Third Sunday of Easter

Busy. Many of you who have been trying to get hold of or schedule meetings with me know that during Lent I was running in about ten directions at the same time. Unfortunately, this caused me to postpone a lot of work that would normally get done until after Easter. Then Easter passed, and I took a couple days to rest before facing up to all the work postponed. But somehow something always comes up to complicate the weeks after Easter. This week we have the annual convocation where the priests of the diocese get together (overnight) for two and a half days of meetings and fellowship. To complicate matters more, this weekend I’m officiating at my niece’s wedding and hosting out-of-town family—which is all good, but the work continues pile up. So, my apologies for not being as available as I should be. Next week, I promise… Which reminds me of an anecdote about Pope St. John XXIII. Supposedly a reporter asked the Pope how he slept at night, and St. John responded: “I sleep very well. Before I go to bed I tell the Holy Spirit, I was in charge all day, now it’s your turn.” So ask the Holy Spirit to help me do a better job of managing my responsibilities, and to trust Him to make up for my deficiencies. Oremus pro invicem, Fr. De Celles

 

Pope Francis, General Audience

Wednesday of Holy Week, April 23, 2014

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This week is the week of joy: we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. It is a true and deep joy founded on the certainty that the Risen Christ shall never die again; rather, he is alive and at work in the Church and in the world. This certainty has abided in the hearts of believers since that first Easter morning, when the women went to Jesus’ tomb and the angels asked them: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”. These words are like a milestone in history; but are also like a “stumbling block” if we do not open ourselves to the Good News, if we think that a dead Jesus is less bothersome that a Jesus who is alive! Yet how many times along our daily journey do we need to hear it said: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”. How often do we search for life among inert things, among things that cannot give life, among things that are here today and gone tomorrow, among the things that pass away … “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”.

We need this when we shut ourselves in any form of selfishness or self-complacency; when we allow ourselves to be seduced by worldly powers and by the things of this world, forgetting God and neighbor; when we place our hope in worldly vanities, in money, in success. Then the Word of God says to us: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”. Why are you searching there? That thing cannot give you life! Yes, perhaps it will cheer you up for a moment, for a day, for a week, for a month … and then? “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”. This phrase must enter into our hearts and we need to repeat it. Shall we repeat it three times together? Shall we make the effort? Everyone: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”. [He repeats it with the crowd]. Today when we return home let us say it from the heart in silence and let us ask ourselves this question: why in life do I seek the living among the dead? It will do us good.

It is not easy to be open to Jesus. Nor is it a given that we shall accept the life of the Risen One and his presence among us. The Gospel shows us different reactions: that of the Apostle Thomas, that of Mary Magdalene and that of the two disciples of Emmaus: it does us good to compare ourselves with them. Thomas places a condition on belief, he asks to touch the evidence, the wounds; Mary Magdalene weeps, she sees him but she does not recognize him, she only realizes that it is Jesus when he calls her by name; the disciples of Emmaus, who are depressed and feeling defeated, attain an encounter with Jesus by allowing that mysterious wayfarer to accompany them. Each one on a different path! They were seeking the living among the dead and it was the Lord himself who redirected their course. And what do I do? What route do I take to encounter the living Christ? He will always be close to us to correct our course if we have strayed.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). This question enables us to overcome the temptation to look back, to what was yesterday, and it spurs us on to the future. Jesus is not in the sepulchre, he is Risen! He is the Living One, the One who always renews his body, which is the Church, and enables it to walk by drawing it towards Him. “Yesterday” is the tomb of Jesus and the tomb of the Church, the tomb of truth and justice; “today” is the perennial Resurrection to which the Holy Spirit impels us, bestowing on us full freedom.

Today this question is also addressed to us. You, why do seek the living among the dead, you who withdraw into yourself after a failure, and you who no longer have the strength to pray? Why do you seek the living among the dead, you who feel alone, abandoned by friends and perhaps also by God? Why do you seek the living among the dead, you who have lost hope and you who feel imprisoned by your sins? Why do you seek the living among the dead, you who aspire to beauty, to spiritual perfection, to justice and to peace?

We need to hear ourselves repeat and to remind one other of the angels’ admonition! This admonition: “Why do you seek the living among the dead” helps us leave behind our empty sadness and opens us to the horizons of joy and hope. That hope which rolls back the stones from tombs and encourages one to proclaim the Good News, capable of generating new life for others. Let us repeat the Angels’ phrase in order to keep it in our hearts and in our memory, and then let everyone respond in silence: “Why do you seek the living among the dead”… Behold, brothers and sisters, He is alive, He is with us! Do not go to the many tombs that today promise you something, beauty, and then give you nothing! He is alive! Let us not seek the living among the dead! Thank you.

Second Sunday of Easter

HE IS RISEN! HE IS TRULY RISEN! On this Octave day of Easter, I thank God for a truly blessed Lent, Holy Week, Triduum and Easter Sunday. I was once again overwhelmed not only by the size of the crowds on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Holy Saturday liturgies, but also by the devotion and piety of all present. I also want to thank so many people who helped make things so special this year. First, thanks Elisabeth Turco, Denise Anezin, and all our choir members for their hard and beautiful work! Also, thanks to our Altar Servers for their devotedness and reverence, with a special thanks to Mark Arbeen, our Master of Ceremonies. Also thanks to the ushers, headed by Paul DeRosa; to Nena Brennan (sacristan) and her family who spent so many hours preparing things behind the scenes; to Julie Mullen and Rosario Méndez and their many helpers who decorated the sanctuary so beautifully with flowers; to Phil Bettwy and Barbara Aldridge who organized the lectors and extraordinary ministers; to Bob and Bev Ward and  Mike Malachowski for their work with the RCIA; to Jeanne Sause and our Youth Group for their inspiring Living Stations of the Cross; and to the parish staff who worked so hard all throughout Lent and Holy Week. Last but not least, thanks to Fr. Kenna for his dedication, and to Fr. Nguyen, Fr. Scalia and Fr. Daly for their assistance.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention a lot of folks, so please forgive me. Thanks and God bless you all.

NEW SAINTS! Today in Rome Pope Francis will declare two Popes to be Saints of the Catholic Church: surely sharing in glory of heaven, worthy intercessors and heroic examples to all of us of the Catholic life.

St. John XXIII, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, was born in 1881 in northern Italy, the fourth child of fourteen, a sharecropper’s son. Completing seminary in Rome he was ordained for his home diocese of Bergamo in 1905. As a new priest he served as secretary to his bishop and taught in the seminary. During World War I he was drafted and served as a sergeant in the medical corps of the Italian army. Afterwards he returned to the seminary until 1921 when he was called to serve in the Roman Curia. In 1925 he was ordained a bishop and named as Apostolic Visitator (later Apostolic Delegate) to Bulgaria, going on to serve as Apostolic Delegate to Turkey, and Greece, and eventually Nuncio to France during World War II. In 1953 he was named Patriarch Archbishop of Venice, and raised to the cardinalate. In 1958, at the age of 76 he was elected Pope.

Succeeding Pope Pius XII, who seemed so very aristocratic and formal, Pope John XXIII’s smiling and amiable style captured the hearts of people around the world, and earned him the nickname “Good Pope John.” Elected as a comprise candidate, essentially to be a caretaker pope, Pope John stunned the Catholic world in January 1959 by announcing an ecumenical council—a gathering of all the bishops of the world—to update (“aggiornamento”) the Church’s methods of sharing our faith and teachings with the modern world. Sadly, Pope John was not able to see the completion of this work at the Second Vatican Council, or “Vatican II,” as he died on June 3, 1963, before 16 of the Council’s 17 documents were issued.

St. John Paul II, Karol Jozef Wojtyla, was born in Wadowice, Poland on June 20,  1920, one of three children, the son of a retired army officer. Young Wojtyla’s university studies and were interrupted by the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and he spent the next few years in forced quarry labor, until he entered the underground seminary. He was ordained a priest on November 1, 1946, and immediately went on to earn his doctorate in theology in Rome and his doctorate in philosophy in Lublin (Poland). He then served as a parish priest, university chaplain, and seminary and university professor. He was ordained auxiliary bishop of  Krakow on September 28, 1958, named Archbishop of Krakow (at age 43) in 1964 and became a cardinal in 1967. As a bishop and archbishop he took an active role at the Second Vatican Council. As the popular young Cardinal-Archbishop of Krakow he became the nemesis of the Communist government of Poland.

During his years as a professor was dearly loved by his students. He also developed a unique approach to explain the Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person, his relationship to God and the meaning of family, marriage and sexuality. This later came to be known as the “Theology of the Body,” which he shared with the whole Church when he was elected Pope on October 16, 1978.

Being elected after the sudden death of Pope John Paul I (who reigned for only 30 days), along with being the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years, as well as his obvious physical vigor, keen intellect, and personal magnetism made him the instant focus of the world’s fascination. This fascination would continue throughout his 27 year pontificate which was marked by innumerable amazing accomplishments and historical events, including: miraculously surviving an assassin’s bullet (1981); being a critical figure in the fall of Soviet Communism; pastoral visits to 129 countries; clarification of Church doctrine in his many speeches and writings (including 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions, 45 Apostolic Letters, and 5 books); promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; complete revision of the Code of Canon Law; reform of the liturgy; establishment of World Youth Day; reorganization of the Roman Curia; beatification of 1,338 blesseds and canonization of 482 saints. His example of personal holiness and prayer was inspiring to all, as was his faithful endurance of years of suffering before his death on April 2, 2005. But perhaps the most amazing accomplishment was attracting millions of young people to devoutly embrace Catholicism: they loved him as he spoke the truth to them, in love.

There is not enough space here to explain what a great Pope he was. Suffice it to say that at the end of his funeral four million mourners gathered in Rome shouted out spontaneously, “Santo subito!”—“a saint right now!”

Beyond the fact that I now have 2 more patron saints (“Saints John”), I have many reasons to be personally delighted today. Born in 1960 during the pontificate of Pope John, my parents named me after him. As for John Paul II, not only was I formed by his theology and spirituality, I know I would not be a priest today had he not been pope.  I cherish my memory of concelebrating Mass with him in his private chapel in May of 1997, and speaking with him afterwards.

Blessed and Happy Easter to you all! St. John and St. John Paul pray for us!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Holy Week begins Today. One of the keys to Lent is meditation on our Lord’s Sacred Passion. This week we do this in a particularly intense way, as we spiritually place ourselves with Our Lord as he suffers in his last hours: as he agonizes in the garden, is scourged, spat upon, mocked, and crowned with thorns; as he carries the cross, is nailed to it and hung upon it for three hours to die an excruciating death. We look upon Jesus enduring all this, and remember that He did this all out of love for His Father and, most amazingly, out of love for us: to pay for our sins (our failures to love God and our neighbor), to save us from eternal damnation, and to enable us to share in His own glorious life. He suffered all this not in spite of the fact that we don’t love Him as we should, but because of that fact: He loves us and wants to save us from our lack of love.

 

Who can look at this and not be overwhelmed, not simply with grief for His suffering, but also with love for Him who has loved us so much? How can we not open our hearts to Him, and see that our sins are not worth causing Him this pain, not worth walking away from the One who loves us so incredibly?  How can we not ask ourselves why we love our sins so much, when we should be loving Him instead?  How can we see His love and not recognize that the way we love Him and each other falls so far short of this standard? How can we see all this and not open our hearts to grace that flows from His sacred wounds to help us to love as we should?

 

For almost 40 days we’ve been trying to grow in love through Christ’s grace and our Lenten penances. Most of us have met with mixed results. But we have one more week: let’s resolve to make it a truly “holy” week centered on Jesus’ suffering and ineffable love.

 

We can do this in many ways, beginning with redoubling our personal efforts of Lenten prayers, sacrifices and acts of charity. But we also do so in a wonderful way by joining in the works of the Church, especially by coming together for the special liturgies of this Holy Week.

 

We have begun this today, with this unique Mass of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, with the blessed Palms, the Procession and reading of the Passion. Perhaps you can continue this by attending the outdoor Stations of the Cross performed by our youth this evening (Sunday) after the 5:00 pm Mass.

 

Then on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, come to daily Mass—let’s fill the church with prayer! I know it can be inconvenient for you, but so was the scouring at the pillar. And if you haven’t been yet this Lent, come to confession—our Lord awaits you there, to wash you clean with the grace pouring from His side on the Cross.

 

On Holy Thursday, there is no Mass during the day except the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral (all the priests and the Bishop celebrate the institution of the ordained priesthood). But in the evening join us here in the parish as we celebrate The Mass of The Lord’s Supper, commemorating the institution of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Priesthood. The ritual includes the ceremonial washing of the feet, and procession of the Eucharist to an altar in the Parish Hall, where the Lord invites you to “remain here, and watch with me…watch and pray,” as he once invited his apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane.

 

Then comes Good Friday, the holiest day of the year. It is a day of fasting and abstinence as we share in the suffering of the Lord. We should keep the day with quiet, reflection, and charity—even at work—especially from noon to three. There is no Mass; instead we gather in the church at 3:00 in the afternoon, the hour of our Lord’s death, for the solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord. I beg you not to miss it, even if it means leaving work early! This is the highpoint of Lent, the holiest hour of the year—come and be with the Church to worship Christ at the foot of His Cross, at the hour of His death; what in the world could be more important than this?!

 

During this liturgy everyone comes forward to personally venerate the Cross—by a kiss, or some other gesture—as the choir masterfully leads the singing of beautiful hymns contemplating God’s powerful yet tender love. No wonder the church has been so packed these last two years, even as we moved to venerating only one cross instead of the three once allowed (the Pope and bishops changed the rules).  I am always a little worried that folks might think this takes too long, but the last two years everyone seemed to be truly caught up in the powerful symbolic meaning of kissing the “one cross,” even if it meant waiting awhile—after all, they are waiting with the Blessed Mother, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross.

 

(Last year, we took a bit longer than necessary, as the two lines fell into approaching the cross one person at a time, instead of two at a time, one line venerating the right arm, the other the left. This year we will take meaningful steps to reduce this unnecessary delay).

 

After veneration, the priests distribute Communion from hosts brought from the sacristy. After the liturgy is over, the Cross will remain in the sanctuary for those who wish to venerate it later in the day. Later in the evening, at 7:00 pm Stations of the Cross are solemnly prayed with the priest.

 

On Holy Saturday the Church continues its somber reflective mood, as the Church strongly encourages us to voluntarily continue to fast and abstain from meat as we do on Good Friday.  Mass is never offered during the day on Holy Saturday, but at 8:30 pm (after sunset) the celebration of Easter Sunday begins with the Easter Vigil Mass. It is the “Mother” of all liturgies with all sorts of unique ceremonies: the blessing and presentation of the Easter Candle; the chanting of the Exsultet; a greatly extended Liturgy of the Word; and Baptism, reception into the Church, and Confirmation for adults. It is a glorious Mass, and I encourage all to attend. (However, lasting two hours, it can be tough for little ones).

 

This is a wondrous week, the holiest week of the year. Let’s not squander this opportunity to change our lives so bereft of true love, to get caught up in the awesomeness of the Love of Christ Jesus.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Passiontide Column Fifth Sunday in Lent

Passiontide. Today we enter into that part of the season of Lent called “Passiontide,” a time when we more intently and somberly focus our attention on Christ’s Passion. We try, in effect, to take ourselves 2000 years back in time and walk with Jesus in those last days before Good Friday. We mark this in a very dramatic way by covering the statues and crucifixes in our churches: Good Friday has not yet happened, so there is no cross yet; Easter has not happened, so no saints are in heaven. Keep this in mind in the coming days: “I’m walking with Jesus, and Peter and the apostles…With Judas. With John, and Mary Magdalene… Walking toward Jerusalem, stopping in Bethany, going to the temple….I’m in the Upper Room, at the Last Supper…In the house of Caiaphas…In the palace of Pilate…Standing with Blessed Mary as they scourge her little boy….”

 

The bodily/physical reminders of these days are so important to our experiencing the meaning of the season—Jesus created us in bodies, and came and spoke to us and suffered and died in His body. Which is why it’s so important to experience the mysteries of this season “in the flesh.” One way we do this is through the physical acts of penance we give ourselves: the minor suffering of our personal Lenten sacrifices (giving up sweets or video games, or fasting or abstaining from meat on Fridays) because they remind us of the sufferings of Christ, and His love for us.

 

But another very important way we experience this in the flesh is through the outward signs of our liturgical and prayer practices. So, please, come to the church and physically take part in the various sacraments, liturgies and other pious activities of the Church and parish in the next few weeks.

 

I strongly encourage all of you to take advantage of the extra confession times (we’ll have at least 2 priests hearing at most times, and sometimes 3 or 4). Please note a change from the original Lenten schedule: weekday confessions will begin at 6:00 pm (not 6:30 pm). I also encourage you to go to one or more weekday Masses and spend time in Adoration of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, especially during hours of Exposition on Wednesday and Friday. In particular, please participate in praying the Stations of the Cross, especially in the church—you can do so either privately or on Friday evening at 6:30 with other parishioners led by a priest.

 

I also strongly encourage you to attend next Sunday’s (Palm/Passion Sunday, April 13) Living Stations of the Cross acted out by our youth group a little after the 5:00 pm Mass. As last year, the Living Stations will take place outside (pray for good weather! If not, we will be in the Parish Hall). Come and both support our youth and enter more deeply into the mystery of the Lord’s suffering.

 

Also next Sunday, Palm/Passion Sunday, April 13, please consider coming to the 8:45 Mass and joining in the Solemn Procession with Palms at the beginning of Mass. Those who would like to join in the procession should gather inside the Parish Hall before 8:45 and then, after some prayers and a Gospel reading, process outside, and enter the church from the front, taking their pews as normal. All this should take about 10 minutes. We will be reserving pews for those who join in the procession, if they call (703-440-0535) or email (straychrch@aol.com) the office during the week (you need not call to join the procession). If you attend the 8:45 Mass you may also simply take your seats in the church before Mass as usual and listen over the speakers in the church to everything said/sung in the Parish Hall.

 

Holy Week. Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord is, of course, the beginning of Holy Week. Next Sunday we will include a schedule for Holy Week in the bulletin, but I ask you now to plan ahead today. These are the most solemn and sacred days of the Christian year, marked by special and unique liturgies, including Holy Thursday’s evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, with the washing of the feet and the solemn procession and silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until midnight—“can you not watch one hour with me?” Then there’s Good Friday’s Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, with the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion, which begins at 3pm—the hour of the Lord’s death. And finally, the Easter Vigil at the end of Holy Saturday evening.

 

As your spiritual father I beg you to try to participate in all of these liturgies that are so important to experiencing the fullness of Catholic prayer in Holy Week. I especially recommend that you attend the 3:00 pm Good Friday service, with the Veneration of the Cross. The last three years I have been amazed and moved to see standing-room-only crowds. Last year well-over a 1100 people stood in line patiently, many in tears, to venerate the cross of Christ. Some say, “but it’s a work day!” But I say: “it’s the hour of the Lord’s death! The most sacred hour in all time! Why would any Catholic want to be at work?”

 

And finally, I remind you that on Holy Saturday afternoon—a day which is supposed to be marked by the quiet somberness of Good Friday—we will once again be showing Mel Gibson’s incredible film “The Passion of the Christ” in the Parish Hall, beginning with a short talk by myself. This powerful movie is so helpful in reminding us what Holy Saturday is all about. I especially encourage those of you who began Lent by watching the movie “Mary of Nazareth” with us, to join us again for this moving film. (Note: Parents should use their discretion in bringing children to this graphic movie).

 

Blessed Relief in the “Family Room.” As was announced last weekend, we have a new heating and air-conditioning system in the Family/“Cry” Room. Because of some unique aspects of the church’s huge HVAC system, this room is usually too hot or too cold, and so very uncomfortable for families. After struggling to find a solution we decided to install a separate ductless system dedicated just to this room. Judging from comments from parishioners after Masses last weekend, I think we’ve solved the problem. So, moms and dads, I encourage you to make use of the Family Room, as often as you need it, without “feeling like you’re in Purgatory.”

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Fourth Sunday in Lent

A BRIEF EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE

(Parents consider if this is inappropriate for your children)

 

To help you prepare to make a good confession this Lent I’ve prepared a brief examination of conscience for you to use. Based on the 10 Commandments, it is not all inclusive, but I hope it will be helpful.

Remember, as you go through your examination consider if any of your sins are mortal. A mortal sin involves 1) grave matter, 2) full knowledge of the sinful character of the act, and 3) complete consent. Also, remember to confess how many times you committed particular mortal sins.

 

1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.

-Have I made any things more important than God in my life: money, security, power, people, myself, etc.?

-Do I seek to love Him with my whole heart?

-Have I been angry with God?

-Did I despair of or presume on God’s mercy?

-Do I give God time every day in prayer?

-Have I received communion in the state of mortal sin?

-Have I ever deliberately told a lie or withheld a mortal sin from the priest in Confession?

-Did I deny my Catholic Faith or fail to defend it?

-Am I willfully ignorant of basic doctrines of the faith?

-Have I been involved with superstitious or occult practices?

-Have I been prideful?

-Have I eaten or drunk in excess, the sin of gluttony?

-Have I been a good, reasonable steward of creation?

 

2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

-Have I violated an oath or promise sworn before God?

-Have I used God´s name lightly or carelessly?

-Have I cursed someone using God’s name?

-Have I wished evil upon any other person?

-Have I insulted a sacred person or abused a sacred object?

-Have I used foul language, especially in front of the innocent?

 

3. Remember to keep holy the Lord´s Day.

-Have I willingly missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation, or cause my family to?

-Have I been inattentive at Mass, or do I regularly arrive late or leave early?

-Have I observed Sunday as a day of prayer and rest, or have I needlessly worked on Sunday?

-Did I keep the Church’s laws of fast, abstinence and penance?

 

4. Honor your father and your mother.

-Do I honor and obey my parents?

-Do I care for my aged/infirm relatives, especially parents?

-Have I neglected my duties to my spouse and children?

-Have I given my family good religious example?

-Have I tended to the religious education and moral and spiritual formation of my children?

-Do I try to bring peace into my home life?

-Did I give bad example to others, especially the young?

-Do I obey and respect legitimate authorities, like priests, teachers, police?

-Do I obey civil laws?

-Did I contribute to the support of the Church and my parish?

 

5. You shall not kill.

-Have I intentionally physically harmed anyone?

-Have I had an abortion or encouraged anyone to do so?

-Have I engaged, in any way, in sins against human life such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization?

-Have I participated in or approved of euthanasia?

-Do I hate anyone?

-Have I been angry, quarrelsome or resentful?

-Have I insulted anyone, or called them harsh or profane names?

-Have I held grudges, or failed to forgive anyone?

-Have I wished for or sought revenge?

-Have I taken pleasure in other’s misfortunes?

-Have I intentionally “bullied” anyone?

-Have I threatened anyone unjustly or unnecessarily?

-Do I unjustly discriminate against others?

-Have I judged others rashly or unjustly, judged their hearts, or judged them as beyond repentance or God’s mercy?

-Have I abused alcohol or drugs?

-Did I fail to take reasonable care of my health?

-Have I mutilated my body in any unnecessary way?

-Did I give a bad example, cause moral confusion to others, or otherwise lead anyone into sin?

 

6 & 9. You shall not commit adultery. 9. You shall not covet your neighbor´s wife.

-Have I engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage?

-Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control?

-Have I obeyed Christ’s teaching on the permanence of marriage, and the Church’s laws of marriage?

-Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought and action?

-Has marital intimacy always been respectful of my spouse, consistence with nature, and open to life?

-Have I been guilty of masturbation?

-Have a viewed pornography, or other impure images?

-Have I thought of other people as mere objects?

-Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?

-Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words, actions?

-Am I careful to dress modestly, so as not to provoke sin in others?

-Have I behaved in an inappropriate way with members of the opposite sex?

 

7. & 10. You shall not steal. 10. You shall not covet your neighbor´s goods.

-Have I stolen anything?

-Have I returned or made restitution for what I have stolen?

-Have I intentionally damaged anyone’s property?

-Do I waste time at work, school, and home?

-Did I pay fair wages to my employees?

-Do I gamble excessively?

-Do I pay my bills and debts promptly?

-Have I cheated anyone out of what is justly theirs, for example creditors, insurance companies, etc.?

-Have I unreasonably refused to help someone in need?

-Do I provide for the needs of the poor?

-Do I flaunt my wealth or good fortune?

-Do I live beyond my means?

-Am I jealous of what other people have?

-Do I envy the families or possessions of others?

-Am I greedy or selfish?

 

8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

-Have I lied?

-Have I gossiped?

-Do I speak badly of others behind their back?

-Am I sincere in my dealings with others?

-Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my thoughts of others?

-Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?

-Have I injured the reputation of others?

-Have I cheated in school or work?

-Do I blame others for my mistakes?

-Do I brag or exaggerate my accomplishments?

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Third Sunday in Lent

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Guide for the Penitent in Confession.

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

 

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

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

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

You say these or similar words:

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

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

Then say: “These are my sins.”

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

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

Close with these are similar words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You respond:His mercy endures forever.

Priest: “Go in peace.

You respond:Thanks be to God.”

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

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Second Sunday in Lent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles