May 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 26, 2013 – Most Holy Trinity Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But he also teaches there is only one God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 19, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 5, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

April 28, 2013

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

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

The current policy of BSA is this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

April 21, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

April 7, 2013

HE IS RISEN! HE IS TRULY RISEN! On this Octave day of Easter, I thank God for a truly blessed Lent, Holy Week, Triduum and Easter Sunday. Once again I was overjoyed to see so many take advantage of the sacraments and special liturgies, in particular another full house at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and a standing room only crowd on Good Friday for the Veneration of the Cross. Even so, while it seems everything went very well, I would be genuinely interested in feedback on how you thought it went, what went well and what we might improve. (Note: I do not read or consider anonymous notes).

I also want to thank so many people who helped make Lent, Holy Week and Easter so special this year. First, thanks Elisabeth Turco (our music director), Denise Anezin (organist), and our choir members for their hard work and many beautiful “performances”! Also, thanks to our Altar Servers for their diligence and reverence, with a special thanks to Mark Arbeen, who organizes the servers and acted as Master of Ceremonies. Also thanks to the ushers, headed by Paul DeRosa. And to Nena Brennan (our head sacristan) and her family and the other sacristans who spent so many hours preparing things behind the scenes. And to Jane Steele (seamstress) and Carmelita Gamallo (florist) and her helpers who helped make the sanctuary so beautiful. Thanks also to the lectors and the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. And to Bob and Bev Ward, Mike Malachowski and Sue Smith for their work with the RCIA/RCIC. Also, thanks to our Youth Group for their moving re-enactment of the Living Stations of the Cross. And a big thanks to the parish staff who worked so hard all throughout Lent and Holy Week. And last but not least, thanks to Fr. Kenna for his dedication, and to Fr. Scalia and Fr. Daly and the ten or so other priests who visited to help with one thing or another. I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention a lot of folks, so please forgive me. Thanks and God bless you all.

EASTER RECOMMITMENT. Sometimes after the intensity of Lent and Easter Sunday, there is a tendency to relax our spiritual and religious efforts. But Easter Sunday is not the end of things: it’s only the beginning of our renewed efforts to live the life of the Risen Christ in the world.

So I call on each of you to take to heart the lessons learned these last weeks, and to recommit yourself to continued growth and service to Christ. One way to do this is through continued daily prayer and regular use of the sacraments, especially weekday Mass and frequent (monthly?) confession. Another is to commit to spreading the Gospel in the “world” you live in—i.e., “evangelizing,” by considering every encounter with another person as a possible opportunity to share Christ with them in some way.

Committed Volunteerism. And there’s another very important way to do this: committing to volunteer in the parish. I’ve always been so impressed with the unusually high number of committed volunteers taking responsibility for so many good projects and programs in our parish. Much of this seems to spring from the time before we moved into the current “facilities”: the parish was much smaller then, and without a home people had to step up to make things work. And they did, and do, with flying colors (see my “thank yous” above).

As time has passed, the parish has grown tremendously, but our volunteer base is beginning to grow a bit static and even thin. Sometimes we see how smoothly everything is running and think there’s no need for us to help. Or sometimes our lives are so busy we think we just don’t have time to volunteer at the parish. But there’s always need for new ideas and “fresh blood.” And every few months some key volunteer chooses to move on, slow down or cut back, for a variety reasons.

I know you all feel overburdened and pulled in 10 different ways at once. But, honestly, there is no better place to spend your time and efforts than volunteering in your parish. Maybe it might require some restructuring and reprioritizing, but you’d be surprised what you can do, and what a difference it can make. And not just by helping in ways you think you’d “like” to. Maybe you might want to do XYZ for the parish, but I already have someone doing XYZ, and need you to do ABC. And you do ABC, and you love it!

Currently it seems all of our parish groups need volunteers. In particular I think of the USHERS. Every Mass really needs several more adults to commit to usher on a regular basis. Last minute helpers are fine and it’s wonderful to have the kids pitch in (both are greatly appreciated), but having a committed adult usher corps is very important to a smooth running and dynamic parish. There’s a million reasons for you not to volunteer: for example, maybe you have to take care of your kids at Mass, okay, then how about ushering one Mass, and taking your family to a second Mass? For every obstacle, we can probably find 2 ways around it. Paul DeRosa is accepting volunteers right now.

Many of you raved about our CHOIR over Holy Week and Easter. But all those folks are volunteers (except the cantors and musicians). And not all of them started out as great vocalists, individually. But with a little patient instruction, and working as part of a group of voices, great things can happen (a cantor told me “Elisabeth Turco can teach a doorknob to sing”—no offense choir members!).

There is also a clear current need for volunteers with the Samaritans, a very dedicated parish group that provides a cooked meal for families dealing with a serious illness or accident. And the Women Of St. Raymond Of Penafort (WSRP) is also in need of active members and volunteers—really, all the ladies of the parish should be involved in this in one way or another. Also, the Youth Apostolate and Religious Education are always in need of help. And Altar Servers—we need boys to serve and parents to help behind the scenes…. Also, Pro-Life, Flowers, Landscaping…I could go on and on. Every group needs volunteers.

Please call the office, or speak directly to the group you’re interested in helping. Committed volunteerism in the parish can be more rewarding than almost any other “free time” activity, if you make it an integral part of growing in faith and serving Christ, done out of love for Christ, the Church, and neighbor. May the Risen Christ speak to you through my words.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Easter Sunday 2013

March 31, 2013
Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Today we celebrate the most important day in history.
Because today we celebrate the historical fact that 2000 years ago
the man known as Jesus of Nazareth,
who had been killed by the leaders of Romans and the Jews
on a Friday, rose from the dead on Sunday.
And he didn’t rise like some perverse Zombie or walking dead vampire,
but in a body marked by his wounds,
and perfected and glorified by his resurrection.
And not only did he rise, he lives now forever, with his body,
at the right hand of His Father in heaven.

Now, we believe this to be an historic fact, not a private whimsy.
To be sure, it is a matter of personal faith
—we cannot prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.
But it is not merely personal faith—it either happened or it didn’t.

If it did NOT happen, then all of us here are well-meaning,
but mistaken, and more or less wasting our time here today.
And to the extent we allow our faith in the resurrection
to effect the rest of our lives, we waste that effort too.

But if it DID happen…
What should that mean for us? and for the world?
If it is true, it was the most incredible and important event ever,
and the world and time and all people
should literally revolve around that event.
It should clarify once and for all what it means to be a human being.
And it would testify to the truth of all the things
Jesus of Nazareth taught in his lifetime,
and set those up as the foundational principles of all good human living.

Think of it.
It would mean that there really is a God who made us just to love us,
and so we could love him and our neighbor.
That he loved us so much he really did send his only begotten, co-eternal Son,
into the world to destroy sin by his suffering and death on the Cross.
And that Divine Son really did strip himself of his heavenly glory
to become a human being, just like you and me in all things, but sin.

It would mean he is looking for you,
like a Good shepherd searches for his one lost sheep.
That he calls all who are weary and find life burdensome to come to him,
and he will give you rest.
That he loves his people with all his heart, like a bridegroom loves his new bride.

It would mean he loves you personally—it was he who chose you.
That if you believe in him, even though you die, you will live.
That he has gone before you to prepare a place for you
in his Father’s heavenly house.

But it would also mean that “unless you turn and become like children,”
and “unless you are born of water and the Holy Spirit,”
and “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood,”
“you shall not enter the kingdom of God.”

It also means that “if we love him” and if we want to “inherit eternal life” with him,
we must:
“keep the commandments…
You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, …
Honor your father and mother,”
and “keep holy the Sabbath”
It would mean:
“that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment”,
and “that every one who looks at a woman with lust
commits adultery with her in his heart.”

And while all this sometimes seems impossible,
if Christ is truly risen from the dead, then it must be true that
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
And that he told us all this so that:
“[his] joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

Imagine if Jesus really did rise from the dead.
It would mean that he established Simon Peter as the Rock
on which he built his Church,
giving him the keys to the kingdom of heaven,
and promising the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
And that, as he prayed at the Last Supper,
all might be one with Him in that one Church with Peter.

Imagine….
…if Jesus Christ really did, in time and history,
rise from the dead and open to us the gates of paradise….
wouldn’t that make today
the most joyful glorious day of the year?

But wouldn’t that mean we’d have to change a lot of the way we live?

Some say, well, it’s just what I believe, not what I know to be true.
Friends, I do not know how man ever landed on the moon.
And I don’t even know for a fact that man ever did land on the moon.
But I believe it to be true.
Partly because I’ve heard and read about it;
partly because I have confidence in the people who told me about it.
Heck, partly because some many people seem to believe it.
I believe, but I don’t know perfectly as an eyewitness.

Regardless of how we came to believe, if we believe in the Resurrection
we believe that it is a fact, not a myth,
historical not whimsical,
real not hypothetical.

And if we believe it really happened, why don’t we act like it really happened?
Sure, today we do, at least for a couple of hours.
But what about tomorrow and the rest of the year?
Why don’t we act like Jesus
has realigned everything man understands and lives for,
that we understand and live for?

And why are we so timid to talk about it with others?
Why do we act like it’s some sort of fairy tale we should be ashamed of?

Alright, maybe it is a little hard for some to believe
—but if you believe it why can’t they?
I mean, after all, if it’s true, it’s the best news they’ll ever hear—
it will bring them happiness and peace they’ve never known to be possible,
yet have been searching for all their lives.

Maybe it’s because we’re afraid we’ll lose a friend.
So what?
Maybe you’ll change their lives and you’ll gain the best friend you ever had!

Or maybe it’s because we don’t believe as much as we think we do.
But why not, when Christ has done all he has for us?
Think of all the times you’ve prayed to him and he’s come to your aid.
Think of the times you’ve gone crying to his side, and he gave you peace.
The times you prayed for a miracle and—voila–it happened.

Then again, maybe you don’t recall these things happening in your life.
Maybe you haven’t had the experience of Christ
that you wish you could have.
Or maybe you don’t understand or know much about him
—or maybe you don’t agree with some of the things the Church
says about him.
Okay.
Then let’s change that.
Don’t settle for lukewarm Catholicism—who would want that?
Certainly not Christ, who said if we were lukewarm he would “spit us out.”

Today, St. John tells us in his Gospel that he didn’t understand
what Jesus had meant when he had told them
he would rise on the third day;
John didn’t understand until he saw the empty tomb
—notice, not the risen body, just the empty tomb.
But when he sees the empty tomb: “he saw and believed.”

We also read that St. Mary Magdalene,
didn’t believe at first either.
Scripture tells us:
“she ran and …told them,
‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.’”
But if we read on in the next few verses
we see that Magdalene stayed behind at the tomb
and after awhile saw a man there she thought was a gardener.
So she said to him: “Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”
And then:
“Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” …Teacher.”
And she believed.

Here are 2 of Jesus’ most devout followers.
And yet at first they didn’t believe.
But when John opened his eyes to what Jesus had told him,
“he saw and believed.”
And when Magdalene finally asked Jesus
he called out to her, and she believed.

Some today would like to think that belief in Christ and his resurrection
and the effect they have on individual lives is coming to an end.
But we know otherwise.
You are here because you believe.
Maybe not as fervently as you should or would like to.
Maybe you don’t allow that belief to permeate your life,
to change the way you live.
Maybe you don’t share your faith with others nearly enough.
But you believe, or you wouldn’t be here.
You believe, even as you want to believe even more deeply.

Today, hear our Risen Lord calling out to in his word,
and in whatever truth resonates in my words.
See him in the believers assembled here today
members of His Church, united with millions more throughout the world.
And see him most especially in his body and blood in the Eucharist.
Hear. See. And believe.

And may your faith and the joy and the power of the Risen Christ
change your life today,
tomorrow and in eternity.

Easter 2013

RESURREXIT SICUT DIXIT! ALLELUIA! He is risen as he promised! Alleluia! What a glorious day, on which Our Savior, Jesus Christ, rose triumphant from the tomb and conquered death and sin and all evil in the world. Let the earth “shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples!” This is the day our Catholic faith lives for, and takes its life from, as we received in our baptisms a share in the risen life of Jesus. Let us rejoice, and no longer live under the slavery of sin and Satan, but in the freedom of the children of God, members of the very body of Christ.

My thanks to all who contributed so much in time and energy and prayer to helping the parish enjoy a truly Holy Week (more on that next week). And to all parishioners and visitors, from Fr. Kenna and myself, a holy, blessed and happy Easter Day!

In past Easter columns I’ve included Easter messages from Pope Benedict XVI. Unfortunately, as of this writing, there is nothing similar from Pope Francis. HOWEVER, below is a beautiful Easter Vigil homily he delivered as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2008. (Note this is an unofficial translation I found on the internet).

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis):

1. In the shadows of the Temple we have followed the signposts of a long road. God chooses a people and sends them on their way. Starting with Abram: “Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house, and come into the land which I shall show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation.” (Gen 12:1-2). Abram went forth, and became the father of a people that made history along the way, a people on the way towards that which was promised. We also recently made our way listening to [the telling of] this history of traversing lands and centuries, with our eyes fixed on the paschal event, the definitive Promise made reality, the Living Christ, victor over death, resurrected. Life in God is not sedentary, it is a life on the road…and even God Himself desired to be on the road, in search of man…and became man. On this night we have traveled both roads: of the people, of man, towards God and that of God to man, both roads leading to an encounter. The anxiousness for God sown in our human heart, that anxiousness of God given as a promise to Abram and, on the other hand, the anxiousness of God’s heart, His immeasurable love for us, are to be found here today, before this paschal event, the figure of Christ Resurrected that resolves in itself all searches and anxiousness, wishes and loves; Christ Resurrected is the goal and triumph of these two roads that meet. This is the night of an encounter…of “Encounter” with capital letters.

2. It is brought to our attention how the Gospel we have just heard describes the Encounter of Jesus Christ, Victorious with the women. Nobody stands still…all are in movement, on the move: it is said the women went, that the earth shook strongly; the Angel came down from Heaven, making the stone roll, the guards trembled. Then, the invitation: He will go to Galilee, that all go to Galilee. The women, with that mix of fear and joy –that is, with their hearts in movement — back up rapidly and run to spread the news. They encounter Jesus and approach Him and fall to His feet. Movement of the women towards Christ, movement of Christ towards them. In this movement the encounter happens.

3. The Gospel announcement is not relegated to a faraway history of two thousand years ago…it is a reality that repeats itself each time we place ourselves on the road towards God and we allow ourselves to be met by Him. The Gospel tells of an encounter, a victorious encounter between the faithful God, passionate for His people, and us sinners, thirsty for love and searching, who have [finally] accepted placing ourselves on the road…on the road to find Him…to allow ourselves to be found by Him. In that instant, existential and temporal, we share the experience of the women: fear and joy at the same time; we experience the stupor of an encounter with Jesus Christ which overflows our desires but which never says “stay,” but rather “go.” The encounter relaxes us, strengthens our identity and sends us forth; puts us on the road again so that, from encounter to encounter, we may reach the definitive encounter.

4. I was recently mentioning that, in the midst of the shadows, our gaze was fixed on the Paschal event, Christ, reality and hope at the same time; reality of an encounter today and hope for the great final encounter. This is good because we breathe losses [literally, “disencounters”] daily; we have become accustomed to living in a culture of loss, in which our passions, our disorientations, enmities and conflicts confront us, separate [literally, “eliminates our brotherhood”] us, isolate us, crystallize us inside a sterile individualism which is proposed to us as a [viable] way of life daily. The women, that morning, were victims of a painful loss: they had had their Lord taken from them. They found themselves desolate before a sepulcher. That’s the way today’s cultural paganism, active in the world and our city, wants us: alone, passive, at the end of an illusory path that leads to a sepulcher, dead in our frustration and sterile egotism.

Today we need the strength of God to move us, that we have a great shaking of the earth, that an Angel move the great stone in our heart, that stone that prevents us from heading out on the road, that there is lightning and much light. Today we need our soul shaken, that we’re told the idolatry of cultured passivity and possessiveness does not lead [this could also be translated as “give”] to life. Today we need, after being shaken for our many frustrations, to encounter Him anew and that He tell us “Be not afraid,” get back on the road once again, return to that Galilee of your first love. We must renew the march begun by our father Abraham and which signals this Paschal event. Today we need to encounter Him; that we find Him and He find us. Brethren, the “Happy Easter” I wish you is that today an Angel rolls away our stone and we allow ourselves to encounter Him. May it be thus.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles