Commemoration of All Souls Day

A lot going on this weekend and this week. First, today, November 2, is the Commemoration of All Souls. The purpose of this feast is mainly to pray for the dead. This prayer is directed not for those who are in Heaven already, as they do not need prayers; and certainly not for those who are in Hell, since prayers would be useless. Rather, we pray for those in Purgatory, who are being prepared for their entrance into Heaven.

Many Catholics nowadays wrongly think Purgatory is an outdated remnant from the Middle Ages, even though Christian belief in Purgatory is rooted in Jewish doctrine (2 Maccabees 12), and was well established in the early Church. Many other Catholics, in their grief, prefer to think of their departed loved ones as already being in Heaven, and can’t bear the thought that they might be in Purgatory.

But the doctrine of Purgatory is not something to fear or avoid, because it is a doctrine of God’s love and mercy, and reflects the reality that none of us is perfect. All of us sin or cling to things of this world—however small or seemingly insignificant. But Scripture tells us “nothing imperfect [or “impure”] shall enter” into Heaven (Rev. 21:27)—and rightly so, since Heaven is about perfect happiness, perfect love, etc… Given this, and confident in Our Lord’s mercy and His desire for all to be with Him in Heaven, Christians have always believed that between death and Heaven we pass through a state of purification, or purgation, where we’re cleansed from all imperfections, i.e., made perfect. This state, or “place,” we call Purgatory.

Now, we must remember that Purgatory is NOT anything like Hell, and all the Souls in Purgatory are good and “worthy” of eternal joy in Heaven—we call them the “Holy Souls.” So thinking of them as in Purgatory is not an insult but praise. Moreover, these Souls are certain they are going to Heaven, so they are filled with a joy beyond anything experienced on earth.

But we must also remember that there is suffering in Purgatory. The simplest way for many of us to understand this is to think of the suffering related to change. All change is difficult. Consider the person who is trying to lose weight, or exercising for an athletic competition. The effort involved in change is painful, but as you see progress you are also invigorated and happy, seeing your goal approach.

Even so, since 1) Purgatory involves pain, and 2) we want our beloved dead to swiftly enter the joys of Heaven, we should never neglect praying for them. Yes, in our grief we may be inclined to deny their imperfections, but in our love for them we remember that they deserve our prayers. And if they are already in Heaven, no prayer is wasted, since every prayer is an act of love, and they hear each prayer as telling how much we love them.

So in love, let us pray for our beloved dead today. And let us also remember all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us pray especially for those “most abandoned,” the individual souls who no one else remembers to pray for.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, especially the most abandoned, rest in peace.

 

Today is also “Vocation Awareness Sunday,” and Mr. Blaise Radel, one of our Arlington seminarians (Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio) will be speaking at the end of all the Masses to promote vocations. I have known Blaise since he was a little boy, and he has served many Extraordinary Form Masses here at St. Raymond’s, so I am very happy to welcome him back to our parish.

God is calling many of our young men and women—members of our families—to the special vocations of priesthood or religious life. It is so easy to resist this call; I know, I did that until I was 31 years old. But there is nothing to fear. Yes, it can be a demanding life, but no more demanding than the life of a spouse and parent, and there are 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.

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, especially parents, 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. And if you love them, and wants what’s best for them, help them to accept God’s plan for them. Don’t push, just 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. Remember particularly our parishioners who are already in formation, including Teri Tolpa (Sisters for Life), and Jacob McCrumb and James Waalkes (Arlington seminarians); and don’t forget Blaise Radel.

 

Pro-Life “Thank Yous.” A quick but heartfelt thanks to all those who participated in “40 Days for Life”—and there were so many of you! Another quick “thanks” to Noelle Zorzi, a student at Robinson High School, who participated in a “Pro Life Day Of Silent Solidarity” in honor of the babies who never received a voice. She was silent throughout the whole school day, and carried a card explaining why. God bless you, Noelle, and any others who joined in, for your great courage to be a witness to life for your peers.

 

Filipino Archbishop Here Next Sunday. I am delighted to announce that retired Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan, from the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao (Philippines) will offer our regularly scheduled 5pm Mass next Sunday, November 9. There will be a second collection at that Mass to aid the elderly and sick priests of his Archdiocese.

 

Constant Contact. In the last few months the parish office has been using the service Constant Contact to send mass-emails out to all parishioners to remind of them of important events. It is my intent to send these out very sparingly, maybe once or twice a month. If you haven’t received several of these emails from us please either check your computer’s settings that might be blocking them, or send us your current correct email address to make sure you are on our list. Email us at: straychrch@aol.com.

 

Election. In the last month I have preached and written about the importance of the election this Tuesday, November 4. Catholics can disagree on many issues, but not on the key issues of defending the right to life, traditional marriage and religious liberty. So remember your solemn and grave duty to vote this Tuesday and to vote like a Catholic.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

High Schoolers! Do Not Miss Father De Celles Talk Tonight!

Father De Celles is offering a series of four talks for high school students. These talks will take place in St. Raymond’s parish hall on Sunday evenings from 6:30pm to 7:45pm. All high school students are invited and encouraged to take part in these talks which are scheduled for:

  • October 26 (TONIGHT)
  • December 7
  • February 8
  • April 19

Parents are free to sit in on these classes if they choose, although this is not expected or preferred. The information given and discussed during these talks will be based on the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Topics for these discussions will include abortion, contraception, marriage, and homosexuality.

Although Father intends to be as discreet as possible, respecting the modesty of your child(ren), these topics will necessarily involve some very direct language. It is with this in mind, that mandatory written parental consent is required for students planning to attend each of these talks. A separate permission slip will be sent out prior to each talk.   The topic for discussion on October 26 will be abortion (this will also include some discussion of contraception).

Please complete permission slip (located under high school events under the Youth Apostolate on this site) and have your child(ren) bring it with them to the talk.

For those interested, we will be having a high school only bon-fire social directly following the talk tomorrow evening, from 7:45-8:30pm. Feel free to bring some fix-in’s for s’more makin’!!

If you do not attend the talk, you are expected to go to Religious Education class during your regularly scheduled time.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Extraordinary Synod on the family ended last week by disappointing the media and those within the Church who are unhappy with the teaching of Christ on marriage and sexuality handed down to us through 2000 years of His Church teaching. The Synod’s final report, or relatio, completely rejected the approach of the preliminary report, with its confusing, muddled and potentially errant language, and instead reported in straightforward language the authentic concerns of faithful Catholic families and Catholic teaching. While addressing each topic with charity and sensitivity, the Bishops rejected the proposals to allow “divorced and remarried” Catholics to receive Holy Communion and the preliminary report’s very confused language regarding those with same-sex attraction. This final relatio/report is given to the Holy Father for his consideration, and is now the starting point for next year’s (October 2015) Ordinary Synod of Bishops which will  further consider these topics.

In the end, the only “news” to come out of the Synod was the public revelation that several of the Cardinals and Bishops of the Church still have an incomplete understanding of the Church’s teaching on marriage, family and sexuality, some still clinging to approaches discredited and rejected not only throughout the history of the Church, but also specifically by Blessed Pope Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Although this does not come as a surprise to me, it is still amazing to me, especially after 35 years of the absolutely unambiguous teaching by St. John Paul and Pope Benedict. One of the greatest of the many gifts St. John Paul gave to the Church was his rich explanation and defense of the ancient teaching on these matters in what is commonly called his “Theology of the Body.” Instead of building on this beautiful foundation, there seems to be many cardinals and bishops, some in powerful positions, who wish to discard all that and replace it with an erroneous theology built on poor scholarship, false mercy, and secular ideology.

In sum, nothing has changed, except that now the dangerously confused views of some cardinals and bishops have been revealed. Oh, and one other thing has changed: many of the Catholic faithful are more confused than they were a month ago. Let us pray, through the intercession of St. John Paul and St. Raymond, that these cardinals and bishops may see the error of their ways and work to defend the true teaching of Christ and His Church.

 

“60+ parking”. You may have noticed that next to the Handicap Parking near the Groveland Drive entrance to the church, we’ve added a special parking space reserved for “60+ Parking.” We will be adding several similar parking spaces next to it in the coming days. No law mandates these spaces, but a parishioner suggested we reserve them for folks who are 60 years of age and older who, although not officially “handicapped” or disabled, might find them helpful. There will be no policing of these spaces, only the law of charity binds you. (Note: under the “law of charity,” I have no problem with someone younger than 60 but with a real need—maybe an expectant mother with a difficult pregnancy—slipping into one of the spaces.) In any case, I encourage those who need them to make use of them, and those who don’t need them to charitably respect their reserved status.

 

FOCUS, Daniel Paris. A few weeks ago I reminded you of one of our (former) parishioners, Daniel Paris who spent the last 2 years evangelizing on college campuses with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, with many of you providing the financial support to sustain him. This year Daniel has joined the headquarters staff of FOCUS in Denver, but he is still depending on donor support. Daniel will be in the Narthex after most Masses this weekend. Please stop by to chat with him, and to consider lending him your financial support.

ALL SAINTS DAY. Next Saturday, November 1, is the Solemnity of All Saints, when we remember all the Saints in Heaven, especially those who are not “canonized” (maybe your grandmother or a beloved child). It also reminds us that each of us is called to one day be a saint in Heaven, by living a faithful and holy life here on Earth. However, because it falls on a Saturday this year, it is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation this year. Even so, I encourage you all to attend either the regular 9am Mass, or the special 12noon Mass.

 

ALL SOULS DAY. Next Sunday, November 2, is the Commemoration of All Souls, when we pray for all the souls who are awaiting entrance into Heaven as they are being purified in Purgatory. I invite you all to pray for the dead every day, but especially on this day and throughout the month of November. Because of the special love the Church has for her dead, the Mass for All Souls will be celebrated throughout the Church next Sunday, in place of the regular 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time.

 

Halloween. Of course the day before these, Wednesday October 31, is “Halloween.” I’ve written before about my concerns about this day, especially with rise of paganism and Satanism in our country, concerns confirmed earlier this year by the Satanic “Black Masses” celebrated at the Oklahoma City Civic Center and scheduled but canceled at Harvard. Please remember that this week should be mainly about the Saints and Holy Souls, and not evil, satanic or witchy things. Please, remind your children that “Halloween” means “Holy Eve,” or “All Saints’ Eve,” and that the candy they  receive is only a small foretaste of the sweet delights shared by those who love the Lord, obey His commandments and enter into Heaven.

 

Novena Prayers for the Election. The election is only 9 days away. I ask that all of St. Raymond’s parishioners lift up the elections to the Lord Jesus’ care. Specifically, I propose that for nine days, beginning today, Sunday, October 26 and ending Monday, November 3, all parishioners join in praying one or more of the following each day: 1) the Rosary; 2) the Novena to St. Thomas More; and/or 3) the Prayer for Religious Freedom. I also propose that we each offer up some small sacrifice, perhaps skipping a meal, giving up meat or beef or sweets.

Also, at end of all Masses, before the customary Hail Mary and Prayer to St. Michael, we will pray together the Prayer for Religious Freedom.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 19, 2014

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 19, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

“Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,

and to God what belongs to God.”

This is a very interesting text to read less than 3 weeks before the elections

Some try to use this text to tell the Church to mind it’s own business

and stay out of public affairs, especially elections

Others, however, use it to promote the Church’s involvement in politics.

So what is the meaning of Christ’s dichotomy between Caesar and God?

 

Like most texts in Scripture, this one has multiple layers and facets.

First, Jesus is talking about relationship between the Church and the state.

Historically, the Old Testament reveals that

when God established Israel as a great nation

he made Moses it’s absolute ruler, as well as prophet and priest:

a true theocracy.

And it would continue as a theocracy for 700 years

until Israel was conquered and ruled for another 700 years

by a series of foreign pagan kings.

 

Which brings us to today’s Gospel.

Here we see 2 groups who were deeply involved in the political struggles of Israel.

The Herodians who were the “pro-Caesar” Jews

and had no interest at all in a return to a Jewish religious monarchy.

And the Pharisees, devout Jews who longed for the coming of the Messiah

who would reestablishing the Jewish religious state.

And into their midst walks Jesus, who seems to be the messiah,

which is why the Herodians feared him.

But he’s not the kind of messiah the Pharisees were hoping for,

which is why they feared him.

 

And so they joined forces to force Jesus to take sides in their political debate,

so that one or the other can have him arrested and executed.

 

But he does not take sides.

He simply says:

“Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,

and to God what belongs to God.”

 

He’s is not terribly concerned about the state or creating an earthly kingdom,

but about the conversion of individual hearts and lives.

So in this short and pithy saying he rejects both

the wall of separation and the religious monarchy.

 

But he also means something more.

Remember what he says later to Pontius Pilate:

“You would have no power over me

unless it had been given you from above.”

And then remember the words from today’s 1st reading from Isaiah,

as God says to Cyrus the Persian,

one of the foreign pagan kings who ruled over Israel:

“For the sake ….of Israel…

I have called you by your name, giving you a title….”

But then he adds: “I am the LORD and there is no other.”

 

Now we see more clearly what Jesus meant:

civil authorities have their own proper authority,

but in the end that and all legitimate authority comes from God.

 

 

Now, some people today might say that teaching is un-American.

But to me it seems to echo in the words of our nation’s founding document:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident,

that all Men ….are endowed by their Creator

with certain unalienable rights

That to secure these Rights,

Governments are instituted among Men.”

 

Here the founder’s based our nation’s whole existence on God—the Creator—

and hold that our government exists only

to protect what God has given to man.

This seems to be very close to what Jesus told the Herodians.

 

Now, it is true that over the centuries the Church has often become

more involved in secular government than Christ would seem to have preferred:

sometimes good and for noble reasons,

but also, sometimes for the bad intentions of certain Churchmen.

In my opinion, the more closely the church directly involved itself in secular government,

the more likely it was to be involved in calamities.

 

Eventually western society rejected the interweaving of the state and religion.

And this rejection came most radically

in the form of 2 great 18th century revolutions.

 

In one of these revolutions—the French Revolution—

the revolutionaries tried to eradicate the Church altogether,

killing or exiling 10’s of 1000’s of Frenchmen

who simply wanted to practice their Catholic faith.

In the end this was not a separation of Church and state

but merely a new example of the old problem:

a new state persecuting the Church.

 

But the other revolution was very different.

That was the American revolution.

It did not seek to banish God or Christ, or Christians from its shores.

In fact the founding fathers saw religion

not only as a fundament human right,

but also as essential to the success of the American experiment.

They believed that the only way America could have

a moral and just government was if it had a moral and just people.

And they believed that religion was essential for this to happen.

As George Washington himself wrote in his Farewell Address:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,

religion and morality are indispensable supports….”

And he warned us that:

“reason and experience both forbid us to expect

that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

 

And here we come back to Jesus’ teaching about Caesar and God.

Yes, the government has a legitimate autonomy from the Church.

But no government can ever usurp God’s authority,

whether by suppressing the rights God has given to the people,

or by redefining good as evil, or truth and lies.

 

Granted, Churchmen have sometimes failed to recognize

the legitimate authority of the secular governments.

But when Churchmen have simply stuck

to teaching the truth and morality passed on to us by Christ

–of reminding Caesar exactly what it is that belongs to God–

they have fulfilled their God-given mission

and advanced the good of all mankind.

 

Of course, some today continue to vehemently disagree

even with this indirect “interference” by the Church.

They say, if people follow their Churches’ moral teaching when they vote

that would be imposing one denomination’s morals on the whole society?

 

The thing is, some basic moral principles transcend denominational teaching

—they are not merely the teaching of “the Church” but

part of what philosophers call the “Natural Law,”

or what the Declaration of Independence calls

“the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

Moral principles so basic that any rational human being

should figure them out all on their own without a priest teaching them.

For example, any rational thinking person can figure out

that it’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent people.

 

Unfortunately, though, all too often we don’t think rationally

—we let our passions, like hatred or greed, or envy or lust, lead us in our actions.

And sometimes we just don’t have time to sit and think things through,

as if we were all professional philosophers.

So it’s important for someone—like the Church–to call us to task,

to think, and to obey “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”

—the Natural Law.

 

Because without that governments will inevitably enact laws

that are contrary to both human reason

and the good that our creator intended:

all we will have is codified confusion, legalized injustice.

For example, they might enact laws that deny the natural God-given

right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”;

or the God-given freedom of religion or speech.

Clearly, no merely “Human Law” can be “good” or just or even binding

if it contravenes “Natural Law.”

 

And so we see a 2nd facet of Christ’s saying today:

we must obey Caesar only as long as

Caesar is consistent with the truth that God imprints

in the hearts and reason of all men, religious or not.

Even if man needs to be reminded of these truths from time to time,

by the Church, or by amateur philosophers like the founders of our great nation.

 

 

But how do we apply Christ’s teaching about Caesar and God in 2014?

In today’s Gospel the Herodians come to Jesus with flattering words:

“we know … that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.

…you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.”

But Jesus does not respond so sweetly.

Instead he calls them what they are: “hypocrites,”

because they don’t really want the truth from Jesus;

and they don’t really want him to “teach” them “the way of God”;

and while they call themselves “Jews”

they have chosen to render to Caesar what belongs to God alone.

 

 

Today millions of Catholics do the same thing.

41 years ago Human Law discovered in our constitution

a false right to kill unborn babies,

“false” because it is directly in opposition to the natural law

that prohibits us from killing innocent human life,

and to particularly protect the lives of children.

But ever since the false right to abortion was discovered,

all sorts of other new false rights have followed,

like the right to force others pay for your medical procedures,

like contraception, even when they consider them grossly immoral,

or the right for two men or two women to marry each other,

even though that is so obviously contrary to the natural law

that no society in the history of the world has ever recognized it.

 

The thing is, if we reject one part, or three parts of the Natural Law,

how do have a claim on the rest of it?

How can we say that God gives us the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness,

if we don’t believe that God has established any rights or duties at all

—natural law?

 

And yet, for 41 years isn’t’ this exactly what Americans have been doing

in the voting booth?

Any candidate who says he stands for human rights

but supports government policies that override

“the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

that candidate, like the Herodians,

has given Caesar authority over the things of God

and, like them, is also nothing less than a hypocrite.

 

And, frankly, any Catholic who supports or votes for that candidate

is an even worse hypocrite.

Because while Jesus calls the Herodians “hypocrites” once in today’s Gospel,

in the very next chapter of Matthew Christ turns on the Pharisees

and calls them hypocrites 6 times.

They’re worse than the Herodians

because they should know better than to play games with God’s law.

And Catholics know the Church teaches infallibly that

abortion, contraception and homosexual acts are grave moral evils,

as is forcing Christians to support these immoral acts.

But even so, millions of Catholics still give more credit

to public opinion polls, or to the opinion of the media or a political party,

than to the truth taught by the Church.

They should listen to the warning Christ reserves for Pharisees:

“”Woe to you, …Pharisees, hypocrites!

…You serpents, you brood of vipers,

how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

 

 

Finally, some say,

“I vote for the candidate that will give me money, or help me pay my bills,”

and some say, “I vote for the candidate who won’t take my money in taxes,

and will allow me to make more money in a freer market.”

I am very sympathetic to economic concerns we all have.

But in today’s Gospel, what does Jesus have in his hand that belongs to Caesar?

A Roman coin: money.

This reveals a 3rd facet of this text: money isn’t that important to Jesus.

 

After all, who was it that gave you all you have

—or the money and skills, the health and the breaks, to get what you have?

Was it Caesar, or was it God?

And at night is it Caesar you pray to

or do you pray to God to bring us back from the precipice?

Can the government really guarantee your health and wealth?

Or can it, by itself protect us from the evil that might destroy us,

whether war, disease, old age…whatever?

Remember what Jesus says elsewhere:

“….seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,

and all these things shall be yours as well.”

 

 

In the coming weeks, we face some very important decisions.

But as you make those decisions, ask yourself: how will I explain this to Jesus?

How will you explain it to him if you rendered unto Caesar what really belonged to God?

What will you say to Christ?

And what will Christ say to you?

Let us pray that it will not be those 2 terrible words

he once spoke to both the Herodians and Pharisee’s:

                        “you hypocrite.”

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Extraordinary Synod of Bishops. This last week, as 200 bishops from around the world gathered at the Vatican for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops discussing family and evangelization, the press was all abuzz about a supposedly new report from “the Vatican.” They acted almost as if the Church was about to set aside its ancient teaching on sexuality, marriage and family in favor of a more 21st century and worldly approach to divorce, remarriage, cohabitation and “gay marriage.”

 

The real story is that at the midpoint of every Bishops’ Synod a very small committee of bishops produces a brief report summarizing the open discussions (mainly speeches) of the Synod so far. This report is then distributed as a working document to help the Bishops during the second half of the Synod as they gather privately in small groups to intensify their discussions and work out specifics of final conclusions. At the end of those small group discussions, their conclusions will be summarized in a final report which will then be voted on by all 200 bishops in the Synod. If that document is approved (as I understand it, approval requires a two thirds majority of the bishops) it will then be sent on to the Pope as the Synod’s official recommendations. In this case, with this Extraordinary Synod, the Pope has announced that he will not issue the usual papal teaching document that follows a Synod (an “apostolic exhortation”). Rather he will forward this report to another Ordinary Synod of Bishops that is gathering this time next year (October 2015) to discuss “the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.”

 

In other words, the document released this week was the equivalent of an “internal memo” not actually drafted or approved by the bishops themselves. It is meant to be used to facilitate internal discussions, not to teach, much less to change anything in the Church. It has no authority whatsoever, magisterially or disciplinary. These kinds of documents are so unimportant almost no one outside of the bishops gathered in Synods ever bothers to read them. Only the ignorant and biased press would place such great importance on them.

 

Moreover, many of the Synod bishops, seeing the outrageous press coverage, have publicly denounced both the press reports and the preliminary report as not only not accurately or fully reflecting the actual discussions of the Synod, but also being filled with theological and doctrinal ambiguity and errors, and to remind us that even the final report from the Synod has no teaching or disciplinary authority on its own since it only represents the suggestions of only 200 bishops (or even only two-thirds of those).

 

All this reminds me of the manipulation that took place during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), or “Vatican II.” It is well documented how certain factions of bishops and theologians at Vatican II used the press to manipulate public expectations and understanding of the Council and its documents. This “spin” led to the wide-acceptance of what Pope Benedict XVI called an erroneous “hermeneutic of discontinuity”—as if Vatican II changed everything about the Church. Both St. John Paul and Benedict, who as young men had played important roles at Vatican II, spent their whole pontificates trying to undo this gravely erroneous understanding. The same thing seems to be happing with this Synod, except this time the press is much more often a co-conspirator. I pray that this current manipulation will not cause the same kind of terrible confusion that happened after Vatican II.

 

Because of the almost total unimportance of the “preliminary report” I will not comment on either the content of the report itself or the particular claims in the media. Besides, they are already completely outdated, because as I write this column, the Synod bishops are meeting to work out their actual final recommendations to the Pope. And as you read this they would have most surely finished that process, and perhaps even voted on the final report to His Holiness. So let us pray that the Holy Spirit may save the Church from the terrible confusion that comes not from God but from weak and sinful men. And I encourage you to remember two things. First, whatever comes from this Synod, remember to be very careful in interpreting what you hear in the biased and/or ignorant press about Catholicism. And second, understand everything in the days ahead in the “hermeneutic of continuity”—there is one Catholic Church, before and after this Synod, and everything taught today and tomorrow must be understood only in the light of and as being consistent with the Catholic teaching of the past two millennia.

 

Annual Parish Financial Report. Today’s bulletin includes an insert providing a summary of our financial results for the fiscal year June 30, 2014. While the previous year saw a slight increase in collections, this year saw a 5% decrease, in the amount of $102,000. Moreover this year also saw a 5% increase in operating expenses of $87,000. As a result net income of $469,628, was down from the previous year by 33%, or $230,000. Increases in expenses were largely budgeted and attributable to additional paid staff and unusual maintenance and construction expenses (including cry room improvements, refinishing exterior doors, a new church boiler, and new rectory hvac units). The decrease in collections, however, was not expected, especially since there was a 3% increase in registered parishioners.

 

During the year we paid down our bank loan by $497,628, leaving us $1,687,143 in debt. Our cash balance at year end was a strong $1,193,697.

 

If there are any questions about this report or any other financial matters do not hesitate to contact me. I once again thank you for your continued generosity, and let us all thank Almighty God for his continuing munificence.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 12, 2014

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 12, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

One of the strongest themes in the Old Testament is

that God provides his people with all good things,

and this especially symbolized by an abundance of the choicest food.

We see this in our first reading today, from the prophet Isaiah:

“the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples

a feast of rich food and choice wines.”

And we see it again in today’s Psalm, the famous Psalm 23:

“You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Now, for the ancient Jews, as for many ancient people,

there was one meal on earth, one banquet

that people would spend all sorts of money to provide

the most delicious treats and finest wines—and all in abundance.

We do the same today.

The meal I’m talking about, of course, is the wedding banquet.

 

Now, marriage was also an OT symbol of the love of God for Israel,

not only providing for her but giving her everything he has

including His passionate love, and his very life.

So when you combine these two themes of abundant food and marriage,

the wedding feast because the symbol par excellence

of God’s love for Israel—heaven itself.

 

And so in today’s Gospel Our Lord tells the parable:

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king

who gave a wedding feast for his son.” And he goes on to say:

“I have prepared my banquet,

my calves and fattened cattle are killed,

and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’

It’s interesting, this idea of the wedding feast as a symbol of God’s love

is revealed right at the very beginning of Scripture, in the Garden of Eden.

God creates man  as male and female, the first married couple,

and puts them in this luscious Garden, filled with all sorts of plants,

and tell them: “you shall have them for food.”

This is the first wedding feast, celebrated when God gave life to the human race

and gave us every good thing in paradise to fill us with happiness,

to show us his love.

 

____

Now, we all know how delightful good food and drink can be.

And how food that is good not only in flavor but also in nutrition

can also make us strong and healthy.

 

But we also know the opposite is true.

Bad food can make sick, even kill us.

And sometimes food tastes very good, but it’s still deadly.

Sometimes it kills us quickly, like a poison mushroom.

But sometimes it might take years, like eating lot of unhealthy foods,

and dying from heart disease or diabetes.

 

_____

The deadliness of food also goes back to Genesis.

In the second chapter God warns Adam not to eat from a particular tree:

“for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Genesis says the devil tempted them, but it also says they thought the apple,

“was good for food and pleasing to the eye,”

And so they ate what God had told them was bad for them,

and were cast out of God’s Garden of abundance

and would eventually die.

 

_____

My friends not everything that looks or seems good,

is actually really good for you.

Sometimes fruit is delicious food, and sometime it’s just attractive poison.

 

This is especially true when it comes to understanding

the very first good thing God gave us after life itself:

the wonderful gift of marriage.

The last few decades some folks

has tried to convince us that something that is very bad for us

is as good as marriage.

I’m talking about so-called same-sex “marriage”–or “gay marriage.”

 

This last week this effort seems to have taken  a new step forward,

as the Supreme Court of the United States got involved, sort of.

Over the last year 3 Circuit Courts of Appeal had overturned

5 states’ laws banning same sex marriage,

and on Monday the Supreme Court announced

it would not hear an appeal of those cases.

And because of this Virginia and 4 other states are immediately required

to allow same-sex weddings,

and 6 other states will soon have to follow suit.

 

Now let me be clear: as I explain in today’s bulletin, which I hope you read,

by passing on these cases, the Supreme Court

left itself free to revisit the issue in another case in the next year or so.

The fight is not over.

In fact, I’m guessing that one or more of the 4 solidly conservative justices,

who also happen to be good Catholics,

might have seen this as sort of strategic retreat for the time being

—to live to fight another day.

I leave that to those good men, and the grace God gives them.

Even so, in the meantime, we have same-sex marriage in Virginia.

 

____

But we cannot let our state, and our country,

swallow the poison of same-sex marriage.

Scripture is very clear on this,

but we don’t need the Bible to tell us that marriage

is the union of “male and female…”

Just look at how men and women are naturally, and you see it.

Male and female are not only obviously physically different,

scientists also tell us that even our brains work differently.

But it’s also clear that those differences also complement each other,

complete each other.

Man and woman, literally and figurative, fit together in every way.

 

And one of the remarkable gifts that comes from those differences fitting together

is the creation of new life–babies!

For all of human history the union of one man and one woman

to love each other and to raise children

has been the source of stability and progress for civilized societies.

A union where the two complementary halves of humanity come together

to nurture the fruit of their love, children,

and teach them to how to love and respect

the dignity of both men and women, and their complementarity.

 

There is nothing more natural to mankind than heterosexual love and marriage.

It’s as natural and as healthy as eating truly delicious and healthy food.

 

______

But some say same sex attraction and marriage are equally natural and good.

Really? How?

Do our bodies indicate this, or the way or brains work?

No.

They don’t fit.

Not naturally.

 

Is it healthy?

No—the bodies were obviously not made for this,

and studies after study shows the geometrically increased health risks.

 

Some say, “but they love each other.”

But mutual love doesn’t give you a right to sexually interact or to marry.

We don’t permit grown men to sexually interact with young girls,

and mothers can’t marry their adult sons.

No matter how much they love each other.

 

Some say, but “gays” were “born that way,” so it’s “natural to them.”

But, is cancer natural?

After all, it appears in nature?

Does that make it “good”?

If someone is born with a heart defect, do we smile and say,

“that’s great, it’s natural!”

 

Some say, hey, “they’re not hurting anyone, let them marry.”

But is that true?

Setting aside the ways “gay marriage” can hurt the “partners” and their children,

let’s look at the bigger picture.

 

For all of history,

there has never been a human society that has had “gay marriage.”

Marriage has always and only meant   the union of male and female,

and that union has been the foundation of society.

 

But now the courts are telling us to believe that

if we change the composition of the very foundation of society,

nothing bad will happen.

And they’re not saying, “let’s try an experiment in a small society

and see what happens over a few generations.”

Their saying,

“hey, they like it in Vermont, so you will like it in Virginia—right now!”

They won’t even let us use new drugs until they’re tested on lab rats,

but they want to accept this into society, untested,

and just trust them it will have no negative effect.

 

Some say, “but this doesn’t affect “straight” people, so don’t worry about it”

But that’s not true.

They’re changing the meaning of shared social institution,

and that can have huge consequences.

 

First of all, society gives married couples all sort of benefits,

benefits that your tax dollars pay for,

like Medicaid and Social security.

Doesn’t paying taxes to support these marital benefits affect us? ,

That’s why Congress prohibits the spending of taxpayer funds on abortion.

So it does affect us all, financially.

 

But it also has deeper fundamental effects on all of us.

Like a body eating poisonous fruit,

the whole body will get sick and even die.

 

Think of this.

They’re taking away the fundamental definition of marriage,

and not really replacing it with anything.

Marriage is no longer a sacred institution rooted in the nature of man itself,

meant to create loving families that nurture good children,

and so build a just and happy citizens in society.

All that’s left now is a relationship between people who say they love each other

—and want their love publically approved.

Marriage is now rooted in nature and the sacred,

but something contrived by capricious human laws.

 

Friends, that is poison to the body politic.

Think about it.

With this new wide open definition,

what will prohibit polygamy

—having two or three or 20 spouses at the same time,

if they love each other?

Nothing.

Some scoff at that, but back in December a federal judge in Utah

declared that state’s law against polygamy to be unconstitutional.

It’s being appealed, but to the same Circuit Court

that overturned Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage last year.

They will win that case, and it will go on and on like this,

extending marriage to every strange combination you can imagine

— because nothing can stop them.

 

You say, well so what? Live and let live.

But will you be saying that when they legalize incest?

How will you explain that to your children, or protect them from that?

 

And when, after changing the meaning of “marriage,”

they change the meaning of “parenthood,”

what will you say when they take your children away from you

calling you an “unfit parent” because you taught them

that same sex marriage, polygamy and incest are wrong?

______

Some of you are saying, you’re crazy father, none of that can happen.

But 50 years ago, no one even dreamed same sex marriage could ever happen.

Just 10 short years ago 60 percent opposed it.

Now, out of nowhere, only 42% oppose it.

 

______

Finally, some of you are saying, Father, “you just hate gay people.”

[That is a dirty lie.]

I do not hate them: they are created in the image of God,

they are my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters, and I love them.

But they have a problem, just like you and I have our own problems.

And in love, as a spiritual Father,

I can’t let them, or you, be poisoned by the lies others are feeding us

—I must give the bread of truth and life.

 

______

So what do we do?

One simple thing: we vote.

Some think the election in 3 weeks isn’t very important.

Wrong.

Right now, the fate of traditional marriage,

not to mention the right to life and religious liberty,

is in the hands of the Supreme Court.

And in the next 6 years the senator we elect next month will have a big say

in choosing three or four new Supreme Court Justices!

But the incumbent is a strong supporter of “gay marriage”,

as well as abortion and the HHS contraception mandate

–you know, the regs that will close down

the Little Sisters of the Poor.

But his opponent is on the opposite side on all those issues

—pro-traditional marriage, pro-life, pro-religious liberty.

 

And the same seems to be true in the races for Representative.

From what I’ve seen, it looks like they’re all towing their own party’s lines:

and the Democrat Party is officially strongly

for gay marriage, abortion and the contraception mandate,

while the Republican Party opposes all that.

 

I don’t endorse candidates, or parties, but I do ask:

how can a Catholic vote for a candidate who’s pro-“gay marriage,”

much less one who’s also pro-abortion, anti-religious liberty?

And how can any Catholic think this election is not important enough

for you to take a few minutes to vote on November 4?

 

____

And then there’s prayer.

October is the month of the Rosary, so get those beads out and pray every day,

asking Our Lord and His Mother to intervene

to save marriage and family in America.

 

And most importantly, there’s the great prayer of Christ and His Church:

the Eucharist.

It is in the Eucharist that is the fulfillment on earth of God’s promise

“provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines.”

This is the wedding feast of the Lord and His Bride the Church,

blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb of God,

as we feast on the food of angels, the Lord’s own Body.

 

Let us turn now to the Lord at His Marriage Feast,

and pray that he may protect our nation

from the poison of false notions of love.

And nourished and strengthened by this most wonderful food from heaven

let us leave here today to spread the good news of God’s

generous and life-giving gift of marriage and family.

Twenty Eighth Sunday In Ordinary Time

Monday, October 6, was a dark day in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia, as the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) effectively legalized “gay marriage” in Virginia and five other states. Even worse, the long term effect of its decision may be to make “gay marriage” legal in every state.

 

What happened was this: The five states each had passed laws prohibiting same-sex (SS) marriage, and each of these laws had been overturned as unconstitutional by the three Circuit Courts of Appeal (the 10th, 7th and 4th) having jurisdiction in those five states. The states then appealed the three Circuit Court decisions to SCOTUS. On Monday the SCOTUS announced its decision to not even hear their appeal, effectively leaving the Circuit Court rulings as the last word in those states and in six other states (with laws against SS marriage) falling under the jurisdiction of those Circuit Courts.

 

The decision was a shock to most of us who assumed SCOTUS would want to take the cases, hear arguments and make a decision/ruling, once and for all, on the constitutional status of SS marriage. So its decision not to hear–they decided to refuse to decide–leaves us confused and with lots of questions. Why not accept the case? Why not decide? And what does this mean for the future of SS marriage in other states? Does this effectively establish a constitutional “right” to SS marriage? Is the war defending traditional marriage over? Do traditional marriage advocates have any hope?

 

Since only four of the nine Justices have to vote to accept a case, the math shows that SCOTUS’ nondecision means that at least six Justices voted not to accept the case. (Note: the exact vote tally was not disclosed).This leads many to infer that a similar majority of at least six would vote in favor of SS marriage if they did hear the appeal. That is not necessarily correct, but it is what most people—including many traditional marriage advocates—are inferring, and this will have a chilling effect on the debate, both in social and legal circles, and may sway the thinking of judges in other Circuit Courts currently considering the SS marriage bans in other states.

 

But we must keep in mind that SCOTUS has made no ruling/decision, so that there is no final word on the issue, and cases can proceed in other Circuits without any consideration given to SCOTUS indecision. Many experts point out that SCOTUS often rejects appeals when there is no conflict in the decisions of different Circuit Courts, as it was in this situation: all three Circuits supported SS marriage. However, such a conflict may soon present itself: cases are currently before 6th and 11th Circuits, as well as the conservative 5th Circuit Court.

 

Some advocates of traditional marriage are concerned because they hoped that at least the four solidly “conservative” Justices—Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts (all good Catholics)—would vote to accept the appeals. But there are many reasons all of these good men might vote against taking the case. For example, besides the lack of conflict, it’s possible that they believed they needed more time to convince one of the other Justices (e.g., the fickle Justice Anthony Kennedy) to vote to uphold the bans on SS marriage.

 

So what do we take away from all this? After much prayer, consideration, and discussion, I am not very hopeful, but not without hope. Although the war is not over, traditional marriage has been dealt a great blow. No matter what SCOTUS intended, its nondecision is a huge public relations victory for SS marriage advocates. Worst of all, SS weddings have begun in Virginia and will soon begin ten others, bringing the number of states allowing SS marriage to thirty. Can SCOTUS come back later and overturn this? Yes, clearly. But it’s very hard to get “toothpaste back in the tube.”

 

Even so, the war in defense of marriage is not over, and even if SCOTUS eventually finds a “constitutional right” to SS marriage, the war won’t be over then either. In 1973 SCOTUS found a “constitutional right” to abortion, and we’ve been fighting that ever since—and we’re finally winning, as most Americans are now pro-life.

 

So, we must not stop defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman, according to natural design and God’s plan. Because if SS marriage takes root, this will only be the latest step in the destruction of the family, and western civilization itself. Next comes polygamy (cases are in the courts already), and not too far after that acceptance of incest. And if they can redefine what it means to be a spouse, they can, and will, redefine what it means to be a parent: who says you are in charge of your children—shouldn’t we appoint experts to raise children? Et cetera…

 

There are many ways to join in the battle—all of them peaceful and charitable (remember, this is not a war on homosexuals). First of all, prayer; October is the Month of the Rosary, so renew your dedication to this powerful devotion and pray the Rosary for the defense of marriage and family. Second, we need to educate ourselves, our friends and our families, especially our children on the meaning, dignity and rights of families and marriage.

 

And third, there is the ballot. As I write this the pro-“gay marriage” candidate for U.S. Senator from Virginia, Mark Warner (who is also pro-abortion and supportive of Obamacare’s anti-religious liberty provisions, e.g., that will close down the Little Sisters of the Poor), is 12% points ahead of the pro-traditional marriage candidate, Ed Gillespie (who is also pro-life and defends religious liberty). Think about this: all these issues seemed to be destined to be decided by SCOTUS, and in the next 6 years our senator will help select three or four SCOTUS judges! I don’t endorse candidates, but I do ask: how can a Catholic vote for a pro-“gay marriage,” pro-abortion, anti-religious liberty candidate? Or why would a Catholic think this election is not important enough for you to take a few minutes to vote on November 4?

 

Holy Hour and Mass for Deceased Children. This Wednesday, October 15, at 6 p.m., we will have a very special Holy Hour to pray for our children who have preceded us in death. Many of our families have lost children, some very young, some even unborn. Please join us at this Holy Hour and the Holy Mass that follows at 7 p.m. to entrust our little ones to the infinite mercy of our Lord.

 

Finally, Some Very Good News. I’m truly delighted to announce that Monica Montanaro has joined our staff as parish secretary. Monica is a 2011 graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California, and spent the last year in Belize helping to establish a fledgling Catholic Junior College. Although she and her family live in Fredericksburg, they have been active in our choir for several years. I look forward to her getting very involved in the life of our parish.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles