Blessed Theodore de Celles

My column of August 1 was dedicated to all the great saints whose feasts are celebrated this month. But I left out one saint (actually, a “blessed”). He’s not very well known, in fact his feast is not even on the liturgical calendar. Even so, I keep his feast every year on August 18. He is the 13th century priest named Blessed Theodore de Celles, my ancestral uncle.

As a young cleric Bd. Theodore joined the Third Crusade, and in Jerusalem developed a profound devotion to the mystery of the Holy Cross of Jesus. A few years after returning to Belgium he founded the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross—“the Crosier Fathers”—and joined in a new crusade to preach to and convert the Albigensian heretics in southern France. There he worked alongside St. Dominic, founder of the “Order of Preachers”—the “Dominicans” (of which St. Raymond was a member and served as third Master General).

Bd. Theodore entered into paradise on August 18, 1236, but the Crosiers remain here on earth. In America they work mainly in Arizona and Minnesota, but in God’s providence the only Crosier Father on the east coast was my spiritual director when I was in seminary. Needless to say, Bd. Theodore is one of my primary patron saints, and I have commended my parish to his special care.

The Albigensian heresy Bd. Theodore fought in the 13th century included a very strange understanding of the human body, yielding a perverse set of sexual mores—especially with regard to marriage. The 21st century finds us fighting a new set a strange sexual mores, many of which were encapsulated in a decision by a Federal Judge on August 4, in which he ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to “marry.” According to him, for as far back in history as we can go, thousands of years, mankind has “irrationally” defined marriage. I addressed this topic in my homily last Sunday, which I have posted to the parish website. I hope you will read it and consider the ramifications of this disastrous ruling.

Another assault on marriage today is the growingly common practice of men and woman cohabiting—living together—before marriage. Not only is this a mortal sin against the sixth commandment (fornication), and thus the worst spiritual preparation for marriage, but it is also one of the worst ways to practically prepare for marriage: statistics show a dramatic increase in the probability of divorce for these couples—up to 100%.

Because of this, in all charity and sincere paternal concern for their well-being, I strongly exhort any cohabiting couples to change their living arrangements, practice chastity, and seek Christ’s merciful forgiveness and grace in the sacrament of penance. And I encourage anyone who knows a cohabiting couple to love them enough to encourage them to change, and to assist them in any way possible with the change.

With this in mind, I would make one plea and one policy with regard to couples who approach St. Raymond’s to marry. 1) The plea: Many couples feel trapped due to financial factors; therefore, I ask any parishioners who have a spare room to rent or lend to let me know, so that I can offer this alternative to couples. 2) The policy: in order to properly assist couples in their preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage, and to make it absolutely clear that we can not condone or cooperate with this self-destructive behavior, from now on cohabiting couples wishing to be married at St. Raymond’s will be required to live separately at least 3 months prior to their wedding; couples who choose to remain cohabiting may still be married here in a “simple ceremony” (without a Mass, music, flowers, processions, etc.). This policy flows only from true pastoral love for these couples, and without any malice or condemnation; and I would be happy to discuss it with any concerned couple.

On this Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, I pray for all of us, that through our Blessed Mother’s intercession and example we may live lives of true holiness, and so one day live in the glory and joy of heaven with her and her Divine Son.

Oremus pro invicem.

Fr. De Celles