Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 6, 2014

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 6, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


On Friday we celebrated the 238th anniversary

of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

And in a particular way we celebrate one of the main themes of that Declaration:

the “unalienable right” to liberty or freedom.


It’s a word most dearly cherished by us Americans,

But it’s also a word and an idea which causes some confusion for us.

We hear about all the controversies over individual liberties,

but no one can seem to agree on exactly what liberty means.


The problem seems to rest with our understanding of the concept of liberty.

Society’s popular understanding of liberty is as

an absolute independence from any constraints on personal behavior

an absolute freedom to do whatever you what.

It recognizes this as an absolute and essential good

which we must pursue at all costs.

Essentially this concept of liberty is a “freedom from

–freedom from others and freedom from responsibility.


We all believe that we should speak out in protection of our own liberties,

but in doing that, sometimes we develop the attitude that

we are free from the responsibility to protect those who are

too sick, too young, too innocent or too ignorant

to even know that their liberty is being abused,

much less exercise free speech about it.

We develop the attitude that everyone should be free to live life

the way they choose,

and so we free ourselves from the responsibility of taking care of others,

even the responsibility of raising and educating our own children.

We develop an attitude that we must be free from

the interference of anyone in our personal subjective beliefs,

and so we become free from the responsibility

to help others find objective truth,

and to protect society from false notions of truth.


And we become free from any responsibility

to even recognize the existence of God himself,

much less to recognize our country’s debt to Him by proclaiming

that we are “one nation under God,”

even though we are founded upon the first principle

that it is our “Creator” who has “endowed” us

“with certain unalienable rights, …among these”

being “Liberty” itself.

And once free from God we become free from any responsibility

to obey his commandments

because commandments aren’t consistent

with my freedom from interference in doing as I please.


And so we see a society which at once rightly celebrates

its great achievements in freedom,

but at the same times wonders at the continuing reality of

poverty, crime, corruption, domestic violence, rising divorce rates,

single parent families, contraceptive lifestyles, same-sex unions,

mothers killing their unborn children,

and children killing other children,

….the list goes on and on.

Perhaps society’s misunderstood this “liberty” thing.


What is the true meaning of liberty and freedom?

If I’m just free from something,

that would mean freedom leaves a big vacuum in my life

–only emptiness.

Freedom from things just results in me having nothing.

Who wants to be free if it means having nothing?

So any kind of meaningful or good freedom can’t mean

just freedom from something,

but rather it means freedom from something

in order to be free for something else.


Unfortunately, for many of us,

when we realize freedom from things is unsatisfying,

we decide to be free from responsibilities

in order to be free for satisfying our own selfish desires.

And so our society has developed a sense of freedom and liberty

based on a certain self-centeredness:

the idea that I must be free from all constrictions on me,

in order that I can be free to satisfy whatever I desire,

or to decide every issue based on what is best for me.

It is, essentially, a definition of liberty rooted in the sin of pride.



But this is not the society envisioned by Jesus Christ,

and it’s not the freedom found in the words of Holy Scripture.


It’s interesting to remember that in the first century AD,

the Jews had very little experience of liberty and freedom.

But one place that they did experience a very real freedom was in their religious life

–this was one of the few areas in which their Roman rulers

thought it best to allow their subjects some freedom.


Unfortunately, in exercising their religious liberty

many wound up refusing to accept the Messiah

who was the center of their religion,

even when he walked right into their synagogues and spoke to them.

Many refused because in their pride they clung to their preconceived notions

of a great political and military Messiah

–and this humble carpenter from Nazareth

did not meet their popular definition.

And yet we hear in today’s first reading

that this is exactly the kind of messiah God had promised:

before the prophet Zechariah speaks of the Messiah whose

“dominion shall be from sea to sea, and …to the ends of the earth.”

he first observes:

“See, your king shall come to you…meek,

and riding on …the foal of an ass.”

St. Paul tells us elsewhere in Scripture that

“It was for liberty that Christ freed us;

so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

And that same St., Paul tells us in today’s second reading:

“If you live according to the flesh, you will die;

but if …you put to death the evil deeds of the body, you will live.”

For St. Paul true freedom and liberty is not a matter of

being completely independent to do what ever we want,

or to reject anyone or anything that impedes us in pursuing that end.

For St. Paul, freedom is a freedom from sin and pride

–what he calls today “the flesh”–

and a freedom for accepting the responsibilities

that come with being a Christian:

the responsibility to love God

with all your heart, mind soul and strength,

and love your neighbor as yourself.

Because, for St. Paul, a freedom that embraces our own selfish desires

is a freedom that soon becomes slavery

–the “yoke of slavery” to our own selfishness and pride: to sin.

And the only true freedom is the freedom of humbly submitting ourselves

to the love of Christ our King,

who, even though his “dominion shall be … to the ends of the earth,”

comes to us first and foremost as a meek and humble servant.


In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us:

“Father, … what you have hidden from the wise and the learned

you have revealed to the little ones.”

We —his Church— are his little ones, his children.

Why would we ever look to the secular world

for instruction on something as important as the true meaning of freedom

when Christ himself has already revealed it to us?

And in that revelation Jesus has made it abundantly clear

that the definition of freedom and liberty embraced by

the wise and the learned” oftheworld

is in reality nothing more than the path

to the yoke and burden of slavery to sin.


In today’s Gospel Jesus, offers us freedom from this burden.

“Come to me, all you who …find life burdensome, and I will give you rest.”

But at the same time he reminds us that “coming to him” doesn’t mean

an absolute freedom to do whatever you what.

He says:

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am meek and humble of heart.

….my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

His yoke is “easy and light”

because rather than being the burden of the slavery of sin,

it is a burden of the responsibilities of freedom.

Rather than being a yoke we try to carry in prideful individuality

and radical independence,

it is a yoke of love that we carry in humble unity with our humble King,

and radical dependence on him,

who loves us so much he seeks to carry it with us.

Like the Jews of Jesus’ time, we live in a political atmosphere which allows us

to freely listen to the Gospel proclaimed in our midst.

But do we use this freedom merely as an opportunity to exercise our pride

–to indulge our own self interest?

Or do take this as an opportunity

to more truly free ourselves from those things

which keep us from living humbly for Christ our King and His love?

Do we free ourselves for selfish satisfaction—“living according to the flesh—

letting pride take priority over the love of God and his will?

Or do we free ourselves for the responsibilities of Christianity,

humbly loving God, obeying his will, and serving our neighbor?


Liberty is a beautiful thing, and its right to celebrate it.

But as we celebrate our liberty and independence this weekend,

let us ask our Lord Jesus to give us the courage and the wisdom

to always joyfully celebrate our dependence on Him,

and humbly accept his idea of liberty:

a freedom from pride and sin,

and a freedom for the love of Christ and his Kingdom.

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 2014

Ss. Peter and Paul, June 29, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


Today we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Like other saint’s feast days this one falls on the same day every year—June 29. But when other saints days fall on Sunday they are suppressed

because Sunday is always the feast day of Lord—it is the Lord’s day.

But this feast is different, special.

Because it is the feast of the two patron saints of the Church in Rome,

and so it reminds the whole Church throughout the world

of our unity with Rome, especially with the Bishop of Rome—the Pope.

So the whole Church celebrates it even on Sunday

to celebrate the unity of the one Church of Christ,

under the governance of the one Vicar of Christ on earth,

who is today, of course, Pope Francis.


It’s kind of interesting that we celebrate this unity with a diocese in foreign country,

because later this week, on the 4th of July, we Americans celebrate

our independence from another foreign country.

Now, most you might kind of smile at the coincidence,

but there was a time with this contrast had

very real-life serious consequences to Catholics in America.

It wasn’t so long ago the many Protestants in America wondered

if our loyalty to a foreign power, the Pope,

would interfere in our loyalty to America.

After all, just 150 years ago the Pope was absolute sovereign of the Papal States,

which included a third of all Italy,

and even today he’s sovereign of the Vatican City State.

More importantly he commands the obedience before God

of all Catholics worldwide.


But there was never a need to worry.

Because the doctrine of our Catholic faith tells us that

our absolute obedience to the Pope is only related to papal teachings

on matters of Faith and Morals,

as well as internal Church matters like how we worship.

But it does not extend to particular matters of prudential judgment.

So that while the Pope may teach that

we have a moral obligation to care for the poor,

he has no authority to tell us that we have to do so

using a particular program or by voting for a particular politician.

He can propose particular solutions,

and we should respectfully consider them,

but Catholics are not bound to obey them.


So it’s almost impossible that there would ever be a conflict

between our loyalties to America and to the Pope.


Even so, this wasn’t always understood by Protestant Americans,

who have always formed the vast majority of our nation’s population.

So when immigrants from the Catholic countries of Europe

immigrated to America, especially in the 1800s and early 1900s,

they were often held in suspicion.

So much so that political movements like the “Know Nothings”

rose up to try to oppress Catholics,

and laws like the Blaine laws tried to close Catholic schools,

to force Catholic children

into the Protestant mainstream of public education.

And while Catholics fought these oppressive efforts,

and kept their Catholic identity and their schools,

they were not unmoved by the oppression.

And so you saw Catholics send their kids to Catholic schools

and go to Sunday Mass and pray the Rosary daily,

but then also strive to be more American

than George Washington and Betsy Ross,

and bend over backwards to show their loyalty to America.


So much so that when Catholic John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960

he felt obliged to go before a group of Protestant ministers,

                   the Greater Houston Ministerial Association,

          and say:

“I believe in an America

where the separation of church and state is absolute,

where no Catholic prelate would tell the president

                             (should he be Catholic) how to act,

…where no public official either requests or accepts

                             instructions on public policy from the Pope…

or any other ecclesiastical source…”


Whether he intended to or not, by these and other statements in this speech

          Kennedy seemed to express a loyalty to America above

                   his loyalty to the Pope and his Catholic faith.

And he left the clear impression that religion in general

has no place in influencing the public policy and laws of our time.


To his credit, I don’t think he meant to do that.

In fact, later in the speech he stated:

“But if the time should ever come ….

when my office would require me to either violate my conscience

or violate the national interest,

then I would resign the office…

…nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church

in order to win this election.”


I’m not a huge John Kennedy fan,

but I think he was simply trying to convince Protestant Americans that he,

a loyal Catholic, was also a loyal American.


But he shouldn’t have had to do that.

There is no opposition between being a faithful Catholic and good American.


First of all, the Constitution itself guarantees protection of

the God-given right to religious liberty,

protecting religions and individual believers

from any oppression whatsoever by the government.

This reflected the founders strongly held belief in

the absolute importance of the positive effect of religion

to the success of the American experiment.

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….”

…[R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect

that national morality can prevail

in exclusion of religious principle.”


Not only that, it is a moral doctrine of Catholicism itself

that Catholics must be loyal to our own countries

and be obedient to our country’s government and its just laws.

In other words, the Church says you’re a bad Catholic if you’re a bad citizen.


Finally, as I said earlier, it is Catholic moral doctrine that we are free

to make decisions according to our own individual consciences,

subject only to the truths expressed in the doctrines and dogmas our faith.


Sadly, largely because of the historical push

to be seen as loyal and mainstream Americans,

for too many Catholics in America

their Catholicism has become more and more like

an ethnicity than a deeply held conviction and a passionate way of life:

they take their fundamental values not from Christ and His Church,

but from either the popular American culture,

or, amazingly, from the decrees of government itself.

So that if the Supreme Court says abortion is okay,

many Catholics American think it must be okay.

And if the President says it’s time to approve so-called “same-sex-marriage,”         many Catholic Americans go along.


But it cannot be that way.


I love America, and I firmly believe it is the greatest nation in the history of man,

and I honor the great and brave men and women

who have sacrificed to make it so.

But our loyalty to America is not a blind loyalty.


First of all, it is a loyalty not to government officials

but to government established by

“We the People….in order to form a more perfect union,

establish justice, …and secure the blessings of liberty…”

A “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

We the People, as individuals, making free choices

based on our own individual moral values—and religions—:

this is what our American government is about—or is supposed to be about.

So that we Catholics are good Americans when we think like Catholics

and demand that our Catholic values,

our understanding of right and wrong, good and evil,

justice and oppression

be respected and protected.

Never imposed, but proposed by debate and democratic elections,

and even codified in law when accepted

by the majority of our fellow Americans.


And when I say “think like Catholics”, I don’t mean that we all have to

have the same policy solution to every problem,

or agree in every judgment we make.

But as Catholics every moral choice,

must always be rooted in and consistent with the principles and doctrines

of our Catholic faith and morals

—because they express the teaching of Jesus,

the Word of God, himself.


Again, for example, we can NOT say we’re Catholics

if we deny that we are obliged, in some real way, to take care of the poor.

But you and I can disagree,

and we can even disagree with our Bishops and even our Pope,

on the best way, practically speaking, to take care of the poor.


And we can disagree, for example, on just how

to protect people from unjust discrimination,

but as Catholics we can never say that it is discrimination to hold that

marriage can only be the union of one man and one woman.


Sadly, in recent years the old prejudices against Catholicism

have crept back into the American ethos,

as many demand that Catholics leave their morals and principles

at home or in the pew and not bring them

into the public square or the voting booth.

In fact, it’s ironic that this demand is also being made

against the children of Protestants who questioned the loyalty of Catholics

like John Kennedy 50 years ago.

More irony: Kennedy, in that same speech warned this would happen:

“Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you —

until the whole fabric of our harmonious society

is ripped at a time of great national peril.”


And so were are here today.

By coercion, especially through regulations and court orders issued

by unelected government officials,

secularist ideologues increasingly try to force us to accept their values,

or face ruinous fines or even imprisonment.

From the Christian baker who is forced to make a cake for a “gay wedding”

or lose his business;

to the Little Sister of the Poor who are threatened

with millions of dollars in fines if they don’t provide insurance

for the abortion-inducing drugs and contraception

of their employees;

to the U.S. senators and congressmen elected by the American people,

who were scolded last year by an unelected Supreme Court justice,                                  for protecting traditional marriage, because, their “purpose” was,

as he put it, “to disparage and to injure” “gay” people.

How ironic, that the justice was another Catholic named Kennedy.


Since our founding,

some have questioned the loyalty of Catholics to our great nation.

But there is no conflict between being a loyal Catholic and a loyal American.


On this feast of St. Peter and St. Paul,

as we celebrate the unity of the Church throughout the world,

let us pray that we may always hold profess and live by

the teachings of Jesus Christ

passed down to us by his apostles and their successors,

especially the successors of St. Peter, our Popes.

And as we approach the 238th anniversary of the founding of our great nation,

let us pray that that America may remain true to the values of our founders,

including the God-given right to religious liberty.

And as we leave here today

let us strive as good and faithful Catholics

to be good and loyal Americans,

by working with all Americans of goodwill,

to protect our nation from those who would

deny the rights of “we the people” to govern ourselves

according the values that we hold most sacred.

Corpus Christi Sunday, June 22, 2014

Corpus Christi Sunday, June 22, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

What  strange words the Master spoke to that crowd

gathered in the Synagogue in Capernaum:

“…my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

And how much stranger still the words he spoke months later

on the night He was betrayed:

this is my body…this is my blood.”

How could anyone believe  these words?

But  as we see clearly in Scripture, and in the life of the Church,

this is  what  exactly what  His  apostles did believe.

And they believed these words not because they  were  reasonable,

but  rather  because it was Jesus Christ himself who said them.

It was through absolute faith  in Jesus that they believed

that what was once ordinary bread is no longer bread at all,

but completely and substantially, the actual and real Body of Christ.


This is the faith of the Church, from the earliest times until now:

So we read in today’s second reading from St. Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians,

written 20 years later:

“The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

And see this carry over to the writings of the early Fathers.

As St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in the year 107:

          “There is one Eucharist, which is the body of Christ.”

And Tertullian, around the year 200:

“The bread which he took and gave to his disciples

he turned into his body with the words “this is my body”…

Christ [did not just] preten[d] to make the bread his body…”

And as St. Cyril of Jerusalem taught the catechumens of the mid-4th century

on receiving Communion:

“Receive it with care that nothing of it be lost to you…

What you might permit to fall [from your hand],

think of as being the loss of a part of your own body”

And over and over again,

with so many of the great fathers of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd   centuries:

until we get to St. Augustine  who summarizes them in all the 4th century:

“It was in His flesh that Christ walked  among us

and it is His flesh that He has given us to eat

for our salvation.”

And it wasn’t just in receiving that the Eucharist is to be treated differently

–as St. Augustine says:

No one, however, eats of this flesh without having first adored it…”


Now, the gift of the Eucharist is at its heart a union or communion

between Christ and the Christian.

So the receiving Holy Communion

implies some things related to communion with Christ.

First it implies communion, or unity, with Christ and His Church,

the Catholic Church,

and with the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist as truly

the body, blood soul and divinity of Christ.

Because of this only Catholics may receive Communion at Catholic Mass.


Also, it implies unity with the life and love of Christ

—the way Jesus lived and taught His disciples to live and love:

the Christian moral life.

So that a Catholic aware that he has gravely departed from that moral life,

that he has committed mortal sin,

must always go to sacramental confession

before receiving Holy Communion.

The only exception to this rule is if it’s truly impossible to go to confession,

and by that the Church means it is physically impossible

to go to confession for at least a month or so

because there are absolutely no priests around

—not, because I forgot or don’t have time to go.


Some people say, but Father,

it’s embarrassing not to go to Communion,

or it hurts not to go to Communion.

But the thing is we should be embarrassed by our sins,

and mortal sins are not only hurtful, truly deadly to our souls.

And they are our free choices.

So if we choose to commit mortal sin,

we freely choose the consequences,

including the painful and embarrassing consequence

of excluding ourselves from Communion.


But at the same time, we shouldn’t judge others for not going to Communion.

Assume they have some other reason

—maybe they didn’t keep the fast,

maybe they’ve received at earlier Masses

or maybe they’re just over-scrupulous, too hard on themselves.

But if you do feel tempted to start judging

turn that judgment around

and instead praise that person for his great humility,

and ask yourself if you shouldn’t be imitating him yourself.


Now, all that takes into account what we believe in our minds,

and the proper internal disposition of the soul for receiving Communion.

But Communion is not just about the mind and soul,

especially since it’s something brought about through the body:

our bodies receive the Body of Christ!

And our bodily sharing in the Eucharist isn’t limited to just eating the host,

but it also includes the way our bodies express

what our hearts and minds believe about what we eat.

Our actions should express what’s in our minds;

and our actions also help our minds to understand and accept

what we believe.


So after 20 centuries we have a set of customs that we use

both to physically express and remember our belief in Christ’s

true presence in the Eucharist.


For example we have the custom of kneeling in the presence of the Eucharist.

In particular, we kneel at Mass, but also outside of Mass,

whenever we visit Christ present in the tabernacle

—always genuflecting to him whenever

we enter or leave, or pass in front of, his presence.


Another way we express this reverence

is in the way we receive Holy Communion.

It seems that for the first few centuries of the Church

receiving Communion in the hand was not unusual.

But as the Church grew in her understanding of the Eucharist,

to help us remember that this is no ordinary food,

it became the practice to receive communion directly on the tongue.

This was the law of the Church for almost 14 centuries.

In fact, it is still the law, or the normal way of receiving, today.

In 1969 Pope Paul VI allowed individual bishops give permission to their people

to receive communion in the hand.

But Pope Paul’s warned us not to let this form of receiving

be the occasion for any loss of reverence.

And while most bishops around the world now permit Communion in the hand,

some bishops, seeing a loss of reverence for the Eucharist,

have repealed their permissions

and now require their people to receive on the tongue.

And if you ever watch a Papal Mass you see

that folks who receive Communion from the Holy Father

must receive only on the tongue.


So, like the Pope, I always encourage people to receive on the tongue.

It is no ordinary food, so it’s important that it not be received as if it were.

Moreover, I share St. Cyril’s fear of dropping particles of the host

—each of which are also truly the body of Christ.

I clean the patens at the end of Mass—I know there are particles.

And if you notice, during the Mass after the consecration

I either hold the two fingers that touch the Host together

or I’m constantly cleaning them over the paten.


On the other hand, so to speak, there’s nothing illicit about receiving in the hand

—there are many very good reasons for doing it,

and the pope and bishop has given you permission to do so.


But besides the practical problems I just described

there is a more important potential problem, long term.


As one who holds the Eucharist in his hands

more than any of you probably ever will,

I can tell you that the more you handle the Body of Christ,

the easier it can become to take for granted and forget

exactly Who it is you’re holding.


So, if you take communion in the hand, ask yourself:

          do I do it in a way that expresses and reminds me of my belief?

Before you extend your hands you should first show a sign of reverence

—the normal sign in the U.S. is a bow of the head,

but many people make a profound bow of the body

or even genuflect,… and some even kneel to receive.

Again, if you watch people receiving from the Pope

they not only receive on the tongue they also kneel to receive.


But as I said, you may simply bow your head, if you choose.


Then as you receive, if you receive in the hand, remember the instruction

of St. Cyril of Jerusalem the 4th century:

receive by placing your left hand on top of your right hand

as if you were creating a throne to receive your God,

keeping your eyes on Christ;

and then, stepping to the side

carefully take the host in your right hand

and place it in your mouth,

being careful to consume any crumbs.

And please remember, when you receive in the hand

          there are special requirements

          put on the priest and extraordinary minister too!

We are required to make sure that the host is

“consumed at once, so that no one goes away

with the Eucharistic species in his hand.”

So if we watch you for a moment after giving you the host,

please don’t be offended

—it’s part of our reverence for the Eucharist.

Also, if we perceive even a danger of irreverence

the priest—or extraordinary minister—

must give you communion in the hand.

So for example, let’s say you come up with a baby in your arms,

we are required by the bishop to give you communion on the tongue

—not because you have a baby,

but because your arms and hands are concerned

with your baby, as they should be.


And when it comes to bodily expressions,

a most fundamental way we express our belief in the Real Presence

is by what we wear to Mass.

Think about it: if you were going on a job interview, you would dress the part.

Every time I go to Mass I dress up

—what would you think if I showed up today in shorts and a tee-shirt?

Now, I know it’s getting hot outside;

and I know sometimes you might have

a very good reason for dressing down.

So no one here should judge you for how you dress.

Even so, if a father dresses in a business suit to go to work,

but in shorts and a tee-shirt when he comes to Mass,

what message is he sending, especially to his kids,

about the relative importance of each?


It’s easy to lose site of the great wonder

of Christ’s real and living presence in the Blessed Sacrament

–to take for granted that this is no ordinary piece of food

but the very Body of Our Saviour

which is to be worshiped and adored, even as it is to be eaten.

It looks like a piece of bread

—but in our hearts we believe in the word of Jesus when he says:

                   “this is my body…this is my blood”…

and  “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

Let us then show this belief in his Body, by the actions of our bodies.

Trinity Sunday (Father’s Day), June 15, 2014

Trinity Sunday (Father’s Day), June 15, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity,

celebrating the most sublime mystery of our faith:

that God is One,

but also three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


We call it a “mystery” because

it is something that we would have never known

if God Himself hadn’t revealed it to us.

And it remains a “mystery” because

it’s something we will never fully understand

because its divine and infinite nature is so far above

our limited human intelligence and experience.

This doesn’t mean it’s irrational or imagined

—no more than Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is irrational or imagined

simply because it isn’t understood by 99.999…% of humanity.

It just means it’s too big for our little brains to wrap around.


Now, I also say it’s a “sublime” mystery

because it reveals something amazingly wonderful about God:

that He is a personal communion of three persons

sharing one life and one love.

So that at the heart of God’s very being…who He most truly is,

is this eternal, total, complete, mutual self-gift

between the three Divine Persons in love,

that is at the center of their absolute unity.


And I say it’s “the most” sublime mystery because it is really

the beginning of all meaning in life

and the end to which all life is directed: living in the love of God.

The Bible begins by telling us that we were created

in the image of God.

So that when Jesus reveals that God is a Trinity of Persons

we come to understand that human beings

are created in the image of this amazing Trinitarian love

in order to share in it, both on earth

—by loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength,

and loving each other—

and in heaven.


What a glorious Feast.


Today is also, of course, Father’s Day.

It’s great when this secular holiday

falls on the Christian Holy Day of Trinity Sunday,

because the Trinity is really where Christians come to understand

the true and profound meaning of Fatherhood

Because, in a certain sense the Trinity is a Family:

first there is God the Father

—from whom the Son is eternally begotten,

and from whom, with the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds.

And today we remember that Divine familial relationship within God

and see that we are created to live and love in the image of God

most fundamentally in human families of father, mother and children.


Now some might say, there’s a problem with this: where’s God the Mother?

Well, first of all, we shouldn’t limit our understanding of the Fatherhood of God

to the narrow confines of the human sexes—male and female.

God is neither, male or female,

so God’s “parenthood” is revealed in both Fatherhood and Motherhood,

although differently in each.

So that God can say in Scripture:

that he is [Deut]: “the God who gave you birth.”

and [Isaiah 66:13]: “As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you.”.


Even so, nowhere in Scripture does he identify as or call himself “mother”

—he constantly identifies Himself as “Father.”

There are many reasons why he does this.

Perhaps the most fundamental reason for calling himself by the masculine title

is that he calls his people by the feminine title: His “bride” or His “wife”!

This mystery of the divine bridegroom and his bride is full of rich meaning for us.

But at its core it teaches us of the depth and breadth and height

of God’s love for us,

and reveals how he intensely he loves us,

and how intensely we should love him.

And it also teaches us dignity and the rich possibilities

of the love of a husband and wife, father and mother,

as they sharing in and reflect in a fundamental and unique way

the love that is at the heart of the Trinity.


Still another reason God reveals himself as Father

is that it shows us in a powerful and irrefutable way

the essential importance and role of human fathers in human families.

If God is Father, how can any family be all it was created to be

without its own human father?

And how can human fathers think they’re not important to their families,

to their wives and children?

And how can families think that fathers are unimportant?

And how can society deny the societal importance of fatherhood?


And yet today, that is exactly what is happening.

In the America today,

more than 34% of all babies born are born to absentee fathers,

and 43% of children live in fatherless homes.

What would you expect when for 50 years so many forces in society,

including the Marxist-left, the feminist movement

and the gay rights movement,

have tried to convince us that fathers are not necessary to the family.


All this in spite of the fact that statistics show the devastating effects

of fatherless homes on society:

90% of homeless and runaway children

are from fatherless homes;[1]

as are 71% of pregnant teenagers;[2]

63% of youth suicides;[3]

71% of high school dropouts;[4]

and 85% of youths in prisons.


Fathers are absolutely important to their children—and to their wives.

The facts prove that

…and the revelation of the Fatherhood of God shows us why.

It’s because that’s the way God made us:

to share in the His mystery of the life and love of the Trinitarian Family,

by sharing in the mystery of the human family of

father, mother and children.


Does that mean that a family can’t survive and even flourish

without a father or a mother or even children?

Or does this demean heroic single-mothers who are trying their best

to raise their children alone?

Or does it mean that there’s something wrong with children

who don’t have a father active in their lives?

Of course not, absolutely not.


But are we better off with only a mother and not a father?

We might as well ask are we better off with only one arm,

or with two arms and no legs?

In the same way, every family is better off if it functions as God designed it to:

with both a mother and a father.


But not just any father.

The Fatherhood of God teaches us

that fathers are meant to be good fathers to their families.


Fatherhood has a dignity all its own, rooted in the dignity of God’s fatherhood.

But the Trinitarian mystery reveals

that the dignity of fatherhood always exists in relation

to the equal dignity of each member of the family:

God the Son (Jesus) is equal to God the Father,

even as Jesus is obedient to His Father.

And so, even as fathers and husbands lead their families,

they must always respect the dignity of each member of the family.


And at the core of this respect, at the core of being a good father,

is the same thing that’s at the core of the Trinitarian mystery: love.

To be a true father, as God created you, is to love.

And not to love as you feel like loving, but to love as God the Father loves.


And how does God the Father love?

Look around you: look at all you have,

your jobs, your houses, the sun shining outside,

your good health, and your wives and children.

God the Father gave you all that.

But then also look at every single beat of your heart,

and at every breath you take.

God also gives you those: he is always there, at every moment, caring for you.


That’s how a true father loves his children:

always there, always giving everything he can for the good of his children.


Now, note I said, “for the good of his children.”

We ask God for things all the time,

a lot of which he doesn’t give us because he loves us

and he knows it’s either it’s bad for us or he has something better in mind.


Human fathers have to do the same thing.

Sorry kids, but Dads, you should not give your children everything they want;

but you should strive to give them everything they really need,

and everything that you can that is truly good for them.

Is spoiling your children good for them?

Is letting them do whatever they want good for them?

As Scripture tells us:

“the LORD disciplines those he loves,

as a father [disciplines] the son he delights in.”


That’s how God the Father loves, and that’s the way human fathers should love.


But the greatest way to understand the love of God the Father

the words Jesus on the night before he died:

“the father and I are one….

he who has seen me has seen the Father.”

We see what God the Son does, and we see how God the Father loves:

like Father, like Son.

And so we see the love of a good father as Christ sacrifices

everything on the Cross out of love for his bride and his children.

And we see that same love as he comes back to be with them in the resurrection,   and as he keeps his promise:

“I will not leave you orphans… Behold, I am with you always.”


The Dogma of Most Holy Trinity,

is the most sublime mystery of our faith:

that God is One, but also three Divine Persons:

a personal communion of three persons

sharing one life and one love.


In this time of social upheaval and attempts to corrupt family life,

and specifically the degradation of fatherhood and husband-hood,

this great mystery reveals that marriage and family are created

to share in and truly be an image of the Trinitarian love and life,

and reminds us of the absolute importance of fathers to God’s plan

for the good of the family and the salvation of mankind.


As we now enter into more deeply the mystery of this Holy Mass,

and are drawn more profoundly into

the Communion of life and love of God the Father, Son and Spirit,

let us beg the Blessed Trinity to shower graces on the families of the world,

and especially all fathers, and most especially our own fathers.

By the grace of this Most Blessed sacrament

may God the Father, through the sacrifice of God the Son,

and the working of the Holy Spirit

renew in us a profound respect for the twofold blessing we celebrate today:             the most sublime mystery of the Most Holy Trinity,

and the great dignity and importa


[1] US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census. All stats taken from, and comparable to other websites.

[2] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999

[3] US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census

[4] National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools

Pentacost Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


In today’s 1st reading we hear the story of the first Pentecost,

and how on that great day the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples

“And suddenly there came from the sky           a noise like a strong driving wind… Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,

which …came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit           and began to speak in different tongues.”


It goes on to tell us that the disciples

immediately went out and started proclaiming the Gospel to the crowds

and that 3000 were baptized that day.


Some remember the dramatic events of that day

and wonder why these things don’t happen today:

today there is no loud wind, except perhaps a windbag preacher,

and the only flames of fire

are the candles around the Altar. If the Holy Spirit is here, why doesn’t he make himself known

like he did 2000 years ago in Jerusalem.

But you know, maybe sometimes he does.


As you all know, 6 weeks ago Pope John Paul II was canonized a saint.

So he’s and his life have been on my mind an awful lot lately.

It seems to me his whole life was witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I remember a few months after his election to the papacy,

when he returned to his hometown of Krakow Poland,

on Pentecost of 1979,

and stared down the atheistic-Communist government.

His words sting ring out, as he prayed:

“Send down your spirit! … And renew the face of the earth! This earth!”

And the crowd of 3 million Poles began to shout: “we want God! we want God!”

And Communism was over in Poland, and the fall of the Iron Curtain began.


But another memory of John Paul that came after his life stands out even more,

as I recall the vivid scenes of his funeral Mass,

9 years ago, on April 8th, 2005.

As terribly sad as that day was,

watching all the events transpire I remember thinking then:

this is the Holy Spirit—this is Pentecost.


I don’t know if you remember it, but I see it like it was yesterday.

4 million people gathered from all over the world,

came together, overflowing from St. Peter’s Square

into the streets of Rome

all to see a dead man.

And another 2 BILLION folks saw the funeral on TV.

Incredible….but as incredible as that was,

how much more amazing to see heads of state

from all the nations of the earth

standing together—more than ever assembled before.

The sight of the foreign minister of Iran shaking hands

with the foreign minister of Israel.

The sight of a Methodist President of the United States

and the Secularist Prime Minister France

kneeling next to each other before our Eucharistic Lord at Catholic Mass.

And then the wind blew, and blew, flipping the pages of the Book of the Gospels

laying on the casket back and forth—as if in invitation to read it all at once.

And then, you may remember, how at the end as the casket of the pontiff

was turned to the people one last time,

and at that very moment the clouds parted and the sun shone down

for the first time all day.


4 million people, 2 billion people, all different languages, all different faiths,

to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed

by the successors of the apostles…

…the wind buffeting, the fire of the sun descending.

Pentecost in the year 2005.


My friends, the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the Church.

And if that day wasn’t enough to prove his presence,

11 days later he made his presence known in perhaps a more subtle way,

but still, a truly powerfully supernatural way.


While all the worldly pundits droned on about how the new pope would have to

be young, vigorous and charismatic like the John Paul of 1978,

and would have to open to radical changes in the Church…

…the Holy Spirit thought differently.

Instead, he moved the cardinals in conclave to elect

one of the oldest of their number, a quite scholar: Pope Benedict XVI.

A staunch defender of tradition and orthodoxy, who had been responsible

for publicly reprimanding many of the men who would elect the new pope.

And still they would overwhelmingly vote for him,

because the Holy Spirit had chosen him.

And Pentecost in 2005 continued.


And then jump forward to 2013.

Pope Benedict resigns and again the cardinals elect a man no one thought of.

This time a cardinal from the 3rd world, the “new world.”

Another old man, but one who surprises us every day with his energy and wit,

and has the whole world taking a second look at the Catholic Church.

And yet he hasn’t made one change in doctrine or liturgy,

and, in fact, has affirmed strongly the teachings of his predecessors

—especially John Paul II and Benedict XVI—

on the most so-called “controversial” subjects.


Pentecost 2014.


But the Holy Spirit is not just manifested in great events or in the lives of Popes.


The real reason we don’t need extraordinary ostentatious displays of power

—like on the first Pentecost—

is because we have something even greater

that is a persistent powerful display of his presence.

2000 years ago Jesus Christ established his Church on earth.

And when he had ascended into heaven,

He and His Father sent their Holy Spirit into the Church,

like a wind, a breathe of life,

just as he had once blown into the lifeless body of Adam,

bringing him to life.

What we have is the Church, living and breathing,

working and preaching in the world.

And this is the great and dramatic sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence:

despite of all the weak men and women

who have been and are now her members,

despite the scores of weak, foolish and even sinful Popes,

and thousands of weak, foolish and sinful

bishops, priests and lay people,

in spite of all that,

the Church still stands after 2000 years,

as a beacon of light, truth and grace to the whole world.


Why seek spectacular shows of fire and wind and languages,

when see the power of the Holy Spirit protecting the pristine Word of God

flowing to us in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition,

and clarifying that Word through His continuing protection

of the teaching magisterium of the Church, especially the popes.

Why seek dramatic signs

when every single hour of every day of the week,

the power of the Holy Spirit turns bread and wine

into the Body and Blood of God the Son, Jesus Christ,

at Masses celebrated all over the world.

Why seek incredible displays of divine power

when every time a sinner kneels before a priest with sorrow for her sins,

the words of Christ to his first priest on that first Easter

echo over 20 centuries:

“receive the holy spirit: who’s sins you forgive are forgiven.”

And by the power of the Holy Spirit the sinner arises a saint.


Pentecost today—and every day!


And the Holy Spirit isn’t just manifest in His Church as a whole

—but also in each one of its members.

Years ago each of you were baptized in the name of

the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

As water was poured onto your head the Holy Spirit was poured into your heart       —and has abided there ever since.

And at your confirmation the Holy Spirit descended on you

in the fullness of his power

just as surely as he descended on that upper room on the disciples.

And he strengthen your Baptismal grace, and gave you new gifts

so that you possess inside of you every gift you need

to be the incredible saint, God created you to be.


So that when people ask me why

the Spirit doesn’t come in fire and wind and tongues,

in the end I have to respond:

2000 years ago the Spirit did all that to get our attention

and to make the point that he had arrived,

not only in the Church as one body,

but also in the individual members of that body.

So why are we so interested in about what he’s doing around us,

when we should be asking ourselves what he’s trying to do inside us?


Think of this, the same powerful Spirit of the Most High God

that made himself so clearly manifest at the first Pentecost

is the same Spirit that came to you in baptism and Confirmation.

The Spirit of Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude and Piety

and Reverence.

The Spirit Who 2000 years ago transformed those cowering sheep,

hiding behind that locked door in Jerusalem,

into bold prophets, and future martyrs, fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel,

–and converting 3000 people in one day.

That Spirit lives in you—and me.


But we forget.

Or perhaps we never quite understood

—or it wasn’t explained to us, or maybe we weren’t paying attention.

Okay, then let’s pay attention now

—that’s why we celebrate Pentecost every year!

Because just as the Holy Spirit has sustained the Catholic Church for 2 millennia

and made her a rock of truth and holiness

he is in you to give you every grace

to live in the fullness of the life and love of God

and to make you a light to the nations,

a witness to the truth,

a clear example of what it means

to love God with all your heart, mind soul and strength

and your neighbor as yourself.


If you want to see the Holy Spirit

all you have to do is let him go to work in your life.


But how do you do that?

First, you have to pray.

The first disciples weren’t just twiddling their thumbs in the upper room

–they were praying for 9 straight days for the Holy Spirit to come.

What is your prayer life like?

Do you make time every day to really talk to God, and to listen to him?

How can you know the Holy Spirit if you don’t regularly take time

to recognize and acknowledge his presence?


Second, you must stay close to the Church

—you must act like the member of the body of Christ that you are.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to separate the Church and the Spirit

—that’s like trying to separate the body and soul—it brings death.

And you can’t separate yourself from the Church

and still experience the Holy Spirit in your life

–that’s like plucking an eye from the body and expecting it to keep seeing.


As the Acts of the apostles tells us today,

the Holy Spirit came to the first disciples when

“they were all in one place together.”

Do you come to church regularly, and experience the power of the Holy Spirit

acting in the sacraments?

Do you unite yourself to the apostles and their successors

by studying the teachings of the Church ?


Third, are you trying to live a life consistent with those teachings?

Are you trying to live a moral life?

Are you following the way of the Lord Jesus which he revealed to his Church,

or are you flagrantly or carelessly following some other road?


And fourth, are you even trying to proclaim the Gospel to those around you

—either by your actions or your words?

How can you say you don’t experience the Spirit and his gifts in your life

if you never even try to cooperate with him or use those gifts?


My friends, the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the Catholic Church, and in us.

If only we recognize him and allow him to work in our lives.

Let’s begin today—right here and now.


Here at this Mass we come together to pray.

We hear the teachings of his Church, and unite ourselves to his apostles.

And we acknowledge his power acting in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

And we resolve that when we leave here today,

we will live our lives consistent with those teachings,

and we will proclaim those teachings to all we meet.


If you need things like the fire and the wind and miraculous speech

to believe the Holy Spirit is present to us today

what more do you want after seeing something like

the events in Rome 9 years ago at St. John Paul’s funeral?

But really, who needs that when you have

the miracle of the Church, the Word of God, the sacraments

and the Holy Spirit inside you.


And so, if there’s a loud noise to be made today,

let it come from us as we proclaim in our prayers [and in song]

our faith in the promises of Jesus.

And if there’s fire to burn today, let it burn in our hearts filled with love for Jesus.

And filled with the Spirit, united in the one Body of Christ Jesus,

let that Spirit come forth today through us,

as we boldly proclaim the Gospel to all the world.



Lord, send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Ascension Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ascension Sunday, June 1, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


Some six weeks ago the Church came together

to observe the Passion and death of Our Lord.

It was a time to remember the sacrifice of the Cross,

as well as the three days in the tomb when the early Church

experienced life without Christ.

Do you remember the gospel readings from those days?

How the apostles hid together in the upper room, a bunch of quivering cowards,

bolting the door because they were afraid

someone might come after the Master’s followers?

Despite the Lord’s repeated promise that He would rise from the dead,

the apostles lost confidence in Him.

But the Lord still kept His promise: at the end of the days in the tomb,

He conquered death

and walked right into that same locked upper room

and banished all fear and restored all hope.

The disciples learned in one three day lesson never to doubt Him again,

for He is the Messiah–the promised one  who keeps His promises.


After He had stayed with His apostles for 40 days,

teaching them and opening their minds and hearts to the truth,

it came time for Him to leave again

—to ascend, [as today’s second reading tells us]

to sit at the Father’s “right hand in the heavens,

far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion.”

And as He Ascended into heaven He made them three new promises:

that from his throne in in heaven he would send His Holy Spirit

to clothe them with “power from on high”

so that He would remain with them “always, until the end of the age”;

and that at the end of the age he would come back to them.

And this time, they believed in his promises.


Now, today’s Gospel from St. Matthew

tells us what Jesus said right before the Ascension,

and today’s 1st Reading from the Acts of the Apostles

gives us an account of what happened during the Ascensionitself,

but  neither of them tell us what happened after the Ascension.

To find that we need to go to the next passage in the Bible

that follows the text we read from Acts today.

There it tells us the 11 apostles:

“returned to Jerusalem …[and] went to the upper room ….

[They] devoted themselves with one accord to prayer,

together with [the] women,

and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”


They did not lose hope, as they did on Good Friday,

even though he’s gone away again.

Instead, they went to that same upper room they stayed in after the crucifixion,

but this time not to hide and whimper in fear,

but to wait and pray in hope for the fulfillment of Jesus promise

to send to His Holy Spirit.


Looking back on these events,

many of us are amazed at the apostles’ behavior before Easter.

The fools!

They had seen his miracles

–they saw him walk on water,

and calm a storm at sea;

–they saw him feed over 5000 people, twice,

and raise 3 people from the dead,

one who had been in the tomb for 4 days!

How could they have such little faith?

He was Jesus–God–and they knew Him!

Surely they remembered His promise that

on the third day He would rise from the dead!

How could they lose hope like that?


And yet, how many times have we lost hope in Christ?

How many times have we given up on Him?

Perhaps not by locking ourselves in our homes and barricading the door,

but in other ways.

How many times did the troubles in our lives seem so heavy

that we felt that even Jesus had failed us, or abandoned us,

and turned away to wallow in the darkness of despair,

rather than turning to Jesus, who is the light of the world?


Or how many times have we faced some powerful temptation

to do something Jesus clearly taught was sinful,

and we just gave in, saying “it’s too difficult,”

and maybe even blamed Jesus: “I prayed but Jesus didn’t help me”;

or maybe even, “I know what Jesus taught, but he was wrong.”


Or How many times have we been in a conversation with friends or family

and someone raised a criticism of the teaching of Christ or His Church,

and we just remained silent?


Every time we did these things we locked the door and cowered in fear

and lost hope in the promises of Jesus.


But one of the wonderful things about this Feast is that it reminds us that,

no matter how many times we’ve doubted, or been afraid to follow Jesus,

today, can be a new beginning.


We see this in today’s readings in a very subtle, but beautiful way.

Both today’s Gospel and 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles

tell us the events surrounding the Ascension.

Now, in general, the Gospels give us the story of the life of Jesus

when he walked in his body on the earth,

while the “The Acts of the Apostles,” gives us the story of the life of Jesus

once he had bodily ascended to heaven,

–the story of his life lived in his mystical body on earth

—the Church.

The Gospels record the failures and sins of men

—in particular the weaknesses, doubts and betrayals of the apostles—

but the Acts of the Apostles record a new beginning for the apostles.

No longer will they hide in fear, and never again will they deny the power of God,


What’s happened to make this change?

Of course, the resurrection happened—Christ conquered sin and death!

But in a sense, that was only a beginning.

Today we celebrate the fact that Christ Ascended bodily into heaven:

he not only rose from the dead and lived again in his body in 33 A.D.

–he then ascended into heaven and really lives there in his glorified body,

now and forever.

His chest heaves with the breath of life, his heart beats with love of God.

His ears are open to hear our prayers,

His mouth smiles when we show him love,

His eyes weep when we fall from grace.

His hands reach out to lift us when we fall,

and His arms open wide to welcome us into his peace.

And, as the Book of Revelation tells us, as he sits on his throne in heaven,

he looks out on us and says: “behold, I make all things new.”


Today  we remember that day when Our Lord ascended into heaven

a day that marks the end of one way of living

and the beginning of a new way of living.

A new way of living based on the three promises he made that day.

As promised, He has sent His Holy Spirit

—as we remember as we celebrate Pentecost next Sunday.

And by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus does remains with us,

even until the end of time,

in his Church, in his Word, and in his sacraments,

and through his sacraments, in our hearts.

And by the power of the Holy Spirit

he makes sinful, fearful and doubting cowards,

like the apostles and you and me,

into holy, courageous and faithful heroes.

And made confident by the fulfillment of these promises,

we live in joyful hope,

that he will surely keep his 3rd promise: he will come again in glory.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead,

yes, to cast out those who have not loved him,

but more magnificently, to raise up those who have loved him,

who have remained faithful,

who have kept his word, and followed his commandments.

Then, as St. Paul tells us today, we shall see “the riches of glory,”

and share “his inheritance among the holy ones.”


As we now enter more deeply into the mystery of this Holy Mass,

as the true Body of Jesus Christ enthroned in heaven,

descends to this altar through the action of the Holy Spirit,

we pray that, like the apostles on the first feast of the Ascension,

we will learn from our foolish mistakes of the past

and  from now on trust in His promises.

And that by the power of the Holy Spirit we can lay aside past fear and sin

and begin a new life of faith and hope in He who sits at the Father’s

“right hand in the heavens,

far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion.” So that we may remain with him, Our Lord Jesus Christ, always,

in the trials of this world, and in the glories of the world to come.

Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul

Celebrating Liberty. I wish everyone a happy Fourth of July this Friday. What a wonderful day: the anniversary of the formation of our great nation, “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal,’” with a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Sadly, in recent years some of our leaders have forgotten some of this, particularly as they try to diminish our God-given and constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty and freedom of speech in favor of their newly invented liberties, especially sexual liberty. And more and more the politically powerful use the government established “of…by…[and] for the people” as a tool to coerce “the people” to bend to their will.


And so, in union with Catholics all across America we continue this week to observe a Fortnight for Freedom to pray for our beloved country. Every evening this week we will have Holy Hours in the church (see the schedule below). Also please join us at the 10 am Mass on Friday, the 4th of July. Additionally, remember to keep the Fortnight at home by praying the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” daily, praying the Rosary daily, offering special penances/sacrifices, and/or praying the Novena to St. Thomas More. God bless you for your efforts, and God bless America.


Last Sunday’s Corpus Christi Procession. The Lord must love Eucharistic processions, because he gave us such a beautiful afternoon last Sunday to have ours—the prior week’s heat gave way and the morning rain and cloudy skies disappeared, as His sun shone down on the 300 or so folks who joined us. Thanks to all who came out, and especially to those who helped organize things: the parish staff, the choir, the altar boys, the sacristans, the flower ladies, the First Communicants, the Knights of Columbus, and so many others—forgive me for not naming you all. Thanks particularly to Patrick O’Brien, the overall coordinator. If you missed the procession, mark your calendars to join us next year.


How to Receive Communion. Over the last few months several people have asked me what I thought was the “proper” or “best” way to receive Holy Communion—specifically, should they receive in the hand or on the tongue. Coming off the Feast of Corpus Christi allow me to make few brief observations in this regard.


For the first few centuries of the Church receiving Communion in the hand was a common practice. But as time passed it became the practice to receive Communion directly on the tongue in order to assure that the Host was received reverently. This was the law of the Church for almost 14 centuries, and is still the general norm today. However, in 1969 Pope Paul VI allowed an exception: individual bishops can give permission to their people to receive Communion in the hand if it does not lead to any loss of reverence. While most bishops permit Communion in the hand, some, seeing a loss of reverence, are withdrawing that permission and requiring their people to receive only on the tongue. And if you ever watch a Papal Mass you see that folks who receive Communion from Pope Francis must receive on the tongue.


There are many reasons for not receiving on the hand. For example, consider the risk of having particles of the Host—each of which are also truly the Body of Christ—remain on your hand after you receive. Also, it is a fact of human nature that the more you handle an object, no matter how precious it is, the more likely it is that you will take it for granted and forget its value—and this is often the case with the Body of Christ. In this same line, the Host is no ordinary food, and receiving on the tongue—rather than handling it as we do most food—is a dramatic reminder of this.


Because of these and many other reasons, I recommend that all of my parishioners prayerfully consider receiving Communion on the tongue.


However, it is your choice, and there’s nothing illicit or wrong about receiving in the hand—there are many very good reasons for doing so. I am in no way reprimanding those who exercise this option, and I respect your choice.


But if you do take Communion in the hand, ask yourself: do I do it in a way that expresses and protects my belief in the Real Presence? For example, do I follow the ancient custom for reverent reception of Communion in the hand? That is: Receive by placing your left hand on top of your right hand as if you were creating a throne to receive your God, keeping your eyes on Christ; and then, stepping to the side carefully take the Host in your right hand and place It in your mouth, being careful to consume any crumbs remaining on your hands. Please remember, the Host must be “consumed at once, so that no one goes away with the Eucharistic species in his hand.” Also, you should not receive in the hand if you are holding something or someone (i.e., a baby) in your hands or arms, which would naturally tend to diminish the attention and care you give to the Host in your hand.


Please prayerfully consider my words, and I will respect your discernment.


Sunday Confessions. It does my heart good to see so many of you at Sunday morning confessions. But please remember that confessions should normally stop once Mass has started, since almost everyone in line has come to church primarily to participate in the Mass (and fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation). Also, remember that Sunday confession times are provided mainly for those who are in particular need or truly cannot attend on other days.


Summer Music. As in prior years the choir is now on hiatus for the rest of the summer (with a few exceptions). I want to thank all the choir members, especially Elisabeth Turco, our Music Director, for all their beautiful and hard work.


Position Open: Parish Secretary. Do you know anyone interested in becoming our parish secretary? The position involves about 30 hours a week, and includes general office work as well as assisting parishioners (at the front desk, via phone and email, etc.), maintaining parish records,  various forms of data entry, preparing correspondence, common secretarial duties, and other tasks to support the priests. The ideal candidate would possess the following attributes: a devout Catholic, trustworthy, able to keep confidences, organized, detail oriented, able to collaborate with others, good people and communication skills, familiarity with various common office software (especially MS Office, and preferably PDS) and hardware, and basic office skills. All applicants must have a minimum of a high school degree and be certifiable under our Child Protection policy. This is an hourly wage position, with benefits including health insurance, paid holidays, vacation and sick leave. Please send resumes to Mary Butler in the parish office or to


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Novena Prayers to Saint Thomas More

Prayer for Religious Freedom

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we come before you  // to entrust our prayers and petitions for our Church, nation and families.  // We pray for the conversion of hearts to protect religious freedom,  // the sanctity of human life and the sanctity of marriage. // We beg for your mercy and forgiveness  // for ways we have turned from your love,  // and pray in reparation for those sins committed against life and freedom. // We pray that our hearts be united to yours  // in order that all mankind may come together to worship and adore you  // in unity rooted in love and mercy. // We do this through the intercession of  // Our Blessed Mother, Mary Immaculate;  // St. Joseph, Guardian of the Church;  // St. Thomas More and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, our diocesan patrons; [St. Raymond] // and all the angels and saints. Amen.



Novena Prayers to St. Thomas More


Litany of St. Thomas More

(To be prayed each day after the Novena prayers that follow)


V. Lord, have mercy           R. Lord, have mercy. V. Christ, have mercy         R. Christ have mercy V. Lord, have mercy           R. Lord, have mercy. V. Christ hear us                  R. Christ, graciously hear us

V. St. Thomas More, Saint and Martyr,

R. Pray for us.

V. St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers.

R. Pray for us.

V. St. Thomas More, Patron of Justices, Judges and Magistrates.

R. Pray for us.

V. St. Thomas More, Model of Integrity and Virtue in Public and Private Life.

R. Pray for us.

V. St. Thomas More, Servant of the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ.

R. Pray for us.

V. St. Thomas More, Model of Holiness in the Sacrament of Marriage.

R. Pray for us.

V. St. Thomas More, Teacher of his Children in the Catholic Faith.

R. Pray for us.

V. St. Thomas More, Defender of the Weak and the Poor.

R. Pray for us.

V. St. Thomas More, Promoter of Human Life and Dignity.

R. Pray for us.

V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world.

R. Spare us, O Lord.

V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world.

R. Graciously hear us, O Lord.

V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world.

R. Have mercy on us.


Let us pray:

O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martyrdom and sainthood. Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life – the foundation of all other human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.


First Day


Dear St. Thomas More, in your earthly life, you were a model of prudence. You never thrust yourself rashly into any serious undertaking; instead, you tested the strength of your powers and waited on God’s will in prayer and penance, then boldly carried it out without hesitation. Through your prayers and intercession, obtain for me the virtues of patience, prudence, wisdom and courage.

Our Father…     Hail Mary…     Glory Be…


Glorious St. Thomas More, I beg you to take up my cause, confident that you will advocate for me before God’s Throne with the same zeal and diligence that marked your career on earth. If it be in accord with God’s will, obtain for me the favor I seek, namely _______.


V. Pray for us, O Blessed St. Thomas More.

R. That we may faithfully follow you on the hard road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life.


Now is said the Litany of St. Thomas More.


Second Day


Dear St. Thomas More, in your earthly life, you were a model of diligence. You shunned procrastination, applied yourself with fervor to your studies, and spared no effort in achieving mastery in any skill. Through your prayers and intercession, obtain for me the virtue of diligence and persistence in my preparations for all undertakings.

Our Father…     Hail Mary…     Glory Be…


Glorious St. Thomas More, I beg you to take up my cause, confident that you will advocate for me before God’s Throne with the same zeal and diligence that marked your career on earth. If it be in accord with God’s will, obtain for me the favor I seek, namely _______.


V. Pray for us, O Blessed St. Thomas More.

R. That we may faithfully follow you on the hard road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life.


Now is said the Litany of St. Thomas More, page


Third Day


Dear St. Thomas More, in your earthly life, you were a model of industriousness. You threw yourself wholeheartedly into everything you did, and you found enjoyment even in the most serious things. Through your prayers and intercession, obtain for me the grace of always having suitable employment, the grace to find interest in everything fitting, and the fortitude always to pursue excellence in whatever task God gives me to do.

Our Father…     Hail Mary…     Glory Be…


Glorious St. Thomas More, I beg you to take up my cause, confident that you will advocate for me before God’s Throne with the same zeal and diligence that marked your career on earth. If it be in accord with God’s will, obtain for me the favor I seek, namely _______.


V. Pray for us, O Blessed St. Thomas More.

R. That we may faithfully follow you on the hard road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life.


Now is said the Litany of St. Thomas More.


Fourth Day


Dear St. Thomas More, in your earthly life, you were a brilliant lawyer and a just and compassionate judge. You attended to the smallest details of your legal duties with the greatest care, and you were unflagging in your pursuit of justice tempered by mercy. Through your prayers and intercession, obtain for me the grace to overcome every temptation to laxity, arrogance, and rash judgment in my (legal) duties.

Our Father…     Hail Mary…     Glory Be…


Glorious St. Thomas More, I beg you to take up my cause, confident that you will advocate for me before God’s Throne with the same zeal and diligence that marked your career on earth. If it be in accord with God’s will, obtain for me the favor I seek, namely _______.

V. Pray for us, O Blessed St. Thomas More.

R. That we may faithfully follow you on the hard road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life.


Now is said the Litany of St. Thomas More.


 Fifth Day


Dear St. Thomas More, in your earthly life, you were a model of humility. You never allowed pride to lead you to take on enterprises beyond your abilities; even in the midst of earthly wealth and honor, you never forgot your total dependence on your Heavenly Father. Through your prayers and intercession, obtain for me the grace of an increase in humility, and the wisdom not to overestimate my own powers.

Our Father…     Hail Mary…     Glory Be…


Glorious St. Thomas More, I beg you to take up my cause, confident that you will advocate for me before God’s Throne with the same zeal and diligence that marked your career on earth. If it be in accord with God’s will, obtain for me the favor I seek, namely _______.


V. Pray for us, O Blessed St. Thomas More.

R. That we may faithfully follow you on the hard road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life.


Now is said the Litany of St. Thomas More.


Sixth Day


Dear St. Thomas More, in your earthly life, you were a model husband and father. You were loving and faithful to both of your wives, and a diligent provider and example of virtue for your children. Through your prayers and intercession, obtain for me the grace of a happy home, peace in my family, and the strength to persevere in chastity according to my state of life.

Our Father…     Hail Mary…     Glory Be…


Glorious St. Thomas More, I beg you to take up my cause, confident that you will advocate for me before God’s Throne with the same zeal and diligence that marked your career on earth. If it be in accord with God’s will, obtain for me the favor I seek, namely _______.

V. Pray for us, O Blessed St. Thomas More.

R. That we may faithfully follow you on the hard road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life.


Now is said the Litany of St. Thomas More.




Seventh Day


Dear St. Thomas More, in your earthly life, you were a model of Christian fortitude. You suffered bereavement, disgrace, poverty, imprisonment and a violent death; yet you bore all with the strength and good cheer for which you were known throughout your life. Through your prayers and intercession, obtain for me the grace to bear all the crosses that God sends me with patience and joy.

Our Father…     Hail Mary…     Glory Be…


Glorious St. Thomas More, I beg you to take up my cause, confident that you will advocate for me before God’s Throne with the same zeal and diligence that marked your career on earth. If it be in accord with God’s will, obtain for me the favor I seek, namely _______.

V. Pray for us, O Blessed St. Thomas More.

R. That we may faithfully follow you on the hard road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life.


Now is said the Litany of St. Thomas More.


Eighth Day


Dear St. Thomas More, in your earthly life, you were a loyal child of God and a steadfast son of the Church, never taking your eyes off the crown for which you strove. Even in the face of death, you trusted in God to give you the victory, and He rewarded you with the palm of martyrdom. Through your prayers and intercession, obtain for me and mine the grace of final perseverance and protection from sudden and unprovided death, so that we may one day enjoy the Beatific Vision in your glorious company.

Our Father…     Hail Mary…     Glory Be…


Glorious St. Thomas More, I beg you to take up my cause, confident that you will advocate for me before God’s Throne with the same zeal and diligence that marked your career on earth. If it be in accord with God’s will, obtain for me the favor I seek, namely _______.


V. Pray for us, O Blessed St. Thomas More.

R. That we may faithfully follow you on the hard road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life.


Now is said the Litany of St. Thomas More.


Ninth Day


Dear St. Thomas More, you spent your whole earthly life preparing for the life to come. Everything you endured prepared you not only for the glory God wished to bestow upon you in heaven, but for your work as the patron of lawyers, judges and statesmen, and steadfast friend to all who call upon you. Through your prayers and intercession, obtain for us aid in all our necessities, both corporal and spiritual, an follow in your footsteps, until at last we are safely home with you in the mansions our Father has prepared for us in heaven.

Our Father…     Hail Mary…     Glory Be…


Glorious St. Thomas More, I beg you to take up my cause, confident that you will advocate for me before God’s Throne with the same zeal and diligence that marked your career on earth. If it be in accord with God’s will, obtain for me the favor I seek, namely _______.

V. Pray for us, O Blessed St. Thomas More.

R. That we may faithfully follow you on the hard road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life.


Now is said the Litany of St. Thomas More.

Corpus Christi- Solemnity Of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Corpus Christi Sunday. Today Holy Mother Church calls us to appreciate more fully the rich meaning of the Most Holy Eucharist. While we also do this on Holy Thursday, the other great mysteries we remember during Holy Week and the Triduum may cause us to not spend as much time focusing on the Sacrament as we might. So today’s feast was established to pause and look at the mystery more carefully.


Through this Great Sacrament we are able to participate in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, 2000 years after the event in history, as at Holy Mass the one same sacrifice of the Cross is offered on the altar and Christ becomes truly present under the appearances of bread and wine. At the altar He unites our sacrifices and love to His offered on the Cross to His Heavenly Father. In Holy Communion the Lord, Creator and Redeemer of the universe, comes to us personally, in the flesh, entering into us and abiding in us. And as the Mass ends, Christ remains inside of us as we take Him out into the world, and He gives us the grace to proclaim His glory. And he also remains in the tabernacle, truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity, to all who visit the church. And there’s so much more.


How much of the truth about the Eucharist do we take for granted, or forget? How much do we not even know? Over the last 50 years many of the truths about the Eucharist have been downplayed, ignored, or even denied in preaching and catechesis. Thanks be to God, St. Raymond’s parishioners have developed a strong devotion to the Eucharist. Our beautiful church building testifies to this, saying: “this is the house of the Lord, where He is worshipped adored and loved, and where He remains truly, bodily, present.”


Even so, there is still much work to do for all of us. As St. John Paul II use to say, “the body speaks.” The bodily Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ speaks to us saying, “I love you,” “This is my body given up for you,” and “Behold I will be with you always.” But how do our bodies speak back to Him? Our bodily expressions of faith and devotion toward the Eucharist speak volumes, both to others and to ourselves. If you tell your child “I love you” with a bored tone, or if you never smile or hug your child, what does this tell them, and how does it affect your love for them? On the other hand: if you speak with a sincere tone and if you show affection in your actions, it not only more clearly communicates love to them, it reminds you to always treat them with love.


So please consider the following. DO WE:

genuflect before Our Lord present in the tabernacle whenever we enter the church (usually before sitting in our pew) or whenever we pass in front of the tabernacle?

chat loudly in church as if the Lord of Heaven were not present?

drop by church during the day or evening to visit Our Lord in the tabernacle?

spend time with Our Lord during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?

come to Mass dressed like we’re going to the Wedding Feast of Our King, or going to the beach?

dress modestly at Mass, remembering that immodest clothing can be a near occasion of sin for others?

focus prayerfully on the miracle transpiring on the altar during Mass, especially during and after the consecration?

receive Holy Communion reverently?

observe the Eucharistic fast for one hour before Communion?

examine our consciences so we don’t receive unworthily

confess our mortal sins to a priest before going to Communion?

approach Communion prayerfully, not looking around or laughing?

show some sign of reverence immediately before receiving Holy Communion: bowing or genuflecting, or even kneeling?

If we receive in our hands:

Do we wash our hands before Mass?

Do we extend both hands, one on top of the other, forming a throne for Our King?

Do we immediately reverently consume the Host in the sight of the priest/EMHC?

Do we examine our hands to make sure no particles remain?

Do we stay until Mass is over, and even afterwards to give thanks, or do we rush out of church as soon as possible?

Do we share our faith in the Eucharist with others?

Do we teach our children to do these things?


I am always moved and edified by the level of reverence our parish displays at Mass and during Communion. But we can all use a reminder now and again, especially on the annual Feast of Corpus Christi.


“Fortnight for Freedom.” Yesterday (Saturday) we began the third annual “Fortnight for Freedom” to pray for the protection of Religious Liberty, running from June 21 to July 4 (Independence Day). More than ever we need to pray, sacrifice, and give public witness as the Government continues to try force Christians, and especially Catholics, to accept a new secular morality, especially through recent regulations and court rulings contradicting our deeply held beliefs regarding contraception, abortion and marriage. These efforts deny our God given and constitutionally protected religious liberty and freedom of conscience. With all my heart, I strongly urge you to join us in prayerfully observing this “Fortnight for Freedom.”


Last week’s bulletin included a schedule of the Fortnight events taking place in the church. I’d also like to call your attention to other ways we will observe the Fortnight:

After every Mass we will pray the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” found in the pews (except when it is prayed during a Holy Hour before or after Mass).

All parishioners are encouraged to do one or more of the following:

Pray the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” daily

Pray the Rosary daily

Offering special penances/sacrifices

Pray the Novena to St. Thomas More.


Please see the 2-sided insert in this bulletin for a copy of the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” the “Novena to St. Thomas More.”


Vacation Bible School. Once again St. Raymond’s will be running Vacation Bible School this summer. This year’s program runs July 21 to 25 from 9:30am to noon, with the theme “Parade Around the Our Father.” All children in kindergarten through 6th grade are invited and encouraged to attend, and high school volunteers are needed. See the note below in the Religious Education section for more info. Please sign up as soon as possible.
Go Spurs, Go! I know all of you joined me in rejoicing and thanking God when the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA championship last Sunday. As you may recall, I was born and lived in San Antonio all my life until I moved here on my 31st birthday. What you may not know is that for many years I was Spurs season ticket holder. Sometimes I really miss Texas.


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles