May 14, 2022 Column Father De Celles

Peaceful Protest. Last Sunday you may have noticed a more prominent presence of the good officers of our Fairfax County Police Department around the church. They were here at my invitation, just in case some of the radical anti-abortion folks might make good on their threats to protest at and during Catholic Masses in the area. You may have also noticed some extra prayers before some of the Masses as well. Thanks be to God, and our friends at the FCPD, there were no problems at any Mass, or on the property in general.

I sincerely don’t think we have anything to worry about; the events that did happen in various places were largely peaceful, if uncivil and unjust. Still, we must keep our eyes open—there are some radical and evil people out there.

Even so, don’t worry. We’ll be fine, in Jesus’ hands. If anything does happen, we have parishioners at every Mass who are current or retired law enforcement officers (thanks!) who are ready to intervene if necessary. Moreover, we have a policeman directing traffic outside, who is a minute away in response. If something were to happen, it would almost certainly be non-violent—and I’m a firm believer in the old adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

            In the meantime, as Jesus teaches us, we must love those who hate us and pray for people who persecute us. We must also pray for those who are most severely being harassed and persecuted, especially Supreme Court Justices Thomas,  Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett and Roberts.

To Be Catholic is to be Ready for Persecution. As bad as the “soft-persecution” we encounter in the U.S., it’s much worse in other parts of the world. As I sit down to write this column (Wednesday, May11), this news is just being reported. From the website, “The Pillar”:

“Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, SDB, has been arrested. The 90-year old emeritus Bishop of Hong Kong was detained by authorities on Wednesday evening, over charges related to a non-profit group of which Zen is a trustee. The cardinal’s arrest came months after state-owned Chinese media signaled that he would likely be targeted by government security forces for his pro-democracy advocacy.

            “Zen, 90, was arrested by national security police May 11, along with Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, a pro-democracy former member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, and Denise Ho Wan-sze, a well-known singer. All three were arrested on charges of colluding with foreign powers, under the terms of Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which came into force in July, 2020.

“The charges relate to the work of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a charity that helps political arrestees in Hong Kong defray their legal expenses. Zen, Ng, and Ho are all trustees of the charity….

“In January, Hong Kong paper Ta Kung Pao published four separate articles attacking Zen, who is a totemic figure for persecuted Chinese Catholics and pro-democracy advocates. Ta Kung Pao is owned by the Chinese Communist Party’s Liaison Office — the mainland government’s department charged with overseeing the Hong Kong government.…Editorials in CCP-controlled newspapers are often used to signal forthcoming government action.

“….Zen’s arrest places enormous pressure on the Holy See to break its silence on the humanitarian crisis in China and the crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong. Despite the fracturing political and security situation in Hong Kong, the Holy See’s Secretariat of State has previously said it would not speak out about the crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong because it did not see the point in doing so. “Obviously Hong Kong is the object of concern for us. Lebanon is a place where we perceive that we can make a positive contribution. We do not perceive that in Hong Kong,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who heads the Secretariat of State’s section for diplomatic relations, said last year.

“…The arrest of the nonagenarian cardinal comes just months before the Vatican is set to renew its controversial agreement with the Chinese government on the status of the Church in China…The Vatican-China deal, the terms of which remain unpublished, was first agreed in 2018 and hands the Communist government a role in the approval of episcopal appointments on the mainland. Additionally, Catholic clergy are required by the government (and encouraged by the Vatican) to pledge loyalty to the Communist Party and to join the state-sponsored Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Those that have refused have been subject to harassment and detention, and in some cases disappeared.

“….China watchers have flagged escalating persecution of faithful Catholics and clergy, and Beijing has appeared to announce its own episcopal appointments without previous Roman approval….”

Ordination Anniversaries. For many years the third Saturday of May was the day for ordaining priests in the Diocese of Arlington. Consequently, most of the priests of the Diocese celebrate(d) their ordination anniversaries last week or this week. Praised be Jesus Christ, I am celebrating the 26th anniversary of my ordination. In the last 26 years there has not been one day, not even one moment, that I have ever regretted, even in the slightest, answering the call to the priesthood. Despite my many failings and failures, my many weaknesses and sins, I love being a priest and thank the Lord every day that He allows me to serve Him and His Church—including all of you—in this most amazing vocation.

            Please keep all your priests in prayer. And also pray for 8 men Bishop Burbidge will ordain the Priesthood for our Diocese on Saturday June 4, 2022. And for the 8 seminarians he ordained to the diaconate last month, anticipating their ordination to the priesthood next year.

            Also please continue to pray for and encourage priestly vocations, especially in your own circle, particularly in our parish and in your families.

            Finally, pray for courageous and faithful priests, after the model of Cardinal Zen.

On a Happier Note: Welcome Home, Colleges Students. I want to extend my most sincere congratulations to all of our parishioners who are graduating from college/university this month. We’re all proud of you, and pray for you as you move on to the new challenges that await you.

            I also want to welcome home all of the college students coming home for the summer. I look forward to seeing you around the church. Please keep your eye on the bulletin for various opportunities available to deepen your faith life over the summer, as well as social opportunities that will come up here in the parish and at nearby parishes.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles