January 22, 2022 Column Father De Celles

I’m Back. I had a great vacation in Florida last week. But it’s good to be back home. Thanks be to God for my pastorate and St. Raymond’s!

            Unlike NoVa, the weather in Florida was wonderful. Some days it was 50 degrees warmer, and mostly sunny. It rained one day, but that was during lunch, after we finished golfing. So perfect weather for 4 rounds of golf.

And I played pretty well, especially for being off of golfing for almost 3 months (I don’t golf once the winter chill sets in). And one day I actually tied my best score ever, 89, although I thought for a while there I’d have a new record. Still, the 89 was pretty cool. But of course, I credit divine intervention.

            We took one day off from golf, and I drove over to St. Augustine to see the site of the first Mass celebrated in what became the United States, on September 8, 1565. A very quiet and prayerful spot, now located on land that is part of the oldest Spanish Mission in the U.S., Mission Nombre de Dios, (The Name of God). The Mission also contains the U.S.’s first shrine to our Lady, and a huge 200-foot steel cross marking the spot of the first Mass.

            All in all, an excellent vacation. Now, back to work. But… I think I’ll be off again sometime before Lent kicks off…

Speaking of the “First Mass.” A lot of folks in this part of the country understandably tend to think of the Church’s history in America in terms of the Catholic presence in the 13 British Colonies. But coming from San Antonio, I am keenly aware that while the first Mass in the British Colonies was celebrated in 1634, the first Mass in Texas was celebrated 5 years before that by Spanish missionaries in 1629, and the VERY first Mass in the whole US was celebrated in Florida some 64 years before that, as mentioned above.

So all Catholic Americans should know more about this, especially us, whose patron is a great Spanish saint. This is taken from the website of Mission Nombre de Dios:

            “On September 8, 1565, five ships sailed into a small cove on the coastline of what was known to the Spanish as “La Florida.” Under the command of General Pedro Menéndez de Aviles, they came to the New World from Spain sent by King Philip II. They arrived in hopes of establishing a colony, securing the land for Spain, and most importantly, to convert the native American Indians to Christianity. Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales, recorded the day’s events in his diary…

“ ‘On Saturday the eighth the General landed with many banners spread, to the sounds of trumpets and the salutes of artillery. As I had gone ashore the evening before, I took a cross and went to meet him, singing the hymn ‘Te Deum Laudamus.’ The General, followed by all who accompanied him, marched up to the cross, knelt and kissed it. A large number of Indians watched these proceedings and imitated all that they saw done.’

“Following Menéndez’ veneration of the Cross, thus proclaiming this land in the name of God (Nombre de Dios) Father Lopez celebrated Mass at a rustic altar made of wood. The sky served as the roof for what was the first parish Mass in what is now the United States. It was on this sacred ground that the Spanish settlers would begin devotion to Our Lady of La Leche, Nuestra Señora de La Leche y Buen Parto, Mary nursing the infant Jesus. In the early 1600s, the Spanish settlers of St. Augustine established the first Shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the United States.”

New Governor Comes Through for Parents. Governor Glenn Youngkin didn’t waste any time on moving forward to fulfill his campaign promises to parental rights advocates, issuing several excellent Executive Orders on the day of his inauguration, including:

— ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education.

— allowing parents to make decisions on whether their child wears a mask in school.

— announcing an investigation into wrongdoing in Loudoun County related to the cover-up of a “transgender” boy’s (a real boy pretending to be a girl) rape of two girls in two different high school restrooms.

            In addition, I’m very delighted to say the Governor appointed my friend and former FCPS Board member Elizabeth Schultz as the Commonwealth’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction. Elizabeth, a parishioner at St. Andrew’s in Clifton, is a prominent and public advocate for parents and children’s rights, and an outspoken opponent of Critical Race Theory. She has always been strongly pro-life, pro-family, pro-morality and pro-common sense. She has spoken at St. Raymond’s several times, and comes to Mass here frequently. Wow—what an appointment! And more good news: her new boss is Jillian Balow as Superintendent of Public Instruction. Balow served in the same position for the last 7 years in Wyoming (where it is anelected office) and has also been a strong advocate for parental rights and opponents of CRT.

Exciting Announcement. I’m very pleased to invite you and all your friends to a very special evening at St. Raymond’s on February 4 at 7pm. The event, co-sponsored by the Diocesan 50th Jubilee Committee, is entitled:“Pilgrim to the Heavenly City: Walking with Saint Raymond to God through Sacraments, Music, and Sacred Art.”

It will begin with our favorite local Catholic artist Henry Wingate giving a presentation on the two murals he painted of Saint Raymond and Our Lady of Ransom for our sanctuary, as well as the role that Sacred Art plays in the life and worship of the Church. Then, we will enjoy a small concert by local Catholic professional musicians performing selections from the Libre Vermell de Montserrat, a book of pilgrimage songs used during St. Raymond’s life in his native Catalan in southwestern Spain.

            The talk and concert are free and open to the public. This is going to be a very memorable event for our parish, so I encourage all of you to come and bring your friends.

Extraordinary Form Mass. Many of you have been asking me about my reaction to Pope Francis’ letter “Traditionis Custodes” (TC) which harshly revokes the generous and just allowances of Pope Benedict XVI’s “Summorum Pontificam,” practically calling for a wide-suppression of the “Old Mass.” However, I am honoring Bishop Burbidge’s request to his priests to refrain from commenting on TC until he reaches a decision on how TC will be enacted here. I am hoping this will happen in the next few weeks, as he has indicated to his priests. I pray he listens to the concerns of so many of us who were deeply “confused” by TC. But for now, that is all I will say.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles