May 3, 2021 Column Father De Celles

FIRST HOLY COMMUNION. Congratulations to all the children who received First Holy Communion at Mass today and at the Vigil last night! Because of the pandemic, last year we cancelled our customary special Saturday morning Mass for the kids to receive as one group, instead allowing the families to choose any regularly scheduled Mass they wished for their children to receive First Holy Communion. One happy result of this was to allow the whole parish to share in the happy occasion, which not only helps unite the children more closely to the parish, but also reminds the parishioners how important our children are to the parish. Beyond all that, seeing the little ones receive so reverently reminds us all of Jesus’ call to “become like little children,’ especially in our complete faith and tender love for Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Because of these benefits, this year most of the children will be receiving First Holy Communion at the Masses this weekend. Please watch them carefully, and learn/remember. And keep them in your prayers going forward.

Dividend Windfall. Most of you probably don’t know this, but while the parish has a regular checking account for operations with a regular bank, the Bishop requires that our savings be entirely invested in what is called the Diocesan Investment And Loan Corporation (DIAL). This Corporation is wholly owned by the Diocese of Arlington, and is sort of like a credit union of the parishes and the other diocesan organizations, where we all deposit our savings and then borrow for special projects, like building new churches. In addition to lending money to the parishes, the DIAL also invests excess funds as a normal investor would, i.e., in stocks and bonds. While the interest rate on loans is 3.5%, the DIAL’s return on other investments (e.g., stocks) has been much higher.

            In return for our deposit we currently receive an annual interest rate of 2%–which last year amounted to  $40,431. This a good interest rate on savings, but not the best rate of return on a long-term investment. Recognizing this, Bishop Burbidge has declared that an Extraordinary Dividend be paid to all the depositors. For us this amounts to $228,000, which has been deposited in our DIAL account, bringing our balance to approximately $1,723,000.

            There are, however, restrictions on how these funds can be used. That is, they may be used/spent only “for extraordinary objectives, such as campus and facility improvements and renovation, deferred facilities maintenance projects,…to enhance savings reserves, or to address some exceptional need.” 

MONTH OF MARY. The Church sets aside May as a month of particular devotion to the Blessed Mother. So let’s review what are called the “Marian Dogmas.” Remember, a “dogma” is a doctrine (teaching) that is revealed by God, either in Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition. There are four dogmas about Mary that have been formally declared as infallibly held by the Church. There are many other Marian doctrines that are also infallibly held by the Church, even if not formally declared as such.

Mother of God. The first Marian Dogma to be formally declared by the Church was the declaration by the Council of Ephesus, in 431, that Mary is “Theotokos” (in Greek), or “Mother of God.” This was part of the Council’s condemnation of the Nestorian heresy which denied the full divinity of Jesus; in declaring that Jesus was truly always fully God, they also declared that, therefore, Mary was truly the Mother of God. Directly related to this dogma is the doctrine of the “Queenship of Mary, that she is “Queen of Heaven and Earth” (and Queen of Apostles, Saints, Peace, Priests, etc.….). After all, if she is the Mother of God/Jesus, she is surely the mother of the King/Jesus, which makes her the Queen.

Perpetual Virginity. The second Marian Dogma to be formally declared is her perpetual Virginity (Second Council of Constantinople, 553). The Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin, the “ever-virgin Mary.” This means she was a virgin all her life: “ante-partu, in-partu, et post-partu.” So, she was a virgin before the birth of Jesus (“ante-partu”) so that Jesus was conceived by the singularly miraculous act of the Holy Spirit and no act of man. Moreover, she remained a virgin after His birth (“post-partu”) until the end of her life on earth. Finally, Mary was a virgin during the birth of Jesus (“in-partu”). The Church has always used the term “virginity” to mean that the “bodily integrity” of the female remains intact. Thus, Mary’s “virginity in-partu” means that the actual physical act of giving birth to Jesus occurred in some miraculous way: He did not pass from Mary’s womb physically in the same way all other babies pass from their mothers’ womb, so that Mary’s body was not damaged or altered in any way, and she incurred no birthing pains whatsoever. We do not know the details of how this happened, and the Church strongly discourages too much speculation on this. Even so, St. Thomas Aquinas (ST III, 28, 2) quotes St. Augustine (Sup. Joan. Tract. 121): “To the substance of a body in which was the Godhead closed doors were no obstacle. For truly He had power to enter in by doors not open, in Whose Birth His Mother’s virginity remained inviolate.”

Immaculate Conception. In 1854 Pope Pius IX, in Ineffabilis Deus, solemnly declared the Dogma that from the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother (Ann), Mary had never been tainted by the stain or effects of the original sin of Adam and Eve, as all other human beings have been (except, of course, for Jesus). Although in centuries past some had questioned whether and how this was possible, nevertheless, this doctrine was taught consistently in the Church back to antiquity. The reason God gave this singular gift to Mary was to prepare her to be the Mother of Jesus, i.e., so that no sin would touch Baby Jesus and so that Mary might be the very best and holiest mother to Jesus possible. All this in fulfillment of God’s ancient promise to the devil (Genesis 3): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Part of this Dogma is the belief that Mary never committed even the slightest act of personal sin: her perpetual sinlessness.

            Assumption. The Dogma of the Assumption of Mary was formally proclaimed in 1950 by Pope Pius X (Munificentissimus Deus). Rather than formally ending any historical theological debate or question, this formal declaration was more of an act of honoring the Blessed Mother by declaring something that had always been held by the whole Church without debate. The only question that had ever been raised was whether Mary actually died or if she just sort of fell asleep (“the Dormition”). Pope Pius deftly refused to settle that debate, as he taught: “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” Thus, Mary is the first, after her Son, to receive the fullness of the “Resurrection of the Body,” that we all hope for one day.

Oremus pro invicem. Ad Jesum, per Mariam, cum Raymundus.

Fr. De Celles