Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

SUMMER WINDING DOWN. The end of summer is approaching. I, for one am sad to
see it go. I know most of the kids agree with me, although maybe some of you parents
don’t. I know for most of you school begins a little earlier this year. I hope you can have
one last week before that to rest and recreate a bit.
But I also know there’s lots of preparation to be done for the coming year. It’s
easy to let some things slip in this regard, especially aggravated by a certain sense of
denial and longing for the summer peace to continue. And then you find yourself in a
panic trying to get ready at the last minute.

Religious Education. One of the areas this affects the most is planning for our children’s
Religious Education, CCD. Every August I panic a bit as the RE/CCD office tells me that
registrations for the coming year are very low… And every September they shoot up to
more or less “normal” levels. But why would you put your poor Pastor through this?
Mary Salmon and Vince Drouillard have been hard at work for weeks preparing for the
new CCD school year which begins on Sunday, September 8. I am very excited about the
new year, especially our High School program.
Remember, parents are morally obliged to not only teach their children to love
Jesus but also to teach them what Jesus and His Church teach, to teach them about
Scripture and the Catechism. It’s very difficult for most parents to do this on their own in
any systematic and comprehensive way. Also I know many parents send their kids to
public schools. The problem is that the public schools present an environment and culture
that is in many ways antithetical to Christianity.
I know some of you parents went to public schools when you were younger and
don’t think they are so bad. But public schools have radically changed in the last 20
years—they are not the religiously neutral place they might have once been. I know this
is a particular problem for some of our immigrants from Catholic countries, some of
which actually taught Catholic doctrine in the public schools—public schools are not
like that in America, at all.
This is why I strongly encourages all Catholic parents to either homeschool their
kids or send them to Catholic schools. But, sadly, both of these are often too expensive or
otherwise impractical for parents. So they send their kids to public schools.
Fine, I respect your choice. But that still leaves you with the grave responsibility
to teach your children the faith in a comprehensive and systematic way, either at home
(with a real organized and thorough approach) or by sending them to CCD/Religious
education. And this obligation doesn’t end after 8 th grade: we have a great high school
CCD program.
Ask yourself: am I doing everything I can to get my kids to heaven, and keep them
out of hell? If you don’t educate them in the faith then the answer is almost certainly
“no,” which means you are risking not only the salvation of your children’s souls, but
your own soul as well..

Please, understand, I’m not trying to scare you. I just want you to know how
serious this is.

So many times I have parents complaining to me that when their kids grow up
they leave the Church and even fall into sinful lifestyles. Some of this is due to free will:
kids grow up and they can choose. But parents must do everything they reasonably can
do to make sure they have the tools and information to make a wise and informed choice.
So: SIGN YOUR KIDS UP FOR CCD NOW!!! Please. You can call or email
the office, or you can register online on our website.
And also—we can’t teach if we have no teachers!! We are in urgent need of
several catechists and aides. With all the problems in the world,

TEXT: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 11, 2019

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 11, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

We live in the wealthiest county in the wealthiest country on earth.

Some of you have a pretty good share in that wealth

and most of the rest of you are hoping to share in it,

to a greater or lesser extent.

But then we hear the voice of Jesus echo over 2000 years and say to us:

“Sell your belongings …[for] an inexhaustible treasure in heaven.

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
Now most of you probably work pretty hard to get all that you have,

some of you have made huge sacrifices.

But even with all that hard work,

how much of your success has been due to the “luck”

of having good parents, or particular natural talents

or simply being in the right place at the right time?

 

Well, personally, as a Christian, I don’t believe it luck.

Christians believe in providence:

God has a plan, and He provides for us according to that plan.

We believe that God created us for a reason,

and gave us our parents and our talents.

And He gave us lungs to breath

and free will to choose to be lazy or to work hard.

As St. Paul says elsewhere in scripture:

“What have you that you did not receive?

….why do you boast as if it were not a gift?”

Like the servant in today’s parable,

we have all been “entrusted with much.”

 

___

Of course, seeing things this way requires “faith.”

Note, this faith is not opposed to reason.

Rather faith is the light that shines on reason,

like a lamp shining on a book to make it readable and understandable.

 

And when we see the world in the light of faith

we see all the things we have as gifts

most of which pass away when we leave this world.

And we see that these things we work so hard for

—money, fame, pleasure, power, whatever—

mean nothing if we forget the one who gives them in the first place.

If we love the gift more than we love the giver, God Himself.

 

So you say, yes father, all that’s true, and faith and God are important to me,

but placing them above everything else—that’s hard.

Yes, it is.

But so is getting up every morning and going to work or school,

most everyday of your life.

But you do it.

Why is it so inconceivable to work as hard and make as many sacrifices

to place God in the center of your life?

Why aren’t we willing to do that now, and every day for the rest of our lives?

 

You say, yes, but when I go to work

I see the fruit of my work, the reward of my labor.

I get paid at the end of the week,

and over the years I rise up in my career.

It’s not that way with God—He doesn’t give me tangible results.

 

First of all, how many of your employers or clients

pay you up-front for the work you haven’t done yet?

Not many.

But God does.

He’s already given

every breath you take, every thought in your head, your job,

your very life itself!

Not to mention the grace that flows from His Cross and resurrection.

 

And how many of you work hard and wait for years to get promotions?

If you’re boss doesn’t promote you today,

or at least put the promise in writing today,

why would you risk working for years for the uncertain?

Unlike your boss or client, though,

God did put His promises of riches and promotion in writing.

It’s written down in scripture and affirmed every day

in the living breathing teaching of the Church.

We read it today in the Gospel as Jesus promises us:

“your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”

 

You say, I have faith, Father,

but I ask God for things all the time,

and most of the time He doesn’t give me what I ask for.

True, but maybe you’re asking for the wrong things.

Imagine if you went into your boss’s office tomorrow

and demanded 6 month paid vacation.

Not many bosses would give in to that—in fact most bosses would fire you.

 

But God just sits there patiently listening to our requests for silly things,

things He knows won’t be good for us,

and then gives us what we really need.

How about a little oxygen in your lungs?

How about a job to come to tomorrow?

And how about I give you some of the really valuable stuff,

some of the treasures of heaven

How about a little charity or chastity or wisdom?

 

___

And I’m not just talking about people with jobs.

 

Students do the same thing.

We’re still 2 weeks away from the start of school,

but the kids in band and football are already starting to practice.

And when school starts you kids will be working hard,

maybe even staying up late at night working on your homework

or studying for tests, all for a grade no one will remember

5 years from now.

 

And mothers who stay at home, especially homeschooling.

You work hard to help your kids grow into fine adults,

but do you work hard at your faith?

And retired folks: you worked hard all your life building a financial nest egg

so you could retire comfortably,

but did you work hard to build up treasure in heaven?

Are you working hard at it now?

 

We work so hard for the things of this world,

and we’re completely lazy when it comes to faith and God.

And yet we expect so much from Him, including all the things we already have.

 

____

So, how do we work hard at having faith?

We begin with the basics.

If you’re a surgeon you have to obey the basic rules of medicine and science,

or you’ll work hard all day long

but not only will your patients die,

but you’ll die of starvation.

And if you’re a Christian,

you begin by working hard at keeping the basic rules of faith and love.

You keep the commandments:

you worship God,

you don’t kill, steal, or lie;

you love your family, and respect the gift of sexuality.

And you follow the beatitudes,

you embrace poverty of spirit, work for peace and show mercy;

and you accept persecution for standing up for your faith in Jesus.

It’s difficult, but you have to work hard at living the life God calls you to live.

 

And you spend time studying.

What professional doesn’t spend years studying

before he even begins to start his career?

And who survives in his profession if doesn’t do continuing education?

A Christian also has to study:

to read the Scriptures, the Catechism, the writings of the great Popes

and other holy books.

To listen to talks by orthodox experts or holy people

—to pay attention to the homilies at Mass.

It’s a fact that most Catholics stopped really learning bout their faith

when they were 14.

Imagine if an accountant had stopped learning about numbers when he was 14…

 

And you have to pray.

Prayer involves talking and listening to God.

This requires patience and time,

but imagine a lawyer who doesn’t talk and listen to his client.

Prayer also involves praising and thanking God:

what laborer does his work well when he doesn’t respect it or enjoy it?

What Christian can be a good Christian if he doesn’t praise his God.

 

And finally, you have to open your heart and choose to accept

the grace God gives you.

What fool goes to work but refuses to turn on the light in his office so he can see

or to pick up his shovel, or use the other tools his employer provides?

Who works hard all week and then refuses to cash or deposit his paycheck?

 

_____

Now, in every business or line of work, there’s always critical moments in time.

Maybe it’s a deadline, or an important make or break meeting.

At those moments all the hard work comes together and pays off

—either in the product or in the reward.

For Catholics, the most important moment is the time we spend at Mass.

 

Sometimes people tell me they don’t really get much out of Mass.

Well, maybe the problem isn’t so much what you’re not getting out of the Mass,

as it is what you’re not putting into the Mass.

 

Some people come to work late every day,

then waste time all day gossiping with friends,

distracting and entertaining themselves on the internet,

maybe occasionally answering the phone when it rings,

until they can manage to sneak out a few minutes early to beat the traffic.

They were at work, but they didn’t do work.

The didn’t put much into it, and they didn’t get much out of it that day,

and they aren’t going to get much out if on pay day, or promotion day.

 

Sounds like a lot of Catholics at Mass.

 

On the other hand, some people go to work early

and throw themselves into the job

—having spent the previous evening and the drive in preparing for the day.

I have a feeling that will all the money and power in this room today,

that represents a whole lot of you.

 

If you want to get something out of Mass, first put something into Mass,

both before you get here and while you’re here.

Prepare before you come, and when you get here early

examine your conscience:

think how you’ve kept the commandments this week;

and read the scriptures and studying what the Mass is about.

And during the Mass listen to the prayers, the readings and the homily carefully.

Maybe my homilies are too long and too boring,

but there’s something, even if it’s only one sentence,

that God wants you to hear in them.

 

And pray: the whole Mass is one long prayer:

listen and talk to God, sing his praises,

and thank him from the bottom of your heart for all he does for you!

And finally, open yourself up to the grace he gives you so generously

in this sacrament of the Eucharist.

 

___

Every good thing we have or want is, in one way or another, a gift from God.

But why do we work so hard to enjoy and even abuse

the lesser gifts God gives

and spend hardly any effort to enjoy His most profound gifts,

and the ones that last forever.

Remember:

“Your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.

…where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Two More Mass Shootings. I know you all join with me in prayer for all the victims of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton last weekend. May the Lord grant eternal rest to those who were killed, and healing to those injured, and peace to all those effected by the attacks.
After yet another inexplicable vicious shooting, how can we not ask the question: what are the causes of this problem? Sadly, the initial reaction of many, especially leftist politicians and commentators, was not to ask that question, but to come with ready-made answers: it is the rise of “white nationalism” encouraged by President Trump. What a convenient, if wrong, answer for those folks who seem to have a completely knee-jerk hatred for the President.
So let’s begin with the question first: what is at the root of this problem? An excellent article by Valerie Richardson in the Washington Times last Monday, August 5, 2019, addressed this issue.
Is the cause of all these shootings white racism/nationalism? Richardson writes: “A May 2018 policy brief by the Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York…found that the perception that whites are responsible for nearly all mass shootings is a myth.…[T]he findings indicate that while a majority are [white], this proportion is just over half of the perpetrators (53.9 percent)…More than one in four shooters is black and nearly one in ten is of Hispanic descent…. The FBI has reported 850 domestic terrorism investigations, 40% of which involve racially motivated violent extremism, and most of those involve white supremacists….”
Is the mental illness the cause? “Amy Swearer, senior legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, said about two-thirds of shooters are found to have serious mental problems but that the media coverage has focused on those with an ideological bent such as racism or nativism.”
What else is to blame? “…the uproar over white nationalism has shifted the focus from what some researchers describe as the biggest drivers of mass shootings, including family breakdown, childhood trauma, mental illness, workplace crises, access to weapons and a fascination with previous shooters glorified in the media.”
What do almost all these acts have in common? “The Rockefeller study found that 96% of shooters were male, which is in keeping with other research.”
Does this mean there’s something wrong with being a male? No. It means there’s something wrong with the way we’re raising young males. “Warren Farrell, author of “The Boy Crisis,” said boys with minimal or no father involvement, or with “really messed-up families,” represent the vast majority of mass shooters, Islamic State recruits and the male prison population. ‘Boys without a sense of purpose start searching for other senses of purpose, and that may be in the form of God, and then it’s constructive usually, or that may be in the form of, ‘I want Americans to be America and I don’t want any immigrants to come into the country,’…’”
The fundamental problem, in my opinion, is not the president, or racism or even guns. The problem is our culture, and the loss of the sense of purpose, and order, and of God. A problem aggravated in young males by the constant barrage of sexual/gender confusion thrown at them by the left, including treating masculinity almost as a disease (e.g., “toxic masculinity”).
Historically, young men and boys were taught by fathers and other male role models to focus their masculine energy on socially and morally productive ends: working hard to provide for a family, defending the nation, serving God in religion, etc. But now the number of boys raised in fatherless homes has soared, and masculinity is under assault from every angle.
What is the solution? Stronger families headed by a father and mother. Rebuilding the culture to respect the natural family structure, and a just authority and order, as well as the recognition of the real difference between males and females. Respect for free speech, and respectful free speech, so that we can vent our grievances calmly without feeling we have to resort to violence in speech or action. And above all, and undergirding all this, a return to recognition that God has created and ordered things a particular way, and we should reverently follow His direction.

Fr. Peter Odhiambo Okola, AJ. Many of you will fondly remember Fr. Peter Okola, a priest from Kenya who was in residence here for several years (2009-2011) and is now vicar at Holy Spirit in Annandale. I’m sad to report Fr. Peter has been diagnosed and is being treated for cancer. With faith in Jesus, I am hopeful of his full recovery, but I ask you to please keep him in your prayers.

Welcome to New Parishioners. Summer is always a time we lose and gain parishioners, especially those in the military. So I’d like to welcome all who have joined us in the last few months. I hope you find St. Raymond’s’ to be a welcoming parish, and encourage you to get involved in our many liturgies, committees, and activities.
One thing to know about our parish is that we place great importance on the Grace and Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Flowing from this you will find a pronounced emphasis on reverence, especially during Holy Mass, what I call “emphatic reverence.” Nowadays reverence is a lost virtue. The word “reverence” comes from the Latin for “fear,” “revere,” and scripture tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” But this kind of fear is not like being in terror or afraid, but rather of being in “awe”: recognizing that God is the all-powerful Creator and sustainer of the whole world, and I am just a little tiny speck in comparison—and yet, He loves me. So Christian reverence is fundamentally rooted in love.
So we go out of our way here in our liturgies to be reverent, to remind ourselves we are in presence of God, the God who loved us so much He became one of us and died for our sins on the Cross, and gave us the Eucharist to be with us always, even to enter into us, especially in the mystery of His Sacrifice.
To encourage this reverence we follow some ancient customs of the Church that set the liturgy apart as radically different from the mundane world we live in. For example, we sing traditional Catholic hymns, which are different than most contemporary liturgical music that incorporates so many aspects of modern secular music. And we use the ancient language of the Church, Latin, to remind us we’re doing something very different, in union with the Church all the way back to time of Jesus. And we incorporate beautiful vestments and vessels to remind us that Mass is a participation in the heavenly banquet come down to earth. And at many Masses the priest turns with the people, so that facing in the same way as them he leads them in prayer before the Most High God.
It’s a little different. But then again, so is God. Welcome to St. Raymond’s.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 4, 2019

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 4, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

A few weeks back you may have heard about the sad situation

in our neighboring diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia,

as an investigation determined that their former Bishop, Michael Bransfield,

was guilty of years of sexual misconduct,

massive financial mismanagement,

and lavish spending of church money.

 

What might Jesus have to say to Bransfield today,

and to all bishops and priests?

Maybe,

“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich,

one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

 

Of course this passage from today’s gospel,

as well as the related texts in today’s 1st and 2nd readings,

applies to all of us,

but in a particular way it must apply to bishops and priests,

who are given a most precious gift in their ordination,

and in that gift are, as Jesus says today, “rich in what matters to God.”

Now, this doesn’t mean that the man who is a priest is himself necessarily holy,

as we see in too many cases, as with Bransfield, that is not the case.

But the gift of priesthood itself is holy, no matter what.

And while a priest’s sins do insult the gift of priesthood,

they do not take away from the gift itself:

a sinful priest still can offer a valid Mass, and forgive sins.

 

____

Even so, a priest should do everything he can to be worthy of this immense gift

and to worthily share it with the whole Church.

 

Of course, this is necessary for the good of his own soul

–remember the servant who buried the talent given to him,

of whom the Master said:

“cast this worthless servant into the outer darkness…”

Or as St. John Chrysostom put it so succinctly in the 4th century:

“hell is paved with the skulls of [bad] priests.”

 

But more important than that,

since the priesthood is meant not for the priest’s good,

but for the benefit of the whole Church,

the priest must strive for personal holiness for the good of the Church.

 

Think about it.

A priest is called to confect the Eucharist, to give the Body and Blood of Christ

to his people, and to forgive sins and administer all the sacraments.

But he’s also called to teach about the life of Christ the Eucharist brings to us.

And as Pope Paul VI once wrote:

“modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers…”

And so, the priest is called to be a witness to Christ by leading a holy life,

and so instruct and encourage others to be holy in their own lives.

 

And a holy priest is open to the fullness of the graces God has in store for him.

For example, by the power of the sacrament any priest, even a terrible man,

can forgive sins in confessional,

but holy priest will also be guided by the Lord

to know what to say to aid and convert the penitent.

He will be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit

in preaching, teaching, counseling and consoling His people.

 

And finally, a holy priest offers more efficacious prayer for his people.

St. James writes in Scripture:

“The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”

Imagine a truly holy priest, a saintly priest,

standing at the altar with the Body of Christ in his hands

—what greater human prayer could there be in the world?

 

____

One of the great examples of this sort of priest

is a saint whose feast we normally celebrate today, August 4,

although not this year not liturgically, since it’s Sunday, the Lord’s Day.

The priest who is the patron saint of parish priests, and of all priests,

known to many as the “Curé of Ars,” St. Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney.

 

John Vianney was born in 1786, into a family of devout Catholic farmers

in small town near Lyon, France.

When he was only 4 years old the French Revolution and its Reign of Terror

began to wreak havoc on the Church in France,

executing, imprisoning or deporting tens of thousands of priests and religious.

During those years of persecution many faithful priests went underground,

and pious families gave them shelter, including the Vianney family.

 

It’s no wonder that young John, inspired by these holy and courageous priests,

fixed his sights as a child on following them into the priesthood,

so that when the persecution finally ebbed,

by God’s grace he was ordained a priest at the age of 29.

And 3 years later was named the pastor, or “curé,” of the tiny hamlet of Ars.

 

Ars had never recovered from the revolution

and Catholicism and morals were in shambles:

very few people went to Sunday Mass,

and in a town of only 230 souls there were 4 taverns.

But the new curé was determined to change this,

as he told a young boy on the road who helped him find his way:

“You have shown me the way to Ars,

I will show you the way to heaven.”

 

He began small, but with great zeal.

He spent his own salary to repair his church

and buy beautiful vestments and vessels

for more fitting worship of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

He visited his parishioners, especially the sick.

He preached and taught catechism regularly.

He spent long hours in the church,

praying and waiting for his people to come to confession.

And he celebrated Holy Mass with profound reverence

—nothing was more important to him.

As he would say:

“All good works, taken together, do not equal the sacrifice of the Mass,

since they are human works, while the Holy Mass is the work of God”.

 

Eventually, witnessing his personal holy example and unrestrained love for Jesus,

people started to come, at first from Ars, and then from all over France.

It’s estimated that by 1855, his 27th year in Ars,

nearly 20,000 pilgrims would come to Ars annually

to see this simple priest.

 

Well, not so simple.

Reports soon spread of his miraculous healings

of the sick, the deaf, the blind and the lame.

Word spread of the regular vicious attacks he endured from the devil,

who would sometimes physically assault him at night.

But the most phenomenal reports came

with regard to his ability to read souls in confession:

as he would often remind penitents, in great detail,

of sins that they had neglected to confess.

 

All these, of course, were special graces from God,

but they came to St. John because he had made himself

completely open to them.

In short they came because he was a truly, deeply, HOLY priest:

 

But while those things tended to attract the crowds,

it was something much simpler that led them to actual conversion:

the example of holiness that exuded from St. John.

His love for his for Jesus and his people was manifest in every word and action,

His example of purest chastity led many a sinner to purity,

as they would say “he radiated chastity.”

His poverty of life and sacrifices showed them how to give all for God:

he gave literally everything he had to his parish or to the poor;

he would fast constantly,

eating only one daily meal of cold potato soup, if that;

he would sleep only 2 or 3 hours a night

so he would have time to keep his heavy schedule,

especially his 12 to 18 hour days in the confessional.

And his humility was a hallmark of his life:

once, early on, the neighboring priests signed a petition to his bishop

demanding the Cure of Ars be removed for his incompetence;

but the bishop rejected it when he saw that the last signature on the letter

was that of the humble John Vianney himself.

 

But all who knew him would say all this came from and led back to

his love and devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

His poverty of spirit showed in the torn cassock he wore constantly,

but covered during Mass with beautiful vestments, for the glory of God.

His love for his people was evident as he tenderly called them

to receive our Lord in Holy Communion:

“The soul hungers for God, and nothing but God can satiate it.”

His chastity shown like a beacon, as they said:

“He gazed upon the Host with immense love”

showing them his single-hearted desire for God alone.

His self sacrifice for his people,

shown through when ever he would offer Mass so devoutly:

“What a good thing it is” he would say

“for a priest each morning to offer himself to God in sacrifice!”.

And his humility was nowhere more evident

than in the presence of his Eucharistic Lord:

“I throw myself at the foot of the Tabernacle” he wrote

“like a dog at the foot of his Master.”

 

This is the example of holy priesthood that Holy Mother Church holds out

to all priests, including bishops.

But also to you, as She reminds you not to be discouraged by bad priests,

but to praise God for the gift of the priesthood, and for good priests.

And to demand that all priests and bishops at least strive to understand this.

And to pray for your priests that they be open

to the fullness of the graces of the priesthood.

 

For in spite of all the scandals, we must remember, the greatness of the gift.

As the Holy Curé of Ars saw it so clearly and wrote:

“O, how great is the priest! …”

“Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is”

“Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth, we would die:

not of fright, but of love…”

 

These are no words of vanity or exaggerated self-importance,

but words from the humblest of men,

who was overwhelmed with awe for the sacrament and its responsibilities.

As St. John would say:

“The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you”.

 

____

It was a year ago yesterday that I first preached about the scandal

of now-former cardinal McCarrick.

And now we have the Bransfield scandal, and I know there are more to come.

 

All this can lead us to great discouragement, both priests and laity alike.

But then we remember that Jesus knew

there would always be weak and sinful bishops and priests

like Judas in the beginning,

and McCarrick and Bransfield and their friends today.

And so Jesus gave us bishops and priests like St. John the Apostle,

who stood faithfully at the Cross,

and his namesake, St. John Vianney, who stood faithfully in Ars.

 

And we remember that for all the truly evil bishops and priests,

we also know so many priests who sincerely strive

to imitate the truly holy priests, like those two Saint Johns.

 

So, we must not be discouraged, but re-invigorated.

 

___

As we now move more deeply into the mystery of this Holy Mass,

let us recognize the incredible gift that the priesthood is to us.

And recognize the abuses of that gift.

But also thank God for the gift,

and for the good priests who accept and embrace that gift for all its glory.

And pray for those priests, and all priests,

that they may always strive to imitate the many great and holy priests

that have come before them,

especially their patron, St. Jean-Marie Vianney.

 

And pray that all of us, laity, priests and bishops,

may “Take care to guard against all greed” and lust,

and strive to be “rich in what matters to God.”

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Prayers Before and After Mass. It is a good and very helpful practice to arrive a little early before Mass to pray in preparation, and also to remain a while afterwards to pray in thanksgiving. Of course, you can pray in whatever words you want, but to assist us, the Church has handed down various prayers we might want to say. In particular, these two beautiful prayers of St. Thomas Aquinas are commended to us in the Roman Missal (feel free to cut these out and save them, these can also be found in the back of the St. Michael Hymnal):

Before Mass. Almighty eternal God, behold, I come to the Sacrament of your Only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as one sick to the physician of life, as one unclean to the fountain of mercy, as one blind to the light of eternal brightness, as one poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth.
I ask, therefore, for the abundance of your immense generosity, that you may graciously cure my sickness, wash away my defilement, give light to my blindness, enrich my poverty, clothe my nakedness, so that I may receive the bread of Angels, the King of kings and Lord of lords, with such reverence and humility, such contrition and devotion, such purity and faith, such purpose and intention as are conducive to the salvation of my soul.
Grant, I pray, that I may receive not only the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood, but also the reality and power of that Sacrament.
O most gentle God, grant that I may so receive the Body of your Only Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, which He took from the Virgin Mary, that I may be made worthy to be incorporated into His Mystical Body and to be counted among its members.
O most loving Father, grant that I may at last gaze forever upon the unveiled face of your beloved Son, whom I, a wayfarer, propose to receive now veiled under these species: Who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever. Amen.

After Mass. I give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, who have been pleased to nourish me, a sinner and your unworthy servant, with the precious Body and Blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: this through no merits of mine, but due solely to the graciousness of your mercy.
And I pray that this Holy Communion may not be for me an offense to be punished, but a saving plea for forgiveness. May it be for me the armor of faith, and the shield of good will. May it cancel my faults, destroy concupiscence and carnal passion, increase charity and patience, humility and obedience and all the virtues, may it be a firm defense against the snares of all my enemies, both visible and invisible, the complete calming of my impulses, both of the flesh and of the spirit, a firm adherence to you, the one true God, and the joyful completion of my life’s course.
And I beseech you to lead me, a sinner, to that banquet beyond all telling, where with your Son and the Holy Spirit you are the true light of your Saints, fullness of satisfied desire, eternal gladness, consummate delight and perfect happiness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

August: The Month of Saints. This time of year that falls between the great liturgical Seasons of Easter and Advent is called “Ordinary Time”. Some think we call it “ordinary” because nothing “special” happens during this time. But the term “ordinary” here refers simply to the fact that we count off the weeks of this part of the year according to their “ordinal number” (“first,” “second,” “third”… “eighteenth”).
In fact, there is nothing at all ordinary this time of year, especially this month of August, which is filled with more liturgical feast days (26 out of 31 days) than any other month.
Of course this coming Tuesday, the 6th, we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, and later on we celebrate the Assumption of Mary (15th), and the Queenship of Mary (22nd). But the month also contains feasts of some of the Church’s most extraordinary and important saints.
Today (Sunday, the 4th) is the feast of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests. (Pray for your priests especially today!)
Then there’s the great founders or reformers of religious orders. St. Dominic (8th): founder of the Dominicans and friend of our own Dominican, St. Raymond. There’s St. Claire of Assisi (11th), founder of the Poor Clares. And of course the great St. Bernard of Clairvaux (20th), Doctor of the Church, great reformer of the Benedictines and the whole medieval Church. Also: St. Jane Frances de Chantal (12th) founder of the Visitation Sisters; St. John Eudes (19th) (my name saint and patron), founder of the Eudists and first promoter of liturgical devotion to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts; St. Cajetan (7th), founder of the Theatines; and St. Peter Julian Eymard (2nd), founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.
We have the great saints of ancient times: St. Bartholomew the Apostle (24th), and St. Eusebius (2nd); and St. Lawrence (10th) who was martyred over a fiery pit, making light of his suffering: “I’m done on this side, you can turn me over!” And we have great saints of modern times: St. Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (9th) and St. Maximilian Kolbe (14th)—both powerful witnesses to the truth and love of Christ, and martyred in the Nazi concentration camps.
Also the illustrious saintly kings: St. Stephen (16th) first king of Hungary, and St. Louis (25th), the pious king of France. And the holy Popes: St. Sixtus II (7th), St. Pontian (13th), and St. Pius X (21st). And lest we forget the tiny but magnificent flower of Peru, patroness of all Latin America, St. Rose of Lima (23rd).

And then there’s the Dedication of St. Mary Major (5th), honoring Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Snows; and St. Hippolytus (13th). who was the first anti-pope, but who repented, in the 3rd century.

And we close the month in a flourish: St. Monica (27th) patroness of parents whose children seem to be lost to sin, and mother of St. Augustine (28th) who was the worst of sinners before becoming the most revered Church Father and the Church’s greatest theologian. And finally, we celebrate the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (29th), of whom Christ said there was “no greater man born of a woman.”
There is nothing ordinary about “Ordinary Time”—especially August, this month of incredible saints. Each of them is our brother and sister in Christ, living in heaven with Christ—and from there loving, protecting and interceding for us. And each is teaching us something special and unique about what it means to follow Christ, and to love Him above all things. These holy ones call to us from the ages and from heaven to talk to them in prayer, study their lives and imitate their example. Take time to answer their call—each day in this extraordinary and holy month of August!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 28, 2019

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 28, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;

seek and you will find;

knock and the door will be opened to you.”

What more wonderful promise does Jesus make in all of Sacred Scripture?

In it we are completely disarmed by the generosity of God.

 

But at the same time,

we know that Jesus expects us to ask for things that are good for us:

“If you then, who are wicked,

know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will the Father in heaven give…

to those who ask Him?”

 

We don’t always know what’s good for us,

but Jesus, who made us, always knows.

And He knows that each one of us is created for and are in fundamental need

of really only two things:

two gifts which our whole Christian faith revolves around:

the gifts of Life and Love.

 

Today’s 2nd reading St. Paul tells us that Christ

“brought you to life along with him”

Elsewhere in Scripture St. John tells us:

God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us,

that God sent His only Son into the world,

so that we might live through Him.”

Life and love, go hand in hand in the mystery of being a Christian

–and really in the mystery of being human.

 

In fact we find this in the very first chapter of the Bible:

the story of the creation of man, in the book of Genesis.

In that story we find that God creates man not because He needs to

but because, this God who is love,

in whom living and loving are the same thing,

this God does not need to do anything,

but naturally wants to share His life and love.

So out of His life of love He generously gives life to us,

a life that receives God’s love and lives to return that love.

 

Genesis tells us “God created man in His own image:

male and female He created them.”

This one creature–Man–in his very being, is created sexually as two,

and this difference shows that in his very being

he is created to live and love with another

–and to do so most sublimely in the context of their sexual identities

as male and female, as partners in marriage.

 

But this is a very different view of things than the world has.

For the world we live in,

marriage is often reduced to whatever people want it to be

–a concept of marriage created by men in their own image.

A very different view of what marriage is,

and so, a very different view of the meaning of sexuality.

 

So for example, today civil marriages

can be legally terminated by the simple decision of a judge.

And two men or two woman can be civilly “married.”

Quiet different from the teaching of Jesus Himself in Matthew Chapter 19:

“from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female‘ …

they are no longer two but one flesh…

what God has joined together, no man can separate.”

And we see a culture that sees sexuality as a matter of

an absolute individualistic right to self-satisfaction

–not as a generous mutual self-gift of life and love.

We live in a world that in many ways would make

the people of Sodom and Gomorrah blush.

 

___

51 years ago tomorrow, on July 29, 1968, Pope Paul VI

wrote a very short but also very historical letter

reiterating the Church’s ancient understanding of

the essential integration and unity

of human life and love in marriage and sexuality

The letter was called “Humanae Vitae“: “On Human Life.”

 

In Humanae Vitae Pope Paul called us to go back to Genesis Chapter 1.

He reminded us that married people are called to share life and love

generously in the image of God

–living this love in very human ways.

Sometimes this is in very ordinary ways,

such as living together in the same house.

But sometimes its in a very special way:

a most concrete, dramatic, intense, and wonderfully joyful way,

in human physical sexual intimacy:

a human act which is a sacramental expression

of the generous life-giving quality of God’s love,

and the love-giving quality of God’s life

found in the very creation of man described in Genesis.

 

This is what acts of sexual intimacy are intrinsically designed to mean

–and anything less is a corruption of this meaning:

an insult to the dignity of the human person, spouses, children,

and God Himself.

So that St. Pope Paul VI repeated what the Church has always taught,

that it is always morally wrong to intentionally separate

the life giving meaning of human sexual intimacy

from its love giving meaning.

So that any direct and intentional attempt

to render procreation impossible in the conjugal act

is absolutely contrary

to the divine meaning of human love and human life,

and to the eternal and unchanging will of God.

In short, contraception is always a grave sin.

 

____

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us:

“What father among you would hand his son a snake

when he asks for a fish?

Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?”

What husband or wife among you would give your spouse

an act of only false intimacy and selfish sterility

when they ask you to give yourself completely

in an act of true love that is directed or open to

bearing the fruit of new life!

 

____

This is a very hard concept to accept,

especially surrounded by a world with a very different view of sexuality.

But if the world has clearly taken a contra-Christian approach

to the meaning of marriage

in its acceptance of divorce, adultery, and even homosexuality,

perhaps we can see that it has also gone very wrong

in its understanding of the fundamental meaning of sex itself.

 

____

I know so many people struggle with this–its so different.

For many of you this represents an immediate and intensely personal struggle

–a struggle with what you’ve been told by the world

and also a struggle with what your own passions.

Struggle, if you must, but keep trying, or begin today,

to think, pray and study about

what the Church really has to say and offer in its beautiful teaching

on the mystery of  human life and love.

 

And don’t be discouraged or feel overwhelmed

by what seems to be the impossibility of fulfilling its demands.

Take to heart the wonderful words of Jesus in today’s Gospel:

“ask and you will receive; seek and you will find;

knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Be persistent in your pursuit of the truth,

and beg the Lord, for whom nothing is impossible:

to understand His teaching,

and to give you the generosity necessary

to sacrifice personal pride or desires

to live in His love and conform to His eternal will.

 

Begin today, and persevere, and He will give you what you need

to understand and live the divine mystery of human love and human life.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Vacation. I hope all of you will get a chance to get away on vacation this summer. All of us need a rest from our work, and summer is a great time to take that rest, especially for families—and priests. Working a 6 to 7 day week, basically “on-call” 24 hours, I find that if I don’t take a week’s vacation every 4 months (I get 4 weeks off a year) I soon begin to get a little cranky and weary of the daily chores. This year, my 4 months was up in May, but my vacation plans fell through. So I’ve been really needing to get away.
So I got away last week to Alaska. I went up to visit former parishioners, John and Geri Forbes, in Anchorage (they say “hi” to all their friends at St. Raymond’s), and they graciously showed me the sites. The Alaska Gulf coast area is breathtakingly beautiful–seems like most of it is a national park, with mountains, lakes, glaciers, and ocean. And wildlife. I saw lots of that, especially around the water: whales (orcas and humpbacks), harbor seals, sea lions, otters and birds (especially the colorful puffin). And fish. We spent two days fishing, one on a boat in the gulf and another wading in the mouths of rivers. I hadn’t been fishing in 40 years, but I had a blast. I kept praying to St. Peter, St. John and St. Raymond for help with the catch, and even asked the Lord Jesus which side of the boat I should cast my line, but I wound up not catching much (no salmon, but I did catch a 15lb rockfish). But the great thing about fishing is you don’t have to catch anything to have fun and relax. And that was the most important things for me—to relax.
Also, thanks be to the Good Lord and my guardian angel, we had excellent weather—sunny and highs around 70 every day. All in all, a very relaxing and refreshing getaway.
Now, back to work.
Which reminds me. I have to thank you all, and the Lord, that coming home from vacation is not a burden or a regret. I love coming home to St. Raymond’s.

Great News: Fr. Duesterhaus is back. It has been my sad experience that most times when a priest is accused of some wrongdoing, especially involving abuse of a child, he almost never returns to active duty in his diocese—even if he is cleared of all charges. Of course, if he is fairly tried and found guilty, so be it—let him be punished accordingly, especially if child sexual abuse is involved. But the problem is, once a priest is accused and temporarily removed from his duties during the investigation of the charges, his good name is often ruined forever—again, even if he’s finally cleared.
That should not be the case. It must not be the case. A priest gives his life for the Church—for you and me—and should be, 1) presumed innocent until proven guilty, and 2) restored to honor and respect when he is thoroughly investigated and cleared.
That being the case, I am truly overjoyed to welcome back to public ministry my good friend Fr. Michael Duesterhaus. In March 2018, Fr. Duesterhaus was placed on administrative leave after the Diocese of Arlington received what it deemed, preliminarily, to be a credible report of “child sexual abuse and other inappropriate conduct.” He has been prohibited from exercising public ministry since then.
However, on January 17 the Diocese was informed that the Stafford County Commonwealth Attorney was not pursuing criminal charges against Fr. Duesterhaus (this followed similar previous decisions in other jurisdictions). Subsequently, the Diocese also completed its own internal investigation of all allegations, and this week it was announced that the Diocesan Review Board and the Bishop have concluded that the allegations were not credible.
And so Fr. Duesterhaus is cleared of all accusations, is no longer on administrative leave, and is back on duty, free to exercise public priestly ministry. He is currently completing graduate studies he had already begun, but will be helping out in parishes as he is available and needed.
Alleged victims must always be heard, and accused priests must be investigated. The innocent must be protected and the guilty must be punished. But the wrongly accused must be restored.
After he’d been acquitted of highly publicized criminal charges, one former presidential cabinet member asked: “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?” Fr. Duesterhaus never lost his reputation with me, and I wholeheartedly look forward to welcoming him back to public ministry, and hope you and your friends will welcome him back as well.

Altar Rail and Pulpit: Status Report. First of all, I have to thank so many of you who have contributed to the project. As of this writing we have just over $111,000 in pledges/donations. Thanks so much for your generosity.
Unfortunately, I have to report some news that is not so good, and quite embarrassing to me, personally. Originally I estimated the total cost of the project to be about $75,000, based on figures I had received from the designer. But I misunderstood what he was pricing to me, and so much so that I grossly underestimated the cost. Right now I’m projecting a final cost of $134,000. That may come down or go up (a bit), depending on various factors, including the cost of the type of marble we choose to go with. I will continue to update you as the numbers get more solid.
I’m sorry I got this estimate so wrong—as a numbers guy, I should have had a better handle on this. The bottom line is that we are on a good pace to raise the funds for the project, but we still need more donations. If we raise more than is needed, I will be in touch with every donor to see how they would like to proceed—offering refunds if they like. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’ve already done that once. Thanks for your patience with me. And your generosity.

Email Addresses. When we need to send word around to the parish on important matters we like to send a mass email to everyone. If you haven’t received any emails from the parish in the last few months, please send an email with the parish office (office@straymonds.org) to let us know—maybe we have the wrong address for you.

Victoria Bliss. Please keep parishioner, Tori Bliss (daughter of John and Glenn), in your prayers these next two weeks as she completes her long walk across the country with Crossroads, bearing a strong pro-life witness to the folks along her route. We are expecting her and some of her co-walkers to be here to speak at St. Raymond’s at the Sunday Masses on August 10-11. God bless and keep her!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles