June 30, 2013

Marriage and the Supreme Court. As I write this on Wednesday (due to bulletin deadlines) news of the Supreme Court of the United States’ (“SCOTUS”) 5-4 decision on “gay marriage” is being announced. Although there is still much to digest in this ruling, it seems clear that it is a split decision: SCOTUS has partially struck down and partially left intact the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”). Specifically, it has struck down the requirement that the federal government recognize only traditional male-female marriage in applying federal law, finding that the federal government is bound to abide by the definition of marriage as determined by the particular states. This means that the federal tax dollars paid by citizens of the 38 states that reject “gay marriage” will go to support the “gay marriages” from the 12 states that allow them. For example, your tax dollars will go to pay Social Security and military survivor’s benefits to “gay surviving spouses.”

It is important to note that the court stopped short of finding a federal constitutional right to “gay marriage,” so that it left intact that part of DOMA that allows the states to not be bound by other states’ laws allowing “gay marriages.” I suppose we should be grateful that SCOTUS restrained itself in this way, but this restraint seems to indicate only a temporary reprieve. Consider that Justice Kennedy, who wrote the opinion and was the swing vote, wrote that:

“…no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom [a particular state], by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity… treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others….”

This seems to say that the constitution prohibits the federal government from respecting “gay marriage” less than traditional (male-female) marriage, and that to do so unconstitutionally “injures” “gays.” While it wraps itself in a “states’ rights” argument, it strikes me that this type of logic sets the stage for lower federal courts to soon discover a right to “gay marriage” in the constitution.

[In a related case SCOTUS passed the buck on the California “Proposition 8” case. Based on a technicality it said it could not rule on the case itself and so left intact the U.S. District Court’s decision that rejected the California’s voter’s decision to ban “gay marriage.” Recall that the government of the State of California had decided not to appeal the District Court’s ruling. SCOTUS ruled that the citizens’ organization that had attempted to appeal the case lacked “standing” to appeal. The net effect is that in spite of the voters’ decision, “gay marriage” is permitted in California.]

It seems we’re fighting a rear guard action as we’re slowly being beaten back from the battle. But we must keep fighting the good fight, and praying for Divine intervention. Remember, the George Washington’s army waged war for years against an overwhelmingly superior force, sustaining multiple defeats and causalities with only a handful of victories, and suffered catastrophic mutinies and desertions. But in the end, by God’s providence, we prevailed.

Fortnight for Freedom. All this, of course, takes place during the Church’s “fortnight for freedom”—two weeks of prayer, sacrifice and action to defend our religious liberty. The issue of “gay marriage” is part of this struggle, especially as SCOTUS argues that to stand against “gay marriage” is “to disparage and injure” “gay” people. Even now faithful Catholics are viciously attacked by many in the “mainstream” of American life, calling us “hateful” and “intolerant” because our stand in support of traditional/natural marriage. How long before the courts or legislatures agree, and enshrine this and other rising examples of anti-Catholicism in our laws ?

Anti-Catholicism has always been around in America, but it’s been on a steady rise for the last 5 decades, and especially in last five years as Catholic values that had once been part of our truly common American values have been thrown aside, and their moral opposites installed by our government as now “sacred.”

This anti-Catholicism came to a head in January of last year as our President and his Secretary of Health and Human Services issued regulations (as part of Obamacare) that would force Catholic business owners, charitable organizations, schools, colleges and even, in many cases, the Catholic Church itself, to provide all their employees with health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

But don’t be misled: this is not about political parties. In my homily last Sunday (available on our website) I went into detail discussing how in 1875 the Republican Party, controlling most of the federal government, tried to force Catholics to attend government-run public schools, where they could be indoctrinated with Protestant values and teachings. The party that was founded just 20 years earlier principally to fight the oppression of people of different races (slavery), went on to promote the oppression of people of different religions, i.e., Catholics.

Now, in 2012, the Democrat Party, controlling most of the federal government, is trying to force secular humanist values on Catholics. The party that not so long ago was the main party of faithful Catholics and which has lately been a champion of equal rights for all races, has now has become the champion of the oppression of faithful Catholics. But make no mistake—all too many Republics join them in this anti-Catholicism.

Through all this we find our would-be oppressors wrapping themselves in the flag, and calling for “unity.” But unity with what, and with whom? St. Paul tells us: “you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek…for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

For Catholics, when it comes down to following Christ, we can neither be Republican or Democrat, American or non-American. We should proudly waive the Stars and Stripes, but we must first truly “clothe” ourselves in the teaching of Christ and His Church.

Our bishops have called on us to defend our Religious Liberty at all times,
but especially during the ““Fortnight for Freedom,” these 2 weeks between June 21, the vigil of the Feast of St. Thomas More, and July 4, the day Americans declared war to defend our God-given liberties.

In each of these last days of the Fortnight please join me in defending liberty by daily: praying the “Prayer for Religious Freedom”; praying the Rosary; praying the Novena to St. Thomas More; and offering special penances/sacrifices (including abstaining from meat on Wednesday). Most especially I ask you to join me at the remaining evening Holy Hours this week (see below) and Mass on July the 4th.

As we begin this week celebrating American Freedom, let us stand up as Americans in word and deed against those who would take away our Religious Liberty, even as we kneel down as Catholics in prayer and adoration before the God who sets us truly free.

June 23, 2013

St. Joseph and the Mass. This last week the Congregation for Divine Worship (in charge of liturgy) in the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has decreed that St. Joseph’s name will be added to Eucharistic Prayers 2, 3 and 4 right after the invocation of his spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to honor him and to invoke his intercession. Blessed Pope John XXIII had added St. Joseph to the ancient “Roman Canon” (Eucharistic Prayer 1) in 1962, but for some inexplicable reason Pope Paul VI left him out of the new Eucharistic Prayers (2, 3 and 4) he introduced after Vatican II. God bless Pope Francis for remedying this oversight! St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, Adopted Father of Jesus, Husband of Mary, pray for us!

Altar Boy Training. Every week I notice a lot of boys and young men who attend Mass every Sunday but are not altar servers. Of course, this is their choice, but some, especially junior and high school boys, feel they can’t or shouldn’t serve for some reason, e.g. perhaps they only moved to the parish recently, or they never learned how to serve with they were younger, etc. I encourage all eligible boys to please consider serving—it’s a great way to serve the Lord and to be focused at Mass. It’s never too late to learn. Training for new Altar Boys begins July 1—see the note later in this bulletin for more information.

Update on New Priest in Residence. As I mentioned last week, effective this Wednesday, June 26, we will have a new priest in residence, Fr. Paul Quang Van Nguyen. Father will be with us for a few days this month, but will be travelling most of July. He will be with us full time beginning in early August.

Workcamp. Please keep our high school youth in your prayers this week as they head off to Workcamp in the Shenandoah Valley. Pray that the Lord will keep them safe and that they have a great experience of prayer and Christian fellowship, and deepen their relationship with Christ as they serve him in the poor and underprivileged.

Fortnight for Freedom. This last Friday night, on the vigil of the Feast of St. Thomas More, “the King’s good servant, but God’s first,” we began our observance of the second annual Fortnight for Freedom, two weeks of pray, fasting and action dedicated to protecting our threatened Religious Liberty. We continue these efforts this week, especially with the Prayer for Religious Liberty at the end of every Mass and the Holy Hour every evening in the church. Please see the note below for more information.

What follows is an excellent article by the Archbishop of Philadelphia on a troubling development as the administration steps up its campaign against our religious liberty. [Note: The article begins with a lengthy quotation].

Religious Freedom and the Need to Wake Up
May 24th, 2013
By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

“IRS officials have, of course, confessed that they inappropriately targeted conservative groups — especially those with ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their names — for extra scrutiny when they sought non-profit status. Allegations of abuse or harassment have since broadened to include groups conducting grassroots projects to ‘make America a better place to live,’ to promote classes about the U.S. Constitution or to raise support for Israel. However, it now appears the IRS also challenged some individuals and religious groups that, while defending key elements of their faith traditions, have criticized projects dear to the current White House, such as health-care reform, abortion rights and same-sex marriage.” Terry Mattingly, director, Washington Journalism Center; weekly column, May 22

Let’s begin this week with a simple statement of fact. America’s Catholic bishops started pressing for adequate health-care coverage for all of our nation’s people decades before the current administration took office. In the Christian tradition, basic medical care is a matter of social justice and human dignity. Even now, even with the financial and structural flaws that critics believe undermine the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the bishops continue to share the goal of real health-care reform and affordable medical care for all Americans.

But health care has now morphed into a religious liberty issue provoked entirely – and needlessly — by the current White House. Despite a few small concessions under pressure, the administration refuses to withdraw or reasonably modify a Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate that violates the moral and religious convictions of many individuals, private employers and religiously affiliated and inspired organizations.

Coupled with the White House’s refusal to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and its astonishing disregard for the unique nature of religious freedom displayed by its arguments in a 9-0 defeat in the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court decision, the HHS mandate can only be understood as a form of coercion. Access to inexpensive contraception is a problem nowhere in the United States. The mandate is thus an ideological statement; the imposition of a preferential option for infertility. And if millions of Americans disagree with it on principle – too bad.

The fraud at the heart of our nation’s “reproductive rights” vocabulary runs very deep and very high. In his April 26 remarks to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the president never once used the word “abortion,” despite the ongoing Kermit Gosnell trial in Philadelphia and despite Planned Parenthood’s massive role in the abortion industry.

Likewise, as Anthony Esolen recently noted so well, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s public statement on the conviction of abortionist Gosnell was a masterpiece of corrupt and misleading language. Gosnell was found guilty of murdering three infants, but no such mention was made anywhere in the NARAL Pro-Choice America statement.

None of this is finally surprising. Christians concerned for the rights of unborn children, as well as for their mothers, have dealt with bias in the media and dishonesty from the nation’s abortion syndicate for 40 years. But there’s a special lesson in our current situation. Anyone who thinks that our country’s neuralgic sexuality issues can somehow be worked out respectfully in the public square in the years ahead, without a parallel and vigorous defense of religious freedom, had better think again.

As Mollie Hemingway, Stephen Krason and Wayne Laugesen have all pointed out, the current IRS scandal – involving IRS targeting of “conservative” organizations – also has a religious dimension. Selective IRS pressure on religious individuals and organizations has drawn very little media attention. Nor should we expect any, any time soon, for reasons Hemingway outlines for the Intercollegiate Review. But the latest IRS ugliness is a hint of the treatment disfavored religious groups may face in the future, if we sleep through the national discussion of religious liberty now.

The day when Americans could take the Founders’ understanding of religious freedom as a given is over. We need to wake up.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2013

(First Sunday of the Fortnight for Freedom)
June 23, 2013
Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

In 1875 Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives,
James Blaine, of Maine,
introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution
that would specifically ban state governments
from providing any funding for schools run by religions.

It was part of a response to the influx of Catholic immigrants from Europe,
who, instead of sending their children to public schools,
were opening their own Catholic schools.
Blaine and many others thought this was very bad for the country, divisive,
especially in the aftermath of the devastatingly divisive Civil War
ended just 10 years before.
After defeating the moral evil of slavery that had divided the nation so long,
there was a strong desire among many to unite the country,
based on one set of common moral values.
And they thought one key to doing that was through public schools,
which would teach from one moral perspective.
Unfortunately, that one perspective wound up
reflecting not merely the morals but the religion
of the majority of Americans—Protestantism.
And that was exactly why Catholics started their own schools:
to avoid having their children indoctrinated with
the Protestantism presented in public schools.

So that Speaker Blaine’s amendment was essentially, knowingly, anti-Catholic.
It eventually failed, but it wound up inspiring a rash of amendments
to state constitutions, and eventually an large majority of states had them.
And in many of those states the amendments were pushed through
by one of the strongest openly anti-Catholic organizations of the day:
the Ku Klux Klan

What started out with an apparently good intention,
to be one united people, with one common set of moral standards,
very soon became corrupted by imposition of one religious perspective.
Or, to put it another way, unity was sought at the expense of Religious Liberty.

Today these laws still remain on the books: and they are still anti-Catholic.
While no one would argue that today’s public schools are Protestant,
they are still religious: following the religion of “secular humanism.”
A religion with an understanding of morality that is very different from Catholicism
and that teaches that Catholics are immoral because they disagree.

This secular humanism is, effectively, becoming our nation’s dominate religion
—even among many who still think of themselves Christians,
or even Catholic.
And it increasingly imposes itself on us through our government,
as it tries force us by law to adopt this new unified morality.
It’s rather strange, however:
the same folks who promote unified morality
also embrace “diversity” and “toleration”
as the greatest theological virtues, as goods in themselves.
But they make two exceptions:
there can be no diversity of thought about good and evil, right and wrong,
and no toleration of those who do not agree with that one morality.

So that now, Catholics who are faithful to Catholic morality
are tolerated only if they don’t “impose” their beliefs on others
by even simply talking about those beliefs,
much less actually defending or proposing those beliefs to others.
And Catholics who are not faithful,
–who reject Catholic morality and embrace secular humanist morality,
including its culture of death and perversion,
–these so-called “Catholics” are celebrated
as “enlightened” and “truly moral.”
One can almost see the patronizing hand of secular humanism
petting them on the head and cooing: “good little Catholics.”

This last week our president reminded us that he is a disciple of this religion,
and it’s anti-Catholicism.
Speaking to an audience of school children in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he said:
“If towns remain divided
— if Catholics have their schools and buildings,
and Protestants have theirs
— if we can’t see ourselves in one another,
if fear or resentment are allowed to harden,
that encourages division.
It discourages cooperation.”

Some say he was just encouraging cooperation
and tearing down walls that divide.
That he was talking about the 15 year old peace now in place
after decades, and really centuries, of violence
between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
If that was what he was talking about, then he’s very ignorant:
“the troubles” were always about politics, not religion or morality.
And they in no way sprang forth from Catholic schools and churches,
which had always soundly condemned the violence.

But the President’s solution to division is the same as Blaine’s and the Ku Klux Klan:
send all the children to government schools,
where the government can teach them the one right way to think.

They say it’s not anti-Catholicism—it’s just about unity.
Catholicism just happens to get in the way of unity,
because it dares to reject government approved morality.

Government approved morality, government approved values.
Think about that.
In the last month it’s been revealed that the Internal Revenue Service
has been targeting groups that have values that are different
than the leaders of our government.
That—along with news about the government’s vast intrusions on our privacy, and targeting of reporters who waiver in support of
the values of our leader—
has sent a chill down the spine of many thinking Americans.
And into the hearts of many Catholic Americans.

But none of this should be a surprise to us.
Anti-Catholicism has always been around in America.
It’s ebbed and flowed in our history,
but it’s been on a steady rise for the last 5 decades
—in our laws, our art, our entertainment and in our classrooms.
And we’ve seen it especially in last five years as values that had been
truly common American values since before our founding,
have been thrown aside, and their moral opposites installed
by our government as now “sacred” and truly moral.
From the embrace of the gay culture and lifestyle,
to the celebration of abortion as a good thing,
to the promotion of sexual promiscuity and perversion,
to the attack on the freedom of religion.
But it came to a head in January of last year
as our current president and his Secretary of Health and Human Services
—one of those “good little Catholics” I mentioned earlier—
issued regulations to implement Obamacare.
Regulations that would force
Catholic business owners,
and Catholic charitable organizations,
and Catholic schools and colleges
and even, in many cases, the Catholic Church itself,
to provide all their employees with health insurance that covers
not simply contraception, but also sterilization
and abortion-inducing drugs.
And then having the audacity
to tell Catholics they needed to change their ancient moral teachings,
and then contemptuously bragging about all this
in their election campaigns.

It’s the same old anti-Catholicism,
this time not presented with the moral authority of mainstream Protestantism,
or dressed up in the white sheets of the Klan.
But wearing the same old mantel of moral self-righteousness,
and preaching the same old Gospel of unity.
But all this is lie: it is a false idea of America, and a false of idea of good and evil.
And it is truly anti-Catholic.

And it is not a matter of politics
—it is about how we live our lives according to our faith and our morals.

And it’s not about political parties.
In 1875 Speaker of the House James Blaine
was a member of the Republican Party,
as was the vast majority of the Congress and the President.
The party that was founded just 20 years earlier principally to abolish slavery,
and took our country into civil war to end slavery.
But that party,
that fought so nobly to end the oppression of people of different races,
then went on to promote the oppression of people of different religions.

In 2012, President Barrack Obama,
his administration and so many in the Congress,
are members of the Democrat Party.
The party that not so long ago was the main party of faithful Catholics,
fighting for the average joe, and for equal rights for Catholics,
And eventually, after finally shedding its pro-slavery and racially bigoted past,
it became the champion equal rights for all races.
But now, it has followed the way of Speaker Blaine,
and become the champion of immortality
and the oppression of faithful Catholics.

And make no mistake—all too many Republics join them in this anti-Catholicism.
Again, all of them wrapping themselves in the flag, and calling for “unity.”

But unity with what? and with whom?
St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading:
“Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.
…you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek…for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I love America, and I am a proud American.
But for Catholics, baptized and clothed in Christ,
when it comes down to our faith in Christ and following him,
we can neither be Republican or Democrat,
American or Un-American.
We should proudly waive the Stars and Stripes,
but we must truly “clothe” ourselves
in the teaching of Christ and His Church.

This means standing opposed
to those who demand we deny our ancient Catholic moral values
and embrace the government approved values of secular humanism.
To those who demand that we forfeit our God-given religious liberty,
the very first liberty guaranteed and protected by our Constitution.
Standing opposed to them, and standing with Jesus,
who reminds us in today’s Gospel:
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests,
and the scribes.”

It may mean we will rejected by the elders of our government
and the chief priests of our secular culture.
It may mean we will be mocked and hated;
it may even mean confiscation of our property and even imprisonment.
But as Christ goes on to remind us:
“If anyone wishes to come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

My friends, our bishops have called on us to defend our Religious Liberty
at all times,
but especially during these 2 weeks between June 21 and July 4:
this “Fortnight for Freedom” between
the Feast of St. Thomas More
—the great Catholic Martyr who was
“the King’s good servant, but God’s first,”—
and Independence Day
—when Americans declared war
to defend our God-given liberties.
Let us stand up as Americans in word and deed
against those who would oppress us,
even as we kneel down as Catholics in prayer and adoration
before the God who would set us free.
Let us waive the flag of freedom,
but let us do so as we take up our cross and follow Christ.
Let us pray for national unity,
but let us pray first for Catholic unity,
that Catholics may be truly “one in Christ.”

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2013 (Father’s Day)

June 16, 2013
Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

There’s an old saying: “behind every good man is a good woman.”
There are lots of exceptions to this rule,
but there’s also a lot of truth in it.
Because men and women never become that way on there own
–there’s always someone in their past, a woman or man,
that helped make them who they are today.
On this Father’s day I want to talk about the fact that
behind every good man or woman,
is often the good man who is their good father,
But we also need to admit that the opposite is also often true:
behind every bad man or woman, is often a bad father.
In short, fatherhood is critically import to family life and society itself.

And yet today many people try to pretend
that fathers don’t matter very much
—in fact, that fatherhood itself is basically meaningless.

Consider how some jurisdictions are now not even
recording the fathers of children in their birth records,
referring instead only to “parent 1” and “parent 2” and even “parent 3.”
Or consider the high divorce rate,
and the fact that 41%–more than 1 out of every 4—(of) babies
is born outside of wedlock.
But as we see a huge increase in the number of “single mothers”
(God bless them)
we also seem to see a strange discrepancy:
we hear a lot about single mothers” “but not about “single fathers”:
they often just seem to disappear from the picture.
And with the rise of contraception and abortion,
and in-vitro and other artificial methods of conception
woman are more and more seen as solely responsible
for pregnancies and births,
with men reduced to mere accidental participants,
or simply irresponsible “gamete donors.”

You also see this in the confused role of fathers who do remain in the picture:
more and more society seems to not know what to do with them.
Some people seem to define a father as simply
“the guy who helps the mother,”
or they try to feminize fathers into being kinda like “male mothers”.

But all that is relatively old news—now we have a new threat:
the silently growing for the last few years,
until one day we seem to have woken up to a fait accompli,
in the legitimization of “gay” relationships and so called “gay marriage.”
The devastating effects of this are many and multifaceted,
but just consider one.
If the courts or legislatures, or society, can redefine the meaning of “marriage”
from what everyone everywhere has always understood it to mean
in nature,
what will keep them from redefining the meaning of “fatherhood”?
If marriage is no longer marriage, why should fatherhood be fatherhood?

For example, why should a mere “male gamete donor”
have any rights or responsibilities toward the product of their donation
(their children)
—rights and responsibilities that up until now
everyone, everywhere has always considered
as belonging to the very nature of “fatherhood”?
So that when government officials and professional experts, like
teachers, school administrators, doctors and government bureaucrats,
deem they know what’s best for a man’s children
—even a married man raising his children in his own home—
why would the gamete-donor’s (the father’s) opinions be considered?

Friends, fatherhood is at risk of becoming meaningless and even extinct
for legal purposes and at a macro-cultural level.
And when fatherhood becomes meaningless, motherhood will soon follow,
the family will disintegrate,
and society will soon come crashing down on top of us.

But of course, all this runs completely contrary to the nature of men,
and to the dignity of fatherhood.
And in response, men feel more and more marginalized
and seek to express their masculinity in other ways,
in places they feel like they’re allowed to be men.
They throw themselves into their work,
or into community projects or politics
or into the arms of another woman.
Anything that makes them feel important as a man.

But fatherhood is not something we can never afford to marginalize.
On Mothers’ Day I usually talk about the dignity and importance of mothers:
how, their babies see the love of God for the first time
in their mother’s smile.
But Father’s have no less a dignified role in their children’s lives.
In the beginning God created human beings in his image as male and female:
fundamentally equal in human dignity before God and each other,
but also fundamentally different!
And the first thing he told them was “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”
–take that beautiful difference
and become mother and father!

(Consider this…)
Did you ever wonder why in the Bible
God calls himself “our Father”—never “our mother”?
It’s not because male is better than female,
And it’s not because God the Father is a actually a male like I’m a male:
as the Catechism reminds us:
“He is neither man nor woman: he is God.”
Yet there is something fundamentally important
that he wants to explain to us by revealing himself as “Father.”
And part of that
is the importance a human father has to the family.

Think about this:
God could have simply created mankind and then abandon us,
but instead he loves us and constantly shows that love in our lives.
A human male can also create human life and abandon it,
only the woman has to carry the baby for 9 months, and beyond.
But God says: no! a father is supposed to be like me!
once he creates life a true man
must give himself completely and always
to his children and wife—like God gives himself to us.

Again, men and women are very different.
We all know this and we should neither try to deny it,
or demean it by trying to masculinize women, or feminize men.
So men: be men!
And fathers, be manly fathers!
Take the many God-given masculine virtues you have
and put them to work for your family and your wife.

Even so, like all good things, even love itself,
it’s very easy for manly virtues to be corrupted by sin.
So sometimes the natural gift of manly aggressiveness
can be corrupted by sin so that
a man treats his children as property to be dominated,
not as persons to be loved.
The natural manly inclination to help his children to become better than he is,
can be corrupted so that he pushes them too hard,
trying to make up for his own inadequacies
through his kids’ accomplishments.
Or the natural manly propensity
to give his children everything they truly need
can be corrupted so that a father spoils his children,
and refuses to discipline them
or teach them self discipline.

Sin can turn a good father into a bad father.
And bad fathers can make good children into bad adults.
Fathers—whether sinful or holy—
are important, and make a huge difference in the lives of their children.

In the first part of today’s gospel we have an example of
one of these children who has become bad adult:
a woman who even Jesus admits has committed “many sins.”
One wonders what kind of father the sinful woman had as a child.
Maybe he treated her like a piece of property instead of a person,
causing her to see herself that same way.
Maybe he was inattentive or unaffectionate,
causing her to do anything to get the attention and affection
of any man to fill in for her father.
Or maybe he failed to discipline her,
allowing her to do or dress as she pleased
without concern for modesty and the response it would generate
in other sinful men when she grew up.

On the other hand,
think of the other main character in this reading: Jesus.
And think of the role his father played in his life.
As Jesus tells us elsewhere about his heavenly Father:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.”
But the Divine Father knew that when his Son became human being, a boy,
he would also need a good earthly father to raise him,
and so he gave him St. Joseph.
And Joseph was a great father.
He did everything the God the Father asked of him.
He made his child and his wife, his absolute number one priority,
even leaving even his home in Israel
to flee with Jesus and Mary to Egypt to protect them from King Herod.
He taught Jesus: he taught him a trade, the law of Moses and how to be a man.
And he spent time with Jesus constantly, and he gave him a great example.

Think about this: if a good human father was so fundamentally important
for the human life of God the Son,
how can it not be important for us mere humans.

Now, let’s go back to the sinful woman again.
I have assumed here that because she became a great sinner,
that her father might have been a bad father.
But we all know that sometimes even good fathers can have bad children.
They tried their very best,
but somewhere along the line something went wrong
and one of their children took a wrong turn,
and turned out not so good.

Actually, personally I think this is what really happened
to the woman in the Gospel.
If we read Scripture carefully we find that this woman is actually
the woman named Mary who lived in Bethany
with her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus.
Martha and Lazarus are clearly 2 very good and holy people
—clearly the children of a good mother and father.
And although Mary has clearly gone astray,
somewhere deep inside she has some of that same goodness.
And that goodness comes out when it comes face to face,
with God the Son.
And then the “the sinful woman”,
becomes the tearful penitent of great love,
and finally she’s identified,
again reading Scripture very carefully,
as not merely “Mary of Bethany,”
but also, in fact, the great St. Mary Magdalene,
the devout disciple of Jesus
who stood at the foot of the Cross
and became the first witness of His Resurrection.

Some of you fathers may think you aren’t or weren’t
the good father you should be.
You’re probably right: no body’s perfect:
I know I’m not the father I should be to you.
But don’t stop trying.
If your children are still young, with God’s help,
it’s not too late to become a better father.
And if your children are older, don’t give up
—do whatever you can now to be a good father.
Don’t worry about being a friend,
or keeping their affection.
Be strong and brave and work hard
to do whatever you have to to help them become good adult Catholics.

And don’t worry: you don’t have to do it alone.
Besides the help of a good wife, I hope,
you have the example and intercession of great saintly fathers
like St. Joseph.
And you have the example and grace of
your heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

It’s not going to be easy though.
You have to die to your sins,
but in dying to them,
Christ will raise you up in the strength of his own life,
and give you the grace to be the man he created you to be.
As St. Paul reminds us today:
“I have been crucified with Christ;
yet I live, no longer I,
but Christ lives in me….
…I do not nullify the grace of God.”

In the end, though, most of you men
are good fathers,
or try to be,
or will be someday once you have children.
Don’t let anyone tell you your fatherhood is not important
—whether your children are 5 years old or 55,
or still a just twinkle in your eye, a hope for the future.
And never be discouraged,
because the perfect Father and Son in heaven
love you and your children even more than you do.

And children, whether you’re 5 or 15 or 55 or 85,
remember and honor your father today.
Help him to be the best father he can be,
by cooperating with and loving him.
Most especially pray for him and for all fathers
that they may become the fathers
God created them to be,
and that we need them to be.

June 16, 2013 (Father’s Day)

Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day to all our Dads out there. It’s a great day to thanks our Dads for all they’ve done for us: all the love, patience, and sacrifices, and especially for the gift of life. It’s also a day to honor our fathers, living and dead, and to give them gifts as tokens of our appreciation, including our prayers (note: consider enrolling them in our triduum of Masses beginning today, using the large envelopes at the doors of the church).

Unfortunately, as our culture continues its rapid decline under moral relativism, this has also become a day to remind the culture, including many fathers and their children, about the true meaning and importance of fatherhood, as wells the threats against it. It seems that every year this becomes more and more necessary. Because whether we realize it or not forces in our culture are progressively demeaning fatherhood to the point that it may soon be debased beyond recognition.

Consider how some jurisdictions are now not even recording the fathers of children in their birth records, referring instead only to “parent 1” and “parent 2” and even “parent 3.” Consider that 41% of all babies in the U.S. are now born out of wedlock. Also consider the number of babies conceived in vitro or through artificial insemination, often with anonymous “donors.” And the incredible increase in the use of the pill and other contraceptives by women, which put the entire responsibility of conception on women/mothers. All this has the cumulative effect of reducing fathers to mere irresponsible “gamete donors.”

But all that is relatively old news. The silently growing threat for the last few years, and now just over the horizon, is the legitimization of “gay” relationships and “gay marriage.” The effects of this are many and multifaceted, but let’s just consider one. If the courts or legislatures can redefine the meaning of “marriage” from what everyone everywhere has always understood it to mean—the naturally occurring union of male and female in mutual love intent on the begetting and raising of children—what will keep them from redefining the meaning of “fatherhood”? If marriage is no longer marriage, why should fatherhood be fatherhood?

For example, why should a mere “male gamete donor” have any rights or responsibilities toward the product of their donation (i.e., children)—rights and responsibilities that up until now everyone, everywhere has always considered as belonging to the very nature of “fatherhood”? So that when government officials and professional experts (e.g., teachers, school administrators, doctors, bureaucrats) deem they know what’s best for a man’s children—even a married man raising his children in his own home—why would the gamete-donor’s (the father’s) opinions be considered?

Fatherhood is at risk of becoming meaningless and even extinct for legal purposes and at a macro-cultural level. But it can never be that for Catholics or other Christians, and we must protect our society and culture from this degradation. Because when fatherhood becomes meaningless, motherhood will soon follow, the family will disintegrate, and society will soon come crashing down on top of us.

Happy Father’s Day. Now get off the fence, and with the grace of Christ and in union with His Holy Church, join the fight against the encroaching morally relativistic culture: fight to protect fatherhood, motherhood and family.

This week: “Fortnight for Freedom.” This Friday we begin the “Fortnight for Freedom” to pray for the protection of Religious Liberty, running from June 21 (the vigil of the Feast of St. Thomas More) to July 4 (Independence Day). Please see the 2-sided insert in this bulletin for more information. On one side you’ll find a discussion of the reasons for the Fortnight and a summary of the activities I am inviting you to participate in, both as individuals/families at home and with fellow parishioners at the church. On the other side you will find the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” and the parish “Liturgical Schedule” for the Fortnight. With all my heart, I strongly encourage all of you to participate and raise up “a great hymn of prayer for our country.”

Fr. Barnes. Congratulations to Fr. Nick Barnes, who was ordained last Saturday, June 8, and celebrated his first Mass here at St. Raymond’s last Sunday. From June 26 to September 6 Fr. Barnes will be assigned as Parochial Vicar at Holy Spirit in Annandale. After that he will return to Rome for a year to finish his graduate degree in dogmatic theology.

New Priest in Residence. The changes in priest assignments in the diocese were also announced last Saturday. Fr. Kenna and I will be staying put another year, but we will be adding a new priest in residence: Fr. Paul Quang Van Nguyen. Fr. Nguyen is from Viet Nam and has been studying at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College (residing at Queen of Apostles in Alexandria) for the last year. His primary responsibility for the next 1½ years will be to complete his studies, so he is not assigned to any pastoral responsibilities in the parish. He will, however, offer Mass and hear confessions as he is available—which will be a big help. I am sure you will join me in welcoming Father to our parish.

Summer Music, and Choir. As we go into “Summer mode” you will note our customary changes to the music at Mass. In particular the 8:45 choir and the 10:30 schola will take the summer off, and the 5:00pm Sunday Mass will not have music (no organ or cantor). As you know, liturgical music is very important to me, so have no fear, all will return to normal in September.

In the meantime, as the choir takes its summer vacation I’m informed that several choir members will be moving over the summer, so we are in need of new choir members. I strongly encourage you to consider whether the Lord be calling you to join in this very important work for the parish. We have an excellent choir, but our choir members tell me that doesn’t mean you have to be a fantastic singer. Our music director, Elisabeth Turco, is a fantastic teacher and works with a variety of skill levels to bring out the best in each and all together. Also, the choir is open to teen members. For more info, please contact Elisabeth (turcoe@aol.com).

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 9, 2013

FATHER BARNES! Congratulations to our own Fr. Nicolas Barnes, upon his ordination to the Holy Priesthood. Fr. Barnes, son of parishioner Donald Barnes, was ordained yesterday (Saturday, June 9) by Bishop Loverde, and will say his first Mass here at St. Raymond’s today at 12:15. All are invited to that Mass and to the reception afterwards in the Parish Hall.

Father is a fine young man, and I know he will make an excellent and holy priest. After two years at St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, he has spent the last four years studying in Rome. Now the Bishop has assigned him to return to Rome for one more year to finish work on his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) in Dogmatics. After that it is anticipated he will return to the Diocese for priestly service.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders. Speaking from personal experience, I can attest that the priesthood is a wonderful gift. But it is not a gift given to a man for his own good or purposes, but rather for the good of the whole Church and for God’s purposes. So it is really a gift to the whole Church.

Although we sometimes rightly refer to the “sacrament of the priesthood” it is more proper to refer to the “Sacrament of Holy Orders.” But this can be confusing, since Holy Orders can be received in three way, or “degrees”: the diaconate (“deacons”), the presbyterate (“priests”) and the episcopacy (“bishops”). As the Catechism (1554) teaches:

Catholic doctrine…recognizes that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate . The diaconate is intended to help and serve them. For this reason the term sacerdos [priest] in current usage denotes bishops and priests but not deacons. Yet Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate and presbyterate) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called “ordination,” that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders.

By his priestly ordination the priest receives the permanent grace to act in persona Christi capitis—in the person of (in the place of, representing) Christ the Head (of the body/Church). He is, for the good of the whole Church, ontologically configured to Christ: priest, prophet and king, and so shares, with the Apostles, in Jesus’ threefold ministry to sanctify, teach and govern the Church. As such, the priest shares in Christ’s shepherdhood as “pastor.” Moreover, in this sacrament he receives the special graces to both fulfill these duties and to live the life of holiness his office demands.

To be ordained a priest today a man must normally be unmarried and undergo at least 6 years of intense full-time human, spiritual, intellectual, and academic formation in the seminary. Unlike “religious” priests (Dominicans, Jesuits, etc.), a diocesan (or “secular”) priest, does not take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but rather makes promises of 1) obedience to their bishop and 2) to live a life of chaste celibacy, and is required to live a “simple life.” (Actually, the priest’s promise of celibacy is made at his ordination to deacon about a year before he becomes a priest).

After 17 years as a priest, I can unreservedly say that I have thanked the Good Lord every day for the incredible gift of my priesthood. Although there are many crosses, there are so many blessings I can’t begin to describe them. Let me borrow the words of the great Dominican preacher, Fr. Henri-Dominique Lacordaire (1802-1861), in his poem, “A Priest.”

To live in the midst of the world // without wishing its pleasures;
To be a member of each family, // yet belonging to none;
To share all suffering; // to penetrate all secrets;
To heal all wounds; // to go from men to God // and offer Him their prayers;
To return from God to men // to bring pardon and hope;
To have a heart of fire for Charity, // and a heart of bronze for Chastity;
To teach and to pardon, // console and bless always.
My God, what a life; // and it is yours, // O priest of Jesus Christ.

I am so happy for Fr. Barnes today, and pray that he will persevere in accepting this great gift and mystery. May he be a holy, brave, loving and humble priest and spiritual father. Let’s all keep him in our prayers, thank the Lord for this gift, and pray that many other young men from our parish will soon join him in accepting the call to Holy Priesthood.

Corpus Christi Procession. If you missed last Sunday’s Eucharistic procession, you missed a great treat. What a beautiful thing to see so many parishioners giving such public witness to their faith in the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist! Once again attendance was up from last year—I would guess somewhere around 250 came out. Let me thank all of you who came, but especially those who worked so hard to make things run so smoothly: the parish staff, the choir, the altar boys, the sacristans, the flower ladies, the Knights of Columbus, the youth group, and so many other volunteers—forgive me for not naming you all. And let me express special appreciation to Patrick O’Brien, who once again stepped up to coordinate everything. May our Eucharistic Lord shower you with His blessings.

Save the dates for “Fortnight for Freedom.” Beginning Friday June 21 (the vigil of the Feast of St. Thomas More) and running through July 4 (Independence Day), St. Raymond’s will join Catholics across the country in keeping a “Fortnight for Freedom” to pray and fast for the protection of Religious Liberty, especially with regarding the so called “contraceptive mandate” of Obamacare regulations, and challenges to traditional marriage. In addition to praying special prayers (and fasting) at home we will again have Eucharistic Holy Hours every day during the fortnight (some including “Exposition”). Please see next week’s bulletin for more details.

New Assignments for Priests. The annual re-assignments of priests were announced yesterday (Saturday). As I write this (on “deadline Wednesday”) I do not anticipate that we will be effected by the changes, although I am always hopeful that we will find another priest-student to live in residence. Please pray for the priests who do receive new assignments, which can be difficult—“To be a member of each family, yet belonging to none.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 2, 2013

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Today is “Corpus Christi Sunday, a feast established to remind us that, even as Lent and Easter are over, the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection and his continued presence on Earth remains with us in a most sublime way in the Eucharist. In particular, we remember that the bread and wine really become the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ himself—His Real Presence among us. Just as surely as he was bodily present on the Cross, at the Resurrection, and as He ascended to His Father in Heaven, he is also surely present on the altar under the appearance of bread and wine.

The Book of Revelation tells us that the angels and saints in heaven continually “fell down and worshipped” Jesus. So let’s consider how we react to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
— Do we genuflect before Our Lord present in the tabernacle whenever we enter the church (usually before sitting in our pew) or whenever we pass in front of the tabernacle?
— Do we chat loudly in church as if the Lord of Heaven were not present?
— Do we drop by church during the day or evening to visit Our Lord in the tabernacle?
— Do we spend time with Our Lord during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?
— How do we dress at Mass?
— Like we are going to the Wedding Feast of Our King, or going to the beach?
— Do we remember that skimpy clothing can be a near occasion of sin for others, and so dress modestly at Mass?
— During Mass, do we focus prayerfully on the miracle transpiring on the altar, especially during and after the consecration?
— Do we receive Holy Communion reverently?
— Do we observe the Eucharist fast for one hour before Communion?
— Do we examine our consciences so we don’t receive unworthily (i.e., if we need to confess mortal sins or are otherwise prohibited from receiving)?
— Do we approach prayerfully, or are we looking around or laughing?
— Do we show some sign of reverence immediately before receiving Holy Communion: bowing or genuflecting, or even kneeling?
— If we receive on the tongue, to avoid any chance of the Host being dropped:
— Do we stand close enough to the priest, open our mouths and extend our tongues?
— Do we hold still our heads, tongues and mouths (not lurching, licking or biting) until we receive and the priest removes his hand?
— If we receive in our hand:
— Do we wash our hands before Mass?
— Do we extend both hands, one on top of the other, forming a throne for Our King?
— Do we immediately step aside and reverently consume the Host in the sight of the priest?
— Do we examine our hands to make sure no particles remain?
— Do we stay until Mass is over, even staying afterwards to give thanks, or do we rush out of church as soon as possible?
— Do we share our faith in the Eucharist with others?
— Do we teach our children to do these things?

I am continually moved by the Eucharistic reverence at St. Raymond’s. But sometimes we forget—myself included. And so we redouble our efforts so as to give Him due worship.

Eucharistic Procession. To help us to refocus on our faith in the Real Presence, today, Sunday, June 2, immediately after the 12:15 Mass, we will have our annual Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession, walking with the Eucharist outside of the church while singing the Lord’s praises. Please join us in this ancient and eloquent witness to our faith in and love of our Eucharistic Lord—and bring the children!

Priesthood Ordinations. Next Saturday, 7 deacons, including our own parishioner, Deacon Nicolas Barnes, will be ordained to the Holy Priesthood for the Diocese of Arlington. We pray for them in this last week of preparation, that they may be good, holy and courageous priests. “Father Barnes” will celebrate his First Mass the following day, Sunday, June 9, at 12:15, here at St. Raymond’s. There will be a light reception in the Parish Hall immediately afterward. All are invited to both the Mass and reception!

Some have asked for gift suggestions for “Fr. Barnes.” Here’s my best advice. Since a priest promises to live a “simple life,” it’s usually best to let him choose for himself the possessions he has. That and the fact that he will need many things of a more personal nature, I strongly recommend simply giving cash. Not very personal, I know, but much appreciated and much more helpful than a giving something he will never use.

Boy Scouts. Last week the Scouts changed their policy regarding “gays.” Like most of you, I was very disappointed by this. I have stated my position previously, but Bishop Loverde, who shares my disappointment, has asked all the pastors to refrain from further statements or changes for a few weeks until he has decided on his recommendations or policies for us. I gladly yield to His Excellency’s request.

Summer Begins. I hope that all of you have a wonderful summer with restful vacations, or productive work in summer jobs or new careers. I also remind you of a few things:
— There is no vacation from Jesus, so keep up your prayer and moral life, and go to Sunday Mass, unless it is really seriously impractical when you’re travelling.
— Remember to try to dress properly for Mass, as noted above.
— Please try to keep up your regular financial support for the parish—the bills have to be paid whether you’re here or not. Thanks!

My Dad. Last week many of you prayed for my Dad, Dan De Celles, who was very sick. It seems to have worked: Dad is on the mend. Thanks for your prayers, and for your patience as I was rather distracted from my regular pastoral duties.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Corpus Christi Sunday

June 3, 2013
Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Have you ever asked God for a sign?
Man has always asked for signs–and God has frequently answered his requests.
We see it in the Old Testament:
for example, the Lord gave the Israelites manna in the desert,
not only to feed them, but also as a sign of
Moses’ authority.
In today’s reading from the Gospel of St. Luke
Jesus gave his apostles a sign of his power and authority,
a sign that would effect them and all generations of the Church
as it became an essential part of our understanding
the sign and mystery of the Eucharist
—His Most Holy Body and Blood.

Let’s look more closely at this reading.
The Twelve apostles came to Jesus asking what he was going to do
about feeding the crowd that had followed them.
Christ’s immediate response
is to ask the apostles why they don’t feed the people.
They respond, “We have nothing but 5 loaves and two fishes”
–they can’t feed the people by themselves.
So the Lord took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the disciples
to give to the crowd—feeding the 5000.

He gave them a sign that he alone had the power to do
what no mere man could do
—give His people the food they needed.

And yet, the very next day after this tremendous sign of feeding 5000,
some of these very same people still wanted yet another sign.
According to St. John’s account of this miracle they ask Jesus:
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
Moses Gave us manna in the desert….”
Feeding 5000 wasn’t enough.

And how did Christ respond to them?
He promised to give them another sign—a sign like no other before or since:
“the bread which I shall give …is my flesh.”
“if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever;”
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven.”

A few months later, at table with the twelve on the night he was betrayed,
Jesus repeated the very same actions he did when he fed the 5000,
–St. Luke uses the very same words to describe his actions that night.
Once again he took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the twelve.
But this time Jesus added: “This is my body”.
And the apostles understood that this was the new sign the Lord had promised.

Even so, they probably did not understand how this could be what he said it was:
his body and blood.
–after all, it still looked like ordinary bread and wine.
But they remembered the power displayed
in the sign of the multiplication of loaves
—a sign Jesus had given them to convince them
that what was completely impossible
and beyond the grasp of reason for man,
was not only possible for and reasonable to Christ,
but was also his plan.
And so the apostles believed in his power and his words,
and that what appeared to be a few pieces of bread
was now in fact the actual physical body of Christ!

This sign remains with us today.
Of course, it’s not the same kind of fantastic sign that appeals to people
who are looking for wondrous worldly phenomena.
But for those who believe that Jesus is God the Son,
with the power to feed 5,000 people on just 5 loaves and 2 fishes,
and the power to die on the cross only to rise again to life,
that kind of sign is not necessary.

In this context of faith in Jesus,
we believe the Eucharist is
the living sign of His true presence and power and love.
But it’s no mere sign—it doesn’t merely represent something it’s not.

Look at that Crucifix up there….that is a mere sign of Jesus, a mere symbol.
It looks like Jesus.
That’s what happened to him.
But it’s not Jesus—it’s a mere symbol of Jesus, a mere sign of his presence.
On the other hand, think about this:
if Jesus walked in the room right now and stood right here,
in his fleshy body,
then his body would be a sign to us that he is present
—and it wouldn’t be an empty symbol,
but a physical expression of his real and complete presence
in both body and spirit.

This is how it works in the Eucharist.
It is a sign, but it is no mere sign or empty symbol,
but a sign of Christ’s actual, real, total and complete presence
bodily and spiritually.
A sign that he loves us and personally comes to us and enters into us,
and makes us really and totally one with him.

Man has been asking God for signs for thousands of years,
and God has been responding
—but God has also been asking man for signs in response to him.
For example, in the days of Moses and Aaron,
God gave his people great signs of his power,
like the Passover of the angel of death and the parting of the Red Sea,
and the manna in the desert.
And He demanded that his people respond with signs of their own
–signs of worship and obedience to his law.

Today Christ gives us the sign of the Eucharist
—what sign of worship do we give Him in response?
Begin with the simplest signs:
as we approach to receive Him in Holy Communion,
do our postures, attitude and our clothes signal our faith and love?

Three weeks ago we had the second graders in here receiving
First Holy Communion,
and they looked so angelic,
the girls in their white dresses
and the boys in their coats and ties.
What a great sign of their faith in Jesus in the Eucharist.
What sign do we give
of our faith, or laxity of faith,
when we come to receive Holy Communion dressed
like we’re going to the beach or to a ball game or even to a bar?

Now, no one look around at anyone else:
look at me—or at yourself.

Imagine if I showed up dressed down
rather than dressed up in these special vestments!
What does it signify about our belief in Jesus and the Eucharist?
Parents—what sign are we giving to our children,
and teaching them to send?

Someone might say,
“But Father, God doesn’t care how we dress.”
Maybe, maybe not.
Remember the parable of the wedding feast that Jesus tells:
“But when the king came in to look at the guests,
he saw there a man who had no wedding garment;
and …the king said to the attendants,
‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness’”
We are guests at the wedding feast of the lamb:
even if God is so forgiving he looks the other way
when we dress inappropriately,
WE should not be so presumptuous of his mercy
—because it’s a sign of our faith and love in him.

Now, I know sometimes you come dressed down a bit
because it’s either that or miss Mass
—you just drove in from the beach or from a soccer tournament
and you came straight to Mass,
–and we have visitors here every Sunday
just happy to find a Mass to go to
—okay, I understand, and I’m glad you made it.
Or maybe it goes from 60̊ to 90̊̊ in a week, so we’re not used to the heat
and we dress a little cooler
—I get that.
But those are the exceptions—not the rule.

Listen, I’m not trying to embarrass anyone or condemn anyone.
So let’s all make a deal:
let’s all agree that if we see someone at Mass
dressed in less than their Sunday best
we’ll always assume there’s a good reason for it.
Period.
But let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Also, look at the way we sometimes receive communion.
Sometime we wander up looking around, seeing who we recognize in the crowd
—let’s stop and recognize Jesus at the head of the line.

And when you arrive at the head of the line,
show that recognition by doing what the book of Revelation tells us
over and over again that the saints and angels in heaven do
whenever they enter in the presence of the Lamb of God:
“and they fell on their faces …and worshiped God.”
Now, please don’t literally fall on your faces,
but do show some real physical sign of adoration
as you come face to face with your Lord and God.
Whether it’s a bow of the head, or at the waist,
a genuflection on one knee,
or even kneeling down on both knees,
give some sign to me, to the people around you, to yourself,
and most importantly to HIM,
that you believe…and worship.

And then receive our Lord in a way that shows, or signals, your reverence.
Sometimes folks come up and nonchalantly put their hand out
—as if to signify “gimme, I’m in a hurry, let’s get this over with.”
Sometimes they reach out and actually grab the host out of my hand
—what a great way to cause the host to fall to the ground.
How about instead you come up,
and if you choose to receive in the hand
make a throne for Christ, with the left hand resting on the right,
and then keeping your eyes on him
as you reverently take the host with your right hand and consume it.

Or, perhaps you may you choose to follow the custom of receiving on the tongue,
as a sign that you understand that this is not ordinary food
received in an ordinary way.
That’s the way I receive when I’m not the priest at the Mass,
because we have a strong tendency to take for granted
the things we hold in our hands every day.
For example, jewelers might easily tend to miss the beauty
of the diamonds they hold in their hands every day.
And the same for a priest who holds His Blessed Saviour
so often in his hands.
And the same for you, if you receive the Lord in your hands every week.
And so I fight that tendency by receiving, when I can, on the tongue.

But even if you do receive on the tongue, do it respectfully:
don’t come up and bite it out of my hand
—or worse yet, don’t lick it out of my hand.
Come up close enough so I can reach you,
open your mouth, placing your tongue on your lower lip
and don’t move, so I can carefully place the host on your tongue.

These are some important signs of our response
to God’s sign of the Eucharist at Mass.
But he asks for more than 1 hour on Sunday.
After receiving him in the Eucharist,
do our lives become signs of His love for us and our love for him,
as we go out into the world?
And is our reception of the Eucharist a sign
that all we have done in the hours and days before we receive
has been truly consistent with our faith in him, and all of his teachings?

And is our reception of Communion
a sign of faith not only in the Eucharist handed down to us by the apostles,
but also faith in everything his apostles handed down to us
through their successors, especially the Pope?
From the teachings on the sacraments, to the teachings on morality.

Is our reception of Holy Communion a sign
that we are in full communion with the teachings of Christ
and his vicar on earth, Pope Francis,
or does our rejection of that teaching in our daily life
signal a mockery of the Eucharist we receive?

nothing wrong with asking God for signs.
So don’t be surprised when he gives us signs,
and don’t be surprised when he asks us for signs in return.
God has given us the Eucharist as the most sublime sign of his love and power
—it is not a mere empty sign,
but truly his very own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity
–His Real Presence.
Do we respond with empty symbolic gestures and words,
or with signs of full of love and faith and worship?

May 26, 2013

Newly Confirmed. Last Wednesday Archbishop Timothy Broglio, of the Military Archdiocese, gave the Sacrament of Confirmation to 84 of our teenagers. What a great day in the life of the parish, and in the life of these young men and women. In my interviews with the candidates in the last few weeks I asked them to “define the Sacrament of Confirmation,” and one of the answers I often heard was: “it makes us soldiers for Christ.” The world is getting to be a tough place for Christians, and there is a battle already raging for the souls of our children. Thanks be to God for this great sacrament to strengthen them to fight this battle—and win. A battle fought not with guns or bombs, but with prayer, wit, reason and love. And with the grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit. May they always “fight the good fight” and know the peace that comes from the love of God.

Special thanks to all the catechists and assistants who worked so hard and so well to prepare them for this Holy Sacrament, and to Maria Ammirati and Patti Eckles for their hard work in bringing it all together.

Parish Staff Addition and Change. I am pleased to announce that long-time parishioner Mary Butler will be joining our office staff as parish secretary. Mary is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and has loads of experience that I’m sure will make her an outstanding addition to our staff.

With Mary taking over the position of secretary, Paul DeRosa will become full-time plant manager. Paul has done this job on a part-time basis for years, but now he will be free to do some projects around the buildings and grounds that we’ve been wanting to do for some time.

I’m looking forward to both of these moves, and am hopeful that they will help us serve Our Lord and our parishioners more effectively.

Eucharistic Procession. Next Sunday, June 2, immediately after the 12:15 Mass, we will have our annual Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession. Processing with the Eucharist outside of the church building while singing the Lord’s praises is an ancient practice dating back at least to the early 12th century. By bringing the Eucharist outside of the church building and walking and singing through the streets (or, as we do here, the parking lot) with the Blessed Sacrament, believers give public witness to their faith in Jesus Christ in general, and in the 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.

The Rosary. Another pious custom of the Church is praying the Rosary. I encourage all of you to pray the Rosary every day, especially in this Month of May, Mary’s month. Last Sunday the Legion of Mary distributed free Rosaries in the narthex. If you don’t have a Rosary, you can always come by the rectory and we’ll give you one. If you don’t know how to pray the Rosary there are brochures by the doors of the church, or, again, you can get one at the parish office. Or you can go to various websites for instructions (e.g.: http://legionofmary.org/rosary.htm or http://www.rosary-center.org/howto.htm)

A Personal Request for Prayer. We should always keep the sick in our prayers, but this week I ask you to pray especially for the sick of our parish, and in the families of our parishioners, especially those who are in danger of death or in great pain.

Most Holy Trinity Sunday. I leave you with the beautiful teaching of Pope Benedict XVI in his Angelus address of Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2009:

…Today we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as Jesus introduced us to it. He revealed to us that God is love “not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance” (Preface). He is the Creator and merciful Father; he is the Only-Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, who died and rose for us; he is the Holy Spirit who moves all things, cosmos and history, toward their final, full recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is wholly and only love, the purest, infinite and eternal love. He does not live in splendid solitude but rather is an inexhaustible source of life that is ceaselessly given and communicated. To a certain extent we can perceive this by observing both the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; and the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles. The “name” of the Blessed Trinity is, in a certain sense, imprinted upon all things because all that exists, down to the last particle, is in relation; in this way we catch a glimpse of God as relationship and ultimately, Creator Love. All things derive from love, aspire to love and move impelled by love, though naturally with varying degrees of awareness and freedom. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps 8: 1) the Psalmist exclaims. In speaking of the “name”, the Bible refers to God himself, his truest identity. It is an identity that shines upon the whole of Creation, in which all beings for the very fact that they exist and because of the “fabric” of which they are made point to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life which is given, in a word, to Love. “In him we live and move and have our being”, St Paul said at the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17: 28). The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his “genome”, the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.

The Virgin Mary, in her docile humility…accepted the Father’s will and conceived the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit…May Mary, mirror of the Blessed Trinity, help us to grow in faith in the Trinitarian mystery.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 26, 2013 – Most Holy Trinity Sunday

Most Holy Trinity Sunday
Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

In the first chapter of Genesis, we read:
“God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.”
This is one of the foundational passages of scripture,
as it lays the basis for our whole understanding of the meaning and dignity
of man and of human society, especially marriage and family.

But often overlooked here is that this passage tells us something
even more fundamentally important about God himself.
Look again closely:
it does not say: “God said ‘I will make man in my image,’”
but rather: “God said ‘let us make man in our image.”
God, a singular noun, refers to himself in the plural personal pronoun, “US.”

This is no mistranslation: it is a literal translation of the original Hebrew.
And it is not a simple a matter of God speaking of himself
in the so called “royal ‘we’”
—there is no evidence of such a thing in the ancient Hebrew language.

Rather, it is a subtle revelation right there, in the beginning of the Bible,
of what Jesus would later reveal in its fullness:
that just as God creates the one creature Man in His image as plural–both male and female,
God himself is also one and plural: God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Think of how Jesus constantly talks about the intimate relationship
between him and his Father, but also says “The Father and I are one.”
And how he tells us that both He and the Father will send their one Holy Spirit.
And how he brings this all together
as on Ascension Thursday he goes up to heaven to be with His Father
in order to send down their Spirit on Pentecost.
And what does he say before he goes:
he commands his apostles to go out to all nations and
“baptize…in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Trinitarian mystery is at the heart of Christ’s salvific mission.

And this is the mystery revealed in Genesis,
as right from the beginning as God tells us
he created “man” in his image as “male and female”
to live together and love each other, so that the “two become one”.
And in this, revealing himself as One God, in three persons, three who are one,
sharing a perfect unity of eternal life and infinitely love.

And this is what we celebrate, on the feast of the Holy Trinity.

Now, this is a difficult concept to understand,
and so it leads to all sorts of mistakes in understanding and explaining it.
For example, some say the Trinity just means
God acting in different ways at different times:
so when God creates, he is the father,
or when God becomes man he is the Son,
or when God descends and dwells within us he is the Spirit.

But that’s not what Scripture says.
In Genesis God says “let US make man”
—Father Son and Holy Spirit all create together.
And the Son, Jesus clearly carries on a constant dialogue with His Father
who he is distinctly other and is still “in heaven.”
And the Son ascends and sits on his heavenly throne with his Father
while the Spirit descends to dwell in the Church and in our hearts on earth.

Jesus clearly teaches there are 3 distinct persons—not 3 multiple personalities.

But he also teaches there is only one God.

Again, it is hard to understand.
But elsewhere in scripture St. John gives us the key to beginning to understand,
as he writes those beautiful words: “God is love.”
These words can be used so tritely today,
especially as people so often reduce the word “love”
to mean a some simplistic inane feeling.
But love not an emotion, and God is not a feeling.
True love is “willing and striving for the good of the other”:
love is “self-gift”, not “self-satisfying.”
This is the love of God.

But the thing is, how can you love, without “the other”
—the one whose good you “will and strive for”?
And so when we understand that God is love,
we see how God reveals himself as a trinity of persons,
sharing one love, one life, on being, one essence and substance.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, an eternal perfect communion of life and love,
constantly willing and striving for the good of each other,
constantly mutually giving themselves to each other.
But not like the normal human relationships
—theirs is perfectly pure and totally self-abandoning,
boundless and complete, without beginning with our end.

And this love is what he reveals to us in revealing the mystery of the Trinity.
How magnificent, really breathtaking.

But even more wonderful is why he reveals it to us.
And that is because he created us in his image
—in the image of God who is love—
and so He created us solely
so that we could share in that perfect life and love:
to share in that inner Trinitarian life,
right in the center of the uncorrupted and infinite love
of the Father, Son and Spirit.

As we read in the Psalm today:
“What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
[Yet] You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.”

Who are we?
And yet, Jesus prays at the Last Supper:
“that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you,
that they also may be in us.”

All of us were created for this.
But there is only one who has lived it out perfectly and with exception:
Our Blessed Mother, Mary,
whom the Church honors a special way in this month of May.
Read what angel Gabriel said to her on that great day in Nazareth:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy,
the Son of God.”
Mary was created to be the Daughter of the Most High God the Father,
the Mother of God the Son, and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

This is amazing.
But, in the words of that holy young Virgin, “how can this be?’

It can be, first of all, because, as the angel says, she is “full of grace”:
God has given her,
from the moment of her immaculate conception
in her mother’s womb,
a special share in his grace
—including the grace we would receive in baptism.
Second, it can be because of the angel’s invitation:
Gabriel presents God’s call for her to take part in this unique relationship.
And third, it can be because the Blessed Virgin
freely chose to accept the grace and invitation:
“let it be done to me according to your word.”

Now, while God’s grace and invitation
are the most important parts of this relationship,
Mary’s yes is also critical:
love can not be commanded, it can not be forced.
Love is, after all, self-gift.

And so God asks her, will you accept my love and return that love
as Daughter, Mother and Spouse?
And Mary responds with love, “yes!”

Did Mary fully understand the Trinitarian mystery she was partaking of?
No, not fully.
But she stood in awe of this tremendous gift laid before her,
and saw it as an offer she could not refuse
—not out of fear, as the angel tells her “be not afraid”—
but out of love.
How could she say “no” to being loved and to loving as she had been created to,
how could she refuse the most sublime gift ever offered to a creature?

Even so, as unique as this gift to her was,
this is essentially the same gift God offers to each of us.
Not to be His Mother, certainly.
But to enter into his family, the unity of the Trinity,
through baptism in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
To be sons and daughters of God the Father.
To be brothers and sisters of Jesus, God the Son.
To be members of bride of Christ, his Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We do not understand completely—that’s why we call it a “mystery.”
But if we open our hearts and minds to this mystery how can we say “no” to it?

The grace is ours in baptism.
And the invitation comes to us constantly
—as we read the Scriptures, as we pray
and as we live life facing the challenges
in a world so full of sin and temptation.
And in the same way, the choice is also constantly ours to make,
from moment to moment, every day.
The choice to say yes to live and love as God created us to
—caught up in the power of the life and love of the Father, Son and Spirit
–both in this world and in the world to come.

As we now turn toward the mysteries of the Mass,
we remember that the Eucharist is nothing less
than a profound sharing in the Trinitarian mystery,
as by the power of the Holy Spirit
we are united to the Son
and in Him are offered to the Father;
and as we share in the Body of the Son
our Holy Communion with our Triune God
is renewed and strengthened.
Like the Blessed Virgin, let us not be afraid to accept this Communion.
But rather, let us say “yes” with Mary,
yes to being who we were created to be from the beginning:
creatures made in the image of the God who is love,
created for the ineffable joy of sharing
in the most blessed life and love
of the Most Holy Trinity.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.