Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 10, 2017

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 10, 2017

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

We live in a very strange, confusing and even nonsensical time.

A time when the primary virtue often seems to be “tolerance”

but where tolerance means not merely putting up with evil,

but accepting and even embracing evil things as if they were good,

A time when “charity” is defined as

never saying anything that might offend someone else,

no matter how destructive we know their behavior to be.

A time when it sometimes seems

the only sin is recognizing someone else’s sins.

At the same time, we’re told that we can’t judge anyone else,

unless, of course we judge them as being guilty

of some offense against, for lack of a better term,

political correctness,

in which case, the all-important virtue of tolerance doesn’t apply:

it’s okay to be intolerant of these people.

We see this all around us:

from the school that recently punished a first grader

who committed the grievous crime of calling a little boy a little boy

when he wanted to be called a little girl,

to radical groups suppressing free speech on campuses.

And we even see it growing in the Church as well,

as various churchmen urge us to refrain

from preaching the hard sayings of Jesus, lest we offend someone,

and risk causing them to feel excluded from the life of the Church.

 

We sometimes call this “political correctness,”

but all too often that term is much too benign a description,

as more and more it involves the enshrinement lies and ignorance,

often through violent coercion.

 

____

But all this runs directly against the complete message of Scripture

Over and over again Scripture tells us that we must judge the actions of others

—not in the sense of deciding who’s going to heaven or hell:

only God does that

– but we must make objective judgments about good and evil,

including in the actions of other people.

 

Today’s first reading from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel tells us:

“If…you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,

the wicked shall die for his guilt,

but I will hold you responsible for his death.”

Here and elsewhere Scripture makes it very clear

that we have to recognize sins around us,

and that we cannot merely silently tolerate or accept them.

 

And yet often people try to take the Scripture out of context

and twist the words of Jesus to justify tolerance or acceptance of sins.

One of the most common examples is pointing out that

Jesus ate and drank with all sorts of people,

even the “Gentiles and tax collectors”,

and they try to use this to convince us that Jesus

was always accepting of the sins of sinners.

But they forget that when the pious Jews complained to Jesus

about his eating with people who were clearly, objectively, leading sinful lives

that the Law of Moses required to be shunned by the community,

Jesus didn’t rebuke them for being intolerant,

telling them that they should “get over it,”

but instead he said:

“People who are in good health do not need a doctor;

sick people do.

I have come to call not the self-righteous, but sinners.”

Christ judged the tax collectors to be sinners

—and He compared them to sick people

–there was something wrong with them

that needed to be cured.

 

Some are confused by this: and they point to texts

like today’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“[The] commandment[s] …are summed up in this saying, namely,

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ”

Love does no evil to the neighbor;

hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

They argue that being “judgmental” and “intolerant” isn’t loving,

and loving is all that really matters.

 

But St. Paul doesn’t equate love with making other people feel good,

or avoiding making them feel bad.

He’s not saying we don’t have to keep the commandments

if the alternative feels better.

He’s saying that the commandments themselves tell us what true love really is:

it’s not loving to commit adultery—no matter how good it feels;

it’s not loving to kill or steal

—no matter how many problems it might solve for you or your loved ones.

 

St. Paul tells us: “Love does no evil to a neighbor”

Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus tells us:

“I was hungry and you gave me no food,

… sick and …you did not visit me.’

…’Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these,

you did it not to me.’

Is it loving to just stand by and let your neighbor starve to death?

No!

Well then how is it loving to just stand by and let your neighbor

be destroyed by evil, and maybe go down the road to hell?

 

By not doing something to help—isn’t that the same as doing evil?

An intentional “sin of omission.”

If your brother is sick, you have an obligation to help him.

The very least you can do is tell him—warn him–that he’s sick,

even if he doesn’t want to hear it!

 

How many times do we not love our neighbors —truly love them—

enough to even, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel:

“go and tell him his fault.”

Not with hate or contempt or self-righteousness,

but with genuine compassion and patience and a depth of love

that isn’t seen in the cowardice of the easy way out of silent tolerance.

In love, I would not tolerate cancer in my brother,

—and I will not tolerate sin in my brother’s life.

Instead, with patience, prudence, and in love, I must, as Ezekiel tells us,

“speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,

… trying to turn him from his way”

It doesn’t matter if it makes you feel uncomfortable, or even afraid.

We must obey Jesus, who is love Himself,

and loves more purely and completely than all of mankind combined,

but tells us, if you love your brother:

“If your brother sins…go and tell him his fault ….”

 

_____

Sometimes our lone voice isn’t enough to convince the people we’re close to

that what their doing is seriously wrong or evil.

And so, Jesus goes on to tell us:

“…. If he does not listen [to you alone],

take one or two others along with you.”

But sometimes not even the voice of even all of our family and friends

is enough to wake us up to the dangerous presence of sin in our lives.

And so, Jesus goes on to tell us:

“If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.

If he refuses to listen even to the church,

then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”

 

The Church sometimes teaches things that are very unpopular

—unpopular but true—

but all She is doing is “hearing” what God says,

and “warning” His children, Her children.

Most of the time the Church warns Her children very gently, like a tender Mother:

gently, but firmly, and clearly.

But sometimes, when necessary, Holy Mother Church warns Her children

by being very strong and strict with them:

and sometimes She is even forced to cut them off

from full communion with the Church.

For example,

she denies Holy Communion to any person in the state of mortal sin

especially public sinners who

publicly obstinately persist in grave manifest sin,

such as pro-abortion Catholic politicians,

divorced and civilly remarried Catholics,

and Catholics in so called same-sex marriages.

She even sometimes excommunicates some of her children,

whether it’s a theologian spreading the poison of heresy,

or someone involved in the abortion of an unborn baby.

In love, and as a last desperate resort, she treats them,

according to Jesus’ own specific instructions,

just as God commanded the Jews to treat “a Gentiles or a tax collector”

—as outcast from the community.

But at the same time she also treats them as Jesus treated

“a Gentile or a tax collector”

she goes to them over and over and calls them, in true love,

to recognize their sins, and to amend their lives, and in the love of Christ,

to receive his wonderful forgiveness and reconciliation

—with Himself and with His Bride, the Church.

 

____

As the saying goes: even the devils can quote Scripture.

But we must not to be misled by people

who quote one or two lines of Scripture out of context

or twist common sense beyond all recognition.

Instead, we must not be afraid or intimidated into forsaking

the truth and the complete message of revelation.

In a culture that is more and more confused about

the true meaning of love and tolerance,

we must always love our neighbor enough

to never confuse

love with the silent toleration of evil.

Because the Lord who loves us and calls us to love each other,

and to help each other, is not confused at all.

He tells us very simply:

“If …you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,

I will hold you responsible for his death.”

because: “Love does no evil to the neighbor.”

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Beginning of a “New Year.” The beginning of the new “school year” effectively begins a new year in the life of a parish, as summer ends and all sorts of parish activities start up again. The coming days have several special “events” to help us all begin on the right foot.
Parish Picnic. Next Sunday, September 17, we’ll have our annual Parish Picnic from 1-4pm here on the Parish grounds, behind the church. There’s lots of food and fun for kids and adults alike—a great way to meet and get to know your fellow parishioners. For new parishioners (and visitors) this is a great opportunity to meet people and learn more about the parish; for the rest of us, this is one of the best chances we will have all year to welcome others into a deeper participation in the life and fellowship of our parish—don’t pass it up!
Religious Education (CCD). CCD begins this evening, September 10. Parents, don’t forget to bring your kids this evening, or on Monday or Tuesday, whichever day you’ve signed up for. If you haven’t registered yet, it’s not too late, but time is running out. Please see the bright green registration forms in the narthex, go to the parish website or call the RE office ASAP.
I am very much looking forward to this year’s program. As you remember, last year Mary Salmon (our Director of RE) and I made a lot of changes that we hoped would provide the best religious education program available in the diocese. I was very happy with the results, but over the summer we’ve thought a lot about what worked and what didn’t, and have tried to fine tune things to make it even better.
But I remind parents: CCD is meant to supplement the work you do with them at home. Parents are the primary educators of their children—especially in the Faith. CCD is just here to help you do that. We will try our best to take our part seriously, and I am confident you will recommit yourselves to do the same—I know you love your kids more than we do, and want them to experience the knowledge and love of Christ and His Church in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in next. But, the odds are, they will have none of that, especially heaven, if you and we don’t do our very best to teach them the Faith when they are young.
I’m particularly looking forward to teenagers coming to our High School program, where they will encounter some especially talented, experienced and knowledgeable teachers. My goal for this program is to be informative, inspiring and challenging, but not a burden to the kids or parents. So, while I’m confident the classrooms will be lively and challenging, the homework will be very light, with lots of recommended work the kids can do voluntarily.
RCIA (“Convert Class”). Another program set to restart is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). If any adult you know is interested in becoming a Catholic, or is a Catholic in need of the sacrament of Confirmation (or First Communion and Confession) this is the course for them. Bob Ward, himself a convert many years ago, leads a lively, faith-filled and information-packed discussion of the basics (and more) of the Catholic faith, and during the second semester Fr. Smith and I will join in teaching about 5 or 6 of the topics. You can contact Bob and Bev Ward at 703-644-5873 or rew6710@gmail.com with any questions. Classes begin this Monday (tomorrow), September 11, at 7:30pm in the Rectory classroom (the “Maurer Room”).
But the class is also designed to be a refresher course for all adult Catholics. Unfortunately, most adult Catholics don’t know, or remember, their faith nearly as well as they should. This course is a perfect way to begin to fix this. So please consider joining this class—even on a week-to-week/topic-to-topic basis.
Speakers. This year we will once again be bringing some excellent speakers to the parish. We will begin with a talk next Saturday, September 16, at 9:45am: our old friend Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, PhD, the nationally renowned neuroscientist-theologian, will speak about “End of Life Decision Making: Ethical Decision Making in Sickness and Compromised States.” The talk is sponsored by our Respect Life Committee, and is the first of many events this very active group will offer this year. Please join us.
And There’s More! This is just the beginning, and it doesn’t begin to list all the activities coming this year in the parish: we have CYO basketball, the Mother’s Group, Bible Study, the Choir, and all the rest of the parish groups/committees… Please see the rest of this bulletin (and every week!) and the website for lots of opportunities to get involved and grow in your Catholic faith and as a member of the Church here at St. Raymond’s in the coming year.

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 3, 2017

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 3, 2017

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

A couple of weeks ago I took a vacation,

driving out to the Midwest to see some family.

When I got back I realized something remarkable:

for 7 days, I had largely avoided all TV and radio,

and even the internet, for the most part.

It was one of the most relaxing things about my vacation.

 

Doesn’t it seem that nowadays we’re constantly inundated from all directions

with new information and ideas.

Much of that information is very useful.

But much of it is useless, and some of it is even destructive.

 

How often do we ever stop to think about what we’re learning

and how its shaping who we are?

Are we shaping our minds with the merely human wisdom of this age,

or are we renewing our minds with the Wisdom of God.

 

Think about it:

for example, how much time do you spend in front of a TV set?

And yet, since we often watch TV to relax,

think of how much “human wisdom” you, or your family,

takes in without critically evaluating the information you receive.

But most of what we see comes out of Hollywood or Madison Avenue:

do you really want them shaping the mind of you or your children?

 

And think about the internet,

and all the wronghead and even disgusting information

just a few key-strokes away.

Look at social media:

foolish, ignorant, and unprincipled people

are given a worldwide platform.

I’m a big advocate of freedom of speech, but also the freedom to listen, or not.

 

Or think about the news we receive.

A couple of years ago a survey showed that something like

90% of news reporters don’t believe in God,

but that about 90% of Americans do—and you do!

And yet we so often uncritically let all these human sources shape our minds.

 

Even the best and most impressive human wisdom is limited

–it makes mistakes, sometimes huge mistakes.

I can remember when, not so long ago, scientists were telling us

the world was about to enter a new ice age.

In the last century alone the so called “wisest” people of our time

and worked diligently on problems like

political unrest, poverty, racism, starvation and violence

and yet those problems are still around, some worse than ever.

 

____

Human wisdom, so called, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The fact is, that if we form our minds and consciences

by learning solely or even principally from human  wisdom

we’ll inevitably wind up leading a life

full of confusion, frustration, disappointment and even despair.

 

But St. Paul tells us today in his letter to the Romans,

“Do not conform yourselves to this age

but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,

that you may discern what is the will of God,

what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

He “begs” us to let divine wisdom enlighten our human wisdom

so that we can begin to see and understand things as they really are.

Elsewhere, he calls this “put[ting] on the mind of Christ.”

 

____

In today’s Gospel, we find out what happens

when we use human wisdom without divine wisdom.

When Jesus tells the apostles that he has to go to Jerusalem

to suffer and be killed, St.  Peter “rebukes” Him:

“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”,

And Jesus turns on him and says

“Get behind me, Satan….

You are thinking not as God does, but as [men] do.”

Here the word “satan”, is used as the Hebrew word for “enemy“.

Now to some this is very shocking, especially since

just last week we read the text that comes right before this one

in Matthew’s Gospel

where Jesus called Peter, not his “enemy,”

but the “rock” upon which he will build his Church:

the famous text of the institution of the papacy.

How can he call Peter the rock one minute, and his enemy the next?

 

The thing is, we believe that the promise Jesus made to Peter

means that it was Christ’s will and plan to build and protect the Church,

by using the popes as a unifying source of direction and doctrine.

—what we believe and how we live out that belief.

 

But we don’t believe that everything every pope says or does is infallible dogma.

And we especially don’t believe that they can’t make mistakes

in their day to day personal life, just like the rest of us.

 

In last week’s Gospel, Peter was teaching as a pope,

stating a central dogma of our faith that he had learned from Jesus,

and that divine grace had helped him to finally understand:

proclaiming: Jesus “you are the Messiah.”

But in this week’s Gospel, he’s not so much teaching at all,

and he’s clearly not taking from what Jesus had taught him,

or being guided by divine grace.

Instead, Peter is relying on simple, basic and imminently fallible human wisdom

–and he completely blows it.

And Jesus tells him: “You are thinking not as God does, but as [men] do.”

 

In his human wisdom, Peter looks to Jerusalem

and sees only horrible suffering

and he just doesn’t want Jesus to go there.

But Jesus looks to Jerusalem with the mind of God,

and sees not only his great suffering

–and his death on the Cross–

but He also sees the plan of the Father, the wisdom of the Father,

coming to fulfillment in redemption for the children of God

and in the Resurrection.

 

___

St. Peter’s problem is the exact problem we face every day of our lives:

all too often we also don’t “thin[k] as God does, but as human beings do.”

For Peter, the issue was whether or not Christ should suffer.

For us the issues usually aren’t much different.

Christ says

“Whoever wishes to come after me

must …take up his cross, and follow me.”

But the wisdom of men doesn’t like crosses and suffering.

Rather, it often tells us that we should constantly

be seeking pleasure and avoiding personal pain.

So we see some of the so-called “wisest” people of this age

embracing things that they think will somehow end suffering:

things like abortion, euthanasia, divorce and contraception

And they tell us that pleasure is the purpose of living.

And so we live in a society immersed in

consumerism, materialism, sexual depravity, and escapism.

and driven by greed, and lust, power and selfishness.

But the wisdom of God tells us:

deny [your]self, take up [your] cross, and follow me.”

 

____

[But] How do we know if we are thinking with the human or divine wisdom?

How do we go about transforming our minds in Christ?

We begin by doing what we do when we want to know the mind of anyone:

we talk to them and spend time with them.

So to take on the mind of God we begin to by talking with him–by praying.

And by spending time just being with God.

What a great thing it is to spend time praying before our Lord

truly present in the Blessed Sacrament

—like the Psalm says today:

“So I gaze on you in the sanctuary

to see your strength and your glory.”

And we can do more than gaze:

we can be with Him by receiving Him in Holy Communion also.

 

And when we really want to know the mind of another person

we also try to find out everything we can about them from other people.

So, in putting on the mind of God, we go to Scripture and Tradition,

and the teaching of the Church.

And, by the grace of God, as we begin to prayerfully let these teachings take root,

we begin to experience the true transformation and renewal of our minds.

 

____

Some Catholics say nowadays,

that we don’t have to listen to, much less obey, Church teaching.

They say the Church and the Popes make mistakes

and that Vatican II told us we have to obey our own consciences.

It is true that many times individual priests, bishops and cardinals,

and sometimes even Popes,

make mistakes in their teaching.

But the constant teaching of the Church,

that which is passed down from the apostles

through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition,

and applied and clarified through centuries of prayerful teaching

by the Church’s Popes, Councils, theologians and saints,

in that, the Church does not make mistakes,

protected as it is by Christ’s promise that

“the gates of hell shall not prevail” against it.

It’s fallible human beings in the Church,

relying on their own or others merely human wisdom,

that make mistakes.

Just like Peter did in rebuking the Lord.

 

And while it is true that we do have to obey our consciences,

the conscience of a Catholic should be nothing less than

a mind which is conformed to the wisdom of God,

not the wisdom of men.

What Vatican II really taught was that Christians:

(quote) “… must always be governed according to

a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself,

and should be submissive toward the Church’s teaching office,

which authentically interprets that law

in the light of the Gospel.” (close quote)

So, if the preliminary judgment of our conscience

is NOT consistent with the mind of Christ

passed on to us through centuries of official teaching of the Church,

then we know we’ve been using human wisdom

and not the Wisdom of God.

 

We call this the “proper formation of conscience.”

But this forming of conscience, does not happen overnight:

it is a steady process, the result of a concerted effort

to pray, to spend time with the Lord

and to learn all we can about the teachings of the Church.

So, it must begin as early as possible: from the first moments of childhood.

And it must begin at home, with the family.

It begins with daily family prayer,

moms and dads gathered with their kids and with the Lord,

teaching them their Catholic prayers,

and that the Lord listens to their prayers.

Praying before meals, before bed, for particular needs.

Praying the family rosary and coming to Mass together every Sunday

… so many ways to pray as a Catholic family.

 

And it begins by parents teaching their children about Jesus and His Church.

Do you ever just talk about Jesus at the table?

Do talk about the day’s events in the light of the Gospel and Church teaching? When you’re in the car driving home from Mass on Sunday

do you talk about the readings, or the homily, or about the Eucharist?

When someone makes fun of your son or daughter at school

do you remind them that they made fun of Jesus too, and even killed Him,

but then He rose from the dead?

 

____

Last week, parents sent their kids back to school.

Ask yourself: does the school you send your kids to

teach them to conform to merely human wisdom?

Or does it help them transform their minds to think as God does?

And if you get the wrong answer to those questions, what are you doing about it?

Have you thought of changing schools, or homeschooling?

Or at least making concerted systematic effort at home to counter the problem?

 

Do you make the effort to bring them to CCD, Religious Education,

so they can spend at least an hour learning what the Church teaches,

after spending multiple hours at school learning what the world teaches?

And do you make sure they do their CCD homework

with the same diligence as their Math homework?

 

____

Almost every moment of our lives, we learn something.

But when we learn, what do we learn?

Do we form our minds and consciences by the eternal truth of God’s mind,

or merely the fallible opinions of men?

Do we imitate Peter as he listens to the mind of the Father and teaches:

“You are the messiah,”

or when he listens to his own weak human wisdom,

and gets rebuked by Christ: “Get behind me, Satan!”

 

____

We live in an age of much information and great human learning.

This can often be a great blessing.

But we must remember:

not all information is true or helpful,

and merely human learning can often be terribly flawed,

and even destructive in its error.

Today as we come together to pray,

to gaze on and receive Our Lord in the Sanctuary,

and to listen to his word,

let may these words of St. Paul be seared into our minds and hearts:

“Do not conform yourselves to this age

but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,

that you may discern what is the will of God,

what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

IMPORTANT: Special Election. Fairfax County School Board at-large Member, Jeanette Hough, recently had to resign her position when her husband was transferred out of country. Remember, Hough was elected 2 years ago to oppose the pro-transgender policies of the Board. This sets up a special county-wide election on August 29 to elect a replacement at-large Member. The only candidate who has stated his opposition to the pro-transgender policy of the current board is Chris Grisafe, who is also pro-life. You decide, you vote. But vote like a Catholic on August 29.

CHANGES AT MASSES (continued). Two weeks ago, I announced some changes in the way we offer Sunday Mass at St. Raymond’s. Today I want to explain my reasons for the changes I’m making at the 8:45 Mass.
Latin at 8:45. For several years now we’ve incorporated more Latin in this Mass than at other Masses. As I explained last week, this is because this is what the Church (Vatican II, the Popes) wants us to do. Moreover, Latin has been the common language of the Catholic Church for 16 centuries, and so, is dramatic sign of our communion with Catholics around the world today and in past centuries. Also, the shift away from our “every-day” language (English) emphasizes that what we are doing is not something ordinary of this world, but a heavenly mystery. Latin is not a barrier that cuts us off, but a veil that sets these sacred actions and prayers apart from the mundane things of this world.
In deciding how we would expand the use of Latin at the 8:45 Mass my first concern was to try to make it as easy for you as possible. So, first I focused on Latin parts that I felt were easy to learn and that it would be good for all Catholics to know. So, we will begin Mass by making the Sign of the Cross in Latin (Actually, I will say it, and you will simply respond, “Amen”). And then we will greet each other in our common language: I will say, “Dominus vobis cum,” and you will respond, “Et cum spiritu tuo” (“The Lord be with you…. And with your spirit”). And we will end Mass in basically the same way, with few additional final words to say goodbye: I say, “Ite missa est,” and you respond, “Deo Gratias” (“Go you are sent out…. Thanks be to God.” How many of you know how to say hello and goodbye in a foreign language: “Hola/Adios,” “Bonjour/Au Revoir,” “Aloha”? Now you will know how to do it in the native tongue of our Catholic family.
I then thought, what is the most common and important Catholic prayer: the “Our Father.” Why don’t we all know it in Latin, so we could say it together throughout the world and throughout the centuries? So, we will sing the “Pater Noster.”
Then I added two parts that you don’t have to say in Latin. The priest will sing: the “Mysterium Fidei” (“The Mystery of Faith”), and the “Per Ipsum” (“Through Him and with Him….”), and you will simply respond in the usual English, “Save us, Savior of the world…” and “Amen.” I added these with the simple idea that we would have Latin at the beginning (the “Sanctus”), middle (“Mysterium Fidei”) and end (“Per Ipsum”) of the Eucharistic Prayer. Again, this will hopefully emphasize the dimensions of unity/communion, mystery and sacredness inherent in the Eucharistic Prayer.
Finally, beginning October 8, on the 2nd Sunday of every month (and only on the 2nd Sunday) the priest will pray the Eucharist Prayer in Latin. This will be the hardest thing to get used to—but it will only be once a month, and it will be an experiment for a few months. But why will we do it? First of all, the “Roman Canon” (Eucharistic Prayer #1) is the most ancient of the various Eucharistic Prayers, originating in Latin in the actual city of Rome, the See of the Pope, around the 5th century. As such, it is a powerful sign of the communion I have written about.
More important, though, is the sense of sacredness and mystery it introduces. This is the most holy, most “otherly,” part of the Mass, and the Latin can help us remember this. It serves as a veil, not to hide the Eucharist from us but to remind us it is set apart as sacred. And it reminds us that this is not everyday event of this world, but an eternal mystery which brings heaven to earth.
Communion Rail. Beginning September 10, there will be a portable altar rail/kneelers in front of the sanctuary. At Communion, the people will come up the main aisle as usual, but then spread out at the altar rail, either kneeling or standing (their choice), to receive Communion. (Note: Communion will continue to be distributed in the transepts as usual).
My reason for this change is very simple: to accommodate the popular demand/desire that many people have to exercise their right to kneel to receive Holy Communion. Now, it’s true that you don’t need a kneeler to kneel to receive Communion. But without a kneeler it is much more difficult, clumsy, time-consuming and conspicuous than it should be, and therefore discourages most people who would like to kneel. This is really unfair.
But when there’s a kneeler/rail it is much easier for people to kneel down and get up again. Moreover, with up to 8 people at-a-time standing/kneeling at the long rail, there is no need to rush to get out of the next person’s way. Finally, with everyone at the rail, if two people kneel and two people stand, no one stands out. So by adding the Communion Rail, everyone can receive comfortably the way they want, kneeling or standing.
But let me be clear, and not disingenuous: there are great spiritual reasons for kneeling to receive Our Lord. Kneeling is well-established as an important expression of adoration of the Eucharist—and so the Church requires us to kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer and for the “Behold the Lamb of God…” As St. Augustine, taught: “No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah (in charge of the liturgy for the whole Church) reminds us of how Pope St. John Paul II gave us an amazing example of this, as he writes: “I simply ask you to recall that at the end of his life of service, a man in a body wracked with sickness, John Paul II could never sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He forced his broken body to kneel. He needed the help of others to bend his knees, and again to stand. What more profound testimony could he give to the reverence due to the Blessed Sacrament than this, right up until his very last days.”
Taking his great predecessor’s example to heart, in 2008 Pope Benedict XVI required the faithful who received Communion from him to do so kneeling at a kneeler, and Pope Francis has continued this practice.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles