The Feast of The Baptism of Our Lord
Christmas Ends, and Continues. Today we end the season of Christmas. But as this special liturgical celebration of Christmas ends, the celebration of the essence and meaning of Christmas must continue. By that I don’t mean the secular or sentimental celebration of Christmas, but rather the celebration of the fact that the eternal God the Son condescended to be born a vulnerable baby, in order that He enter fully into our human life, and by His human life, death and resurrection transform that life. Christ came to change us, so let’s allow Him to change our lives, and go into this new year recommitted to truly love Him and our neighbor as He taught and showed us, to live the life of grace, hope, faith and love. The life of Jesus Christ, who came to us on Christmas day to change us and to remain with us throughout the year, and all our lives.
Fr. Paul Quang Nguyen. For the last year and a half Fr. Nguyen has been in residence at St. Raymond’s while he has pursued his graduate studies. During that time he has been a huge help to all of us, especially by offering Mass and heard confessions. He is a wonderful young priest. But now he must return to his home diocese in Viet Nam. His last Mass here will be on Saturday, January 24, and we are planning a small going-away party, probably that evening—more details to follow. Please join me in thanking Father for his service, and praying for the success of his ministry as he returns to the very challenging situation in communist Viet Nam.
One Less Priest. Unfortunately, with Fr. Nguyen’s departure that will leave only Fr. Kenna and I in the parish. Although we are blessed with the frequent assistance of Fr. Daly and Fr Scalia, they are mainly available only for Sunday Masses, and even then on a limited basis. Perhaps next summer we may get another resident priest, but in the meantime this will mean that we may not be as able to provide some services as easily or as often as we’ve been able to in the past. Please be patient with us, and pray for us. Pray also that we find another priest to help out at St. Raymond. And, please, pray for vocations to the priesthood.
Offertory Campaign. Please remember that the new offertory commitments so many of you made last month begin this month. I want to thank you all for your prayerful consideration of my appeals, and for your truly Christian generosity.
Christmas Thanks. I have already expressed my personal thanks to all the folks who helped make Advent and Christmas such a special time in our parish. But I should also publicly pass on some special notes of appreciation that I have repeatedly received from parishioners during the last few weeks. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how beautiful the Christmas decorations were—the work of the Flower Committee, especially Julie Mullen and her family, and our head sacristan Nena Brennan and her family. Also, so many people have been overwhelmed by the beautiful music all throughout Advent and Christmas—the work of all the dedicated folks in the choir, our cantors, our organist Denise Anezin and our Music Director Elisabeth Turco. And finally, so many people who were impressed by the reverent and disciplined service of all our Altar Servers—even at 2 midnight Masses!
My Dad. This last week my father, Dan De Celles, turned 90 years old. I’d like to take a moment to tell you about him, not merely as a tribute to him, but as an acknowledgment of God’s grace, and as encouragement to all the dads among us.
Dad was the second of 5 boys. His father was a pilot during the early years of aviation, which meant moving his family to over 20 cities (in the U.S. and Mexico) before Dad was 10 years old. This was a difficult life for little boys, but life soon got even tougher when his father abandoned the family when Dad was 14 (40 years later granddad was truly repentant and reconciled with his boys and Christ). Dad’s mother, a strong and devout Catholic woman, bravely carried on, instilling in them a strong faith in Jesus and His Church, and a deep sense of dedication to family.
During World War II Dad joined the Marines fresh out of high school and served a brutal 18 months in the South Pacific (mainly in the Philippines) as a gunner on a bomber. When I was young, Dad seldom talked about his time in the war, except about how much he loved the Corps, and how much his Catholic faith had sustained him. It wasn’t until he was about 75 that he started to give us a few more details of the hardships he endured, hardships many of you who have also served in the military can appreciate.
The war took a heavy toll on my father, as he returned home with what we know today to be “post-traumatic stress disorder,” PTSD. But back then there was no such diagnosis: VA doctors told him simply to “get on with life.” So Dad did that, marrying my Mom (whom he deeply loved), and raising 5 children. He went to night school for years to earn his degree in fine arts, but while continuing to paint and sculpt in his free time, he opted to take a steady job as a cartographer with the DOD. He hated the job, but he accepted the sacrifice to provide for his family.
Dad constantly struggled to overcome the wounds from his difficult childhood and PTSD, and this had its effects on our family life. But as time passed I came to understand not only how valiantly he had struggled, but also how remarkably he had succeeded. And I stand in awe of his courage and fidelity, and am inspired by his devout faith, hope and love for Jesus. He and my Mom (who died in 2002) were always devout Catholics, praying the rosary together daily, attending daily Mass whenever possible, and always very active in parish life and various prayer groups. They also made heroic sacrifices to send us to Catholic schools, and made teaching of faith the normal routine of daily family life. My mother was a saint, but she would be the first to say that my Dad’s obvious faith made the difference in the lives of their children, so that today all 5 are seriously devout (though imperfect) Catholics, as are most of their grandchildren.
My Dad now has dementia and is confined to a wheel-chair. But his eyes light up when he sees his children and grandchildren, and he still bows his head devoutly to pray the rosary and to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. He is an inspiration to me, and I hope to you as well. Please pray for him, as he enters his 91st year in this world.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles