31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 2012

November 4, 2012
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Springfield, Va.

2 [3] days left.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of this election season.
I’m tired of talking about it too,
and I know some of you are tired of hearing me talk about it.
Someone kidded me the other day about how for the last few weeks
I’ve managed to dig around in each Sunday’s readings
to find something related to election themes
He was kidding,
but, elections are, by definition, about choices,
choices that effect human lives.
And so all elections involve moral choices.
And the Word of God always helps us to make moral choices.
So of course we can find something in every Sunday’s readings
to help us make the morally correct choices in the coming election.

But this Sunday I don’t have to dig around: it’s staring me in face.
The two great commandments: to Love God and love your neighbor.
The most basic guide to all moral choices, and so for all ballots cast.

At the heart of these 2 commandments is one word: “love.”
As wonderful as love is,
we all know that many people misunderstand what it means.
So it demands explanation, especially when we try to figure out
how it effects our political choices.

A lot of Catholics today think loving our neighbor as ourselves
simply means being kind to them,
and maybe also to be helpful, welcoming, tolerant and accepting.

But while there’s something to that, it kind skips over the fact
that God himself has given us
a very thorough explanation of love and it’s requirements.
And it begins with 10 basic defining principles
that set a minimum standard for love
and a context for all the other requirements of love.
And He called these 10 principles of love “the 10 Commandments.”

Now, some like to think that Jesus sort of over-road the 10 Commandments
with 2 great commandments of love.
But what Jesus is actually doing in today’s gospel
is quoting from two different passages in the Old Testament,
one of which, the Greatest commandment to love God,
we read today in the first reading from Chapter 6 Deuteronomy.
And if we open up our bibles and look at that passage in Deuteronomy,
we find that it comes right at the end of the list of the 10 Commandments.
And if you look ups the second great commandment, to “love your neighbor,”
you can find it at the end of a second listing of the same 10 commandments
in Leviticus 19.

So In other words, the Great commandments to “love God” and “love your neighbor”
summarize the 10 Commandments,
or we can say, the 10 Commandments explain what it means
to “love God and our neighbor.”

They set basic principles, sort of a minimum you must do, or not do,
if you love your neighbor.
For example, if you love your neighbor “you shall not kill” him.
But that’s only the beginning, as we read in scripture:
first we don’t kill him,
and when we’ve got that down, then we don’t physically hurt him,
and then we don’t call him names, then we help him when he needs help.
But first things first:
if we lived in a society where we were allowed to kill each other
what difference would it make if we are required to help each other?
So if our neighbor asked for help, we could either help him or kill him.
First, thou shall not kill.

We see this applied very clearly in the coming election.
Promising all sorts of good things to people doesn’t mean much
if you’re willing to kill them.
So that if you’re willing to kill, or abort, the unborn baby in the womb,
what difference does it if you promise to feed, educate,
or give health care to poor children—once they are born?
Not much.

And take another of the “10 principles”—the 6th commandment:
“thou shall not commit adultery.”
Essentially, this commandment prohibits “marital acts” outside of marriage,
because that degrades both marriage
and that act of marriage that creates life!
Because not only is killing life important, so is the way life is given.
And so we have this wonderful thing,
where giving love and giving life come together,
and were all the fruits of life and love are learned and received
— the union of man and woman to love each other
and beget and raise children.
The amazing gift that God and all of history calls “marriage.”

So if we love our neighbor we will protect marriage.
What good is being kind to people, of tolerating their differences,
if we destroy marriage, and real family, and civilization in the process?

And that’s what we do when we try to redefine it,
merely to please a few people who don’t understand it.

So, as Catholics,
recognizing that when we make choices that effect our neighbors,
we must love our neighbor as ourselves,
and do so by upholding the 10 basic principles of love,
the 10 commandments.
But how can we do that if we support candidates
who brag about their support for aborting babies and destroying marriage?

But, as I said, first things first.
We’ve been talking about the second greatest commandment.
But that’s useless, unless we first follow the first greatest commandment:
“The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God”

What this means is that God comes first, before everything else.
Nowadays many think this means simply having a warm feeling toward God.
Some further reduce this to merely worshiping God.
But the great commandment requires we love God
“with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
Not with just feelings, and not just inside the 4 walls of your church,
but with your whole being!
Everything you think, do and say.

And the 10 commandments help us to understand this better.
So, of course, if you love God you won’t kill your neighbor
because God gave him that life and God loves him!

But also, if you love God, you will “have no other God’s before him”:
the very 1st Commandment.
Nothing can be more important than God.
Not your own selfishness, not your own economic situation,
not even the economic situation of your neighbor.
Not you’re your political party or ideology.

Now, some say that approach to things is “un-American.”
Well if it is, so be it, because we’re Catholics before we are American
—we must love God even more than country.

But, the thing is, it’s not un-American: it is quintessentially American.
Because our nation was founded on the principle, or principles,
that the people have the right to form their own government,
and that government is formed to protect the rights of the people.
But those principles are founded on an even greater principle:
that God gives those rights to each of us:
they are not given to us by kings or congresses or courts.
Nor are they given to us by the votes of a majority of other men.
They are God-given rights.
And if that principle is rejected, then we have no real rights,
just permissions given to us by government or a majority vote.

Now, when Catholics 1st came to the original 13 British colonies
back in the 17th century
they came largely to escape religious persecution in England.
But even in colonial America,
Catholics were still persecuted for their religion:
we were, in many ways, treated as 2nd class citizens.
For example, before the 19th century,
the Catholic Church wasn’t even allowed to own property in Virginia

But with the dawning of the Declaration of Independence
and then the Constitution,
things began to change.
The Declaration enshrined the fact that God gave us our rights, not men.
And the Constitution guaranteed that the government existed, in part,
to protect each and everyone’s right to believe and follow God
according to their own conscience and religion,
as the 1st Amendment provided:
“Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Even so, over the years these rights have been repeatedly attacked.
Sometimes the 1st Amendment protected us.
But sometimes we had to work hard for that protection.

We look back and we remember in the mid-1800’s
when the public schools often taught Protestant doctrines and prayers,
so that Catholics, led by their Bishops, priests, and the good sisters,
decided they had to form their own huge system of schools.

And in 1922, when the Masons and the Ku Klux Klan
teamed up to pass state laws to close Catholic schools,
Catholics fought back and won at the Supreme Court.

In those and other cases, the 1st Amendment’s was our strong legal shield.
But sometimes even that didn’t work.

For example, in 1844 anti-Catholics, so called “Nativists,” in New York
who were tired of the growing influence of Catholic immigrants,
planned to burn down St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
When Archbishop John Hughes found out about it,
and that the politicians and police were planning to turn a blind eye,
he put out the word
and four thousand Catholic men armed themselves
and encircled the Cathedral.
Needless to say, finding out about the Catholic “hospitality” awaiting them,
the Nativists never showed up.
And anti-Catholicism started to die down in New York.
And Archbishop John Hughes became known around town as “Dagger John.”

Today, our God given religious liberty, our right to love God,
is once again under threat.
But this time not by some school district, or a state, or even a mob,
No this time we are threatened by the President of the United States.
As you know, under the law many call “Obamacare,” he has mandated
that all employers provide employees with insurance coverage
for contraception, sterilization and even abortion inducing drugs.
This even though he knew this would require
most Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, charities
and even Catholic business owners
to act in a way contrary to their fundamental religious moral beliefs,
It would force us to directly disobey the God who we are called
to love with all our heart mind soul and strength.

And if we don’t, the penalty for not cooperating is $100 per day, per employee.
That’s $36,500 per year per employee.
Folks, I can’t see how this won’t shut down every
Catholic hospital, college and charity,
not to mention Catholic owned businesses,
in the country.

How do we answer this?
The Congress has refused to defend us,
and the President is bragging about his new rules on the campaign trail.
Perhaps the Supreme Court will come to the rescue,
but everybody thought they were going to overturn Obamacare,
and that didn’t happen.

So, it looks like we’re on our own.
In the historic words our bishops wrote us last January:
“We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law…
“In generations past, the Church has always been able
to count on the faithful to stand up and protect
her sacred rights and duties.
We hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics
to do the same.”

Friends, it’s time for Dagger John and his followers to step forward again.
Not with knives and guns wielded by an angry crowd,
but with the two most powerful weapons we have at our disposal
as Catholic Americans:
as Catholics, we yield the sword of prayer,
and as Americans, the dagger of the vote.

Tuesday is election day, and all elections involve moral choices.
I beg you to make your choices based on the greatest moral laws,
the 2 great commandments and 10 Commandments.
Love your neighbor as yourself
by defending the right to life of your unborn neighbor
and the institution of marriage.
And love God by not bowing to party affiliations or ideologies,
or to any other worldly concern.
Demand your freedom to love God with all your heart, mind soul and strength.

In short, vote, and vote like a Catholic.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2012

October 28, 2012
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Springfield, Va.

Today’s Gospel tells us the story of the blind man, Bartimaeus,
whose faith leads Jesus to cure him.

Of course, this story shows the mercy of Jesus in physically curing the blind.
But it also reminds us of something even greater:
that once Jesus cures him physically,
Bartimaeus’ faith leads him to see Jesus spiritually,
with the eyes of faith,
and: “Immediately he …followed him on the way.”

Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks nowadays, many Catholics,
who suffer from spiritual blindness.
They can’t see Jesus for who he truly is:
God the Son, who not only died on the Cross to save us,
but also taught us that there is a Christian way of living
and that we must that follow that way of life to be saved.

Now, two weeks ago Pope Benedict called us to begin a “year of faith.”
In this, he’s not just calling us to renew our faith in Jesus,
but to also renew our faith in what he taught,
and what his Church continues to teach in his name.

One reason Benedict chose this year to be the “year of faith”
is because it marks the 50th anniversary of the opening
of the 2nd Vatican Council, or Vatican II.
Vatican II was a huge watershed moment in the Church.
And no understands this better than Pope Benedict,
who as a young priest-theologian, named Fr. Joseph Ratzinger,
was one of the truly bright lights and leaders at the council.

But very soon after the council, Fr. Ratzinger noticed a problem.
The council had called for Catholics to engage in a dialogue with the world
so that we could figure out the best way to teach all mankind
the fullness of the Catholic faith.
But what Ratzinger saw was too many Catholics, even priests and bishops,
simply adopting the values of the world they were supposed to be teaching!

We need to remember, the Council was convened from 1962 to 1965,
and was being implemented for the next decade or so.
In other words, during the greatest upheaval in societal values in centuries,
generically called “the SIXTIES.”
And all too many Catholics, misunderstanding the council and the Church,
began to see things not with the eyes of faith in Christ and His Church,
but with the eyes of a secular culture
that embraced
the values of “if it feels good, do it,”
and lifestyles glorifying “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”

And as a result, as if suffering the side-effects of bad drugs,
many Catholics continue to suffer from theological hallucinations,
seeing doctrines that weren’t really there;
the funny smoke of secular values blurs their vision,
and eventually they fall into spiritual, religious and moral blindness.

And so in this year of faith, Pope Benedict tells us it’s time to see clearly again,
to shout with Bartimaeus: “Master, I want to see.”
And in seeing with the eyes of faith, to follow Christ on his way.

But in the meantime, to many of us still blinded to the truth,
And you hear Catholics say,
“well, that’s what the Church teaches,
but I have to follow my own conscience.”
Actually, that’s partly correct: the Church teaches that
“You must follow your conscience.”

But the thing is, what do we mean by “conscience”?

Those of worldly values have a notion of concience
that’s not too different from “if it feels good do it.”
Some say it’s sort of your “gut feeling.”

But this is not what the Catholic Church means by “conscience.”
It’s not simply our gut feeling, or what we wish were right or wrong.
Rather, conscience is our last best judgment of reason
about what we ought to do in a particular case.
That means I take in all the facts,
and then I take what I know about right and wrong,
and use my reason to intelligently judge
what I ought to do.

So for example, someone cuts me off in traffic,
my feelings might tell me:
“you ought to shout an obscenity at him.”
That’s not my conscience.
If I take a moment and think, my reason says: “you know that’s wrong!”
That’s my conscience.

Now, what this makes clear
is that the conscience relies on reason and knowledge.
Which means we have a duty to
learn how to exercise reason—to think logically—
and that we fill our minds with valuable and usable knowledge
—especially knowledge of what is right and wrong.
We call that the “proper formation of conscience.”

The problem is too many times we allow the secular world to form our conscience.
We like to think we think independently, but come on….
Have you ever noticed how you all dress basically the same?
Even rebellious teens who claim they’re not conforming….
dress like other rebellious teens.

So, how should we form our conscience?
For a person who believes in Jesus Christ this must involve
seeing him for who he is.
And recognizing he taught us to follow a particular way of life,
a teaching he entrusted to the Popes and bishops
to be handed down to ever generation of Christians.
So that when I say “I’m a Catholic,”
that should mean I believe in everything the Church teaches
to be definitely true.
If that’s what I believe to be true,
then reason tells me that the teachings of Christ and his Church
have to be right at the center of my conscience,
So that any time I, as a Catholic, purposefully, or negligently,
decide not to follow the way
clearly laid out by Christ and his Church,
and instead follow the way of the world,
I am, by definition either one of two things:
NO longer truly a Catholic and follower of Christ,
or not following my conscience.

But even if we accept that we must follow the way of Christ,
there’s a second problem that came to the surface
after Vatican II and the Sixties:
questions about what the Church actually teaches.
Again, influenced by the warped Sixties values many have tried,
for the last 5 decades,
to teach a very worldly form of Christianity.
Love was largely reduced to feelings
and charity to physical or financial wellbeing.
Certainly, these things are important,
but they are not the heart of the Gospel,
nor do they give us principles to guide us on the way of the Lord Jesus.

And so Pope Benedict
calls us to not cling to the secular culture that grew out of the Sixties,
but to cling the Church,
that has continued to teach the same truth
from the year 30 AD
to the year 1962 AD,
to the year 2012 AD.
To take off the dark glasses of secularism,
and seek the grace of Christ to see with the eyes of faith.

One important example where there is so much confusion
is in the area of doctrine called “Social Justice.”

In particular, many today will argue that the Catholic Church teaches
that we have a special duty to take care of the poor.
That’s very true.
But a lot of folks leave out the fact that the Church also
condemns envy, class warfare, burdensome taxes and socialism,
and upholds the right to property
and defends capitalism.

Some will remind us the Church says everyone has a right to basic healthcare,
and that’s true.
But some forget that the Church also
rejects big government bureaucratic solutions to problems,
and teaches that we should always, whenever possible,
leave it to families and local communities
to organize solutions to problems
—the principle of subsidiarity.

Many remind us the church defends the right of workers to organize into unions,
but forget that the church condemns forced union membership
and the corruption of unions by greed or Marxist principles and tactics.

Many rightly remind us the Church calls us to welcome immigrants,
but they forget that the Church also
teaches the right to immigrate is not absolute
and that immigrants must obey the rule of law.

There is a Social Justice doctrine in the Church,
but it is not a Secular Justice,
but a well-defined and nuanced doctrine
rooted in the long tradition of Catholic moral teaching.
And there are lots of different ways to legitimately achieve this justice
—whether it’s by so called “conservative” or “liberal” approaches.

Most importantly Social Justice doctrine is founded on basic Christian principles.
And when Catholics form their consciences and make moral choices
they must follow these Catholic principles
—not their gut feelings, or ideological talking points.

The very first of these principles (of Social Justice)
is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
From this principle flows two other basic principles:
“honor you mother and father”,
and “thou shall not commit adultery.”
Marriage is the foundation of all society,
so if we have no justice in the family,
if family—as God defines it—is warped or corrupted,
there can be no justice in society.
So that anyone who tries to corrupt family
—either by supporting deviant sexual lifestyles
or by redefining what a marriage is—
violates the most basic principles of social justice.

The principle to “love your neighbor” also leads to a second basic principle:
“thou shall not kill”, or:
“you shall not intentionally kill innocent human life.”
This has to be right at the center of the Catholic conscience.
Friends, unborn babies are “innocent human life” par excellence.
So the popes continually remind us that our first act of social justice
must be to protect the lives of unborn babies.
You have no rights if you don’t have the right to life.
And if you can deny his right to life,
what good does it do to prohibit discrimination against him,
or to guarantee his access to health care?

Now, of course, I just gave you are the 4th, 5th and 6th commandments.
These really do form the most basic principles for moral decisions
—of forming our consciences.
Secondary and tertiary principles and are important,
but only when you apply these first principles consistently.

Unfortunately, this understanding of conscience
is rejected by most Catholics in American today.
One excellent, or terrible, example of this is our Vice President, Joe Biden.
Now, I’m not in the habit of calling out individual Catholics by name,
but Mr. Biden has been publicly using his Catholicism
to woo Catholic voters,
while at the same time publicly undermining Catholic teaching.

And so he embraces the redefinition of marriage, so call “gay Marriage.”
And he emphatically supports the right to abortion.
And he supports the president’s attack on the conscience of all faithful Catholics,
the denial of our religious liberty,
as he tries to force Catholics employers to provide health insurance
to employees to pay for
contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization.
How ironic:
he insists on his right to “follow his conscience”
in disobeying the church’s teachings,
even as he denies the right of the rest of us to follow our consciences
in obeying those teachings.

All this shows a sad state of affairs in the Catholic Church today.
And it points to the reason Pope Benedict calls us to renew our faith in Christ,
by learning and living out what that faith entails.
And it explains why Catholic and priests have been, more and more,
trying to guide their flock to a true understanding of their moral obligations; whether in simple decisions of day to day life,
or in the life-changing decisions like voting.
And it explains why we say that some candidates and their parties
are not fit for office
because they reject the most basic requirements of justice by supporting abortion and “gay marriage”
and denying religious liberty and freedom of conscience
to faithful Catholics.

Today, the Gospel reminds us of Christ’s healing grace
that gives sight to the blind Bartimaeus.
As we now enter more deeply into this Holy Mass,
and see our merciful Lord before us in the Most Blessed Sacrament,
let us beg him to grant us the grace to learn and understand
the moral teachings of His Church.
Let us pray for the faith and courage
to re-form our consciences according to those teachings
so we may follow him along his way.
And let us cry out with Bartimaeus, with all sincerity and truth:
“Master, I want to see.”

October 28, 2012

ELECTION. The election is now only 9 days away. Much is at stake, especially in the presidential and senatorial balloting. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “co-responsibility for the common good make[s] it morally obligatory…to exercise the right to vote…” [2240]. In my opinion, failure to vote is usually grave matter (i.e., the stuff that mortal sins are made of) when the issues are as important as they are in this election.

You should note that the voting/poll location for one local precinct has changed this year. Those of us in Precinct 806 will no longer vote at Hunt Valley Elementary School, but will now be voting at the Sydenstricker Methodist Church, 8508 Hooes Road, which is on the north side of the Parkway, just off Sydenstricker. Note that voting in Precinct 807, will remain at Hunt Valley ES. Your Precinct number is found on your voter registration card.

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

And they are now under attack as never before. Of course the power to vote is one of our strongest weapons we can use to fight off these attacks. But the greatest weapon in our arsenal is prayer. As Christ tells us in Sacred Scripture: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Novena Prayers for the Election. With that in mind I ask that all of St. Raymond’s parishioners lift up the elections to the Lord Jesus’ care. Specifically, I propose that for nine days, beginning today, Sunday, October 28 and ending Monday, November 5, all parishioners join together in the following:
–Daily praying the Rosary;
–Daily praying the Novena to St. Thomas More;
–Daily praying the Prayer for Religious Freedom (composed by Bishop Loverde);
–Daily offering up some sacrifice, perhaps skipping a meal, giving up meat or beef or sweets.

It would be wonderful if these prayers could be offered by families praying together, and/or in the church before the Blessed Sacrament. Also, at end of all Masses, before the recessional hymn, we will pray the Prayer for Religious Freedom.

EXTRAORDINARY MINISTERS OF HOLY COMMUNION. At various Masses last Sunday and today I have blessed 20 new Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHCs), who have been commissioned by our Bishop to assist the priests of the parish in distributing Holy Communion. While distributing Communion is an indeed an honor for anyone—even for the Pope!—the EMHCs are chosen not to bestow on them a personal honor, but so that they may honor and serve the Lord by their reverence and humility in handling the Blessed Sacrament.

Unfortunately the role of EMHCs has been somewhat confused in practice. So in recent years the Popes have issues norms clarifying their duties and permissions. These are very limited, much more than most people think. For example:
–They should not be called “Eucharistic Ministers”: “the only minister who can confect the Sacrament of the Eucharist in persona Christi is a validly ordained Priest. Hence the name ‘minister of the Eucharist’ belongs properly to the Priest alone”;
–They may only assist with the actual distribution of Holy Communion;
–They may assist only in extraordinary circumstances, e.g. at Masses where “there are particularly large numbers …and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers”….“A brief prolongation…is not at all a sufficient reason.”
–They must be careful not to extend their permission beyond these strict limits: “No …extrapolation of additional responsibilities is legitimate for an essentially extraordinary provision.”

Every once in a while you will notice that when more priests (or deacons or seminarian-acolytes) show up to distribute than were planned, I will ask one of the schedule EMHCs to sit down. Please don’t be concerned, they are not embarrassed by this request. Rather, they return to their pew thanking God for this priest accepting God’s call to Holy Orders. They also know that I am required by the Pope to make this request: “The practice of those Priests is reprobated who,…abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.”

[As a side note: Sometimes when I offer the “legal” or moral reasons for my actions people accuse me of not being “pastoral” or “hiding behind a bunch of rules.” Folks, rules have a purpose, as does obedience. Especially when it comes to the Most Holy Eucharist. Do you really want an irreverent or disobedient pastor? If so, which rules can I disobey?]

ALL SAINTS/ALL SOULS. This Thursday, November 1, is the Solemnity of All Saints, when we remember all the Saints in Heaven, especially those who are not “canonized” (maybe your grandmother or a beloved child). It also reminds us that each of us is called to one day be a saint in Heaven, by living a faithful and holy life here on Earth. This is, of course, a Holy Day of Obligation, which means that all Catholics must attend Mass under pain of mortal sin. As usual, there is a special schedule of Masses.

The following day, Friday, November 2, is the Commemoration of All Souls, when we pray for all the souls who are awaiting entrance in to Heaven as they are being purified in Purgatory, especially our loved ones. I invite you all to pray for the dead every day, but especially on this day and throughout the month of November. Even though this is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation, all are encouraged to attend Mass. In particular, I invite you to a special Requiem Mass according to the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin) that evening at 7pm. (It will be a “low Mass,” but an organ and cantor will assist the singing of hymns).

Halloween. Of course the day before these, Wednesday October 31, is “Halloween.” In the past I’ve written about my concerns about this day, especially with rise of paganism and Satanism in our country. Just remember that this week should be mainly about the Saints and Holy Souls, and not morbid or scary costumes. Please, remind your children that “Halloween” means “Holy Eve,” or “All Saints’ Eve,” and that the candy they receive is only a small foretaste of the sweet delights shared by those who love the Lord, obey His commandments and enter into Heaven.

ANGELUS ACADEMY GALA. Don’t forget the Gala to support Angelus on Saturday, November 3, at Fairfax Country Club. For more information call the school at (703) 924-3996, or see their website.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2012

October 21, 2012
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Springfield, Va.

You know, one of the great consolations of being a priest here at St. Raymond’s
is the kindness of our parishioners.
But sometimes people, even very kind people, complain about what I do.
And I understand that and I try not to let it bother me,
because first of all I know I screw up,
and second, well, I know that you can’t please all the people all the time.
Besides, I’m a big boy, I can handle,
especially when criticisms are presented with charity.

Sometimes, though, it can be a little frustrating.
Especially when I get comments that go in exactly the opposite directions.
For example, a few weeks ago I got a number of notes from parishioners
telling me my homily was absolutely beautiful and powerful,
well organized, clear, methodical and moving.
And the same day I got a couple of notes from other parishioners telling me
it was the worst homily they’d ever heard, it was hurtful, rambling, and cold;
and that I should be ashamed of myself.

What do you do with that?
Sometimes it kind of reminds me of today’s Gospel,
where John and James come up to Jesus and say:
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

Even so, lately the number of complaints
about my homilies have gone up noticeably.
And even though the number of compliments have also gone way up,
way more than the number of complaints,
I still feel I need to consider the concerns at the core
of some of the complaints.

In particular, that I’m preaching too much about politics,
and that I use language that is too direct and too passionate.
And that I seem to be “telling people how to vote.”

Let me begin by saying, in everything a priest does
he should take to heart what Jesus says to his apostles today:
“whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;…
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.”
We are not to “lord” our authority over our people, but to humbly serve them.

But the thing is, notice what Jesus says to John and James today:
“to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
His Father had already decided who would sit where in the Kingdom,
so even though Jesus came to serve us, beginning with his apostles,
he came to serve His Father first—to be obedient to his Father’s plan.

Also, remember what John and James call Jesus.
Before they tell him what they want him to do for them, they first call him: ,
Jesus is a servant, who serves by teaching.
How well does a teacher serve his students, if he tells them just what they hear.
So, Jesus serves by teaching them what they need to hear,
what his Father wants them to hear.

So, as a priest, that’s my job: to serve you by teaching;
to teach not what you want to hear,
or what I want you to hear,
but what Jesus and his Father want you to hear.

Now lately some have been upset that I’m preaching too much about politics.
But I’m not really preaching about politics.
I’ve been preaching about Christ’s teaching, the Church’s teaching,
and calling attention to the obvious conflicts
between the world and that teaching.
Some say, but Father, what about the wall of separation of Church and state?
But should the Church be silent when the state makes immoral laws,
or when candidates are in favor of immoral laws?
Good lord, how many times has the church been criticized for remaining silent
and letting immoral laws stand unquestioned?

For example…
In the year 1839 Pope Gregory XVI issued a document called “In Supremo,”
reiterating the Church’s ancient teaching against slavery,
specifically reproaching those who:
“dare to …reduce to slavery
Indians, Blacks or other such peoples….
as if they were not humans but rather mere animals.”

Unfortunately, some Catholics, in particular, some American bishops and priests
—especially Southern bishops and priests—
tried to argue that the doctrine didn’t apply to American slavery,
because somehow it was “different.”
It seems they got caught up in the prevailing attitude of the culture around them
and were influenced more by what their people wanted them to say,
than what Christ and the Church demanded that they say,
and so either twisted papal teaching into something it was not,
or simply chose to remain silent.

This, of course, led the laity to be confused about the morality of slavery.
And that confusion led to a terrible social disaster just a few years later,
when in 1857, a supposedly “devout Catholic” named Roger Taney,
writing as the fifth Chief Justice of the United States,
wrote the opinion in the Supreme Court case known as “Dred Scott,”
upholding the institution of slavery in the America.

This is what happens when bishops and priests
fail to clearly point out laws that are evil in the sight of Christ.
And so slavery continued, and 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War,
and millions of Black Americans suffered racial oppression
for a 100 years after that.
And while their parishioners may have been happy in their pews,
we are ashamed of the failures of those southern priests and bishops.

But when priests and bishop speak up,
and serve their people by teach the truth,
even when people get tired of hearing it,
wonderful things can happen.
Almost exactly a century after the Dred Scott case, in 1956,
an American Catholic bishop served his people
by stubbornly repeating the teaching of the Church,
and even in the face of the mockery and violence,
even by his own people,
refused to conform himself to public sentiment,
refused to accept some artificial line between Church and state
that would defend the racial segregation of the deep South.
His name was Francis Rummel, the Archbishop of New Orleans,
and what he did was desegregate the Catholic schools of his archdiocese. And when large groups of Catholic lay people continued to try to block his efforts,
after ample warning, he excommunicated their leaders.

Imagine if the American Catholic bishops of the mid-1800’s
had been as courageous as Archbishop Rummel:
if they had stood united against slavery,
banging the drum of justice over and over again
so their people would finally listen, and understand. Maybe the Dred Scott case would have been decided the same way.
But maybe it would have been without Catholic Justice Roger Taney’s help.

Now, some say if the Catholic bishops and priests in the South
had actively opposed slavery they would been both marginalized
and actively persecuted.
Some say all southern Catholics would’ve been persecuted,
or that southerners would have left the Catholic Church in droves.

But then again, isn’t that what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel
when he asks: “Can you drink the cup that I drink”?
He’s talking about the same cup he talks about in the garden of Gethsemane:
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;
nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
The cup of suffering, the cup of the Cross, the cup of his blood poured out.
“For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Acceptance of suffering is part of being a Christian.

Of course slavery is behind us, but unfortunately,
many Catholics now accept an even greater social evil.
Because while it’s horrible to take away an innocent person’s freedom,
it is clearly even worse to take away an innocent person’s life.
And so we face the abomination of the 21st century: abortion.

Yet the popes in our time have taught very clearly on this as well:
the Church has constantly and infallibly condemned abortion
as a grave evil—a mortal sin.
As Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae, in 1995:
“by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors
….I declare that direct abortion
… always constitutes a grave moral disorder,
since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.”

Fortunately, virtually all the American bishops, and most priests,
see this very clearly.
Maybe they don’t all always speak up about it as they might.
Still, one wonders if they imitated Archbishop Rummel,
acting a bit more forcefully,
not worried about pleasing their people
but about serving their people by teaching them the truth,
one wonders if there wouldn’t be less confusion among Catholics
about abortion today.
One wonders if Catholics wouldn’t abandon any party or candidate
who publically supported the killing of innocent human beings by abortion,
just as (today) they would surely abandon any party or candidate
who publicly supported the oppression of innocent human beings
by slavery or unjust discrimination.

But this not just about abortion.
The pope has reminded us, time and again that we must defend,
both the right to life
and traditional marriage (one man/one woman),
and that these are, in his words, “not negotiable.”
And it’s also about religious freedom, especially here in America.
As the pope reminded American Catholics just last January:
“It is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States
come to realize the grave threats
to the Church’s public moral witness…
The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated…
Of particular concern are …attempts …to limit
that most cherished of American freedoms,
the freedom of religion.”

And so the bishops and priests cannot, will not, be silent
about these 3 non-negotiables: life, marriage and religious liberty.
Even if it means a little suffering.
If I suffer from a few harsh complaints
or feeling I’ve let you down by being a poor preacher.
Or if you suffer through a homily that makes you feel uncomfortable or bored.
Or even if the Church suffers the loss of parishioners
who refuse to drink from the cup of Christ’s suffering
and instead to go to a church that will make they feel good.
What matters is that we are servants of God,
and learn from God how to rightly serve each other.

All this is not about politics.
And it’s not about telling you how to vote.
It’s about the truth and the teaching of Christ and his Church.
About learning from the terrible mistakes of the past
in order not to repeat those mistakes today.
It’s about warning you against those who embrace intrinsic evils
that will destroy America.
It’s about being a servant of Jesus Christ,
even when it’s difficult, even when it means drinking of the cup of suffering.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2012

October 7, 2012
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Springfield, Va.

Today our Bishops ask us to commemorate Respect Life Sunday
—to remember that our nation, and much of the world,
has been caught up in a culture of death spurred on
by the evil of abortion.
In this context today I want to focus on one key aspect of the culture of death,
and that is its effects on women.

Nine months ago certain so called “progressive” politicians
began to accuse more conservative politicians of what they called
waging a “War on Women.”
It quickly became a mantra, and even a whole political strategy
embraced by one of the major political parties[—the Democrats].
And while they overtly make this charge
against their counterparts in the [Republican] [other] Party,
it began and subtly continues to be most fundamentally, and viciously,
a charge against the Catholic Church.

But today I ask: Who is really waging a War on Women?

In the 1960s the feminist movement sprung up as a reaction
against various forms of discrimination against women.
As such, it has many good aspects to it.
Unfortunately, the movement became quickly dominated and manipulated
by radicals influenced by Marxist ideology,
not rooting itself in love and truth but in envy and lies.
So that males became the enemy,
marriage was seen as slavery,
and motherhood a form of bondage.
So the strategy emerged to attack men, marriage and motherhood.

It began to unfold with an effort to lift an ancient ban on contraception,
and to make it not only legal but favored by society.
This began in the early 20th century but really came to fruition
in 1965 when the Supreme Court ruled that
bans on contraception were unconstitutional,
against the newly discovered “right to privacy.”

Progressives argued that this would free women
from unwanted or unplanned pregnancy,
and give them control over their own bodies
so they could pursue education and careers
unhindered by the “burden” of babies.

But who did it really free—who did it really benefit?
50 years later we see that it actually freed men
from their responsibility for pregnancies
—it was the woman’s choice not to contracept,
so pregnancy became her “fault,”
and the babies became the woman’s responsibility,
and the fathers were free to walk away.

Moreover, by separating the necessary and beautiful connection
between conception and sex,
men increasing lost respect for women and their sexuality,
and women became not persons to be respected
but sexual objects to be used.
And the gift of pregnancy—nurturing the life of a new human being—
began to be considered a type of a disease,
one that women had to take medicine to preventive.

But of course, it was really more a poison than a medicine
—the birth control pill normally acts
to cause the body to do something unnatural,
it causes it to be unhealthy.
So is there any surprise that the World Health Organization classifies the pill
as a carcinogen, in the same category as cigarettes?

And then there was divorce.
Around 1970 states started to enact so called “no-fault” divorce laws,
making it extremely easy, in most cases, to get a divorce.
Feminists argued these laws would allow women to free themselves
from abusive or oppressive husbands.
But once again, it has more commonly been used to free men
from their responsibilities to their wives and children.

And the ease of divorce encourages couples
not to try to save struggling marriages—to give up too easily.
In the end, in the overwhelming number of cases,
women get the short end of the stick:
once again receiving primary responsibility of the children,
both practically and financially,
as they are abandoned by husbands and fathers.

And then there was Abortion.
Studies show that between 30 to 60%, perhaps has high as 67%,
of all abortions are directly related to the coercive efforts
of a husband, a boyfriend, or a father.
In other words, abortion is often chosen not by women, but by men.
Studies also show that even when there is not direct coercion,
fear of losing or angering the man in their lives
is also a significant cause for the choice of abortion.
So much for freeing women from their slavery to men.

Also, abortion has always been a backup to contraception,
especially in the eyes of many men.
So once again, men say:
“you should have been more ‘careful’—its’ not my ‘fault’, you deal with it.”
Once again, men are freed from responsibility,
leaving women alone to deal with a challenging pregnancy.

But more than all that, with every abortion there are 2 victims:
the baby whose heart is stopped,
and the woman, the mother, whose heart is broken.
In those moments of fear or confusion or even abandonment,
they may grab hold to the lie that “it’s just a clump of tissue.”
But eventually a mother’s heart has to come to terms with what she’s done
—something so terribly contrary to every instinct, every longing
of their maternal souls.
And when they do, society, having bought into the lies of the abortion culture,
tells them they are wrong to feel guilty,
and even mock them in their pain.

And finally, we have the redefinition of Marriage.

Of course, this was begun when contraception was accepted,
as that separated life-giving-conception from love and commitment.
Even the instinctual connection
between marriage and procreation was broken,
and so marriage was no longer about having children,
as it had always been in the history of mankind.
And marriage became more about sex than permanent commitment
—the commitment strengthen by the birth of children.

And divorce did the same thing:
the no fault divorce makes a joke out of vows of “till death do us part.”
And in abortion, along with mirroring the effects of contraception,
we also see
the wedge it can drive between a husband and wife,
especially when it involves coercion by either,
and how it turns the family from being the refuge of safety
into a den of death.
All these have redefined marriage.

No wonder we now see the push to the most abominable re-definition:
“gay marriage.”
Think about this: this means woman is no longer essential to marriage.
And it completely undermines the very institution itself,
really destroying the fundamental institution
that allows a woman to flourish as mother and wife.

So again I ask: who is waging the war on women?
Is it the Catholic Church, or the “social progressives”?

The Catholic Church, my friends, defends the dignity of women.
Before it was popular, or the enlightened thing to do,
in the ancient world that held that
women were not much more than mere property,
when it was thought that a man couldn’t really be a friend to a woman
because she was so intellectually inferior,
it was the Catholic Church who proclaimed the words of Jesus:
“from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.”
Here he was quoting from the first chapter of Genesis which says:
“God made man in his own image, male and female he created them.”
In other words: one creature, in two ways.
Male and female, equal in dignity, but radically different as well.

Because created in the image of the God who is love they had to be
both radically equal and radically different
so that they can give themselves to each other in love.
So the differences are a good thing—and a real thing,
essential to being male or to being a woman.
And among those good, no, GREAT and wonderful differences we find what?
–only women can be mothers!
And also, that women have an incredible capacity to nurture and to pacify.
Even the radical feminists admit this, even though they would deny it:
how many times have you heard some radical feminist say,
“if women ruled the world we’d put an end to war”?
Why—because it is deep in their nature to nurture, not fight.
Although they certainly can fight, just as a man can nurture.
But each is given a special capacity that cannot be denied.

And because women have these great “feminine” gifts, especially motherhood,
the Church has always taught its men to respect and honor women.
Standing when a lady comes into a room, or opening a door for her,
was a sign of that respect,
not of “condescension” as some feminists claimed.
And so was protecting her virginity and her sexuality
until it could be expressed in its proper context
with a man who gave and dedicated himself
totally and forever to her in marriage,
and respected the great give of procreation and motherhood,
the most marvelous fruit of her femininity.

So, the Church says “no” to divorce.
As the Lord Jesus says:
“a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.”
Again quoting from the beginning of Genesis,
but now adding his own clear teaching:
“Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being may separate.”

WE say, a woman has a right to a stable home,
to a husband and a father for her children
who gives himself totally and forever,
so that her wifely and maternal love can flourish.

And the Church says “no” to contraception.
Instead we say with Jesus:
“Let the little children come to me, do not prevent them,”
We refuse to objectify women’s bodies
and make women mere sex objects to pleasure men.
In Genesis God tells the first husband and wife: “be fruitful and multiply”!
And, again, Jesus says, also quoting genesis: “the two become one flesh”!
The one flesh union means three things:
first: the union of their in life and love
lived out in the ordinary life of the flesh,
second: their bodily union in the marital act of love,
third: the union of their life and love in the one flesh that is their baby.
The Church stands in awe of the gift of feminine fecundity,
as all men, and women, should as well.

And the Church says “no” to abortion.
We will not only not support the killing of little babies,
but we completely reject a practice and mentality
that warps and destroys the very heart of women,
in turning a mother against her child.
We will not condone the coercion of women
to turn against their babies and their very own nature,
transforming an innocent child’s protective and nurturing mommy
into a callous enemy.
We will not stand by as women are crushed by this great evil,
and mocked, ridiculed and silenced when they cry for help!

And the Church says “no” to all forms of redefining marriage.
Again, as Jesus himself reminds us, quoting from Genesis:
“from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.”
Marriage is the permanent union of one male and one female,
in which they lead one life together,
and from their fruitfulness of their bodily unity and differences,
give life and love to children.

Who has declared war on women?
Not the Catholic Church!
And, frankly, not the Republican Party, which,
in the legislation it supports,
it’s party platform
and the public practice and convictions of its candidates
for President and Vice President,
stands with the Church against abortion and redefining marriage,
and defends the Church’s and the individual’s right, our religious liberty,
to hold, practice and proclaim their belief
in the corrupting effect of contraception.

No, the ones who have declared and wage war on women are those hypocrites
who pretend to be the friend of women: the so called “social progressives.”
And, yes, the Democrat Party has declared war on women,
as it has publically and enthusiastically,
in the legislation it supports,
it’s party platform
and the public practice and conviction
of its candidates for President and Vice President,
embraced abortion and the degradation of marriage,
And it is that party, and her candidates that have insisted
that contraception is not only a right but an essential good
that must be provided and defended,
even if it means throwing out the religious freedom
specifically guaranteed in the constitution
and even crushing the Catholic Church, and any Church,
that dares to defy them.

Who has declared war on women?
As Catholics, it cannot, it will not, be us!
And as Catholics, we cannot be an ally of those who are waging
a war on women.
No, as Catholics, we must use every weapon at our disposal
to peacefully protect women from those who wage war on them.
By our words and actions, by our financial donations and prayers,
and, yes, by our votes in local, state and national elections.

Today is Respect Life Sunday, and all October is Respect Life Month.
The culture of death has its cold icy hand
wrapped around the heart of our nation,
a strangle hold that is destroying our society.
And that heart I speak of is our women, in their wonderful feminine greatness.
We cannot respect life
if we continue to degrade the ones who are so integral
to its conception, birth, nourishing and nurturing.
We cannot respect life if we do not respect women,
and defend them from those who would degrade, diminish or destroy them.

As we enter more deeply into this Holy Mass,
let us join together with Holy Mother Church,
and with our Blessed Mother Mary,
and beg our Lord Jesus Christ,
Spouse of the Church and Son of Mary,
to come to the aid our country, and to us,
as we fight the war for women, and so restore an abiding respect for life.

October 14, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI, “Porta Fidei”
Apostolic Letter, October 11, 2011
Establishing the “Year Of Faith,”
from October 11, 2012 through November 24, 2013

1. The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, offering us the life of communion with God and offering entry into His Church when the Word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be transformed by grace. It begins with Baptism (cf. Rom. 6:4); it is then that we can address God as Father. The end comes with the passage to eternal life.

2. Ever since the start of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith. At the Mass inaugurating my pontificate, I said: “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must lead people out of the desert towards the place of life”. However, because so many think that faith is self-evident and its meaning and values have little appeal, a profound crisis of faith has affected many people.

3. We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless and the light be kept hidden (Cf. Mt 5:13-16). We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God and on the Bread of Life.

4. In light of all this, I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on 11 October and it will end on the Solemnity of Christ our King on 24 November 2013. The starting date of October 11 2012 also marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.…Moreover, I have convoked for October 12, 2012 the General Assembly of Bishops to consider the theme, “THE NEW EVANGELIZATION FOR THE TRANSMISSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH”. This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time for the rediscovery of the Faith.

6. The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers. Christians are called to radiate the word of truth. That requires conversion. Hence, the Year of Faith is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 5:31). To the extent that he/she freely cooperates, one’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed.

7. It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Through His love, Jesus attracts to himself the people of every generation. Today, there is need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful and enables us to give life-bearing witness. Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger.

8. On this happy occasion, I wish to invite my brother bishops from all over the world to join the Successor of Peter in recalling the precious gift of faith. We will have the opportunity to profess our faith in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world; in our homes and among our families. Religious communities as well as parish communities are to find a way to make public profession of the Credo.

10. At this point I would like to sketch a path intended to help us understand more profoundly not only the content of the faith but also the act of entrusting ourselves fully to God. Knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart which is the authentic sacred space within the person is opened by grace so as to see below the surface and understand the word of God. Moreover, a Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him. Precisely because it is a free act, faith also demands social responsibility for what one believes. Finally, profession of faith is both personal and communitarian. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “‘I believe’ is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during baptism. ‘We believe’ is the faith of the Church confessed by the bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers.” That said, we must not forget that very many people are sincerely searching for the definitive truth of their lives and of the world.

11. To arrive at a systematic knowledge of the content of the faith, all can find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church an indispensable tool. Blessed John Paul II called it a “valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.”

14. The Year of faith will also be a good time to intensify the witness of charity. Faith without charity bears no fruit. Without faith charity would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Did not James write: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (Jas 2:14-18). Therefore faith and charity require each other.

15. May this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ increasingly firm, because only He guarantees an authentic and lasting love. We believe with firm certitude that the Lord Jesus has conquered evil and death. With confidence we entrust ourselves to him: he, present in our midst overcomes the power of the evil one (cf. Lk 11:20); and the Church, the visible community of his mercy, abides in him as a sign of definitive reconciliation with the Father. Let us entrust this time of grace to the Mother of God, proclaimed “blessed because she believed” (Lk 1:45).

October 7, 2012

Today is “Respect Life Sunday,” beginning “Respect Life Month,” in which the American Bishops call us to remember that over 3000 innocent Americans are killed every day by abortions, over 1.3 million a year, for a total of over 50 million dead since 1973.

But even as horrible as that death toll is, we can’t forget that abortion has other consequences as well—consequences that have been eating away at the moral and legal fiber of our nation and culture.

Of course, we cannot forget the consequence of abortion’s devastating effect on women. Especially the women who have been lied to and told, “it’s okay, it’s just a formless clump of cells.” But deep inside they know, or come to know, the truth of what they’ve done. These are the 2nd victims of abortion, but they are ignored and ridiculed for expressing their pain and feelings of guilt. We must not forget them, we must love them and do everything we can to help them heal, and to make sure that the evil of abortion will not continue to plague future generations of women. We must put an end to the real “war on women”—born and unborn.

But the consequences of abortion go beyond even that, as the establishment of a constitutional right to abortion is like a virus injected into the body politic slowly corrupting every other right, and the freedom that is the life’s blood of our great nation. Because there cannot be any human rights if human beings don’t have a right to life. If you’re not alive, you have no rights at all.

This is why, in 1776, when Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, the only rights he felt it necessary to list were the most fundamental: “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—with the right to life being first.

At this point, some might be wondering, “what about the separation of church and state.” But as Pope Benedict told a group of American bishops gathered in Rome last January: “The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues….”

When most of us think of the separation between church and state we think of the Bill of Rights. What does it actually say? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Notice, it’s not about protecting the government from the church, but protecting the individual and religions from the government.

Just as the “right to life” is the first right listed in the Declaration, the right to freely practice our religion is the very first right listed (in the very first words of the very First Amendment) in the Bill of Rights. And rightly so. Because the freedom of religion is essential to the freedom of thought, to decide for oneself what one believes to be true, right and good. How can we defend any rights if we don’t have that right? And how can we defend any rights as being given to us from God himself, as the Declaration states, unless we have a right to believe in God as we see fit?

But since the right to life necessarily precedes all other rights and liberties, when someone embraces a theory of man and society that rejects the right to life, he thereby perceives all other rights and liberties as not fundamental, natural or God-given, but simply invented by political expediency and political power. So that when those in power find that the exercise of a certain right or freedom is not politically expedient to their agenda, they will quickly dismiss that “freedom” or “right.”

In January 2012 our President did just that. After years of notoriously rejecting the right to life he issued regulations (now in effect) that, while exempting institutions that primarily serve Catholics (e.g., parishes), require most Catholic institutions and employers to provide health insurance for their employees that will cover contraception, abortion inducing drugs, and sterilization. This is repugnant to Catholic morals, but the president directly and willfully dismisses our constitutional and human right to freedom of religion. Moreover, he imposes draconian fines on those who defy him, fines that will bankrupt and close every faithful Catholic college, hospital, and charitable institution (e.g., Catholic Charities, Knight of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services) in the country.

The President says he is not attacking our liberty and that he strongly supports the “freedom to worship.” But as Pope Benedict has reminded us so often, religious freedom is not merely the freedom of worship. “Worship” is not what the First Amendment is about: the exercise of religion is actually practicing the tenets, putting faith into action. In other words, the work of Catholic hospitals, charities etc.—the very organizations the administration is attacking.

Is this direct assault on the Catholic Church aimed to punish the Bishops and faithful Catholic for their opposition to abortion, and our defiance of the President’s relentless promotion of the gay agenda and sexual promiscuity? Perhaps, perhaps not. In any case, just as they tossed out the most fundamental right to life, now they have thrown out the first right that flows from it. And if they can so easily cast aside the first right recognized in the First Amendment, what will keep them from ignoring the rest of the rights listed in the First Amendment: freedom of speech, the press, peaceful assembly, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances?

And if they can make Catholics provide contraception, etc., what else can they make us provide? Direct surgical abortions? “Gay weddings”? And if they can close down our charities, can they take away the Church’s tax exempt status or put your priests in jail for preaching against their attack on the Church? You might think it’s a stretch, but according the reasoning of the Supreme Court, the constitutional right to contraception was the basis for both the right to abortion and the right to sodomy. Once you ignore the natural rights of man, and replace them with their opposites, then anything is possible.

As Pope Benedict told the American bishops: “…[I]t is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political …spheres… Of particular concern are …attempts being made to limit …the freedom of religion.…. [and] the right of conscientious objection…”

So what do we do? There are many ways we can effect change. First, we can still exercise our First Amendment right of free speech to tell to our neighbors the truth about what’s going on. And in 4 weeks we can exercise our right to vote to elect congressmen and senators and a president who will defend our God given rights, and end this hellish persecution of Christ and His Catholic Church.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

September 30, 2012

SOCIAL JUSTICE. The Catholic Church coined the term “social justice” in the mid-1800’s as part of a systematic effort to apply traditional Catholic doctrine to address the new problems raised by the Industrial Revolution, and to counter the evil proposals advanced by Marx and other socialists, i.e., “the left.” This effort reached official “doctrinal” status when Pope Leo XIII issued his encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891, and almost every Pope since then has weighed in to further clarify and to apply the doctrine to their own times.

Unfortunately, the doctrine has often been misunderstood, and even hijacked by the ideologies it was meant to counter, so much so that now many good Catholics identify the term with secular leftist principles. Even so, those same “good Catholics” would readily support the actual Catholic doctrine and apply it in real life. So, for example, these Catholics would have no problem with the doctrine the we must care for the poor, and would support programs that effectively and efficiently assist the truly needy, assuming it had no significant negative moral side-effects.

At least two key difficulties arise. The first is rather straightforward, arising when ideologues replace the unchanging principles of Catholic “social doctrine” with their own immoral ideological principles; e.g., redefining “marriage.” The second is more subtle, arising when the unchanging (Catholic) principles must be applied by individuals to the particular situations of their times by the use of prudential judgment. This can lead to different proposed solutions to the same problem, each being morally valid but not necessarily equally successful; e.g., one person might try to address poverty by giving a man a fish, another might try by teaching a man to fish.

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN THE COMING ELECTION. Three key principles that form the basic foundation of Catholic social doctrine are the right to life, the dignity of the family, and freedom of religion and conscience. In the last month two bishops spoke out on the effect of these principles on the coming election. Allow me to quote from them at length:

Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Diocese of Springfield, Illinois (Catholic Times, September 23, 2012):

“Much attention was given at the Democratic National Convention held recently in Charlotte, N.C., …In 1992 Presidential candidate Bill Clinton famously said that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” That was the party’s official position until 2008. Apparently “rare” is so last century that it had to be dropped, because now the Democratic Party Platform says that abortion should be “safe and legal.” Moreover the Democratic Party Platform supports the right to abortion “regardless of the ability to pay.” Well, there are only three ways for that to happen: either taxpayers will be required to fund abortion, or insurance companies will be required to pay for them (as they are now required to pay for contraception), or hospitals will be forced to perform them for free.

“Moreover, the Democratic Party Platform also supports same-sex marriage, recognizes that “gay rights are human rights,” and calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law signed by President Clinton in 1996 that defined marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.

“…There are many positive and beneficial planks in the Democratic Party Platform, but I am pointing out those that explicitly endorse intrinsic evils. My job is not to tell you for whom you should vote. But I do have a duty to speak out on moral issues. I would be abdicating this duty if I remained silent out of fear of sounding “political” and didn’t say anything about the morality of these issues. People of faith object to these platform positions that promote serious sins…

“So what about the Republicans? I have read the Republican Party Platform and there is nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin…. One might argue for different methods in the platform to address the needs of the poor, to feed the hungry and to solve the challenges of immigration, but these are prudential judgments about the most effective means of achieving morally desirable ends, not intrinsic evils…

“Again, I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against, but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia (National Catholic Reporter, “Chaput in Philly swims against ‘nostalgia and red ink,’” Sept. 14, 2012, interview with John L Allen Jr.).

“Reporter: …Let me ask flat-out: Do you believe a Catholic in good faith can vote for Obama?
“AB Chaput: I can only speak in terms of my own personal views. I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion. I’m not a Republican and I’m not a Democrat. I’m registered as an independent, because I don’t think the church should be identified with one party or another. As an individual and voter I have deep personal concerns about any party that supports changing the definition of marriage, supports abortion in all circumstances, wants to restrict the traditional understanding of religious freedom. Those kinds of issues cause me a great deal of uneasiness.

“Reporter: What about the wing of the church that says a party that supports the Ryan budget also ought to cause concern?
“AB Chaput: Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period. There’s just no doubt about it. That has to be a foundational concern of Catholics and of all Christians. But Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. Anybody who would condemn someone because of their position on taxes is making a leap that I can’t make as a Catholic. … You can’t say that somebody’s not Christian because they want to limit taxation. Again, I’m speaking only for myself, but I think that’s a legitimate position. It may not be the correct one, but it’s certainly a legitimate Catholic position; and to say that it’s somehow intrinsically evil like abortion doesn’t make any sense at all.

“The Ryan budget isn’t the budget I would write. I think he’s trying to deal with the same issue in the government I’m dealing with here locally, which is spending more than we bring in. I admire the courage of anyone who’s actually trying to solve the problems rather than paper over them…It’s immoral for us to continue to spend money we don’t have. I think that those persons who don’t want to deal with the issue are, in some ways, doing wrong by putting it off for their own political protection or the protection of their party.”

DON’T FORGET THE PARISH PICNIC TODAY from 1pm to 4pm! All are welcome!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2012

September 30, 2012
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Springfield, Va.

Sometimes we’re so busy seeing the differences between ourselves and others
that we fail to see the good things we have in common.
On the other hand, it is important to recognize those differences,
first of all to see the differences that we may want to overcome,
but also, to recognize and protect ourselves
against values that we don’t share.
This tension between recognizing both the good and the bad in others
is a source of particular difficulty for Christians
–we want to see the good in others,
but we don’t want the good that they possess to blind us
so that we fail to notice the goodness that they lack.

Its sort of like the apostles in today’s Gospel when they discover that a man,
a stranger who did “not follow” them
is performing miracles in the name of Jesus.
And it seems that the apostles are confused,
wondering if they should do something to stop him.
But even though this stranger lacks the fullness of the good that would come
with being in the intimate company of Christ,
Jesus tells the apostles:
“Do not prevent him….For whoever is not against us is for us.”

This need to recognize Christian works in those who are not fully in our company
leads us to understand the great importance
that the Catholic Church places on ecumenism.
We’re called to look for the things we have in common
with the various non-Catholic but Christian denominations,
and then to use those as a starting point for both mutual cooperation
in spreading the Gospel
and in beginning the process
of striving for the unity of all Christians everywhere.

And we’re not just called to recognize the goodness of Christ’s truth
in other Christians,
but also to recognize that goodness when it’s possessed by non-Christians
–even atheists.
Because even a non-Christian can come to recognize some of the truth of Christ
–even if they don’t recognize it as Christ’s
–to the extent they pursue the truth with an open and humble heart.
By working with tolerance with people of other denominations, or religions,
or even with atheists,
on issues that we share strong beliefs,
we can build a better and more just society,
and lay the foundation so that the Gospel of Christ might then take root
and spread to all men of goodwill.

And yet, as our ecumenism and religious tolerance increases,
we find ourselves in the dilemma I mentioned earlier.
Sometimes in our rush to see the good in others,
we confuse cooperation and toleration with indifferentism,
truth with ignorance and error,
and even sometimes good with evil.
The good that is present seems to overshadow or mask that which is lacking.

But its important to remember
that just as Jesus insists that we must recognize and respect
the truth that others possess,
he’s even more adamant that we can never compromise
on the fullness of the truth.
He tells his apostles: ” whoever is not against us is for us.”
but he immediately goes on to warn them:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.”

Now, I don’t mean to imply at that non-Catholics
should have a millstone tied around their neck.
The point is to consider the intensity with which Jesus insists
we not lead anyone astray from him in any way.
Notice that Christ calls us not to mislead his “little ones”
–but by that he means not only children, but all of us that he calls to
“become like these little ones.”
Its wrong to lead anyone away from Christ in anyway–even ourselves.

Leading people astray is easy nowadays
because there’s such a tendency in our society
to see the good in others and then immediately move
to accept everything about the person as good.
We see this everyday.
Sometimes we lead ourselves or others astray in a radical and drastic way
by overtly rejecting Christ and his teachings or his Church.
For example, consider young couples living together before marriage.
How many Catholic parents have tolerated this in their adult children,
perhaps even letting the couples sleep in the same room
when they come to visit.
They focus on the good things about their children
and somehow let those excuse their gravely sinful behavior.
Those parents not only lead themselves astray,
they also lead these adult children astray,
and their younger children as well.
And in doing so cause all “these little ones …to sin.”

And I’m not going to point the finger at just lay people.
How many priests fall into this same trap?
And I’m not just talking about the terrible sexual scandals.
As terrible as those are, they are comparatively very rare.
More common are the times when priests lead little ones to sin
by the heresies they preach,
or the false compassion they show in the confessional.
For example, how many married couples tell me
“but Father, Fr. Smith told us contraception was okay.”
But Jesus had a much different approach to compassion:
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off [He said].
It is better …to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go …the unquenchable fire.”

But sometimes we lead ourselves or others astray in less dramatic ways,
such as when we accept anything less than the fullness of the faith,
either through ignorance, which is not knowing the fullness of the faith,
or through indifference,
which is disregarding the fact that this ignorance is a problem.
And this ignorance is a problem because while its not evil per se,
there’s no way that we’d ever say that this ignorance
–or lacking of the fullness of the faith–is a good thing.
So it would be wrong to mislead others by allowing them
to remain away from following the true Church of Christ,
the Catholic Church,
without making any effort to share the fullness of the Catholic faith with them,
whether it’s your fallen away Catholic brother,
who’s a great guy but just won’t go to Mass,
or your friend who’s a devout Evangelical,
and you think, well they love Jesus
so I don’t need to tell them about Catholicism.

But it’s easy to mislead people–especially ourselves.
It’s so very hard to walk the fine line between
on the one hand, recognizing the good that others do,
especially when they do it in Christ’s name,
and on the other, charitably rejecting what runs contrary
to the fullness of Christ’s teaching.

Of course all this has great practical application in our lives
—in our families, at work and in society in general.
But especially right now in the middle of a heated political campaign season,
it’s so easy to get confused—to be misled or mislead ourselves.
We so often look at a candidate and want to see the good in them,
and then let the good we see excuse some evil policy they embrace.
On the other hand, it’s so easy to focus on our differences with someone
and fail to recognize the good policies that they embrace
—the good values we have in common with them.

And in all this we fail to recognize, we mislead ourselves,
as to who is for us and who is against us.

For example, in our presidential contest.
We have one candidate who is of a completely different faith than we are:
he’s a Mormon.
And make no mistake about it, Mormons are not Christians.
They say they believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior,
but they don’t mean what we mean by that:
they do not believe in the Trinitarian God
—one God in three persons;
nor do they believe in the co-equal and co-eternal divinity
of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
and I could go on and on.

And yet, you look at the lives that Mormons lead, their moral values,
and you see people striving to live very much as Catholics are striving to live.
In particular, you see in this “Mormon candidate”
a man who not only has a record of
serving those in need,
both personally and with extreme financial generosity,
but also someone who recognizes and promises to uphold
the most basic values Catholics hold dear:
the right to life, especially of unborn babies,
the true meaning of marriage
between one male and one female,
and the God-given right to practice our religion freely
without government coercion or persecution.

And then we have the other candidate, our current President,
who shares the basically same faith as we do
—although not a Catholic, he emphatically claims to be a Christian.
And he wraps himself in Biblical ethos:
he speaks of being “your brother’s keeper”;
and says “from to whom much is given, much shall be required.”
And he seems like a decent man—a good father and husband.
And yet he has consistently undermined
the most basic Christians values:
promoting the most extreme positions on abortion,
championing so-called “gay marriage”
and repeatedly violating the religious liberty of Christians,
especially Catholics,
including trying to force us to provide insurance
to cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

Who really is for us, and who is really against us?
Who is leading us and our “little ones” astray?

We can never completely reject those who would—intentionally or unintentionally—
lead us astray of the Gospel in any way
because then we’d wind up rejecting almost everyone
and whatever truth they posses, or good they do.
But we must also be so careful not to let the good that we see in others
cause us to fail to recognize what is lacking
—and even the evil that is there.

In those who actively oppose Christ and His Church,
we must recognize evil,
even as we see the good they may do.
In those who love Christ but don’t share in the fullness of the faith,
we must recognize not evil but ignorance,
even as we see the true beauty of the faith they do have
–a faith that may be 10 times as strong as yours or mine.
And in those who love Christ but who cannot see
that God wants neither evil nor ignorance for his children,
we must recognize the sin of indifference.

Today, let us pray for the gift to see Christ’s truth
and his goodness in all those around us,
as we strive for Christian unity,
the conversion of the whole world,
and goodwill among all peoples.
But let us also pray that we may always discern clearly
what is for Christ and what is against him.
And let us pray that we may never, in even the smallest way
–either by our sin, or indifference or ignorance—
lead anyone, especially ourselves, away from the fullness of life with Christ.

September 23, 2012

Good News. I am happy to report that Fr. Joby Thomas has returned to his religious order in India. Thank you for your prayers for him.

Confessions with 2 Priests. Over the last few years our parish has been blessed to have multiple priests available for hearing confessions. Last year, for example, we had 4 priests in-house, plus sometimes Fr. Daly, so that on most Saturday afternoons there were 4 priests hearing confessions, and sometimes 5. However, as you know, we now have only 2 priests living here, and although Fr. Daly is still helping when he can, this will mean that most of the time we will only have 2 priests available on Saturday afternoons, and sometimes only have 1, and he may have to leave the confessional early to prepare to say 5pm Mass.

This will also affect other confession times besides Saturday—there may be some Sunday mornings when confessions will have to be canceled, and our past practice of hearing confessions every night during Advent and Lent seems to be practically impossible now.

I hope to maintain the current schedule as much as possible, but please be patient if and when things don’t work out as we hope. For example, if you stand in line for a long time waiting to go to confession only to have confessions end before you get your chance, instead of being upset, get on your knees and beg the Lord for more priests—both for our parish and for the diocese in general.

But there are some things we can do to make this a little easier on everyone. One thing is to consider the manner in which you go to confession. Some people approach confession as a counseling session, and tell the priest not only their sins but the problems that lead to sin, and even unrelated problems, and hope the priest can give them some good advice. Others tell the priest every detail of their sins, the background of why and when. There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches. Certainly the priest is happy to hear you out, and to give advice in difficult situations. Often it is helpful to the penitent (you) to get some things off your chest before the Lord. I understand that. But perhaps it is not necessary every time we go to confession, especially for those who confess frequently, and especially when there’s a long line waiting to confess. And if it is necessary, sometimes it’s better to schedule an appointment with a priest so that both you and he may talk freely without concern for the people waiting in line.

But sometimes these approaches simply stem from the fact that people don’t know what they should confess, or how to confess. For example, you might confess: “I had an argument with my wife. She wanted me to take the children to confession last Saturday, but I really wanted to watch the Notre Dame football game. I went to Notre Dame, my whole family did, all my brothers and sisters, and we’re all huge fans. So Saturday’s all about THE GAME. So we argued and called each other names, some pretty awful names. I called her one that really upset her, and I knew it would because her father used to use that with her mother, and she always hated it, and when I do that….Finally, she started to cry and took the kids to church herself. I felt really terrible about it right away, especially because not only did they see us fighting and name calling, but I love my kids and it looked like I loved football more than them. Plus I made it look like confession was unimportant to me, and it’s not! I love confession, always have. When I was a kid…”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, although it is a bit rambling. And I don’t write this to make fun, but to make a point. For most people, simply listing their sins, mortal sins being mentioned by kind and number, is adequate. Especially when 20 people are in line behind you, or one priest is hearing all the confessions. So instead, perhaps you might confess: “I have sinned gravely by viciously arguing with my wife, calling her very hurtful names, in front of my children. I also gravely scandalized my children by refusing to take them to confession because I wanted to watch football.” Or even, “I gravely sinned in arguing with my wife and scandalizing my children by demeaning the importance of confession.”

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Another true blessing in our parish is the opportunity to pray before our Eucharistic Lord exposed on the altar every Wednesday (8:30am to 7pm) and Friday (8:30am to 3pm). While I am pleased to see many people take advantage of this, there are some times of the day when it is difficult to find people to pray before our Lord, in particular 9:30am to 10:30am, and 5pm to 6pm (dinner time). I encourage all of you to take time to visit our Lord, whether reserved in the tabernacle or exposed on the altar. And if you can, I ask you to sign up for an hour, especially one of those mentioned, so that our Lord would never be alone as He is exposed on the altar: “could you not watch with me one hour?” Please call Diane Spinelli (703.451.1779) or the parish office to sign up.

Fleur de lis. Several people have commented on the fleur de lis that decorate several of my vestments. Some think it’s the logo of the New Orleans Saints, and I wear it because I’m a fan of that team. Others recognize it as a symbol of France and think I’m giving a nod to my French ancestry. Not quite. The fleur de lis became a symbol of France (and thus the logo of New Orleans’ football team because of the city’s French roots.) because it is an ancient symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom the people of France were, historically, deeply devoted. The fleur de lis (“the lily flower”) symbolizes Mary’s unique relationship to the Holy Trinity (the three petals of the fleur) and her unique purity: “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens” (Song of Songs, 2:1-2). (Note: roses are also symbolic of Mary, the “rose of Sharon”).

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles