February 15, 2020 Column Father De Celles

Washington’s Birthday. Tomorrow (Monday, February 17) America celebrates the national holiday commemorating the birth of our first president, George Washington. Some mistakenly call this “Presidents Day,” but the mistake is a happy one in the sense that it reminds us to honor the high office which Washington held, and to remember the venerable example he set down for his successors.

            When we look at Washington’s life we find a man who was not the most brilliant of his great generation: he was not very well educated and he did not have the outstanding intellect of his co-founders, such as Franklin, Jefferson, or even Adams. And he was not without his moral faults: he was, after all, a slaveholder.

            But he was an intelligent man, an industrious and successful farmer, businessman and entrepreneur, a loving husband and father, a loyal friend, a victorious general and unrivaled statesman. And above all, he was a patriot—he loved his native Virginia and the new nation he helped found, making great sacrifices for both. And while ambitious, instead of maneuvering his post-war adulation toward a royal crown for himself, he spearheaded the establishment of a federal republic. And although he was universally hailed as the father of our nation, he repeatedly and strongly credited the intervention of God for the success of the Revolution and Founding. And while being a slaveholder, he came to see the immorality of slavery and struggled, albeit imperfectly, to bring a just resolution to the problem.

Humble, dedicated, industrious, loyal, intelligent, courageous, moral, and God-fearing, but also flawed like all of us. A good man, a great man, but again, not perfect. And since him we have a long line of 44 successor presidents who also have been both good and imperfect, some more good or more imperfect than others. Some, great and some downright terrible. But all a mixture of goodness and imperfection.

            I think of, for example, Abraham Lincoln. An amazing man, who preserved the Union and freed the slaves, but in the process waged a bloody war on his fellow countrymen, and was at heart himself a bigot. Or of Franklin Roosevelt, who led us through the Great Depression and World War II, but also imprisoned over 100,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps during the war.

            Presidents have great responsibilities, and so are given the opportunities to rise to the occasion and do great things. But they can also make great mistakes, and even intentionally do terribly evil things. Moreover, each age presents unique problems to the country, that requires different approaches to the presidency.

Currently we have a very “different” sort President than we’ve been used to, at least for the last 100 years. But he’s not completely unique. I think of Andrew Jackson, who as a bold and brash and foul-mouthed frontiersman came East to Washington and really shook things up—for good and bad.

While we the people elect the president, we do so from a very limited choice. And we chose presidents, not pastors—we are not electing saints, but leaders who can do what must be done, for the sake of true liberty, justice, peace and prosperity. And then the person we choose, or who is chosen for us by others, is the president we have. He is OUR President. And while we can disagree with him, and even oppose him, we should not undermine him or disrespect him—as president. And we should pray for him. Because, like it or not, he is responsible for leading our great nation.

And so, we remember the words of St. Paul: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all Godliness and holiness.”

            So let us thank God for the good and even great Presidents He has given us throughout our history, no matter how imperfect. And let us pray for President Donald John Trump, that God may diminish and compensate for his imperfections, and that he may be as great a president as he can be, so that America may be as great as she can be.

WARNING TO PARENTS: PROBLEM WITH OPTING-OUT OF FLE. As we emailed you a few days ago, it has come to my attention, that parents of a West Springfield High School Student, who had submitted the Family Life Education (FLE)  Opt-out Form for their child, found out that their child was not dismissed from the requested FLE health classes. When the parent informed the school administration of the error, the administration responded that that the assistant principal in charge of the FLE Opt-Out program moved to a new school in second quarter, and the principal had not assigned a new assistant principal to manage the program. Thus, their, and probably many more, FLE opt-out forms were never processed.

            Although the administration is taking full responsibility for the lapse, that does not erase what your children may have been exposed to if your form was not processed or ignored.

            So, I recommend that all you parents of kids in the government-run (“public”) schools of Fairfax County make sure that your Opt-Out requests are being followed by your schools— ask your kids and/or call the school administration first thing Tuesday morning.

            Remember what Bishop Burbidge has said: “As a community committed to proclaiming the truth about human life, dignity and sexuality, the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Arlington will continue its efforts to educate the public regarding the content of the FLE curriculum and encourage parents to exercise their God-given right to ‘opt-out’ their children from those lessons that distort the truth and are morally offensive.”

Traveling and Illness. As I mentioned in last week’s bulletin, I had to be gone for a few days, including last Sunday, for a family funeral in the Midwest. Thank you for your patience with me.

In the meantime, it seems that our parishioners are being plagued by all sorts of seasonal maladies—the flu, colds, coughs, etc.. This includes our own parish office: when I got back in town on Tuesday, I found half of the staff had gone home sick, and Fr. Willard was not far behind them!

So, be careful! And let us all pray for each other, that God may spare or cure us from these illnesses.

Querida Amazonia. As I write this on Wednesday morning I see that Pope Francis’ long awaited post-synodal apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia (“Beloved Amazon”) has been released. Although I haven’t had time to read the 16,000 word document, I am relieved (thanks be to God!) by press reports that His Holiness has not given permission to the Church in the Amazon to ordain married men to the priesthood or to attempt to establish any sort of diaconate for women, as had been proposed by the bishops gathered at the Amazon Synod last October. I hope to report to you more on its contents in the next few weeks.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles