April 28, 2013

Boy Scouts of America and “Gays.” After months of taking criticism for proposing to admit active homosexuals as adult scouting leaders, volunteers, and members (boys), last week BSA announced they are changing their proposal (which still must be approved at their National Annual Meeting next month). The new proposal drops the change regarding adult homosexuals, but still provides that: “No youth may be denied membership …on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” While this at first seems like a victory for Christians, it isn’t really.

What has happened here is the typical strategy that leftist-activists have been using for decades to change traditional institutions. First, they make outrageous and sweeping demands to change the institution in a way that radically contradicts its values. Then, they argue that any opposition to change is fueled by bigotry and hate, appealing to and manipulating the traditional values (charity and kindness) of the institution’s members and society at large. And finally, they pretend to grant a major concession, backing away from their most radical demands, but leaving one important change on the table. The activists thereby paint themselves as “reasonable” and “willing to compromise,” and the institution’s members feel relieved and obliged to go along—and even feel like “winners.” But when you lose something important to you, that has always been unquestionably yours, you are, by definition, not “winners,” but “losers.”

The current policy of BSA is this:

“While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of …members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

That is completely just, charitable and kind. But the new policy, if approved in May, would be a statement that “gay is okay,” and would severely limit (if not completely prohibit) chartering organizations, like St. Raymond’s, from passing on its moral teachings about same-sex attraction and homosexuals.

In short, this new proposal does not change my previously announced decision: if it is adopted by BSA next month, St. Raymond’s association with BSA will end (effective in September). I continue to pray and hope that this does not happen. But if it does, I will give all the support I can to forming a new scouting group, independent of BSA, that will defend Christian values.

Dominican Nuns. On a much happier note…On Sunday, April 14, a small group of St. Raymond parishioners joined me at a dinner to raise awareness of the work of St. Dominic’s Monastery in Linden, VA, and to help raise funds in its support. I’m not a big fan of these kinds of dinners, but I go to quite a few to support worthy causes. But this dinner was different. First, because I feel very close to the Monastery and its work (I am one of its two confessors); and second, because no one from the Monastery was at the dinner! That’s because the Monastery is the home of 14 cloistered Dominican Nuns, whose work is to pursue a hidden life of worship, silence, prayer, study and penance. Like the Franciscan Poor Clares in Alexandria, these sisters never leave the enclosure of the convent except for absolutely essential reasons. Their life is totally dedicated to Christ.

While some say this form of life is a “waste of life,” the opposite is true. These sisters’ life and work embodies the greatest commandment: “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” Moreover, their community life together and their prayers for us embody the second greatest: “love your neighbor as yourself.” (They constantly assure me of their intercession for our parish, especially invoking our Dominican patron St. Raymond). And by their total pursuit of Christ and His love they set a striking example for all of us: while we do not all belong in cloistered monasteries, they remind us, in a radical way, to answer the call to love God and our neighbor in our own daily lives in the world.

I invite you to consider a visit to their mountain top Monastery in Linden (out near Front Royal), and to support the good sisters by your prayers. And if you are so inclined, you might consider supporting them financially. See their website: http://www.lindenopnuns.org/.

By the way, St. Raymond’s donated $5,000 at the dinner, and the dear Sisters personally asked me to pass on their deep gratitude to all of you.

Angelus Academy. St. Raymond’s has had a close relationship with Angelus Academy for over a decade. Before our church was dedicated in December of 1996, a lot of parish activities took place at Angelus’ facility, including daily Mass and weekly Religious Education (CCD). That close relationship was altered by the opening of the church (with the parish hall and classrooms) but it has not diminished the spirit of mutual support and cooperation between us: e.g., around 40% of Angelus’s students are our parishioners, the parish continues to lend it financial support, I am their chaplain, and Fr. Kenna and I offer Mass for the students once a week.

While I am supportive of all our children in whatever school they attend—public, private or Catholic—I especially recommend that children attend good Catholic schools, and particularly that parents consider Angelus Academy. Next Sunday, May 5, Angelus will be sponsoring our “Donut Sunday” in the parish hall (after all morning Masses) and representatives of the school will be on hand to share information and answer questions. Please join us.

Thanks. Marlene and Junior DiCola, long-time stalwarts of the parish, active in Legion of Mary, Adoration and many other activities. In particular, they have been responsible for coordinating the parish’s efforts of accepting (and sorting and delivering) donations of clothing to the House of Mercy in Manassas every week for the last 7 years. Marlene and Junior are stepping down from that responsibility now due to health concerns. But they will remain active in the parish. We thank them for their good and holy work—and especially for their holy example to us.

Remember: committed volunteering in the parish, done out of love for Christ and our neighbor, can be a source of great spiritual growth. What are you volunteering for?

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

October 28, 2012

ELECTION. The election is now only 9 days away. Much is at stake, especially in the presidential and senatorial balloting. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “co-responsibility for the common good make[s] it morally obligatory…to exercise the right to vote…” [2240]. In my opinion, failure to vote is usually grave matter (i.e., the stuff that mortal sins are made of) when the issues are as important as they are in this election.

You should note that the voting/poll location for one local precinct has changed this year. Those of us in Precinct 806 will no longer vote at Hunt Valley Elementary School, but will now be voting at the Sydenstricker Methodist Church, 8508 Hooes Road, which is on the north side of the Parkway, just off Sydenstricker. Note that voting in Precinct 807, will remain at Hunt Valley ES. Your Precinct number is found on your voter registration card.

Key Issues. There are many important issues today, including the economy (huge), national debt, assistance to the needy, immigration, etc., but as with any moral choice we make we always start with the most fundamental issues. Today these should be clear: protecting the right-to-life (without which all rights are forfeited), preserving traditional marriage (the cornerstone of civil society) and restoring religious liberty (without which there are no “God-given rights,” only “government-given rights.”) They are truly non-negotiable and disqualifying issues.

And they are now under attack as never before. Of course the power to vote is one of our strongest weapons we can use to fight off these attacks. But the greatest weapon in our arsenal is prayer. As Christ tells us in Sacred Scripture: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Novena Prayers for the Election. With that in mind I ask that all of St. Raymond’s parishioners lift up the elections to the Lord Jesus’ care. Specifically, I propose that for nine days, beginning today, Sunday, October 28 and ending Monday, November 5, all parishioners join together in the following:
–Daily praying the Rosary;
–Daily praying the Novena to St. Thomas More;
–Daily praying the Prayer for Religious Freedom (composed by Bishop Loverde);
–Daily offering up some sacrifice, perhaps skipping a meal, giving up meat or beef or sweets.

It would be wonderful if these prayers could be offered by families praying together, and/or in the church before the Blessed Sacrament. Also, at end of all Masses, before the recessional hymn, we will pray the Prayer for Religious Freedom.

EXTRAORDINARY MINISTERS OF HOLY COMMUNION. At various Masses last Sunday and today I have blessed 20 new Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHCs), who have been commissioned by our Bishop to assist the priests of the parish in distributing Holy Communion. While distributing Communion is an indeed an honor for anyone—even for the Pope!—the EMHCs are chosen not to bestow on them a personal honor, but so that they may honor and serve the Lord by their reverence and humility in handling the Blessed Sacrament.

Unfortunately the role of EMHCs has been somewhat confused in practice. So in recent years the Popes have issues norms clarifying their duties and permissions. These are very limited, much more than most people think. For example:
–They should not be called “Eucharistic Ministers”: “the only minister who can confect the Sacrament of the Eucharist in persona Christi is a validly ordained Priest. Hence the name ‘minister of the Eucharist’ belongs properly to the Priest alone”;
–They may only assist with the actual distribution of Holy Communion;
–They may assist only in extraordinary circumstances, e.g. at Masses where “there are particularly large numbers …and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers”….“A brief prolongation…is not at all a sufficient reason.”
–They must be careful not to extend their permission beyond these strict limits: “No …extrapolation of additional responsibilities is legitimate for an essentially extraordinary provision.”

Every once in a while you will notice that when more priests (or deacons or seminarian-acolytes) show up to distribute than were planned, I will ask one of the schedule EMHCs to sit down. Please don’t be concerned, they are not embarrassed by this request. Rather, they return to their pew thanking God for this priest accepting God’s call to Holy Orders. They also know that I am required by the Pope to make this request: “The practice of those Priests is reprobated who,…abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.”

[As a side note: Sometimes when I offer the “legal” or moral reasons for my actions people accuse me of not being “pastoral” or “hiding behind a bunch of rules.” Folks, rules have a purpose, as does obedience. Especially when it comes to the Most Holy Eucharist. Do you really want an irreverent or disobedient pastor? If so, which rules can I disobey?]

ALL SAINTS/ALL SOULS. This Thursday, November 1, is the Solemnity of All Saints, when we remember all the Saints in Heaven, especially those who are not “canonized” (maybe your grandmother or a beloved child). It also reminds us that each of us is called to one day be a saint in Heaven, by living a faithful and holy life here on Earth. This is, of course, a Holy Day of Obligation, which means that all Catholics must attend Mass under pain of mortal sin. As usual, there is a special schedule of Masses.

The following day, Friday, November 2, is the Commemoration of All Souls, when we pray for all the souls who are awaiting entrance in to Heaven as they are being purified in Purgatory, especially our loved ones. I invite you all to pray for the dead every day, but especially on this day and throughout the month of November. Even though this is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation, all are encouraged to attend Mass. In particular, I invite you to a special Requiem Mass according to the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin) that evening at 7pm. (It will be a “low Mass,” but an organ and cantor will assist the singing of hymns).

Halloween. Of course the day before these, Wednesday October 31, is “Halloween.” In the past I’ve written about my concerns about this day, especially with rise of paganism and Satanism in our country. Just remember that this week should be mainly about the Saints and Holy Souls, and not morbid or scary costumes. Please, remind your children that “Halloween” means “Holy Eve,” or “All Saints’ Eve,” and that the candy they receive is only a small foretaste of the sweet delights shared by those who love the Lord, obey His commandments and enter into Heaven.

ANGELUS ACADEMY GALA. Don’t forget the Gala to support Angelus on Saturday, November 3, at Fairfax Country Club. For more information call the school at (703) 924-3996, or see their website.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles