables:

the parable of the mustard seed

and the parable of the yeast.

So we sort of have a parable sandwich:

the two smaller parables wrapped between the 1st parable;

double-decker parable sandwich at that.

And like any well-made sandwich,

all the parts are chosen to blend together and complement each other,

producing a combined taste that is absolutely delicious.

 

Now, every sandwich, by definition, has bread

—sometimes two pieces, sometimes one, like a “wrap” or a taco.

Some tend to think the bread is unimportant,

that the stuff inside the sandwich is important—the meat, so to speak.

But you can’t have a sandwich without the bread:

it holds everything together, gives it form,

and allows it to be eaten conveniently.

But it also can add flavor: the taste of rye or pumpernickel

can make all the difference to the taste of the sandwich.

 

And so we have the parable of the weeds and wheat

wrapping around the other two parables:

at once giving context, holding the whole text together,

and also giving it it’s defining flavor.

 

The primary context is Jesus himself,

who is the sewer of good seed, the wheat,

while the devil is the sewer of bad seed, the weeds.

In that context we understand that the good seed, the wheat,

is the individual believer in Christ,

and the bad seed, the weed, is the one who follows the devil.

 

But then we see something that is perplexing to all of us:

Christ allows the weeds to grow among the wheat.

 

I’m sure all of us have asked ourselves about this from time to time:

why does Christ allow bad people to flourish in the world,

and in particular, in the Church itself?

And this question has many sisters:

Why does he allow bad things to happen to good people?

Why does he allow good people to sometimes do bad things?

And we could go on and on.

 

The parable itself gives us the basic answer to all these similar questions.

Jesus says:

“if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”

 

But, there’s a slight problem with that answer.

After all, like weeds in the wheat, couldn’t God

—who is all-knowing and all-powerful—

simply go through the human population and recognize all the evil people,

and pull them out?

It would seem so.

So I think he’s trying to tell us something more here.

First of all, I think he’s telling us he has his reasons for doing what he does.

We may not see it at first, or ever,

but he is a lot smarter than us and has a very good reason.

 

And I think he’s also saying that

even though he knows the weeds from the wheat, sometimes we don’t.

And that can be a problem.

For example, there are many people who appear to be very good,

and may even lead other people to God,

but inside or in their private life they’re terrible sinners.

So pulling that weed might not serve God’s purpose, because we’d thing:

“that’s a good person—why is God doing that to him?”

—it might even lead to other good people losing their faith:

in other words, he might pull up some wheat with the weeds.

 

And I also think he’s saying that

sometimes it’s hard to tell the weeds from the wheat.

Not in the sense that God confuses good and evil.

But he knows that we are all sinners—even the best of us sins:

sometimes the wheat act more like a weed.

 

And more than that, sometimes a weed can become wheat.

We read in today’s first reading:

“But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,

…and you gave your children good ground for hope

that you would permit repentance for their sins.”

Remember, the basic context of this parable,

the wheat of this bread, so to speak,

is Jesus himself,

the same Jesus began his public ministry by proclaiming:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

 

So when He says:

“if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them,”

he’s also talking about the weeds in our own lives,

the evil done by good people, the sins of those who follow Christ.

 

If he were to come today and pull up weeds he might take a lot of us with him.

And the problem with that is that the weeds that are pulled will be

“throw[n] them into the fiery furnace,

where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

And so in his mercy, he waits patiently,

and allows the weeds to grow along with the wheat in our hearts and lives,

allowing us to repent, to pull the weeds ourselves, with his grace,

and so receive the reward of those he calls “the righteous,”

who “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

 

And then, there are also those people who simply do not follow Christ at all,

those who willfully embrace sin.

In the context of Christ who is not only all powerful and all knowing,

but also all-merciful and patient,

and for whom all things are possible,

we know that sometimes the weeds themselves

can be transformed into wheat.

And so he holds back… allowing time for repentance,

so that even the worst sinners among us can be saved.

 

We see this in the New Testament itself, as we see Mary Magdalene,

the archetypical sinner from whom Jesus drove out seven demons,

so that she became a great saint whose feast we celebrate this Tuesday.

And then there’s St. Paul, who persecuted the first Christians.

And we see it all throughout history:

St. Augustine, St. Thomas Becket, St. Ignatius, and even St. Francis;

each of these a noted sinner, who became a great saint.

And in your own lives, you know people like this—maybe even yourself.

How many of us, by the mercy and patience of Christ,

have been weeds transformed to wheat.

Thank God he didn’t come to pull us out

when we were complete and total weeds.

This is the bread of the sandwich,

the context that holds it all together and makes it all possible:

                    the merciful and patient Christ,

who sometimes allows the weeds to grow among the weeds

—in the world, in the Church and in our hearts.

 

Which brings us to the stuff inside the sandwich:

the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast.

 

The parable of the mustard seed reminds us that the kingdom

is like the small seed that grows into a “large bush.”

Again, in history we see how this has played out.

The church began with about 200 believers on Pentecost in 33 AD,

but has grown to 2.2 billion Christians, 1.2 of those Catholic.

Even so, sometimes we seem like wheat among the weeds:

we may be 2.2 billion, but there are more than twice that number

of people in world who are not Christian.

And many of those vehemently oppose us,

by trying to convert us, or oppress us, or even kill us.

 

And there are even those who are in the Church who do not truly follow Christ.

And then even ourselves, even as we try to follow Christ, we continue to sin.

 

Sometimes it seems Christ’s’ kingdom in the world, in the Church and in our hearts,

is very small, defenseless against the powers of evil.

And yet, just as surely as we saw it grow in population form 200 to 2.2 billion,

and just as we’ve seen periods of great holiness in the Church

and in our own lives,

we know that, by Christ’s grace,

and through his mercy and patience,

the tiny seed can become a great tree.

 

And finally, the parable of the yeast.

This reminds us that as those who follow Christ will grow

—not merely in numbers but also, and most importantly, in holiness—

as time passes they will lead others to be transformed and lift up by Christ.

As the patient and merciful Christ allows the wheat and weed to grow together,       his grace and the good example of Christians

can transform weeds into wheat:

what is flat can rise, what is evil can be converted.

 

So this is the “meat” of our sandwich:

the great potential of the seed of the faith planted in us

to transform the world, the Church and each one of us.

So that in the context of the bread of Christ’s mercy and patience we discover

the possibility of our own greatness and transformation,

so that we can “shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father.”

 

Now, I began by saying we have 3 parables today.

I supposed I’ve introduced a 4th parable: “the parable of the sandwich.”

I apologize if that’s been silly or confusing.

But bear with me for one more moment.

 

In all this we see the key is the bread: the mercy and patience of Jesus.

All the other stuff, our great potential and transformation,

only comes and holds together

because of his mercy and patience.

 

Allow my little parable now to turn your eyes to the Bread we are about to receive

—bread that is transformed by Christ’s mercy and patience,

so that as weeds become wheat, wheat becomes bread,

and bread becomes Christ himself.

In the gospel today he tells us: “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

As he comes before us in the Eucharist,

let he who has eyes, especially the eyes of the heart, let him see.

Let us see Jesus, and open our hearts to receive him,

him who is mercy and patience incarnate.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mr. Edward J. Kenna, Rest in Peace. Two weeks ago I mentioned in this column that Fr. Kenna’s 92 year old Dad, Edward, had been ailing. On Thursday, July 17, Mr. Kenna passed away peacefully in his bed, surrounded by his family as they prayed the Rosary. His Requiem (funeral) Mass was held last Monday in Pittsburgh. Mr. Kenna was a devout Catholic man, and beloved husband (married 63 years to his wife Dorothy), father (of nine) and grandfather (of 19). He was also a veteran of World War II (U.S. Army). Please keep him

in your prayers, that he might pass onto his heavenly reward. Please also keep Fr. Kenna and his family in your prayers.

 

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

 

AAA Women for Choice. Last Saturday several parishioners joined me at a dinner celebrating the 25th anniversary of AAA Women for Choice in Manassas. The name is surprising to some pro-Lifers, who usually associate “choice” with the pro-abortion crowd, but the women at AAA have tried to help women in “crisis” pregnancies to know they have many choices other than abortion, e.g., keeping their babies, adoption, etc.. Situated next to an abortion mill in Manassas, AAA, headed by Patricia Lohman, has saved the lives of over a thousand babies, and offered spiritual, emotional, financial and practical support to their mothers. They are an amazing group. Congratulations on 25 years! If you’re interested in helping out through volunteering, donations, etc., you can call them at (703) 330-9312.

 

  1. Every summer I have very brief little panic attacks on some Sundays as I see a sharp decline in Mass attendance. I recover very quickly as I remember that folks are on vacation. I hope all of you are enjoying your summer, and that you are able to get away on vacation. It’s very important to do that, especially for families to have time to spend together relaxing and having fun.

I was on vacation the week before last, going to my nephew’s wedding in South Bend, IN. I drove out to the wedding by myself, and decided to avoid the traffic and frenzy of the interstate highways, and instead took the back roads, the scenic view. Along the way I stopped to visit family in various cities, and to play golf 3 times (on my first day I hit my new “best score ever”!). It was great to see so many of nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, not to mention all four of my brothers and sisters, and their spouses. And it was a great little trip. But now, back to work.

One request: if you want to help your pastor have a less stressful summer, please don’t forget to keep up your weekly donations to the parish when you go on vacation. Just drop the envelope from the Sunday(s) you’re away in the following week’s collection. Better yet, sign up for Faith Direct (www.faithdirect.net).

 

Sung High Mass (EFM). Please remember to mark your calendar for August 15, for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. As I announced 2 weeks ago, the 7pm Mass that evening will be offered as a Sung High Mass of the Extraordinary Form, with the talented musical ensemble “Suscipe Quæso Domine,” (a.k.a., “The Suspicious Cheese Lords”) serving as our guest choir. I invite all of you to experience this very beautiful form of Mass. For those of you who cannot attend, we will, of course, also have our Vigil Mass the evening before and Masses during the day.

 

More Religious Discrimination from Our President. Last Monday President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting “all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees.” [LGBT: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender]. The executive order purposefully excludes an exception for employers who object to these rules on religious grounds. Moreover, it was issued after a bill containing similar protections for “LGBT employees” was passed by the Senate but rejected by the House of Representatives last year. But even that bill, as passed by the Senate, included protection for the religious liberty of employers.

 

This new “law” will apply to almost everyone who does work for or with the federal government, including individual Catholic small business owners and groups like Catholic Charities.

 

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo (chairmen of the U.S. Bishops’ Committees for Religious Liberty and Marriage) immediately issued a statement rightly noting: “In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination.”

 

The statement went on to say:  “With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent… As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.”

 

Moreover, the Bishops’ statement correctly notes: “The executive order prohibits ‘gender identity’ discrimination, a prohibition that is …predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. …For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.”

 

When will this president’s attacks against religious believers end? The Constitution prohibits our government from making laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and yet the president ignores this fundamental liberty to invent new liberties for special classes based on sexual preference or “identity.” How do those strange and imagined liberties trump the specific and natural liberties guaranteed by the Constitution?

 

Just 2 weeks ago the Supreme Court overturned the President’s contraception mandate for employers with religious objections (“Hobby Lobby”) as being contrary to the provisions of Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Court will very soon hear a variety of cases involving the mandate and religious non-profit groups (i.e., Catholic Charities, Little Sisters of the Poor, etc.). When will our president admit he has no right to discriminate against religious people?

 

Some may object: but doesn’t the Church teach that it’s wrong to discriminate against “gays”? Actually, the Church teaches that only “unjust discrimination” against people with same-sex attraction is wrong. But not all discrimination is “unjust.” For example, it is never unjust to prohibit a grown man who thinks he’s a female from using a restroom reserved for women and little girls! (Not to conflate same-sex attraction with “gender identity” issues).

 

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Instead of the Pastor’s Column, this week we have the Parochial Vicar’s Column.  Our Pastor, Fr. DeCelles, is out of town on a little vacation so he asked me to fill in for him.  So I write a few words to you.

 

Last week we celebrated the Feast day for St. Benedict, the Father of Western Monasticism. I thought it would be good to write a little bit about the great additions to the Church that he and the monastic life has had on our Church and our world, too.   (A good History lesson as we try to grow in our Faith in the many areas that it covers (last week’s emphasis for my homily).  St. Benedict was a big influence in establishing the monastic life in the Church.  He was trying to bring a community life of dedicated religious priests, brothers, and sisters to have a more balanced life and a good spiritual life in community.  Previously, the religious who desired a more cenobitic life (separation from the world to pray and serve God and not be distracted by the ways of the world) would do it as individuals (we know them as Hermits) or groups but they didn’t have clear cut direction and often didn’t separate from the world or they were just about praying all day.  St. Benedict and the rules that he established for these communities established a motto – the underlying rule for all of the rules – Ora et labora, which means – to pray and to work.  He wanted these communities to be monasteries that were well rounded.  Praying – frequently at various times of the day as a community, but also to do the works that are needed to maintain the community and even more – to add to the world as they added to the secular community around them.

 

These Monastery communities of men, who we know as “monks”, and then also, separate women’s only communities who we know as “nuns” (“nuns” actually should be used to identify these religious women who live separately from the world and should not be used to identify religious “sisters” who work in the world) really added to the world both through the grace of prayers for the Church and the world, but also with the works that they did to advance the Church and the world in many ways.  I mention this because these Monasteries which were established during the so-called Dark Ages continuing on through the Middle Ages and up to our present age, really helped the Church and Society as a whole.

 

The Church, through misinterpreted history, seemed to have somehow caused the Dark Ages, or at least to have suppressed any advancement of society, but we should know it  actually did the opposite.  We see that the Church didn’t bring about the down fall of Western Society – in particular the Roman Empire with all its advancements that it brought – was actually,  brought down by the Pagan Romans themselves along with the Barbarians who destroyed the Empire by their invasions and ransacking of the Empire.  The Church, the Pope in particular, stopped the Barbarians from totally annihilating Rome as they approached the city to finally level it to the ground.  With this prevention, a lot of Roman influences, such as their written works, as well as Greek works, were saved.  The Church, with the help of St. Benedict, went on to establish Monasteries which were places where they saved these works but also where they began to use the books'(both Roman and Greek)  for advancements and to grow in the areas such as Education – philosophy and math and sciences – and agriculture.  They also advanced our Faith, but that wasn’t the only influence they had.  The monasteries advanced agriculture as they established various techniques for working the fields and growing practices and cultivating useless lands.  They also helped with establishing work techniques that came from agriculture as they helped in developing mills powered by water, to grind grains, but also for other uses, and even in establishing factory techniques that we still use today.  The Monasteries were also very instrumental in saving the ancient writings of the Romans and Greeks by  copying them to expand the use of these writings, which weren’t always just spiritual writings but worldly writings, too.  They established libraries with all these writings that are still with us today.

 

They were instrumental in establishing and advancing education when no one else was really ready to do it or no one else wanted to do it.  The Kings and nobles were too interested in their lands and protecting them and just ruling over their people – and the less educated the people were – they thought – then the less resistant they would be to the Kings and nobles.  The monasteries became the places where schools were established for the local children to learn not just about the Faith but also the other natural subjects as well.  The monasteries and the Church, some scholars say, actually, saved Western Civilization from being lost or at least set back 100’s of years.  The schools would later spring into higher schools of education, which we know as Universities.  These Universities are the same models that we have today.  The monasteries themselves didn’t establish Universities, but they laid the groundwork for our education systems as a whole.

Then we can see that together the agriculture advancement, the work techniques and the education actually were where  the techniques of research and experimentation, which have become a big part of education and the growth of education and technology we know and practice today.  You could say Monasteries were our first laboratories and research centers and places of learning.  We see how their experimentation gave us some very well known products that we have today.  It is believed that beer was first made by the monks as they took the process of making wine from grapes and then using it with grains which beers are made from.  Also champagne was first developed by Dom Perignon – a monk – who took the wine process and different grapes and came up with a process to make champagne.

 

So I mention just a few areas and examples of how the monasteries that were established with the influence of St. Benedict, as actually being places that didn’t hold back the Church or society but were places that advanced the Faith and society.  They established and advanced what we know and do today in many different areas of the Church and the world.

 

I, close, with a recommendation to find out about more of the monasteries influences but also the Church’s many other influences that you might not know about by reading a good book about it.  One such book is titled “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” written by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.  It is a book with a different approach to learn some Church history.

 

I hope all are having a good summer.

 

Ora et Labora

 

Fr. Joseph R. Kenna,  Parochial Vicar