July 11, 2020 Column Father De Celles

Reopening Activities and Meetings. Since we are now well into Phase 3 of the “re-opening,” and public Masses are going well, I recently notified the “Heads of Committees” of the parish that we will now begin to re-open our other parish activities.

Generally, we will keep things simple for the time being. For all events from now until December 31, 2020:

— I will allow approved gatherings of less than 50 people, as long as the 6ft social distancing is observed.

— Participants will be expected to follow the Commonwealth’s current directives on face coverings (which include exceptions for health and eating).

— Hand sanitizing should be promoted.

— Gatherings should take place outside or in the parish hall.

— Smaller venues, like the Maurer Room or Library, may be used by very small groups.

— Events will be scheduled so as to allow for necessary sanitizing/cleaning between events (there will be no “back to back” events).

— No food may be served without special permission and agreement to certain protocols.

— Drinks may be served on a “grab and go” basis.

— Organizers and participants are expected to follow the Bishop’s guidelines that relate to them.

— ALL GATHERINGS must be specifically approved by me, after consultation with the parish staff.

— Requests/proposals may take place as soon as they can be arranged.

For all events in 2021, you should proceed as we have in the past, assuming we will be fully open without restrictions. I expect we will go slowly at first, and learn as we go. I know I can count on your charity and cooperation.

CCD/Religious Education Re-Opening. We will be re-opening our Religious Education classes in September. I strongly believe that in-class participation is very important to most students, and so we expect most students to attend class. But since we also respecting the rights of parents we will provide an “at-home” option for those with strong concerns about COVID-19. Mrs. Mary Salmon is contacting parents from last year’s registration, but if you have any questions at all please contact her at mary.salmon@straymonds.org, or at (703) 440-0537.

Brown Scapular. Thursday, July 16, is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and with this in mind, we will be enrolling folks in the Confraternity and investing them with the Brown Scapular after all Sunday Masses next weekend (including the Saturday Vigil). We will gather in the narthex after Mass, and scapulars will be provided, or you may bring your own.

The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel memorializes the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite priest, and her gift to him of the “Brown Scapular” on July 16, 1251. “Take, beloved son,” she said, “this Scapular of your order as a badge of my confraternity and for you and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant.” The Carmelites immediately began to wear this Scapular as part of their regular habit, and very soon many non-Carmelites also began to wear it, usually in a smaller form of a two small pieces of cloth bound by two strings, worn around the neck, hanging down in front and back.

From the beginning it was understood that in order to participate in Our Lady’s promises the wearer of the Scapular must be officially associated with the Carmelite order. So the Carmelites established the “Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel,” which any Catholic may be enrolled in through a short ceremony conducted by a priest.

               Even so, the Scapular is in no way a “a good luck charm.” Rather, as Pope Pius XII wrote, it “is a sign and a pledge of the protection of the Mother of God.” And as St. John Paul II wrote, it is a sign that evokes “the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honor on certain occasions, but must become a ‘habit’, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.”

2 Supreme Court Victories. Praised by Jesus Christ, last Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled to protect religious liberty in 2 separate cases last week—both times voting 7-2.

In the first case, the court expanded the right of religious schools to fire religion teachers for reasons related to their religious mission. In the majority opinion Justice Samuel Alito writes, “[T]he Religion Clauses [of the First Amendment] protect the right of churches and other religious institutions to decide matters “‘of faith and doctrine’” without government intrusion.…And a component of this autonomy is the selection of the individuals who play certain key roles….What matters, at bottom, is what an employee does. And… training them [young people] to live their faith are responsibilities that lie at the very core of the mission of a private religious school…”

            In the second case, we finally have a resolution of Obamacare’s attempt to require all employers, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, to pay for contraception insurance for their employees. The Supreme Court had previously ruled twice in favor of the Little Sisters’ appeal of this requirement and the Trump Administration subsequently issued regulations exempting employers who refused to comply “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs.”

            But then the State of Pennsylvania relitigated the issue claiming the Trump regulations were invalid. The Court seems to have tired of this nonsense. As Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the Court in finding in favor of the Little Sisters: “For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother. ….But for the past seven years, they…have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles