Second Sunday of Lent

Reluctant to Go to Confession? Confessions are a very
important part of Lent, so don’t forget to go. And please come
early in the Season, avoiding the long lines during Holy Week—
if for no other reason, out of charity to your priests.
I know some people are afraid to go to Confession and
so haven’t been in years. Some are afraid because they are
embarrassed by their sins. But remember, you can confess
behind the screen, so the priest won’t even know who you are
(and we almost never recognize a voice).
Others are afraid because they think their sins can’t be
forgiven. But remember, Jesus says: “Truly, I say to you, all sins
will be forgiven the children of man…” As long as you are truly
sorry for your sins and want and intend to try to stop sinning, the
priest, with the power of Jesus, will forgive you.
Some are afraid because they think the priest will be
angry with them. But that’s just not true. In all my 41 years of
going to Confession I’ve only had one truly unpleasant
experience. Okay, priests have bad days like all of us, but even
on a bad day priests won’t get upset with you. Priests love
forgiving sins—the bigger the better. And just because a priest
seems stern in the pulpit doesn’t mean he’s that way in the
confessional. A father may sometimes be stern when he teaches
his children to behave, but when an apologetic child comes to
him in tears, that same father opens his arms with tenderness. “A
lion in the pulpit, a lamb in the confessional.”
Some think they will shock the priest by what they’ve
done. As Ecclesiastes tells us: “there is nothing new under the
sun.” I’ve heard about 25,000 Confessions in the last 21 years,
and I have heard almost every sin imaginable—really. Nothing
shocks me anymore.
And finally, some are afraid the priest will tell someone
about their sin. This just doesn’t happen. In all my life I have
never heard a priest reveal the sins of anyone in Confession.
Priests are forbidden, under pain of automatic excommunication
(that can only be lifted by the pope himself), from ever directly
or indirectly revealing the particular sins of a particular penitent.
This is called the “seal of Confession,” and extends even to
revealing things that are not sinful that are discussed in the
Confession. (A great movie dramatizing this is Alfred
Hitchcock’s “I Confess.”)
So don’t be afraid. Come to Confession! Soon!
FORMED.ORG. A great way to get reacquainted or learn more
about the Sacrament of Penance is to make use of the online
video program at FORMED.ORG, called “The Transforming
Power of Confession, A Lent to Remember.” This 4-part series
offers reflections on the Paschal Mystery and leads you through
a step-by-step examination of the Rite of Confession. There’s
also a special “bonus” 5th video for children on how to make a
good confession—something parents may want to watch too.
While this is meant to be viewed over 4-5 weeks, it can be selfpaced
as well. You might want to watch it as a family, or gather
some friends together to discuss it (there’s a special leader’s
guide website to help with this). This is FREE for St. Raymond’s
parishioners who are registered with FORMED.ORG. If you
have not registered, just go online to
www.straymonds.formed.org. If you have any questions, see
the FORMED.ORG bulletin board in the narthex, or contact
Mike and Sheri Burns at formed@straymonds.org.
Parents Beware: Fairfax Public Schools at It Again. (Adults
only)
On February 8, 2018, the Family Life Education Curriculum
Advisory Committee (FLECAC) met to discuss infecting the
school curriculum with their twisted understanding of sexuality. I
was unable to attend, but a friend who did attend offered me these
notes from the meeting:
During the meeting, two regular citizen members of the
committee tried to offer amendments to the curriculum to remove
the phrase “sex assigned at birth,” which appears numerous
times in the lessons, along with the proposed teaching that it is
wrong for a delivery room doctor to say male and female
genitalia determine if the baby is boy or a girl.
Through parliamentary maneuvers, the amendment was
put off indefinitely without debate. The vote to cut off debate
passed 23-3. A motion for a roll call to put the members on
record was killed by voice vote so there was no debate and no
accountability.
Another citizen member made a motion that, somewhere
in the numerous lessons about various contraceptive methods
taught beginning in eighth grade, there ought to be something
about the possible health risks of certain contraceptives. This,
too, was shut down without debate, by a vote of 23-3. A roll call
of the vote was shouted down by voice vote.
Another citizen member made a motion to include a
discussion in the lessons about the health risks associated with
hormonal and surgical “transitioning.” This, too, was not
allowed.
One new member of the committee, was vociferous in
arguing that these motions should not even be discussed. One
high school student member said that transphobia stems from
white supremacy.
One county employee member asked why there was no
lesson on sodomy for the seventh graders, after all, there was a
lesson on fellatio and cunnilingus–my terms here: they used more
graphic vulgar terms. The chairman assured her that the
discussion of sodomy begins in the eighth grade. The chairman
apologized to the adults present for using those graphic terms,
even though those terms are scripted into the lessons for children.
Florida School Shootings. We all mourn and pray for the victims
and families of the February 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas
High School in Parkland, Fla. Of course, now the finger pointing
begins, especially on partisan lines. I don’t know what the answer
is, but I think it is sadly ironic that most of the nation turns to God
in prayer after horrible events like this, while our schools refuse
to allow even any discussion of God before events like this. Is it
any wonder there is such violence in schools when we have
rejected and even mocked the teachings of the Prince of Peace? Is
it surprising that the national school system has suffered from
increasing violence and degeneracy ever since it began, a few
years/decades ago, to reject the Christian moral system that used
to teach our kids to know right from wrong?
February 14 was Ash Wednesday. Sin is the cause of all
these horrible things happening in society. And Jesus, and
repenting and believing in the Gospel, is the remedy. How is sin
effecting your schools, your family, your children, yourself? Lent
is a time to reflect on this. And to change.
Lenten Series. My talks on “The Mass and the Eucharist”
continue this Thursday at 7 pm in the Parish Hall. This week we
will look at what the Church’s Tradition teaches us about the
Eucharistic Mystery. All are invited—you need not have come
last week! Babysitting is available (call the office for
reservations).
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Parish Hall Reopened as of Wednesday, January 17

THE PARISH HALL AND BASEMENT
ARE OPEN AS OF
Wednesday, January 17

Based on the emergency repair work that was completed on Monday, the Fire Marshal has lifted our operational restrictions and the Parish Hall and Transept
are re-opened
with the 8am Mass on Wednesday.
All events scheduled for Wednesday forward can proceed as planned provided there is no inclement weather in which case we follow St. Raymond Policy for Weather Closings.

Thank you to all for your prayers and patience as we worked through this situation.

Christmas Tree, Wreaths and Garland Sale!

The Knights of Columbus are hosting their seventh annual Christmas Tree Sale now through Monday, December 18th. Hours of Operation are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 6-8pm (Closed Wednesdays). Saturday and Sunday hours are 9:30 am – 8 pm. Location is the Saint Raymond Church parking lot closest to Gambrill Road. Bring along the entire family!

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

(Due to Bulletin deadlines, I’m writing this on Nov. 15, well before it’s publication. Please excuse anything that seems out of date.)

Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a great and blessed Thanksgiving. Although it’s a secular holiday and not a Catholic Holy Day, it’s a wonderful day of celebration. It is really more than a “secular holiday,” which can have something of negative connotation in the Christian context; let’s call it an American “cultural holiday,” one that is the fruit of our heritage of having a culture deeply rooted in Christianity and Christian values.
In particular, the Christian virtues of fortitude and diligence (reflected in working hard to provide for oneself and one’s family), and charity (reflected in being willing to share the fruits of one’s labor or good fortune with others), and, of course most importantly and above all, gratitude or thankfulness to God for the gifts He’s given us.
In the end, everything we have is God’s gift. As St. Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Whether it’s material goods, health, family, love, faith, or human dignity, rights, and liberty, God is the giver of all good things.
Unfortunately, many people today treat Thanksgiving as a holiday to give thanks to one another, with no mention of God at all. Certainly, it’s good to thank other people for the good they do, but that is not the reason Thanksgiving was established as a national, cultural, holiday.
As President George Washington decreed on October 3, 1789, as he proclaimed the first Thanksgiving Day of the United States: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have …requested me “to recommend …a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God …Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted ….to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks …”
And as President Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1863, as he permanently established the official national holiday: “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…”

Shocked, Part Two. Last week I railed a bit against Hollywood’s debasement of our societal sexual values, and especially it’s sexual degradation of women and children. Reading over those comments it occurred to me that there were some other things I meant to say. So…
The national press is currently having a feast on the accusations against Alabama senatorial candidate, Roy Moore. If the disgusting allegations are true, he does deserve reprobation—as Ivanka Trump said, “’There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.” But that’s an important “if”—accusations are one thing, proof of guilt is another. Even so, sometimes the accusations or the accusers themselves are, in fact, so credible that we can make some level of judgment before the full course of due process is complete. So, voters in Alabama, and perhaps even leaders of the Judge Moore’s party, must make a judgment based on the facts as they understand them.
But it is interesting how when it comes to moral transgressions, folks on the left (I refer to those actively rejecting traditional moral values) are so quick to judge folks like the tradition-minded Moore, while being much more reticent to judge more left-leaning politicians. The classic example is the treatment of accusations against Pres. Bill Clinton who was (and still is) credibly accused of rape and abuse by three different women. For years the media worked hard to suppress or white-wash the allegations, and many left-leaning politicians, including Hilary Clinton, viciously attacked the women who accused him. It was only after he admitted to taking sexual advantage a young staffer that some on the left finally started to take his sexual misconduct even remotely seriously. But even then, they refused to deny him (or Hilary) office, as they are giddy to do with Moore today.
Let me be clear: I think it’s very reasonable, and often necessary, for voters to deny political office based on sexual misconduct, if they believe charges are truly credible. But it is hypocritical and unjust to use a double standard that gives every benefit of the doubt to left-leaning folks, but rushes to judgment on those who embrace traditional moral values, whether we’re talking in Hollywood or Washington, or Alabama.
And the thing is, all this could be largely avoided if we all just tried to follow the 6th Commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery,” remembering that “adultery” includes cheating on your spouse, fornication (pre-marital sex), homosexual sex, oral sex, pornography, and willfully entertaining lustful thoughts. It also includes looking at people with lust and tempting people to look at you with lust by deliberately dressing immodestly or provocatively.
And by “follow” I mean “strive to keep” the 6th Commandment, not merely talking about it or posting it in a courthouse and then ignoring it in practice. Where would there be room for sexual abuse or harassment in a culture truly formed by that Commandment? And yet Catholics and other traditional Christians are reviled for promoting the 6th Commandment, and related values.

Capital Campaign. The Capital Campaign for our Lighting and Mural Project has proceeded well, especially considering that I have purposefully kept it low key. Since I’m writing this so far in advance of publication, it would be useless to talk about specific numbers. But let me thank all the families and individuals who have made pledges so far. And since I was hoping to have all pledges in by November 30, this coming Thursday, let me once again encourage all of you who haven’t made a pledge yet to do so this week. Again, if you can’t afford the $500 pledge I recommend for each household, please give whatever you can.
And while I’m at it, let me give special thanks to the children of the parish who have made very special donations to the Campaign, particularly Molly and Brigid McDermott, who donated the proceeds from their sales at the Homeschoolers’ recent “Kids’ Mart.”

Advent…. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Start thinking about how you will make this a holy season and not just a holly season. More to come…

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Election. As I write this (Wednesday morning) I’m still recovering from the very disappointing news that Virginians have once again elected a pro-abortion, anti-marriage, anti-religious-freedom, anti-common-sense administration to govern us in Richmond. That is saddening, but not surprising, considering the voting trends in Virginia over the last 20 years. But what was surprising and more devastating than the results of the statewide races were the losses of strong pro-life, etc. candidates like Delegates Tim Hugo and Bob Marshall to pro-abortion etc. candidates. Marshall loss to a transgendered man (who calls himself a woman) was particularly troubling.
The media is trying to turn this into a rejection of conservative/traditional values by Virginia voters, but it seems pretty clear to me that the exit polls show that it was mainly a matter of voter turnout: the folks supporting abortion, etc., got their voters out in large numbers, while the folks supporting life, etc., did not. TURNOUT is the key in almost every election—Tim Hugo lost by just 68 votes!
Did you fail to vote? Or did you vote, but for the pro-abortion etc. candidates? Then maybe you need to go to confession this week.
In any case, while disappointed, I’m not going to get discouraged by this election. While I am not very optimistic about the immoral and illogical trends in our society and state, I remember that while a majority of voters voted pro-abortion etc., the facts remain that 1) it wasn’t a totality of voters, so that 45% of the voters voted pro-life etc., and 2) most of eligible voters didn’t vote. So, once again, a small minority of pro-abortion etc. voters are running our state. It doesn’t have to be that way. And with God’s grace, next time….
By the way, some people say I’m too political. But this is not about politics, per se, this is about the moral life, which is definitely my responsibility as a priest. When politics crosses into the moral life, we all have to stand up and speak—and vote.

Shooting in Texas Church. By now we’ve all heard about the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in the little town of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 were killed and 20 injured during a Sunday service. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims, and we pray for the souls of the dead, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We also pray for the soul of the killer—may God have mercy on his cold soul. And we pray for an end of this senseless violence.
I grew up only about 30 miles away from Sutherland Springs, in San Antonio, so I’m a familiar with the town and surrounding area. I know the good salt of the earth Texas Baptists, who don’t always understand Catholics, but share a great faith in and love of Jesus with us. So, I commend my fellow Texan Christians to the mercies of the Lord, who saw them massacred while worshiping Him, and perhaps to some extent even for worshipping Him. And I thank God for the simple bravery of the good old boys who armed themselves to stop and then chase down the crazed killer.
We may never know why the killer did what he did. It seems to me that he was clearly deranged. That derangement may have then focused on a domestic feud. It may also have focused on his atheistic/anti-Christian views, which may or may not have been fueled by the growing anti-Christian sentiment in some parts of society, especially in the media. I don’t know.
We can only ask the Lord Jesus to come to our aid in all these things, to protect us from those who hate us or mean us harm, and give us the hope and courage to move forward with Him. And to come to the aid of our brethren in Texas, and bring the souls of the dead into paradise.
Security Questions for Us. Every time something like this happens, especially a church shooting, I’m sure some of you wonder: “could that happen to me/us.” I remember after September 11, 2001, all sorts of rumors were making the circuit, including a rumor that a large church in my neighborhood was being targeted by terrorists. Thanks be to God, the rumors were completely unfounded. But ever since then I’ve thought a lot about church security, while at the same time refused to be controlled by fear of the unknown.
Could that happen here? Experience sadly shows that it can happen almost anywhere. But the odds of it happening in any particular church are so small it makes particular fears seem largely unreasonable.
Nevertheless, we want to take whatever precautions are reasonable and practical. But what should we do? I’ve discussed this issue with priests, parishioners and law enforcement folks, but no one has a definitive answer. Again, the possibility is so remote that it seems impractical and unreasonable to devote many resources to it. There is also the risk of stirring up undue fears that could distract people at Mass (especially children), or even discourage them from coming to Mass. Moreover, some proposals would seem unnecessarily unwelcoming to visitors.
Even so, we will try to take those precautions which seem reasonable in the circumstances. And if any of you have particular concerns or suggestions, I’m open to hearing them—feel free to contact me or Tom Browne in the office. Moreover, I always encourage you to be vigilant, and report anything clearly suspicious to the priests, staff or ushers. And at all times, I am greatly comforted to know that many of our parishioners are current or former law-enforcement officers or trained military veterans, and that many of them are constantly prepared to render proportionate forceful defense of their fellow parishioners. But above all I trust and pray that Jesus will send His angels to protect and defend us at all times.

Lighting and Mural Project. Thanks for all the overwhelming support so many of you are giving to our plans for the Lighting and Mural Project, both in your comments and in your donations. As of this morning (Wednesday) we have a total of just over $90,000 pledged. Excellent for the first 10 days. But we have a ways to go, so please consider making a pledge this week.
A few of you have expressed some concerns, or even disapproval of the project. I’m open to hearing from all you. One particular concern has been about the health ramifications of LED lights. We have discussed these with our lighting consultant, Chris Stroik, one of the leading lighting architects in the country. Until a few years ago, Mr. Stroik shared many of these concerns, but he assures us that from his extensive investigations and experience all those concerns have been addressed, so that now he exclusively recommends LED systems to his large-building clients. Moreover, the Diocesan construction office, which has overseen over a dozen similar lighting projects, reports no ill effects and few complaints related to LED lighting in other churches. If you have any further concerns about this, please contact Tom Browne in the office.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles