14th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2012

St. Raymond of Peñafort
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
July 8, 2012

In today’s Gospel we encounter 2 very disconcerting facts.
First, it tells us that the people in Jesus’ tiny home town of Nazareth
his old friends, “Took offense at him.”
Second, it tells us: “So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there.”

Let’s look at these a little more carefully, beginning with the first one.
Why is it that the Nazoreans took offense at Jesus,
refusing to accept his teachings?
A lot of times we think, if only Jesus would come to me and speak to me
—that would strengthen me, and my faith, so much.
So it’s kind of stunning to us
that even these people who knew Jesus so well, his own people,
who he came to and taught personally,
wouldn’t believe in him.

But if you think about it, it’s not that surprising.
Jesus offended people all the time, saying a whole lot of things
that were hard for them to accept and believe.
For example, remember the Bread of Life discourse in John 6,
when he taught his disciples that he would give them
a bread that would really be his own body,
and they had to eat it to have eternal life?
Scripture tells us:
“Many of his disciples…said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
But Jesus, “Do you take offense at this? ….
…After this many of his disciples …no longer [followed] him.”

Or remember Matthew’s chapter 19, where Jesus lays out 6 very hard sayings:
including the prohibition of divorce, and re-marriage after divorce;
and the teaching that some people are simply not capable of marriage
—their either born that way or made that way by others.
Scripture tells us the apostles,
“were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
In other words, even they had a hard time believing these hard sayings.

Why is this such a surprise that people in Jesus’ time
would take offense at his hard sayings?
—we see the exact same thing all throughout the last 2000 years,
and especially today.
The Church says: “no divorce and remarriage”;
and that “homosexuals just can’t marry each other,
whether they were born that way or made that way by others.”
Don’t people take offense at that?—and all it is is the direct teaching of Jesus.
Even members of his Church take offense
—even sometimes bishops and priests—
“his own kin and in his own house,” as it were.
Why are we surprised that the people of Nazareth took offense?

Jesus can be offensive, if we cling to our sins, or refuse to have faith.

Which brings us to the 2nd disconcerting fact in today’s Gospel reading,
the fact that: “he was not able to perform any mighty deed there.”
How can Jesus “not be able” to perform a miracle?
After all, he’s God, isn’t he?

But notice, in fact, Jesus is “able” to perform miracles in Nazareth.
The text goes on to say,
“apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.”
So he did do miracles there.

To understand all this you have to remember
that Jesus usually performed miracles for one of two reasons:
either to show his power so that people would believe in him,
or simply out of mercy to the afflicted.

The only thing that limits Jesus
is either his own divine nature or our human nature.
His divine nature limits him in the sense that,
for example, as God by nature he is not capable of doing any evil,
he is not capable of not loving.
And our human nature limits him in the sense that
in his love for us he respects our free will
—and limits himself according to our choices.

Here in Nazareth he is “amazed at their lack of faith.”
His own people are, in the words of today’s first reading:
“Hard of face and obstinate of heart.”
There’s not a thing he can say or do to change their minds,
so there’s no reason to perform a great sign,
except out of mercy for “a few sick people.”

Think of all the times he performed great miracles,
and still the eyewitnesses didn’t believe in him.
Again, go back to the Bread of Life discourse
—right before that
his disciples personally witnessed him feed five thousand men,
“with five …loaves and two fish.”
And still they left him because his sayings about the Eucharist
were too hard to accept.

Same thing here in Nazareth, so he says, in effect,
“no miracles, believe or don’t, it’s up to you.”
The only thing limiting him is his respect for their free will choice to reject him

Of course, he faces the same problem today.
Through his holy Catholic Church he continues to proclaim the hard sayings,
and people still take offense because of a lack of faith.
Even his own people.
For example, Americans, 95% of whom were born into the Christian families,
but so many now reject Christ and his teachings.
And Europe, a civilization saturated in and founded on
Christian history and heritage,
and now the faithful are only a small minority.
And you and I—we also all too often take offense at his teachings
because all too often our faith is too weak.

Some people say, that’s why it would be great
if he’d show some great sign of his power.
But again, that didn’t work so well 2000 years ago:
remember the feeding of the 5 thousand.
And it really doesn’t work today.
In my opinion Christ has been performing an incredible mighty deed
for 2000 years—his Church.
The miracle of the Church—founded on the ministries
of men like St. Peter, a humble fisherman who denied Jesus 3 times.
Or St. Paul, who tells us in today’s 2nd reading that
he suffered from some unnamed weakness he describes as
“a thorn in the flesh …an angel of Satan.”

And for 2000 years it has been ruled by and filled with weak men and women,
even great sinners.
And yet look at what she has done:
the Catholic Church has dramatically changed the world,
and still survives today as a strong dominant voice and force
for truth, worship and charity.

If that’s not a might deed of Jesus I don’t know what is.
And instead of inspiring awe and faith, it seems to draw only disrespect.

Of course, sometimes miracles can be helpful in strengthening faith.
But you know, sometimes God works more effectively
by not doing might deeds
—by remaining silent, or simply speaking in a quiet voice.

Let me give you a personal example.
I apologize if you’ve heard part of this story before,
and I’ll try to make a long story short.
23 years ago I was working at a moderately successful career
as an accountant with a big firm,
But after some big changes in the firm, I decided to quit,
confident that I’d have my pick of jobs with other companies.
But it didn’t turn out that way, and days turned into weeks,
and weeks into months.
So I started to really get serious about my prayers.
And then I realized a couple of things:
first, what success I’d had, was really a gift from God
—he had been doing mighty deeds for me all along.
And second, I realized that I was asking him for a new mighty work
—“find me a great job”—
but I was doing very little to do anything like “mighty deeds” of faith in him.

In short, by doing nothing, he forced me to my knees and to believe.
And then, he did do a mighty deed,
and things started to fall into place for me.
At first, it was a wonderful career opportunity.
But pretty soon it began to lead to where I am today.

Sometimes, it’s only when God holds back his might deeds
that we are able to see his mighty deeds
—because it is only when we realize how weak we are on our own
that we can begin to see Christ’s true might,
and how strong we could be with his grace.

For as Jesus told his apostles at the end of all the hard sayings in Matthew 19:
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
And as he said to St. Paul in today’s second reading:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
And so St. Paul summarizes: “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Now some will surely say that all this merely wishful thinking,
or a psychological self-deception.
“Of course,” they say, “when you’re weak you can become desperate,
so you cling to religion as a way to explain things.”
Maybe.
They can believe that if they want to.

But that’s not what we believe.
We believe there is an all-powerful God, who loves us.
We believe that he came into the world to teach us how to live and love,
and to save us from our weakness, by the power of his grace.
And we believe that it’s only when we humble ourselves
to recognize our weakness and sins,
and the power of his words and grace,
that we can become the truly good men and women He created us to be.

As we now move deeper into this Holy Mass,
let us have faith in Our Lord Jesus
and in everything he’s taught us,
even the sayings that are sometimes offensive
to our sinful and obstinate hearts.
And let us kneel before him humbly
firm in faith that by the power of his grace
“when I am weak, then I am strong.”

July 8, 2012

Due to July 4th I have a very early deadline this week, so just some quick notes.

Thanks. I was very pleased with participation in the parish’s Fortnight for Freedom Holy Hours and Masses. Thanks to Bob and Gerri Laird and Liz Hildebrand for their hard work to make the Fortnight such a “success.” Thanks to the Knights and other volunteers who made a great going away party for Fr. Pilon last Sunday. Thanks also to all those who made the special effort to come to my installation last Saturday.

New staff member. Patti Eckels has joined the parish staff as our new Religious Education secretary. A long time parishioner, Patti’s extensive experience in administrative and personnel work should prove a great asset to the parish. Welcome aboard Patti.

Storm After Effects. Thank the good Lord, the parish grounds and buildings had very little damage from last weekend’s wind storm. I hope and pray the same is true for your own homes and businesses. Please remember, if any family is in need of assistance due to the storm, or any other reason, don’t hesitate to call the office.

Collection. Overall Mass attendance was way down last Sunday, as would be expected given the storm effects (not to mention July 4). Unfortunately, this appears to have substantially effected the collections. If you were unable to make your usual donation last week please try to remember to drop it in the basket this or next Sunday, or mail it in.

As we wind up our Independence Day celebrations…

Prayer for Government
by Archbishop John Carroll,
first bishop and archbishop of Baltimore,
and of the United States

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

First Prayer of the Continental Congress, September 7th, 1774
Reverend Jacob Duché
Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!

Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen.

St. Paul’s First letter to St. Timothy, 2:1-4.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Oremus pro invicem, et pro patria. Fr. De Celles

July 1, 2012

I write this in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, June 27. Just a few hours ago, at 12:00:01 a.m., I officially became the pastor, “parochus,” of St. Raymond’s. It has been a true privilege to serve you these 2 years, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to now be your pastor.

As you probably know by now, I take very seriously the title “Father.” Since solemnly promising celibacy to Christ and His Bride, the Church, at my diaconate ordination 17 years ago I have tried to more deeply live and interiorize that gift in union with Christ the Bridegroom, and to understand myself as wedded to His Bride, with all her children as my own. Every time someone calls me “Father” I am reminded of this. But now this fatherhood, in some ways, takes on a more direct and consequential meaning, since as your “proper pastor,” I am, before God, entrusted with the care of your souls and am profoundly obliged to do everything in my power to see that the eternal life you were born into at baptism grows ever stronger so that it may reach its fullness in the joy of heaven. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

But as you know, fatherhood is very challenging, and as you also know by now, I am only a weak sinner. So please, pray for me, that by God’s grace, I may eventually be the father and shepherd you need to help you get to heaven. “Oremus pro invicem”—“let us pray for one another.”

Installation. Some of you may be reading this after the 5pm Saturday Vigil Mass (June 30), in which case you are aware that I was ceremonially installed as pastor at that Mass by Fr. John Cregan, Vicar Forane (Dean) of Deanery II. I’m sorry I couldn’t get the word out to everyone, but Fr. Cregan called earlier in the week and told me that due to his busy schedule it was either this weekend or …who-knows-when. So, it’s not only “official,” but “ritualized” as well.

Good-bye. This last Wednesday was also a big day in Fr. Mark Pilon’s life as well, as officially became a “retired priest” (although he’s hanging around a few extra days to let Fr. Joby take some well-deserved vacation). We have all been so blessed to have Father with us these 3 years. He is truly a phenomenal teacher and preacher. But as he rides off into the sunset (literally, retiring to his little shack on the Shenandoah) I’m sure that after a brief hiatus we can talk him into coming back once in a while for a visit to say Mass or give a talk or two. In any case, I hope you will join us in a going away picnic for Father after he celebrates the 12:15 Mass today (Sunday, July 1). Please come out and thank Father for his many years of service to St. Raymond’s and the Diocese of Arlington.

Good-bye, Part II. This week also saw the departure of a long-time fixture of St. Raymond’s parish staff, as Janice Gorrie retired from her position as secretary for the Religious Education office. She will be sorely missed, not only by the staff but by all the parents, children and volunteers and other parishioners who worked with her over the last 7 years. I will particularly miss her—she has been a tremendous help to me in so many ways. Of course, she’s still going to be around—as a parishioner and active volunteer—but not quite as much as we’d like. God bless you, Janice, and thanks for all you’ve done for St. Raymond’s.

Prayers for Austin Smith. The week before last Austin Smith, brother of Kristin Smith, our Youth Director, was in a serious accident during the family vacation. He is doing better now, but is still in serious condition. Please keep him and his family, especially Kristin, in your prayers.

4th of July and the Fortnight for Freedom. So far I think the Fortnight has been a great success. Although the crowds at the evening liturgies have not quite been standing room only, I have been pleased that so many of you have attended each liturgy. And I am sure that all of you are praying devoutly and offering penances at home. The Fortnight continues this week, with Holy Hours (actually lasting half an hour) after 5pm Masses on Saturday and Sunday; 7:30pm Holy Hours, with Exposition and Benediction, on Monday and Tuesday; and 10am Mass on Wednesday, the 4th of July. Please try to come out to show your solidarity with your fellow Catholics, and raise up a might prayer for Religious Liberty.

The Fortnight concludes on the 4th of July, as we celebrate Independence Day, or we might say “Liberty Day.” What a great gift to live in this “land of the free.” But it is also, thank God, “the home of the brave.” So many heroes have given so much, even their very lives, to win and protect our liberty. They are truly “the brave.” But we too must be brave, and we too must fight to defend our liberty.

Liberty does not mean a freedom from responsibility, quite the contrary. Liberty is a demanding servant and master—it both benefits us and places demands on us. Liberty demands that we defend it—that we sacrifice and fight to preserve it. True liberty is a freedom for and freedom to: a freedom for becoming the good men and women we have the potential to be, the freedom to be who God calls us to be. As such, the most fundamental type or aspect of liberty is Religious Liberty, without which we cannot be truly free people God created us to be.

History tells us that when the Declaration of Independence was first read publicly in Philadelphia in July of 1776, the church bells of the city rang out in celebration, “ringing out freedom.” On this July the 4th listen for the ringing of the church bells of Catholic churches, including St. Raymond’s, at 12 noon, declaring to all who will hear that Catholics will not let our God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty be taken from us by a government which is supposed to be formed primarily “to secure these rights” for us. And as you hear the church bells peal, join your fellow Catholics and parishioners in humble prayer, in thanksgiving and supplication, to the Creator who endows us with the “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even 2000 years ago, sexual liberty trumped religious liberty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 24, 2012

FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

June 9, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So please consider the following. DO YOU:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (Sunday) 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 2, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles