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

June 2, 2012

Today is The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The mystery of the Trinity is the central mystery of our faith, and yet one of the most difficult to understand and misunderstood dogmas of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 253-255) teaches:

The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”. The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire….

The divine persons are really distinct from one another. …”Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son” …

The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: “In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.” Indeed “everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship”…

The dogma of one God in three persons is both unique and essential to Christianity. But it is so difficult to fathom that it seems that if there were any doubt whatsoever about its veracity or necessity it would never even have been mentioned by the apostles, much less be handed down, unchanging, uncompromised, for 20 centuries.

But it was handed down exactly as Christ revealed it. Because, as unfathomable as it is, “It is the mystery of God in himself” (CCC 234). As such, what else could it be but unfathomable and terribly complex—understanding your best friend or your spouse is difficult, what would we expect when we try to understand God?

And this is the key to the mystery: God Son came to us as a man so he could reveal God to us, so that we could better know Him, be open to His love and more profoundly love Him in return. This is why Jesus reveals the mystery of a Trinity, as if he is saying, “I know this is hard to understand, but let me show you who I really am, who this God is who loves you…That God is a communion of three persons living one life in one love. A life of love so intense, so infinite, so eternal, so perfect, that it is truly One.” And the best part for us, He adds: “and by My death and resurrection you are invited and made capable of sharing in this ineffable one divine life and love.” Each of us enters into this mystery, this relationship, at our baptism, the first step of the sublime sharing of the divine life and love that is perfected in heaven.

I encourage you to read and learn more about the mystery of the Trinity. The CCC, beginning at paragraph 232, is a great place to start. There are also several good resources in our parish library, as well as in the online library found at www.catholicculture.org.

Catholics Defend Their Religious Liberty. On May 21st forty-three Catholic institutions around the country joined in filing 12 separate lawsuits to overturn the Obama Administration’s regulations which force Catholic employers to provide employees with health insurance covering contraception, abortifacients and sterilization. This is a massive counterattack on the Administration’s willful and calculated assault on religious liberty, and we should applaud it, support it, and pray for its success.

This is truly an historic effort, not only in its subject matter but also in its size—it might, by some measurements, be the largest legal action in the history of American jurisprudence. And yet, the media has paid it very little attention. The Media Research Center reports that on the day of the filing, the three major broadcast television networks, ABC, NBC and CBS, dedicated only 19 seconds to covering the story—and all of that was on CBS.

How can we explain this—both the Administration’s attack and the media’s complicity? Jesus tells us: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you….” (John 15:18- 20).

To understand the lawsuit better, I refer you to two important articles which I have posted to the parish website. The first is an excellent commentary in the Wall Street Journal written by Harvard Law School professor (and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See) Mary Ann Glendon on May 22. The second is the very insightful analysis found at National Review Online written by George Weigel, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (and author of “Witness to Hope,” the best-selling biography of John Paul II).

I also encourage you to continue to join me and other parishioners in abstaining from meat and praying Rosary every Wednesday for the protection of religious liberty and for our bishops. The success of these new lawsuits would nicely fall under these intentions.

Next week’s Corpus Christi Procession. Next week we celebrate Corpus Christi Sunday. At the end of 12:15 Mass we will carry our Lord’s Eucharistic Body in procession around the parish grounds as we sing and pray. It is a great way to teach our children and our neighbors, and remind ourselves, of Jesus’ true and real presence in the Eucharist. Last year over 200 parishioners joined in. 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!

Confirmation. Congratulations to all the young men and women that received the sacrament of Confirmation this last Wednesday. This year we were honored once again to have Bishop Loverde administer the sacrament. Thanks to His Excellency, to Maria Ammirati and Janice Gorrie and all the catechists and volunteers who helped make this day possible and come off so well. Please keep these young people in your prayers. The word “confirm” means to “strengthen”— in this case to strengthen their baptismal gifts and to give new divine gifts to make them strong as they face the temptations and challenges ahead of them. They will need this grace and our prayers as they face and proclaim the Gospel to the very secular world, and yet remain “not of the world.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 27, 2012

Today is the Solemnity of Pentecost, the day the Father and Son sent their Holy Spirit into the Church, filling the first disciples with the gifts necessary to not only to proclaim the Gospel to the world but to live out the Gospel in their daily lives. This week this same gift will be given to 78 of our children in the sacrament of Confirmation. Let us pray for them today, and for ourselves, that we may always be open to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and rejoice in His consolation.

Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI Pentecost, June 12, 2011 (Excerpt)

In the liturgy of Pentecost Psalm 104[103], which we have heard, corresponds with the account in the Acts of the Apostles of the birth of the Church (cf. Acts 2:1-11): a hymn of praise of the whole creation which exalts the Creator Spirit who has made all things with wisdom: “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures…. May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in his works” (Ps 104[103]:24, 31). This is what the Church wants to tell us: the Spirit Creator of all things and the Holy Spirit whom the Lord caused to come down from the Father upon the community of the disciples are one and the same. Creation and redemption belong to each other and constitute, in depth, one mystery of love and of salvation. The Holy Spirit is first and foremost a Creator Spirit, hence Pentecost is also a feast of creation. For us Christians, the world is the fruit of an act of love by God who has made all things and in which he rejoices because it is “good”, it is “very good”, as the creation narrative tells us (cf. Gen 1:1-31). Consequently God is not totally Other, unnameable and obscure. God reveals himself, he has a face. God is reason, God is will, God is love, God is beauty. Faith in the Creator Spirit and faith in the Spirit whom the Risen Christ gave to the Apostles and gives to each one of us are therefore inseparably united.

Today’s Second Reading and Gospel show us this connection. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes us recognize the Lord in Christ and prompts us to speak the profession of the Church’s faith: “Jesus is Lord” (cf. 1 Cor 12:3b). “Lord” is the title attributed to God in the Old Testament, a title that in the interpretation of the Bible replaced his unpronounceable name. The Creed of the Church is nothing other than the development of what we say with this simple affirmation: “Jesus is Lord”. Concerning this profession of faith St Paul tells us that it is precisely a matter of the word and work of the Spirit. If we want to be in the Spirit, we must adhere to this Creed. By making it our own, by accepting it as our word we gain access to the work of the Holy Spirit. The words “Jesus is Lord” can be interpreted in two ways. They mean: Jesus is God, and, at the same time: God is Jesus. The Holy Spirit illuminates this reciprocity: Jesus has divine dignity and God has the human face of Jesus. God shows himself in Jesus and by doing so gives us the truth about ourselves. ….In the Creed — which unites us from all the corners of the earth and which, through the Holy Spirit, ensures that we understand each other even in the diversity of languages — the new community of God’s Church is formed through faith, hope and love.

The Gospel passage then offers us a marvelous image to clarify the connection between Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father: the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of the Risen Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 20:22). Here the Evangelist John takes up an image of the creation narrative, where it says that God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). The breath of God is life. Now, the Lord breathes into our soul the new breath of life, the Holy Spirit, his most intimate essence, and in this way welcomes us into God’s family. With Baptism and Confirmation this gift was given to us specifically, and with the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance it is continuously repeated: the Lord breathes a breath of life into our soul. All the sacraments, each in its own way, communicate divine life to human beings, thanks to the Holy Spirit who works within them.

In today’s liturgy we perceive another connection. The Holy Spirit is Creator, he is at the same time the Spirit of Jesus Christ, but in such a way that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God. And in the light of the First Reading we may add: the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church. …The Church is the body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. The images of wind and fire, used by St Luke to portray the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:2-3), evoke Sinai, where God revealed himself to the People of Israel and granted it his Covenant. “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke”, we read in the Book of Exodus, “because the Lord descended upon it in fire” (19:18). Indeed Israel celebrated the 50th day after the Passover, after the commemoration of the flight from Egypt, as the feast of Sinai, the feast of the Covenant. When St Luke speaks of tongues of fire to represent the Holy Spirit, this Old Covenant is called to mind, established on the basis of the Law received by Israel on Sinai. Thus the event of Pentecost is represented as a new Sinai, as the gift of a new Covenant in which the Covenant with Israel was extended to all the peoples of the earth….[This] is represented by St Luke with a list of peoples….(cf. Acts 2:9-11). With this we are told something most important: that the Church was catholic from the very outset, that her universality is not the result of the successive inclusion of various communities. Indeed, from the first moment the Holy Spirit created her as the Church of all peoples; she embraces the whole world, surmounts all distinctions of race, class and nation; tears down all barriers and brings people together in the profession of the triune God. Since the beginning the Church has been one, catholic and apostolic: this is her true nature and must be recognized as such. She is not holy because of her members’ ability but because God himself, with his Spirit, never ceases to create her, purify her and sanctify her.

Memorial Day. Tomorrow, Monday, May 28, we remember all those who have given their lives in defense of our nation and the many gifts, rights and freedoms we enjoy as Americans. We honor and thank them with our respect, love and prayers. May the Good Lord reward them for their heroic sacrifices.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 20, 2012

“HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER.” Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. What a glorious day, as we celebrate not simply the event of his ascent, but the rich and profound meaning it has for the life of the Church. We remember that Christ is forever seated next to His Father in heaven, constantly interceding for us, and making our salvation possible. But he does this not only as the Eternal Son of God, but also as the God who became a man in the Incarnation, perfectly uniting His Divinity to His humanity (the “hypostatic union”), and still remains a man, forever, before His Father. The Son offers Himself completely to the Father in total love, and in doing so He offers all those who are united to him, part of His Body, the Church, and intercedes for all humanity. At the same time, the Father looks at His Son and sees the Church and all humanity, and looks at each one of us and sees His Son, seeing and loving in us what He sees and loves in His Son. And in their love for each other they send forth their Holy Spirit, the personification of Their love, to dwell in the Church and to set the world ablaze in Their love. What a joyful and wondrous mystery, and what a glorious day in the life of the Church!

New Hymnals! As a small way of marking this great day you will notice something new in our pews: The St. Michael Hymnal. Just as Jesus bodily sits next to the Father continuously praying for us, we are also called to pray through our bodies: kneeling, standing, bowing—and SINGING! For 2 years I have been very much wanting to purchase a permanent hymnal, but was delayed due to the changes in the Missal. Now, after a careful review of all the newly revised hymnals, we present this St. Michael Hymnal. Take a chance to look it over. It begins with the Order of the Mass (in English and Latin), then presents multiple musical settings for the Mass prayers, and then unfolds an extensive selection of hymns chosen from the rich musical treasury of the Church. All of this will greatly expand our musical repertoire. More importantly, it will help us to sing! So open the hymnal, and SING TO GOD!

Same-Sex “Marriage.” The bodily Ascension of Christ also reminds us of the profound dignity and meaning of the human body. When God created Man in His image, He created us to love as He loves, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit love each other in the Trinity. But He also created us with bodies, which are not just as some sort of outer shell we accidentally walk around in, but rather they are the outward expression of who we are inside—our bodies are us communicating ourselves to others, especially in love.

But, to love there has to be an other to love, and so God created us as two, male and female. Both created in His image, both equal in dignity, but also both are radically different so that through their differences they can love each other.

And that love is expressed in their bodies, because their bodies physically express the differences that are in their inner nature, as male versus female, inner differences which are not random, but rather complement, or complete, each other. So that as these complementary inner differences are expressed in their bodies, their bodies also complete each other—they literally “fit” together. And as their bodies “fit” together in the act of love, the two persons become as if “one flesh,” one body, doing together what they cannot do alone—cooperating as one with God to give life through love. So this act, and these complementary aspects of their bodies, specifically express their love for and their self-gift to each other, as male and female.

The body speaks to us and tells us about our very nature. And we don’t need the Bible to tell us this—the language of the body is a natural language that’s been understood for all of history by every society, which have understood what nature and the body say about the love and union of males and females in marriage, and that marriage is about giving love and life to each other and to children.

But nowadays, a lot of folks deny the natural language of the body. A week and a half ago President Obama joined in this unnatural chorus, as he denied the true meaning of marriage by supporting the right to so-called same-sex “marriage,” even going so far as to claim that Christ is on his side.

Nonsense. These people try to twist the language of the body just as they try to twist the language of Jesus Himself. The body communicates its meaning loud and clear, and so does Jesus, telling us in Matthew Chapter 19: “he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall …be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’”

Some say this is a matter of justice and discrimination. But justice is rendering what is due to a person, and discrimination is only wrong when you deny someone something they have a right to. Where in nature is a person due or have a right to same- sex marriage? The language of the body recognizes no such duty or right: they are not complementary, they do not “fit.”

Some say this position is “not loving.” But Jesus said, “love one another as I have loved you.” How many times did Jesus show His love by telling people the hard truth, like the woman at the well: “the man you have now is not your husband;” or the Pharisees: “from the beginning [he] made them male and female.” It’s never loving to lie to people about what is right and wrong, what is natural or unnatural.

Some say: “it’s not fair not to let them marry if they love each other.” But there lots of situations where you can’t marry the person you love. In fact, our Lord talks about this, again in Matthew 19: “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

Not everyone is capable of marriage, for one reason or another. This is the case with those who are overwhelmed by same-sex attraction. Our hearts go out to them, but as with all limitations in life, we need either to try to overcome them—not ignore them—or to accept things as they are, and figure out what God wants us to do going forward. “Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

The body speaks, but some will not listen.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 13, 2012

MOTHER’S DAY. Of course, today is Mother’s Day. While this is a secular holiday, how can Catholics not enthusiastically join in the celebration? After all, what group of people celebrates motherhood with more joy and reverence than the Catholic Church? Who else sees motherhood as a uniquely holy and dignified vocation, and mothers as specially lifted by God himself for our respect, honor and love?

Of course all human beings have a natural inclination toward a deep affection for their own mothers. In spite of this western culture has gradually been subtly degrading the dignity of motherhood and mothers, discouraging motherhood by pushing contraception, sterilization and, of course, abortion, and stressing “careers” over maternity. Mothers of more than 2 children are often treated as oddities, and mothers of larger families are publicly ridiculed. Women who leave the work place to be “stay at home” moms are belittled, and accused of wasting their lives and “not working.”

Against all this stands the Catholic Church, which recognizes motherhood as a holy vocation, and mothers as the heart of the family. We recognize this dignity in all women, even before their first tiny baby rests in their wombs—women are created with this great gift written into their nature, with this tremendous capacity and potentiality to give life and love not only to their children and families, but to the world itself. Moreover, we give special praise, care and defense of mothers from the very first moment their tiny babies are conceived in their bodies.

Furthermore, the Church sees in motherhood the model for her own relationship with God’s children: “she” is the bride of Christ, and so also “Holy Mother Church.” From motherhood the Church takes its lead in giving eternal life and love to the baptized, and with a mother’s heart she looks on the unbaptized throughout the world, longing to take them into her embrace and bring them to Christ.

And finally, the Church recognizes that one of the greatest gifts Our Lord Jesus has given to us is His own Blessed Mother, Mary, to be our Mother: “Son behold your Mother!” Who is more dear to us than her, who tenderly comforts her children in their times of sadness, fear and loneliness? Who teaches and protects women as they learn the true meaning of motherhood? Who draws children and husbands to show a deeper love and respect for mothers, wives and all women? And who more forthrightly brings us to her son, and teaches us “to do whatever He tells you?

Today we honor all mothers, living and dead. And we especially try our best to show our own mothers, in various ways, just how deeply we appreciate all they do for us, and how much we truly cherish and love them. But the best thing we can do for our mothers is to pray for them: to commend them to the care of our Blessed Mother, and to the love of her son, Jesus, who love our moms even more than we do. God bless you, dear mothers!

Mary’s Month. Today may be Mother’s Day, but the whole month of May is Mary’s Month. We will recognize this in a particular way today at the end of the 12:15 Mass, as we have the May Crowning: the First Communicants bring flowers to the statue of Mary, as one of our older girls places a crown of flowers on the head of Our Lady. What memories this brings back to me from my childhood, as every year all the children in my parish school joined in an elaborate May Crowning ceremony that included a lively procession, a living Rosary, and Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. All drawing us closer to our loving Blessed Mother.

I encourage all of you to make special efforts this month to nurture this devotion to Mary in yourselves, and in your families. Perhaps you can set a goal to pray the Rosary, or at least a decade of the Rosary, every day in May. Maybe you can say it as a family, or maybe young couples can pray it together to strengthen their chaste love and mutual respect. If you already do that, maybe you could make it your May project to learn a new prayer or hymn to the Blessed Mother. You could also place a statue or a picture of the Blessed Mother in a prominent place in your house, or read a good devotional book on Our Lady, or maybe tell some friends about this great gift that Christ has given us in our Mother. Let May be a time that will truly bring you closer to your Mother, and through her to her Son.

First Holy Communion. Speaking of First Communicants, yesterday (Saturday), about 100 of our children received their First Holy Communion. What a wonderful thing for them, to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for the first time, to be so close to Him in body and soul. And what a great thing to witness: such devotion, love and faith. May we all learn from their example. And may they each grow in devotion and persevere in their faith all the days of their lives!

Ascension Sunday. This coming Thursday much of the Catholic world celebrates Ascension Thursday as a Holy Day of Obligation. For us, however, the Feast of the Ascension is moved from Thursday to next Sunday—Thursday is not the Ascension nor a Holy Day of Obligation! So prepare your hearts this week to celebrate this most holy feast next Sunday with fitting joy and solemnity!

Fr. Jerry Daly. Last Wednesday, May 9, Fr. Daly celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. After serving his country through a long, distinguished and heroic career as an Army helicopter pilot, he chose to continue his life of service, but now dedicated to the service of Christ and His Church as a priest. Thanks be to God for that decision, and for the gift of this holy and hardworking priest. Serving as his vicar at St. Michael’s for 2 years I can attest to this personally, and I am honored and humbled to have him assisting me on weekends here at St. Raymond’s. May God bless him and grant us many more years of his holy priesthood in our midst! Congratulations Father Daly!
Two other priests. Fr. Joseph Okech will celebrate today’s 5pm Mass in thanksgiving for completing his doctorate at Catholic University, which he worked on for several years while also serving our parish. Congratulations, Fr. Joseph!

Also, as school winds down, we say farewell to Fr. John Lovell as he returned home this week for the summer to Rockford, IL. But he will be back in August to finish his studies and to assist us on weekends. Let’s keep him in our prayers.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 6, 2012

Cuccinelli. The Thursday before last (after the deadline for last week’s column) St. Raymond’s was honored to host Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who spoke on living the Catholic life in the public square. He also gave us an insightful analysis of the liberty we enjoy as Americans, and how defending that liberty is consistent with our Catholic faith. The large crowd of about 250 responded enthusiastically. Thanks to all who came and all who made it possible.

Mother’s Day. Next Sunday is Mothers’ Day. I hope you all have great plans for your mothers. The parish will honor the Blessed Mother of all Christians, at the conclusion of the 12:15 Mass with the May Crowning. It’s a delightful little ceremony, and I encourage all to attend.

Also, as we do every year on Mothers’ Day, the second collection with be for “special parish needs.” Once again this year’s collection will go toward paying down the parish debt, which now stands at just below $2.9 million. People, especially new parishioners, are always telling me how beautiful our church is. This is an opportunity to show your appreciation to the Lord for giving you such a beautiful place to praise him. Please be generous.

Fast and Pray for Religious Liberty. During Lent I invited parishioners to abstain from meat and pray the Rosary every Wednesday, for the protection of religious liberty and for our bishops. Many of you joined in, and felt it was a helpful and important way to defend the Church and to keep the issue in the forefront. But why stop with Easter? I would like to reinstitute this Wednesday day of penance going forward for the rest of the year until Christmas. Please join me.

Social Justice and Subsidiarity. In my homily last Sunday I briefly touched on the topic of “subsidiarity.” Many of you were unfamiliar with this doctrinal principle and asked for more information. What follows is borrowed largely from an article I wrote on the subject for Catholic World Report three years ago during the health care debate. Although I leave health care as my example for simplicity’s sake, the same principles apply to things like feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, etc..

Although often overlooked, subsidiarity has been one of the key principles of Catholic social teaching since Pope Leo XIII wrote the foundational social doctrine encyclical, Rerum Novarum, in 1891. As Pope Pius XI wrote in 1931, it is a “most weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, [and] remains fixed and unshaken in social philosophy” [Quadragesimo Anno 79].

Pope John Paul II defined the “principle of subsidiarity” as: “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the [lower] of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society…” [Centisimus Annus 48]. Pope Pius XI [QA79] and Pope John XXIII [Mater et Magister 53] called such interference “a grave evil.”

For example, the family is the most basic unit of society, “a community of a lower order.” Government as “a “community of a higher order” may never interfere in the internal life of a family except in cases of real need. Similarly, a neighborhood, a locality, or state government must be left to do the things they can handle on their own without the interference of the federal government. And this applies to any organization in society, including businesses and unions.

This principle of subsidiarity is based on the fundamental dignity of the individual human person, who is created to live in personal relationship with others. This is the foundation of society, at all its graduated levels of family, neighborhood, city, etc., up to the national and even global level. The more we get away from real interpersonal relationships, the more easy it is to lose sight of the person and compromise his dignity and personal freedom.

Now some functions are clearly and naturally the province of national governments, because individuals, families, and localities couldn’t possibly perform them, e.g., defense of the nation.

Some things, however are more naturally suited for “lower orders” of the community. Think about it: Who is best suited, on a simply natural level, to give aid and care to a sick person? Those closest to that person: his family, neighbors, fellow parishioners, and the local doctor or nurse. Health care (or feeding the hungry, or sheltering the homeless) is fundamentally about persons tending to the real immediate needs of other persons. Government, especially a remote federal government, just isn’t very well suited to that task [Cf. CA 48].

Most significantly when the government, especially the federal government (“higher order”), takes over what more properly belongs to a “lower order” of the community, including businesses operating in a free market, we see an increase in impersonal and inefficient bureaucracy and decrease in personal attention, responsibility, choice, and freedom. While big businesses may include some of the same problems, these are mitigated by the “free market”: e.g., you can choose to change insurance companies, but can’t so easily choose to change to another government, especially federally.

As Pope John Paul II wrote: “By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the social assistance state leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients….” [CA 48].

Pope Benedict XVI echoes this in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate: “Subsidiarity …fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility. Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others….” [CV 57].

This does not mean that governments should never assist. But if government does step in, local and state governments should be the first to do so. As Pope John Paul II wrote: “in exceptional circumstances the state can also exercise a substitute function, when social sectors or business systems …are not equal to the task at hand” [CA 48].

One thinks of natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, where local and state governments were absolutely overwhelmed and the federal government had to step in. Yet even in these circumstances Pope John Paul II offers a caution: “Such supplementary interventions, which are justified by urgent reasons … must be as brief as possible, so as to avoid removing permanently from society and business systems the functions which are properly theirs, and so as to avoid enlarging excessively the sphere of state intervention to the detriment of both economic and civil freedom” [CA 48].

As Pope Benedict XVI writes that “subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state. …”[CV 57].

Still, some might say “solidarity” with the poor trumps subsidiarity. But solidarity and subsidiarity are not opposed. Indeed, as Pope Benedict XVI tells us, separating them leads “to paternalist social assistance that is demeaning to those in need,” [CV 58].

I hope this is helpful.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

April 29, 2012

Peace. The first words the Risen Christ said to His apostles on Easter were: “Peace be with you.” We read this and remember that just 3 days before, at the Last Supper Jesus had told them: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” The “peace of Christ” is not like the peace the world thinks of—it’s not so much an external peace (quiet, nonviolence), as it is an internal peace of the heart.

Moreover, this peace comes directly from being with the Risen Christ, as the apostles were on Easter. Even so, the fullness of the peace of Christ comes not from merely being with him, but from being one with him. And so He prayed to His Father at the Last Supper: “…that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me…” And this oneness, unity, or communion, is exactly what we find in the sacrament Jesus instituted at the Last Supper and that we celebrate at every Mass: the Eucharist, which we call “Holy Communion” as Christ literally enters in to our bodies: “I in them…”

But this peace of Christ, rooted in unity/communion presupposes another unity. At the Last Supper Jesus prayed first for the unity of his 12 apostles, and then for “those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” So unity with Christ and His peace also requires unity/communion with the apostles through belief in their teaching, and the teaching of their successors, the popes and bishops.

Holy Communion and the Sign of Peace. The Church reminds us of all this at every Mass, as right before Communion, the priest recalls Christ’s words from the Last Supper, “Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles, Peace I leave you, my peace I give you…” And then speaking of the Church he prays, “graciously grant her peace and unity…” And then he says to the people, “Peace be with you,” usually inviting them to give each other a “sign of peace.”

Unfortunately, many of us have lost sight of the meaning of this sign of peace, forgetting that Jesus does give peace “as the world gives peace.” When you turn to your neighbor and shake his hand, saying, “peace be with you,” are you meaning to pray that he receive the everlasting peace that flows from Communion with Christ in the Eucharist and communion of belief in the teaching of the apostles, popes and bishops? Or do you just mean, “hey, great to see you”?

Challenges. Today there are many challenges to our communion with Christ and the apostolic teaching. Three of these challenges have been in the news in recent days. First of all, we have outright public dissent from doctrines defined by the popes and bishops as absolutely certain. This last week, the Vatican, at the direction of Pope Benedict, called for the reform of one group that has been a bastion of such dissent for decades now, the “Leadership Conference of Women Religious,” an umbrella group composed of the leaders of most of the orders of religious sisters and nuns in the United States. While there are many good and faithful sisters in the orders that these sisters lead, the fact remains that where leaders lead, many are sure to follow. Consider that many of these leader- sisters have been in charge of the Catholic education of many of our children for the last few decades. Is it any wonder that so many Catholics reject so many infallible doctrines?

A second challenge to Church unity is not so much dissent, but simple confusion regarding doctrine. For example, the week before last a committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops criticized the budget passed by the House of Representatives, saying it “fails to meet” the “moral criteria” of the bishops. The problem is, that the “moral criteria” the bishops refer to are not actual principles of doctrine, but rather the bishops’ prudential judgments (carefully considered opinion), of what the doctrine would require. In other words, it’s the clear doctrine of Christ and His Church that we must feed the hungry, but reasonable, faithful Catholics can disagree on how best and who must do that—e.g., should the government or charities (the Church?) feed them? should it be the federal or local government? do we feed them by buying them food, or finding them jobs? The Church has no defined doctrine to answer these specific policy questions—we must make prudential judgments, informed by and obedient to doctrine, but in the end we can disagree on how best to proceed specifically.

Even so, many people too easily confuse prudential judgments and definitive doctrine. But in doing that, they muddy the waters when it comes to the actual doctrinal teaching of the pope and bishops. Then people begin to think, well if I can disagree with the bishops on how to feed the poor, I can disagree with them on using contraception.

Finally, a third challenge to Church unity today is the scandal created by the sins of Catholics. My mind turns today particularly to the sins of priests who commit despicable crimes of abuse of minors. Of course, the most horrible effect of these sins is the terrible damage done to these children. “It would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” But add to that the terrible secondary effect of these sins of undermining confidence in all priests and in the moral authority of the Church in general, and we see the depth of the depravity of these sins.

On the other hand, almost as bad is the crime of false accusation of innocent priests: where do they go to get their reputations back, and how do you fix the damage done to confidence in priests and the Church itself?

We have been all too vividly reminded of this this last week as the pastor of Holy Spirit parish was placed on administrative leave because of an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor. We need to be careful to mind the Lord’s teaching not to pass rash judgment, and so pray for both the priest and the alleged victim, and that God’s justice will be done. But whether or not the allegation is true or false, can anyone deny that damage has already been done to the Church, specifically to its peace and unity?

Easter. This Easter Season should be a season of growing Christ’s peace. Let us not permit anything—whether dissent, confusion or scandalous sins, whether they be ours or other’s—to come between us and the peace and communion the Lord Jesus wants to give us, any more than the 11 apostles allowed the sins of Judas to keep them from rejoicing in the communion and peace of the Risen Christ on Easter evening. “Peace be with you.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

April 22, 2012

“You have set us free.” As we continue with our celebration of the Easter Season, I would like to call to your attention to that part of the Mass in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer when the people respond to the priest’s proclamation, “The Mystery of Faith.” There are several different responses that can be given, but the one that I have chosen to be sort of our “default” response, especially when it is sung, is this: “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.” There are many reasons for my choice of this response, but two key reasons are that it reminds us of the absolute importance of freedom in the Christian life and that Christ is the source of true freedom: freedom from sin and death, from enslavement to the devil and our own passions, and freedom to choose to love and serve God, to become, by Christ’s grace, the good men and women we were created to be.

Another related reason for my choice is the importance the idea of freedom plays in lives of Americans: freedom is fundamental to Christianity, but it is also fundamental to America. As Christians we remember the words of Christ, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” and the inspired words of St. Paul: “For freedom Christ has set us free.” And as Americans we cherish the unforgettable words of our Founders and our founding document, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men…are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

For over 235 years American Catholics have understood that the freedom won for us by Christ is reflected in the liberty recognized by the Declaration of Independence, and the various freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, especially as these “human laws” recognize and protect the underlying liberty given by our Creator to all men. Nowhere is this more evident than in the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment—the first liberty/freedom listed in the Constitution.

As you all know three months ago our President and his administration launched an unprecedented assault on this freedom—specifically on the Religious Liberty of Catholics—as new regulations required the Catholic Church, and Catholic institutions and individuals, to provide employee health insurance to cover the cost of contraception, abortifacients and sterilization. The Bishops of the United States responded swiftly, unequivocally and bravely: “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.”
In the subsequent weeks the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Loverde and the priests of St. Raymond responded in various ways to this attack (see for example: http://www.straymonds.org/rights/index.html). But in the last few weeks you might have detected a certain decline in our emphasis on this issue. For my own part, as we moved deeper into the season of Lent toward Easter, I intentionally tried to focus our parish more on the central mysteries of our faith: the Passion, Cross and Resurrection of Our Lord, and the life changing effects this should have on each of us here at St. Raymond’s. And I think this was the case for most priests and bishops.

But it would be wrong to think that the Passion, Cross and Resurrection of Christ have little to do with the battle to defend Religious Liberty. Because the freedom won for us on the Cross is the source and underlying meaning of any Christian’s love for the freedom protected by our nation’s laws and constitution. Our nation’s laws protect our freedom to choose to become good and great human beings, and most specifically and necessarily, as we understand it, to be good and great in the eyes of God—to live morally just and upright lives.

So do not think we have abandoned or sought to deemphasize the cause of Religious Liberty, or its fundamental importance to Catholics in America! Do not think we are retreating one inch from the battle the President and his minions have initiated against Catholicism, Christianity, and religion in general. What the Bishops wrote in defiance of this “unjust law” still stands, and will stand until, by the grace of Christ and the dedicated opposition of Americans of goodwill, our nation once again unambiguously recognizes and protects its foundational liberties, especially Religious Liberty.

To this end, on April 12, 2012, the Bishops issued a comprehensive statement, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the current situation and laying out specific courses of action they are calling on Catholics to pursue in the coming months. (See the parish website for a link to this document: www.straymonds.org). Most notably they have called on American Catholics to focus “all the energies the Catholic community can muster” in a special way during the fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, which they called a “Fortnight for Freedom”—“a great hymn of prayer for our country.” Individual dioceses and parishes will observe this in their own particular ways as a “special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action” emphasizing “both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.”

I look forward to this “Fortnight for Freedom” and hope to have several “events” planned for the parish, and to participate in any “events” Bishop Loverde will propose. We have, I think, already anticipated this call by our very successful and informative March 17th “Conference on Religious Liberty, Contraception, and the Catholic Church.” In this regard I can now invite and encourage all of you who missed the conference to visit the parish website where you can follow the obvious links to view the videos of this conference, and to share them with your friends.

There is a great battle ahead of us—a battle that must be peaceful and imbued with charity—but a battle nevertheless. But by the grace of Christ, and in the fullness of the freedom won for us by His Cross and Resurrection, I am confident we will be victorious.

“Living Your Faith in the Public Square.” In our fight to defend Religious Liberty, Pope Benedict has reminded American Catholics: “Here …we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with …the courage to counter a reductive secularism … in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.” With this in mind, and to help prepare for this “public debate” I am pleased to invite you to attend a very special talk this Thursday evening, April 26, presented by Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia. General Cuccinelli’s topic is extremely timely: “Living Your Faith in the Public Square.” I strongly encourage you to take time from your busy schedules to attend this presentation by this outstanding Catholic layman.

Let us pray together: “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.”

Et oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

April 8, 2012

He is risen! He is risen indeed! What a glorious day—the Lord has risen from the dead, conquering sin and death, and crushed the head of the ancient serpent. Alleluia! The world has been redeemed, salvation has been one for all mankind—if only we will accept this infinitely generous gift of Our Risen Lord Jesus. On behalf of myself, Fr. Pilon, Fr. Joby, Fr. Lovell and Fr. Daly, may I wish you all a Happy, Blessed and Holy Easter and Easter Season! May the Risen Lord shower you with His grace, and may His Blessed Mother, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Peter, St. John, St. Cleopas and all the holy women and apostles who saw the risen Lord that first Easter Day keep you in their care in this Glorious Season!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles


Urbi et Orbi Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Easter 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and across the world,

Easter morning brings us news that is ancient yet ever new: Christ is risen! The echo of this event, which issued forth from Jerusalem twenty centuries ago, continues to resound in the Church, deep in whose heart lives the vibrant faith of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the faith of Mary Magdalene and the other women who first discovered the empty tomb, and the faith of Peter and the other Apostles.

Right down to our own time – even in these days of advanced communications technology – the faith of Christians is based on that same news, on the testimony of those sisters and brothers who saw firstly the stone that had been rolled away from the empty tomb and then the mysterious messengers who testified that Jesus, the Crucified, was risen. And then Jesus himself, the Lord and Master, living and tangible, appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and finally to all eleven, gathered in the Upper Room (cf. Mk 16:9-14).

The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculation or mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history, nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indelible mark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus’ tomb has traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light, that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world the splendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness.

Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today, caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation’s silent hymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes her pilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universe and above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God, giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth.

“In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice.” To this summons to praise, which arises today from the heart of the Church, the “heavens” respond fully: the hosts of angels, saints and blessed souls join with one voice in our exultant song. In heaven all is peace and gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth! Here, in this world of ours, the Easter alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence. Yet it was for this that Christ died and rose again! He died on account of sin, including ours today, he rose for the redemption of history, including our own. So my message today is intended for everyone, and, as a prophetic proclamation, it is intended especially for peoples and communities who are undergoing a time of suffering, that the Risen Christ may open up for them the path of freedom, justice and peace.

May the Land which was the first to be flooded by the light of the Risen One rejoice. May the splendour of Christ reach the peoples of the Middle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence….In the countries of northern Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people, work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty is defeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person. May help come from all sides to those fleeing conflict and to refugees from various African countries who have been obliged to leave all that is dear to them; may people of good will open their hearts to welcome them, so that the pressing needs of so many brothers and sisters will be met with a concerted response in a spirit of solidarity; and may our words of comfort and appreciation reach all those who make such generous efforts and offer an exemplary witness in this regard…

May heaven and earth rejoice at the witness of those who suffer opposition and even persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. May the proclamation of his victorious resurrection deepen their courage and trust.

Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.

Happy Easter to all of you!

April 1, 2012

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

To do this I propose we follow the ancient practice of allowing each day to be permeated with the passion of Christ. That is, to constantly be aware and thoughtful of what He was thinking, doing, saying and suffering in those last days and hours, and how all this He endured because of our sins and out of love for us.

The Church gives us multiple gifts to help us do this, in particular the unique liturgies of Holy Week. We begin today, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, as we have the blessing of the Palms, and (at several Masses) either the Procession with Palms or the Solemn entry into the church, reminding us of the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We combine this with the reading of the Passion from Mark’s Gospel, using the form of a narrative and dialogue; is there any more painful moment for each of us than when we cry out together “Crucify him”?

Each day of Holy Week then proceeds with ample opportunities for going to Mass and confession, as well as visiting churches to adore our Eucharistic Lord, to meditate on the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, or, especially, to pray the Stations of the Cross.

On Holy Thursday things become even more focused and intense. No Masses are said during the day, except the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral, where all the priests gather with the Bishop to celebrate the day when Christ instituted the ordained priesthood, and renew their ordination promises.

In the evening Mass is finally said in the parishes: The Mass of The Lord’s Supper, commemorating the institution of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Priesthood (Holy Orders). Here we find ourselves in the upper room at the Passover meal with Christ and the first priests, His apostles. We commemorate the Lord’s example of service and charity, as the priest washes the feet of certain men (here, altar boys) representing the apostles. (This also recalls the purification of the priests in the Temple during the Passover sacrifice). As Mass ends, just as the Lord led the apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, the priest leads the people in procession with the Blessed Sacrament to a place of repose (in the Parish Hall) where the faithful are invited to remain with our Eucharistic Lord as late as midnight, remembering Jesus’ words: “remain here, and watch with me…watch and pray.”

The next day is Good Friday, in a certain way the holiest day of the year. The whole Church throughout the world observes a day of fasting and abstinence (see the rules below), to share a taste of the suffering and sacrifice the Lord. The day should be marked by quiet reflection, and charity, even as we go about our necessary regular routine—even at work—especially from noon to three.

Mass is not offered on Good Friday. 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 (a powerful liturgy; don’t miss it, even if it means leaving work early). We begin as the priest silently enters the bare sanctuary (all decoration is removed and the tabernacle is empty) and prostrates himself before the altar, and all join him by kneeling. We then read the Passion in narrative/dialogue form, from the Gospel of John. After the readings, the priest prays ten ancient ritual intercessions, calling down our Lord’s mercy on the Church and the world.

Then the priest brings a large crucifix to the sanctuary, and the people come forward to personally venerate the Cross, by a genuflection, a kiss, or some other gesture. For the last several decades the Church in America had permission to use up to three crosses for this ritual (three crosses, three lines). With the introduction of new Roman Missal, however, the American Bishops decided to follow to the more universal practice, the practice of the Pope himself: we may now us only one cross for veneration. While this will certainly slow things down, the one cross has a powerful symbolic meaning. Besides, slowing things down is not a bad thing on this holiest of days—if you grow impatient, imagine yourself next to the Blessed Mother, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene waiting for three hours at the foot of the Cross.

(To make things go a little smoother, however, we will use a much larger cross this year, and instead of approaching the cross one at a time, we will approach two at a time: one person venerating the right arm, the other the left. Instead of three lines, there will be two).

After veneration, the priests brings the Blessed Sacrament from the sacristy and the faithful receive Holy Communion. Afterwards the Cross is left in the sanctuary for those who wish to venerate it later in the day. Stations of the Cross are prayed at 7:00 pm.

On Holy Saturday the Church continues it’s somber reflective mood. This day is not a day of celebration; in fact, the Church encourages us to voluntarily fast and abstain from meat as we do on Good Friday.

Mass is never offered on Holy Saturday, but at 8:30pm (after sunset) Saturday officially ends and the celebration of Easter begins with the Easter Vigil Mass. We begin with the blessing of the Easter Fire and the Easter Candle outside the doors of the Church. The Easter Candle is brought into the darkened church, representing the Risen Christ, the Light of the world; and as the Easter Proclamation (the Exsultet) is chanted the lights of the Church come on. This is followed by four readings from the Old Testament, four psalms, a magnificent sung Gloria, an Epistle, and the Gospel account of the Resurrection. After the homily new Catholics (from RCIA) are baptized, or received into the Church, and confirmed. The members of congregation also renew their baptismal vows. It is a glorious Mass, and I encourage all to attend. (However, lasting two hours, it can be tough for little ones).

This is a wondrous week, filled with grace and prayer, and accentuated by awe-inspiring liturgies. Let’s not miss this opportunity to have a truly Holy Week, that can be the beginning of a holier life for each one of us.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles