September 23, 2012

Good News. I am happy to report that Fr. Joby Thomas has returned to his religious order in India. Thank you for your prayers for him.

Confessions with 2 Priests. Over the last few years our parish has been blessed to have multiple priests available for hearing confessions. Last year, for example, we had 4 priests in-house, plus sometimes Fr. Daly, so that on most Saturday afternoons there were 4 priests hearing confessions, and sometimes 5. However, as you know, we now have only 2 priests living here, and although Fr. Daly is still helping when he can, this will mean that most of the time we will only have 2 priests available on Saturday afternoons, and sometimes only have 1, and he may have to leave the confessional early to prepare to say 5pm Mass.

This will also affect other confession times besides Saturday—there may be some Sunday mornings when confessions will have to be canceled, and our past practice of hearing confessions every night during Advent and Lent seems to be practically impossible now.

I hope to maintain the current schedule as much as possible, but please be patient if and when things don’t work out as we hope. For example, if you stand in line for a long time waiting to go to confession only to have confessions end before you get your chance, instead of being upset, get on your knees and beg the Lord for more priests—both for our parish and for the diocese in general.

But there are some things we can do to make this a little easier on everyone. One thing is to consider the manner in which you go to confession. Some people approach confession as a counseling session, and tell the priest not only their sins but the problems that lead to sin, and even unrelated problems, and hope the priest can give them some good advice. Others tell the priest every detail of their sins, the background of why and when. There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches. Certainly the priest is happy to hear you out, and to give advice in difficult situations. Often it is helpful to the penitent (you) to get some things off your chest before the Lord. I understand that. But perhaps it is not necessary every time we go to confession, especially for those who confess frequently, and especially when there’s a long line waiting to confess. And if it is necessary, sometimes it’s better to schedule an appointment with a priest so that both you and he may talk freely without concern for the people waiting in line.

But sometimes these approaches simply stem from the fact that people don’t know what they should confess, or how to confess. For example, you might confess: “I had an argument with my wife. She wanted me to take the children to confession last Saturday, but I really wanted to watch the Notre Dame football game. I went to Notre Dame, my whole family did, all my brothers and sisters, and we’re all huge fans. So Saturday’s all about THE GAME. So we argued and called each other names, some pretty awful names. I called her one that really upset her, and I knew it would because her father used to use that with her mother, and she always hated it, and when I do that….Finally, she started to cry and took the kids to church herself. I felt really terrible about it right away, especially because not only did they see us fighting and name calling, but I love my kids and it looked like I loved football more than them. Plus I made it look like confession was unimportant to me, and it’s not! I love confession, always have. When I was a kid…”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, although it is a bit rambling. And I don’t write this to make fun, but to make a point. For most people, simply listing their sins, mortal sins being mentioned by kind and number, is adequate. Especially when 20 people are in line behind you, or one priest is hearing all the confessions. So instead, perhaps you might confess: “I have sinned gravely by viciously arguing with my wife, calling her very hurtful names, in front of my children. I also gravely scandalized my children by refusing to take them to confession because I wanted to watch football.” Or even, “I gravely sinned in arguing with my wife and scandalizing my children by demeaning the importance of confession.”

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Another true blessing in our parish is the opportunity to pray before our Eucharistic Lord exposed on the altar every Wednesday (8:30am to 7pm) and Friday (8:30am to 3pm). While I am pleased to see many people take advantage of this, there are some times of the day when it is difficult to find people to pray before our Lord, in particular 9:30am to 10:30am, and 5pm to 6pm (dinner time). I encourage all of you to take time to visit our Lord, whether reserved in the tabernacle or exposed on the altar. And if you can, I ask you to sign up for an hour, especially one of those mentioned, so that our Lord would never be alone as He is exposed on the altar: “could you not watch with me one hour?” Please call Diane Spinelli (703.451.1779) or the parish office to sign up.

Fleur de lis. Several people have commented on the fleur de lis that decorate several of my vestments. Some think it’s the logo of the New Orleans Saints, and I wear it because I’m a fan of that team. Others recognize it as a symbol of France and think I’m giving a nod to my French ancestry. Not quite. The fleur de lis became a symbol of France (and thus the logo of New Orleans’ football team because of the city’s French roots.) because it is an ancient symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom the people of France were, historically, deeply devoted. The fleur de lis (“the lily flower”) symbolizes Mary’s unique relationship to the Holy Trinity (the three petals of the fleur) and her unique purity: “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens” (Song of Songs, 2:1-2). (Note: roses are also symbolic of Mary, the “rose of Sharon”).

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles