7th Sunday in Ordinary Time February 23, 2014

Sorry about Last Week’s Bulletin. One of the casualties of the foot of snow we received the week before last was last Sunday’s bulletin. Our bulletin is printed in Pennsylvania and shipped to us every Friday by air through UPS,  so when so many airports closed during the storm last week, and air freight began to back up…. O well. As I write this on Wednesday we are working on mailing the bulletins to you, so I hope you have received them by now. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. Please remember, the bulletin is always available online on our website.

 

St. Valentine’s Day Dinner. Last Saturday, February 15, we had a full house for our St. Valentine’s Day Dinner for married and engaged couples. 100 couples attended and a really wonderful time seems to have been had by all. The food was terrific, the entertainment was outstanding, the service was superb and the decorations were beautiful. This is surely to become a new and cherished tradition of St. Raymond’s—although we may have to build a bigger hall to accommodate it in the future! In a time when the true meaning of marriage is being so undermined by our society today, this was great opportunity to support our couples, placing the joy of marital romance and love in the context of the love of Christ and His Church. Many thanks to Bob and Gerri Laird and all those on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Committee for their hard work to make this evening such an outstanding success.

 

Lent Approaches. Ash Wednesday is only 10 days away, so it’s time to begin thinking about what you will do to keep a holy Lent this year. Next week we will include a full schedule of the parish’s Lenten activities, but I hope you will mark your calendars today for two special events that I hope will help start the season on the right foot:

Lenten Series: The day after Ash Wednesday, Thursday, March 6, Fr. Paul Scalia will begin a 5 week series of talks on “Praying the Psalms.” The talks will be every night Thursday, at 7:30, until April 3. The first talk, is entitled: “Sing Praises With A Psalm: Introduction to the Psalms.”

— “Mary of Nazareth”: on the first Sunday of Lent, March 9th, 2014 at 1:30pm, St. Raymond’s will be sponsor a special private showing of the movie Mary Of Nazareth at Kingstowne Regal Cinemas. Please see the insert and the article in this bulletin for more details.

 

Love Your Enemies. In this Sunday’s Gospel we continue our reading of the Sermon on the Mount, and hear Jesus tell us: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” These words of Jesus did not really present a new idea to the Jews of His time, in as much as they were imbedded in the moral teachings of the Old Testament, the 10 Commandments and the moral laws that elaborated on them, in particular the “second great commandment” to “love your neighbor.” But loving your enemy is very difficult, especially without the redeeming grace of Christ and His teachings. So, as Jesus would say elsewhere when questioned about the seemingly new and stricter moral demands of His Gospel: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” [Matt. 19:26]. So with Christ’s grace, and with his teaching, things change: it may be hard to love your enemy, but it is not only not impossible, but it is what we should all strive to do every day.

 

We all seem to have enemies. And by “enemies” I don’t mean people that we hate, but people who hate or even simply oppose us in some way. So in a certain sense this can apply to any relationship of opposition, from the simple and minor to the complex and important.

 

We usually see our “important” enemies pretty clearly: a person who hates you for the color of your skin, or who persecutes you because of your faith, or who violently attacks your country or yourself. But we also recognize our enemies in the simpler things of life: your co-worker who undermines your work or reputation to get ahead; an in-law that always treats you disrespectfully; another kid in school who gossips about you. Thus it has always been, in this world full of sin.

 

But we must still love them all. By the grace of Jesus, we must strive constantly to rise above insult, abuse, pain, and even mortal attack, and not seek to strike back in hatred, or even to let their hatred lead us to hate ourselves, but always responding with love. Our first reaction should be restraint, even, if possible, to turn the other cheek. Of course, sometimes we are compelled to defend ourselves or the innocent, using either words or physically force—but always controlling our words and actions with love and reason. Sometimes love even requires us to correct the other person. And, sometimes, as in the case of defending our country, love requires we use mortal force to protect the innocent—but even then we must love our enemies, using only the force that is reasonable, and tending to the wounds of the fallen. Love is always the measure of all things Christian.

 

As I mentioned above, this teaching was not really new to the Jews of Jesus’ time, and in a certain sense, it was not new to mankind in general at that time. But because of our fallen nature, it was a moral law easily forgotten, ignored or even despised throughout the ancient world. But Christ and Christianity began to change all that 2000 years ago. Does this mean that Christians have always loved their “neighbor” and their “enemy” as perfectly as they should? No. But by the grace of Christ we can rise above our sins, and must always strive to do so.

 

Thanks. My sincerest thanks to the scores of folks who expressed their support for me after a certain article about me appeared in the media last Sunday. I was profoundly humbled and strengthened by your kindness and loyalty. Since I have previously written extensively on the subject of the article I have no intension of making further comment, except to say two things: you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the media, especially when it’s about the Catholic Church, and “love your enemies, bless those who persecute you.”

 

Oremus pro invicem, in caritate Christi. Fr. De Celles

February 10, 2013

LENT. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. As I’ve said many times, this is my favorite season, in as much as it calls us to meditate on the ineffable and immense love of God that it would lead Him to die for our sins. At the same time, then, it is also a time to consider our sins—how we have failed to love him—and to work to overcome them, through our diligent efforts and His grace.

Lent, of course, brings a much busier parish schedule, which we’ve laid out in detail in this week’s insert. Please keep this insert in a central place in your home to remind you of the many opportunities for spiritual growth the parish offers this Lent. Please also note, we will NOT be adding any Masses to our Lent schedule, e.g., we will have an evening weekday Mass only on Wednesdays (as usual). But we will be adding confessions every weekday evening (see the insert for details).

Ashes will be distributed at all 4 Masses on Ash Wednesday: 6:30am, 8am, 12noon and 7pm. Since ashes are merely symbolic, and not a sacrament, they may be received by anyone who wishes to repent their sins—Catholic or not, in “good standing” or not. (Note: There are no confessions scheduled on Ash Wednesday).

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fasting and abstinence, and every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence. Failure to “substantially” keep these penances is a grave matter (e.g., potentially a mortal sin). The law of abstinence requires that no meat may be eaten on these days, and binds all Catholics who are 14 years old or older. No other penance may be substituted. The law of fasting binds those who are between the ages of 18 and 59. The Church defines “fasting,” for these purposes, as having only one full meal a day, with two additional smaller meals permitted, but only as necessary to keep up strength and so small that if added together they would not equal a full meal. Snacking is forbidden, but that does not include drinks that are not of the nature of a meal. Even though these rules do not bind all age groups, all are encouraged to follow them to the extent possible. Children in particular learn the importance of penance from following the practice of their older family members. Special circumstances can mitigate the application of these rules, i.e., the sick, pregnant or nursing mothers, etc.

Of course all Catholics are encouraged to do personal acts of penance throughout the season of Lent, traditionally of three types: almsgiving (including acts of charity), sacrifice (what you “give up”), and prayer. Please choose your penances carefully, considering your health and state in life. Challenge yourself, but pick things you can actually do, rather than things that are so lofty or difficult that you may easily give up on them. Offer all this in atonement for your sins and as acts of love for the God who, out of love, died on the Cross for your sins.

Sacrament of Penance. Confession is really key to our fruitful observance of Lent. In fact, it is one of the Precepts of the Church that all Catholics “shall confess your sins at least once a year,” which is usually tied to the Lenten season. I strongly encourage that you take advantage of our extended Lent confession schedule—confessions are scheduled every day in Lent (accept Ash Wednesday). However, I ask that you do not postpone your confession to the end of Lent, as many did last year, when we had to have four priests hearing long lines—literally “out the door”—every weekday evening in the last two weeks. This year, with only two priests, if that same phenomena occurs it will extremely difficult on all of us. So, again, please go to confession early on in Lent, especially if you don’t go to confession frequently. As I did in Advent, I am trying to get extra visiting priests to come and help with confessions—but this is not an easy task since confessors are in such high demand during Lent.

Also, I remind you that while we schedule confessions every Sunday morning, that is not the optimal time to go to confession, since only one priest is hearing confession and stops hearing once Mass begins (those attending Sunday Mass should normally be participating in the Mass, not in confession). Moreover, Sunday confession times are provided not as a mere convenience but mainly to meet the real needs of those who truly cannot attend on other days or are otherwise in need of the sacrament.

Lenten Series. As I mentioned last week, Fr. Paul Scalia will be giving a Lenten series every Thursday evening during Lent, beginning February 21st. His topic will be “The Beatitudes: The Ladder to Holiness.” I highly encourage all of you to attend these talks.

SCOUT SUNDAY and BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA. Today, Sunday, we will remember “Scout Sunday” at the 8:45 Mass, followed by a ceremony in the Parish Hall honoring all those involved in scouting in our parish: Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Explorers, American Heritage Girls, etc.. I am happy to recognize the good and hard work these children and their adult leaders do and the good qualities they take away from traditional scouting! So please join me in saluting and encouraging them all, especially our boys and girls and young men and women. God bless them all!

But on a national and international level, traditional scouting values have come on hard times. As I mentioned in last week’s column, this last Wednesday (Feb. 6) the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America (NEB) was supposed to vote on whether to change their rules to allow actively “gay” persons to become members and leaders in Boy Scouts. This would have been the death knell for traditional scouting as we know it.

Thanks be to Christ, as I write this column (on Wed., Feb. 6) the word comes that the NEB has decided to postpone any decision and lay the matter before a vote of the 1,400 member National Council of the BSA at their National Annual Meeting in May. This surprise about-face is directly the result of the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of complaints registered against the proposal in just in the last few days. So I want to thank all of you who prayed and called, emailed or wrote BSA—you made a difference! Unfortunately, though, this is just a postponement, and we must keep up our efforts to protect our boys from the potentially devastating effects of this still-proposed change, and to keep the Boy Scouts “morally straight.”

Oremus pro invicem, et pro patria. Fr. De Celles