Let me first begin this week’s column with an apology for missing so many parish events over the last week. I wasn’t feeling very well for a few days there and it kept me out of action. But with the help of my brother priests things continued on very well without me. A good Lenten reminder from the dear Lord on how unimportant I am in the scheme of things. (By the way, I’m fine now—thanks for your prayers).
Huge Success. Last Saturday, the 17th, the parish, along with the Couple to Couple League, sponsored the Conference on Religious Liberty, Contraception and the Catholic Church. By all accounts it was a huge success as over 250 enthusiastic folks gathered to hear inspiring talks by religious liberty attorney Sam Casey, Fr. Pilon and Bob and Gerri Laird. A spirited question and answer session followed the talks. I’m very encouraged to hear that things went so well. As I’ve said before, while it’s important that the priests and bishops talk about these issues (and we will continue to do so) it’s equally, if not more, important that parishioners do the same—in their homes and workplaces, with their family, friends and co-workers. It is my sincere hope that conferences and talks like this will help you all to grow in knowledge and confidence to defend the Church’s freedom and proclaim the Church’s teaching.
Thanks to all who worked so hard to make this happen, especially on such short notice, and particularly all those on the Respect Life Committee. In that regard let me remind you that the RLC’s next speaker will be Commonwealth Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, III, who will speak on Thursday, April 26 on the topic “Living Your Faith in the Public Square.”
St. Patrick’s. Last Saturday was also the Knight’s of Columbus’ annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner. Again, over 250 parishioners and friends enjoyed good food, good music, and good fellowship. These kinds of social events are so important to the life of a vibrant Catholic parish, as opportunities to share the love and joy of Christ together, and to get to know each other better so as to live and work together as the Body of Christ in Springfield. Thanks for all who worked so hard to make the evening a success. May St. Patrick watch over you and keep you in his care.
Passiontide. As Lent continues, today we enter into that part of the season called “Passiontide,” a time when we more intently and somberly focus our attention Christ’s Passion (we mark this by covering the statues and crucifixes in the church). I want to strongly encourage all of you to take advantage of the extra Mass and confession times, as well as opportunities for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and other pious customs. In particular I encourage you to participate in praying the Stations of the Cross, especially in the church, and particularly on Friday evening at 6:30, led by the priests.
I also strongly encourage you to attend next Sunday’s (Palm/Passion Sunday, April 1) Living Stations of the Cross acted out by our youth group a little after the 5:00 pm Mass. As last year, the Living Stations will take place outside (pray for good weather!). Come and both support our youth and enter more deeply into the mystery of the Lord’s suffering.
Also on Palm/Passion Sunday, April 1 (next Sunday) the 8:45 Mass will begin with the Solemn Procession with Palms. Those who would like to join in the procession should gather inside the Parish Hall before 8:45 and then, after some prayers and a Gospel reading, follow the priest and servers processing outside, and enter the church from the front, taking their pews as normal. All this should take between 5 and 10 minutes. We will be reserving pews for those who join in the procession, if they call (703-440-0535) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) the office during the week (you need not call to join the procession). If you attend the 8:45 Mass but would rather not process, you may simply take your seats in the church before Mass as usual and you will be able to hear over the speakers in the church all that takes place in the Parish Hall and in the procession. However, please do not be late for Mass! (All this assumes weather cooperates).
Holy Week. Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord is, of course, the beginning of Holy Week. Next Sunday we will include a schedule for Holy Week, but I ask you now to plan ahead today. These are the most solemn and sacred days of the Christian year, marked by special and unique liturgies, including Holy Thursday’s evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, with the washing of the feet and the solemn procession and silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until midnight—“can you not watch one hour with me?” Then there’s Good Friday’s Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, with the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion; like last year, the Passion will be celebrated at 3 pm— the hour of the Lord’s death. And finally, the Easter Vigil at the end of Holy Saturday evening.
As your spiritual father I ask you most sincerely to consider attending all of these liturgies, that are so important to experiencing the fullness of Catholic prayer in Holy Week. I especially recommend strongly that you attend the Good Friday service, with the Veneration of the Cross. Last year when I changed the timing of this liturgy from the evening to the afternoon many kind people were concerned that few would come, “it’s a work day,” they said. But I replied: “it’s the hour of the Lord’s death! The most incredible act of love ever! Why would any Catholic want to be at work?” And they came, filling the church, to mourn, to weep, to kiss the Cross, to love and adore the Lord at this most sacred hour.
And finally, I remind you that on Holy Saturday afternoon—a day which is supposed to be marked by the quiet somberness of Good Friday—we will add what I hope will become a new tradition at St. Raymond’s: viewing of Mel Gibson’s superlative film “The Passion of the Christ” in the Parish Hall, beginning with a short talk by myself on some of the subtle but key Catholic symbols that permeate the movie. No popcorn, just a great movie to help us remember what Holy Saturday is all about. (Note: Parents should use their discretion in bringing children to this graphic movie).
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles