Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Parochial Vicar’s Corner.

Prayer Before God: There is an oft repeated story that has numerous iterations, but basically is as follows. A rather shabby man is seen to go into the church daily around noon and spend a few minutes inside before exiting and going about his day. Finally, someone has the courage, or temerity to ask the man, “what is it that you do in the church for those few minutes daily around noon?” The man responds, “I merely go in and say Jesus, it’s Jim.” Depending upon the version, this is followed by some simple, heartfelt prayer that reveals a man of deep and pure faith. Finally, Jim is hurt, gets sick what have you, and winds up in the hospital. The staff are perplexed and edified by his cheerfulness and joy even as he is dying. When queried, he responds, it’s due to his daily visitor. The staff haven’t noticed anyone ever visiting Jim while in the hospital. Jim explains, every day Our Lord shows up in his room around noon, and tells him, “Jim, it’s Jesus.”

Cute story that it is, it hopefully, reminds us of the value of frequent visits to Jesus Real Presence in the Eucharist as contained in every tabernacle in every Catholic church. The red sanctuary light is a visible reminder that Jesus is present and we are in His house.

As the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium so clearly stated, the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian Life.” It is at the very center and heart of our faith as Catholics. That Real Presence remains in the tabernacle following Mass. Therefore, in church, we are in the “presence” of Our Lord and Savior. Time spent in church is time spent with Jesus, literally.

What an amazing gift to have Our Lord physically present with us. But, how often do we take advantage of that fact? How sad to never stop by and visit Our Lord. He waits for us with love beyond all telling, only hoping that we would come to Him and spend time with Him. It’s not even necessary to recite prayers in His presence, though commendable. Just being with Our Lord is consoling to Him and demonstrates a faith and love on our part. He knows our needs and what’s in our heart better than we do. Faith and love never go unrewarded by our God. The scriptures are filled with countless examples this. Stopping in and spending 15 minutes here, and half hour there, are invaluable to our spiritual life. Especially, when considering the hustle and bustle of life in Northern Virginia. Better still would be to give an hour, but come and give what one’s schedule allows.

How wonderful to have Eucharistic Adoration at St. Raymond every Wednesday following the 8:00 a.m. Mass, until Benediction prior to the 7:00 p.m. Mass. And, every Friday following the 8:00 a.m. Mass until Benediction at 3:00 p.m. To have Christ physically present in the Host in the Monstrance on the altar is a most excellent way to adore and spend time with Him. Please take advantage of the tremendous gift of graces offered by Our Lord when we spend time in His presence. Hopefully, we realize we are with our beloved. Our relationship with God is only authentic when it is seen and experienced as a profound love affair. When we truly love someone, we can’t wait to be with them. We look for reasons and excuses to spend more time with them. If we correctly see our relationship with Jesus as at the center of our being, and our heart, we would visit Him in His Real Presence in Church often.

Maybe, at first, we’re reluctant? We’re afraid of getting too close? We’ve been hurt and there is a “trust issue.” The idea of coming alone and sitting quietly with Our God could be intimidating or difficult for some. Maybe, I’m ashamed of my sins, and feel unworthy? The reality is, God’s love for us is perfect and He is so very pleased when we take the time to recognize His presence, thank Him, honor Him, worship Him, be with Him. In this society, we become so focused on doing, we could use the practice of just being with Our Lord. Remember, Mary chose the better part and it would not be taken from her.

St. Paul VI wrote in his Encyclical, “Mysterium Fidei:” “We beseech you to foster devotion to the Eucharist, which should be the focal point and goal of all other forms of devotion.”

As well as: “And they should not forget about paying a visit during the day to the Most Blessed Sacrament in the very special place of honor where it is reserved in churches in keeping with the liturgical laws, since this is a proof of gratitude and a pledge of love and a display of the adoration that is owed to Christ the Lord who is present there.”

And: . . . “just how worthwhile it is to carry on a conversation with Christ, for there is nothing more consoling here on earth, nothing more efficacious for progress along the paths of holiness.”

St. Paul VI notes in his Encyclical that the Eucharist is the ‘spiritual center” of the parish community, of the whole church and of all mankind.

St. John Paul II wrote in his Letter, “Dominicae Cenae:” “This worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament, both when we visit our churches and when the sacred species are taken to the sick and administered to them. Adoration of Christ in this sacrament of love must also find expression in various forms of Eucharistic devotion: personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, Hours of Adoration, periods of exposition, . . . “

Take the opportunity: Our Lord and Savior is always present and waiting for us in His church. He provides us with a wonderful opportunity to be with Him and love Him. Our coming to Him demonstrates our faith and love and desire to be in communion. Participating at Mass on Sunday is the center of, and perfect start to each and every week. Throughout the week we may keep in contact. Doing so will provide many graces. If we or family members are experiencing difficulties, time before the Lord has a salutary benefit. Forming a habit of stopping by and placing ourselves before Our God truly is so very efficacious.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. Charles Smith

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Parochial Vicars Corner

Religious Freedom is worth praying for. Noticeably, my St. Michael prayer at the end of every Mass is dedicated “for Religious Freedom in our nation.” This began in 2011 when I was parochial vicar at St. Veronica’s parish in Chantilly. The Bishop’s office had sent an email to the priests requesting support for the “Fortnight for Freedom.” The fortnight was an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to raise awareness about religious freedom and to promote its preservation through prayer and activism. This has become an annual event normally ending on July 4th, our national holiday, celebrating our freedom as a nation and people. The Bishop’s conference has also asked dioceses throughout the United States to observe a week of Religious Freedom coinciding with the feast of our patron St. Thomas More, June 22nd. His exercise of freedom of conscience cost him his life with his beheading on July 6th, 1535.

What does the U.S. Constitution say? The First Amendment states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or 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.”

An established religion, such as The Church of England, was what the framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid. At one time the Anglican church was the established church in the colony of Virginia. A 1624 law mandated Virginians worship in the Anglican Church and support its upkeep with their taxes. Catholics, Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists and Jews were forced to support a church and clergy contrary to their own opinions and views. Jesuit priests would secretly cross into Virginia from Maryland (originally a Catholic colony) to administer Mass and the sacraments to Catholics in Virginia who were not allowed freedom of worship until 1781.

The framers were also determined to enable citizens to practice their faith and worship without interference from the state. Both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson collaborated in authoring and passing the “Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom” in 1786. It stated:
“Be it enacted by the General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or beliefs, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions on matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or effect their civil capacities.”

James Madison wrote in the “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” in 1785 that:
“We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the Institution of Civil Society and that religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.” He spoke of these rights as “unalienable rights.”
Unalienable meaning, rights that cannot be given or taken away. In other words, rights that are natural to man.

What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say? Paragraph 2108 of the Catechism states:
“The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the judicial order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right.”

In so stating the church recognizes several things. First, liberty or freedom is not defined as “license” to do as one pleases, so called freedom from constraint or restraint. Additionally, liberty is only free if it conforms to the truth. “What is truth?” (Qui es veritas) says Pontius Pilate.

We know as Catholics that Christ is truth. Ironically, Pilate had truth Himself standing before him. And, the catechism recognizes that there are just limits to religious freedom. Therefore, some actions are impermissible as just. Citizens practicing human sacrifice would be prohibited from such an action due to its manifest unjustness to the person sacrificed, whether they are willing participants or not. Paragraph 2109 discusses this further in saying:
“The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a “public order” conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner.” The “due limits” which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirement of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with “legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order.”

Perhaps we should be praying for “Political Prudence.” All the virtues seem to be in short supply these days, Prudence in particular. The objective moral order is the goal. Pray we achieve this.

So much in one prayer. It is important for us to pray for and support Religious Liberty. Freedoms and liberties can be taken away. The framers of the constitution understood this in providing for religious liberty as a key amendment to the document. Societies can be more or less free, more or less just, depending on the individuals comprising that society. Virtuous individuals will tend toward political virtue, non-virtuous ones will not. We each have a part to play in the building up of a Just, Free, Virtuous society that enables the human person to flourish.

Oremus pro invicem,
Fr. Charles Smith