November 3, 2013

Vote Like a Catholic. This Tuesday, November 5, Virginians go to the polls to elect our state and local officials, including our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Delegates. Sadly, many, including many Catholics, will vote for candidates who embrace abortion, “gay marriage” and the undermining of religious liberty, and many others will stay home and not vote at all.

It is our moral duty, as Christians, to vote, and I encourage all of you to do so on Tuesday, and to vote like the faithful Catholics you are. And I also encourage you to pray for the good of the Commonwealth, especially by joining in our Novena to St. Thomas More.

The following are some quotes that I think will be helpful as you prepare to vote. (Note: for lack of space I am only quoting each in part).
——
Pope Calls Faithful to Participate Actively in Politics

by Catholic News Agency – Lauren Cate, September 17, 2013 (in part)

…In his Sept. 16 daily homily at St. Martha House, the Pope rejected the idea that “a good Catholic doesn’t meddle in politics.” “That’s not true. That is not a good path,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.”

“None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this; they govern,’” Pope Francis told those present for the Mass. Rather, citizens are responsible for participating in politics according to their ability, and in this way, they are responsible for their leadership.

“Politics, according to the social doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good,” he explained. “I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something!”

He noted that it is sometimes common for people to speak only critically of their leaders, to complain about “things that don’t go well.” Instead of simply complaining, we should offer ourselves — our ideas, our suggestions and, most of all, our prayers, the Holy Father said.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (2239-2240)

It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.

Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country…

Homily of Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), Archbishop of Buenos Aires, In a Homily August 31, 2005.

When one listens to what Jesus says: Look, “I send you, I send you like sheep amongst the wolves,” one wants to ask: “Lord, are you joking, or do not have a better place to send us?” Because what Jesus says is a little chilling: “if you proclaim my message, they are going to persecute you, they are going to slander you, they are going to set traps to deliver you to the courts and to have you killed. But you must continue forward. For that reason, take care, Jesus says, and be astute, be clever like the serpent but very simple like doves,” joining the two things.

The Christian cannot allow himself the luxury to be an idiot, that’s clear. We don’t have the luxury to be fools because we have a very beautiful message of life and we’re not permitted to be fools. For that reason, Jesus says, “Be astute, be careful.” What is the astuteness of the Christian? In knowing how to discern who is a wolf and who is a sheep.

And when, during this celebration of life, a wolf disguises himself as a sheep, it’s knowing how to smell him. “Look, you have the skin of a sheep but the smell of a wolf.” And this, this mandate that Jesus gives us is very important. It’s for something very great. Jesus tells us something that attracts our attention, when someone asks him: “well, why did you come into the world?” “Look, I come to bring life and for that life to be in abundance, and I am sending you so that you can advance that life, and so that it will be abundant”…

I was reading a book a while back, where this disturbing phrase was found: “In the world of today, the cheapest thing is life, what costs the least is life” — which is, therefore, the most disregarded thing, the most dispensable thing…

This child who is on the way is a bother to the family. “Oh no, for what? I have no idea. Let’s discard him and return him to the sender.” …

That’s what the culture of death preaches. It’s not interested in life. What interests it? Egoism. One is interested in surviving, but not in giving life, caring for life, offering life…

Open your heart to life! …How beautiful is caring for life, allowing life to grow, to give life like Jesus, and to give it abundantly, not to permit that even one of these smallest ones be lost. ….And we care for life, because He cares for our life from the womb. We have it in the motto for this year: “From the womb you were our protector.” He cares for us and he teaches us that.

We (modern society) don’t care for life. Because there is an ethical order of caring for life, we simply care for life. Jesus teaches us to care for life because it is the image of God, who is absolute life. We cannot announce anything else but life, and from the beginning to the end. All of us must care for life, cherish life, with tenderness, warmth.

But it is a road that is full of wolves, and perhaps for that reason they might bring us to the courts, perhaps, for that reason, for caring for life they might kill us. We should think about the Christian martyrs. They killed them for preaching this Gospel of life, this Gospel that Jesus brought. But Jesus gives us the strength. Go forth! Don’t be fools, remember, a Christian doesn’t have the luxury of being foolish, I’m not going to repeat, an idiot, a fool, he can’t give himself the luxury. He has to be clever, he has to be astute, to carry this out.

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

3rd Sunday of Lent 2013

March 3, 2013
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church, Springfield, Va.

The saying goes: “All roads lead to Rome.”
It’s been interesting to see this come to life in the last few weeks,
as the whole world seems to have been drawn to the events
transpiring in Rome, as Pope Benedict retired
and Church began its preparations to elect the new pope.
It reminds me of today’s first reading, as Moses sees the burning bush and says:
“I must go over to look at this remarkable sight,
and see why the bush is not burned.”

In a certain way we welcome this world-wide media attention.
After all, Christ did command us to,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…”
What better way to teach all nations and bring them to the Church
than to have them come to Rome via the media,
and to focus on the faith of the Church.
Even if it is initially just out of curiosity, like Moses, to,
“look at this remarkable sight.”
Because like Moses, if they come
they may see much more than they bargained for
—the divine fire of Christ and His Holy Spirit
that does not destroy but enlightens the world.

In the Christian Tradition Moses is seen as a precursor or foreshadowing of Christ.
Moses comes to free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery
and offers the Passover or Paschal sacrifice of the Old Covenant;
Jesus comes to free all mankind from the slavery of sin.
and offers the new Paschal sacrifice of the New Covenant—the Cross.
We can go on and on.
But let’s just add one more: both Moses and Jesus are shepherds:
Christ is the “Good Shepherd,”
and as today’s first reading begins:
“Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro.”

And just as Moses is prefigurement of Jesus,
St. Peter, and his successors in the papacy—the Popes—
are a “post-figurement,” if you will, of Christ:
they stand in the world today representing him,
unique in authority as leaders of God’s holy people.
So we see Christ make Peter the chief shepherd of His flock,
commanding him: “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep….feed my sheep.”

And yet, Peter is much more than Moses.
In the words of Jesus:
“I tell you, you are Peter [Rock],
and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,
and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Now, Christ is ultimately and intimately in charge of His Church.
Peter merely tends Christ’s sheep.
So that when a pope dies or resigns,
we still have our True Shepherd and Spiritual Rock,
Christ, who never leaves his sheep untended,
and is, “with [us] always, even until the end of time.”

But even so, it is the will of Christ that there be one shepherd on earth
to lead One Catholic Church on earth in His name.
And so today, the world fixes its gaze on the Vatican waiting for a new pope,
and, as ever, all roads lead to Rome.

That saying, by the way, goes back to the ancient Roman Empire,
expressing the idea that Rome was the center of the world,
which was vividly seen in the vast Roman system of roads,
many built specifically to get to and from Rome.

2000 years ago St. Peter came to Rome,
perhaps on one of these ancient Roads.
Legend tells us that he at least left Rome on one of those roads,
the Via Appia, the Appian Way.

Roughly 33 years after the death of Christ, around the year 66 AD,
a fire broke out in Rome and raged through city.
To deflect the blame from himself the Emperor Nero accused
the strange new religious cult—the “Christians”—of starting the fire
and began to arrest and execute their leaders.
As the legend goes, and I believe the legend,
somehow St. Peter managed to escape from Rome into the countryside. But as he fled down the Appian Way he suddenly looked up and found himself
face to face with the Lord Jesus walking in the other direction
—toward Rome.
Peter froze in his steps and asked,
“Quo vadis, Domine?”—“Where are you going, Lord?”
And Jesus responded:
“Eo Romam iterum crucifigi”—“I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” So Peter turned around and went back to Rome,
where he was crucified by Nero on Vatican Hill.

>V>
It’s interesting: today if you leave Rome on the Appian Way,
and continue for about 12 miles past the Church
that marks the spot of Peter’s encounter with Christ,
you come to a little lakeside town named Castel Gandolfo.
This last Thursday to signify his retirement
Pope Benedict left Rome and made this trip down the Appian Way
—albeit in a helicopter—to Castel Gandolfo.

Some say, in doing this he’s running away from his responsibilities as pope
—like St. Peter tried to do.
But the reality is quite different.

8 years ago, when he was 78 year old “Cardinal Ratzinger,
he wanted to retire and leave Rome.
But Jesus wanted him to stay, and made him Pope.
For 8 years he’s suffered on the cross of Peter.
And even now, as he steps down for the good of the church,
he promises not to leave and go home to his beloved Germany,
but to go back up the Appian Way,
returning to Rome to be with the new successor Peter,
living out his life in prayer, sacrifice, and obedience
—only yards away from the site on Vatican Hill where
St. Peter himself was crucified.

Like Peter before him, Benedict, Pope Emeritus, has asked the Lord:
“Quo Vadis Domine?” “Where are you going Lord.”
And he has followed where the Lord has led him.

And now the Church must do the same thing, asking,
“Where are You going Lord?”
“Where will You take us now?”
“Who will you send to replace the brave and bold St. Peter,
and the brilliant and humble Benedict,
to hold the keys to the kingdom,
to bind and loose in your Holy Name?”

Even now the Lord knows the name of that man, but he alone knows.

I mentioned earlier that in a certain way we welcome
the world-wide media’s attention to the conclave.
But on the other hand, not so much.
Because most of them come not in search of Christ, but of a story.
And in doing so they grasp on to rumors and allegations of scandals
in the Vatican and the Church.
Some of these may be typical media frenzy,
some may be standard anti-Catholic bias,
and some may even be an effort to influence the election.

But unfortunately, some of them may be will founded, even true.

Should this cause us concern?
Yes, inasmuch as we want every bishop and priest to be holy men.
But on a more circumspect basis,
we should neither be surprised nor overly concerned.
After all, one of the first twelve apostles actually sold Jesus to His enemies
and then hung himself.
You can’t get more scandalous or sinful than that.

But the Resurrection still happened and the Church continued without him.
And when it comes to the papal election,
ultimately we trust that Jesus will pick the next pope,
and the Holy Spirit will guide the cardinals to that man.

But at the same time, history tells us that in centuries past some very sinful men
have been elected to the papacy.
First to mind comes Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia,
who famously made 2 of his illegitimate sons cardinals.
And then maybe Pope Leo X, Giovanni de Medici,
who is quoted as telling his brother:
“Since God has given us the Papacy, let us enjoy it.”

God alone knows exactly how these and other sinful men ever got elected pope.
But history would seem to indicate it was because other men
caught up in their own sins and weaknesses,
and led astray by temptation and distraction,
rejected the guidance of the Holy Spirit in choosing these popes.
For example, in some elections
the threats of kings or riots of mobs or bribes of princes
had more sway than the Spirit.
In short, in some elections not enough of the electors asked: Quo vadis Domine?

Now some of us may be discouraged by all this past,
and by the rumors currently floating around in the media—true or not.
Some may be afraid that the cardinals who are not holy and pious men
may elect a bad pope.

Like I said, it’s happened before.
But you know, it’s been hundreds of years since that happened.
Because beginning with the Council of Trent in the 16th century to Benedict,
the Popes have developed a system of carefully crafted rules,
refined over centuries,
to assure that the cardinals suffer the least temptations and distractions.

Some laugh at all these rules, and call them “medieval.”
Actually, they very specifically post-medieval—and they work:
for the last 400 years only good and devout men have been elected pope.
Not perfect men, but men who tried their best to serve God and the Church.

But it’s not just a bunch of rules that make this happen.
During Lent we make a bunch of extra rules for ourselves—penances—
to help us overcome the sins in our lives and control our temptations.
But in the end, all these penances can do is prepare us to receive and respond
to Christ’s grace and the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Like the gardener in today’s gospel, who approaches the fruitless tree and
“cultivate[s] the ground around it and fertilize[s] it.”
preparing it to be able to bear fruit.

For almost 2000 years the Church has been filled with sinful people
—both in the hierarchy and in the pews.
In spite of all that, over all those years the Catholic Church
has constantly proclaimed the truth of Jesus Christ
handed down from the Apostles through apostolic succession,
and in particular the Petrine succession.
This “miracle of the Church” is a radical witness
to the presence of the Holy Spirit and the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise:
“the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

But to be part of that miracle, and to make it fruitful in their lives,
the people at any given point in history must do everything they can
to prepare themselves for that grace.
And so one of the most important rules for the conclave,
that is made all the more clear in this season of Lent,
is that the cardinals do penance and pray;
not treating the conclave like some secular election,
but removing sin and temptation from their lives
and preparing their hearts to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and asking “Quo vadis Domine?”
“Where are you going Lord,
and who have you chosen as Peter to lead us there?”

And as we see them do this, and pray it’s truly from their hearts,
we remember that it’s Lent for us too,
and that there are no fewer sinners in the pews or the pulpits
than there are in the college of cardinals.
And just as we fear how their sins may corrupt effect the life of the Church,
we realize the same applies to us.
And so we renew our penances, and look at Christ crucified and ask:
“Quo vadis Domine?”

And perhaps in all this,
by the holy decision of the cardinals, and by our holy lives,
when all roads lead the world to Rome
—both in the sense of Vatican City
and our individual Roman Catholic lives—
those who come to “look at this remarkable sight,” of this burning bush
may discover the light of Christ and the fire of his love,
in the living, breathing Body of Christ on earth, His Church.
And then with his Church, be drawn to Him, and perhaps, perhaps, ask:
“Quo vadis Domine,”
and follow him to Rome, to the Roman Catholic Church.

As we continue in this Holy Mass, and the season of Lent,
and in this holy time when all roads are leading the world to Rome,
let us pray for all those who come to see this remarkable sight.
And let pray for the cardinal-electors, that they may be free of sin,
and commend them to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
And let pray for our next pope, whose name is already known, but to God alone.
And let us pray that all Catholics,
from 7 year old first-communicants to 77 year old Cardinal-electors,
will continually ask the question,
“Where are you going Lord?” “Quo vadis Domine?”
And united with Peter, follow Jesus wherever he leads.

October 14, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI, “Porta Fidei”
Apostolic Letter, October 11, 2011
Establishing the “Year Of Faith,”
from October 11, 2012 through November 24, 2013
(excerpts)

1. The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, offering us the life of communion with God and offering entry into His Church when the Word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be transformed by grace. It begins with Baptism (cf. Rom. 6:4); it is then that we can address God as Father. The end comes with the passage to eternal life.

2. Ever since the start of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith. At the Mass inaugurating my pontificate, I said: “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must lead people out of the desert towards the place of life”. However, because so many think that faith is self-evident and its meaning and values have little appeal, a profound crisis of faith has affected many people.

3. We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless and the light be kept hidden (Cf. Mt 5:13-16). We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God and on the Bread of Life.

4. In light of all this, I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on 11 October and it will end on the Solemnity of Christ our King on 24 November 2013. The starting date of October 11 2012 also marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.…Moreover, I have convoked for October 12, 2012 the General Assembly of Bishops to consider the theme, “THE NEW EVANGELIZATION FOR THE TRANSMISSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH”. This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time for the rediscovery of the Faith.

6. The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers. Christians are called to radiate the word of truth. That requires conversion. Hence, the Year of Faith is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 5:31). To the extent that he/she freely cooperates, one’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed.

7. It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Through His love, Jesus attracts to himself the people of every generation. Today, there is need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful and enables us to give life-bearing witness. Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger.

8. On this happy occasion, I wish to invite my brother bishops from all over the world to join the Successor of Peter in recalling the precious gift of faith. We will have the opportunity to profess our faith in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world; in our homes and among our families. Religious communities as well as parish communities are to find a way to make public profession of the Credo.

10. At this point I would like to sketch a path intended to help us understand more profoundly not only the content of the faith but also the act of entrusting ourselves fully to God. Knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart which is the authentic sacred space within the person is opened by grace so as to see below the surface and understand the word of God. Moreover, a Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him. Precisely because it is a free act, faith also demands social responsibility for what one believes. Finally, profession of faith is both personal and communitarian. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “‘I believe’ is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during baptism. ‘We believe’ is the faith of the Church confessed by the bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers.” That said, we must not forget that very many people are sincerely searching for the definitive truth of their lives and of the world.

11. To arrive at a systematic knowledge of the content of the faith, all can find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church an indispensable tool. Blessed John Paul II called it a “valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.”

14. The Year of faith will also be a good time to intensify the witness of charity. Faith without charity bears no fruit. Without faith charity would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Did not James write: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (Jas 2:14-18). Therefore faith and charity require each other.

15. May this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ increasingly firm, because only He guarantees an authentic and lasting love. We believe with firm certitude that the Lord Jesus has conquered evil and death. With confidence we entrust ourselves to him: he, present in our midst overcomes the power of the evil one (cf. Lk 11:20); and the Church, the visible community of his mercy, abides in him as a sign of definitive reconciliation with the Father. Let us entrust this time of grace to the Mother of God, proclaimed “blessed because she believed” (Lk 1:45).