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 Please excuse anything that seems out of date.)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

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Halloween. This coming Tuesday, October 31, most people will be celebrating “Halloween.” Sadly, for some—such as satanic cults and witches—it is an evening to celebrate evil. But, thankfully, for most people its simply a day to pretend to be something they’re not. Not much harm in that, unless we pretend to be something evil. This is especially the case with children—I pray none my children at St. Raymond’s would honor evil (even unintentionally) by dressing up as devils, vampires and the like. Dress up like a superhero, or better yet, a great Saint. Let’s keep this an uplifting and wholesome day, mainly for kids to pretend and eat candy. And pray for those who turn it to some other less moral purpose.

A Holy Week. With all the attention on “Halloween” this week, most people will forget what this week is really about: All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These days are particularly important because they remind us that the Church of Jesus Christ is more than just the people we see at Mass, or even the 2 billion plus Christians on Earth. Because countless numbers of Christians have lived and died before us, and many of those are in Heaven, or on their way there.
This is what the Church means when it speaks of the “Communion of Saints”—using the word “saint” as it is most commonly used in Scripture, to refer to all Christians, both those living and those who have died in Christ. And so, the one Church of Christ has three states, or parts: first, all Christians on Earth (“The Pilgrim Church” or “The Church Militant”), second, all those in Heaven (“The Church in Glory” or “The Church Triumphant”), and third, all the souls in Purgatory (“The Church Being Purified” or “The Church Suffering”).

All Saints Day, Wednesday, November 1, is a holy day of obligation (you must go to Mass, under pain of mortal sin) reminds us of our unity with the Church in Heaven. Throughout the year we celebrate the feasts of particular “saints” whom the Church officially recognizes as now living in Heaven—these are “canonized saints”. But on ALL Saints’ Day we also remember ALL the other countless numbers of souls who have gone to Heaven, including, hopefully, many of our deceased parents and grandparents, and so many of our little children who have gone before us. This is their feast day! So, we honor them, and pray to them, asking the whole multitude in Heaven to assist us on our way to join them.
All Souls Day, Thursday, November 2, remembers our unity with the Church in Purgatory. Unfortunately, nowadays even the mention of Purgatory often triggers reactions of disbelief or even ridicule—even among Catholics. Yet this dogma goes back to the Old Testament, as 2 Maccabees 12:39-46 makes very clear. Some see Purgatory as a place of horrible torture, or even a part of Hell, and the thought that their deceased loved ones could be there seems disrespectful, or even unbearable: they want to think of them as being happy in Heaven.
But remember, St. John tells us in Rev. 21:27 that “nothing imperfect shall enter into” Heaven. The thing is, who do you know that is perfect? Almost all of us have at least some venial sin we cling to, or have some inordinate attachment to earthly things. Does that mean that all of us imperfect people will not enter Heaven, and so go to Hell? Not at all. In His great love and mercy, the Lord takes all of us who die with any imperfections on our souls (but having, before dying, properly repented of any mortal—“deadly”—sins) and He perfects, or purifies, us. Another word for purification is “purgation,” so this time/place/state of purification is called “Purgatory.”
It is true that Purgatory is a place of suffering, hence it is referred to as the “Church Suffering.” Perhaps this suffering is best understood in the light of the suffering that comes with any change. For example, when we try to get into better physical shape, or when we try to learn a new subject, it’s difficult, “painful” (“no pain, no gain”). But this pain is not something we should shun—in fact, the pain becomes a source of joy, as we begin to recognize it as a sign of change to a better state.
So, is it a surprise that the change from imperfect to perfect will be painful? Or that in spite of their suffering, St. Catherine of Genoa, after receiving a vision of Purgatory from Our Lord, wrote: “I believe no happiness can be …compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise.” The souls in Purgatory suffer, but they rejoice as it brings them closer to Heaven.
Even so, we must pray for the Souls in Purgatory—because they do suffer. Just as we try to help those we love on Earth by praying for them, we should continue to pray for them after death to help them on their way to perfection. Even if we hope or think they’re already in heaven, we still owe them whatever help, in prayer, we can give them in death. So, even though it is not a day of obligation, the Church encourages us to go to Mass on All Souls Day to offer that greatest prayer possible for the “Holy Souls.”

Election. State elections are now only 9 days away. Sadly, many Virginians will not vote in this so-called “off year election,” even though it will decide who writes and executes the laws and policies that govern most of our daily lives at the county and state level. So, I ask all of you to join me in voting, and also praying from now until November 7, begging Our Lord to give us the best leaders possible. Please consider praying the daily Rosary and/or the Novena prayer(s) to St. Thomas More, and offering up small sacrifices.

Lighting and Mural Capital Campaign. In the last few days all registered parishioners should have received a letter/packet in the mail explaining the renovations we plan to make in the church next summer—replacing/upgrading all our existing lighting and installing two new beautiful murals (paintings) of St. Raymond. This project will be expensive, about $400,000. So I am asking all of you to make a special donation to help pay for it.
I will speak briefly about this at all Masses this Sunday and write more here in the coming weeks, but please read over the packets we sent to see all the details. There are also some pictures and diagrams in the narthex this week that might help you get a better understanding of the project. If you haven’t received the mailing yet, please call or email the parish office. Thanks for your generosity. Please pray to St. Raymond for the success of this work.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles