September 18, 2011

Today we begin the gradual introduction the new translation of the Mass at all those Masses with singing (all but 7am and 7pm). We begin with singing the “Holy, Holy,” which has only a minor change in wording (see last week’s bulletin, available on the website), but in the next few weeks the changes to the “Mystery of Faith” and the “Gloria” will prove much more challenging. Please make every effort to learn the new prayers and chants.

BACKGROUND OF THE NEW TRANSLATIONS. Many of you have been asking why the new translation of the Mass is necessary—why not leave well enough alone? Let me try to briefly answer that.

Most of you know that the “original source” book for the Mass is the Latin Missale Romanum. Since 1964 this Latin Missal has been translated into the native tongues (“vernacular”) of the various countries throughout the world by the Bishops of those countries. The English translation is entrusted to the International Commission for English in the Liturgy, “ICEL,” composed of bishops and “experts” from the English speaking countries. In 1973 the current English translation was fully implemented throughout the dioceses of the English speaking world.

To many it was readily apparent that there were many important deficiencies in the 1973 translation: “something was lost in translation.” Eventually these deficiencies drew the attention of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). This became very clear in 1997 when the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) rejected the ICEL proposed (and U.S. Bishops’ approved) new translation of the “Rite of Ordination,” criticizing it for “failure to adhere faithfully to the Latin …and to convey accurately in English its contents, … the translation is not without doctrinal problems.”

In the year 2000 Pope John Paul promulgated a new edition of the Latin Missale Romanum, with some new prayers, feasts and instructions for the celebration of Mass. In 2001 the CDW, in cooperation with Ratzinger and with the explicit approval of the Pope, issued a new instruction with norms for translating the Missal. That instruction, Liturgiam authenticam, was the equivalent to a liturgical earthquake, as it not only laid down new norms but also ended the substantial debate over translations and completely restructured the translation process, organization and personnel.

To more clearly see the problems of the old translation, and to help identify the importance of the new translation, let’s consider some of the key provisions of Liturgiam authenticam (LA).
The key problem in the 1973 translation was the use of translating principle called “dynamic equivalency” which seeks to convey the underlying meanings of phrases without emphasis on the exact/precise meaning of the words translated, allowing for a certain creativity and innovation, as well as vague paraphrasing. This was profoundly problematic on various levels, and so LA 20 addressed this, noting the problems, prohibiting this approach, and replacing it with what is sometimes called “formal equivalency”:

The Latin liturgical texts of the Roman Rite, while drawing on centuries of ecclesial experience in transmitting the faith of the Church received from the Fathers, are themselves the fruit of the liturgical renewal, just recently brought forth. In order that such a rich patrimony may be preserved and passed on through the centuries, it is to be kept in mind from the beginning that the translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language. While it is permissible to arrange the wording, the syntax and the style in such a way as to prepare a flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer, the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet.

Another problem addressed in LA 32 was sort of the “dumbing” down of the language, which would often reflect an overly narrow context or ideological interpretation. (Sometimes you will notice a prayer in the 1973 translation that seems stuck in the pop language of the 1960s).

The translation should not restrict the full sense of the original text within narrower limits. To be avoided on this account are expressions characteristic of commercial publicity, political or ideological programs, passing fashions, and those which are subject to regional variations or ambiguities in meaning. Academic style manuals or similar works, since they sometimes give way to such tendencies, are not to be considered standards for liturgical translation. On the other hand, works that are commonly considered “classics” in a given vernacular language may prove useful in providing a suitable standard for its vocabulary and usage.

In a similar way, the 1973 translation often omitted language that in the Latin had clear connection to Scripture or to theological or pious language of the church’s ancient tradition (see last week’s column’s discussion of the “Holy, Holy”), thus robbing the translation of its context. So LA 39 provides:

Characteristic of the orations of the Roman liturgical tradition as well as of the other Catholic Rites is a coherent system of words and patterns of speech, consecrated by the books of Sacred Scripture and by ecclesial tradition, especially the writings of the Fathers of the Church. For this reason the manner of translating the liturgical books should foster a correspondence between the biblical text itself and the liturgical texts of ecclesiastical composition which contain biblical words or allusions. In the translation of such texts, the translator would best be guided by the manner of expression that is characteristic of the version of the Sacred Scriptures approved for liturgical use in the territories for which the translation is being prepared.

This is only scratching the surface of the topic, and I plan to expand on all this as I discuss the individual prayers in the coming weeks. But I hope this introduction helps you to understand a little better why so many, including Popes John Paul and Benedict, saw the need for a radical change in the translations.

I know all change can be challenging. But be patient and open to the Holy Spirit’s movement of the Church in this direction, and as times goes on I’m sure you’ll be grateful for the changes as they bear fruit in a more profound participation in the mysteries of our faith.

Webpage on the new translation. For more information on the new translation go to the parish website, http://www.straymonds.org/ , and click New Translation of the Roman Missal. In particular, there you will find a link to the full text of Liturgiam authenticam, as well as links to listen to audio recordings of the various new sung Mass parts (“Holy, Holy,” “Gloria,” etc.).

ACTION ALERT: FREEDOM OF RELIGION. In today’s bulletin you will find an insert regarding the federal government’s new proposed regulations implementing part of the “2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”—what some call “Obamacare.” These proposed regulations are problematic in many ways. In particular they require almost all private health care plans to provide contraception (including abortifacients) and sterilization services to employees, with only minimal and largely meaningless “conscience clause” protection for churches that hold such “services” to gravely immoral.

I urge you to take immediate action against this unprecedented assault on religious freedom. See the insert, and our website (“Respect Life” page), for more information on these terrible regulations.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011

Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.

“We will never forget.”
Where were you 10 years ago today, September 11, 2001? Where were you when you found out that an airplane
had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center? Or that a second plane had crashed into the South Tower? Or that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon? Or that a fourth plane that had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania? Or that the Twin Towers had collapsed to the ground? Where were you? Have you forgotten?
Except for some who were too young, or perhaps not yet immigrated to America, I don’t think any of us will ever forget.
I was just coming back to my room after saying 8:30 Mass at St. Andrew’s in Centerville when I passed the opened door of my pastor’s room and heard the cable news reporting on the first crash
into the World Trade Center. And as I came in to his room to see what was going on, at 9:02 a.m., I saw the second plane crash into the second tower. And then we heard news about the third crash, this time just miles away at the Pentagon.
Where were you?
For most of us, I think, it’s seared into our memories.
Maybe some of you were at the Pentagon that day,

or worried about dear friends or family members you knew were there.
Words can not express, nor can we innumerate, the rush of emotions that overwhelmed us that day. But three do stand out: grief, anger, and fear.
We grieved as we knew that in those buildings there were 10s of 1000s, of husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers,
who had simply gone to work that clear crisp morning, like so many of the rest of us, and as on so many other days.
And now they were trapped 70 stories up in the sky, or under huge piles of wreckage, or already consumed by the raging flames or fiery crash.
And so we grieved.

And we were angry.
Some cowardly enemy had attacked us, unprovoked, without real warning.
They had dared to attack the very heart of our brave military,

while they were on a peacetime footing, their defenses down. They had attacked the innocent civilian population
in the heart of our nation’s largest city. And they seemed to have plans for even more attacks on civilians that day. So we were angry.
And there was fear.
Fear of the unknown—we are free and open society and our enemies were aggressively exploiting that: we were completely vulnerable to almost any kind of terror attack.
Where would they strike next?
The Capital?
The White House?
The Sears Tower in Chicago?
The Mall of America in Minnesota?
We had no idea, and so we were engulfed by fear.

But in the middle of all those emotions, something else came to the forefront.

As surprising as the attacks were, almost equally surprising was another response common to almost all Americans:
a dramatic national turning toward God in prayer.
Even by the media, as we heard reporters and anchors repeatedly asking for prayers and saying things like, “please, God,” or “they’re in our prayers.”
And what an amazing sight that evening, as hundreds of members of Congress gathered on the front steps of the Capitol and spontaneously broke out singing “God bless America”.
God and prayer were our most secure hope, and the whole country seemed to understand that.
And in our weakness we became strong, with our faith in God’s omnipotent care.
And in the days that followed 9/11 that faith remained everywhere you looked.
Millions joined in through TV as thousands packed the National Cathedral in Washington and Yankee Stadium in New York for one purpose: to pray to Almighty God.
And across the nation, especially right here in northern Virginia, churches everywhere were packed, as people awoke to the reality of their own mortality
and dependence on God,
and His tremendous love for us.

America turned to God, and in Him our grief was eased with divine consolation and hope, our anger controlled and purified by His charity and wisdom, and our fear transformed by His courage and strength.
“We will never forget.”
That was what we said that the day.
But a lot of things have happened since then.
And as the years pass, and events unfold,

it seems like some of us have forgotten much more than we should.
But we must never do that. We must never forget that we have enemies who have and are still actively trying to harm our nation. We must never forget that 3000 people were killed in the 9/11/01 attacks,
and that thousands of Americans have died,
10’s of thousands have been wounded,
and millions have been and are deployed to

(including many of you) to defend us from future attacks. We must never forget.
Most especially, we must never forget about God, and how on that day, and every day since, He alone was and is our strength and shield when all human efforts fail, when enemies surround us,
or life overwhelms us. That He is always there to give us His consolation and hope, charity and wisdom, courage and strength.
But today all too many seem to have forgotten all that. Why is it that only 12 days after the terrorist attacks 10s of thousands of New Yorkers could gather in Yankee Stadium for a prayer service led by various clerics and politicians, but 10 years after the attacks the politicians will not allow even one cleric
to pray at the Ground Zero memorial?
Sometimes it seems that some folks are embarrassed by America’s turning to God on 9/11. Worse than that, over the last 10 years many have tried to blame God, or rather faith in God, for 9/11 and its aftermath. They say, it’s religious faith in God that caused the divisions and antipathy that led to the 9/11 attack. And more and more they say that we need to learn from that and remove God and religion from public life.
They say we need to get beyond religious differences.
That we must get rid of any notions that God is on our side, or that Christianity is in any way superior to Islam.
And they say we must be tolerant of and even encourage public expressions of Muslim piety, while at the same time they continue to work to mock and remove Christian piety and symbols in art, the media, and public places.
In the end, sometimes it seems that if they cannot rid America or the West of God, at least they will use this as an opportunity
to ridicule and diminish Christianity.
They want us to forget, that on 9/11 the vast majority of Americans turned to Jesus Christ for hope and strength. They want us to forget that Jesus told us, and we believe: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” They want us to believe the religion of Muhammad is just as “good” as the religion of Jesus Christ.
But the thing is, that’s just not true.
Do NOT misunderstand me: There are many good and kind Muslims in the world.
There are even many good things about the religion of Islam.
But in the end, Islam is fatally flawed, and Christianity is the one true faith.

Even if you set aside the fundamental difference between the two, on the one hand, that Christians believe that Jesus is God, and “no one comes to the Father except through” Him,
and on the other, that Muslims believe that Jesus is only a prophet, and that Muhammad is the greatest prophet, and only his teachings can lead us to God. And even if, for the sake of argument, we assume that the two religions hold the same moral teachings about love and forgiveness and peace and violence, –I don’t believe that for one second, but let’s just allow that for the sake of argument. Even so…Islam still has at least this basic flaw: its founder.
When members of these two religions, Christianity and Islam, try to live by their religion’s teachings in their day to day lives they inevitably have to understand those teachings in the light of the example of their founder—either Jesus or Mohammed.
So think about these fundamentally different examples they give us. Muhammad began his religion by commanding his armed followers to conquer his enemies;
Jesus’ began His religion
by commanding His apostles to lay down their arms
as He personally surrendered to His enemies.

Muhammad’s hands carried a sword to execute his enemies; Jesus’ hands carried the Cross and were eventually nailed to the cross as His enemies executed Him. Muhammad cursed his enemies; Jesus cried out “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
In short, Muhammad, whatever else he was, was a man of violence and terror, while Christ was the Prince of Peace.
Now, some say, both Christians and Muslims
do many horrible things in the name of God. Perhaps. But the thing is, in the light of the life of Christ,
when Christians feel compelled to resort to violence,
perhaps in self defense or in protection of others,
we always know we must ask ourselves:
what would the Crucified Christ, the Prince of Peace,
have to say about this?

In the light of His life and death on the cross the teachings of Christ take on a unique and specific context, and so set a completely higher standard
than anything found in the platitudes of other religions.
So that when Jesus tells us: “Love your enemies, …bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you….”
we see Him on the cross not only blessing and praying for those who curse and abuse Him, but laying down His life to save them, because He loves them.
Or when Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? and Jesus answers, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times,” we see Him whipped, spat upon, cursed, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, gasping for breath, bleeding to death
—how many ways and times did they offend that day? Surely much more than “77 times.” And we hear Him say: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Yes, Christians sin.
Yes, we all too often ignore the teachings of Christ.
But thank God we have the teachings of Christ and the life of Christ

that lead us to see ourselves for the sinners we are, and to hold ourselves to the higher standard of Jesus Himself.
And you know, I think that is what has made American the great country it is. Whether people like to admit it our not, our founding fathers counted on the Christian faith and Christian morals to enable the people to justly govern themselves.
And in my opinion, that’s what has helped our country
become the greatest nation on earth. Yes we go to war, but we do not enslave our enemies once conquered. When we defeated the Germans and Japanese in World War II
we didn’t enslave them or colonize them:
we freed them and paid to rebuild their countries.

And the same is true in the current war on terror. Within 18 months of American troops toppling Sadaam Hussein the Iraqi people elected their own government.
And how many American lives have been sacrificed and how many 10s of billions of American dollars have we spent to protect and rebuild the new free Iraq?
To me this is the effect of the Christian moral ethos, deeply rooted in the soul of our nation, making us always ready to love our enemy,
and eager forgive all who offend us. And I think too, it’s why sometimes we forget, even though we promised to “never forget.” Americans want to forgive and forget, and get on with life in peace.
But we must never forget. Because, while we must love and forgive our enemies, we must also love and protect our families, our neighbors, our country. And even as we must bless and pray for those who curse and abuse us, we must also bless those who fight to defend us, and pray for those who have died at the hand of our enemies.
Today, we remember and pray for souls of all those who died in the 9/11 attacks, and in the War on Terror. And we remember and pray for all who have sacrificed so much to protect our liberty and safety. And we remember that our nation still has enemies who wish to harm us, and so we pray for the safety of our nation.
And in all those prayers we remember that God was our strength and hope in 2001, and has been these 10 years since. And that God’s name is Jesus Christ, our teacher, our example, and our savior.
Only by remembering that, by keeping Jesus Christ in center of our lives at all times, can we be, at one and the same time, both strong in confronting our enemies,
and forgiving of all the harm the do us.
For all this, for those who died, for those who serve, and for our faith in Christ, let us pray, that “We will never forget.”

September 11, 2011

Where were you 10 years ago today, September 11, 2001? Where were you found out that an airplane had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center? Or that a second plane had crashed into the south tower? Or that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon? Or that a fourth plane was headed toward the White House or Capital, but had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania? Or when you heard the Twin Towers had collapsed to the ground? Where were you?

I was just coming back from saying 8:30 Mass at St. Andrew’s when I passed the opened door of my pastor’s room and heard the cable news reporting on the first crash. As I came in to his room to see what was going on, at 9:02 a.m., I saw the second crash. I spent a good part of the next hour in front of the television watching in disbelief, anger and grief. And then we heard news about the third crash, this time just miles away at the Pentagon. I left the television, heading over to the school, knowing that some of our dear children might now be orphans.

Where were you? For most of us, I think, it’s seared into our memories. Maybe some of you were at the Pentagon that day. I know many of you had dear friends or family members there.

What a terrible day. Words can’t express the rush of emotions, not the least of which was fear. Fear of the unknown—we are free and open society and our enemies were aggressively exploiting that: we were completely vulnerable to almost any kind of terror attack.

But in the middle of all those emotions, something else came to the forefront. As surprising as the attacks were, almost equally surprising was the general response of almost all Americans: a dramatic national turning toward God in prayer. Even by the media, as we heard reporters and anchors saying over and over things like, “please, God,” or “they’re in our prayers.” And what an amazing sight that evening, as hundreds of members of Congress sang “God bless America” on the front steps of the Capitol. God and prayer were our most secure hope, and the whole country seemed to understand that.

“We will never forget.” That was the motto of the day. A lot of things have happened since then. A lot more people have died because of that day— over 6000 of our military men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. And it seems like some of us have forgotten. But we mustn’t do that. We must never forget that we have enemies who want to destroy our country, and our faith, and that they have and are capable of coming here and killing us. We must never forget that 3000 thousand people were killed in
the 9/11/01 attacks, and that thousands of Americans have died, 10’s of thousands have been wounded, and millions have been deployed to war (including many of you) to defend us from future attacks. We must never forget.

And above all, we must never forget that God is our only sure and certain hope. He alone is our strength and shield when all human efforts fail, when enemies surround us, or life overwhelms us. He is always there to love us, uphold us, protect us and give us peace.

Today, we remember and pray for souls of all those who died in the 9/11 attacks, and in the War on Terror. And we remember and pray for all who have sacrificed to protect our liberty and safety. And we even remember and pray for our enemies, as Christ commanded us to. And we remember that God alone is our hope and sure security. Let us pray, that WE WILL NEVER FORGET.

NEXT WEEK, NEW PRAYERS BEGIN. Next weekend we will begin the gradual transition to the new translation of the Mass by singing the new “Holy, Holy” (the Sanctus). All are asked to try to get to Mass 10 minutes early to hear and practice this new sung version—both a new melody and new words. Note: This does not apply to the 7pm and 7am Masses that have no music.

Over the next few weeks we will introduce the new Mystery of Faith and the Gloria, but we begin with the Holy, Holy because the new melody is very familiar to most of us and the change in wording is very slight. In fact, the only change is replacing 3 words with one word. Compare the first lines of the “old” and “new,” and the Latin original:

Old: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
New: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Latin: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.

The Latin word being translated is “Sabaoth,” which is a transliteration of the Hebrew “Tsaba,” a word repeated through the Old Testament, and almost always translated as “hosts,” referring to the great armies of angels that serve the Lord. The entire phrase is taken almost directly from the Isaiah 6:3:
“I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim [angels] were stationed above;…One cried out to the other:

“Holy, holy, holy* is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!”

At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)

In the Mass this prayer is sung just as we enter into the most holy part of the ritual, the Eucharistic Prayer. It reminds us that we too are about to enter into the heavenly temple as Christ descends to the altar at the consecration.

Besides being a totally incorrect and inadequate translation of the word “sabaoth,” the old translation of “power and might” separates us from this important Biblical text from Isaiah. While some argue that this is so small a change it was unnecessary, words have meaning, and by changing one word we go from thinking “God is powerful and mighty,” to “God is Lord of the army of angels who serve and worship Him in the heavenly temple, where we are about to enter and serve and worship Him in union with them.”

Some also argue, that nobody uses the word “hosts” in today’s commonly spoken English. True, but remember 1) using unusual words reminds us that we are doing something unusual and different—we are worshiping God (the word “holy” actually means “completely different” or “set apart”); and 2) this is the word used in almost all translation of Scripture and for centuries of English speaking peoples.

Here in this one word we see several principles behind the new translation, including: accuracy in word and meaning, Scriptural and historical context, rich theological nuance, and the necessity of a common sacred language.

Webpage on the new translation. For more information on the new translation I invite you to go to the parish website, http://www.straymonds.org/ , and click New Translation of the Roman Missal. This will lead you to a webpage with all sorts of helpful resources. In particular, at the bottom of that page you will find links to listen to audio recordings of the various new sung Mass parts—I highly encourage you to listen to these, and practice them on your own, so that we can all join in singing with the angels our praise to God in His holy temple.

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011

July 24, 2011
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.

My homily this morning
requires a careful balance of charity and clarity, modesty and precision.
It will be difficult for some adults to hear,
and a bit too “mature” for some younger ones to understand.
I particularly hope I don.t offend the innocence of the little ones present.
But it must be said, so I beg your patience.

43 years ago, tomorrow, on July 25, 1968,
Pope Paul VI issued perhaps the most important papal encyclical
of the 20th century, called Humanae Vitae.
And in this letter the Holy Father declared and reconfirmed
the Church.s ancient, constant and infallible teaching
that the love-giving and the life-giving qualities
of sexual intercourse
are not only intrinsically and inseparably united
in God.s plan for human love and marriage,
but they are also expressive of both
the dignity of man created in the image of God,
and the life and love of God himself.
And because of that, any intentional and direct interference
in the life-giving aspect, commonly called “contraception”
is always contrary to God.s love and degrading of human dignity.

This was, and still is, a hard teaching for the modern world to accept.
And so Paul VI was immediately greeted by hostility and ridicule,
even from many otherwise faithful Catholics.
They laughed at his predictions
that if contraception became acceptable in society,
we would see a rapid decline in sexual morality,
and an increase in the degradation of women, in divorce
and in abortion.

But today, Pope Paul seems a prophet,
as all these predictions have come to pass.

Even so, most people in the western world, including most Catholics
now accept contraception as normal, and even necessary.

Why is this teaching so widely rejected?
There are many reasons given,
but I think the strongest one is very simple and direct:
they say that this is a private matter between a husband and wife
—or even between an unmarried couple.
At the core of their argument is essentially faith in the “right to privacy.”

It.s interesting that this “right to privacy” is so important
in defending contraception.
Because that.s the same legal principle used by the Supreme Court
to argue in favor of the “right to abortion”
and now, the “right to sodomy,”
and soon, I.m afraid, the “right to homosexual „marriage..”
And it.s even more interesting, because this constitutional right to privacy
was first established by the Supreme Court in 1965
in a case called “Griswold v. Connecticut”
–a case that ruled that there is a constitutional right to contracept.
In other words, according to the Supreme Court,
the right to privacy establishes the right to contracept,
and from that flows the right to abort babies,
and the right to sexual depravity.
Sounds a lot like Paul VI.s reasoning, in a backward sort of way.

Do we have a right to privacy in God.s eyes?
Surely, it.s true that a husband and wife have a certain kind of right to privacy
in their most intimate moments.
But are these really completely “private moments?”

[And] as St. Paul writes in his 1st letter to the Corinthians,
“If one member [of the body] suffers, all suffer together ;
if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
Here St. Paul speaks of the Church as the one Body of Christ,
but we can use this analogy to refer to
the connectedness of a people, a nation or even the human race
—the body politic, as it were.
In this analogy we see, there are no really completely private acts
—every act in one way or another effects all of us.

As I said, here St. Paul speaks of the Church as the Body of Christ.
But he also speaks of the Church as the “Bride of Christ.”
So that when he calls the Church the “Body of Christ”
he.s also alluding to the unity between a husband and wife:
a unity in which “the two become one flesh”—or “one body.”
As Christ becomes one body with the Church,
in a similar way, this is reflected in
a husband becoming one body with his wife.

This saying that the “two become one flesh,” originates
in the Biblical story of the creation of Adam and Eve.
Scripture makes it very clear that God created Adam and Eve
in a completely unselfish and generous act:
solely because he wanted to share his love and life with them.
And it tells us that God created them in his own image,
and then gave them to each other,
and that the very first words he spoke to them were:
“be fruitful, and multiply”
In all this, Scripture reveals that
spouses become who God created them to be
when they imitate His completely unselfish and generous love,
by sharing their love and life with each other,
but in such a completely generous and unselfish way
that they are open to creating
a new human being in their image,
and sharing their love and life with them as well.
So we see, the wonderful gift of the intimate physical expression of spousal love
is intrinsically directed toward the even more magnificent gift of giving life.

It is very true that spouses can have love without having babies.
But to purposefully work against or “protect” oneself
from a baby in the conjugal act
is directly contradictory to the meaning of the one flesh union.
It says,
“I want to give all my life and love to you,
except the most incredible and almost divine part which
has the power to create new life from love.”
How then can it be an act of total and true love,
when it is so fundamentally selfish and a lie?

So, when someone says these matters are private, the Church says: No!
If this were an absolutely private act, then you would be alone,
effecting no one else.
But in contraception, by definition, you are not alone
and the lives of 2 separate people are effected.

Some say, okay, but if husband and wife, in their privacy as a couple,
freely agree to contracept,
that.s at least a private act between them, and it effects no one else.
But if contraception was truly a private act just between the husband and wife,
then there.d be no need to contracept.
The only reason to contracept is so that another, 3rd person, won.t be born!
Not private at all anymore.

But how can a baby not even conceived have some sort of rights here;
how can you count it as a third person
before it even comes into existence?

In the 4th century St. Augustine,
the Church.s greatest philosopher and theologian,
addressed this very topic.
Augustine said, take 2 strangers who join in sexual intimacy:
there is no love there, and they have no desire to be fruitful.
In fact, they.re radically opposed to procreation
—and fight it by contracepting.
But the reality is that there.s still a good chance that they.ll lose that fight.
And then what.s their attitude to the child conceived by “mistake”?
That child they did not want, that child they fought against?
Augustine argues that the lack of love that precedes the conception,
becomes the foundation for their relationship with the child.
And so, as we see today with 1 in 3 children born out of wedlock,
an illegitimate father will be tempted to abandon mother and child,
or pressure her to “get rid of the problem.”
And mothers, also, will be tempted to agree with the fathers
and see this child as a problem to be aborted.

But Augustine doesn.t stop there.
He argues that when a married couple decide to contracept
they have the same attitude of the 2 strangers
—the attitude of fighting against the baby.
And these parents will also be tempted to carry that attitude over to the child:
we see this statistically in the fact that
37% of unintended pregnancies of married women end in abortion.
And even if the child isn.t aborted, won.t it be difficult for the parents
who fought so hard against conception, against the baby,
to now welcome the conceived baby with open and loving arms?
Won.t too many even be tempted
to neglect, or abuse or abandon these children?

A child has a right to be conceived and born in the context of love
—love between the parents and love for the baby.
And that right precedes conception.

Friends, there is a direct and intrinsic connection
between marital love and sex and procreation.
If we forget these connections
we will have no understanding of any of these wonderful gifts.
And then we won.t understand what.s wrong with things like
in vitro fertilization and cloning,
premarital and extramarital sex,
and homosexual acts.
And we won.t be able to understand what.s wrong with contraception.

There is no doubt that raising children is very difficult.
And parents must be responsible in planning the birth of children.
That.s why the Church recognizes that prospective parents
can sometimes morally postpone the conception of children
by using “natural” means, such as “natural family planning”,
—means that cooperate with God.s plan for sharing life and love.

But responsibility does not mean pettiness or selfishness.
So couples must have a “just reason”
consistent with love and openness to life
when they act to postpone conception.

And responsibility does not mean hopelessness.
The Gospels tell us of 2 times when Jesus fed a hungry crowd
of thousands of men and women from a handful of loaves and fishes
—and then had enough left over to fill 12 baskets.
All because they had followed him, listening to his word.
Will he be any less generous regarding the material needs of Christian spouses
who follow him and listen to his word with a generous openness to life?
As St. Paul reminds us in today.s 2nd reading:
“We know that all things work for good for those who love God.”

Some spouses will say, but Father, it.s so difficult and contraception is so easy.
No one asks you to do the impossible, especially Jesus.
But as he tells the apostles elsewhere:
“With men it is impossible, but not with God;
for all things are possible with God.”
God will provide every grace spouses need to become the men and women,
the husbands and wives, that He created them to be from the beginning.

But Father, some will say, this will take a lot of sacrifice.
This could effect our lives in huge ways.
The thing is, true love always involves sacrifice:
the sacrifice of the Cross was the greatest act of love ever
—Christ laying down his life, his body–for his Bride, the Church.
And that.s exactly the same love every husband should have for his wife,
and wife for her husband.
As St. Paul tells us elsewhere:
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church
and gave himself up for her.”
On their wedding day bride and groom both lay down their life for their spouse,
giving themselves up completely in love.

And when they do that, they don.t do it with sadness or grumbling,
but with eagerness and joy.
Why?
Because it.s worth it.
To a bride or groom, marriage is,
“like a merchant searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Marriage is like that,
and so is the fullness of the Church.s understanding
of Marriage and sexuality.
Particularly the ancient teaching repeated in Humanae Vitae,
so often ignored and rejected by theologians and priests,
and by married couples themselves.
A pearl of great price that has become “like a treasure buried in a field.” A treasure that today we must dig up,
and “~out of joy go and sell all that we have and buy that field.~”

This treasure is part of the kingdom:
it is the way God made us from the beginning,
and we cannot be who we are intended to be,
we can.t share in the kingdom,
if we reject this treasure.
So the Church has always infallibly taught
that every single intentional and direct act of contraception
is always a gravely evil, or a mortal sin.
And because I love you,
I remind you what Jesus tells us at the end of today.s Gospel:
“at the end of the age…The angels will go out
and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
So, as God once revealed through His prophet Moses:
“I have set before you life and death,
blessing and curse;
therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.”

It is God.s plan, revealed in Scripture and in the natural law
that marital love, sexual intimacy and procreation are all bound together
as one magnificent gift generously bestowed on mankind.
If we do not recognize this connection, we will never understand these gifts,
and we will surely abuse and demean them,
and ourselves and those we love, or should love.
Let us pray then that the lives of all men and women
may be filled with the true love of Christ that leads to
a new understanding of sexuality and marriage,
and a new generosity and openness to life.
That they may recognize the Church.s teaching as the pearl of great price,
the treasure buried in the field.
And that they may have unfailing faith and hope in the generous love of Jesus,
“that all things work for good for those who love God.”

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011

Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.
July 17, 2011

Last week a group of over 300 priests in Austria signed a letter
they called a “Call to Disobedience,”
in which the publicly dissented from a long list of Catholic teachings,
and announced that they are going to completely disregard
several important disciplinary laws of the Church.
This, unfortunately, is nothing new.
For several decades now there have been a lot of people
publicly demanding changes to Church teaching
—even when those teachings are divine truths,
not changeable by any man, even a pope.
Of course this can be extremely confusing to Catholics,
and particularly when it.s our fellow Catholics demanding these changes,
and especially when it.s Catholic priests, and even bishops.

Sometimes Catholics, including myself,
wonder why Church authorities delay
in correcting or disciplining Catholics
who publicly dissent from Church teaching.
It doesn.t seem fair to regular Catholics, much less the rest of the world,
to let this confusion continue.
Personally, I can tell you it makes a priests job
a whole lot more difficult than it has to be;
when you teach a difficult truth, or support some action of the Pope,
and have to deal with all sorts of ugly criticism,
only to have some bishop somewhere confuse everything
by doing the exact opposite.
And nothing happens to them: the rest of the hierarchy seems to be silent.

Why does the Church—especially the pope and his helpers in Rome—
allow this to go on without doing something about it?
Sometimes because of misplaced caution.
Sometimes it.s because cowardice.
Sometimes it.s because they just don.t know what.s going on.
And in the case of some Church officials, unfortunately,
sometimes it.s because they agree with dissenters.

But sometimes, sometimes, the delay is necessary,
and even part of God.s will.

In today.s Gospel text Jesus tells us:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed
.…[H]is enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat….
When the crop grew …the weeds appeared as well.”
And when the man.s servants wanted to pull up the weeds he replied simply:
“„No, ….Let them grow together until harvest.”

How can it ever be acceptable to patiently let weeds grow with the wheat,
to allow confusing false doctrines
to grow and spread throughout the Church and society?
Today.s text gives two good reasons.
First, Jesus says:
“if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”

How many times do we try to accomplish something good
only to have the unintended negative consequences
overwhelmingly offset the good we achieve?

You know how this works.
I was at a family.s house one night having an enjoyable dinner,
when one of the children, a 6 year old, acted up and daddy scolded her.
He was the right thing to do it, only one problem:
the 6 year old started to cry and scream,
And then the 3 younger children started to cry too.
Dad did the right thing, but the evening was ruined.

This happens in the Church too.
For 20 years Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
was in charge of correcting and disciplining Catholics
who publicly who misled their brothers and sisters with false teaching.
He very seldom acted harshly or with haste.
But he did act and speak clearly and decisively.
Most of the time his actions weren.t in the headlines
—at least not the headlines of the secular media:
But when the media did take notice
it seldom failed to paint him with the harsh brush of his critics.
who called him “divisive,” “heavy handed,” “the Grand inquisitor,”
and the ‘Panzer Kardinal’.
And those were the nicer names they called him.

Think back to the reaction to Cardinal Ratzinger.s public letter in June of 2003,
condemning the legalization of so called “gay marriage,”
and reminding Catholic politicians that voting for these laws
would be “gravely immoral.”
Or to his very private letter sent to guide the American bishops
in July of 2004
in which he reminded them that pro-abortion politicians
must be denied Holy Communion.
Both these letters were intended
to protect Catholics from being misled about the Church.s teaching,
and to lead people to repentance and God.s forgiveness.
But many people, particularly the press, reacted as if Ratzinger wanted
to burn homosexuals at the stake,
dictate policy to the American government,
and force women to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.

So that when this good and brave man,
an intellectual giant,
and yet the most humble and kindest man you.d ever what to meet,
was elected pope 6 years ago, the headlines in some cities read:
“From Hitler Youth to Papa Ratzi,”
and “„God.s Rottweiler’ is the new Pope.”
Some articles called him a “radical extremist”
—making him sound like a terrorist—
and a chorus rose up calling him a
“misogynist,” “homophobe”, “bigot”, “hatemonger”, and “Nazi”.

Now as “Pope Benedict XVI”
he has to overcome the negative ramifications and effects
of the brave and good work he did as “Cardinal Ratzinger”
in pulling weeds for the sake of the wheat.
So, while his interventions were necessary and well worth the negative press,
and while we should never fear upholding the truth,
we can see how it is “prudent” to be careful
not to unnecessarily diminish the good we hope to accomplish,
and therefore sometimes necessary
not to pull every weed that grows in the wheat.

But there is also a second reason for not always immediately pulling the weeds:
“The kingdom of heaven is like
yeast….mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”
One reason the hierarchy doesn.t act quickly in every problem case,
is that it waits for us to act:
while we may have to live like wheat surrounded by weeds,
we also need to live as leaven to the society we live in:
by truly and clearly living our Christian lives in the day to day world
we can and will raise up the faith in those around us.

How many of us take the time to educate ourselves on the Church.s teaching
on the issues of the day
–how many of us have actually read those letters
from Cardinal Ratzinger that I was talking about earlier
–and I don.t mean read the articles in the press,
but the actual words of Ratzinger, now Benedict, himself?
And how many of us act on these teachings,
by putting them into practice
and proclaiming them to the world we live in every day?
Is it Rome, or is it us, who fails to act?

Think about it:
at the party you went to last night, or at work last week,
when someone brought up the Church.s “harsh” treatment of gays,
–or some other misunderstood teaching of the Church—
did you explain to them what the Church really intends and teaches?

Or at home: parents,
when you saw something on television
that showed ignorance about or hostility toward the Church,
did you bother take a moment to point it out and clarify it for your children?

And children, how about you?
When someone at school, maybe a classmate or even a teacher,
says something about the Church that doesn.t sound right
do you take the time to do something about it,
at least by talking to Mom and Dad about it?

Some would say: but what can I do, what difference can I make?
How can tiny little me change the world around me?
Again, Jesus addresses this in today.s Gospel. He says:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed …..
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.”
The mustard seed is like the leaven:
only a tiny bit of leaven is used to raise a large loaf of bread.

Maybe prudence, limits what you can do.
Maybe you honestly discern that the good you want to accomplish
will be overshadowed by the misunderstanding that will result.
Maybe you.re just being careful not to pull the weeds out
lest you pull the wheat out with it.
Maybe you.re acting with clemency, leniency and mercy
as today.s 1st reading tells us the Lord does.

Still, if you do act in prudence, and in mercy,
you must also remember that the Lord says:
“…[at] the end of the age, …. [the] weeds are collected and
…. throw[n] into the fiery furnace.”
In mercy for the weeds mixed with the wheat,
we—you and I—must do something for them
to keep them from the furnace.
We must tell them the truth.
Yes, perhaps slowly, and gently, and always with kindness,
as the book of Wisdom says today:
“those who are just must be kind.”
And warning them not just about the prospect of “the fiery furnace”
but also offering them Our Lord.s wonderful promise that:
“the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
But we must tell them the truth.

Today, as we continue to prepare ourselves for the Eucharist,
let us pray for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, that he may have
the prudence and wisdom to discern,
and the courage and mercy to act,
how, where and when the Lord wants him to
in either pulling or leaving the weeds in the Church.
And let us pray for ourselves
that words of the Gospel and the grace of this sacrament
may bear great fruit in us,
so that we may be the wheat of the harvest,
and not the weeds bundled for burning.
And that our Lord may give us
the patience to live as wheat among the weeds,
and the prudence, mercy, and courage to
to act as the leaven that transforms the world into Christ’s Kingdom.

July 17, 2011

Due to an error in the bulletin last week, part of Fr. De Celles’ letter was inadvertently omitted. The following is his complete letter from July 17th.

Yesterday, Saturday July 16, was the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, memorializing the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite priest, and her gift to him of the “Brown Scapular” on July 16, 1251.

The origins of the Carmelites (The Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel), are somewhat uncertain, but it seems the order originated when certain devout souls came together after the third crusade in the late 12th century in the Holy Land to live as hermits near Mount Carmel, where the Old Testament Prophet Elijah had defeated the priests of Baal with signs of the great power of the God of Israel (1 Kings 18). There they built a chapel dedicated to “Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel,” indicating their dedication to the Mother of Our Lord. After the Holy Land was reconquered by the Muslim armies in the early 13th century most of the friars returned to their homelands in Europe, where they established new Carmelite monasteries.

St. Simon Stock entered the order as it first took root in his native England, and was eventually elected to head the order in 1247, at the age of 82. During a time of great tribulation in the order St. Simon appealed to Our Lady, and she in turn appeared to him with words of consolation and hope. At that time she also gave to him the Brown Scapular, a long piece of fabric, as wide as the shoulders, worn down the front and back (reaching down to the feet) with a hole in the center where the head passes through. In giving him the Scapular Our Lady said: “Take, beloved son, this Scapular of your order as a badge of my confraternity and for you and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant”. The Carmelites immediately began to wear this Scapular as part of their regular habit, and it seems that very soon afterward many non-Carmelites, both lay and cleric, also began to wear it, usually in a smaller form of a two small pieces of cloth held together by two strings, worn around the neck, hanging down in front and back. This practice continues to this day.

It should be noted, however, that the promise of Our Lady was to “all Carmelites,” so, from the beginning of this devotion, or “sacramental,” in order to participate in her promises it has been necessary for the wearer of the Scapular to, in some way, be officially associated with the Carmelite order. With this in mind the Carmelites established the “Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel,” which any Catholic may be enrolled in through a short ceremony and blessing conducted by a priest.

It must be understood that the Scapular is in no way a “a good luck charm.” Rather, as Pope Pius XII wrote on the 700th anniversary of the Scapular, it “is a sign and a pledge of the protection of the Mother of God.” Moreover, it should be a sign of the wearer‟s true devotion to her. As Bd. John Paul II wrote on the 750th anniversary, the Scapular is a sign that evokes “the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a „habit‟, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the „covenant‟ and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful…”

Nor is the promise of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel without conditions—it is not a “get-out-of- hell-free card.” As Pope Pius XII tells us, a person wearing the Scapular may not “think that they can gain eternal salvation while remaining sinful and negligent of spirit, for the Apostle warns us: ‘In fear and trembling shall you work out your salvation.'” One may not presume to live a sinful life while having confidence that the Scapular will miraculously erase all sins on one‟s death bed. Rather, the Scapular is more a pledge of the Blessed Mother‟s intercession on our behalf, at the moment of death, to obtain for us from her Son the grace that is necessary to repent of any mortal sins. Even so, grace is not magic, and it is not forced on us: it is a gift and so we must accept it. The soul that lives a life of sin is less disposed to accept that gift, and the soul immersed in years of mortal sins is strongly disposed to reject that gift. So that in some cases the wearing of the Scapular can become a mockery of Our Lady, a contradiction of it‟s true meaning and gain the wearer no benefit whatsoever.

We should also remember that the apparition of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock is private revelation, and therefore is a not a matter of faith, and may be understood only in the light of the teaching of the Church. Even so, the wearing of the Scapular, as well as confidence in her promises (rightly understood in the light of Church teaching) has been strongly promoted by scores of popes.

Finally, some will say that Scapulars went out with Vatican II. Not so; for example in 1965, as that Council was coming to an end, Pope Paul VI wrote: “Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin approved by the teaching authority of the Church. It is Our conviction that the Rosary of Mary and the Scapular of Carmel are among these recommended practices. The Scapular is a practice of piety, which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone.”

Enrollment and Investiture with the Brown Scapular next weekend. Acknowledging the importance of this devotion, I invite anyone who wishes to place themselves under the protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to be enrolled in Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel and invested with the Brown Scapular at short ceremonies I will conduct next weekend after the 9am Mass on Saturday, July 23, and after both the 8:45 and 10:30 Mass on Sunday, July 24. There is no sign up, and no specific preparation required. You may bring your own Scapular or receive one provided by the parish.

Oremus pro invicem, ad Jesum per Mariam. Fr. De Celles

July 10, 2011

This last week marked one year of service for me at St. Raymond’s. It has been an interesting year for me, a very good year in many ways, and certainly a challenging one. I’ve learned a lot about how to run a parish, and how not to, and how much more I still need to learn. I hope that it has been a good year for the parish as well, although only heaven really knows that. I thank all of you, especially the parish staff and the heads of committees, for your patience and assistance.

Looking back at my first column from last year, I see I wrote: “I am an enthusiastic supporter of Pope Benedict’s call for liturgical renewal, especially his emphasis on reverence and sacrality in the liturgy.” The year ahead promises some big changes in the liturgy consistent with His Holiness’s call. In particular, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011, the new translation of the Roman Missal will be put into use in all the parishes of the United States.

This translation will effect almost every prayer we pray at Mass, and so will necessitate some serious preparation on everyone’s part. Although most changes in the prayers of the people in the pews will be minor, they will nevertheless take some getting used to. For example, after years of responding to the priest’s greeting “The Lord be with you” by answering “And also with you,” parishioners will have to get used to saying “And with your spirit.” This more closely and faithfully translates the original Latin “et cum spiritu tuo,” and coincides with how the phrase is translated into all the other major languages around the world (e.g., in Spanish: “y con tu espirito”). You can see that even though this is a small change, it will have a real impact and require some adjustments on our part.

Another important effect of the new translations will be on the music at Mass: changes in words, syntax and sometimes the addition of whole phrases (omitted in the old/current translation), will mean that the melodies we currently use for singing the prayers of the Mass will have to change as well. I’m afraid this will be the hardest adjustment for most of us—the new words can be handled by simply reading the new texts from the missalette or the prayer cards we will be putting in the pews, but learning new melodies is much more challenging for most of us. To make this easier, we will begin by learning the simple and basic chanted melodies for these prayers that the Church has developed over centuries. As contemporary composers propose new melodies, and with proper time for sorting out the good from the not-so-good, we will work these into our “repertoire” as well.

In any case, all this will take some preparation. For us, this preparation will go into full gear beginning in early September, when everyone is back from vacation. We will provide various opportunities to help you to learn about the changes and become familiar with them. For example, I will use this column to discuss some of the changes in prayers, as well as propose several online resources that you can refer to at your leisure. I hope to also make available CDs, DVDs and books for those who would prefer those media. I will also be teaching some classes and holding meetings for those who are interested. And I have authorized our music director, Elisabeth Turco, to take a few minutes before Masses to begin to practice the new hymnody for the prayers. All this, again, during the Fall in anticipation of the changes that will come into effect at all Masses beginning November 27, 2011. If you want to get a head start, check out: http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/

Some folks ask, why all the trouble—why the new translations? First of all, let me remind everyone that the prayers used throughout the Catholic world are taken from the liturgical book called the Roman Missal (RM). The official editio typica version of the RM is written in Latin, and the vernacular RMs used around the world are all translations of the Latin RM. But ever since the current English translation of the RM was published in 1970 (in what is called “The Sacramentary”) it has come under strong criticism for it’s lack of fidelity to the original Latin. Most of the criticism comes from the method employed in the 1970 translation, called “dynamic equivalency,” which seeks to translate thoughts rather than words, not merely rendering accurate translations but provide meaningful interpretations. These translations which often involved paraphrasing and omitting words or whole phrases deemed repetitive, archaic, or atypical for common English usage. All this, critics argued, led to an English text that was not only often very different from the Latin, but also theologically imprecise, spiritually tepid, poetically challenged, lacking in sacred language, and linguistically “dumbed down.”

Pope John Paul II was sympathetic to this criticism, and his chief theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was one of the principle critics. In response, on March 20, 2001, Bd. John Paul approved and ordered published a document from the Congregation for Divine Worship called “Liturgiam authenticam” which set out new principles for new translations of the Roman Missal. This document provided, in part:

“[T]he translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language. …[T]he original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses.

After a major Vatican supervised reorganization of the institutions responsible for translating, a careful retranslation, applying the principles laid out in Liturgiam authenticam, was finalized last year. For many, myself included, it is like a fog or a veil lifting from face of the text, to more clearly reveal the beautiful and timeless prayers of the ancient and sacred Roman liturgy.

Although the new texts will take some getting used to, I think, in the end, most will agree that it will be well worth the effort.

More to come…Stay tuned…

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

July 3, 2011

July 3, 2011
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.

Tomorrow our nation celebrates 235 years of freedom.
As Catholics it is especially right for us to celebrate that freedom,
since we believe that God created us in the beginning
to live in freedom:
in a very real way we are not fully human if we are not free.
And yet as we celebrate freedom,
particularly in the context of freedom from the yoke of a foreign King,
we hear Christ telling us that in order to be truly free we must, as he says:
“Take my yoke upon you.”

Think about this.
With all the things we think or experience as “freedom”,
have you ever thought about how free we actually are?

As Americans, we are free to enter any profession we want.
But in a very real way our freedom to do so is limited
by one responsibility or another,
or by lack of financial resources
or even lack of the requisite intelligence, necessary to enter that field.

We are free to buy whatever we want.
But how free are we to buy whatever we want if we don’t have the money.
You may say, but we’re free to get the money by working hard.
But sometimes circumstances beyond our control
keep us from making or saving that money.

And even if we have the money to buy the things we want,
do we really freely chose what we want?
Did you design the clothes you’re wearing,
or are you wearing them because someone else said they’re fashionable?
We let people tell us what to wear all the time.
There’s a kind of limitation of freedom, isn’t there?

We’re also free to hold whatever political beliefs we wish.
But how many of us, for all practical purposes, freely bind ourselves
in the chains of one or the other political ideology
so that we almost slavishly follow along whatever
a particular party or movement decides for us?

These are all very real obstacles to freedom,
but the worst obstacle is summarized in one word: sin.
How many of us start out to do something good, wind up doing the exact opposite.
As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:
“I do not understand my own actions.
For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
Yes, sin is freely chosen, but temptation can be powerfully coercive
and once chosen we can easily become it’s slave.

Now, all of this is not to make you fill like freedom is an illusion or meaningless.
But rather, to remind us that freedom as the world normally thinks of freedom
is never complete, and always constrained by something.

Unfortunately, the realization of the obstacles to freedom
leads many to think that everything that in anyway
seems to constrain freedom must be removed.
I say “unfortunately” because while removing obstacles to freedom in life
is generally a good thing
the problem is, that a lot of things some consider
to be obstacles or constraints on freedom
actually work to enhance freedom.

For example the laws of society:
at first glance, laws can seem to deny you the freedom
to do whatever you want,
but in the end they actually promote your freedom.
For instance, the law says you’re not free to kill other people whenever you want,
but that in turn enhances the freedom of everyone
both to live, and to live without paralyzing fear.

Or take the case of children.
Children are equal citizens under our American law and constitution.
Yet, we wisely do not give them the freedoms of an adult:
they can’t drink alcohol, or choose where they live or go to school;
they can’t sign valid contracts, or marry;
and they can’t vote.
More importantly, not only does society impose these rules,
but parents have their own rules.
Children, especially little children, need parental discipline
—not to constrain their freedom, but to enhance that freedom.
I remember when I was 3 years old
and rushed freely out of the house to play in the street.
Momma taught me very quickly and forcefully
that I did not have that freedom to get myself run over
so I’d be free to play another day.

And more important still, parents have to teach their kids
the self-discipline necessary for life.
We teach them not to be distracted during studies or at Mass
—suppressing their curiosity about what’s going on outside or on cable,
in order to free their minds to learn or to draw closer to God.

And as children grow this self-discipline is key to being a free adult.
How many adults that you know seem to be controlled by emotions,
especially hatred or fear or pride or greed or envy or gluttony or lust?
Are they truly free?

In the end, every human being must have a set of rules guiding his or her behavior,
that limit their freedom to be foolish or evil
in order to increase their over all freedom of life.

These rules are what we call our “moral principles” or “values.”
Nowadays some say that it’s true that we all need to have morals,
but people can figure out what’s right and wrong on their own.
So they say we don’t need a Church or the Bible
to teach us about morality
—that popes and priests shouldn’t impose their own morals on other people.

Now, it’s true that some things are very easy to recognize as right or wrong.
Unfortunately, some are not so easy to recognize,
and some things that should be easy
still aren’t always recognized like they should be.

And so the Church steps in to remind us.
For example, it seems pretty obvious to us today
that you should feed people who can’t feed themselves.
And yet throughout the centuries it’s been the Church
that’s had to constantly remind us.

It seems pretty obvious to us today that man is endowed by his Creator
by certain freedoms and rights.
And yet, again, this comes to us from the Judeo-Christian understanding of man
as being is created in the image of God with God-given rights and freedoms.

With all that, it’s amazing to me how so many nowadays attack the Church
as an enemy of freedom,
when it teaches that some things
that to some seem to enhance freedom,
like contraception, abortion, extra-marital sex
and homosexual acts:
in reality constrain freedom.
For example, in an abortion:
the freedom of a mother to abort destroys the freedom of a baby to live.

If all this is true, that on the one hand we’re never completely free in this world,
and on the other hand
that we need rules to properly order the freedom we have
so that freedom will thrive,
that still leaves us with a lot of questions.
In particular:
is there any freedom that can be achieved in this world without limitation?
And if so, what rules do we follow
that will enhance that freedom in our lives?

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus pray to His Father:
“although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.”
The most amazing thing about children is their openness to others,
how they so freely give and receive love.
We see how 2 little children who are complete strangers
can play like fast friends in the sand box,
and how they open wide their arms to an adult they can sense loves them.
This is what Jesus is talking about:
unless you are willing to LOVE as freely as a child….

And this is the freedom we all seek: the freedom to love.
This is the only freedom we can really possess completely and perfectly.
And what surprise is there in that?
Scripture makes it very clear that man is created
in the image of the God who IS love
—he created us to receive his love and love him in return.
And in his image he created us as male and female and told us to multiply
—to love family and all the rest of mankind.
In short, man is a creature designed to love.

And so, except for the freedom to live,
freedom to love is the most basic of freedoms,
and the freedom most completely realizable on earth.
Because it’s pretty hard to block this freedom—because it’s inside you.
It doesn’t take any money or education,
and opportunities abound at every moment.

Of course there is one major obstacles to this freedom: sin.
But what is sin but a choice not to love, or to abuse love in some way?
When others treat us badly, or society is unjust,
when we yield to the temptation of our own passions,
and let hatred, fear, pride, greed, envy or lust control us.
All these choices not to love are sins.

But as difficult as these obstacles are, they can be overcome,
and the freedom to love can be realized on earth
through the love of Christ.
As Pope Benedict once wrote about St. Paul:
“The experience of being loved to the end by Christ opened [Paul’s] eyes
about truth and the path of human existence….
This love is now the “law” of his life
and…was the freedom of his life.”

The love of Christ frees us from sin, and frees us to love.
And the rule or the law that protects our freedom is the law of love,
“you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…
and your neighbor as yourself.”
And that law of love has more specific content, the “rules of love,” so to speak,
the 10 Commandments and the moral teaching of Jesus,
which help us to know
what love truly is,
and what things might destroy love.
And how are you free to exercise a gift if you don’t even know what it is?
And how can we be free to enjoy something by acting to destroy it?

So, for example, the 6th Commandment “thou shall not commit adultery”
protects our freedom to love in marriage
by helping us to understand what marriage is,
and keeping us from doing things to destroy marriage.

Think about this.
If you exercise a supposed freedom to cheat on your spouse,
you’ll probably lose your freedom to participate in your marriage.
Or if you freely divorce your spouse
you take away your spouse’s freedom to remain married.
And how will children be free to live and love in a family
if mom’s and dads are free to abandon or tear apart that family?

So Jesus explains the 6th commandment, saying:
“What …God has joined together, no man can separate”;
and “whoever divorces his wife…and marries another, commits adultery.”

And how can we exercise the freedom to marry
if we don’t even understand what marriage is?
For example, some say, marriage is just a contract
forming a temporary sexually-based emotional relationship,
even if it’s between 2 men, or 2 women.
So Jesus explains, no:
“he who made them from the beginning
made them male and female,
and said, ‘For this reason a man shall …be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh’?”

Beyond all that, what kind of freedom do we really exercise
when we bind ourselves in blind obedience to ideologies or popular opinion?
Most of all, what freedom do we really enjoy
if we choose to live as slaves of our passions,
rather than free in the love of Christ?

And so Christ goes on to tell us today:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Come to me with all the things that deny you the freedom to love,
to become who you were created to be.
whether it’s your own sinful choices, or your own limitations,
or the sins of others or the limitations others impose on you.
Come to me and I will give you my love, my freedom.

He says:
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me”:
freely choose to love me, and to be guided by my love,
“For I am meek and humble of heart.”
learn from me because I don’t use my freedom to be prideful or selfish,
but I freely choose to humbly love.
And if you do this, if you exchange the burden of sin and the world,
“you will find rest”—you will find true freedom.
Because, he says, “my yoke is easy, and my burden light”:
because this will be the most natural thing in the world for you to do:
like a bird was created to fly freely in the sky,
you were created to live freely in love, guided by Christ’s love.
And not only guided by his love,
but lifted up by his love—in his love he carries the burdens of life with you.

We must freely choose to “take up” the yoke, the love, of Christ.
But if we do, the love of Christ will set us free,
and no obstacle will take away that freedom.
As St. Paul says elsewhere
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness,
or peril, or sword?
…No,…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

July 4th, 1776 was truly a momentous day
in the history of our nation and the world,
and should be celebrated by all Americans, and, I think, by all mankind.
But let us never use the limited freedom we enjoy and celebrate as an excuse
to loose sight of the most fundamental freedom
God has in mind for all of us: the freedom to love.
Let us instead accept the yoke of Jesus Christ,
a yoke that is easy and light,
because it is a yoke of love, that guides in love and to love,
and thereby to true, perfect and everlasting freedom.

July 3, 2011

On this Fourth of July weekend, let us pray for our beloved nation and our nation’s leaders.

Prayer for Government
by Archbishop John Carroll,
first bishop and archbishop of Baltimore,
and of the United States

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his Excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

First Prayer of the Continental Congress, September 7th, 1774
Reverend Jacob Duché
Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!

Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen.

St. Paul’s First letter to St. Timothy, 2:1-4.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Oremus pro invicem, et pro patria.
Fr. De Celles

June 26, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi. In most of the world the feast is celebrated on the following Thursday after Trinity Sunday, but in the United States it is celebrated on the following Sunday. The feast calls us to remember the munificent gift God gives us in the Blessed Sacrament, in particular the gift of Christ’s Real Presence that begins as the bread and wine are transformed—by the words of Jesus spoken by the priest at Mass—into the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, and continues until the appearances of bread and wine disappear, e.g., after they are digested in one’s stomach. Which means, of course, the consecrated Hosts that are not consumed at Mass and are reposed in the tabernacle remain the true presence of Christ in our church.

How often we fail to remember this, or to truly accept and believe this. Imagine if at every Mass Jesus—the Crucified, Risen and Ascended Christ, Son of God, God the Son, Eternal Word, Lord of the Universe through whom all things were made and continue in existence—descended down from heaven and stood on the altar. What would you do? How would you respond? Hopefully you’d fall on your knees, like the saints and angels do in heaven when they’re in the presence of Jesus: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev. 1:17), “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb” (Rev. 4:8).

Yet we so easily forget that Christ actually does descend from heaven in the Eucharist at every Mass, and enters into us in Communion, and remains in the tabernacle even when we leave. You’ve probably heard the story, of how a Protestant who was told by his Catholic friend what we believe about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and simply scoffed in response, saying: “you don’t really believe that; if you did you’d never leave the church and you’d be on your knees before the tabernacle all day long.” As cliché as that story has become, similar incidents have happened to many Catholics—myself included, repeatedly.

Do you believe? I do, though not as perfectly as I should. But I do believe. Not simply because I understand the theological explanations, or the historical details of the Church’s faith in this doctrine. But I believe, most fundamentally because of two things: first, Jesus said so: “This is my body…this is the cup of my blood,” and second, the Church has always believed He really, literally meant what He said.

Do you believe? If we believe, why don’t we act like it? Why do we leave our Lord alone in the tabernacle so many hours? Of course he’s not lonely, but why aren’t we lonely for him, why aren’t we desperate to be with him? When a soldier comes home from war, his whole family rushes to greet him and then won’t leave his presence for hours after he’s home. How much more wonderful is it to have Jesus come to us? Perhaps we believe, but we take Him for granted. How terribly sad, and shameful.

Why don’t we at least spend some time during the week visiting Him in the Church, kneeling before the tabernacle, even for a few minutes? He’s there, waiting for you. Come! Why are there so few people in the Church when we expose the Blessed Sacrament on the altar (“Exposition” or “Eucharistic Adoration”), placing Him in the monstrance so we can actually see Him “in” the Host, every Wednesday (9:30am to 7pm) and Friday (9:30am to 3pm)?

And why is it that so many times we completely fail to show the proper adoration and reverence to Him when we receive Him in Holy Communion? We come up to Communion looking around to see if we recognize any of our friends, and then casually stick a hand out to receive the Host, and walk away thinking about how fast we can get out of the parking lot after Mass. Why don’t we instead approach the sanctuary praying to Him and preparing our hearts to receive Him? Why don’t we show some sign of recognition and reverence when we see Him in the priest’s hands—why don’t we at least bow our heads or our bodies, or genuflect or kneel, to the One the angels and patriarchs and apostles in heaven fall down on their faces in front of? Why do we grab at the Host, or stick one hand out like we’re getting change back from a dollar? Rather, why don’t we receive Him reverently on the tongue (as is the norm for the Universal Church: this is no ordinary food to received in an ordinary way!), or at least follow the ancient tradition, articulated by St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d.386) and commended to us by the popes today: “When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost.”

I know, the appearance of bread and wine can fool us—but what would we prefer: should He come to us to eat Him under the appearance of His a bloody crucified body? Even though your senses— your eyes, taste, touch—might say otherwise, have faith in the word of Jesus: “this is my body”; and as the Tantum Ergo, the beautiful hymn composed for this feast by St. Thomas Aquinas, reminds us: “praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui”—“faith for all defects supplying, where the feeble sense fail.”

What a glorious thing, that Christ Our Lord would come to us remain with us, truly and really, in this Most Blessed Sacrament. Let us kneel before Him in adoration, awe and praise. And let us receive Him with the most true and devout love.

Eucharistic Procession. Today, after the 12:15 Mass, we will have our Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession. Processing with the Eucharist outside of the church building is an ancient practice, dating back at least to the early 12th century. By bringing the Eucharist outside of the church building and walking through the streets (or, as we do here, the parking lot) with the Blessed Sacrament, believers give witness to their faith in Jesus Christ in general, and in His Real Presence in the Eucharist in particular. Moreover, such processions remind us that having received Christ in Communion at Mass we are sent out with Him in us, to bring Him to the world we live in—the streets, the house, the businesses, and, yes, the parking lots. Please join us in this ancient and eloquent witness to our faith in and love of our Eucharistic Lord.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles