March 22, 2021 Column Father De Celles

FIFTH WEEK OF LENT: PASSIONTIDE. Today we cover the statues and crosses as
we begin the last two weeks of Lent, called “Passiontide.” Passiontide reminds us to
refocus or deepen our attention on the season and its purposes of repentance of sin,
conversion of heart, and appreciation of Christ’s love manifested in His Passion and
Cross. If you’ve been slacking in your observance of Lent, buck up. If you’ve neglected
the season entirely, it’s not too late. And if you’ve been having a good Lent, then
consider how you might take it up a notch these last days.
Let us beg our Crucified Lord to shower us with His grace in these last two weeks
of Lent, and that we may be open to His grace and love Him in return.
I also strongly encourage you to intensify your Lenten observance by taking
greater advantage of opportunities offered in the parish, such as Confessions, Stations of
the Cross on Friday at 6:30pm, and of course Mass: maybe you could attend at least one
weekday Mass this week and next.
GO TO CONFESSION. Remember, evening confessions are from 6pm until 7pm and
we will have 2 confessors available on Tuesday and Thursday. If you have not been to
confession this Lent please try to go before Easter, remembering that during Holy Week
the confession lines are very long and this year there will be fewer priests hearing
confessions than in the past. So, if you haven’t been to confession this Lent, PLEASE
March 25, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, remembering the Archangel Gabriel’s
apparition to the Virgin Mary to announce, and receive her consent to, the miraculous
conception of Jesus. Thus, it is traditionally understood to be a memorial of the event of
Conception of Jesus, so that exactly nine months later, on December 25, we celebrate His
birth. I encourage you all to celebrate by attending either the regular 8:30am or the
specially scheduled 7pm Mass. COVID STUFF. It was one year ago this weekend that the “shutdown” began in our
parish as the Bishop ordered that public Masses could not be celebrated until further
notice. That was a dark time for all of us. Thanks be to God that He pulled us through,
and we now have at least a partial opening. Unfortunately, we still are limited to 50%
capacity, which with social distancing requirements reduces us to only about 30%
capacity. And even with that, we’re still only at about 40% of our pre-COVID attendance
Hopefully, with all the positive things happening the limitations will be lifted
soon. Until then, we trust in Jesus and keep the faith. Please keep coming to Mass if you
can, and if you can’t, at least watch the Mass reverently and prayerfully on the internet or
6 Feet? One thing that might change, I hope soon, is the “6-feet rule.” From the
beginning of the shutdown I have read that 3 feet distancing is as effective as 6 feet. In
fact, the 3-foot rule was the rule provided by the World Health Organization and so
followed by many countries and applied in some US schools. Now a major study
published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases confirms that:
“Among 251 eligible school districts, 537,336 students and 99,390 staff attended
in-person instruction during the 16-week study period…Student case rates were similar
in the 242 districts with ≥3 feet versus ≥6 feet of physical distancing between students …;
results were similar after adjusting for community incidence…. Cases among school staff
…were also similar… Conclusions. Lower physical distancing policies can be adopted in
school settings with masking mandates without negatively impacting student or staff
Did you know that there is very little science to support the 6-foot rule? It’s
apparently based on 80-year-old observations and is widely questioned by scientists and
doctors today, including important studies at MIT and Oxford. Maybe now this will
change, so that even with the 50% rule our capacity in the church would actually
approach 50%, vs. 30% (see above), and so allow for the same attendance numbers as
before the shutdown. We’ll see what happens….
Slippery Slope. As I’ve mentioned many times, part of my “job” in the last year
has been to balance concerns, and even fears, regarding spreading COVID on the one
hand and the slippery slope of losing individual and church liberties on the other. Both
concerns are real, and both merit respect. And I share both.
An example of how allowing governments to exercise “emergency” authority can
be a slippery slope to wider loss of liberty is found in a recent case in New York City. As
reported in various media sources, because Dr. Micheline Epstein, a family physician, refused to wear a mask outside her daughter’s school, on the public street, the school said
that she was no longer allowed to drop off or pick up her daughter. Then a judge took
away her shared custody of her daughter (she had previously shared custody with her
estranged husband), and ordered that she is not permitted to remove her daughter from
school. All because Epstein, a physician, wouldn’t wear a mask while she was on a public
Concerns about COVID and loss of freedom are real. Let’s respect and pray for an
end to both.
“ROE V. WADE,” THE MOVIE. Thanks to all who attended the two special
screenings of Roe V. Wade last Sunday. I was very happy to see a “full house,” (with
25% capacity limits). I especially thank Mary Butler, Liz Hildebrand, Beth Berger and
Mary Belle Reese for coordinating everything for us. Also, the folks at the Cinemark
Fairfax Corner 14 Theater were more than gracious to us.
The movie tells the story, from the perspective of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, of the
lies and politics behind the infamous Supreme Court decision that established a
constitutional right to abortion. Dr. Nathanson was the co-founder of National
Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, or NARAL (now NARAL-Pro-Choice
America). The movie includes lots of facts not found in the papers or the pro-abortion
For those who were unable to attend I encourage you to watch it when it becomes
available to the public on demand in April 2021. I will give you more information on that
when I have it.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles