July 1, 2012

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

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist 2012

St. Raymond of Peñafort
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
June 24, 2012

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
It’s a very unusual feast.
Usually when a saint’s feast day falls on a Sunday
we basically skip over it to celebrate the regular Sunday Mass
—the Lord’s Day.
Also, there are only 3 nativities—or birthdays—we celebrate:
Christmas, Mary’s Birthday, and this one.
Very unusual.
But we do this because St. John is a truly unique figure in salvation history.
He is the last of the Old Testament prophets
and the first of the New Testament
—a sign of the fulfillment of the promises to Israel in Christ and His Church.

And he’s also the first public disciple of Christ,
and so a model of Christian discipleship,
reminding us that every Christian is called
to proclaim Christ and his Gospel
to the world we live in,
even, if it means martyrdom,
as it did with St. John.

Given that, it seems extremely providential that this year
his feast falls on the first Sunday of the Fortnight for Freedom
—the 14 days from June 21 to July 4th,
that the American Bishops have asked us to set aside
as a period of concerted prayer and penance
for the defense of the Religious Liberty.
Of course this is in response to the Obama Administration’s regulations
requiring all employers, including Catholics,
to provide their employees with insurance covering
contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing-drugs,
even though this runs absolutely contrary
to 2000 years of Catholic moral teaching.
In short, they’re trying to force us to commit a mortal sin.

This is almost unprecedented in the history of our nation,
which was founded on the principle that:
“that all men are …endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
and who’s Constitution goes on to specify
the most important of these rights,
in its Bill of Rights, in order to guarantee them.

And the very first right it specifically guaranties is Religious liberty.
The very first words of the very first amendment say:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

For 221 years the definition of “the free exercise of religion”
have been given a very broad definition,
and whenever anyone tried to narrow that definition
either the congress, the courts or the president
eventually stepped in to slap it down.
But never has a president tried to so widely and overtly
try to narrow the definition to such an extreme extent as this.

In effect, the president’s regulations say that the term “religion”
only includes institutions of religion.
—in effect saying, individuals don’t have a freedom of religion,
except to the extent they belong and act inside of
an institution of religion.
So for example, when a Catholic priest speaks about his faith to non-Catholics,
according to the president, he is not practicing his religion.
Or when a group of Catholics form an organization to serve the poor,
regardless of what religion the poor belong to,
that is not practicing our Catholic religion.
Or when a group of Catholic individuals form a college, like Notre Dame,
and open the doors to people of all faiths,
that is not practicing their Catholic faith.
Or when a Catholic business man tries to run his business
consistent with his Catholic values,
like charity, honesty, and solidarity with the poor,
that has nothing to do with practicing his religion.

What?
Did Jesus say, “when I was a hungry Catholic, you gave me to eat”?
Or “When you did it to the least of my Catholic brothers, you did it to me?”

Some point out that the president later gave what he called an “accommodation.”
First of all, shouldn’t we “honor” the most basic human right
—not merely “accommodate” it?
But more importantly, the accommodation provided that
Catholic institutions wouldn’t have to pay for this coverage,
instead insurance companies would cover it for free.
How stupid do we look?
There is no such thing as a free lunch
—everyone knows insurance companies will pass the cost on to the Church.
But even if it were free,
the Church would still be forced to provide this immoral benefit
to its employees.
If the insurance company gave us free poisonous Kool-Aid
would that make it okay for us to hand it to our people and say,
“here, drink the Kool-Aid”?

And besides, most dioceses are self-insured
—they are the insurance company,
and so they will pay for it.
And what about actual Catholic insurance companies
—like the Knights of Columbus: are they supposed to pay for this?
And finally, it still doesn’t apply
to independent organizations
like Catholic universities or Catholic Charities,
or to individual Catholic-owned businesses.

And so the U.S. Bishops rightly responded with bold defiance:
“we cannot, we will not, obey this unjust law.”

But besides redefining religious liberty,
the president and his supporters are attempting
to demoted “religious liberty” to sort of a 2nd class liberty.
To them, even though religious liberty has been specifically listed
as the first right in the Constitution for over 220 years
they believe that it is easily trumped by a very recently invented liberty,
found nowhere in the actual words of the constitution
and not even in the craziest of dreams of the founders,
but only in the imaginary penumbras and emanations of lawyers
over the last 50 years.
It usually goes by various nice sounding names,
like “the right to privacy” or “the right to choose.”
But ultimately, the underlying liberty being pursued
is simply “sexual liberty”:
—the freedom do whatever, however, whenever you want.
In the end, the so-called rights to contracept and abort flow from this,
as do the so-called rights to homosexual activity and “gay marriage.”

2000 years ago huge crowds came out to listen to John the Baptist preach:
the gospels tell us that,
“[all of] Jerusalem and all Judea
and all the region about the Jordan”
went out to hear him.
One of the people who, as scripture says, “liked to listen to him,”
was King Herod.
But eventually St. John crossed the line with Herod
when he publically outted Herod for committing adultery
with his own brother’s wife, Herodias
And so, Herod beheaded St. John.

Even 2000 years ago, sexual liberty trumped religious liberty.

Something similar happened in the 16th century,
with another king and another saint.
The king was Henry VIII of England,
who had also gotten caught up in sexual libertinism
and wanted to divorce his wife in order to marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn.
And the saint was St. Thomas More,
whose feast we celebrated 2 days ago on Friday.
Thomas, a layman, was known throughout Europe
as one of the most brilliant of scholars, and greatest lawyers.
Like John the Baptist, he was also very popular:
people used to love to read his books,
or to come to listen to his arguments in court or Parliament.
And like Herod, King Henry also liked to listen to him
—in fact, he made Thomas one his most trusted counselors,
eventually appointing him Chancellor of England
—second only in power to the King Himself.
But then Thomas got in the way of Henry’s sexual freedom,
opposing his divorce and adultery,
not to mention his oppression of the Church when it refused the divorce.

And now we have the same problem with President Obama.
Oh, I know it’s not his own personal problem,
but it is his adamantly held position
that sexual liberty trumps everything.
Look at his support of gay rights,
including gays in the military, and now so-called gay marriage.
And his ultra-extreme positions on abortion,
including his barbaric support for partial birth abortion.
And now his all-or-nothing approach
to contraception, sterilization and abortifacients.

None of this bodes well for Catholicism and Christianity in America.
Defenders of the president have already raised the false alarm
that the bishops are leading a “war on women,”
Combine this with years of accusations that the Church “hates” homosexuals,
and we see a frightening pattern.
If religious liberty is overridden by absolute sexual liberty,
and if Christians can be portrayed as truly at war and hateful,
they’ll have every excuse they need to pursue even further oppression
of Christians, especially faithful Catholics.

And remember, after the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom
it immediately goes on to guarantee
freedom of speech, the press, and to peacefully assemble.
If sexual liberty can override the first liberty of the first amendment,
how long will it take for it to override the rest?
And then how far off is the day when Catholic priests
won’t be able to preach, even inside our own churches,
that adultery, fornication, contraception, abortion and sodomy
are mortal sins?
And how soon before Catholic parents won’t be able to say the same thing
to their own children in their own homes?
How soon before close your churches, arrest your priests,
or take your children from your homes because you’re not fit to be parents.

They’re already trying to do this in other western countries.
Earlier this month the Canadian Province of Ontario
passed a law forcing all Catholic Schools to have clubs
to support openly gay students.
And government officials, including the Premier, are threatening
to penalizing teachers and administrators
if they say anything in these clubs that is negative toward homosexuality.

It can’t happen here, right?
Tell that to Californians who voted back in 2008 to prohibit “gay marriage.”
only to have their vote thrown out by U.S. District Judge,
who wrote in his decision:
“Religious beliefs that gay…relationships are sinful …
harm gays and lesbians.”

If that’s how the courts see things, and if sexual liberty trumps religious liberty,
wouldn’t the next logical step be to do something
to stop Churches from hurting gay people?

We must defend our religious liberty.
And not just the freedom to serve fellow Catholics,
or to worship as we choose
but the freedom to feed the hungry and educate the ignorant,
to proclaim the Gospel,
and to reject sin, coercion, lies and injustice.

We must fight the good fight.
Some of us will fight like St. John the Baptist,
with fiery words and bold public chastisements.
Some will fight like St. Thomas More,
with persuasive reason and logic.
.
But all of us must fight.

Not a war against women, or against sexual libertines,
but against religious oppression, and false notions of liberty.
And not with violence or hate, but with reason and love,
even for our enemies.
The only swords we will wield are the swords of truth and the Word of God,
and our most important weapon will be simple but constant prayer.

Today we celebrate a unique feast of a unique saint, John the Baptist.
As we ponder his unique place in the history of salvation,
let’s also recall something else unique about him:
his birth was announced by an angel to two different people.
The first announcement was to his father Zechariah,
the second was to the Blessed Virgin, Mary.
And to Mary he said,
“in her old age [Elizabeth has] conceived a son;
…her who was called barren.
For nothing is impossible with God.”

As we go forward today in our defense of religious liberty,
inspired by the example of St. John and St. Thomas,
let us keep these words in mind.
Let us trust that the Lord will allow no one to most rob us
of the most basic right he alone has given us:
the freedom to love and follow him in faith,
the precious divine gift of religious liberty.
Let be charitable, let us be courageous, let us be faithful, let us be determined,
knowing that “Nothing is impossible with God.”

June 24, 2012

FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM.

Our “great hymn of prayer” in defense of Religious Liberty has begun—the Fortnight for Freedom (June 21 to July 4). This fourteen days of prayer is a response to the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations requiring Catholic employers to provide their employees with insurance policies that cover contraception, sterilization and abortifacients (abortion inducing drugs)—directly contradicting our Catholic moral beliefs. But while this is the most recent, and most clear and egregious, attack on our religious liberty, it is not the first. For the last few years Christians, and Catholics in particular, have been the target of growing efforts on the part of local, state and national government efforts to restrict or direct the practice of religion.

In its recent document on Religious Liberty, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides a short list of recent attacks on the free practice of religion. Two actions are particularly noteworthy and troubling:

In the last two years the District of Columbia, Boston, San Francisco, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.

Notwithstanding years of excellent performance by the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS)in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the Obama administration recently changed its contract specifications to require all contract partners like MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services. A federal court in Massachusetts upheld this regulation, declaring, incredibly, that such a disqualification is required by the First Amendment—that the government somehow violates religious liberty by allowing Catholic organizations to participate in contracts in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs.

This, as well as the rhetoric we find in some of the media, lead us to recognize a disturbing trend of treating Catholic moral principles as either not something necessarily related to freely practicing our Catholic faith or, alternatively, as infringing on the fundamental rights and freedoms and others. In either case we see the gradual establishment of a new legal or societal norm that certain very newly discovered liberties and rights are more important than the liberty to practice your religious moral beliefs, even though the latter is specifically protected under the constitution.

In particular one type of newly discovered liberty/right seems to trump all others: the almost absolute right to sexual pleasure and expression, or sexual libertinism. The rights to contracept and abort, flows from this, as do the so-called rights to homosexual activity and “gay marriage.”

What seems to stand in the way of firmly establishing such a new society norm are the Christian morals, which have shaped America’s understanding of laws since before our founding in 1776. And even though many of the mainstream Christian denominations have grown ambiguous on ancient moral norms, or even explicitly reject them, the Catholic Church stands athwart this trend as the largest obstacle to this moral, legal and societal revisionism.

The current federal administration, being openly very supportive of these new moral norms and rights, seems determined to overcome Catholic and other Christian opposition by whatever means necessary. Even if it means trampling on the very first right listed and guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Amazing: the newly invented freedom of sexual libertinism trumps the first liberty guaranteed in the Constitution.

What does this mean for the future of Catholicism and Christianity in America? Defenders of the administration have already raised the alarm against a so-called “conservative” “war on women,” led by the Catholic bishops, and we hear many accuse Catholics of “hating” homosexuals. If religious liberty is overridden in favor of absolute sexual liberty, and if traditional Christians are truly at war and hateful, where will this lead? How can it not lead to even further oppression of Christians and, especially faithful Catholics?

Remember, after the first amendment guarantees religious liberty it immediately goes on to prohibit: “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” If the first part of the first amendment–religious liberty–is overridden by absolute sexual liberty, why wouldn’t the second, third, fourth and fifth parts of the first amendment–freedom of speech, the press, assembly and petitioning the government—also be overridden?

If so, how far off is the day when Catholic priests won’t even be able to preach inside our own churches that extra- or pre-marital sex, contraception, abortion and homosexual acts are sinful? Even closer to home, how soon before Catholic parents won’t be able to say the same thing to their own children in their own homes? How soon before these priests and parents will be behind bars?

They’re already trying to do this in other western countries. Recently in Canada—so like America some call it “the 51st state”—the government of the Province of Ontario (Toronto), passed a law forcing all Catholic Schools to have clubs called “gay-straight alliances” to support openly gay students, and there is open talk on the part of government officials, including the Premier, of penalizing teachers and administrators if they say anything in these clubs that is negative toward homosexuality.

It can’t happen here, right? Read the words of Judge Vaughn Walker, United States District Chief Judge, for Northern California, when he overturned the democratic vote of the free people of California to amend their constitution to prohibit “gay marriage”: “Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.”

We must defend our religious liberty. We must fight the good fight, and keep the faith. Not with a war against women, or sexual libertines, but a battle against religious oppression by our own government. We must not do so with hate, as we are accused, but with love even for our enemies. We will not harm others, but help them. We will not act with violence, but with reason and faith. We will not wield a sword, other than the swords of truth and the Word of God, and our main weapons will be simple but devout, earnest and constant prayers.

Please join in the Fortnight. Come to the liturgies (see below in this bulletin), or offer prayers and penance in private. Remembering the words of Jesus, “this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:21).

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Father’s Day) 2012

St. Raymond of Peñafort
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
June 17, 2012

Life is filled with trials and challenges, especially nowadays
with so many problems that past generations never even imagined.
So it’s a great thing that in the summer we slow down and relax a bit,
and make opportunities to celebrate the good and important things in life.
So we celebrate work on Labor Day,
our great free nation on the 4th of July,
and motherhood on Mother’s Day.
And, of course, today we celebrate fatherhood, with Father’s Day.

Fatherhood truly is good, and absolutely essential to the wellbeing of society.
But there are a whole lot of folks who forget this.
And this forgetfulness is the cause of so many of those problems I mentioned.
You know the statistics:
63% of youth suicides, 90% of all homeless and runaway children,
71% of all high school dropouts all come from fatherless homes.
And I could go on and on.

Fatherhood is important, good fathers are essential
—and bad fathers are a disaster.

Scripture tells us that in the beginning,
God created mankind in his own image and likeness as male and female,
telling them be fruitful and multiply.
In other words, in God’s plan for the happiness of mankind,
the first thing necessary is marriage,
and the second springs from it: parenthood.
Because you see, love is the source of all true happiness.
And marriage and parenthood are the “school of love”
where all human beings are supposed to naturally
learn to love God and each other.
So that when marriage and parenthood are messed up
families and societies are in trouble.

Now, parenthood is a two sided coin:
on the one side motherhood, and on the other fatherhood.
Both of these are equally important in the eyes of God, and for the good of man.
It’s true that in the past society sometimes tended to over emphasize fatherhood
at the expense of motherhood.
So much was determined by who your father was,
and so much authority was placed in the hands of fathers.

But nowadays there’s a certain shift in the other direction, the other extreme.
For example, mothers now have an absolute right to decide
if their unborn children live or die—fathers have no say in the matter at all.
In fact, to a large extent, mothers get to decide
if a child is even going to be conceived or not.

And so today 40% of children are living in fatherless homes
and 41% of children are born outside of marriage.
And father’s drift away from the family, one way or the other.

But that is not how families and societies are meant flourish,
and it promises the destruction of both.

In today’s Gospel Jesus twice compares the Kingdom of God
to the seed of a plant.
Some today say that a fatherhood’s role is simply to plant the seed of his child
and then, more or less, walk away.
But fatherhood is much more than that.
Elsewhere in scripture Jesus uses another plant allusion, saying:
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
And then he says: “and my Father is the vinedresser.”
A vinedresser doesn’t simply plant the seed and leave;
he remains to care for it, to help it become a full grown fruitful plant.
He waters and feeds it,
protects it from pests, varmints and unfriendly weather,
and he prunes away its dead and dying branches,
that drain it of his vibrancy and health.

Where there is a seed planted, a true father,
created in the image of God the Father, remains and cares for his children.
He feeds and waters them:
–first in a literal sense, he puts food on the table.
But a good father also feeds and waters them by seeing that
his children get a good education,
both formally and informally,
in practical matters, like hygiene and manners,
in secular matters, like math, science and history,
and in spiritual matters—teaching them the truth about God.
For a Catholic father this means taking responsibility
for personally teaching them the truths and practices of the Catholic faith,
as well as supplementing that by,
if possible, sending them to Catholic school,
or at least to CCD from K thru 12,
or homeschooling them with a solid Catholic curriculum.

And above all it means watering them with the water of baptism
and feeding them regularly with the Bread of Life!
What young plant or child would survive, much less flourish, without eating food
—and not just eating once in a while, but every day?
What child would survive, much less flourish, spiritually and morally
without eating the bread of life not just once in a while,
but at least every single week?
What kind of father lets his children starve?

A true father also protects his children.
A vinedresser might build a fence around his plants,
or cover them to protect them from ice,
or hunt down the varmints that try to eat them.
A good father tries to provide a safe home for his family,
and carefully watches who his children’s friends are.
He doesn’t let his children play in a busy street,
or stay out late at night unsupervised.
And he’s careful who he trusts to supervise his children
—never trusting them to anyone who would in any way
corrupt or endanger them.

And above all, he protects his children from moral or spiritual danger of any kind.
He’s not afraid to shield his daughter from boys who won’t respect her virtue.
And his son never does an overnight on Sunday if it means he won’t get to Mass.

God the Father, the vinedresser, also prunes away the dying or dead branches.
Likewise, a good, true father isn’t afraid of pruning the sickly or deadly things
from his children’s lives.
If they develop friendships with people who behave badly or sinfully,
a good father is not afraid to prune that friend out of their lives.
If their children start to develop bad habits,
good fathers aren’t afraid to discipline them.
If they don’t do their homework a true father doesn’t hesitate
to turn off the TV until they do.
If they speak or dress immodestly a good father isn’t afraid to set them straight.

Some fathers are overwhelmed by all this.
They feel like the man in today’s Gospel who plants the seed
and then wakes up one day and it’s all grown up,
and, as Jesus says, “he knows not how.”
Some fathers feel that they “know not how” to raise kids,
so they leave it to someone else,
to their wives, or teachers, or other “experts.”

Now, it’s true that when it comes to kids Moms do some things better than Dads.
But not everything.
For example, a Mom might think a dress looks really pretty on her daughter,
but a good Father knows that the boys won’t be thinking it’s just “pretty.”
A Mom may be able to tell her son, “you be a gentleman on your date,”
but a good Dad can show his son how to respect a woman
by the way he himself treats women, especially his wife.
.
And besides all the male/female differences,
there are a lot of simple things that Dad, for some reason,
does or understands better than Mom:
maybe math, or being patient, whatever.

And it’s true that teachers are better at teaching some things than Dad.
But a true father makes sure they don’t try to stray beyond their field.

Several months ago a Dad told me that he accidentally discovered
that his son’s middle school English literature teacher
had his class do a project examining
the supposed “injustice” that “gay people” are denied the “right to marry.”
What does that have to do with his expertise in English lit?

And believe me, this isn’t an isolated incident—it happens all the time.
Is your daughter’s biology teacher teaching biology, or sexual morals.
Is your son’s history teacher teaching historical facts, or ideological doctrine?

And, this isn’t limited to public schools
—sadly, it can happen with Catholic school teachers too.

A good father realizes that all the corruption he sees in our society
is flourishing because the seeds are planted in the schools.
A few seeds of immorality here, or radical ideology there.
Here a seed of heresy, there a seed of anti-Catholic bigotry.
And then one day you wake up and you wonder why
your children don’t share any of your values and reject your Catholic faith.
Again: “he knows not how.”

A good father doesn’t abandon his responsibilities to “experts.”

Now, some of you women may be saying, but what about me?
Ladies, of course a lot of this applies to mothers as well.
But let it also remind you to help your husbands,
and all the men in your life, to be good fathers
—especially to support them and praise them when they try.

And some of you men may be saying, that’s all fine and good,
but my children are all grown up.
Yes, but you can apply this to being a grandfather,
and to helping your grown son to be a better father.

Or maybe you don’t have any children.
But are you an uncle?
Uncles are sort of fathers once removed.
Or maybe you’re a teacher, or a coach,
or work in some field that affects fathers and their children.
Then it all applies to you to, one way or another.

And then some of you fathers might agree with everything I’m saying,
but you’re in the military and you have no choice
but to be away from your family, sometimes for months on end.
Of course, when you go away you have to rely on others—especially your wives– to do much of the feeding, protecting and pruning.
But even then, as you know better than I, you must still do your best
to provide whatever support you can to your wives.
Stay in contact with your kids as best you can,
and remind them not only that you love them,
but of your expectations of them, especially
that they respect and obey their moms,
and that they love and serve Christ and His Catholic Church.
And pray for them—and make sure they know that you pray.

And remember,
while we look to God the Father as the source of all true fatherhood,
Jesus also tells us:
“he who has seen me has seen the Father.”
By your imitation of Christ, who laid down his life for his friends,
your example of laying down your life for you children and for all of us,
is an incredible act of fatherly love
— a heroic effort to truly protect your children from real evil.

Finally, maybe you’re a member of one of those families
that I spoke about earlier
—living in the 40% percent of fatherless homes.
There are lots of reasons this happens,
and sometimes things are beyond our control.
But I’m sure everyone would agree that if they could change things,
they would make things more like the way I’ve described
than how they are.
And just because things aren’t the way they should be,
it doesn’t mean that God can’t or won’t find some way to help you
to make it through these difficult times.
He will if you let him, because he is the true Father of us all,
and he is always there loving us just the way we need him to.
You do your best, and then trust in God, and He will be there for you.

Our world is filled with problems,
many of which our grandparents would never have dreamed of.
But that’s because our grandparents would have never tolerated
the diminishment of fatherhood that we have.

Today, let us all celebrate fatherhood and praise its goodness and importance,
And as we continue with this Holy Mass,
the mystery which flows from the perfect love
between God the Father and Son,
let us pray that, by the grace of this sacrament,
we may always honor and love our fathers as we should,
and [that] our fathers may always
be the good and true fathers
we so desperately need them to be.

June 17, 2012

Father’s Day. Today, of course, is Father’s Day. What a great gift fatherhood is, one of the original gifts God gave to mankind, that with marriage and motherhood form the foundation of all human society and true civilization. Given that fact, it is amazing and frightening that nowadays instead of helping and encouraging men to be good fathers many people are trying to redefine and demean fatherhood, just as they are trying to redefine so many other aspects of normal and natural human life and behavior. From efforts to feminize men, to downplaying or denying the necessity of fathers, to unnaturally changing the way men become fathers, to attempting to alter the responsibilities and rights of fathers—it is a tough time to be a father, that is, to be a good and true father. And it will get even tougher in the days ahead. So let us honor our fathers today, let us show them our love, and let us pray for them. And let us continue, with God’s grace, to work for a society that protects and honors the fundamental institution of fatherhood.

Speaking of Fathers: Priest Changes. As I announced at Mass last Sunday, effective June 27 there will be three changes in the priests serving at St. Raymond’s.

First, Fr. Mark Pilon, after 3 years as our Parochial Vicar, will be taking medical retirement. Father has dedicated 37 years of priestly service to the Diocese of Arlington, working as a parish priest and pastor, high school teacher and chaplain, and seminary professor. He will be sorely missed, especially for his wonderful homilies and Lenten and Advent series talks. I will particularly miss his sound counsel and profound insights on parish life, modern culture and theology. A farewell party is being organized for July 1, after the 12:15 Mass. Stay tuned for more details. (Note, Fr. Pilon officially retires on June 27, but has graciously agreed to stay with us until July 7.)

Second, unfortunately, the Bishop has informed me that he has no priest to send us to replace Fr. Pilon as Parochial Vicar. This year we ordained 4 new priests, but we lost 7 parish priests to retirement and other assignments. Which reminds us that we need to pray for vocations! I’m convinced we have scores of priestly vocations in our parish— pray that our young men will have the faith and courage to discern and answer the call. And support—but don’t pressure—them in their efforts.

The loss of a vicar may mean we have to make some adjustments in our schedule. I hope not, but we’ll have to see. In addition, this may also require some alterations in my activities in the parish, since my workload will be increasing: our resident priests are a big help, but some things only a vicar can assist with.

Finally, I am very happy, and honored, to announce that Bishop Loverde has decided to promote me from Parochial Administrator to Pastor of St. Raymond’s. While I assume my new office on June 27, but there will also be an official “installation” at a Sunday Mass sometime next month. Again, stay tuned for more details.

While the practical effects of this change may seem minimal at first glance, there are some important differences between an administrator and pastor. The key difference is that a pastor has a right to “stability.” Simply put, while a bishop can transfer an administrator at any time he pleases, the pastor has a right to remain in his parish (sometimes limited to a set term of years) unless there is a serious reason to remove him or transfer him. Even so, he has a right to appeal a removal or to decline a transfer(subject to certain procedural norms). The idea behind this is that the pastor should never be considered a “hireling” but a “shepherd,” not a “functionary” but a “father.” Both the parish and the pastor then, have a right to a long-term stable paternal/filial relationship. But rights also imply duties, so that the enhanced rights and privileges of a pastor, most notably “stability,” imply an added depth and gravity to his duties to his flock. This, of course, is a two way street, and implies something about the duties of his flock toward their pastor. In essence, it is all about building the true Christian communion of life and love that should exist in a parish.
Please pray for Fr. Pilon as he begins this new phase of his priesthood. And pray for Fr. Joby, Fr. Lovell, and Fr. Daly, as they continue to assist me so ably in the care of my flock, my children. And please pray for me—sometimes the enormity of the responsibility to God and to you seems overwhelming; pray that God grant me the grace to love and serve you as I should, and to trust in Him at all times. And finally, again, PRAY FOR VOCATIONS—from this parish, and from your families!

Corpus Christi Procession. What a beautiful sight to see so many of you join in last Sunday’s procession. Once again, this year’s crowd was larger than last year’s—I’m guessing over 200 folks of all ages and backgrounds joined in. Thanks so much to all of you, but especially those who took a hand in organizing things: the parish staff, the choir, the altar boys, the sacristans, the flower ladies, the Knights of Columbus, and so many other volunteers—forgive me for not naming you all. Let me give particular recognition to Patrick O’Brien, the overall coordinator. God bless you all. For those who missed the procession—you missed a great event. I hope you can join us next year.

This week: “Fortnight for Freedom.” This Thursday we begin the “Fortnight for Freedom” to pray for the protection of Religious Liberty. The Fortnight will run from June 21 (the vigil of the Feast of St. Thomas More) to July 4 (Independence Day). Please see the two inserts in this bulletin (“Summary of Activities” and “Liturgical Schedule” on one and “Protecting Consciences” on the other) for full details of the liturgical and private activities of this fortnight. With all my heart, I strongly encourage all of you to participate and raise up “a great hymn of prayer for our country.”

Summer Music. As in prior years the choir is now on hiatus for the rest of the summer (with a few exceptions). I want to thank all the choir members, especially Elisabeth Turco, our Music Director, for all their beautiful and hard work. Also, remember that, as was the case last year, there will be no cantor at the 5pm Sunday Masses during the summer.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 9, 2012

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ–Corpus Christi. Today the Church calls us to reflect and appreciate more fully the rich multifaceted meaning of the Most Holy Eucharist. While we also do this on Holy Thursday, the other great mysteries we remember during Holy Week and the Triduum may cause us to not spend as much time focusing on the Sacrament as we might. So today’s feast was established, sort of saying, “wait a second, let’s go back and look at that more carefully…”

Through this Great Sacrament we are able to participate in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, 2000 years after the event in history, as at Holy Mass the one same sacrifice of the Cross is offered on the altar and we are washed clean in the Blood of Christ. At the altar Christ unites our sacrifices and love to His offered on the Cross to His Heavenly Father. In Holy Communion the Lord, Creator and Redeemer of the universe, comes to us personally, entering into us and abiding in us. And as the Mass ends, Christ remains, in the tabernacle, truly and really present to us, body, blood, soul and divinity. And there’s so much more.

How much of the truth about the Eucharist do we take for granted, or forget? How much do we not even know? Over the last 50 years many of the truths about the Eucharist have been downplayed, ignored, or even denied in preaching and catechesis. As a result many average Catholics have lost not only their faith in the Eucharist but also their love for Christ truly present in the Eucharist, and so have closed themselves off from receiving the full graces of the Blessed Sacrament.

Even so, the teaching of the Church has remain unchanged. And a great effort has been made, especially by Bd. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to re-catechize Catholics and to re- establish a truly Catholic reverence for Our Lord’s action and presence in the Eucharist.

When I arrived at St. Raymond’s two years ago I was very pleased find a flock that had followed the lead of the Popes and developed a solid devotion to the Eucharist. Our magnificent church building is testimony to this, saying to all who approach: “this is the temple and house of the Lord, where He is worshipped adored and loved, and where He remains truly, bodily, present.”

Even so, there is still much work to do for all of us. As John Paul II use to say, “the body speaks.” The bodily Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ speaks to us saying, “I love you,” “This is my body given up for you,” and “Behold I will be with you always.” What a sublime thing He tells us, as he humbly comes to us as a simple piece of bread, that we can easily consume Him, so he can truly be with and in us.

But how do our bodies speak back to Him? Our bodily expressions of faith and devotion toward the Eucharist speak volumes, both to others and to ourselves. If you tell your child “I love you” with a bored tone, or if you never smile or hug your child, what does this tell them, and how does it affect your love for them? On the other hand: if you speak with a sincere tone and if you show affection in your actions, it not only more clearly communicates love to them, it reminds you to always treat them with love.

So please consider the following. DO YOU:

Genuflect carefully and attentively to the tabernacle soon after entering and before leaving the church?

Maintain a reverent attitude in the church, or do you talk out loud, or joke around, before, during or after Mass, as if the Lord of Heaven and Earth was not truly present, and with disregard for those who are trying to pray?

Come to Sunday Mass, the Heavenly Wedding Feast of the Lamb, dressed as if you are going to the beach or to show off your good looks? (“Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment? See Matt. 22:11-14). Note: there are many reasons, good and bad, for dressing “down” at Mass—we must always assume the best, and never judge each other’s hearts.

Pray during the Eucharistic Prayer and in line to receive Communion? (or do you look around to see your friends, etc.?)

Show some sign of adoration as you are about to receive Communion: a bow of the head or at the waist, a genuflection or even kneeling?

If you receive on the tongue, respectfully cooperate with the priest, by standing still, opening your mouth and extending your tongue? (or do you “peck” or “lick” at the Host?)

If you receive on the hand, wash your hands before you receive? Do you use both hands, not extending one while trying to hold something in the other? Do you place one hand on top of the other, creating a throne for our Lord, and then use the lower hand to carefully place the Host in your mouth? Do you immediately consume the Host so that the priest (or extraordinary minister) can see you? (Note: you must never walk away without consuming the host immediately). Do you check for particles of the Host on your hands afterward?

After Communion, return to your pew and give thanks to the Lord inside of you?

After and outside of Mass, spend time praying before the Lord, especially during times of Exposition of the Eucharist (e.g., Wednesdays 9:30am to 7pm, Fridays 9:30am to 3pm)?

Take time to read good books to learn more about the Eucharist? (To name a few: the Catechism of the Catholic Church; The Holy Eucharist, by St. Alphonsus Liguori; The Holy Eucharist, by Aidan Nichols; The Hidden Manna, by James O’Connor; God is Near us, by Joseph Ratzinger.)

Corpus Christi Procession—TODAY! One beautiful and inspiring bodily expression of Eucharistic devotion is the Eucharistic procession—like the one we’re having today after the 12:15 Mass, in which we will carry our Lord’s Body in procession around the parish grounds as we sing and pray. I especially encourage our new First Holy Communicants and their families, and all families, to join us this year—but all are welcome and invited! Also, this year we are adding a short ice cream social after the procession and final benediction to add to the festiveness of the day!

Religious Liberty: “Fortnight for Freedom.” As was previously announced, the U.S. Bishops have set aside the fourteen days from June 21 (the vigil of the Feast of St. Thomas More) to July 4 (Independence Day), which they called a “Fortnight for Freedom,” to be a time of raising up “a great hymn of prayer for our country.” I will shortly finalize our parish plans for the Fortnight, and post them to the parish website and announce them in the bulletin and pulpit next week. I strongly encourage all of you to participate in this fortnight of prayer. So stay tuned.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (Sunday) 2012

St. Raymond of Peñafort
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
June 3, 2012

Today, of course, is Trinity Sunday.
It is wonderful day,
celebrating a magnificent mystery of God and of our Catholic Faith.
But is also a day dreaded by a lot of priests.
I say “dreaded” because who can explain the Trinity?
Have you ever tried to?
It’s really next to impossible to adequately explain the Trinity,
to try to explain the very essence of God Himself—his inner most being.
After all who can explain the inner most being of another human being,
much less the inner most being
of the eternal, omnipotent Creator of the universe?
It is difficult to explain, and difficult to understand.

First of all, what does this dogma of the Trinity hold?
We believe there is one God, who is three persons.
They share the same divine nature,
but each is God, whole and entire.
They are really distinct from one another—not simply different modes of being
–you can’t say we call God “Father” when he’s creating the world,
but we call him “the Son” when he’s on the Cross,
and we call him “the Spirit” when he dwells in us.
No: God the Son is a different person than God the Father
who is a different person than God the Holy Spirit
—but they are still one God.
In particular they are seen in relationship to one another:
relating as Father to Son, a son who is eternally begotten from the Father,
and the Spirit of the two that proceeds forth from them both,
some say the personification the love between the Father and Son.
Still, one God, three persons.

So all that’s clear.
No—it’s still difficult to explain and to understand.
And it always has been.
2000 years ago it was hard for the Jews believe.
After all, the central dogma of Old Testament Judaism
that there is only one God.
As we read in today’s first reading:
“Fix in your heart, that the LORD is God…
and that there is no other.”
But they kept hearing Jesus say things like: “the Father and I are one”
–so they called him a blasphemer and tried to kill him,
and eventually succeeded.

And it was hard for many wannabe Christians in the 2nd 3rd and 4th centuries,
heretics like the Gnostics: they couldn’t and didn’t believe it.

And it was hard for the rich Arab merchant who searched for the true God
and apparently found Him in Christianity, but rejected Him
because he could not accept the truth
that God is one, but 3 persons.
And so Muhammad made up his own religion, to suit his unbelief.

It is very difficult to understand, and, so, difficult to believe.
And yet we do believe.
But why?

Very simple: because we believe that Jesus is “the Christ, the one sent by God.”
And Jesus taught us the dogma of the Trinity.
For example, on the one hand,
Jesus himself proclaimed the central dogma of Judaism:
“The LORD our God is one.”
And yet, he called God his “Father,” and says:
“the Father and I are one”
Now, some might say, that Jesus was speaking metaphorically,
but when the Jews accused him of “making himself God”
and tried to stone him,
instead of saying, ‘no no, you misunderstood,’
he said to them:
“I am the Son of God….
know and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

And he kept on insisting on this.
Who can forget the last supper,
when he went on and on about his unity with the Father.
Particularly in his rebuke of St. Philip, who asked “show us the father”.
Jesus responds:
“Have I been with you so long,
and still you do not know me…?
He who has seen me has seen the Father;
how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?
Do you not believe that
I am in the Father and the Father in me?”

And not only did Jesus insist that he was one God with his father,
he insisted that the Holy Spirit was one God with them also.
He promised his apostles:
“I shall send to you …the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father.”
but also promises:
“the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name.”
Both the Father and the Son send the Spirit.
And why?
Because while Jesus calls him: “the spirit of the father”
St. Paul calls the Holy Spirit not only
“the Spirit of God” but also “the spirit of Jesus Christ”,
All the while insisting “there is one Spirit.”

We believe, because Jesus said it,
and because the apostles taught it.
and handed down from generation to generation
both in Sacred Scripture and in the Sacred Tradition.
And so the Church has always accepted it
as not simply an interesting bit of trivia,
but as the first tenet of the Christian Faith:
if you do not believe in the Trinity,
you are NOT a Christian.

This has been so important to the Church
that the earliest summaries of the Christian faith,
like the Apostles Creed,
that some attribute to the apostles themselves,
at the first Pentecost,
are centered around the Trinity.
And when the bishops could all come together for the first time
since the death of the apostles,
at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD,
the most important thing they did was give us
a more elaborate formulation of the Trinitarian Creed:
the Creed we say at every Sunday Mass—the Nicene Creed.

The Trinity is the First Dogma of Christianity,
because the whole Church comes out of,
revolves around and moves toward this mystery.
Heaven is sharing in the communion of life and love of the Trinity.
The whole incarnation, life, death, resurrection of Christ are Trinitarian:
the Father gives his Son, the Son offers himself to the Father.
The Pentecost is Trinitarian:
the Father and Son send the Spirit so they can dwell in us,
and we can be one with them.
The Sacraments are Trinitarian:
in Baptism we enter into the life of
“the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”
in the Eucharist, by the power of the Holy Spirit
Christ makes us one with him and presents us to His Father.
The Church itself is Trinitarian:
it is one, because the Trinity is one,
and it is the body of Christ, enlivened by the Spirit to praise the Father.
Creation itself is Trinitarian:
God created man in his own image so he could invite us
to live and love in the life and love of the Trinity.

This is what we believe.
Still, all this is difficult to understand.

Does this make us stupid, or naïve or irrational?
No, because it would be stupid, naïve, irrational and the height of arrogance
to think that we could ever really understand everything about God
—especially about his inner most being.

Do you understand how God created the universe?
No; but you believe it, and it is very rational to do so.
Do you understand how God can love each one of us uniquely and totally,
even though you and I are like mere specks of dust in this huge universe?
Do you understand how God could become a man and die on the Cross,
and still be completely God?
Do you understand how God could truly come to us,
body, blood, soul and divinity,
under the appearance of a piece of bread we could eat?
No; you have some inkling of an understanding of these things,
but you don’t understand any of them completely.
But still, you believe them.

Think about it: It would be so much easier for the Church
to proclaim the Gospel without the Trinity
—who would make something so difficult to understand
the central tenet of their religion?
But some things we don’t understand,
we still believe because Jesus has revealed them to us.
These are what we call mysteries of the faith.
And by that we don’t mean just accepting it blindly and without understanding.
But rather, mysteries are truths that are hidden in God,
things too big or magnificent to us to understand,
and which could never begin to know anything about,
unless they are revealed by God.

As Scripture reminds us:
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
…and weighed the mountains in scales? …” like God has.

And if we can’t understand something like creation, or the incarnation,
how can we really hope to ever completely fathom
the dogma of the Trinity.
After all, this dogma is a peek into the very inner most life
of the eternal boundless God.
To believe this dogma is not to be foolish, but to accept a wondrous gift
—to know God in his deepest self,
to know something of the boundless and eternal
intimate love and life that the Three Divine Persons
share so perfectly and completely,
and of an invitation to us to share in that love and life
imperfectly in this world
and perfectly and forever in the next.

As I said at the beginning of this homily,
I dread this Sunday because the Trinity is impossible to explain.
And yet, I also love this Sunday,
because if I can even in some small way help others to understand
the wondrous truth of our Triune God,
the intimacy and awesomeness of his eternal life and love,
what a great thing to preach about.

As we continue with this Holy Mass,
let us turn to the Trinitarian mystery of the Eucharist,
the sacrifice of the Son to His Father
made present by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And by these sacred mysteries
may we now be lifted up
into the wondrous and intimate mystery of
the eternal life and boundless love of the Most Holy Trinity.

June 2, 2012

Today is The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The mystery of the Trinity is the central mystery of our faith, and yet one of the most difficult to understand and misunderstood dogmas of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 253-255) teaches:

The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”. The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire….

The divine persons are really distinct from one another. …”Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son” …

The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: “In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.” Indeed “everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship”…

The dogma of one God in three persons is both unique and essential to Christianity. But it is so difficult to fathom that it seems that if there were any doubt whatsoever about its veracity or necessity it would never even have been mentioned by the apostles, much less be handed down, unchanging, uncompromised, for 20 centuries.

But it was handed down exactly as Christ revealed it. Because, as unfathomable as it is, “It is the mystery of God in himself” (CCC 234). As such, what else could it be but unfathomable and terribly complex—understanding your best friend or your spouse is difficult, what would we expect when we try to understand God?

And this is the key to the mystery: God Son came to us as a man so he could reveal God to us, so that we could better know Him, be open to His love and more profoundly love Him in return. This is why Jesus reveals the mystery of a Trinity, as if he is saying, “I know this is hard to understand, but let me show you who I really am, who this God is who loves you…That God is a communion of three persons living one life in one love. A life of love so intense, so infinite, so eternal, so perfect, that it is truly One.” And the best part for us, He adds: “and by My death and resurrection you are invited and made capable of sharing in this ineffable one divine life and love.” Each of us enters into this mystery, this relationship, at our baptism, the first step of the sublime sharing of the divine life and love that is perfected in heaven.

I encourage you to read and learn more about the mystery of the Trinity. The CCC, beginning at paragraph 232, is a great place to start. There are also several good resources in our parish library, as well as in the online library found at www.catholicculture.org.

Catholics Defend Their Religious Liberty. On May 21st forty-three Catholic institutions around the country joined in filing 12 separate lawsuits to overturn the Obama Administration’s regulations which force Catholic employers to provide employees with health insurance covering contraception, abortifacients and sterilization. This is a massive counterattack on the Administration’s willful and calculated assault on religious liberty, and we should applaud it, support it, and pray for its success.

This is truly an historic effort, not only in its subject matter but also in its size—it might, by some measurements, be the largest legal action in the history of American jurisprudence. And yet, the media has paid it very little attention. The Media Research Center reports that on the day of the filing, the three major broadcast television networks, ABC, NBC and CBS, dedicated only 19 seconds to covering the story—and all of that was on CBS.

How can we explain this—both the Administration’s attack and the media’s complicity? Jesus tells us: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you….” (John 15:18- 20).

To understand the lawsuit better, I refer you to two important articles which I have posted to the parish website. The first is an excellent commentary in the Wall Street Journal written by Harvard Law School professor (and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See) Mary Ann Glendon on May 22. The second is the very insightful analysis found at National Review Online written by George Weigel, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (and author of “Witness to Hope,” the best-selling biography of John Paul II).

I also encourage you to continue to join me and other parishioners in abstaining from meat and praying Rosary every Wednesday for the protection of religious liberty and for our bishops. The success of these new lawsuits would nicely fall under these intentions.

Next week’s Corpus Christi Procession. Next week we celebrate Corpus Christi Sunday. At the end of 12:15 Mass we will carry our Lord’s Eucharistic Body in procession around the parish grounds as we sing and pray. It is a great way to teach our children and our neighbors, and remind ourselves, of Jesus’ true and real presence in the Eucharist. Last year over 200 parishioners joined in. I especially encourage our new First Holy Communicants and their families, and all families, to join us this year—but all are welcome and invited! Also, this year we are adding a short ice cream social after the procession and final benediction to add to the festiveness of the day!

Confirmation. Congratulations to all the young men and women that received the sacrament of Confirmation this last Wednesday. This year we were honored once again to have Bishop Loverde administer the sacrament. Thanks to His Excellency, to Maria Ammirati and Janice Gorrie and all the catechists and volunteers who helped make this day possible and come off so well. Please keep these young people in your prayers. The word “confirm” means to “strengthen”— in this case to strengthen their baptismal gifts and to give new divine gifts to make them strong as they face the temptations and challenges ahead of them. They will need this grace and our prayers as they face and proclaim the Gospel to the very secular world, and yet remain “not of the world.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 27, 2012

Today is the Solemnity of Pentecost, the day the Father and Son sent their Holy Spirit into the Church, filling the first disciples with the gifts necessary to not only to proclaim the Gospel to the world but to live out the Gospel in their daily lives. This week this same gift will be given to 78 of our children in the sacrament of Confirmation. Let us pray for them today, and for ourselves, that we may always be open to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and rejoice in His consolation.

Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI Pentecost, June 12, 2011 (Excerpt)

In the liturgy of Pentecost Psalm 104[103], which we have heard, corresponds with the account in the Acts of the Apostles of the birth of the Church (cf. Acts 2:1-11): a hymn of praise of the whole creation which exalts the Creator Spirit who has made all things with wisdom: “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures…. May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in his works” (Ps 104[103]:24, 31). This is what the Church wants to tell us: the Spirit Creator of all things and the Holy Spirit whom the Lord caused to come down from the Father upon the community of the disciples are one and the same. Creation and redemption belong to each other and constitute, in depth, one mystery of love and of salvation. The Holy Spirit is first and foremost a Creator Spirit, hence Pentecost is also a feast of creation. For us Christians, the world is the fruit of an act of love by God who has made all things and in which he rejoices because it is “good”, it is “very good”, as the creation narrative tells us (cf. Gen 1:1-31). Consequently God is not totally Other, unnameable and obscure. God reveals himself, he has a face. God is reason, God is will, God is love, God is beauty. Faith in the Creator Spirit and faith in the Spirit whom the Risen Christ gave to the Apostles and gives to each one of us are therefore inseparably united.

Today’s Second Reading and Gospel show us this connection. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes us recognize the Lord in Christ and prompts us to speak the profession of the Church’s faith: “Jesus is Lord” (cf. 1 Cor 12:3b). “Lord” is the title attributed to God in the Old Testament, a title that in the interpretation of the Bible replaced his unpronounceable name. The Creed of the Church is nothing other than the development of what we say with this simple affirmation: “Jesus is Lord”. Concerning this profession of faith St Paul tells us that it is precisely a matter of the word and work of the Spirit. If we want to be in the Spirit, we must adhere to this Creed. By making it our own, by accepting it as our word we gain access to the work of the Holy Spirit. The words “Jesus is Lord” can be interpreted in two ways. They mean: Jesus is God, and, at the same time: God is Jesus. The Holy Spirit illuminates this reciprocity: Jesus has divine dignity and God has the human face of Jesus. God shows himself in Jesus and by doing so gives us the truth about ourselves. ….In the Creed — which unites us from all the corners of the earth and which, through the Holy Spirit, ensures that we understand each other even in the diversity of languages — the new community of God’s Church is formed through faith, hope and love.

The Gospel passage then offers us a marvelous image to clarify the connection between Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father: the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of the Risen Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 20:22). Here the Evangelist John takes up an image of the creation narrative, where it says that God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). The breath of God is life. Now, the Lord breathes into our soul the new breath of life, the Holy Spirit, his most intimate essence, and in this way welcomes us into God’s family. With Baptism and Confirmation this gift was given to us specifically, and with the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance it is continuously repeated: the Lord breathes a breath of life into our soul. All the sacraments, each in its own way, communicate divine life to human beings, thanks to the Holy Spirit who works within them.

In today’s liturgy we perceive another connection. The Holy Spirit is Creator, he is at the same time the Spirit of Jesus Christ, but in such a way that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God. And in the light of the First Reading we may add: the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church. …The Church is the body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. The images of wind and fire, used by St Luke to portray the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:2-3), evoke Sinai, where God revealed himself to the People of Israel and granted it his Covenant. “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke”, we read in the Book of Exodus, “because the Lord descended upon it in fire” (19:18). Indeed Israel celebrated the 50th day after the Passover, after the commemoration of the flight from Egypt, as the feast of Sinai, the feast of the Covenant. When St Luke speaks of tongues of fire to represent the Holy Spirit, this Old Covenant is called to mind, established on the basis of the Law received by Israel on Sinai. Thus the event of Pentecost is represented as a new Sinai, as the gift of a new Covenant in which the Covenant with Israel was extended to all the peoples of the earth….[This] is represented by St Luke with a list of peoples….(cf. Acts 2:9-11). With this we are told something most important: that the Church was catholic from the very outset, that her universality is not the result of the successive inclusion of various communities. Indeed, from the first moment the Holy Spirit created her as the Church of all peoples; she embraces the whole world, surmounts all distinctions of race, class and nation; tears down all barriers and brings people together in the profession of the triune God. Since the beginning the Church has been one, catholic and apostolic: this is her true nature and must be recognized as such. She is not holy because of her members’ ability but because God himself, with his Spirit, never ceases to create her, purify her and sanctify her.

Memorial Day. Tomorrow, Monday, May 28, we remember all those who have given their lives in defense of our nation and the many gifts, rights and freedoms we enjoy as Americans. We honor and thank them with our respect, love and prayers. May the Good Lord reward them for their heroic sacrifices.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 20, 2012

“HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER.” Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. What a glorious day, as we celebrate not simply the event of his ascent, but the rich and profound meaning it has for the life of the Church. We remember that Christ is forever seated next to His Father in heaven, constantly interceding for us, and making our salvation possible. But he does this not only as the Eternal Son of God, but also as the God who became a man in the Incarnation, perfectly uniting His Divinity to His humanity (the “hypostatic union”), and still remains a man, forever, before His Father. The Son offers Himself completely to the Father in total love, and in doing so He offers all those who are united to him, part of His Body, the Church, and intercedes for all humanity. At the same time, the Father looks at His Son and sees the Church and all humanity, and looks at each one of us and sees His Son, seeing and loving in us what He sees and loves in His Son. And in their love for each other they send forth their Holy Spirit, the personification of Their love, to dwell in the Church and to set the world ablaze in Their love. What a joyful and wondrous mystery, and what a glorious day in the life of the Church!

New Hymnals! As a small way of marking this great day you will notice something new in our pews: The St. Michael Hymnal. Just as Jesus bodily sits next to the Father continuously praying for us, we are also called to pray through our bodies: kneeling, standing, bowing—and SINGING! For 2 years I have been very much wanting to purchase a permanent hymnal, but was delayed due to the changes in the Missal. Now, after a careful review of all the newly revised hymnals, we present this St. Michael Hymnal. Take a chance to look it over. It begins with the Order of the Mass (in English and Latin), then presents multiple musical settings for the Mass prayers, and then unfolds an extensive selection of hymns chosen from the rich musical treasury of the Church. All of this will greatly expand our musical repertoire. More importantly, it will help us to sing! So open the hymnal, and SING TO GOD!

Same-Sex “Marriage.” The bodily Ascension of Christ also reminds us of the profound dignity and meaning of the human body. When God created Man in His image, He created us to love as He loves, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit love each other in the Trinity. But He also created us with bodies, which are not just as some sort of outer shell we accidentally walk around in, but rather they are the outward expression of who we are inside—our bodies are us communicating ourselves to others, especially in love.

But, to love there has to be an other to love, and so God created us as two, male and female. Both created in His image, both equal in dignity, but also both are radically different so that through their differences they can love each other.

And that love is expressed in their bodies, because their bodies physically express the differences that are in their inner nature, as male versus female, inner differences which are not random, but rather complement, or complete, each other. So that as these complementary inner differences are expressed in their bodies, their bodies also complete each other—they literally “fit” together. And as their bodies “fit” together in the act of love, the two persons become as if “one flesh,” one body, doing together what they cannot do alone—cooperating as one with God to give life through love. So this act, and these complementary aspects of their bodies, specifically express their love for and their self-gift to each other, as male and female.

The body speaks to us and tells us about our very nature. And we don’t need the Bible to tell us this—the language of the body is a natural language that’s been understood for all of history by every society, which have understood what nature and the body say about the love and union of males and females in marriage, and that marriage is about giving love and life to each other and to children.

But nowadays, a lot of folks deny the natural language of the body. A week and a half ago President Obama joined in this unnatural chorus, as he denied the true meaning of marriage by supporting the right to so-called same-sex “marriage,” even going so far as to claim that Christ is on his side.

Nonsense. These people try to twist the language of the body just as they try to twist the language of Jesus Himself. The body communicates its meaning loud and clear, and so does Jesus, telling us in Matthew Chapter 19: “he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall …be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’”

Some say this is a matter of justice and discrimination. But justice is rendering what is due to a person, and discrimination is only wrong when you deny someone something they have a right to. Where in nature is a person due or have a right to same- sex marriage? The language of the body recognizes no such duty or right: they are not complementary, they do not “fit.”

Some say this position is “not loving.” But Jesus said, “love one another as I have loved you.” How many times did Jesus show His love by telling people the hard truth, like the woman at the well: “the man you have now is not your husband;” or the Pharisees: “from the beginning [he] made them male and female.” It’s never loving to lie to people about what is right and wrong, what is natural or unnatural.

Some say: “it’s not fair not to let them marry if they love each other.” But there lots of situations where you can’t marry the person you love. In fact, our Lord talks about this, again in Matthew 19: “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

Not everyone is capable of marriage, for one reason or another. This is the case with those who are overwhelmed by same-sex attraction. Our hearts go out to them, but as with all limitations in life, we need either to try to overcome them—not ignore them—or to accept things as they are, and figure out what God wants us to do going forward. “Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

The body speaks, but some will not listen.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles