Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time

February 18, 2017 Column Father De Celles

Two Retreats. Spiritual retreats can be so important in helping us draw closer to Christ, and refocusing our lives on Him. That’s why Canon Law requires that all the priests in the Church must go on a five day retreat every year. In our Diocese, every other year, the priests go on one of 3 retreats sponsored by the Diocese, led by “retreat masters” chosen by the Bishop. The week before last I was on such a retreat with one-third of the priests of the Diocese, with Bishop Michael Barber (of Oakland, CA) as retreat master.
​The idea of a retreat is founded on Jesus admonition to his apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” So the ideal is to go away to some quiet place of prayer, perhaps a retreat house or monastery, and spend several days “resting” with the Lord in prayer and meditation. Some retreats are “directed”, i.e., there is a “retreat master” who gives a few talks on spiritual matters to give some guidance to the retreatants. But most of the time on retreat is spent in private prayer, including reading good spiritual books and quietly listening to the Lord in prayer. Some retreats are “silent” so that retreatants do not speak out loud (except where necessary, e.g., at Mass). Some retreats are done with groups, like the priests’ retreat last week, and some are done “privately,” i.e., alone.
​I love going on retreat, because it always helps rekindle the fire of divine love in my heart, gives me a renewed sense of Christ’s presence and peace, and reinvigorates my zeal for my ministry.
​With this in mind, for some time I’ve wanted to provide some opportunity for you to go on retreat. Unfortunately, the logistics of a parish-wide retreat would be impossible to handle. But as the next best thing, last weekend the parish sponsored a “Pre-Lenten Retreat” for the women of the parish. It was more a mini/quasi-retreat, since it lasted less than a day and we didn’t go “away” (except that they ladies went away from their homes). The retreat was directed by two leaders from the Women’s Apostolate to Youth, and, to a lesser extent, myself. Thanks to the ladies of WAY for their good work—including the non-speakers who handled the logistics. By all accounts, the day seems to have been a great spiritual success for the 76, or so, who attended. Thanks to all of them as well.
I hope we can organize other similar mini-retreats in the future. But in the meantime, consider going on retreat of your own—for part of a day or for several days. We often advertise opportunities in the bulletin, so keep your eyes open. But be careful when you are thinking of making a directed retreat, as, sadly, there are a lot of retreats offering pop-psychology or flaky theology instead of solid Catholic guidance. And remember, you can also just go off by yourself to a retreat house or monastery or even a church: take a good holy book, the Bible and your rosary, and just spend a day with the Lord.

Lenten Series. Lent is sort of a retreat for the whole Church, and it is just around the corner. I’m pleased to announce that this year’s Lenten Series will be given on the Thursdays of Lent by Fr. Christopher Pollard, Pastor of St. John the Beloved Parish (McLean). His topic will be a meditation on the subject of the beautiful medieval prayer to Jesus, “Anima Christi.”
Fr. Pollard grew up in Fairfax, and is a 1989 graduate of Bishop Ireton. He holds a Bachelor’s in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, a Master’s in Catechetics from the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College, a Licentiate in Philosophy from Catholic University of America, and a Sacred Theology Licentiate (Fundamental Theology) from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. After completing his seminary formation at the North American College in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1998. He has served as Parochial Vicar at St. Mark’s, St. Agnes’, and St. John the Baptist, and as Parochial Administrator at St. Isidore the Farmer. He also served a term as Attaché with the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations (New York) from 2009 to 2012.
​Fr. Pollard is a wise, holy and engaging speaker. So mark you calendars now. To prepare, you might want to begin praying the Anima Christi:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. // Body of Christ, save me. // Blood of Christ, inebriate me. // Water from the side of Christ, wash me. // Passion of Christ, strengthen me. // O good Jesus, hear me. // Within Thy wounds hide me. // Suffer me not to be separated from Thee. // From the malicious enemy defend me. // In the hour of my death call me. // And bid me come unto Thee, // That I may praise Thee with Thy saints, // Forever and ever. Amen.

Pastoral Opinion: Political Mayhem. I continue to be dismayed by the descent of political discourse in our nation. While I wish our President would put aside his harsh campaign rhetoric, more than that I am appalled how so many on the political left—including the main stream media—have refused to allow our Republic to function in a civilized way. Led by extreme leftists, who riot and commit verbal and physical violence, they are stirring up all sorts of fantastic fears and unbridled hatreds that, in my opinion, can only spell disaster for our nation. We live in a nation of laws that thrives on respectful, if impassioned, freedom of speech. But many seem to forget that.
​I think especially of those spreading unwarranted fear and hatred in our immigrant communities, the vast majority of whom are Catholic, at least by heritage. Yes, there will be a new emphasis on enforcing the immigration laws of our nation. Yes, there will a re-evaluation of some of those laws. And yes, we can disagree on whether those laws are wise, or even just. But it is evil to stir up unwarranted violence, vitriol and fear, instead of pursuing rational discussion and respectful debate.
Some argue it’s all Trump’s fault, due to his incendiary rhetoric; others would say it’s Obama’s fault, due to his flagrant disregard of laws and constitutional limits on his authority. But in the end, it’s our fault, if we—whatever our political perspective—descend into the sinful morass of vitriol, rather than using the very Christian and American tools at our disposal: lawful elections, respectful debate, good-faith negotiation and peaceful opposition. And devout prayer.
Remember the admonition of St. Paul (1 Tim 2: 1-3): “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” God bless America.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles