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

6th Sunday of Easter 2012

St. Raymond of Peñafort
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
May 13, 2012 (Mother’s Day)

“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

In this text Jesus, at the Last Supper, says with words
what He will say with His body in just a few hours,
as He’s nailed to the Cross.
There, His suffering and dying body speaks to us loud and clear, saying:
“I love you, and give myself to you and for you,
completely, totally and without reserve.”

But this not the first time God speaks to us through the human body.
Because right from the beginning He created the human body
to communicate to us the truth about man and about God Himself.

St. John tells us in the 2nd reading today: “God is love.”
Now, this doesn’t mean that God is a warm and fuzzy feeling.
It means that God, in is very nature is all about self-giving.
But in order to give, there needs to be an other person to give to.
And there is: as Christ reveals to us, God is a Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
three persons in one God:
their mutual love and self-gift is so intense, complete and perfect,
that they truly share one life.

But as gift, love doesn’t limit itself: love overflows,
continually seeking to give to others.
And so we see in Scripture that God
created, or gave life to man, just so He could love us,
and give us a share in the one life and love of the Trinity.

In order for us to do that we had to be like Him—we had to be able to love.
And so He created us like Himself, in the image of God, the God who “is love.”
But creating us in His image He also created us with bodies.
And our bodies aren’t just some sort of outer shell we accidentally walk around.
No, our bodies are us!
They are the outward expression of who we are inside,
—they are us communicating ourselves to others.
And since we are created for love
our bodies are also fundamentally created to communicate love.

But, again, to love there has to be an other to love
—and so God created us as two, male and female.
Both in His image, and so both equal in dignity,
but also both radically different so they would truly be other to each other:
so that through their differences they could love each other.
And these differences, which go to their very nature, are expressed in their bodies.

Note, their bodily differences are not merely accidents
but rather they physically express the differences
that are in their inner nature, as male versus female.
And these inner differences are also not random,
but rather they 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.
No other bodily act requires the body of another
—only the act that imitates the Creator giving life and love to mankind.
So this act, and these complementary aspects of their bodies,
specifically and radically express
their love for and their self-gift to each other, as male and female.

My friends, the body speaks to us and tells us about our very nature.
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.
Every generation has 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.
Amazingly, in a time when so many demand
that we pay greater attention to the natural order of the environment,
many of those same people demand
that we ignore the natural order of the human body.

This last week 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.
Of course, he’s not alone.
He joins scads of politicians, some of whom even claim to be Catholic,
like former Speaker Nancy Pelosi,
who like him, have the gall to blasphemously claim
that Christ is on their side.

Nonsense, all of it.
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
when it comes to sex, marriage, and family.
And so does Jesus Himself, 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,
in fact it recognizes the opposite:
they are not complementary, they do not “fit.”

Some say this position is “not loving,”
after all, Jesus told us to “love one another.”
Yes, but Jesus also said, “love one another as I have loved you.”
How many times did Jesus show his love by telling people the hard truth:
like to the woman at the well:
“the man you have now is not your husband;”
or to the Pharisees:
“from the beginning [he] made them male and female.”
It’s never loving to lie to people, when the truth will set them free.

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 from 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.
Maybe they’re born with some severe emotional disability,
or maybe they’re upbringing makes them incapable of loving.
Or maybe they’re born with or raised so that they suffer from same-sex attraction.
Whatever the case, our heart goes out to them,
but as with all infirmities and 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 it is that God has planned for us to do going forward.
“Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

But the news is not all bad this week.
In fact, today the news is fantastic.
Because, today the whole country stops to listen, if ever so briefly,
to the natural language of the body as we celebrate Mother’s Day.

Motherhood.
Short of Christ dying on the Cross,
what better expression do we find of the saying,
“No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Where else does the language of the body speak so boldly and yet tenderly:
“I love you.”

Think of it: for 9 months, a mother sacrifices her whole body for her little baby,
from morning sickness in the first months
to contractions and all sorts of discomfort in the last.
Often risking her very life and health,
as her body sacrifices its own well-being
to nourish the life of her hidden child.
And, of course, what pain is comparable to the pangs of child birth?

And then, holding her tiny baby in her arms,
for months she feeds him at her breast,
her tender voice coaxing him to sleep,
all the while her very body chemistry seems to shift into super human gear
allowing her to forgo any normal human sleep pattern for herself.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there.
My mother practically slaved away for 5 kids for almost 30 years,
keeping us fed, clothed, clean and educated.
Staying up with us when we were sick, even when she was sicker than we were.
Spanking our bottoms when we were extra naughty,
and drying our tears when we were extra sad.
Even going to work—outside the home—to help pay the bills.
And on the worst of days, when the whole world seemed against us,
she made everything all right,
with her beautiful smile, or her warmest of hugs.

The language of the body cries out to us in no uncertain terms:
Moms have a God-given and naturally tremendous capacity
for giving love and life.
Today we celebrate this, and we thank them,
even those who have gone ahead of us to judgment.

Even so, some today wish to ignore motherhood or to redefine it.
Some think they know better than Moms what their children
should eat or drink or learn, or how their children should act or think.
Like the school officials in North Carolina
who wouldn’t let a four-year-old little girl eat the lunch
her mother had packed, a turkey sandwich,
because they decided it wasn’t healthy enough.

And then there are those who encourage pregnant mothers
to ignore their maternal instincts and “terminate” their pregnancies.
Or who encourage women to take a pill
to stop their bodies’ natural and healthy openness to motherhood.
Or the ladies in the checkout line who mock the mothers of large families.
Or the politicians who say that stay-at-home-mom’s
never work a day in their lives.

The body speaks, but some will not listen.

Now, you may say, but father, what about women
who don’t or even can’t have babies?
The thing is, all women are by nature mothers,
in the sense that they have this deep natural capacity
to love and nurture life.
And that capacity is a gift that shouldn’t be wasted.
But because it’s a gift from God,
every woman should consider how God wants them to use this gift.
Some He calls to be celibate religious sisters
—freely renouncing physical motherhood for the sake of the kingdom,
in order to become spiritual mothers.
Some are unable physically to conceive;
perhaps God calls them to be adoptive mothers.
Some can’t seem find the right husband;
perhaps God wants them to exercise their motherhood
by in some way caring for those who are alone
or otherwise in need of love.

Like the text I quoted earlier from Matthew,
they should consider their situation and God’s will for them, and
“Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
Not with sadness and despair,
but with joy and hope, confident that God would not give them this gift
without some plan for them to use it in some wonderful way.

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
As we look at the image of the Crucified Christ,
and we remember in His awful physical suffering and death
we hear His body telling us in the most clear and powerful way possible,
“this is how much I love you.”
The body of the Son of God speaks and we joyfully listen.
But the human body He created for all of us
speaks to us every day, and through it He
reminds us who we are,
what is natural and unnatural to us,
what is good and evil.
Let us listen to our nature, let us listen to Christ.
And let us hear Him say:
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.”

May 13, 2012

MOTHER’S DAY. Of course, today is Mother’s Day. While this is a secular holiday, how can Catholics not enthusiastically join in the celebration? After all, what group of people celebrates motherhood with more joy and reverence than the Catholic Church? Who else sees motherhood as a uniquely holy and dignified vocation, and mothers as specially lifted by God himself for our respect, honor and love?

Of course all human beings have a natural inclination toward a deep affection for their own mothers. In spite of this western culture has gradually been subtly degrading the dignity of motherhood and mothers, discouraging motherhood by pushing contraception, sterilization and, of course, abortion, and stressing “careers” over maternity. Mothers of more than 2 children are often treated as oddities, and mothers of larger families are publicly ridiculed. Women who leave the work place to be “stay at home” moms are belittled, and accused of wasting their lives and “not working.”

Against all this stands the Catholic Church, which recognizes motherhood as a holy vocation, and mothers as the heart of the family. We recognize this dignity in all women, even before their first tiny baby rests in their wombs—women are created with this great gift written into their nature, with this tremendous capacity and potentiality to give life and love not only to their children and families, but to the world itself. Moreover, we give special praise, care and defense of mothers from the very first moment their tiny babies are conceived in their bodies.

Furthermore, the Church sees in motherhood the model for her own relationship with God’s children: “she” is the bride of Christ, and so also “Holy Mother Church.” From motherhood the Church takes its lead in giving eternal life and love to the baptized, and with a mother’s heart she looks on the unbaptized throughout the world, longing to take them into her embrace and bring them to Christ.

And finally, the Church recognizes that one of the greatest gifts Our Lord Jesus has given to us is His own Blessed Mother, Mary, to be our Mother: “Son behold your Mother!” Who is more dear to us than her, who tenderly comforts her children in their times of sadness, fear and loneliness? Who teaches and protects women as they learn the true meaning of motherhood? Who draws children and husbands to show a deeper love and respect for mothers, wives and all women? And who more forthrightly brings us to her son, and teaches us “to do whatever He tells you?

Today we honor all mothers, living and dead. And we especially try our best to show our own mothers, in various ways, just how deeply we appreciate all they do for us, and how much we truly cherish and love them. But the best thing we can do for our mothers is to pray for them: to commend them to the care of our Blessed Mother, and to the love of her son, Jesus, who love our moms even more than we do. God bless you, dear mothers!

Mary’s Month. Today may be Mother’s Day, but the whole month of May is Mary’s Month. We will recognize this in a particular way today at the end of the 12:15 Mass, as we have the May Crowning: the First Communicants bring flowers to the statue of Mary, as one of our older girls places a crown of flowers on the head of Our Lady. What memories this brings back to me from my childhood, as every year all the children in my parish school joined in an elaborate May Crowning ceremony that included a lively procession, a living Rosary, and Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. All drawing us closer to our loving Blessed Mother.

I encourage all of you to make special efforts this month to nurture this devotion to Mary in yourselves, and in your families. Perhaps you can set a goal to pray the Rosary, or at least a decade of the Rosary, every day in May. Maybe you can say it as a family, or maybe young couples can pray it together to strengthen their chaste love and mutual respect. If you already do that, maybe you could make it your May project to learn a new prayer or hymn to the Blessed Mother. You could also place a statue or a picture of the Blessed Mother in a prominent place in your house, or read a good devotional book on Our Lady, or maybe tell some friends about this great gift that Christ has given us in our Mother. Let May be a time that will truly bring you closer to your Mother, and through her to her Son.

First Holy Communion. Speaking of First Communicants, yesterday (Saturday), about 100 of our children received their First Holy Communion. What a wonderful thing for them, to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for the first time, to be so close to Him in body and soul. And what a great thing to witness: such devotion, love and faith. May we all learn from their example. And may they each grow in devotion and persevere in their faith all the days of their lives!

Ascension Sunday. This coming Thursday much of the Catholic world celebrates Ascension Thursday as a Holy Day of Obligation. For us, however, the Feast of the Ascension is moved from Thursday to next Sunday—Thursday is not the Ascension nor a Holy Day of Obligation! So prepare your hearts this week to celebrate this most holy feast next Sunday with fitting joy and solemnity!

Fr. Jerry Daly. Last Wednesday, May 9, Fr. Daly celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. After serving his country through a long, distinguished and heroic career as an Army helicopter pilot, he chose to continue his life of service, but now dedicated to the service of Christ and His Church as a priest. Thanks be to God for that decision, and for the gift of this holy and hardworking priest. Serving as his vicar at St. Michael’s for 2 years I can attest to this personally, and I am honored and humbled to have him assisting me on weekends here at St. Raymond’s. May God bless him and grant us many more years of his holy priesthood in our midst! Congratulations Father Daly!
Two other priests. Fr. Joseph Okech will celebrate today’s 5pm Mass in thanksgiving for completing his doctorate at Catholic University, which he worked on for several years while also serving our parish. Congratulations, Fr. Joseph!

Also, as school winds down, we say farewell to Fr. John Lovell as he returned home this week for the summer to Rockford, IL. But he will be back in August to finish his studies and to assist us on weekends. Let’s keep him in our prayers.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

5th Sunday of Easter 2012

St. Raymond of Peñafort
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
May 6, 2012

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times:
St. John’s writings are some of the most spiritually rich and profound in Scripture.
Unfortunately, St. John is also sometimes a bit confusing,
as he is in today’s 2nd reading and Gospel:
Still, even in confusion, St. John always has an important point to make
—as he does today.

To oversimplify things, let me suggest that there are basically 2 kinds of Christians:
lets’ call the first kind the “Me-first Christian,”
In today’s 2nd reading St. John says:
“God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God
and receive from him whatever we ask.”
The Me-first Christian hears these words
and sees God as sort of an indulgent grandfather:
ask anything and He gives it,
do anything and he just smiles in approval.
He thinks, “as long as it feels good in my heart, I should do it,
or if it feels bad I should avoid it.”
He thinks, “only God can know everything,
so he understands, and doesn’t care even if I mess up.”

But there’s a problem with this attitude.
St. John’s focus in all of his writing is never on you or me: it’s always on Christ.
So St. John doesn’t write: “do whatever makes you happy”;
he writes: “do what pleases him”–Jesus.
He doesn’t say “do what ever you feel in your heart”;
he writes: “keep his commandments.”
St. John understands that it’s not all about how we feel, or even what we think.
All of that is useless, if it doesn’t begin and end with Jesus.
And so he reminds us that Jesus said:
“I am the vine, you are the branches”
“without me you can do nothing.”
“Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

Think about it.
Personal feelings are important:
sometimes our sensitivity to Christ helps us to discern his will.
And personal intelligence and reason are also essential to the Christian life:
no one should ever act in an unreasonable way.
But feelings and intelligence are meaningless if they aren’t at all times
based on, and moving toward one thing: the truth!

But what is “truth”?
Some people say there is no one truth, no objective truth:
there’s only subjective truth:
your truth, his truth, my truth—and none of them are the same.
If that’s the case we have a huge problem.
What if someone’s truth is that
God wants them to blow up the Twin Towers in New York
and the Pentagon in Arlington?
My friends, the road of subjective truth is the road of fools,
and leads to anarchy and ruin.

Other people say that there may be objective truth,
but there’s no way we could ever know it, so why even try?
But this is nonsense: they assume that this statement is true:
“no one can know truth.”
But how do they know that statement is true, if “no one can know truth.”

The fact is each of us needs real truth to hang on to.
What would a scientist do if he couldn’t rely on the truth of his rules and principles?
What would you or I do if we couldn’t rely on the truth of a promise, or of a love?
Life would be hopeless, and that road would lead to despair and annihilation.

Everyone searches for truth all their lives,
from the time a baby looks into his mother’s eyes,
until the time he draws his last breath in old age.
From the truth of where the floor is beneath my feet, to the truth of a mother’s love.
Either there is objective truth in the world, or life is nonsense.

And then Jesus comes along and says:
“I am the way, the truth and the life.”
And he tells us that he, the truth, never changes:
he: “is the same yesterday and today and for ever.”

This leads me to the 2nd kind of Christian: the “Jesus-first Christian”.
While the Me-first Christian begins with himself at the center of things,
with his own subjective truth, to which God good-naturedly conforms,
the Jesus-first Christian begins with Jesus a the center of things
as the one and unchanging truth,
and the Christian conforms himself to Christ.

The Jesus-first Christian believes and lives as if
Jesus really is the vine, and we are merely branches.
And He believes that the truth that he longs for flows from Christ into his branches.
So he tries to “remain in” Christ, and hears the words of St. John:
“Those who keep his commandments remain in him.”

But what “commandments” is St. John talking about?
A rich young man once asked that very same question of Jesus himself.
And Jesus admonished him, saying:
“You know the commandments…”
‘You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal,
You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’”

The Jesus-first Christian doesn’t see love as simply a feeling,
but a choice to accept the truth.
And in each of the 10 commandments he hears
the truth about who God is,
and how we can truly love him
and our neighbor.

Unlike the Me-first Christian,
the Jesus-first Christian doesn’t consider his feelings to be above the truth.
In fact, a lot of the time his feelings run completely contrary to the truth.
Sometimes he even suffers for doing what’s true, for remaining in Christ,
–like St. Paul in today’s 1st reading who we’re told:
“spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.…with the Hellenists,
but they tried to kill him.”

So the Jesus-first Christian,
when he’s in grade school, kids make fun of him for being obedient to his parents.
When she’s in high school
she’s embarrassed because her friends mock her for “saving herself” for marriage.
When he’s at work he watches as less competent co-workers get promoted over him
because he refuses to cheat or lie or steal,

All this causes the Jesus-first Christian’s heart to ache:
“am I doing the right thing?”
“if this is the truth, why does God let me suffer?
But then he hears the words from St. John today:
“Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth
and reassure our hearts before him
in whatever our hearts condemn,
for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.”

The Me-first Christian hears these words as an excuse to do as he pleases.
But the Jesus-first Christian hears them as “reassurance of his heart”
that he “belongs to the truth”;
that even when our hearts ache or doubt,
God knows everything,
from the truth of right and wrong,
to the glory that his plan with bring from our suffering.

Finally, the Jesus-first Christian begins and ends everything in the truth of Christ.
So his heart isn’t focused on what he wants,
but rather on the truth about what God wants.
So much so that when he hears the words:
“God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
…have confidence in God
and receive from him whatever we ask.”
he realizes that his heart often wants things contrary to his own good,
but that God, who “knows everything,”
always knows and wants only what’s truly best for him.
And so the Jesus-first Christian prays: “thy will be done”, not “my will be done.”
So that “whatever he asks” for is only what God wants to give in the first place.

St. John’s words are often confusing
Still, whether they’re simple or complex, they are always profoundly true.
Today their complexity and profundity give us an opportunity
to consider what kind of Christian we are.
Which kind are you?
Which kind am I?
Are we Me-first Christians, or Jesus-first Christians?
Unfortunately, the truth is probably that most of us are a little of both,
because we’re all sinners.

But it doesn’t have to be that way: the truth is,
God is the master vine grower—even when a branch has fallen from the vine,
he can lift it up and graft it back on.

Still the truth is also, that if it’s not on the vine, it’s dying.
And in the end, if it’s been pruned away from the vine
“people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.”

Brothers and sisters, it’s so easy to talk about loving Jesus,
and still put ourselves 1st before him in everything.
Today, Jesus Christ, through the writings of St. John,
calls us to be truthful, and remain in Him
in everything we do.
We can choose to wither and fall to the ground to be burned,
or we can choose cling to Christ and bear fruit in his joy and glory.

“Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.”