Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 2, 2014 Column Father De Celles

What Price Catholicism? In the news the last few weeks we’ve heard two important news stories about people who have paid a great price for holding on to their Catholic faith. The first story was about a Catholic woman in Sudan, named Meriam Ibrahim, who had been imprisoned in Sudan, awaiting execution. The week before last, after months of intense negotiation by the Italian government and the Vatican, the Sudanese government freed Meriam  and she was flown to Rome to meet with the Pope. It was a great story.

But the real story was the reason she had been in prison in the first place. You see, Meriam’s mother was an Eastern Orthodox Christian and had raised Meriam as a Christian. Shortly before she married her Catholic husband in 2011 Meriam had converted to Catholicism. But because her father was a Muslim, Islamic law considered her to be Muslim also, and soon after her marriage she was accused of apostasy from Islam. When she refused to recant her Christianity and “return” to Islam, the Sudanese government sentenced her to death.

The second news story was about the plight of Christians, mainly Catholics, in Iraq, who have increasingly become the target of persecution by the terrorist army called the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” or “ISIS.” The week before last ISIS in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, issued an ancient and familiar order to these Christians: “submit or die.” (This after terrorists posted to the internet pictures of Christians crucified in Raqqa). But the Islamist terrorists were “generous,” in their own corrupt way: by “submit” they meant either convert to Islam, or stay Christian but pay heavy taxes for the privilege of  becoming permanent, subservient and silent second-class citizens (dhimmitude); and by “die” they meant either be executed or leave the country and everything you own.

According to news reports, hundreds of Mosul Christians have been killed, and almost all of the rest, 10s of thousands, have left everything behind rather than convert or remain under the thumb of thugs, having to comprise their Christian faith more and more every day. And for the first time in 16 centuries no Mass was said in Mosul last month.

Last week we read the parables comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a treasure found in a field and a pearl of great price found after long searching,

that when one finds it he “goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

The story of the pearl of great price has a real meaning to Meriam and the Iraqi Christians. What does it mean to us? Would we be willing to give up everything we have in exchange for our Catholic faith? Think of all the compromises we make with secularism every day, the doctrines—especially the moral doctrines—that many Catholics in America publicly deny every day. Some because they’d have to change their lifestyles or lose some friends, and some simply because their time is too valuable to spend on trying to understand the Church’s teaching. But in the end, it’s simply because it would cost too much, and they are not willing to pay the price.

Meriam Ibrahim and the Christians in Iraq have found the pearl of great price, and they have traded everything they had to possess it. Do we? No one is threatening to kill us or forcing us to leave our homes. At least not yet. But they do threaten us that if we want to be Catholic, it may cost us more than we can bear.

We must all pray for our Christian brothers and sisters being persecuted around the world, especially those in Iraq and Mosul. And we must also pray that we may always follow their example of fidelity to Christ and His Church.


A Religious Vocation. Most of you will remember Teri Tolpa, who was the chair our Respect Life Committee for several years until 3 years ago when she moved to Denver to go to graduate school. Her parents, Debbie and Ted Tolpa, are still active members of St. Raymond’s. I’m delighted to report that Teri has been accepted to enter the Sisters of Life as a “postulant” on September 6th, 2014.

I’m sure you all join me in congratulating Teri, and in thanking her for responding to God’s call. She will be visiting Virginia near the end of August to spend some time with her family before she enters the convent, so we should have the chance to thank and share our support with her personally. Please keep her in your prayers in the months and years ahead.

The Sisters of Life (www.sistersoflife.org) are a contemplative-active order of religious sisters, founded by John Cardinal O’Connor in New York City in 1991. They take a special vow “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”  Their convents are primarily in the NYC metro area.

The vocation to be a religious sister (or a nun) is one of the greatest gifts God can give to a woman, and to her family and parish. It is truly a “pearl of great price.” To give oneself totally to the Lord in vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience is to have an undivided heart for Him and to serve Him first in all things. As St. Paul says: “the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband” (1 Cor. 7:34). Because of this religious sisters are often called “brides of Christ,” as they give themselves completely to Him.

At some time in their life every Catholic girl and unmarried woman should discern whether God is calling her to this magnificent vocation. If any of the girls or women in our parish would like help in this regard, Fr. Kenna and I would be happy to talk to you, and/or introduce you to some religious sisters in the area. Don’t be afraid—if God is calling you to this, be assured He has something wonderful in mind for you.

And parents, make sure you encourage your daughters in this regard. Don’t push, but pray, propose and support. And don’t ever be afraid of losing a daughter or not having grandchildren. If your daughter is called, God will reward you generously for betrothing your daughter to Christ.


Sung High Mass (EFM). August 15 is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. As previously announced, the 7pm Mass that evening will be offered as a Sung High Mass of the Extraordinary Form (a.k.a., the “Tridentine Mass” or the “Traditional Latin Mass”). I invite all of you to experience this very beautiful ancient form of Catholic Mass. (Next week I will explain more about this form of Mass and its importance to all Catholics). We will, of course, also have our regular (Ordinary Form) Masses the evening before (Vigil) and during the day.


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles