I write this in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, June 27. Just a few hours ago, at 12:00:01 a.m., I officially became the pastor, “parochus,” of St. Raymond’s. It has been a true privilege to serve you these 2 years, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to now be your pastor.
As you probably know by now, I take very seriously the title “Father.” Since solemnly promising celibacy to Christ and His Bride, the Church, at my diaconate ordination 17 years ago I have tried to more deeply live and interiorize that gift in union with Christ the Bridegroom, and to understand myself as wedded to His Bride, with all her children as my own. Every time someone calls me “Father” I am reminded of this. But now this fatherhood, in some ways, takes on a more direct and consequential meaning, since as your “proper pastor,” I am, before God, entrusted with the care of your souls and am profoundly obliged to do everything in my power to see that the eternal life you were born into at baptism grows ever stronger so that it may reach its fullness in the joy of heaven. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
But as you know, fatherhood is very challenging, and as you also know by now, I am only a weak sinner. So please, pray for me, that by God’s grace, I may eventually be the father and shepherd you need to help you get to heaven. “Oremus pro invicem”—“let us pray for one another.”
Installation. Some of you may be reading this after the 5pm Saturday Vigil Mass (June 30), in which case you are aware that I was ceremonially installed as pastor at that Mass by Fr. John Cregan, Vicar Forane (Dean) of Deanery II. I’m sorry I couldn’t get the word out to everyone, but Fr. Cregan called earlier in the week and told me that due to his busy schedule it was either this weekend or …who-knows-when. So, it’s not only “official,” but “ritualized” as well.
Good-bye. This last Wednesday was also a big day in Fr. Mark Pilon’s life as well, as officially became a “retired priest” (although he’s hanging around a few extra days to let Fr. Joby take some well-deserved vacation). We have all been so blessed to have Father with us these 3 years. He is truly a phenomenal teacher and preacher. But as he rides off into the sunset (literally, retiring to his little shack on the Shenandoah) I’m sure that after a brief hiatus we can talk him into coming back once in a while for a visit to say Mass or give a talk or two. In any case, I hope you will join us in a going away picnic for Father after he celebrates the 12:15 Mass today (Sunday, July 1). Please come out and thank Father for his many years of service to St. Raymond’s and the Diocese of Arlington.
Good-bye, Part II. This week also saw the departure of a long-time fixture of St. Raymond’s parish staff, as Janice Gorrie retired from her position as secretary for the Religious Education office. She will be sorely missed, not only by the staff but by all the parents, children and volunteers and other parishioners who worked with her over the last 7 years. I will particularly miss her—she has been a tremendous help to me in so many ways. Of course, she’s still going to be around—as a parishioner and active volunteer—but not quite as much as we’d like. God bless you, Janice, and thanks for all you’ve done for St. Raymond’s.
Prayers for Austin Smith. The week before last Austin Smith, brother of Kristin Smith, our Youth Director, was in a serious accident during the family vacation. He is doing better now, but is still in serious condition. Please keep him and his family, especially Kristin, in your prayers.
4th of July and the Fortnight for Freedom. So far I think the Fortnight has been a great success. Although the crowds at the evening liturgies have not quite been standing room only, I have been pleased that so many of you have attended each liturgy. And I am sure that all of you are praying devoutly and offering penances at home. The Fortnight continues this week, with Holy Hours (actually lasting half an hour) after 5pm Masses on Saturday and Sunday; 7:30pm Holy Hours, with Exposition and Benediction, on Monday and Tuesday; and 10am Mass on Wednesday, the 4th of July. Please try to come out to show your solidarity with your fellow Catholics, and raise up a might prayer for Religious Liberty.
The Fortnight concludes on the 4th of July, as we celebrate Independence Day, or we might say “Liberty Day.” What a great gift to live in this “land of the free.” But it is also, thank God, “the home of the brave.” So many heroes have given so much, even their very lives, to win and protect our liberty. They are truly “the brave.” But we too must be brave, and we too must fight to defend our liberty.
Liberty does not mean a freedom from responsibility, quite the contrary. Liberty is a demanding servant and master—it both benefits us and places demands on us. Liberty demands that we defend it—that we sacrifice and fight to preserve it. True liberty is a freedom for and freedom to: a freedom for becoming the good men and women we have the potential to be, the freedom to be who God calls us to be. As such, the most fundamental type or aspect of liberty is Religious Liberty, without which we cannot be truly free people God created us to be.
History tells us that when the Declaration of Independence was first read publicly in Philadelphia in July of 1776, the church bells of the city rang out in celebration, “ringing out freedom.” On this July the 4th listen for the ringing of the church bells of Catholic churches, including St. Raymond’s, at 12 noon, declaring to all who will hear that Catholics will not let our God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty be taken from us by a government which is supposed to be formed primarily “to secure these rights” for us. And as you hear the church bells peal, join your fellow Catholics and parishioners in humble prayer, in thanksgiving and supplication, to the Creator who endows us with the “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles