August 10, 2013

Joy in the Midst of Trial. Sometimes it seems that everywhere we turn nowadays there’s bad and even frightening news: the War on Terror, the closing of US Embassies, unemployment, bankruptcy, furloughs, political discord, the attack on marriage and morals…I could go on and on.

Facing all of this it’s easy to become discouraged and sad. But as Christians we should avoid all discouragement, since it comes not from God but either from our own sinfulness or from the evil one himself. Rather, Christians should always live in hope, because the Lord Jesus loves us and will never abandon us or give up on us or mankind, and with Him, “all things are possible.”

Sadness, on the other hand, is a natural and sometimes even holy response to anything that is in discord with the way it ought to be, i.e., contrary to the will of God. So we should be sad when we see someone in pain, or as we see the institution of marriage under assault, or for our own personal sins.

But at the same time, even in sadness, filled with hope we should also find joy. Joy not because of the things that are going wrong, but joy in the fact that despite all of that Christ is still King of Heaven and Earth and showers His graces on us constantly, through His Church, His Word, His sacraments and countless other ways. And that even as bad as things get, our true home is in Heaven.

Moreover, we know that there is a reason for all suffering and trial in God’s plan, even if we don’t understand it right now. We remember that Christ’s suffering was the instrument of the salvation of the world, and so we remember that, in union with Christ, our own suffering is, in some way, God allowing us to work with Him to bring His plan of salvation to fulfillment in our world today. In this wondrous truth—that all we are enduring has meaning in God’s plan–we find true joy.

We see this very clearly in the lives of the great saints. For example, yesterday, August 10, we celebrated the feast of St. Lawrence the Martyr, who, as he was being burned alive on a grill over an open fire, said to his torturers: “Now you may turn me over, my body is roasted enough on this side.” Even in the midst of this great suffering his heart was filled with joy, confident that his martyrdom served some greater purpose in God’s plan.

And so we hear the words of the Lord in today’s Gospel: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.…[W]here your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

In the midst of the trials of our times, do not be afraid. And do not be discouraged. Be sad for the things that oppose the will of God, but also be filled with hope and rejoice that we are allowed to serve Him in this great hour of trial, and that He will be even closer to us now as we realize our great need for Him and His boundless love for us.

Going back to College. Even though there are still 3 full weeks until Labor Day, many of our young parishioners are already starting to head back to College (or going away for the first time as freshmen). So allow me, as pastor of both parents and students, to offer some quick advice.

Parents, you know better than I do how to be parents, but sometimes when kids go away to college some parents think their parenting is over. Wrong. Do not smother or discourage them, but do not neglect them, or your responsibilities, either. Most especially when it comes to morals, but also in making sure they receive an education consistent with the Christian values you raised them to live by. Some college kids are very mature, some are stuck in adolescence, but most are a little of both. Taking into account your own son’s/daughter’s personal level of maturity, take as active a part in their college experience as is reasonably possible or necessary. If they are very mature, respect that, but remember that they will still need your guidance from time to time. If they are still childish—and drinking, partying, etc., are signs of this childishness—do not hesitate to take a more active role. And don’t be afraid to insist that they behave like Catholics, including going to Sunday Mass. And if they close their ears and hearts to your reasonable parental guidance etc., don’t be afraid to close your parental checkbook, etc.

Students, I know how great it is to go away and spread your wings in college. It is a good, necessary and natural experience to leave the nest and become an adult. Enjoy yourself, but remember it wasn’t so long ago that people your age were expected to get a job and support themselves or their family, including their parents. Today your parents are allowing you this “time off” not to have fun, but to grow and learn. So make good use of this time to grow and to learn the skills, knowledge and wisdom you will need to function as responsible adults. Remember not to waste your time on foolish things, including ideologies or philosophies that lead you away from living as an adult Christian in a fallen world. Don’t let anything lead you away from Christ and His Catholic Church. Whatever that “anything” is—greed, lust, alcohol, drugs, self-righteous, pride, selfishness, friends, teachers, whatever. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ. When you are lonely, know that He is with you and loves you; when you are overwhelmed know that He fell under the Cross 3 times, and he will lift you up and help you carry your burden; when you are tempted turn to Him in prayer; when you hear lies and half-truths remember, He is the Truth. Go to Mass, every Sunday. Go to confession at least once a month. Obey the Commandments at all times. And pray every day, throughout the day.

God bless parents and college students. Know you are in my prayers and in the prayers of the whole parish. And don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of any help.

Volunteers need for CCD/Religious Education. We will soon be returning to Religious Education classes for grade school and high school. But we can’t do that if we don’t have teachers and teacher assistants. Please think and pray about contacting the RE office to volunteer for this important service to Christ and His Church.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

April 7, 2013

HE IS RISEN! HE IS TRULY RISEN! On this Octave day of Easter, I thank God for a truly blessed Lent, Holy Week, Triduum and Easter Sunday. Once again I was overjoyed to see so many take advantage of the sacraments and special liturgies, in particular another full house at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and a standing room only crowd on Good Friday for the Veneration of the Cross. Even so, while it seems everything went very well, I would be genuinely interested in feedback on how you thought it went, what went well and what we might improve. (Note: I do not read or consider anonymous notes).

I also want to thank so many people who helped make Lent, Holy Week and Easter so special this year. First, thanks Elisabeth Turco (our music director), Denise Anezin (organist), and our choir members for their hard work and many beautiful “performances”! Also, thanks to our Altar Servers for their diligence and reverence, with a special thanks to Mark Arbeen, who organizes the servers and acted as Master of Ceremonies. Also thanks to the ushers, headed by Paul DeRosa. And to Nena Brennan (our head sacristan) and her family and the other sacristans who spent so many hours preparing things behind the scenes. And to Jane Steele (seamstress) and Carmelita Gamallo (florist) and her helpers who helped make the sanctuary so beautiful. Thanks also to the lectors and the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. And to Bob and Bev Ward, Mike Malachowski and Sue Smith for their work with the RCIA/RCIC. Also, thanks to our Youth Group for their moving re-enactment of the Living Stations of the Cross. And a big thanks to the parish staff who worked so hard all throughout Lent and Holy Week. And last but not least, thanks to Fr. Kenna for his dedication, and to Fr. Scalia and Fr. Daly and the ten or so other priests who visited to help with one thing or another. I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention a lot of folks, so please forgive me. Thanks and God bless you all.

EASTER RECOMMITMENT. Sometimes after the intensity of Lent and Easter Sunday, there is a tendency to relax our spiritual and religious efforts. But Easter Sunday is not the end of things: it’s only the beginning of our renewed efforts to live the life of the Risen Christ in the world.

So I call on each of you to take to heart the lessons learned these last weeks, and to recommit yourself to continued growth and service to Christ. One way to do this is through continued daily prayer and regular use of the sacraments, especially weekday Mass and frequent (monthly?) confession. Another is to commit to spreading the Gospel in the “world” you live in—i.e., “evangelizing,” by considering every encounter with another person as a possible opportunity to share Christ with them in some way.

Committed Volunteerism. And there’s another very important way to do this: committing to volunteer in the parish. I’ve always been so impressed with the unusually high number of committed volunteers taking responsibility for so many good projects and programs in our parish. Much of this seems to spring from the time before we moved into the current “facilities”: the parish was much smaller then, and without a home people had to step up to make things work. And they did, and do, with flying colors (see my “thank yous” above).

As time has passed, the parish has grown tremendously, but our volunteer base is beginning to grow a bit static and even thin. Sometimes we see how smoothly everything is running and think there’s no need for us to help. Or sometimes our lives are so busy we think we just don’t have time to volunteer at the parish. But there’s always need for new ideas and “fresh blood.” And every few months some key volunteer chooses to move on, slow down or cut back, for a variety reasons.

I know you all feel overburdened and pulled in 10 different ways at once. But, honestly, there is no better place to spend your time and efforts than volunteering in your parish. Maybe it might require some restructuring and reprioritizing, but you’d be surprised what you can do, and what a difference it can make. And not just by helping in ways you think you’d “like” to. Maybe you might want to do XYZ for the parish, but I already have someone doing XYZ, and need you to do ABC. And you do ABC, and you love it!

Currently it seems all of our parish groups need volunteers. In particular I think of the USHERS. Every Mass really needs several more adults to commit to usher on a regular basis. Last minute helpers are fine and it’s wonderful to have the kids pitch in (both are greatly appreciated), but having a committed adult usher corps is very important to a smooth running and dynamic parish. There’s a million reasons for you not to volunteer: for example, maybe you have to take care of your kids at Mass, okay, then how about ushering one Mass, and taking your family to a second Mass? For every obstacle, we can probably find 2 ways around it. Paul DeRosa is accepting volunteers right now.

Many of you raved about our CHOIR over Holy Week and Easter. But all those folks are volunteers (except the cantors and musicians). And not all of them started out as great vocalists, individually. But with a little patient instruction, and working as part of a group of voices, great things can happen (a cantor told me “Elisabeth Turco can teach a doorknob to sing”—no offense choir members!).

There is also a clear current need for volunteers with the Samaritans, a very dedicated parish group that provides a cooked meal for families dealing with a serious illness or accident. And the Women Of St. Raymond Of Penafort (WSRP) is also in need of active members and volunteers—really, all the ladies of the parish should be involved in this in one way or another. Also, the Youth Apostolate and Religious Education are always in need of help. And Altar Servers—we need boys to serve and parents to help behind the scenes…. Also, Pro-Life, Flowers, Landscaping…I could go on and on. Every group needs volunteers.

Please call the office, or speak directly to the group you’re interested in helping. Committed volunteerism in the parish can be more rewarding than almost any other “free time” activity, if you make it an integral part of growing in faith and serving Christ, done out of love for Christ, the Church, and neighbor. May the Risen Christ speak to you through my words.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

September 9, 2012

Welcome, Fr. Joseph Kenna. I’m sure you all join me in extending a warm and heartfelt welcome to Fr. Kenna, our new Parochial Vicar. It’s great to have him here, and I look forward to working with him to help you all draw closer to Christ and His Church. Of course, Father will need a little time to get his feet firmly on the ground, change is hard as we all know. But I know he’s looking forward to rolling up his sleeves and getting to work and to know all of you. Please join me this afternoon (Sunday) after the 12:15 Mass for a welcoming reception/lunch for Father in the Parish Hall.

Religious Education Classes (“CCD”) Starts Tonight! With school starting up for all of our kids in the last two weeks I’m sure they’ve all (at least the public school kids) have been chomping at the bit to get back to religion classes. All kidding aside, there is no more important thing a child studies than his/her religion; the First Commandment tells us: “I am the LORD your God, you shall not have strange gods before me.” If we dedicate time going to school to learn about secular subjects like math, science, and history, but don’t spend time learning about God, don’t we make those secular subjects into false gods and place them ahead of The True God? It is one of a parent’s most fundamental obligations, a grave duty, to educate his/her children in the faith. And children, how can you love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength—how can you love anyone even a little bit—if you don’t know about him?

So I look forward to seeing all of you in religion class this week, and throughout the year. But remember, you only get out of something what you put into it. I expect all students to prepare for class, do their homework, and participate actively in class. And parents, remember that you are the primary educators of your children: CCD is only here to help you. So you must continue their religious education at home, including by making sure your children take their CCD classes seriously.

And I know you will! God bless you all as you begin the new school year!

Voter Registration. Well, as is obvious to anyone who browses the internet, picks up a paper or turns on the TV, there’s a big election coming on November 6. Remember what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2240) teaches: “co-responsibility for the common good make[s] it morally obligatory …to exercise the right to vote…” Since the we, the citizens of the United States, enjoy supreme sovereignty in this democratic- republic, it is imperative that we exercise that sovereignty by voting for, or choosing, the officials who will represent us well in the government.

But you can’t vote if you aren’t registered to vote. So many times forgetting to do this very simple thing does what no foreign power has been able to do for 230 years—take away the individual’s right to vote. Most of us are already registered to vote here in Fairfax, but some of you tell me you haven’t voted in a while, and I know a lot of our parishioners have moved recently, and most every time you move you have to register to vote in your new state or county.

So, to help you in this regard, next weekend we will have folks manning a table in the narthex with forms and instructions to register you to vote in Fairfax County.

Also if you think you’re going to be away from home or otherwise might not be able to get to the polls on November 6, you should seriously consider voting absentee, if you are eligible to do so. You can vote absentee in one of 2 ways: 1) go into one of 7 special voting locations between October 17 and November 3, or 2) vote absentee by mail. Voting by mail is easiest for a lot of folks, but to do that you have to first apply for an absentee ballot. Next weekend’s table will also have Absentee Ballot Application Forms available for those wishing to exercise that option.

The last day to register to vote is Monday, October 15th, and last date to apply for an absentee ballot by mail is Tuesday, October 30th.

New Precinct Polling Location. You should also 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 Precinct 807, which has also been voting at Hunt Valley Elementary School will remain at Hunt Valley ES. Your Precinct number is found on your voter registration card.

For more information go to: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/ (there is also a link on our parish website). You can also check on your registration status on this web page.

Democratic Convention. It is a terrible thing that one of our two major political parties, the Democrat Party, so stridently supports the right of a mother to kill her unborn baby, i.e., abortion. The week before last pro-abortion (so called “pro-choice”) pundits ridiculed a Republican Senate candidate for his opposition to abortion in the case of rape and incest (less than 1% of all abortions)—i.e., giving the death penalty to the innocent child for his father’s crime. But this week the Democrat Party, at its National Convention, trotted out speaker after speaker who actively support the most barbarically extreme positions on abortion—including partial birth abortion and allowing babies who survive abortions to die without medical attention. Not to mention, they once again nominated for President a man who holds those same extreme positions: Barrack Obama. Not only that, they released a platform document—their official statement of their political positions—that officially endorses all forms of abortion: “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” This is basically the same position they’ve embraced for years, except that this year they added something new: “regardless of ability to pay.” In other words, they support taxpayer funded abortion, something that 72% of Americans oppose. They want to force you and me to pay for abortions Who is the extremist?

Tomorrow: Weekday Mass Changes to 8 A.M. Please remember that beginning tomorrow, Monday, September 10, Mass will no longer be offered at 9:00 a.m. Monday through Friday, but will be moved to 8:00 a.m.. Let this be an opportunity for all you who find 6:30 Mass “too early” and 9:00 Mass “too late” to finally start coming to morning Mass at the “just right” time of 8:00. (The M-F 6:30am Mass will stay as usual, as will the Wednesday 7:00pm Mass and Saturday 9:00am Mass).
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles