Second Sunday of Lent

February 28, 2015 Column Father De Celles

Snow. Many of us were caught a little by surprise by last weekend’s snow, at least by its length and depth. And of course with all the severely cold weather we’ve had we shouldn’t have been surprised (but were) that things didn’t clear or melt away very quickly. In any case, I want to thank God for sparing us from any physical damage to the parish buildings, and more importantly any substantive injury to any of our parishioners or their homes. (At least as far as I know; please let me know if anyone suffered injury, or are in need of help).

I also want to thank so many of you who braved icy roads and the cold to keep things going around here. I think particularly of the altar servers and other ministers and those who fill other practical functions at Mass. I especially want to thank Paul DeRosa, our plant manager, for his dedicated and hard work trying to keep us safe, out in the cold at 3am Sunday personally shoveling sidewalks and supervising the snow-plowers.


Weather Closures Policy. Elsewhere in this bulletin we’re republishing our policy regarding closures due to weather (basically, we usually follow Fairfax County Schools). The policy seems to be working fairly well, but some still seem either not to know about it, or to forget it. Sometimes Fairfax makes mistakes, but it’s important to have a predictable policy with readily accessible information both for the safety of all involved and so that folks don’t show up for an event only to find a locked door. Thank you for cooperating and being familiar with this policy.


The Passion of the Christ. I was very pleased to see so many come out last Sunday to see The Passion of the Christ. As many have said, it’s hard to say we enjoyed the movie, but I think we all walked away very glad we had seen it (again). Thanks to all those who worked to make this event a “success,” especially Mary Butler who coordinated all the details.


Islamophobia. Some have remarked to me that lately I seem to be talking and praying more about the threat of Islamist terrorism—especially it’s relation to the religion of Islam. This is true, I have. It seems to me that there are many reasons we should reject the growing tendency of some to ignore the fact that the global terrorist movement is directly related to a branch of Islam. Some of these reasons are political, some are military, but some more directly concern us as Catholics.

One of these reasons is our solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters who are being specifically targeted for oppression or destruction in the territories assaulted by Islamist armies. We should not kid ourselves that these are merely “violent extremists,” much less “freedom fighters,” or folks fighting over “legitimate grievances.” These are Islamist armies who seek mainly to impose their religion, a particular form of Islam, on the people they conquer. Moreover, by their terrorist attacks in western countries they seek to intimidate us so that we will not interfere in their 1) imposition of their religion in the territories their armies control, and 2) efforts to spread their religion to our countries.

One of the ways they seek to intimidate us is by threatening the most important Christian in the world: Pope Francis. The video of last month’s execution of 21 Christian Egyptians ended with the words: “And we will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission….” Italian and Vatican security officials are taking this and other similar threats very seriously.

It seems to me that as Christians and Catholics it is ludicrous to deny that the world is being terrorized by an Islamist movement seeking to impose its form of Islam on the world. Do all Muslims belong to this movement? No. But not all Christians are Catholics or Baptist or Anglican. There are different forms of Christianity, and different forms of Islam. We cannot protect ourselves from those who seek to harm or oppress us until we recognize who they are, what they are doing, and why they are doing it.

Let us pray for our Christian brethren persecuted overseas, for Pope Francis, and for our country. And let us love our enemies, and pray for them.


Some Facts about Confession. I was happy to see an increase in the number of folks coming to evening Confessions this last week. Please remember to come during Lent, and to come early avoiding the long lines during Holy Week—if for no other reason, out of charity to your priests.

I know some people are afraid to go to Confession and so haven’t been in years. Some are afraid because they are embarrassed by their sins. But remember, you can confess behind the screen, so the priest won’t even know who you are (and we almost never recognize a voice).

Others are afraid because they think their sins can’t be forgiven. But remember, Jesus says: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man…” As long as you are truly sorry for your sins and want to stop sinning, the priest, with the power of Jesus, will forgive you.

Some are afraid because they think the priest will be angry with them. But that’s just not true. In all my 38 years of going to Confession I’ve only had one truly unpleasant experience. Okay, priests have bad days like all of us, but even on a bad day priests won’t get upset with you. Priests love forgiving sins—the bigger the better. And just because a priest seems stern in the pulpit doesn’t mean he’s that way in the confessional. A father may sometimes be stern when he teaches his children to behave, but when an apologetic child comes to him in tears, that same father opens his arms with tenderness. “A lion in the pulpit, a lamb in the confessional.”

Some think they will shock the priest by what they’ve done. As Ecclesiastes tells us: “what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” I’ve heard well over 20,000 Confessions in the last 19 years, and I have heard almost every sin imaginable—really. Nothing shocks me anymore.

And finally, some are afraid the priest will tell someone about their sin. This just doesn’t happen. In all my life I have never heard a priest reveal the sins of anyone in Confession.  Priests are forbidden, under pain of automatic excommunication (that can only be lifted by the pope himself), from ever directly or indirectly revealing the particular sins of a particular penitent. This is called the “seal of Confession,” and extends even to revealing things that are not sinful that are discussed in the Confession. A lot of priests, including myself, pray and try to forget what they hear in Confession and avoid even admitting that a particular person came to Confession. (A great movie dramatizing this is Alfred Hitchcock’s “I Confess.”)

So don’t be afraid. Come to Confession! Soon!


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles