May 19, 2013

Pentecost. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, remembering the day, fifty days after Easter, when God the Father and God the Son, Jesus, sent their Holy Spirit to the first Christians—the apostles, Mary and other disciples totaling “in all about a hundred and twenty.” As the Acts of the Apostles records (Ch. 2):

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And …each one heard them speaking in his own language. …Parthians…Medes… Elamites…residents of Mesopotamia, Judea…Cappadocia, Pontus…Asia, Phrygia…Pamphylia, Egypt…Libya,…visitors from Rome…Cretans and Arabians….”

No longer did the disciples hide behind the closed doors, or go to the temple to pray quietly. Suddenly, filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the disciples threw open the doors and began to preach to passersby. And as a great crowd gathered Peter, the first Pope, “standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them …” telling them all about Jesus and His salvific death, resurrection and ascension. So powerful were his words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, that: “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

What an amazing day—what an amazing gift! The Holy Spirit of God dwelling inside the Church and individual Christians, manifesting in such powerful ways, most especially in the bold preaching that “cut to the heart.” But equally amazing is the fact that the Holy Spirit has remained and acted powerfully in and through the Church for the last 2000 years. We may not have tongues of fire, but by the power of the Holy Spirit the Gospel has spread throughout the world and dominated world history for the last 17 centuries, and today remains the largest religion in the world.

And most amazing of all: that same Holy Spirit given at the first Pentecost resides in each and every Christian who has received the Sacrament of Confirmation. As the Catechism teaches: “the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost [1302].”

The Catechism goes on to teach us that this Sacrament has particular effects on the confirmed [1303]: it increases and deepens baptismal grace; roots us more deeply in the divine sonship; unites us more firmly to Christ; increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude reverence and piety); renders our bond with the Church more perfect; gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith as true witnesses of Christ.

This Wednesday, May 22, 80 of our teenagers will be confirmed here at St. Raymond’s. Let us pray for our young brothers and sisters, that they may be open to the power of the Holy Spirit that will come to them on this their own “personal Pentecost.” And let us also pray that we who have already been confirmed may open our hearts, minds and lives to that same power, no matter how neglected, dormant or rejected we have allowed it to become.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray. O God, Who instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Gosnell is Guilty. This last Monday, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, a Philadelphia jury found abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell guilty of first degree murder of 3 infants born alive after his failed attempt to abort them in their mothers’ wombs, and also guilty of involuntary manslaughter of a 41 year old woman, one of his abortion patients.

Gosnell apparently still does not believe he did anything wrong. Doesn’t this reveal the truth about abortion: if you don’t understand that it is wrong to kill a baby in the womb you will not understand that it is wrong to kill a baby just a few seconds after it has left the womb and is lying on an operating table. This is why the media and pro-abortion activists refused to publicize this case for months: it strips away the veil of legal propriety given to legal abortions and reveals them for what they are: killing a baby.

It was interesting to see how the pro-abortion folks responded to the decision. In particular Planned Parenthood of America (PPA), the country’s no. 1 provider of abortions, said, “This verdict will ensure that no woman is victimized by Kermit Gosnell ever again.” No mention of the babies who were “victimized,” nor the women who survived his abortions but were nevertheless Gosnell’s victims whose hearts are broken by their “choice.”

PPA went on to say: “we must reject misguided laws that would limit women’s options and force them to seek treatment from criminals like Kermit Gosnell.” But up until 2 years ago Gosnell was considered a hero by pro-abortion activists, not a criminal. Moreover, these deaths were made possible largely because for years basic health and safety laws were not applied to practices like Gosnell’s because state officials believed that enforcing those “misguided laws… would limit women’s options” with regard to abortion.

We pray that this guilty verdict will force Gosnell to face the terrible reality of what he’s done, and to repent. And that other abortionists and abortion supporters may follow suit. And we pray for the victims: the post-abortive mothers and their babies. May all find their way to the ever-waiting mercy of Jesus Christ.

Boy Scout Vote. Later this week (Thursday?) the Boy Scouts of America will vote on whether to change their policy regarding “gays” in scouting. Let us pray, that they may protect our boys and keep scouting “morally straight.” Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us—again!

Save the Date: First Mass. On a much happier note, our parishioner, Deacon Nicolas Barnes will be ordained a Priest this coming June 8. The following day, Sunday, June 9, at 12:15, the new “Father Barnes” will celebrate his first Mass here at St. Raymond’s. All are invited.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

May 12, 2013 – The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Today: The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. This feast is normally celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation on Thursday (“Ascension Thursday,” 40 days after Easter (inclusive)), but because many Catholics are unable to attend Mass in the middle of the week our Bishop, and the Bishops of the neighboring Dioceses, thought it best to move it to Sunday so that all Catholics would be more able to celebrate this very important feast.

So why is this feast so important? Essentially it celebrates the fact that Jesus ascended, body and soul, into heaven, and now dwells in heaven as a bodily person. This reminds us that God the Son came into the world “like us in all things but sin”–of the reality of His bodily incarnation, birth, death and resurrection–and redeemed us entirely, body and soul. Moreover, it is a pledge to us of the resurrection of our bodies on the last day, and the transformation of the physical world into a glorious, “new heavens and a new earth.”

This in turn leads us to remember the dignity of the human body: your body is part of who you are, it is “you” as much as your soul is “you.” Your body is you speaking and communicating yourself to other bodily persons. As such, the body itself has meaning and speaks to others of this meaning. This is an important truth to keep in mind today, as many try to degrade the body and treat it as an accidental part of who we are—i.e., it tells us no more about who we are than, say, the clothes we wear or the cars we drive, which we can change or discard on a whim. This has become an essential part of the creed of sexual libertarianism—the body and bodily acts mean nothing but what you want them to mean, and so you can use or abuse your body and other people’s bodies any way you like: sex can mean love and commitment, or it can mean fun, domination, or degradation—whatever. This has become a key argument for those who advocate and promote all sorts of perversions, including homosexuality, “transgenderism” and “transsexualism.”

But that is contrary to common sense, the natural law (the way things clearly are designed to be) and divine revelation. And it is totally opposed to the dignity of the human body, which is so beautifully revealed to us in the mystery of the Ascension of the Lord: that the body communicates who we are and is so wonderful—so meaningful—that it is created to live in glory forever in heaven.

First Holy Communion. Yesterday the parish celebrated the First Holy Communion of 80 of our children. What a wonderful day for them and for all of us. I’m sure you all remember your First Communion—I can remember it like it was yesterday. Watching these children receive so reverently and with so much joy and faith should be an example to us all: may we hold fast, with childlike faith, to the truth that the God who took to Himself a human body still comes to us and speaks to us in that very same Body in the Eucharist. As Jesus said: “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Congratulations to our First Communicants, and may the Lord Jesus always keep their faith in and love for the Eucharist as strong and alive as it is today.

Mother’s Day. I haven’t forgotten you Moms! I’m sure you haven’t minded me placing the Lord’s feast first, or our children’s great day before you in this column—I’m “sure” because that’s how Moms are! Always placing others first—especially the Lord and children. And that’s why we love Moms, and motherhood, so much, and truly revere them. As I spoke above of the meaning and dignity of the body, motherhood is yet another expression of this meaning. What a miraculous gift and blessing—to mothers, husbands, children and to all society—is the motherly love expressed so tenderly and yet powerfully through a mother’s bodily acts: carrying a baby in her womb for 9 months, the sacrificial pangs of childbirth, nursing her baby at her breast, holding her child in her arms, kissing the scraped knee, the smile that makes everything better, or the tears of compassion or pride. Thank the Good Lord for the gift of mothers! On this special day, and every day, may the Lord shower them with graces, and may we show them the love that they deserve. And let us pray for those who have gone on before us into death: that the Lord may forgive them for their imperfections, and reward them for their great love.

Mary’s Month and the May Crowning. So many things to celebrate today! As we remember the Ascension of Our Lord in His Body, and the reception of that same Body by our children in Communion, let us also remember the Mother who gave Him that Body—His Blessed Mother, Mary. By ancient custom, the Church dedicates the month of May to renewing our devotion to and love for our Blessed Mother. So to remind us of this, and to share and encourage this devotion with our children, this afternoon (Sunday May 12), immediately after the 12:15 Mass, we will celebrate the “May Crowning”—the symbolic crowning of the statue of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and Earth, and Queen of our hearts. Let this month be a time of growing closer to Our Lady, especially through daily prayer to her— particularly the daily Rosary.

Bad News. I hate to end this column on a down beat, but I hear that a new and big abortion clinic is planning to open in Fairfax City near Paul VI High School. As St. Peter reminds us: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We must do whatever we can to fight this evil from coming to fruition. Pray, and see the “YOUR Help is urgently needed” paragraph on the next page for other actions to take.

Good News: Pentecost. So I won’t close on a down beat, but with a reminder that next week is Pentecost, recalling the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Mary and the first disciples. Prepare yourself for this great feast—the “Birthday of the Church”—open your heart to the gifts and inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles