Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Parish Picnic. Last Sunday’s picnic was a great success, with hundreds of parishioners and friends coming to enjoy good Christian fellowship, great fun and delicious food. Thanks to all who came, and especially all who worked so hard to make everything come together. Special thanks to the Knights and to Kirsti Tyson. And above all, thanks be to God for the beautiful weather and the grace of Christian communion.

 

Helping FOCUS. You may recall that one of our parishioners, Daniel Parish, has spent the last 2 years evangelizing on college campuses with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. During this time Daniel has depended on the financial support of various donors, including many of you. This year Daniel has joined the staff of FOCUS at their headquarters in Denver, but he is still depending on our/your support. He will be in town in late October, so if you are interested in discussing this with him please let the parish office know.

The Exchange of the Sign of Peace. I have spoken and written many times about the importance of developing a clearer understanding of the practice of exchanging the “Sign of Peace” at Mass. In particular I believe I have noted that both the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist and Pope Benedict XVI (Sacramentum Caritatis, 2007) had called for “greater restraint in this gesture” and a renewal of our understanding of this ritual. To these ends, Pope Benedict commissioned the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) to study the issue further and make recommendations.

 

This last month CDW released its finalized report, issuing a “circular letter,” approved and confirmed directly by Pope Francis, to all the world’s Bishops. This letter made no changes in the rite itself, but simply pointed out ways in which the rite is often abused and corrections that should be made, as well as clarifying the meaning of the rite. It then called on the conferences of Bishops in each country to propose clear norms and catechetical material for their own people.

 

In particular CDW made the following observations:

— The sign of peace is not a rite of reconciliation rooted in Gospel passage: “if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift …; first be reconciled to your brother…” (Mt 5: 23-24).

— Rather, the sign of peace is rooted in Jesus’ promise to the apostles at the Last Supper, the first Eucharist, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you,” a promise fulfilled as Jesus appears to the apostles in that same upper room on Easter, saying, “Peace be with you.” So that “its point of reference is found in the Eucharistic contemplation of the Paschal mystery as the “Paschal kiss” of the Risen Christ present on the altar.”

–So, this is not a mere exchange of greetings, but a ritualized form of prayer: “The sign of peace…is placed between the Lord’s Prayer, to which is joined the embolism which prepares for the gesture of peace, and the breaking of the bread, in the course of which the Lamb of God is implored to give us His peace. With this gesture, whose function is to manifest peace, communion and charity, the Church implores peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament, that is, the Body of Christ the Lord.”

–Thus, the sign of peace inherently flows from and leads back to the Eucharist: “By its nature the Eucharist is the sacrament of peace.…[T]his dimension of the Eucharistic mystery finds specific expression in the sign of peace.” “It should be made clear once and for all that the rite of peace already has its own profound meaning of prayer and offering of peace in the context of the Eucharist.”

 

Therefore, in order not to distract from the Eucharist the CDW calls us to consider:

–“[T]he appropriateness of greater restraint in this gesture, which can be exaggerated and cause a certain distraction…just before the reception of Communion.”

— “[N]othing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety…as, for example, when it is restricted to one’s immediate neighbors.” Nota bene: the Roman Missal states that the exchange is given, “in a sober manner…only to those who are nearest.”

— “[T] his liturgical gesture [should] be done with religious sensibility and sobriety,” and efforts should be made “to moderate excessive expressions that give rise to disarray in the liturgical assembly before Communion.”

 

The CDW warns us that “Consideration of this theme is important. If the faithful through their ritual gestures do not appreciate and do not show themselves to be living the authentic meaning of the rite of peace, the Christian concept of peace is weakened and their fruitful participation at the Eucharist is impaired.” So CDW reminds us:

–“If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly …or if it is not considered pedagogically wise…on certain occasions, it can …and sometimes ought to be omitted.”

— “[I]n those places where familiar and profane gestures of greeting were previously chosen, they could be replaced with other more appropriate gestures.”

 

Finally, the CDW cited specific “abuses” which must be eliminated:

— “the introduction of a “song for peace…””

— prolongation of the exchange: “only the briefest of time is envisaged for the exchange of peace to those are who nearest.”

— “the movement of the faithful from their places to exchange the sign of peace amongst themselves.”

— “the departure of the priest from the altar…to give the sign of peace to some of the faithful.”

— “the exchange of peace being the occasion for expressing congratulations, best wishes or condolences….” This particularly happens at Easter and Christmas, and at Masses celebrating “Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Matrimony, …and Funerals.”

 

As the CDW tells us, quoting Benedict XVI: “In our times, fraught with fear and conflict…[w]e can thus understand the emotion so often felt during the sign of peace.” So I offer all of this as an instruction in charity, not as a reprimand. Please, try to incorporate the instructions from CDW, specifically approved by Pope Francis, in your exchange of the sign of peace at Mass. Remember, when the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) begins, the rite of peace is over and we move on to say this next beautiful prayer with one voice from one body. And let us pray for the peace of Christ to descend on our parish, the Church and the world. Peace be with you.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

The Feast Of The Exaltation Of The Holy Cross

As we celebrate the Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross we recall with deep compassion Our Lord Jesus’ suffering on the Cross out of love for us, for our salvation and for our sins. In that light, we cannot help but call to mind the many Christians who are now being persecuted for the sake of their love of Christ and His Cross. This persecution has descended to new depths of depravity at the hands of the army calling itself the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS), who are going so far as to torture Christians to death by hanging them on crosses.

Most Muslims today oppose this kind of violent persecution of Christians. Nevertheless, violence against non-Muslims is very much a part of Islamic teaching and history. After all, almost immediately after founding Islam in 610 AD Muhammad himself took up the sword and led armies to force his Arab neighbors to convert to Islam: “submit or die.” By the time of his death in 632 he had conquered, by violence or threat of violence, a good part of western Arabia, and by 711 the armies of his successors had conquered not only all of northern Africa but also almost all of the Iberian Peninsula—Spain and Portugal. Their march into Western Europe was finally stopped by the armies of Charles Martel (“The Hammer”) in 732. Attempted invasions of Eastern Europe and Italy continued over the centuries, including the defeat of the Byzantine Empire and the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Persecution of Christians in Muslim countries also continued throughout this period.

Violence against non-Muslims continued in lesser ways more or less continuously until the 20th century, especially through the practice of capturing ships from Christian countries and holding the captured Christians for ransom, forced conversion, and/or for the slave trade. [Quick aside: America’s first encounter with Muslim terrorists occurred in 1801, when the Pasha of Tripoli demanded that President Thomas Jefferson pay $225,000 to guarantee that his pirates would not attack American ships (European powers regularly paid this “protection” money). Jefferson instead sent the U.S. Navy and Marines to protect American ships in the Mediterranean. This soon led to the invasion of Tripoli (which the Marine’s Hymn memorializes, “to the shores of Tripoli”) after which American ships were no longer targeted by the terrorists.]

This was the state of things in the 13th century, when on the evening of August 1, 1218, the Blessed Mother appeared separately to three very different men in Barcelona, Spain: to St. Peter Nolasco, the son of a wealthy Spanish merchant and veteran of various battles against the “Moors” (Muslims) occupying much of southern Spain; to King James I of Aragon; and to our own beloved patron St. Raymond of Peñafort, who was Peter’s confessor. The Blessed Mother told each of them that St. Peter was to found a religious order that would dedicate itself to the ransom of Christian captives of Muslims. The members of this new order would take a vow to offer themselves personally/bodily, when necessary, as ransom or as security for the freedom their fellow Christians. St. Peter obeyed Our Lady, and with the political and financial support of the King and under the wise guidance of St. Raymond, the order, commonly called “the Mercedarians,” was founded and proceeded in its mission.

So extensive was St. Raymond’s support and guidance to St. Peter that he is considered co-founder of the Mercedarians. St. Raymond would later go on to dedicate great efforts toward the conversion of Muslims in Spain, by establishing schools for his fellow Dominicans (the order he joined in 1222) to study Arabic and the teachings of Islam, and by his active preaching and writing. He is also credited with convincing St. Thomas Aquinas to write his great Summa contra Gentiles to help in the conversion of Muslims. At his death, St. Raymond was considered directly responsible for the conversion of over 10,000 Muslims in Spain.

St. Raymond was a holy and brilliant man who led an amazing life. Unfortunately, most people only remember him for his efforts to organize the Canon Law of the Church, and maybe for his role as 3rd Master General of the Dominicans. But how can we, who are entrusted to his patronal care, forget these two very important and relevant aspects of his life: the apparition of Our Lady of Ransom/Mercy, and his role in dealing with the Muslims of his day.

With this in mind, I propose to you that from now on we dedicate our parish, and ourselves, to joining St. Raymond in the dual task of 1) assisting Christians who are persecuted or captured by radical Muslims, and 2) the conversion of Muslims. And in this effort I propose we place ourselves under the special protection of Our Lady of Ransom/Mercy, that she may guide us as she guided St. Raymond.

And how do we proceed in these efforts? Now, I recognize that it is extremely difficult to evangelize American Muslims in the current environment. Moreover, very few of us have the opportunity to assist prisoners held by Muslim terrorists (although some among us, e.g., members of our military, might find themselves in this position from time to time). But for most of us, let’s just concentrate on basics.

First, be sure to be charitable to the Muslims you meet or know—how can we convert those who do not see the love of Christ in us?

Second, enthusiastically support those who are directly working for these ends. For example, last week you donated over $12,000 to aid the Christians fleeing persecution in the Middle East and Iraq.

Third, and most importantly, we need to pray. In this regard I ask you all to commit to pray the following simple prayer (or some similar prayer) every day, or at least once a week:

 

“Our Lady of Ransom and Mercy, and St. Raymond of Peñafort, pray for us, for all persecuted Christians and for the conversion of Muslims. Amen.”

 

You can certainly pray more than this—perhaps you could pray the Rosary for these intentions, and this prayer could be its conclusion. But try to pray at least a little prayer like this every day.

My dear sons and daughters in Christ, let us unite in prayer for these holy causes. And in these prayers may we unite ourselves to Our Lady’s and St. Raymond’s faith and hope in our beloved and merciful Lord, Jesus Christ, who by His Most Holy Cross has redeemed the world.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Saint Raymond’s Respects Life! 40 Days For Life Begins September 24th!

October is Respect Life Month.  How will you be a witness for the sanctity of life? Join us for any or all of these events!
Saturday Morning September 20th- Father Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D “End of Life Issues” Talk (click to the right for details) 2014 Father Tad Pacholczyk Flyer

Wednesday September 24 – Sunday November 2  Forty Days for Life! Vigil Site: Public right-of-way outside Amethyst Health Center for Women 9380-B Forestwood Lane Manassas, Virginia. See sign-up sheets in the narthex!  2014 Forty Days For Life

Wednesday September 24th at 6 PM- Holy Hour for Life and Religious Liberty.  Followed by Mass at 7:00 p.m.The sacrament of Confession is available during the Holy Hour. (This event is held the last Wednesday of every month throughout the year.)

Saturday Morning October 4th -CAR WASH FOR LIFE (click to the right for details) 2014 Car Wash For Life

Sunday October 5th- Life Chain (click to the right for details) 2014 Life Chain

Thursday October 9th- Melissa Ohden (Abortion Survivor) Presentation (click to right for details)  2014 Melissa Ohden Presentation Flyer

Wednesday October 15th- Respect Life Mass at St Raymond’s at 7 PM- Holy Hour/Confessions   6:00 – 7:00 PM followed by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at 7:00 p.m.

Saturday October 25th at 9:00 AM- Respect Life Mass with Bishop Loverde at Cathedral of St. Thomas More.  Recitation of the Rosary will follow at Falls Church Healthcare Center (abortion facility)  900 S. Washington St. Falls Church.  2014 Respect Life Mass

Wednesday October 29 at 6 PM- Holy Hour for Life and Religious Liberty.  Followed by Mass at 7:00 p.m.The sacrament of Confession is available during the Holy Hour.  (This event is held the last Wednesday of every month throughout the year.)          

 

 

 

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