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,

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

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

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Racism, Prejudice and Hate. Last month our state, and the whole nation, was stunned when an avowed white-supremacist ran his car into a crowd gathered in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others. It was a clear act of racist violence.
It is sad but true that after decades of great strides, racism is still alive in our country. On a certain level, it’s no surprise: we are a fallen humanity, prone to sin without God’s grace. So we see sin flourishing all around us today in a multitude of forms, and sometimes in the most extreme ways.
Even so, let me be clear: all human beings are created in the same image of the one and only God, so that even as He created each of us uniquely and so different in certain ways from each other, we are all fundamentally equal in dignity before Him. So that “racism,” understood as the unjust prejudice or discrimination against a person because of his/her race or ethnicity, is always a sin, and often a mortal sin. It is no less a sin than murder, abortion, contraception, or sexual sins. Moreover, racism that is fueled by genuine hate is truly despicable.
Racism cannot be tolerated. Nevertheless, Christ reminds us to love our enemies, even “those who hate us,” so that we must love the sinner while we hate the sin. So the road forward leads not through an escalation of violence (in word or deed), or even widespread witch-hunting for closet racists. We should confront actual racism where it clearly exists, but we should remember that none of us is perfect, and must not try to exaggerate small unintended or ignorant prejudices that we all have to be something vicious—we can afford to turn the other cheek once in a while, even as we continue to help remove these prejudices in ourselves and others.
Moreover, we should not imagine that everyone who disagrees with us on issues that seem to touch on race or ethnicity as being a racist. Sadly, many people today use our fear and revulsion of racism to fuel their own political agenda. Are those who stir up hate and shout “racist” against people who simply disagree with them on policy or moral issues any better than those who stir up hate against people who are a different race or ethnicity than them? These are not the same sins, but they are both repugnant.
The Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazi’s come to mind when we think of people who stir up hate based on racial/ethnic differences. These are despicable organizations. But there are also organizations that stir up hate based merely on political/social disagreements, groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center. While the SPLC was originally organized in 1971 with the noble mission of fighting racism in the courts, over the years it has morphed into fighting anyone who opposes the leftist agenda. So that now it maintains a list of what it calls “hate groups,” which includes many groups that merely disagree with their leftist agenda. For example, the list includes the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, National Organization for Marriage, and many similar pro-traditional moral values groups, categorized as “hate groups” simply because they oppose the Left’s anti-family/marriage agenda.
I am not equating the SPLC with the KKK. The sin of promoting racism is very different from the sins of promoting lying, sexual depravity and hate against political opponents. But they are still all grave sins. And the promotion of grave sins is despicable, wherever we find it.

Anti-Catholicism: The Acceptable Prejudice. Last week an old family friend, Amy Coney Barrett, testified before the Senate regarding her confirmation as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Barrett is a professor at Notre Dame Law School, a former clerk to Supreme Justice Antonin Scalia, and a wife and mother of 7 children. She has wide-spread bi-partisan support among her professional colleagues. But apparently there is problem with her being an appellate judge: She is a devout Catholic.
In an amazing example of religious prejudice Senators Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin called into question how her Catholicism might adversely affect her decision making as a judge. Feinstein told Barrett: “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” What? In what sincerely religious person—Catholic, Protestant, Muslim or Jew—is the “dogma” NOT “living loudly within” them? As Fr. John Jenkins, President of Notre Dame, subsequently wrote: “I am one in whose heart ‘dogma lives loudly,’ as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation.” And as Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman wrote: “If a Catholic senator had asked a Jewish nominee whether she would put Israel before the U.S.…liberals would be screaming bloody murder. Feinstein’s line of questioning…is no less an expression of prejudice…[and] resonated with historic anti-Catholicism….”
Durbin then attacked Barrett’s use of the term “orthodox Catholic,” in a speech she gave years ago to a Catholic group, as he accused her of maligning Catholics who (like Durbin) disagree with Church teaching on things like abortion. Then he asked her directly: “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” Two comments. First, if certain people publicly disagree with Church teaching, how could Barrett malign them by simply publicly recognizing that fact and saying she does not? Second, where does any Senator, Catholic or not, get the right to question a nominee about their religion, whether as an orthodox or unorthodox Catholic, a Methodist or Evangelical Protestant, a Shia or Sunni Muslim, or an Orthodox or Progressive Jew? There is that clause in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution: “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Unless of course you are a Catholic who actually believes and lives by the dogma of the Catholic Church.

Parish Picnic—TODAY! Today, September 17, we have our annual Parish Picnic from 1-4pm here on the Parish grounds, behind the church. There will be lots of good food and fun for kids and adults alike. For new parishioners (and visitors) this is a great opportunity to meet people and learn more about the parish; for the rest of us, this is one of the best chances we will have all year to welcome others into a deeper participation in the life and fellowship of our parish—PLEASE JOIN US!

Parish Pictorial Directory. If you haven’t signed up to have your picture taken for the Directory, please sign up ASAP. I would like all of our parishioners to be in the directory, as means of strengthening our parish in the unity of Christ. (Remember you can chose what personal information will be included or excluded in the directory.) Appointments for photos will continue through September 24th and there are still prime appointment times available. Also, if you would like to volunteer to help with this directory, please contact the Parish Office.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Beginning of a “New Year.” The beginning of the new “school year” effectively begins a new year in the life of a parish, as summer ends and all sorts of parish activities start up again. The coming days have several special “events” to help us all begin on the right foot.
Parish Picnic. Next Sunday, September 17, we’ll have our annual Parish Picnic from 1-4pm here on the Parish grounds, behind the church. There’s lots of food and fun for kids and adults alike—a great way to meet and get to know your fellow parishioners. For new parishioners (and visitors) this is a great opportunity to meet people and learn more about the parish; for the rest of us, this is one of the best chances we will have all year to welcome others into a deeper participation in the life and fellowship of our parish—don’t pass it up!
Religious Education (CCD). CCD begins this evening, September 10. Parents, don’t forget to bring your kids this evening, or on Monday or Tuesday, whichever day you’ve signed up for. If you haven’t registered yet, it’s not too late, but time is running out. Please see the bright green registration forms in the narthex, go to the parish website or call the RE office ASAP.
I am very much looking forward to this year’s program. As you remember, last year Mary Salmon (our Director of RE) and I made a lot of changes that we hoped would provide the best religious education program available in the diocese. I was very happy with the results, but over the summer we’ve thought a lot about what worked and what didn’t, and have tried to fine tune things to make it even better.
But I remind parents: CCD is meant to supplement the work you do with them at home. Parents are the primary educators of their children—especially in the Faith. CCD is just here to help you do that. We will try our best to take our part seriously, and I am confident you will recommit yourselves to do the same—I know you love your kids more than we do, and want them to experience the knowledge and love of Christ and His Church in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in next. But, the odds are, they will have none of that, especially heaven, if you and we don’t do our very best to teach them the Faith when they are young.
I’m particularly looking forward to teenagers coming to our High School program, where they will encounter some especially talented, experienced and knowledgeable teachers. My goal for this program is to be informative, inspiring and challenging, but not a burden to the kids or parents. So, while I’m confident the classrooms will be lively and challenging, the homework will be very light, with lots of recommended work the kids can do voluntarily.
RCIA (“Convert Class”). Another program set to restart is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). If any adult you know is interested in becoming a Catholic, or is a Catholic in need of the sacrament of Confirmation (or First Communion and Confession) this is the course for them. Bob Ward, himself a convert many years ago, leads a lively, faith-filled and information-packed discussion of the basics (and more) of the Catholic faith, and during the second semester Fr. Smith and I will join in teaching about 5 or 6 of the topics. You can contact Bob and Bev Ward at 703-644-5873 or with any questions. Classes begin this Monday (tomorrow), September 11, at 7:30pm in the Rectory classroom (the “Maurer Room”).
But the class is also designed to be a refresher course for all adult Catholics. Unfortunately, most adult Catholics don’t know, or remember, their faith nearly as well as they should. This course is a perfect way to begin to fix this. So please consider joining this class—even on a week-to-week/topic-to-topic basis.
Speakers. This year we will once again be bringing some excellent speakers to the parish. We will begin with a talk next Saturday, September 16, at 9:45am: our old friend Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, PhD, the nationally renowned neuroscientist-theologian, will speak about “End of Life Decision Making: Ethical Decision Making in Sickness and Compromised States.” The talk is sponsored by our Respect Life Committee, and is the first of many events this very active group will offer this year. Please join us.
And There’s More! This is just the beginning, and it doesn’t begin to list all the activities coming this year in the parish: we have CYO basketball, the Mother’s Group, Bible Study, the Choir, and all the rest of the parish groups/committees… Please see the rest of this bulletin (and every week!) and the website for lots of opportunities to get involved and grow in your Catholic faith and as a member of the Church here at St. Raymond’s in the coming year.

Parish Pictorial Directory. I am very pleased with the progress of our directory project. So far, 390 families have scheduled appointments for photos. This is great, but it is still less than a quarter of our registered families/households, and less than half of the families/households that attend Sunday Mass here on a regular basis. Please sign up ASAP: I would like all of you to be in the directory, as I really do think this is a great way to strengthen the Unity/Communion the Lord Jesus calls us to, as a Church and as a parish. (Remember you can chose what personal information will be included or excluded in the directory, e.g., phone number, address, email, etc.)
Appointments for photos will continue through September 24th and there are still prime appointment times available. Also, we will be doing a military page for anyone in our parish currently or previously serving in the military (portraits in uniform). If you would like to volunteer to help with this directory, please contact the Parish Office.

September 11, 2001. Tomorrow we will remember the terrible day when our nation was attacked by Islamist Terrorists, killing 3,000 innocent people and injuring more than 6,000 others. Let us pray for those who died, both on 9/11 and in this long “War on Terror,” and for the brave souls who continue to fight to protect us. And let us pray for our nation’s safety, the defeat of those who seek to harm us, and for the conversion of our enemies.

Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, RIP. As I write (Wednesday morning), I am grieved to learn of the death of Cardinal Caffarra, perhaps the Church’s preeminent theologian on marriage, family and sexuality. A close advisor to both Popes John Paul and Benedict, he was founding president of the John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and Family, and eventually Cardinal-Archbishop of Bologna. He was also one of the four cardinals to sign the letter asking Pope Francis to clarify the confusion some spread in the aftermath of his 2016 letter Amoris Laetitia. Let us pray that the Lord rewards him for his great service.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Summer’s Close. With this Labor Day weekend, the summer “officially” comes to a close. Most of us try to make summer a time of slowing down the pace, working a little less and setting aside time to visit with friends and family, whether on vacations or just on a weekend or evening. It’s a good and healthy thing—very much in line with our human nature, the way God made us. I hope you had a good summer in this sense. Even if there were crosses, such as family or personal illnesses, I hope there was time for you to rest and recreate, and to thank the Lord for the opportunity to do so.

School Year Begins. Labor Day also means our kids are back in school—of course, this year most of them began last Monday. I hope and pray that all of you “kids” have a wonderful year of growing in knowledge and wisdom. Apply yourself to your school work, and to a reasonable amount of extracurricular activities, and excel as best you can. But remember that as important as grades and victories, etc., are, it is even more important to simply learn. And to learn not just what’s in the books, but to learn how to think, using reason and good judgment. Always respect authority, but remember not to accept everything on face value, even if it might be written in a book or relayed to you by so-called experts. Most especially, respect the authority of your parents, and the authority of Christ and His Church. I’m sorry to say, sometimes teachers, & coaches, with all good intentions, will tell you things that are just not right. Too many people today ignore facts or twist facts to agree with their own personal perspective or agenda. So, make sure you talk to your parents about what you’re learning in school, and what the people at school are doing and saying. God created us to live and learn first and foremost in the family, and our parents are our primary teachers. The family is the house of love: your parents love you more than any teacher or friend (as good as they are) could ever dream of—and Jesus loves you even more!
So, be curious and inquisitive, but always stay close to your parents and Jesus, and count on them to guide you through what I hope will be a wonderful year for all of you.

CCD/Religious Education. A complete academic education includes learning about Jesus Christ and His Church, so a new school year means we can’t neglect continuing our Catholic education. Like any good education, that involves work at home and in school. So, parents, teach your kids about their Catholic faith informally at home AND make sure they have some formal, systematic, academic learning as well—either at home (according to a disciplined plan), in Catholic schools, or in our parish CCD/Religious Education program.
Our CCD/RE school year begins next weekend. Registration forms are in the narthex, outside the RE office in the parish hall (downstairs) and online on our website. Please take advantage of this program so that the school year can be truly all it should be.

Masses Changes Begin Next Weekend. As previously announced, next Saturday and Sunday we begin to incorporate some small changes into the celebration of Mass. Most of the changes relate to using a little more Latin. To help you with that, we’ve done two things: 1) our website has a special page where you can listen to audio (with video of lyrics and notation) of all the Latin prayers we say at Mass (on the home page click “Common Mass Parts—Latin”); 2) we will have laminated pew-cards with side-by-side Latin and English in the pews next weekend. As a reminder, these are the changes:
— At all Masses with music (i.e., all Masses except the 7am) we will sing the “Sanctus” (“Holy, Holy, Holy”) in Latin.
— At the 8:45 Mass we will sing the following additional parts in Latin:
1) Opening Greeting: The priest will begin Mass with the Sign of the Cross and Opening Greeting in Latin, and the people will respond in Latin.
2) Mysterium Fidei: After the Consecration, the priest will sing, “Mysterium Fidei,” in Latin, but the people will still respond in English.
3) Per Ipsum: At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest will sing, “Per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso….,” in Latin, but the people will still respond with the usual, “Amen.”
4) Pater Noster: Both the priest and the people will sing the “Our Father” in Latin, “Pater noster” (we will practice this together before Mass).
5) Final Blessing and Dismissal: At the very end of Mass the priest will sing/say the final blessing and dismissal in Latin, and the people will respond in Latin.
— At the 8:45 we will use the Communion Rail for folks coming up the main aisle. You may receive Communion either kneeling or standing.
–The choir will sing at the 10:30 Mass, and the Schola will sing at the 8:45.

To date, I have received a lot of feedback on these changes, almost all positive. I hope that all of you will approach these relative minor changes with open minds and hearts. Thanks for your patience and trust.

Election Results. Sadly, the pro-family candidate received only 30% of the votes and lost in last Tuesday’s special election for the at large member of the Fairfax County School Board, leaving us only one pro-family member on the Board. What may be worse, the turnout was only 10%: think of all the thousands of pro-family voters who didn’t even bother to show up. How about you—did you show up? How can we defend the family and our children if we don’t even bother to vote?

Requiescat in Pace. Last Monday, our parish lost a very good man, as Jim Albanese died after a long fight with cancer. Jim leaves behind a young family of his wonderful wife, Andrea, and five young children, his parents (also parishioners), and so many friends. He inspired us all by his love for God and neighbor, and his unyielding devotion to and faith in Jesus and His Catholic Church. Jim especially moved us as he heroically accepted his suffering and death as part of God’s good plan, as mysterious as that is to all of us. He recognized that God had generously given him so many good things in this life, but promised even more and better in the life to come. He especially thanked God for his family, but humbly believed that God loved them even more than he did, and trusted He would always take care of them. Jim was not a saint, so he insisted that people pray for him after he was dead—so, let us pray for his soul! But he was definitely saintly, so I am confident he is on his way home to heaven.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

I was on vacation much of last week, so I apologize if the following might seem to be hastily put together. I had a very restful vacation, by the way, visiting family in the Midwest. Thanks for your prayers for my safe travel.

CHANGES AT MASSES (continued). Three weeks ago, I announced some changes in the way we offer Sunday Mass at St. Raymond’s. Last week I explained in greater detail some of the changes we’re making at the 8:45 Mass. Today I want to explain my reasons for a change I’m making at the 10:30 Mass.
Once-a-Month Ad Orientem at 10:30 Mass. Beginning October 1, and on every 1st Sunday of every Month (and only on the 1st Sunday) after that, the 10:30am Mass will be celebrated “Ad Orientem,” or “facing East,” facing the same direction as the people sitting in the nave, just as we already do at every 8:45 Mass.
This goes back to the early Christians’ practice of facing East when they prayed, symbolically waiting for the second coming of the Son of God, like the rising of the Sun in the East. This was soon incorporated into the Mass of the early Church and became the norm for most of Christian history, until the 1960s. Note, it is completely consistent with the norms of Vatican II and the current liturgical rules.
The most important reason for facing “ad orientem” is not, however, that the priest faces East, but rather that he turns with the people to face toward and pray to God together with them. As the second half of the Mass begins, the “Liturgy of the Eucharist,” the priest is no longer talking to the people, as he when he proclaims the Gospel and homily, but rather now he turns with them and leads them in prayer toward God. All this emphasizes the prayerful nature—the adoration and reverence—of the Mass, especially during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
In contrast to this, when the priest faces the people there is a natural tendency for them to focus on the priest, and so for him to become the focal point of the celebration. This leads to an overemphasis on the role and importance of the priest, rather than focusing our full attention on God, and, especially, Our Lord in the Eucharist.
Still, some people will insist on seeing this as the priest “turning his back to the people.” Physically, that is accurate. But isn’t it also accurate that almost everyone in the church turns their back on the people sitting behind them? Should we all face each other—a physical impossibility? We can’t and don’t, so why must the priest and people face each other? In reality, if you were all facing each other you would constantly be distracted by each other. But more importantly, if you faced each other with your eyes and bodies during Mass you would have a very hard time praying to God with your hearts and minds. Yes, we are there together, but facing each other naturally draws us first to each other, rather than first to God. When we all turn together our eyes help us to look together at the Lord.
And the same can be said of the priest. If he is facing you during the prayers, it is easy for him to look at you, and 1) be distracted by you and what you’re doing (or not doing), and 2) not to look at the Lord with his heart and mind. But don’t you want him looking at the Lord at the most holy parts of the Mass—don’t you want him to pray for you to Him?
Some would argue that by seeing every little thing that the priest is doing they are able to draw closer to what he’s doing, and to understand it better. There is something to that. But I would make two points in response. First, you see what the priest does at all the many Masses he celebrates facing you, so that once a month when he is not facing you, you still know what he’s doing. But more importantly, I would suggest that sometimes when we watch every little thing the priest is doing we can be distracted from seeing the COLOSSAL thing Christ is doing: by focusing on the minutia of the priest’s movements we can lose site of the enormity of Christ’s movements.
In this regard, as I mentioned last week when I discussed the use of Latin at Mass, some things at Mass can be understood as a “veil that sets these sacred actions and prayers apart from the mundane things of this world.” Latin can serve as this veil, and so can the fact that you cannot see all the minute actions of the priest as he turns toward the Lord. This veil (in effect, his body) “serves not to hide the Eucharist from us but to set it apart as sacred.” Rather than hide the actions of the priest it can draw our attention to the hidden actions of Christ, and enable us to see and hear something beyond what we would normally. “So that through faith, we can pierce the veils of appearances…and truly see…the Lord.”
So, my main reason of introducing “ad orientem” at 10:30 once a month is to help enhance the sense of prayerfulness and focus on God. And isn’t that what we want at Mass? It’s only once a month, but I think it that can help us at all the other Masses we attend.
Finally, I remind you that this practice is strongly encouraged by the man Pope Francis has put in charge of the liturgy of the whole Church, Cardinal Robert Sarah. Consider what Cardinal Sarah has had to say:
“To convert is to turn towards God. I am profoundly convinced that our bodies must participate in this conversion. The best way is certainly to celebrate — priests and faithful — turned together in the same direction: toward the Lord who comes. It isn’t, as one hears sometimes, to celebrate with the back turned toward the faithful or facing them. That isn’t the problem. It’s to turn together toward the apse, which symbolizes the East, where the cross of the risen Lord is enthroned.
“By this manner of celebrating, we experience, even in our bodies, the primacy of God and of adoration…. The Liturgy of the Word justifies the face-to-face…dialogue and the teaching between the priest and his people. But from the moment that we begin to address God — starting with the Offertory — it is essential that the priest and the faithful turn together toward the East….
“…A Church closed in on herself in a circle will have lost her reason for being. For to be herself, the Church must live facing God… One must not allow God reason to complain constantly against us: “They turn their backs toward me, instead of turning their faces!” (Jeremiah 2:27).”

Parish Pictorial Directory. Don’t forget to sign up to have your picture and information in the Directory. You can do so on our parish website or in the narthex after Mass today.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles