September 18, 2011

Today we begin the gradual introduction the new translation of the Mass at all those Masses with singing (all but 7am and 7pm). We begin with singing the “Holy, Holy,” which has only a minor change in wording (see last week’s bulletin, available on the website), but in the next few weeks the changes to the “Mystery of Faith” and the “Gloria” will prove much more challenging. Please make every effort to learn the new prayers and chants.

BACKGROUND OF THE NEW TRANSLATIONS. Many of you have been asking why the new translation of the Mass is necessary—why not leave well enough alone? Let me try to briefly answer that.

Most of you know that the “original source” book for the Mass is the Latin Missale Romanum. Since 1964 this Latin Missal has been translated into the native tongues (“vernacular”) of the various countries throughout the world by the Bishops of those countries. The English translation is entrusted to the International Commission for English in the Liturgy, “ICEL,” composed of bishops and “experts” from the English speaking countries. In 1973 the current English translation was fully implemented throughout the dioceses of the English speaking world.

To many it was readily apparent that there were many important deficiencies in the 1973 translation: “something was lost in translation.” Eventually these deficiencies drew the attention of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). This became very clear in 1997 when the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) rejected the ICEL proposed (and U.S. Bishops’ approved) new translation of the “Rite of Ordination,” criticizing it for “failure to adhere faithfully to the Latin …and to convey accurately in English its contents, … the translation is not without doctrinal problems.”

In the year 2000 Pope John Paul promulgated a new edition of the Latin Missale Romanum, with some new prayers, feasts and instructions for the celebration of Mass. In 2001 the CDW, in cooperation with Ratzinger and with the explicit approval of the Pope, issued a new instruction with norms for translating the Missal. That instruction, Liturgiam authenticam, was the equivalent to a liturgical earthquake, as it not only laid down new norms but also ended the substantial debate over translations and completely restructured the translation process, organization and personnel.

To more clearly see the problems of the old translation, and to help identify the importance of the new translation, let’s consider some of the key provisions of Liturgiam authenticam (LA).
The key problem in the 1973 translation was the use of translating principle called “dynamic equivalency” which seeks to convey the underlying meanings of phrases without emphasis on the exact/precise meaning of the words translated, allowing for a certain creativity and innovation, as well as vague paraphrasing. This was profoundly problematic on various levels, and so LA 20 addressed this, noting the problems, prohibiting this approach, and replacing it with what is sometimes called “formal equivalency”:

The Latin liturgical texts of the Roman Rite, while drawing on centuries of ecclesial experience in transmitting the faith of the Church received from the Fathers, are themselves the fruit of the liturgical renewal, just recently brought forth. In order that such a rich patrimony may be preserved and passed on through the centuries, it is to be kept in mind from the beginning that the translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language. While it is permissible to arrange the wording, the syntax and the style in such a way as to prepare a flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer, the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet.

Another problem addressed in LA 32 was sort of the “dumbing” down of the language, which would often reflect an overly narrow context or ideological interpretation. (Sometimes you will notice a prayer in the 1973 translation that seems stuck in the pop language of the 1960s).

The translation should not restrict the full sense of the original text within narrower limits. To be avoided on this account are expressions characteristic of commercial publicity, political or ideological programs, passing fashions, and those which are subject to regional variations or ambiguities in meaning. Academic style manuals or similar works, since they sometimes give way to such tendencies, are not to be considered standards for liturgical translation. On the other hand, works that are commonly considered “classics” in a given vernacular language may prove useful in providing a suitable standard for its vocabulary and usage.

In a similar way, the 1973 translation often omitted language that in the Latin had clear connection to Scripture or to theological or pious language of the church’s ancient tradition (see last week’s column’s discussion of the “Holy, Holy”), thus robbing the translation of its context. So LA 39 provides:

Characteristic of the orations of the Roman liturgical tradition as well as of the other Catholic Rites is a coherent system of words and patterns of speech, consecrated by the books of Sacred Scripture and by ecclesial tradition, especially the writings of the Fathers of the Church. For this reason the manner of translating the liturgical books should foster a correspondence between the biblical text itself and the liturgical texts of ecclesiastical composition which contain biblical words or allusions. In the translation of such texts, the translator would best be guided by the manner of expression that is characteristic of the version of the Sacred Scriptures approved for liturgical use in the territories for which the translation is being prepared.

This is only scratching the surface of the topic, and I plan to expand on all this as I discuss the individual prayers in the coming weeks. But I hope this introduction helps you to understand a little better why so many, including Popes John Paul and Benedict, saw the need for a radical change in the translations.

I know all change can be challenging. But be patient and open to the Holy Spirit’s movement of the Church in this direction, and as times goes on I’m sure you’ll be grateful for the changes as they bear fruit in a more profound participation in the mysteries of our faith.

Webpage on the new translation. For more information on the new translation go to the parish website, http://www.straymonds.org/ , and click New Translation of the Roman Missal. In particular, there you will find a link to the full text of Liturgiam authenticam, as well as links to listen to audio recordings of the various new sung Mass parts (“Holy, Holy,” “Gloria,” etc.).

ACTION ALERT: FREEDOM OF RELIGION. In today’s bulletin you will find an insert regarding the federal government’s new proposed regulations implementing part of the “2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”—what some call “Obamacare.” These proposed regulations are problematic in many ways. In particular they require almost all private health care plans to provide contraception (including abortifacients) and sterilization services to employees, with only minimal and largely meaningless “conscience clause” protection for churches that hold such “services” to gravely immoral.

I urge you to take immediate action against this unprecedented assault on religious freedom. See the insert, and our website (“Respect Life” page), for more information on these terrible regulations.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

September 11, 2011

Where were you 10 years ago today, September 11, 2001? Where were you found out that an airplane had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center? Or that a second plane had crashed into the south tower? Or that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon? Or that a fourth plane was headed toward the White House or Capital, but had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania? Or when you heard the Twin Towers had collapsed to the ground? Where were you?

I was just coming back from saying 8:30 Mass at St. Andrew’s when I passed the opened door of my pastor’s room and heard the cable news reporting on the first crash. As I came in to his room to see what was going on, at 9:02 a.m., I saw the second crash. I spent a good part of the next hour in front of the television watching in disbelief, anger and grief. And then we heard news about the third crash, this time just miles away at the Pentagon. I left the television, heading over to the school, knowing that some of our dear children might now be orphans.

Where were you? For most of us, I think, it’s seared into our memories. Maybe some of you were at the Pentagon that day. I know many of you had dear friends or family members there.

What a terrible day. Words can’t express the rush of emotions, not the least of which was fear. Fear of the unknown—we are free and open society and our enemies were aggressively exploiting that: we were completely vulnerable to almost any kind of terror attack.

But in the middle of all those emotions, something else came to the forefront. As surprising as the attacks were, almost equally surprising was the general response of almost all Americans: a dramatic national turning toward God in prayer. Even by the media, as we heard reporters and anchors saying over and over things like, “please, God,” or “they’re in our prayers.” And what an amazing sight that evening, as hundreds of members of Congress sang “God bless America” on the front steps of the Capitol. God and prayer were our most secure hope, and the whole country seemed to understand that.

“We will never forget.” That was the motto of the day. A lot of things have happened since then. A lot more people have died because of that day— over 6000 of our military men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. And it seems like some of us have forgotten. But we mustn’t do that. We must never forget that we have enemies who want to destroy our country, and our faith, and that they have and are capable of coming here and killing us. We must never forget that 3000 thousand people were killed in
the 9/11/01 attacks, and that thousands of Americans have died, 10’s of thousands have been wounded, and millions have been deployed to war (including many of you) to defend us from future attacks. We must never forget.

And above all, we must never forget that God is our only sure and certain hope. He alone is our strength and shield when all human efforts fail, when enemies surround us, or life overwhelms us. He is always there to love us, uphold us, protect us and give us peace.

Today, we remember and pray for souls of all those who died in the 9/11 attacks, and in the War on Terror. And we remember and pray for all who have sacrificed to protect our liberty and safety. And we even remember and pray for our enemies, as Christ commanded us to. And we remember that God alone is our hope and sure security. Let us pray, that WE WILL NEVER FORGET.

NEXT WEEK, NEW PRAYERS BEGIN. Next weekend we will begin the gradual transition to the new translation of the Mass by singing the new “Holy, Holy” (the Sanctus). All are asked to try to get to Mass 10 minutes early to hear and practice this new sung version—both a new melody and new words. Note: This does not apply to the 7pm and 7am Masses that have no music.

Over the next few weeks we will introduce the new Mystery of Faith and the Gloria, but we begin with the Holy, Holy because the new melody is very familiar to most of us and the change in wording is very slight. In fact, the only change is replacing 3 words with one word. Compare the first lines of the “old” and “new,” and the Latin original:

Old: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
New: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Latin: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.

The Latin word being translated is “Sabaoth,” which is a transliteration of the Hebrew “Tsaba,” a word repeated through the Old Testament, and almost always translated as “hosts,” referring to the great armies of angels that serve the Lord. The entire phrase is taken almost directly from the Isaiah 6:3:
“I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim [angels] were stationed above;…One cried out to the other:

“Holy, holy, holy* is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!”

At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)

In the Mass this prayer is sung just as we enter into the most holy part of the ritual, the Eucharistic Prayer. It reminds us that we too are about to enter into the heavenly temple as Christ descends to the altar at the consecration.

Besides being a totally incorrect and inadequate translation of the word “sabaoth,” the old translation of “power and might” separates us from this important Biblical text from Isaiah. While some argue that this is so small a change it was unnecessary, words have meaning, and by changing one word we go from thinking “God is powerful and mighty,” to “God is Lord of the army of angels who serve and worship Him in the heavenly temple, where we are about to enter and serve and worship Him in union with them.”

Some also argue, that nobody uses the word “hosts” in today’s commonly spoken English. True, but remember 1) using unusual words reminds us that we are doing something unusual and different—we are worshiping God (the word “holy” actually means “completely different” or “set apart”); and 2) this is the word used in almost all translation of Scripture and for centuries of English speaking peoples.

Here in this one word we see several principles behind the new translation, including: accuracy in word and meaning, Scriptural and historical context, rich theological nuance, and the necessity of a common sacred language.

Webpage on the new translation. For more information on the new translation I invite you to go to the parish website, http://www.straymonds.org/ , and click New Translation of the Roman Missal. This will lead you to a webpage with all sorts of helpful resources. In particular, at the bottom of that page you will find links to listen to audio recordings of the various new sung Mass parts—I highly encourage you to listen to these, and practice them on your own, so that we can all join in singing with the angels our praise to God in His holy temple.

July 17, 2011

Due to an error in the bulletin last week, part of Fr. De Celles’ letter was inadvertently omitted. The following is his complete letter from July 17th.

Yesterday, Saturday July 16, was the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, memorializing the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite priest, and her gift to him of the “Brown Scapular” on July 16, 1251.

The origins of the Carmelites (The Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel), are somewhat uncertain, but it seems the order originated when certain devout souls came together after the third crusade in the late 12th century in the Holy Land to live as hermits near Mount Carmel, where the Old Testament Prophet Elijah had defeated the priests of Baal with signs of the great power of the God of Israel (1 Kings 18). There they built a chapel dedicated to “Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel,” indicating their dedication to the Mother of Our Lord. After the Holy Land was reconquered by the Muslim armies in the early 13th century most of the friars returned to their homelands in Europe, where they established new Carmelite monasteries.

St. Simon Stock entered the order as it first took root in his native England, and was eventually elected to head the order in 1247, at the age of 82. During a time of great tribulation in the order St. Simon appealed to Our Lady, and she in turn appeared to him with words of consolation and hope. At that time she also gave to him the Brown Scapular, a long piece of fabric, as wide as the shoulders, worn down the front and back (reaching down to the feet) with a hole in the center where the head passes through. In giving him the Scapular Our Lady said: “Take, beloved son, this Scapular of your order as a badge of my confraternity and for you and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant”. The Carmelites immediately began to wear this Scapular as part of their regular habit, and it seems that very soon afterward many non-Carmelites, both lay and cleric, also began to wear it, usually in a smaller form of a two small pieces of cloth held together by two strings, worn around the neck, hanging down in front and back. This practice continues to this day.

It should be noted, however, that the promise of Our Lady was to “all Carmelites,” so, from the beginning of this devotion, or “sacramental,” in order to participate in her promises it has been necessary for the wearer of the Scapular to, in some way, be officially associated with the Carmelite order. With this in mind the Carmelites established the “Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel,” which any Catholic may be enrolled in through a short ceremony and blessing conducted by a priest.

It must be understood that the Scapular is in no way a “a good luck charm.” Rather, as Pope Pius XII wrote on the 700th anniversary of the Scapular, it “is a sign and a pledge of the protection of the Mother of God.” Moreover, it should be a sign of the wearer‟s true devotion to her. As Bd. John Paul II wrote on the 750th anniversary, the Scapular is a sign that evokes “the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a „habit‟, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the „covenant‟ and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful…”

Nor is the promise of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel without conditions—it is not a “get-out-of- hell-free card.” As Pope Pius XII tells us, a person wearing the Scapular may not “think that they can gain eternal salvation while remaining sinful and negligent of spirit, for the Apostle warns us: ‘In fear and trembling shall you work out your salvation.'” One may not presume to live a sinful life while having confidence that the Scapular will miraculously erase all sins on one‟s death bed. Rather, the Scapular is more a pledge of the Blessed Mother‟s intercession on our behalf, at the moment of death, to obtain for us from her Son the grace that is necessary to repent of any mortal sins. Even so, grace is not magic, and it is not forced on us: it is a gift and so we must accept it. The soul that lives a life of sin is less disposed to accept that gift, and the soul immersed in years of mortal sins is strongly disposed to reject that gift. So that in some cases the wearing of the Scapular can become a mockery of Our Lady, a contradiction of it‟s true meaning and gain the wearer no benefit whatsoever.

We should also remember that the apparition of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock is private revelation, and therefore is a not a matter of faith, and may be understood only in the light of the teaching of the Church. Even so, the wearing of the Scapular, as well as confidence in her promises (rightly understood in the light of Church teaching) has been strongly promoted by scores of popes.

Finally, some will say that Scapulars went out with Vatican II. Not so; for example in 1965, as that Council was coming to an end, Pope Paul VI wrote: “Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin approved by the teaching authority of the Church. It is Our conviction that the Rosary of Mary and the Scapular of Carmel are among these recommended practices. The Scapular is a practice of piety, which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone.”

Enrollment and Investiture with the Brown Scapular next weekend. Acknowledging the importance of this devotion, I invite anyone who wishes to place themselves under the protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to be enrolled in Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel and invested with the Brown Scapular at short ceremonies I will conduct next weekend after the 9am Mass on Saturday, July 23, and after both the 8:45 and 10:30 Mass on Sunday, July 24. There is no sign up, and no specific preparation required. You may bring your own Scapular or receive one provided by the parish.

Oremus pro invicem, ad Jesum per Mariam. Fr. De Celles

July 10, 2011

This last week marked one year of service for me at St. Raymond’s. It has been an interesting year for me, a very good year in many ways, and certainly a challenging one. I’ve learned a lot about how to run a parish, and how not to, and how much more I still need to learn. I hope that it has been a good year for the parish as well, although only heaven really knows that. I thank all of you, especially the parish staff and the heads of committees, for your patience and assistance.

Looking back at my first column from last year, I see I wrote: “I am an enthusiastic supporter of Pope Benedict’s call for liturgical renewal, especially his emphasis on reverence and sacrality in the liturgy.” The year ahead promises some big changes in the liturgy consistent with His Holiness’s call. In particular, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011, the new translation of the Roman Missal will be put into use in all the parishes of the United States.

This translation will effect almost every prayer we pray at Mass, and so will necessitate some serious preparation on everyone’s part. Although most changes in the prayers of the people in the pews will be minor, they will nevertheless take some getting used to. For example, after years of responding to the priest’s greeting “The Lord be with you” by answering “And also with you,” parishioners will have to get used to saying “And with your spirit.” This more closely and faithfully translates the original Latin “et cum spiritu tuo,” and coincides with how the phrase is translated into all the other major languages around the world (e.g., in Spanish: “y con tu espirito”). You can see that even though this is a small change, it will have a real impact and require some adjustments on our part.

Another important effect of the new translations will be on the music at Mass: changes in words, syntax and sometimes the addition of whole phrases (omitted in the old/current translation), will mean that the melodies we currently use for singing the prayers of the Mass will have to change as well. I’m afraid this will be the hardest adjustment for most of us—the new words can be handled by simply reading the new texts from the missalette or the prayer cards we will be putting in the pews, but learning new melodies is much more challenging for most of us. To make this easier, we will begin by learning the simple and basic chanted melodies for these prayers that the Church has developed over centuries. As contemporary composers propose new melodies, and with proper time for sorting out the good from the not-so-good, we will work these into our “repertoire” as well.

In any case, all this will take some preparation. For us, this preparation will go into full gear beginning in early September, when everyone is back from vacation. We will provide various opportunities to help you to learn about the changes and become familiar with them. For example, I will use this column to discuss some of the changes in prayers, as well as propose several online resources that you can refer to at your leisure. I hope to also make available CDs, DVDs and books for those who would prefer those media. I will also be teaching some classes and holding meetings for those who are interested. And I have authorized our music director, Elisabeth Turco, to take a few minutes before Masses to begin to practice the new hymnody for the prayers. All this, again, during the Fall in anticipation of the changes that will come into effect at all Masses beginning November 27, 2011. If you want to get a head start, check out: http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/

Some folks ask, why all the trouble—why the new translations? First of all, let me remind everyone that the prayers used throughout the Catholic world are taken from the liturgical book called the Roman Missal (RM). The official editio typica version of the RM is written in Latin, and the vernacular RMs used around the world are all translations of the Latin RM. But ever since the current English translation of the RM was published in 1970 (in what is called “The Sacramentary”) it has come under strong criticism for it’s lack of fidelity to the original Latin. Most of the criticism comes from the method employed in the 1970 translation, called “dynamic equivalency,” which seeks to translate thoughts rather than words, not merely rendering accurate translations but provide meaningful interpretations. These translations which often involved paraphrasing and omitting words or whole phrases deemed repetitive, archaic, or atypical for common English usage. All this, critics argued, led to an English text that was not only often very different from the Latin, but also theologically imprecise, spiritually tepid, poetically challenged, lacking in sacred language, and linguistically “dumbed down.”

Pope John Paul II was sympathetic to this criticism, and his chief theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was one of the principle critics. In response, on March 20, 2001, Bd. John Paul approved and ordered published a document from the Congregation for Divine Worship called “Liturgiam authenticam” which set out new principles for new translations of the Roman Missal. This document provided, in part:

“[T]he translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language. …[T]he original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses.

After a major Vatican supervised reorganization of the institutions responsible for translating, a careful retranslation, applying the principles laid out in Liturgiam authenticam, was finalized last year. For many, myself included, it is like a fog or a veil lifting from face of the text, to more clearly reveal the beautiful and timeless prayers of the ancient and sacred Roman liturgy.

Although the new texts will take some getting used to, I think, in the end, most will agree that it will be well worth the effort.

More to come…Stay tuned…

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

July 3, 2011

On this Fourth of July weekend, let us pray for our beloved nation and our nation’s leaders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 26, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi. In most of the world the feast is celebrated on the following Thursday after Trinity Sunday, but in the United States it is celebrated on the following Sunday. The feast calls us to remember the munificent gift God gives us in the Blessed Sacrament, in particular the gift of Christ’s Real Presence that begins as the bread and wine are transformed—by the words of Jesus spoken by the priest at Mass—into the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, and continues until the appearances of bread and wine disappear, e.g., after they are digested in one’s stomach. Which means, of course, the consecrated Hosts that are not consumed at Mass and are reposed in the tabernacle remain the true presence of Christ in our church.

How often we fail to remember this, or to truly accept and believe this. Imagine if at every Mass Jesus—the Crucified, Risen and Ascended Christ, Son of God, God the Son, Eternal Word, Lord of the Universe through whom all things were made and continue in existence—descended down from heaven and stood on the altar. What would you do? How would you respond? Hopefully you’d fall on your knees, like the saints and angels do in heaven when they’re in the presence of Jesus: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev. 1:17), “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb” (Rev. 4:8).

Yet we so easily forget that Christ actually does descend from heaven in the Eucharist at every Mass, and enters into us in Communion, and remains in the tabernacle even when we leave. You’ve probably heard the story, of how a Protestant who was told by his Catholic friend what we believe about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and simply scoffed in response, saying: “you don’t really believe that; if you did you’d never leave the church and you’d be on your knees before the tabernacle all day long.” As cliché as that story has become, similar incidents have happened to many Catholics—myself included, repeatedly.

Do you believe? I do, though not as perfectly as I should. But I do believe. Not simply because I understand the theological explanations, or the historical details of the Church’s faith in this doctrine. But I believe, most fundamentally because of two things: first, Jesus said so: “This is my body…this is the cup of my blood,” and second, the Church has always believed He really, literally meant what He said.

Do you believe? If we believe, why don’t we act like it? Why do we leave our Lord alone in the tabernacle so many hours? Of course he’s not lonely, but why aren’t we lonely for him, why aren’t we desperate to be with him? When a soldier comes home from war, his whole family rushes to greet him and then won’t leave his presence for hours after he’s home. How much more wonderful is it to have Jesus come to us? Perhaps we believe, but we take Him for granted. How terribly sad, and shameful.

Why don’t we at least spend some time during the week visiting Him in the Church, kneeling before the tabernacle, even for a few minutes? He’s there, waiting for you. Come! Why are there so few people in the Church when we expose the Blessed Sacrament on the altar (“Exposition” or “Eucharistic Adoration”), placing Him in the monstrance so we can actually see Him “in” the Host, every Wednesday (9:30am to 7pm) and Friday (9:30am to 3pm)?

And why is it that so many times we completely fail to show the proper adoration and reverence to Him when we receive Him in Holy Communion? We come up to Communion looking around to see if we recognize any of our friends, and then casually stick a hand out to receive the Host, and walk away thinking about how fast we can get out of the parking lot after Mass. Why don’t we instead approach the sanctuary praying to Him and preparing our hearts to receive Him? Why don’t we show some sign of recognition and reverence when we see Him in the priest’s hands—why don’t we at least bow our heads or our bodies, or genuflect or kneel, to the One the angels and patriarchs and apostles in heaven fall down on their faces in front of? Why do we grab at the Host, or stick one hand out like we’re getting change back from a dollar? Rather, why don’t we receive Him reverently on the tongue (as is the norm for the Universal Church: this is no ordinary food to received in an ordinary way!), or at least follow the ancient tradition, articulated by St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d.386) and commended to us by the popes today: “When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost.”

I know, the appearance of bread and wine can fool us—but what would we prefer: should He come to us to eat Him under the appearance of His a bloody crucified body? Even though your senses— your eyes, taste, touch—might say otherwise, have faith in the word of Jesus: “this is my body”; and as the Tantum Ergo, the beautiful hymn composed for this feast by St. Thomas Aquinas, reminds us: “praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui”—“faith for all defects supplying, where the feeble sense fail.”

What a glorious thing, that Christ Our Lord would come to us remain with us, truly and really, in this Most Blessed Sacrament. Let us kneel before Him in adoration, awe and praise. And let us receive Him with the most true and devout love.

Eucharistic Procession. Today, after the 12:15 Mass, we will have our Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession. Processing with the Eucharist outside of the church building is an ancient practice, dating back at least to the early 12th century. By bringing the Eucharist outside of the church building and walking through the streets (or, as we do here, the parking lot) with the Blessed Sacrament, believers give witness to their faith in Jesus Christ in general, and in His Real Presence in the Eucharist in particular. Moreover, such processions remind us that having received Christ in Communion at Mass we are sent out with Him in us, to bring Him to the world we live in—the streets, the house, the businesses, and, yes, the parking lots. Please join us in this ancient and eloquent witness to our faith in and love of our Eucharistic Lord.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 19, 2011

Today, June 19, is, of course, “Fathers’ Day.” In a way, it is quite remarkable that our nation still celebrates this holiday, given the concerted effort over recent years to reduce or to denigrate the importance of fatherhood. Among other interest groups, the radical feminist movement made this a particular target of its efforts to change our culture in the ’60s and ’70s, as it labored to convince women to think of men as not necessary to their happiness. Women could “have it all,” even a home with children, without men figuring into the picture. At the same time, the rise of the use of contraception, especially “the pill,” also contributed to this problem, as it gave women more “control” over choosing motherhood, and so giving men even less control over choosing fatherhood. In the end, female contraceptives, as well as the rise in “a woman’s right to choose” abortion, had the effect of causing society, and men in particular, to largely view pregnancy and childrearing as a “female issue,” and so caused fatherhood to be understood less and less as an essential societal vocation and more a simple one-time biological function. This was only aggravated by the emphasis on financial/economic independence of women, rendering even the role of family bread winner obsolete for fathers. And as new forms of in vitro fertilization have developed and become more popular, even the “one-time biological function” meaning of fatherhood is being diminished; and technology such as cloning may render it completely meaningless to many in our society.

While the “feminist movement,” as such, at least in its radical and overt form, is largely a thing of the past, its historical effects remain with us today, having devastated the family and the lives of women and men, mothers and fathers. And related ideological movements, such as the “gay rights movement,” continue and reinforce its efforts.

To Christians, and to all men and women with common sense, this reconfiguration and redefinition of family and fatherhood cannot be accepted. Consider just a few statistics of the effect of this perverse understanding: 63% of youth suicides, 90% of all homeless and runaway children, and 85% of youths in prisons grew up in fatherless homes.

In the beginning, God made man “male and female” and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply”—to be father and mother. So essential is fatherhood to the well-being of the human race, and to understanding human nature, that God himself identifies himself as “Father” to us. This in no way diminishes the dignity and importance of women and motherhood, but it does remind us that if we continue to diminish the importance and essentialness of fatherhood, we do so at our own peril.

Restoration of respect for fatherhood is a task for all of us, mothers and children, the Church and society; but most of all, it is a task for men and fathers. Fathers, be who God created you to be, what your nature intends you to be! And do not settle for, much less seek, a diminished role in your children’s lives. You are not just a breadwinner, or a playmate, or a babysitter. You are those things, yes, but you are also: teacher, protector, guide, exemplar, boundary setter, disciplinarian, and much more. And above all these, and in all these, you must love them, even as Christ loved us: you must be willing to die for them, give up everything, for their good. And all this is understood not just in terms of material well-being, but above all in spiritual well-being. Their ultimate goal is heaven, and it is your great and solemn responsibility and privilege to lead them there.
To be a good father is to be a great man.

Children and mothers, young or old, today, remember all this as you honor your fathers and husbands. Remember what great things they have done for you, and how important they are to you, to your family, to society and to God Himself. Honor them personally, and honor them by your own commitment to respecting and encouraging respect for the dignity of fatherhood in society in general.

And for those of you whose father has abandoned, neglected or abused you or his fatherhood, know that God is the perfect father and He is always your father in the most perfect, personal and loving way. Pray for your fathers, that God might have mercy on them for their sins and mistakes, and try your best to have mercy on them yourselves. And pray for our culture and society, that all fathers will live up to their obligations, and that society will respect and foster the true meaning and importance of fatherhood.

May God shower His blessings and grace on all our fathers today.

Special Thanks I want to thank so many of you for your participation in this year’s Bishop’s Lenten Appeal. Our goals this year were the participation of 35% of parishioners, and raising a total of $202,000. Well, we smashed both of those goals, achieving 40% participation and raising over $290,000—or 144% of our goal. That 144% was the highest in the diocese. So, thank you for your generosity, and thanks to all those who worked so hard to coordinate the BLA this year, especially Joe Cox and Kirsti Tyson. That’s the good news; the bad news is, guess what our $$ goal will be next year…

Also, a special word of thanks to Caterina Tiso, who has headed up our wonderful crew of lectors for more years than I will tell you. She has done such a great job of recruiting, training, scheduling, and caring for our lectors at Mass that most people don’t even think about what outstanding lectors we have—those things often only come to mind when there are complaints. But coordinating all that is a hard job and she had done it superlatively. But, as with all things, a time comes when we lay down our load, or pass it along to a worthy successor, and she now has decided to do so with this charge. Thanks to you, Caterina, for your long and superb service to Our Lord and to our parish.

Corpus Christi Procession. Next week we celebrate Corpus Christi Sunday. As is our custom, at the end of 12:15 Mass we will carry our Lord’s Eucharistic Body in procession. It is a great way to teach our children and grandchildren (and remind ourselves) of Jesus’ true and real presence in the Eucharist. Please join us in this ancient and moving ritual.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 12, 2011

Today is the Solemnity of the Pentecost, remembering the day, 10 days after Jesus’ glorious Ascension into Heaven, that the Holy Spirit descended upon the nascent Church, about 120 disciples gathered in the upper room waiting and praying. As the Acts of Apostles tells us:

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language…. So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2: 1-6, 41).

Some call this the “Birthday of the Church” because, in a certain sense, it was the day the Church came to life. Of course, other days are also called the “Birthday of the Church,” for example, Christmas and Good Friday. Perhaps the best analogy here is to relate this “birth” back to the creation of Adam; as Genesis tells us: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2: 7). Now, the word “breathed” and “breath” here are translating two forms of the Hebrew words “ruah” which means “breath” or “wind”—or “spirit.” (Note that the Latin root word “spirare” forms the root of not only the word “spirit,” but also “respire” (“to breathe”) and “inspire.” So the “breath of God” or the “wind of God” also points to the Spirit of God. In a parallel to the creation of Adam, during His life on earth, Christ had built up a body for His Church, not from the “dust of the earth,” but from the simple human beings he had brought together under the leadership of the apostles. And in a certain sense it was like a lifeless body, as the disciples locked themselves in the upper room filled with fear (but also hope). Until the Pentecost, when the Lord breathed His Spirit, “like the rush of a mighty wind,” into that body and it came to life, as we see in the above passage.

That Spirit remains alive and well in the Church today, coming to individual members of the Church in vari- ous ways, but in particular through the Sacrament of Confirmation—which I wrote about in my column two weeks ago and which 90 of our parishioners (mostly our eighth graders) received last Wednesday. If only we would recognize and use with faith and confidence the gifts of the Holy Spirit we receive in that sacrament!

But the Holy Spirit remains with the Church in many other ways, as well, continuing to give it life and mak- ing it the true Body of Christ on earth. It remains acting in all the sacraments, and in the preaching of the Church, and in the love of Christians. And it remains in the Church, acting through its hierarchical structure established by Christ through His apostles.

Some ask, why don’t we experience the Holy Spirit like they did on that first Pentecost—with the tongues of fire, the sound of the wind and the speaking in foreign tongues. Many scholarly saints have proposed that in the very beginning the Trinity deigned to show Its power and presence in the Church in these extraordinary ways in order to draw attention to this new and world-changing phenomenon, and to found the Church with a dramatic event that would always be a sign to all generations that the Holy Spirit had entered the Church and world in a unique way that day.

But don’t we need that same kind of extraordinary and dramatic event/sign today? Perhaps. Then again, don’t we actually have such a sign? What about the “sign” of the presence of the living Body of Christ, the Church, still alive and vibrant 2000 years later, not having 120 members, or 3000 members, but over 1 billion mem- bers (actually, 2 billion when we count all Christians) living in almost every nation on earth. What other insti- tution, group or society has survived in any comparable way for so long, and with such an effect on human lives and human history? And considering all the frail and sinful human beings who have found a home in her over all these centuries—whether layman, priest, bishop or pope—to me it seems her survival and flourishing is the greatest sign we could imagine or hope for of the Holy Spirit’s continuing power and presence in the Church today.

Let us pray together that all Christians—Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox; layman, religious, priest or bishop—may be aware of and cooperate with the Spirit in all things, so that we can share in His work in bringing the salvation of Jesus Christ to the world we live in—beginning with ourselves. May the zealous fire of the Holy Spirit transform our lives so that at every moment and in every circumstance we may live and breathe our faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ.

Confirmation. Congrats again to our new confirmandi—let us keep them in our prayers. And thanks to all those who helped prepare them for the sacrament, especially their parents, Maria Ammirati and Janice Gorrie (in our Religious Education office), and their teachers: Sandi Draude, Mike Turk, Tom Quigley, Terry Rihl, Sue Smith and Julie Maimone. Thanks also to the choir, the altar servers, the Knights of Columbus and all who helped decorate the church and to prepare the reception afterwards. (Sorry if I left anyone out!)

Another New Priest in the Parish. Last Friday, Bishop Loverde gave permission for a priest from India, Fr. Joby Thomas, to reside in our parish and to assist me and Fr. Pilon in carrying out our pastoral responsibili- ties. I informed Fr. Thomas of this over the weekend (he was visiting friends in Houston) and the next thing I knew, he jumped on a plane and here he is! Father is a member of the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (MCBS), in Kerala, India. “Fr. Tony” Mannarkulam—whom many of you know— recommended him to me a few weeks back, as his friend and former student, as well as a good and faithful priest. Since Fr. Thomas will not be going to school while he is with us, I will be counting on him to be a big help to all of us. He will stay with us for the duration of the summer….and perhaps a while longer, God will- ing.

Please join me in welcoming Fr. Joby Thomas, as well as Fr. John Lovell (see last week’s column), to the parish.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 5, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. This commemorates the true historical event when Jesus of Nazareth, who had died on the cross and risen from the dead, ascended by His own power in His human body into heaven, where he is now present, bodily, in eternity. The importance of the mystery of the Ascension is often overlooked or forgotten by Christians, but it must not be, since it is critical to our understanding of Christ and ourselves. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes:

665 Christ’s Ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain, whence he will come again (cf. Acts 1:11); this humanity in the meantime hides him from the eyes of men (cf. Col 3:3).

666 Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him forever.

667 Jesus Christ, having entered the sanctuary of heaven once and for all, intercedes constantly for us as the mediator who assures us of the permanent outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Christ‟s Ascension into heaven also reminds us that the human body is not a useless thing to be thrown away, some machine our souls sort of drive around in until we go to heaven. The body is part of who we are, the part that reveals and communicates ourselves to others, and vice versa: we speak, hear and act in the body. In this reality we discover that the body is essentially about love: we communicate with others in order to enter and strengthen our love with and for each other. But at the same time we discover that communicating hatred or disrespect through our bodies, or simply using our (or others‟) bodies as mere objects or toys for amusement, runs dramatically contrary to love and to the dignity of the human person.

Moreover, the Bodily Ascension reveals to us that even in heaven Our Lord remains both man and God, united with us and His Father, and so uniting us to His Father. And He reminds us that the things we do through, with and in our bodies have eternal effects—either leading us to heaven with Him, or to hell without Him.

Seniors Over the next few weeks, many of our teenagers will be graduating from high school. It is a noteworthy and important milestone and achievement in their lives, and we congratulate them and join them in celebrating. But as the ceremony for graduation usually indicates, it is not merely an ending, but a “commencement”—a new beginning of a new stage of their lives. May I be so bold as to offer some quick advice as they make this commencement? Or rather, may I simply point out the Lord‟s advice?

“What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matthew 16:26).

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11).

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 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” (Matthew 16:18-19).

“So Jesus said to them, „Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;…For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6: 53-55).

“And he said to him, „You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-40).

“One came up to him, saying, „Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?‟ And he said to him, ….„If you would enter life, keep the commandments.‟ He said to him, „Which?‟ And Jesus said, „You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother…” (Matthew 19: 16-19).

“With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27). And finally:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And
behold, I am with you always, until the end of time” (Matthew 28: 19-20).

Oh, wait, one last thing:

“When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother,
„Woman, behold, your son!‟ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!‟” (John 19: 26-27).

New Priest in the Parish Fr. John Lovell, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, will be staying with us for the month of June while he is taking a class in Washington. Thanks be to God, he will also be returning to us in late August to take up a 2-year residency while he pursues full-time theological studies at the Dominican House of Studies. Now, many of the student-priests that have stayed with us in the past have had sort of a “work-study” arrangement: they worked in the parish to earn money to pay for tuition. That is not the arrangement we have with Fr. Lovell: his diocese will be paying his tuition and his room and board, with the understanding that he will offer his priestly service to us as often as his school schedule allows. In short, his availability to help will be substantially less than was, for example, Fr. Peter Odhiambo. Even so, I am very glad to have him with us and grateful for his help.

By way of background, Father is an alumnus of Mt. St. Mary‟s Seminary, Class of 2007, where he was a student of Fr. Pilon. In the last four years, he has served the Diocese of Rockford as a parochial vicar, high school teacher and Associate Director of Vocations. Please join me in welcoming Father to our parish.

Confirmation Congratulations to the 90 young parishioners who received the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation this last Wednesday under the hands of Bishop Loverde. Let us keep them in prayer that they may always recognize, cherish and cooperate with the great gift of the fullness of the Holy Spirit and His sevenfold gifts that they have received.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 29, 2011

Memorial Day This Monday, America celebrates Memorial Day, a day of honoring those in our military who have given their lives not merely for our nation, but for the life, liberty and happiness of each and every individual American. At the Last Supper, Christ told His apostles, “No greater love has a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” That saying pertains directly to the death He endured for our salvation on the very next day, and to a love beyond all measure. But this greatest love is reflected, in a very real way, in the death of every military man or woman who had laid down their lives for us. We owe them an incredible debt—one we cannot really repay. But we can try to, by living lives worthy of the sacrifice they’ve made for us—lives built on the idea of liberty as a freedom to become the best we can be, not a freedom to do as we please. Freedom to build a great nation of not only financial wealth or military strength, but of true virtue. Perhaps a soldier might die for their fellow countrymen’s freedom to say or do foolish things, but should we repay that noble sacrifice by actually saying and doing foolish things—or leading immoral lives? I think not.

And there’s another way we can try to repay them for their sacrifice: pray for them, that they might receive the heavenly reward for their great sacrificial love for us.

Summer For many, Memorial Day is also the unofficial beginning of summer. And as summer begins, we start to see more and more of each other—literally, as more and more skin and body parts are uncovered in the heat. Coming from South Texas I understand all about dressing for the heat. But let’s remember two things. First, the clothes we wear always tell other people something about ourselves. For example, when we dress in shorts and a t-shirt, we say, “I’m relaxing right now,” and when we dress in a coat and tie, or in a nice dress, we say, “I’m doing something important right now.” So, when you go to the beach, wear your shorts and t-shirts, but when you come to Mass, remind yourself and those around you: “I’m doing something important right now.” This summer, please try not to dress like you’re going to the beach when you’re coming to Mass. In return, I promise that if you ever do come to Mass in a t-shirt, I will assume you are not saying “Mass is not important to me”, but simply “I have a really important reason why I couldn’t dress up for Mass as I usually do.” We should dress respectfully for the Lord, but we should also assume the best of one another.

(BTW, please, before you send a letter admonishing me that “God doesn’t care how we dress,” look up Matthew 22:11-14 [“…Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?…”])

The second thing I’d like you to remember about summer dress codes is that the more skin and body parts we show, the more likely we are to be the near occasion of sin to others. This is especially the case for women and girls. That’s not a sexist remark, unless it’s sexist to say that guys tend to react very strongly and irrationally to the female body. I don’t think it is, but if so, okay, I’m a sexist. And so is God, because that’s the way He made us (vulnerable to the effects of original sin, as well). So I ask you, whether on the beach, on the street, on a date, or, especially, at Mass, please consider the spiritual well-being of others. Remember that Jesus said: “every one who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” And he also said: “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to anyone by whom they come!”

Confirmation This Wednesday evening, 95 of our teenagers will be receiving the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation. It saddens me how little most Catholics understand about this great sacrament. Sometimes when I ask people what this sacrament is all about, they tell me: “it’s when we profess and confirm our faith in Jesus Christ for the first time for ourselves.” Not really: every child who comes to Mass on Sunday professes his/her faith in Jesus Christ every time they stand and recite the Creed: “We believe in one God…We believe in Jesus Christ…” Some say Confirmation is when we become adult Christians. Again, not quite. Spiritually, one becomes an adult Christian when one starts making decisions like an adult. The sacrament does give you the grace to make correct adult and Christ-like decisions, but it does not “make you an adult Christian.” Finally, some say Confirmation is when we become “full members of the Church.” Again, not really. One becomes a “full member” of the Church (obtaining all the “rights and privileges” thereof) at Baptism. Thus, for example, a Baptized person has a right to receive the Eucharist and Confirmation (subject to their proper preparation, etc.). Perhaps this misunderstanding comes from (correctly) calling this one of the “sacraments of initiation” (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist). But “initiation” in this sense does not mean that Church “membership” depends on having all three of these sacraments, but that these sacraments give the basic graces that every adult Christian needs to live the fullness of the Christian life.

Remember the definition of a sacrament in general: “an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.” Sacraments are never about what WE do—they are about what CHRIST does, i.e., Christ gives us a special grace. In Confirmation, Christ strengthens—or “confirms”—us with the grace, or the “gift,” of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, which includes the “seven gifts of the Holy Spirit”: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, reverence and piety. Of course, much more can be written about this magnificent sacrament. But space being limited here, I refer you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1285 to 1321 (this can be viewed online at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc/index.htm). To see some of the effects of this sacrament, read the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2.

Please pray for our young men and women as they receive this great sacrament at the hands of Bishop Loverde this Wednesday evening. And pray that they may always be open to the graces that flow from the sacrament, truly living lives filled with the Holy Spirit.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles