March 11, 2023 Column Father De Celles
Lent Continues. This holy season is a great time to renew our appreciation for
Jesus’ profound love for us, and our failure to love Him in return.
So I urge you to pause every night before you go to bed and briefly
examine your conscience, 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 straymonds.org and on the pop-up click “2023
Lent and Easter Schedule”). Look it over and think about which of the various
Lenten liturgies and activities you should take part in—and resolve to make it
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 and the
Holy Hour and overnight (“Nocturnal”) Exposition/Adoration on Thursday evening
through Friday. Or make the effort once a week to come to morning Mass, or
evening Mass on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Don’t let this Lenten opportunity to grow in holiness pass you by!
Where Are My Sheep? A few weeks ago I told you about the results of our
October attendance count: in October our total Sunday Mass attendance was
only 59% of what it was before Covid. Two weeks ago we took another
attendance count, and the results show that we are now up to 67%. That’s
great, but it’s also terrible—where is everyone?
There are lots of reasons for the decline. For example, I know many folks
just fell out of the habit, or rather got into the bad habit of missing Sundays. But
with all the talk about Evangelization, we first have to Evangelize ourselves and
our own. To be clear: I’m not angry with anyone, or condemning anyone. I just
want my lost or missing sheep back. So we have to do something to help these
But first, it seems, we have to identify the folks who are missing. So in the
next few weeks we’re going to try some things to help figure this out, so we can
then proactively contact them and invite/encourage/help them.
First of all, I ask you all to make the effort to encourage your
parishioner-friends and family who may be neglecting Sundays to return.
This might even involve some prudent and kind inquiry on your part—you may
want to ask them if they are going to Mass, being careful not to unnecessarily
offend or judge. And then it may involve you offering them assistance in some
way—maybe inviting them to come with you, and/or a ride to church. Or it might
be that you simply send me a note to inform me of folks I should contact. This is
not being a “snitch” or “telling on them,” but more akin to calling 911 when you
see your neighbors house afire.
But it will also require a more organized parish-wide approach. For
example, I might send a survey around to all our parishioners trying to identify
who needs assistance. If it comes to you, I ask you to please take a moment to
complete it, even if you are (most likely) already attending Sundays.
Or I might actually take attendance a few Sundays. I hate doing this, since
it smacks of “Big Brother” or the “Attendance Police.” But it’s not about finding out
who’s here, but who’s not here. If I do this I will try to make it as painless as
I’ve got some other ideas in mind, and out of love for your pastor and
your fellow parishioners, I ask you, implore you, to please cooperate in
whatever way you can.
St. Patrick’s Day on Friday. As you know, all Fridays in Lent are days of
mandatory abstinence from meat, under pain of mortal sin. However, the Bishop
of every diocese has the authority to dispense his subjects from this rule if that
would serve the genuine good of the faithful. This Friday, March 17, is St.
Patrick’s Day, a day that many observe with parties and other celebrations.
Considering this, Bishop Burbidge has, “granted to the faithful of the Diocese of
Arlington, as well as to any visitors or travelers who may be physically present
within the territory of this diocese, a dispensation from the obligation of
abstinence from meat on March 17, 2023.”
However, the Bishop exhorts, “Those taking advantage of this
dispensation….to undertake a work of charity, an exercise of piety, or an act of
comparable penance on some other occasion during the Third Week of Lent.”
I would also remind you that the dispensation does not mean you must eat
meat, and that you are still free to keep the observance of Friday abstinence if
you choose. Probably like St. Patrick himself would do.
“Imagining a Heretical Cardinal” Revisited. Last week I wrote about Bishop
Thomas Paprocki’s excellent essay entitled, “Imagining a Heretical Cardinal.” In
that article he wrote, “what if a cardinal …were to state publicly that homosexual
acts are not sinful …?” And he said such a statement would be “heresy,” and
result in excommunication and “can be punished with …removing “a power,
office… However… [o]nly the pope can remove a cardinal from office….”
But this week I read, as The Pillar reported on March 7, 2023:
“Pope Francis named new members to his Council of Cardinals Tuesday,
including the Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich…. Hollerich… [t]he
Archbishop of Luxembourg, who was named a cardinal in 2019, will serve as the
general rapporteur of this October’s synod on synodality. He generated headlines
last year when he said he believed that the ‘sociological-scientific foundation’ of
the Church’s teaching on homosexuality was ‘no longer correct.’….
“Pope Francis established the Council of Cardinals months after his
election in 2013, to assist him ‘in the governance of the universal Church’….”
To clarify The Pillar’s report, in an interview with the German Catholic
news agency KNA in February 2022, when asked, “How do you get around the
Church’s teaching that homosexuality is sin?’ Cardinal Hollerich responded:
“I believe that this is false….I believe that the sociological-scientific
foundation of this teaching is no longer correct. What one formerly condemned
was sodomy…‘But there is no homosexuality at all in the New Testament. There
is only discussion of homosexual acts, which were to some extent pagan cultic
acts. That was naturally forbidden. I believe it is time for us to make a revision in
the foundation of the teaching.”
I am sorry, I’m just a lowly parish priest, but this is very confusing to me.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles