January 23, 2021 Column Father De Celles

Vacation. Well, I’m back from my winter golf vacation in Florida. The weather was a little chillier than usual, but still much warmer than here. And my golfing was pretty good, although I confess that on the last few days I played the shorter tees. I needed the break, and it was good to get away. But as always, it was good to come home again.

Altar Rails and Pulpit. What could be more emblematic of the problems of the last year than a new delay in the altar rail installation. Last Monday we were supposed to start work installing the rails but instead got a late Sunday night text from the designer that one of the installation crew had tested positive for COVID, and the rest of crew was awaiting their test results. On Tuesday morning we found out that several more of the crew had tested positive, postponing the installation for at least another 2 weeks. First the months-long delay by the Italian quarantine, then the quarantine in the Bahama port, and then in Miami port, then in the Baltimore port and customs. Now this. But as in all the troubles of this year, patience and trust in Jesus.

Developments in Washington. Well, we have a new president. Not too long ago the switch from a president from one party to a president of the opposing party was not that big a deal—the parties were different, but shared the same common values and goals/ends, with mainly the means to the ends/goals being different. But now things are different. The parties, and the American people they represent (generally speaking), have become polarized in their fundamental beliefs, values and even goals, so that every change in governing parties represents a complete sea change in American life.

            Of course there are those on both the extremes of the so-called “left” and “right” who call for a violent overthrow of their opponents. This must be rejected by all of us.

            But that leaves the overwhelming rest of us, who are now clearly divided by our absolutely radically opposed values and goals.

            So, how do we go forward? God only knows. But I do know where Catholics should start: with the fundamental values of Jesus. That would mean, among other things, embracing the 10 Commandments, especially the “second tablet” (nos. 4 to 10) pertaining to loving our neighbor, as our most fundamental values—values that can be and should be understood and embraced by every human being of good will.

            These values, held commonly by the vast majority of Americans for two centuries, have been at the heart of what has made America great, and the loss of these values is what is causing us so much trouble. Trouble that was predicted by the Father of our Nation, when in 1796 George Washington wrote to the nation as he retired from public life:

“Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”

Friends, for our own salvation as well as the common good of our nation, we must embrace and live the Commandments of our religion. We must not lose our hope in Jesus, BUT WE MUST ALSO not lose the rules of love which are the Commandments—and all the values that flow from them—that He has given us to rule our lives.

            As we go forward under this new administration that is so opposed to so many values that have made this nation great, let us trust Jesus and keep His love at the center of all things. Let us avoid hatred and despair. And in all of  this, let us continue to strive boldly and bravely to—for lack of a better phrase—make America great again.

March for Life. By now I hope you have heard that the in-person March for Life has been cancelled this year. The statement from the organizing committee tells us:

            “The protection of all of those who participate in the annual March, as well as the many law enforcement personnel and others who work tirelessly each year to ensure a safe and peaceful event, is a top priority of the March for Life. In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different.

“The annual rally will take place virtually and we are asking all participants to stay home and to join the March virtually. We will invite a small group of pro-life leaders from across the country to march in Washington, DC this year. These leaders will represent pro-life Americans everywhere who, each in their own unique ways, work to make abortion unthinkable and build a culture where every human life is valued and protected.”

            When I was on vacation I briefly considered cancelling our participation in the March this year, because I was concerned about safety, especially the safety of our children. Not so much from COVID concerns, since you are adults and capable of making choices in this regard, but because of the potential violence that those on the left, and maybe even those on the extreme “right,” might decide to visit upon the March this year.

In the end I decided I should not cancel unilaterally. But I was not surprised that the organizers decided to cancel. And I condone their prudence. Prudence should never be confused with cowardice, and vice versa. But I think it is prudent for us to protect the safety of marchers and police, and to avoid giving the violent agitators an opportunity to use our movement to further their cause, and sully ours.

            Nevertheless, we will still take part in the “virtual March” on the 29th. Our plans have not been completed yet (as I write this on Wednesday the 20th), but I will let you know as soon as they are. So read your emails!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles