February 2, 2014

Re-Evangelization of St. Raymond’s. Last Sunday I spoke at all the Masses about fostering the New Evangelization in our parish by first re-evangelizing ourselves. (The text of my homily is on the website). One of the key things I encouraged was committing to volunteer in one of the many parish groups/activities. I strongly believe that active involvement in the parish in this way is a key way to help you to grow in your faith and love for Christ. So, please, as I said in my homily, pray about this, but then make a commitment, and call to volunteer.

In the handout distributed at Mass I included a list of groups for you to refer to (and I included that list in my column last week as well). I knew as if I did that I’d probably leave one or more important groups/activities off the list—and, sure enough, I did. Two groups have come to my attention: the Crafters (Mary K Randazzo, 703-455-4209) and the Men’s Prayer Group (Dave Wilson, 703-455-1847). If any other groups were inadvertently excluded, please let me or the office know so we can correct that. We are currently pulling together a brochure with more information about all the groups, so we want to make sure we include you in that.

Trail Life USA. In December, I wrote about how we were planning to start a new partnership with Trail Life USA to provide a Christ-centered adventure, character, and leadership program for the boys and young men in our parish. In January dozens of interested parents have enthusiastically gathered for information meetings about Trail Life. Now I can announce that through the dedicated efforts of some of these parents we have obtained a Trail Life charter, and had our first troop meeting with our first members this last Wednesday. (This meeting took place after the deadline of this column, so I don’t have more details to share.) I am very excited about this new partnership, and very hopeful that, with God’s grace, this will begin an exciting new chapter in our parish ministry to youth.

CYO: Youth Sports or “Youth Group”? Speaking of parish groups and youth….Ever since I moved here from Texas 22 years ago, I’ve been confused by folk’s use of the term “CYO.” CYO stands for Catholic Youth Organization, and in most parts of the country (although not all) it is synonymous for Catholic youth sports leagues. In fact, our parish basketball teams (along with the teams of most of the other Arlington parishes) are affiliated with the Northern Virginia Junior Catholic Youth Organization. Even so, at St. Raymond’s I often hear our Youth Group referred to as “CYO.” It’s really no big deal, but it does cause some confusion, so let me clarify: at St. Raymond’s “CYO” refers only to the parish youth basketball teams, led so well by Ed Gloninger. It does not refer to the parish “Youth Group,” or as we officially call it, “St. Raymond’s Youth Apostolate.”

Angel Wall. Although not a group or activity, one of the most beautiful and cherished customs of our parish is found in the narthex by the statue of the Angel—“the Angel Wall.” On this wall are placed the names of children of our parish who have died before birth or any time before adulthood. It is a beautiful thing to remember them, and a great comfort to so many moms and dads, and families. Please remember to visit this wall from time to time, and say a little prayer for the babies and for their families, entrusting them to the mercy of our Dear Lord.

New Website. Thanks to Keith Oswald for putting together our new and improved parish website. Athough the address is the same as before (www.straymonds.org), the “new” site is much easier to navigate and much more user friendly. I’m confident that it will be a great resource for parishioners who want to keep up on the latest parish news, learn more about the faith and find out what parish groups are up to. In the coming weeks more improvements will be made, and more content added. Any parish group wishing to be included on the site, please contact Keith at: webmaster@straymonds.org.

Latin at the 8:45 Mass. I have been greatly encouraged by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to our “turning the altar around” to celebrate the 8:45 Mass “ad orientem.” Although a very few people continue to express their disapproval, there’s not a week that goes by when someone new doesn’t share with me their appreciation of the change.

Given that response, a few weeks ago I threw out another proposal to the congregation at the end of the 8:45 Mass: the possibility of praying more of the 8:45 Mass in Latin. I went on to clarify that the great majority of the Mass would still be in English, but we might do some of the common prayers repeated every week in Latin, e.g., the Sanctus (Holy, Holy), the Our Father, and the Gloria, and perhaps some of the greetings and introductions (“The Lord be with you,” “Let us pray”). My plan would be to not say/sing the Creed or the Confiteor in Latin, since those prayers are particularly personal (“I confess,” “I believe”). But perhaps, from time to time, I might say the ancient Roman Canon in Latin.

Let me briefly clarify some of the reasons why I would do this:
–Latin is the official language of the Universal Catholic Church, and symbolically unites us to other Catholics throughout the world today;
–Latin unites us to all the Catholics, innumerable great saints and our own familial ancestors who for centuries before us were spiritually fed at the Latin Mass;
–Because Latin is not the language of everyday use, it helps remind us that the Mass is not an everyday event, a mystery defying time and space;
–Vatican II, Bd. Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Bd. Pope John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, all called for a continued use of Latin in the Mass, and Pope Francis continues to use Latin in his Masses.

So far, responses to my request, have run overwhelmingly in favor of increasing the use of Latin. This is not a vote, but I do look forward to your comments. Please keep them respectful and to the point. And if you write to me, please sign your name: I do not read unsigned correspondence.

March for Life. God bless all the folks who braved the sub-zero wind chill to March for Life on January 22. Thanks especially to Liz Hildebrand for organizing the 3 buses from our parish, and to all the folks who organized and cooked for the chili dinner afterward. (By the way, there are still crockpots that have not been picked up).

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

December 8, 2013

Scouting at St. Raymonds. In May of this year the Boy Scouts of America reversed its long standing policy on Scouting membership and same-sex attraction. The new policy, effective January 1, 2014, now prohibits packs and troops from denying membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

Before that May decision I had publicly stated that this change would cause me to end St. Raymond’s relationship with BSA. Since then, however, I have remained largely silent, responding to Bishop Loverde’s request that pastors refrain from any action until he gave us his formal guidance. Unfortunately, other important matters have understandably delayed the Bishop in issuing this guidance, and my long silence caused some confusion among St. Raymond’s scouting families. Ultimately, as more and more families made plans to join other packs and troops, I felt compelled to speak more frankly to the parents about my intentions, but always with the proviso: “depending on what the Bishop says.”

But time has run out on me: the charter for both St. Raymond’s Cub Scout Pack 683 and the Boy Scout Troop 683 will expire on December 31, and the Pack and Troop will be dissolved.

To be clear, it was my decision not to renew the charters. Few decisions in my priesthood have been so heart wrenching as this. BSA has provided boys many rich opportunities for personal growth for over a hundred years—in particular for our boys these last few years. But this new policy changes everything.

I in no way condemn or hold any ill will towards those who disagree with me—either other pastors, parents or scout leaders. While this deals with objective truths, it comes down to a prudential judgment. I respect those who disagree with my prudential judgment, and I particularly respect parents for doing what they think best for their children, but I could not respect myself if I did not do what I thought was right for my flock.

And let me thank all the scout leaders who have served the parish pack and troop so well and so long—there are too many to name here. I can’t tell you how much I deeply respect, admire and appreciate all you’ve done for our boys—all the sacrifices, dedication and love. I can’t thank you enough.

Trail Life USA. Some look at our Pack and Troop and see the Boy Scouts of America. But I see a ministry of St Raymond’s that has partnered with Scouts to serve our parish boys. Now that partnership ends, but the ministry will continue with a new partner, and I invite all the boys, parents and leaders to stay with us as we take on that new partner: Trail Life USA.

“Trail Life USA is a Christian adventure, character, and leadership program for young men. [It] centers on outdoor experiences that build a young man’s skills and allow him to grow on a personal level and as a role model and leader for his peers…Trail Life is a journey established on timeless values derived from the Bible. …Our vision is to be the premier national character development organization for young men which produces Godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens. …Our mission is …to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure.” (http://www.traillifeusa.com)

A group of parents has already begun the process of obtaining a TL charter for the parish, and I have pledged them my total support. There will be a meeting for interested parents (whether currently in scouting or not) on Monday 16 December, 7:15pm, in the Parish Hall.

I am very excited about this new partnership, and very hopeful that, with God’s grace, this will begin an exciting new chapter in our parish ministry to youth.

New Youth Director. Speaking of which, I am very pleased to announce that Jeanne Sause will be joining our staff as Director of the Youth Apostolate effective December 30. Jeanne is originally from upstate New York and is a graduate of Franciscan University in Steubenville. After graduation she travelled around the country as a NET Missionary for one year giving retreats to 4th-12th graders. After that she taught for three years in a Catholic grade school in Minnesota. She also has very extensive volunteer experience in organizing youth programs and retreats in New York and New Jersey.

And I’m very excited to have Jeanne join the parish, and thank the Lord Jesus for bringing her to us. May He bless her and our parish as we move forward in serving our youth and bringing them closer to Him.

Lessons and Carols Tonight. Remember to join me, the choir and the lectors for Lessons and Carols tonight at 6:30 in the church. Every year, as the word spreads, we get a larger turn out for this joyful and prayerful event. Part of its charm is its uniqueness—there’s really nothing else like it all year. And also, its peacefulness in the busyness of the “holiday season”: hearing the inspiring and joyful prophecies of the Old Testament and the first lessons of the Gospel, along with the beautiful strains of the choir—and the congregation—singing treasured carols and hymns, some so comfortably familiar, others thrillingly new to our ears and hearts. Please come join us!

Advent Series: Prayer. All are invited to join me this Thursday evening at 7:30 in the Parish Hall for my Advent Series: “Prayer: In Conversation with God.” This week’s topic will be “Praying with the Church,” as we spend some time discussing the Rosary and then have an introduction to the “Liturgy of the Hours.” Many Catholics are unfamiliar with the “Liturgy of the Hours” (or the “Divine Office”) but it is the prayer, anchored by the Psalms, that priests, religious sisters and brothers, and nuns and monks pray 5 to 7 times a day. The two “hinges” of this liturgy are “Lauds” and “Vespers,” or “Morning Prayer” and “Evening Prayer.” Come and learn more—whether you’re an experienced prayer looking for guidance or a beginner looking for new instruments to deepen your prayer life.

Senior’s Lunch. I want to remind all our seniors to join us on Saturday, December 14, for our annual Seniors’ Christmas Luncheon. Please call the office for more details. I look forward to seeing you there.

Correction. Two weeks ago I wrote about 2 disgusting ads promoting Obamacare (“My health care covers the pill…,” and “Don’t tap into your beer money to cover those medical bills…”), saying that they were government sponsored. That was incorrect. They were sponsored by independent groups. But they were still disgusting.