June 27, 2020 Column Father De Celles

Mass Attendance. We’re holding steady at about 725 people, total, at Sunday Masses. I hope this number goes up as the summer goes on and soon returns to our normal 2,350 average. I know a lot of people are still afraid of coming to Mass, and many understandably so—especially those who have chronic health conditions that put them at risk of catching COVID19.

Last week the Governor announced that Phase 3 of Virginia’s “re-opening” will go into effect on July 1. However, looking over the details it doesn’t appear that the changes it brings will directly affect St. Raymond’s, especially our Mass attendance, since it still requires 6 feet social distancing.

            In the next few days I will be putting out some new information about restarting meetings of our parish groups. The guidance from the Bishop looks like this will be pretty straightforward, but still limited especially by group size and social distancing.

Collections. In the meantime collections have been suffering. Last weekend our collections at Mass (including long-term maintenance) was a little under $12,000, compared to an average $21,000 weekly in the month before the closings. We are still in good shape in the big picture, keeping costs contained, etc. But I sure would appreciate it if we could get that weekly collection number up—it’s something we should be able to do.

            On the other hand, if anyone is in need of financial assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sanctuary Construction. The reconfiguring and marbling of the sanctuary is moving ahead as planned. We will probably still be using our temporary altar at least one more Sunday.

But the actual altar rail and ambo are still on a ship from Italy, and may not arrive by the time the rest of the work is done. If that is the case we will “re-open” the sanctuary until they arrive, and then install them during the weekdays without affecting our Sunday Masses. Please God. St. Raymond, pray for us.

Our Country in Turmoil. It has been an interesting and distressing few months. First the virus, then the shutdown, then the George Floyd murder and subsequent protests, and then the riots and violence spread by Marxist and Anarchist groups. And actually, before the virus, there was the terrible rancor in our political system.

            I’ll be frank with my own opinion here. And you can disagree.

Something evil is happening in our country. Yes, there is some racism, but I firmly believe it is lessening every year. Yes, there is unjust prejudice, but it is a condition common to people of all the races, and it is also lessening. This positive trend must continue—racism and unjust prejudice is a terrible sin.

            And of course, the coronavirus is real and deadly. But it too is lessening in its threat, and we are coming to understand that it was not as horrible as many models forecasted, and the severe cases and mortality skew heavily to elderly and chronically ill (this by the way includes people like me). And it will eventually be contained—a vaccine and effective treatment will soon be developed.

            My greatest fear, however, is the political threats that abound for Americans, especially Catholics. I’m speaking from my own judgment here, and you can certainly disagree, but it seems to me that the rise and even mainstreaming of Marxist groups is a threat to very existence of the freedoms we have come to cherish as Americans. Marxist ideology embraces violence as a necessary and expected means to power. Furthermore, Marxism inherently suppresses freedom, imposes ideological and behavioral purity and centralizes governance in a totalitarian regime that governs “in the name of the people.” It also preys on those who feel oppressed, and setting up class struggle as the supposed problem to be conquered—setting class against class, e.g., poor against rich, race against race. And Marxism classically demonizes its opponents—they are not only wrong, they are evil.

            Today we see this happening in our country. To be clear: most political liberals are not Marxists: most are God-fearing, patriotic, neighborly Americans. But over the last few decades, and especially in the last few years, we have seen liberal political elements of our society being gradually taken over, or manipulated by, a smaller, ultra-radical, Marxist minority. And we see the mainstream media going along, and even advocating for it.

            Consider the “defund police” initiative. Or the tearing down of statues to historical figures. Or the “autonomous zone” in Seattle. Or the so-called “cancel culture.” Or labeling anyone who opposes these as “bigots,” “haters,” “white supremacists” or “fascists.”

And consider the radicalization of the Black Civil Rights movement by Marxist based groups like “Black Lives Matter.” Of course Black lives matter, but see how the Marxist use innocent sounding names to co-op just causes into their radical ideology. In 2015 BLM co-founder, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, stated about herself and co-founder, Alicia Garza, “We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists.”

            Or consider the violence against police and other non-supporters, especially by the Marxist group Antifa—which is not really an anti-fascist group as it claims, unless you follow their logic that all conservatives or tradition-minded liberals are fascists.

            And then throw on top of that the unprecedented government power grab over the last few months. I understand, there was an emergency. I even wrote that we should obey the directives. But if you recall, initially we were told it would last “a couple of weeks,” until we “flattened the curve” so that our hospitals wouldn’t be inundated. Then after the shutdown, the talk suddenly switched to government officials saying we’re not going back to normal until we have a vaccine. When did we agree to that? How does that fit into a democratic-republican form of government? And if it’s so easy to declare and then prolong emergency powers, without the consent of the citizenry, where do those powers end, and who knows what the next “emergency” might be?

            Again, I may be wrong, and you may certainly disagree with me. And this isn’t about liberal or conservative. But as we approach the 4th of July, I am worried. We cannot so easily give up our freedoms, especially of assembly and speech, much less freedom of religion. And we cannot give up our nation’s values or our Catholic values. And we cannot let the Marxist minority intimidate us or manipulate our Republic.

            But even as I might worry and consider how best to defend my Catholic and American values, I am not afraid. In the end, Christ is with those who love Him and follow Him. So be at peace, but also be courageous. Be not afraid, but also do not be foolish. Love, follow, and trust in Jesus. Love your neighbor and your country. And then do what is right.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles