February 2, 2014

Re-Evangelization of St. Raymond’s. Last Sunday I spoke at all the Masses about fostering the New Evangelization in our parish by first re-evangelizing ourselves. (The text of my homily is on the website). One of the key things I encouraged was committing to volunteer in one of the many parish groups/activities. I strongly believe that active involvement in the parish in this way is a key way to help you to grow in your faith and love for Christ. So, please, as I said in my homily, pray about this, but then make a commitment, and call to volunteer.

In the handout distributed at Mass I included a list of groups for you to refer to (and I included that list in my column last week as well). I knew as if I did that I’d probably leave one or more important groups/activities off the list—and, sure enough, I did. Two groups have come to my attention: the Crafters (Mary K Randazzo, 703-455-4209) and the Men’s Prayer Group (Dave Wilson, 703-455-1847). If any other groups were inadvertently excluded, please let me or the office know so we can correct that. We are currently pulling together a brochure with more information about all the groups, so we want to make sure we include you in that.

Trail Life USA. In December, I wrote about how we were planning to start a new partnership with Trail Life USA to provide a Christ-centered adventure, character, and leadership program for the boys and young men in our parish. In January dozens of interested parents have enthusiastically gathered for information meetings about Trail Life. Now I can announce that through the dedicated efforts of some of these parents we have obtained a Trail Life charter, and had our first troop meeting with our first members this last Wednesday. (This meeting took place after the deadline of this column, so I don’t have more details to share.) I am very excited about this new partnership, and very hopeful that, with God’s grace, this will begin an exciting new chapter in our parish ministry to youth.

CYO: Youth Sports or “Youth Group”? Speaking of parish groups and youth….Ever since I moved here from Texas 22 years ago, I’ve been confused by folk’s use of the term “CYO.” CYO stands for Catholic Youth Organization, and in most parts of the country (although not all) it is synonymous for Catholic youth sports leagues. In fact, our parish basketball teams (along with the teams of most of the other Arlington parishes) are affiliated with the Northern Virginia Junior Catholic Youth Organization. Even so, at St. Raymond’s I often hear our Youth Group referred to as “CYO.” It’s really no big deal, but it does cause some confusion, so let me clarify: at St. Raymond’s “CYO” refers only to the parish youth basketball teams, led so well by Ed Gloninger. It does not refer to the parish “Youth Group,” or as we officially call it, “St. Raymond’s Youth Apostolate.”

Angel Wall. Although not a group or activity, one of the most beautiful and cherished customs of our parish is found in the narthex by the statue of the Angel—“the Angel Wall.” On this wall are placed the names of children of our parish who have died before birth or any time before adulthood. It is a beautiful thing to remember them, and a great comfort to so many moms and dads, and families. Please remember to visit this wall from time to time, and say a little prayer for the babies and for their families, entrusting them to the mercy of our Dear Lord.

New Website. Thanks to Keith Oswald for putting together our new and improved parish website. Athough the address is the same as before (www.straymonds.org), the “new” site is much easier to navigate and much more user friendly. I’m confident that it will be a great resource for parishioners who want to keep up on the latest parish news, learn more about the faith and find out what parish groups are up to. In the coming weeks more improvements will be made, and more content added. Any parish group wishing to be included on the site, please contact Keith at: webmaster@straymonds.org.

Latin at the 8:45 Mass. I have been greatly encouraged by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to our “turning the altar around” to celebrate the 8:45 Mass “ad orientem.” Although a very few people continue to express their disapproval, there’s not a week that goes by when someone new doesn’t share with me their appreciation of the change.

Given that response, a few weeks ago I threw out another proposal to the congregation at the end of the 8:45 Mass: the possibility of praying more of the 8:45 Mass in Latin. I went on to clarify that the great majority of the Mass would still be in English, but we might do some of the common prayers repeated every week in Latin, e.g., the Sanctus (Holy, Holy), the Our Father, and the Gloria, and perhaps some of the greetings and introductions (“The Lord be with you,” “Let us pray”). My plan would be to not say/sing the Creed or the Confiteor in Latin, since those prayers are particularly personal (“I confess,” “I believe”). But perhaps, from time to time, I might say the ancient Roman Canon in Latin.

Let me briefly clarify some of the reasons why I would do this:
–Latin is the official language of the Universal Catholic Church, and symbolically unites us to other Catholics throughout the world today;
–Latin unites us to all the Catholics, innumerable great saints and our own familial ancestors who for centuries before us were spiritually fed at the Latin Mass;
–Because Latin is not the language of everyday use, it helps remind us that the Mass is not an everyday event, a mystery defying time and space;
–Vatican II, Bd. Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Bd. Pope John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, all called for a continued use of Latin in the Mass, and Pope Francis continues to use Latin in his Masses.

So far, responses to my request, have run overwhelmingly in favor of increasing the use of Latin. This is not a vote, but I do look forward to your comments. Please keep them respectful and to the point. And if you write to me, please sign your name: I do not read unsigned correspondence.

March for Life. God bless all the folks who braved the sub-zero wind chill to March for Life on January 22. Thanks especially to Liz Hildebrand for organizing the 3 buses from our parish, and to all the folks who organized and cooked for the chili dinner afterward. (By the way, there are still crockpots that have not been picked up).

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

January 19, 2014

March for Life. This Wednesday, January 22, hundreds of thousands of Christians and other people of goodwill will participate in the 40th annual “March for Life” on the Mall in Washington, commemorating the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade creating the so-called “right to abortion.” Perhaps no court decision or legislation has so directly and fundamentally had such a wide and terrible effect on our nation. And not only in the devastation of 60 million or so babies it has killed, or the millions of mothers whose lives it has ruined. But also in its shaping of our American culture into a culture that degrades human life more and more every day, transforming human beings from persons whose lives have value and meaning in themselves into things that have value and meaning only to the extent other persons who have power over them chose to give them.

In the last year many people have tried to tell us we should not talk about this, or at least not talk about it so much, or so loudly or so vehemently. Some would say that joining the March reflects this wrong-headed “obsession.” They have even tried to twist Pope Francis words to silence and shame us. They say His Holiness has called upon us to stop being “obsessed” with abortion. But of course, they lied. As I have written and preached about before, what the Holy Father said was that the Church “cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines.” In other words, when we talk about the sin of abortion we can’t treat it as some doctrine uniquely separate from all the other Catholic doctrines, but rather remember that it is intimately related to the radicalness of God’s love and His commandment to love our neighbor.

We recall and draw upon the many writings of the popes and saints who have explained in great detail this beautiful, rich and positive teaching on the “Culture of Life,” especially the writings of Blessed John Paul II, whom Pope Francis will declare a saint on April 27 of this year. In particular we recall how when asked to respond to accusations that his “repeated condemnation of any legalization of abortion” was “obsessive,” Bd. John Paul responded:

“For man, the right to life is the fundamental right. ….[T]here is no other right that so closely affects the very existence of the person!…The legalization of the termination of pregnancy is none other than the authorization given to an adult, with the approval of an established law, to take the lives of children yet unborn and thus incapable of defending themselves….It is difficult to imagine a more unjust situation, and it is very difficult to speak of obsession in a matter such as this, where we are dealing with a fundamental imperative of every good conscience – the defense of the right to life of an innocent and defenseless human being…Therefore, I must repeat that I categorically reject every accusation or suspicion concerning the Pope’s alleged “obsession” with this issue. We are dealing with a problem of tremendous importance, in which all of us must show the utmost responsibility and vigilance. We cannot afford forms of permissiveness that would lead directly to the trampling of human rights, and also to the complete destruction of values which are fundamental not only for the lives of individuals and families but for society itself.”

On Wednesday three busloads of St. Raymond parishioners will drive down to the Mall to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Life, including the Lord’s calls to all of us to love our neighbor, even if our neighbor is a tiny unborn baby. Please join us. Sign-up sheets for the bus are located in the narthex of the Church today.

Readings at Mass during Ordinary Time. As we begin the New Year of Our Lord 2014, putting behind us both the Advent and Christmas Seasons, we also begin “Ordinary Time” in the liturgical calendar of the Church. As I’ve mentioned before, the term “ordinary” does not mean “not special,” but rather refers to the numerical ordering of the weeks of the year: “cardinal numbers” refer to quantity (i.e., one, two three, etc.), while “ordinal numbers” refer to the order of things (i.e., first, second, third…). So “Ordinary (or “ordinal”) Time” refers to the order of the weeks of the year that are not part of a special season (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Triduum, Easter). So today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

At Sunday Masses during Ordinary Time we always read a specific set of readings that are laid out for the year, based on a three year cycle of Years A, B, and C. Each of these cycles feature a semicontinuous reading of one of three Synoptic Gospel, so that in Year A we read from the Gospel of Matthew, in Year B we read Mark and in Year C we read Luke.

If you want to determine what year or cycle we are in (A, B, or C), remember that Year C is always a year whose number is evenly divisible by the number three. Last year, the Year 2013, is evenly divisible by three (2013 ÷ 3 = 671), so last year was a Year C, meaning this year is Year A—the year of St. Matthew.

Interestingly, as today we celebrate the “Second Sunday of Ordinary Time,” you might notice that there was no “First Sunday of Ordinary Time.” This really is due to a misnomer. Ordinary Time always begins on the day after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is always either on a Sunday or Monday. So that the first day of Ordinary time is always a Monday or Tuesday, i.e., “the First Monday/Tuesday of Ordinary Time.” This means the first week of Ordinary Time actually precedes the first Sunday that falls in Ordinary Time, which (as the first day of the week) should more precisely be called “the Sunday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time” but is for some inexplicable reason called “The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time.” O well.

Also, interestingly, the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time is always taken from St. John’s Gospel, picking up soon after Jesus’ Baptism. So that it’s not until next week, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, that we begin the semicontinuous reading of Matthew. Note that John’s Gospel is not part of the regular rotation of semicontinuous readings (since it is very different from the other three Gospels), but rather interspersed at various times of the year.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Januray 12, 2014

New Year’s Resolutions. Today we end the season of Christmas, but that doesn’t mean we put Christmas behind us. For Christians, the birth of the Baby Jesus symbolizes a new beginning in His grace, so that as we begin this New Year our lives must be formed and defined by our faith in the reality that God the Son became one of us, and lived, taught, suffered, died and rose from the dead for the salvation of the world. So we do not put Christmas behind us as we begin this New Year, but rather we keep it in front of us as we go forward in Christ.

I encourage you to consider this as you form your annual New Year’s resolutions for 2014. So that along with resolutions that any non-Christian could make, e.g., to lose weight, or find a better paying job, I would hope that most of our New Year resolutions would more directly reflect our faith in and love for Christ.

The most important resolutions should relate to your moral life. You cannot love if you intentional or willfully hurt others—either God or man. Think of the ways that you habitually fail to love God and neighbor by not keeping the 10 Commandments, focusing on the most grave or damaging, and then commit to some concrete approach to conquering these sins. Especially consider how you do this in your family, and resolve to do a better job of loving your spouse, children and parents this year: e.g., honoring them; not intentionally hurting them (“thou shall not kill”), not misusing the gift of sexuality (“thou shall not commit adultery”), being honest with each other, respecting each other’s things, and not encouraging greed or envy (“thou shall not bear false witness … steal … covet”).

But no one can overcome sin on their own—grace is key. While grace flows to us in many ways, as God chooses, He has established the sacraments as a sure source of His grace. We find this most wonderfully, on a day to day basis, in the grace of the Eucharist and Penance. So perhaps if you willfully missed a few Sunday Masses last year, resolve not to miss any this year. Or if Sunday Mass isn’t a problem, you might consider resolving to go to one or more extra Mass(es) during the week. Or maybe you don’t go to confession very often: you could resolve to go once a month this year, and to take your family with you.

But grace is not magic, you have to work with it. One necessary part of this cooperation is prayer. So make a specific resolution to improve your prayer life, maybe something as simple as saying a Morning Offering every day, or saying a weekly or even daily Rosary. Or resolving to read Scripture every day, or to read from a good Catholic spiritual classic or the lives of the saints.

Another important way of cooperating with grace is to learn more about Christ and His Church. So you could resolve to do this through books, CDs, or Catholic radio and TV. Maybe you could resolve to read the whole New Testament this year, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Or with the April canonization of John Paul II you might read his great encyclicals. Or you could resolve to attend more of the educational opportunities we present in the parish: the Bible Study, RCIA, guest speakers, Advent or Lent Series, etc.

Finally (at least for now), cooperating with grace normally requires us to work with other Christians, especially Catholics, so as to truly live life as one body in Christ. This is one important reason why the whole Church is organized into parishes (mainly along geographic lines) so that Catholics living close together can actually share something of a common life together.

So this year I encourage you to resolve to take a more active part in the life our parish, and to do so as did the Lord Jesus, who “came to serve, not to be served.” Resolve to become a committed volunteer for one or more activities or groups in the parish.

Many St. Raymond parishioners have a strong history of committed volunteerism (God bless you!). Sometimes, however, this causes others (especially newcomers) to think that their help isn’t needed. But the reality is just the opposite: we constantly need fresh ideas, younger muscles, new voices, etc. And we can’t grow or improve if we don’t have more help! So I encourage folks who aren’t committed to some volunteer parish activity now to do so in 2014, especially those who are newer to our parish.

As I learned as a young adult lay Catholic, by being involved in a particular small group or activity of the parish you can really become involved in the life of the whole parish. Not only does this create a personal and familial sense of belonging, but it also draws you deeper into the life of the whole parish—you meet more people, make more good Catholic friends and you learn about more opportunities to serve and to be served.

I know everybody’s busy, and many of you are already serving the Lord in many ways outside of the parish. But I strongly believe that parish service is extremely important to growing and living as a member of the body of Christ, and directly bears fruit in the life of grace. So I resolve to talk more about volunteerism in the coming weeks, and ask you to think and pray seriously about what I have to say, and about the specific ways you can volunteer.

A Slight Change in Severe Weather Closings Policy. It is Parish Policy that in case of weather or other emergencies, if Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) cancels “all activities,” St. Raymond’s automatically cancels all parish activities, with only two exceptions: 1) regularly scheduled Masses are never cancelled, and 2) small groups may be personally notified by their group leader that the pastor has made a specific exception.

I would like to make one change to this policy, effective immediately: if the FCPS cancels all activities but keeps their administrative offices open, the parish offices will be open, to the extent possible and safe.

March for Life. The annual March for Life takes place on the Washington Mall on Wednesday, January 22. Once again St. Raymond will be taking buses to the March. If you’ve never been, please consider joining us on the bus, or otherwise. Signup sheets for the bus are in the Narthex.

St. Valentine’s Dinner. The Religious Freedom and Marriage Committee is sponsoring a dinner party for engaged and married couples on February 15th. Please see the information of this event further below in this bulletin. I encourage couples to consider taking this opportunity for a relaxing night out, in the love of Christ.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

January 20, 2013

March for Life. This coming Friday, January 25, hundreds of thousands of Americans will gather on the Washington Mall to march to the Supreme Court in peaceful protest on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the terrible decision establishing the right to abortion in our country. I hope you will be there with me and 3 bus loads of your fellow parishioners to peacefully show your rejection of our nation’s continuing indifference to the senseless killing of over a million unborn babies a year.

If you’ve never been to the March you really ought to think of joining us this year. It is an incredible experience. Some people hear “March on the Mall” and they think of some sort of angry, even violent, demonstration. But it’s nothing like that. It’s actually an amazingly uplifting and prayerful experience as you walk in common cause with thousands of good people, mainly solid Christians (mostly Catholics, or so it seems). One thing you’d be struck by is the number of young people: little kids in strollers or holding their Daddy’s hand, and teenagers and college students smiling and laughing together, in between rounds of praying the rosary or chanting some youthful cheer for life. And they’re from all over the country—thousands travel hundreds, even thousands, of miles to be there. What a great thing—what a great sign of hope—to see the youth fired up about something as positive as life. But, again, not with anger, but with love.

Then there are older and middle aged people, men and women, and tons of priests and religious sisters. People from all ages, all walks of life, all there to stand in unity to defend life.

Sure, there some fools who show up and are loud and offensive. But those are very few and far between, and they come and go. Yes, there’s an occasional offensive sign, but there are thousands of other signs calling us to prayer and to witness for the love of Christ, and love for babies.

I have to admit something to you. Since the devastating elections in November, re-electing the most pro-abortion, anti-Catholic and pro-decadence president in our nation’s history, I’ve been trying to figure out where we go from here. What do we do to protect our nation and our Church from the evil that lies in store? I’m still thinking about it, but I know that one thing we have to do is pick ourselves up and, by the grace of God, stand strong when opportunities to be heard present themselves. And the March for Life is one of those opportunities. The forces of the Culture of Death have won a victory, but it will be fleeting. The Culture of Life is the Culture of Christ, and Christ cannot be defeated. Sure, sometimes we have our setbacks, but we rise again to fight and win another day. And that’s what I invite you to do in joining us on the Mall this Friday.

I know that many folks won’t be able to join us, for lots of good reasons. But if you can’t come down to the Mall, make sure you do something. Stop for a while at work and pray the Rosary. Come by the church (or a church near your work) and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Start a thoughtful and charitable conversation about the truth about abortion with your co-workers or friends. Do something to peacefully and prayerfully support the Culture of Life.

But if you can join us for the March, we have three buses leaving from the parish after a special 10:30am Mass. Space is limited, but still available, so sign up at the table in the narthex of the church. Come with us, and March for life!

No Priests, No Confessions. This weekend I’m away from the parish, off to South Bend, IN, to celebrate the wedding Mass of one of my nephews. Unfortunately, Fr. Daly is also away this weekend, but Fr. Daniel Hanley (an Arlington priest in graduate studies) and Fr. Philip Cozzi (chaplain at O’Connell High School) have volunteered to lend a hand. Even so, it still leaves a very hectic weekend for Fr. Kenna, so I decided to cancel confessions today, Sunday the 20th. Since the loss of 2 resident priests over the summer we’ve been able to keep most of the regular schedule intact. This Sunday is a rare exception, so I’m sure you’ll be patient and supportive.

But let this remind us all of the need to pray for and encourage vocations to the priesthood—especially for the Diocese of Arlington. Over Christmas we were blessed with the assistance of the two seminarians from our parish, Deacon Nick Barnes and Mr. Jacob McCrumb. It’s heartening to see them coming forward to serve, but there is still a tremendous need for so many more priests. And those priests are going to have to come from within our own ranks—from our boys and young men. So pray for and encourage vocations to the priesthood from our parish, and from your own families.

The Flu and the Sign of Peace. The flu epidemic is real, and it’s in our parish. Let’s keep each other in prayer so that those who are suffering will be comforted and healed quickly, and that those who are well will not be struck. Let’s especially pray for those who tend to be hardest hit by the effects of the flu, our oldest and youngest brothers and sisters. And thank you all for being so cooperative and understanding of my decision to forego the invitation to exchange a sign of peace at Mass in response to concerns over passing germs along.

My Letter on Fundraising/Collections. By now all of our parishioners should have received my letter presenting my request to prayerfully consider your current level of giving to the parish. Again, I don’t want to pressure you, and I respect your free and conscientious decisions in all this. But I do thank you for taking time to think about my request and respond as best you can.

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