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