Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Trinity Sunday. Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, celebrating the most
sublime mystery of our faith: that God is One, in three Divine Persons, Father, Son and
Holy Spirit. It is a “mystery” in that It is something that we know only because God has
revealed It to us, and is something we cannot fully understand because It’s divine nature
is so far above our human intelligence and experience. This does not mean It is irrational
or imagined—no more than Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is irrational or imagined
simply because it isn’t fully understood by 99.999…% of human beings. I don’t
understand how the world was created—it’s a mystery. But it happened.
I say It’s “sublime” because It reveals something amazingly wonderful about God:
that He is a personal communion of three persons sharing one life and one love. Hence,
St. John would say, “God is love,” and Pope Benedict XVI would say, “for God, life is
love.” So that at the heart of God’s essence…His being…who He most truly is, is this
eternal, total, complete, mutual self-gift between the three Divine Persons in love, that is
at the center of their absolute unity.
And I say “most” sublime because It is really the beginning of all meaning in life
and the end to which all life is directed: living in the love of God. We are created in the
image of this amazing Trinitarian love in order to share in it, both on earth (by loving
God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving each other, beginning in the
family) and in heaven. What a glorious Feast.

Happy Father’s Day! Today is also, of course, Father’s Day. It’s great when this secular
feast falls on the Christian Feast of Trinity Sunday, because the two help us to understand
important things about each other. We remember the familial relationship within God and
that at the head of this Divine Family is God the Father—from whom the Son is eternally
begotten, and from whom, with the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds. So, the mystery reveals
the essential importance and role of fathers in the family, as well as the essential
importance of the family itself. But in doing so it places the dignity of fatherhood in
relation to the equal dignity of each member of the family, e.g., God the Son (Jesus) is
equal but obedient to the Father.

Reaction to the Mural. I was so pleased to hear the comments of so many parishioners
last weekend who love the new mural. I love it too, and can’t wait for the 2 nd one to go up
in October.

“Religious Freedom Week.” Due to the efforts of our President Trump and his
administration we have made significant strides in defending religious freedom in the last
two years. But we must continue to be vigilant in defending this freedom. So, once again
we will join with the Bishops of the United States and commemorate “Religious Freedom
Week,” which begins next Saturday, June 22, the Feast of St. Thomas More, and ends on
June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. St. Raymond’s will keep this “Week” by:
 praying the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” after every Mass;
encouraging all parishioners to pray the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” daily at home,
and perhaps also making the Novena to St. Thomas More (see the insert in this bulletin).

Changing the Words of the Our Father. All week people have been asking me,
“Father, Father, is it true the Pope changed the Our Father?” The simple answer: NO. The
press once again has caused great confusion among the faithful by poorly reporting the
facts. Last month the ITALIAN BISHOPS’ Conference approved a new ITALIAN
translation of the Our Father, and last week this was approved by Pope Francis. The
German Bishops’ Conference thought about doing the same thing last year, but decided
not to. In any case, the American Bishops are not considering any such change, and I
can’t imagine they ever will, since that would be an ecumenical disaster, putting us out of
sync with most Christians in America.

Speaking of the US Bishops’ Conference. The Bishop’s met in Baltimore this last week
for their regular semi-annual meeting. Their last such meeting was last November, their
failed effort to address the problem of disciplining lying and abusing bishops in their
midst. This time they will address this issue by approving an implementation plan for
Pope Francis’ new rules issued last month, under which accusations against bishops
would be investigated by the archbishop of their province (the “metropolitan”). This is
different than accusations against priests, which are investigated jointly by the bishop and
an independent lay board. And remember, former cardinal-archbishop Ted McCarrick
was a Metropolitan archbishop for 20 years. (Note: as I write this on Wednesday there is
no news from the meeting).

Speaking of Lying and Abusing Bishops. Last week Archbishop Lori concluded his
investigation of the accusations against Bishop Michael Bransfield, suspended bishop of
our neighboring Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. Archbishop Lori’s
report is a sickening tale of homosexual sexual abuse and harassment, and of
misappropriation of millions of dollars of diocesan funds to finance a lavish and opulent
lifestyle, including large and small gifts to scores of cardinals, bishops and priests. In his
report Archbishop Lori revealed that he had personally received a $10,000 gift from
Bransfield.
(Note, there is nothing illegal in giving or receiving gifts, except when you give
away money that isn’t yours. Although I question their wisdom, in fairness to the
recipients, there are no accusations that they knew the money was “misappropriated,” and
Bransfield had a reputation as being independently wealthy, having inherited family
money. Even so, it seems imprudent to accept such gifts ….)
As in the case of McCarrick, the report’s findings, as shocking as they are, were
not a great surprise to many priests who had been hearing rumors about Bransfield for
decades. But it seems, that like McCarrick, he had many powerful friends in the hierarchy
who promoted and protected him. One can’t help but wonder if money played a role in
that….
Speaking of Church Finances. Every fall I publish a financial report to the parish and
invite and encourage anyone interested to ask any questions about the numbers. Some

people do ask, and as a former accountant I enjoy answering their questions. Also, in the
last 5 years we have been independently audited 3 times, with a very clean report each
time. Moreover, if you are ever concerned about the priest’s “lavish” lifestyle, I would be
happy to give you a tour of our rectory, which is comfortable, but is modestly furnished
and in need of new carpet and paint. Also, I have a finance council of 5 parishoners very
well versed in finances and accounting, who has access to all parish financial
information, and with whom I consult concerning all significant parish financial
decisions. Finally, several years ago I made a policy prohibiting gifts to me (e.g.,
Christmas, Birthday) from the vicar and staff, because it might appear inappropriate.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019

Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday

June 9, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

This last week our nation, in fact most of the world,

recalled that day 75 years ago when

155,000 American, British, French and other Allied troops

stormed the beaches of Normandy.

June 6, 1944: D-Day.

It was a glorious day, but it was also a terrible day.

Many of the companies in the first wave of the invasion

had a 90% or higher casualty rate.

Overall that day 10,000 allies, and 9,000 Germans, were killed or wounded.

And the survivors were scarred by the horrific memories forever.

 

Horrible.

But then you realize that most of those men knew

they had a good chance of dying that day.

But they went forward anyway.

Who would do that?

Who would jump out of a perfectly good plane

or leap out of a landing craft into crashing waves

in order to submit themselves

to a hail of bullets and bombs going off all around you?

You have to be either crazy, or enormously brave.

And they were NOT crazy.

They were in fact, some of the bravest men who ever lived.

It leaves us all standing in wonder, and reverence.

 

I think about that and I wonder if I would ever have that kind of courage.

If I could ever, not so much jump into a firestorm of bullets to defend my country,

but knowingly and willingly suffer a horrible death as a martyr

for Jesus, the church, and you.

 

I don’t know, I’m just not that brave.

In fact, most of us aren’t that brave.

 

___

But then I think of Pentecost.

And I look back at a bunch of frightened men and women who locked themselves

in an upstairs room, 2000 years ago.

They were very much afraid of being brutally tortured and killed,

but they didn’t have to go into battle, they could just choose to hide.

 

But then 50 days later these same men threw open the doors

and went into the crowds and proclaimed truth

that could subject them to automatic death from the authorities.

Of course I’m talking about the apostles and the other first disciples of Jesus

who were quivering cowards on  Good Friday

but were courageous preachers on Pentecost.

 

And the difference was the decent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

That, my friends, is what the Holy Spirit does.

It lifts up normal weak and frightened human beings

and makes them into heroic saints

with the courage to rush in where angels fear to tread.

 

This is the Holy Spirit that descended onto Church on Pentecost.

This is the Holy Spirit that descended on you in your baptism,

and strengthened you in a powerful way in your confirmation.

 

____

Would you be willing to storm the beach in Normandy?

Maybe some of you would,

I know a lot of you are, in fact, war heroes yourselves.

(Thank you for your service.)

But most of us couldn’t even dream of it.

And if you could storm the beach at Normandy for love of family and country,

would you be willing to suffer as much for Jesus and His Church?

Could you even simply stand up for the Church and Jesus

in the common things of everyday life?

 

Think of at that.

Do we have the courage to live the Christian life every day,

even if we’re not threatened with martyrdom or direct physical harm?

Maybe you’re tempted to sin–do have the courage to say no?

Or maybe someone at work or school is insulting the faith,

or even blaspheming Jesus Himself

—do you have the courage to simply disagree?

 

You may be afraid, but the thing is, we don’t have to do this on our own.

The Holy Spirit dwells inside of all the baptized,

in the fullness of His strength with all the confirmed.

We have same power of the Holy Spirit

that enabled Peter to go from denying Jesus on Good Friday to

throwing open the doors on Pentecost to preach to folks who wanted him dead!

That power is inside of you.

And as amazing as it sounds, and with all due respect and deference,

that power is greater than it took to be a hero on D-Day.

 

____

This is the power of God that can and does intervene, even dramatically,

in the life of every Christian—going back to the life of Christ Himself.

For example, think back to the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

How Jesus, in his humanity, was so overcome by fear and sorrow

as he could see not only the terrible physical suffering coming,

but also how it would be wasted for so many who would reject his salvation.

He was so overwhelmed that Scripture tells us he actually sweat blood

and asked His Father to find another way.

But then he concluded, “not my will but your will be done,”

and got up resolute and peaceful

and endured scourging, mocking, spittle, a crown of thorns,

carrying the cross up the hill,

and gasping for air, bleeding to death, hanging on the cross.

 

Imagine the courage that it took to do the that.

Even greater courage than landing on Omaha Beach

—there at least you had a chance of survival.

But it wasn’t simply human courage that led Jesus forward:

it was human and divine courage the came together

in the one person of Jesus, God the Son.

The Power of God.

 

And it didn’t stop there: think how even death couldn’t defeat His divine power,

so that on the third day he rose again breaking the bonds of death forever.

 

This is the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus and His Father.

This is the power that came to the Church that first Pentecost

in a dramatic way:

the upper room was filled with a loud wind and tongues of fire

and they were filled with courage to throw open the doors.

And this is the power that came to you in baptism and confirmation.

The power that remains in the church and in the faithful every day.

 

_____

This power has been shown in many ways throughout the history of the church,

in large and small ways, dramatic and subtle ways.

Today you look up on that wall and you see a dramatic example of that power

—that took place actually on another beach.

We remember how St. Raymond of Peñafort,

had traveled to the Island of Majorca with the King of Spain

to preach to the Muslims

but soon discovered the King had brought his mistress along.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, St. Raymond

courageously chastised the King for his adultery,

and stormed out to go back to Spain.

And when the King closed all the ships in the port to him,

Raymond, filled with confidence in the power of Jesus Christ,

he went down to the beach, said a prayer, made the sign of the cross,

and stepped on one end of his great black cape,

which became filled with wind like the wind of Pentecost,

and he sailed across the sea 160 miles back to Spain.

That was not human courage,

that was the power of the Holy Spirit, that not only filled his cape with wind,

but filled his heart with confidence and courage

enabling St. Raymond to step out on the water and not look down or back.

That painting will always remind us not only of the holiness of our great patron,

but also of the power of God, the power of the Holy Spirit,

acting in each and every Christian life.

 

____

And of course we need that power very much today.

We know there are huge problems in the church.

We are in great need of courageous and faithful leaders.

And we are equally in need of courageous and faithful followers,

who are willing, by the power of the Holy Spirit,,

to stand up in charity and respect to speak and demand the truth.

And to support those leaders, who also filled with the Holy Spirit,

truly seek to renew the Church of Jesus Christ.

Not by tearing down the church, and not by building a new church,

but by cleaning out filth that has been accumulated

by those who have not been open to the Holy Spirit, but to the evil spirit.

 

There are, of course, lots of obstacles to this.

It seems we’re talking on an impossible task.

But think back to the apostles: at the beginning of that first Pentecost day

they led only a couple of hundred Christians.

By the end of the day there were 3000 more, and now there are two 2 billion.

Not to mention all those who have gone before us in the faith in the last 2000 years.

 

Yes I know today the problems seemed insurmountable,

and the power of the evil one seems unstoppable.

But imagine you’re soldier about to land in Omaha Beach in 1944.

What could you do against the power of the mighty German Wehrmacht

manipulated by the evil Adolph Hitler.?

But in the end, in spite of many casualties, the victory was theirs.

 

But it was not theirs alone—God was on their side.

Now, last week I watched a few of the great movies about D-Day.

One of those movies was “The Longest Day,”

a movie with every heroic actor from the 1950s and 60s.

And in two separate scenes

an American General and a German general

both say to their subordinates, “I wonder whose side God is on.”

As parochial as it may sound, God was definitely on our side.

Just think about all the things it had to go right for us, and wrong for them.

Which shouldn’t be a surprise because we were fighting to end the tyranny of

a homicidal genocidal tyrant who was taking over the world.

 

And God is clearly on our side today, yours and mine.

By the action of the Holy Spirit, He can and will give us courage and wisdom,

to truly purify and renew His Holy Church.

 

____

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

let us recognize the power of God made manifest on this altar,

as by the command of Jesus and the action of His Holy Spirit

the bread and wine are transformed into the true Body and Blood of Jesus.

And as you receive His Body, may it strengthened and renew

that divine power within us,

power made manifest in the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost,

power made manifest in the course of human history,

and power made manifest in at every moment

in the everyday lives of every Christian.

The Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday

SAINT RAYMOND IS IN HIS CHURCH! I am so overjoyed that this last Wednesday
Phase 1 of our Mural Project was completed, as the painting of St. Raymond’s
miraculous sailing from Majorca took its place of honor next to our sanctuary. Recall the
power of God and the faith of our great Patron in this miracle, when St. Raymond, after
condemning King James for consorting with his mistress on the island of Majorca, bowed
his head in prayer and, by the grace of God, sailed 160 miles back to Spain using just his
great cape as both a skiff and a sail.
Special thanks today to the family of William Brill, a long-time parishioner and
usher who died in November 2017. Will loved our church and parish, and in memory of
this love, his family donated the funds for this mural. Please pray for the soul of this good
man, and for his family.
Phase 2 of our Mural Project, the painting of St. Raymond and Our Lady of
Ransom, should be complete in October. Thanks to artist Henry Wingate for his brilliant
work.

PENTECOST. Today we remember the day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the
early Church, about 120 disciples gathered to pray in the upper room. As the Acts of
Apostles tells us:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And
suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the
house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed
and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began
to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in
Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the
multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them
speaking in his own language…. So those who received his word were baptized, and
there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2: 1-6, 41).
Some call this the “Birthday of the Church.” Of course, other days are also called
the “Birthday of the Church,” for example, Christmas and Good Friday. Perhaps the best
analogy here is to relate this “birth” back to the creation of Adam; as Genesis tells us:
“Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils
the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2: 7). As you may know, the
word “breathed” and “breath” here are translating two forms of the Hebrew words “ruah”
which means “breath” or “wind”—or “spirit.” So the “breath of God” or the “wind of
God” also points to the Spirit of God. In a parallel to the creation of Adam, during His
life on earth Christ had built up a body for His Church, not from the “dust of the earth”
but from the simple human beings He had brought together under the leadership of the
apostles. And in a certain sense it was like a lifeless body, as the disciples locked
themselves in the upper room filled with fear (but also hope). Until the Pentecost, when
the Lord breathed His Spirit, “like the rush of a mighty wind,” into that body and it came
to life, as we see in the above passage.
That Spirit remains alive and well in the Church today, coming to individual
members of the Church in various ways, but in particular through the Sacrament of

Confirmation. If only we would recognize and use with faith and confidence the gifts of
the Holy Spirit we receive in that sacrament!
But the Holy Spirit remains with the Church in many other ways as well,
continuing to give it life and making it the true Body of Christ on earth. It remains acting
in all the sacraments, and in the preaching of the Church, and in the love of Christians.
And it remains in the Church, acting through its hierarchical structure established by
Christ through His apostles.
Some ask, why don’t we experience the Holy Spirit like they did on that first
Pentecost—with the tongues of fire, the sound of the wind and the speaking in foreign
tongues. Many scholarly saints have proposed that in the very beginning the Trinity
deigned to show Its power and presence in the Church in these extraordinary ways in
order to draw attention to this new and world-changing phenomenon, and to found the
Church with a dramatic event that would always be a sign to all generations that the Holy
Spirit had entered the Church and world in a unique way that day.
But don’t we need that same kind of extraordinary and dramatic event/sign today?
Perhaps. Then again, don’t we actually have such a sign? What about the “sign” of the
presence of the living Body of Christ, the Church, still alive and vibrant 2000 years later,
not having 120 members, or 3000 members, but over 1 billion members (actually, 2
billion when we count all Christians) living in almost every nation on earth. What other
institution, group or society has survived in any comparable way for so long, and with
such an effect on human lives and human history? And considering all the frail and sinful
human beings who have found a home in her over all these centuries—whether layman,
priest, bishop or pope—to me it seems her survival and flourishing is the greatest sign we
could imagine or hope for of the Holy Spirit’s continuing power and presence in the
Church today.
Let us pray that the zealous fire of the Holy Spirit transforms our lives so that at
every moment we may live and breathe our faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ.

June and “Gay Pride Month”. “LGBTQ” activists commemorate June as “Gay Pride
Month.” While President Obama officially declared it a national commemoration every
year he was in office, President Trump has not. So it is not a “national” thing.
And it is definitely not a Catholic thing. As Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin
tweeted last week, “Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events
held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to
Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.” Good for Bishop
Tobin. Let’s follow his lead.
Hollywood Hypocrisy in Georgia. Many Hollywood-types have called for a movie
industry boycott of Georgia, due to the state’s new strict anti-abortion “heartbeat” law.
For example, Disney CEO Bob Iger said: "I think many people who work for us will not
want to work there….I don’t see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there."
Interesting. Disney is doing a heck of a lot of business in China, which, among other
abuses, currently has about 2 million Muslims in re-education (concentration) camps.

Disney has also recently filmed in several countries with strict laws against abortion. For
example, the new movie Aladdin was partially filmed in Jordan, which criminalizes
almost all abortions. So what’s wrong with Georgia? Can you say “hypocrites”?

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

The Solemnity of The Ascension of The Lord

Pro-Life Victory. Last week the Supreme Court issued a brief ruling upholding Indiana’s law that requires the remains of aborted babies to be interred or cremated separately from medical waste. Though a small victory, it is a pro-life victory in that it defends the state’s right to recognize the remains of the abortion as not “waste” but the remains of a human being. The ruling was per curiam (an unsigned opinion of the majority, without revealing who voted for or against).
However, some argue there was also a pro-life loss in the opinion, as the court simultaneously refused to rule (“expresses no view on the merits”) on a second part of the Indiana law which barred “the knowing provision of sex-, race-, or disability-selective abortions by abortion providers.” The Court stated: “Only the Seventh Circuit has thus far addressed this kind of law. We follow our ordinary practice of denying petitions insofar as they raise legal issues that have not been considered by additional Courts of Appeals.”
I do not consider that a loss, but rather perhaps a necessary strategic.
Consider what Justice Thomas wrote in his instructive concurring opinion: “The Court’s decision to allow further percolation should not be interpreted as agreement with the decisions below [of the Circuit Court]. Enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion based solely on the race, sex, or disability of an unborn child, as Planned Parenthood advocates, would constitutionalize the views of the 20th-century eugenics movement. In other contexts, the Court has been zealous in vindicating the rights of people even potentially subjected to race, sex, and disability discrimination…Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever. Having created the constitutional right to an abortion, this Court is dutybound to address its scope. In that regard, it is easy to understand why the District Court and the Seventh Circuit looked to Casey to resolve a question it did not address. Where else could they turn? The Constitution itself is silent on abortion.”
No loss here. Just groundwork for future victories.

The Ascension of the Lord. In most of the world this feast was celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation last Thursday, 40 days after Easter as the Gospels record. But our Bishop and the Bishops of the neighboring Dioceses think it best to move it to Sunday so that all Catholics are better able to easily celebrate this very important feast.
And this is a very important feast, in as much as it celebrates the fact that Jesus ascended, body and soul, into heaven, and now dwells in heaven as a bodily person. This reminds us that God the Son came into the world “like us in all things but sin” –of the reality of His bodily incarnation, birth, death and resurrection–and redeemed us entirely, body and soul. Moreover, it is a pledge to us of the resurrection of our bodies on the last day, and the transformation of the physical world into a glorious, “new heavens and a new earth.”
This in turn leads us to remember the dignity of the human body: your body is part of who you are, it is “you” as much as your soul is “you.” Your body is you speaking and communicating yourself to other bodily persons. As such, the body itself has meaning and speaks to others of this meaning. This is an important truth to keep in mind these days, as many try to degrade the body and treat it as an accidental part of who we are. The body and bodily acts mean nothing but what you want them to mean, and so you can use or abuse your body and other people’s bodies any way you like, or you can ignore the basic truths that a person’s body tells us about them. This has become a key argument for those who advocate and promote all sorts of mental/emotional/behavioral problems, including pornography, homosexuality, “transgenderism” and “transsexualism.”
But that is contrary to common sense, the natural law (the way things clearly are designed to be) and divine revelation. And it is totally opposed to the dignity of the human body, which is so beautifully revealed to us in the mystery of the Ascension of the Lord: that the body communicates who we are and is so wonderful—so meaningful—that it is created to live in glory forever in heaven.

Novena to the Holy Spirit. 2000 years ago the Lord ascended into heaven on a Thursday, so that immediately after that first Ascension Thursday the apostles and the other disciples, with the Blessed Mother, began to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised. For nine days they prayed, and on the tenth day, Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit descend on them in a dramatic display of divine power. Those nine days of prayer are the origin of the pious Catholic custom of praying of novenas (from “novem,” Latin for “nine”) for particular intentions.
The celebration of the Ascension on Sunday complicates the idea of a “Pentecost Novena.” Even so, I invite you to join me in praying a slightly shortened novena to the Holy Spirit. There are many different forms of praying Pentecost novenas, so to keep it simple, I propose the following. First, form a particular intention for each day:
Sun.: That St. Raymond’s priests and parishioners may more actively exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit we have received.
Mon.: That the Holy Spirit may grant me an increase in His gift of wisdom.
Tues.: …His gift of understanding.
Weds.: …His gift of counsel.
Thurs.: …His gift of fortitude.
Fri.: …His gift of knowledge.
Sat.: …His gift of piety.
Sun.: …His gift of reverence, or fear of the Lord.

And then, in union with the Blessed Mother say this prayer each day:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Let us pray. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit that we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Welcome Home, College Students. I want to extend my most sincere congratulations to all of our parishioners who are graduating from college/university this month. We’re all proud of you, and pray for you as you move on to the new challenges that await you.
I also want to welcome home all of the college students coming home for the summer. I look forward to seeing you around the church. Please keep your eye on the bulletin for various opportunities available to deepen your faith life over the summer, as well as social opportunities that will come up here in the parish and at nearby parishes.

Anniversary Thanks. On behalf of myself and Fathers Smith, Daly and Scalia I’d like to thank all of you who sent cards and gifts to us celebrating our anniversaries of ordination. They were not at all necessary, but still deeply appreciated.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 6th Sunday of Easter, May 26, 2019

6th Sunday of Easter

May 26, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

There are certain words that even though we hear and repeat them

over and over again, in our daily conversations, on the daily news

and even in our most solemn prayers,

sometimes we don’t stop to think what they really mean.

One of these words finds its way into our Gospel today.

The word is “peace.”

 

Today Jesus tells His apostles,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
But what is this “peace” that Jesus is leaving His apostles?

Is it something simple like the tranquility of the quiet places

He would often lead them off to relax and pray?

Or is it something earth shattering, like an end to violence and war in the world?

Or was He promising them that they would never argue amongst themselves?

Or was He simply extending to them a common social greeting: “peace”?

 

To answer this question let’s think about the one place in Scripture

where there’s absolute peace

–in the first 2 chapters of Genesis,

at the beginning of the world in the Garden of Eden.

There we find that there is peace in every sense of the word

–there is harmony between people, specifically husband and wife,

between man and nature, between man and himself.

Most especially, there is harmony between man and God.

We’re told that Adam and Eve lived with God,

that He would walk with them in the garden in the cool of the evening.

And why not: this is what God created them for.

Our God of love created man to be like Him–in His own image and likeness

–so He could give them His love, and receive love in return.

 

And that is the peace of paradise: sharing God ‘s one life of love forever

The Old Testament tells us how this is the peace lost

when Adam and Eve didn’t keep God’s word,

but this is also the peace restored in the new Testament with Christ.

St. Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is like a new Adam,

and that all things are made new under him.

Christ comes to restore the peace of paradise,

to bring us to share forever in the one life of love with God.

 

And so on the night before He died, at the Last Supper, Jesus tells His apostles:

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

This is the promise of the restoration of living with–dwelling with–God.

And doing this by doing what Adam refused to do: “keeping [God’s] word.”

 

Jesus goes on to say: “Not as the world gives [peace] do I give it to you.”

The peace of Christ isn’t simply the tranquility of a quiet place to relax;

it isn’t an end to wars and violence in the world;

and it isn’t a mere social greeting.

The peace of Christ is found in entering into the perfect life and love

that exists between the Father, Son and Spirit,

being one with them by imbibing their grace,

and hearing and being transformed by and keeping God’s word.

This is the peace of Christ: the peace of paradise, the peace of heaven itself.

 

Heaven—paradise—is the perfection and completion of this peace,

but we can share in this peace even in this life.

So that even as Christ kept His Father’s word perfectly

by obediently accepting the violence of the Cross,

He also experienced the peace of being in perfect union

with His Father and the Spirit,

so that even in midst of His agony and pain,

He had the interior peace to promise the repentant thief:

“Amen I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”

 

This interior peace may seem impossible for human beings to attain–and it is.

But for God nothing is impossible

—and with His grace, nothing is impossible for us.

 

So how do we find this peace?

We start, as I’ve said, by keeping His word.

As Jesus went on tell His apostles at the Last Supper:

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,

just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love..”

We cannot share in the peace of Christ if we refuse to enter into

and live the love of Christ.

And when we live in that love—abide in that love—God will come to dwell in us.

 

But how does He come to dwell in us?

God moves as He wills,

but He’s promised to come to us whenever we receive the sacraments.

He came to us in Baptism, when He washed away the stain of Adam’s sin,

and made His sons and daughters.

He came to us in Confirmation,

when the Holy Spirit came to us with the fullness of His gifts.

And He comes to us in Penance, where we are again reconciled to Him again,

as the priest prays over us: “may God grant you pardon and peace.”

 

But nowhere more fully or profoundly is this same grace given,

this same gift of peace,

than in the sacrament we are here to celebrate today–the Eucharist.

The sacrament which is a foretaste of the eternal heavenly banquet.

The sacrament that brings us into communion with the Cross,

and thereby into the act of love that brings us

into the life of the resurrection

–the act of obedience of the New Adam that reconciles fallen man to God

and offers him the life of paradise,

of heaven, eternal life with the Trinity.

 

_____

This whole notion of peace is lost on most people—even most Catholics.

It’s true that we all want there to peace

between nations, and communities, and families.

But when we speak of this peace, we usually mean a peace

founded in temporary compromises, even injustices.

Peace like the Armistice agreement at the end of World War I,

a peace that ended one war,

but simply set the stage for years of suffering and ultimately more war.

Or where a wife agrees not to talk about her husband’s drinking,

and he agrees not to beat her—too often.

Or where parents agree not to talk about

their adult children’s falling away from the faith,

and the adult children agree

to come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Or when Christians agree to tolerate all sorts of immoral behavior in society

and compromise their moral principles in legislation,

just so they’ll be allowed to live their own lives according to own beliefs,

and then wind up being called bigots and hatemongers anyway.

Or when bishops and priests agree to turn a blind I or cover up abuse,

so that they can keep up a facade of righteousness,

but in the end create even worse moral scandal.

 

This is peace as the world gives peace, not the peace of Christ.

 

Sometimes, because of the sinful choices of men,

this worldly peace seems to be all we can hope for

in relations between nations and people.

But in the end it’s like sip of water in a parched desert,

compared to the true peace of Christ,

the fountain of life-giving water springing up inside of us.

 

All too often we settle for this impoverished notion of peace.

Perhaps there’s no better illustration of this

than in a ritual we practice at many Masses.

At every Mass, right before Holy Communion,

the priest quotes the Lord Jesus saying:

“Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.”

But the prayers of the priest make it clear he’s not talking about worldly peace.

Right before this he says

“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,

graciously grant peace in our days.

that…we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress.”

And immediately after he says,

“graciously grant [us] peace and unity in accordance with your will.”

 

But then the confusion usually comes when

the priest invites the people to offer each other “the sign of  peace.”

Just as Christ gave His peace to the apostles at the first Mass at the Last Supper,

the sign of peace at Mass today is meant to be a reminder

that we are about to receive the peace that comes in the Eucharist:

to share in the power of the Cross and Resurrection,

His perfect act of love that offers us restoration to Paradise,

the peace of perfect loving and HOLY Communion

with the Father, Son and Spirit,

and through them, communion with each other.

 

And yet all too often, it can become basically and expression

of the way “the world gives peace”

                   —a time to offer a friendly greeting, or even to chat for a moment.

Not that there’s anything wrong with friendly greetings, and such.

But that’s just not what the Sign of Peace at Mass is about.

It’s supposed to be a profound and solemn ritual sign and prayer

that points us not toward the temporary or superficial peace of this world,

but toward the abiding perfect paradisal peace of Christ

that’s about to flow into us as we receive Holy Communion.

 

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Father, you’ve been telling us this for years.”

I have, and thank you for listening, thank you for the efforts you have made

to incorporate this into our Masses here at St. Raymond’s.

 

____

Nowadays the word “peace” is thrown around as the panacea of all problems.

But what kind of peace—true and lasting peace, or false and temporary peace?

Today, let this word resonate with its truest and deepest meaning.

May it awaken in us the desire to not settle for anything less than

the perfect peace of the perfect paradise of heaven

–with the Blessed Mother, St. Raymond, and all the angels and saints

who have kept God’s word throughout the ages.

The true and mysterious peace we receive in this world by

entering into Holy Communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

The peace of Christ be with you always.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Priest Transfers. This last Thursday Bishop Burbidge announced his annual list of priest transfers/assignment. Thanks be to God, Fr. Smith and I will be staying at St. Raymond’s another year. Unfortunately, no additional priest will be coming to assist us, but considering the priest shortage, I’m glad we still have two priests assigned here.
Most of the other transfers won’t directly affect us, and there are few major changes that you’d be interested in, except for one: Fr. Scalia, in addition to his current job as Vicar of Clergy (in charge of all the priests and deacons) will also become the pastor of St. James’ Parish in Falls Church. That is a large parish, much larger than ours, which means he won’t be coming to St. Raymond’s to help on Sundays any longer. Fr. Scalia is an excellent priest and preacher, so I was very glad that he asked to help out here when his other obligations permitted. I am happy for him getting to become a pastor again (this is where the real fun of being a priest is) but I’m worried that he will be overworked with basically two full-time jobs.
So, please keep Fr. Scalia in your prayers, and when you see him, thank him for all his help to us these last few years.

State Abortion Laws. If you’ve been following the news you’ve heard that several states have passed new laws placing new restrictions on abortion. Probably the most talked about is the Georgia law that prohibits abortions after the baby’s heartbeat can be detected—about 2 weeks after conception. This will basically make all abortions illegal in Georgia, since most women don’t know their pregnant until at least 5 to 7 weeks. Although aborting mothers will not be charged with any crime, doctors who perform abortions face long prison sentences. Also, there are no exceptions for rape and incest, or for the general “health of the mother,” but there are exceptions in the case of acting to save the mother from death or “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment,” or if the pregnancy has been deemed “medically futile” (i.e., the child would die shortly after birth).
Of course the pro-abortion crowd is going berserk, especially over the lack of exception for rape and incest (which is less than ½% of all abortions). But if an unborn baby is a human being, why should he or she be punished for the brutal act of a rapist or incestuous relative? What did the baby do wrong? Many abortion activists are saying, “the rapist will get out of prison before the doctor does.” Well, maybe we need longer sentences for rapists, but intentionally and willfully killing an innocent baby, whether it’s in the womb or playing on a swing set, is killing a human being, and the punishment for that has always been the harshest. And doctors should know better.
That being said, I’m worried that pro-life legislatures may have gotten ahead of themselves, that this may not work politically. And if it doesn’t work politically, it could do great harm to the pro-life movement. Most of these laws stand a very strong chance of being overturned at the district and appellate level, and the legislatures seem to be counting on the cases all going to the Supreme Court. But remember, the SC doesn’t have to accept every case appealed to it. There’s an old saying in the courts, that “bad facts make bad law,” so that the SC often rejects cases that don’t have the fact pattern that makes for clearly resolving difficult legal issues. I’m afraid that might be the case here. Let us pray….

Georgetown Visitation. Some of you may be acquainted with Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, a Catholic girls’ high school in Washington considered by many to be an “elite” school. But last week it bowed to the elites of the world, at the sacrifice of its Catholicism, when it announced that it will include news about the so-called “same-sex marriages” of alumnae in the school’s alumnae magazine.
Sister Mary Berchmans, president emerita of the school, wrote: “The Church is clear in its teaching on same-sex marriages. But, it is equally clear in its teaching that we are all children of God, that we each have dignity and are worthy of respect and love….As I have prayed over this contradiction, I keep returning to this choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love…we choose the Gospel commandment of love.”
Sister, Sister, Sister. There is no “contradiction.” The Catholic teaching on marriage flows from Jesus’ actual teaching in the Gospel (and the rest of Scripture). It is a specification of how love expresses itself in marriage. Jesus tells us, “if you love me you will keep my commandments.” And when He teaches about the 6th Commandment, “you shall not commit adultery,” He specifically tells us that marriage is only between one man and one woman: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”
Should we worship a pagan idol (against the 1st Commandment) if not doing so would offend someone we love? No. Then why should we honor adultery (which “same-sex-marriage” is a form of) if not doing so would offend someone we love?
Fortunately, the Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement admonishing the school. It remains to be seen what action the new Archbishop will take against the school, if any.
As for me, all I can say is, no parent who wants their daughter to receive a solid and sound Catholic education should send her to Visitation.

Peter’s Pence. Every year we are required to take a second collection at Mass for “Peter’s Pence” which funds the Pope’s charitable giving. This year it will be taken on the weekend of June 29-30, 2019. I thought you might be interested in how your donations are being spent.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Vatican News, 27 April 2019.
“Pope Francis has donated 500,000 dollars to assist migrants in Mexico. The funds, from the Peter’s Pence collections, will be distributed among 27 projects promoted by sixteen Mexican dioceses and religious congregations, which requested assistance in continuing to provide food, lodging, and basic necessities to the migrants.
“According to a statement from Peter’s Pence, “In recent months, thousands of migrants have arrived in Mexico, having travelled more than 4,000 kilometres on foot and with makeshift vehicles from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Men and women, often with young children, flee poverty and violence, hoping for a better future in the United States. However, the US border remains closed to them….In particular, the aid is intended to assist the more than 75,000 people who arrived in Mexico in 2018, in six migrant caravans.…
“Thanks to these projects”, the statement concludes, “and thanks to Christian charity and solidarity, the Mexican Bishops hope to be able to continue helping our migrant brothers and sisters.””

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Confirmation. This coming Wednesday retired Bishop Loverde will be here to give the Sacrament of Confirmation to our teenagers. What an important night for these young men and women, receiving the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Consider the effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1303-5).
Fundamentally Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace. Specifically, this means it:
— roots us more deeply in the divine filiation (sonship);
— unites us more firmly to Christ;
— increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us (specifically
the “Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom,
understanding, right judgment (counsel) and courage
(fortitude), knowledge, reverence, and piety;
— renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
— gives us a special strength to spread and defend the
faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ.
Let’s pray for our newly confirmed today that they may be open to and cooperate with the graces they will receive in Confirmation. But let us also pray for ourselves that we may do the same.

Crossroads Pro-Life. This last Thursday another Summer of Crossroads Pro-Life Walks Across America began. As you will recall, every summer for the last 20+ years, young adults walk on three simultaneous pro-life walks all the way across America from Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.. These young people hope to convert the hearts and minds of others by witnessing to the sanctity of all human life, from the moment of conception to natural death.
This year we have a particular share in the walk, as St. Raymond’s parishioner Victoria Bliss (daughter of John and Glenn Bliss) will be making the trek from San Francisco, the fourth St. Raymond’s parishioner to make the trip over the last few years. I’m sure you are as proud of her as I am, and will join me praying for Victoria and her companions, that they stay safe, healthy and holy, and win many converts to Christ and the pro-life movement.

Pope’s Decree on Abuse. Two weeks ago Pope Francis issued a decree titled Vos Estis Lux Mundi (“You are the light of the world”) to govern the treatment of clergy sexual abuse, especially of minors, by Church officials. I haven’t had time to digest it in full yet, but it basically extends many rules already in place in the U.S. to all the dioceses around the world.
However, two notable changes for the U.S. are: 1) it places clerical sexual coercion of seminarians and religious in the same category as abuse of minors and vulnerable adults; and 2) charges of abuse or cover-ups by bishops will be investigated by the Metropolitan archbishop of the accused bishop’s province, or if the Metropolitan archbishop is accused of abuse or cover up the Vatican will investigate.
This latter change (#2) is a huge disappointment to many, since, for example, 13 years ago former-cardinal Ted McCarrick was a Metropolitan archbishop and would have been in charge of investigating accusations against bishops in his province. Moreover, this is basically an adoption of the “Metropolitan model” proposed by Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, who Archbishop Vigano accused of being a protégé of Ted McCarrick.

Tolkien, the Movie. Many of us were looking forward to the release of the new Movie, “Tolkien,” a biopic about the young J.R.R. Tolkien, the famous English writer, poet, philologist, and academic, best known for his authorship of, “The Lord of the Rings.” While the reviews generally give credit for a well-crafted movie, they also note how the film almost completely ignores the absolutely central role Catholicism played in Tolkien’s life and writing. According to Catholic News Service, director Dome Karukoski said they had cut a scene of Tolkien receiving Communion, because, “people felt it was boring,” and that, “Religion is so internal, it’s difficult to visualize. It’s like watching an encyclopedia.” Funny, I guess the directors of Oscar-winning/nominated films as “Ben Hur,” “The Ten Commandments,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “Chariots of Fire,” “A Man for all Seasons,” “The Song of Bernadette,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Sound of Music,” “Becket”, etc., didn’t get that message. Seems to me a classic example of Hollywood elite just not “getting” Catholicism or Christianity in general. Sigh.

In Case You Hadn’t Heard. From LifeSiteNews, two related stories:
May 6, 2019: “A homosexual pro-abortion member of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives posted a self-incriminating video showing himself verbally assaulting an elderly Catholic woman praying in peaceful protest outside a Planned Parenthood abortion mill in his district…Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims posted his video on Twitter, which was then retweeted by LiveAction.….”
“During the course of Sim’s nearly nine minute video in which he stalks, taunts, harasses and accuses the unnamed woman, the state representative repeatedly attempts to shove his smartphone camera in the woman’s face. She quietly walked up and down the sidewalk during Sim’s outburst, seemingly unperturbed as she prayed a rosary…”
“Who would’ve thought that an old white lady would be out in front of a Planned Parenthood, telling people what’s right for their bodies?” said Sims. “Shame on you.”…
“There’s no faith that tells you ‘you are right’ and everybody else is wrong. There’s no faith that tells you it’s your job to stand out here and shame people for something they have a right to do.…We can talk about your Christian faith,… about how your Christian faith believes in shaming people…in telling people that you know what’s right for their bodies….tells you that you know what’s right for their families….There is nothing Christian about what you’re doing….There is nothing loving, nothing kind. This is a racist act of judgment, and you have no business being out here.””
May 8, 2019: “….After the original video came to light, another video surfaced that Sims shared to Facebook, which shows him approaching three girls outside Planned Parenthood. “What we’ve got here is a bunch of protesters, a bunch of pseudo-Christian protesters who’ve been out here shaming young girls for being here,” he declares. “So, here’s the deal, I’ve got $100 to anybody who will identify these three, and I will donate to Planned Parenthood.”
“An adult woman accompanying them politely attempts to explain to Sims that they’re “actually just here praying for the babies, and we believe women deserve more” but walks away when it becomes clear he is ignoring what they’re saying.”

Remember. Remember back in January, when our very own state Delegate from Springfield, Kathy Tran, freshman Democrat, introduced a bill which would, among other things, allow abortion up to 40 weeks, including even as the woman is giving birth? Word has it there is a pro-life alternative candidate running against Del. Tran in the election this coming November 5, 2019.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles