TEXT: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 15, 2018

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 15, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

Today we read a very familiar text of the Gospels:

Jesus sending out the 12 apostles

to proclaim the gospel, heal the sick and drive out demons.

I’m sure you’ve heard homilies addressing various aspects of this text,

but, and I may be wrong,

but I bet there’s one aspect you’ve never heard a homily about.

And that’s what I’d like to talk about today.

 

The text tells us: “they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”

We hear this and usually focus on the fact that the apostles cured the sick,

but we almost always overlook how they did it: they anointed with oil.”

 

Yet in these 4 words we find one of the great treasures of the Church:

one of only 7 sacraments of the Church,

the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

 

Now, a “sacrament” is defined as

“an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.”

It always amazes me when Christians

—specifically Protestants, but also many Catholics—

deny the existence or efficacy of the sacraments.

Because it seems very clear to me that Christ did in fact

give them to us for our sanctification.

 

For example, He told us that,

“unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit,

he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

And then we read how He supervised His apostles baptizing people,

and then commanded them as He ascended into heaven:

“go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them!”

 

Or take the Eucharist.

He tells His apostles,

“the bread which I shall give ….is My flesh

unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man … you have no life in you.”

And then He took bread and said, “this is My body…Do this in memory of me.”

 

We are physical beings, and as such we communicate and understand and live

through physical realities.

We talk to each other by moving our tongues and then hear with our ears.

We comfort each other with the physical smiles of our mouths,

or with the physical embrace of our arms.

And Jesus knows this, because, as Creator, He made us this way.

And so to communicate His gospel, He doesn’t just send the Holy Spirit.

NO! First He comes in a body, to proclaim the gospel

with the words of His mouth,

and to suffer for our sins by the sacrifice of His body.

 

And to continue that communication after His bodily ascension into heaven,

He left us physical outward signs to communicate His grace.

On the one hand, we have the words He taught,

written down in scripture so that we can physically read and hear them.

On the other hand, we have the physical body of the Church,

the living family of Christ we can physically belong to and learn from.

Yes, the Spirit comes and works in us,

but first through and using these physical realities.

 

And the same thing with the sacraments, which Christ established

using physical outward signs to give grace,

to communicate what they symbolize.

So water symbolizes purification and life-giving, and so it’s used for baptism.

And bread symbolizes fundamental nourishment

necessary for sustaining and strengthening life,

and so it’s used for the Eucharist.

 

And in the ancient world oil was used as one of the most important medicines.

We still use it for that today.

But in the ancient world, oil was also used for many more things than that:

to give light, to cook, to clean, as a perfume, and on and on.

In fact, it was used for so many things that it became

a symbol of the generosity of all God’s gifts.

And so the ancient Jews used it as a religious symbol

of God giving someone a special gift.

For example, kings, and priests and prophets were anointed

to symbolize that God was giving them a gift of His special power.

 

So Christ took oil, this symbol of both healing and God’s abundant generosity,

and used it as the sign of the outpouring of His grace of healing.

 

___

You might say, but Father, that’s an awful lot to pull out of one short phrase.

True, but that is what the Church has always believed, right from the beginning.

And so we go back to Holy Scripture, to the letter written probably 20 years later

by the Apostles James, where he acknowledges this sacrament, writing:

“Is anyone sick among you?

Let him call for the presbyters (or priests) of the church;

and let them pray over him,

anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

and the prayer of faith shall save the sick person…

and if he has committed any sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

 

This was the belief and practice of the apostles:

this is the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

 

_____

So then, what exactly do we believe about this sacrament?

First of all it is a sacrament of healing.

But while this can certainly involve physical healing,

its primary effect and purpose is spiritual healing.

The Catechism summarizes the specific effects of the grace of sacrament, telling us:

— it unites the sick person to the passion of Christ;

— it spiritually strengthens them, giving them peace and courage;

— it imparts the forgiveness of sins,

if the sick person is not able to confess their sins;

— and it restores physical health, if that is part of God’s plan;

— and finally, it prepares the person to pass over to eternal life.

 

Now, it’s important to remember, physical healing is not the primary purpose

spiritual healing is.

So I’ve given the sacrament to many people,

and I’ve seen many physical healings,

sometimes spectacular and clearly miraculous.

But most of the times I don’t.

And that didn’t mean the sacrament didn’t work.

Because in almost every case, I’ve see a change in the disposition of the person

as they receive inner the strength to face their illness in faith and in peace.

The power of Christ to endure trial in peace, and even to allow it to purify them,

and draw them closer to Jesus.

 

___

The question then comes up, who can receive this powerful sacrament?

Contrary to a popular notion,

Anointing is not reserved to those who are on their death bed.

It is often rightly given on the death bed, and then as part of the Last Rites

we call it the “Last Anointing,” or from the Latin, “Extreme Unction.”

But it’s frustrating to me that sometimes

the first time I hear about a deadly illness

is when the family calls me to give the last rites.

I’m happy to give them, but I think, “if only you had called months before….”

Perhaps there could have been a physical healing,

but certainly their father or grandmother or spouse

would have been given the peace of spiritual healing.

 

On the other hand, the sacrament is not given

to those who have just any ailment or weakness, no matter how painful.

Rather, it is reserved for those who suffer from an ailment that causes them to

“begin to be in danger of death.”

In other words, generally speaking, unless your already dangerously weak,

if you have something like a bad cold or flu, back pains, or a broken arm,

you are not generally in “danger of death” and so we don’t anoint them.

However, if someone is in the early stages of cancer or heart disease,

or any other serious illness that truly does present a real danger of death,

even if only the “begin[ning]”, these persons may, and should, be anointed.

And if someone is truly weak due to “old age,”

then definition of danger of danger death might apply.

___

Also, Anointing can be repeated if the person gets worse

or has a relapse of the same illness, or comes down with another ailment.

 

It can even be given to someone who’s unconscious,

as long as they at least implicitly asked for it when they were able to

–in other words, for example, you go to Mass every Sunday,

so if you were in a coma I would assume that would want the sacrament.

 

There are however, some limitations on who the sacrament.

First, the priest can’t give it to someone who

“obstinately persists in a manifestly grave sin,” and refuses to repent.

 

Also, the sacrament can only be received by a Catholic who has

“reached the use of reason,” in other words, over, about, 7 years old,

essentially because before then a child can’t be guilty of sin,

and so, after Baptism, there’s in no need of the spiritual healing of Anointing.

Many argue, “but we want the physical healing of the sacrament.”

I get that, but that is simply not in God’s plan for the sacrament.

But remember, God is not limited by the sacraments, we are:

maybe I can’t anoint a person,

but God can heal anytime, anyplace, according to His Holy will and mercy.

 

___

Finally, one other important thing about this sacrament:

like all the sacraments, it can only be given to the living.

Nothing saddens me more than being called after a person has already died

—there’s not much I can do.

I remember one time, when I was newly ordained,

the hospital called at about 4 in the morning,

asking me to anoint a patient who had just died.

Now, I was young and foolish, and already been to the hospital twice that night.

So in my sleepiness and foolishness, I blurted out, “Right now? But he’s dead!”

Now this was stupid, and I knew it as soon as I said it.

So I went and prayed with family and blessed the body.

But I couldn’t give him the grace of the sacrament.

 

___

Now, understand, the Church and her priests

never want to deny the sacraments to those may receive them.

So we follow the rule:

If there is any doubt” whether the person

has reached the age of reason, or has a life-threatening illness,

or is unrepentant, or is dead,

we give the sacrament.

 

___

What a beautiful sacrament, what a great gift from Jesus.

And yet, like the short but powerful phrase in today’s gospel,

“they anointed with oil,”

it so often gets overlooked and forgotten.

 

Of course, this is probably because most of the time

we’re not suffering from life threatening illness,

so we don’t think about it or talk about it.

 

But now, I’ve talked about it, and now, you think about it.

If you or someone you love needs the sacrament, do NOT hesitate

to call me or Fr. Smith or any other priest, and we would be happy to help.

 

____

As we now move more deeply into the Mystery of the greatest Sacrament,

the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist,

as we prepare ourselves to receive Our Lord,

let us consider the great gift that this and each of the sacraments is:

that Jesus would so kindly give His little ones’ signs of His active love,

that He would literally show us His love

in such simple but understandable and powerful ways.

And let us pray for an ever-deepening appreciation of

these Divine and precious treasures,

especially the one revealed to us today:

“they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Supreme Court Nominee. Back in October of 2016, just before the last Presidential election, I wrote: “I see this election as voting mainly for the Supreme Court. As I’ve said before, the Justices (Judges) on the Supreme Court are the most powerful people in our government, as they regularly uphold or throw out decisions by our elected officials—both the President and those in Congress—as well as decades, centuries, and millennia of precedents and common sense assumptions of Western Society. For example, it was one vote (on a 5 to 4 vote), so one Justice, who overturned the immemorial unanimous belief that marriage was only between a male and female and it was one vote/Justice who kept abortion a fundamental inalienable right….And that’s what it comes down to for me: The Supreme Court and abortion, traditional marriage, religious liberty/freedom of conscience, and the attack on common sense (the transgendered issue). And the next President will select up to 4 members of the Supreme Court.”
On Wednesday, June 27, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court. When he was nominated to the court in 1988 by President Reagan, Kennedy did not have a clear track record on the bench and was not very well known, but the people thought he would be a strong pro-life and traditional values Justice, since he was reputed to be a “conservative” and a faithful Catholic. But Kennedy proved to be a huge disappointment. He was the “one vote,” the “one Justice,” I was writing about in October, who redefined marriage and upheld the right to abortion.
To replace him, President Trump has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Like Kennedy, Kavanaugh comes to us with a reputation for being a conservative and a faithful Catholic. But unlike Kennedy, Kavanaugh is extremely well known to pro-life, pro-religious liberty and pro-traditional marriage lawyers as being one of them. I do not know him personally, but have spoken to several very close and trusted friends of mine who do know him very well, and they all vehemently assure me that Kavanaugh is the real deal. Praised be Jesus Christ!
When many of us voted in November of 2016, we were voting not so much for either of the troubling candidates, but for the Supreme Court Justices they would appoint. President Trump, love him or hate him, has fulfilled his promise to appoint pro-life,etc. justices, in both Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Unfortunately, the radical left has come unhinged, and are pledging to pull out all the stops to keep Kavanaugh from being approved by the Senate. With the increased vitriolic language and violent behavior of the left in the last year or so, I am greatly afraid for our nation, and especially for the wellbeing of Judge Kavanaugh and his family.
So I ask you to pray to Our Lord, with the intercession of Our Lady, that the process of Senate consent will be peaceful and just, and render a choice compatible with His Holy Will. “All things are possible for God.” In particular, I encourage you to pray to the two patron saints of lawyers, St. Thomas More and St. Raymond of Peñafort. I especially recommend the daily recitation of the new Prayer to St. Raymond of Peñafort:
“Glorious Saint Raymond of Peñafort, wise and holy patron, come to the aid of those entrusted to your care, and all who flee to your protection. Intercede for us in our need, and help us through your prayers, example, and teaching, to proclaim the truth of the Gospel to all we meet. And when we have reached the fullness of our years, we beseech you to guide us home to heaven, to live in peace with you, Our Mother Mary, and Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Brown Scapular. Tomorrow, Monday, July 16, is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, memorializing the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite priest, and her gift to him of the “Brown Scapular” on July 16, 1251. (The original Carmelite Brown Scapular is a long piece of fabric, as wide as the shoulders, worn down the front and back (reaching down to the feet) with a hole in the center for the head). “Take, beloved son,” she said, “this Scapular of your order as a badge of my confraternity and for you and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant.” The Carmelites immediately began to wear this Scapular as part of their regular habit, and very soon many non-Carmelites, both lay and cleric, also began to wear it, usually in a smaller form of a two small pieces of cloth bound by two strings, worn around the neck, hanging down in front and back. This practice continues to this day.
From the beginning, it was understood that in order to participate in Our Lady’s promises the wearer of the Scapular must be officially associated with the Carmelite order. So the Carmelites established the “Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel,” which any Catholic may be enrolled in through a short ceremony conducted by a priest.
Even so, the Scapular is in no way a “a good luck charm.” Rather, as Pope Pius XII wrote, it “is a sign and a pledge of the protection of the Mother of God.” And as St. John Paul II wrote, it is a sign that evokes “the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honor on certain occasions, but must become a ‘habit’, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.”
Moreover, the wearer of the Scapular may not “think that they can gain eternal salvation while remaining sinful and negligent of spirit.” You can’t live a sinful life presuming that the Scapular will erase all sins on your death bed. Rather, the Scapular is more a pledge of the Blessed Mother’s intercession at the moment of death, to obtain for us from her Son the grace necessary to repent of any mortal sins. But grace is not magic, it is a gift that we must accept. The soul that lives a life of sin is less disposed to accept (or even strongly disposed to reject) that grace.
Note: the promises of Our Lady are private revelations, and so not something we have to believe. Moreover, they should only be understood in the light of Church teaching. Even so, confidence in her promises, and wearing of the scapular, has been strongly promoted by scores of popes.
With this in mind, we will be enrolling folks in the Confraternity and investing them with the Brown Scapular today, July 15, after both the 8:45 and 10:30 Mass. Scapulars will be provided, or you may bring your own.

Oremus pro invicem, Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 8, 2018

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 8, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

In today’s Gospel we encounter 2 very disconcerting facts.

First, it tells us that the people in Jesus’ tiny home town of Nazareth

His old friends and even family, “Took offense at Him.”

Second, it tells us: “So He was not able to perform any mighty deed there.”

 

Let’s look at these a little more carefully, beginning with the first one.

Why is it that the Nazoreans took offense at Jesus,

refusing to accept His teachings?

A lot of times we think,

“if only Jesus would come to me and speak to me

—that would strengthen me, and my faith, so much.”

So it’s kind of stunning to us

that even these people who knew Jesus so well, His own people,

who He came to and taught personally,

wouldn’t believe in Him.

 

But if you think about it, it’s not that surprising.

Jesus offended people all the time, saying a whole lot of things

that were hard for them to accept and believe.

For example, remember the Bread of Life discourse in John 6,

when He taught His disciples that He would give them

a bread that would really be His own body,

and they had to eat it to have eternal life?

Scripture tells us:

“Many of His disciples…said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

But Jesus, “Do you take offense at this? ….

…After this many of His disciples …no longer [followed] Him.”

 

Or remember Matthew’s chapter 19, where Jesus lays out 6 very hard sayings:

including the prohibition of divorce, and re-marriage after divorce;

and the teaching that some people are simply not capable of marriage

—their either born that way or made that way by others.

Scripture tells us the apostles,

“were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

In other words, even they had a hard time believing these hard sayings.

 

Why is this such a surprise that people in Jesus’ time

would take offense at his hard sayings?

—we see the exact same thing all throughout the last 2000 years,

and especially today.

The Church says: “no divorce and remarriage”;

and that “homosexuals just can’t marry each other,

whether they were born that way or made that way by others.”

Don’t people take offense at that?—and all it is, is the direct teaching of Jesus.

Even members of his Church take offense

—even sometimes bishops and priests—

“His own kin and in His own house,” as it were.

Why are we surprised that the people of Nazareth took offense?

 

Jesus can be offensive, if we cling to our sins, or refuse to have faith.

 

____

Which brings us to the 2nd disconcerting fact in today’s Gospel reading,

the fact that: “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there.”

How can Jesus “not be able” to perform a miracle?

After all, He’s God, isn’t He?

 

But notice, in fact, Jesus is “able” to perform miracles in Nazareth.

The text goes on to say,

“apart from curing a few sick people by laying His hands on them.”

So He did do miracles there.

 

To understand all this you have to remember

that Jesus usually performed miracles for one of two reasons:

either to show His power so that people would believe in Him,

or simply out of mercy to the afflicted.

 

The only thing that limits Jesus

is either His own divine nature or our human nature.

His divine nature limits him in the sense that,

for example, as God by nature He is not capable of doing any evil,

He is not capable of not loving.

And our human nature limits Him in the sense that

in His love for us He respects our free will

—and limits Himself according to our choices.

 

Here in Nazareth He is “amazed at their lack of faith.”

His own people are, in the words of today’s first reading:

“Hard of face and obstinate of heart.”

There’s not a thing he can say or do to change their minds,

so there’s no reason to perform a great sign,

except out of mercy for “a few sick people.”

 

Think of all the times He performed great miracles,

and still the eyewitnesses didn’t believe in Him.

Again, go back to the Bread of Life discourse

—right before that

His disciples personally witnessed Him feed five thousand men,

“with five …loaves and two fish.”

And still many of them they left Him because His sayings about the Eucharist

were too hard to accept.

 

Same thing here in Nazareth, so He says, in effect,

“no miracles, believe or don’t, it’s up to you.”

The only thing limiting Him is His respect for their free will choice to reject Him

 

____

Of course, He faces the same problem today.

Through His holy Catholic Church He continues to proclaim the hard sayings,

and people still take offense because of a lack of faith.

Even His own people.

For example, Americans, 90% of whom were born into the Christian families,

but so many now reject Christ and His teachings.

And Europe, a civilization saturated in and founded on

Christian history and heritage,

and now the faithful are only a small minority.

And you and I—we also all too often take offense at His teachings

because all too often our faith is too weak.

 

Some people say, that’s why it would be great

if He’d show some great sign of His power.

But again, that didn’t work so well 2000 years ago:

remember the feeding of the 5 thousand.

And it really doesn’t work today.

In my opinion Christ has been performing an incredible mighty deed

for 2000 years—His Church.

The “miracle of the Church”—founded on the ministries

of men like St. Peter, a humble fisherman who denied Jesus 3 times.

Or St. Paul, who tells us in today’s 2nd reading that

he suffered from some unnamed weakness he describes as

“a thorn in the flesh …an angel of Satan.”

 

And for 2000 years it has been ruled by and filled with weak men and women,

even great sinners:

laymen, priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes.

And yet look at what she has done:

the Catholic Church has dramatically changed the world,

and still survives today as a strong dominant voice and force

for truth, worship and charity.

 

If that’s not a mighty deed of Jesus I don’t know what is.

And instead of inspiring awe and faith, it seems to draw only disrespect.

 

Of course, sometimes miracles can be helpful in strengthening faith.

But you know, sometimes God works more effectively

by not doing might deeds

—by remaining silent, or simply speaking in a quiet voice.

 

____

Let me give you a personal example.

I apologize if you’ve heard part of this story before,

and I’ll try to make a long story short.

29 years ago I was working at a moderately successful career

with one of the large international accounting firms.

But after a major restructuring in the firm, I decided to quit,

confident that I’d have my pick of jobs with other companies.

But it didn’t turn out that way, and days turned into weeks,

and weeks into months.

 

So I started to really get serious about my prayers.

And then I realized a couple of things:

first, what success I’d had, had really been a gift from God

—He had been doing mighty deeds for me all along.

And second, I realized that I was asking Him for a new mighty work

—“find me a great job”—

even though I had had very little faith in Him.

 

In short, by doing nothing, he forced me to my knees and to believe.

And then, He did do a mighty deed.

At first, it was a wonderful career opportunity.

But pretty soon it began to lead to where I am today.

 

___

Sometimes, it’s only when God holds back His might deeds

that we are able to see His mighty deeds

—because it is only when we realize how weak we are on our own

that we can begin to see Christ’s true might,

and how strong we could be with His grace.

 

For as Jesus told His apostles at the end of all the hard sayings in Matthew 19:

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

And as he said to St. Paul in today’s second reading:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

And so St. Paul summarizes: “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

____

Now some will surely say that all this merely wishful thinking,

or a psychological self-deception.

“Of course,” they say, “when you’re weak you can become desperate,

so you cling to religion as a way to explain things.”

Maybe.

They can believe that if they want to.

 

But that’s not what we believe.

We believe there is an all-powerful God, who loves us.

We believe that He came into the world to teach us how to live and love,

and to save us from our weakness, by the power of His grace.

And we believe that it’s only when we humble ourselves

to recognize our weakness and sins,

and the power of his words and grace,

that we can become the truly good men and women He created us to be.

 

____

As we now move deeper into this Holy Mass,

let us have faith in Our Lord Jesus

and in everything He’s taught us,

even the sayings that are sometimes offensive

to our sinful and obstinate hearts.

And let us kneel before Him humbly

firm in faith that by the power of His grace

“when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

4 th of July. Thanks be to God for the many gifts He has showered on our beloved nation.
Some thoughts below about His role in our nation’s history.
Pope Saint John Paul II, Welcome to the New American Ambassador to the Holy
See, December 16, 1997 (excerpt)
The Founding Fathers of the United States asserted their claim to freedom and
independence on the basis of certain “self-evident” truths about the human person:
truths which could be discerned in human nature, built into it by “nature’s God.” Thus
they meant to bring into being, not just an independent territory, but a great experiment
in what George Washington called “ordered liberty”…. Reading the founding documents
of the United States, one has to be impressed by the concept of freedom they enshrine: a
freedom designed to enable people to fulfill their duties and responsibilities toward the
family and toward the common good of the community. Their authors clearly understood
that there could be no true freedom without moral responsibility and accountability, and
no happiness without respect and support for the natural units or groupings through
which people exist, develop, and seek the higher purposes of life in concert with others.
The American democratic experiment has been successful in many ways. …But the
continuing success of American democracy depends on the degree to which each new
generation, native-born and immigrant, makes its own the moral truths on which the
Founding Fathers staked the future of your Republic.
….Respect for religious conviction played no small part in the birth and early
development of the United States. Thus John Dickinson, Chairman of the Committee for
the Declaration of Independence, said in 1776: “Our liberties do not come from
charters; for these are only the declaration of preexisting rights. They do not depend on
parchments or seals; but come from the King of Kings and the Lord of all the earth.”
Indeed it may be asked whether the American democratic experiment would have been
possible, or how well it will succeed in the future, without a deeply rooted vision of divine
providence over the individual and over the fate of nations.
George Washington's First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789 (excerpt)
…it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent
supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the
Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his
benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United
States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may
enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the
functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every
public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my
own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to
acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than
the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character
of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential
agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United

Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct
communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by
which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude
along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage.
These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on
my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none
under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more
auspiciously commence.
By the article establishing the Executive Department, it is made the duty of the
President "to recommend to your consideration, such measures as he shall judge
necessary and expedient." …[T]he foundations of our National policy will be laid in the
pure and immutable principles of private morality; and the pre-eminence of a free
Government, be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its
Citizens, and command the respect of the world.
I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my
Country can inspire: since there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there
exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and
happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and
magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity: Since we
ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected
on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has
ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the
Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps
as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people….
Having thus imparted to you my sentiments, as they have been awakened by the
occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without
resorting once more to the benign parent of the human race, in humble supplication….so
his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate
consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must
depend.
George Washington's Farewell Address, September 17, 1796 (excerpt)
Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and
Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of
Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these
firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the
pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their
connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security
for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths,
which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution
indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may
be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason
and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of

religious principle.
It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular
government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free
government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts
to shake the foundation of the fabric?
Oremus pro invicem, et pro patria. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 1, 2018

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People

to dissolve the Political bands which have connected them with another,

and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station

to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,

a decent respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

 

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….

 

These are the first sentences of the Declaration of Independence.

This week we celebrate the 242nd anniversary

of the signing of this extraordinary document,

which give birth to and form the foundation of

our beloved country.

 

This Declaration is a great and noble document.

This is true especially from our particular perspective as Christians,

because it expresses many ideals that are very Christian.

For instance:

–It affirms that there are, in fact, certain “self-evident…Truths”:

objective truths which are always valid

no matter what we think about them.

–and that the “Laws of nature” behind these truths derive from “God”,

and that these laws are the source of the rights which we cherish.

 

9 of the men who signed this declaration went on to die for these principles

in the American Revolution.

And for the last 2 ½ centuries many of our ancestors

—and maybe your yourself or members of your immediate family—

went to war for these same principles,

and some are at war right now.

These Americans have made many terrible but beautiful sacrifices

—some even the ultimate sacrifice of death.

 

This is a great country: one to die for.

And one to live for.

Capable of wondrous and noble achievements.

But unfortunately, also capable of terrible failures.

 

___

One of the most important—and Christian—ideals expressed

in the Declaration of Independence

is the notion of certain inalienable rights.

But when our forefathers enshrined these rights in the Declaration

they presumed 2 things:

first, that those rights were inalienable

precisely because they came from God, and not from governments;

and second, that those rights were inalienable only to the extent

they were used in conformity with their just and good purpose

as defined by that God who gave them to us.

They presumed, in other words, that those rights were subject

to the commonly accepted moral principles and structures

of the American people of 1776

—the basic principles of traditional Christian morality.

 

But in the last 50 years or so we seem to have forgotten some of that,

as those rights have sometimes taken on a whole new

and even perverse meaning.

Let’s think for a moment of the modern notions of

the rights called “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

 

Let’s start with liberty.

Liberty was critical to the founders because they wanted people

to be free to become the best they could be.

Freedom to become, not freedom to degenerate.

Freedom to accept all the good things God gives you,

to lift up yourself, your family and your community to be great.

Not freedom to waste your God given gifts and talents,

destroy your family or betray your community.

 

It is true that when we allow people the freedom to become,

we also give them great freedom to not become—or to become bad.

But that is not why God gives us freedom.

In today’s first reading from the book of Wisdom we read:

God fashioned all things that they might have being;

and the creatures of the world are wholesome,

and there is not a destructive drug among them.”

God creates us to be good.

And God gives us freedom to choose; as Moses tells us elsewhere:

“I have set before you life and death, …therefore choose life!”

God gives us the liberty to choose,

but not so we would choose what is evil,

but so we would choose what is good—and to be good!

 

This leads us to another right that is so terribly misunderstood today:

the right to “pursue happiness.”

To the signers of the Declaration of Independence,

the term “pursuit of happiness” had a well-developed meaning.

Now, it is true that there was some debate

over what exactly constituted “happiness” and the “pursuit” thereof,

but it was all within certain very narrow philosophical parameters.

For example, some maintained that happiness was basically equivalent

with living a virtuous life.

Others argued that happiness was about a sense of safety and security.

Still others argued it had to do with an overall sense of well-being.

But absolutely no one thought it meant what most people nowadays

seem to think means: the right to pursue pleasure.

Mix that with the false modern notion of “liberty”

and you have something no American had in mind 242 years:

freedom to do whatever makes you feel good.

 

By any standard, happiness and pleasure are not the same.

The immediate pleasures sought by a teenager

–in drugs or alcohol or sex or thrill seeking–

will never lead to the happiness of that same man or woman at 40.

The lonely old man or woman who cheated on their spouse

or neglected their children

or drank every other paycheck,

may have had a lot of fun, but no one calls them happy.

 

Pleasure is a cup gulped greedily and in haste,

but then all you have left is an empty cup.

As we read today:

“God formed man to be imperishable;

the image of His own nature He made him.”

To reach our full potential as the image of God–

–to fill the cup of life with His goodness

—this is true happiness.

 

____

And finally we think about the inalienable “right to life.”

As Scripture tells us today:

“God did not make death…

death entered the world… by the envy of the devil.”

Now this doesn’t mean that it’s always a sin kill a human being,

for example, in war:

over and over again God Himself led Israel into battle

and helped them kill their enemies.

Sometimes wars must be fought for just reasons.

 

Without addressing the right or wrong of any particular war,

if we look carefully at our approach to each we can see the effects of

the fundamental importance the founders placed on the right to life.

Most especially we see it in the way all Americans are so concerned about

the possible death of any innocents.

And this is the essence of our founders understanding of “the right to life.”

That a man, woman or child who is innocent of crimes or injustices,

has a right to live a life of liberty pursuing true happiness.

 

Still, it is amazing to me,

that we Americans can be so concerned—rightly—

about the right to life of innocent civilians in war,

while at the same time,

so many of Americans deny that same right to life

to the most innocent American civilians—unborn babies.

Thousands raise loud protests against soldiers accused of war atrocities,

but how many of those raise a cry against the doctors

who abort innocent babies,

or a scientist who destroys an embryo for experimentation,

or a politician who protects and funds them?

What about the inalienable right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

of unborn babies?

 

 

We truly live in the greatest country on earth.

And yet sometimes we seem to have lost sight

of the meaning of the founding principles,

upon which this greatness was built.

What do we do?

 

We do what Jairus did in today’s Gospel:

we go to Jesus, plead for his help, bring him to our troubled nation,

and we believe that he will save us.

America needs Jesus.

It needs a new American Christian Revolution.

Not one based in violence or hatred,

but in truth and love.

Armed not with guns and bombs,

but with the simple principles of our founding

enlighten by the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Not forcing our religion on our countrymen,

but simply exercising that liberties which are

the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech.

 

Friends, we must exercise our God given right to go out and declare the truth

about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We must invite our countrymen to live in the true freedom

that only the truth of Christ can give.

To live life in the love of Christ—to have life in abundance.

And to pursue the holiness of life

that will fulfill our true potential and true happiness

–in this world and the world to come.

 

____

Some say America is too far gone…it seems hopeless.

But it must have seemed  hopeless to Jairus when his friends told him:

“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”

To those who think our cause is hopeless you say, as Jesus did:

“Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.”

Some will ridicule you, as they did Jesus.

Again, remember what Jesus said:

“do not be afraid; just have faith.”

 

Today we thank the Good Lord for the birth of a great nation

born to defend the God given rights of it’s citizens.

For 242 years brave men and women have bravely fought and died

to defend this nation and those rights.

But today as you rightly celebrate her greatness,

“do not be afraid” to recognize her failings,

and “do not be afraid” to bravely fight to save her.

Do not be afraid to proclaim the true meaning

of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“Do not be afraid; just have faith”…in Jesus Christ.

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lighting Work Begins This Week. Remember that the work to install our new lighting
will begin this Monday, July 2, and will finish by September 1. The upstairs church will
be closed from Monday through Friday every week, and the Blessed Sacrament, Masses,
etc., will be moved to the downstairs Parish Hall during the week. The church will be
reopened every Saturday morning and all weekend Masses, etc. will be in the church as
usual. Thanks for your patience and cooperation. And please pray to St. Raymond that all
goes well with the lighting “fix” (see below).
Supreme Court Win for Pro-Lifers. “The US Supreme Court has struck down a portion
of a California law that requires [pro-life] pregnancy-help centers to provide women
with promotional material about abortion. Writing for a 5-4 majority, Justice Clarence
Thomas said: ‘California cannot co-opt the licensed facilities to deliver its message.’ The
decision, on free-speech grounds, suggests that pro-life forces will also succeed to
challenging similar legislation in Illinois and in Hawaii” [source: Catholic World News).
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Litany and Prayer to St. Raymond of Peñafort. In today’s bulletin we’ve included an
insert with a new Litany and Prayer to St. Raymond. I encourage you to incorporate at
least the “Prayer” at the end of the Litany into your regular daily prayers, and so draw
closer to our great Saint. I’d especially like you all to pray at least the prayer every day
during the electrical work in the church.
For years, I have been looking for a good prayer to our Saint, but have been
unsatisfied with what I’ve found. So, I thought I’d try to write something original, and I
am thankful to Bishop Burbidge for quickly giving his imprimatur so that it can be
prayed publicly in the Church.
A lot of Catholics have no idea who St. Raymond was, and most of those who do
think of him as simply a great Canon Lawyer. But, of course, he was much more than
that. So let’s look at the litany and prayer and consider what it’s trying to recall.
Let’s begin with the titles of the Litany:
— “Master of Preachers,” reminds us both that he was a phenomenal preacher and
the head (“Master General”) of the religious order called the “Order of Preachers”—the
Dominicans.
— “Patron of Lawyers,” reminds us of his role in editing and combining all the
various laws of the Church written over 11 centuries in order to issue a well-organized
and codified set of laws for the Church. He is called “Father of Canon Law,” and is
officially the patron saint of all lawyers.
— “Father of Confessors” and “Counselor of Penitents,” remind of his great
treatise, Summa de casibus poenitentiae, written as a scholarly guide for priests in the
confessional.
— “Apostle to Gentiles,” reminds us of his work to convert Spanish Moors
(Muslims, i.e., the “Gentiles” of his day), especially through thoughtful preaching, and of
his encouraging St. Thomas Aquinas to write his great treatise, Summa contra Gentiles,
to help in this regard.

— “Evangelist to Israelites,” reminds of his work to respectfully convert Spanish
Jews; it is said that he was responsible for the conversion of over 30,000 Moors and Jews.
— “Ransomer of Captives,” reminds us of his role in the foundation of Order of
Mercy, or Mercedarians, who were dedicated to ransoming Christian captives of the
Moorish pirates, even offering their own lives in exchange.
— “Teacher of the Learned and the Ignorant,” reminds of his ability to preach to
the well-educated as he was a university professor for many years, and to the under-
educated as he preached in Churches to the masses.
— “Friend of Princes and Paupers,” reminds of us his influential friendship with
people in high places, such as Kings and Popes, as well as his kindness and tenderness to
the poor and lowly.
— “Protector of Sailors,” recalls the miracle of Majorca, where, by the grace of
God, he turned his cape into both skiff and sail, to flee the island and sail to Spain.
— “Comforter of the Aged,” reminds us that he lived to be either 99 or 100 years
old, and is an example of Christian fidelity for the aged, as well as a special friend to
them.
— “Defender of Marriage,” reminds both of his important scholarly treatise,
Summa on Marriage, and his public rebuke of King James’ infidelity in Majorca (see
“Protector of Sailors,” above).
— “Champion of Religious Rights,” “Advocate of Reason,” and “Promoter of
Freedom,” all remind us how, in efforts to convert Jews and Muslims, he encouraged
reasoned discussion, including the famous public debate involving the leading Rabbi of
Spain in 1263. Although not up to modern standards, Raymond’s efforts represented
remarkable strides for religious rights and freedom of speech for his time.
— “Guardian of Justice,” reminds us that as one of the Church’s most expert
scholars of law as well as the Penitentiary of the Church, he was a historical promoter of
justice in both civil society and the Church, exercising his influence in a particular way
over Popes and Kings.
— “Worker of Miracles,” reminds of the many miracles he performed, from the
curing of the sick, to the conversion of obstinate sinners, to the miracle of Majorca.
— “Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” reminds of his great love and devotion to
Mary, and of her appearance to him in 1218.
— “Son of St. Dominic,” reminds us of his membership in the “Order of
Preachers” founded by St. Dominic.
— “Son of the Church,” reminds us of his deep love for Holy Mother Church.
— “Holy Priest of Jesus Christ,” reminds us that with all his amazing
accomplishments, he was first and foremost a priest.
The Prayer itself (which can easily be said separately from the Litany) is pretty
self-explanatory. But I call your attention to some nuances.
This prayer can be said by anyone, but it is first for our parish, and so it refers to
him as “patron,” and to “those entrusted to your care.” Then it mentions “all who flee to
your protection,” a subtle reference to his fleeing from Majorca. It speaks of his

“teaching,” as he was a teacher and scholar, and his help to “proclaim the truth of the
Gospel to all we meet,” referring to his constant preaching to Christians, heretics, Jews
and Muslims. Then it refers to “the fullness of our years,” alluding to his advanced age at
death. Then we ask him to “guide us home to heaven,” which is ultimate goal as our
patron. And finally the phrase says, “to live in peace,” is a reference to his prayer for us,
that “the God of love and peace set your hearts at rest… and brin[g] you at last to that
place of complete plenitude….in the vision of peace….”
4 th of July. Have a blessed 4 th ! Please join us for Mass at 10am to thank God for our great
country and to pray for it.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Sunday June 24, 2018

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

June 24, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

It’s a very unusual feast.

Usually when a saint’s feast day falls on a Sunday

we basically skip over it to celebrate the regular Sunday Mass

—the Lord’s Day.

Also, there are only 3 nativities—or birthdays—we celebrate:

Christmas, Mary’s Birthday, and this one.

Very unusual.

But we do this because St. John is a truly unique figure in salvation history.

He is the last of the Old Testament prophets

and the first of the New Testament

—a sign of the fulfillment of the promises to Israel in Christ and His Church.

 

And he’s also the first public disciple of Christ,

and so a model of Christian discipleship,

reminding us that every Christian is called

to proclaim Christ and His Gospel to the world we live in,

even, if it means martyrdom, as it did with St. John.

 

Given that, it seems extremely providential that this year

his feast falls on the Sunday of Religious Freedom Week

—the week from June 22 to June 29,

that the American Bishops have asked us to set aside

as a period of concerted prayer and penance

for the defense of the Religious Liberty.

 

___

We are in an unprecedented moment in the history of our nation,

which was founded on the principle:

“that all men are …endowed by their Creator

with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

and who’s Constitution goes on to specify

the most important of these rights,

in its Bill of Rights, in order to guarantee them.

 

And the very first right it specifically guaranties is Religious liberty:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,

or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

 

For 229 years the definition of “the free exercise of religion”

has been interpreted very broadly,

and whenever anyone tried to narrow that definition

either the congress, the courts or the president

eventually stepped in to slap it down.

But in recent years the federal and state governments,

have tried to narrow the definition to extreme extents.

 

Take as an example the case of the Colorado Baker

who refused to make a wedding cake for a so-called “same sex marriage,” on the grounds that it was contrary to his Christian faith.

The State of Colorado found him guilty of illegal discrimination,

and ruled that the so-called “gay rights” of the same-sex couple

were more important than the Baker’s religious beliefs.

 

Thank goodness the Supreme Court just overturned the state’s ruling,

but it did so on a very narrow finding that the State

had exercised a specific bias against the religious beliefs of the Baker.

In other words, the Supreme Court didn’t insist,

as the constitution does, that you,

“shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise …” of “religion”’.

Instead, they just said, ‘the state can’t show a bias against religion,’

as they clearly did when they, the Colorado officials, had said things like,

“freedom of religion has been used

to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history,

whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust.”

 

But that means that the Court left open the question

of whether the “right to gay-marry” can outweigh the freedom of religion.

 

___

Even so, a win is a win.

But it also means we still have a fight on our hands going forward.

 

Thank goodness we now have a president, love him or hate him,

who is trying to defend our religious liberty,

appointing a strong pro-religious liberty Justice to the Supreme Court,

and overturning the prior president’s anti-religious liberty policies,

especially in health insurance and education.

 

But a lot of folks out there,

including many congressmen, judges and state and school board members,

continue to try to demote “religious liberty” to sort of a 2nd class liberty.

Even though 229 years ago our founders

refused to approve our Constitution unless it specifically guaranteed

the fundament right to religious liberty,

these government officials today believe that it is easily overridden

by a very recently invented liberty,

not found even in the craziest of nightmares of the founders.

 

This newly minted liberty usually goes by various nice sounding names,

like “the right to privacy” or “to choose.”

But ultimately, the underlying liberty being pursued

is simply “sexual liberty”:

—the right do whatever, you want,

however, whenever and with whomever you want.

In the end, the so-called rights to contraception, abortion, and “gay marriage”

flow from this.

Rights which our founding fathers would have called not “liberty” but “libertinism,”

which they unanimously condemned.

 

____

2000 years ago huge crowds came out to listen to John the Baptist preach.

One of the people who scripture says, “liked to listen to him,” was King Herod.

But eventually St. John offended Herod when he publicly accused him of adultery.

And so, Herod beheaded St. John.

 

Even 2000 years ago, sexual libertinism overrode religious liberty.

 

__

Something similar happened in the 16th century,

with another king and another saint.

The king was Henry VIII of England,

who had also gotten caught up in sexual libertinism

and wanted to divorce his wife in order to marry his mistress.

And the saint was St. Thomas More,

whose feast we celebrated 2 days ago on Friday.

Thomas, a layman, was known throughout Europe

as one of the most brilliant of scholars, and greatest lawyers.

Like John the Baptist, he was also very popular:

people used to love to read his books,

or to come to listen to his arguments in court or Parliament.

And like Herod, King Henry also liked to listen to him

—in fact, Thomas was one his most trusted friends and counselors.

But then Thomas got in the way of Henry’s sexual liberty,

opposing his divorce and adultery,

and then his oppression of the Church when it refused the divorce.

 

___

And now we have the same problem with so many government officials today.

But this time it’s not the personal problems of individual officials,

but it is their adamantly held position

that sexual liberty overrides everything else.

From states trying to force Christian florists and bakers

to participate in gay weddings,

to school boards deciding that clergy are no longer “trusted adults”

that children should talk to about their sexuality.

And don’t forget how Obamacare threatened to stop the Little Sister of the Poor

from taking care of our poor senior citizens

if they refused to pay for employee insurances providing for

contraception, sterilization and abortifacients.

 

____

None of this bodes well for Catholicism and Christianity in America.

Combine this with years of accusations that the Church “demeans women”

and “hates” homosexuals,

and we see a frightening pattern.

If religious liberty is overridden by absolute sexual liberty,

and if Christians can be portrayed as truly demeaning and hateful,

they’ll have every excuse they need to pursue even further oppression

of Christians, especially faithful Catholics.

 

And remember, right after the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom

it immediately goes on to guarantee

freedom of speech, the press, and peaceful assembly.

If sexual liberty can override the first liberty of the first amendment,

that means it will soon override those liberties as well.

And then how far off is the day when priests

won’t have the freedom to speak about Catholic morality,

even inside our own churches?

And how soon before Catholic parents will lose the freedom

to speak about it to their own children in their own homes?

How soon before governments close your churches, arrest your priests,

or take your children from your homes because you’re not fit to be parents.

 

It can’t happen here, right?

Tell that to the Supreme Court who in 2015 wrote that

the reason states had outlawed same sex “marriage was, [quote]:

“to disparage and to injure” homosexuals.

If the Court sees opposition to “same sex marriage” as an attempt to “injure,”

and if sexual liberty overrides religious liberty,

wouldn’t the next logical step be to do something

to stop Churches from “injuring” homosexuals?

 

___

We must defend and fight for our religious liberty.

And the fight is winnable.

Yes, St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas More were beheaded,

but sometimes a we find a happier outcome.

 

In the year 1293 the 93-year-old St. Raymond of Peñafort

was invited by King James I of Spain to join him on a trip to Majorca,

an island off the coast of Spain that the King had recently recaptured

from the Moors, or Muslims.

Like Herod and St. John,

King James liked to listen to St. Raymond preach,

and like Henry VIII and St. Thomas,

King James was actually a pretty good Catholic

and a close friend of St. Raymond.

But there was a problem: like King Herod and King Henry,

sometimes King James let his sexual appetite get the best of him.

And when St. Raymond arrived in Majorca to preach

he discovered that King James had brought his mistress along.

The Saint begged and pleaded and exhorted the King

to repent and send her away, but the King refused.

 

So in response, Raymond announced he was leaving Majorca

and going back to Spain immediately.

The problem was, they were on and island,

and the King threatened to jail anyone who allowed Raymond board a ship.

 

But Raymond was undaunted: he simply walked down to the beach,

said a prayer,

took off the large Dominican cape,

stepped on one end and held the other end out to catch the wind.

And off he went out across the water, sailing 160 miles back to Spain

using his cape as both his skiff and his sail.

And hundreds of eyewitnesses testified to the fact—both in Majorca and Spain.

 

And the king repented, sent his girlfriend away and went back to his wife.

 

____

Sometimes we seem to win, sometimes we seem to lose.

Sometimes we make a convert, sometimes WE are made a martyr.

 

But all of us must fight for religious liberty.

 

Not a war against persons,

but a war against religious oppression, and false notions of liberty.

And not with violence or hate, but with reason and love,

even for our enemies.

The only swords we will wield are the swords of truth and the Word of God,

and our most important weapon will be simple but constant prayer.

 

___

Today we celebrate a unique feast of a unique saint, John the Baptist.

As we ponder his unique place in the history of salvation,

let’s also recall something else unique about him:

his birth was announced by an angel to two different people.

The first announcement was to his father Zechariah,

the second was to the Blessed Virgin, Mary.

And to Mary he said,

“in her old age [Elizabeth has] conceived a son;

…her who was called barren.

For nothing is impossible with God.”

 

As we go forward today in our defense of religious liberty,

inspired by the example of St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Raymond,

let us keep these words in mind.

Let us trust that the Lord will allow no one to most rob us

of one of the most basic rights He alone has given us:

the freedom to follow him in faith,

the precious divine gift of religious liberty.

Let be charitable, let us be courageous, let us be faithful, let us be determined,

knowing that “Nothing is impossible with God.”