December 10, 2020 Column Father De Celles

[Note: The bulletin printing company has set our submission deadlines for the next few weeks on Monday instead of the usual Wednesday.]

Advent and Confession. Advent is a time to prepare for Christmas, not simply by buying presents or decorating the house, but by “preparing the way of the Lord” into our hearts and lives. We begin by reflecting on the words St. Mark uses in today’s Gospel to summarize the entire message of St. John the Baptist: “John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Of course, this repentance begins with the Sacrament of Baptism, which is both the sign of personal repentance and the conferral of the Divine grace of forgiveness of sins. But after Baptism we eventually finding ourselves willfully committing sins, even terrible sins we deeply regret, and we develop sinful habits, “vices,” we can’t seem to get rid of. What do we do then to prepare the way of the Lord? How do we repent and receive forgiveness of our sins since we can be baptized only once?

St. John’s Advent admonition to “repent” reminds us that we are not doomed to wallow or drown in our sin, but that as Baptized Christians we can and must make it a staple of our life to constantly “repent.” We must be open and eager to receive “the forgiveness of sins” that comes through the Sacrament of Penance, which many of the early Church Fathers compared to “a second Baptism.” In this sacrament, our sins are once again washed away, so our souls are as pure as the soul of a newly baptized baby, and we have a new chance to start again to live the life Christ created us for and introduced us to in Baptism.

But there’s a problem: while we have repented and sin is forgiven, all the sinful habits (vices) we’ve built up, all our memories of past sins, and all our weaknesses developed over years of living in the world, all these remain. And they can become like valleys and mountains that seem so hard to get over, or like crooked and rough roads that cause us to stumble and fall in sin. Which is another reason we need the Sacrament of Penance, as it not only forgives sins but also gives us the grace to level all obstacles, and to straighten the crookedness and smooth over the roughness our hearts, so that the sacrament becomes a fulfillment of the Advent prophesy and promise: “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.”

We will be hearing Confessions (the Sacrament of Penance) every Monday through Saturday during Lent. In addition to the regular Confession times, a priest will be in the confessional every Monday, through  Friday evening from 6pm to 7pm (he may stay longer, but only if his schedule permits). This week we will have only one priest hearing confessions, but next week there will be at least 2 confessors (if all goes as planned).

Please take advantage of this sacrament to prepare the way of the Lord into your heart and life. But please do not wait for the last minute—why not come this week?

Immaculate Conception. This Tuesday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This is normally a Holy Day of obligation, but this year the Bishop has dispensed your obligation. Even so, as your pastor, I strongly encourage you to come to Mass on this great feast day, which celebrates the conception of Mary, free from original sin, in her mother’s womb. This great feast is an ideal Advent lesson, teaching us about Mary’s perfect preparation to receive Christ into her life. In addition to the regularly scheduled 8:30am daily Mass we will also offer a 7pm Vigil on Monday, and a noon and 7pm Mass on Tuesday.

Giving Tree. Don’t forget to stop by the “Giving Tree” in the narthex today, and help to make Christmas a little merrier for some folks who are having a rough time this year—families of our parish and Our Lady of the Blue Ridge parish in Madison.

New Plant/Facilities Manager. I am very pleased to announce that Joe Marquart has agreed to become our new Plant Manager. Among other things, Joe is a St. Raymond parishioner and a retired Army Colonel, with extensive experience in facilities management and some particular experience that will come in handy during this time of COVID. He’s also a very friendly guy, and I think we will all enjoy working with him. Please keep Joe in your prayers as he begins this difficult and important job for us.

            I’d also like to add a special word of thanks to Mary Butler for stepping in as interim manager. What a huge help she is to all of us.

Huge Win for Religious Freedom. On November 25 – The Supreme Court temporarily blocked rules in New York that severely restricted gatherings at houses of worship in areas hit hardest by COVID-19. The Court’s new conservative majority ruled 5-4 that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s limits on churches, synagogues, etc., violates the First Amendment’s freedom of religion.

            Justice Gorsuch wrote: “So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians. Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?….It is time—past time—to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates …executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques….Indeed, the Governor is remarkably frank about this: In his judgment laundry and liquor, travel and tools, are all “essential” while traditional religious exercises are not. That is exactly the kind of discrimination the First Amendment forbids.”

            Thanks again to God and President Trump for giving us this conservative court!

Joe Biden and Holy Communion. Last week the Archbishop of Washington, cardinal-designate Archbishop Gregory, (longtime friend and current successor to former cardinal Ted McCarrick) announced that he would not refrain from giving former Vice-President Joe Biden Holy Communion, in spite of Biden’s long history of embracing and promoting abortion. Of course this position is completely contrary to Scripture and the clear requirements of Canon Law. Which begs the question, if AB Gregory can disobey canon law (not to mention Catholic Doctrine), can his priests and people ignore his rules, policies and commands as their bishop? His authority is not greater than Canon Law, so…. To be clear, I encourage everyone to obey Canon Law and the legitimate directives of their Bishop. Not to do so is often a mortal sin, especially when it involves the reception of the Holy Communion. So if Joe Biden comes to me for Communion I will obey Canon Law, and Catholic Doctrine, and deny him Communion, because I don’t want either of us to go to hell.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles