Fourth Sunday of Advent

My dear sons and daughters in Christ,

On this Christmas Eve I pray that as we begin to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus, Our Blessed Savior may draw you close to Himself, and shower you with every divine grace and heavenly blessing. May you share in the inexpressible joy of His Holy Mother, Mary, and may she bring you to Him, and teach you how to love Him with all your heart. May St. Joseph keep you in his strong and tender care, and teach us all how to serve Our Lord with the total devotion and self-sacrifice he did. And may the Holy Family bring peace and charity to your families as you contemplate the day that changed all of history: when God the Son stripped Himself of the glory of Heaven to become one of us to save us from sin and all evil, and open to us the gates of Paradise.
On behalf of myself, Fr. Smith, Fr. Daly, Fr. Scalia and all the priests who have ministered in our parish this year, I wish you all a very blessed and merry Christmas!

Thanks. I also want to thank all those who have worked so hard to make Advent and Christmas such a special time for our parish. In particular, Elisabeth Turco (our Music Director), the choir, cantors, and musicians (especially our organist, Denise Anezin) for all the beautiful music. All those who assisted in special ways at the Mass, especially our great altar boys, lectors (led by Brenda Doroski), extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (led by Barbara Aldridge and Christine Spengler). The folks on our flower committee, especially Julie Mullen and her family, for so beautifully decorating the church and grounds. The ushers, especially Patrick O’Brien, who helped make everything run so smoothly. The Knights of Columbus, especially Pat Franco, for all they did in so many ways (sorry about the snowed-out Breakfast with Santa!). The various sacristans, especially Nena Brennan, for all their work in preparing the sanctuary for Masses. The Youth Group, for all the odd jobs they did around the parish. All who volunteered at with Senior Lunch (particularly Patty Miller). All those who volunteered in our Gift Shop, especially Maria Sanchez-O’Brien. All those who contributed so much in time and treasure to the Giving Tree. A special thanks to our dedicated staff, Jeanne Sause, Tom Browne, Kirsti Tyson, Eva Radel, Mary Butler, Mary Salmon, Vince Drouillard and Teresa Sierra, as well as our maintenance workers Laura Rodriguez and Luis Tapia, who worked so hard to serve us all. And finally, to Fr. Daly, Fr. Scalia and all the other priests helped out with Masses and Confessions; and most especially to Fr. Smith for his dedicated service to Our Lord and our parish. I know I’ve left out lots of folks that deserve special thanks; my apologies. Thank you all, and a blessed and merry Christmas to you.

And a Friendly Reminder. Remember, this weekend we are obliged to go to Mass for both Sunday (the 4th Sunday of Advent) and Christmas: that means two Masses.
Oremus pro invicem, Fr. De Celles

+ + + + + + +

His Holiness Pope Francis
“Urbi et Orbi” Message, Christmas 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!
Today the Church once more experiences the wonder of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the shepherds of Bethlehem, as they contemplate the newborn Child laid in a manger: Jesus, the Savior.
On this day full of light, the prophetic proclamation resounds: “For to us a child is born, To us a son is given. And the government will be upon his shoulder; and his name will be called “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:6)
The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power that created the heavens and the earth, and gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals. It is the force that attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence. It is the power that gives new birth, forgives sin, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God. This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise from the dead. It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace.
For this reason, the birth of Jesus was accompanied by the angels’ song as they proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14).
Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace….
Peace to all who, in different areas, are enduring sufferings due to constant dangers and persistent injustice….
Peace to all who have been injured or have suffered the loss of a loved one due to the brutal acts of terrorism that have sown fear and death in the heart of many countries and cities. Peace – not merely the word, but real and concrete peace – to our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters, to those who suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who in our day are subject to human trafficking. Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of a few, because of sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery. Peace to those affected by social and economic unrest, and to those who endure the consequences of earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.
And peace to the children, on this special day on which God became a child, above all those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults.
Peace on earth to men and women of goodwill, who work quietly and patiently each day, in their families and in society, to build a more humane and just world, sustained by the conviction that only with peace is there the possibility of a more prosperous future for all.
Dear brothers and sisters, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”: he is the “Prince of peace”. Let us welcome him!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Third Sunday of Advent

It’s Almost Christmas! I can’t believe the big day is almost here—as I wrote 2 weeks ago, this is the shortest Advent possible, 3 weeks and 1 day.
Today is called Gaudete Sunday or “Rejoice Sunday.” It takes its name from the “Introit” of the Mass (the “entrance antiphon” we say if we don’t sing during the entrance procession), taken from Philippians 4: “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Dominus enim prope est.” “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”
Today Holy Mother Church calls us to remember the true cause of our Joy in this season: the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ into the world 2000 years ago to save us from sin and evil, and invite us to share in His life of love, beginning in this world and perfected in the next.
It’s natural to ask, how do we “rejoice always,” when we so often have real reasons to be sad? Of course, there are times when we’re going to experience sadness and even terrible sorrow. But in Christ we find something more than smiles and laughter. We find a deep abiding joy, knowing that the Eternal Creator and Redeemer of all things loves us and will never abandon us to evil. So that even when weighted down by grief and trials we find hope and the grace to remain steadfast in our faith and love. This is “indeed” cause to rejoice.
Usually, Gaudete Sunday is about 2 weeks before Christmas, but this year Christmas is just 8 days away. I know there’s an awful lot going on in the next few days: last minute shopping, travelling, etc. But rather than allowing all the busyness to distract you, try to make real time to prepare yourself for this celebration. Avoid all sin. Try to show charity, patience and compassion to your neighbor, especially your family members, at every moment—be helpful, not harmful, to family peace. And love God above everything and with everything. Take time to pray, go to confession and weekday Mass. And throughout your day, wherever you are, take small moments to place yourself in the company and care of Mary and Joseph. Imagine them travelling on the rocky roads of Galilee and Judea, from Nazareth down to Bethlehem, exposed to the elements, walking all that way or, perhaps, aided by a donkey. Perhaps today, just 8 days before the birth, they were just setting out on their journey. Imagine how every day they were a little closer, but a little wearier and colder. Think of their struggle, but also their joy. For they were not traveling alone: “God their Savior” was with them in Mary’s womb. Travel with them these next few days in prayer. Stop from time to time at work, and wonder, “where are you now, Mary and Joseph, and Baby Jesus?” Come to church for a quiet visit, and say to them, “perhaps you are stopping to rest now—let me rest with you.” Accompany them on their journey—and do not get too distracted by the craziness of the “holiday season.”

Confession. If you haven’t been to confession this Advent, please go this week—there’s nothing like the joy experienced in having our sins forgiven, and no better way to prepare for Christmas. Remember, we have will have at least 2 priests, and sometimes 3, hearing confessions every evening this week, Monday through Friday. We will also have our regular confessions next Saturday, December 23, but we not have confessions next Sunday, December 24.

Next Sunday is Christmas Eve: What is your Mass Obligation? Because Christmas falls on Monday this year, the celebration of it obviously begins on the evening before, on Sunday, with Christmas Eve. This will cause some confusion for many of us. For example, do you have to go to Mass on both Sunday and Christmas Day (Monday)? Can you go to one Mass on Sunday evening to count for both your regular Sunday and Christmas Day Mass obligation? So let me try to clarify some things.
First of all, we all know that Catholics must go to Mass on Sunday. But remember, Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation, so you must go to Mass on Christmas too. That means you have to go to TWO Masses, one for Sunday and one for Christmas.
Now, the general rule for Sundays and Holy Days is that you can fulfill your Mass obligation by going to Mass on either the day of or on the evening before. So, to fulfill your obligation for next Sunday you can go to Mass on Saturday evening or on Sunday. And to fulfill your obligation for Christmas you can go to Mass on Monday (Christmas Day) or Sunday evening. But you must go to one Mass for each, two Masses!
Next Sunday morning, December 24, we will have a regular Sunday Mass schedule (7am, 8:45am, 10:30am and 12:15pm). But in the evening, instead of our usual Sunday 5pm Mass we will have three Vigil Masses for Christmas: 4pm, 6pm and 8pm (and also midnight). I recommend you fulfill your Sunday Mass obligation on Saturday night or Sunday morning, and your Christmas Mass obligation on Sunday evening or on Monday. That keeps things simple and clear.
[But if you want to complicate things…. If you go to one of the Sunday evening Masses (December 24th) you can “count” that EITHER for your Sunday obligation (since it is still Sunday) OR for your Christmas obligation (since it’s a Vigil Mass for Christmas). But you can NOT “count” it for both days—there is no “two for” here. If you count that evening Mass on the 24th for your Sunday obligation, you have to go to Mass again on Monday (Christmas Day); or if you count it for your Christmas obligation, you must also attend an earlier Mass on Sunday (or the Vigil Mass on Saturday evening). I hope that’s not too confusing. It probably is. Just remember: two Masses!]

Lessons and Carols. Wow! What a beautiful evening we had last Sunday. The readings from Scripture were inspiring, and our amazing choir out did themselves in singing various choral pieces and leading us in Advent hymns. Our largest L&C crowd ever—over 400 people—left filled with the joy and hope of the season. Thanks to our choir and organist, and especially to our inimitable Music Director, Elisabeth Turco. And thanks also to Eva Radel and Angelus Academy for the fun reception afterwards.

Correction to Missalette. In the introduction to last Sunday’s readings, the publisher of our missalette wrote that “The author of Second Peter wrote…about one hundred years after Jesus,” or about 130AD. Nonsense. Tradition and orthodox scholarship hold that the letter was written by St. Peter himself before he died around 66AD. I repeat my caveat: please be careful if you choose to read these introductions—they are so often wrong. I apologize for having to use them, and continue to search for a better missalette.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Second Sunday of Advent

Restoring Innocence. Last week in my homily I spoke about the temptations we have at this time of year to get all caught up in materialism, to think that gift buying/giving/receiving, decorating, going to parties, cooking/eating special foods, etc. are what it means to prepare for Christmas. But Advent is really about a different kind of preparation. As we prepare to celebrate the Birth of the innocent Baby Jesus, we recall that He came to earth because we are not so innocent, and to restore that innocence to us. So our Advent preparation should mean cooperating with Jesus in this restoration by working on our spiritual and moral lives—especially by growing in charity—as well as our knowledge of Jesus and His gifts.
When I say we need to work on “charity,” of course I include financial support for worthy groups or people, but above all I mean personally living a life of charity by being truly helpful and considerate to the people around you, especially those who are clearly in need or in pain. Being patient with your office mate who’s having a difficult time at home, and maybe taking that out on you. Instead of gossiping about people, come to their defense. Praise someone, instead of criticize; lift them up instead of pushing them down or simply letting them fall under the weight of their problems. Be the peacemaker, rather than the troublemaker.
And let this begin at home, with your family. This is a great time of year to remember how much we love our family. But if we love them, why don’t we act like it? Husbands and wives bicker over so many silly things, forgetting that they love this person. Think of this: most husband and wives tell me that they would readily die for their spouse. But then they refuse to be patient or forgiving over the smallest things. They would die for each other, but no way she’s gonna get the last word in an argument, no way he’s gonna be late for dinner again.
And one of the greatest ways to show charity is to tell people about Jesus and His Church. Bring a friend to church with you one Sunday in Advent. Or maybe, buy your family or friends Christmas gifts that will help re-kindle their faith—a bible, a rosary, a crèche, a statue of their favorite saint.
But also remember that drawing closer to Christ and His innocent love requires that we spend time with Him and get to know more about Him and His Church. So make sure you take time to pray, at home, at work and at church, and to take advantage of all the various activities made available in the parish this Advent, especially Mass, adoration and confession. Also, take time to learn, by taking advantage of our parish library, located downstairs next to the parish hall, where we have a lot of really good books, DVDs, and CDs that are treasure trove for anyone seeking to learn more about Jesus and Catholicism. (It might also give you some great ideas for Christmas gifts!). And don’t forget the CD rack in our narthex, and your free parish membership in FORMED.ORG. And, of course, my talk this Thursday on St. Joseph (see below).
Most especially, allow Jesus to restore your lost innocence through the sacrament of confession. As we do every Advent, we are hearing confessions every single day (until and including Saturday, December 23). In addition to the regular confession times a priest will be in the confessional every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evening from 6:15pm to 7pm (he may stay longer, but only if his schedule permits). Please take advantage of this sacrament, but don’t wait for the last minute, or for Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning—come during the week! And bring your whole family—show your kids how important confession is in preparing for a great Christmas!

My Advent Talk This Thursday: St. Joseph. As I mentioned last week, instead of my usual 3-part Advent Series this year I’m able to give only 1 talk this Advent, which will take place this coming Thursday, December 14 at 7:30 in the Parish Hall. My topic will be “St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer.” As I’ve been preparing for the talk, I’ve been reminded just what a wonderful gift St. Joseph is to us all. A gift first given to Mary, and then through Mary to Jesus, and then through Jesus to all of us. A true husband, father and masculine man—a great example, role model and patron, especially for men and boys, but also for women and girls (after all, all women/girls have fathers, and most have a husband or hope for one). I haven’t written my outline yet, but clearly, we’ll discuss the Scriptures related to St. Joseph as well as some of the legends and apocryphal writings, and what the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church have said about him, and how all this is reflected in the doctrines of the Church. I’m really looking forward to it, so I hope to see you there.

Lessons and Carols Tonight. Remember to join me, the choir and the lectors for Lessons and Carols tonight (Sunday) at 7pm in the church. Every year, as the word spreads, we get a larger turn out for this joyful and prayerful event. Part of its charm is its uniqueness—there’s really nothing else like it all year. And also, its peacefulness in the busyness of the “holiday season”: hearing the inspiring and joyful prophecies of the Old Testament and the first lessons of the Gospel, along with the beautiful strains of the choir—and the congregation—singing treasured carols and hymns, some so comfortably familiar, others delightfully new to our ears and hearts. Please come join us!

Senior’s Lunch. I want to remind all our seniors to join us next Saturday, December 16, for our annual Seniors’ Advent Luncheon. Please call the office for more details. I look forward to seeing you there.

Giving Tree. Please don’t forget to stop by the “Giving Tree” in the narthex, and help to make Christmas a little merrier for some folks who are having a rough time this year, by supplying Christmas presents for families in true need. This year we are helping about 17 families in our parish and 13 families from Our Lady of the Blue Ridge parish in Madison.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

First Sunday of Advent

Season of Advent. Today we begin the season of Advent, in preparation for Christmas. Advent is usually about 4 weeks long, but this year, since Christmas falls on the day after the 4th Sunday of Advent, there is really no “4th week of Advent.” So that this year’s Advent will be the shortest possible—3 weeks and 1 day.
In any case, every year most people forget that the Advent season is primarily about preparing for Christmas, and instead spend these weeks pre-maturely celebrating Christmas, and doing so from a largely secularized perspective. And then when the actual 3 week Christmas Season begins on Christmas Day, they put all the Christmas things away and go on with life!
This pre-mature celebration isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if we see it as part of the strong influence of Christianity on our culture. Many Catholics see people around them start celebrating Christmas, and it’s such a wonderful feast they (Catholics) get all caught up in it.
But it’s not completely harmless. First of all, much of this early celebration is driven not by a Christian culture, but by commercial interests taking advantage of that culture. Sadly, much of this is nothing more than retailers playing on our emotional attachment to Christmas, in order to increase sales. Increasing sales is not a bad thing, but the reduction of Advent to a period of rampant commercialism/materialism and emotionalism is a terrible thing. All but forgotten is the spiritual/faith preparation to celebrate the wonder of the birth of the Baby Jesus, our Creator come to redeem us from our sins.
Please don’t let this happen to you this Advent. This is not to say you can’t take part in the “cultural” celebrations, as long as you make sure to also spend time preparing for the celebration of the Day that changed the world forever. Here are some suggestions:
— Catholics always prepare for Holy Days by doing penance. In Advent this shouldn’t take on anything near the severity of Lent, but we should do some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more than Christ, and that everything we do is for Him.
— Add extra prayers to your daily routine. The Rosary is an excellent addition to our prayers, especially meditating on the Joyful Mysteries, or at least praying one decade every day, meditating on one of the Joyful Mysteries.
— Reading Scripture is an excellent way to renew your faith in Christ. Perhaps challenge yourself to read one of the Gospels beginning to end in Advent. Or perhaps read short passages daily from the Christmas-related texts: Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1:1-17.
— Of course, charitable giving is a great way to prepare for the gift of the Baby Jesus. While it is a fine practice to give presents to people we love, it is an even better practice to give to those who do not know us and cannot give anything back to us. So, make sure you make generous charitable gifts—either directly to those in need or to worthy charitable projects/institutions. The parish Giving Tree is one good way to do this, as are some of the special collections.
— Receiving the sacraments is one of the most important things you can do in Advent. Consider coming to Mass and Adoration during the week, and make sure you go to Confession. As always, we will have confessions every weekday evening during Advent, which means confession is available every single day during Advent (except Christmas Eve).
— Most importantly, live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Follow the 10 Commandments, live out the Beatitudes. Forgive others, and be kind, patient, generous, and encouraging. Love one another as Jesus, who out of love for us stripped Himself of the glory of heaven to be born in a cold manger, loves us.
— Also: take part in the many special events and liturgies scheduled in the parish this Advent. Please find the insert of the Schedule of “Advent & Christmas 2017 Events” in this bulletin, look it over carefully and keep in somewhere central in your house (on the fridge door?). In particular, consider:
— Lessons and Carols. Next Sunday, December 10, I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir for “Lessons & Carols” at 7:00 pm. This is a wonderful program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings. Some people think “Lessons” means I’m going to give a lecture or something. Not at all. “Lessons” is simply an old English term for readings from Scripture. By weaving together prophetic readings from the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, the readers lay out God’s breathtaking plan for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular hymns and spreading their vocal wings in leading us in carols and a few more complicated choral pieces—they are AMAZING. And afterwards there will be an opportunity for joyful fellowship at a short reception (with delicious seasonal refreshments). Trust me, this is a really wonderful evening—you’ll have a great time. Every year the crowd gets bigger (last year we had several hundred!) because everyone who comes loves it. Please join us.
— Advent Talk. Usually I give a 3-part Advent Series on the first 3 Thursdays of Advent, but this year, because of the short season and this Thursday being the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception, I’ve reluctantly decided to give only 1 talk, on Thursday, December 14 at 7:30 in the Parish Hall. My topic will be “St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer.” We’ll go over what Scripture and Catholic traditions, customs and doctrines tell us about the life and holiness this great saint. I hope to see all of you there.

Immaculate Conception. This Friday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of obligation (all Catholics must attend Mass, and it is a mortal sin not to). This great feast is integral to Advent, teaching us about Mary’s perfect preparation to receive Christ. See below for special Mass times.

Lighting and Mural Capital Campaign. As I write this on Nov. 29, we officially have one day left on our Capital Campaign. As of today, we have just gone over $214,000 in pledges. While this is only half of our goal, it is not at all disappointing to me. Honestly, all things considered, especially our very soft-sell/low key approach to the campaign, while my dream was to cover the entire $400,000 cost of the project, I was realistically thinking/hoping we’d collect at least half of that. We’ve done that, and I thank all the generous donors. But let me make one final appeal: we’ll be happy to accept pledges for this anytime; please consider giving at least $25 or $50 sometime in the next few weeks. And please pray for the success of the actual project.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Shocked, shocked!” The phrase “Hollywood sex scandal” is filled with redundancy, as “Hollywood” seems synonymous with both “sex” and “scandal”. For decades Hollywood, or the movie/entertainment industry, has been on the leading edge of efforts to shift America away from its solid Christian moral base into relativistic, confused, immoral society—and making a lot of money in doing so. One could debate which came first, the desire to make money from human weakness or the desire to promote human weakness while making money. But the fact remains, that “Hollywood” is, and has been for decades, the leading promoter of sexual depravity and abuse in our nation.
Which is why the current uproar about industry leaders’ personal sexual depravity, from Harvey Weinstein’s alleged raping of young starlets to Kevin Spacey’s alleged raping of young boys, would be comical if it wasn’t so horrible. I can’t help but think of the famous line in Casablanca when Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) closes down the gambling at Rick’s, even as he accepts his own gambling winnings: “I’m shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here.” What did we think was going on?
For years Hollywood has attacked the Church and all traditional Christians, for upholding traditional sexual moral values. They practically squealed with delight every time a Christian politician or a priest or minister got caught in a sexual scandal. And they absolutely relished the Church’s own sex abuse scandal a few years ago. And then they went on to make the most salacious films to profit from it all.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. Will they finally admit, or will at the least the rest of us, finally admit, that they are morally corrupt from top to bottom? Unlike devout Christians who weakly fail to be faithful to the high moral values they promote, Weinstein et all have simply been caught embracing the sick values they’ve been openly promoting for years.
Are there any moral men and women in Hollywood? I’m sure there are, maybe more than we know—we should pray for them. But as a whole, “Hollywood” has pretended to promote women’s rights, while degrading women both on the casting couch and the big screen: they have made 100s of billions of dollars treating women, and even boys and girls, as sexual objects. And they have glorified men who are sexually promiscuous and depraved.
Why do we allow them to have this power over us? Why do we watch their filthy movies at theatres and in our homes? Why do we follow their fashions, and even the example of their personal lives? Why do we modify our values because they say we should? And worse yet, why do we expose our children to all this?
And why are we “shocked, shocked” to find that Hollywood is depraved as it is?

Birthday Party for Sofi. This last Thursday, November 14, was the 7th birthday of Sofi Hills. As many of you will recall, as a newborn baby she was left in our parking lot, where she was found by a parishioner and rushed to the hospital. We continue to give praise to the Lord Jesus for saving her life that day, and that she has grown into a healthy vivacious little girl. And in celebration we’re having a birthday party for Sofi in our Parish Hall, TODAY, November 19, after the 12:15 Mass. All parishioners are invited and encouraged to come and say hello to our little Sofi!
I firmly believe that Sofi was given to us as a particular call for our parish to promote the Culture of Life, so I ask you today to renew your personal efforts in this regard. And I ask you to pray for Sofi and her family, and for her birth-mother whose name is unknown to us, but whose courage to save her baby will always be remembered.

Thanksgiving. I hope and pray you will all have a very blessed Thanksgiving Day this coming Thursday. We all have so much to be thankful for—beginning with the gifts of life and love, especially life in the love of Christ in this world and the world to come.
I would like to take a moment to give particular thanks to God for the parish staff He has given to us. They work so hard and devoutly to serve Jesus and you, and to help Fr. Smith and I serve Jesus and you. So, I give thanks to God for Kirsti Tyson, our Office/Business Manager, who has given so many years to the parish, especially to making sure we are responsible stewards of the financial aspects of the parish. Thanks for Eva Radel, our Parish Secretary, who’s talent, dedication, efficiency and warm attentiveness to your needs is so important in keeping things going day to day, not to mention keeping the Pastor on track. Thanks for Mary Butler, officially a Parish Secretary, but in reality, my go-to utility player, filling in where ever we need her, and heading up so many special projects for me. Thanks for Jeanne Sause, the hardest working and most loving Youth Director in the diocese—what would we do without her working so many hours on so many days and evenings, and traveling all over the place, with our kids? Thanks for Tom Browne, our Plant Manager, for doing a superb job in making sure the building is up and running at all times, especially as he heads the effort to fix our lights. Thanks for Mary Salmon, our Director of Religious Education, who has done a yeoman’s job in shaping the program to meet my very high expectations, all the while humbly showing us all her profound love for our children and our Church. Thanks for Vince Drouillard, our Religious Education Secretary and Child Protection Coordinator, who is the newest addition to the staff, but literally a real God-send in an often-thankless job. Thanks for Elisabeth Turco, our Music Director, the best in the diocese, who has done so much to lift our liturgies to be so reverent and beautiful, and patiently working with me, a taskmaster when it comes to all this. Thanks for Nena Brennan, our Head Sacristan, who despite her terrible car accident earlier this year keeps plugging away to keep our sacristy well-ordered and our sanctuary beautiful; and for her good husband, Marty Brennan, works so hard to help her and me. Thanks for Teresa Sierra, our housekeeper, who, despite so many personal setbacks this year, continues to take care of us priests and make sure we’re comfortable and well-fed. Although they are not technically our employees, thanks also to our “contract” maintenance workers, Laura Rodriguez and Luis Tapia, who keep the church clean and safe for all of us. And finally, although technically unpaid volunteers, thanks for Bob and Bev Ward, running RCIA and our famous Bible Study—they are two of the greatest gifts God has given the parish.
I thank the Lord Jesus for all of them, and I ask you to join me in thanking Him and praying for them this week.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Vote Like a Catholic. This Tuesday, November 7, Virginians go to the polls to elect our state and local officials, including our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Delegates. Sadly, many Virginians, including many Catholics, will vote for candidates who embrace abortion, the “gay agenda” and the undermining of religious liberty. Many others will stay home and not vote at all.
It is our moral duty, as Christians, to vote, and I encourage all of you to do so on Tuesday, and to vote like the faithful Catholics you are. And I also encourage you to pray and do penance for the good of the Commonwealth.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (2239-2240): “It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community…. Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country….”

Today is also “Vocation Awareness Sunday.” God is calling many of our young men and women—members of our own families—to the special vocations of priesthood or religious life. It is so easy for young people to resist this call, and so difficult to accept it. It can be a demanding life, but no more demanding than the life of a spouse and parent, and it brings with it so many rewards in this life and the life to come. And there is nothing better than to live one’s life knowing that you are doing what God has called you to do. For myself, I can say, I was very reluctant to accept the call—I was very happy with my career, friends and home. Which helps explain why I started seminary 10 years after college. But I have never regretted answering the call, and I thank God for the great gift of my priesthood.
I encourage all of our young people to pray and consider if God is calling you to one of these special vocations. And I strongly encourage all families to help their children or siblings in pursuing this call. It is a great blessing to have a priest or friar or a nun in the family. Don’t push, but propose, encourage and support.
Let us pray for all those discerning a vocation to priesthood or religious life, especially those in our own families and our parish. And remember particularly those who are already in formation, including our former parishioners, Sr. Theresa Francesca Tolpa (already in First Vows with the Sisters of Life), and James Waalkes (Arlington Seminarian), and of course Mike Nugent, our Summer Seminarian.

Major Pro-Life Speaker. Next Saturday, November 11th, the Respect Life Committee hosts international pro-life apologist Stephanie Gray speaking on, “Effectively Bringing the Pro-Life Message to the Public Square with Clarity, Confidence and Civility.” Stephanie has educated the staff at Google headquarters, successfully debated national abortion leaders and late term abortionists and appeared on national television and radio stations. She is the author of Love Unleashes Life: Abortion & the Art of Communicating Truth as well as A Physician’s Guide to Discussing Abortion. In his visit in September, Fr. Tad Pacholczyk strongly recommended her to us, as a former student of his and a must-see speaker. The talk begins at 7:00pm, in the Parish Hall. I encourage everyone to come, and bring a friend!

Our Baby Sofi. November 14 is the 7th birthday of Sofi Hills. As many of you will recall, as a newborn baby she was left in our parking lot, where she was found by a parishioner and rushed to the hospital. For a while I called her “Baby Mary Madeleine,” until she was placed with a loving family which soon adopted her and named her “Anna Sofia Rae,” or “Sofi.” We continue to give praise to the Lord Jesus for saving her life that day, and that she has grown into a healthy vivacious little girl. And in celebration we’re having a birthday party for Sofi in our Parish Hall, Sunday, November 19, after the 12:15 Mass. All parishioners are invited and encouraged to come and say hello to our little Sofi!

Pro-Life “Thank Yous.” A quick but heartfelt thanks to all those who participated in “40 Days for Life”—and there we so many of you! Special thanks to Kurt and Beth Berger and their kids for heroically bearing witness well into the dark and rainy night.

Trail Life. For almost 4 years now Trail Life has been a parish organization that we can all be proud of, as it helps our boys grow into Christian manhood through a Christ-centered program of character and leadership building, especially through the adventure of outdoor experiences that build a young man’s skills and allow him to grow on a personal level and as a role model and leader for his peers. We now have about 50 boys in our very active troop, and I recommend it to all boys and young men in the parish.
I also recommend to all adults who might be interested in becoming leaders of the group, especially men. There are a variety of ways you can help, from administrative to leading campouts. This is great way to positively impact our culture by helping form boys into faithful Catholic leaders. Please see the bulletin “blurb” below for more information.

October Mass Attendance Count. As was announced at Masses, for the last 3 weekends the Bishop has required that all parishes in the diocese do a detailed physical count of attendance at all Masses. The results are in: we have an average Sunday attendance of 2,505. That’s about what I thought it was, but I suppose it’s good to have it confirmed. Just for your reference, we have 5,969 registered parishioners. Thanks for your patience, and I’m sorry if it was distracting. Thanks also to the folks who volunteered to conduct the count, mostly from the ranks of the ushers, Knights of Columbus and extraordinary ministers. Special thanks to Patrick O’Brien for coordinating everything.

Capital Campaign. Our fundraising for the Lighting/Mural Project is off to a great start with pledges and verbal commitments coming in already. I was very pleased especially by all the positive comments we received after Masses last Sunday. Thank you all for your support, and please don’t forget to get your pledge in soon. I’m hoping for $500 per family, but understand that some can’t give that much right now. So, give what you can, less or more! And pray to St. Raymond for the success of this campaign and the project itself.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Another Promise Kept. President Trump’s personal behavior continues to cause me angst: his caustic insults, his petty attacks (even against his allies), his egotistical sense of humor, etc. But, love him or hate him, he keeps coming through on campaign promises that caused many good Catholics to vote for him. Last week he kept another, officially creating a valid and workable conscience-clause exception to his predecessor’s despicable “Contraceptive mandate,” an exception that would apply to every business and organization. As the Washington Times reported:
“The Health and Human Services Department said colleges, faith-based nonprofits and for-profit companies can now avoid the mandate by claiming a religious or moral objection and without submitting a form. Publicly traded companies must pinpoint a religious objection to claim an exemption. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” said Roger Severino, director of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights.”
The Little Sisters of the Poor and all Catholic employers are no longer required to compromise their moral beliefs to satisfy the secular god of contraception/abortion/sexual-promiscuity. Praised be Jesus Christ! And God bless the President for keeping his word.

Some thoughts about Columbus Day. In the last few decades some have called for the end of the celebration of Columbus Day, as they have either accused Christopher Columbus of personal atrocities and racism against the indigenous people he encountered, or simply cast him essentially as a symbol of the European “invasion” of the Americas and the subsequent “oppression” of the indigenous peoples.
There is no doubt that Columbus was no saint: although a man of great faith, he was a deeply flawed sinner. Which is why the Church has never canonized him. And the colonization of the Americas was not without flaws and atrocities.
But Columbus was also a great man in many ways: he was amazingly courageous, with an indefatigable zeal for exploration and an indomitable resolve. He truly discovered a whole “New World,” both for the Europeans, in an obvious sense, but also for the indigenous peoples of North and South America who also had a whole “new world” open to them. And the exploration of the New Word that he initiated brought about great things, not the least of which was ending the indigenous atrocities like human sacrifice. In any case, it dramatically changed the world forever.
So, Columbus is not honored for his despicable sins, either personal or symbolic, but for his noble achievements, and the world-changing effect they had on history.
Consider this: In the course of my dozen or so trips to Rome, as I’ve explored that ancient city I’ve seen statues of dozens of Roman Emperors—even statues of some of the most vicious anti-Christian Emperors. Now, these statues stand in Catholic Rome not because the Romans admire the ancient emperors for cruelly conquering and oppressing most of the known world at the time, or for persecuting Jews and Christians for three centuries. And they honor them not because it was Cesar’s representative in Jerusalem who condemned Jesus to death, or because Cesar’s soldiers nailed Him to the cross.
No, the Romans honor the noble accomplishments of their ancient emperors, e.g., ultimately bringing peace to a savage and violent world, building a system of safe transportation, establishing commerce and amicable relations between various peoples, establishing a logical system of just laws, etc. They celebrate and are inspired by these accomplishments, while also recognizing and abhorring their atrocities. These are the flawed but “great” figures of their storied and amazing history— “great” not simply in the sense of “good” or “noble,” but in the sense of momentous and history-making/defining.
If each of us could remember only the evil we had done in our past, our lives would be devoid of hope, and we’d be stuck wallowing in despair. But we don’t do that. Rather, each of us looks to the times when we were good and when we accomplished what we set out to, and while we remember and repent our sins and failures, these successes encourage us to try again, to strive to be as good as we know we can be.
The same is true with history and historical characters. Imagine if history remembered only the bad things historical characters had done in their lives. We would have no heroes, no one to look to for inspiration or emulation (except, of course, Jesus, and Mary). But we need heroes, and we need to remember the great feats they did so that we can be encouraged to imitate them and strive for great feats ourselves.
All of our historic heroes are flawed, some deeply. But while recognizing their flaws, we do not let those stop us from holding up their great accomplishments for admiration and inspiration. Whether it’s Christopher Columbus or George Washington or Franklin Roosevelt—or our parents or grandparents. Or even, our better selves.

Feast of St. John XXIII. Last Wednesday, October 11, was the feast day of Pope St. John XXIII (“the 23rd”). Pope for less than 5 years, from 1958-1963, he is probably most famous for his amiable disposition (they called him “good Pope John”), and for convening the Second Vatican Council. On a personal note, born in the middle of his papacy, I was named after him.
It always amuses me to note how Pope St. John is considered to be sort of the patron saint of all those who think the Church has to change its dogmas and doctrines, and has to discard everything that came before Vatican II. Clearly, they really don’t know St. John, or the Council, as both loved and embraced Catholic tradition, and merely wanted to proclaim that tradition in new ways that modern man could better understand.
When I receive the occasional letter/email complaining about something I say or do, it seems inevitably to include something like, “Vatican II changed all that.” I have to smile, because they are usually espousing the exact opposite of the Council. This is often the case when someone is upset about our liturgies, especially our use of Latin at Mass. Again, I smile, remembering that the Council wrote: “The use of the Latin language…is to be preserved in the Latin rites… [C]are must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin … [the prayers] of the Mass” [Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36, 1963]. And I am inspired by my namesake, “good Pope John,” who wrote: “[Bishops] shall be on their guard lest anyone under their jurisdiction…writes against the use of Latin …in the liturgy….” [Veterum Sapientia, 2, 1962].

Oktoberfest. Next Saturday evening, October 21, our Knights of Columbus are sponsoring an evening of delicious German food and live music. Besides being a very fun event, this is a great way to meet new friends and become more involved in the parish. Please join us!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Las Vegas. Our hearts go out to all the victims and their families of the Las Vegas mass shooting last week. Most especially, we pray for the souls of the dead, who died so unexpectantly without a chance to confess their sins or otherwise repent before the Lord.
And let us pray also for the shooter. We should not forget the horror of what he did or deny the pain he has caused. But as the Lord reminds us we must love even our enemies. So, in love, we pray for his soul: love the sinner, hate the sin. Although we can and should objectively judge him to be a terrible sinner, we cannot pass final judgment on whether God will forgive him somehow, knowing that God alone knows the fullness of our hearts and the freedom with which we act. So, while his acts themselves clearly merit eternal damnation to hell, God may see something else we don’t see—He might even have seen him sincerely repent as the last bullet fired. So we pray for him, even as we recognize clearly the terrible sins he committed.
And we pray for ourselves: that we may not meet our death without the ability to confess or repent. By the way: go to confession!
It is hard to understand what is happening to our nation and culture that things like this keep happening. We can sort of wrap our minds around assaults by Islamist terrorists—they have declared war and we understand (at least intellectually) their irrational and hateful motivation. But this kind of mass violence, whether for political purposes or for no apparent reason, is just mind boggling.
But I can’t help but think it is the reflection of the culture of death built up by society’s rejection of the foundational respect for innocent human life, especially of the unborn. A society that encourages the murder of innocent babies necessarily undermines respect for all innocent life.
There will be a lot of calls in the coming days for increased gun control. Since the Church has no traditional teaching directly governing this, it is clearly largely a matter for individual consciences. But I will remind you that Church tradition does teach two important principles which apply in this debate: on the one hand, we have a duty to protect innocent human life through reasonable laws constraining dangerous behavior, and on the other hand, we have a personal duty and right to use necessary force to personally protect innocent life (ourselves and others). So, while some weapon restrictions are morally justified, we cannot ignore the moral right to defend ourselves and others. Finding the proper balance of these two principles is up for reasoned and charitable debate. As for the constitutional question, that is another matter….
But regardless of gun laws, as long as our society continues to promote abortion, not to mention the murder of the sick or elderly in euthanasia, it seems to me we will continue to see the terrible effects on our cultural. So let’s work on this above all: building a culture of life that respects all innocent human life, beginning with the unborn, that makes it unthinkable for anyone, anywhere, to intentionally kill any innocent human life.

Ambulance at Mass. At last Sunday’s 8:45 Mass one of our parishioners had an emergency that necessitated the intervention of the County EMS and a ride to the hospital. I’m glad to report that the woman was only suffering from a temporary illness, and is at home now, safe and sound. But let me share with you part of the note she sent to me:
“The parishioners around me were so helpful and comforting. One of the ushers…held my hand, told me I was going to be just fine, very reassuring.…He then came onto the ambulance… He called my friend and gave her hospital information. An angel on earth. I wanted to let you know how grateful I am to be part of such a wonderful parish community.”
We are part of a “wonderful parish.” Thanks to all who were helpful to her, especially the ushers (and that particular usher) for their calm and kind intervention. In fraternal charity let us keep her in prayer.
One more thing. I’m told Fr. Smith was unaware of what had happened during the Mass, and continued offering the Mass without interruption. This is actually not unusual or unexpected. The priest tries to focus on the Mass itself, to be taken up and totally absorbed in the prayer, sacrifice and adoration, so that he would normally not notice something unusual in the congregation. Moreover, since most present couldn’t directly help the woman, the greatest things they could do, especially the priest, was/is to pray for them—and so continue with the Mass.

Welcome Back, Choir. I have forgotten to welcome back our choir after their summer off. I have to say I miss them at the 8:45 Mass, but I think moving them to the 10:30 Mass was the right thing, since they will be able to serve more folks in that larger congregation. Thanks to all choir members for all you do to add beauty to the celebration at our parish worship. As is the case every year, we lost a few members over the summer, folks who moved away from the area. I understand we picked up a couple of new members, but we still need more members.
Remember, you don’t have to be a virtuoso to be in the choir—Elisabeth Turco (our choir director) can do wonders bringing various talents and gifts together to give glory to God. Please contact to her to talk about joining the choir (703-506-4644, turcoe@aol.com).

Fairfax Public Schools. By now many of you have settled back into your classes at the Fairfax Public Schools. Remember to stand strong in your Catholic faith and common sense, especially against the brainwashing of the secular elites who want to bully you into supporting sexual promiscuity, same-sex sexual relationships and marriage, the transgender agenda, and abortion. In this regard, please (parents) consider “OPT-ing OUT” of the schools’ Family Life Education (FLE), at least those parts that specifically seek to undermine what we teach our kids about the true meaning of family life. Also, be supportive of good teachers and administrators who are trying to live their Christian faith and common reason in the schools. Many of our parishioners work and teach in FCPS trying to do the Lord’s work. So support them, with your kindness and with your prayers.

November 7 State Elections. On November 7 Virginians have the chance to vote for their next governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state senators and delegates. Remember what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2240) teaches us that it is “morally obligatory …to exercise the right to vote…”
The deadline to register to vote is October 16th, and deadline to request an absentee ballot is October 31, 2017. For more information stop by the table in the narthex this weekend, or go to https://www.elections.virginia.gov/voter-outreach/.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today is “Respect Life Sunday,” beginning “Respect Life Month,” in which the American Bishops call us to remember that thousands of innocent American babies are killed every day by abortions, over 1 million a year, for a total of almost 60 million dead since 1973. How can this happen in America, to innocent babies?
Even as we mourn the death of all these babies, we also can’t forget that abortion has other consequences as well. First and foremost, we can never forget or fail to have compassion for those women who have had abortions. The toll it takes on them physically, emotionally and spiritually is devastating. And so, we must help them in any way you can: showing them personal compassion, leading them to Christ and His love and mercy, keeping them in prayer, and continuing to fight to end abortion. And we must do everything we can, with charity compassion, and patience, to help those women who are considering abortions, and to give them clear options to help them to carry their babies to term.
Life Chain. To kick off this “Respect Life Month” today, October 1, our parishioners will join thousands of Americans in the “Life Chain.” This year, as in the past, over 100 St. Raymond parishioners will join other local pro-lifers lining up on the sidewalk of Franconia Road in front of Key Middle School from 2:30 to 3:30 PM to simply stand peacefully and quietly praying, maybe holding a sign, as a public witness to our respect for the dignity of human life. It is always a very spiritually rewarding event. Please join in. Parking is available at the school, and Pro-Life signs will be available.
40 Days for Life. The Fall “40 Days for Life” Campaign, a similar but more prolonged public witness to the right to life, has already begun, and St. Raymond’s will be taking responsibility for this peaceful vigil on the weekend of October 28 and 29. Please visit the display and sign-up sheet in the narthex this weekend and sign up.

St. Francis of Assisi. This Wednesday, October 4, is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Although most people think of him primarily for his love of poverty and nature, it is really his love for God who entered into creation in the Incarnation, Jesus Christ, that formed his vocation. This in turn motivated Francis to profound devotion to the mysteries of Jesus’ life and His sacraments, especially His real presence in the Blessed Sacrament. This led him to promote the popular pious devotion to the crucifix, the Christmas crèche, the stations of the Cross, and to Eucharistic adoration. This is reflected in the prayer he composed that is said so often today, “We adore You O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.” (Note: as lovely as it is, St. Francis did not actually compose the prayer so often attributed to him, “Make me a channel of Your peace,” which was written several centuries after his death).
Nevertheless, he is most well-known for his teaching and personal example emphasizing poverty, a disposition which turns the heart not to love of creatures but first to the love of the Creator—God is all he wished to possess. But because he loved God, the Creator, he gained a more perfect appreciation and rightly ordered love for God’s creation, gifts from God.
In honor of this great saint then, and appreciating of the gifts God has given us in creation, we continue our custom of Blessing the Animals, next Sunday, October 8, at 2:30, in front of the rectory. Please feel free to bring any pets you have to receive this special blessing. St. Francis, pray for us.

THE GOSPEL OF LIFE. As we begin this Respect Life Month, consider carefully the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II, in his monumental encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), March 25, 1995:
“61. …. Christian Tradition….is clear and unanimous, from the beginning up to our own day, in describing abortion as a particularly grave moral disorder. From its first contacts with the Greco-Roman world, where abortion and infanticide were widely practised, the first Christian community, by its teaching and practice, radically opposed the customs rampant in that society, as is clearly shown by the Didache [c. 80 AD] mentioned earlier. …Among the Latin authors, Tertullian affirms: ‘It is anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born; it makes little difference whether one kills a soul already born or puts it to death at birth. He who will one day be a man is a man already’.
“Throughout Christianity’s two thousand year history, this same doctrine has been constantly taught by the Fathers of the Church and by her Pastors and Doctors. Even scientific and philosophical discussions about the precise moment of the infusion of the spiritual soul have never given rise to any hesitation about the moral condemnation of abortion.
“62. The more recent Papal Magisterium has vigorously reaffirmed this common doctrine. …The Second Vatican Council…sternly condemned abortion: ‘From the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes’.
“…. Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable. Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops–who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine–I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
“No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.
“99…. I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and His mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child….”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Another Great Picnic. Last Sunday’s parish picnic was another great success, with one of the largest crowds I’ve seen at our annual shindig. Thanks be to God for another perfect day, especially weather-wise. And thanks to all who worked so hard to make it such a wonderful time, especially the Knights of Columbus and the parish staff, particularly Kirsti Tyson. And thanks to all of you who came out; I hope you had as good a time as I did.

Sad News. One of my proudest achievements in life was to earn the academic degree of Sacred Theology Licentiate from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and Family. Ever since it was personally established by Pope St. John Paul II in 1982, the Institute has been one of the Church’s foremost schools of theology, and the leader in its field, and has grown to have flourishing campuses in various countries around the world, including the one in Washington, which I attended.
Imagine my grief when yesterday I read that Pope Francis was officially closing this thriving Institute, and replacing it with a new Institute with a similar but different name: Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences. For the time being, the faculty of the old Institute will move over to the new Institute, but I think that will change soon, as the mission will be subtly but importantly different. The old Institute was established by St. John Paul to clarify and re-present the Church’s philosophy, theology and doctrine on Marriage and Family to the modern world, according to the very clear guidance he laid out in his letter Familiaris Consortio. The new Institute founded by Pope Francis seems to seek to present the Church’s teaching with an increased influence of secular science and the guidance of Pope Francis’ letter Amoris Laetitia.
Unfortunately, while Familiaris Consortio was clearly an affirmation and clarification of the Church’s constant teaching, certain passages of Amoris Laetitia have caused widespread confusion and division, as some theologians, bishops and cardinals have tried to argue that AL changes unchangeable Church teaching. This confusion has led to hundreds of distinguished theologians to plead with Pope Francis for clarification. You may recall that four superlatively distinguished Cardinal-theologians, including Cardinal Burke and the recently deceased Cardinals Meisner and Caffarra, publicly submitted the famous “Five Dubia” to Pope Francis also asking for this clarification. Moreover, the founding leader of the new Institute sometimes seems confused about unchangeable doctrine, in contrast to the founding leader of the old Institute, Cardinal Caffarra.
In all this, I intend no criticism, whatsoever, of His Holiness—I am an obedient and loving son of the Church and the Pope. But I do wonder, as any Catholic is free to, if this was the best direction to go in. As such, I worry that it may not bode well for the Church. And I grieve the passing of such an outstanding Institute of studies established by the Great Saint John Paul II. My revered alma mater is no more. May Christ bless the new Institute that replaces it. And let us pray for St. John Paul’s continuing intercession for God’s blessing on Pope Francis.

Reflections on “Theology.” It seems to me that over the last 100 years there has been a growing trend among theologians to move away from reflecting on the Church’s treasury of doctrine and theology as handed down to them by the great and saintly theologians of the past to more and more emphasis on reflecting on what other more recent and even contemporary theologians are saying. So that many modern theologians wind up citing and reflecting on the writings of their teachers or peers more than they cite the Early Fathers of the Church, the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, the great theologian saints (e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Alphonsus Liguori, etc.) and 19 centuries of Papal magisterium. They especially do this when studying or citing Scripture, citing the mere theories of modern writers and ignoring the profound commentaries of the great saints of centuries past—especially the Early Fathers who were so close in time to the Apostles themselves.
All this leads, I think, to what Pope Benedict XVI used to call the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” (“hermeneutic” is an interpretive “key,” or guiding principle or perspective). Clearly, not everything these great writers/theologians from the past wrote is “infallible,” but they do represent the handing down of Church teaching from the Apostles to us, as well as (to some extent) the Divinely inspired treasury of guidance of the Church. Neglecting this treasury not only impoverishes modern theology, but creates ruptures and discontinuity with the Church founded by Christ, which leads at best to confusion and at worst to heresy.
I see this at the heart of the problem of the many errors made by so many in the Church over the last 50 years or so, and especially today. This seems the case, for example, with those who are trying to change or “reinterpret” Church teaching on divorce and remarriage: they constantly cite (or simply incorporate without citing) the theology of other modern theologians, but either ignore the theological and doctrinal “treasury” of the Church, or cite it out of context or incorrectly to support their dissent from it.
This problem really goes back to two related/interdependent concepts that permeate the documents of the Second Vatican Council: “ressourcement” (meaning “going back to the sources,” i.e., the Early Fathers, Councils, etc.), and “aggiornamento” (meaning “updating,” i.e., presenting ancient things to the modern age). Sadly, “updating” became the dominant concept for many theologians immediately after the Council, but without being integrated with “going back to the sources,” so that “theologizing” became dependent on the whims of current theologians and philosophers—Catholic and not.
Fortunately, in time, the great theologians St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI (who were both actually prominent theologians at the Council) insisted on the proper integration of aggiornamento and ressourcement, and for 37 years helped guide theologians on the path leading from the Church of Apostolic times to today. Unfortunately, with their passing from the scene, the aggiornamento-only crowd seems to be making a comeback. Pray that Pope Francis will be able to help them back to the right path.

Life Chain. Next Sunday October 1, “Respect Life Sunday,” our parishioners will join thousands of Americans in the “Life Chain.” Please join over 100 of your fellow St. Raymond parishioners and other local pro-lifers in front of Key Middle School to peacefully and quietly pray, as a public witness to the dignity of human life. See the Respect Life corner below for more information.

“Ad Orientem” at 10:30.” Next Sunday, October 1, the 10:30 Mass will be celebrated “Ad Orientem,” (as we do at 8:45 Mass). Please see my columns from last month on this, and approach it with an open heart and mind. Remember, we will do this at the 10:30 Mass on the 1st Sunday of every Month.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles