August 5, 2012

August 5, 2012 Column Father De Celles

When it rains it pours. First, our Parochial Vicar, Fr. Pilon, retires and he is not replaced. Now, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago at some of the Masses, it turns out that Fr. John Lovell will not be returning to Virginia this Fall and so will not be available to help us as he did last year. So we’re down from 4 priests to 2, plus the good Fr. Daly on weekends. The Lord works in mysterious ways. Let’s all keep praying for vocations as I continue to work with the Bishop’s office to find another resident priest to help out in the coming year.

Boundaries and Registration. What makes someone a “member” of a particular parish? Many Catholics think that if you go to Mass at a particular church every Sunday that automatically becomes your parish. I can understand that—it’s where you feel at home, where you’ve made friends, and maybe a connection to priests. But officially, under Canon Law, a Catholic usually only becomes a member of a parish by living within the geographical boundaries of that parish. This comes as a shock to many Catholics, especially if they never knew parishes had boundaries! But almost every parish in the world does have boundaries, with very rare exceptions.

Now, before anyone starts to worry, it is the long established custom that a pastor may allow people who live outside his parish boundaries to register as “members,” or “parishioners,” of the parish. Many of the parishioners of St. Raymond’s fall into this category, and I’m delighted they do!

Some may think this boundary stuff is empty bureaucratic nonsense. But these rules are actually very important. One very important reason for boundaries is to make sure that every single Catholic knows he has a right to a particular priest’s (or priests’) help and pastoral care. When the Bishop sent me here as administrator 2 years ago every Catholic living within the geographic boundaries obtained an almost absolute right to my priestly care. If you call me in the middle of the night, or have a baby needing baptism, or you need to get married, etc., if you live in St. Raymond’s boundaries you are virtually guaranteed a right to my help, and I have a moral and canonical obligation to help you.

That’s important, and a good thing, don’t you think? But what happens if someone living in, say, Chancellorsville wants to be a parishioner of St. Raymond’s? Does she have that same right to my assistance? If I extend that right to her, doesn’t that somehow diminish the rights of the people in the actual boundaries—the Catholics whom the Bishop has actually entrusted to my care? And if St. Raymond’s had 300 parishioners in Chancellorsville and I’m constantly running down there to take care of them, might not the folks in Springfield rightly get upset and say: “don’t they have their own priest in Chancellorsville?”

This, of course, is an exaggeration, but I hope you see my point. Boundaries are important to make sure every Catholic is taken care of, and not only by the priest, but by their actual neighbors in the parish.

This is why, since my arrival at St. Raymond’s, I have followed a policy of recognizing the boundary rules in registering new parishioners. But I have also made many exceptions when I thought it was reasonable and warranted in a particular situation. Some factors I consider are, for example: how far outside the boundaries do they live? how long have they been attending Mass here? are they for some rational reason uncomfortable in their boundary-parish? are they in the military and so deserving of special accommodation? are they planning on making this their real spiritual home or are they only using it for some temporary personal benefit (e.g. they want to get married in our beautiful church but never come to Mass here)? are they in such need that no good Christian could turn them away? etc… And I always ask myself: is this consistent with the rights and true good of my flock?

If you live in the boundaries of St. Raymond’s and haven’t ever filled out a registration form, please do so—it makes things much easier when you need some particular assistance from the parish or priests. And if you live outside the boundaries and have never registered here but would like to be part of our parish, please feel free to submit a registration form and we can talk about it. And if you don’t register and are not an official parishioner, know that you are always truly welcome here as our brother or sister in Christ.

First Religious Liberty, now Freedom of Speech. This last week the viciousness and anti-Christian agenda of the “Gay Rights” crowd once again came out of the shadows into the light. A few days back when Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy was asked a question by an interviewer about his beliefs about “gay marriage,” he responded by stating basic Christian beliefs about marriage being only between one man and one woman. In response, all heck broke loose as the mainstream media, gay activists and “liberal” politicians excoriated Cathy as if he were a moral degenerate, and accused his company of selling “hate food.” Meanwhile, the mayors of Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston talked about banning the restaurant from their cities.

You know, when the Obama Administration attacked our Religious Liberty earlier this year, I warned that if the first liberty listed in the First Amendment could be set aside, so could the other liberties listed there:

“Congress shall make no law [1] respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or [2] abridging the freedom of speech, or [3] of the press; or [4] the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and [5] to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Well now apparently the second liberty [2] is under attack: since when can’t an American state his personal beliefs in public without being threatened by government officials? Lay aside that his beliefs are the same as those that were held by almost all of our grandparents and are still held by most Americans. Forget the fact that if they are the beliefs of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. What about “Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech”? Well, I guess “Congress” hasn’t passed a law, but the principle is the same: another original fundamental American value now seems to be less important than the new right to sexual libertinism. Which will fall next? Freedom of the press? To assemble? Why stop there? How about the right to vote? Surely hate-filled people like us Catholics shouldn’t be allowed to vote!

It wasn’t so long ago that “gay” activists just wanted their basic rights protected. But then they demanded that “gay marriage” be treated as a basic right. Now they want to oppress anyone who even thinks differently than they do. Lord Jesus, have mercy on us all.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles