TEXT: 1st Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2018

First Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today is first Sunday of Advent.

Nowadays that doesn’t mean much to a lot of people.

For some it just means there are less than 4 weeks left till Christmas

For most people it has no meaning at all.

Because secular world around us has reduced the 4 weeks before Christmas

into a four-week season celebrating consumerism and sentimentality,

stripping it almost entirely of its real meaning,

which is, of course spiritual and religious.

 

Now, I’ve always loved this time of year,

both the religious and all the cultural aspects of the season,

though as a young man, sadly, I sometimes neglected the religious

in favor of the cultural or secular.

But when I was very young, a little child,

the line between the two was very much blurred,

in that I understood it was all about preparing to celebrate

the birth of the Baby Jesus on Christmas Day,

and during the Christmas Season.

And all the cultural aspects of the weeks before Christmas, that is during Advent,

all the things like Christmas Trees, and lights, presents, eggnog, parties,

even Santa Claus,

all of this in my little child’s mind

were all part of the joyful preparation for the birth of our Savior.

 

But I will admit, somewhere along the way, that changed.

When I was a teenager up until a few years out of college,

I approached this time of year more and more

as most of the world does today:

enjoying the consumerism and the sentimentality

more than the true love of Christ.

Honestly, eventually,

there was virtually no preparation for Christ involved at all.

Until one Christmas when I was, I think, 25.

I had had a totally secular Advent, not really thinking of it as Advent at all,

but as most people do today, the “holiday season”.

I wasn’t going to Mass at the time,

and I was not what anyone would call a practicing Catholic.

 

But I had had a great time that holiday season.

I’d taken a few weeks off from work,

and just really enjoyed all the cultural fun, shopping,

going out with friends to plays, movies, and parties

And of course, decorating my new house and putting up my Christmas tree.

 

It was a great time.

 

But then it came to Christmas Eve.

And I was at another party with friends, and having a lot of fun.

But I left the party early to do what I had been doing since I was a boy:

to go to Midnight Mass with some old childhood friends.

 

Now, this was probably the first time I’d been to Mass since the last Christmas.

But, it had become part of my traditional celebration, so I was going.

But not so much because of Jesus,

but because of the sentimentality of going with my dear friends.

 

But when I got to Mass, I have to tell you, something changed.

I realized that with all the fun, all the gifts, all the lights,

all the good and warm feelings,

something was terribly missing.

It was as if I had been trying desperately to fill a huge hole in my life,

and doing a pretty good job of it.

But not quite.

And as the Mass went on and we got to the Eucharistic prayer,

it stuck me what it was that was missing: Jesus.

 

You see when I was little,

all the joy of the cultural celebration of the “holiday season,”

all the sentiment in my heart and memories,

in some way had always tied to, flowed from and flowed back to Jesus.

And to the great event of God the Son stripping Himself of the glory of heaven

to come among us, to be with us, to teach us, to form us,

and most of all, to suffer and die for us.

In other words, to love us as only our great God can

—beyond all understanding, beyond all limits.

 

Now, maybe I was kind of strange little boy.

But thanks to my dear and devout parents, that’s the way I was.

And that’s what Advent meant to me.

And so, for example, while I loved the Christmas tree and all its decorations,

it also always reminded me of Jesus:

the evergreen reminding me of the undying love of Christ,

the lights reminding me of His light shining in darkness,

the wood reminding me of the wood of the Cross,

the red bows and ornaments of His precious blood.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t a little saint.

I was as selfish as any child could get

—I was very upset and angry when I didn’t get the pony I was expecting.

But even so, even in my little sins, Jesus could not be separated from all the rest.

 

And so that Christmas Eve, when I was 25,

as I knelt there at Midnight Mass, listening to the words,

“this is my body… this is the cup of my blood…”

it dawned on me what had been missing.

Those words echoed in my mind and heart,

and I realized that in the depths of my soul, I believed them.

And as the Mass went on, and everyone else went to receive Communion,

I stayed in my pew because I realized I was completely unworthy,

completely unprepared

either to receive Jesus in Communion,

or to really celebrate His birth and salvation.

And frankly, my life began to slowly change after that.

 

Now, I’ve had a long time to think about that night, and that Christmas.

I couldn’t have articulated or explained it all then, but now I think I can.

I love Advent, but I can only really love,

and really experience the depth of hope and joy of the season,

it if I keep Christ and the mystery of His birth right at the middle of everything.

Only if I recognize that the many wonderful things that happen

during these Advent weeks,

including the cultural sites and sounds and celebrations,

are only truly wonderful if I understand them

as a foretaste of the joy of Christmas.

 

And that Christmas itself is only joyful if I realize

that it is a foretaste of the true and perfect joy

that Christ was born in Bethlehem to bring:

the joy of living with him in this world, every day, every moment.

And the perfection of that joy, when we are united to Him forever

in the glory of heaven

when we will look on the beautiful face of Jesus, face to face, forever.

In other words, the good things of Advent are a foretaste of Christmas,

and Christmas is a foretaste of heaven.

 

But the thing is, as I realized that night over 30 years ago,

I’m not ready for heaven.

And I am not really ready for a foretaste of heaven either.

So since then, the idea that Advent as a season of preparing for Christmas

has a whole different meaning for me.

 

Advent must be a time of preparing for heaven,

and for preparing to celebrate the opening of heaven to us,

the day 2000 years ago heaven came down to Earth,

as the almighty God the Son came down to earth as the Baby Jesus.

 

And so, as the world gets lost in all the hustle and bustle

and all the empty sentimentality of the secular celebration of the holidays,

let’s not let that happen to us.

Focus on heaven, focus on Christmas, focus on Jesus.

 

Let me be clear: please enjoy all the good things of the season,

of course with moderation and balance,

but let every happy sentiment, memory, party, light, and present

remind you of the true joy, the deep joy, the fullness of joy

that comes only from being and living with Christ.

And so let them remind you to strive to be worthy of that joy,

by preparing for Christmas

through repentance, prayer, sacrifice and a life of generous love, .

 

_____

When I was  a little boy I loved Advent.

But when I was a young man, ensconced in the secular world,

I merely enjoyed the trappings of the season.

 

And a Mass changed all that.

Christ coming down to earth, body, blood soul and divinity,

reminded me of what was missing.

 

Open your minds and hearts to Christ, at this Holy Mass,

and throughout this Holy Advent .

Place Him right at the center of every day of Advent,

and prepare yourself

for a worthy celebration of Christmas,

a worthy life of love with Christ on earth,

and a worthy entrance into the Glory of Christ in heaven.

 

TEXT: Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 25, 2018

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 25, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.

In today’s Gospel when Pontius Pilate recognizes Jesus’ claim to kingship,

Jesus responds: “for this I was born and came into the world:

to bear witness to the truth.”

 

What, then, is the truth about Jesus’ Kingship?

First we can say, as Scripture reveals, that Jesus Christ,

the Son of God and God the Son,

is eternal absolute royal monarchial creator,

sustainer and ruler of the entire Universe,

heaven and earth, visible and invisible.

 

And given that, the truth is that as He rules over everything and everyone,

also everything and everyone must serve him:

He rules and we serve.

 

But there is more to the truth about His kingship than that.

As we read in today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals His kingship to the world

just a few minutes after He has been scourged at the pillar,

and crowned with a crown of thorns,

and just a couple of hours before He is nailed to the cross.

Because, as He revealed elsewhere in scripture,

“the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,

and to give His life a ransom for many.”

And so we see, the incredible truth that

Jesus is a king who His subjects must serve as king,

but a king who also comes to serve and even to die for his subjects.

 

Which only makes him all the more worthy of our service and worship.

 

This is the truth about Christ the King.

 

But, again, that’s not all.

Scripture tells us that in baptism Christ sends His Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us,

and in that we come to share in the very life of Christ Himself.

And by sharing in the life of Christ we share in everything He has.

So, for example, even though Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father,

and we are merely His creatures,

since we share in the Son’s life we share in His Sonship,

and can call God our Father; as St. John tells us elsewhere:

“we are called children of God, for so indeed we are.”

And perhaps even more amazingly,

given a share in the life of Jesus Christ the King,

we also share in his Kingship.

 

Now, how do we share in His Kingship?

Clearly you and I are not sovereign Lords of the Universe.

But rather we share in His kingship in that, in the end,

we answer to no one but to the King Himself.

By our baptism we are set free from world:

we are not subjects of the devil, or sinful men, or any sin, ideology or vice.

 

You say, but Father, don’t we still have to obey other human beings

—our parents, our teachers, the laws of our governments.

That’s true: in God’s plan He places us under obedience to others

either for our own good or the common good

—so we can learn and grow and live in peace with others.

 

But on the other hand, it’s also true that

we never have to obey anyone who leads us away

from what is truly good and right, away from Christ.

So even though He commands us: “honor your mother and father”

he also warns us that for some Christians:

“they will be divided, father against son and son against father,

mother against daughter and daughter against her mother..”

 

And even though, He commands us “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s,”

He goes on to command us to render “to God what belongs to God.”

And as He says to Pilate:

“You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above;”

 

The bottom line is that our kingship in Christ

frees us to choose what Christ wants us to do,

to live under His kingship and in His kingdom:

So that even as we justly obeying our parents, teachers and governments,

we are free to choose between good and evil in our day to day life:

by the power of Christ and with His grace

no evil can lay claim to our allegiance,

no vice can claim us as its vassal.

 

Now some might say, but Father, doesn’t that make us dependent on Christ,

do we really share in His kingship, or are we simply slaves to Christ

 

Friends, the truth is, He did create us, and He does sustain us.

Without Him we perish, both in this world and in the next.

He, and He alone is the King of heaven and earth.

 

But like a bride who marries a king, and shares in his royal life and power,

we can choose to really share in Christ’s kingship by sharing His life,

or we can choose to reject Him.

 

Of course, human beings have been rejecting Him ever since the beginning:        Adam and Eve challenged God’s unique authority,

and so they rejected His kingdom.

And when Christ the King finally entered the world, in the flesh,

His own people rejected Him, as did the Roman Pontius Pilate.

And it continues to this day.

We are all sinners, which means every day, in small ways or large,

we choose to reject his kingship and go our own way

But by rejecting His rule and His grace to help us govern our lives,

we inevitably become enslaved by something, or many things:

by our emotions or weaknesses,

by alcohol, drugs, porn, anger, lust, greed or envy,

or even by our work, our lifestyles, our government, our friends

or even our families.

 

____

Since the beginning of the Church Christians have been persecuted for our faith,

sometimes in subtle ways, but many times in publicly violent ways.

Some, including myself, say we are beginning to live through

a similar time of persecution of the Church in our own country.

But as terrible as that might be, before we address that threat,

we have to face an even more basic, and more terrible, threat.

And that is the threat that comes from us—Catholics and all Christians.

The truth is that we have rejected, in whole or in part,

the kingship of Christ for ourselves.

Even those of us who go to Mass,

how many of us really embrace the Kingship of Christ?

How many of us live our lives obedient to his laws?

How many allow Him to serve us,

by accepting his grace that gives us the strength to rule over ourselves,

and so to live in freedom from sin?

To think and choose for ourselves, and to live as we were created:

in true love for God and neighbor.

 

___

Over the centuries untold thousands of Christians have been killed or tortured

for their faith in Jesus Christ.

From St. Stephen, the first martyr in the year 33AD,

to martyrs of the 21st century, like

Fr. Ragheed Ganni, executed after saying Mass in Mosul, Iraq, in 2007,

or Pakistani Catholic cabinet minister Shahbaz Bhatti

assassinated in Islamabad in 2011,

or the 21 Coptic Christian construction workers beheaded in 2015

on a beach in Libya as they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus.

 

In a particular way, I think of the young 13 Mexican boy,

Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio,

who fought against the persecution of Catholics in Mexico in the 1920’s,

in what became known as the Cristero Rebellion.

He became a hero to his fellow Catholics,

but not for his fighting prowess, or the number of enemies he had defeated.

In fact, he was never allowed to even carry a gun.

No, he became beloved for his unwavering faith in Christ as his king.

The way he truly accepted the kingship of Christ, not as a dictator,

but as a beloved father.

And not out of cowering fear, but out of joyful love.

The way he lived his life in the freedom and grace of Christ,

rejecting all sin and living an exemplary life of holiness

in the midst of so much deprivation and violence.

And finally because, standing like Christ Himself before Pilate,

bloodied and broken after endless torture by the Mexican soldiers,

who offered him his freedom if only he would renounce

the kingship of Christ,

he would only smile and look to heaven say: “que Vivo Cristo Rey,”

“long live Christ the King.”

And so they killed him… and today the Church calls him “Saint Jose Luis.”

 

___

Think of all these who have suffered for Christ’s Kingship,

and think of how many of us deny the that kingship every single day?

And not after being tortured, or with the threat of execution.

But only because we’d simply rather do things our own way, than Christ’s.

Or because we’d rather be slaves to the opinion of our peers or family.

We’d rather be slaves to sin or to other people,

than be servants of the one who created us and sustains us,

the King who is our servant.

 

___

My friends, today Jesus tells us:

“for this I was born and came into the world: to bear witness to the truth.”

And the truth is that Our Lord Jesus Christ is King of the Universe,

and that in His kingship alone do we find true freedom.

 

What were born for—for the truth, or a lie?

To live as slaves, or to live as kings?

Will we follow the example of our peers and the secular culture all around us,

or the example of the St. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio?

Will we cower under yoke of slavery in sin,

or in freedom bear witness to the truth of the Kingship of Christ?

 

Que Viva Cristo Rey!

Praised by Jesus Christ the King—now and forever!

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

(Due to Bulletin deadlines, I’m writing this on Nov. 15, well
before its publication. Please excuse anything that seems out of
date.)
Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a wonderful thanksgiving
day and weekend, and trust that you gave good and worthy
thanks to God for all His gifts to you and our nation. In light of
that, I thought you might be interested in reading the texts of
two important historical documents.
President George Washington, October 3, 1789.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the
providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for
His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor,
and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint
Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the
United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be
observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many
signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an
opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for
their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and
assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted
by the People of these States to the service of that great and
glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good
that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in
rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks, for His
kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous
to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold
mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His providence,
which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late
war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty,
which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational
manner, in which we have been enabled to establish
constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and
particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil
and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means
we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in
general for all the great and various favors which He hath been
pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in
most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great
Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our
national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in
public or private stations, to perform our several and relative
duties properly and punctually, to render our national
government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a
Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly
and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all
Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown
kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government,
peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of
true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among
them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a
degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of
October in the year of our Lord 1789. — George Washington
President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863.
A Proclamation. The year that is drawing towards its close, has
been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful
skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that
we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others
have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that
they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is
habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of
Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled
magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign
States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been
preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws
have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed
everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that
theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies
and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of
strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national
defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship;
the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the
mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have
yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has
steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been
made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the
country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength
and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large
increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath
any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the
gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us
in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It
has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly,
reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and
one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite
my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also
those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign
lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November
next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent
Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them
that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such
singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble
penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience,
commend to His tender care all those who have become widows,
orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in
which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the
interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the
nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the
Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony,
tranquillity and Union….
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of
October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred
and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the
Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
Advent. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, during
which we prepare spiritually for the celebration of the birth of
our Savior at Christmas. Please take some time to plan ahead for
the penitential season of Advent so that it will truly be a time of
holiness, not merely the shopping time between Black Friday
and the day Santa Claus comes.
Please see today’s insert with the full schedule of
Advent events. Let me remind you to take particular advantage
of the increased confession opportunities as well as the many
existing opportunities for weekday Mass. Also, I invite you all
to attend my three-part Advent Series: “Looking at the
Nativity: Mary, Jesus and the Holy Night,” on the first 3
Thursdays in Advent. I also ask you to plan to attend “Lessons
& Carols” on Sunday, December 9, at 7:00pm.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 18, 2018

33rd  Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 18, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

With all the tumult in the world today,

especially in our own country and in the Church as well,

many people ask me if I think we’re in the end times.

If we will soon see the fulfillment of the prophesy Jesus makes in today’s gospel:

“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’

with great power and glory,”

 

My response is simple, and at the same time I suppose, complicated.

I say simply: “who knows?”

Yes, there are lots of strange and ominous catastrophe around us.

But there have been lots of strange and ominous catastrophes in various ages past,

and people then also asked: “is this the end times?”

 

Think about it.

In the first 3 centuries to be a Christian

was to be under constant threat of martyrdom.

And then think about the invasions of the Huns and Barbarians,

changing the western world order completely.

Then Islam invaded northern Africa, Spain, and the Eastern Roman Empire.

And then the awful “renaissance popes and the Protestant revolt.”

And think of the 650,000 lives lost in our own Civil War,

and then the millions lost in World War I and II.

And all the cataclysmic natural disasters throughout history:

the plagues of the middle ages that wiped out a 1/3 of Europe.

 

And then think about what Jesus says at the end of his prophesy today:

“But of that day or hour, no one knows,

neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

So, like Jesus, “I don’t know.”

 

And besides, I’ve never really understood why people really care so much

about the end times.

Because they could come tomorrow or in 1000 years.

But every single day the end comes for someone.

Every day 150,000 people die in the word.

Every minute, 106 people die.

That’s about 1 every ½ a second: there’s one… and another … and another …

 

And for each of them the end has come,

and they stand before our Lord and receive his judgment.

And, as we read in today’s first reading,

“some shall live forever…

[and] shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament…”

But at the same time, “others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”

 

____

It’s interesting how Scripture often talks about the judgment in terms of

groups of people, not just individuals.

For example, different passages in the Gospel talk about the division between

“the sheep and the goats,” “the righteous and the unrighteous”

and in today’s gospel Jesus says the angels will:

gather His elect …from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

 

Of course, each of us will be judged individually, not as a group.

But in the end, we will be in the group going to hell or the group going to heaven.

 

And it’s similar with sin.

We sin individually, but so often we do so relating to a group.

I think particularly of sins that come from following the crowd.

Whether it’s accepting the immoral values so prevalent in our culture,

or simply being badly influenced by the group of friends we hang out with,

or even our family.

 

But in the end, you may be part of a group of sinners,

but you personally, individually chose to sin.

And you, personally and individually will die and face Jesus and his judgment.

And then you can’t use the excuse that, “well everyone else was doing it.

Because Jesus will just say something like your daddy used to say to you:

“if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump off a cliff?”

 

___

There’s a great scene in the play “Man for all Seasons,”

which I think may be a very accurate account of what actually happened.

The Duke of Norfolk is trying to convince

his longtime and dear friend Sir, or Saint, Thomas More

to sign the Oath of Supremacy of the King over the Church.

A frustrated Norfolk final says to More:

“…but damn it, Thomas, look at these names.

Why can’t you do as I did, and come with us, for fellowship?”

 

And More looks him in the eye and responds:

“And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience…

…and I am sent to hell for not doing mine,

will you come with me [to hell], for fellowship?”

 

Following the crowd to hell is easy,

that way you don’t have to make any hard or brave decisions.

Sometimes it even seems the wise thing to do

—2 heads are greater than one, and all that.

Except with they’re choosing to go to hell.

 

Of course, we all fall into this trap of following the wrong crowd from time to time.

A great example of this was on display last week

at the general assembly of the US Bishops in Baltimore.

If you paid attention to the proceedings you saw how

they all tend to try to always agree with each other;

never offend anyone,

even when the disagree, they usually do so in the way

that will cause the least agitation to their brother bishops.

They call it “collegiality” as in, the fellowship of the “college of bishops,”

or the “group” or “crowd” of bishops.

 

And so last week no one seemed to want to upset the boat,

or to think or speak ill of any other bishop.

But on Wednesday there were a few fireworks,

as individual bishops began to question the good will of some in their ranks,

especially on the topic they were talking about:

abuse of children and covering up.

One of them, our friend Archbishop Cordileone,

actually said something I’ve been saying for years:

“We do sometimes act as a good old-boys club,”

with problems of “cronyism, favoritism and cover-up.”

 

But then the voice of the crowd, one of the premier “good old boys”,

an elderly cardinal, stood up and called them back to “fellowship,”

to the follow the crowd in “greater collegiality”:

“we are not bishops alone or separate;

we belong to a college and have a responsibility to it.”

He urged the bishops to

“not allow outside influences to interfere with or attempt to break bonds

of ecclesial union”

 

“Responsibility to the college”?

To the crowd.

What about responsibility to the Church, the laity, the priests?

What about responsibility to Christ?

 

“Outside influences… interfere[ing]”?

Who, the faithful Catholic laity and priests?

Or again, Jesus?

After all, Jesus was never, and is still not, a bishop, so He’s not part of the “club.”

 

The thing is, the cardinal who said this is the infamous Roger Mahoney,

who was suspended from all public ministry.

Because you see when he retired a few years ago as Archbishop of Los Angeles,

Archbishop Gomez, his successor, came in and read the files and

discovered all the awful things Mahoney had done

to systematically covered up the abusive activity of priests for years.

And so he suspended the cardinal who was still living there,

from saying any public Masses, etc, in the archdiocese.

In other words, this is one of those bad bishops we’re all mad at.

And yet the other bishops let him stand there and lecture them

about fellowship,

and about how they should handle abusive and lying bishops—like him!

And he calls them to a greater collegiality, greater fellowship,

with bishops like him,

and I suppose also with former Cardinal McCarrick

—both of whom are still members of the college of American bishops.

And they are not the only bad ones.

Remember as a said a couple of months ago,

11 out of the 12 apostles were good men, faithful to Jesus,

even though most of those, 10,

were still cowards hiding together in the upper room.

Instead of following John to the foot of Cross to stand with Jesus,

they followed the crowd to hide in the upper room.

But 1 of the 12, 1 out of 12 of the first bishops,

was not just a coward, he was a liar a thief and traitor, Judas,

whom Jesus called the “son of hell.”

 

___

Now, lest I get in trouble for seeming to say the American Bishops

are all going to hell, let me point out what I said earlier:

that while there are bad crowds, but there are also good crowds.

And let me say, there are also many good bishops,

but like the 10 apostles in the upper room, good men,

but following the crowd.

You can follow the good crowd, or the bad crowd.

The Catholic Church is a great and holy crowd,

and if you follow the Church, you will be in the crowd going to heaven.

But sometimes parts of the Church, individuals in the Church,

form themselves into bad crowds, and they lead others astray.

 

That can apply to anywhere in the Church:

for example, there are some great bible studies,

like the one we have here at St. Raymond’s,

that sort of follows the crowd of saints and holy teachers

of the Church and help lead people to heaven.

But sometimes you come across a bible study, or a catechism class, whatever,

that leads you to question the teachings of the Church,

and that crowd does not lead to heaven.

 

The same thing with the bishops: when they, as a group or individually,

follow the Church, and the crowd of great saints and doctors

and especially the holy martyrs who died for the Faith,

they are in the crowd going to heaven.

But when they follow the crowd that is within the visible bounds of the Church

but is following the road of Judas, the road of lying and abusive bishops,

they join the crowd on its way to hell.

And they go along for fellowship.

 

___

Today Jesus tells us:

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.

When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,

you know that summer is near.”

 

Read the signs of the times.

See the sin around us, and worry not about the end of time on earth,

but about the end of your time on earth.

We all face death, we all face judgment, and we could face them at any time.

Are you ready for that?

Or are you too busy following the crowd?

And if so, is it the crowd that leads to heaven, or the crowd that leads to hell?

 

___

As we continue to move more deeply into this Holy Mass,

take all these things to prayer.

And join your prayers to the great prayer of Christ,

his “one sacrifice” offered on the Cross,

soon to be made present to us miraculously on the altar.

Pray for the conversion of our society, and the crowd that is on its way to hell,

and for the members in the crowd.

And pray for the conversion of all the members of Church,

the crowd that is striving for heaven,

but so often distracted by sin and sinful leaders on the way.

And pray for the conversion of sinful and cowardly bishops and priests,

going along to get along, not rocking the boat,

even when it means following the most vile and disgraceful

liars and abusers in the Church.

 

And as we meet Jesus face to face in His Body today, remember:

we will all meet Him face to face soon enough in eternal judgment.

And so today accept the grace He offers you today in the Eucharist,

and pray for your own conversion to follow Christ.

Thirty third Sunday in Ordinary Time

“60 Hours.” As I write this on Wednesday morning, our 60 Hours of Adoration has been very “successful,” in the sense that many adorers signed up and attended adoration even during the middle of the night. We usually have 2 to 6 (maximum 10) people at any given hour of our regularly scheduled weekly Adoration. When I checked in twice yesterday we had at least 10 during the middle of the day, which was great, but when I went to pray my holy hour at 9pm I found over 20 people praying! That’s exactly what I was hoping for. I also saw some new faces, faces that I’m not used to seeing at adoration—again, something I was hoping for. I am very proud of you, and let me thank you all for answering my call, and Christ’s call, to adore Him for “60 Hours.”

 

Bishops’ Assembly. Of course we held “60 Hours” to pray for the Bishops assembled in Baltimore to address the current scandal. It’s only half way through the meeting but watching some of the proceedings on tv it seems to me that nothing much is being accomplished.

Well, not quite. It seems they are largely in favor of a reasonable proposal to address part of the problem. According to Catholic World Report, they are considering: “two policies …: a code of conduct for bishops, and the creation of a lay-led panel to investigate claims of misconduct or negligence by bishops.” Maybe not a bad start, but not a word is being said about the homosexual corruption among the priests and bishops, which is one of the root causes of the problem.

Equally troubling is the apparent naïve trust they seem to continue to place in each other, as if they are all men of goodwill. Were they all men of goodwill when  former cardinal McCarrick was one of their leaders in 2002 when they exempted bishops from the rules that punish abusive priests (the “Dallas Charter”)? I was aghast as I was watching yesterday, and saw Cardinal Joseph Tobin give a talk about his important contribution the two proposals. Recall, that in Archbishop Vigano’s shocking letter accusing Vatican officials of knowingly coverup McCarrick’s abuse for years: Tobin is singled out by Vigano as a protégé of McCarrick, who lobbied for Tobin’s assignment to Newark, where Tobin then covered up payouts made years before by that Diocese to one of McCarrick’s adult male victims. If a priest “credibly charged” with abuse is immediately suspended until the investigation can be conducted, why is Tobin still on the job, AND, why do the bishops give him such power over writing the rules to punish bishops who cover up?

But there’s even worse news, sadly. On Monday afternoon, right before the start of the assembly, the Bishops announced that the Vatican (the Congregation for Bishops) had prohibited them from taking a final vote on the two proposals they are considering, ordered them to wait until after the worldwide meeting of bishops in Rome in late February, which will also discuss these issues. Even though they’ve known about their intentions for over 4 months, the cardinals and archbishops in the Vatican waited to the last second to spoil everything the American Bishops were trying to accomplish. There may be some good reason for this, but the optics are horrible: to many, it looks like either the Vatican doesn’t really care about the abuse or about corrupt bishops, or even that they are actively participating in the cover up. Note, I do not accuse them of this, but the optics cause many people to wonder. And that just makes everything worse!!!

By the way, this doesn’t mean we failed in our prayers, or that God hasn’t listened to us. We’ve done our part, now God will find a way, in His time and wisdom, to get the bishops and the Vatican to do their part. So keep praying. And trust in Christ and His Church, which is bigger than a few (or even scores of) bad bishops.

 

Thanksgiving. I hope all of you will have a great Thanksgiving. Although it’s a secular holiday and not a Catholic HOLY DAY, it’s a wonderful day of celebration. In fact, instead of “secular”, meaning “worldly”, which has all sorts of very negative connotations in the Christian context, let’s call it a “cultural holiday.” In that context, it reveals how deeply our culture is influenced by Christianity and how firmly it is rooted in Christian values.

In particular, the Christian virtues of fortitude and diligence (reflected in working hard to provide for oneself and one’s family), and charity (reflected in being willing to share the fruits of one’s labor or good fortune with others), and, of course most importantly and above all, gratitude or thankfulness to God for the gifts He’s given us.

In the end, everything we have is God’s gift. This, of course, is not at all to discount individual hard work and ingenuity, but rather to realize that whether it’s the skills and talents we have or develop, or the opportunities we make or stumble upon, or the free will we exercise to choose to use and develop all of that, in the end it all comes to us from God’s generosity and our response thereto. Whether it’s material goods, health, family, love, faith, or human dignity, rights, and liberty, God is the giver of all good things.

Unfortunately, if you watch and listen carefully, you will see that many people today treat Thanksgiving as a holiday to give thanks to one another, with no mention of  God at all, or at best, a mention of Him as an afterthought. There’s certainly nothing wrong with thanking people around you, but that is not the reason Thanksgiving was established as a national, cultural, holiday. As President Washington decreed 1789, as he proclaimed the first Thanksgiving Day: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, …a day of public thanksgiving and prayer [is] to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God … “

So let us keep Thanksgiving in its rich American Historical meaning, as a day to thank God for His gifts. In that regard, I encourage you all to begin the day by attending our 10am Mass, to celebrate the highest form of “thanksgiving”—the Eucharist, which is the Greek word for “thanksgiving.”

 

Birthday Party for Sofi. This last Thursday, November 14, was the 8th birthday of Sofi Hills. As many of you will recall, as a newborn baby she was left in our parking lot, where she was found by a parishioner and rushed to the hospital. We continue to give praise to the Lord Jesus for saving her life that day, and that she has grown into a healthy vivacious little girl. And in celebration we’re having a birthday party for Sofi in our Parish Hall, TODAY, November 18, after the 12:15 Mass. All parishioners are invited and encouraged to come and say hello to our little Sofi!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Thirty second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Elections. Well, the 2018 mid-terms are over. I guess that means the 2020 campaign begins today. Sigh.

I am terribly saddened that the voters turned over majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives to pro-abortion, anti-marriage, anti-religious freedom politicians, but I am relieved that they strengthened majority control over the Senate by pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-religious freedom politicians. The latter meaning that like-minded judges will continue to be approved by the Senate, which will go a long way in righting, or at least slowing, the moral decay of our nation.

 

Adoration and the American Bishops. This week all of the American Bishops will meet in Baltimore for their Fall General Assembly. The almost exclusive topic of discussion will be the Church abuse scandals, and how to deal with bishops who either abuse or coverup other’s abuse.

It’s about time. 16 years ago when they came up with extremely severe rules on how to deal with priests accused of abuse (the “Dallas Charter”), they were asked why the new rules did not extend to bishops. As Archbishop Wilton Gregory said at that time: “The question of accountability of bishops is a burning issue, and I have every reason to believe that particular topic will receive significant debate…I clearly agree that topic will be a matter that needs discussion.” 16 years later they are finally having that discussion. Sigh. (By the way, AB Gregory is now rumored to be on the Pope’s short list to replace Cardinal Wuerl in DC).

As I have stated several times publicly, like many of you I am extremely angry over the handling of the abuse by some bishops, and by the moral corruption I believe is behind it, especially the so called “lavender mafia,” the subculture of active or sympathetic homosexual priests and bishops in the hierarchy (i.e., ex-cardinal McCarrick).

But what can we do about? You and I are greatly limited in the effect we can have on changing things, but what we can do we must do. We can write letters, sign petitions, and perhaps redirect our donations. But the greatest thing we can do is PRAY.

I believe strongly in the power of prayer, and I believe that prayer is even more powerful when we do it together for a righteous cause: “For where there are two or three gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.”

And so, to this end, we will have  Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the 3 days of the bishops’ assembly: beginning after the 6:30am Mass this Tuesday and ending with Benediction at 7pm this Thursday. That’s 60 hours of continuous Adoration, except during Masses.

My dear sons and daughters in Christ, I beg you to join me in praying together before the Blessed Sacrament. Please sign up for at least 1 hour  before our Lord, to beg the Lord for the conversion of sinful and weak bishops and priests, and for the consolation of victims.

You can sign up by going to the parish website (straymonds.org), clicking on “60 HOURS OF ADORATION DURING USCCB ASSEMBLY NOVEMBER 13-15” at the top of the page, and then following the instructions on the new page. Or you can call the office and talk to Eva. We need at least two people to sign up for every hour, and we still have some hours with only one signed up. But I don’t just want 2 people, I want lots of people for every hour! 10, 20, 100! I want to, as St. Catherine of Siena once said, “lay siege to heaven” with prayers! So, please sign up, but also feel free to come by any time day or night to join in the prayers.

Friends, we have to fight the corruption: wield the holy sword of devout prayer and adoration!

 

Armistice Day. 100 years ago today, at 11am, on November 11, 1918, “the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th Month,” World War I came to an end. It had been called “the War to end all wars,” and had resulted in the deaths of some 40 million. Sadly, it did not end all wars, and millions more have died in battle since then.

Since 1919 America has celebrated November 11 as a national holiday, first as Armistice Day and from 1947 forward as Veterans Day, which also honors all American war veterans.

On this 100th anniversary of the peace of the first Armistice Day, many places will observe this by the ringing of church bells at 11am. Unfortunately, since this falls right during the middle of the 10:30 Mass, I don’t think we’ll be doing that. I wish I could, but I don’t want to disturb the Mass. But I ask you all to remember to pray for all the souls lost in WW1, for the wellbeing of all American Veterans, and for the end of war altogether. May God grant peace among all peoples and nations.

 

Requiem Mass. Thanks to the 200 or so folks who attended the Extraordinary Form Sung High Requiem Mass in the evening of All Souls Day. The choir did a magnificent job, the servers were excellent, and the priest didn’t mess up too much. Special thanks to Eva Radel who organized so much of it, especially assisting Elisabeth Turco and the choir. The Sung High Mass is truly beautiful, something everyone should experience from time to time, and the Requiem (“Mass for the Dead”), is a truly moving way to pray for the Holy Souls. I wish you all had been there. Maybe next time…

 

Our “Baby” Sofi. November 14 is the 8th birthday of Sofi Hills. As many of you will recall, as a newborn baby she was left in our parking lot, where she was found by a parishioner and rushed to the hospital. For a while I called her “Baby Mary Madeleine,” until she was placed with a loving family which soon adopted her and named her “Anna Sofia Rae,” or “Sofi.” We continue to give praise to the Lord Jesus for saving her life that day, and that she has grown into a healthy vivacious little girl. And in celebration we’re having a birthday party for Sofi in our Parish Hall, next Sunday, November 18, after the 12:15 Mass. All parishioners are invited and encouraged to come and say hello to our little Sofi!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

 

 

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

ELECTION. This Tuesday, November 6, is Election Day. Much is at stake, especially in voting for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “co-responsibility for the common good make[s] it morally obligatoryto exercise the right to vote…” [2240]. In my opinion, when someone is eligible to vote, failure to vote is usually grave matter (i.e., the stuff that mortal sins are made of) when the issues are as important as they are in this election.

Key Issues. There are many important issues today, including the economy, heath insurance, illegal immigration, etc.. But as with any moral choice we make, we always start with the most fundamental issues. Today these should be clear: protecting the right-to-life (without which all rights are forfeited), protecting traditional marriage (the cornerstone of civil society) and religious liberty (without which there are no “God-given rights,” only “government-given rights.”) These are truly non-negotiable and disqualifying issues.

Under the current administration, much positive headway has been made in these areas, especially in the appointment of federal judges who support these traditional values. But because of this success, some of us may tend to relax in our fight  to defend these rights, etc.. And they may lead some of you not to vote.

But remember, there are two parties in this country, and one party clearly publicly defends life and marriage (and religious liberty), and the other party clearly publicly opposes them. That’s just the facts, not a partisan endorsement. This election will decide which party, i.e., the pro-life, etc., party, or the pro-abortion etc. party, controls the Senate and the House.

So remember: EVERY VOTE MATTERS! We’ve seen this over and over again. Just last year Philip Hatchett (R) and Shelly Simonds (D) TIED in their race for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, and the winner was chosen by drawing of a name from a bowl! And that determined which party would have control of the state House. If one more vote would have been cast, that one voter would have decided who would control the House!

Vote, and vote like Catholics, protecting the most fundamental rights and principles.

Prayers. With that in mind, I ask that today, tomorrow and Tuesday all of you pray the Rosary and the Prayer to St. Raymond of Peñafort, and perhaps offer up some small sacrifice, for the Lord’s will to be done on Tuesday.

 

60 HOURS, 3 DAYS OF ADORATION. As I wrote last week, the American Bishops will be meeting from Tuesday, November 13, to Thursday, November 15, to address the sex abuse cover-up, including how to discipline lying or abusing bishops. With this in mind, St. Raymond’s will have Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the 3 days of the bishops’ assembly: from 7am on Tuesday to 7pm on Thursday. And as your spiritual father, I beg all of you to sign up for at least 1 hour before our Lord, to beg the Lord for the conversion of sinful and weak bishops and priests, and for the consolation of victims. So please sign up. See the insert today for more info.

 

NOVEMBER: PRAYING FOR THE DEAD. Last Friday we celebrated All Souls Day. But actually the whole month of November is set aside by the Church as a month to pray for the dead, for all the souls in Purgatory, who are being prepared for their entrance into Heaven.

Many Catholics nowadays wrongly think Purgatory is an outdated remnant from the Middle Ages, even though Christian belief in Purgatory is rooted in Jewish doctrine (2 Maccabees 12), and was well established in the early Church. Many other Catholics, in their grief, prefer to think of their departed loved ones as already being in Heaven, and can’t bear the thought that they might be in Purgatory.

But the doctrine of Purgatory is not something to fear, because it is a doctrine of God’s mercy, and reflects the reality that none of us are perfect. All of us sin or cling to things of this world—however small or seemingly insignificant. But Scripture tells us “nothing imperfect shall enter” into Heaven (Rev. 21:27)—and rightly so, since Heaven is about perfect happiness, perfect love, etc… Given this, and confident in Our Lord’s desire for all to be with Him in Heaven, Christians have always believed that between death and Heaven there is a purification, or purgation, where we’re cleansed from all imperfections, i.e., made perfect. This state, or “place,” we call Purgatory.

Now, we must remember that Purgatory is NOT anything like Hell, and all the Souls in Purgatory are good and “worthy” of eternal joy in Heaven—we call them the “Holy Souls.” So thinking of them as in Purgatory is not an insult but praise. Moreover, these Souls are certain they are going to Heaven, so they are filled with a joy beyond anything experienced on earth.

But we must also remember that there is suffering in Purgatory. The simplest way for many of us to understand this is to think of the suffering related to change. All change is difficult. Consider the person who is trying to lose weight, or exercising for an athletic competition. The effort involved in change is painful, but as you see progress you are also invigorated and happy, seeing your goal approach.

Even so, since 1) Purgatory involves pain, and 2) we want our beloved dead to swiftly enter the joys of Heaven, we should never neglect praying for them. And if they are already in Heaven, no prayer is wasted, since every prayer is an act of love, and they hear each prayer as telling how much we love them.

So in love, let us pray for our beloved dead this month, and for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, especially the “most abandoned,” the souls who no one else remembers to pray for.

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.”

 

Synagogue Shooting and Security Concerns. Last weekend the nation once again mourned the deaths of Americans caught in a mass shooting at a religious service. Please pray for those killed and wounded, and for an end of this insane violence.

As I wrote last year, I have discussed our own security with various priests, parishioners and law enforcement folks, but most suggestions for improvements seem impractical, or risk stirring up undue fears. After all, the odds of something happening in any particular church are infinitesimally small. Even so, we will try to take those precautions which seem reasonable. And I always encourage you to be vigilant, and report anything clearly suspicious. And I know I can count on many of our parishioners who are current or former law-enforcement officers or trained military veterans, to be constantly prepared to render proportionate forceful defense of their fellow parishioners. But above all I trust and pray that Jesus will send His angels to protect and defend us at all times.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles