Third Sunday Of Lent

 

CARDINAL BURKE TALK THIS FRIDAY. We live in times when it can be very difficult to practice our Catholic Faith with integrity and devotion. Sometimes it seems that we are being assaulted on all sides—from the culture, government, family, friends, and even from our fellow Catholics, even from high ranking officials in the Church. That is one of the main reasons, I am so excited to have Cardinal Raymond Burke give a talk to us this Friday evening, March 24, 2017, at 7pm in the church. His topic will be: “Saint Raymond of Peñafort: The Inseparable Bond between Doctrine and Discipline”

As you may know, Cardinal Burke is Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and a member of several Vatican Congregations. A Prefect Emeritus of Apostolic Signatura (“Chief Justice of the Church’s Supreme Court”) and Doctor of Canon Law, he is widely held to be one of the Church’s foremost authorities on that subject.

But His Eminence is much more than a canon lawyer. Besides being well-versed in theology and philosophy (with Master’s degrees in both), before becoming a cardinal in the Roman Curia he had extensive experience as a pastor, serving as a parish vicar and high school teacher, and then as bishop of two dioceses. His pastoral heart shows in everything he does: he is a priest who sees the laws of the Church (“discipline”) not as empty rules to be followed for the sake of following, but as instruments of implementing the teaching of Christ (“doctrine”) in the day to day life of Catholics, especially in our relationships with each other. And the central teaching of Christ is to love: to love God and to love one another as He has loved us. So, whether as a canon lawyer, ecclesiastic judge, parish priest or diocesan bishop, Cardinal Burke has been consistently motivated by his love for Christ and for the people of the Church—whether the Pope, or the faithful in the pew. At the Last Supper, Christ told his apostles, “If you love me you will keep my commandments,” meaning not only the “Ten Commandments” but also all the teachings He gave them. And so, the Cardinal’s pastoral love has led him to be a zealous defender of those teachings. Much like the saint he is named after, our beloved St. Raymond of Peñafort, a canon lawyer famous for his concern for the moral and spiritual wellbeing of the faithful.

I can personally testify to Cardinal Burke’s pastoral approach. A few years back, I was undergoing a time of very difficult personal trial. At the request of a mutual friend the Cardinal kindly took time from his busy schedule to meet with me (a complete stranger and a very unimportant priest) and listen to my troubles, and to share his very wise and charitable counsel with me. It was inspiring and invigorating meeting, and encouraged me to persevere in my endeavors. My experience that day, as much as anything else, is why I have asked him to speak to you: to help you, in these very challenging times, to persevere in your Catholic Faith, loving Jesus, His Church and one another.

Please join us Friday night, and invite your friends.

 

Changes in this Week’s Schedule. As previously announced, because of Cardinal Burke’s visit this Friday we’ve had to rearrange some of this week’s schedule, including: Thursday’s Lenten Series with Fr. Pollard will not meet this week, but will reconvene next week; Friday evening Confessions will be moved from 6:00—6:30pm to 4:30—5:00pm; Friday Stations of the Cross will be moved from 6:30pm to 5pm; there will be no Soup Supper this Friday. (All this is on the “Lenten Schedule.”)

 

Solemnity of St. Joseph. Today, March 19, is usually the Solemnity of St. Joseph, but since it falls on a Sunday of Lent, it is moved to tomorrow, Monday, March 20. Please consider attending Mass tomorrow, and/or spending time praying to Our Lord’s adopted father and Patron of the Universal Church, and reflecting on his life as father, spouse and worker.

 

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. Next Saturday, March 25, is the feast of the Annunciation, remembering the Archangel Gabriel apparition to the Virgin Mary to announce, and receive her consent to, the miraculous conception of Jesus. Thus, it is traditionally understood to be a memorial of the event of Conception of Jesus, so that exactly nine months later, on December 25, we celebrate His birth. I encourage you all to celebrate by attending either the regular 9:00 am or the specially scheduled 12:00 Noon Mass.

 

Office Remodeling Complete. Praised be Jesus Christ, the construction in our office is finally done. After a 3 week delay due to Fairfax County permitting problems, the folks from ALW Home Improvements did a great and timely job of remodeling our offices. I am very happy with the results, and think we have accomplished our stated goal of “more efficient and effective use of space for our staff and additional privacy for our priests (for meeting with parishioners, etc.).” Unfortunately,  County required change orders caused us to run 15% over the original bid price. I apologize for that, but it couldn’t be helped. Thanks for your patience.

 

Lenten Devotion. This holy season is a great time to renew our awareness of Jesus’ love for us, and our failure to love Him. So I urge you to pause every night before you go to bed and briefly examine your consciences, thinking both of your sins and of God’s blessings of the day. Also, take a moment to consider how well you “kept Lent” that day: have you been faithful to the penances you have chosen for yourself, and are your penances both challenging enough and not so challenging as to be discouraging? And then make a sincere and devout act of contrition.

I also encourage you to carefully review the Lenten Schedule we distributed two weeks ago (go to straymonds.org and “Lenten Schedule” near the top of the page) and think about which of the various Lenten liturgies and activities you should take part in—and resolve to make it happen.

Looking over the schedule, I see the daily confessions—have you been yet? And the Friday Stations of the Cross—such a simple but powerful devotion. And Fr. Pollard’s Thursday lecture series on the “Anima Christi”—Father’s talks have been very inspiring. Or maybe you can come to Exposition and Adoration on Wednesday or Friday. Or how about waking up early once a week to come to morning Mass. Or go to Mass at another church near your work during lunch. Or maybe on Wednesday evening you could go to confession, spend time in Adoration, and go to 7pm Mass!

Don’t let this Lenten opportunity to grow in holiness pass you by. Keep the love of Christ Crucified before your eyes at all times, so that your hearts maybe transformed every day in Lent.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Second Sunday Of Lent

Prayer in Lent: Stations of the Cross. One of the three principle forms of Lenten penance is prayer (the others being almsgiving and sacrifice). So I encourage all of you to “pray more” during Lent, either adding some extra prayer(s) to your daily and/or weekly routine, or praying the prayers you already pray with more attention, devotion and time. One excellent form of prayer during Lent is the Stations of the Cross (or Via Dolorosa, Via Crucis, Way of Sorrows, Way of the Cross), which can be prayed at home, but is most beneficially prayed in a place where “Stations” are physically erected, as they are in our church, and also along the perimeter of the woods behind our church.

Historically, this devotion goes back to the earliest days of the Church: tradition tells us that the Blessed Mother used to visit the places of her Son’s Passion every day. By the beginning of the 4th century the route from Pilate’s praetorium up the hill to Calvary was well worn and marked with the key stations of His suffering, and pilgrims came from all over the nascent Christian world to walk the “Via.” By at least the 5th century, the devotion spread outside of the Holy Land, as monasteries, chapels and churches erected their own set of Stations. The devotion particularly expanded in popular piety through the work of the Franciscans, and some say St. Francis of Assisi himself, beginning in the 13th century. The erection of Stations of the Cross in churches became widespread in the 18th century.

Today, virtually every Catholic church has a version of the 14 Stations. And while the devotion may be fruitfully practiced throughout the year, it is particularly fitting to Lent. So please, consider praying the Stations, especially in the church, either by yourself or with your family, and/or joining other parishioners on Friday evenings in Lent at 6:30 pm (except on March 24, when we start at 5pm).

There are many different booklets available to guide you in praying the Stations. The one we use here on Friday evenings is found in a small violet covered paperback entitled, “The Way of the Cross: According to the Method of St. Alphonsus Liguori,” which is available for purchase in our gift shop or on Amazon (listed there, for some reason, as “The Way of the Cross by Alphonsus de Liguori”). Of course, copies are available for use on Friday evenings for all participants.

It should be noted that a plenary indulgence is gained by those who make them before Stations lawfully erected (e.g., in a church), while devoutly meditating upon the passion and death of the Lord, while moving from one station to the other (at least the leader must move during public Stations), and fulfilling the other usual requirements for a plenary indulgence (i.e., the person must: 1) be free of all attachment to sin, even venial, 2) go to confession and receive Communion within several days before or after, and 3) pray for the Pope’s intentions).

Finally, I’d like to point out 2 very beautiful prayers found in “method” of St. Alphonsus that can be very helpful during Lent, and year-round. The first is the a very short but powerful prayer composed by St. Francis of Assisi: “We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee, because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.” The second is what I call the “Prayer of St. Alphonsus,” which is repeated in slightly different forms at each station: “I love Thee, Jesus my love; I love Thee more than myself; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always, and then do with me what Thou wilt.” Consider praying these every day during Lent.

 

Planned Parenthood Hypocrisy. You may have heard that the pro-lifers in Congress, supported by President Trump, are moving to cut off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood of America, the largest provider of abortions in the country. In the past, Congress has given about $500 million a year to PPA, restricting the use of the funds to non-abortion related women’s “health care.” But, of course, all cash is fungible, meaning that if you give $5 to PPA to pay for band aids, that frees up $5 they raise from other donors to use that to pay for abortions. And if you give the $500 million to pay for women’s “health care” …

Even so, the Media Research Council reports: “the undisputable fact is that their clinics provide less than 2 percent of the nation’s breast exams and pap smears. They don’t offer mammograms at all. The vast majority of their non-abortion services include STD testing and birth control.” Moreover, only 19 of the 650 PPA clinics nationwide, less than 3%, offer “prenatal services”—and all 19 of those clinics are in only 2 states. Meanwhile, PPA provides “more than a third of the nation’s abortions, …more than 300,000 …every year.”

PPA claims that abortions make up only 3% of its business. That number is derived from a contortion of the numbers, so that even the Washington Post acknowledges this could be has high as 37 to 55%, and the Susan B. Anthony Fund estimates it to be 94%. But assuming it’s only 3%, consider this: last week President Trump offered to continue to give PPA the $500 million in federal funds if they would simply stop providing abortions. PPA refused. Hmmmmm….

There are plenty of other bona fide full service women’s health care clinics that do not provide abortions who would put our money to good and honest use.

 

St. Patrick’s Day on Friday. As you know, all Fridays in Lent are days of mandatory abstinence from meat, under pain of mortal sin. However, the Bishop of every diocese has the authority to dispense his subjects from this rule, if that would serve the genuine good of the faithful. This Friday, March 17, is St. Patrick’s Day, a day that many observe with parties and other celebrations. Considering this, Bishop Burbidge has dispensed “the faithful of the Diocese of Arlington, as well as to any visitors or travelers who may be physically present within the territory of this diocese” from the obligation of abstinence from meat on this Friday. However, the Bishop exhorts us, “to undertake a work of charity, an exercise of piety, or an act of comparable penance.” I would also remind you that you that the dispensation does not mean you must eat meat, and that you are still free to keep the observance of Friday abstinence if you choose.

 

Cardinal Burke. I hope you are looking forward to Cardinal Raymond Burke’s talk at 7pm on Friday, March 24. His topic is: “Saint Raymond of Peñafort: The Inseparable Bond between Doctrine and Discipline.” It looks like we’re expecting a great turnout, so you might want to get there a little early to get a good seat. See you there!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

First Sunday Of Lent

LENT. Fundamental to a fruitful observance of Lent is the reception of the Sacrament of Penance (also called “Confession” or “Reconciliation”). Last year I published a small pamphlet called “Making a Good Confession: A Brief Examination of Conscience and Guide to Going to Confession.” Copies of this purple pamphlet can be found by all the doors of the church and near the confessionals. I hope you will find it helpful in preparing for and making a good confession.

But what is the Sacrament of Penance itself all about? What follows are some short excerpts from the “CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH” to provide a brief refresher:

THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE AND RECONCILIATION

1440 Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance…

Reconciliation with the Church. 1444 In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head.”

1445 The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into His. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God….

The sacrament of forgiveness. 1446 Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification….

1447 Over the centuries the concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power received from the Lord has varied considerably. During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism…was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation…During the seventh century Irish missionaries…took to continental Europe the “private” practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest…

1448 Beneath the changes in discipline…that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned. It comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God’s action through the intervention of the Church. The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction, also prays for the sinner and does penance with him. …

THE ACTS OF THE PENITENT. 1450 “Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction.”

Contrition. 1451 Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.”

1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

1453 The contrition called “imperfect” (or “attrition”) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.

1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God.…

The Confession of Sins. 1455 The confession…of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.

1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession ….”

1457 According to the Church’s command, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.” Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.

1458 Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit…

Satisfaction. 1459 Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered…). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures…the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must “make satisfaction for” or “expiate” his sins. This satisfaction is also called “penance.”

1460 The penance …must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear…

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time

Two Retreats. Spiritual retreats can be so important in helping us draw closer to Christ, and refocusing our lives on Him. That’s why Canon Law requires that all the priests in the Church must go on a five day retreat every year. In our Diocese, every other year, the priests go on one of 3 retreats sponsored by the Diocese, led by “retreat masters” chosen by the Bishop. The week before last I was on such a retreat with one-third of the priests of the Diocese, with Bishop Michael Barber (of Oakland, CA) as retreat master.
​The idea of a retreat is founded on Jesus admonition to his apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” So the ideal is to go away to some quiet place of prayer, perhaps a retreat house or monastery, and spend several days “resting” with the Lord in prayer and meditation. Some retreats are “directed”, i.e., there is a “retreat master” who gives a few talks on spiritual matters to give some guidance to the retreatants. But most of the time on retreat is spent in private prayer, including reading good spiritual books and quietly listening to the Lord in prayer. Some retreats are “silent” so that retreatants do not speak out loud (except where necessary, e.g., at Mass). Some retreats are done with groups, like the priests’ retreat last week, and some are done “privately,” i.e., alone.
​I love going on retreat, because it always helps rekindle the fire of divine love in my heart, gives me a renewed sense of Christ’s presence and peace, and reinvigorates my zeal for my ministry.
​With this in mind, for some time I’ve wanted to provide some opportunity for you to go on retreat. Unfortunately, the logistics of a parish-wide retreat would be impossible to handle. But as the next best thing, last weekend the parish sponsored a “Pre-Lenten Retreat” for the women of the parish. It was more a mini/quasi-retreat, since it lasted less than a day and we didn’t go “away” (except that they ladies went away from their homes). The retreat was directed by two leaders from the Women’s Apostolate to Youth, and, to a lesser extent, myself. Thanks to the ladies of WAY for their good work—including the non-speakers who handled the logistics. By all accounts, the day seems to have been a great spiritual success for the 76, or so, who attended. Thanks to all of them as well.
I hope we can organize other similar mini-retreats in the future. But in the meantime, consider going on retreat of your own—for part of a day or for several days. We often advertise opportunities in the bulletin, so keep your eyes open. But be careful when you are thinking of making a directed retreat, as, sadly, there are a lot of retreats offering pop-psychology or flaky theology instead of solid Catholic guidance. And remember, you can also just go off by yourself to a retreat house or monastery or even a church: take a good holy book, the Bible and your rosary, and just spend a day with the Lord.

Lenten Series. Lent is sort of a retreat for the whole Church, and it is just around the corner. I’m pleased to announce that this year’s Lenten Series will be given on the Thursdays of Lent by Fr. Christopher Pollard, Pastor of St. John the Beloved Parish (McLean). His topic will be a meditation on the subject of the beautiful medieval prayer to Jesus, “Anima Christi.”
Fr. Pollard grew up in Fairfax, and is a 1989 graduate of Bishop Ireton. He holds a Bachelor’s in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, a Master’s in Catechetics from the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College, a Licentiate in Philosophy from Catholic University of America, and a Sacred Theology Licentiate (Fundamental Theology) from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. After completing his seminary formation at the North American College in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1998. He has served as Parochial Vicar at St. Mark’s, St. Agnes’, and St. John the Baptist, and as Parochial Administrator at St. Isidore the Farmer. He also served a term as Attaché with the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations (New York) from 2009 to 2012.
​Fr. Pollard is a wise, holy and engaging speaker. So mark you calendars now. To prepare, you might want to begin praying the Anima Christi:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. // Body of Christ, save me. // Blood of Christ, inebriate me. // Water from the side of Christ, wash me. // Passion of Christ, strengthen me. // O good Jesus, hear me. // Within Thy wounds hide me. // Suffer me not to be separated from Thee. // From the malicious enemy defend me. // In the hour of my death call me. // And bid me come unto Thee, // That I may praise Thee with Thy saints, // Forever and ever. Amen.

Pastoral Opinion: Political Mayhem. I continue to be dismayed by the descent of political discourse in our nation. While I wish our President would put aside his harsh campaign rhetoric, more than that I am appalled how so many on the political left—including the main stream media—have refused to allow our Republic to function in a civilized way. Led by extreme leftists, who riot and commit verbal and physical violence, they are stirring up all sorts of fantastic fears and unbridled hatreds that, in my opinion, can only spell disaster for our nation. We live in a nation of laws that thrives on respectful, if impassioned, freedom of speech. But many seem to forget that.
​I think especially of those spreading unwarranted fear and hatred in our immigrant communities, the vast majority of whom are Catholic, at least by heritage. Yes, there will be a new emphasis on enforcing the immigration laws of our nation. Yes, there will a re-evaluation of some of those laws. And yes, we can disagree on whether those laws are wise, or even just. But it is evil to stir up unwarranted violence, vitriol and fear, instead of pursuing rational discussion and respectful debate.
Some argue it’s all Trump’s fault, due to his incendiary rhetoric; others would say it’s Obama’s fault, due to his flagrant disregard of laws and constitutional limits on his authority. But in the end, it’s our fault, if we—whatever our political perspective—descend into the sinful morass of vitriol, rather than using the very Christian and American tools at our disposal: lawful elections, respectful debate, good-faith negotiation and peaceful opposition. And devout prayer.
Remember the admonition of St. Paul (1 Tim 2: 1-3): “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” God bless America.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Sixth Sunday In Ordinary Time

Since I write this from my retreat (on Wednesday, Feb. 8), I’m supposed to be praying, so it’s going to be a very brief column.

First Confessions. Last Saturday about 70 of our Second Graders went to confession for the first time. What a great gift God gives us in this sacrament. And what a joy to be able, as a priest, to share this gift with these little ones. I’m confident that none of us think any one of them was in absolute need of the sacramental absolution (i.e., in the state of mortal sin), even so, we all know the joy of the grace this sacrament imparts to live more closely with Christ as well as the absolution of venial sins are gifts. Moreover, how great it is that they have received the gift of admission to the sacrament itself, that is, to be able from now on and throughout their life to come to Christ in the confessional and receive his forgiveness even for the most terrible thing they might do, especially as teens or adults—the promise that in His loving mercy, Jesus will never abandon them, no matter how they might fail Him.
Let’s pray for these little ones, that they may regularly and always seek the Lord in the confessional throughout their lives (I pray their parents will bring them to the confessional at least once a month, as my parents did for me). And let us pray for one another that we may have a renewed appreciation and more frequent experience of this great sacrament in our own lives.
​Oh, and let me also say how proud I was of the boys and girls, as everyone did a great job of remembering all the prayers, formulas, etc. Like they’d been confessing for years. As always, some got a little nervous, but no one was unprepared. The other priests and I were truly very impressed, and touched. Knowing all this will make it so much easier for them to go to confession in the future. My deepest thanks to the students, their parents and their catechists—and Mrs. Salmon.

Online formation: “Formed.org” For years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to help more folks learn more about our Catholic Faith—Sunday homilies are too short to teach much, and although we get good turnouts for our various lectures, speakers, classes and Bible Studies, we still have a large majority of our parishioners who, for various reasons, can’t seem to make it to these events. So I’ve been looking and praying for some way to take catechesis to their homes—and FORMED.ORG does this.
​The website, run by the Augustine Institute in Denver, describes itself, quite accurately as: “a revolutionary online platform featuring the best Catholic videos, audio talks, eBooks and movies from trusted partners like the Augustine Institute, St. Paul Center, Marian Fathers, Lighthouse Catholic Media, Ignatius Press and Word on Fire. Catechism and Personal Faith Formation are at the fingertips of every parishioner.” There’s something good for the little ones, teens, middle-aged, seniors, neophytes, cradle Catholics, well-educated, not so well educated, families, marrieds, singles, men, women—everyone. It really is great.
​But don’t take my word for it—go to the site and see for yourself. All St. Raymond parishioners have unlimited free access to the whole website. So, go to https://formed.org/ click on “Register,” and then type in St. Raymond’s Parish code: 93XXHV. And then explore.
​Thanks to our “Formed” Committee members, headed by Mike Burns, who are making themselves so accessible in helping folks to get “inFormed.” Look for their table on Donut Sundays and their weekly information box in this parish bulletin. Also, look for the new parish email for “Formed” questions, in next week’s bulletin.

Prayer. As I was praying before Our Eucharistic Lord last night, it occurred to me that I might share some prayers that might help to draw you closer to Our Lord in the Eucharist. Here are two of my favorites, written by the “Angelic Doctor,” St. Thomas Aquinas. Feel free to cut these prayers out and use them frequently:

Prayer in Preparation for Mass
Almighty eternal God, behold, I come to the Sacrament of your Only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as one sick to the physician of life, as one unclean to the fountain of mercy, as one blind to the light of eternal brightness, as one poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. I ask, therefore, for the abundance of your immense generosity, that you may graciously cure my sickness, wash away my defilement, give light to my blindness, enrich my poverty, clothe my nakedness, so that I may receive the bread of Angels, the King of kings and Lord of lords, with such reverence and humility, such contrition and devotion, such purity and faith, such purpose and intention as are conducive to the salvation of my soul. Grant, I pray, that I may receive not only the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood, but also the reality and power of that Sacrament. O most gentle God, grant that I may so receive the Body of your Only Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, which he took from the Virgin Mary, that I may be made worthy to be incorporated into his Mystical Body and to be counted among its members. O most loving Father, grant that I may at last gaze for ever upon the unveiled face of your beloved Son, whom I, a wayfarer, propose to receive now veiled under these species: Who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving after Mass
I give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, who have been pleased to nourish me, a sinner and your unworthy servant, with the precious Body and Blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: this through no merits of mine, but due solely to the graciousness of your mercy. And I pray that this Holy Communion may not be for me an offense to be punished, but a saving plea for forgiveness. May it be for me the armor of faith, and the shield of good will. May it cancel my faults, destroy concupiscence and carnal passion, increase charity and patience, humility and obedience and all the virtues, may it be a firm defense against the snares of all my enemies, both visible and invisible, the complete calming of my impulses, both of the flesh and of the spirit, a firm adherence to you, the one true God, and the joyful completion of my life’s course. And I beseech you to lead me, a sinner, to that banquet beyond all telling, where with your Son and the Holy Spirit you are the true light of your Saints, fullness of satisfied desire, eternal gladness, consummate delight and perfect happiness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time

March for Life. On Friday, January 27, St. Raymond’s led a contingent of at least 217 folks to join the hundreds of thousands of other pro-lifers at the March for Life on the Washington Mall. We took 4 full buses, adding the 4th at the last minute due to overwhelming demand. I commend and thank all of those folks who joined us, and all those who attended separately. Also thanks to all who took time to pray during the March, whether at home, work or in the church. And thanks to all who worked so hard to provide for the chili dinner after the March. It was a great day for Life. If you couldn’t make it this year I hope you will join us next year.

Although the security measures required by Vice President Pence’s participation in the rally before the March caused some confusion and kept us from hearing most of the speeches, everyone seemed to take it all in stride, understanding how important it was that we were witnessing this first-ever participation by a U.S. Vice President. It was a day of great hope as so many gathered to pray and witness for life, especially as we greet our new pro-life President and his pro-life administration.

 

Pro-Life Supreme Court Nominee. This last Wednesday, President Trump kept his most important campaign promise as he named a pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-common-sense justice to the Supreme Court: Judge Neil Gorsuch. Judge Gorsuch, who has served 10 years as a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado, is no doubt one of the best educated judges ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court: after receiving his law degree from Harvard (Juris Doctor, JD) he went on to study at Oxford where he received his doctorate in philosophy (DPhil) under the great Catholic legal and ethics philosopher, John Finnis (see my column of Jan. 22). In between, he clerked for pro-life Supreme Court Justice Byron White, and when White retired he finished his term as clerk working for the very confused Justice Kennedy.

As an appellate judge, Gorsuch is noted for his outstanding defense of religious liberty, voting to protect the rights of Christian employers from the Obama administration’s efforts to force them to provide contraception and abortifacient insurance to their employees: the famous “Hobby Lobby” and “Little Sisters of the Poor” (LSP) cases. In the LSP case he wrote: “When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes a substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.” He has also voted to defend the public display of the Ten Commandments by local governments.

Although he has not voted on any abortion related cases, he has published a scholarly book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” in which he writes: “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

God bless Trump, with all his faults, for keeping his campaign promise about appointments to the Supreme Court (the only reason many Christians voted for him). Let us now pray Gorsuch’s appointment is approved by the Senate without delay. Surely the pro-aborts and anti-Christians in the Senate, the Democrat Party and in the media will go berserk in the next few days and weeks, so pray for them. But also remember their behavior the next time you consider trusting anything they say.

 

Women’s Retreat at St. Raymond’s. Next Saturday, February 11, we are sponsoring a “pre-Lent” half-day retreat for all the women of our parish—see below for details. Although I will be hearing confessions (with Fr. Smith and Fr. Gripshover) and offering Mass (and preaching), I have asked Robin Maas and Melissa Manaker of the Women’s Apostolate to Youth (WAY) to give the talks. For those of you who are not familiar with them, WAY is an official Church lay association for Catholic women in the Diocese of Arlington whose mission is to promote the spiritual wellbeing of children/youth and provide spiritual formation and support for women who work with youth in a variety of Apostolates.  Angelus Academy is an apostolate of WAY, as is the popular DAYSTAR Mother-Daughter Retreat Series. Dr. Robin Maas, PhD, the principle founder of WAY (and Angelus), is the former Dean of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family (Washington, DC), and professor of Spiritual Theology. She is the author of numerous articles and of five books on spirituality. Melissa Manaker, MA (Systematic Theology), is the Director of WAY, and Assistant Principal and long-time teacher at St. Rita’s Catholic School (Alexandria). Both are outstanding Catholic wives and mothers. I strongly encourage all women of the parish—young and old, married or single—to attend this retreat.

 

Modified Weekday Mass Schedule.  A few months back I instituted a modified schedule for weekday Masses when one of our two priests is out of the parish. It has worked relatively well—the priests are less stressed and the parishioners have been understanding. I thank you for your patience. But I am concerned, because, as I feared, it may be having a small negative effect on Mass attendance, even in weeks when we have a “normal schedule.” Although I understand this, it still saddens me. Nevertheless, we need to continue with the policy, and I hope folks will continue 1) to be patient and understanding, and 2) attend weekday Masses as often as they can.

That being said, I should call your attention to the fact that the next 3 weeks, from Monday February 6 (tomorrow) until Friday February 24, will all be Modified Weekday Schedules: that is, Mass will be at 8am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and at 6:30am on Tuesday and Thursday. I’m sorry for this inconvenience, but I’ll be away on my mandatory annual retreat this coming week and Fr. Smith will be leading a pilgrimage to Fatima for 11 days after that. Thanks again for your patience. And pray for more vocations to the priesthood!

 

Staff Change. I’m saddened to report that Monica Montanaro Lyons, one of our parish secretaries for the last 2 ½ years, is leaving us in preparation for her move with her new husband to Oregon in March or April. Monica has had an outstanding effect on our parish in so many ways. She has been a friendly and resourceful support to parishioners, a hardworking and organized colleague to the parish staff, and an effective and insightful assistant to me. Although we will all miss her, she will still be around the pews for a couple of months, so take a moment to wish her well. And please join me in praying for her future happiness.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time

CARDINAL BURKE IS COMING TO ST. RAYMOND’S! I am very honored and excited to announce that Cardinal Raymond Burke will be giving a talk at our parish on Friday evening, March 24, 2017. I’m still trying to tie down the specific time and title of the talk, but I wanted to let you know now so you can save the date—you will want to be here for this visit.

As most of you know, Cardinal Burke is Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Prefect Emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura, and a member of several Vatican Congregations. He is widely held to be as one of the Church’s foremost authorities on canon law, and is known for his passionate defense of Catholic doctrine.

A native of Wisconsin, he studied for the priesthood in Rome, where he was ordained in 1975 by Pope Paul VI for the Diocese of La Crosse (Wisconsin). After ordination, he served as assistant rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman and taught High School religion in La Crosse. After returning to Rome to earn his doctorate in canon law, he returned to La Crosse to serve in various diocesan posts. In 1989, he was called to Rome to take the position of Defender of the Bond of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

In 1995, he was ordained a bishop by Pope St. John Paul II and appointed bishop of La Crosse. In 2004 he was appointed Archbishop of St. Louis, MO, where he served until 2008 when Pope Benedict XVI called him to Rome to serve as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome (essentially the “Chief Justice” of the Church’s “Supreme Court”). Pope Benedict named him a Cardinal in 2010. In 2014 Pope Francis appointed him to his current position as Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

His Eminence’s academic achievements are many, including: from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome: Doctorate in Canon Law (1984), Diploma in Latin Letters, (1983), Licentiate in Canon Law (1982), Master of Arts in Theology (1975), Bachelor of Sacred Theology (1974); from Catholic University of America, Washington, DC: Master of Arts in Philosophy (1971), Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (1970).

I can’t say enough how excited I am to have His Eminence come to our parish to talk—he is truly one of the most outstanding churchmen of our times. He has been an inspiration to me and model for my priesthood since I first heard of him when I was in the seminary. I was privileged to become personally acquainted with him a few years ago, and receive his counsel on different issues. In fact, I am a little surprised that he accepted my invitation to speak at my parish, since the last time I spent time with him I made him late for an appointment when I got lost driving him around Washington.

In any case, save the date, you won’t want to miss this visit by this great man.

 

Inauguration. Well, we have a new president. God bless President Trump, and our nation. I have been frank in the past about my personal reservations about his personal suitability for the office, as I was equally critical about his opponents. But during the campaign I also expressed my hope that if elected he might put an end to the federal government’s egregious assaults on our national moral fiber, including the aggressive promotion of sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, transgenderism, contraception, abortion, degradation of marriage and family, and oppression of the religious liberty of Christians.

So far, I have been very pleased with what I have seen in this regard, especially through his personnel appointments to important offices, surrounding himself with solid pro-life traditional Christians, including many Catholics (I don’t know if General John Kelly is pro-life, but did you see him make the sign of the cross as he finished taking his oath to head Homeland Security?) Also, it was great to see the pro-LGBT page taken down from the White House website on the day of the inauguration. Then of course, there is the extremely symbolic executive order President Trump signed ending funding for international abortion providers (restoring the so called “Mexico City Policy”), as well as his Inauguration Day signing of the executive order directing the HHS to ease enforcement and penalties under Obamacare–this seems to signal a coming relief for Christian employers forced to provide contraception insurance (i.e., the Little Sisters of the Poor).

So….so far so good on these issues.

I have to tell you though, I’ve been sickened by the media’s response to his inauguration, as they focus on the opposition to his policies. For example, consider their over-the-top coverage of the pro-abortion, pro-LGBT, pro-promiscuity, anti-woman “Women’s March on Washington.” I counted at least 6 full pages in section A of the Washington Post giving glowing coverage, with at least 4 color half-page photos (I don’t normally read the Post, but I did scan the pages for this). Did they give this kind of coverage to the March of Life, which has gathered similarly large (and larger) crowds every year for 43 years? Of course not (I write this before the March, but the answer is doubtlessly predictable.).

Remember: the press lies all the time. We know they lie constantly about the Church, and about pro-life, “LGBT rights,” and religious liberty. And we know they lie about anyone they see as opposing their immoral agenda. So they lie about President Trump. There’s a lot not to like about Donald Trump, especially his past public sins, indecorous language and annoying tendency to self-aggrandizement. And there’s a lot to disagree with President Trump on his policies. But I still say pray for him, oppose him when he is wrong, but give him a chance to govern and support him when he does something right. And take the remarks of the media and politicians who embrace and promote an radically immoral agenda for what they are—remarks coming from completely discredited groups.

 

Blessing of Throats. This Friday, February 3, is the Feast of St. Blaise, which means it’s time for the blessing of throats. St. Blaise was bishop of Sebaste and was martyred about A.D. 316. Legend has it that one day Bishop Blaise restored a pig (alive) to its owner, a poor woman, after it had been eaten by a wolf. A few days later, when the Bishop was imprisoned for his Catholic faith, the woman brought him candles to light the darkness of his cell. In that same prison, he miraculously cured a boy who was choking to death from a fishbone lodged in his throat. Thus, the custom arose of using candles and invoking the Saint to bless throats against all sorts of ailments. We will give the blessing of throats at the end of both morning Masses this Friday (6:30 and 8am) and at 6:45pm before the 7pm Extraordinary Form Mass.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Sunday In Ordinary Time

Rested and Ready. I’m just back from 7 days in Orlando, playing golf with 2 other priests. Having grown up in South Texas, where winter lasts about a month, it was great to go from 24 degrees in Virginia to 80 degrees in Florida. My months-long cold even cleared up. I love being a priest and your pastor, and I even enjoy the change of seasons of Virginia, but I do miss the warmer months of the deep South. So, I thank the Lord for the opportunities He gives me, for such refreshing vacations, and for my priest-friend’s parents who so generously allow us to stay at their place in Florida. Now, rested and refreshed, back to work.

 

Mass with Bishop Burbidge. This Monday, January 23rd, at 7pm, Bishop Michael Burbidge will be offering a Mass for our deanery at St. Bernadette’s on Old Keene Mill Road. (The Diocese is divided into geographical groupings of parishes, called “deaneries”). If you haven’t met our new Bishop yet, I encourage you to attend this Mass and the reception immediately following.

 

Office Remodeling Problem. Aaarrrgh! The simple remodeling work we had planned to begin 2 weeks ago, was put on hold by a last-minute decision by the Fairfax County permits office. After being assured informally by County officials that our simple project would be approved quickly, now the County has come up with an official list of “problems” and delayed our permits. But I’m sure it’s just a well-intentioned mistake. So say a little prayer that we will quickly move forward, God willing. St. Joseph the Carpenter, pray for us.

 

March for Life. We will be taking 3 buses to the March for Life this Friday, January 27—see the signup sheets in the narthex, and details below in this bulletin. I encourage all of you to join us, either in personal presence (on the buses and or at the Mass) or in prayer.

 

The “Dubia.” I’m not sure if you’ve followed it, but there has been a growing confusion regarding certain passages of Pope Francis’ letter on marriage, “Amoris Laetitia,” issued last March. As I have previously reported, in parts of that letter His Holiness spoke very clearly in upholding ancient unchangeable doctrine on the indissolubility of Marriage and the mortal sin of adultery involved in attempting to divorce and remarry (assuming a valid first marriage or no Church annulment). In other parts of the letter, however, His Holiness was less than clear in his language, and this lack of clarity is the source of the ongoing discussion and confusion among many bishops, priests and lay faithful.

Specifically, some bishops and bishops’ conferences, as well as priests and lay people, have been interpreting the unclear language of Amoris Laetitia to allow “divorced and remarried” Catholics, after discerning with a priest, to remain in their illicit and invalid “second marriage” and receive the sacraments, including both Penance and Holy Communion. This is directly and clearly contrary to the constant teaching and discipline of the Church, established in Scripture, passed down by Tradition and codified in Canon Law, which provides that such persons cannot receive the sacraments until 1) they renounce their illicit/invalid “second marriage,” 2) or receive an annulment of the “first marriage” and have their “second marriage” validated by a Church wedding, 3) or at least commit to living together only as “brother and sister,” i.e., to refrain from sexual activity together that belongs only in a valid marriage.

This growing confusion has prompted many prominent Catholics to beg the Holy Father to clarify his position, and, of course, clearly uphold the Church’s teaching. For example, last June a group of 45 highly distinguished theologians wrote the Holy Father in this regard, and last month 2 of the most highly respected moral theologians, Germain Grisez and John Finnis, submitted a similar request along with a lengthy clear explanation of their understanding of the confusion that exists. Both of these requests, as well as most of the other similar requests I’m aware of, were very respectful and deferential to His Holiness, not questioning his authority but only asking for him to clarify his meaning.

But the most high profile request came in November from four highly respected Cardinals, three of whom are considered top experts in their respective academic fields: the profound moral theologian, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop Emeritus of Bologna and founding president of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family; canon lawyer, Cardinal Raymond Burke, current Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and former Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (i.e., Chief Justice of the Vatican’s Supreme Court); Church historian, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; and Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop Emeritus of Cologne.

These four Cardinals sent the Holy Father a very respectful letter containing five questions, called “dubia” (Latin for “doubts”), which they asked him to resolve for them. (Note: the dubia is a widely used and respectful practice for clarifying issues in the Church). The dubia were essentially these:

1) Can a divorced and invalidly remarried person (as described above) receive absolution (in the sacrament of penance) and Holy Communion, even without living as “brother and sister”?

2) Is the ancient doctrine still true that there are absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and are binding without exceptions?

3) Is the ancient doctrine still true that a person who habitually breaks a commandment, e.g., committing adultery (Matthew 19:3-9), is in an objective situation of grave habitual sin?

4) Is the ancient doctrine still true that neither circumstances nor good intentions can ever transform an intrinsically evil act into a ‘subjectively’ good act or defensible as a choice?

5) Is the ancient doctrine still true that appeals to “conscience” can never be used to approve exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts?

Note, the Cardinals clearly do not think His Holiness will overturn ancient Church teaching, based on Scripture and Tradition, but merely hope he will clarify that teaching for those who are so terribly confused.

Moreover, these four Cardinals are just doing their job as cardinals: respectfully advising the Pope, and obediently responding to Pope Francis’ repeated call for dialogue and discussion of these issues. Happily, many Cardinals and Bishops have come out in support of the four Cardinals’ letter. But some have, sadly, reacted in very uncharitable and irrational ways—one even calling them heretics (what?), while others deny there is any confusion at all. In that regard, Cardinal Caffarra responded: “It is a fact—which only a blind man can deny—that there exists in the Church a great confusion … Some bishops have said A, others have said the contrary of A, with the intention of interpreting well the same texts.”

Let us pray for all the Cardinals and Bishops, especially these four good, holy, learned and obedient Cardinals, and for our Holy Father. May the Lord Jesus lead us to a fulfillment of His promise: “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Second Sunday In Ordinary Time

Parish Volunteers. Last Saturday night, on the Feast of St. Raymond, we held our annual Volunteer Dinner, honoring about 150 of our parish’s most dedicated volunteers and their spouses. It was a great night for many reasons, but especially to see all these people who are so committed to supporting and serving our parish family  having this opportunity to share in such warm and fraternal fellowship.

I’ve always said that one of the best ways to grow in your Catholic faith is to become active in some parish group or committee. It may not be as essential as receiving the Sacraments or reading the Scriptures or studying the Catechism, but getting involved in parish activities can be a great way to discover the meaning of Christian service, as well as the support of your fellow parishioners. I know when I was a 20-something year-old Catholic lay man that was an important factor contributing to the deepening my faith. Sometimes the Church, and even the parish, can seem so huge and impersonal. But by being involved in a particular small group or activity of the parish you can really become involved in the life of the whole parish. Not only does this create a personal and familial sense of belonging, but it also draws you deeper into the life of the whole parish and the whole Church—you meet more people, make more good Catholic friends and you learn about more opportunities to serve and to be served.

So this year I encourage you to resolve to take a more active part in the life our parish, and to do so as did the Lord Jesus, who “came to serve, not to be served.” Resolve to become a committed volunteer for one or more activities or groups in the parish.

Many St. Raymond parishioners have a strong history of committed volunteerism (God bless you!). Sometimes, however, this causes others (especially newcomers) to think that their help isn’t needed. But the reality is just the opposite: we constantly need fresh ideas, younger muscles, new voices, etc.. And we can’t grow or improve if we don’t have more help! So I encourage folks who aren’t committed to some volunteer parish activity now to do so in 2017, especially those who are newer to our parish. And I encourage those of you who are volunteers already to invite others parishioners you meet to join you!

I know everybody’s busy, and many of you are already serving the Lord in many ways outside of the parish. But as we begin this New Year, I beg you to think and pray seriously about the specific ways you can volunteer in our parish.

To jog your thoughts here, see below a list of the various parish committees/activities that need your help.

 

Oremus pro invicem, Fr. De Celles

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Adoration—Wednesdays (Diane Spinelli)703-451-1779

Adoration- Fridays (Eva Radel) 703-440-0535

Adult Education Programs (RCIA, Bible Study) (Bob Ward) 703-644-5873

Altar Servers (Fr. Smith) 703-440-0535

Altar Society (Nena Brennan) 703-541-5151

American Heritage Girls (Mary Hansen) 703-405-4145

Bake Sales (Vacant) 703-440-0535

Basketball Team (Youth) (CYO) (Ed Gloninger) 703-451-8049

Bereavement Committee (Vacant) 703-440-0535

Book Club (Jim Mault) 703-913-5685

Choir (all music for Masses) (Elisabeth Turco) 703-506-4644

Christ House (Maria Sanchez-O’Brien) 571-259-7379

Cursillo (Chuck Tiso) 703-866-1081

Flower Committee (Julie Mullen) 703-493-9291

Gift Shop (Maria Sanchez-O’Brien) 703-690-1477

Home School Group (Katherine Bogacki) 703-591-0215; (Malia Cameron) 703-644-4487

Knights of Columbus (Philip Fick) 202-567-1679

Landscaping (Vacant) 703-440-0535

Lectors (Brenda Doroski) 703-455-1850

Legion of Mary (Judy Mayer) 703-690-1827

Library (Liz Hildebrand) 703-455-3193

Men’s Prayer Group  (Dave Wilson) 703-455-1847

Mother’s Group (Michelle Castry) 703-731-7854

Natural Family Planning (Bob or Geri Laird) 703-339-7261

One Spirit Special Needs Apostolate (Vacant) 703-440-0535

Prayer Group (Elaine Perricone) 703-440-8356

Respect Life Committee (Liz Hildebrand) 703-455-3193

Project Gabriel (Beth Berger) 703-690-3483

Project Rachel (Diane Spinelli) 703-451-1779

Religious Freedom (Bob Laird) 703-339-7261

Religious Education (“CCD”) (Mary Salmon) 703-440-0537

Samaritans (Sloane Bailey)  703-966-8170

St. Martin de Porres Society (Flavia Tommasi) 703-866-4671

Trail Life (Vince Drouillard) 703-992-0490

Ushers (Patrick O’Brien ) 703-690-1477

Wedding Committee (Pam Rinn)703-690-4420

Welcome Committee (Mary Butler) 703-440-0535

Women’s Group (Vacant ) 703-440-0535

Youth Apostolate (“Youth Group”) (Jeanne Sause) 571-334-9890

 

Epiphany of the Lord

Epiphany and the End of the Christmas Season. Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, commemorating the visit and adoration of the Magi to the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The Orthodox Church and many of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches also effectively celebrate the Epiphany as the commemoration of the birth of Our Lord, i.e., Christmas.

Epiphany has historically been celebrated on January 6th since at least the 3rd century, but the U.S. Bishops long ago moved the celebration to the Sunday falling between January 2nd and January 8th (inclusive), in order that more Catholics would be able to attend and celebrate Mass on this great day.

The visit of the Magi is rich in symbolic meanings for Christians, first of which is as the revealing (“epiphany”) of the Christ to the gentile world, as even foreign wise men travel great distances to adore their new heaven-sent King. As we draw near to the end of the Christmas season, which comes tomorrow (Monday, January 9) on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Epiphany reminds us that the Savior came not just for us to celebrate His birth but for us to reveal Him to the nations.

 

Virgin Mother. Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God. While this feast commemorates Mary’s Motherhood, it also reminds us that she was a “Virgin Mother.” The Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin, i.e., she was a virgin all her life: “ante-partu, in-partu, et post-partu”. Most practicing Christians understand that she was a virgin before the birth of Jesus (“ante-partu”) so that Jesus was conceived by the singularly miraculous act of the Holy Spirit and no act of man, i.e., St. Joseph. And I hope most practicing Catholics understand that she remained a virgin after His birth (“post-partu”) until the end of her life on earth.

But I’m afraid not every Catholic understands that Mary was a virgin also during the birth of Jesus (“in-partu”), or if they do, they don’t understand what this fully entails. Proceeding with careful delicacy, out of respect for the topic in general and reverence for the Blessed Mother in particular, we can say that most people think that virginity means never having sexual intercourse. It does mean that, but in the history of the Church the term also means something more: that the “bodily integrity” of the female remains intact. In short, this means that the actual physical act of giving birth to Jesus did not occur in the same way as every other human birth. He did not pass from the Mary’s womb physically in the same way all other babies pass from their mothers’ womb, so that Mary’s body was not damaged, altered or “defiled” in any way, and she incurred no birthing pains whatsoever, so that the birth itself, the “delivery,” was somehow miraculous.

This is the dogma of the Church, and we must believe it as a matter of faith. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches (quoting Vatican II): “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth ‘did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.’” (CCC 499, Lumen Gentium 57).

However, as you notice how I delicately approach the physical aspects of the subject, so too the Church has always discouraged unnecessary speculation or discussion of the physical aspects of this, out of devotion and respect for the modesty the Blessed Mother. But we do have recourse to quoting St. Thomas Aquinas (ST III, 28, 2) quoting St. Augustine (Sup. Joan. Tract. 121): “To the substance of a body in which was the Godhead closed doors were no obstacle. For truly He had power to enter in by doors not open, in Whose Birth His Mother’s virginity remained inviolate.” Or there is the most frequently quoted ancient saying, “By His power as God, the Savior passed through the closed womb of the Virgin Mary as light passing through glass.”

 

Donor Wall. Our church and rectory were built and opened just over 10 years ago, at a cost of about $18 million dollars. That was funded with three loans totaling $11.5, million, but also with an amazing $6.5 million contributed upfront in cash by our parishioners. What makes that “down payment” even more remarkable is that before the church was built the parish only had about 865 families/households, compared to the 1,900 we have today.

I am very happy to announce that we have, at long last, dedicated a wall honoring these folks (we did our best to include any particular gift). If you haven’t seen it yet, please visit it inside the main entrance of the church basement leading to the parish hall. It is a large impressive oak plaque covered with 1,249 brass plates with names or remembrances. I think it is a beautiful and fitting tribute to their generosity. Thanks to Bob Brickner and Tom Browne for spearheading the effort to finally make this happen.

 

Short Note on Christmas and “New Year’s” Collections. As I  thought might happen, since Christmas and New Year’s both fell on Sundays this year our combined collections were down by over $20,000 from last year. This is entirely understandable, and it was not as bad as I feared, but that’s still a big hit to our budget. I’m not scolding anyone, I know how generous you are. But if you forgot to give (or if you were out of town) those weekends perhaps you might consider making an extra donation in the coming weeks.

 

Office Construction. As we announced a few weeks ago, this Monday we will start an 8-week construction project remodeling our parish offices. This is not to make them more opulent, but to provide for more efficient and effective use of space for our staff and additional privacy for our priests (for meeting with parishioners, etc.). During the construction, the offices will be moved into the living area of the priests’ residence (adjacent to the regular office space). I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. Please pray for the staff and the priests during this challenging time, and also pray the construction goes well and as planned. St. Joseph the Carpenter, pray for us.

 

A Belated Thanks. Thank you 2nd grader Fatima Mutumanje for carrying the Baby Jesus into the church during the procession for the blessing of the Manger before Midnight Mass on Christmas.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles