Fifth Sunday in Lent

Passiontide. Today we cover the statues and crosses as we begin the last two weeks of Lent, called “Passiontide.” At this point in Lent some people often start to slip in keeping their Lenten penances, while others haven’t yet begun their penances at all. Passiontide reminds us to refocus or deepen our attention on the season and its purposes of repentance of sin, conversion of heart, and appreciation of Christ’s love manifested in His Passion and Cross. If you’ve been slacking in your observance of Lent, buck up. If you’ve neglected the season entirely, it’s not too late. Let us beg our Crucified Lord to shower us with His grace in these last two weeks of Lent, and that we may be open to His grace and love Him in return. During Lent, our focus on our sins and God’s redeeming suffering and death for our sins are called to mind by the many outward signs of Lent. The bodily/physical reminders of these days are so important to our experiencing the meaning of the season—Jesus suffered and died for us in His human body. And so it is important to experience the mysteries of this season “in the flesh.” In our daily lives this is seen in our penances, including fasting and abstaining from meat. In the Mass we see it in the suppression of the Alleluia every day, and the Gloria on Sundays, as these joyful prayers are set aside during the sober and somber season. In Passiontide the elevated intensity of our focus is expressed in the outward and dramatic sign of covering the statues and crucifixes in our churches. In part, this is to encourage us to sort of place ourselves 2000 years back in time with Jesus during those last two weeks before His Crucifixion and Resurrection: 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 John and the apostles…With Judas. With Mary Magdalene and Salome and the other holy women. Walking toward Jerusalem, stopping in Bethany, going to the temple…. 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 sweet child….” This focus “in the flesh” can be experience especially in 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 and longer confession times (we’ll have at least 2 priests hearing at most times, and sometimes 3 or 4). I also encourage you to go to one or more weekday Masses and spend time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, especially during Exposition on Wednesday and Friday. Please participate in praying the Stations of the Cross, especially in the church this Friday evening at 6:30 pm, or Good Friday at 7:00 pm, with other parishioners led by a priest. I also strongly encourage you to participate in next Sunday’s (Palm/Passion Sunday, March 25) Solemn Procession with Palms at the beginning of the 10:30 Mass (NOTE: IN PRIOR YEARS THIS WAS AT 8:45). Those who would like to join in the procession should gather inside the Parish Hall before 10:30, 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 ( the office during the week (you need not call to join the procession). If you attend the 10:30 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. Note, pray for nice weather, but if it’s rainy, snowy or too cold, we may alter either the route or starting point of the procession (staying inside)—we’ll let you know on Palm Sunday.
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, 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 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 3:00 pm—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. Over the last few years I have been amazed and moved to see standing-room-only crowds. I know parking is a little difficult, and the 1-hour and 45-minute service is a long one, but I am always overwhelmed, edified and inspired as I see my good people humbly and happily accept these relatively minor inconveniences as a small sharing in the suffering of Jesus, as they wait patiently, many in tears, to venerate His Cross and to receive His Most Holy Body in Communion. It is a powerful liturgy—stark, dramatic, somber, mournful, and transformative. 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?”
Lenten Series. My last of five talks on “The Mass and the Eucharist” is this Thursday at 7:00 pm in the Parish Hall. This week I will be reviewing and giving a meditation on Eucharistic Prayer I, also called the Roman Canon. You hear this prayer most Sundays (and every Mass I celebrate), but have you ever really explored the poetry, symbolism and profound mysteries it is trying to express? Some think, “that prayer is so looonnngggg!” But if you have to listen to it anyway, why not figure out why so many of your favorite saints thought, “that prayer is so beautiful!” I am certain that by understanding this prayer a little better you’ll “get” a whole lot more out of every Mass you attend. If you weren’t able to attend the first 4 weeks, that’s okay—come to this last one: it can stand alone. If you ever feel like you’re not getting enough out of Mass, come to this talk! All are invited! Babysitting is available, but please call the office for reservations. (If you would like to catch up on prior weeks, you can view videos of those talks on our website.)
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Laetare Sunday. Today is Laetare Sunday, or “Rejoice
Sunday.” It marks the halfway point in Lent, with the
Church reminding us that in the midst of our sorrows for
the suffering of Christ for our sins, we need to always
keep in mind the glory and joy of the Resurrection and our
Redemption. (Strictly speaking, the Thursday before
Laetare Sunday is the middle day of Lent, and it was at
one time observed as such, but centuries ago the special
signs of joy permitted on this day were transferred to the
Sunday following to make them more visible to more
Many have told me how they’ve struggled to keep
their penances this Lent. Many others have told me they
still haven’t chosen a penance. Today we remember that
there is still half of Lent remaining to rededicate or
increase our efforts to keep Lent holy. To those who
haven’t chosen a penance yet, get with it. To those who
are struggling to keep their penances, if your penance is
too hard, it’s okay change your penance to something that
is challenging, but manageable in your situation; to those
who just haven’t been trying, no excuses—pick up your
cross. And to those have found their penances manageable
and doable, then perhaps you can add some more
penances, or intensify the ones you are currently doing.
Let’s let the rest of Lent really be a time of
holiness for each of us, as we carry our crosses with Jesus,
and so become closer in unity with Him.
Important Transgender Conference. I am very pleased
to announce that the parish will be sponsoring a
conference here on the Saturday after Easter, April 7th
entitled, “Gender Ideology: The Cultural Challenge and
the Catholic Response.” About a year ago, several of the
priests were able to attend an excellent conference by 3
remarkable speakers discussing the cultural, philosophical
and scientific problems presented by the current push to
accept the new (trans)gender ideology. Now we are able to
present that program to you, with a special invitation to
parents (and grandparents) of school-aged children. We
cannot sit by and let the culture—especially the media,
social media, and the public schools—abuse our children
with this psychologically and spiritually destructive
ideology. Please mark you calendars and plan to attend—I
hope for a very large turnout. See the insert today for
more information.
(Interesting fact: two of the speakers, Mary
Hasson and Theresa Farnan are extremely impressive in
their own right, but adding to that is the fact that these two
sisters (biological, not nuns) are also daughters of the late
great Catholic jurist and apologist, Charles Rice).
Come to the Lenten Series this Week! My talks on “The
Mass and the Eucharist” continue this Thursday at 7pm in
the Parish Hall. These last 2 talks are, I think, the most
important of the series, as this week we will go through
the Mass, part by part, to understand Its profound meaning
and purpose more clearly, and next week we will discuss
and meditate on the beautiful and multi-faceted meaning of
Eucharistic Prayer I. If you weren’t able to attend the first 3
weeks, that’s okay—come to these. If you ever feel like
you’re not getting enough out of Mass, I think and hope
and pray that these two weeks may go a long way in
changing that! All are invited! Babysitting is available,
but please call the office for reservations. (If you would
like to catch up on prior weeks, you can view videos of
those talks on our website.)
Wind Storm. I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall
seeing anything like the sustained winds that blew through
our area last weekend. I’ve been through several hurricanes
in my life, and a few tornadoes, but those come and go
pretty quickly. Thanks be to God we had little damage to
our parish property, but many of our parishioners were not
so fortunate. There were innumerable fallen trees, a few
crashing down on houses and cars. One of our
parishioner’s houses even caught fire. And of course,
everyone seemed to suffer a power outage and the
consequent cold inside temperatures. (I knew I should have
had fireplaces added to the rectory in last year’s office
As far as I know, no one in the parish suffered any
injuries from the storm, but if you need any assistance due
to the storm, or know of someone who is, please let me
know. Again, thank God. Let’s all join in prayer for all
who suffered any losses, and give thanks to God for His
40 Days for Life. Thanks to all of you who participated in
the prayer vigil last weekend. This year I know it was
particularly challenging, with the wind and cold the way it
was. God bless you for that. I’m sorry I had to call off our
participation on Friday, but as your Father, I thought it best
to pay attention to your safety—we can, did, go on to fight
another day.
Fr. Mark Pilon. We have received word that Fr. Pilon’s
liver cancer is suddenly progressing rapidly and not
responding to treatment. For those who don’t know, Fr.
Pilon was Parochial Vicar at St. Raymond’s for several
years, including 2 with me, until his retirement in 2012.
Prior to that he was a distinguished professor at Mt. St.
Mary’s Seminary for many years, and before that held
various positions in the Diocese, including pastor at St.
Please keep Fr. Pilon in your prayers. He is a great
priest who has served Our Lord and His people well. And
he is good friend to many in this parish, especially me. Out
of respect for his privacy, please direct any questions or
communication to the parish office, and do not try to
contact him directly. Thank you.
P.S. I write in a hurry this week, so please forgive any
errors or confusion above.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Third Sunday in Lent

Something to Pray About During Lent. I have often written and spoken about the choices we have in the manner we receive Holy Communion. In one column I wrote, after giving my reasons, “I recommend that all of my parishioners prayerfully consider receiving Communion on the tongue. However, it is your choice…I respect your choice.” The same can be said for the choice to kneel or stand.
Given that, I refer you to a new book published (in Italian) which includes a preface by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (i.e. the Church’s head of Liturgy), in which he wrote about these choices. What follows is an extract from this preface (from LifeSiteNews). I ask you to read it prayerfully.
“…Before the apparition of the Virgin Mary [at Fatima], in the Spring of 1916, the Angel of Peace appeared to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco…[T]he children realized that the Angel…held in his left hand a chalice over which a host was suspended… saying: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” The Angel prostrated himself again on the ground, repeating the same prayer three times with Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco.
“The Angel of Peace therefore shows us how we should receive the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ…But what are the outrages that Jesus receives in the holy Host, for which we need to make reparation?
“…[T]he most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, by sowing errors and fostering an unsuitable way of receiving it. Truly the war between Michael and his Angels on one side, and lucifer on the other, continues in the hearts of the faithful: Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated Host. This robbery attempt follows two tracks: the first is the reduction of the concept of ‘real presence.’ Many theologians persist in mocking or snubbing the term ‘transubstantiation’ despite the constant references of the Magisterium…
“Let us now look at how faith in the real presence can influence the way we receive Communion, and vice versa. Receiving Communion on the hand undoubtedly involves a great scattering of fragments. On the contrary, attention to the smallest crumbs, care in purifying the sacred vessels, not touching the Host with sweaty hands, all become professions of faith in the real presence of Jesus, even in the smallest parts of the consecrated species: …The substance is the same! It is Him! On the contrary, inattention to the fragments makes us lose sight of the dogma. Little by little the thought may gradually prevail: “If even the parish priest does not pay attention to the fragments…then it means that Jesus is not in them…”
“The second track on which the attack against the Eucharist runs is the attempt to remove the sense of the sacred from the hearts of the faithful…. While the term ‘transubstantiation’ points us to the reality of presence, the sense of the sacred enables us to glimpse its absolute uniqueness and holiness. What a misfortune it would be to lose the sense of the sacred precisely in what is most sacred! And how is it possible? By receiving special food in the same way as ordinary food…
“The liturgy is made up of many small rituals and gestures — each of them is capable of expressing these attitudes filled with love, filial respect and adoration toward God. That is precisely why it is appropriate to promote the beauty, fittingness and pastoral value of a practice which developed during the long life and tradition of the Church, that is, the act of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling. The greatness and nobility of man, as well as the highest expression of his love for his Creator, consists in kneeling before God. Jesus himself prayed on his knees in the presence of the Father….
“In this regard I would like to propose the example of two great saints of our time… St. John Paul II[‘s] …entire life was marked by a profound respect for the Holy Eucharist…. Despite being exhausted and without strength… he always knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. He was unable to kneel and stand up alone. …Until his last days, he wanted to offer us a great witness of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. Why are we so proud and insensitive to the signs that God himself offers us for our spiritual growth and our intimate relationship with Him? Why do not we kneel down to receive Holy Communion after the example of the saints? Is it really so humiliating to bow down and remain kneeling before the Lord Jesus Christ? And yet, “He, though being in the form of God,… humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2: 6-8).
“St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta… had a respect and absolute worship of the divine Body of Jesus Christ…[F]illed with wonder and respectful veneration, Mother Teresa refrained from touching the transubstantiated Body of Christ. Instead, she adored him and contemplated him silently, she remained at length on her knees and prostrated herself before Jesus in the Eucharist. Moreover, she received Holy Communion in her mouth, like a little child who has humbly allowed herself to be fed by her God… The saint was saddened and pained when she saw Christians receiving Holy Communion in their hands…
“Why do we insist on receiving Communion standing and on the hand? Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God? …Let us come as children and humbly receive the Body of Christ on our knees and on our tongue. The saints give us the example….!
“But how could the practice of receiving the Eucharist on the hand become so common? …It was a process that was anything but clear, a transition from what the instruction Memoriale Domini granted, to what is such a widespread practice today… Unfortunately, as with the Latin language, so also with a liturgical reform that should have been homogeneous with the previous rites, a special concession has become the picklock to force and empty the safe of the Church’s liturgical treasures…
“I hope there can be a rediscovery and promotion of the beauty and pastoral value of this method. In my opinion and judgment, this is an important question on which the Church today must reflect…”

Knights of Columbus Food Drive. Thanks to all of you who brought in food (and food cards and checks) last week. We collected 4,500 lbs. of food for the St. Lucy Project. A great way to practice the penance of “almsgiving.” And a great example of the service the Knights provide for our parish and diocese. If you’re a Catholic man over 18 years old—why aren’t you a Knight? Maybe you could do that for Lent: commit yourself to service by joining and being an active member?

Lenten Series. My talks on “The Mass and the Eucharist” continue this Thursday at 7:00 pm in the Parish Hall. All are invited—you need not have come last week!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

First Sunday of Lent

Lenten Series. I am very much looking forward to giving my
series beginning this Thursday evening at 7pm (a different
time than in the past). My topic will be “The Mass and the
Eucharist,” and this week we will be looking at what Scripture
and the Early Fathers of the Church had to say about the
I really do hope that you will join us, especially if you
don’t usually attend these kinds of things. This year we’ve
added on-site babysitting so some of our younger married
couples can come. It would be good to come to all the talks,
but if you miss one or even most of them you can still get a lot
out of coming to the ones you can.

Acts of Penance. During Lent, Holy Mother Church calls on
all who are able to perform acts of penance. I hope you’ve
already picked out your penances for Lent, and that you don’t
wait until Holy Week to put them into action.
The three classic categories of penance are 1) prayer,
2) almsgiving (acts or gifts of charity), and 3) fasting
(sacrifice: “giving up” something). I recommend you choose
to do penances from all three of these categories—maybe a
very small penance from two of them, and a larger “main”
penance from the third. Maybe you could resolve to add one
extra short prayer to your daily routine, maybe a Hail Mary,
and to set aside one dollar every day to give to the poor box,
and then do a larger penance of some sacrifice, like giving up
your favorite beverage or food all during Lent.
Also, remember to pick penances that you are able to
accomplish—don’t be overly ambitious and try to carry a
burden that is way to heavy for you. Penances should
challenge us, but not overwhelm us. What often happens is we
choose a penance that is too difficult for us in our present state
in life, and then when we fail to keep it we get discouraged
and give up, and Lent is lost. So pick penances that are
Also, penances should be things that you can easily
see that you are keeping. For example, if you resolve to just be
“nice” to everyone, how do you evaluate your success in this?
Rather, perhaps chose to try to be kinder to everyone, but to
do so in a particular way to a particular person—e.g., to bring
your office mate a cup of coffee every morning. Or if you
resolve to “pray more,” resolve specifically to pray an extra
Hail Mary before bed, or an extra 5 minutes in the morning.
Also, try to choose penances that may address
particular moral weaknesses you may have. For example, if
you struggle with the sin of gluttony, a sacrifice related to
food is a good idea. Or if you struggle from pride, maybe you
could say the “Litany of Humility” every day, or to humble
yourself by trying to hold door open for others whenever you
have the chance.
Daily Mass. Speaking of the Mass and doing penance during
Lent, one of the best penances is to go to Mass at least once
during the week—or even daily. We might not think of Mass
as a “penance”, but it is, of course, the greatest prayer of the
Church and puts us at the foot of the Cross, uniting our
prayers to the great prayer of Jesus on the first Good Friday—
what could be a better penance, especially during Lent?
Going to Mass during the week, especially daily,
strengthens us with the grace of the Blessed Sacrament so that
we can draw closer to Christ. Moreover, it also can change our
whole perspective on daily life, reminding us in a dramatic way
that our faith isn’t just for Sundays, but for every day and every
moment of the week.
The Sacrament of Confession. Lent also involves a second
type of “penance”—that is, the Sacrament of Penance (also
called “Confession” or “Reconciliation”). Two years ago I
published a small pamphlet called “Making a Good
Confession: A Brief Examination of Conscience and Guide to
Going to Confession.” Copies of this purple pamphlet can be
found by all the doors of the church and near the confessionals.
I hope you will find it helpful in preparing for and making a
good confession. Note: I am currently working on a version of
this “Guide” for children between about 11 and 14 years old,
and hope to have it in the church in the coming days.
The following paragraphs are taken from the
beginning of the “purple pamphlet”:
How do we make a “good Confession”? We begin by
prayerfully, and with honesty and humility, looking at our lives
to recognize the sins we’ve committed since our last
Confession, i.e., we make “an examination of conscience.” In
particular, we need to look for mortal sins, i.e., sins that
involve all three of the following criteria: 1) grave matter, 2)
full knowledge of the sinful character of the act, and 3)
complete consent. If any one of these is lacking it is not a
“mortal sin,” but may 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 be difficult to
identify, but not always.
Note that some sinful acts are grave matter when they
involve circumstances that are serious or very important but
are not grave matter if they involve only small or trivial things.
These acts that can be either grave or not are said to “admit of
parvity” (smallness). Many of the sins listed below would
“admit of parvity,” unless the word “serious” accurately
describes them. For example, a lie is always a sin, but lying
under oath is grave matter while lying about whether you like
someone’s outfit is not grave matter.
Also, in Confession you must distinguish the “kind” of
mortal sin committed: be clear about what the sin was, but
avoid graphic or long explanations. So it is not enough to
merely say “I had bad thoughts” or “I acted inappropriately,”
rather one should more specific, e.g. “I had lustful thoughts,”
You must also give the number of times you committed
particular mortal sins. Sometimes this is very difficult or even
impossible to remember, in which case, try your best give the
priest some idea of the frequency or number; e.g., “at least
once a month for several years,” etc.
Besides mortal sins, we should also consider
confessing (but are not required to confess) vices (sinful
habits) or other venial sins that are particularly problematic.
Have a blessed Lent.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

FR. DE CELLES COLUMN – February 11, 2018

LENT. This Wednesday, February 14, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season that calls us to meditate on and experience the immense love of God that would lead Him to die on the Cross for our sins. At the same time, it is also a time to consider our sins—how we have failed to love Him—and to work to overcome them, through our diligent efforts and His grace.
Ashes will be distributed at all 5 Masses on Ash Wednesday: 6:30am, 8am, 12noon, 5pm and 7pm. Since ashes are not a sacrament, they may be received by anyone who wishes to repent their sins—Catholic or not, in “good standing” or not. (Note: There are no confessions scheduled on Ash Wednesday).
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fasting and abstinence, and every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence. Failure to “substantially” keep these penances is grave matter (e.g., potentially a mortal sin). The law of abstinence requires that no meat may be eaten on these days and binds all Catholics who are 14 years old or older. No other penance may be substituted. The law of fasting binds those who are between the ages of 18 and 59. The Church defines “fasting,” for these purposes, as having only one full meal a day, with two additional smaller meals permitted, but only as necessary to keep up strength and so small that if added together they would not equal a full meal. Snacking is forbidden, but that does not include drinks that are not of the nature of a meal. Special circumstances can mitigate the application of these rules, i.e., the sick, pregnant or nursing mothers, etc.
Lent, of course, brings a much busier parish schedule, which we’ve laid out in detail in this week’s insert: please keep it in a central place to remind you of the many opportunities for spiritual growth the parish offers this Lent.
One important event on the schedule is the Women’s Retreat, which will be led by the Women’s Apostolate to Youth (WAY) on Saturday, February 24. I invite all women of our parish to bring their friends to what I think will be a very spiritually fruitful day. Please see the insert today for more details.

Lenten Series. As I mentioned 2 weeks ago, I will be giving this year’s Lenten Series, on my favorite topic: The Mass and the Eucharist.
How many times have I heard someone say that they don’t get much out of the Mass? I am convinced they would never say this if they really understood what was going on, not just in general, but thoroughly and profoundly.
If you want to get more “out of” the Mass, come to these talks, which begin next Thursday, February 22. IN FACT, I BEG YOU TO COME. In my experience, it seems to me that most Catholics have essentially an 8th grade level of understanding of what happens at the Mass, and those who have a better understanding often fail to adequately interiorize or spiritualize that understanding.
I love the Mass. You could say it is the reason I’m a priest; in fact, you might say that in a certain way it is the reason I am a Catholic, in that it draws me closer to Christ and His Church than anything else in my experience. Let me try to help you to share this love.
My first two talks will be about the Eucharist itself, beginning with the Biblical teaching, both in the Old and New Testament, then moving to what the early Church thought about the Eucharist, as explained in the writings of the early Fathers (Patristic), and then finally what the Church’s rich tradition teaches us today about the Eucharist.
Then the next three talks will focus more specifically on the Mass itself. First, I will explain how the Mass has developed from the first century to today. Then I will go through the Mass, part by part, with a mixture of explanation and meditation, trying show how the ritual brings the doctrine alive, and how the external actions of the Mass can be and should be expressions of our interior dispositions. And then finally I will give an in-depth explanation and meditation on the Eucharistic Prayer I, or “The Roman Canon.” A lot of folks ask me why I never use any other Eucharistic Prayer than this at Mass—I will explain why I think this prayer is so important to us.
This year we’ve also done two things which I hope will make it easier for some of you to attend: 1) we’ve moved the time to 7pm (from 7:30pm) and 2) we are providing on site babysitting (but you must call ahead and sign up for this, so we can have enough coverage).
I look forward to seeing you there on the 22nd and following.

Germain Grisez. I mentioned at my Masses last Sunday that the Church lost one of it’s greatest thinkers, as Dr. Germain Grisez passed from this life on February 1. Dr. Grisez is not well known by most Catholics in the pews, probably because his teaching style did not at all lend itself to television or radio appearances, or to popular reading. But every theologian and priest in the country knew he was one of the leading moral theologians in the world—of the first rank. His text book, “The Way of the Lord Jesus” (a four-volume tome), is used by most of the better seminaries in our country, and his writings in defense of traditional Catholic moral doctrine are standard reading for anyone who seriously studies Catholic theology. He was perhaps best known for his defense of Humanae Vitae in the 1960s and 70s, when he heroically stood out as the most outspoken and clearest thinking defender of the ancient teaching of the Church against the sin of contraception. He was also dedicated to systematically refuting the errors of proportionalism which infected the thinking of many moral theologians in the last few decades. He was a true “Lion” of the Church.
I was personally blessed to know and to take several classes with Dr. Grisez at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary, where he lived, taught and wrote. I was especially blessed to have him as my advisor for my Master’s Thesis. What an amazing mind! But also what a good heart, as he would tear up when he would talk about his beloved and saintly wife, Jeanette, or some other topic near to his heart, like the Eucharist.
Some will correctly point out that Grisez had some interesting personality quirks, or that some of his proposals were questioned by even his closest collaborators. Even so, he was deeply revered by all the faithful theologians in the Church. He made a huge difference in the lives of so many priests, especially mine. And he helped me to become a much better priest and theologian than I could have ever been if I had not come to know him.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Vocations. We are very honored to have Fr. J.D. Jaffe, the
Vocations Director of our Diocese, preach at all of our Masses
today. I’m convinced we have many vocations to the
priesthood and the religious life in our parish, we have such
great and talented kids, so many of whom are genuinely
devout. Have you talked to your kids about their vocation,
whether to the married, priestly or religious life? Have you
encouraged them to think and pray about the possibility of
becoming a priest or a nun? Or if you’re a young man or
woman, have you spent time trying to discern this possibility
in your life? If not, why not?
Vocations have been on my mind a lot in the last few
weeks. First because I was delighted to hear that our
parishioner Anilia Rivera, a student at Ave Maria University
and daughter of parishioners Ben and Ileana Rivera, has been
accepted to begin postulancy with the Religious order of the
Servants of the Lord. With her parents’ encouragement, she
has been discerning her vocations for several years. Let us
assist her with our prayers, and other forms of encouragement.
In particular, you might want to consider some financial
assistance: since religious life involves a vow of poverty,
before she can enter her postulancy (the first step in becoming
a “Sister”), she must first pay off her student loans. If you
would like to help her in this effort, please go to: https://
A less happy reason for my thinking so much about
vocations is that in the last three weeks we’ve heard that one
of our diocesan priests is moving to another diocese, and two
others have taken leaves of absence to discern their future. I
hope you will join me in praying for each of these men. But
their departure, hopefully temporary, reminds us of the need to
pray for priests and, especially, to pray and encourage young
men to seriously consider joining the priesthood. The sad
reality is that we’re just not ordaining enough men to meet the
needs of our Diocese. It doesn’t have to be this way, because
we know God is calling the men we need, if only they will
respond, and we support them. When I entered the seminary
27 years ago, Arlington had about 55 seminarians, whereas
today, after the Diocese has doubled in size, we only have 44
seminarians. This is not for lack of effort on Fr. Jaffe’s part,
and it’s pretty good compared to other dioceses, but nowhere
near what I would expect considering the vibrancy of our
The facts are simple: we need more priests, and many
of then are sitting in our pews and sleeping in your homes
I’m proud to say St. Raymond’s has given the Church
one priest and one seminarian, and one Religious Sister and
one soon to be Religious Sister—but I’m also saddened
because I know so many more of our young people are not
answering the call, and so many of our families are not
encouraging them enough.
The thing is, the priestly and religious life is a
wonderful life. Yes, we make sacrifices, but so do husbands
and wives. Yes, there are many unique joys in married life, but
there are equally joyful aspects of priestly and religious life.
I’ve told you before, as a young man in the world I thought
marriage alone would bring me happiness—until I discovered
God had another way to bring me happiness. I have never ever
regretted accepting my vocation, and I’ve never been happier
in my life, doing what God made me to do. There is
challenging work, and bountiful love in the priesthood. And
there is the deep peace and joy in being an instrument of God’s
mercy and salvation for His people.
Discern your vocation, and support the discernment of
our sons and daughters.
Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. Did you realize that
Ash Wednesday this year falls on February 14, which also
happens to be the Feast of St. Valentine, or as Hallmark calls it,
“Valentine’s Day” ?
I’ve written before about how Valentine’s Day can
often be corrupted by foolish secular notions of love, and
especially by lust. But I’m a big supporter of true love,
including the romantic sort, if it’s genuine and chaste and
consistent with the love of Christ. But the thing is, setting
February 14 as the annual date for the secular celebration of
romantic love is completely arbitrary. On the other hand, Ash
Wednesday, a solemn day of penance, fast and abstinence to
begin the forty days of Lent, is one of the most important days
of the Church’s year. And the celebrations often associated
with “Valentine’s Day”—romantic dinners, chocolates, etc.—
are really not fitting for Ash Wednesday.
So, keep Valentine’s Day this year, but decide right
now with your “Valentine” to change the date of celebration—
maybe to February 13. And make sure not to diminish the
importance of Ash Wednesday in any way.
The Flu and the Sign of Peace. The flu has been spreading to
almost epidemic proportions, including in our parish. Let’s
keep each other in prayer so that those who are suffering will
be comforted and healed quickly, and that those who are well
will not be struck. Let’s especially pray for those who tend to
be hardest hit by the effects of the flu, our oldest and youngest
brothers and sisters.
To help hamper the spread of the flu, I have decided
that, for the time being, the invitation to exchange the sign of
peace will not be given by the priests at Masses at St.
Raymond’s. The priest will say “The peace of the Lord be with
you always,” and we will respond “and with your spirit,” and
then immediately begin the Agnus Dei, or Lamb of God.
Thanks for your understanding and cooperation.
A Very Sad Note from the March for Life. Prior to the
March for Life some our parishioners worked with a large
group of young people from Springfield, Illinois, to find a
place for them to meet and have dinner after the March—our
hall was closed (due to the “frost heave”) so we helped them to
have access to the facilities of Angelus Academy. Sadly,
during their stay in our area one of the group, 14-year-old
Ayden O’Malley, suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage and was
rushed to the hospital, where she soon passed away. Her aunt,
told the papers, “(Ayden’s) final acts in life were in service to
God, standing up for the sanctity of life just outside the
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, participating in the
March for Life. Her young life had such meaning.” Her family
and friends mourn her death, but they also thank God for the
wonder of the gift of her life, and every single human life. As
do we. Let us pray for her soul, for her family, and for a more
profound respect for every human life.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Returning from Vacation. You may have noticed I was
gone from the parish from January 12th to the 20th.
Unfortunately, this meant that I missed the March for
Life, and I apologize for that. I’ve made most of the
Marches for the last 25 years, the exceptions being
when I was sick, but this is the first I’ve missed because
I was on vacation. Unfortunately, all things considered, it
couldn’t be helped.
Ever since moving from Texas 25 years ago, I’ve
noticed that the long cold winter “up here” really wears
on my health, both physically and mentally. So, for more
than a decade I’ve made it a point to take a week off in
January to go south to warmer climes. This has a
dramatic positive effect on my health, especially as I
prepare for and take on the added tasks of Lent.
This year, the date of my vacation was
determined by my niece’s wedding on January 13. It was
a beautiful great wedding at which I was blessed to be
the officiant and celebrant of the Mass: my wonderful
niece, Bethy, was even more lovely than usual, and the
church was the absolutely magnificent 140-year-old procathedral—
almost as beautiful as ours! Unfortunately,
the wedding was in Indianapolis, which was colder and
snowier than Virginia (0 degrees on my last morning
there)! But the next day I was able to fly down to Florida
for 6 days of golf with some priest-friends of mine (one
of the priest’s parents have a time-sharing deal there, so
we stay free, which is really nice).
I’m sure you’re all fascinated by my travels, but
the actual point of me writing this is to tell you about my
return. I have been assigned to some parishes that were
really hard to return to after vacation—one in particular
was such a difficult assignment for me that I felt
physically ill every time I came “home”. But I just want to
tell you that as much as I really enjoy and need to get
away (especially in the winter) I also really enjoy coming
home to our parish. My work here is challenging, but not
in many negative ways. And there are so many positive
things here for me. I have a talented and faithful staff, a
hardworking and kind vicar, and a beautiful church to
work and worship in. But most of all, I have so many
kind, loving and devout parishioners, who are
cooperative with my efforts, eager to grow in love and
knowledge of Jesus and His Church, patient with my
shortcomings, and forgiving of my mistakes.
I just wanted you to know that.
Blessing of Throats. This Saturday, February 3, is the
Feast of St. Blaise, which means it’s time for the
blessing of throats. St. Blaise was bishop of Sebaste
and was martyred about A.D. 316. Legend has it that
one day Bishop Blaise restored a pig (alive) to its owner,
a poor woman, after it had been eaten by a wolf. A few
days later, when Bishop was imprisoned for his Catholic
faith, the woman brought him candles to light the
darkness of his cell. In that same prison, he miraculously
cured a boy who was choking to death from a fishbone
lodged in his throat. Thus, the custom arose of using
candles and invoking the Saint to bless throats against
all sorts of ailments. We will give the blessing of throats
this Saturday, at the end of the 9am Mass and
immediately following the 5pm Vigil Mass.
First Confessions. Please keep our second graders in
your prayers this week as they prepare to receive the
Sacrament of Penance for the first time next Saturday,
February 3. First Confession is a beautiful thing, but it
can be a little scary for some. So pray that the little ones
are not too nervous, make good confessions, accept
God’s grace and develop a true love for this sacrament.
Plan Ahead to Attend the Lenten Series. Lent is still
two-and-a-half weeks away, but I’d like you to plan ahead
a little this year, so you can attend our Thursday evening
Lenten Series. I always like to bring in a guest speaker to
give these talks, a priest who is a learned, holy and gifted
speaker. I thought had such a priest lined up to give the
talks this year, I just recently found out he would not be
able to do it. So, I have decided to give the series myself.
The talks will be on a topic near and dear to my
heart, and which I consider of great importance for you:
the Mass and the Eucharist. I know this is not exactly a
unique topic, especially for me. But I think many of you
would find a systematic and detailed explanation of the
Mass and Eucharist extremely helpful to your spiritual
life: after all, for many, Sunday Mass is the main, or even
only, extended time they dedicate to spending with the
Lord. I think this series will really help you to get much
more out of that experience, and put much more into it.
I especially invite the folks who never come to
these kinds of talks. I’m always struck by how so many of
our talks, lectures and conferences are attended by the
same 200-300 people. That’s good for them, but what
about the rest of the parish? I know you’re very busy, but
please take time this Lent to attend these talks—I
promise they will be interesting and truly helpful, both to
those who have a strong understanding of the faith, and
those who sometimes struggle. Not because I’m such a
good speaker, but because the material I’ll be working
with is so rich.
To make attendance a little easier on parents, we
plan to provide free “babysitting” on site—bring your
kids, leave them with our care-givers, and go to the talk. I
don’t have all the details worked out yet, but I’ll let you
know when I do.
I haven’t finalized my talks, yet, but I hope to give
one talk on the doctrine of the Eucharist, especially it’s
Biblical basis. Then probably talk about the development
of the Mass from the Early Church and through the
centuries. Then maybe a couple of talks on the rituals
and prayers of the Mass itself, going from beginning to
end, in detail, to show the meaning and beauty of the
prayers, gestures and symbols of the Mass.
If you can’t come to all the talks, come to the
ones you can. I look forward to seeing your there—so
plan ahead!
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

[I was out of town last week, so, in light of Friday’s March for Life, I thought this text might be interesting to you. Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles]

Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)
Pope John Paul II
March 25, 1995

62. The more recent Papal Magisterium has vigorously reaffirmed this common doctrine. Pius XI in particular, in his Encyclical Casti Connubii, rejected the specious justifications of abortion.[65] Pius XII excluded all direct abortion, i.e., every act tending directly to destroy human life in the womb “whether such destruction is intended as an end or only as a means to an end”.[66] John XXIII reaffirmed that human life is sacred because “from its very beginning it directly involves God’s creative activity”.[67] The Second Vatican Council, as mentioned earlier, sternly condemned abortion: “From the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes”.[68]….
Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable.[72] Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops–who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine–I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.[73]
No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church….

99. In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination”, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.
Making my own the words of the concluding message of the Second Vatican Council, I address to women this urgent appeal: “Reconcile people with life”.[133] You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person and, at the same time, confers on you a particular task: “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb . . . This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings not only towards her own child, but every human being, which profoundly marks the woman’s personality”.[134] A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.
I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.
100. In this great endeavour to create a new culture of life we are inspired and sustained by the confidence that comes from knowing that the Gospel of life, like the Kingdom of God itself, is growing and producing abundant fruit (cf. Mk 4:26-29). There is certainly an enormous disparity between the powerful resources available to the forces promoting the “culture of death” and the means at the disposal of those working for a “culture of life and love”. But we know that we can rely on the help of God, for whom nothing is impossible (cf. Mt 19:26).
Filled with this certainty, and moved by profound concern for the destiny of every man and woman, I repeat what I said to those families who carry out their challenging mission amid so many difficulties:[135] a great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer. Jesus himself has shown us by his own example that prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). As he taught his disciples, some demons cannot be driven out except in this way (cf. Mk 9:29). Let us therefore discover anew the humility and the courage to pray and fast so that power from on high will break down the walls of lies and deceit: the walls which conceal from the sight of so many of our brothers and sisters the evil of practices and laws which are hostile to life. May this same power turn their hearts to resolutions and goals inspired by the civilization of life and love.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Parish Hall and Basement Closure. By now you’ve all heard about the problem we’re having in our basement. Let me try to briefly explain.
The concrete outside of the doors leading into the basement was originally laid in such a way that fails to provide adequately for rain water run-off. This leads to excessive amounts of moisture/water gathering in the soil under the concrete. Due to the extreme cold, this underground moisture has frozen, and when water freezes it expands, in this case lifting up the surface concrete a small amount—about an inch in some places. This is called “frost heave.”
This would not be a problem except that the concrete runs right up to the doors of the basement, so that when it lifts up an inch or so it blocks the door from opening outward, so that none of our basement entrances or exits will open. Since these are all fire exits, the Fire Marshal has ordered us to not use the basement until the doors will open.
We’ve had this frost heave problem before, and we know that as the weather warms up the concrete will fall back down, and the doors should open. But it’s never been this bad. We’re thinking this year’s severity is a result not only of this year’s frost heave, but also of the cumulative effect of prior years’ frost heaves—every year it rises a bit and then falls back, but not all the way, so that the concrete rises higher every year.
But as we wait for the assistance of warmer weather, we know there’s still a lot of winter left, so we are diligently looking for an immediate short-term solution so we can open the basement for next weekend. But we will also have to come up with a long-term solution, which will be rather costly. We think that our insurance will pay for most of this.
In the meantime, thank you for your patience. And please pray for all of this, especially pray to St. Raymond that he will come to the aid of his church.

March for Life. This coming Friday, January 19, hundreds of St. Raymond’s parishioners will join hundreds of thousands of pro-life folks from around America gathered on the Washington Mall for the 45th annual March for Life. The parish is sponsoring four buses to take us down to the Mall, so please sign up and join us (sign-up sheets are in the narthex). Or join us down there, taking the metro or coming from your workplace in DC. And if you can’t come down to the Mall, join us in spirit and prayer wherever you are. Perhaps you can start discussions at work or school, always with charity, about the right to and dignity of human life. Or maybe you can watch the March live on EWTN (the global Catholic cable network), while saying the Rosary. Or maybe the best alternative to attending the March: while we’re marching you spend time in Church praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
Love him or hate him, President Trump’s election has been a huge win for the pro-life cause, from his lifting of the onerous contraception regulations of Obamacare, to his appointment of pro-life judges, especially Justice Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But this kind of good news can sometimes cause us to take our eye off the ball, especially as we are surrounded by all sorts of other social ills we have to deal with. But we can’t let down our fight. We must continue to do everything we can to peacefully and charitably fight to defend the right to life of the innocent, especially innocent unborn babies.

Transgender Ideology in Schools. One of those other “social ills” we’re concerned about is the growth of transgender ideology, especially in our public schools. Some parents and students have told me that they don’t see this much in their schools. I hope not. But I worry that it’s there, but just subtle enough to escape immediate attention. Or perhaps we’ve just gotten so used to the leftist sexual propaganda that we don’t notice what’s going on, like the old story of the frog boiling in water.
But sometimes it’s not so subtle. Last month kids at George Mason High School in Falls Church were apparently forced to listen to a speaker giving the hard sell of the transgender ideology. I quote from a January 5 article about the talk written by Austin Ruse in Crisis Magazine (
“Amy Ellis Nutt is a reporter for the Washington Post who wrote a book about a boy named Wayne who from the age of two was said to believe he was a girl. How did he express this? How does a two-year-old express anything more than a desire for the breast and a dry diaper? Nutt claims the boy actually asked his mom when will he get to be a girl and when will his [deleted] fall off. Does anyone really believe that a two-year-old would say such things?…
“Nutt delivered a mini-lecture on what she called “gender 101” in which she propagandized those poor kids on these new and utterly made up terms “transgender” and “cisgender.” …. She says language matters. It certainly does. All monstrous and even totalitarian lies begin with the lies of language….
“Nutt goes on to say, …“Everything to do with how you present yourself to the world, what genitals you have, what reproductive organs you have, what gender you identify with, and who you are sexually attracted to was imprinted on your brain by way of two things, hormones and genes when you were still in your mother’s womb.” Forget that there are no scientifically rigorous studies that back this claim (emphasis added) ….
“This is pretty much all they have, fake science and emotion….
“This is what government schools are teaching impressionable young people, some of whom, without any doubt, are going through confusing times and will listen to this siren song and will one day allow themselves to be mutilated….
“Do these schools teach that puberty blockers, such as Wayne was given, stunt your growth, growth that will never come back? Are these kids taught that there has not been a single clinical trial for the use of puberty blockers on gender confused kids? Are they taught that an overwhelming number of gender confused children, something on the order of 80 percent, come around to accepting their biological sex in their twenties? Are they taught of the growing number of adult men and women who deeply regret the extreme measures of amputating otherwise healthy organs like [deleted] and [deleted]? Are they taught that the suicide rate for post-op transsexuals is 10 times higher than the general population even in trans-friendly Sweden? To ask is to answer…”

Parents: please don’t just go along to get along, or be lulled to sleep on this issue that could have a hugely devastating impact on your children’s mental, physical and spiritual health. And let us all pray for parents and kids as they meet the oppressive challenges of modern society.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

The Epiphany of Our Lord

Thanks for a Beautiful Christmas. I always underestimate
the goodness of my people. As we approached the Christmas
“weekend” this year I was nervous that some of you might
either skip one of the two Masses required (Sunday and
Christmas) or approach the double obligation with some
“reticence.” I should have known better. It truly made
Christmas extra “merry” for me to find that not only were the
crowds for the Sunday Masses larger than our average
Sunday, but all the Masses for Christmas seemed to be
somewhat larger than in prior years. And more than that, there
was not one hint of reticence or complaint—everyone was as a
cheerful as the days called for.
That also carried forward to the next weekend (last
weekend). Since the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God was
not a holy day of obligation this year, I had no idea how many
folks would come to Mass on Monday, January 1. I figured,
after all, it was New Year’s Day and people might
understandably take the opportunity to sleep in, etc. but I was
very pleasantly surprised to see good crowds at all three
Masses on Monday—as large as the average Sunday Mass.
God bless you for your devotion and love for Jesus
and His Mother. And thank God for giving me such good
More Thanks. As the Christmas Season comes to an end, I’d
like to add a few more Christmas “thank you’s” to those from
prior weeks. First, I want to thank all of you for your
generosity in the Christmas collections. Second, I want to
thank all who contributed gifts to the Giving Tree; because of
your kindness we were able to help 41 families celebrate
Christmas, 11 from Our Lady of the Blue Ridge, and 30 from
our parish. Third, on behalf of Fr. Smith and myself, I want to
thank all of you who dropped off baked goods and other treats
and gifts for us in the rectory. Your kindness is overwhelming.
And last but not least, I want to thank 8-year-old
Anna McDermott who represented all of you at Christmas
Midnight Mass, as she carried the statue of the Baby Jesus in
procession for the Blessing of the Christmas Crèche.
Epiphany and the End of the Christmas Season. Today we
celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, commemorating the visit
and adoration of the magi to Christ in Bethlehem. It has
historically been celebrated on January 6th since at least the 3rd
century, but is celebrated in the U.S. on the Sunday falling
between January 2nd and January 8th (inclusive). In the
Orthodox Church and many of the Eastern Rite Catholic
Churches it also, effectively, celebrates the birth of Our Lord,
i.e., Christmas. This year it also represents the last Sunday of
the Christmas season, which ends tomorrow, Monday, with
the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
The visit of the magi is rich in symbolic meanings for
Christians, in particular those relating to the revealing
(“epiphany”) of the Christ to the gentile world. As we think
about this, it reminds us that that the Church is the Body of
Christ on Earth, and so is called to continue the Christmas/
Epiphany revelation of the coming of the Messiah to the
world. But this is not just a responsibility for the Pope,
bishops and priests: each of us is baptized into Christ and
members of Christ’s Body, and so each of is called to go out
to the gentiles of today—those who do not share our Christian
and Catholic faith—and reveal Christ to them. This can take
various forms, but it begins with living our lives as if we
believe in Jesus ourselves. So we live lives in keeping with the
moral teaching of Christ, especially when it comes to chastity
and charity. But we also must speak to others about Jesus, and
His Church. Again, this can take various forms, considering
prudence, our own particular talents, and the particular
opportunities the Lord gives us to share our faith.
As we come to the end of our Christmas season, ask
yourself and ask the Lord: how is He calling you to reveal Him
to the world you live in this year? To your friends, your family,
your co-workers, and to strangers? Ask Him, and listen
carefully for His answer.
Feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort. Today, January 7, is
normally the feast of our parish Patron, but since it falls on
Epiphany Sunday, the liturgical celebration of his feast is
suppressed this year. Which would probably suit the humble
St. Raymond just fine. But it is fitting that we not forget the
feast entirely.
For those of you who don’t know much about St.
Raymond, I invite you to read the 32-page biography we
published about a year and a half ago. If you don’t have one,
come by the parish office and pick one up.
As a brief reminder…Raymond was born of a noble
family, near Barcelona, in 1175. At the age of 20 he became
professor of canon law. In 1210 he left teaching to complete his
studies in civil and canon law at the University of Bologna. He
went on to hold a chair of canon law at that university for three
years. (The date of his priestly ordination is uncertain, but it
would seem to be around 1195).
On August 1, 1218 Raymond received a heavenly
vision in which the Blessed Mother (“Our Lady of Ransom”)
instructed him to help St. Peter Nolasco found the Order of
Mercedarians, which would be devoted to the ransom of
Christians taken captive by the Moors (Spanish Muslims).
Raymond did not, however, join that order but rather entered
the Order of Preachers (“Dominicans”) in Barcelona in 1222.
As a Dominican, Raymond continued to teach and preach, and
devoted considerable effort working to convert Moors and
Jews, coaxing St. Thomas Aquinas to write his Summa Contra
Gentiles to help in his efforts.
At the request of his superiors Raymond published the
Summa Casuum, a book on cases of conscience for the
guidance of confessors and moralists, the first guide of its kind.
This work eventually led to his appointment as confessor and
theologian to Pope Gregory IX in 1230. The Pope soon
directed Raymond to re-arrange and codify the canons
(juridical laws) of the Church, which required him to rewrite
and condense centuries of Church decrees. The Pope published
Raymond’s work in 1231, and commanded that it alone should
be considered authoritative. From then on St. Raymond would
be known as the “Father of Canon Law.”
In 1238 he was elected Master General of the
Dominican Order, the second successor to St. Dominic, but he
resigned two years later, claiming that at 63 years old he was
too old for the job. He continued his writing, preaching and
pastoral work, as well many important responsibilities
entrusted to him by various popes, for another 37 years until
his death in Barcelona on January 6, 1275, at the age of 100.
He is the patron saint of lawyers, both canon and civil.
St. Raymond of Peñafort, pray for us!
Oremus pro invicem! Fr. De Celles