Fourth Sunday Of Lent

March 5, 2016 Column Father De Celles

Making a Good Confession. Last weekend we began distributing (in the pews) a new tri-fold brochure which I have put together and entitled “Making a Good Confession: A Brief Examination of Conscience and Guide to Going to Confession.” Much of what you find in this brochure can be found in various handouts and columns I have produced in prior years, but I’ve tried to bring as much as I can together for your handy reference. It is designed for use by adults and mature teens, although it may be useful in instructing younger children—parents should be the judge.  I hope it will be helpful in easing any fears and in preparing to make a good confession this Lent.


Election/Primary. Many people have asked me to comment on the ongoing presidential campaign. Although politics is something near and dear to my heart I am always mindful that political opinions are largely a matter of individual “prudential judgment,” and try to avoid sharing my own specific judgments about specific candidates. Some might disagree: I have often been accused of being either blatantly supportive of particular candidates or neglectful of my duties in guiding my flock to vote for the right candidates. Sometimes you just can’t win. And sometimes I might be guilty of errors that I’m accused of.

That being said, I hope to always be clear that as Catholics we must “vote like Catholics”: the fundamental principles of good and evil that the Church teaches must be applied in voting as much as they must be applied in our personal lives, especially since elected officials represent us. Moreover, some of these principles are “absolute,” so not really subject to prudential judgments or legitimate differences of opinion. So for example, we generally can’t vote for someone who believes that intentionally killing an innocent human being is okay (i.e., murder, abortion, etc.), or who supports the degradation of marriage (i.e., “gay marriage,” adultery), since they violate principles that are never subject to exception or discretion.

But these are not the only moral principles we consider in choosing a candidate. In fact, we should apply the full spectrum of moral laws and principles in voting, although we apply most of them realizing that there are different morally acceptable solutions to different practical problems. For example, while it is a moral principle that we must help the poor, we can disagree on the best way to help them.

Last week Virginians went to the polls to choose who would be their political party’s nominee for the presidency. One party continues to propose and choose only candidates who support killing the innocent and degrading marriage, and so they are essentially disqualified from receiving the votes of Catholics, all things being equal. The other party continues to propose and choose only candidates who oppose killing the innocent and degrading marriage—at least nominally. But, as I’ve written before, it is troubling that the leading candidate of that “other party” apparently until very recently publicly described himself as “very pro-choice,” including being supportive of partial birth abortion. People change, but then again—surprise!—sometimes politicians lie. Each of us must responsibly discern their sincerity and make our own prudential judgment.

Moreover, there are, as I said, other moral factors to consider. For example, while politics is a rough sport, the filthy language and flippantly callous calumny in this race is highly disturbing. Furthermore, I am confused as to why no one seems troubled that one leading candidate has been divorced and remarried 3 times, publicly cheated on his second wife, and bragged about his marital infidelities in a book. This hardly seems like a pro-marriage candidate. I could go on and on, but I would descend more and more into things that touch on personal judgment and opinion, so I will stop.

But let me just say this: America is in dire straits right now, on various fronts: the economy, national security, race relations, immigration, the rule of law, marriage and family, the right to life…. Choosing the right person to lead us is a tremendously complicated issue, and requires careful discernment by each voter. But whoever we elect, while he or she need not be perfect, must be a person of principle and character. It is true, we are not electing a preacher, but we are electing our representative and leader. And when push comes to shove, all great decisions involve moral principles and character.


Mercy. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, especially in this season of Lent, we contemplate the Lord’s mercy toward us, and how we show mercy toward others. To this end Fr. Mark Pilon continues his Lenten Series on “Mercy” this Thursday, at 7:30pm. This week’s topic will be: “The Roots and Perfection of the Christian Virtue of Mercy.” If you’ve missed his first 3 talks, you are still welcome to join us.

The virtue of mercy is sometimes defined as the virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for and to try to alleviate another’s suffering (cf. Catholic Encyclopedia). The Church has always encouraged us to perform acts of mercy, especially in Lent, when one of the 3 forms of penance, “almsgiving,” specifically incorporates this. And since people suffer in both body and soul, the Church has, from ancient times, continuously proposed certain categories of both corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which are traditionally listed as follows:

The corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; harbor the harborless (shelter the homeless); visit the sick; ransom the captive (visit the imprisoned); bury the dead.

The spiritual works of mercy: instruct the ignorant; counsel the doubtful; admonish sinners; bear wrongs patiently; forgive offences willingly; comfort the afflicted; pray for the living and the dead.

Many of us are more or less aware of the corporal works of mercy, and try to practice some of them. But we often neglect or forget the spiritual works of mercy, especially “instructing the ignorant” and “admonishing sinners” in this age of political correctness and false-tolerance. But we cannot neglect them and call ourselves merciful. Of course, they involve prudence, but so does any work of mercy. God grant us the grace to share His mercy with others this Lent.


Plant Manager. I continue to accept applications/resumes to fill the position of parish plant manager that will be vacated by Paul DeRosa on March 18. This is a very important position and I would prefer to hire a parishioner, all things being equal. If you are interested, or know someone who is, please email resumes to Mary Butler at (You can also mail or drop them at the office).

And speaking of Paul DeRosa, we will be throwing a retirement party for him on Sunday, March 13, after the 12:15 Mass. Paul will still be a parishioner, but we should all take this opportunity to show our appreciation to him for all he’s done for us for these many years.


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles