Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost: Veni Sancte Spiritu! This Sunday’s readings tell us that the Holy Spirit first descended on the early Christians with “a noise like a strong driving wind,” and appeared like “tongues as of fire.” After this they “began to speak in different tongues” so that the people gathered in Jerusalem “from every nation under heaven” could hear them “speaking in his own language.”
That same Holy Spirit descended on each of us in Baptism, and came again to strengthen (“confirm”—see below) His gifts in us in our Confirmations. By the baptismal indwelling of the Spirit we were united to the Divine life of Jesus Christ, and in Confirmation we were given the gifts to live the fullness of the faith amidst the great challenges of world. These gifts help us individually to get to heaven, by loving God and our neighbor, but they are also meant to help us proclaim the Gospel to all those around us, just as the first Christians did.
And the Holy Spirit does not merely come to individuals, He comes and dwells in the Church as One Body of Christ. Because of this no gift of the Holy Spirit is meant merely for personal enhancement separate from the Church, or contrary to the unity of the Church.
Let us pray to Christ and His Father, to renew in us the powerful presence of their Holy Spirit within each of us and within the whole Church. And let us ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to use His gifts to become the Christians we are called to be.

Speaking of the Sacrament of Confirmation. (By popular request, this is basically a repeat from last year’s column). This Tuesday evening, May 22, Bishop Burbidge will be here to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to our 8th graders and few others. Congratulations to them all! The sacrament, however is not a “graduation.” Rather, it is the beginning of a new stage in the Christian life, as they receive the strengthening of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, along with His seven-fold gifts, to participate more fully in the Church’s mission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
Many people are confused about this sacrament. The key, it seems to me, to understanding this sacrament is to understand the word “confirm.” Webster’s gives two basic definitions for the word: “1: to give approval to: ratify … 2 : to make firm or firmer: strengthen…” It is the second definition that defines our sacramental use of the word: Confirmation is about the Holy Spirit strengthening us.
Some think, for example, that the word “confirmation” means that the sacrament is the opportunity for the young person to publicly “ratify” their faith in Christ and His Catholic Church (i.e., the first definition of the word in Webster’s), which they couldn’t do when they were baptized as babies. But that is not the case, and anyway, they do that every Sunday when they proclaim the Creed (I believe in God…). Remember, a sacrament is something God does, not something we do. As the Catechism (1308) teaches: “we must not…forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need “ratification” to become effective…”
Others think the sacrament is when the child “becomes an adult.” Again, a misunderstanding. As the Catechism tells us: “Although Confirmation is sometimes called the “sacrament of Christian maturity,” we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth…” Confirmation does give us the grace we need to live out our faith as adults, but the grace does not make someone who is a child into an adult—it only gives a child who is growing into an adult to face difficult adult decisions, etc. with the fullness of grace they will need.
Still others think that because Confirmation is usually the last of the “Sacraments of Initiation” (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) to be received that it therefore makes us “full members of the Church.” To be absolutely clear: we become full members of the Church at Baptism. However, Confirmation and Eucharist strengthen our bond with Christ and His Church, and enable us to live out our part in the Church’s mission more perfectly. So, Confirmation, “renders our bond with the Church more perfect” (CCC 1303).
A much more appropriate short description of the sacrament is that, “it makes us soldiers for Christ.” However incomplete it is, it still communicates the strength of the sacrament and the gifts given for determined (though peaceful) proclamation of the Gospel and defense of the Church.
But let’s consider the more full and comprehensive description given by the Catechism:

“1303 …. Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
– it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation [sonship] which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”;
– it unites us more firmly to Christ;
– it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
– it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
– it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross: “Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence…” [St. Ambrose].
1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.
1305 This “character” perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and “the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi Ex officio).”

Mormons and Boy Scouts. Last week the Mormon Church announced it was ending its 105-year partnership with the Boy Scouts of America (soon to be known simply as “Scouts BSA”). In their statement the Mormons said: “we need to…fortify all children and youth with gospel-centered growth and learning experiences now more than ever.” Sounds familiar.

Parish Debt. I mentioned here last week that we should be paying off the parish debt very soon…. I will be making a special announcement about this at all Sunday Masses this weekend….

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Solemnity of The Ascension of The Lord

Ascension of the Lord. Today we celebrate the Ascension of
the Lord, the day in history, 40 days after the first Easter, that
Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended body and soul into heaven.
This great finale to the paschal mystery, along with the bodily
death and resurrection of Jesus, has many and profound
ramifications for us today. Perhaps most urgent is the reminder
of the great dignity and profound meaning of the human body:
that the body is not merely an empty shell temporarily
inhabited by our souls, but rather it is part of who we are, that
part that communicates ourselves to others. As St. John Paul II
used to say so often: “the body speaks!” The words of our
mouth talk to others, our hands express our creativity and
helpfulness, our feet take us to be with family and friends, etc.
Nowadays people especially forget that our bodies
communicate our sexuality—our maleness and femaleness—
and through that express our openness to the self-gift (of body
and soul) of marital, maternal, and paternal love. In a time of
great confusion surrounding sexuality, “gender,” marriage and
family, we need to open our eyes to the most basic, simple and
common-sense lessons our bodies teach us.
Mother’s Day. I haven’t forgotten you Moms! I’m sure you
haven’t minded me placing the Lord’s feast first—I’m “sure”
because that’s how Moms are! Always placing others first. And
that’s why we love Moms, and motherhood, so much, and truly
revere them. As I spoke above of the meaning and dignity of
the body, motherhood is yet another expression of this
meaning. What a miraculous gift and blessing—to mothers,
husbands, children and to all society—is the motherly love
expressed so tenderly and yet powerfully through a mother’s
bodily acts: carrying a baby in her womb for 9 months, the
sacrificial pangs of childbirth, nursing her baby at her breast,
holding her child in her arms, kissing the scraped knee, the
smile that makes everything better, or the tears of compassion
or pride.
Thank the Good Lord Jesus for the gift of mothers! On
this special day, and every day, may the Lord give us the grace
to show them the love that they deserve.
And, Moms: thank you for all you do and are for us;
may the good Lord Jesus bless you and may His Mother Mary
keep you in her tender embrace forever. And let us pray for
those who have gone on before us into death: may the Lord
forgive them for their imperfections, and reward them for their
great love.
Debt Payoff Celebration. I mentioned here last week that we
should be paying off the parish debt very soon. But one
parishioner wrote to remind me that we need to do something to
celebrate this milestone achievement, and I agree (thanks, G.).
Unfortunately, this is not a good time to plan a party, with
Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and Father’s Day, and finals,
graduations and vacations, etc. So, I’ve decided to postpone the
celebration until September at our annual parish picnic, making
that an extra special event. Fr. James Gould, my predecessor
who built the church and accumulated the debt in the first place
(raising an amazing $11 million in cash along the way!), has
promised to attend. Bishop Burbidge is trying to make it work
with his calendar as well. If you have any suggestions about
how we can spruce up the picnic, let me know. Save the date:
Sunday, September 16.
Parishioners Moving. I love the summer, but I hate all the
moves that take place, especially with all the military and
government employed families. If you are planning a move this
summer, please let the office know. And please let me know,
personally. I don’t know all of my parishioners nearly as well as
I wish I could, but I love you all, and pray for you constantly.
So, please, don’t forget to say good-bye.
Scandal, and the Met Gala. Most people tend to use the word
“scandal” to mean “an action or event regarded as morally or
legally wrong and causing general public outrage.” So, if an
“event” doesn’t cause outrage, if people consider it no big deal,
then it’s not normally considered “scandalous.”
But the Catholic Church has a different definition of the
“sin of scandal.” As the Catechism teaches:
“2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads
another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his
neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may
even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave
offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a
grave offense.”
“2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason
of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those
who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse:
‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to
sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened
round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’
Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office
are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the
scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves
in sheep’s clothing.”
“2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions,
by fashion or opinion….”
So, the sin of scandal is doing something, even simply
remaining silent, that leads other to sin, including leading them
to think that something evil is okay. So, for example, when a
father laughs at someone else’s dirty joke in front of his little
son, the father sins by leading his son to think dirty jokes are
okay. Or when a mother allows her daughter to dress in sexually
-provocative outfits, she leads her daughter to think that
tempting others is okay.
Last Monday’s (May 7) annual star-studded “Met Gala”
in New York was filled with this kind of scandal. Although the
theme was promising, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the
Catholic Imagination,” at the actual event famous entertainers
showed up wearing outrageously sacrilegious outfits (e.g., halfnaked
women wearing dresses embroidered with pictures of the
Blessed Mother). One, the singer Rihanna, reportedly wore a
bishop’s miter (the hat bishops wear at Mass) with a very
skimpy dress. This would be enough to cause great scandal on
its own, since these public figures were leading others to think
that nothing was wrong with this. But what made it most
scandalous was that some Catholic leaders in New York
reportedly seemed to endorse or make light of these folks’
actions. Maybe I have my facts wrong (you can never trust the
press), and I’m no puritan, but if this is true, it makes no sense to
me….
But let’s just try, personally, never to be the source of
scandal to others, and have confidence that, by the grace of God,
“the gates of hell shall not prevail” against His Catholic Church.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Sixth Sunday of Easter

First Holy Communion. This week was a big week for our second graders as yesterday (Saturday) they received Our Lord in Holy Communion for the very first time. What a great thing for these children, to receive our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; to have the Lord come to them in the flesh, and join them to Himself in this miracle. And what a beautiful thing to see these little ones receive with such innocence and faith. If only we adults could receive with the simple faith so many of these little ones have, and recognize the miracle of the Love we receive in this sacrament, our intimate Communion with Jesus. The Lord tells us “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Does this not refer in a particular way to the Eucharist, which is Christ Himself, who is the kingdom? The children believe simply because we assure them that Jesus is God, and so has the power to do anything He wants and will always tell us the truth, and that Jesus Himself said of the bread, “This is my Body.” And so they believe. So simple. Do we believe? If not, why not? The same simple logic of children should be logical to us adults: God can’t lie, God can do anything, Jesus is God, Jesus says “This is my Body.”
Let us pray for our little ones today, that they may always believe as they do today, and receive this sacrament with the openness they do today. But let us also pray for ourselves—that we may become like our little children.

May is the Month of Mary. Today (Sunday, May 6) after the 12:15 Mass we will mark this devotion with the “May Crowning.” All are invited to join us. Also, I encourage all of you to keep this devotion by praying the Rosary during this month—even every day. I especially encourage all families to pray the Rosary together at least once a week. In the words of Saint John Paul II: “The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the center, they share His joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in His hands, they draw from Him the hope and the strength to go on” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 41).

Spring and Summer. Spring has finally sprung, which means we will begin again to experience two things at Mass: more noise and less clothes. Both of these are somewhat understandable: as they become more active outside little ones seem to tend to be more active inside also, and as it becomes warmer outside, all of us tend to wear less clothing.
The only dress code we have St. Raymond’s is to use common sense, as well as Christian modesty, chastity and charity. Growing up in Texas, I understand all about dressing for the heat. But let’s remember two things. First, please try not to dress like you’re going to the pool when you’re coming to Mass. On the other hand, if someone does come to Mass in a t-shirt let’s assume they have an important reason for doing so. The second thing to remember is that the more skin we show the more likely we are to be the near occasion of sin to others. So I ask all of you, wherever you are this summer—whether on the beach, on a date, or at Mass—please consider the spiritual well-being of others.
Also, we love to have little children at Mass. But all of us (including their parents) would also prefer if they would be peaceful and quiet at Mass. But that isn’t always the way it is—especially at this time of year. So once again, I encourage all of you, in charity, to be patient and supportive of parents and children—parenting is very difficult in the present cultural environment, so we have to help them every way we can. On the other hand, parents, please remember to do what you can, and when a child gets really out of hand at Mass, or if they continue to make noise (especially talking or shouting) please consider moving to the “Family Room” or the narthex until they quiet down. God bless you parents and your little ones!

Narthex and Family Room. Which reminds me: during the Mass the Narthex is not a place for conversation—I consider it a part of the church where people who cannot be in the main part can reverently attend Mass. Some folks have little children who need a break from the pew, and some folks don’t feel comfortable sitting in the pews (for various legitimate reasons). I’m happy these folks feel comfortable in the narthex, and out of charity ask that we all respect their right to participate in the Mass in the Narthex without further unnecessary distractions. So, please, from when the announcements start before Mass, until the Hail Mary is completed after Mass, let’s keep the Narthex a prayerful place.
Also, please remember the Narthex and the Family Room are NOT play rooms. Out of respect for the other families present, children should not be allowed to run around or make excessive noise.

Italian Dinner. Thanks to the Knights of Columbus for reviving the Italian Dinner for us this year, taking place next Saturday, May 12. Like all of our other dinners and socials it is so important to the life of our parish in order to encourage and promote good Christian fellowship. I suppose such organized fellowship is not absolutely necessary—grace (and the sacraments), the teachings of Christ, and the life of prayer and virtue are the keys to salvation. And hermits live alone and flourish. But for the vast majority of us, weak as we are, the support we receive from the holy friendship of other Christians can make so much difference in our ability to live out our faith. Families are made to live and love together, and so is the family of Jesus. And while this familial life and love is experienced and renewed par excellence in the Holy Mass, the grace and lessons of the Mass should overflow and transform the rest of life. Dinners such as this give us an opportunity, an example, and a secure environment within which to grow in our practice of fraternal love for each other, loving one another as Christ has loved us.

Sign of Peace. I’m still accepting feedback on my questions/comments about the exchange of the sign of peace. So far, I’ve received more input on this than any other question I’ve ever posed to you. Lots of responses. I’m surprised how many people agree with my assessment of the problem, and want me to make a change. But I’m still accepting input, so please don’t hesitate to send an email to me or call the parish office. I read them all. (And thanks to everyone for their kind and respectful tone).

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Modified Weekday Schedule. Once again, I apologize for any inconvenience experienced due to the priests’ schedules this month. As previously discussed, both Fr. Smith and I took separate weeks off in April, and this coming week both of us will be away for 2 ½ days for the annual convocation of priests with the Bishop (half of the priests of the Diocese go the first half of the week, and the other half of the priests go the second half). The most obvious inconvenience this causes is that we go to a Modified Schedule for Masses from Monday through Friday. But it can’t be helped. Thanks again for your patience, and remember to pray for priestly vocations.

First Holy Communion. Next Saturday, May 5, our little children will be receiving First Holy Communion. What a special and wonderful day this will be for them, and for all of us. Do you remember your First Communion? I remember mine. Please pray for our little ones this week that they may receive reverently and with true appreciation of Who they are receiving, both on Saturday and every time they receive thereafter. And pray for yourself, that you will do the same.

May Crowning. Since the Church sets May aside as a month of particular devotion to the Blessed Mother, we begin this month with the traditional “Crowning of the Blessed Mother,” or “May Crowning.” Please join us and many of our First Holy Communicants for this short but richly symbolic ceremony immediately following the 12:15 Mass next Sunday, May 6. If you go to another Mass, please come back for this!

Parish Debt. We will be paying off the parish debt very soon. Many of you will recall (although most of you came to the parish after the fact) that we incurred about $11.5 million debt when we built the church and rectory 11 years ago. Thanks to all of you who have given so much, either through direct donations or through regular offertory giving, to pay down the debt. I will let you know in the next few weeks when the balance is $0.
In the meantime, I want to encourage you all not to think this is a reason to lower your offertory donations. The sad reality is, 11 years ago we had a brand-new church to pay for, but now we have an 11-year old church that needs (or soon will need) major repairs, replacements and improvements. For example, in the next few years, among other things, we’ll have to replace the parking lot, reroof the church and rectory, and do major upgrades to the HVAC (heat, ventilation and air conditioning) system—work that will cost, in total, well over $1 million. We currently have about $1 million in unrestricted savings, but a parish our size should always have at least that amount on hand for regular operations and emergencies.
So, please keep giving at the rate you have been. For those of you who have been using our Debt Reduction Envelope, once the loan is paid off your donations in those envelops will be funneled toward our Long-Term Maintenance Fund. Very soon we’ll have a new envelope for donating to this LT Maintenance Fund. Note that like the Debt Reduction contributions, donations to our Maintenance Fund will not be subject to the Diocesan 8% assessment (the “tax” on the offertory collection we pay to the Bishop to run the Diocesan central offices and programs).
If we can keep donations steady after the loan is paid off, that will allow us to keep us running a surplus of roughly $400,000. In the past this surplus has gone to pay off the debt. In the future I hope to save most of this surplus, although I am considering using some of it for semi-major expenditures; for example, some of it will go to pay for part of the lighting/mural project (see below), and some may go to install security cameras in various parts of the building and upgrading our CCD facilities. In the future, I might also hire additional staff to offer more programs for you, if that seems reasonable and cost-effective.
Please know: financially speaking, I am, by training and inclination, first and foremost a bill-payer, who hates debt; second, I am a saver; third, I generally try to spend money (especially larger amounts) only when it is genuinely beneficial to the parish.
Once again, thanks for your continuing generosity, and your trust in my stewardship. God bless you for it.

Lighting and Mural Project Update. I’m sorry I haven’t updated you in a while about our Lighting and Mural Project, but I wanted to have more facts before I did so.
The good news first. Our capital campaign raised a total of $257,000. While this is well short of my stated goal of $400,000, I consider it a major success, since I had always realistically thought we’d collect only $200,000—so we’ve well exceeded that. Also, collections on the pledges are running very well—thanks!!
More good news. We signed our contract with the artist for the paintings, for a total price of $75,000, as expected. On the down side, the timing of the installation of the paintings will be different than I originally thought (due to a confusion on our end). The actual planned dates for installation are: first painting: sometime between March and May of 2019, and the second painting sometime between August to October of 2019.
Now the not so good news. Some of you thought I was overestimating the cost of the lighting project at $300,000. But even though we were using estimates suggested by our lighting specialist and the Diocesan Construction Office, when the actual bids came in we were all blown away by bids running about twice what we had estimated. To make a long story short, we were forced to rethink our expectations of the project to try find bids nearer our original budget—our basic goals are the same, but we’ve targeted more affordable hardware, and scaled-back some of the rewiring, extra lights, etc.. With that, we’ve have finally received several bids that are more or less in line with the budget, and are currently evaluating them.
So that’s where we stand. In the next week or two I hope to reach a final decision on the lighting contractor. I will give you another update when we get there. I apologize for not keeping you better informed. Pray to St. Raymond that all works out as God wills.
Finally, although I hope this is not the case, if anyone feels that because of the changes in our plans for the lighting they need to rethink their pledge, I would understand. Please let me know if that is the case. I have no intention of doing a “bait and switch.”

Bishop’s Lenten Appeal. Thanks to all of you who contributed to the BLA. Once again you came through to beat the goal the Bishop set for us, donating over $297,000, or 102% of our goal of $292,000, with 31% of our households participating. God bless you all for your generosity. (If you haven’t done so, it’s not too late to contribute).

Sign of Peace. I’ve received a lot of feedback/input on my question last week about the sign of peace. Thanks to all who have so kindly and respectfully submitted their ideas. But I still welcome more, so please continue to send in your comments to fr.decelles@gmail.com or call the office.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Sign of Peace. Due to the flu epidemic, for the last few months priests celebrating Sunday Masses at St. Raymond’s have often omitted inviting the congregation to exchange the “sign of peace.” This Sunday we will revert to my usual policy of allowing the priest to make invitation (at his discretion). But even as I do this, I continue to be concerned that, as the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) noted in 2014, there is need for “greater restraint in this gesture, which can be exaggerated and cause a certain distraction…just before the reception of Communion.” Now, I am very pleased that we exchange the sign of peace with much more reverence than most other parishes. Even so, some still don’t seem to understand its actual meaning and purpose, and so still use it as a time to exchange merely friendly greetings, or as the CDW says, “the occasion for expressing congratulations, best wishes or condolences….”. But the sign of peace is so much more than that. As the CDW noted: “The sign of peace…is placed between the Lord’s Prayer, to which is joined the embolism which prepares for the gesture of peace, and the breaking of the bread, in the course of which the Lamb of God is implored to give us His peace. With this gesture, whose function is to manifest peace, communion and charity, …the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament, that is, the Body of Christ the Lord.” Thus, the sign of peace inherently flows from and leads back to the Eucharist: “By its nature the Eucharist is the sacrament of peace.…[T]his dimension of the Eucharistic mystery finds specific expression in the sign of peace.” “It should be made clear once and for all that the rite of peace already has its own profound meaning of prayer and offering of peace in the context of the Eucharist.” (For a further discussion of this, please see my homily from last week, or the video excerpt from this year’s Lenten series, both of which are available on the parish website). The CDW went on to say, “If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly ….it can …and sometimes ought to be omitted.” Should I omit the exchange of the sign of peace at all Masses? I sincerely don’t want to. I’d like to keep it, but do it better. One thing I’ve been thinking of is inspired by something else the CDW wrote: “[I]n0 those places where familiar and profane gestures of greeting were previously chosen, they could be replaced with other more appropriate gestures.” It occurs to me that the handshakes are “familiar and profane gestures of greeting,” and so perhaps we could use another gesture, one that is inherently more liturgical. In particular, I was thinking that perhaps we might turn only to the person on our left and right (so, just 2 people) and, with folded hands, give a slight bow of the head or shoulders, much like the servers do when they serve the priest at the altar. This might be a nice compromise, keeping the exchange, but making it more reverent, sober and liturgical. (It also solves the very real problem of those who are uncomfortable, being forced to shake a stranger’s hand—in charity, we shouldn’t dismiss their sensibilities). I’m just “thinking out loud” here. I haven’t made up my mind. But I would very much like your input: what can we do to make the exchange more reverent and “sober”? Would the bowing alternative above be a good idea? Etc. So please,
write me a note (email me at fr.decelles@gmail.com) or call the office and leave a brief message with the secretary. But please, keep your note short and to the point so I will be able to read it quickly. Also, please be respectful and courteous. And note, this is not a vote, but input. I may make no changes at all. Maybe all that will come of this is an increased awareness of the meaning of the sign of peace. Thanks for your patience and consideration.
Prayers for Priests and Future Priests. For decades the Arlington Diocese had the reputation of being largely spared from the nationwide (and worldwide) shortage of priests. But in the last few years, as the number of parishioners has rapidly increased in the Diocese, priestly ordinations have been declining. Moreover, the number of priests from other dioceses who are living in residence in our parishes (and helping with some Masses and confessions) while attending various Catholic theology schools in the area has also dropped. And so, the priest-shortage is starting to be felt in Arlington, especially in the last few months, when 6 diocesan priests have left active ministry in the diocese for various reasons. And this has created at least an immediate “staffing” problem—there aren’t enough priests to provide the services we are all used to. We’ve seen this at St. Raymond’s: 6 years ago, we had 4 priests (2 Arlington priests assigned, and 2 students), now we have just 2. At the same time parishes twice our size are making due with 3 or even 2 priests. All this leads me to wonder about what will happen this summer when new assignments are announced. Will some of the smaller to medium size parishes (we are “medium sized”) go from 2 priests to 1 in order to provide a 3rd or 4th priest for some larger parishes? This is all speculation on my part. Frankly, I don’t think St. Raymond’s will be affected—it would seem to me that there are several smaller parishes which are much more likely to be affected (smaller parishes with 2 priests). In any case, this leads me to ask 4 things of you. First, pray for the priests of our diocese, that they remain strong, committed and not overworked. Second, pray that the Bishop doesn’t transfer either Fr. Smith or me this summer (I don’t think he will, but…). Third, pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood in our diocese—especially from our parish: right now, we only have one seminarian from St. Raymond’s, when we should have many more. I look around and I see all the young men who reverently attend Mass and go to frequent confession, and I think, surely we should be producing at least 1 if not several vocations a year. So, pray for our young men, that they take time to listen to God and talk to Him about His plan for them. And pray that they have the courage, the faith, hope and love to answer the call. In particular, pray for your sons and brothers. Fortunately, there are great signs of hope on the horizon: the number of Arlington seminarians is increasing, and I’m told that next year Arlington’s First Theology Class will have 14 men in it, meaning possibly 14 new priests in 4 years. So, fourth, pray for our seminarians, that they persevere in pursuing Our Lord’s plan for them.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celle

Third Sunday of Easter

Resting and Catching-Up. It was a good but very busy Lent and Easter for us priests. Unfortunately, with all the attention given to the special activities of Lent and the Triduum, some of our ordinary work gets postponed or overlooked. That is especially the case this year for me, as I had to prepare and give the Lenten Series on Thursday evenings. So, I am going to have to do some catch-up in the next few weeks. But before that, I’m off to Williamsburg for a few days of resting and golfing. (I’ll be back by the time you read this on Sunday). Then this coming week, Fr. Smith will take a few days off, and then at the end of the month, we both have to go to the annual priests’ convocation for a couple of days each. So, I ask you for your patience with us, especially with me. If I owe you a phone call or email from Lent, please remind me. And thanks for your continuing patient kindness.
Great Conference on Transgender. We had a wonderful turnout, about 200 folks for our Conference last Saturday, and the three presenters did not disappoint. if you missed it, the video and power-point pages will be on the website soon. I strongly encourage you, especially parents, to view it. Thanks for all who made it work out so well.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles
+++++ HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter March 31, 2018
We began this celebration outside, plunged in the darkness of the night and the cold. We felt an oppressive silence at the death of the Lord, a silence with which each of us can identify, a silence that penetrates to the depths of the heart of every disciple, who stands wordless before the cross. These are the hours when the disciple stands speechless in pain at the death of Jesus. What words can be spoken at such a moment? The disciple keeps silent in the awareness of his or her own reactions during those crucial hours in the Lord’s life. Before the injustice that condemned the Master, his disciples were silent. Before the calumnies and the false testimony that the Master endured, his disciples said nothing. During the trying, painful hours of the Passion, his disciples dramatically experienced their inability to put their lives on the line to speak out on behalf of the Master. What is more, not only did they not acknowledge him: they hid, they escaped, they kept silent (cf. Jn 18:25-27). It is the silent night of the disciples who remained numb, paralyzed and uncertain of what to do amid so many painful and disheartening situations. It is also that of today’s disciples, speechless in the face of situations we cannot control, that make us feel and, even worse, believe that nothing can be done to reverse all the injustices that our brothers and sisters are experiencing in their flesh. It is the silent night of those disciples who are disoriented because they are plunged in a crushing routine that robs memory, silences hope and leads to thinking that
“this is the way things have always been done”. Those disciples who, overwhelmed, have nothing to say and end up considering “normal” and unexceptional the words of Caiaphas: “Can you not see that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed?” (Jn 11:50). Amid our silence, our overpowering silence, the stones begin to cry out (cf. Lk 19:40)[1] and to clear the way for the greatest message that history has ever heard: “He is not here, for he has been raised” (Mt 28:6). The stone before the tomb cried out and proclaimed the opening of a new way for all. Creation itself was the first to echo the triumph of life over all that had attempted to silence and stifle the joy of the Gospel. The stone before the tomb was the first to leap up and in its own way intone a song of praise and wonder, of joy and hope, in which all of us are invited to join. Yesterday, we joined the women in contemplating “the one who was pierced” (cf. Jn 19:36; cf. Zech 12:10). Today, with them, we are invited to contemplate the empty tomb and to hear the words of the angel: “Do not be afraid… for he has been raised” (Mt28:5-6). Those words should affect our deepest convictions and certainties, the ways we judge and deal with the events of our daily lives, especially the ways we relate to others. The empty tomb should challenge us and rally our spirits. It should make us think, but above all it should encourage us to trust and believe that God “happens” in every situation and every person, and that his light can shine in the least expected and most hidden corners of our lives. He rose from the dead, from that place where nobody waits for anything, and now he waits for us – as he did the women – to enable us to share in his saving work. On this basis and with this strength, we Christians place our lives and our energy, our intelligence, our affections and our will, at the service of discovering, and above all creating, paths of dignity. He is not here… he is risen! This is the message that sustains our hope and turns it into concrete gestures of charity. How greatly we need to let our frailty be anointed by this experience! How greatly we need to let our faith be revived! How greatly we need our myopic horizons to be challenged and renewed by this message! Christ is risen, and with him he makes our hope and creativity rise, so that we can face our present problems in the knowledge that we are not alone. To celebrate Easter is to believe once more that God constantly breaks into our personal histories, challenging our “conventions”, those fixed ways of thinking and acting that end up paralyzing us. To celebrate Easter is to allow Jesus to triumph over the craven fear that so often assails us and tries to bury every kind of hope. The stone before the tomb shared in this, the women of the Gospel shared in this, and now the invitation is addressed once more to you and to me. An invitation to break out of our routines and to renew our lives, our decisions and our existence. An invitation that must be directed to where we stand, what we are doing and what we are, with the “power ratio” that is ours. Do we want to share in this message of life or do we prefer simply to continue standing speechless before events as they happen? He is not here… he is raised! And he awaits you in Galilee. He invites you to go back to the time and place of your first love and he says to you: Do not be afraid, follow me

Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday

HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! On this Octave day of Easter, I thank God for a truly blessed Lent, Holy Week, Triduum and Easter Sunday. I was once again overwhelmed not only by the size of the crowds at all the liturgies of the Triduum and Easter, but also by the devotion and piety of all present. I also want to thank so many people, who helped make things so special this year.
In particular, thanks to the ushers, headed by Patrick O’Brien, who did such a fine job of keeping things flowing and organized; to Nena Brennan (sacristan) and her family who spent so many hours preparing things behind the scenes; to Julie Mullen and her family and many assistants who decorated the sanctuary so beautifully with flowers (WOW!); to Brenda Doroski and Barbara Aldridge who organized the lectors and extraordinary ministers; to all the groups who ran the Soup Suppers; and to the parish staff who worked so hard all throughout Lent and Holy Week.
I want to recognize the amazing work of our choir and cantors, and especially our Music Director, Elisabeth Turco and Organist, Denise Anezin. We have the best parish choir I know of. All during Lent they all put in so many hours of extra practice, which bore special fruit in the beautiful music of Sundays, the Triduum and Easter. I thank God constantly He has given us a music program that excels at truly serving and complimenting the liturgy.
And a special recognition to Bob and Bev Ward for their work with the RCIA. Bob is, as many of you know, one of the best religion teachers around, and as a convert himself he brings a unique perspective to forming our converts. He and Bev work so many hours preparing his classes, both for RCIA and Bible Study, not to mention all the time they work with individuals privately to assist them in the faith. Thanks so much, Bob and Bev!
I also want to especially compliment the altar servers, once again directed by Mr. Jacob McCrumb as MC. It was great to see all the young men that volunteered during the Triduum and Easter Day (28 on Holy Thursday, 20 on Good Friday, 15 at the Easter Vigil and 11 and 12 at the Sunday 8:45 and 10:30 Masses). So many parishioners have come to me praising their reverence, devotion and diligence, and telling me how much it added to their prayerful experience of the liturgies. I was very proud of them all, and I sincerely believe that their service will help them to become good, strong Catholic men—most of them as good and holy husbands and fathers, and not a few of them as good and holy priests—as God wills. Of course, I’m always being complimented for our servers. The Friday before Holy Week the Bishop and numerous priests (here to offer Fr. Pilon’s funeral) commented about our excellent servers (15 had volunteered to serve the funeral).
Last but not least, thanks to Fr. Smith for his dedication and hard work. And Fr. Smith and I both thank Fr. Daly, Fr. Scalia and Fr. Jaffe for their assistance with Masses and Confessions.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention a lot of folks, so please forgive me. Thanks, and God bless you all.

Sad News, with a Happy Ending. In the midst of the joy of Easter Masses, several of you may have witnessed an accident in our parking lot that wound up sending a young boy to the hospital. Thanks be to God the boy was home by Monday and back in school on Tuesday. However, he still has some healing to do both physically and emotionally, so please keep him, and his family in your prayers, as well as all parties involved. May God grant some wonderful good to blossom from this painful ordeal.

Easter Egg Hunt. Our annual Easter Egg Hunt will be held today at 1:30 pm behind the church. Please bring your children out to continue our celebration of Easter. Some think the Easter Egg is a secular custom, but in reality, it a very ancient Christian tradition dating perhaps to the 1st century. One ancient legend says that Mary Magdalene and the other holy women carried a breakfast of boiled eggs when they went to the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning, and when they found the empty tomb they discovered the eggs had miraculously turned bright colors. Another ancient legend says that after the Pentecost, Magdalene boldly approached the Roman Emperor, Tiberius Caesar, and held out an egg to explain how, like a chick would burst forth from an egg, Jesus had burst forth from the tomb. Tiberius mocked her saying there was as much a chance of the dead rising as the egg in her hand turning red. But then the egg miraculous turned red before his eyes.

Divine Mercy Sunday. This Second Sunday in the Octave of Easter is also known as “Divine Mercy Sunday,” established as such in 2000 by Pope John Paul II, in recognition of the mercy that flows to all mankind from the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. The Pope was inspired by the claims of St. Faustina Kowalska that Jesus Himself had requested this during His private apparitions to her during the 1930s. The Lord reportedly also told St. Faustina: “I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened.”
Although private apparitions/revelations such as this need not be believed by Catholics, this one, as with many others, has been recognized by the Church as “worthy of belief” (i.e., there is no danger in following it). Moreover, the Church which has established a plenary indulgence for this Sunday: “…granted under the usual conditions (sacramental confession , Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honor of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. “Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!”).” You may go to confession “within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act.” For a brief explanation of indulgences, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1471ff.]

Easter Continues. Of course, the Season of Easter continues until Pentecost Sunday, May 20. This extended liturgical season reminds us of the ongoing importance of the Resurrection to all of us throughout the year: Christ has truly risen, and lives today in our midst, may we always live as if we believe that!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!
Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!
He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Praised be the Risen Jesus Christ for this wondrous day! The Lord has risen from the dead, conquering sin and death, opening the gates of heaven and vanquishing the ancient enemy of man, the devil. Mankind is free from the chains of evil and given the promise of eternal life—if we will only use our freedom to choose to accept the grace of Christ and live according to the Truth He proclaims through His Holy Catholic Church.
Thanks to all who worked so hard to help make this an especially Blessed Lent, Holy Week, Triduum and Easter Sunday (I’ll write more about this next week). On behalf of myself, Fr. Smith, and Fr. Daly (and all the other priests who have helped us out during Lent) may I wish you all a Blessed, Holy and Happy Easter and Easter Season! May the Risen Lord Jesus, Redeemer and Savior of the world, shower you with His grace and keep you close to Him in this Glorious Season!
And remember, today is just the beginning of this new Season of Easter. We continue to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection for 50 days—until we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost. We begin with the Octave of Easter, as for eight days through next Sunday we celebrate each day as if it were Easter Day. May the lessons of Lent and the joy of Easter make the coming season one of true holiness, as we go forth to live as Christ Jesus created and redeemed us to live and to love.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

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HOMILY OF POPE SAINT JOHN PAUL II
Easter Vigil, April 14, 1979
1. The word “death” sticks in one’s throat. Although humanity has, during so many generations, become accustomed in a way to the reality of death and to its inevitability, it is, however, something overwhelming every time.
Christ’s death had entered deeply the hearts of those closest to Him, and the consciousness of the whole of Jerusalem. The silence that followed it filled the Friday evening and the whole of the following Saturday. On this day, in accordance with Jewish regulations, no one had gone to the place of His burial. The three women, of whom today’s Gospel speaks, well remember the heavy stone with which the entrance to the sepulchre had been closed. This stone, of which they were thinking and about which they would speak the next day on their way to the sepulchre, also symbolizes the weight that had crushed their hearts. The stone that had separated the Dead One from the living, the stone that marked the limit of life, the weight of death. The women, who go to the sepulchre in the early morning of the day after the Sabbath, will not speak of death, but of the stone.
When they arrive at the spot, they will see that the stone no longer blocks the entrance to the sepulchre. It has been rolled back. They will not find Jesus in the sepulchre. They looked for Him in vain! “He is not here; for He has risen, as He said” (Mt 28:6). They are to go back to the city and announce to the disciples that He has risen again and that they will see Him in Galilee. The women are not able to utter a word. The news of death is spoken in a low voice. The words of the resurrection were even difficult for them to grasp. Difficult to repeat, so much has the reality of death influenced man’s thought and heart.
2. Since that night and even more so since that morning which followed it, Christ’s disciples have learned to utter the word “resurrection”. And it has become the most important word, the central word, the fundamental word in their language. Everything takes its origin again from it. Everything is confirmed and is constructed again: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 117 (118): 22-24).
It is for this very reason that the paschal vigil—the day following Good Friday—is no longer only the day on which the word “death” is spoken in a low voice, on which the last moments of the life of the Dead Man are remembered: it is the day of a great Awaiting. It is the Easter Vigil: the day and the night of waiting for the Day which the Lord has made.
The liturgical content of the Vigil is expressed by means of the various hours of the breviary and is then concentrated with all its riches in this liturgy of the night, which reaches its climax, after the period of Lent, in the first “Alleluia”.
The exclamation that rings out again in the middle of the night of waiting and brings with it already the joy of the morning. It brings with it the certainty of resurrection. That which, at the first moment, the lips of the women in front of the sepulchre or the mouths of the apostles did not have the courage to utter, now the Church, thanks to their testimony, expresses with her Alleluia….
3. …It is not possible to grasp the mystery of the Resurrection except by returning to the origins and following, thereafter, the whole development of the history of the economy of salvation up to that Moment! To the moment in which the three women of Jerusalem, stopping at the threshold of the empty sepulchre, heard the message of a young man dressed in a white robe “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, He is not here” (Mk 16:5-6).
4. That great Moment does not allow us to remain outside ourselves; it compels us to enter our own humanity. Christ not only revealed to us the victory of life over death, but brought us, with His Resurrection, the New Life. He gave us this new life.
Here is how St Paul puts it: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6: 3-4) ….
5. This is the night of the Great Awaiting. Let us wait in Faith, let us wait with all our human being for Him who at dawn broke the tyranny of death and revealed the Divine Power of Life: He is our Hope.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Holy Week begins Today. In these last days of Lent we spiritually place ourselves with Our Lord as He suffered in His last hours: as He agonizes in the garden, is scourged, spat upon, mocked, and crowned with thorns; as He carries the cross, is nailed to it and hung upon it for three hours to die. Who can look at this and not be overwhelmed, not simply with grief for His suffering, but also with love for Him who has loved us so much?
For almost 40 days, we’ve been trying to grow in love through Christ’s grace and our Lenten penances. We have one more week: let’s make it a truly “holy” week centered on Jesus’ suffering and ineffable love.
One of the best ways to do this is to come together for the special liturgies of this Holy Week. We have begun this today, with this unique Mass of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, with the blessed Palms, the Procession and reading of the Passion.
Then on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, come to daily Mass—let’s fill the church with prayer! And if you haven’t been yet this Lent, come to confession—our Lord awaits you there, to wash you clean with the grace pouring from His side on the Cross.
On Holy Thursday, there is no Mass during the day (except at the Cathedral), but in the evening join us here in the parish for The Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00 pm, commemorating the institution of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Priesthood. And afterward, walk in procession with the Eucharist to an altar in the Parish Hall, as if walking with the Lord to the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Lord invites you to “remain here, and watch with Me…watch and pray,” for at least a few minutes or until midnight.
Then comes Good Friday, the holiest day of the year. It is a day of fasting and abstinence as we share in the suffering of the Lord. We should keep the day with quiet, reflection, and charity—even at work—especially from noon to three. There is no Mass; instead we gather in the church at 3:00 in the afternoon, the hour of our Lord’s death, for the solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord. I beg you not to miss it, even if it means leaving work early! This is the holiest hour of the year—come and be with the Church to worship Christ at the hour of His death; what could be more important than this?!
We begin this unique liturgy with the priest prostrating himself before the altar, and all joining him by kneeling. We then read the Passion from the Gospel of John. Then the priest prays ten ancient ritual intercessions, calling down our Lord’s mercy on the Church and the world. Then we individually come forward to personally venerate the Cross, by a genuflection, kiss, or some other gesture. This takes some time, but everyone waits so patiently, as the beautiful strains of our choir help us to place ourselves for a few minutes waiting with the Blessed Mother, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross. After this, the priests bring the Blessed Sacrament from the sacristy and the faithful receive Holy Communion, and the rite concludes. (Stations of the Cross are prayed at 7:00pm).
On Holy Saturday the Church continues its somber reflective mood, as She encourages us to continue to fast and abstain from meat as we do on Good Friday. The only Mass this day begins at 8:30pm (after sunset), as the celebration of Easter Sunday begins with the Easter Vigil Mass, a liturgy filled with all sorts of unique ceremonies: the presentation of the Easter Candle; the chanting of the Exsultet; an extended Liturgy of the Word; and Baptism, and Confirmation for adults. I encourage all to attend. (However, lasting two hours, it can be tough for little ones).

This is a wondrous week, the holiest week of the year. Let’s not squander this opportunity to get caught up in the awesomeness of the Love of Christ Jesus.

Fr. Mark Pilon, RIP. Last week we lost a good and faithful priest, as Fr. Mark Pilon succumbed to his long battle with cancer, and died on the Feast of St. Joseph, patron of a “happy death.” As most of you will recall, Father Pilon was parochial vicar at St. Raymond’s, from 2009 to 2012, when he retired due to his health. We were honored to offer his funeral Mass here this last Friday, March 23.
Born in Detroit on March 23, 1943, Father grew up in a devoutly Catholic home attending Catholic schools. After earning his Bachelor’s in English from the University of Detroit in 1966, he taught at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria (1966-70), and was publisher and assistant editor of Triumph Magazine (1970-73). In 1975, he graduated from Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, and was ordained to the priesthood by Arlington Bishop Thomas J. Welsh on Nov. 29. He went on to earn a Master’s in Educational Administration from Catholic University (1978), a Sacred Theology Licentiate from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family (Rome, 1987), and Sacred Theology Doctorate from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome, 1991).
He held several different parish assignments over the years, as parochial vicar of St. Louis in Alexandria in (1975) and St. John in Front Royal from (1987-1990), and pastor of St. Ambrose in Annandale (1990 to 2000).
He also held various academic positions, at Bishop O’Connell High School (1977, 1981 to 1985), Catholic University (1978-79), Christendom College (1987-90), and finally at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary (2000 to 2009).
Fr. Pilon was a brilliant man, a gifted teacher and preacher, and a wise and caring priest. I’m sure he is on his way to heaven, where he will receive wonderful rewards for his great work on Earth. But as he himself used to plead with me, let’s remember to keep praying for the perfection of his soul in Purgatory. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Congratulations, Natalie Butler. On a happier note… We’re all very proud of parishioner Natalie Butler, daughter of parish Secretary Mary Butler, for her outstanding collegiate basketball career, a career built on great spiritual courage, faith and grace.
Natalie began her college basketball career as a standout freshman at Georgetown, where she was named Big East Freshman of the Year. But for her sophomore year, she transferred from the internally troubled Georgetown team to the University of Connecticut. After a redshirt year she went on to play a pivotal role in UConn’s winning two NCAA national championships, despite, several devastating injuries along the way. For her final year of eligibility, Natalie transferred this year to George Mason to work on her Master’s degree, and immediately stepped into a starring role with the Patriots, leading her teammates to the most wins in school history and a spot in the WNIT tournament. Besides averaging 19.2 points per game and an astounding 16.6 rebounds per game this season, she also set several national records, including Women’s NCAA record for rebounds in a season, 563.
An amazing young woman. Congrats, Natalie, and may God continue to bless you!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

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 (straychrch@aol.com) 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