Epiphany. Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, commemorating the visit and adoration of the Magi to Christ in Bethlehem. It has historically been celebrated on January 6th since at least the 3rd century, but is celebrated in the U.S. on the Sunday falling between January 2nd and January 8th (inclusive). In the Orthodox Church and many of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches it also, effectively, celebrates the birth of Our Lord, i.e., Christmas.
The visit of the Magi is rich in symbolic meanings for Christians, in particular those relating to the revealing (“epiphany”) of the Christ to the gentile world. As we think about this, it reminds us that that the Church is the Body of Christ on Earth, and so is called to continue the Christmas/Epiphany revelation of the coming of the Messiah to the world. But this is not just a responsibility for the Pope, bishops and priests: each is baptized into Christ and members of Christ’s Body, and so each is called to go out to the gentiles of today—those who do not share our Christian and Catholic faith—and reveal Christ to them. This can take various forms, but it begins with living our lives as if we believe in Jesus ourselves. So we live lives in keeping with the moral teaching of Christ, especially when it comes to chastity and charity. But we also must speak to others about Jesus, and His Church. Again, this can take various forms, considering prudence, our own particular talents, and the particular opportunities the Lord gives us to share our faith. How is Jesus calling you to reveal Him to the world you live in this year?
Feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort. This coming Tuesday, January 7, is the feast of our parish Patron. I invite all of you celebrate his feast at our special solemn Mass (with music) on Tuesday at 7pm.
For those of you who don’t know much about St. Raymond, I invite you to read the 32-page biography we published a few years ago. If you don’t have one, they are available in the parish office.
As a brief reminder…Raymond was born of a noble family, near Barcelona, in 1175. At the age of 20 he became professor of canon law. In 1210 he left teaching to complete his studies in civil and canon law at the University of Bologna. He went on to hold a chair of canon law at that university for three years. (The date of his priestly ordination is uncertain, but it would seem to be around 1195).
On August 1, 1218 Raymond received a heavenly vision in which the Blessed Mother (“Our Lady of Ransom”) instructed him to help St. Peter Nolasco found the Order of Mercedarians, which would be devoted to the ransom of Christians taken captive by the Moors (Spanish Muslims) (a scene depicted in our new mural). Raymond did not, however, join that order but rather entered the Order of Preachers (“Dominicans”) in Barcelona in 1222. As a Dominican, Raymond continued to teach and preach, and devoted considerable effort working to convert Moors and Jews, coaxing St. Thomas Aquinas to write his Summa Contra Gentiles to help in his efforts.
At the request of his superiors, Raymond published the Summa Casuum, a book on cases of conscience for the guidance of confessors and moralists, the first guide of its kind. This work eventually led to his appointment as confessor and theologian to Pope Gregory IX in 1230. The Pope soon directed Raymond to re-arrange and codify the canons (juridical laws) of the Church, which required him to rewrite and condense centuries of Church decrees. The Pope published Raymond’s work in 1231, and commanded that it alone should be considered authoritative. From then on St. Raymond would be known as the “Father of canon law.”
In 1238 he was elected Master General of the Dominican Order, the second successor to St. Dominic, but he resigned two years later, claiming that at 63 years old he was too old for the job. He continued his writing, preaching and pastoral work, as well many important responsibilities entrusted to him by various popes, for another 37 years until his death in Barcelona on January 6, 1275, at the age of 100.
But St. Raymond had one last great miracle to perform. Six years before his death, King James of Aragon invited him to come to Majorca with him to preach to the Muslim inhabitants. But when he arrived on the island the saint discovered that King James had brought his mistress along. Raymond demanded he send her away, and when the King refused, Raymond went searching for a ship to go back to Spain. When he discovered that the King had forbidden any ship to let him board, Raymond simply bowed his head in prayer, made the sign of the cross, and, by the grace of God, sailed 160 miles back to Spain using just his great cape as both a skiff and a sail as depicted in our other mural.
He is the patron saint of lawyers, both canon and civil. And our patron as well! St. Raymond of Peñafort, pray for us!
My “Black Eye.” On Thursday, December 19, several parishioners and I drove 4 carloads of gifts gathered from our “giving tree” out to Our Lady of the Blue Ridge in Madison, VA. As I was unloading one of the trucks, carrying a large box in both hands, suddenly, out of nowhere, I was attacked by a vicious black bear. Not really. Actually, I tripped over a parking curb. I tried to keep from dropping box, but wound up dropping myself, face first, onto the concrete. I fell pretty hard, but, thanks be to God, there was no serious damage: no broken bones, and only a few scratches and a relatively small laceration on my face. It looked much worse than it was, with all the swelling and discoloring. Very little pain. The worst part was a minor concussion which has slowed me down since then. But I’ve been able to get lots of rest, and I’m almost totally mended.
Thanks to all who have expressed concern and sympathy. And thanks especially to folks who took me to the hospital in Culpeper, and drove me and my car home (separately) from Madison. God bless you for your kindness.
Interruption at Mass. Last Sunday someone interrupted my homily with a shouted outburst of protest. Both the “shouter” and I apologize for the fear this may have brought to anyone present, especially little children. Such interruptions of Mass are always unacceptable, but it seems to me that in these times of heightened fear of violence in churches, they are … especially uncharitable.
Happy New Year 2020 Anno Domini. As we continue the Christmas Season in this New Year of the Lord 2020, I pray that the Christ Child will shower you with His graces, and that His Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and St. Raymond will keep you in their care. Blessed and Merry Christmas, and a Holy and Happy New Year!
Oremus pro invicem! Fr. De Celles