The Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God

Anno Domini 2017. In recent times, we have been encouraged to use the designation “CE,” short for “Current Era” or “Common Era,” to count the years, i.e., 2017 CE, rather than traditional “AD,” short for “Anno Domini,” meaning, “Year of the Lord.” To me, this is nothing but political correctness run amuck, since the Current/Common Era is still counted by reference to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ in the year 1. So, I refuse to yield to the tyranny of political correctness and will continue to use the traditional and rational “AD,” and encourage you to do so, at least in private usage. And in doing so, I pray that it will become more than just a way of counting the years, but rather a way of dedicating the years: let us make this new year of 2017 truly the Year of the Lord, dedicating ourselves anew to the Lord Jesus.

As we continue the Christmas Season in this New Year of the Lord 2017, I pray that the Christ Child will shower you with His grace, His Blessed Mother Mary will keep you in her tender embrace, and St. Joseph will protect you in all you do. And on behalf of Fr. Smith, as well as Fr. Daly and Fr. Scalia I wish you Blessed and Merry Christmas, and Holy and Happy New Year!

 

Celebrating the Feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort. Next Saturday, January 7, is our patronal feast day, the Feast of St. Raymond. Since it falls on a Saturday this year we are somewhat limited in how we can celebrate it liturgically—we can’t have an evening Mass in his honor (as we did last year) since that would be the Vigil Mass for Epiphany Sunday. So, I encourage you to attend the 9am Mass that morning to honor our great patron and to seek his intercession.

Another great way to honor St. Raymond and to draw closer to him is to read the little biographical book we distributed in September. If you haven’t read it, take some time this week to do so. If you don’t have a copy they are available in the gift shop and in the parish office.

Finally, another way we are celebrating his feast this year is with our annual Volunteer Reception/Dinner. If you have volunteered in any capacity in the parish this last year, you and your spouse are invited to our annual appreciation dinner for parish volunteers this Saturday, January 7. If you haven’t rsvp’d yet, please contact the parish office or your committee chairman asap.

 

Year End Donations. Every year at this time we get inundated with requests for donations. The problem is knowing which charities are really worthy of our consideration. Unfortunately, many so-called “charities” are not doing work consistent with God’s will, and some are actually working against Him. Still others may have good intentions, but are inefficient or ineffective in using their resources. So, we don’t have to give to every group who asks for help, and I recommend you give mainly to those groups you have confidence in. These, of course, are many. But the groups I give to and would recommend for your consideration include: the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, House of Mercy, Project Rachel, Gabriel Project, AAA Women for Choice, Mary’s Shelter (Fredericksburg), the Poor Clares, Angelus Academy and, my personal favorite, St. Dominic Monastery in Linden, VA, our dear cloistered Dominican sisters who pray for us every day. And of course, St. Raymond’s parish is a very worthy charity…

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

 

Homily of Pope Francis

Solemnity of Mary, Most Holy Mother of God, January 1, 2016

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and happy New Year!

At the beginning of the year it is beautiful to exchange good wishes. In this way we renew for one another the hope that the year which awaits us may be somewhat better. It is fundamentally a sign of the hope that enlivens us and invites us to believe in life. We know, however, that with the new year, everything will not change, and that many of yesterday’s problems will still be here tomorrow. Thus I would like to express to you a wish supported by real hope, which I have drawn from today’s liturgy.

They are the words by which the Lord himself asked that his people be blessed: “The Lord make his face to shine upon you…. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you” (Num 6:25-26). I too wish you this: that the Lord lay his gaze upon you and that you may rejoice, knowing that each day his merciful face, more radiant than the sun, shines upon you and never sets! Discovering the face of God makes life new. Because he is a Father enamoured with man, who never tires of starting with us all over again in order to renew us. The Lord is patient with us! He never tires of starting over again each time we fall. However, the Lord does not promise magical changes, He does not use a magic wand. He loves changing reality from within, with patience and love; he asks to enter our life gently, like rain on the ground, in order to then bear fruit. Always, he awaits us and looks at us with tenderness. Each morning, upon awakening, we can say: “Today the Lord makes his face shine upon me”. A beautiful prayer, which is a reality.

The biblical benediction continues in this way: “[The Lord] give you peace” (v. 26). Today we celebrate the World Day of Peace, whose theme is: “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace”. Peace, which God the Father wants to sow in the world, must be cultivated by us. Not only this, but it must also be “won”. This leads to a real struggle, a spiritual battle that takes place in our hearts. Because the enemy of peace is not only war, but also indifference, which makes us think only of ourselves and creates barriers, suspicions, fears and closure. These things are enemies of peace. We have, thanks be to God, a great deal of information; but at times we are so overwhelmed by facts that we become distracted by reality, from the brother and sister who need us. Let us begin this year by opening our heart and calling attention to neighbours, to those who are near. This is the way to win peace.

May the Queen of Peace, the Mother of God, whose solemnity we celebrate today, help us with this. Today’s Gospel states that she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Hopes and worries, gratitude and problems: all that happened in life became, in Mary’s heart, a prayer, a dialogue with God. She does this with us as well: she safeguards the joys and unties the knots of our life, taking them to the Lord….

 

 

The Nativity of Our Lord

Dear sons and daughters in Christ:
​I pray that this Christmas will be a time of true holiness and joy for you and your families. That you will rediscover the pure, innocent love of God made flesh in the face of the tiny Baby Jesus. May He shower you and yours with his love, and “every grace and heavenly blessing.” And may His Holy Mother hold you in her loving arms, as she once so tenderly held Him. For those who are traveling, may He send His holy angels to protect you on your way, and lead you safely home to us. And may the holy birth we celebrate this Christmas be a new beginning in righteousness and happiness for all of us. On behalf of myself and Fr. Smith, I wish you all a blessed and happy Christmas!

Thanks. I’d like to thank all those who have worked so hard to make Advent and Christmas such a special time for our parish. In particular, the choir, cantors, musicians and Elisabeth Turco for all the beautiful music—especially at Lessons & Carols! The Youth Group, for all the odd jobs they did around the parish. All those who volunteered at the Senior Lunch (particularly Patty Miller). The Knights of Columbus, especially Phil Fick, for all they did in so many ways, especially with Breakfast with Santa. The various sacristans, especially Nena Brennan, for all their work in preparing the sanctuary for Masses. The folks on our flower committee, especially Julie Mullen, for so beautifully decorating the church and grounds. To our maintenance staff, Laura Rodriguez and Luis Tapia, for all their work in preparing the church for Christmas. To the ushers, especially Patrick O’Brien, who helped make everything run so smoothly. To all those who contributed so much in time and treasure to the Giving Tree. To all those who assisted in special ways at the Mass, especially our great altar boys, lectors (led by Brenda Doroski), extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (led by Barbara Aldridge and Christine Spengler). A special thanks to our dedicated staff, Mary Salmon, Kirsti Tyson, Tom Browne, Jeanne Sause, Monica Lyons, Eva Radel, Patti Eckels, and Mary Butler, who worked so hard to serve us all. And finally, most especially to Fr. Smith, as well as Fr. Daly and Fr. Scalia, for their dedicated service to Our Lord and our parish. I know I’ve left out lots of folks that deserve special thanks; my apologies. Thank you all.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

“Urbi et Orbi” Message of Pope Francis
Christmas, December 25, 2015

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Christmas!
Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation! Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this day, which is Christ himself. Jesus is the radiant “day” which has dawned on the horizon of humanity. A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world. A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety. A day of peace, which makes for encounter, dialogue and, above all, reconciliation. A day of joy: a “great joy” for the poor, the lowly and for all the people (cf. Lk 2:10).
​On this day, Jesus, the Savior is born of the Virgin Mary. The Crib makes us see the “sign” which God has given us: “a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too set out to see this sign, this event which is renewed yearly in the Church. Christmas is an event which is renewed in every family, parish and community which receives the love of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ. Like Mary, the Church shows to everyone the “sign” of God: the Child whom she bore in her womb and to whom she gave birth, yet who is the Son of the Most High, since he “is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20). He is truly the Savior, for he is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1:29). With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts. This is something we all need!
​He alone, he alone can save us. Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst. The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.
​Where God is born, hope is born. He brings hope. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war. Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built. ….
To our brothers and sisters who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith, may the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength. They are our martyrs of today…
Where God is born, hope is born; and where hope is born, persons regain their dignity. Yet even today great numbers of men and woman are deprived of their human dignity and, like the child Jesus, suffer cold, poverty, and rejection. May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade.
Nor may our encouragement be lacking to all those fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives. May God repay all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees, helping them to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.
​On this festal day may the Lord grant renewed hope to all those who lack employment – and they are so many!; may he sustain the commitment of those with public responsibilities in political and economic life, that they may work to pursue the common good and to protect the dignity of every human life.
​Where God is born, mercy flourishes. Mercy is the most precious gift which God gives us, especially during this Jubilee year in which we are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us. May the Lord enable prisoners in particular to experience his merciful love, which heals wounds and triumphs over evil.
​Today, then, let us together rejoice in the day of our salvation. As we contemplate the Crib, let us gaze on the open arms of Jesus, which show us the merciful embrace of God, as we hear the cries of the Child who whispers to us: “for my brethren and companions’ sake, I will say: Peace be within you” (Ps 121[122]:8).

Fourth Sunday Of Advent

4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT. You may not have noticed, but this year is the longest season of Advent possible, 4 full weeks, 28 days. That’s because this year Christmas falls a full week, 7 days, after the 4th Sunday of Advent, on a Sunday instead of on a Saturday or weekday. Some years, for example, Christmas falls on the Monday after the 4th Sunday of Advent, so that Advent would only be 3 weeks and 1 day long, 22 days.
I like this extended Advent, and pray and hope all of you have made good use of this extra time to make it a holy season preparing for the worthy celebration of the birth of our Savior. But I know that even with the best preparation and intentions, it’s so easy at the last minute to lose sight of that if you’re not careful. Many of you, especially parents of little ones, will be so concerned about making everything perfect for your families and loved ones that you will wind up being stressed out and exhausted by the time Christmas Day arrives. This in turn can lead to a less than Merry Christmas for you, and for those you’re trying so hard to please.
​So, I ask you all, to remember that the only thing that we really need to try to make perfect on Christmas is our love—our love for Jesus and His heavenly Father, and our love for those around us He has given us to love. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus in the next week, and your heart fixed on His love. The love that was so boundless that it led Him to strip himself of the magnificent glory of His heavenly throne to descend to earth to become a poor, vulnerable human baby. How He must love us! Especially knowing beforehand that this would ultimately culminate in not only His salvific suffering and death on the cross, but in the rejection of His love and salvation by so many people over thousands of years.
​Remember to keep the Baby Jesus in the center of everything you do, and let His love for us be the standard by which we judge and measure every act we do in the next week and beyond. Let our goal not be to have the best secular or cultural or material Christmas, but to love Jesus with all our heart, mind, souls and strength. Make sure you pray, and lead others to prayer, especially your families; try to come to a daily Mass this week, and pray the Rosary meditating on the Joyful Mysteries. Make sure to keep His commandments, and love your neighbors, especially your families, as Jesus has loved us. Remember to be kind and patient. To be not selfish, greedy or envious, but selfless, grateful and magnanimous. And to not worry if the presents aren’t wrapped just so, or if the dinner is a little overcooked, or if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted from Santa. And above all make plans today to make Holy Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the center and highpoint of your celebration.

Christmas Decorations. Our spiritual preparation during the Advent season is outwardly expressed in the lack of Christmas decorations in the church. While it’s fine for families to decorate their houses in the weeks before Christmas—if it’s done in a spirit of preparation and not a premature celebration. But Church tradition tells us to refrain from decorating churches during Advent. I think that now more than ever it’s important to maintain this tradition as the contrast between the ubiquitous decorations all around us versus the stark simplicity of the church reminds us to keep focused on the spiritual preparation, as well emphasize the growing anticipation of the Coming of the Lord at Christmas and at the end of time. “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near…” Moreover, the dramatic change from Advent starkness to Christmas decorations reminds us that Christmas is a historical event, a day on which everything changed in Christ.
​That being said, this week we will start to decorate the church. Of course, this is, in part, a matter of practicality: we have to put the decorations up sometime before Christmas Day. But it also reinforces the idea that we are rapidly drawing near the great day, the “dawn from high is breaking upon us”—the day is almost here.
​This year we will be adding one very important “decoration”: an outdoor Nativity scene. This is a gift to the parish in honor of Jean and Anna Anezin, long time parishioners, now deceased. May it assist all who see and pray before it to draw nearer to the Baby Jesus, His Mother, St. Joseph, and to salvation.

Lessons and Carols. I was once again overwhelmed by our Lessons and Carols last Sunday. First, by the choir’s magnificent singing—it literally brought tears to so many eyes of the folks gathered, including my own. Thanks to all the members of the choir who worked so hard and delivered for us such a special evening, especially Elisabeth Turco, our Music Director. Second, I was overwhelmed by the size of the crowd. Every year it has grown: we began with about 80 folks 5 years ago, 2 years ago it had grown to about 150, and last year we burgeoned to about 300. But this year it grew to somewhere around 450. I’m so glad to see this event being enjoyed by so many of our parishioners and guests.

10th Anniversary. Tomorrow, December 19th, will be the 10th anniversary of the dedication of our beautiful church. I remember that day very well, as I was in attendance with so many other priests. I had struggled over whether we should have a big parish celebration to commemorate the day, but all things considered (e.g. this is a very complicated week for most of us) in the end I thought it best to keep things simple. I hope this doesn’t disappoint you, and sincerely apologize if it does.
​But let me thank all you who have contributed so generously, some heroically, in time, talent and/or treasure, to the building of our church, and to the paying off of its debt. Most specially I thank my illustrious predecessor, Fr. James Gould (now pastor of St. John’s in Warrenton) for the herculean task of building such a noble and sacred temple. And above all, we all give thanks to Almighty God for this gift, and the graces He continues to pour out on us through it.

Christmas Collection Confusion? A little housekeeping. Every year our largest offertory collection is on Christmas Day. However, since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, some folks may forget that we have two envelopes to drop in the one collection basket: one for the regular Sunday and one for Christmas Day. Please do not forget to bring both envelopes, as it would be devastating to our budget to lose either.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Third Sunday Of Advent

Habemus Espiscopum—We Have a Bishop! On Tuesday of last week (December 6) the Most Reverend Michael Francis Burbidge was installed as the 4th Bishop of Arlington. The Installation Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More was a joyous occasion, with over 200 priests, 30 bishops and 3 cardinals attending, along with a standing room only congregation.

It was an interesting sign to us that Bishop Burbidge took his cathedra (the Bishop’s chair at the Cathedral) on the Feast of St. Nicholas: not only is St. Nicholas famous for his current Christmas role as the gift-giving “Santa Claus,” but during his reign as Bishop of Myra (Turkey) in the early 4th century he was venerated throughout the whole Church for both his legendary kindness and charity and his heroic courage during the final Roman persecution (enduring torture and imprisonment), as well as his bold and zealous proclamation of the Gospel, especially at the Council of Nicaea in 325. It seems to me that St. Nicholas has given us an early Christmas gift this year, in giving us a new Bishop who is also, kind, courageous and zealous. Please keep Bishop Burbidge in your prayers—he will need them.

(And don’t forget to pray for Bishop Emeritus Loverde as he begins his retirement at the St. Rose of Lima Priests’ Retirement Villa in Annandale).

Some have wondered why the Installation Mass wasn’t held in a different, larger venue, e.g., the Patriot Center. While it is a shame more of the faithful could not be admitted, it really is important symbolically for the Bishop to take over the Diocese by being seated in his cathedra at his cathedral: the cathedra/chair is a biblically rooted symbol of both his apostolic ruling and teaching authority, and the cathedral is the symbol of the Church as God’s house, i.e., not simply a rented secular venue of convenience. Of course, this sadly meant that admission was by ticket only, with each parish receiving only 3 tickets. Maybe our new Bishop will build us a new and larger and more beautiful cathedral to seat a larger congregation for future important liturgies. By the way, with only three tickets to give, I gave ours to Christophe Sanchez-O’Brien and his parents, Patrick and Maria, in particular recognition of Christophe’s uniquely outstanding service as an altar server for over 10 years.

 

Advent Continues. Please join us this evening, Sunday, Dec. 11, at 7pm for Lessons and Carols, a relaxing, uplifting and joyful celebration of the hope that Christmas brings. Our wonderful choir is ready to lead us in singing hymns and carols of exuberant Advent faith, hope and love, as we also read the prophetic passages of Scripture foretelling the coming of the Christ at Christmas. Last year 300 folks turned out for a great time–where were you?! Don’t miss it this year.

This Thursday, Dec. 15, at 7:30pm I give my second talk in our Advent Series on “Grace:  God’s Gift at Christmas and Throughout the Year.” This second (and final) talk is entitled: “Hard Questions about Grace,” and will discuss: the effect of sin on grace, inequalities of grace (does Mary have more grace than you?), and grace as it relates to merit, freedom, and predestination. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of you there!

This Saturday, Dec. 17, at Noon, all Senior parishioners (and their senior guests) are invited to our Senior Christmas Luncheon. Please contact the parish office to r.s.v.p. or with questions.

Also, please consider taking an ornament from the Giving Tree (in the narthex) this week to help provide Christmas to a needy family in our parish or in Our Lady of the Blue Ridge Parish in Madison, VA.  All presents are due back next Sunday, Dec. 18th (Just leave your presents under the tree before Mass.). We also need volunteers to help take a bunch of the presents to Madison for the 12 families we adopted from there. We will be loading presents right after the 8 am Mass on Tuesday, Dec. 20th. Please call the parish office to volunteer.

 

Eagle Scout. Congratulations to parishioner Jarod Slaton for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. This is an impressive accomplishment, and I’m sure it speaks of great things to come from Jarod, considering some of the accomplishments of other Eagle Scouts such as President Gerald Ford, Astronaut Neil Armstrong, Dr. William Bennett, Cardinal William Keeler, Coach Jim Mora, billionaire Ross Perot, director Steven Spielberg and Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr.. I’ve had my differences with some of the policies of Boy Scouts of America, but not with the boys themselves—especially not our parish boys!

 

Office Remodeling. As previously mentioned here, we will soon begin a $41,000 remodeling of our parish office. Over the years, we’ve become a little cramped, so, we’ll be moving some doors and building some new walls to make more efficient use of the limited space we have, provide additional closet/storage space, and improve privacy and soundproofing. We will also be expanding our office space a bit by converting what is currently a largely-unused storage room in the basement to a conference room. The current conference/work room (which also serves as our plant manager’s work space and staff breakroom/kitchen) in the rear of the main office will be divided into 2 rooms, one a large closet and the other my new office.

Construction will begin on January 8, and continue for 4 to 6 weeks. During that period the offices will be moved into the first floor of the priests’ residence, which is, of course, adjacent to the office in the rectory building. This will pose a real challenge for the parish staff and us priests, as you can imagine. So we beg your patience with any inconveniences you might encounter during this time. And I also beg your prayers to the Lord, that the construction go well, stay on budget, and finish on schedule.

 

Eva Radel. Caught up the busyness (and a bad cold) of November I neglected to announce the addition of Eva Radel to our parish staff as Parish Secretary. I have to admit, hiring Eva was one of the easiest decisions I’ve made in a long time: for over 7 years she ran the office at St. Patrick’s down near Chancellorsville, and comes highly recommended by the priests who worked with her. In addition to her great administrative skills she has a joyful and warm disposition that everyone will love. She comes from a very large and devout Catholic family: of her 11 siblings 2 are cloistered religious sisters and 1 is a seminarian for our Diocese. And frankly, I’ve known her family since she was a little girl, when they were my parishioners at St. Andrews (17 years ago), and her brothers have been serving my Extraordinary Form Mass for the last 9 years. I’m so happy she’s with us now. Please join me in welcoming Eva to our parish!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Second Sunday Of Advent

Advent and Confession. Advent is a time to prepare for Christmas, not simply by buying presents or decorating the house, but by “preparing the way of the Lord” into our hearts and lives. We begin by reflecting on the words St. Matthew uses in today’s Gospel to summarize the entire message of St. John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Of course, this repentance begins with the Sacrament of Baptism, which is both the sign of personal repentance and the conferral of the Divine grace of forgiveness of sins. But after Baptism we eventually find ourselves willfully committing sins, even terrible sins we deeply regret, and we develop sinful habits, “vices,” we can’t seem to get rid of. What do we do then to prepare the way of the Lord? How do we repent and receive forgiveness of our sins since we can be baptized only once?

St. John’s Advent admonition to “repent” reminds us that we are not doomed to wallow or drown in our sin, but that as Baptized Christians we can and must make it a staple of our life to constantly “repent” and be open and eager to receive “the forgiveness of sins” that comes through the Sacrament of Penance, which many of the early Church Fathers compared to “a second Baptism.” In this sacrament, our sins are once again washed away, so our souls are as pure as the soul of a newly baptized baby, and we have a new chance to start again to live the life Christ created us for and introduced us to in Baptism.

But there’s a problem: while we have repented and sin is forgiven, all the sinful habits (vices) we’ve built up, all our memories of past sins, and all our weaknesses developed over years of living in the world, all these remain. And they can become like valleys and mountains that seem so hard to get over, or like crooked and rough roads that cause us to stumble and fall in sin. Which is another reason we need the Sacrament of Penance, as it not only forgives sins but also gives us the grace to level all obstacles, and to straighten the crookedness and smooth over the roughness in our hearts, so that the sacrament becomes a fulfillment of the Advent prophesy and promise: “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.”

We will be hearing Confessions (the Sacrament of Penance) every single day during Advent. In addition to the regular Confession times a priest will be in the confessional every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evening from 6:15pm to 7pm (he may stay longer, but only if his schedule permits). Please take advantage of this sacrament to prepare the way of the Lord into your heart and life. But, please do not wait for the last minute, since we may only be able to have one priest hearing on some days and he may have to leave at the set time, even if the line remains. And don’t wait until Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, and get upset when the priest has to leave when Mass begins!

 

Parish Offertory Campaign. I want to thank all of you for your cooperation and generosity with the parish offertory campaign. So far we’ve received over 340 “green cards” responding to our appeal, and I’m sure more cards will come in during the next few weeks. I’m confident that our campaign will be a success by any measure. Already we’ve seen a significant increase in our collections since I preached about this 3 weeks ago.

 

Advent Charitable Giving. Advent is a time for giving gifts, especially, in imitation of Christ, to those who are in need and can’t “pay back” what we have given. In this regard, I recommend giving to next week’s second collection for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. Note this is not the same as the national group called “Catholic Charities USA,” but is the locally run charitable wing of our own Diocese. I’ve written before how pleased I am with the work of CCDA in the last few years, especially in their renewed emphasis on fidelity to Christ and His Church, and in their attentiveness to the needs that pastors see, day to day, in their parishes. For example, they’ve been very helpful in offering affordable psychological, marital and family counselling, providing good, caring assistance in the context of our Catholic faith. I commend them to you and ask you to be generous in supporting them in next week’s second collection.

 

Immaculate Conception. This Thursday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of obligation (All Catholics must attend Mass, and it is a mortal sin not to.). This feast celebrates the conception of Mary, free from original sin, in her mother’s womb. This great feast is an ideal Advent lesson, teaching us about Mary’s perfect preparation to receive Christ into her life. In addition to the regularly scheduled daily Masses we will also offer a 7pm Vigil on Wednesday, and a noon and 7pm Mass on Thursday.

 

Other Advent Events this Week. I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir on Sunday, December 11th at 7pm for “Lessons & Carols.” This is a wonderful program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings. Don’t be put off by the term “Lessons”—no one will be lecturing, just reading the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels. The choir then leads us in carols and a few more complicated choral pieces—they are AMAZING. And afterwards there will be an opportunity for fellowship at a short reception (with delicious seasonal refreshments). Every year the crowd gets bigger because everyone who comes loves it. Please join us.

Also, all little children (and their families) are invited to “Breakfast with Santa” next Saturday morning, December 10. And don’t forget to stop by the “Giving Tree” in the narthex today, and help to make Christmas a little merrier for some folks who are having a rough time this year—families of our parish and Our Lady of the Blue Ridge parish in Madison. Finally, note: Because of the Holy Day this Thursday, my Advent Series on “Grace:  God’s Gift at Christmas and Throughout the Year,” will not meet this Thursday, but will continue the following Thursday, December 15.

A Belated Thanks to Our Lady. After the election last month I gave thanks to God in this column for His intervention. But I failed to give due credit to Our Blessed Mother’s role—so many of us were praying the Novena to the Blessed Mother, the Immaculate Conception, I am confident that she came to our aid. May “all generations call her Blessed”!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

First Sunday Of Advent

Advent. Today we begin the Season of Advent, 4 weeks preparing for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. Sadly, the culture around us has turned the days from Thanksgiving to December 25 into a time of nonstop sales, shopping, television specials, radio carols, and, of course, “Christmas parties.” All this can tend to turn the Advent season of preparation into a pre-mature and secularized Christmas celebration, virtually making superfluous the actual season of Christmas that begins on December 25 and runs for 3 weeks after that.

We have to be careful of getting caught up in that secular celebration, especially to the extent it omits Christ himself from the celebration. Advent must remain for us, first and foremost, a season of preparation to celebration. And by that I mean we need to spend time thinking and praying about the reason we celebrate Christmas with such joy: that we are sinners, but that God has not left us in our sins. That in spite of all the bad and stupid things we do to offend God and our neighbor, God so loves us that He entered the world as a tiny baby so he could truly be one of us, and communicate that love so dramatically: person to person, offering each of us a personal relationship with Him. So that the preparation of Advent must be a time of remembering our sins, and opening ourselves and our whole lives to the love of Christ. It is only with this sort of preparation that we can begin to understand and experience the true joy of this most magnificent gift.

But note, this joy should build in us throughout our preparation—as we become more prepared, we become more and more joyful. So that there is nothing wrong if even in the midst of the penance and prayer of Advent we also increasingly partake of the joy of Advent. But we must not confuse the Advent joy of Christ with the merely sentimental feelings of the secular “yuletide” season. Rather, we should transform the secular fun by our Advent Christian joy.

Remember, before you share true Advent joy you must first [re]discover it yourself through preparation:

–Christians always prepare for Holy Days by doing penance. In Advent this shouldn’t take on anything near the severity of Lent, but we should do some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more important than Christ, and that everything we do is for Him.

–Add extra prayers to your daily routine. The Rosary is an excellent addition to our prayers, especially meditating on the Joyful Mysteries, or at least praying one decade every day, meditating on one of the Joyful Mysteries.

Reading Scripture is an excellent way to renew your faith in Christ. Perhaps challenge yourself to choose one of the Gospels and read at least one chapter a day throughout Advent.

–Of course, charitable giving is a great way to prepare for the gift of the Baby Jesus. While it is a fine practice to give presents to people we love, it is an even better practice to give to those who do not know us and cannot give anything back to us. So make sure you make generous charitable gifts—either directly to those in need or to worthy charitable projects/institutions. The Parish Giving Tree is one good way to do this, as are some of the special collections. And remember, it seems to me that St. Raymond’s is the most important charitable organization in most of our lives, helping you, your family and your neighbor—so don’t forget us in your Advent and Christmas giving (including the Offertory Campaign).

Receiving the grace of the sacraments is one of the most important things you can do in Advent. Consider coming to Mass and Adoration during the week, and make sure you go to Confession. Once again, we will have confessions every weekday evening during Advent.

–Most importantly, live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Remember, Jesus said, “if you love me you will keep my commandments,” so follow the 10 Commandments and live out the Beatitudes. Forgive others, and be kind, patient, generous, and encouraging.

–Also: take part in the many special events and liturgies scheduled in the parish this Advent. Please find the insert of the Schedule of “Advent & Christmas 2016 Events” in this bulletin, look it over carefully and keep it somewhere central in your house (on the fridge door?). Two parish “special events” I’d like to call your attention to in particular are:

                        Lessons and Carols. I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir on Sunday, December 11th at 7pm for “Lessons & Carols” at 7:00 pm. This is a wonderful program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings. Some people seem to misunderstand the “Lessons” part of the program—they think I’m going to give a lecture or something. Not at all. “Lessons” is simply an old English term for readings from Scripture. By weaving together prophetic readings from the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, the readers lay out God’s breathtaking plan for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular hymns and spreading their vocal wings in leading us in carols and a few more complicated choral pieces—they are AMAZING. And afterwards there will be an opportunity for joyful fellowship at a short reception (with delicious seasonal refreshments). Trust me, this is a really wonderful evening—you’ll have a great time. Every year the crowd gets bigger (last year it doubled to about 250!) because everyone who comes loves it. Please join us.

                        Advent Series. I invite you all to attend the two-part Advent Series that I will be giving on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays in Advent, December 1 and December 15 (The 2nd Thursday is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, so we’ll have Mass instead of a talk). This year’s topic is, “Grace:  God’s Gift at Christmas and Throughout the Year.” The first talk is this coming Thursday and is entitled, “Grace: God’s Action and Our Response,” and will discuss: the definition of grace, actual and sanctifying grace, and grace and justification (how we are saved by grace). The second talk is entitled: “Hard Questions about Grace,” and will discuss: the effect of sin on grace, inequalities of grace (does Mary have more grace than you?), and grace as it relates to merit, freedom, and predestination. I’m really looking forward to teaching this series and to seeing all of you there!

 

Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving. For those of you who are travelling today or tomorrow, may God send His angels to guide you on your way.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ – King Of The Universe

Offertory Commitment Sunday.  Last Sunday I preached on the importance of parishioners giving to our offertory collection—the source of almost all our funding in running the parish. In many ways it was a hard homily to give and to hear. Thank you all for listening so intently and patiently.

During my homily I talked about the need to recognize the many gifts God has given each of us, and our need both to be grateful and to use those gifts for the good purposes God intends for them. And I asked you to spend time praying and discerning about how He wants you to use those gifts for the good of our parish family.

After each Mass a parishioner also spoke (thanks to them!) and mentioned that you should receive a brochure about this in the mail. I hope you received that brochure, and that it was helpful. If you did not receive that brochure you should be able to find copies near the exits to the church today, or you can call or email the parish office and we’ll send you a copy. They also asked you to come back this week prepared to make a specific commitment as to how much you would give weekly to the offertory in the coming year. Today is the time for commitment. Thank you and God bless you for your generosity.

Hopefully, in the next week or so we will be sending a letter to you confirming the amount of your commitment, and reminding you of the various ways you can pay, especially encouraging you to use the offertory envelopes mailed to you each month, or by using Faith Direct, which securely and automatically charges either your bank account or credit/debit card every month.

           

Thanksgiving. We all have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving—isn’t it at the root of your generous giving to the parish? God has given us too much to be thankful for. For myself, I am particularly thankful for the amazing gift of priesthood.     I also thank the Lord Jesus for His saving love and grace that He continues to shower on me, and for my family, and my brother priests, especially Fr. Smith, as well as Fr. Daly and Fr. Scalia. But most of all this year, I thank Him for entrusting me with this parish, and with all of you, my spiritual children, my parish family.

A blessed, happy and safe Thanksgiving to you all of you and your families!

 

Advent. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, as we prepare spiritually for the celebration of the birth of our Saviour at Christmas. In the very good busyness of Thanksgiving week, please take some time to plan ahead for Advent so that it will truly be a time of holiness, not merely the shopping time between Black Friday and the day Santa Claus comes.

Next weekend we will have an insert with the full schedule of Advent events but please plan on you and your family taking particular advantage of the increased confession opportunities (every weekday evening from 6:15 to 7:00) as well as the many existing opportunities for weekday Mass.

Also, I invite you all to attend the two-part Advent Series on Grace:  God’s Gift at Christmas and Throughout the Year,” that I will be giving on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays in Advent, December 1 and December 15 (the 2nd Thursday, December 8,  is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, so we’ll have Mass instead of a talk). The first talk is entitled, “Grace: God’s Action and Our Response,” and will discuss, among other things: the definition of grace, actual and sanctifying grace, and grace and justification. The second talk is entitled: “Hard Questions about Grace,” and will discuss: the effect of sin on grace, inequalities of grace (does Mary have more grace than you?), merit and grace, and merit, freedom, and predestination. I’m really looking forward to teaching this series and to seeing all of you there!

I also ask you to put “Lessons & Carols” on your calendar right now. Please join me, the lectors and the choir on Sunday, December 11, at 7:00pm for a program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings. Every year the crowd gets bigger (last year it doubled to about 250!) because everyone who comes loves it.

 

“Baby” Sofi’s Birthday Party Today. “Baby Mary”: Our Sofi. It’s hard to believe that 6 years have passed since November 14, 2010, the day the Lord miraculously delivered a newborn baby to the care of our parish. I quote from what I wrote 6 years ago, about little “Sofi”:

“Last Sunday morning, right before the 7am Mass, a parishioner noticed a small gym bag that was laying unattended by the light post near the Groveland Drive entrance to the parish parking lot. After dropping his family off at the front of the church, something told him (perhaps a guardian angel?) to investigate. Much to his surprise when he opened the bag he found a tiny new born baby. He immediately picked up the baby and raced into the church to get her out of the cold fall air and to call for help. Soon paramedics and police arrived and the baby was rushed to the hospital, where she was reported later to be in fine health.”

Within a few days little Sofi was given over to the care of a very fine and loving couple, who were eventually able to legally adopt her. But every year since that wonderful morning Sofi has returned “home” to St. Raymond’s on or near her birthday, as she does today. I am happy to report that she is a lovely, vivacious and healthy 6-year-old little girl.

Sofi will always be a special part of St. Raymond’s—a unique gift of God’s love to us, and a reminder to us of the love of God made manifest in the life every baby, born and unborn. Because of this, she will always be, in a certain way, our special responsibility, so we must always keep her in our hearts and prayers in a special way. We should also keep her family in our prayers, as they generously love and nurture her. And we must always remember to pray for Sofi’s birth-mother: though her identity is still unknown to us, the Lord Jesus knows her well; may He bless and keep her in His loving care all her life. We thank Him that in what must have been a very confusing time for her, she defended her baby’s life, and entrusted her to our care.

Today (Sunday, Nov. 20) we give thanks to the Lord for Sofi’s life, and celebrate with her at her birthday party in our Parish Hall after today’s 12:15 Mass. All parishioners are invited and encouraged to come and say hello to our little Sofi!

 

Thanks. Thanks to all who were so concerned about my health last week. Sorry for any inconvenience my “bad cold” caused. God bless you for your kindness.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Thirty Third Sunday In Ordinary Time

Election: Praised be Jesus Christ! Some thoughts on last Tuesday’s election. To paraphrase President Gerald Ford, our long national nightmare campaign is over. And, by the grace of God, we have avoided a new nightmare by not electing a president who would continue to press the current president’s pro-abortion, anti-religious-liberty, anti-marriage-and-family, anti-common-sense agenda, not to mention months or years of congressional and FBI investigations and possible indictment and/or impeachment. On the other hand, I pray we haven’t elected a president who will present us  with merely an alternative nightmare, building on his past examples of boorishness, marital infidelity, callous and nasty rhetoric, self-centeredness, and on and on. It is my hope and prayer that the gravity of his office, and the grace of Jesus, may help him to rise above all that and become the president we need.

I give thanks to God especially that we have, at least a president-elect who has strenuously defended the pro-life and pro-religious-liberty causes (though often rather clumsily) and promised to give us Supreme Court justices who will be like minded and defend, not re-write, the Constitution. It’s possible he may not live up to those promises, but we can hope that he will.

I am also very encouraged to see how so many people came out to the polls to vote—a sign that people are not happy with the way the country is going and understand that the we the people are still sovereign in America.

Finally, let us pray for our new President-Elect Donald Trump, that the Lord may shower him with grace and surround him with good and wise counselors to help him lead our country in accordance with God’s will.

Oh, and one last thing: it is fun to see the mainstream media be shown to be the biased fools they are.

God bless President-Elect Trump, and God bless America.

 

Parish Offertory Campaign. We are all creatures of habit. We get used to doing things a certain way, and we just go on doing it that way without thinking about it. This can serve an important purpose, i.e., after carefully making a certain decision we can stick with it without wasting time second-guessing or reinventing the wheel every day. But even then, it’s a good idea to reassess our choices, from time to time, lest we become unwitting slaves of outdated habits.

One thing that can easily become a habit is the way we contribute to the parish’s weekly offertory. It’s easy to fall into the habit of giving a certain amount every week, year after year, without ever stopping to reassess that amount. But frequent reassessment is important. For example, over time your own ability to donate may increase or decrease: maybe you’ve been giving $5 a week since the kids were little, even though they’ve all grown up, and so has your salary. Or maybe the needs of your family and/or the parish have changed. Or maybe you’ve grown in your appreciation of God’s generosity, or of the importance of supporting your parish family, or of the greater purpose God has for the gifts he’s given you.

So, over the next few weeks, through the mail and at various Sunday Masses, I will be asking you to prayerfully reconsider the amount of support you give to our parish, and to commit to a certain level of support going forward. That level will be entirely up to you—I will try to offer some guidance for those interested, but your gift is entirely, 100%, up to you.

In particular, prayerfully and carefully consider: 1) all the many good things God has given each of you, 2) whether you are truly grateful for those gifts, and 3) that God has given you those gifts to be used for good purposes—His purposes. The first of these good purposes, for most of you, is providing for the wellbeing of your families. Now I ask you to think about the good purpose of providing for the wellbeing of your parish family.

Please pray about all this as you think about this appeal over the next few weeks. Pray the Rosary, at Mass, over Scripture, at adoration, at home as a family…. Pray sincerely and devoutly, asking the Lord Jesus, the Blessed Mother, and St. Raymond to guide you. And then give as you choose.

 

“Priests for Life.” Last week Fr. Frank Pavone, the President of the organization called “Priests for Life,” posted a grotesque video on the internet wherein he placed the actual body of an aborted baby on a consecrated altar, in an effort to call us to vote for a pro-life president. I join in the chorus of strongly pro-life priests and lay people in condemning this foolish behavior. It is repugnant to me as a priest and a human being. Bodies of babies are not props–they deserve more respect from a priest of Jesus Christ.  Moreover, I strongly believe that while this sort of “shock” effect display of the remains of aborted babies may cause a few people to “wake up” to the reality of abortion, it also drastically hurts the cause by its callousness and cold-heartedness. Furthermore, such an act is clearly an act of sacrilege, i.e., profaning an altar consecrated for one purpose: the sacrifice of the Mass.

Many years ago, I washed my hands of any association with this organization because of its use of these kinds of foolish tactics and other similar examples of poor judgment, and I have refused to promote it in any way in our parish. There is no doubt that Fr. Pavone and his organization are dedicated pro-life warriors—but they are often very wrongheaded in their approach. You don’t have to be a member of “Priests for Life” to be a pro-life priest.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Thirty Second Sunday In Ordinary Time

Vote Like a Catholic. This Tuesday, November 8, Virginians go to the polls to elect our President, Vice-President and U.S. Representatives (and to vote on some local referenda). Sadly, many, including many Catholics, will vote for candidates who embrace abortion, “same-sex marriage,” and the undermining of religious liberty, common sense and reason. Many others will stay home and not vote at all. But as the Church teaches so clearly:

“Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter…: it demands a public witness to our faith…. [I]t is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms (230). These values are not negotiable.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, 83).

“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…Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to …to exercise the right to vote ….” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2239-2240).

It is our moral duty to vote, if at all possible, 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 for the good of the Commonwealth, especially by joining in our Novena to the Blessed Mother, the Immaculate Conception (see our website).

 

Religious Liberty and the Election. We are all well aware, I hope, of the President’s ongoing attempt to force Christians, including Catholic schools and charities (i.e., Little Sisters of the Poor) to violate their consciences and religious beliefs by providing contraception and abortifacient insurance to their employees. Not to mention the many efforts of local and state governments to force Christians florists and bakers to participate in “same-sex weddings.” But in the last few weeks you may have overlooked several important stories that further illustrate how this growing problem may affect the future of our nation.

Civil Rights. In September, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a non-binding report ironically titled, “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties,” which was actually an attack piece on religion and religious liberty. For example, it states:

“Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.”

Among other things, the Commission 1) sets “religion” against “civil rights,” when religion is a civil right, and 2) adds two supposed “civil rights” that are not part of its legal mandate i.e., “sexual orientation, and gender identity,” and omits “religion,” one of the three principle civil rights it was originally established to protect, i.e., discrimination “based on color, race, religion or national origin.”

The report also criticized the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), saying it “does not limit others’ freedom from government-imposed religious limitations under the Establishment Clause.” Remember: RFRA was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives, by a 97-3 vote in the Senate, and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

In a separate statement issued as part of the report, Chairman Martin R. Castro goes on to write: “The phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance. …[T]oday, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality. …”

These are the folks who are supposed to protect our civil right to religious liberty.

Clinton Campaign Anti-Catholicism. Last month the noted/notorious WikiLeaks released email exchanges between various several high-level officials of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including John Podesta (Campaign Chairman) and Jennifer Palmieri (Campaign Director of Communications. Allow me to quote from a Lifesitenews article, which sums up facts reported in other media sources.

“The April 2011 email exchange titled “Conservative Catholicism” starts with John Halpin, a senior fellow for the leftist Center for American Progress (CAP), smearing News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Robert Thompson. Halpin pointed out …that the two men were raising their kids Catholic. “Friggin’ Murdoch baptized his kids in Jordan where John the Baptist baptized Jesus,” …

“He then goes on to call Catholic beliefs on gender relations “severely backwards” and says conservative Catholics can “throw around” certain Catholic theological terms “and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.”

“It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith…. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”

“[Palmieri responds] saying conservative Catholics gravitated toward the faith because “they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion,” and “Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.”

Lifesitenews also reports: “Podesta indicates how so-called “Catholic” groups agitating for change in the Church were formed to assist the movement to undermine the Church’s teaching…. “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this… “But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United….”

“Podesta’s correspondent, Center for Progress President Sandy Newman, had written: “Hi John. This whole controversy with the bishops opposing contraceptive coverage even though 98% of Catholic women (and their conjugal partners) have used contraception has me thinking … There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church.””

In response to these anti-Catholic statements, many faithful Catholics, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, have called for apologies. But none have been made. Instead, Vice-Presidential candidate Tim Kaine commented: “We all have opinions and I don’t think you need to apologize for your opinions.” Perhaps, but these are the opinions of some of Secretary Clinton’s most trusted advisors, who will be shaping policy in any new Clinton presidency, and advising her on appointments to the Supreme Court.

[By the way, Podesta and Palmieri, and Kaine, are all self-proclaimed Catholics. But you can call yourself a Catholic and still not be a “faithful” or “practicing” Catholic, and you can even hate the Church itself. In other words, you can be what I call a “pretend Catholic,” and really be an “anti-Catholic.”]

 

Offertory Campaign. In the next few weeks you will be hearing from me about your financial support for our parish. I know how generous so many of you are, but it’s still important that we revisit this topic regularly. Please pray in advance of hearing what I have to say, and ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to know God’s will for you in these matters.  Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Thirty First Sunday In Ordinary Time

Election and the Right to Life. I can’t wait for the current national election to be over. Please God, somehow in Your merciful will, give us the government we need.

Unfortunately, as I (and, probably also, you) keep lamenting, both major candidates seem so deeply flawed. But there does seem to be one key issue—the key issue—that they differ on which may offer us some glimmer of hope in discerning our choice. That issue is abortion.

As St. John Paul II once wrote: “[T]he common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with the maximum determination.” [Christifideles Laici, 38.] If you don’t have the right to live, what other rights do you have? None? And if you can take an innocent person’s life simply because that innocent person is a burden to you, how can we say that less permanent and horrible means of oppressing others are wrong: isn’t killing worse than, for example, denying voting rights, employment, health insurance, or immigration?

Some say, this is just one issue and we “shouldn’t be one issue voters.” That’s a nice slogan, but a ridiculous principle. What if the issue were slavery? What if a candidate seemed to be right on all the issues, except that she believed people of African descent were not fully human beings with fundamental human rights, so the rest of us could treat them as our property and even kill them if we wanted to? I hope most of us would agree that that “one issue” would be a deal breaker.

The thing is, there are candidates around today who say something identical to this, if we replace the term “people of African descent” with the term “unborn babies.” Could there be an issue more important than slavery or abortion? I suppose so: for example, if one candidate advocated actually killing all minorities or all immigrants, that would be as important as abortion. But no one is advocating those killings, just killing innocent human babies who are deemed a burden.

In the last presidential debate, one of the candidates, once again, proudly defended her support of abortion. But not just abortion. When she was in the Senate in 2003 Hillary Clinton voted against a ban on partial birth abortion (PBA), a procedure which crushes a 9 month-full-term baby’s skull as he or she is being born and partially outside of the mother’s birth canal. This is barbarism. Yet Clinton vigorously defended this form of abortion in the debate, while her opponent with calm reason (for a change) vigorously stated his opposition to this brutality (and abortion in general).

Clinton continues to deny what all doctors and even the Supreme Court found to be the vicious truth of what happens in a PBA. Moreover, she continues to talk about protecting the “health of the mother,” when 1) what she means by “health of the mother” includes even the slightest temporary difficulty encountered by the mother, whether physical or emotional, and 2) it is the consensus of medical professionals that PBA is never necessary to protect the “health of the mother.” In any case, claiming “health of the mother” to defend crushing a baby’s skull as she or he is already partially out of their mother’s body is grotesque. How can we vote for someone like this?

 

Finance Report. In today’s bulletin, you will find an insert detailing the parish’s finances for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2016. As you can see, things were pretty much the same as FYE 2015, with slight increases in collections offset by increases in employee salaries and benefits, facilities maintenance and improvements, and youth ministry, resulting in a slightly smaller “net income” of $479,159, which is a decline of 5.5%, but still very healthy. However, taking into account loan principle payments of $549,615 ($97 thousand more than last year) that gave us a “net deficit” (essentially net cash flow) of $70,456, which is not bad, considering we have the cash to pay down our building debt, which as of June 30 stood at about only $685,013 (as of today it stands at only $625,000).

So, we had a good year from a financial perspective. And I expect another good year ahead of us. But I do have some concerns going forward. First, there is a small but clear trend toward declining offertory collections. This appears to be mainly cyclical, at least partially due to parishioner turnover (with slightly more people moving-in than moving-out, but some of those moving out were long-time large donors) which led to losing some long-time large donors, and some sluggishness in the level of giving by new parishioners (which is understandable during transitions). Second, we are encountering significant increases in building maintenance expenses—at 10 years old the building is not as new as it once was, especially the HVAC. Third, as I mentioned last week, I plan some small but necessary construction projects this year. Fourth, there are continuing increases in employee benefits (health insurance, etc.), utilities, and other expenses that are not entirely under our control. Fifth, I have intentionally increased spending on our youth education and activities, because I think this must be a priority. Sixth, we have several large expenses looming in the next year or so, including a permanent solution to our lighting problem.

So, the forecast is good, but we proceed with prudence. Also, be aware that we will be having another campaign to increase our offertory next month (hopefully, as painless as possible). I continue to be thankful for and to count on your generosity and support, and Our Lord’s munificence.

 

A Holy Week. This Tuesday, November 1, is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation. Since all Catholics are required (under mortal sin) to attend Mass, we have our usual extra Masses scheduled (see below).

The next day, Wednesday, November 2, is All Souls Day, which is not a day of obligation, but I encourage all of you to attend Mass that day, and keep the whole day as one of prayer for the dead, especially those dear to you—it is a great act of love to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Of course, all this is preceded by tomorrow, October 31, which is Halloween. As you know, I am not a fan of this day, since it not only tends to distract us from and trivialize the meaning of the important days that follow, but it is also used as a feast day by those that serve the devil (including Satanists, witches, etc.). Still, I understand the innocent fun, especially for kids, of dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating. But keep it balanced, and be careful not to let it, in any way, lead you or yours away from Christ, the Saints, or the Holy Souls.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles