August 12, 2012

HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION. This Wednesday, August 15, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation—all Catholics must go to Mass (failure to do so is a mortal sin). Because of this we will have a special schedule of Masses: Tuesday Vigil Mass at 7pm, Wednesday 6:30, 9:00, 12:00 noon and 7pm. Confessions will be heard from 6:15pm until 7pm on Wednesday evening, but there will be no confessions after Mass.

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Saturday, 15 August 2009

…Today’s Solemnity crowns the series of important liturgical celebrations in which we are called to contemplate the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of salvation. Indeed, the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, the Divine Motherhood and the Assumption are the fundamental, interconnected milestones with which the Church exalts and praises the glorious destiny of the Mother of God, but in which we can also read our history. The mystery of Mary’s conception recalls the first page of the human event, pointing out to us that in the divine plan of creation man was to have had the purity and beauty of the Virgin Immaculate. This plan, jeopardized but not destroyed by sin, through the Incarnation of the Son of God, proclaimed and brought into being in Mary, was recomposed and restored to the free acceptance of the human being in faith. Lastly, in Mary’s Assumption, we contemplate what we ourselves are called to attain in the following of Christ the Lord and in obedience to his word, at the end of our earthly journey.

The last stage of the Mother of God’s earthly pilgrimage invites us to look at the manner in which she journeyed on toward the goal of glorious eternity.

In the Gospel passage just proclaimed, St Luke tells that, after the Angel’s announcement, Mary “arose and went with haste into the hill country”, to visit Elizabeth (Lk 1: 39). With these words the Evangelist wishes to emphasize that for Mary to follow her own vocation in docility to God’s Spirit, who has brought about within her the Incarnation of the Word, means taking a new road and immediately setting out from home, allowing herself to be led on a journey by God alone. St Ambrose, commenting on Mary’s “haste”, says: “the grace of the Holy Spirit admits of no delay” …. Our Lady’s life is guided by Another: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1: 38); it is modelled by the Holy Spirit, it is marked by events and encounters, such as that with Elizabeth, but above all by her very special relationship with her Son Jesus. It is a journey on which Mary, cherishing and pondering in her heart the events of her own life, perceives in them ever more profoundly the mysterious design of God the Father for the salvation of the world.

Then, by following Jesus from Bethlehem to exile in Egypt, in both his hidden and his public life and even to the foot of the Cross, Mary lives her constant ascent to God in the spirit of the Magnificat, fully adhering to God’s plan of love, even in moments of darkness and suffering, and nourishing in her heart total abandonment in the Lord’s hands in order to be a paradigm for the faithful of the Church (cf. Lumen Gentium, nn. 64-65).

The whole of life is an ascent, the whole of life is meditation, obedience, trust and hope, even in darkness; and the whole of life is marked by this “holy haste” which knows that God always has priority and nothing else must create haste in our existence.

And, lastly, the Assumption reminds us that Mary’s life, like that of every Christian, is a journey of following, following Jesus, a journey that has a very precise destination, a future already marked out: the definitive victory over sin and death and full communion with God, because as Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians the Father “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2: 6). This means that with Baptism we have already fundamentally been raised and are seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, but we must physically attain what was previously begun and brought about in Baptism. In us, union with Christ resurrection is incomplete, but for the Virgin Mary it is complete, despite the journey that Our Lady also had to make. She has entered into the fullness of union with God, with her Son, she draws us onwards and accompanies us on our journey.

In Mary taken up into Heaven we therefore contemplate the One who, through a unique privilege, was granted to share with her soul and her body in Christ’s definitive victory over death. “When her earthly life was over”, the Second Vatican Council says, the Immaculate Virgin “was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory… and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rv 19: 16) and conqueror of sin and death” (Lumen Gentium, n. 59). In the Virgin taken up into Heaven we contemplate the crowning of her faith, of that journey of faith which she points out to the Church and to each one of us: the One who, at every moment, welcomed the Word of God, is taken up into Heaven, in other words she herself is received by the Son in the “dwelling place” which he prepared for us with his death and Resurrection (cf. Jn 14: 2-3).

Human life on earth as the First Reading has reminded us is a journey that takes place, constantly, in the intense struggle between the dragon and the woman, between good and evil. This is the plight of human history: it is like a voyage on a sea, often dark and stormy. Mary is the Star that guides us towards her Son Jesus, “the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history” (cf. Spe Salvi, n. 49) and gives us the hope we need: the hope that we can win, that God has won and that, with Baptism we entered into this victory. We do not succumb definitively: God helps us, he guides us.

This is our hope: this presence of the Lord within us that becomes visible in Mary taken up into Heaven. “The Virgin” in a little while we shall read in the Preface for this Solemnity “that you made to shine out as “a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way'”….

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CCD TEACHERS AND AIDS NEEDED. We are still in need of several CCD teachers and assistants. One of the most precious gifts the Lord has given us is our Catholic Faith. But this gift is not meant to be hoarded, or hidden under a bushel basket. Please consider sharing this gift with our children. If you are interested, please call our Religious Education office this week at (703) 440-0537.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

August 5, 2012

When it rains it pours. First, our Parochial Vicar, Fr. Pilon, retires and he is not replaced. Now, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago at some of the Masses, it turns out that Fr. John Lovell will not be returning to Virginia this Fall and so will not be available to help us as he did last year. So we’re down from 4 priests to 2, plus the good Fr. Daly on weekends. The Lord works in mysterious ways. Let’s all keep praying for vocations as I continue to work with the Bishop’s office to find another resident priest to help out in the coming year.

Boundaries and Registration. What makes someone a “member” of a particular parish? Many Catholics think that if you go to Mass at a particular church every Sunday that automatically becomes your parish. I can understand that—it’s where you feel at home, where you’ve made friends, and maybe a connection to priests. But officially, under Canon Law, a Catholic usually only becomes a member of a parish by living within the geographical boundaries of that parish. This comes as a shock to many Catholics, especially if they never knew parishes had boundaries! But almost every parish in the world does have boundaries, with very rare exceptions.

Now, before anyone starts to worry, it is the long established custom that a pastor may allow people who live outside his parish boundaries to register as “members,” or “parishioners,” of the parish. Many of the parishioners of St. Raymond’s fall into this category, and I’m delighted they do!

Some may think this boundary stuff is empty bureaucratic nonsense. But these rules are actually very important. One very important reason for boundaries is to make sure that every single Catholic knows he has a right to a particular priest’s (or priests’) help and pastoral care. When the Bishop sent me here as administrator 2 years ago every Catholic living within the geographic boundaries obtained an almost absolute right to my priestly care. If you call me in the middle of the night, or have a baby needing baptism, or you need to get married, etc., if you live in St. Raymond’s boundaries you are virtually guaranteed a right to my help, and I have a moral and canonical obligation to help you.

That’s important, and a good thing, don’t you think? But what happens if someone living in, say, Chancellorsville wants to be a parishioner of St. Raymond’s? Does she have that same right to my assistance? If I extend that right to her, doesn’t that somehow diminish the rights of the people in the actual boundaries—the Catholics whom the Bishop has actually entrusted to my care? And if St. Raymond’s had 300 parishioners in Chancellorsville and I’m constantly running down there to take care of them, might not the folks in Springfield rightly get upset and say: “don’t they have their own priest in Chancellorsville?”

This, of course, is an exaggeration, but I hope you see my point. Boundaries are important to make sure every Catholic is taken care of, and not only by the priest, but by their actual neighbors in the parish.

This is why, since my arrival at St. Raymond’s, I have followed a policy of recognizing the boundary rules in registering new parishioners. But I have also made many exceptions when I thought it was reasonable and warranted in a particular situation. Some factors I consider are, for example: how far outside the boundaries do they live? how long have they been attending Mass here? are they for some rational reason uncomfortable in their boundary-parish? are they in the military and so deserving of special accommodation? are they planning on making this their real spiritual home or are they only using it for some temporary personal benefit (e.g. they want to get married in our beautiful church but never come to Mass here)? are they in such need that no good Christian could turn them away? etc… And I always ask myself: is this consistent with the rights and true good of my flock?

If you live in the boundaries of St. Raymond’s and haven’t ever filled out a registration form, please do so—it makes things much easier when you need some particular assistance from the parish or priests. And if you live outside the boundaries and have never registered here but would like to be part of our parish, please feel free to submit a registration form and we can talk about it. And if you don’t register and are not an official parishioner, know that you are always truly welcome here as our brother or sister in Christ.

First Religious Liberty, now Freedom of Speech. This last week the viciousness and anti-Christian agenda of the “Gay Rights” crowd once again came out of the shadows into the light. A few days back when Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy was asked a question by an interviewer about his beliefs about “gay marriage,” he responded by stating basic Christian beliefs about marriage being only between one man and one woman. In response, all heck broke loose as the mainstream media, gay activists and “liberal” politicians excoriated Cathy as if he were a moral degenerate, and accused his company of selling “hate food.” Meanwhile, the mayors of Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston talked about banning the restaurant from their cities.

You know, when the Obama Administration attacked our Religious Liberty earlier this year, I warned that if the first liberty listed in the First Amendment could be set aside, so could the other liberties listed there:

“Congress shall make no law [1] respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or [2] abridging the freedom of speech, or [3] of the press; or [4] the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and [5] to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Well now apparently the second liberty [2] is under attack: since when can’t an American state his personal beliefs in public without being threatened by government officials? Lay aside that his beliefs are the same as those that were held by almost all of our grandparents and are still held by most Americans. Forget the fact that if they are the beliefs of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. What about “Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech”? Well, I guess “Congress” hasn’t passed a law, but the principle is the same: another original fundamental American value now seems to be less important than the new right to sexual libertinism. Which will fall next? Freedom of the press? To assemble? Why stop there? How about the right to vote? Surely hate-filled people like us Catholics shouldn’t be allowed to vote!

It wasn’t so long ago that “gay” activists just wanted their basic rights protected. But then they demanded that “gay marriage” be treated as a basic right. Now they want to oppress anyone who even thinks differently than they do. Lord Jesus, have mercy on us all.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

July 29, 2012

Mature Theme
HUMANAE VITAE (Excerpts)
Pope Paul VI, July 25, 1968.
(Reaffirming the Church’s ancient and constant teaching on contraception)

8. Conjugal love reveals its true nature and nobility when it is considered in its supreme origin, God, who is love….

9. …This love is first of all fully human… It is not, then, a simple transport of instinct and sentiment, but also, and principally, an act of the free will, intended to endure and to grow by means of the joys and sorrows of daily life, in such a way that husband and wife become one only heart and one only soul, and together attain their human perfection.

Then, this love is total, that is to say, it is a very special form of personal friendship, in which husband and wife generously share everything, without undue reservations or selfish calculations. Whoever truly loves his marriage partner loves not only for what he receives, but for the partner’s self, rejoicing that he can enrich his partner with the gift of himself.

Again, this love is faithful and exclusive until death. Thus in fact do bride and groom conceive it to be on the day when they freely and in full awareness assume the duty of the marriage bond. A fidelity, this, which can sometimes be difficult, but is always possible, always noble and meritorious, as no one can deny…..

And finally this love is fecund for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising up new lives. “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents.”

10. Hence conjugal love requires in husband and wife an awareness of their mission of “responsible parenthood,” which today is rightly much insisted upon, and which also must be exactly understood. Consequently it is to be considered under different aspects which are legitimate and connected with one another.

In relation to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means the knowledge and respect of their functions; human intellect discovers in the power of giving life biological laws which are part of the human person.

In relation to the tendencies of instinct or passion, responsible parenthood means that necessary dominion which reason and will must exercise over them.

In relation to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised, either by the deliberate and generous decision to raise a numerous family, or by the decision, made for grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being, or even for an indeterminate period, a new birth.

Responsible parenthood also and above all implies a more profound relationship to the objective moral order established by God, of which aright conscience is the faithful interpreter. The responsible exercise of parenthood implies, therefore, that husband and wife recognize fully their own duties towards God, towards themselves, towards the family and towards society, in a correct hierarchy of values.

In the task of transmitting life, therefore, they are not free to proceed completely at will, as if they could determine in a wholly autonomous way the honest path to follow; but they must conform their activity to the creative intention of God, expressed in the very nature of marriage and of its acts, and manifested by the constant teaching of the Church.

11. These acts, by which husband and wife are united in chaste intimacy, and by means of which human life is transmitted, are, as the Council recalled, “noble and worthy,” and they do not cease to be lawful if, for causes independent of the will of husband and wife, they are foreseen to be infecund, since they always remain ordained towards expressing and consolidating their union. In fact, as experience bears witness, not every conjugal act is followed by a new life. God has wisely disposed natural laws and rhythms of fecundity which, of themselves, cause a separation in the succession of births. Nonetheless the Church, calling men back to the observance of the norms of the natural law, as interpreted by their constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life.

12. That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman. By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its ordination towards man’s most high calling to parenthood. ….

16. …If…there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions, for the use of marriage in the infecund periods only, and in this way to regulate birth without offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier.

The Church is coherent with herself when she considers recourse to the infecund periods to be licit, while at the same time condemning, as being always illicit, the use of means directly contrary to fecundation….[I]n the former, the married couple make legitimate use of a natural disposition; in the latter, they impede the development of natural processes. ….

17. Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based, if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men–especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point–have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.

Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies. … Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious?…

July 22, 2012

ST. MARY MAGDALENE. Today, July 22, is normally the feast day of my favorite saint, St. Mary Magdalene, but it’s suppressed this year because it falls on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. As I’ve written before, my devotion to the Magdalene originates in the fact that I was baptized and grew up in a parish named after her. Over the years my attachment to her has grown very strong, as she has come to my aid so often and so powerfully, even to the point of pulling me out of my death bed, 10 years ago today.

Although one of the great saints of the New Testament and greatly revered in the Church for centuries, she has gone largely ignored in recent years, especially in our country. That is except for her 15 minutes of fame when that horrible lying book and movie, The DaVinci Code, came out a few years back. Unfortunately, the false story of her life popularized thereby is all that many people “know” about her, which is to say they know a lie and not the great saint herself.

Of course, Scripture is clear that Mary Magdalene was one of the women who followed and took care of Jesus and the apostles. She was also both at the foot of the cross and the first to encounter the Risen Jesus. Her greatest fame is that she was personally sent by Jesus to inform the apostles of the Resurrection—“the Apostles to the Apostles,” as the ancient Church calls her.

But there is more to the story than that. According to the ancient Catholic tradition (not infallibly taught, but rooted in the Gospels and generally accepted since the early centuries), she was a great sinner, who became a great penitent saint. She is identified with the woman who, in Luke 7, washes the feet of Jesus with her tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints with precious oil from an alabaster jar, of whom Jesus says: “her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.” St. John seems to identify this woman with Mary of Bethany as she anoints Jesus feet in 11:2 and 12:1-8 of his Gospel. In the parallel texts to John 12 in the Gospels of Matthew (Ch. 26) and Mark (Ch. 14) we see the story of the unnamed sinful woman of Luke 7 clearly come together with the story Mary of Bethany of John 12—they are the same woman at the same banquet. Matthew and Mark also add the promise of the Lord about her: “wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Moreover, in John, Matthew and Mark, she is tied to the Lord’s burial, as, over the objections of Judas the betrayer who insists they sale her precious oil, Jesus responds, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial,” and thus identifies her with Mary Magdalene who went to Christ’s tomb to anoint his body on Easter morning (Mark 16;1; cf. Luke 24:1 ).

Although this link in identity between Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene may seem tenuous, it is strengthened by other scriptural connections. For example, the “many sins” of the woman in Luke 7 (Mary of Bethany) seem to reflect the “seven demons” (i.e., seven deadly sins) which Mark and Luke tell us Jesus cast out of Magdalene. Also, like the sinful woman (Mary of Bethany) who kneels weeping at Jesus’ feet, Magdalene is portrayed as falling at his feet and weeping at the Resurrection (Matt. 28:9 John 15:15, 17), and a similar scene is easily imaged as stands below him at the cross.

All these connections and others have been part of the Church’s common teaching about Magdalene, including its liturgical celebrations, since at least the 6th century, when Pope St. Gregory the Great taught on the subject. However, since St. Gregory is considered the most learned man of his time, and a protector of the ancient traditions of the Church, it must be presumed that what he handed on about Magdalene was simply what he had learned from other sources which believed to be true and of ancient origin. This tradition is still held up to us by the Church today, especially in the official prayers of her feast day as celebrated in the ancient Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

So to sum up, St. Mary Magdalene is the very sinful woman who repented and loved Jesus “much”, and washed and anointed the feet of Jesus. She is also Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the woman who was faithful to Jesus to the end, standing at foot of his Cross, and the first witness to the resurrection.

Some say that identifying St. Mary Magdalene as such a terrible sinner is insulting to the Saint (according to St. Gregory her “many sins” included even prostitution). The truth is exactly the opposite. What greater tribute, what greater example, what greater sign of God’s love, mercy and power, can a Christian hope for than to rise from the depth of sins and depravity to the heights of holiness.

This is why I think she is such an important saint for us today, as our culture corrupts and abuses so many women and girls, especially through sexual sins. Many feel hopeless, even as they desire the love of Christ, but feel their sins or the sins committed against them are so many or so horrible they cannot share in Christ’s love or forgiveness. But then they encounter the Magdalene, and discover, through her life, the true depth and breadth of the love of Jesus, that can absolve and conquer all sins and bring them into the joy, the peace, the integrity, and the goodness they so earnestly desire.

And Magdalene is important also for men and boys, both as a reminder of the power of Christ’s mercy for all of us, and as specific lesson in the disrespect and abuse our culture encourages men to show to women, and the great dignity and pure love with which we should treat them.

So I commend this most blessed Saint, the great penitent, so dearly loved by Jesus, and my oldest and dearest spiritual friend, to your attention and friendship. St. Mary Magdalena, pray for us!

Knights of Columbus. I can’t let this week pass without congratulating and thanking Michael Welch for his dedication and great work in serving this last year as Grand Knight of our Knights of Columbus (St. John Bosco Council). As you step down from your post, I say thank you Michael—well done, good and faithful servant! Let me also congratulate and say I look forward to working with our new Grand Knight, Paul DeRosa. You follow in the footsteps of some very good men, Paul. I’m confident that you will live up to their great examples as you guide the Knights to another fruitful year at St. Raymond’s. God bless.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

July 15, 2012

SUMMERTIME. I love the summer—even when it’s in the 90’s outside. All this heat reminds me of the summers of my childhood in San Antonio. Then summer was a time of freedom and adventure, even if that just meant riding my bike around the neighborhood or across town to visit friends or interesting sites. Some of those “interesting sites” were churches, or chapels, or open air grottos dedicated to the Blessed Mother. So summer also became, for me, a time of prayer. I look back on those days somewhat wistfully— would that I had today the freedom of my youth!

Unfortunately adulthood doesn’t allow for such a carefree summer, as most of us still have work and family responsibilities. Even so, most still make time to go on vacations. It is so necessary to recreate physically and mentally, and to renew and strengthen family bonds. Although I don’t know if I’ll get a vacation this summer, I will at least take an extra day or two off now and then, and try to take my regular day off every week—I need to do that for myself and for you.

But even when we work this summer, we still seem to live at a somewhat slower of pace—probably because others are vacationing. For me, my phone rings a little less often, and the number of emails go down a bit. I work about the same number of hours, but am a bit “freer” to work on things I’ve had to postpone the rest of the year—to catch up and to prepare for the future. So we work, but with a little less stress.

But as we lighten our loads somewhat or get away, we have to be careful not to forget our Catholic faith. Whether it’s skipping Sunday Mass, or neglecting our daily prayers, or leaving our moral compass at home when we travel, or forgetting simple rules of modesty in dress and behavior, summer is never a time to leave behind Christ. Rather, let it be a time to renew your faith and devotion to Him and His Church. For example, when you travel on vacation, make a point of visiting Catholic sites along the way—stopping and praying at the cathedral or shrines in the places you visit, etc.. (By the way, we stay open all summer, so please don’t forget your regular financial support of the parish.)

I conclude with some words our Holy Father has to say about vacation, as he escapes the oppressive heat of Rome and travels to his summer residence in the hills south of Rome on Lake Albano.

Stay cool, relax and stay close to Christ, and oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

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Pope Benedict XVI, in his General Audience at Castel Gandolfo, August 3, 2011.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very glad to see you here in the square at Castel Gandolfo and to resume the audiences after the interval in July. I would like to continue with the subject we have embarked on, that is, a “school of prayer”, and today, in a slightly different way and without straying from this theme, I would also like to mention certain spiritual and concrete aspects which seem to me useful, not only for those who — in one part of the world — are spending their summer holidays like us, but also for all who are involved in daily work.

When we have a break from our activities, especially in the holidays, we often take up a book we want to read. It is on this very aspect that I would first like to reflect today.

Each one of us needs time and space for recollection, meditation and calmness…. Thanks be to God that this is so! In fact, this need tells us that we are not made for work alone, but also to think, to reflect or even simply to follow with our minds and our hearts a tale, a story in which to immerse ourselves, in a certain sense “to lose ourselves” to find ourselves subsequently enriched.

Of course, many of these books to read, which we take in our hands during our vacation are at best an escape, and this is normal. Yet various people, particularly if they have more time in which to take a break and to relax, devote themselves to something more demanding.

I would therefore like to make a suggestion: why not discover some of the books of the Bible which are not commonly well known? Or those from which we heard certain passages in the liturgy but which we never read in their entirety? Indeed, many Christians never read the Bible and have a very limited and superficial knowledge of it. The Bible, as the name says, is a collection of books, a small “library” that came into being in the course of a millennium.

Some of these “small books” of which it is composed are almost unknown to the majority, even people who are good Christians.

Some are very short, such as the Book of Tobit, a tale that contains a lofty sense of family and marriage; or the Book of Esther, in which the Jewish Queen saves her people from extermination with her faith and prayer; or the Book of Ruth, a stranger who meets God and experiences his providence, which is even shorter. These little books can be read in an hour. More demanding and true masterpieces are the Book of Job, which faces the great problem of innocent suffering; Ecclesiastes is striking because of the disconcerting modernity with which it calls into question the meaning of life and of the world; and the Song of Songs, a wonderful symbolic poem of human love. As you see, these are all books of the Old Testament. And what about the New? The New Testament is of course better known and its literary genres are less diversified. Yet the beauty of reading a Gospel at one sitting must be discovered, just as I also recommend the Acts of the Apostles, or one of the Letters.

To conclude, dear friends, today I would like to suggest that you keep the Holy Bible within reach, during the summer period or in your breaks, in order to enjoy it in a new way by reading some of its books straight through, those that are less known and also the most famous, such as the Gospels, but without putting them down. By so doing moments of relaxation can become in addition to a cultural enrichment also an enrichment of the spirit which is capable of fostering the knowledge of God and dialogue with him, prayer. And this seems to be a splendid holiday occupation: to take a book of the Bible in order to have a little relaxation and at the same time to enter the great realm of the word of God and to deepen our contact with the Eternal One, as the very purpose of the free time that the Lord gives us.

July 8, 2012

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

Thanks. I was very pleased with participation in the parish’s Fortnight for Freedom Holy Hours and Masses. Thanks to Bob and Gerri Laird and Liz Hildebrand for their hard work to make the Fortnight such a “success.” Thanks to the Knights and other volunteers who made a great going away party for Fr. Pilon last Sunday. Thanks also to all those who made the special effort to come to my installation last Saturday.

New staff member. Patti Eckels has joined the parish staff as our new Religious Education secretary. A long time parishioner, Patti’s extensive experience in administrative and personnel work should prove a great asset to the parish. Welcome aboard Patti.

Storm After Effects. Thank the good Lord, the parish grounds and buildings had very little damage from last weekend’s wind storm. I hope and pray the same is true for your own homes and businesses. Please remember, if any family is in need of assistance due to the storm, or any other reason, don’t hesitate to call the office.

Collection. Overall Mass attendance was way down last Sunday, as would be expected given the storm effects (not to mention July 4). Unfortunately, this appears to have substantially effected the collections. If you were unable to make your usual donation last week please try to remember to drop it in the basket this or next Sunday, or mail it in.

As we wind up our Independence Day celebrations…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Prayer of the Continental Congress, September 7th, 1774
Reverend Jacob Duché
Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!

Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen.

St. Paul’s First letter to St. Timothy, 2:1-4.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

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

July 1, 2012

I write this in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, June 27. Just a few hours ago, at 12:00:01 a.m., I officially became the pastor, “parochus,” of St. Raymond’s. It has been a true privilege to serve you these 2 years, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to now be your pastor.

As you probably know by now, I take very seriously the title “Father.” Since solemnly promising celibacy to Christ and His Bride, the Church, at my diaconate ordination 17 years ago I have tried to more deeply live and interiorize that gift in union with Christ the Bridegroom, and to understand myself as wedded to His Bride, with all her children as my own. Every time someone calls me “Father” I am reminded of this. But now this fatherhood, in some ways, takes on a more direct and consequential meaning, since as your “proper pastor,” I am, before God, entrusted with the care of your souls and am profoundly obliged to do everything in my power to see that the eternal life you were born into at baptism grows ever stronger so that it may reach its fullness in the joy of heaven. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

But as you know, fatherhood is very challenging, and as you also know by now, I am only a weak sinner. So please, pray for me, that by God’s grace, I may eventually be the father and shepherd you need to help you get to heaven. “Oremus pro invicem”—“let us pray for one another.”

Installation. Some of you may be reading this after the 5pm Saturday Vigil Mass (June 30), in which case you are aware that I was ceremonially installed as pastor at that Mass by Fr. John Cregan, Vicar Forane (Dean) of Deanery II. I’m sorry I couldn’t get the word out to everyone, but Fr. Cregan called earlier in the week and told me that due to his busy schedule it was either this weekend or …who-knows-when. So, it’s not only “official,” but “ritualized” as well.

Good-bye. This last Wednesday was also a big day in Fr. Mark Pilon’s life as well, as officially became a “retired priest” (although he’s hanging around a few extra days to let Fr. Joby take some well-deserved vacation). We have all been so blessed to have Father with us these 3 years. He is truly a phenomenal teacher and preacher. But as he rides off into the sunset (literally, retiring to his little shack on the Shenandoah) I’m sure that after a brief hiatus we can talk him into coming back once in a while for a visit to say Mass or give a talk or two. In any case, I hope you will join us in a going away picnic for Father after he celebrates the 12:15 Mass today (Sunday, July 1). Please come out and thank Father for his many years of service to St. Raymond’s and the Diocese of Arlington.

Good-bye, Part II. This week also saw the departure of a long-time fixture of St. Raymond’s parish staff, as Janice Gorrie retired from her position as secretary for the Religious Education office. She will be sorely missed, not only by the staff but by all the parents, children and volunteers and other parishioners who worked with her over the last 7 years. I will particularly miss her—she has been a tremendous help to me in so many ways. Of course, she’s still going to be around—as a parishioner and active volunteer—but not quite as much as we’d like. God bless you, Janice, and thanks for all you’ve done for St. Raymond’s.

Prayers for Austin Smith. The week before last Austin Smith, brother of Kristin Smith, our Youth Director, was in a serious accident during the family vacation. He is doing better now, but is still in serious condition. Please keep him and his family, especially Kristin, in your prayers.

4th of July and the Fortnight for Freedom. So far I think the Fortnight has been a great success. Although the crowds at the evening liturgies have not quite been standing room only, I have been pleased that so many of you have attended each liturgy. And I am sure that all of you are praying devoutly and offering penances at home. The Fortnight continues this week, with Holy Hours (actually lasting half an hour) after 5pm Masses on Saturday and Sunday; 7:30pm Holy Hours, with Exposition and Benediction, on Monday and Tuesday; and 10am Mass on Wednesday, the 4th of July. Please try to come out to show your solidarity with your fellow Catholics, and raise up a might prayer for Religious Liberty.

The Fortnight concludes on the 4th of July, as we celebrate Independence Day, or we might say “Liberty Day.” What a great gift to live in this “land of the free.” But it is also, thank God, “the home of the brave.” So many heroes have given so much, even their very lives, to win and protect our liberty. They are truly “the brave.” But we too must be brave, and we too must fight to defend our liberty.

Liberty does not mean a freedom from responsibility, quite the contrary. Liberty is a demanding servant and master—it both benefits us and places demands on us. Liberty demands that we defend it—that we sacrifice and fight to preserve it. True liberty is a freedom for and freedom to: a freedom for becoming the good men and women we have the potential to be, the freedom to be who God calls us to be. As such, the most fundamental type or aspect of liberty is Religious Liberty, without which we cannot be truly free people God created us to be.

History tells us that when the Declaration of Independence was first read publicly in Philadelphia in July of 1776, the church bells of the city rang out in celebration, “ringing out freedom.” On this July the 4th listen for the ringing of the church bells of Catholic churches, including St. Raymond’s, at 12 noon, declaring to all who will hear that Catholics will not let our God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty be taken from us by a government which is supposed to be formed primarily “to secure these rights” for us. And as you hear the church bells peal, join your fellow Catholics and parishioners in humble prayer, in thanksgiving and supplication, to the Creator who endows us with the “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 24, 2012

FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM.

Our “great hymn of prayer” in defense of Religious Liberty has begun—the Fortnight for Freedom (June 21 to July 4). This fourteen days of prayer is a response to the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations requiring Catholic employers to provide their employees with insurance policies that cover contraception, sterilization and abortifacients (abortion inducing drugs)—directly contradicting our Catholic moral beliefs. But while this is the most recent, and most clear and egregious, attack on our religious liberty, it is not the first. For the last few years Christians, and Catholics in particular, have been the target of growing efforts on the part of local, state and national government efforts to restrict or direct the practice of religion.

In its recent document on Religious Liberty, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides a short list of recent attacks on the free practice of religion. Two actions are particularly noteworthy and troubling:

In the last two years the District of Columbia, Boston, San Francisco, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.

Notwithstanding years of excellent performance by the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS)in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the Obama administration recently changed its contract specifications to require all contract partners like MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services. A federal court in Massachusetts upheld this regulation, declaring, incredibly, that such a disqualification is required by the First Amendment—that the government somehow violates religious liberty by allowing Catholic organizations to participate in contracts in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs.

This, as well as the rhetoric we find in some of the media, lead us to recognize a disturbing trend of treating Catholic moral principles as either not something necessarily related to freely practicing our Catholic faith or, alternatively, as infringing on the fundamental rights and freedoms and others. In either case we see the gradual establishment of a new legal or societal norm that certain very newly discovered liberties and rights are more important than the liberty to practice your religious moral beliefs, even though the latter is specifically protected under the constitution.

In particular one type of newly discovered liberty/right seems to trump all others: the almost absolute right to sexual pleasure and expression, or sexual libertinism. The rights to contracept and abort, flows from this, as do the so-called rights to homosexual activity and “gay marriage.”

What seems to stand in the way of firmly establishing such a new society norm are the Christian morals, which have shaped America’s understanding of laws since before our founding in 1776. And even though many of the mainstream Christian denominations have grown ambiguous on ancient moral norms, or even explicitly reject them, the Catholic Church stands athwart this trend as the largest obstacle to this moral, legal and societal revisionism.

The current federal administration, being openly very supportive of these new moral norms and rights, seems determined to overcome Catholic and other Christian opposition by whatever means necessary. Even if it means trampling on the very first right listed and guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Amazing: the newly invented freedom of sexual libertinism trumps the first liberty guaranteed in the Constitution.

What does this mean for the future of Catholicism and Christianity in America? Defenders of the administration have already raised the alarm against a so-called “conservative” “war on women,” led by the Catholic bishops, and we hear many accuse Catholics of “hating” homosexuals. If religious liberty is overridden in favor of absolute sexual liberty, and if traditional Christians are truly at war and hateful, where will this lead? How can it not lead to even further oppression of Christians and, especially faithful Catholics?

Remember, after the first amendment guarantees religious liberty it immediately goes on to prohibit: “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” If the first part of the first amendment–religious liberty–is overridden by absolute sexual liberty, why wouldn’t the second, third, fourth and fifth parts of the first amendment–freedom of speech, the press, assembly and petitioning the government—also be overridden?

If so, how far off is the day when Catholic priests won’t even be able to preach inside our own churches that extra- or pre-marital sex, contraception, abortion and homosexual acts are sinful? Even closer to home, how soon before Catholic parents won’t be able to say the same thing to their own children in their own homes? How soon before these priests and parents will be behind bars?

They’re already trying to do this in other western countries. Recently in Canada—so like America some call it “the 51st state”—the government of the Province of Ontario (Toronto), passed a law forcing all Catholic Schools to have clubs called “gay-straight alliances” to support openly gay students, and there is open talk on the part of government officials, including the Premier, of penalizing teachers and administrators if they say anything in these clubs that is negative toward homosexuality.

It can’t happen here, right? Read the words of Judge Vaughn Walker, United States District Chief Judge, for Northern California, when he overturned the democratic vote of the free people of California to amend their constitution to prohibit “gay marriage”: “Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.”

We must defend our religious liberty. We must fight the good fight, and keep the faith. Not with a war against women, or sexual libertines, but a battle against religious oppression by our own government. We must not do so with hate, as we are accused, but with love even for our enemies. We will not harm others, but help them. We will not act with violence, but with reason and faith. We will not wield a sword, other than the swords of truth and the Word of God, and our main weapons will be simple but devout, earnest and constant prayers.

Please join in the Fortnight. Come to the liturgies (see below in this bulletin), or offer prayers and penance in private. Remembering the words of Jesus, “this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:21).

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 17, 2012

Father’s Day. Today, of course, is Father’s Day. What a great gift fatherhood is, one of the original gifts God gave to mankind, that with marriage and motherhood form the foundation of all human society and true civilization. Given that fact, it is amazing and frightening that nowadays instead of helping and encouraging men to be good fathers many people are trying to redefine and demean fatherhood, just as they are trying to redefine so many other aspects of normal and natural human life and behavior. From efforts to feminize men, to downplaying or denying the necessity of fathers, to unnaturally changing the way men become fathers, to attempting to alter the responsibilities and rights of fathers—it is a tough time to be a father, that is, to be a good and true father. And it will get even tougher in the days ahead. So let us honor our fathers today, let us show them our love, and let us pray for them. And let us continue, with God’s grace, to work for a society that protects and honors the fundamental institution of fatherhood.

Speaking of Fathers: Priest Changes. As I announced at Mass last Sunday, effective June 27 there will be three changes in the priests serving at St. Raymond’s.

First, Fr. Mark Pilon, after 3 years as our Parochial Vicar, will be taking medical retirement. Father has dedicated 37 years of priestly service to the Diocese of Arlington, working as a parish priest and pastor, high school teacher and chaplain, and seminary professor. He will be sorely missed, especially for his wonderful homilies and Lenten and Advent series talks. I will particularly miss his sound counsel and profound insights on parish life, modern culture and theology. A farewell party is being organized for July 1, after the 12:15 Mass. Stay tuned for more details. (Note, Fr. Pilon officially retires on June 27, but has graciously agreed to stay with us until July 7.)

Second, unfortunately, the Bishop has informed me that he has no priest to send us to replace Fr. Pilon as Parochial Vicar. This year we ordained 4 new priests, but we lost 7 parish priests to retirement and other assignments. Which reminds us that we need to pray for vocations! I’m convinced we have scores of priestly vocations in our parish— pray that our young men will have the faith and courage to discern and answer the call. And support—but don’t pressure—them in their efforts.

The loss of a vicar may mean we have to make some adjustments in our schedule. I hope not, but we’ll have to see. In addition, this may also require some alterations in my activities in the parish, since my workload will be increasing: our resident priests are a big help, but some things only a vicar can assist with.

Finally, I am very happy, and honored, to announce that Bishop Loverde has decided to promote me from Parochial Administrator to Pastor of St. Raymond’s. While I assume my new office on June 27, but there will also be an official “installation” at a Sunday Mass sometime next month. Again, stay tuned for more details.

While the practical effects of this change may seem minimal at first glance, there are some important differences between an administrator and pastor. The key difference is that a pastor has a right to “stability.” Simply put, while a bishop can transfer an administrator at any time he pleases, the pastor has a right to remain in his parish (sometimes limited to a set term of years) unless there is a serious reason to remove him or transfer him. Even so, he has a right to appeal a removal or to decline a transfer(subject to certain procedural norms). The idea behind this is that the pastor should never be considered a “hireling” but a “shepherd,” not a “functionary” but a “father.” Both the parish and the pastor then, have a right to a long-term stable paternal/filial relationship. But rights also imply duties, so that the enhanced rights and privileges of a pastor, most notably “stability,” imply an added depth and gravity to his duties to his flock. This, of course, is a two way street, and implies something about the duties of his flock toward their pastor. In essence, it is all about building the true Christian communion of life and love that should exist in a parish.
Please pray for Fr. Pilon as he begins this new phase of his priesthood. And pray for Fr. Joby, Fr. Lovell, and Fr. Daly, as they continue to assist me so ably in the care of my flock, my children. And please pray for me—sometimes the enormity of the responsibility to God and to you seems overwhelming; pray that God grant me the grace to love and serve you as I should, and to trust in Him at all times. And finally, again, PRAY FOR VOCATIONS—from this parish, and from your families!

Corpus Christi Procession. What a beautiful sight to see so many of you join in last Sunday’s procession. Once again, this year’s crowd was larger than last year’s—I’m guessing over 200 folks of all ages and backgrounds joined in. Thanks so much to all of you, but especially those who took a hand in organizing things: the parish staff, the choir, the altar boys, the sacristans, the flower ladies, the Knights of Columbus, and so many other volunteers—forgive me for not naming you all. Let me give particular recognition to Patrick O’Brien, the overall coordinator. God bless you all. For those who missed the procession—you missed a great event. I hope you can join us next year.

This week: “Fortnight for Freedom.” This Thursday we begin the “Fortnight for Freedom” to pray for the protection of Religious Liberty. The Fortnight will run from June 21 (the vigil of the Feast of St. Thomas More) to July 4 (Independence Day). Please see the two inserts in this bulletin (“Summary of Activities” and “Liturgical Schedule” on one and “Protecting Consciences” on the other) for full details of the liturgical and private activities of this fortnight. With all my heart, I strongly encourage all of you to participate and raise up “a great hymn of prayer for our country.”

Summer Music. As in prior years the choir is now on hiatus for the rest of the summer (with a few exceptions). I want to thank all the choir members, especially Elisabeth Turco, our Music Director, for all their beautiful and hard work. Also, remember that, as was the case last year, there will be no cantor at the 5pm Sunday Masses during the summer.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 9, 2012

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ–Corpus Christi. Today the Church calls us to reflect and appreciate more fully the rich multifaceted meaning of the Most Holy Eucharist. While we also do this on Holy Thursday, the other great mysteries we remember during Holy Week and the Triduum may cause us to not spend as much time focusing on the Sacrament as we might. So today’s feast was established, sort of saying, “wait a second, let’s go back and look at that more carefully…”

Through this Great Sacrament we are able to participate in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, 2000 years after the event in history, as at Holy Mass the one same sacrifice of the Cross is offered on the altar and we are washed clean in the Blood of Christ. At the altar Christ unites our sacrifices and love to His offered on the Cross to His Heavenly Father. In Holy Communion the Lord, Creator and Redeemer of the universe, comes to us personally, entering into us and abiding in us. And as the Mass ends, Christ remains, in the tabernacle, truly and really present to us, body, blood, soul and divinity. And there’s so much more.

How much of the truth about the Eucharist do we take for granted, or forget? How much do we not even know? Over the last 50 years many of the truths about the Eucharist have been downplayed, ignored, or even denied in preaching and catechesis. As a result many average Catholics have lost not only their faith in the Eucharist but also their love for Christ truly present in the Eucharist, and so have closed themselves off from receiving the full graces of the Blessed Sacrament.

Even so, the teaching of the Church has remain unchanged. And a great effort has been made, especially by Bd. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to re-catechize Catholics and to re- establish a truly Catholic reverence for Our Lord’s action and presence in the Eucharist.

When I arrived at St. Raymond’s two years ago I was very pleased find a flock that had followed the lead of the Popes and developed a solid devotion to the Eucharist. Our magnificent church building is testimony to this, saying to all who approach: “this is the temple and house of the Lord, where He is worshipped adored and loved, and where He remains truly, bodily, present.”

Even so, there is still much work to do for all of us. As John Paul II use to say, “the body speaks.” The bodily Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ speaks to us saying, “I love you,” “This is my body given up for you,” and “Behold I will be with you always.” What a sublime thing He tells us, as he humbly comes to us as a simple piece of bread, that we can easily consume Him, so he can truly be with and in us.

But how do our bodies speak back to Him? Our bodily expressions of faith and devotion toward the Eucharist speak volumes, both to others and to ourselves. If you tell your child “I love you” with a bored tone, or if you never smile or hug your child, what does this tell them, and how does it affect your love for them? On the other hand: if you speak with a sincere tone and if you show affection in your actions, it not only more clearly communicates love to them, it reminds you to always treat them with love.

So please consider the following. DO YOU:

Genuflect carefully and attentively to the tabernacle soon after entering and before leaving the church?

Maintain a reverent attitude in the church, or do you talk out loud, or joke around, before, during or after Mass, as if the Lord of Heaven and Earth was not truly present, and with disregard for those who are trying to pray?

Come to Sunday Mass, the Heavenly Wedding Feast of the Lamb, dressed as if you are going to the beach or to show off your good looks? (“Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment? See Matt. 22:11-14). Note: there are many reasons, good and bad, for dressing “down” at Mass—we must always assume the best, and never judge each other’s hearts.

Pray during the Eucharistic Prayer and in line to receive Communion? (or do you look around to see your friends, etc.?)

Show some sign of adoration as you are about to receive Communion: a bow of the head or at the waist, a genuflection or even kneeling?

If you receive on the tongue, respectfully cooperate with the priest, by standing still, opening your mouth and extending your tongue? (or do you “peck” or “lick” at the Host?)

If you receive on the hand, wash your hands before you receive? Do you use both hands, not extending one while trying to hold something in the other? Do you place one hand on top of the other, creating a throne for our Lord, and then use the lower hand to carefully place the Host in your mouth? Do you immediately consume the Host so that the priest (or extraordinary minister) can see you? (Note: you must never walk away without consuming the host immediately). Do you check for particles of the Host on your hands afterward?

After Communion, return to your pew and give thanks to the Lord inside of you?

After and outside of Mass, spend time praying before the Lord, especially during times of Exposition of the Eucharist (e.g., Wednesdays 9:30am to 7pm, Fridays 9:30am to 3pm)?

Take time to read good books to learn more about the Eucharist? (To name a few: the Catechism of the Catholic Church; The Holy Eucharist, by St. Alphonsus Liguori; The Holy Eucharist, by Aidan Nichols; The Hidden Manna, by James O’Connor; God is Near us, by Joseph Ratzinger.)

Corpus Christi Procession—TODAY! One beautiful and inspiring bodily expression of Eucharistic devotion is the Eucharistic procession—like the one we’re having today after the 12:15 Mass, in which we will carry our Lord’s Body in procession around the parish grounds as we sing and pray. I especially encourage our new First Holy Communicants and their families, and all families, to join us this year—but all are welcome and invited! Also, this year we are adding a short ice cream social after the procession and final benediction to add to the festiveness of the day!

Religious Liberty: “Fortnight for Freedom.” As was previously announced, the U.S. Bishops have set aside the fourteen days from June 21 (the vigil of the Feast of St. Thomas More) to July 4 (Independence Day), which they called a “Fortnight for Freedom,” to be a time of raising up “a great hymn of prayer for our country.” I will shortly finalize our parish plans for the Fortnight, and post them to the parish website and announce them in the bulletin and pulpit next week. I strongly encourage all of you to participate in this fortnight of prayer. So stay tuned.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles