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

October 7, 2012

Today is “Respect Life Sunday,” beginning “Respect Life Month,” in which the American Bishops call us to remember that over 3000 innocent Americans are killed every day by abortions, over 1.3 million a year, for a total of over 50 million dead since 1973.

But even as horrible as that death toll is, we can’t forget that abortion has other consequences as well—consequences that have been eating away at the moral and legal fiber of our nation and culture.

Of course, we cannot forget the consequence of abortion’s devastating effect on women. Especially the women who have been lied to and told, “it’s okay, it’s just a formless clump of cells.” But deep inside they know, or come to know, the truth of what they’ve done. These are the 2nd victims of abortion, but they are ignored and ridiculed for expressing their pain and feelings of guilt. We must not forget them, we must love them and do everything we can to help them heal, and to make sure that the evil of abortion will not continue to plague future generations of women. We must put an end to the real “war on women”—born and unborn.

But the consequences of abortion go beyond even that, as the establishment of a constitutional right to abortion is like a virus injected into the body politic slowly corrupting every other right, and the freedom that is the life’s blood of our great nation. Because there cannot be any human rights if human beings don’t have a right to life. If you’re not alive, you have no rights at all.

This is why, in 1776, when Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, the only rights he felt it necessary to list were the most fundamental: “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—with the right to life being first.

At this point, some might be wondering, “what about the separation of church and state.” But as Pope Benedict told a group of American bishops gathered in Rome last January: “The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues….”

When most of us think of the separation between church and state we think of the Bill of Rights. What does it actually say? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Notice, it’s not about protecting the government from the church, but protecting the individual and religions from the government.

Just as the “right to life” is the first right listed in the Declaration, the right to freely practice our religion is the very first right listed (in the very first words of the very First Amendment) in the Bill of Rights. And rightly so. Because the freedom of religion is essential to the freedom of thought, to decide for oneself what one believes to be true, right and good. How can we defend any rights if we don’t have that right? And how can we defend any rights as being given to us from God himself, as the Declaration states, unless we have a right to believe in God as we see fit?

But since the right to life necessarily precedes all other rights and liberties, when someone embraces a theory of man and society that rejects the right to life, he thereby perceives all other rights and liberties as not fundamental, natural or God-given, but simply invented by political expediency and political power. So that when those in power find that the exercise of a certain right or freedom is not politically expedient to their agenda, they will quickly dismiss that “freedom” or “right.”

In January 2012 our President did just that. After years of notoriously rejecting the right to life he issued regulations (now in effect) that, while exempting institutions that primarily serve Catholics (e.g., parishes), require most Catholic institutions and employers to provide health insurance for their employees that will cover contraception, abortion inducing drugs, and sterilization. This is repugnant to Catholic morals, but the president directly and willfully dismisses our constitutional and human right to freedom of religion. Moreover, he imposes draconian fines on those who defy him, fines that will bankrupt and close every faithful Catholic college, hospital, and charitable institution (e.g., Catholic Charities, Knight of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services) in the country.

The President says he is not attacking our liberty and that he strongly supports the “freedom to worship.” But as Pope Benedict has reminded us so often, religious freedom is not merely the freedom of worship. “Worship” is not what the First Amendment is about: the exercise of religion is actually practicing the tenets, putting faith into action. In other words, the work of Catholic hospitals, charities etc.—the very organizations the administration is attacking.

Is this direct assault on the Catholic Church aimed to punish the Bishops and faithful Catholic for their opposition to abortion, and our defiance of the President’s relentless promotion of the gay agenda and sexual promiscuity? Perhaps, perhaps not. In any case, just as they tossed out the most fundamental right to life, now they have thrown out the first right that flows from it. And if they can so easily cast aside the first right recognized in the First Amendment, what will keep them from ignoring the rest of the rights listed in the First Amendment: freedom of speech, the press, peaceful assembly, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances?

And if they can make Catholics provide contraception, etc., what else can they make us provide? Direct surgical abortions? “Gay weddings”? And if they can close down our charities, can they take away the Church’s tax exempt status or put your priests in jail for preaching against their attack on the Church? You might think it’s a stretch, but according the reasoning of the Supreme Court, the constitutional right to contraception was the basis for both the right to abortion and the right to sodomy. Once you ignore the natural rights of man, and replace them with their opposites, then anything is possible.

As Pope Benedict told the American bishops: “…[I]t is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political …spheres… Of particular concern are …attempts being made to limit …the freedom of religion.…. [and] the right of conscientious objection…”

So what do we do? There are many ways we can effect change. First, we can still exercise our First Amendment right of free speech to tell to our neighbors the truth about what’s going on. And in 4 weeks we can exercise our right to vote to elect congressmen and senators and a president who will defend our God given rights, and end this hellish persecution of Christ and His Catholic Church.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles