Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 7, 2014

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 7, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

[1]I’ve been reading this week about Governor and Mrs. McDonnell’s trial for bribery.

To be honest, while I was pretty angry about what they did,

it seemed to me it was only business as usual in politics, but not a crime.

So I was honestly shocked that they were convicted on 11 counts.

Turns out the jury’s decision may have turned on

the definitions of some legal terms that the judge gave them,

one in particular that some argue is very different

than the definition usually applied.

 

Regardless of the merits of this particular case,

all this reminds me of the importance of understanding that

words have meaning,

and changing that meaning, or redefining words,

can have devastating effects on the world around us.

 

We see this all around us.

Of course, we see it in obvious and dramatic ways,

like efforts to change the definition of “marriage.”

But that’s more a result of a long series of word re-definitions,

successful efforts redefining the very words

that undergird and guide every discussion we have.

 

I think, in particular, of words like “tolerance” and “love.”

 

It used be that “tolerance” meant

coexisting peacefully with those you disagreed with,

or “putting up” with something you considered wrong or even evil,

but could not avoid.

This kind of “tolerance” allowed us then to live in peace

in a society with different religions, political views and ethnicities.

It allowed us to disagree but also to discuss things rationally,

negotiate respectfully,

and to enter into dialogue not about eliminating our differences

but freely working toward on our truly common goals.

In short, this tolerance was a big reason America could freely progress

as a society that embraced liberty,

including things like freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

 

But in recent years that definition has changed.

“Tolerance” no longer means merely coexisting or putting up with our differences,

now it means accepting another person’s position as correct,

even if it means approving of as good and true

something that a moment ago you saw as evil or a lie.

 

Of course in practice this means chaos:

Catholics would have to embrace the beliefs of atheists,

but atheists would have to embrace Catholicism.

But then they’d have to keep this up, constantly switching back and forth.

The only way to make this work is if tolerance goes in only one direction, which can only happen if there is coercion, forcing one side to move to the other.

 

But there are many ways to coerce people.

When I was young and studying martial arts I was taught the principle of using other people’s strengths to defeat them.

It’s a very successful principle in any kind of fight or struggle.

That’s what the terrorists did on 9/11

using the freedom and openness of our society to attack us,

and they have continued to do the same for 13 years.

 

And it’s also been used very successfully in America to attack Christianity.

One of the strongest doctrines and virtues of Christianity is “love.”

So, our opponents have tried use that strength against us,

by trying to redefine, ever so subtly, the definition of “love.”

 

And it’s working.

Many people now define love

not as willing and striving for the true good of the other,

but as never saying or doing anything that might offend someone else.

So that since a Christian believes in love as the first and greatest virtue,

with this new definition a Christian would be bound

not to say anything negative about other people’s sinful behavior,

lest they offend them.

Even if that behavior is destructive, even self-destructive.

And since Christians believe we can sin in our thoughts,

this redefinition tells a Christian that love means

he can’t even think something negative about other people’s sinful behavior.

 

So for a Christian, it now apparently becomes a sin

to merely recognize a sin when you see it.

 

And from there it’s only a short step

to accepting the one-way redefinition of tolerance,

to accepting the evil as good,

to embracing what you once merely put up with.

_______

 

But all this runs directly against the complete message of Scripture.

For example, today’s first reading from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel tells us:

“If…you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,

the wicked shall die for his guilt,

but I will hold you responsible for his death.”

Here and elsewhere Scripture makes it very clear

that we must recognize sins around us,

and that we cannot either remain silent or actively accept them.

 

But people try to take the Scripture out of context

and even twist the words of Jesus to justify the acceptance of sins.

One of the most common examples is pointing out that

Jesus ate and drank with all sorts of people,

even the “Gentiles and tax collectors”,

and then try to use this to convince us that Jesus

accepted their sinful behavior out love.

But they forget that when the pious Jews complained to Jesus

about his eating with sinners

Jesus didn’t tell them they were being intolerant and unloving

but instead he said:

“People who are in good health do not need a doctor;

sick people do.

I have come to call not the self-righteous, but sinners.”

In other words, Jesus said the tax collectors were sinners who need to change,

comparing them to sick people who needed to be cured.

 

Some then they try to confuse things,

again they use our strengths against us,

twisting Scripture out of context to redefine the meaning of love.

For example, take today’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“The commandments …are summed up in this saying, namely,

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ”

Love does no evil to the neighbor;

hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

They argue that hurting your neighbor’s feelings isn’t loving,

and that the 10 Commandments and sins aren’t that important

–loving is all that really matters.

 

The problem is, St. Paul doesn’t accept their simplistic redefinition of love.

He does NOT equate love with avoiding making other people feel bad,

and he is not saying we don’t have to keep the commandments.

He’s saying that the commandments themselves define what true love really is:

it’s not loving to commit adultery—no matter how good it feels;

it’s not loving to kill or steal

—no matter how many problems it might solve for you or your loved ones.

 

St. Paul tells us: “Love does no evil to a neighbor”

Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus tells us:

“I was … sick and …you did not visit me.’

…’Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these,

you did it not to me.’

Is it loving to just stand by and let your neighbor be destroyed by evil?

By not doing something to help—isn’t that the same as doing evil?

If your brother is sick, you have an obligation to help him!

 

But how many times do we fail to love our neighbors enough to even,

as Jesus says in today’s Gospel:

“go and tell him his fault.”

Not with hate or contempt, but with patience and a depth of love

that isn’t seen in the cowardice of the easy way out of silent acceptance

or false tolerance.

In love I would not accept cancer as a good thing for my brother to have.

And in love, I will not embrace, accept or even ignore

the sin in my brother’s life.

Instead, with patience, prudence, and in love, I must, as Ezekiel tells us,

“speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,

… trying to turn him from his way”

______

 

Jesus tells us:

“If your brother sins…,

go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.

Sometimes this works.

I remember once, years before I entered the seminary

when I still too lax in practicing the faith,

the 10 year old son of a dear friend of mine asked me one day

if I had been to Mass that Sunday.

And when I said “no” he broke down in tears telling me

I needed to go to Mass because he didn’t want me to go to hell.

Those were not tears of intolerance, and he wasn’t correcting me out of hate.

And I haven’t missed a Sunday Mass since.

 

But sometimes our lone voice isn’t enough to convince the people we’re close to

that what they’re doing is seriously wrong or evil.

And sometimes not even the voice of even all of our family and friends

is enough to wake us up to the dangerous presence of sin in our lives.

And so Jesus goes on to tell us:

“If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.

If he refuses to listen even to the church,

then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”

_______

 

The Church sometimes teaches things that are very unpopular

—unpopular but true and good for us.

And so sometimes, when something is very serious, she warns her children

by being very strong and strict with them:

sometimes even cutting them off

from sharing the fullness of life with the Church.

For example,

she denies Holy Communion to any person in the state of mortal sin,

especially Catholics who publicly and obviously persist in grave sin.

She even sometimes excommunicates some of her children, not out of hate,

but as a medicinal warning.

In love, and as a last resort, she treats them,

according to Jesus’ own specific instructions,

like the Jews were supposed to treat “a Gentiles or a tax collector”

—as outcast from the community.

But at the same time she also treats them as Jesus treated

“a Gentile or a tax collector”:

she goes to them over and over and calls them, in true love,

to recognize their sins, amend their lives,

and receive Christ’s forgiveness and reconciliation.

_________

 

As the saying goes: even the devil can quote Scripture.

But we must not to be misled by people

who quote one or two lines of Scripture out of context

or twist common sense beyond all recognition,

to redefine the most basic concepts of faith and reason.

Instead, we must not be afraid or intimidated into forsaking

the truth and the complete message of revelation.

In a world that is more and more confused about

the true meaning of love and tolerance,

we must always love our neighbor enough

to never confuse love with the acceptance of evil.

And we must not remain silent when sin is destroying our neighbor.

Because the Lord who loves us and calls us to love and help each other

is not confused at all.

And he is not silent.

He tells us very simply:

“If …you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,

I will hold you responsible….”

because: “Love does no evil to the neighbor.”

[1]  This is the way I began the homily at 7pm Saturday and 845am Sunday Masses. At 1030am I added the following before the rest: “In the movie ‘The Princess Bride’ one of the characters kept saying the phrase, ‘that’s inconceivable.’ And one of the other characters would respond, ‘I do not think that word means what you think it means.’ I feel like that sometimes when people use some words nowadays. I thought about that this week when I read about Governor and Mrs. McDonnell’s trial for bribery….” I then went on with the above text.

Are You An Adult Interested In Learning More About The Catholic Faith?

St Raymond’s Adult Religious Education offers two venues:

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)- the process by which adults are instructed in the Doctrine of the Church and are prepared to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, First Penance (Confession) , Holy Eucharist (Communion) and Confirmation.   This class is offered on Monday evenings from 7:30 to 9:00 pm in the Rectory Classroom (Maurer Room) from September 8, 2014 until March 30, 2015 (except for Holidays). This program is designed to prepare 1) adult non-Catholics seeking information to understand and/or to enter the Catholic Church, and 2) adult baptized Catholics seeking First Holy Communion and/or Confirmation.  Anyone who desires a better understanding of Catholic teachings and practices are welcomed.  No registration is required. If you have questions call Bob or Bev Ward, 703-644-5873 or via e-mail at roberteward3@verizon.net.

Bible Study- St Raymond’s will offer a study of the Book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul with an in depth look at how the Sacred Scriptures serve as the foundation for Catholic doctrine and teachings. The program is offered every Tuesday morning from 9:30 to 11:00 A.M. (except for holidays) in the Parish Hall in the basement of the Church; and again on Tuesday evenings from 7:30 to 9:00 P.M. in the same location.   Classes will be offered from Tuesday, September 9, 2014, until Tuesday, May 19, 2015.

The series will consist of lectures and discussions led by Bob Ward (MA in Theology with concentration on Sacred Scriptures from Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College). The course is also related to the Great Adventure: A Journey Through the Bible presented by Jeff Cavins on EWTN. No prerequisites or prior study required. All are welcome. Please bring your Bible. For further information please call Bob Ward at 703-644-5873 or via e-mail at roberteward3@verizon.net.

 

Additional RCIA and Bible Study information and important dates can be found under the Adult Religious Education tab under Ministries & Groups then Religious Education.

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

“And They’re Off….” It’s interesting that the beginning of a new school year also marks a new year in the life of an entire community, even a nation. And in a sense it is right that it should, inasmuch as “school” is about our children, and our lives should revolve around our children.

And so a new year begins in the life of St. Raymond’s parish, as various programs gear up to go into full speed, especially programs serving our children directly. In particular CCD/Religious Education and the programs of our Youth Apostolate are ready to serve your families: CCD starts this Sunday (tonight). If you haven’t signed up for CCD yet please do so as soon as possible, especially if your children are hoping to receive First Communion or Confirmation this year.

Another program set to restart is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). If any adult you know is interested in becoming a Catholic, or is a Catholic in need of the sacrament of Confirmation (or First Communion and Confession) this is the course for them. Bob Ward, himself a convert many years ago, leads a lively, faith-filled and information-packed discussion of the basics (and more) of the Catholic faith, and during the second semester I will join in teaching about 5 or 6 of the topics. You can contact Bob and Bev Ward at 703-644-5873 or roberteward3@verizon.net with any questions. Classes begin this Monday (tomorrow), September 8, at 7:30pm in the Rectory classroom (the “Maurer Room”).

But this class is also designed to be a refresher course for all adult Catholics. I wish I could require every parishioner to sit through this course since, being honest with ourselves, most adult Catholics don’t know their faith nearly as well as they should. And this course is a perfect way to begin to fix this. So please consider joining this class—even on a week-to-week/topic-to-topic basis. Come to one class (no need to sign up in advance), and I guarantee, you will not regret it.

We also begin a new season of pro-life events, leading-off  on September 20 with Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, PhD, the nationally renowned neuroscientist-theologian, who will talk about “End of Life Issues.” Please see the “St. Raymond’s Respects Life” corner below for other important events coming up in September and October.

This is just scratching the surface: we have CYO basketball, the Mother’s Group, Bible Study, the Choir, and all the rest of the parish groups/committees… Please see the rest of the bulletin below (and every week!) for lots of opportunities to get involved and grow in your Catholic faith and as a member of the Church here at St. Raymond’s in the coming year.

Finally to kick-off the year for all of us I invite you all to our Parish Picnic next Sunday, September 14, from 1-4pm here on the Parish grounds. Lots of food and fun for kids and adults alike—a great way to meet and get to know your fellow parishioners. For new parishioners (and visitors) this is a great opportunity to meet people and learn more about the parish; for “old timers” this is one of the best chances you will have all year to welcome others into the a deeper participation in the life and fellowship of our parish—don’t pass it up!

 

On a More Somber Note. This Sunday (today) our second collection is taken up for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, to support urgent humanitarian needs facing the people in Iraq, Gaza, Syria, and surrounding countries to which refugees have fled. We have all read or heard the sickening accounts of this persecution, especially the barbarism of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”) toward Iraqi Christians: the beheadings, the crucifixions, the torturing of …on and on.

These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, just as surely as the person sitting next you at Mass is. They are us, except for the thousands of miles that separate us. But the leaders of ISIS would clearly eliminate that difference if they could: “See you in New York,” said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, when he was freed from American custody in 2009. Now he is the leader of ISIS, murderer and persecutor of 1000s of Christians in Iraq and Syria.

We must help our Christian brothers and sisters against these barbarians. So be generous with your donations today. But even more importantly, be generous with your prayers. Pray as you would for your flesh and blood brother or sister, your own child or parent. Pray that Jesus may end this carnage, violence and terror, and stop the rampage of these Islamist barbarians. Pray that He give our fellow Christians the grace of faith, courage and peace to endure what they must. Pray for those who have fled, and those who have not been allowed to flee. And pray that no Christian anywhere in the world should have to flee his home to maintain his life and faith in Christ.

Many people have told me how angry they are at ISIS, and how this troubles their consciences, knowing that we must “love our enemies.” But “anger” is not the same as “hate.” Anger is an emotion, a passion, and it is not in itself evil. Like another emotion, “affection,” it can lead to good or evil, depending on what we do with it. If we let anger be controlled by hatred and bitterness, it will lead us into terrible sin. But if we let anger be guided by reason and charity, it can serve the common good, strengthening our courage, determination, perseverance and generosity to fight against evil.

This can include engaging in a “just war” against our enemies, i.e., not people we hate, but people who hate us. The Church has always taught: “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.…For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors…” (CCC 2265).

So, let our “righteous anger” at ISIS (and their comrades) strengthen our determination to do everything in our power to help and defend our Christian brethren, and to fight these evil men with all the weapons at our disposal: prayers, money, and the political influence of a citizen of the greatest Republic on earth.

But let that anger be truly righteous, governed by right reason and charity. “Loving your enemies” doesn’t mean we have to embrace them with open arms. True love wishes the other good, and the ultimate good is heaven, and this is accomplished only with conversion from sin. So “love your enemies,” by praying for their conversion.

 

More Prayers. In the last two weeks reports have surfaced that Pope Francis is “in the crosshairs of ISIS.” So Let us pray for the safety and courage of our beloved Holy Father. And as we remember the anniversary of “9/11” this week, let us pray for all those who have died in this war, and for the continued safety of our beloved nation.

 

Oremus pro invicem, Fr. De Celles

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Retreat. As I write this column on Wednesday I am still riding the wave of spiritual refreshment from being on retreat last week (Mon.-Fri., August 18-22). I spent the week with the Dominican Nuns in Linden. Actually, since they’re cloistered I didn’t spend much time “with them” in the usual sense. But joining them in their prayers, chanting their Divine Office throughout the day and celebrating Mass for them, in some ways I felt closer to them than if I had spent hours chatting with them.

Theirs is a simple monastery, not designed for visitors to make personal retreats. But there’s a little apartment for visiting priests, and so I took advantage of that, the chapel, the community liturgies, as well as the beautiful natural setting of the mountain-top monastery to spend a week with Christ.

Canon Law requires all priests to take such a retreat every year, because it’s all too easy for priests to get so focused on the things of the Lord that we fail to focus on the Lord Himself. And if we don’t focus on Him as the source and purpose of our lives and ministries, we will wither as persons, Christians and priests. “I am the vine,” Jesus says, “you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Although there is no similar mandate in canon law for the laity, spending time in prayer, mediation and resting with the Lord is important for you too. You can also get too caught up in things, either the things of the Lord or the things of the world. So it’s necessary for you to also take time to retreat from the world. Not just to go on vacation, but to go away with the Lord. That’s really what Sunday should be about, at least in part. And every day you should take some time to retreat away from the world, in little ways, to be with Jesus, to pray. And I’d encourage you to consider going on an actual retreat—either a group retreat directed by a priest, or just go off for a day or two alone to a holy place (a retreat house, a monastery, a shrine, etc.), like I did this year, taking just a few good holy books, the bible and my rosary.

In any case, pray every day, and let at least Sunday be a day of prayer and rest with the Lord.

 

Summer’s Close. With this Labor Day weekend the summer “officially” comes to a close. Most of us still, I think, try to make summer a time of slowing down the pace, working a little less and setting aside time to visit with friends and family, whether on vacations or just on a weekend or evening. It’s a good and healthy thing—very much in line with our human nature, the way God made us.

I hope you had a good summer in this sense. Even if there were crosses, such as family or personal illnesses, I hope there was time for you to rest and recreate. I know for myself this was the first summer in a long time that I’ve been able to do this, at least somewhat. It seems the last four or five summers something always came up to override my plans to “slow down.” This summer, though, by the grace of God, in about mid-July I was able take things a little easier. I don’t want you to think I wasn’t working: I simply committed to actually take my full day off every Tuesday and to try not to work too late every evening. I hope I didn’t ever neglect my essential duties to you—I apologize for anything that fell through the cracks. But I thank the Lord for the opportunity to rest a bit, and hope that you were able to do the same (both “slow down” and “thank the Lord”).

 

School Year Begins. Labor Day also means our kids are back in school. I hope and pray that all of you “kids” have a wonderful year of growing in knowledge and wisdom. Apply yourself to your school work, and to a reasonable amount of extracurricular activities, and excel as best you can. But remember that as important as grades and victories, etc., are, it is even more important to simply learn. And to learn not just what’s in the books, but to learn how to think, using reason and good judgment. Always respect authority, but remember not to accept everything on face value, even if it might be written in a book. Most especially, respect the authority of your parents, and the authority of Christ and His Church. I’m sorry to say, sometimes people (teachers, coaches, friends etc.) with all good intentions, will tell you things that are just not right. Make sure you talk to your parents about what you’re learning in school, and what the people at school are doing and saying. God created us to live and learn first and foremost in the family, and our parents are our primary teachers. The family is the house of love: your parents love you more than any teacher or friend (as good as they are) could ever dream of—and Jesus loves you even more!

Remember what was said of our Lord when he was a 12 year old: “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.” It’s not just about academics or sports: really growing requires advancing in grace,   and becoming the great men and women God created you to be. So let this be a year of staying close to Christ and growing in holiness and your Catholic faith. Do good, and avoid all that is evil. Pray, and know that Jesus wants to give you all the grace you need.

So, spread your wings a bit this year, be curious and inquisitive, but always stay close to your parents and Jesus, and count on them to guide you through what I hope will be a wonderful year for all of you.

 

CCD/Religious Education. A complete academic education includes learning about Jesus Christ and His Church, so a new school year means we can’t neglect continuing Catholic education. Like any good education, that involves work at home and in school. So, parents, teach your kids about their Catholic faith informally at home AND make sure they have some formal, systematic, academic learning as well—either at home (according to a disciplined plan), in Catholic schools, or in our parish CCD/Religious Education program.

Our CCD/RE school year begins next weekend. Registration forms are in the narthex, outside the RE office in the parish hall (downstairs) and online on our website. Please take advantage of this program so that the school year can be truly all it should be.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Note: I write this column on Sunday, August 17, since I will be on retreat all week until August 23.

 

Assumption High Mass. Praised be Jesus Christ! Thanks to all of you who came out to the Extraordinary Form High Mass on the Assumption. I was hoping that we would have 300 to 400 people (a good attendance for any Holy Day evening Mass). But I was stunned to find a standing room only crowd. Thanks to all of you who came out, whether out of devotion to the Old Mass, or out of curiosity or nostalgia, or simply in response to my asking you. I was moved beyond words.

 

And while I was hoping that those who came would have a positive and prayerful experience, I was completely overwhelmed as everyone I could see coming out of Mass was smiling (though a few were crying), and one after another approaching me to express their  gratitude, appreciation and joy. Young people and old; older folks who had fond memories from their youth reawakened, and younger folks who had “never seen anything so beautiful.” The music was amazing, the servers were reverent, and I thank the Good Lord almost no one knew enough to recognize all my mistakes. It was a wonderful evening.

 

Considering the overwhelmingly positive response, I now plan to schedule three or four more Masses like this throughout the coming year. But my main hope is, as I wrote in the program for the Mass: “that having participated in this beautiful Extraordinary Form of the one Mass of the Roman Rite you may come away with both an increased appreciation for our rich Catholic liturgical heritage, and a deeper understanding of the Mass in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms—both in its ceremonies, and in its profound theological meaning. I pray that, through the Blessed Mother’s intercession, this will be reflected in the reverent and prayerful celebration of all Holy Masses at St. Raymond’s.” After witnessing the overwhelmingly positive reaction of so many of you, I have great confidence that this hope will be fulfilled.

 

Thanks again, to all who came and all who helped make it possible. And thanks to those donors who generously helped to defray the additional costs. And above all, thanks be to Our Lord and Our Lady, and Saint Raymond.

 

Robin Williams, Suicide, and Depression. Many Americans were shocked and saddened of the news of the suicide of Oscar winning actor and comedian Robin Williams. To be frank, I was never a big fan of his, but there is no denying his tremendous and varied talents and the wide numbers of people whom he entertained and made laugh.

 

His death makes us pause to think about many things. First, that all the money and success in the world doesn’t mean much in the end. It clearly doesn’t buy happiness, and it can’t conquer death. I’m sorry to say that it seems that Mr. Williams had no particular faith in God, and particularly no faith in Jesus. So that when he had to face his depression he apparently saw death as his only hope. If only he had had faith in Christ.

 

Does that mean that all people who commit suicide don’t have faith in Jesus—even self-proclaimed devout Catholics? By no means. It simply means that faith in Jesus Christ leads to real hope for millions of people who would otherwise give in to despair. It means that so many people who might otherwise feel all alone know that Jesus loves them perfectly and completely, and will never abandon them.

 

Williams’ death also makes us think of the reality of depression. All of us get depressed, in the sense that we get sad or emotionally low. But “clinical depression” is something else. It is a medical illness, often caused by real physical problems, such as chemical imbalances (I speak as a complete amateur here). Often it’s the result of a combination of psychological, environmental and physical factors. But it is never something to be ashamed of, and it is always something we should seek help with. Sometimes this involves just talking to family and friends, but when necessary we should not hesitate to seek professional help, even if it’s just mentioning your symptoms to your family physician. The more severe the depression, obviously, the more imperative that one seeks assistance.

 

Of course, there is a spiritual component to dealing with depression as well. Hope in Christ and the grace He pours out on us is an amazing thing. It helps put all things in perspective, can carry us through our darkest moments, and can heal every illness. Even so, sometimes the illness overcomes our hope. And sometimes, just as faithful Christians succumb to cancer and heart disease, faithful Christians also succumb to clinical depression, even to the point of suicide.

 

Although throughout history there have been those who try to portray it as a noble thing, and many today make the same argument, suicide is never, never good or honorable. It is always a sad, and evil thing. That is not at all to say that the people who commit suicide are always sad or evil people. Far from it. Most are simply ill: it’s estimated that around 90% of the people who commit suicide in our country have some sort of psychiatric disorder, e.g., clinical depression.

 

If you have had a loved one who has committed suicide, my heart goes out to you, and, much more importantly, so does the mercy of Christ. Our hope is in Him, Who knows the hearts of all, and finds no blame in one who dies as the result of a psychological disorder, such as depression, that robs one of the ability to truly freely choose life over death.

 

And if you are one who has ever considered suicide, or perhaps actually attempted suicide, know that you are not alone. Your family and friends are there for you. And the Church, the parish, your priests and health care professionals are here to help you. Most of all, be confident that Christ is here for you: He loves you, He will never abandon you, and He is bigger and more wonderful than any evil or darkness in your life. Have faith in Him, hope in Him, and trust in His infinite love for you.

 

Let us pray for the soul of Robin Williams, and all those who have died by their own hand. While it is right to judge their action as absolutely wrong, we do not judge their souls. We leave that to our just God, and His boundless mercy. And let us pray for all who suffer from depression. May they find the help they need in friends, professionals and brothers and sisters in Christ. And may the grace of Christ transform their sadness into joy, their despair into hope.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq continue to suffer bloody persecution at the hands of the Islamist terrorist army that calls itself the “Islamic State,” or “IS” (formerly  the “Islamic State in Syria and Iraq,” or “ISIS”). At last the governments of the west are starting to take note, and we finally saw our president begin last week to take some military action to defend “minorities” in Iraq. But we cannot let up in our prayers and other efforts to protect our persecuted brethren.

 

Excerpt from Pope Francis’ Angelus address, Sunday August 10.

 

Dear brothers and sisters,

          The news reports coming from Iraq leave us in dismay and disbelief: thousands of people, including many Christians, driven from their homes in a brutal manner; children dying of thirst and hunger in their flight; women taken and carried off; people massacred; violence every kind; destruction of historical, cultural and religious patrimonies. All this gravely offends God and humanity. Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God!

          I thank those who, with courage, are bringing succour to these brothers and sisters, and I am confident that an effective political solution on both the international and the local levels may be found to stop these crimes and re-establish the [rule of] law. In order better to ensure those dear suffering populations of my closeness to them, I have named [Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples] Cardinal Fernando Filoni as my Personal Envoy in Iraq, who shall depart from Rome tomorrow [Monday].

          In Gaza, also: after a truce, war has once again resumed – a war that cuts down innocent victims and does nothing but worsen the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Let us pray together the God of peace, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary: Grant us peace, O Lord, in our days, and render us artificers justice and peace.

 

Excerpt from an article in The Tablet (International Catholic News Weekly)

Headline: “Iraqi Patriarch calls for more airstrikes as displaced minorities face threat of humanitarian crisis” (August 11, 2014 by Liz Dodd)

The US must carry out airstrikes on Islamic State [IS] militants across northern Iraq and not confine its intervention to Erbil, the Baghdad-based Chaldean Patriarch has said. Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako also voiced concern that “death and sickness are grabbing the children and elderly people” among the thousands of displaced Iraqis seeking food, water and shelter in overcrowded cities.

          The patriarch urged US President Barack Obama to carry out airstrikes on militants in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, saying that the decision only to provide military assistance to Erbil, where 100,000 refugees have taken shelter, was “disappointing”.

          Three days of US air strikes on jihadists closing in on Erbil have enabled Kurdish forces to retake some positions held by IS. Meanwhile the US is reportedly considering evacuating refugees still trapped on Mount Sinjar, where thousands of Yazidis fled when the city of Qaraqosh, which was also home to a large Christian community, fell to IS last week. The US Government today confirmed it is arming Kurdish forces.

          The British Government, which has so far resisted calls for a military intervention, said today that the RAF would start dropping humanitarian aid supplies “imminently”.

          The Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, described the US airstrikes as “something that had to be done, otherwise [the IS] could not [be] stopped”. Speaking on Vatican Radio, he questioned why IS had been allowed to gain such a foothold. “Was it not a lack of intelligence? … And then: who gave to these [IS fighters] such sophisticated weapons?”

          Patriarch Sako warned of the “deplorable situation” facing Christians and Yazidis who had fled their homes and were now reduced to sleeping in the streets and public parks. As well as those who have fled to the city of Erbil, some 60,000 Christians have fled to the northern Iraqi cities of Dohuk and Kirkuk, the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah, and as far as the capital, Baghdad, the patriarch told the charity Aid to the Church in Need.

          Mgr Nizar Semaan, chaplain to the Syrian Catholic Community in the UK, broke down on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Programme as he described the plight of those who had fled his home town, Qaraqosh. “Children, women, elderly people, young people are sitting on the street with no milk, nothing to drink, under the sun. Women are going to find something to eat for children, elderly people are without medicine. What kind of humanity is this?”

          He urged the international community: “If you are not able to protect us, welcome us. Open your door for us. We cannot stay and die there.”

          The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, said the situation in the city was disastrous. He said: “We are struggling. It’s beyond our capacity. We don’t have enough space: schools, churches and homes are open. It’s a disaster.”

          The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, reiterated the call he made on Friday for the UK to offer asylum to those fleeing IS.

          The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, agreed that those refugees who wanted to travel “should be welcomed”, but emphasised their right to stay in their home country.

          “The Christian presence in Iraq is hugely important. When Christians move out, humanity is closer to total breakdown. I think the most important thing is to create safety in their own country,” he said.

          The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has announced it has launched an appeal for displaced Christians in northern Iraq.

 

GOOD NEWS. Amidst all the bad news that seems to surround us today, here’s a little bit of good news for you. On August 8 long-time parishioners Bob and Bev Ward celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Years ago (16?) my predecessor, Fr. Gould, asked Bob and Bev to take over the CCD program and they’ve been teaching the faith at St. Raymond’s ever since. Now they run the RCIA as well as two weekly Bible Studies. And they continue to work with the Diocesan Conference for the Engaged, helping engaged couples prepare for marriage. But more than their “official” teaching they teach us by the wonderful example of Christian living they show us, especially the superlative example of their love for each other, and how they share that love with anyone who comes into their lives. We are so blessed to have them in our parish. Congratulations Bob and Bev on 50 years of showing the world what Christian marriage and love are all about. May the Lord Jesus shower you with His graces, may His Mother Mary keep you in her tender care, and may St. Raymond guide you in all do for his parish.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This coming Friday, August 15, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. Masses will be scheduled at the usual times (see below), but this year we will have a special treat at the 7pm Mass on Friday: we will celebrate a Sung High Mass of the Extraordinary Form (the “Traditional Latin Mass”). This is a first for St. Raymond’s, and I chose this particular feast for a reason: as the Blessed Mother was taken up into Heaven, body and soul, in a certain mystical way we are all taken up into Heaven at every Mass, as God the Son comes to us in the Eucharist. And where Christ is, there also are the Father and Holy Spirit, with Mary and all the saints and angels of Heaven adoring Them.

The Book of Revelation records the Heavenly liturgy, and telling us: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready…Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb!” [Rev. 19:7,9]. “Then…I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them…” [Rev. 21:2-3]

Vatican II repeated this ancient teaching: “In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that Heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God… With all the warriors of the Heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them….” [Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 8].

How many of us see Mass like this, approaching the altar as Mary, the angels and saints approach the throne of God, with  a profound and overwhelming sense of awe, reverence and sacredness?

Prior to Vatican II this was what the Church emphasized in her teachings about the Mass. And it was to reinvigorate appreciation of these same ancient teachings that Vatican II called for reforms in the celebration of Mass that would help Catholics to understand this more fully. Sadly, while many of the changes introduced by Pope Paul VI in the Novus Ordo (“New Order”) of the Mass were very helpful to this end, many Catholics wrongly came to think that the changes meant a complete break with both the old ways of doing things and the old ways of understanding the meaning of the Mass itself.

Because of this, I believe that one of the best ways to understand the Novus Ordo Mass is to better understand the form of Mass that came before it, that inspired and enthralled great saints for 16 centuries. Which is one of the main reasons Pope Benedict XVI, in 2007, authorized the widespread celebration of the “Old” form of Mass, which he called the “Extraordinary Form” (EF) of the Roman Rite. As he wrote: “the two Forms (old and new) of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching,” so that by reference to the Extraordinary Form the Novus Ordo Mass (or “ordinary form” of Mass—OFM) “will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.”

That being said, let’s look at some of the aspects of the EF Mass that will stand out as “different” on Friday.

1) The EFM is always said entirely in Latin, including the Scripture. (The sermon is in English and usually includes rereading at least the Gospel in English). The use of Latin, the official language of the Universal Church for centuries, reminds us of the unity of the Church, and that all the Catholics throughout the world, including those who lived in past centuries, join us in this Heavenly liturgy.

2) Many of the prayers are said only by the priest and/or servers in, often in a low, inaudible voice. In a “High Mass” (versus a “Low Mass”) these prayers are said while the choir sings the same prayer in beautiful chant (e.g., Kyrie, Gloria), which you may join in singing. Sometimes they are said while there is total silence in the church, especially during the Canon ( “Eucharistic Prayer”).

3) The priest praying this way has several symbolic meanings. For example, praying alone reminds us that he alone stands in persona Christi, who in turn is the one true priest of the Mass; but his humble low voice reminds the priest and us that he is merely a humble servant, not Christ Himself.

4) Because of these inaudible prayers there are many periods of apparent silence. This reminds us of the Heavenly liturgy: “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in Heaven for about half an hour…” [Rev. 8:1]. But the silence does not mean nothing is happening: the priest is praying, and you may follow and pray along with him. Or you may pray and meditate in your own words. The OFM seems to have us doing or saying something specific at each part of the Mass, but the EF allows you more freedom to actively participate by talking to Jesus in your own words from the depths of your heart.

5) Things like silence and Latin also serve as sort of a veil over the  “sacred mysteries” which can never be fully understood by man, and that Heaven appears here to us, but veiled in signs. They also remind us of the veil that covered the Holy of Holies of the Temple that only the high priest could enter.

6) The EFM is offered with the priest facing away from the people (“ad orientem,” like our 8:45 Sunday Mass). He is not turning his back to you, but turning with you toward the Lord, to be united with and to lead the people in worshipping God, and offering prayer for and with the people, as we wait together for the “rising of the sun of justice” (in the east, “ad orientem”)—the Second Coming of the Son of God.

7) There is a lot of kneeling, genuflecting and bowing, e.g., Holy Communion is received while kneeling at the altar rail (except for disabled). This reminds us of the Heavenly liturgy, as Revelation describes 7 occasions similar to the following: “And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne….” [Rev. 19:4].

8) Holy Communion is received only on the tongue. This is a dramatic reminder that we are not receiving ordinary food, but the body of Jesus Himself. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread…of the Lord in an unworthy manner… without discerning the body eats …judgment upon himself [1 Cor. 11:27,29]

9) There is more emphasis on external signs (multiple servers, candles, incense, vestments, hats, etc.), as at the Heavenly liturgy: “before the throne burn seven torches of fire….And round the throne…are four living creatures… and… twenty-four elders, clad in white garments, with golden crowns upon their heads.” [Rev. 4:5,6] ….“And another angel …stood at the altar with a golden censer;… and the smoke of the incense rose….” [Rev. 8:3,4]

10) At the “High Mass” there’s a lot of chanting. “The four living creatures, each…with six wings, …day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy…!” The twenty-four elders…singing, “Worthy art thou, our Lord and God ….” [4:8-11].

11) You will also notice careful attention to precise ritual acts, done by specific ministers. This reminds us of the hierarchical nature of Heavenly worship, where the different ranks/groups of angels each have their own particular ritual to perform, the elders theirs, and even the Lamb His.

12) The sign of the Cross is repeated many times during the Mass. This serves several purposes, but always reminds us that the Eucharist is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross.

13) There are many repetitions, especially repetitions in threes, reminding us of the Trinitarian nature of the Mass and Heaven.

 

I invite you all to join us this Friday at 7pm for the Extraordinary Form High Mass. Many will not feel drawn to attend the EFM regularly, but you will all be glad you came. It is the beautiful form of Mass attended devoutly by centuries of saints and sinners, and it reminds us of where we have come from and what we have believed—so that we can better understand where we are now and what we believe still.

Note: we will be joined by a guest choir, an ensemble from “Suscipe Quæso Domine,” more popularly known as, “The Suspicious Cheese Lords.”

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles