March 14, 2020 Column Father De Celles

Lenten Series Continues. Our Lenten Series on the “The Passion of the Lord…” continues this Thursday, March 19, at 7pm. Fr. Christopher Christensen, will talk about: “Jesus before Pilate.”

I highly encourage all of you to attend, even if you missed the first two weeks. The half-hour talk takes place during a Holy Hour in the Church, which will also include Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary, and Benediction.

Fr. Christopher Christensen is from a Navy family and moved to the Diocese of Arlington as a child. He is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (2002) and the University of Notre Dame (2006). After spending two years active duty as a US naval officer in Japan, he entered seminary for the Diocese of Arlington, attending Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He was ordained in 2014 and is currently the parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More in Arlington.

Lenten Devotion. This holy season is a great time to renew our appreciation for Jesus’ love for us, and acknowledge our failure to love Him. So I urge you to pause every night before you go to bed and briefly examine your consciences, thinking both of your sins and of God’s blessings of the day. Also, take a moment to consider how well you “kept Lent” that day: have you been faithful to the penances you have chosen for yourself, and are your penances both challenging enough and not so challenging as to be discouraging. And then make a sincere and devout act of contrition.

            I also encourage you to carefully review the Lenten Schedule we distributed two weeks ago (go to and “Lent 2020” near the top of the page) and think about which of the various Lenten liturgies and activities you should take part in—and resolve to make it happen.

            Looking over the schedule, I see the daily confessions—have you been yet? And the Friday Stations of the Cross—such a simple but powerful devotion. Or maybe you can come to Exposition and Adoration on Wednesday or Friday. Or how about waking up early once a week to come to morning Mass. Or go to Mass at another church near your work during lunch. Or maybe on Wednesday evening you could go to confession, spend time in Adoration, and go to 7pm Mass!

            Don’t let this Lenten opportunity to grow in holiness pass you by!

Coronavirus. I know everyone is worried about the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. I am too. But while it can be very serious and even deadly, and we should be on guard, we also need to remember that the cases in the U.S. and Virginia are still very low, and the vast majority of those infected recover from it very well.

            Here are some facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (go to for more info):

“Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes: Older adults [and] people who have serious chronic medical conditions like: heart disease, diabetes, lung disease…”

            “The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads….

            “Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath.

“People can help protect themselves from respiratory illness with everyday preventive actions.  

–Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

–Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. –Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

–Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

–If you are sick, to keep from spreading respiratory illness to others, you should

–Stay home when you are sick.

–Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

–Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

“If you develop symptoms during that period (fever, cough, trouble breathing), seek medical advice. Call the office of your health care provider before you go…They will give you instructions on how to get care without exposing other people to your illness…”

            As for the parish, we will probably not be making any substantial changes in operations (Masses, confessions, meetings, etc.) unless and until the Bishop issues particular guidance to do so. The Bishop and his staff are working closely with medical professionals and federal and state officials to determine “best practices” for the diocese.

            In the meantime, we will continue to omit the exchange of the Sign of Peace at all Masses, and we have introduced cleaning protocols several times on Sunday to try to reduce the germs on common surfaces.

            I encourage everyone in the church to keep a friendly distance from non-family members and avoid shaking hands. At the same time, strive to be charitable and neighborly.

Some have suggested we stop receiving Communion on the tongue. But that poses some problems. First, no one but the Pope can ban Communion on the tongue. Second, I’m not sure that this would serve any purpose. As the Archdiocese of Portland relates: “We consulted with two physicians regarding this issue, one of which is a specialist in immunology for the State of Oregon. They agreed that done properly the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand poses a more or less equal risk…”

So it remains your choice to receive in the hand or tongue. But if you do, remember to do it correctly: 1) open your mouth, 2) stick out your tongue, 3) keep still until the priest moves his hand away.

Perhaps most importantly, if you feel sick (symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath) stay home! Do not come to meetings, and you are automatically dispensed from going to Sunday Mass.

And if you are an older adult or have serious chronic medical conditions (like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, etc.) you also might want to consider staying away from large gatherings such as Mass. (I’m waiting on clarification from the Bishop, but if you truly believe that you are at higher risk, I think you would also be automatically dispensed from Sunday Mass).

Above all, don’t panic or worry. Be careful and smart, pay attention to advisories. And trust Jesus. And contact me if you need any help at all.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles