Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mr. Edward J. Kenna, Rest in Peace. Two weeks ago I mentioned in this column that Fr. Kenna’s 92 year old Dad, Edward, had been ailing. On Thursday, July 17, Mr. Kenna passed away peacefully in his bed, surrounded by his family as they prayed the Rosary. His Requiem (funeral) Mass was held last Monday in Pittsburgh. Mr. Kenna was a devout Catholic man, and beloved husband (married 63 years to his wife Dorothy), father (of nine) and grandfather (of 19). He was also a veteran of World War II (U.S. Army). Please keep him

in your prayers, that he might pass onto his heavenly reward. Please also keep Fr. Kenna and his family in your prayers.

 

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

 

AAA Women for Choice. Last Saturday several parishioners joined me at a dinner celebrating the 25th anniversary of AAA Women for Choice in Manassas. The name is surprising to some pro-Lifers, who usually associate “choice” with the pro-abortion crowd, but the women at AAA have tried to help women in “crisis” pregnancies to know they have many choices other than abortion, e.g., keeping their babies, adoption, etc.. Situated next to an abortion mill in Manassas, AAA, headed by Patricia Lohman, has saved the lives of over a thousand babies, and offered spiritual, emotional, financial and practical support to their mothers. They are an amazing group. Congratulations on 25 years! If you’re interested in helping out through volunteering, donations, etc., you can call them at (703) 330-9312.

 

  1. Every summer I have very brief little panic attacks on some Sundays as I see a sharp decline in Mass attendance. I recover very quickly as I remember that folks are on vacation. I hope all of you are enjoying your summer, and that you are able to get away on vacation. It’s very important to do that, especially for families to have time to spend together relaxing and having fun.

I was on vacation the week before last, going to my nephew’s wedding in South Bend, IN. I drove out to the wedding by myself, and decided to avoid the traffic and frenzy of the interstate highways, and instead took the back roads, the scenic view. Along the way I stopped to visit family in various cities, and to play golf 3 times (on my first day I hit my new “best score ever”!). It was great to see so many of nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, not to mention all four of my brothers and sisters, and their spouses. And it was a great little trip. But now, back to work.

One request: if you want to help your pastor have a less stressful summer, please don’t forget to keep up your weekly donations to the parish when you go on vacation. Just drop the envelope from the Sunday(s) you’re away in the following week’s collection. Better yet, sign up for Faith Direct (www.faithdirect.net).

 

Sung High Mass (EFM). Please remember to mark your calendar for August 15, for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. As I announced 2 weeks ago, the 7pm Mass that evening will be offered as a Sung High Mass of the Extraordinary Form, with the talented musical ensemble “Suscipe Quæso Domine,” (a.k.a., “The Suspicious Cheese Lords”) serving as our guest choir. I invite all of you to experience this very beautiful form of Mass. For those of you who cannot attend, we will, of course, also have our Vigil Mass the evening before and Masses during the day.

 

More Religious Discrimination from Our President. Last Monday President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting “all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees.” [LGBT: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender]. The executive order purposefully excludes an exception for employers who object to these rules on religious grounds. Moreover, it was issued after a bill containing similar protections for “LGBT employees” was passed by the Senate but rejected by the House of Representatives last year. But even that bill, as passed by the Senate, included protection for the religious liberty of employers.

 

This new “law” will apply to almost everyone who does work for or with the federal government, including individual Catholic small business owners and groups like Catholic Charities.

 

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo (chairmen of the U.S. Bishops’ Committees for Religious Liberty and Marriage) immediately issued a statement rightly noting: “In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination.”

 

The statement went on to say:  “With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent… As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.”

 

Moreover, the Bishops’ statement correctly notes: “The executive order prohibits ‘gender identity’ discrimination, a prohibition that is …predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. …For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.”

 

When will this president’s attacks against religious believers end? The Constitution prohibits our government from making laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and yet the president ignores this fundamental liberty to invent new liberties for special classes based on sexual preference or “identity.” How do those strange and imagined liberties trump the specific and natural liberties guaranteed by the Constitution?

 

Just 2 weeks ago the Supreme Court overturned the President’s contraception mandate for employers with religious objections (“Hobby Lobby”) as being contrary to the provisions of Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Court will very soon hear a variety of cases involving the mandate and religious non-profit groups (i.e., Catholic Charities, Little Sisters of the Poor, etc.). When will our president admit he has no right to discriminate against religious people?

 

Some may object: but doesn’t the Church teach that it’s wrong to discriminate against “gays”? Actually, the Church teaches that only “unjust discrimination” against people with same-sex attraction is wrong. But not all discrimination is “unjust.” For example, it is never unjust to prohibit a grown man who thinks he’s a female from using a restroom reserved for women and little girls! (Not to conflate same-sex attraction with “gender identity” issues).

 

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Instead of the Pastor’s Column, this week we have the Parochial Vicar’s Column.  Our Pastor, Fr. DeCelles, is out of town on a little vacation so he asked me to fill in for him.  So I write a few words to you.

 

Last week we celebrated the Feast day for St. Benedict, the Father of Western Monasticism. I thought it would be good to write a little bit about the great additions to the Church that he and the monastic life has had on our Church and our world, too.   (A good History lesson as we try to grow in our Faith in the many areas that it covers (last week’s emphasis for my homily).  St. Benedict was a big influence in establishing the monastic life in the Church.  He was trying to bring a community life of dedicated religious priests, brothers, and sisters to have a more balanced life and a good spiritual life in community.  Previously, the religious who desired a more cenobitic life (separation from the world to pray and serve God and not be distracted by the ways of the world) would do it as individuals (we know them as Hermits) or groups but they didn’t have clear cut direction and often didn’t separate from the world or they were just about praying all day.  St. Benedict and the rules that he established for these communities established a motto – the underlying rule for all of the rules – Ora et labora, which means – to pray and to work.  He wanted these communities to be monasteries that were well rounded.  Praying – frequently at various times of the day as a community, but also to do the works that are needed to maintain the community and even more – to add to the world as they added to the secular community around them.

 

These Monastery communities of men, who we know as “monks”, and then also, separate women’s only communities who we know as “nuns” (“nuns” actually should be used to identify these religious women who live separately from the world and should not be used to identify religious “sisters” who work in the world) really added to the world both through the grace of prayers for the Church and the world, but also with the works that they did to advance the Church and the world in many ways.  I mention this because these Monasteries which were established during the so-called Dark Ages continuing on through the Middle Ages and up to our present age, really helped the Church and Society as a whole.

 

The Church, through misinterpreted history, seemed to have somehow caused the Dark Ages, or at least to have suppressed any advancement of society, but we should know it  actually did the opposite.  We see that the Church didn’t bring about the down fall of Western Society – in particular the Roman Empire with all its advancements that it brought – was actually,  brought down by the Pagan Romans themselves along with the Barbarians who destroyed the Empire by their invasions and ransacking of the Empire.  The Church, the Pope in particular, stopped the Barbarians from totally annihilating Rome as they approached the city to finally level it to the ground.  With this prevention, a lot of Roman influences, such as their written works, as well as Greek works, were saved.  The Church, with the help of St. Benedict, went on to establish Monasteries which were places where they saved these works but also where they began to use the books'(both Roman and Greek)  for advancements and to grow in the areas such as Education – philosophy and math and sciences – and agriculture.  They also advanced our Faith, but that wasn’t the only influence they had.  The monasteries advanced agriculture as they established various techniques for working the fields and growing practices and cultivating useless lands.  They also helped with establishing work techniques that came from agriculture as they helped in developing mills powered by water, to grind grains, but also for other uses, and even in establishing factory techniques that we still use today.  The Monasteries were also very instrumental in saving the ancient writings of the Romans and Greeks by  copying them to expand the use of these writings, which weren’t always just spiritual writings but worldly writings, too.  They established libraries with all these writings that are still with us today.

 

They were instrumental in establishing and advancing education when no one else was really ready to do it or no one else wanted to do it.  The Kings and nobles were too interested in their lands and protecting them and just ruling over their people – and the less educated the people were – they thought – then the less resistant they would be to the Kings and nobles.  The monasteries became the places where schools were established for the local children to learn not just about the Faith but also the other natural subjects as well.  The monasteries and the Church, some scholars say, actually, saved Western Civilization from being lost or at least set back 100’s of years.  The schools would later spring into higher schools of education, which we know as Universities.  These Universities are the same models that we have today.  The monasteries themselves didn’t establish Universities, but they laid the groundwork for our education systems as a whole.

Then we can see that together the agriculture advancement, the work techniques and the education actually were where  the techniques of research and experimentation, which have become a big part of education and the growth of education and technology we know and practice today.  You could say Monasteries were our first laboratories and research centers and places of learning.  We see how their experimentation gave us some very well known products that we have today.  It is believed that beer was first made by the monks as they took the process of making wine from grapes and then using it with grains which beers are made from.  Also champagne was first developed by Dom Perignon – a monk – who took the wine process and different grapes and came up with a process to make champagne.

 

So I mention just a few areas and examples of how the monasteries that were established with the influence of St. Benedict, as actually being places that didn’t hold back the Church or society but were places that advanced the Faith and society.  They established and advanced what we know and do today in many different areas of the Church and the world.

 

I, close, with a recommendation to find out about more of the monasteries influences but also the Church’s many other influences that you might not know about by reading a good book about it.  One such book is titled “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” written by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.  It is a book with a different approach to learn some Church history.

 

I hope all are having a good summer.

 

Ora et Labora

 

Fr. Joseph R. Kenna,  Parochial Vicar

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sung High Mass on the Solemnity of the Assumption. For the last 3 ½ years we’ve offered the Extraordinary Form Mass (a.k.a.: the “EFM,” “Tridentine Mass” or “Traditional Latin Mass”) on the first and third Fridays of the month. Attendance has been good at these Masses, but I’ve always wanted to expose more of you to this beautiful form of the liturgy. It is, after all, the form of Mass celebrated everywhere throughout the Latin Church for at least 1400 years, up until 1970—the Mass that inspired great saints like St. Francis, St. Therese, St. Ignatius, St. Andrew Dung-Lac, St. Lorenzo Ruiz, and St. Raymond of Peñafort. It is different from the “Ordinary Form Mass” (“Novus Ordo”, or “New Mass”) that we usually celebrate, but not entirely different. After all, the “New Mass” comes from and is rooted in this ancient form. It seems to me that experiencing this ancient form can only lead to a deeper understanding of the newer. Yes, it is different—the Latin, the silence, the private prayers of priest and laity—but in all this there is a profoundly rich sense of reverence, holiness, prayerfulness and mystery that reminds us that Mass is supposed to be different.

Nowhere is this so apparent as when the EFM is “sung” or chanted at a “High Mass”. While some say they find the very quiet “Low Mass” (the EFM here on Fridays) difficult to adjust to, I’ve honestly never met anyone who wasn’t moved by the Sung High Mass—it is really something beautiful.

So, on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I will offer the Sung High Mass, in the Extraordinary Form, at the regularly scheduled 7pm Mass. The guest choir will be an ensemble from the extraordinarily talented choir, “Suscipe Quæso Domine,” (Latin: “Accept, I beseech thee O Lord”), more popularly known as, “The Suspicious Cheese Lords.” If you’ve never been to the EFM, don’t worry—just come. If you’ve been on Friday night and were a little confused—this is different. Even if you decide it’s not your regular “cup of tea,” you will not regret having experienced this different, but very beautiful and Catholic, form of worship. Trust me.

 

Father’s Father. Fr. Kenna’s Dad, Edward Kenna (92), is struggling with some severe health problems, especially with his heart. Please keep both Father and his father in your prayers.

 

Thanks, Mark Arbeen. I’m sorry to report that Mark Arbeen has decided to step down after several years of coordinating our Altar Servers. He’s done an amazing job of not only training and coordinating the servers, but also in helping important liturgies run smoothly, especially at Christmas and Holy Week. I can’t thank him enough for all he’s done for us all—especially for me.

 

Position Open: Parish Secretary. I am still accepting applicants to fill the position of parish secretary (see last weeks’ bulletin). Please send resumes to Mary Butler in the parish office or to mary.butler@straymonds.org.

 

Lazy Days of Summer. This time of year it’s easy to forget your New Year’s resolutions to get more involved in parish life. Here are some of the parish activities/groups that the Lord Jesus may be calling you to join—this summer!

Adoration: Diane Spinelli, 703-451-1779, dispinelli5@gmail.com

Adult Education Programs (RCIA, Bible Study): Bob Ward, 703-644-5873, roberteward3@verizon.net

Altar Servers, Fr. Kenna, 703-440-0535, fr.kenna@straymonds.org

Altar Society: Nena Brennan, 703-541-5151, nenabrennan@verizon.net

American Heritage Girls: Mary Hansen, 571-405-4145, ahgva0683@gmail.com

Bake Sales: Kathy Walker, 703-202-5300, Baking4thebuilding@yahoo.com

Basketball Team: CYO): Ed Gloninger, 703-451-8049, edgloninger@gmail.com

Bereavement Committee: (Vacant)

Book Club: Kathy Campbell, 703-451-5360, jkcampbell@cox.net

Choir (all music for Masses): Elisabeth Turco, 703-506-4644, turcoe@aol.com

Cursillo: Chuck Tiso, 703-866-1081, Siciliansunrise@aol.com

Flower Committee: Rosario Mendez, 202-253-9471, rmm2004@hotmail.com; and Julie Mullen, 703-493-9291, mullen.1@verizon.net

Gift Shop: Rena DeRosa, 703-307-9351, pderosa3@verizon.net

Home School Group: Sheri Burns, 703-455-1820, burnsfamily77@verizon.net: Tania Slaton, 703-493-8186, gtslaton@mac.com

Knights of Columbus: John Crennan, 703-451-2115, crennan@verizon.net

Landscaping: Vacant

Lectors: Philip Bettwy, 703-690-6379, pbettwy@aol.com

Legion of Mary: Tom Delaney, 703 690-1930, tdelaney51@verizon.net

Library: Liz Hildebrand, 703-455-3193, hildebrandseven@gmail.com

Men’s Prayer Group: Dave Wilson, 703-455-1847, MarynDaveW@verizon.net

Mother’s Group: Michelle Castry, 703-731-7854, mlcastry@gmail.com

Natural Family Planning: Bob & Geri Laird, 703-339-7261, blaird48@gmail.com

One Spirit Special Needs Apostolate: (Vacant)

Prayer Group: Elaine Perricone, 703-440-8356, jpebtp@verizon.net

Religious Freedom Committee: Bob Laird, 703-339-7261, blaird48@gmail.com

Respect Life Committee: Liz Hildebrand, 703-455-3193, hildebrandseven@gmail.com

–  Project Gabriel: (Vacant)

–  Project Rachel: Diane Spinelli, 703-451-1779, dispinelli5@gmail.com

Samaritans : Laura Haas Connolly,  703-690-6254, spinecaremom@aol.com

St. Martin de Porres Society: Flavia Tommasi, 703-866-4671

Trail Life, USA: Vince Drouillard, 703-992-0490, TrailLifeUSA@straymonds.org

Ushers: Paul DeRosa,  703-307-9351, pderosa3@verizon.net

Wedding Committee: Carol Ann McKim, 703-644-4040, toypoodle4me@aol.com; and Kathy Siner, 703-569-0958, kathysiner@cox.net

Welcome Committee: Mary Butler, 703-440-0535. mary.butler@straymonds.org

Women’s Group: (Vacant)

Youth Apostolate (“Youth Group”): Jeanne Sause , 703-440-0535, StRaymondYouth@gmail.com

 

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Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

New Religious Education Monday Afternoon Class Times

Due to the recent changes made in the bell schedules in Fairfax County elementary schools, the religious education classes scheduled for Monday afternoons will have new times. While we determine the new schedule changes, please be advised that we will notify all those families who have already registered, and will contact any families that send in registrations in the upcoming weeks. If you have any questions, please contact the religious education office. Thank you for your cooperation.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 6, 2014

Due to July 4th I have a very early deadline this week, so just some quick notes.

 

Huge Victory for Religious Liberty! Praised be Jesus Christ! How fitting that this week in which we celebrated American Freedom began with the Supreme Court defending religious liberty.  Recall that in January of 2012 the Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations under Obamacare requiring that businesses and not-for-profit organizations (including organizations run directly by churches) provide employees with insurance covering abortion-inducing drugs and contraception, with no exception to protect the religious liberty of these groups. Scores of court cases have been filed to overturn these regulations, and the first to make its way to the Supreme Court was decided this last Monday (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores). The Court ruled in favor of the Christian business owners, holding that the regulations placed an unnecessary “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religious liberty, thus violating the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The court also ruled that incorporation of a family business does not mean the owners lose their religious liberty with regard to that business. While this does not directly affect the cases involving not-for-profit organizations (e.g., the Little Sisters of the Poor), it is a huge vindication of the rights of individual Christians: you don’t have to leave your faith-informed moral principles at home when you go to work, or when you seek the ordinary legal protections provided by incorporating your business. Let’s pray this is a sign of more good things to come from the Court in defense of religious freedom.

 

Fortnight for Freedom. No doubt all the prayers across the country and in our parish during the Fortnight contributed greatly in moving the Court in Hobby Lobby. Thanks to all who joined in by either coming to the holy hours in the church or participating privately at home with your prayers and sacrifices. In particular I’d like to thank Bob Laird for his untiring assistance, including setting up for all 14 holy hours! God bless you all.

 

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

 

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Prayer for Government

by Archbishop John Carroll, first bishop and archbishop of Baltimore, and of the United States

 

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

 

Oremus pro invicem, et pro patria. Fr. De Celles

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 6, 2014

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 6, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

On Friday we celebrated the 238th anniversary

of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

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

the “unalienable right” to liberty or freedom.

Liberty.

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

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

We hear about all the controversies over individual liberties,

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

 

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

Society’s popular understanding of liberty is as

an absolute independence from any constraints on personal behavior

an absolute freedom to do whatever you what.

It recognizes this as an absolute and essential good

which we must pursue at all costs.

Essentially this concept of liberty is a “freedom from

–freedom from others and freedom from responsibility.

 

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

but in doing that, sometimes we develop the attitude that

we are free from the responsibility to protect those who are

too sick, too young, too innocent or too ignorant

to even know that their liberty is being abused,

much less exercise free speech about it.

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

the way they choose,

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

even the responsibility of raising and educating our own children.

We develop an attitude that we must be free from

the interference of anyone in our personal subjective beliefs,

and so we become free from the responsibility

to help others find objective truth,

and to protect society from false notions of truth.

 

And we become free from any responsibility

to even recognize the existence of God himself,

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

that we are “one nation under God,”

even though we are founded upon the first principle

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

“with certain unalienable rights, …among these”

being “Liberty” itself.

And once free from God we become free from any responsibility

to obey his commandments

because commandments aren’t consistent

with my freedom from interference in doing as I please.

 

And so we see a society which at once rightly celebrates

its great achievements in freedom,

but at the same times wonders at the continuing reality of

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

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

mothers killing their unborn children,

and children killing other children,

….the list goes on and on.

Perhaps society’s misunderstood this “liberty” thing.

 

What is the true meaning of liberty and freedom?

If I’m just free from something,

that would mean freedom leaves a big vacuum in my life

–only emptiness.

Freedom from things just results in me having nothing.

Who wants to be free if it means having nothing?

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

just freedom from something,

but rather it means freedom from something

in order to be free for something else.

 

Unfortunately, for many of us,

when we realize freedom from things is unsatisfying,

we decide to be free from responsibilities

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

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

based on a certain self-centeredness:

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

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

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

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

 

[PAUSE]

But this is not the society envisioned by Jesus Christ,

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

 

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

the Jews had very little experience of liberty and freedom.

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

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

thought it best to allow their subjects some freedom.

 

Unfortunately, in exercising their religious liberty

many wound up refusing to accept the Messiah

who was the center of their religion,

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

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

of a great political and military Messiah

–and this humble carpenter from Nazareth

did not meet their popular definition.

And yet we hear in today’s first reading

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

before the prophet Zechariah speaks of the Messiah whose

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

he first observes:

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

and riding on …the foal of an ass.”

St. Paul tells us elsewhere in Scripture that

“It was for liberty that Christ freed us;

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

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

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

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

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

being completely independent to do what ever we want,

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

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

–what he calls today “the flesh”–

and a freedom for accepting the responsibilities

that come with being a Christian:

the responsibility to love God

with all your heart, mind soul and strength,

and love your neighbor as yourself.

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

is a freedom that soon becomes slavery

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

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

to the love of Christ our King,

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

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

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us:

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

you have revealed to the little ones.”

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

Why would we ever look to the secular world

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

when Christ himself has already revealed it to us?

And in that revelation Jesus has made it abundantly clear

that the definition of freedom and liberty embraced by

the wise and the learned” oftheworld

is in reality nothing more than the path

to the yoke and burden of slavery to sin.

 

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

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

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

an absolute freedom to do whatever you what.

He says:

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am meek and humble of heart.

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

His yoke is “easy and light”

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

it is a burden of the responsibilities of freedom.

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

and radical independence,

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

and radical dependence on him,

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

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

to freely listen to the Gospel proclaimed in our midst.

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

–to indulge our own self interest?

Or do take this as an opportunity

to more truly free ourselves from those things

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

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

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

Or do we free ourselves for the responsibilities of Christianity,

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

 

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

But as we celebrate our liberty and independence this weekend,

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

to always joyfully celebrate our dependence on Him,

and humbly accept his idea of liberty:

a freedom from pride and sin,

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

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 2014

Ss. Peter and Paul, June 29, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

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

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

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

But this feast is different, special.

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

and so it reminds the whole Church throughout the world

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

So the whole Church celebrates it even on Sunday

to celebrate the unity of the one Church of Christ,

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

who is today, of course, Pope Francis.

 

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

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

our independence from another foreign country.

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

but there was a time with this contrast had

very real-life serious consequences to Catholics in America.

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

if our loyalty to a foreign power, the Pope,

would interfere in our loyalty to America.

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

which included a third of all Italy,

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

More importantly he commands the obedience before God

of all Catholics worldwide.

 

But there was never a need to worry.

Because the doctrine of our Catholic faith tells us that

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

on matters of Faith and Morals,

as well as internal Church matters like how we worship.

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

So that while the Pope may teach that

we have a moral obligation to care for the poor,

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

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

He can propose particular solutions,

and we should respectfully consider them,

but Catholics are not bound to obey them.

 

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

between our loyalties to America and to the Pope.

 

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

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

So when immigrants from the Catholic countries of Europe

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

they were often held in suspicion.

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

rose up to try to oppress Catholics,

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

to force Catholic children

into the Protestant mainstream of public education.

And while Catholics fought these oppressive efforts,

and kept their Catholic identity and their schools,

they were not unmoved by the oppression.

And so you saw Catholics send their kids to Catholic schools

and go to Sunday Mass and pray the Rosary daily,

but then also strive to be more American

than George Washington and Betsy Ross,

and bend over backwards to show their loyalty to America.

 

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

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

                   the Greater Houston Ministerial Association,

          and say:

“I believe in an America

where the separation of church and state is absolute,

where no Catholic prelate would tell the president

                             (should he be Catholic) how to act,

…where no public official either requests or accepts

                             instructions on public policy from the Pope…

or any other ecclesiastical source…”

 

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

          Kennedy seemed to express a loyalty to America above

                   his loyalty to the Pope and his Catholic faith.

And he left the clear impression that religion in general

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

 

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

In fact, later in the speech he stated:

“But if the time should ever come ….

when my office would require me to either violate my conscience

or violate the national interest,

then I would resign the office…

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

in order to win this election.”

 

I’m not a huge John Kennedy fan,

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

a loyal Catholic, was also a loyal American.

 

But he shouldn’t have had to do that.

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

 

First of all, the Constitution itself guarantees protection of

the God-given right to religious liberty,

protecting religions and individual believers

from any oppression whatsoever by the government.

This reflected the founders strongly held belief in

the absolute importance of the positive effect of religion

to the success of the American experiment.

As George Washington himself wrote in his Farewell Address:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,

religion and morality are indispensable supports….”

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

that national morality can prevail

in exclusion of religious principle.”

 

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

that Catholics must be loyal to our own countries

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

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

 

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

to make decisions according to our own individual consciences,

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

 

Sadly, largely because of the historical push

to be seen as loyal and mainstream Americans,

for too many Catholics in America

their Catholicism has become more and more like

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

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

but from either the popular American culture,

or, amazingly, from the decrees of government itself.

So that if the Supreme Court says abortion is okay,

many Catholics American think it must be okay.

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

 

But it cannot be that way.

 

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

and I honor the great and brave men and women

who have sacrificed to make it so.

But our loyalty to America is not a blind loyalty.

 

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

but to government established by

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

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

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

We the People, as individuals, making free choices

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

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

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

and demand that our Catholic values,

our understanding of right and wrong, good and evil,

justice and oppression

be respected and protected.

Never imposed, but proposed by debate and democratic elections,

and even codified in law when accepted

by the majority of our fellow Americans.

 

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

have the same policy solution to every problem,

or agree in every judgment we make.

But as Catholics every moral choice,

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

of our Catholic faith and morals

—because they express the teaching of Jesus,

the Word of God, himself.

 

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

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

But you and I can disagree,

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

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

 

And we can disagree, for example, on just how

to protect people from unjust discrimination,

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

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

 

Sadly, in recent years the old prejudices against Catholicism

have crept back into the American ethos,

as many demand that Catholics leave their morals and principles

at home or in the pew and not bring them

into the public square or the voting booth.

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

against the children of Protestants who questioned the loyalty of Catholics

like John Kennedy 50 years ago.

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

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

until the whole fabric of our harmonious society

is ripped at a time of great national peril.”

 

And so were are here today.

By coercion, especially through regulations and court orders issued

by unelected government officials,

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

or face ruinous fines or even imprisonment.

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

or lose his business;

to the Little Sister of the Poor who are threatened

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

for the abortion-inducing drugs and contraception

of their employees;

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

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

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

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

 

Since our founding,

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

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

 

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

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

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

the teachings of Jesus Christ

passed down to us by his apostles and their successors,

especially the successors of St. Peter, our Popes.

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

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

including the God-given right to religious liberty.

And as we leave here today

let us strive as good and faithful Catholics

to be good and loyal Americans,

by working with all Americans of goodwill,

to protect our nation from those who would

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

according the values that we hold most sacred.

Corpus Christi Sunday, June 22, 2014

Corpus Christi Sunday, June 22, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

What  strange words the Master spoke to that crowd

gathered in the Synagogue in Capernaum:

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

And how much stranger still the words he spoke months later

on the night He was betrayed:

this is my body…this is my blood.”

How could anyone believe  these words?

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

this is  what  exactly what  His  apostles did believe.

And they believed these words not because they  were  reasonable,

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

It was through absolute faith  in Jesus that they believed

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

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

 

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

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

written 20 years later:

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

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

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

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

And Tertullian, around the year 200:

“The bread which he took and gave to his disciples

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

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

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

on receiving Communion:

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

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

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

And over and over again,

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

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

“It was in His flesh that Christ walked  among us

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

for our salvation.”

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

–as St. Augustine says:

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

 

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

between Christ and the Christian.

So the receiving Holy Communion

implies some things related to communion with Christ.

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

the Catholic Church,

and with the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist as truly

the body, blood soul and divinity of Christ.

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

 

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

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

the Christian moral life.

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

that he has committed mortal sin,

must always go to sacramental confession

before receiving Holy Communion.

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

and by that the Church means it is physically impossible

to go to confession for at least a month or so

because there are absolutely no priests around

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

 

Some people say, but Father,

it’s embarrassing not to go to Communion,

or it hurts not to go to Communion.

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

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

And they are our free choices.

So if we choose to commit mortal sin,

we freely choose the consequences,

including the painful and embarrassing consequence

of excluding ourselves from Communion.

 

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

Assume they have some other reason

—maybe they didn’t keep the fast,

maybe they’ve received at earlier Masses

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

But if you do feel tempted to start judging

turn that judgment around

and instead praise that person for his great humility,

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

 

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

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

But Communion is not just about the mind and soul,

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

our bodies receive the Body of Christ!

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

but it also includes the way our bodies express

what our hearts and minds believe about what we eat.

Our actions should express what’s in our minds;

and our actions also help our minds to understand and accept

what we believe.

 

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

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

true presence in the Eucharist.

 

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

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

whenever we visit Christ present in the tabernacle

—always genuflecting to him whenever

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

 

Another way we express this reverence

is in the way we receive Holy Communion.

It seems that for the first few centuries of the Church

receiving Communion in the hand was not unusual.

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

to help us remember that this is no ordinary food,

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

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

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

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

to receive communion in the hand.

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

be the occasion for any loss of reverence.

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

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

have repealed their permissions

and now require their people to receive on the tongue.

And if you ever watch a Papal Mass you see

that folks who receive Communion from the Holy Father

must receive only on the tongue.

 

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

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

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

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

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

And if you notice, during the Mass after the consecration

I either hold the two fingers that touch the Host together

or I’m constantly cleaning them over the paten.

 

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

—there are many very good reasons for doing it,

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

 

But besides the practical problems I just described

there is a more important potential problem, long term.

 

As one who holds the Eucharist in his hands

more than any of you probably ever will,

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

the easier it can become to take for granted and forget

exactly Who it is you’re holding.

 

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

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

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

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

but many people make a profound bow of the body

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

Again, if you watch people receiving from the Pope

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

 

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

 

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

of St. Cyril of Jerusalem the 4th century:

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

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

keeping your eyes on Christ;

and then, stepping to the side

carefully take the host in your right hand

and place it in your mouth,

being careful to consume any crumbs.

And please remember, when you receive in the hand

          there are special requirements

          put on the priest and extraordinary minister too!

We are required to make sure that the host is

“consumed at once, so that no one goes away

with the Eucharistic species in his hand.”

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

please don’t be offended

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

Also, if we perceive even a danger of irreverence

the priest—or extraordinary minister—

must give you communion in the hand.

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

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

—not because you have a baby,

but because your arms and hands are concerned

with your baby, as they should be.

 

And when it comes to bodily expressions,

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

is by what we wear to Mass.

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

Every time I go to Mass I dress up

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

Now, I know it’s getting hot outside;

and I know sometimes you might have

a very good reason for dressing down.

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

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

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

what message is he sending, especially to his kids,

about the relative importance of each?

 

It’s easy to lose site of the great wonder

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

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

but the very Body of Our Saviour

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

It looks like a piece of bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity,

celebrating the most sublime mystery of our faith:

that God is One,

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

 

We call it a “mystery” because

it is something that we would have never known

if God Himself hadn’t revealed it to us.

And it remains a “mystery” because

it’s something we will never fully understand

because its divine and infinite nature is so far above

our limited human intelligence and experience.

This doesn’t mean it’s irrational or imagined

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

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

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

 

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

because it reveals something amazingly wonderful about God:

that He is a personal communion of three persons

sharing one life and one love.

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

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

between the three Divine Persons in love,

that is at the center of their absolute unity.

 

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

the beginning of all meaning in life

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

The Bible begins by telling us that we were created

in the image of God.

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

we come to understand that human beings

are created in the image of this amazing Trinitarian love

in order to share in it, both on earth

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

and loving each other—

and in heaven.

 

What a glorious Feast.

 

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

It’s great when this secular holiday

falls on the Christian Holy Day of Trinity Sunday,

because the Trinity is really where Christians come to understand

the true and profound meaning of Fatherhood

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

first there is God the Father

—from whom the Son is eternally begotten,

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

And today we remember that Divine familial relationship within God

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

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

 

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

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

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

God is neither, male or female,

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

although differently in each.

So that God can say in Scripture:

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

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

 

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

—he constantly identifies Himself as “Father.”

There are many reasons why he does this.

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

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

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

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

of God’s love for us,

and reveals how he intensely he loves us,

and how intensely we should love him.

And it also teaches us dignity and the rich possibilities

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

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

the love that is at the heart of the Trinity.

 

Still another reason God reveals himself as Father

is that it shows us in a powerful and irrefutable way

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

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

without its own human father?

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

to their wives and children?

And how can families think that fathers are unimportant?

And how can society deny the societal importance of fatherhood?

 

And yet today, that is exactly what is happening.

In the America today,

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

and 43% of children live in fatherless homes.

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

including the Marxist-left, the feminist movement

and the gay rights movement,

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

 

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

of fatherless homes on society:

90% of homeless and runaway children

are from fatherless homes;[1]

as are 71% of pregnant teenagers;[2]

63% of youth suicides;[3]

71% of high school dropouts;[4]

and 85% of youths in prisons.

 

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

The facts prove that

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

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

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

by sharing in the mystery of the human family of

father, mother and children.

 

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

without a father or a mother or even children?

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

to raise their children alone?

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

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

Of course not, absolutely not.

 

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

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

or with two arms and no legs?

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

with both a mother and a father.

 

But not just any father.

The Fatherhood of God teaches us

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

 

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

But the Trinitarian mystery reveals

that the dignity of fatherhood always exists in relation

to the equal dignity of each member of the family:

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

even as Jesus is obedient to His Father.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

And how does God the Father love?

Look around you: look at all you have,

your jobs, your houses, the sun shining outside,

your good health, and your wives and children.

God the Father gave you all that.

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

and at every breath you take.

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

 

That’s how a true father loves his children:

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

 

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

We ask God for things all the time,

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

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

 

Human fathers have to do the same thing.

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

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

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

Is spoiling your children good for them?

Is letting them do whatever they want good for them?

As Scripture tells us:

“the LORD disciplines those he loves,

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

 

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

 

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

the words Jesus on the night before he died:

“the father and I are one….

he who has seen me has seen the Father.”

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

like Father, like Son.

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

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

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

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

 

The Dogma of Most Holy Trinity,

is the most sublime mystery of our faith:

that God is One, but also three Divine Persons:

a personal communion of three persons

sharing one life and one love.

 

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

and specifically the degradation of fatherhood and husband-hood,

this great mystery reveals that marriage and family are created

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

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

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

 

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

and are drawn more profoundly into

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

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

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

By the grace of this Most Blessed sacrament

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

and the working of the Holy Spirit

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

and the great dignity and importa

 

[1] US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census. All stats taken from http://fatherhoodfactor.com/us-fatherless-statistics/, and comparable to other websites.

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

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

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