29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2012

October 21, 2012
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Springfield, Va.

You know, one of the great consolations of being a priest here at St. Raymond’s
is the kindness of our parishioners.
But sometimes people, even very kind people, complain about what I do.
And I understand that and I try not to let it bother me,
because first of all I know I screw up,
and second, well, I know that you can’t please all the people all the time.
Besides, I’m a big boy, I can handle,
especially when criticisms are presented with charity.

Sometimes, though, it can be a little frustrating.
Especially when I get comments that go in exactly the opposite directions.
For example, a few weeks ago I got a number of notes from parishioners
telling me my homily was absolutely beautiful and powerful,
well organized, clear, methodical and moving.
And the same day I got a couple of notes from other parishioners telling me
it was the worst homily they’d ever heard, it was hurtful, rambling, and cold;
and that I should be ashamed of myself.

What do you do with that?
Sometimes it kind of reminds me of today’s Gospel,
where John and James come up to Jesus and say:
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

Even so, lately the number of complaints
about my homilies have gone up noticeably.
And even though the number of compliments have also gone way up,
way more than the number of complaints,
I still feel I need to consider the concerns at the core
of some of the complaints.

In particular, that I’m preaching too much about politics,
and that I use language that is too direct and too passionate.
And that I seem to be “telling people how to vote.”

Let me begin by saying, in everything a priest does
he should take to heart what Jesus says to his apostles today:
“whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;…
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.”
We are not to “lord” our authority over our people, but to humbly serve them.

But the thing is, notice what Jesus says to John and James today:
“to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
His Father had already decided who would sit where in the Kingdom,
so even though Jesus came to serve us, beginning with his apostles,
he came to serve His Father first—to be obedient to his Father’s plan.

Also, remember what John and James call Jesus.
Before they tell him what they want him to do for them, they first call him: ,
“Teacher.”
Jesus is a servant, who serves by teaching.
How well does a teacher serve his students, if he tells them just what they hear.
So, Jesus serves by teaching them what they need to hear,
what his Father wants them to hear.

So, as a priest, that’s my job: to serve you by teaching;
to teach not what you want to hear,
or what I want you to hear,
but what Jesus and his Father want you to hear.

Now lately some have been upset that I’m preaching too much about politics.
But I’m not really preaching about politics.
I’ve been preaching about Christ’s teaching, the Church’s teaching,
and calling attention to the obvious conflicts
between the world and that teaching.
Some say, but Father, what about the wall of separation of Church and state?
But should the Church be silent when the state makes immoral laws,
or when candidates are in favor of immoral laws?
Good lord, how many times has the church been criticized for remaining silent
and letting immoral laws stand unquestioned?

For example…
In the year 1839 Pope Gregory XVI issued a document called “In Supremo,”
reiterating the Church’s ancient teaching against slavery,
specifically reproaching those who:
“dare to …reduce to slavery
Indians, Blacks or other such peoples….
as if they were not humans but rather mere animals.”

Unfortunately, some Catholics, in particular, some American bishops and priests
—especially Southern bishops and priests—
tried to argue that the doctrine didn’t apply to American slavery,
because somehow it was “different.”
It seems they got caught up in the prevailing attitude of the culture around them
and were influenced more by what their people wanted them to say,
than what Christ and the Church demanded that they say,
and so either twisted papal teaching into something it was not,
or simply chose to remain silent.

This, of course, led the laity to be confused about the morality of slavery.
And that confusion led to a terrible social disaster just a few years later,
when in 1857, a supposedly “devout Catholic” named Roger Taney,
writing as the fifth Chief Justice of the United States,
wrote the opinion in the Supreme Court case known as “Dred Scott,”
upholding the institution of slavery in the America.

This is what happens when bishops and priests
fail to clearly point out laws that are evil in the sight of Christ.
And so slavery continued, and 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War,
and millions of Black Americans suffered racial oppression
for a 100 years after that.
And while their parishioners may have been happy in their pews,
we are ashamed of the failures of those southern priests and bishops.

But when priests and bishop speak up,
and serve their people by teach the truth,
even when people get tired of hearing it,
wonderful things can happen.
Almost exactly a century after the Dred Scott case, in 1956,
an American Catholic bishop served his people
by stubbornly repeating the teaching of the Church,
and even in the face of the mockery and violence,
even by his own people,
refused to conform himself to public sentiment,
refused to accept some artificial line between Church and state
that would defend the racial segregation of the deep South.
His name was Francis Rummel, the Archbishop of New Orleans,
and what he did was desegregate the Catholic schools of his archdiocese. And when large groups of Catholic lay people continued to try to block his efforts,
after ample warning, he excommunicated their leaders.

Imagine if the American Catholic bishops of the mid-1800’s
had been as courageous as Archbishop Rummel:
if they had stood united against slavery,
banging the drum of justice over and over again
so their people would finally listen, and understand. Maybe the Dred Scott case would have been decided the same way.
But maybe it would have been without Catholic Justice Roger Taney’s help.

Now, some say if the Catholic bishops and priests in the South
had actively opposed slavery they would been both marginalized
and actively persecuted.
Maybe.
Some say all southern Catholics would’ve been persecuted,
or that southerners would have left the Catholic Church in droves.
Maybe.

But then again, isn’t that what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel
when he asks: “Can you drink the cup that I drink”?
He’s talking about the same cup he talks about in the garden of Gethsemane:
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;
nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
The cup of suffering, the cup of the Cross, the cup of his blood poured out.
“For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Acceptance of suffering is part of being a Christian.

Of course slavery is behind us, but unfortunately,
many Catholics now accept an even greater social evil.
Because while it’s horrible to take away an innocent person’s freedom,
it is clearly even worse to take away an innocent person’s life.
And so we face the abomination of the 21st century: abortion.

Yet the popes in our time have taught very clearly on this as well:
the Church has constantly and infallibly condemned abortion
as a grave evil—a mortal sin.
As Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae, in 1995:
“by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors
….I declare that direct abortion
… always constitutes a grave moral disorder,
since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.”

Fortunately, virtually all the American bishops, and most priests,
see this very clearly.
Maybe they don’t all always speak up about it as they might.
Still, one wonders if they imitated Archbishop Rummel,
acting a bit more forcefully,
not worried about pleasing their people
but about serving their people by teaching them the truth,
one wonders if there wouldn’t be less confusion among Catholics
about abortion today.
One wonders if Catholics wouldn’t abandon any party or candidate
who publically supported the killing of innocent human beings by abortion,
just as (today) they would surely abandon any party or candidate
who publicly supported the oppression of innocent human beings
by slavery or unjust discrimination.

But this not just about abortion.
The pope has reminded us, time and again that we must defend,
both the right to life
and traditional marriage (one man/one woman),
and that these are, in his words, “not negotiable.”
And it’s also about religious freedom, especially here in America.
As the pope reminded American Catholics just last January:
“It is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States
come to realize the grave threats
to the Church’s public moral witness…
The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated…
Of particular concern are …attempts …to limit
that most cherished of American freedoms,
the freedom of religion.”

And so the bishops and priests cannot, will not, be silent
about these 3 non-negotiables: life, marriage and religious liberty.
Even if it means a little suffering.
If I suffer from a few harsh complaints
or feeling I’ve let you down by being a poor preacher.
Or if you suffer through a homily that makes you feel uncomfortable or bored.
Or even if the Church suffers the loss of parishioners
who refuse to drink from the cup of Christ’s suffering
and instead to go to a church that will make they feel good.
What matters is that we are servants of God,
and learn from God how to rightly serve each other.

All this is not about politics.
And it’s not about telling you how to vote.
It’s about the truth and the teaching of Christ and his Church.
About learning from the terrible mistakes of the past
in order not to repeat those mistakes today.
It’s about warning you against those who embrace intrinsic evils
that will destroy America.
It’s about being a servant of Jesus Christ,
even when it’s difficult, even when it means drinking of the cup of suffering.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2012

October 7, 2012
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Springfield, Va.

Today our Bishops ask us to commemorate Respect Life Sunday
—to remember that our nation, and much of the world,
has been caught up in a culture of death spurred on
by the evil of abortion.
In this context today I want to focus on one key aspect of the culture of death,
and that is its effects on women.

Nine months ago certain so called “progressive” politicians
began to accuse more conservative politicians of what they called
waging a “War on Women.”
It quickly became a mantra, and even a whole political strategy
embraced by one of the major political parties[—the Democrats].
And while they overtly make this charge
against their counterparts in the [Republican] [other] Party,
it began and subtly continues to be most fundamentally, and viciously,
a charge against the Catholic Church.

But today I ask: Who is really waging a War on Women?

In the 1960s the feminist movement sprung up as a reaction
against various forms of discrimination against women.
As such, it has many good aspects to it.
Unfortunately, the movement became quickly dominated and manipulated
by radicals influenced by Marxist ideology,
not rooting itself in love and truth but in envy and lies.
So that males became the enemy,
marriage was seen as slavery,
and motherhood a form of bondage.
So the strategy emerged to attack men, marriage and motherhood.

It began to unfold with an effort to lift an ancient ban on contraception,
and to make it not only legal but favored by society.
This began in the early 20th century but really came to fruition
in 1965 when the Supreme Court ruled that
bans on contraception were unconstitutional,
against the newly discovered “right to privacy.”

Progressives argued that this would free women
from unwanted or unplanned pregnancy,
and give them control over their own bodies
so they could pursue education and careers
unhindered by the “burden” of babies.

But who did it really free—who did it really benefit?
50 years later we see that it actually freed men
from their responsibility for pregnancies
—it was the woman’s choice not to contracept,
so pregnancy became her “fault,”
and the babies became the woman’s responsibility,
and the fathers were free to walk away.

Moreover, by separating the necessary and beautiful connection
between conception and sex,
men increasing lost respect for women and their sexuality,
and women became not persons to be respected
but sexual objects to be used.
And the gift of pregnancy—nurturing the life of a new human being—
began to be considered a type of a disease,
one that women had to take medicine to preventive.

But of course, it was really more a poison than a medicine
—the birth control pill normally acts
to cause the body to do something unnatural,
it causes it to be unhealthy.
So is there any surprise that the World Health Organization classifies the pill
as a carcinogen, in the same category as cigarettes?

And then there was divorce.
Around 1970 states started to enact so called “no-fault” divorce laws,
making it extremely easy, in most cases, to get a divorce.
Feminists argued these laws would allow women to free themselves
from abusive or oppressive husbands.
But once again, it has more commonly been used to free men
from their responsibilities to their wives and children.

And the ease of divorce encourages couples
not to try to save struggling marriages—to give up too easily.
In the end, in the overwhelming number of cases,
women get the short end of the stick:
once again receiving primary responsibility of the children,
both practically and financially,
as they are abandoned by husbands and fathers.

And then there was Abortion.
Studies show that between 30 to 60%, perhaps has high as 67%,
of all abortions are directly related to the coercive efforts
of a husband, a boyfriend, or a father.
In other words, abortion is often chosen not by women, but by men.
Studies also show that even when there is not direct coercion,
fear of losing or angering the man in their lives
is also a significant cause for the choice of abortion.
So much for freeing women from their slavery to men.

Also, abortion has always been a backup to contraception,
especially in the eyes of many men.
So once again, men say:
“you should have been more ‘careful’—its’ not my ‘fault’, you deal with it.”
Once again, men are freed from responsibility,
leaving women alone to deal with a challenging pregnancy.

But more than all that, with every abortion there are 2 victims:
the baby whose heart is stopped,
and the woman, the mother, whose heart is broken.
In those moments of fear or confusion or even abandonment,
they may grab hold to the lie that “it’s just a clump of tissue.”
But eventually a mother’s heart has to come to terms with what she’s done
—something so terribly contrary to every instinct, every longing
of their maternal souls.
And when they do, society, having bought into the lies of the abortion culture,
tells them they are wrong to feel guilty,
and even mock them in their pain.

And finally, we have the redefinition of Marriage.

Of course, this was begun when contraception was accepted,
as that separated life-giving-conception from love and commitment.
Even the instinctual connection
between marriage and procreation was broken,
and so marriage was no longer about having children,
as it had always been in the history of mankind.
And marriage became more about sex than permanent commitment
—the commitment strengthen by the birth of children.

And divorce did the same thing:
the no fault divorce makes a joke out of vows of “till death do us part.”
And in abortion, along with mirroring the effects of contraception,
we also see
the wedge it can drive between a husband and wife,
especially when it involves coercion by either,
and how it turns the family from being the refuge of safety
into a den of death.
All these have redefined marriage.

No wonder we now see the push to the most abominable re-definition:
“gay marriage.”
Think about this: this means woman is no longer essential to marriage.
And it completely undermines the very institution itself,
really destroying the fundamental institution
that allows a woman to flourish as mother and wife.

So again I ask: who is waging the war on women?
Is it the Catholic Church, or the “social progressives”?

The Catholic Church, my friends, defends the dignity of women.
Before it was popular, or the enlightened thing to do,
in the ancient world that held that
women were not much more than mere property,
when it was thought that a man couldn’t really be a friend to a woman
because she was so intellectually inferior,
it was the Catholic Church who proclaimed the words of Jesus:
“from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.”
Here he was quoting from the first chapter of Genesis which says:
“God made man in his own image, male and female he created them.”
In other words: one creature, in two ways.
Male and female, equal in dignity, but radically different as well.
Why?

Because created in the image of the God who is love they had to be
both radically equal and radically different
so that they can give themselves to each other in love.
So the differences are a good thing—and a real thing,
essential to being male or to being a woman.
And among those good, no, GREAT and wonderful differences we find what?
–only women can be mothers!
And also, that women have an incredible capacity to nurture and to pacify.
Even the radical feminists admit this, even though they would deny it:
how many times have you heard some radical feminist say,
“if women ruled the world we’d put an end to war”?
Why—because it is deep in their nature to nurture, not fight.
Although they certainly can fight, just as a man can nurture.
But each is given a special capacity that cannot be denied.

And because women have these great “feminine” gifts, especially motherhood,
the Church has always taught its men to respect and honor women.
Standing when a lady comes into a room, or opening a door for her,
was a sign of that respect,
not of “condescension” as some feminists claimed.
And so was protecting her virginity and her sexuality
until it could be expressed in its proper context
with a man who gave and dedicated himself
totally and forever to her in marriage,
and respected the great give of procreation and motherhood,
the most marvelous fruit of her femininity.

So, the Church says “no” to divorce.
As the Lord Jesus says:
“a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.”
Again quoting from the beginning of Genesis,
but now adding his own clear teaching:
“Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being may separate.”

WE say, a woman has a right to a stable home,
to a husband and a father for her children
who gives himself totally and forever,
so that her wifely and maternal love can flourish.

And the Church says “no” to contraception.
Instead we say with Jesus:
“Let the little children come to me, do not prevent them,”
We refuse to objectify women’s bodies
and make women mere sex objects to pleasure men.
NO!
In Genesis God tells the first husband and wife: “be fruitful and multiply”!
And, again, Jesus says, also quoting genesis: “the two become one flesh”!
The one flesh union means three things:
first: the union of their in life and love
lived out in the ordinary life of the flesh,
second: their bodily union in the marital act of love,
third: the union of their life and love in the one flesh that is their baby.
The Church stands in awe of the gift of feminine fecundity,
as all men, and women, should as well.

And the Church says “no” to abortion.
We will not only not support the killing of little babies,
but we completely reject a practice and mentality
that warps and destroys the very heart of women,
in turning a mother against her child.
We will not condone the coercion of women
to turn against their babies and their very own nature,
transforming an innocent child’s protective and nurturing mommy
into a callous enemy.
We will not stand by as women are crushed by this great evil,
and mocked, ridiculed and silenced when they cry for help!

And the Church says “no” to all forms of redefining marriage.
Again, as Jesus himself reminds us, quoting from Genesis:
“from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.”
Marriage is the permanent union of one male and one female,
in which they lead one life together,
and from their fruitfulness of their bodily unity and differences,
give life and love to children.

Who has declared war on women?
Not the Catholic Church!
And, frankly, not the Republican Party, which,
in the legislation it supports,
it’s party platform
and the public practice and convictions of its candidates
for President and Vice President,
stands with the Church against abortion and redefining marriage,
and defends the Church’s and the individual’s right, our religious liberty,
to hold, practice and proclaim their belief
in the corrupting effect of contraception.

No, the ones who have declared and wage war on women are those hypocrites
who pretend to be the friend of women: the so called “social progressives.”
And, yes, the Democrat Party has declared war on women,
as it has publically and enthusiastically,
in the legislation it supports,
it’s party platform
and the public practice and conviction
of its candidates for President and Vice President,
embraced abortion and the degradation of marriage,
And it is that party, and her candidates that have insisted
that contraception is not only a right but an essential good
that must be provided and defended,
even if it means throwing out the religious freedom
specifically guaranteed in the constitution
and even crushing the Catholic Church, and any Church,
that dares to defy them.

Who has declared war on women?
As Catholics, it cannot, it will not, be us!
And as Catholics, we cannot be an ally of those who are waging
a war on women.
No, as Catholics, we must use every weapon at our disposal
to peacefully protect women from those who wage war on them.
By our words and actions, by our financial donations and prayers,
and, yes, by our votes in local, state and national elections.

Today is Respect Life Sunday, and all October is Respect Life Month.
The culture of death has its cold icy hand
wrapped around the heart of our nation,
a strangle hold that is destroying our society.
And that heart I speak of is our women, in their wonderful feminine greatness.
We cannot respect life
if we continue to degrade the ones who are so integral
to its conception, birth, nourishing and nurturing.
We cannot respect life if we do not respect women,
and defend them from those who would degrade, diminish or destroy them.

As we enter more deeply into this Holy Mass,
let us join together with Holy Mother Church,
and with our Blessed Mother Mary,
and beg our Lord Jesus Christ,
Spouse of the Church and Son of Mary,
to come to the aid our country, and to us,
as we fight the war for women, and so restore an abiding respect for life.

October 7, 2012

Today is “Respect Life Sunday,” beginning “Respect Life Month,” in which the American Bishops call us to remember that over 3000 innocent Americans are killed every day by abortions, over 1.3 million a year, for a total of over 50 million dead since 1973.

But even as horrible as that death toll is, we can’t forget that abortion has other consequences as well—consequences that have been eating away at the moral and legal fiber of our nation and culture.

Of course, we cannot forget the consequence of abortion’s devastating effect on women. Especially the women who have been lied to and told, “it’s okay, it’s just a formless clump of cells.” But deep inside they know, or come to know, the truth of what they’ve done. These are the 2nd victims of abortion, but they are ignored and ridiculed for expressing their pain and feelings of guilt. We must not forget them, we must love them and do everything we can to help them heal, and to make sure that the evil of abortion will not continue to plague future generations of women. We must put an end to the real “war on women”—born and unborn.

But the consequences of abortion go beyond even that, as the establishment of a constitutional right to abortion is like a virus injected into the body politic slowly corrupting every other right, and the freedom that is the life’s blood of our great nation. Because there cannot be any human rights if human beings don’t have a right to life. If you’re not alive, you have no rights at all.

This is why, in 1776, when Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, the only rights he felt it necessary to list were the most fundamental: “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—with the right to life being first.

At this point, some might be wondering, “what about the separation of church and state.” But as Pope Benedict told a group of American bishops gathered in Rome last January: “The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues….”

When most of us think of the separation between church and state we think of the Bill of Rights. What does it actually say? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Notice, it’s not about protecting the government from the church, but protecting the individual and religions from the government.

Just as the “right to life” is the first right listed in the Declaration, the right to freely practice our religion is the very first right listed (in the very first words of the very First Amendment) in the Bill of Rights. And rightly so. Because the freedom of religion is essential to the freedom of thought, to decide for oneself what one believes to be true, right and good. How can we defend any rights if we don’t have that right? And how can we defend any rights as being given to us from God himself, as the Declaration states, unless we have a right to believe in God as we see fit?

But since the right to life necessarily precedes all other rights and liberties, when someone embraces a theory of man and society that rejects the right to life, he thereby perceives all other rights and liberties as not fundamental, natural or God-given, but simply invented by political expediency and political power. So that when those in power find that the exercise of a certain right or freedom is not politically expedient to their agenda, they will quickly dismiss that “freedom” or “right.”

In January 2012 our President did just that. After years of notoriously rejecting the right to life he issued regulations (now in effect) that, while exempting institutions that primarily serve Catholics (e.g., parishes), require most Catholic institutions and employers to provide health insurance for their employees that will cover contraception, abortion inducing drugs, and sterilization. This is repugnant to Catholic morals, but the president directly and willfully dismisses our constitutional and human right to freedom of religion. Moreover, he imposes draconian fines on those who defy him, fines that will bankrupt and close every faithful Catholic college, hospital, and charitable institution (e.g., Catholic Charities, Knight of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services) in the country.

The President says he is not attacking our liberty and that he strongly supports the “freedom to worship.” But as Pope Benedict has reminded us so often, religious freedom is not merely the freedom of worship. “Worship” is not what the First Amendment is about: the exercise of religion is actually practicing the tenets, putting faith into action. In other words, the work of Catholic hospitals, charities etc.—the very organizations the administration is attacking.

Is this direct assault on the Catholic Church aimed to punish the Bishops and faithful Catholic for their opposition to abortion, and our defiance of the President’s relentless promotion of the gay agenda and sexual promiscuity? Perhaps, perhaps not. In any case, just as they tossed out the most fundamental right to life, now they have thrown out the first right that flows from it. And if they can so easily cast aside the first right recognized in the First Amendment, what will keep them from ignoring the rest of the rights listed in the First Amendment: freedom of speech, the press, peaceful assembly, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances?

And if they can make Catholics provide contraception, etc., what else can they make us provide? Direct surgical abortions? “Gay weddings”? And if they can close down our charities, can they take away the Church’s tax exempt status or put your priests in jail for preaching against their attack on the Church? You might think it’s a stretch, but according the reasoning of the Supreme Court, the constitutional right to contraception was the basis for both the right to abortion and the right to sodomy. Once you ignore the natural rights of man, and replace them with their opposites, then anything is possible.

As Pope Benedict told the American bishops: “…[I]t is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political …spheres… Of particular concern are …attempts being made to limit …the freedom of religion.…. [and] the right of conscientious objection…”

So what do we do? There are many ways we can effect change. First, we can still exercise our First Amendment right of free speech to tell to our neighbors the truth about what’s going on. And in 4 weeks we can exercise our right to vote to elect congressmen and senators and a president who will defend our God given rights, and end this hellish persecution of Christ and His Catholic Church.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

September 2, 2012

More Priest Changes. First Fr. Pilon retired early. Then Fr. Lovell informed us he would not be coming back in the fall. And now we find out that Fr. Joby Thomas will be leaving us to return to his work in India on September 5, this Wednesday.

Fr. Joby has been a big help to me this last year, but especially this summer– don’t know what I would have done without his help. Many of you have told me how much you appreciate his preaching and his ability as a confessor, not to mention his personal kindness and example of prayer. But in the end, the life of a priest, especially a religious priest like Fr. Joby, is one of obedience. So when a priest’s superior says “go,” we go. Join me in thanking Fr. Joby for all his contributions to the parish and in praying for him as he returns to his home in India. There will be a small going-away “ice-cream” reception for Fr. Joby today (Sunday, September 2) after the 12:15 Mass. All are invited.

But there’s one more change: Bishop Loverde has decided to send us another priest. This Wednesday, September 5, Fr. Joseph Kenna will join us as Parochial Vicar. Fr. Kenna is a good, holy, intelligent and hard-working priest. He grew up with his 8 brothers and sisters in Pittsburg, PA. After attending Christendom College for a couple of years, he received his bachelor’s degree in math and economics from the University of Pittsburg in 1989. He went on to work for a few years for a government contractor before beginning his studies for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. Ordained a priest for the Diocese of Arlington in 1999, he has served as Vicar in four other parishes: All Saints, St. Mary’s (Fredericksburg), St. Bernadette’s, and Holy Spirit (where he is currently serving). Fr. Kenna and I are also old friends, going back to our seminary days at “the Mount,” where he was three years behind me, and as priests we’ve played a lot of golf together on our days off for about the last 7 years. It will be great to have him join me in service of this great parish.

Please join me in praying for Fr. Kenna as he makes this transition. Also, please come out to a welcoming party for him next Sunday, September 9, after the 12:15 Mass. A light lunch will be served.

Summer Ends, School Begins. This coming week many of our children go back to school. I hope and pray it will be a year of great intellectual and spiritual growth for all of them, and not too much stress for their parents. But remember, the most important subject our children need to learn about is their Catholic Faith. For those children going to Catholic schools, or who will be “Catholic homeschooled” using a daily religion curriculum, I encourage you study hard and take advantage of this great opportunity of being able to explore so deeply the treasures and wisdom of Christ and His Church.

For those who are not in Catholic schools or being Catholic homeschooled, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of St. Raymond’s excellent Religious Education program. How can you love and follow Jesus if you don’t know much about Him? So come, and learn! But don’t just learn about him for that one hour or so a week—make sure you do the homework and reading assigned by your teachers. And parents, remember you are the “primary educators” of our children: “CCD” is here only to help you to fulfill that important part of your parental vocation. So make sure you are actively involved in your children’s religious education, by supplementing and building on what they learn in class.

And also, to those parent and children in public schools, remember that the values they teach are often at odds with our Catholic Faith. You must be constantly on guard to efforts (wittingly or unwittingly) to undermine your faith and values. One mother told me last year how a local public school teacher, without the knowledge of the parents, gave the children in his English Literature class a project encouraging them to feel outrage at those who oppose “gay-marriage.” What does that have to do with English Lit, and who is he to sneak this past the parents? But that’s the world we live in.

In particular I warn you to be careful of so called “Family Life Education” programs, and to opt your children out of at least those parts that are most morally offensive, especially those concerning family living and sexuality. Different parents may make different prudential judgments about some portions of these programs, (e.g., drug abuse), but there is no doubt that the programs related to family and sexuality cannot be helpful to our children. How can anyone teach about family or sex if they don’t understand their fundamental meaning as part of God’s plan for our happiness? Moreover, there is no way to teach on these subjects without some a moral context—“this is right or okay, that is wrong”—and today’s public schools promote a morality which is largely contrary to Christian morality.

So remember the Lord’s warning: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” And his counsel: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Who is the Extremist? For the last two weeks people have been lambasting Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin for remarks on his opposition to abortion in the case of rape and incest. There is no doubt he chose his words foolishly, and got some of his facts wrong. He should have simply explained that it is always wrong to kill any innocent and defenseless human being, and that babies should not receive the death penalty for their father’s crimes. Even so, despite all the rhetoric about his muddled words, this defense of all innocent babies is really why he is being called “an extremist.” Which makes all faithful Catholics extremists.

But who is the extremist? This week an audio recording surfaced from 2003 reminding us of then-State-Senator Barrack Obama’s opposition to a bill to protect babies who are born alive, living and breathing outside of the womb, after surviving an attempted abortion. He was the only member of the Illinois legislature to do so. A similar bill passed in the U.S. Congress with only 15 votes against it (out of 535). If you want to know what the real extreme position is on abortion, this is it. I encourage you to go to our parish website (http://www.straymonds.org) to read and listen to him defend his barbaric position.

Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles