Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 24, 2019 News

Back to School. Most of our kids are going back to school this week, so we need to keep them in prayer. Pray especially for the kids in public schools, schools which do not share many of our values and so often teach that our Catholic values are wrong, or even hateful.
Parents, remember to keep a watchful eye on what your kids are learning: do not abandon your precious children to strangers. Ask them what they’re learning, look at their assignments, participate in parent-teacher meetings. Remember to constantly reinforce Catholic values and teachings, especially be aware of the subtle ways some teachers can try to undermine them: e.g. the English paper about the “injustices against transgenderism.” But also, be supportive of good teachers and administrators who are trying to live their Christian faith in the schools.
For those of you in Fairfax County Public Schools, remember to “OPT OUT” of Family Life Education (FLE). You will find a link to this and other important forms on our website. As Bishop Burbidge wrote last year:
“As a community committed to proclaiming the truth about human life, dignity and sexuality, the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Arlington will continue its efforts to educate the public regarding the content of the FLE curriculum and encourage parents to exercise their God-given right to ‘opt-out’ their children from those lessons that distort the truth and are morally offensive.”
And remember to sign your kids up for CCD/Religious Education, and make sure you and they take this seriously. This is the most important school they will attend—learning about God, and how to live just lives, and how to get to heaven! Call to register today, or signup online at!
To “Kids.” I hope and pray that all of you “kids” have a wonderful year of growing in knowledge and wisdom. Apply yourself to your schoolwork, and to a reasonable amount of extracurricular activities, and strive to reach your God-given potential as best you can. But remember that as important as grades and victories, etc., are, it is even more important simply to learn. And to learn not just what’s in the books, but to learn how to think, using reason and good judgment. Always respect authority, but remember not to accept everything on face value, even if it might be written in a book or even taught by a nice teacher. Most especially, respect the authority of your parents, and the authority of Christ and His Church. I’m sorry to say, sometimes people (teachers, coaches, friends) with all good intentions, will tell you things that are just not right. Make sure you talk to your parents about what you’re learning in school, and what the people at school are doing and saying. God created us to live and learn first and foremost in the family, and our parents are our primary teachers. The family is the house of love: your parents love you more than any teacher or friend (as good as they are) could ever dream of—and Jesus loves you even more!

Remember what was said of our Lord when He was a 12-year-old: “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.” It’s not just about academics or sports: really growing requires advancing in wisdom and grace, becoming the great men and women God created you to be. So, let this be year of staying close to Christ and growing in holiness and your Catholic faith. Do good, and avoid all that is evil. Pray, and know that Jesus wants to give you all the grace you need. And have a great school year!

Name Calling. When I was a child my parents taught me the saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” This doesn’t mean so much that it’s impossible for name-calling to ever hurt us, but rather that name-calling never really should hurt us. What do I care if someone is mean enough to use words to try to hurt me—why let them hurt me? if someone threw a punch at me, I would dodge it or block it—I wouldn’t let them connect. So why is it that if someone calls us hurtful names, more and more nowadays it seems we go out of our way to insist on being hurt by them?
This is especially the case when such words are thrown around in emotional fits of anger that often express merely the name-caller’s frustration, and not their true feelings about the other person. So, you get in an argument with your spouse, and they call you some ugly name—but they don’t mean it; they just mean, “I’m really frustrated with you right now.” So let’s not allow words to hurt us, especially when they clearly don’t mean what is said.
On the other hand, let’s be careful about calling other people names. Jesus tells us, “Anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Mt. 5:22). I understand that sometimes we have to use strong language to make your point, to be heard, so to speak (Jesus Himself did this, calling the Pharisees “vipers,” etc.). But sometimes strong language, especially name-calling, can have the opposite effect: it closes off all further communications.
Right now our country is very divided over many issues. I don’t know how to solve this (except everyone convert to following Christ and living in true charity with each other). But the solution to these divisions definitely does not involve name-calling or cutting off communication.
Now, sometimes name-calling isn’t done so much in anger, as it is an effort to identify a problem. For example, if someone is being a bigot, perhaps calling them a “bigot” draws attention to a real problem. But we have to be so careful here not to rush to rash judgments and find people guilty of wrongdoing (e.g., bigotry) without a due consideration, including considering the other person’s true perspective. For example, John may tell Mary that her behavior is wrong, even bad for Mary herself. But Mary might think, through rash judgment, that what John is doing is hating her/Mary, when in fact John loves Mary. Maybe John is wrong, but not out of hate. So Mary should not call John a “hater”—because that just hardens both of their hearts to each other.
Today we throw around words like “hater” and “bigot” and “racist” as if they were no more hurtful or uncalled for than saying someone is tall or short. If someone calls us a name like this, let’s not let it hurt us. But let’s also not be calling people names like this, or at least be very careful in doing so. Maybe, they can help identify a problem and facilitate solutions, but often we just use them simply to hurt someone, to vent frustration, or out of rash judgment.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles