Our Little Sofi. November 14th was the fifth birthday of the darling little girl who was left as a newborn in the parking lot of our church. We continue to give thanks to the Lord Jesus for her life, and in celebration we’re having a birthday party for Sofi in our Parish Hall, today, Sunday, Nov. 22, after the 12:15 Mass. All parishioners are encouraged to come and say hello to our little Sofi!
Christ the King. Today is the last Sunday of the Catholic liturgical year, which ends with the celebration of the feast of Christ the King of the Universe.
Jesus told us His “kingdom is not of this world.” He was not establishing a territorial nation with rules enforced by imprisonment or armies. But He did not say or mean that His kingdom would “have nothing to do with the world.” Rather His kingdom, and kingship, would reign above the world and in men’s hearts, minds and souls, and so transform the world.
Because of this, the Church has always recognized a legitimate understanding of the “separation of Church and state.” It is true that some nations have been, or still are, officially “Catholic” nations. Some say this blurs the lines of that separation. But it all depends on what you mean by “separation.” If you mean, on the one hand, that the Church should not dictate the particular laws of civil society, while still having a strong influence on those laws, especially in promoting true morality, justice, virtue and charity, and on the other hand, that civil leaders and laws should not interfere in the spiritual, moral life or conscience of the Church and its members, then you have something approaching the historic Catholic understanding of separation.
This understanding is entirely compatible (though not identical) with the type of “separation” the American founders established for our nation, enshrined in the first amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The principle effect of this clause is to guarantee that the government can’t make laws that unnecessarily impinge on the rights of religions or churches, or interfere in people practicing their religion freely. There is nothing here, as some people claim, that denies the right of religion, Churches, and/or religious people to influence civil government and laws. In fact, the founding fathers believed that religion had an essential role in guiding the nation and its laws. As George Washington wrote: “Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports…. [R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Nowadays Islamic extremists (“Islamists”) are using despicable violence against the innocent (as we witnessed so sadly in the Paris attacks) to try to establish a world-wide theocracy in which the state and “church” (so to speak) are one, with no separation at all. We see something similar in Iran, where the Supreme Leader is the highest ranking Muslim cleric.
The Catholic Church has never sought to do this. It simply believes that it has a critical role in influencing public policy, and that its individual members have a right to live according to their faith-formed consciences and, especially through the right of free speech and the right to vote, to enact laws consistent with their understanding of right and wrong, good and evil.
Today, on the feast of Christ the King, we remember this, and that while His Kingdom is not of this world, it reigns in the hearts and minds of all Christians. So that while Christ does not seek to establish His own worldly kingdom or nation, He does call all peoples living in the worldly kingdoms and nations to follow Him so as to live in true justice and virtue.
Does Christ the King reign in our hearts—or does something else rule there? And do we allow our King to rule the way we live in the worldly kingdoms, in both our day to day life with family, friends and customers, as well as in the “public square” of public speech and civil laws?
Thanksgiving. This Thursday is, of course, Thanksgiving Day. This is not a religious holiday, but it does clearly illustrate how the sense of the importance of religion is deeply rooted in our national self-understanding, as it has been a national holiday since President Washington established it in 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.” This week, remember who you are giving thanks to. It’s fine to thank your family and friends for all their kindnesses, but in the end it is “Almighty God”—Christ the King—to whom we owe our unending thanks. May He continue to bless us, and our beloved nation.
Advent. Next week we begin the season of Advent, beginning our new Catholic year with preparation for Christmas. I realize Advent coincides with the very hectic celebration of the worldly and commercial “Holiday Season,” but please don’t let that lead you to forget that Advent belongs to Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe who was born in a lowly manger. To help in this regard the parish will offer many opportunities to help us keep focused on our spiritual preparation for Christmas. Next week we will include an insert in the bulletin with a full schedule of parish events for Advent and Christmas.
One thing you will see on that schedule is a 3-part Advent Series of talks I will present on the first 3 Thursdays of Advent on the topic: “Mary, Through the Eyes of Popes St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.” Both of these great popes wrote extensively and beautifully on the Blessed Mother, and I will explore some of the key aspects of their teachings and insights. Please join me.
Another special offering will be Lessons & Carols on Sunday, December 13th at 7:00 pm. The “Carols” part of this evening is listening to the choir sing beautiful hymns anticipating the birth of Christ. The “Lessons” part is not listening to lectures or sermons, but simply listening to the Word of God, prophecies in Scripture that proclaim the coming of the Messiah. Afterwards we’ll gather in the Parish Hall for some light refreshments of the season. This is a truly spiritually uplifting evening, but it is also very entertaining. So please don’t miss out.
Gift Shop. After many years of devoted service, Rena DeRosa has decided to step down from managing the parish Gift Shop, located in the narthex of the church. I want to thank Rena for all her hard work. But this also means I need someone to replace her. The Gift Shop is a great way to promote our faith by offering parishioners access to religious items and books right here in our own “home.” If you are interested in volunteering for this important position, please call the parish office.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles