Twenty fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Picnic. Last Sunday’s picnic was a huge success, by any measure. We had a record turnout—at least twice as many as any had ever seen before. As I made the rounds, visiting with everyone, I was so pleased to find everyone having a great time, enjoying the good food and music, the games and rides, and the company. What a great day.

I was especially happy to see my predecessor Fr. Gould grace us with his presence, and to see so many of you enjoy visiting with him. What a great man and priest! I don’t know how he built this church—just amazing to me. I struggled getting the lights replaced, and worried over paying off the $7million debt I inherited. But he built this whole plant, with all the crazy ups and downs involved in that (including dealing with 2 different general contractors), and raising $7.5million in cash, plus paying off $3.5million on the loans. Just amazing. But more than that, he built the wonderful parish, the “community,” of St. Raymond’s. From a few hundred people to 6,000 in just 10 years. And a parish with solid foundation in Catholic teaching and Christian fellowship. I have so much to thank him for: and not just handing me this wonder parish with its beautiful church and comfortable rectory, but also being my vocation director for 5 years—I would not be a priest today without his help.

I was also very pleased to have Bishop Burbidge join us for Mass and stay with us at the picnic for 2 hours, just walking around and mingling with people. I think we overwhelmed him with our welcoming, and our joy. He really seemed to enjoy himself, as was evident as he sang our praises as I helped him carry his Mass vestments to his car as he was leaving. Thank you Bishop, for joining us!

And most of all I was overwhelmed by God’s generosity. I fretted all week about whether I should cancel the picnic due to the weather, after reading all the gloom and doom forecasts of rain and flooding (it wasn’t just a matter of rain on Sunday, but would the grass be too saturated to work with). In the end, it was hard to tell what to do, so I just had to trust in Jesus. And as always, He came through, and in magnificent fashion. I had to laugh when the sun burst out right near the beginning of the picnic, and then again when it started to rain just minutes after the picnic ended—God and his unfathomable sense of humor! As I told the Bishop: “Jesus really loves St. Raymond’s.” He does indeed. Praised be Jesus Christ!

Thanks be to Him. And thanks to all who worked so hard to make it a success, especially volunteers like Phil and Alice Bettwy, Pat O’Brien, Pat Franco, the Knights of Columbus, American Heritage Girls, and Trail Life. And thanks to the parish staff for all their hard work—especially Tom Browne, Kirsti Tyson, Mary Salmon and Vince Drouillard, and most especially Eva Radel, who worked like a field general in the planning and the set up.

 

Novena to St. Michael. Next Saturday is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. As you know, St. Michael is the great warrior-archangel, who Scripture tells us leads the hosts of heavenly angels to defeat, with the power of God, the fallen angels, led by Lucifer, Satan, the devil. With the current scandal in the Church it seems a very good time to invoke the aid of St. Michael. The Church, especially the bishops and priests, are clearly under assault by Satan.

Now, some folks seem to think that the devil is merely wickedly exposing the bad acts of otherwise good bishops and priests, in order to cause “scandal” (discouragement, doubt, despair, etc.) among the faithful. While it is true, that the devil is doing that, that is not his principal attack. His principle attack on the Church (at least regarding the current situation) is preying on the weaknesses or moral laxity of priests and bishops who then willingly accede to the devil’s temptations and commit sins and even atrocious crimes—whether of lust, lying or abuse of power. Then, and only then, is Satan using those willful sinful acts to further tempt the faithful to doubt their faith and mistrust all bishops and priests.

Clearly, we need to invoke the Divine Power that God has committed to St. Michael to defend the Church. So, I ask you all to join me from today until next Sunday, to pray the “Prayer to St. Michael” every day, for a purification of the Church, especially her seminarians, priests and bishops. And to defend each of us from discouragement, doubt, or despair.

“Saint Michael Archangel, // defend us in battle, // be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; // may God rebuke him, we humbly pray; // and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, // by the power of God, cast into hell // Satan and all the evil spirits // who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. // Amen.”

 

Kavanaugh. A lot of you have been asking me about the accusations made by Dr. Ford against Judge Kavanaugh last week. At this time of heightened awareness and shame within the Church with regard to covering up sexual abuse, I am keenly aware of the need to give a just hearing to alleged victims, and of the reality that even apparently saintly men can sin gravely. On the other hand, being a priest at a time when some people accuse all priests of being bigots and haters, and even pedophiles and predators, I am also aware of that people often make cruel and false accusations, and of the need to give a just hearing to the accused.

I also know that politics has become a grotesque blood sport, especially as it’s being played by the radical Marxist left, that as a principle holds that “the ends always justify the means.”

Let us act with and pray for charity and justice for all, accuser and accused. And, trusting in God, we ask Him to give us the Supreme Court Justice He wants us to have.

 

Election Day is November 6th. The deadline to register to vote or change your address for voting is October 15th. The deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is Tuesday, October 30, 2018. The deadline to vote an absentee ballot in-person is Saturday, November 3, 2018.

There is a voter information table in the narthex this weekend, September 22/23, with the necessary forms for registration, or voting absentee. Please stop by for forms or with any questions you may have.

Remember, generally speaking, we have a moral duty to vote, and to vote with a conscience formed by our faith in Christ and His Church. If we do not vote, we have no right to complain about how our government functions, or doesn’t function.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

TEXT: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 16, 2018

24th  Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 16, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

“Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am?”

In a way, this question of Jesus is perhaps the most important question

any man can ask himself: “Who do I say Jesus is?”

And St. Peter gives the most important answer any man can give:

“You are the Christ,” the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord.

 

This is the answer every Christian must give

—it is the Christian’s fundamental profession of Faith.

Without this, then the rest of the Gospel is useless

—if for no other reason than Jesus admitted that He was the Christ

—and if Jesus wasn’t the Christ He was a liar—not to be believed at all.

And everything He said and did was useless.

 

But Jesus is the Christ

—and because we believe that, all the other things He said make sense,

and we can believe in them

and be open to the grace and the life they offer.

 

Faith in Jesus as the Christ—the Redeemer, the Messiah, the Son of God—

is the key to our salvation.

 

___

But is faith all we need?

Some of our protestant brothers and sisters, especially evangelicals, think so.

In the words of Martin Luther in the 16th century,

many protestants believe that we are “saved by faith alone”: “Sola Fide”.

Maybe you haven’t encountered this directly.

but I bet most of you have been asked, or at least heard,

the question:

“have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”

This question is really another way of saying: “who do you say Jesus is”?

And to answer, “yes,” is to say, “I have faith in Christ.”

And because they believe that faith in Jesus is all you need to be saved,

when they ask this question, they are really asking “are you saved?”

 

Now, let me be clear: not all Protestants accept this doctrine nowadays.

But Luther and his modern day disciples,

believe that there is nothing we can do to be saved

—that Jesus did it all for us on the cross

and He pours the grace of the cross on us today

—so we can do nothing but believe in what Jesus does for us,

and that belief will save us.

It doesn’t matter what else you do—

—if you do or don’t sin, do or do not obey the commandments,

or if you do or don’t receive the sacraments,

or if you love your neighbor or not

—as long as you believe in Jesus.

As Luther wrote: “sin boldly, but believe more boldly”.

 

Now, Luther didn’t just make this notion of salvation by faith alone out of thin air

—he based it on several statements made by St. Paul,

and by Jesus Himself.

For example, St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:

“a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

And Jesus says:

“he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

So if you were to take these kinds of statements on their own,

they do seem to affirm that faith is the only thing that matters.

 

And Luther was not the first one to fall into this false understanding of faith.

Some of the early Christians were also tempted to make this same mistake.

And so St. James wrote to correct this error.

As we read in today’s 2nd reading from St. James:

“What good is it…if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?

….faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
And as St. James goes on to say just a few verses later:

Even the demons believe–and shudder….

You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

 

And of course, St. James is not the only one to reject “faith alone”

and acknowledge that our works are essential to our salvation.

St. Paul also taught this.

As he went on to write the Romans:

“On the one hand, to those who persist in good work,

…he will give eternal life.

But for those who …reject the truth and follow evil,

there will be wrath and anger.”

 

But most importantly Jesus himself taught this.

 

He tells us to be saved we must follow the commandments:

when the rich young man asks him,

“Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?”

Jesus replied: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

 

He tells us to be saved we must love our neighbor:

when a lawyer asked Him:

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied: “What is written in the law? How do you read?”

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

….soul, …strength, and …mind;

and your neighbor as yourself.”

And Jesus replied, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”

 

He tells us we must do good works:

“I was hungry and you gave me no food,

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

you did it not to me.’

And they will go away into eternal punishment,

but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

And He gives us the sacraments which He tells us we must partake in:

For example, Baptism:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit,

he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

And of course the Eucharist:

“Truly, truly, I say to you,

unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood,

you have no life in you.”

 

Think of all that: that’s a lot we have to do to be saved.

 

___

Now some Protestants who follow “sola fide”

counter the idea of the necessity of doing good works

as simply being proof of our faith:

if someone believes, naturally they’ll do good things.

And if they say they believe but don’t do good things,

then, they never really believed in the first place.

 

But if that’s true why did St. Paul—who surely was filled with faith—

write that he was afraid of losing his salvation

by not doing what he should?

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete,

but only one receives the prize?

…I do not run aimlessly…but I pommel my body and subdue it,

lest after preaching to others

I myself should be disqualified.”

 

______

Faith is the key to salvation.

But it is not all there is to salvation.

The key of faith opens the door

to all that we need to know and to do to be saved.

 

In today’s Gospel Peter is the first to declare the Church’s faith in Christ.

In St. Matthew’s Gospel, the evangelist records that Jesus tells Peter

that this insight has come from directly from God, his Father.

But later on when Peter refuses to believe Jesus

when he explains that he has to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die,

Jesus says: “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Friends, to think as God does, is to believe in Jesus and His Gospel.

But the thing is, that Gospel has a content—Jesus taught us what God thinks,

and how God wants us to live, and do and love.

And to say we believe in Jesus,

but reject the content of his teaching,

including the things he said we must do to gain eternal life,

whether it’s keeping the commandments,

or loving God and your neighbor,

or being baptized,

or receiving and adoring the Eucharist as his body and blood,

or following the teachings and discipline

of Peter and his successors, the Popes,

if you reject those, well, as St. James says today: “what good is that?”

 

Jesus goes on to tell us today:

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,

take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,

but whoever loses his life for my sake

and that of the gospel will save it.”

It is true that Christ’s Cross—and the love it expresses—

is the only thing that saves us.

But unless we live as he did, love as he loved, do as he commanded,

even if it means suffering for others,

or even losing our lives for the sake of what we believe–the Gospel

—we cannot live as he lives:

in the eternal and perfect joy and glory of heaven.

 

____

I am confident that our Protestant brothers and sisters who hold to “faith alone”

believe in Jesus Christ.

I am also confident that they also love the Lord Jesus,

and do many good works.

But we must not be confused between the relationship between faith and love,

and between believing and doing.

Eternal life comes to us not because we believe it will,

but because God loves us

and allows us to chose live in his love today and forever.

 

So let us have faith in Christ and live out the entirety of his teachings.

Including the teaching passed on to us by St. James:

“faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Twenty fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Parish Picnic Celebration. As I write this on Wednesday, Hurricane Florence looms in the Atlantic, and I’m not sure what we’re going to do about the Celebration scheduled for today. I hope we can still have it, in some form at least, but if we can’t… In any case, fiat voluntas Dei—God’s will be done.

 September 11, 2001. Let us pray for all those who died, on 9/11 and in the “War on Terror…” … Eternal rest grant unto them Oh Lord. And send Your holy angels to defend us and to protect all who risk their lives for our safety.

And let us pray also for the brave souls who continue to fight to protect us, and for the conversion of our enemies. And let us pray for our nation’s safety, and that, with the strength of Christ and tempered by His wisdom and mercy, we may defeat those who seek to harm us.

Humanae Vitae Conference. Last weekend’s conference on Humanae Vitae and its ramifications for the world, was a huge success, with over 150 attendees. Our speakers, Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, Dr. Robert Royal and Bob and Gerri Laird did an excellent job in helping us understand the importance of the encyclical and the devasting effects contraception has had on our Church and our culture. Thanks to them, and to our staff and volunteers, especially Eva Radel, Tom Browne, and Liz Hildebrand, who made it all go so smoothly. And thanks be to God!

 

Some Happy News. I’m delighted to write that Brigitta Sanchez-O’Brien, daughter of parishioners, Patrick and Maria (and my goddaughter!), graduated as valedictorian of her class at John Paul the Great University last month. I’m sure you all join me in congratulating her and her family. Please keep her in your prayers as she begins graduate studies this month at Pepperdine University.

 

St. Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church. One of my favorite saints, is St. Peter Damian, a great and fiery advocate of clerical reform in the 11th century. I commend him to all of you as a heavenly patron in this time when reform of priests and bishops is so important.

Born in 1007, Peter was the youngest of a large noble, but poor, family. Left an orphan at an early age, he was adopted by an elder brother, who ill-treated and under-fed him while employing him as a swineherd. The child showed signs of great piety and of remarkable intellectual gifts, and eventually another brother, took him away to be educated. He made rapid progress in his studies, first at Ravenna, then at Faenza, finally at the University of Parma, and when about twenty-five years old he was already a famous teacher at Parma and Ravenna. But, he could not endure the scandals and distractions of university life and decided (about 1035) to retire from the world, entering the hermitage of Fonte-Avellana.

Both as novice and as professed religious his fervor in prayer and penance was remarkable. He continued his thorough study of Holy Scripture and was appointed to lecture to his fellow-monks. In 1043 he became prior of Fonte-Avellana, which he remained till his death.

Although living in the seclusion of the cloister, Peter Damian watched closely the fortunes of the Church, and like his friend Hildebrand (a key assistant to several Popes, who would become the future Pope Gregory VII), he strove for her purification in those deplorable times.

In 1045 when the reforming pope Gregory VI (John Gratian) was elected, Peter hailed the change with joy and wrote to the pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the church in Italy. In 1047 and 1055 Peter attended and addressed synods at the Lateran and Florence at which decrees were passed condemning clerical unchastity and simony (the buying or selling of holy or spiritual things or church offices).

In 1051 Peter published his venerable and famous treatise on the vice of sodomy among the clergy of his time, the “Book of Gomorrah.” (Sodomy refers to homosexual acts and what we would call “homosexual lifestyles”). It begins: “Alas, it is shameful to speak of it! It is shameful to relate such a disgusting scandal to sacred ears! But if the doctor fears the virus of the plague, who will apply the cauterization? If he is nauseated by those whom he is to cure, who will lead sick souls back to the state of health?”

The book caused a great stir and aroused widespread enmity against Peter, and still does today. Although sometimes excessively harsh in rhetoric, it is also compassionate, especially to innocent victims and truly repentant sinners. It is filled with penetrating insights and lessons that would seem to apply aptly to the Church today.

In 1057 the abbot of Monte Cassino, was elected as Pope Stephen X, and was determined to create Peter a cardinal, so he could better assist the Pope in reforming the clergy. Peter resisted the offer, but was finally forced, under threat of excommunication, to accept, and was consecrated Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia. The new cardinal was impressed with the great responsibilities of his office and wrote a stirring letter to his brother-cardinals, exhorting them to shine by their example before all.

In late 1059 Peter was sent as papal legate to Milan by Pope Nicholas II, where the clergy had been corrupted by widescale simony and unchastity. Things had gotten so bad, that benefices (church offices) were openly bought and sold and the clergy publicly “married” the women they lived with. But the faithful of Milan strove hard to remedy these evils. When Peter arrived, the irregular clerics raised the cry that Rome had no authority over Milan. At once Peter acted, boldly confronting the rioters in the cathedral, and proving to them the authority of the Holy See with such effect that all parties submitted to his decision. He exacted first a solemn oath from the archbishop and all his clergy that for the future no preferment should be paid for; then, imposing a penance on all who had been guilty, he re-instated in their benefices to all who under took to live chastely.

In July 1061, Pope Nicholas II died, and a schism ensued. Damian used all his powers to persuade the antipope Cadalous to withdraw his false claim to the papacy, but to no purpose. Finally a council at Augsburg, at which a long letter by St. Peter Damian was read, formally acknowledged Pope Alexander II as the true pope.

Over the next few years Peter was sent as papal legate to settle various disputes and establish reforms in Florence, Ravenna, France, and Germany.

Early in 1072 he was seized with fever near Faenza, and after a week’s illness he died. He was never formally canonized, but he was venerated as a saint from his death at Faenza, Fonte-Avellana, Monte Cassino, and Cluny. In 1823 Leo XII extended his feast (February 23) to the whole Church and pronounced him a Doctor of the Church, thus officially recognizing Peter’s status as a Saint of the Church. (Condensed largely from The Catholic Encyclopedia).

St. Peter Damian, pray for us.

 

Oremus pro Invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

TEXT: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 9, 2018

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 9, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

As you know in 1776 America was an overwhelmingly Protestant country.

But as time passed millions of Catholics began to immigrate in search of

new opportunities and freedom.

They found both of those, but they also found prejudice against them

—both because of their foreign habits and accents,

and because of their foreign religion, Catholicism.

So many times they had to fend for themselves

—to provide health care, and welfare assistance,

and schools for their children.

 

And most of that time this assistance was organized by and in the Church.

Great Catholics like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. John Neumann,

and St. Francis Xavier Cabrini,

founded hospitals, schools and nursing homes.

But beyond that, individual Catholics assisted each other,

by simply helping their neighbor out when they needed a break.

Mr. Giuseppe ran a tab for Mrs. Scalese at the grocery store

—he knew she’d pay when she could.

And Mrs. O’Boyle let the whole Murphy family move into her house

when Mr. Murphy died in a mining accident.

 

As time has passed that same attentiveness to public acts of mercy and charity

has remained a part of the Catholic culture in America,

but it’s gradually been translated in very different ways.

As Catholics came to have more and more of a political voice,

we saw Catholics heavily supporting political solutions

to the problems of healthcare and poverty,

programs like

Medicare and Medicaid, welfare, and aid to dependent children.

 

At the same time, as Catholics also became more economically prosperous,

they also became very supportive, financially,

of great Catholic charitable institutions

—building a huge system of first class Catholic

hospitals, schools and universities,

and establishing organizations like Catholic Charities

.

 

All this is a great tribute to the charity of Catholics

—it is a great expression of the honest and deep-rooted Christian desire

to imitate the love and mercy of Jesus,

who cured the sick, who “made the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

We can be proud of ourselves.

 

Unfortunately, though, this pride can lead to complacency,

and even a loss of true charity.

First there’s the danger of taking charity, an act of love,

and turning it over to bureaucrats.

I mean no disrespect to so many good folks who work hard

in government sponsored social welfare programs.

But even these folks have to admit that that there’s way too much bureaucracy,

which not only inhibits their effectiveness,

but can often also transform charity from an act of love

into an act of cold administration.

One way to counter that problem is the way Catholics have so often:

by directly supporting Catholic organizations,

like the Little Sister of the Poor,

who work with minimal administrative hassle,

and with the loving touch of Christ Himself.

 

But, I must admit, even that doesn’t address the problem that most concerns me.

Because whether its by paying our taxes to the government,

or giving a check to the good sisters,

giving money is not enough to satisfy the Christian duty to give charity.

 

In today’s Gospel St. Mark tells us:

“Jesus  went …into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to Him a deaf man who had a speech impediment….”

He put His finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue;

…and said to him, “Ephphatha!”“Be opened!”

 

Why does Jesus go to the deaf man?

He’s God— He doesn’t have to go someplace to perform a miracle:

remember the words of the Roman centurion,

who asked Jesus to cure his servant, but then added,

in words we now quote, or paraphrase at every Mass:

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,

but only say the word and my servant shall be healed.”

Why does Jesus go to the man?

And why does Jesus touch the man, why does He speak to a deaf man?

He doesn’t have to do or say a thing to heal, He just has to will it—but He does?

Why does He do all this?

 

There are two basic reasons.

The first is to give us an example of love,

Christ has the power to heal from far away, but He chooses to go to the deaf man

to show that He, Jesus, personally loves that man.

 

We also have a power similar to Christ’s, although not as mysterious:

we also don’t have to go to people to help them,

we can simply write a check for a large amount of money,

money that seems to perform miracles for people

—people far away, that we never actually see in person.

Fortunately, there are many Catholic charities where

that money in a way translates into human love,

by supporting the actual personal work of good Catholics.

But in the end, does it communicate your love?

In the end have you really given your love—or have you just given money?

 

The thing is, your act of love is not just necessary for the poor or sick person

—its necessary for you also!

God created you to give yourself, not just to give a check.

You can never be happy, you can never become what God created you to be,

you can never be like Jesus Christ,

if you do not personally give your love to those in need of it.

 

_____

The other reason Jesus personally healed the sick was,

to show that He was the messiah that the prophets had foretold,

and that He had the power of God Himself.

As Isaiah prophesied in today’s first reading:

“Here is your God,…

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,

the ears of the deaf be cleared.”

By showing this power, people begin to listen to him, and that’s what He wanted.

It’s no mistake that Jesus says out loud to the man who can’t even hear Him:

Ephphatha!” “Be opened!”

By performing this miracle of love,

the ears and hearts and minds of this man and his friends

would now be open to hear Him.

 

One of the problems with sending money

and letting other people do our charitable work

it that it can totally remove Christ and His power from the picture.

This is a huge problem with lots of organizations that help those in need,

especially with government social programs.

A government social worker can’t even say “God bless you,”

much less explain that the love of Christ

is the reason they’re doing their job.

And even some  so-called “catholic charities” have the same problem:

we sadly read all too often some otherwise good Catholic organization

is giving funds to abortion providers,

taking Christ completely out of their work with that.

 

_____

The Church is the Body of Christ on earth,

and we, individually, are the members of the Body.

You are his hands, you are his fingers.

He sends you out to show not only your love, but also His love, and His power.

He sends you to be like the people in today’s Gospel,

who couldn’t help but tell everyone about His power.

 

Now, this doesn’t mean that you all have to

volunteer to work full-time or even part time with some charity

–although neither is a bad idea.

But it does mean that when opportunities arrive to show the mercy of Christ in

your life, you must do so.

Just as the people brought the deaf man to Jesus,

every day Jesus brings someone to you who needs his mercy.

 

Sometimes this is in small things:

maybe someone at work is having a terrible day,

so you stop to tell them a joke;

or a friend is in the hospital and you go to visit.

Sometimes its’ in larger matters:

maybe your elderly parents are having a hard time taking care of themselves,

so you cheerfully insist they move in with you;

or maybe your neighbor’s lost his job, even his home,

and you let his family live in the basement apartment

your parents used to live in.

 

_____

Great acts of charity are a vital part of the history of the Catholic Church,

especially in America.

I hope that you will continue that great tradition.

But not simply by writing checks to Catholic charitable institutions.

But first and foremost by giving yourself:

your time, your presence, your sweat, your patience, your love.

Remember that the power of the check book cannot communicate your love,

and you cannot personally communicate Christ’s love through cash.

Hear what Christ is telling you in Scripture today: “Ephphatha, be opened.”

And open yourselves up to live in the charity of Christ, every day, every moment.

Twenty third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lighting and Murals. I’m getting lots of positive feedback about the new lights. I hope the settings we’ve come up with are okay with everyone: we dimmed some of the lights and turned off others so that the Church won’t be too bright all the time. So no more wisecracks about “sunglasses.”
As far as the Murals… Recall that there will eventually be two murals in the new arches we built above the statues/shrines of St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother. In accord with our agreement, the artist is still working on a project for another parish in Washington, so the first of our two paintings will not be completed until sometime between March and May of 2019, and the second painting should then be completed sometime between August and October of 2019. I have not decided if we will install the first one when it is finished, or if we will wait to install it when the second is also finished.
Our artist is Henry Wingate, who has done various pieces for several churches. You can see examples of his work on his website: http://henrywingate.com.
Recall, the painting over St. Joseph (the “first painting”) will be the depiction of St. Raymond miraculously sailing away from Majorca. The charcoal drawing of that painting was hung in the space a couple of weeks ago, but was taken down by the artist to use as he paints. The painting over the Blessed Mother (the “second painting”) will depict Mary appearing to St. Raymond to ask him to help found the Mercedarian Order of priests (Our Lady of Ransom, or Mercy).
The term “mural” means a painting that becomes part of the surface of a wall. However, our artist will not paint directly on the wall. Rather, he will paint on two large 20-foot canvases in his studio in the Shenandoah Valley, and bring the completed paintings to the church, fix them to 20-foot sheets of wood, lift them up to the spaces provided and mount them on the wall, framed by the arches we have added over this last summer.

Parish Tax to “the Diocese.” As many of you are aware, 8% of our Sunday (and Holy Day) Offertory Collections goes to the Bishop to pay for the Diocesan offices and Diocesan-wide programs. This “cathedraticum” is standard procedure in most dioceses.
Some have asked me if it is possible to give to the parish without the parish having to pay that “tax” on their donation—they want to make separate donations to the “Diocese,” e.g., through the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal.
So to be clear, if you put a donation in the special “Maintenance Fund” envelope (or otherwise indicate that on your check) or use the similar designation with Faith Direct, that donation will not be subject to the 8%. Also, if you make a donation separately from the offertory collection, e.g., if you donate to a capital campaign (like the Lighting and Murals), or if you mail in a check directly to the office, that amount is also not subject to the 8% tax.

CCD/Religious Education Starts Tonight! Don’t forget that CCD/Religious Education begins tonight, tomorrow, and Tuesday. Catholic parents have no greater obligation than to teach their children their faith—if you don’t do it now, you can count on them leaving the Church when they finish high school. And then what will happen to their lives, and to their souls after death? SO IF YOU LOVE THEM (and I know you do) BRING THEM TO CLASS, and support our efforts to support your efforts to pass on the faith to your kids.
As always, I’m especially excited about our High School program. Do you want your kids going to college with an 8th grader’s understanding of their Catholic faith and morals? Of course not. So we offer them these challenging and interesting classes to help:
9th Grade: “Basic Catholicism.” Delores Nelson returns for her third year and will be assisted again by Claudia Lopez. “Mrs. Nelson” is one of the most gifted, loving and inspiring Catechists in the Diocese—all her students love her and learn from her. With a Masters in Theology, for 16 years she was DRE at St. Andrew’s, is a frequent speaker at conferences, and conducts catechist training sessions. Using Basic Catholicism as a springboard, Mrs. Nelson tackles the tough moral subjects with her students, so they are better prepared to deal with the immorality of the culture in which they live.
11-12th Grade: “Catholicism and Ethics.” Our excellent experienced and certified team of Catechists, Mike Connolly and Don Jarvis, return this year with a renewed and enhanced curriculum to help our young people to explain and defend their faith to others.
10th Grade, First Semester: “Sacred Scripture” and Second Semester: “Church History.” Brittany Doucette and Doug Maines team up again this year. Brittany has extensive experience as youth minister, editor, school teacher, catechist, and conference speaker. She holds a Masters in Theology, Advanced Catechist certification and is currently teaching Middle School Religion at the Basilica School of St. Mary in Alexandria.

Sunday Confessions. One thing I really like about our parish is the Sunday morning Confessions. But, please remember that we have only 2 priests assigned to the parish, and usually one of them is offering Mass, and sometimes the other is unavailable due to illness, vacation, etc.. Also, sometimes a priest will start confessions late (less than 30 minutes before Mass) because his other obligations have detained him (including greeting parishioners after Mass, which I consider very important). In any case, even when confessions start late, confessions should normally end once Mass has begun (the priest may extend this, but that should not be taken for granted, and they should never go later than the start of the Gospel).
Also, while all are welcome, these confession times are provided specifically to meet the genuine needs of those who truly cannot attend on other days, especially for those who have a specific need to go to confession before Sunday Mass. This means you should not plan to go to confession on Sunday merely because it is more convenient than some other day/time, or to make a merely devotional confession. Parents, in particular, if you follow the admirable practice of monthly family confessions, please do this on Saturdays or Wednesdays, but not on Sunday mornings. (Of course, if the line is short on Sunday, then feel free to take advantage, but be considerate of other’s needs).
Thank you for your patience, and for going to confession!

Parish Celebration Picnic. Next Sunday, September 16, is the big day for our annual picnic with a celebration of paying off the parish debt. Bishop Burbidge will celebrate the 12:15 Mass, and then stay for the picnic afterwards. Unfortunately, Fr. Gould will not be able to join us after all, having another commitment to tend to (argh!!!). But Fr. Daly will join us as will Fr. Joseph Okech Adhunga, AJ, who was in residence here for many years. I look forward to seeing all of you there!

Communion Rail. I think it went great last week! Seems like folks really appreciated it. Thanks for everyone’s cooperation.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 2, 2018

22nd  Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 2, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us:

“From within people, from their hearts,

come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,

adultery, greed, malice, deceit,

licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly…”

And He adds,

“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

 

Sad to say, that sounds like a list drawn up to describe

certain cardinals and bishops and priests caught up

in the abuses, lies and unchastity reported in the news the last few weeks.

As we continue to struggle with that scandal,

I was hoping not to have to address that this week,

but to preach about something a little more spiritual or uplifting this week.

 

But then came Archbishop Vigano’s statement and all uproar about that.

So, I’m back to square one.

 

For those of you who aren’t keeping up with the news,

about a week ago the former papal nuncio, or the Pope’s Ambassador,

to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Vigano,

issued an 11-page statement that proports

to shed new light today’s scandals.

Included in this, were accusations that top Vatican officials, whom he named,

are involved in what he calls a ‘homosexual current” in the hierarchy,

and that they knew about McCarrick’s abuses for over a decade.

He also stated that in 2010 Pope Benedict secretly punished

the retired McCarrick by prohibiting him from exercising public ministry

and requiring him to live a life of seclusion and penance.

But then, Vigano says, when Pope Francis was elected

Francis lifted those sanctions and made McCarrick his trusted advisor,

in spite of the fact that he, Vigano,

had personally told Pope Francis all about McCarrick’s abuses.

So, he says, Pope Francis knew about McCarrick’s’ behavior for five years,

and not only didn’t punish him, but effectively promoted him.

 

Now, these are just accusations, they’re not proven.

And such accusations against Pope is almost unprecedent in modern times.

And, if this were just some rumor, it would quickly be dismissed.

But this accusation is coming from an archbishop who before his retirement

had held numerous high offices in the Vatican,

he was the governor of the Vatican City State,

and sort of the head of all the papal ambassadors in the world,

before coming to the United States.

And when he was here, he was revered by American bishops

as a man of integrity and truthfulness—and he still is.

 

And he states that most of what he says is documented

in the files in the Vatican and Washington,

and can be corroborated by others.

 

So the charges are credible:

in fact, if an accusation with this level of credibility were leveled at a priest

he would be immediately suspended from office, pending investigation.

So, even if, hopefully, they’re wrong, they cannot be ignored,

even though the Holy Father seems to be trying to do just that.

 

____

So what do we do?

First, as I I’ve said before, we rally together, we do not run away.

We stand and fight for Jesus and the Church He founded—the Catholic Church. Because we place our faith and hope in them,

not in the mere men who are the princes of the Church.

 

But we also try to see all this in the context of the fullness of our Catholic faith.

In fact, we try to see how our faith has prepared us

specifically for moments like this.

 

_____

Since many of us were babies, every time we’ve entered the Church

the first thing we’ve done is to make the Sign of the Cross over ourselves.

And almost every time we’ve prayed as Catholics, we’ve done the same thing:

made the Sign of the Cross.

And every time we begin Mass and end Mass, the same thing.

And every Catholic Church, and almost every Catholic home has a Crucifix in it.

In fact, the center of the whole Mass, and so the center of our Sunday worship,

the Eucharist, which we believe is

first and foremost a re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross.

So St. Paul tells us:

“Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,

but we preach Christ crucified….”

 

The Cross, and more clearly, the Crucified Body of Jesus,

is at the center of our faith.

Now, of course, we know that Jesus Rose and Ascended to Heaven.

But all that comes from the Cross: the Crucifixion changed everything.

 

The thing is… the Crucifixion took place at a specific point in historical time,

from noon to 3 o’clock on a particular date in March or April

around the year 30AD.

But in another sense, it also took place in eternity.

Because in Jesus, the Eternal God became man,

He is the nexus or meeting of earthly time and heavenly eternity.

So that while the Cross took place in time,

but it is also eternal and timeless.

 

Which why we are able to benefit from it 2000 years later.

And it’s how Jesus could die not just for the sins of people alive at His time,

but the sins of all people of all times,

the sins of Adam and Eve in the beginning,

and the sins of you and me in 2018.

And so we look to the Crucified Body of Jesus

and in the wounds and the blood and the spittle

we see the effects of all the sins of all times and places.

 

__

But when we look to the Crucified Body of Jesus we also see something else:

we remember what St. Paul repeatedly tells us:

that the Church is the Body of Christ on earth.

So in the bloody, beaten, and pierced Body of Jesus, we see His Church as well.

And not just today, but everyday for the last 2000 years.

 

For ever since Calvary the Church has been persecuted

from both within and without, just as Jesus was.

And so, few months after the Crucifixion and Ascension,

when St. Paul was going to Damascus to persecute the Christians there,

a voice spoke to him saying:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?…

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

 

So we see ourselves, and the whole Church, as the Body of Christ,

always on the Cross.

 

____

Now let’s think, who was there at the Crucifixion 2000 years ago?

One of the saddest truths of that day was that

there was only 1 of the 12 Apostles standing there—St. John.

Even sadder and more terrible still, was that one of the 12 was not there

because he’d killed himself after he had betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot.

 

Think about that: 1/12th of the apostles, about 8%.

So 8% betrayed Jesus completely,

but also, only 8% stood with Jesus completely.

So why would we be surprised today if as many as 8% of the cardinals,

or 17 cardinals,

would betray Jesus today,

or if only 17 stood solidly, bravely with Him?

I’m not saying this is the case today numerically,

just that it shouldn’t completely surprise us, if it was.

It should make us angry and maybe depressed

—just as the thought of the betrayal of Judas

and the solitariness of John does at the Cross.

But, it could happen, despite God’s best laid plans.

 

And why isn’t St. Peter, the first pope, there at the Cross?

Even though he didn’t betray Jesus, he did deny Him after the fact.

So why should it surprise us that in the last 2000 years

we’ve even had popes who went bad.

I think of Pope St. Stephen VI;

newly elected he ordered that his predecessor’s body

should be dug up from his grave, dressed up as pope,

put on the papal throne and tried for all sorts of crimes and heresies;

and then he dumped his body in the Tiber River.

That’s a  bad pope.

 

Or of Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, who had several mistresses,

and 9 illegitimate children, one of whom he made a cardinal.

Or of Pope Leo X, whose decadence was so bad,

the whole Church,

it set off Martin Luther and the whole Protestant Revolt, or “Reformation,”

in the 16th century.

 

Now, I’m not trying to scandalize you, but it’s there.

And popes sin, right from the beginning

—some popes obviously worse than others.

 

And where were the other apostles?

They hadn’t betrayed or denied Jesus, but they were afraid of suffering with Him.

So they kept their heads down, safe in the locked doors of the upper room.

So, why should we be surprised today

if many otherwise good cardinals and bishops and priests,

also choose to keep their heads down,

and say and do nothing that would cause them to suffer with Jesus.

Again, that should make us angry, and disappoint us,

but it should not surprise us:

in the beginning 84% of the bishops and priests did that.

 

__

So only John was there, and the other 11 apostles were not.

But who else was there?

Scripture tells us that the faithful women were also there at the foot of the Cross.

In particular Mary Magdalene, the great sinner who became the great saint.

To me, she represents all the lay people of the Church today,

who despite being sinners, truly strive to be saints,

and when in their weakness they fail, repent and constantly try again.

That doesn’t make them hypocrites;

hypocrites are people who say, “you do this, but I can do that.”

This just makes them Catholics who want to be saints.

 

Magdalene and the holy women did not run

from the suffering of the Body of Christ, even when 11 apostles did.

They were not afraid or embarrassed by the wounds in his precious flesh,

they did not hide in shame in the face of mockery.

They wept and moaned, and perhaps they felt angry and confused,

You weep and moan and are angry and confused today.

But you must not run and hide in embarrassment or shame,

but rather, like the Magdalene and the others,

stand with Jesus and His Church, on the Cross.

 

____

So we look at the Cross, and we see today’s Church.

The bloody, torn and spit upon Body of Christ.

But for Christians, whenever we see the Crucifixion,

we should also always see and understand it

in the light of the Resurrection and Ascension.

Just as part of the Church suffers on earth,

another part of the Church is already glorified in Heaven.

And just as the Body of Christ rose from the dead and walked the earth,

we also see the Body of Christ gloried even on earth today,

as it preaches of the truth about God and man

and struggles to live out that truth in the lives of ordinary Catholics.

And we see it glorified in the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist,

as the Crucified Jesus pours out his strength, peace and forgiveness

on the members of his Body.

 

And we see that glory as sinners, like Mary Magdalen,

become devoutly in love with Jesus.

And we see it as a few cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests

are not afraid to publicly stand with Christ and the Truth,

at the foot of Cross even when it means suffering.

 

___

Who else is at the foot of the Cross, standing with Jesus?

Of course, Mary, His Mother.

Mary is always with Jesus when He needs her.

She was there when He was a needy baby and growing boy.

And she was there when He needed her on the Cross.

And she is with Him now bodily, in the glory of heaven,

and she is here with us, as His body continues to suffer on earth.

She would never abandon Jesus, and she would never abandon us.

____

As I mentioned before, the Church teaches that

the Eucharist is first and foremost the sacrifice of the Cross.

And so we come here every Sunday, not simply to pray or to hear God’s word,

but to stand at the foot of the Cross

—and to be united with the Body of Christ Crucified in the Eucharist.

With Mary, we unite our suffering to Jesus’s suffering on the Cross:

as St. Paul tells us elsewhere:

“offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God

–this is your true and proper worship.”

All the suffering we endure, and all the good we do.

And he unites ours to His, and His to ours.

 

___

My dear brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters in Christ,

today we can’t get past the suffering inflicted on us

by too many bad priests, bishops and cardinals.

And we are confused and frightened by the accusations against our Holy Father,

and pray they are not true.

But no matter what, we will not give up hope or faith,

we will not turn and run and hide.

 

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

and kneel at the foot of the Cross of Christ

made really substantially present on the altar,

let us stand with John, and Magdalen and Our Mother Mary,

and join them in uniting all our sufferings to His.

And in Holy Communion,

let our unity with Jesus and His Church be strengthened,

as one Body of Christ, suffering and glorified,

filled with every grace and blessing, every peace and virtue,

that flows from the pierced Heart of Jesus.

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Archbishop Vigano. By now most of you have heard about the astonishing accusations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. In his 11 page “testimony,” he lays out many damning accusations surrounding ex-cardinal McCarrick, including naming high ranking Cardinals he says are involved in the “homosexual current” in the Church. Most devastating, though, is his testimony about Pope Francis. He maintains: 1) Pope Benedict XVI had put a non-publicized censure on then-cardinal McCarrick in 2009 or 2010, that forbad McCarrick from publicly exercising his priestly ministry and required him to live a life of penance; 2) Pope Francis effectively revoked that censure when he took office in 2013, and made McCarrick his “go-to” advisor for the United States; 3) Vigano personally told Pope Francis about McCarrick’s perversions in a private meeting on June 23, 2013, “Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for Bishops there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”
Vigano’s testimony is particularly important because he has been a high ranking official in the Church for decades, including oversight of all the papal nuncios (ambassadors) around the world, then as the Governor of the Vatican City State, and finally as the Papal Nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016. Moreover, he has always been known as a man of great integrity and personal holiness. Finally, in giving this written testimony he has broken his pledge not to reveal diplomatic and papal secrets, doing so only because his “conscience dictates.” As he writes:
“To restore the beauty of holiness to the face of the Bride of Christ, which is terribly disfigured by so many abominable crimes, and if we truly want to free the Church from the fetid swamp into which she has fallen, we must have the courage to tear down the culture of secrecy and publicly confess the truths we have kept hidden. We must tear down the conspiracy of silence with which bishops and priests have protected themselves at the expense of their faithful, a conspiracy of silence that in the eyes of the world risks making the Church look like a sect, a conspiracy of silence not so dissimilar from the one that prevails in the mafia. “Whatever you have said in the dark … shall be proclaimed from the housetops” (Lk. 12:3).”
Vigano’s testimony has met with mixed reaction. On the one hand, several highly regarded prelates have spoken up in support of Vigano’s personal integrity and the need to pursue investigation of his accusations. Among these are Cardinal DiNardo (president of the USCCB, and Archbishop of Houston), Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Chaput (Philadelphia), Archbishop Olmstead (Phoenix), Archbishop Vigneron (Detroit) and Bishop Morlino (Madison).
On the other side, many are trying to dismiss the charges as part of a wider “cabal” on the part of conservative prelates to undermine or even depose Pope Francis. They are painting Vigano as a bitter, “anti-gay,” disgruntled bureaucrat. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago responded (he was named in the testimony), “The Pope has a bigger agenda. He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”
WHAT THE…? What crud. What happened to leaving no stone unturned to root out the abuse, unchastity and lying in the hierarchy?

The ONLY question is, are these CHARGES TRUE OR NOT?
If they are true, they demand immediate, vehement, dramatic and definitive action. And with all filial respect to His Holiness, as several bishops have pointed out, if the charges against him are true, and I pray devoutly they are not, the Pope has met his own criteria for removing other bishops/cardinals from office.
For myself, I have long prayed for a high-ranking bishop to come forward to tell the whole truth about the filth in the Church. Haven’t we all? And now one might be doing just that. Are we now to ignore him, or simply dismiss him as a kook? If so, we might as well stop asking God for help, if we reject the help He may be sending us.

Kavanaugh Hearings. This week the Senate will hold hearings on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The radical left in our country has tried to find some reason to stop his confirmation, but so far they have come up with nothing, except that he’s probably going to overturn abortion on demand. And that is enough to convince almost all the democrat senators to oppose his nomination.
So, let’s pray that Brett, our fellow practicing Catholic, our brother in Christ, is filled with Christ’s peace and courage, receives a fair hearing, free of rancorous personal attacks, and that he be swiftly confirmed by the Senate. To this end, you will find in your pews today new Holy Cards of St. Raymond, the patron saint of lawyers. On one side is his picture, on the other our prayer to him. I ask that all of us, as a parish, pray this prayer every day this week for the above intentions. May God generously answer our prayers.

Lighting Project. Well, we’re done. And thanks be to God, it seems to have been a huge success. I hope you all agree. Thank you all for your patience, and thanks to those who made special donations to pay for the fix. And last but not least thanks to parish plant manager, Tom Browne, for supervising the whole project. Tom spent countless hours, including some all-nighters, to make sure everything went as perfectly as possible. Kudos and blessings on Tom.

Reparations. Many bishops, including our own Bishop Burbidge, have asked us to pray and do acts of penance in reparation for the terrible sins of abuse, lying and unchastity among priests and bishops. In response to that a catholic friend of mine, a doctor and mother of a large family, wrote me: “I can’t tolerate being asked to participate in reparations for the sins of priests and bishops. I won’t fast for them. I’ve already been paying for their diabolical behavior…What an insult…”
Actually, part of me had that exact same initial reaction. But another part of me recognizes that if something is going to be done, you and I have to do what we can help get it done, “if not you and I, who?” So we pray for God’s intervention, and we do penance, offering sacrifices in reparation for the sins of others, showing God that we are sorry for their sins and our love for and dedication to Him. In essence, we follow Jesus instruction about driving out the most pernicious demons, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”

Humanae Vitae & Fifty Years. Next Saturday, September 8, is our conference on the historic encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae. Contact the parish office for more information. I hope to see you all there.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles