February 22, 2023 Column Father De Celles
Welcome, Fr. Bergida! I hope you will all join me in welcoming Father Joseph
Bergida, who begins his work as Parochial Vicar at St. Raymond’s this weekend.
Fr. Bergida was born in 1983 in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., the eldest of
Michael and Theresa Bergida’s 7 children. His family moved to Northern Virginia
when he was 2 and eventually settled in Front Royal. He was home-schooled
through high school, and then attended Franciscan University in Steubenville,
Ohio, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, and the Pontifical North
American College in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of
Arlington on June 9, 2012. He earned his Licentiate in Sacred Theology in Liturgy
at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome in 2013. He has served as
Parochial Vicar at St. Mary’s (Alexandria), St. Andrew’s (Clifton), and St.
Ambrose (Annandale). The last few months he has been on sabbatical to discern
a religious vocation. Please keep him in your prayers as he now returns to parish
ministry with us.
LENT. The Season of Lent begins this Wednesday, February 22, with Ash
Wednesday. This is the most important time of year for us Catholics, as it calls
us to reinvigorate our devotion and love for God by focusing on our moral and
spiritual lives and our sins and virtues, as we reflect on the mystery of the
immense love that would lead God the Son, Jesus, to suffer and die for our sins.
How well have we returned that love, and how badly have we failed, how
badly have we sinned? And all this considered, then we rededicate ourselves to
practical ways to overcome those sins, through our diligent efforts and
cooperating with His grace. In short, it can be a time of intense growth in our
personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Parish Schedule. Lent brings a much busier parish schedule, and this
year with the addition of our new Vicar, it will be even busier than the last few
years. We’ve laid this out in detail in this week’s “Lenten Schedule” insert.
Please keep this insert in a central place in your home to remind you of the many
opportunities for spiritual growth this Lent.
Ash Wednesday. Ashes will be distributed at all Masses on Ash Wednesday:
6:30am, 8am, 12noon, 5pm and 7pm. Since ashes are merely symbolic (a
“sacramental” not a “Sacrament”) they may be received by anyone who wishes to
repent their sins, Catholic or not, in “good standing” or not. (Note: There are no
confessions or adoration scheduled on Ash Wednesday).
Fasting and Abstinence. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both
fasting and abstinence, and every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence. Failure to
“substantially” keep these penances is grave matter (e.g., potentially a mortal
The law of abstinence requires that no meat may be eaten on these days,
and binds all Catholics who are 14 years old or older. No other penance may be
The law of fasting binds those who are between the ages of 18 and 59.
The Church defines “fasting,” for these purposes, as having only one full meal a
day, with two additional smaller meals permitted, but only as necessary to keep
up strength and so small that if added together they would not equal a full meal.
Snacking is forbidden, but that does not include drinks that are not of the nature
of a meal.
Even though these rules do not bind all age groups, all are encouraged to
follow them to the extent possible. Children in particular learn the importance of
penance from following the practice of their older family members. The sick,
pregnant or nursing mothers, and other folks with special physical
circumstances may be partially or totally exempt from these rules—use good
judgment and take care of yourself.
Doing Penance. Of course, all Catholics are encouraged to do personal acts of
penance throughout the season of Lent, traditionally of three types: almsgiving
(including acts of charity), sacrifice (what you “give up”), and prayer. Please
choose your penances carefully, considering your health and state in life.
Challenge yourself, but pick things you can actually do, rather than things that
are so difficult that you may easily give up on them. Offer all this in atonement for
your sins and as acts of love for the God who, out of love, died on the Cross for
Advice. Let me give you some pastoral advice. 1) Pick at least one simple
act of penance from each of the three types. 2) Pick one act of penance that may
be more difficult or demanding. 3) And make one of these acts of penance a daily
occurrence, enduring throughout Lent.
So, for example, for “1” you could commit to saying one extra Our Father
(“prayer”), and you could do that every day to cover “3”. Then you also give up
drinking soda (“sacrifice”), and you give the money you save on soda to the poor
box (“almsgiving”). And maybe for “2,” you can commit to going to Mass one
extra day of the week (“prayer” and “sacrifice”).
And maybe pick penances that clearly relate to your sins. If you are guilty
of the sin of pride, pick something that will help you grow in humility. If you are
greedy, give money to charity. In all this, remember that prayer and the Mass
help every sin.
Suggestion. Some folks struggle with figuring out a good penance. May I
suggest that our parish schedule offers lots of opportunities for penance? For
example, you can commit to going to an extra Mass every week—we have 2 new
evening Masses to help with this. Or maybe you could commit to making a
weekly holy hour during our Thursday/Friday Exposition of the Blessed
Sacrament—maybe from 10 to 11pm, or even 2 to 3am. So many opportunities
in that schedule.
Sacrament of Penance. Confession is key to a fruitful Lent. I strongly encourage
that you take advantage of our extended Lent confession
schedule—confessions are scheduled every single day in Lent, except Ash
Wednesday and Holy Thursday.
Please do not postpone your confession to the end of Lent. First of all,
spiritually it’s important to start the season on the right foot, repent early so that
Christ’s grace may flow freely and unimpeded throughout the season. But also,
more practically, usually we have just a few people coming to confession at the
beginning of Lent, but then in the last week the lines are much longer. So, beat
the crowds and come early. But also consider coming more than once during
Also, I remind you that Sunday morning confession times are provided
mainly to meet the real needs of those who truly cannot confess on other
days or are otherwise in need of the sacrament. So, please, this is not the time
for “devotional” confessions.
Lenten Series. This year I am not scheduling a “Lenten Series” as such, but
instead will preach a homily/sermon every Thursday at the Holy Hour that begins
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles