Third Sunday in Lent

As we continue with our Lenten penances, I republish this column slightly modified from previous years, since it seems to have been helpful to many of you…

 

While the Sacrament of Penance (or “Confession”, or “Reconciliation”) is particularly important during Lent, as we meditate on both on the sins that permeate our lives and the forgiveness Christ pours out on us from His Cross.

But how do we make a “good confession”? We begin by prayerfully looking at our lives to recognize the sins we’ve committed since our last confession, i.e., “an examination of conscience.” This requires both honesty and humility—we must not deceive or excuse ourselves about anything we’ve done.

In particular we need to look for mortal sins, i.e., a sin that involves all three of the following criteria: 1) grave matter, 2) full knowledge of the sinful character of the act, and 3) complete consent. Note, if any one of these is lacking the act is not a “mortal sin” (although may still be a “venial sin.”)

“Grave matter” means the act involves some very serious moral evil, found either in 1) the act itself or 2) the intention behind the act. Grave matter can sometimes be difficult to identify, but sometimes it is not. Clear examples of grave matter include (but are not limited to): violence (in word or deed) against parents; children disobeying parents in a serious matter; neglect of elderly parents (in serious need); serious parental neglect or abuse of their children (including neglecting proper formation in the Catholic faith or unnecessary postponement of the sacraments, especially baptism); murder; abortion; euthanasia; drunkenness; denying just and serious assistance to family members; abandoning a spouse or children; remarriage after a divorce (without annulment); sexual activity before or outside of marriage (including “petting”); viewing pornography; masturbation; contraception; direct intentional sterilization (including vasectomies and tubal ligations); theft of valuable items; unjustly or unnecessarily and seriously damaging reputations; lying about important matters; perjury; cursing someone using God’s name; “dabbling” in occult practices or witchcraft; willful dissent from Church doctrine or dogma; serious and unjust infringements on religious liberty; serious and unjust discrimination; missing Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day;  receiving Holy Communion unworthily; direct material cooperation in another’s mortal sin (e.g., paying for a friend’s abortion; voting for a pro-abortion politician when a viable alternative existed); directly leading another into mortal sin.

Note that there are many “guides” available to help us with our examination of conscience (several are found in pamphlet form in the church, and several are available online and as “apps” for smart phones).

Also, in confession you must distinguish the “kind” of mortal sin committed, i.e., be as clear as possible about what the sin was, but refrain from being graphic or giving long explanations. So it is not enough to say “I had bad thoughts,” rather one should say “I had thoughts of violence,” or “I had lustful thoughts,” etc.. \

Also, you must give the number of times you committed particular mortal sins. Sometimes this is difficult to do, e.g., if you haven’t been to confession in a while. In that case, give the priest some idea of the frequency or number; for example, “at least once a month for several years,” etc..

Besides mortal sins, we should also consider venial sins, especially any vices (sinful habits) or other venial sins that are particularly problematic—perhaps they lead to mortal sins, or cause others unnecessary pain, etc..

Next comes going to confession. Here’s a step-by-step guide you may cut out and take with you to Confession:

 

A Guide for the Penitent in Confession.

You may go to Confession kneeling or sitting, anonymously behind-a-screen or “face-to-face”—these are usually your options, although the priest has the right to require anonymous confession.

 

After greeting the priest, you begin by making the sign of the cross saying:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

The priest may invite you to confess your sins, but he may remain silent, in which case you go on.

You say these or similar words:

“Bless me father, for I have sinned. It’s been [number of days, weeks, months, years] since my last confession.”

It is then helpful to reveal your “state in life”: e.g., “I am a married man,” etc…

Then say: “These are my sins.”

List by number and kind all mortal sins you have recollected in your examination of conscience.

You may also describe the types of venial sins you have committed, and list any which are of particular concern to you.

Close with these are similar words:

For these sins, and all my sins, I am truly sorry.”

The priest may ask you some questions to understand your situation better. He may also give you advice/counsel as you are confessing.

The priest then gives you a “penance” to perform. If you know you can’t fulfill his penance, tell him so he can give you another penance; (sometimes you don’t know the particular prayer, or you have limitations due to physical impediment).

You then make an Act of Contrition, in these or similar words:

“Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishment; but most of all because I have offended thee, My God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.”

Either during or immediately after your prayer the priest will say the prayer of absolution which concludes with the words (as he makes the sign of the cross):

“I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

You make the sign of the cross  and respond: Amen.

The priest will then say a dismissal to which you respond, using one or both of the following:

Priest:Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

You respond:His mercy endures forever.

Priest: “Go in peace.

You respond:Thanks be to God.”

As you are leaving the confessional it is polite to say, “Thank you, Father.” Leave the confessional and do your penance as soon as possible, immediately in church if you can.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Second Sunday in Lent

Happy Birthday, Father Kenna! Who turned 50 years old this last Monday. Thank you, Father, for dedicating your life to serve all of us, in Christ. May the Lord Jesus bless you and His Mother Mary protect you. Ad multos annos!

“Mary of Nazareth.” Last Sunday 700 St. Raymond parishioners, and other guests, packed 2 sold-out private showings of the movie “Mary of Nazareth.” I don’t think I’ve done many things in the parish that have won me more heartfelt “thank yous” than scheduling this event. In reality, the thank-yous should go to parishioner Maria Sanchez-O’Brien’s, who proposed the project, and especially to Mary Butler, our parish secretary, who made it all happen. Many thanks to these two good “Marys,” and to all who helped and attended the movie.

And it was a really excellent film. Not the epic of the overwhelming “The Passion of the Christ,” but a powerfully uplifting movie, with fine acting and writing. Particularly noteworthy was the portrayal of Mary by young actress Alissa Jung, maturing before us from young teenager to a middle-aged mother. Most notable was her (and the writers, directors, etc.) capturing of some things very important about the essence of the Blessed Mother.

In particular, they showed us a true glimpse of Mary’s love. Nothing sappy or silly, but gentle and genuine—the kind of love you rarely see but that fills you with awe when you do see it in someone who is totally selfless, and doesn’t know it. This came through with everyone the movie-Mary encountered: her touching affection toward her parents, her tender but chaste love for St. Joseph, her unhesitating compassion for Mary Magdalene, her truly maternal devotion to her Son. It helped us see how Mary as a real human person, but one without any trace of sin, filled with grace, and consumed by love for God.

Then, there was Mary’s faith, which was perhaps the key theme and take-away from the movie, as she based her whole life on simple faith in God. Not “simple” in the sense of “stupid” or “unreasonable”, but a faith rooted in a deep but straightforward acceptance of God, in both His immense power and tender love. And from that faith we saw spring an indefatigable hope and trust in God: from her racing to enter the temple as a little girl, to her joyful acceptance of the Annunciation, to her sorrowful but confident resignation at the Cross. Especially enlightening was how the movie portrayed her faith leading her to gradually grow in her unique understanding of the great Mystery of Jesus’ life.

There are so many great things about the movie that there’s not enough space here. But one other last thing I must commend, is the way it showed how Mary was so essentially important to her Son, and so to our salvation. Not by portraying her as Jesus’ equal partner or master, but as a humble, holy woman chosen to be the true and beloved mother of God’s Son. It’s hard to imagine how anyone struggling to understand the Catholic vision of Mary could not walk away with a better understanding of our love for her. And it did all this while faithfully portraying so many of Catholic Marian traditions and dogmas (e.g., the tradition of her being raised in the temple, and the dogma of her perpetual virginity) without at the same time beating the non-Catholic over the head with them.

That being said, the movie did have its flaws, including an occasionally veering away from actual Scriptural accounts. Usually this was only in minor ways (probably for artistic purposes), there were a few more important errors. The most egregious of these was Joseph saying, when he first discovered Mary’s pregnancy, that he would end their “engagement” rather than, as Scripture says, “divorce her quietly.” Scripture says “Mary had been betrothed to Joseph,” which under Jewish law meant they were legally married, but not living together yet. There are many reasons why this is significant for us, the first being that it is the truth. So it was disappointing to see the writers make this and other similar errors.

Even so, it was an overwhelmingly great movie, and an excellent way to begin Lent. May our Blessed Mother, Mary, lead us closer to her Son Jesus during this most holy Season.

Cub Scout Assets. Two Sundays ago the Washington Post ran an article criticizing me for my handling of the assets of our former Cub Scout Pack when we ended our relationship with Boy Scouts in January. The article argued that although the assets legally belonged to the parish, it was morally wrong of me not to give those assets to the new Cub packs that many of our boys transferred to. I don’t intend to enter into debate, but I think you should know some facts.

A Parish Ministry. As I have explained before, the Cup Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop were essentially part of St Raymond’s ministry to boys. For years this ministry had partnered with Boy Scouts of America, and now that same ministry continues with a new partner: Trail Life USA.  Legally (as BSA officials repeatedly insisted) the assets of the Pack and Troop always belonged to the parish, so it seemed clear that most of those assets should continue to be used in the same parish ministry that I hoped all the former Scouts would continue to participate in.

Popcorn. The Post was especially upset that we kept the money that the Cub Pack boys had raised from Popcorn sales last fall (2013). However, months before those sales began officials of the BSA warned certain key members of the Cub Pack leadership that all money from those sales would remain with the parish if the Cub Pack closed down, a possibility they were very aware of due to my previous public statements. Nevertheless, Cub Pack leadership decided to begin their sales in August. I did not make this decision, but I approved it since I planned/hoped that all the boys would stay with the parish ministry going forward, whether we were partnered with BSA or not. [Note, the final cash balance “assumed” by the parish was about $3600. Over the years the parish has invested several thousands of dollars more than that in the Pack.]

Final Distribution of Assets. Contrary to what was reported, in mid-December (2013) I directed the leaders of both the Cub Scout Pack and the Boy Scout Troop to get together with the new leaders of the new TLUSA group to divide all the physical assets (not cash), with the specific directive “to be as generous as possible” with the Scouts. According to Scout leaders this distribution has proceeded amicably.

Going forward. With eyes fixed on Christ Crucified, Lent is fundamentally a season of charity and forgiveness. I propose all concerned parties go forward in this Lenten spirit.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

First Sunday In Lent

As we begin Lent I offer you an message from our Holy Father:

 

Pope Francis’ Lenten Message for 2014

            As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).…What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean to us today?

            First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: “though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor …”. Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things….God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is his love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things…

            By making himself poor, Jesus did not seek poverty for its own sake but, as Saint Paul says “that by his poverty you might become rich”. This is no mere play on words or a catch phrase. Rather, it sums up God’s logic, the logic of love, the logic of the incarnation and the cross. God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety. Christ’s love is different! When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by John the Baptist, he did so not because he was in need of repentance, or conversion; he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins. In this way he chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery….

            So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is his way of loving us, his way of being our neighbor, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbor to the man left half dead by the side of the road (cf. Lk 10:25ff). What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us. Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus wealth is that of his boundless confidence in God the Father, his constant trust, his desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to him. Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son; his unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor….

            It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.

            We might think that this “way” of poverty was Jesus’ way, whereas we who come after him can save the world with the right kind of human resources. This is not the case. In every time and place God continues to save mankind and the world through the poverty of Christ, who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.

            In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ…

            No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! …This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us though Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

            The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! …

            [M]ay this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. …Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

            …I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2 March, 2014

LENT. The Season of Lent begins this Wednesday with Ash Wednesday. Although some people find this season a burden I think it’s wonderful, in that it gives us a great opportunity to meditate on the immense love of God that it would lead Him to suffer and die for our sins. At the same time, then, it’s also a time to consider our sins—how we have failed to love Him—and to work to overcome them, through our diligent efforts and cooperating with His grace. In short, it can be a time of intense growth in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

Lent, of course, brings a much busier parish schedule, which we’ve laid out in detail in this week’s insert. Please keep this insert in a central place in your home—maybe on your fridge door—to remind you of the many opportunities for spiritual growth the parish offers this Lent.

 

Ashes will be distributed at all 4 Masses on Ash Wednesday: 6:30am, 8am, 12noon and 7pm. Since ashes are merely symbolic (a “sacramental” not a “Sacrament”) they may be received by anyone who wishes to repent their sins, Catholic or not, in “good standing” or not. (Note: There are no confessions scheduled on Ash Wednesday).

 

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fasting and abstinence, and every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence. Failure to “substantially” keep these penances is grave matter (e.g., potentially a mortal sin). The law of abstinence requires that no meat may be eaten on these days, and binds all Catholics who are 14 years old or older. No other penance may be substituted. The law of fasting binds those who are between the ages of 18 and 59. The Church defines “fasting,” for these purposes, as having only one full meal a day, with two additional smaller meals permitted, but only as necessary to keep up strength and so small that if added together they would not equal a full meal. Snacking is forbidden, but that does not include drinks that are not of the nature of a meal. Even though these rules do not bind all age groups, all are encouraged to follow them to the extent possible. Children in particular learn the importance of penance from following the practice of their older family members. The sick, pregnant or nursing mothers, and other folks with special physical circumstances may be partially or totally exempt from these rules—use good judgment and take care of yourself.

 

Penance. Of course all Catholics are encouraged to do personal acts of penance throughout the season of Lent, traditionally of three types: almsgiving (including acts of charity), sacrifice (what you “give up”), and prayer. Please choose your penances carefully, considering your health and state in life. Challenge yourself, but pick things you can actually do, rather than things that are so difficult that you may will easily give up on them. Offer all this in atonement for your sins and as acts of love for the God who, out of love, died on the Cross for your sins.

 

As you consider what might be appropriate penances this Lent, maybe you might want to refer back to the handout I distributed at Mass several weeks ago entitled, “Some Possible Resolutions to Help Make 2014 Truly a Year of the Lord Jesus.” (This is still available on the parish website). If you haven’t already put your resolutions into action, Lent is the perfect time to do so. I especially call on you to consider getting more involved in volunteering in the parish during Lent—a great way to be a servant, as Christ “came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

 

Sacrament of Penance. Confession is key to a fruitful Lent. I strongly encourage that you take advantage of our extended Lent confession schedule—confessions are scheduled every single day in Lent (accept Ash Wednesday). However, I ask that you do not postpone your confession to the end of Lent. First of all, spiritually it’s important to start the season on the right foot, repent early so that Christ’s grace may flow freely and unimpeded throughout the season. But also, more practically, what so often happens is we have just a few people coming to confession every evening of the week during Lent, but then in the last week we have long lines, sometimes even going out the door. Not only does this mean waiting forever in long lines, it also means you have to hurry somewhat when you finally get into the confessional; not to mention that it also is physically and emotionally draining to the priests. So beat the crowds and come early. (But also consider coming more than once during Lent).

 

Also, I remind you that while we schedule confessions every Sunday morning, that is not the optimal time to go to confession, since only one priest is hearing confession and normally stops hearing once Mass begins. Moreover, Sunday confession times are provided not as a mere convenience but mainly to meet the real needs of those who truly cannot attend on other days or are otherwise in need of the sacrament.

 

Lenten Series. Fr. Paul Scalia will giving a Lenten series every Thursday from March 6 through April 3, at 7:30pm in the Parish Hall. His topic will be “PRAYING THE PSALMS.” Last year’s series by Fr. Scalia was very well received and bore much fruit for the many people who attended. I highly encourage all of you to attend these talks. Please see the insert and the article in this bulletin for more details.

 

The Movie “Mary of Nazareth.” Last Sunday I was amazed and delighted that we sold out all our tickets to our special private showing of the movie Mary Of Nazareth at Kingstowne Regal Cinemas on March 9th, 2014 at 1:30pm. Because of that overwhelming response we are working with the Kingstowne Cinema management to arrange for a larger theater and/or a second showing. Hopefully by the time you read this on Saturday/Sunday we’ll be able to make an announcement at Masses. If you have questions call the parish office.

 

Caveat: Seasonal Missalettes. The paperback Missalettes in your pews are provided mainly so that you can follow the Sunday readings and proper prayers. However, our missalette, like most, includes commentaries before the Sunday readings. While sometimes they may be more or less helpful, unfortunately sometimes they can be offensive, misleading or even wrong. I’m very sorry about that, and I continue to look for a better missalette. In the meantime, I recommend that you NOT read the commentaries, but if you do read them, know that I do not necessarily endorse the content.

 

Lent Soup Supper and Stations. Don’t forget, these begin this Friday at 5:00pm and 6:30pm respectively.

 

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

2014 Lent Schedule

Ash Wednesday Masses, March 5

(A day of mandatory fasting and abstinence)
6:30 am, 8:00 am, Noon, and 7:00 pm

(Note: There are no Confessions on Ash Wednesday)

Weekday Masses

Monday through Friday
6:30 am and 8:00 am

Wednesdays
7:00 pm

Saturdays
9:00 am

Extraordinary Form Mass
1st and 3rd Fridays of every month at 7:00 p.m.

Confessions

Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays March 6 – April 4
6:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday April 7 – April 15
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Wednesdays
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm and following 7:00 pm Mass until 8:00 pm

Saturdays
8:30 – 8:50 am, after 9:00 am Mass, and 3:30 – 5:00 pm

Sundays
8:15 – 8:45 am, 10:00 – 10:30 am, and 11:45 am – 12:15 pm

Stations of the Cross

Fridays, March 7 – April 11
6:30 pm

Living Stations of the Cross

Palm Sunday, April 13
Following the 5:00 pm Mass

Adoration

Wednesdays (except Ash Wednesday)
8:30 am – 7:00 pm
Fridays (except Good Friday)
8:30 am – 3:00 pm

Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty

Last Wednesday of the Month (March 26 and April 30)
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

“Mary of Nazareth” Private Viewing

Sunday March 9 at Kingstowne Regal Cinema
1:30 – 4:00 pm
(Tickets are now sold out. This film is not yet rated but due to realism – is not recommended for children under middle school age.)

Lenten Series

Thursdays, March 6 – April 3
7:30 pm

Fr. Paul Scalia will give a series of talks on “Praying the Psalms.”

Soup Suppers

Fridays, March 7 – April 11
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Palm Sunday, April 13th

Blessing of the Palms
All Masses

Procession
8:45 am Mass

Living Stations
Following 5:00 pm Mass

(Last year’s palms maybe left in the boxes in the church for proper disposal)

Holy Week Schedule, April 14 -19

Holy Thursday, April 17
No Masses during the day at St. Raymond’s (10:30 am Chrism Mass at St. Thomas More Cathedral)
No Confessions on Holy Thursday
7:00 pm “Mass of the Lord’s Supper”
This Mass includes the ritual “Washing of Feet”
After Mass, Night Watch is kept until Midnight in the Parish Hall

Good Friday, April 18
(A day of mandatory fasting and abstinence)
11:00 am – 12:00 pm … Confessions
3:00 pm … Celebration of the Lord’s Passion (Veneration of the Cross and Communion Service)
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm … Confessions
7:00 pm … Stations of the Cross
7:30 pm … Confessions (until the line runs out)

Holy Saturday, April 19
(A day of voluntary fasting and abstinence)
12:00 pm …  lessing of the Easter Baskets
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm … Confessions
12:30 pm – 3:30 pm … Showing of “The Passion of Christ” in the Parish Hall with a talk  by Fr. De Celles
(This movie is Rated R and is not recommended for children)
8:30 pm … Easter Vigil Mass

Easter Sunday, April 20
Normal Sunday Mass Times except no 5:00 p.m. Mass

Saturday, April 26
10:00 am – 11:00 am … Easter Egg Hunt
12:00 pm – 2:00 pm … Senior Luncheon

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time February 23, 2014

Sorry about Last Week’s Bulletin. One of the casualties of the foot of snow we received the week before last was last Sunday’s bulletin. Our bulletin is printed in Pennsylvania and shipped to us every Friday by air through UPS,  so when so many airports closed during the storm last week, and air freight began to back up…. O well. As I write this on Wednesday we are working on mailing the bulletins to you, so I hope you have received them by now. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. Please remember, the bulletin is always available online on our website.

 

St. Valentine’s Day Dinner. Last Saturday, February 15, we had a full house for our St. Valentine’s Day Dinner for married and engaged couples. 100 couples attended and a really wonderful time seems to have been had by all. The food was terrific, the entertainment was outstanding, the service was superb and the decorations were beautiful. This is surely to become a new and cherished tradition of St. Raymond’s—although we may have to build a bigger hall to accommodate it in the future! In a time when the true meaning of marriage is being so undermined by our society today, this was great opportunity to support our couples, placing the joy of marital romance and love in the context of the love of Christ and His Church. Many thanks to Bob and Gerri Laird and all those on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Committee for their hard work to make this evening such an outstanding success.

 

Lent Approaches. Ash Wednesday is only 10 days away, so it’s time to begin thinking about what you will do to keep a holy Lent this year. Next week we will include a full schedule of the parish’s Lenten activities, but I hope you will mark your calendars today for two special events that I hope will help start the season on the right foot:

Lenten Series: The day after Ash Wednesday, Thursday, March 6, Fr. Paul Scalia will begin a 5 week series of talks on “Praying the Psalms.” The talks will be every night Thursday, at 7:30, until April 3. The first talk, is entitled: “Sing Praises With A Psalm: Introduction to the Psalms.”

— “Mary of Nazareth”: on the first Sunday of Lent, March 9th, 2014 at 1:30pm, St. Raymond’s will be sponsor a special private showing of the movie Mary Of Nazareth at Kingstowne Regal Cinemas. Please see the insert and the article in this bulletin for more details.

 

Love Your Enemies. In this Sunday’s Gospel we continue our reading of the Sermon on the Mount, and hear Jesus tell us: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” These words of Jesus did not really present a new idea to the Jews of His time, in as much as they were imbedded in the moral teachings of the Old Testament, the 10 Commandments and the moral laws that elaborated on them, in particular the “second great commandment” to “love your neighbor.” But loving your enemy is very difficult, especially without the redeeming grace of Christ and His teachings. So, as Jesus would say elsewhere when questioned about the seemingly new and stricter moral demands of His Gospel: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” [Matt. 19:26]. So with Christ’s grace, and with his teaching, things change: it may be hard to love your enemy, but it is not only not impossible, but it is what we should all strive to do every day.

 

We all seem to have enemies. And by “enemies” I don’t mean people that we hate, but people who hate or even simply oppose us in some way. So in a certain sense this can apply to any relationship of opposition, from the simple and minor to the complex and important.

 

We usually see our “important” enemies pretty clearly: a person who hates you for the color of your skin, or who persecutes you because of your faith, or who violently attacks your country or yourself. But we also recognize our enemies in the simpler things of life: your co-worker who undermines your work or reputation to get ahead; an in-law that always treats you disrespectfully; another kid in school who gossips about you. Thus it has always been, in this world full of sin.

 

But we must still love them all. By the grace of Jesus, we must strive constantly to rise above insult, abuse, pain, and even mortal attack, and not seek to strike back in hatred, or even to let their hatred lead us to hate ourselves, but always responding with love. Our first reaction should be restraint, even, if possible, to turn the other cheek. Of course, sometimes we are compelled to defend ourselves or the innocent, using either words or physically force—but always controlling our words and actions with love and reason. Sometimes love even requires us to correct the other person. And, sometimes, as in the case of defending our country, love requires we use mortal force to protect the innocent—but even then we must love our enemies, using only the force that is reasonable, and tending to the wounds of the fallen. Love is always the measure of all things Christian.

 

As I mentioned above, this teaching was not really new to the Jews of Jesus’ time, and in a certain sense, it was not new to mankind in general at that time. But because of our fallen nature, it was a moral law easily forgotten, ignored or even despised throughout the ancient world. But Christ and Christianity began to change all that 2000 years ago. Does this mean that Christians have always loved their “neighbor” and their “enemy” as perfectly as they should? No. But by the grace of Christ we can rise above our sins, and must always strive to do so.

 

Thanks. My sincerest thanks to the scores of folks who expressed their support for me after a certain article about me appeared in the media last Sunday. I was profoundly humbled and strengthened by your kindness and loyalty. Since I have previously written extensively on the subject of the article I have no intension of making further comment, except to say two things: you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the media, especially when it’s about the Catholic Church, and “love your enemies, bless those who persecute you.”

 

Oremus pro invicem, in caritate Christi. Fr. De Celles

The 12th Day of Christmas: Epiphany

The 12th Day of Christmas: Epiphany. We continue our celebration of Christmas with the Feast of the Epiphany, the “manifestation” of our Lord Jesus to the gentile world represented by the Magi from the East. This is historically celebrated on January 6th, the 12th day of Christmas. I’ve included below our Holy Father’s homily for the feast from last year.

 

Feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort. This Wednesday, January 7, is the feast of our parish Patron. St. Raymond was born near Barcelona, in 1175, and served as a diocesan and Dominican priest, professor of civil and canon law, noted scholar, General (head) of the Dominicans, and high ranking Papal official. His most famous scholarly works include the Summa de casibus poenitentiae (a guide to confessors) and his codification of Canon Law. He is also noted for his work for the conversion of Muslims, which included the co-founding the Mercedarians (an order of priests) after the Blessed Mother appeared to him under the title of “Our Lady of Ransom.” After living a long and productive 100 years, he died in Barcelona on January 6, 1275. He is the patron saint of lawyers, both canon and civil.

 

Volunteer Reception. Don’t forget our annual appreciation dinner for parish volunteers this Friday, January 9. If you haven’t rsvp’d yet, please contact the parish office or your committee chairman asap.

 

EPIPHANY OF THE LORD, Homily of Pope Francis, January 6, 2014

            “Lumen requirunt lumine”. These evocative words from a liturgical hymn for the Epiphany speak of the experience of the Magi: following a light, they were searching for the Light. The star appearing in the sky kindled in their minds and in their hearts a light that moved them to seek the great Light of Christ. The Magi followed faithfully that light which filled their hearts, and they encountered the Lord….

            The first reading echoes, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, the call of God to Jerusalem: “Arise, shine!” (Is 60:1). Jerusalem is called to be the city of light which reflects God’s light to the world and helps humanity to walk in his ways. This is the vocation and the mission of the People of God in the world. But Jerusalem can fail to respond to this call of the Lord. The Gospel tells us that the Magi, when they arrived in Jerusalem, lost sight of the star for a time. They no longer saw it. Its light was particularly absent from the palace of King Herod: his dwelling was gloomy, filled with darkness, suspicion, fear, envy. Herod, in fact, proved himself distrustful and preoccupied with the birth of a frail Child whom he thought of as a rival. In realty Jesus came not to overthrow him, a wretched puppet, but to overthrow the Prince of this world! Nonetheless, the king and his counsellors sensed that the foundations of their power were crumbling. They feared that the rules of the game were being turned upside down, that appearances were being unmasked. A whole world built on power, on success, possessions and corruption was being thrown into crisis by a child! Herod went so far as to kill the children. As Saint Quodvultdeus writes, “You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart” (Sermo 2 de Symbolo: PL 40, 655). This was in fact the case: Herod was fearful and on account of this fear, he became insane.

            The Magi were able to overcome that dangerous moment of darkness before Herod, because they believed the Scriptures, the words of the prophets which indicated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. And so they fled the darkness and dreariness of the night of the world. They resumed their journey towards Bethlehem and there they once more saw the star, and the gospel tells us that they experienced “a great joy” (Mt 2:10). The very star which could not be seen in that dark, worldly palace.

            One aspect of the light which guides us on the journey of faith is holy “cunning”. This holy “cunning” is also a virtue. It consists of a spiritual shrewdness which enables us to recognize danger and avoid it. The Magi used this light of “cunning” when, on the way back, they decided not to pass by the gloomy palace of Herod, but to take another route. These wise men from the East teach us how not to fall into the snares of darkness and how to defend ourselves from the shadows which seek to envelop our life. By this holy “cunning”, the Magi guarded the faith. We too need to guard the faith, guard it from darkness. Many times, however, it is a darkness under the guise of light. This is because the devil, as saint Paul says, disguises himself at times as an angel of light. And this is where a holy “cunning” is necessary in order to protect the faith, guarding it from those alarmist voices that exclaim: “Listen, today we must do this, or that…”. Faith though, is a grace, it is a gift. We are entrusted with the task of guarding it, by means of this holy “cunning” and by prayer, love, charity. We need to welcome the light of God into our hearts and, at the same time, to cultivate that spiritual cunning which is able to combine simplicity with astuteness, as Jesus told his disciples: “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt 10:16).

            On the feast of the Epiphany, as we recall Jesus’ manifestation to humanity in the face of a Child, may we sense the Magi at our side, as wise companions on the way. Their example helps us to lift our gaze towards the star and to follow the great desires of our heart. They teach us not to be content with a life of mediocrity, of “playing it safe”, but to let ourselves be attracted always by what is good, true and beautiful… by God, who is all of this, and so much more! And they teach us not to be deceived by appearances, by what the world considers great, wise and powerful. We must not stop at that. It is necessary to guard the faith. Today this is of vital importance: to keep the faith. We must press on further, beyond the darkness, beyond the voices that raise alarm, beyond worldliness, beyond so many forms of modernity that exist today. We must press on towards Bethlehem, where, in the simplicity of a dwelling on the outskirts, beside a mother and father full of love and of faith, there shines forth the Sun from on high, the King of the universe. By the example of the Magi, with our little lights, may we seek the Light and keep the faith. May it be so.

 

Merry Christmas. Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles