Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time

February 5, 2017 Column Father De Celles

March for Life. On Friday, January 27, St. Raymond’s led a contingent of at least 217 folks to join the hundreds of thousands of other pro-lifers at the March for Life on the Washington Mall. We took 4 full buses, adding the 4th at the last minute due to overwhelming demand. I commend and thank all of those folks who joined us, and all those who attended separately. Also thanks to all who took time to pray during the March, whether at home, work or in the church. And thanks to all who worked so hard to provide for the chili dinner after the March. It was a great day for Life. If you couldn’t make it this year I hope you will join us next year.

Although the security measures required by Vice President Pence’s participation in the rally before the March caused some confusion and kept us from hearing most of the speeches, everyone seemed to take it all in stride, understanding how important it was that we were witnessing this first-ever participation by a U.S. Vice President. It was a day of great hope as so many gathered to pray and witness for life, especially as we greet our new pro-life President and his pro-life administration.


Pro-Life Supreme Court Nominee. This last Wednesday, President Trump kept his most important campaign promise as he named a pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-common-sense justice to the Supreme Court: Judge Neil Gorsuch. Judge Gorsuch, who has served 10 years as a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado, is no doubt one of the best educated judges ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court: after receiving his law degree from Harvard (Juris Doctor, JD) he went on to study at Oxford where he received his doctorate in philosophy (DPhil) under the great Catholic legal and ethics philosopher, John Finnis (see my column of Jan. 22). In between, he clerked for pro-life Supreme Court Justice Byron White, and when White retired he finished his term as clerk working for the very confused Justice Kennedy.

As an appellate judge, Gorsuch is noted for his outstanding defense of religious liberty, voting to protect the rights of Christian employers from the Obama administration’s efforts to force them to provide contraception and abortifacient insurance to their employees: the famous “Hobby Lobby” and “Little Sisters of the Poor” (LSP) cases. In the LSP case he wrote: “When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes a substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.” He has also voted to defend the public display of the Ten Commandments by local governments.

Although he has not voted on any abortion related cases, he has published a scholarly book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” in which he writes: “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

God bless Trump, with all his faults, for keeping his campaign promise about appointments to the Supreme Court (the only reason many Christians voted for him). Let us now pray Gorsuch’s appointment is approved by the Senate without delay. Surely the pro-aborts and anti-Christians in the Senate, the Democrat Party and in the media will go berserk in the next few days and weeks, so pray for them. But also remember their behavior the next time you consider trusting anything they say.


Women’s Retreat at St. Raymond’s. Next Saturday, February 11, we are sponsoring a “pre-Lent” half-day retreat for all the women of our parish—see below for details. Although I will be hearing confessions (with Fr. Smith and Fr. Gripshover) and offering Mass (and preaching), I have asked Robin Maas and Melissa Manaker of the Women’s Apostolate to Youth (WAY) to give the talks. For those of you who are not familiar with them, WAY is an official Church lay association for Catholic women in the Diocese of Arlington whose mission is to promote the spiritual wellbeing of children/youth and provide spiritual formation and support for women who work with youth in a variety of Apostolates.  Angelus Academy is an apostolate of WAY, as is the popular DAYSTAR Mother-Daughter Retreat Series. Dr. Robin Maas, PhD, the principle founder of WAY (and Angelus), is the former Dean of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family (Washington, DC), and professor of Spiritual Theology. She is the author of numerous articles and of five books on spirituality. Melissa Manaker, MA (Systematic Theology), is the Director of WAY, and Assistant Principal and long-time teacher at St. Rita’s Catholic School (Alexandria). Both are outstanding Catholic wives and mothers. I strongly encourage all women of the parish—young and old, married or single—to attend this retreat.


Modified Weekday Mass Schedule.  A few months back I instituted a modified schedule for weekday Masses when one of our two priests is out of the parish. It has worked relatively well—the priests are less stressed and the parishioners have been understanding. I thank you for your patience. But I am concerned, because, as I feared, it may be having a small negative effect on Mass attendance, even in weeks when we have a “normal schedule.” Although I understand this, it still saddens me. Nevertheless, we need to continue with the policy, and I hope folks will continue 1) to be patient and understanding, and 2) attend weekday Masses as often as they can.

That being said, I should call your attention to the fact that the next 3 weeks, from Monday February 6 (tomorrow) until Friday February 24, will all be Modified Weekday Schedules: that is, Mass will be at 8am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and at 6:30am on Tuesday and Thursday. I’m sorry for this inconvenience, but I’ll be away on my mandatory annual retreat this coming week and Fr. Smith will be leading a pilgrimage to Fatima for 11 days after that. Thanks again for your patience. And pray for more vocations to the priesthood!


Staff Change. I’m saddened to report that Monica Montanaro Lyons, one of our parish secretaries for the last 2 ½ years, is leaving us in preparation for her move with her new husband to Oregon in March or April. Monica has had an outstanding effect on our parish in so many ways. She has been a friendly and resourceful support to parishioners, a hardworking and organized colleague to the parish staff, and an effective and insightful assistant to me. Although we will all miss her, she will still be around the pews for a couple of months, so take a moment to wish her well. And please join me in praying for her future happiness.


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles