June 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 2, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Corpus Christi Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Eucharistic Procession. Next Sunday, June 2, immediately after the 12:15 Mass, we will have our annual Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession. Processing with the Eucharist outside of the church building while singing the Lord’s praises is an ancient practice dating back at least to the early 12th century. By bringing the Eucharist outside of the church building and walking and singing through the streets (or, as we do here, the parking lot) with the Blessed Sacrament, believers give public witness to their faith in Jesus Christ in general, and in the His Real Presence in the Eucharist in particular. Moreover, such processions remind us that having received Christ in Communion at Mass we are sent out with Him in us, to bring Him to the world we live in—the streets, the house, the businesses, and, yes, the parking lots. Please join us in this ancient and eloquent witness to our faith in and love of our Eucharistic Lord.

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 26, 2013 – Most Holy Trinity Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But he also teaches there is only one God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 19, 2013

Pentecost. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, remembering the day, fifty days after Easter, when God the Father and God the Son, Jesus, sent their Holy Spirit to the first Christians—the apostles, Mary and other disciples totaling “in all about a hundred and twenty.” As the Acts of the Apostles records (Ch. 2):

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And …each one heard them speaking in his own language. …Parthians…Medes… Elamites…residents of Mesopotamia, Judea…Cappadocia, Pontus…Asia, Phrygia…Pamphylia, Egypt…Libya,…visitors from Rome…Cretans and Arabians….”

No longer did the disciples hide behind the closed doors, or go to the temple to pray quietly. Suddenly, filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the disciples threw open the doors and began to preach to passersby. And as a great crowd gathered Peter, the first Pope, “standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them …” telling them all about Jesus and His salvific death, resurrection and ascension. So powerful were his words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, that: “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

What an amazing day—what an amazing gift! The Holy Spirit of God dwelling inside the Church and individual Christians, manifesting in such powerful ways, most especially in the bold preaching that “cut to the heart.” But equally amazing is the fact that the Holy Spirit has remained and acted powerfully in and through the Church for the last 2000 years. We may not have tongues of fire, but by the power of the Holy Spirit the Gospel has spread throughout the world and dominated world history for the last 17 centuries, and today remains the largest religion in the world.

And most amazing of all: that same Holy Spirit given at the first Pentecost resides in each and every Christian who has received the Sacrament of Confirmation. As the Catechism teaches: “the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost [1302].”

The Catechism goes on to teach us that this Sacrament has particular effects on the confirmed [1303]: it increases and deepens baptismal grace; roots us more deeply in the divine sonship; unites us more firmly to Christ; increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude reverence and piety); renders our bond with the Church more perfect; gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith as true witnesses of Christ.

This Wednesday, May 22, 80 of our teenagers will be confirmed here at St. Raymond’s. Let us pray for our young brothers and sisters, that they may be open to the power of the Holy Spirit that will come to them on this their own “personal Pentecost.” And let us also pray that we who have already been confirmed may open our hearts, minds and lives to that same power, no matter how neglected, dormant or rejected we have allowed it to become.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray. O God, Who instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Gosnell is Guilty. This last Monday, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, a Philadelphia jury found abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell guilty of first degree murder of 3 infants born alive after his failed attempt to abort them in their mothers’ wombs, and also guilty of involuntary manslaughter of a 41 year old woman, one of his abortion patients.

Gosnell apparently still does not believe he did anything wrong. Doesn’t this reveal the truth about abortion: if you don’t understand that it is wrong to kill a baby in the womb you will not understand that it is wrong to kill a baby just a few seconds after it has left the womb and is lying on an operating table. This is why the media and pro-abortion activists refused to publicize this case for months: it strips away the veil of legal propriety given to legal abortions and reveals them for what they are: killing a baby.

It was interesting to see how the pro-abortion folks responded to the decision. In particular Planned Parenthood of America (PPA), the country’s no. 1 provider of abortions, said, “This verdict will ensure that no woman is victimized by Kermit Gosnell ever again.” No mention of the babies who were “victimized,” nor the women who survived his abortions but were nevertheless Gosnell’s victims whose hearts are broken by their “choice.”

PPA went on to say: “we must reject misguided laws that would limit women’s options and force them to seek treatment from criminals like Kermit Gosnell.” But up until 2 years ago Gosnell was considered a hero by pro-abortion activists, not a criminal. Moreover, these deaths were made possible largely because for years basic health and safety laws were not applied to practices like Gosnell’s because state officials believed that enforcing those “misguided laws… would limit women’s options” with regard to abortion.

We pray that this guilty verdict will force Gosnell to face the terrible reality of what he’s done, and to repent. And that other abortionists and abortion supporters may follow suit. And we pray for the victims: the post-abortive mothers and their babies. May all find their way to the ever-waiting mercy of Jesus Christ.

Boy Scout Vote. Later this week (Thursday?) the Boy Scouts of America will vote on whether to change their policy regarding “gays” in scouting. Let us pray, that they may protect our boys and keep scouting “morally straight.” Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us—again!

Save the Date: First Mass. On a much happier note, our parishioner, Deacon Nicolas Barnes will be ordained a Priest this coming June 8. The following day, Sunday, June 9, at 12:15, the new “Father Barnes” will celebrate his first Mass here at St. Raymond’s. All are invited.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 12, 2013 – The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Today: The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. This feast is normally celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation on Thursday (“Ascension Thursday,” 40 days after Easter (inclusive)), but because many Catholics are unable to attend Mass in the middle of the week our Bishop, and the Bishops of the neighboring Dioceses, thought it best to move it to Sunday so that all Catholics would be more able to celebrate this very important feast.

So why is this feast so important? Essentially it celebrates the fact that Jesus ascended, body and soul, into heaven, and now dwells in heaven as a bodily person. This reminds us that God the Son came into the world “like us in all things but sin”–of the reality of His bodily incarnation, birth, death and resurrection–and redeemed us entirely, body and soul. Moreover, it is a pledge to us of the resurrection of our bodies on the last day, and the transformation of the physical world into a glorious, “new heavens and a new earth.”

This in turn leads us to remember the dignity of the human body: your body is part of who you are, it is “you” as much as your soul is “you.” Your body is you speaking and communicating yourself to other bodily persons. As such, the body itself has meaning and speaks to others of this meaning. This is an important truth to keep in mind today, as many try to degrade the body and treat it as an accidental part of who we are—i.e., it tells us no more about who we are than, say, the clothes we wear or the cars we drive, which we can change or discard on a whim. This has become an essential part of the creed of sexual libertarianism—the body and bodily acts mean nothing but what you want them to mean, and so you can use or abuse your body and other people’s bodies any way you like: sex can mean love and commitment, or it can mean fun, domination, or degradation—whatever. This has become a key argument for those who advocate and promote all sorts of perversions, including homosexuality, “transgenderism” and “transsexualism.”

But that is contrary to common sense, the natural law (the way things clearly are designed to be) and divine revelation. And it is totally opposed to the dignity of the human body, which is so beautifully revealed to us in the mystery of the Ascension of the Lord: that the body communicates who we are and is so wonderful—so meaningful—that it is created to live in glory forever in heaven.

First Holy Communion. Yesterday the parish celebrated the First Holy Communion of 80 of our children. What a wonderful day for them and for all of us. I’m sure you all remember your First Communion—I can remember it like it was yesterday. Watching these children receive so reverently and with so much joy and faith should be an example to us all: may we hold fast, with childlike faith, to the truth that the God who took to Himself a human body still comes to us and speaks to us in that very same Body in the Eucharist. As Jesus said: “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Congratulations to our First Communicants, and may the Lord Jesus always keep their faith in and love for the Eucharist as strong and alive as it is today.

Mother’s Day. I haven’t forgotten you Moms! I’m sure you haven’t minded me placing the Lord’s feast first, or our children’s great day before you in this column—I’m “sure” because that’s how Moms are! Always placing others first—especially the Lord and children. And that’s why we love Moms, and motherhood, so much, and truly revere them. As I spoke above of the meaning and dignity of the body, motherhood is yet another expression of this meaning. What a miraculous gift and blessing—to mothers, husbands, children and to all society—is the motherly love expressed so tenderly and yet powerfully through a mother’s bodily acts: carrying a baby in her womb for 9 months, the sacrificial pangs of childbirth, nursing her baby at her breast, holding her child in her arms, kissing the scraped knee, the smile that makes everything better, or the tears of compassion or pride. Thank the Good Lord for the gift of mothers! On this special day, and every day, may the Lord shower them with graces, and may we show them the love that they deserve. And let us pray for those who have gone on before us into death: that the Lord may forgive them for their imperfections, and reward them for their great love.

Mary’s Month and the May Crowning. So many things to celebrate today! As we remember the Ascension of Our Lord in His Body, and the reception of that same Body by our children in Communion, let us also remember the Mother who gave Him that Body—His Blessed Mother, Mary. By ancient custom, the Church dedicates the month of May to renewing our devotion to and love for our Blessed Mother. So to remind us of this, and to share and encourage this devotion with our children, this afternoon (Sunday May 12), immediately after the 12:15 Mass, we will celebrate the “May Crowning”—the symbolic crowning of the statue of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and Earth, and Queen of our hearts. Let this month be a time of growing closer to Our Lady, especially through daily prayer to her— particularly the daily Rosary.

Bad News. I hate to end this column on a down beat, but I hear that a new and big abortion clinic is planning to open in Fairfax City near Paul VI High School. As St. Peter reminds us: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We must do whatever we can to fight this evil from coming to fruition. Pray, and see the “YOUR Help is urgently needed” paragraph on the next page for other actions to take.

Good News: Pentecost. So I won’t close on a down beat, but with a reminder that next week is Pentecost, recalling the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Mary and the first disciples. Prepare yourself for this great feast—the “Birthday of the Church”—open your heart to the gifts and inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 5, 2013

Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In the next few weeks our parish will experience several sacraments in a particularly special way: on May 12, next Saturday, our second graders will receive First Holy Communion; on May 22 our eighth graders will receive Confirmation; and on June 8 parishioner Deacon Nick Barnes will receive Holy Orders as he is ordained a priest. (Remember to pray for all them as they prepare). And then there are Baptisms every Sunday, Confessions throughout every week, and Marriages throughout the year. But there is one sacrament most of us tend to forget or know very little about: the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. So let’s review a few things.

Scripture. We see the Sacrament of Anointing clearly referred to in Mark 6: 7, 12, 13: “And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out …And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.”

This continues to be the apostolic practice, as we read in James 5: 14-15: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”

Note: the Greek word “presbyteroi,” translated here as “elders,” may also be translated as “presbyters,” and is understood to refer to “priests,” so that the sacramental ritual translates this, “let them send for the priests.”

Effects/Purpose of the Sacrament. The primary effect and purpose of the sacrament of Anointing is spiritual healing, which might, in God’s will and plan, involve or require physically healing as well. The Catechism (1532) summarizes the specific effects of the grace of sacrament:
— uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
— strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner ones sufferings;
— forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to receive the sacrament of Penance;
— restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul;
— the preparation for passing over to eternal life.

Who may receive the sacrament. Contrary to a popular notion, Anointing is not reserved to those who are on their death bed. On the other hand, it is also not given to those who have just any ailment or weakness, no matter how painful. Rather, it is reserved for those who suffer from an ailment that causes them to “begin to be in danger of death.” In other words, generally speaking, if someone has a something like a bad cold or flu, or muscular back pains, they are not in “danger of death” and so may not be anointed. However, if someone is in the early stages of cancer or heart disease, or any other serious illness that truly does present a real danger of death, even if only the “begin[ning]” thereof, these persons may be anointed.

We should also note that the Sacrament may be given to someone who “begins to be in danger of death” due simply to “old age.” We should be prudent here, neither oversimplifying nor over-restricting the definition of “danger of death.” A healthy 80 year old who jogs 2 miles a day would be treated differently than his twin brother who is weakened from past ailments.

Also, Anointing can be repeated if the person gets worse or has a relapse of the same illness, or comes down with another ailment.

It is also important to remember that the sacrament may only be received by a Catholic who has “reached the use of reason,” i.e., to adults and children over the age of about 7 years old. Some are surprised, even angered, when they hear that a very young child cannot be anointed. But we must remember that the primary purpose of the sacrament is the spiritual well-being of the person. Before the age of reason, a child cannot be guilty of sin (he can commit sinful acts, but he is not culpable/guilty), and so, after Baptism, is in no need of spiritual healing and the Anointing. Many argue, “but we want the physical healing of the sacrament.” This is understandable, but it is not in God’s plan for the sacrament, so the act of anointing would be ineffective even if given. But remember, if it is in God’s will to give spiritual healing, He will bring that about in His own way and time.

Finally, other important restrictions should also be noted. Anointing can only be given to those who: are alive; at least implicitly asked for it when they were able to; and do not “obstinately persist in a manifestly grave sin.”

Now, the Church and her priests never want to deny the sacraments to those who may receive them. So we follow the rule: “If there is any doubt as to whether the sick person has reached the age of reason, or is dangerously ill, or is dead, this sacrament is to be administered” [Can. 1005]. So, for example:
— priests will often anoint a body that appears dead, since there is doubt as to exactly when death occurs;
–priests will sometimes anoint a 5 or 6 year old if there is doubt as to their use of reason;
–some argue that a person with a non-deadly ailment may be anointed before going into surgery with general anesthesia because the anesthesia endangers their lives (this is a dubious argument, but remains unaddressed by the magisterium, so it is often followed in practice).

The Sacrament of Anointing is a great source of grace for the sick. While it should not be abused or taken for granted, it should also not be ignored or neglected. So, if you or someone you take care of is in need of the sacrament, please don’t hesitate to follow the instruction of St. James: “Let them send for the priests of the Church, and let the priests pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

April 28, 2013

Boy Scouts of America and “Gays.” After months of taking criticism for proposing to admit active homosexuals as adult scouting leaders, volunteers, and members (boys), last week BSA announced they are changing their proposal (which still must be approved at their National Annual Meeting next month). The new proposal drops the change regarding adult homosexuals, but still provides that: “No youth may be denied membership …on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” While this at first seems like a victory for Christians, it isn’t really.

What has happened here is the typical strategy that leftist-activists have been using for decades to change traditional institutions. First, they make outrageous and sweeping demands to change the institution in a way that radically contradicts its values. Then, they argue that any opposition to change is fueled by bigotry and hate, appealing to and manipulating the traditional values (charity and kindness) of the institution’s members and society at large. And finally, they pretend to grant a major concession, backing away from their most radical demands, but leaving one important change on the table. The activists thereby paint themselves as “reasonable” and “willing to compromise,” and the institution’s members feel relieved and obliged to go along—and even feel like “winners.” But when you lose something important to you, that has always been unquestionably yours, you are, by definition, not “winners,” but “losers.”

The current policy of BSA is this:

“While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of …members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

That is completely just, charitable and kind. But the new policy, if approved in May, would be a statement that “gay is okay,” and would severely limit (if not completely prohibit) chartering organizations, like St. Raymond’s, from passing on its moral teachings about same-sex attraction and homosexuals.

In short, this new proposal does not change my previously announced decision: if it is adopted by BSA next month, St. Raymond’s association with BSA will end (effective in September). I continue to pray and hope that this does not happen. But if it does, I will give all the support I can to forming a new scouting group, independent of BSA, that will defend Christian values.

Dominican Nuns. On a much happier note…On Sunday, April 14, a small group of St. Raymond parishioners joined me at a dinner to raise awareness of the work of St. Dominic’s Monastery in Linden, VA, and to help raise funds in its support. I’m not a big fan of these kinds of dinners, but I go to quite a few to support worthy causes. But this dinner was different. First, because I feel very close to the Monastery and its work (I am one of its two confessors); and second, because no one from the Monastery was at the dinner! That’s because the Monastery is the home of 14 cloistered Dominican Nuns, whose work is to pursue a hidden life of worship, silence, prayer, study and penance. Like the Franciscan Poor Clares in Alexandria, these sisters never leave the enclosure of the convent except for absolutely essential reasons. Their life is totally dedicated to Christ.

While some say this form of life is a “waste of life,” the opposite is true. These sisters’ life and work embodies the greatest commandment: “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” Moreover, their community life together and their prayers for us embody the second greatest: “love your neighbor as yourself.” (They constantly assure me of their intercession for our parish, especially invoking our Dominican patron St. Raymond). And by their total pursuit of Christ and His love they set a striking example for all of us: while we do not all belong in cloistered monasteries, they remind us, in a radical way, to answer the call to love God and our neighbor in our own daily lives in the world.

I invite you to consider a visit to their mountain top Monastery in Linden (out near Front Royal), and to support the good sisters by your prayers. And if you are so inclined, you might consider supporting them financially. See their website: http://www.lindenopnuns.org/.

By the way, St. Raymond’s donated $5,000 at the dinner, and the dear Sisters personally asked me to pass on their deep gratitude to all of you.

Angelus Academy. St. Raymond’s has had a close relationship with Angelus Academy for over a decade. Before our church was dedicated in December of 1996, a lot of parish activities took place at Angelus’ facility, including daily Mass and weekly Religious Education (CCD). That close relationship was altered by the opening of the church (with the parish hall and classrooms) but it has not diminished the spirit of mutual support and cooperation between us: e.g., around 40% of Angelus’s students are our parishioners, the parish continues to lend it financial support, I am their chaplain, and Fr. Kenna and I offer Mass for the students once a week.

While I am supportive of all our children in whatever school they attend—public, private or Catholic—I especially recommend that children attend good Catholic schools, and particularly that parents consider Angelus Academy. Next Sunday, May 5, Angelus will be sponsoring our “Donut Sunday” in the parish hall (after all morning Masses) and representatives of the school will be on hand to share information and answer questions. Please join us.

Thanks. Marlene and Junior DiCola, long-time stalwarts of the parish, active in Legion of Mary, Adoration and many other activities. In particular, they have been responsible for coordinating the parish’s efforts of accepting (and sorting and delivering) donations of clothing to the House of Mercy in Manassas every week for the last 7 years. Marlene and Junior are stepping down from that responsibility now due to health concerns. But they will remain active in the parish. We thank them for their good and holy work—and especially for their holy example to us.

Remember: committed volunteering in the parish, done out of love for Christ and our neighbor, can be a source of great spiritual growth. What are you volunteering for?

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

April 21, 2013

The Gosnell Trial—WARNING: PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED. The murder trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell began in Philadelphia on March 18, over a month ago. As the New York Times reported on April 15: “Dr. Gosnell…is charged with eight counts of murder…He could get the death penalty if he is found guilty.” But for the first four weeks of the trial the so-called mainstream media was virtually silent about the proceedings. The Media Research Center compared the reporting on the Gosnell trial to the reporting on the firing of Rutgers’ basketball coach Mike Rice: “in one week Rice received 41 minutes, 26 seconds of air time on ABC, CBS and NBC in 36 separate news stories. Gosnell received zero coverage . . .”

Why the silence? Because Dr. Gosnell is a professional abortionist and ran an abortion clinic, and his victims included a pregnant woman and seven tiny babies who had survived his attempt to abort them. The seven babies had been born, and lay outside of their mother’s wombs, like any other new born baby, capable of living on their own if only given the care normally given to newborns. Instead, prosecutors charge that (and I will be purposefully vague here) he killed them with a pair of scissors.

I could go into the details but they are too gruesome. You can now easily find them on the internet. But the testimony at trial reveals that these charges are just the tip of the iceberg, and the culmination of decades of macabre criminal activity passing itself off as a “medical practice.” As the AP (finally) reported last week: “In testimony…eight former employees said they performed grueling, often gruesome work…. Three have pleaded guilty to third-degree murder…” Kirsten Powers wrote in USA Today last week, “one witness testified that he saw 100 babies born and then [killed]… The revolting revelations of Gosnell’s former staff…should shock anyone with a heart.”

If this doctor had walked into a major hospital maternity ward and shot an expectant mother and seven babies in their cribs, this would be the subject of non-stop coverage in the media.

So, again, why the silence here? It seems obvious: the mainstream media is afraid of this story because it makes abortion and abortionists look evil. Because they are. It points to the vivid reality that killing a baby a few minutes (or days or weeks) before she’s born is no different from killing a baby a few minutes (or days or weeks) after she’s born. Abortion is what it is, and the gruesome testimony in this trial lifts the veil of “medicine” to reveal that the killing of the unborn is just as gruesome and heartless as what this “doctor” is now being charged with as murder.

Moreover, this case sheds a bright if eerie light on those who consider that it’s okay to allow babies born alive after unsuccessful abortions to go without medical treatment, and to simply die. Such behavior was made a federal crime in 2002 in an act passed unanimously by the Senate and with an overwhelming majority in the House. A similar bill was introduced at that same time in the Illinois Senate. Then-State Senator Barack Obama voted against it—repeatedly. The Gosnell case will surely make pro-abortion ultra-extremists—like our president—“look bad.”

Let’s pray for justice for these murdered babies and mother (and all the other unnamed victims). But let’s also pray for God’s mercy for Kermit Gosnell—that he may see the evil he has done, repent, and be saved by Christ’s grace, even as he receives the earthly justice he is due.

And let us continue to pray for an end to abortion. And for the souls of all the babies who have died in abortions.

And let us pray especially for the mothers who have had abortions, especially after being lied to by doctors who should know better. God knows these women’s sorrow, and God loves them so much. May these poor “second victims” of abortion know his tender mercy and forgiveness. The Church shares in this love and offers these victims of abortionists spiritual healing and forgiveness through the sacrament of Penance, and offers compassionate counseling and assistance through ministries like Project Rachel (tel: 703-841-2504, or 1-888-456-HOPE; email: projectrachel@arlingtondiocese.org).

Boston Massacre. What can we say about the tragic bombings on Monday of last week, April 15, at the Boston Marathon? Of course we pray for all those who were injured or killed. And we pray for just punishment as well as God’s mercy and the conversion of the maniac(s?) who perpetrated this cowardly crime.

But it should also remind us of a few things. As with the Gosnell case, this brings home the fact that evil exists in the world—it is real, and incarnate in the actions of evil people. And nowhere is evil more obvious or despicable than in the murder of innocents. So we must never relent in fighting to protect innocent human life from those who embrace the evil that justifies their killing.

It also reminds us that death comes quickly, and all too often unexpectedly. And when it does come, we must be ready to go before the just and eternal Judge, and be judged by what we did in this life to embrace true goodness and reject evil in our lives, and to protect innocents from evil.

At the same time, during this Easter Season, we remember that Jesus suffered and died on Cross, the most innocent One unjustly killed for our sins. But in His Death He conquered evil, and by His Resurrection He restored human life to the goodness it should have—and promised all who follow Him, and embrace what is good and reject what is evil, that they would share in His glorious life and grace—imperfectly in this world and perfectly in the next.

Let us turn to our Merciful and Risen Lord Jesus, and entrust ourselves, our country and our world, to His boundless love and grace.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles