March 2, 2020 Column Father De Celles

Lenten Series. I’m really looking forward to this year’s Lenten Series. In the past I’ve brought in experienced priests to give the whole Lenten Series, or I gave it myself. This year I thought I’d do something a little different: I’ve invited FIVE of the younger priests of the Diocese of Arlington to speak – a different priest for each night of the series. In these days when the priesthood is under attack – from both within and without the Church—I thought it would be good for all of us to see and hear what these good young priests have to say. (Note: I invited them long before I knew young Fr. Willard would be assigned here – in fact, before I even knew Fr. Willard at all.)

            Last year I gave the series on the topic of the Agony in the Garden. I was originally going to devote only one talk to the Agony, and then the other talks on the rest of the Passion. But I soon realized that the Agony was worthy of its own more comprehensive treatment, so I gave the whole series just on the Agony.

            So this year, you get “the rest of the story,” as the topic will be: “The Passion of the Lord: From the High Priest to the Crucifixion.”

     The first talk will be this Thursday, March 5, at 7pm, given by Fr. Joseph Bergida, who will talk about: “Jesus before the High Priest and Sanhedrin.”

Fr. Bergida is the Parochial Vicar of St. Ambrose in Annandale. He was born in Minnesota, and spent the first two years of his life right outside the Twin Cities but they relocated to Northern Virginia where he grew up in Herndon, Centreville, and the Shenandoah Valley.  After high school he attended Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, double majoring in philosophy and theology. Throughout high-school and college he worked summers with his dad in his real estate business.  He entered seminary right after college and studied for two years at St. Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia, and then for five years in Rome at the North American College, where he earned his Licentiate in Sacred Liturgy.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 2012, and served as Parochial Vicar at St. Andrew’s in Clifton from 2013 to 2019. He is a member of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission.

I highly encourage all of you to attend. As we did last year, each talk will last about a half-hour and will be given during a Holy Hour in the Church, which will also include Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary, and Benediction.Please see the insert in this bulletin for more details..

Meeting of Law Enforcement Officers. I am inviting all law enforcement officers, (past, present, or retired; military or civilian; local, state or federal), to meet with me on Monday, March 9 at 7:15pm in the church, to discuss safety and security in the parish. Because of the nature of this subject, the meeting will be closed, and I ask that all those interested in attending please pre-register by calling (703-440-0535) or emailing Eva Radel ( at the parish office.

Parish News. We have a very vibrant parish, with many activities going on all the time. For this to continue it’s very important that everyone is made aware of what’s going on, and so we make use of several means of disseminating information to parishioners.

Of course, information is posted to the Parish Website, Facebook and Twitter. We also send Constant Contact emails to all parishioners (if we have their email address) for particularly important or time sensitive notices. We try to limit these to the most important notices, so I hope you read them when you receive them. If you’re not getting these emails, please let the office know, maybe we don’t have the right email address for you.

            We also use two less high-tech means of communication: The Bulletin and the Pulpit Announcements. The Bulletin is kind of like our parish newspaper, and as such is the primary means of publicizing all parish events, activities and liturgies, and other important information. It is available in hardcopy in the church and online at our parish website. So please read the Bulletin every week.

The Pulpit Announcements read before Mass are also an important way to get out important parish news. But while these announcements can be very helpful and effective, they rapidly reach a point of diminishing returns when they are too numerous or lengthy—there is a tendency to tune them out. Because of this, it is best to keep them short and to the point, and few in number. Unfortunately, in the last few years these announcements have become more numerous, and so less effective, not to mention distracting from the proper preparation for Mass.

So, from now on, we will be more careful to limit the number of Pulpit Announcements (including those made informally by the priest at the end of Mass). If you have something you need to promote, please plan this in advance and coordinate it with Eva Radel in the parish office. And if you want to know what’s going on, please consult the many other sources, especially the Bulletin.

Confessing Mortal Sins. Making a good sacramental confession is a very important part of Lent. To help with this, I encourage you to consult the violet pamphlet I prepared a few years ago, entitled, “MAKING A GOOD CONFESSION…,” which is available in the church. The following is an adapted excerpt from that pamphlet.

                        Before making a “good Confession” we need to examine our consciences for mortal sins we’ve committed, i.e., sins that involve all three of the following criteria: 1) grave matter, 2) full knowledge of the sinful character of the act, and 3) complete consent. If any one of these is lacking it is not a “mortal sin,” but may be a “venial sin.”

Grave matter means the act involves some very serious moral evil, found either in 1) the act itself or 2) the intention behind the act. Grave matter can be difficult to identify, but not always. 

                        Note that some sinful acts are grave matter when they involve circumstances that are serious or very important, but are not grave matter if they involve only small or trivial things. These acts that can be either grave or not are said to “admit of parvity” (smallness). For example, a lie is always a sin, but lying under oath is grave matter, while lying about whether you like someone’s outfit is not grave matter.

                        Also, in Confession you must distinguish the “kind” of mortal sin committed: be clear about what the sin was, but avoid graphic or long explanations. So it is not enough to merely say “I had bad thoughts” or “I acted inappropriately,” rather one should more specific, e.g. “I had lustful thoughts,” etc.

                        You must also give the number of times you committed particular mortal sins. Sometimes this is very difficult or even impossible to remember, in which case, try your best give the priest some idea of the frequency or number; e.g., “at least once a month for several years,” etc.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles