January 3, 2021 Column Father De Celles

A Christmas Recap. I hope you all had a blessed and merry Christmas Day. It was great to see so many folks at Mass on Christmas Eve and Day. But it was sad that, on the whole, so many of you were unable to attend. I understand why, and that it must have been very hard on you not to celebrate this great Feast at Mass.

            In total we had about 1,400 folks at 8 Masses (we usually have 2,400 on pre-pandemic Sundays and over 4,000 on a typical Christmas) . Although we required “reservations” we were ready to take all comers to the extent of capacity, plus we had set up the Parish Hall for an overflow to view all the Masses livestream and to receive Holy Communion. We set this up “just in case” we had a bunch of folks who don’t regularly attend Mass show up for Christmas—we didn’t want to turn anyone away at Christmas (“no room at the inn”). Although we didn’t have to make use of this “overflow,” I am glad we prepared for it, and want to thank all the parishioners who volunteered to manage it for me. Special thanks go out to Rose Jarvis and her family. And thanks to all the folks who signed up to be porters, counters and ushers. I’m sure your acts of charity were appreciated by the Baby Jesus.

            And wasn’t the music great? Special thanks to Elisabeth Turco and Denise Anizen and all the cantors for their dedication and beautiful work.

Epiphany and the End of the Christmas Season. Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, commemorating the visit and adoration of the magi to Christ in Bethlehem. It has historically been celebrated on January 6th since at least the 3rd century, but is celebrated in the U.S. on the Sunday falling between January 2nd and January 8th (inclusive). In the Orthodox Church and many of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches it also, effectively, celebrates the birth of Our Lord, i.e., Christmas. This year it also represents the last Sunday of the Christmas season, which ends tomorrow, Monday, with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

The visit of the magi is rich in symbolic meanings for Christians, in particular those relating to the revealing (“epiphany”) of the Christ to the gentile world. As we think about this, it reminds us that that the Church is the Body of Christ on Earth, and so is called to continue the Christmas/Epiphany revelation of the coming of the Messiah to the world. But this is not just a responsibility for the Pope, bishops and priests: each of us baptized into Christ and members of Christ’s Body, and so each of is called to go out to the gentiles of today—those who do not share our Christian and Catholic faith—and reveal Christ to them. This can take various forms, but it begins with living our lives as if we believe in Jesus ourselves. So we live lives in keeping with the moral teaching of Christ, especially when it comes to chastity and charity. But we also must speak to others about Jesus, and His Church. Again, this can take various forms, considering prudence, our own particular talents, and the particular opportunities the Lord gives us to share our faith.

Feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort. This Thursday, January 7, is the feast of our parish Patron. Please join us for a special 7pm Evening Mass to celebrate this Feast.

            For those of you who don’t know much about St. Raymond, I invite you to read the 32-page biography we published a few years ago. If you don’t have one, they are available in the parish office.

As a brief reminder…Raymond was born of a noble family, near Barcelona, in 1175. At the age of 20 he became professor of canon law. In 1210 he left teaching to complete his studies in civil and canon law at the University of Bologna. He went on to hold a chair of canon law at that university for three years. (The date of his priestly ordination is uncertain, but it would seem to be around 1195).

On August 1, 1218 Raymond received a heavenly vision in which the Blessed Mother (“Our Lady of Ransom”) instructed him to help St. Peter Nolasco found the Order of Mercedarians, which would be devoted to the ransom of Christians taken captive by the Moors (Spanish Muslims) (the scene depicted in the mural above the Blessed Mother Statue in the sanctuary). Raymond did not, however, join that order but rather entered the Order of Preachers (“Dominicans”) in Barcelona in 1222. As a Dominican, Raymond continued to teach and preach, and devoted considerable effort working to convert Moors and Jews, coaxing St. Thomas Aquinas to write his Summa Contra Gentiles to help in his efforts.

At the request of his superiors Raymond published the Summa Casuum, a book on cases of conscience for the guidance of confessors and moralists, the first guide of its kind. This work eventually led to his appointment as confessor and theologian to Pope Gregory IX in 1230. The Pope soon directed Raymond to re-arrange and codify the canons (juridical laws) of the Church, which required him to rewrite and condense centuries of Church decrees. The Pope published Raymond’s work in 1231, and commanded that it alone should be considered authoritative. From then on St. Raymond would be known as the “Father of canon law.”

In 1238 he was elected Master General of the Dominican Order, the second successor to St. Dominic, but he resigned two years later, claiming that at 63 years old he was too old for the job. He continued his writing, preaching and pastoral work, as well as many important responsibilities entrusted to him by various popes, for another 37 years until his death in Barcelona on January 6, 1275, at the age of 100.

But St. Raymond had one last great miracle to perform. Six years before his death, King James of Aragon invited him to come to Majorca with him to preach to the Muslim inhabitants. But when he arrived on the island the saint discovered that King James had brought his mistress along. Raymond demanded he send her away, and when the King refused, Raymond went searching for a ship to go back to Spain. When he discovered that the King had forbidden any ship to let him board, Raymond simply bowed his head in prayer, made the sign of the cross, and, by the grace of God, sailed 160 miles back to Spain using just his great cape as both a skiff and a sail. This scene is depicted in the mural above the St. Joseph statue in our sanctuary.

He is the patron saint of lawyers, both canon and civil. And our patron as well! St. Raymond of Peñafort, pray for us!

Oremus pro invicem! Fr. De Celles