Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
“And They’re Off….” It’s interesting that the beginning of a new school year also marks a new year in the life of an entire community, even a nation. And in a sense it is right that it should, inasmuch as “school” is about our children, and our lives should revolve around our children.
And so a new year begins in the life of St. Raymond’s parish, as various programs gear up to go into full speed, especially programs serving our children directly. In particular CCD/Religious Education and the programs of our Youth Apostolate are ready to serve your families: CCD starts this Sunday (tonight). If you haven’t signed up for CCD yet please do so as soon as possible, especially if your children are hoping to receive First Communion or Confirmation this year.
Another program set to restart is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). If any adult you know is interested in becoming a Catholic, or is a Catholic in need of the sacrament of Confirmation (or First Communion and Confession) this is the course for them. Bob Ward, himself a convert many years ago, leads a lively, faith-filled and information-packed discussion of the basics (and more) of the Catholic faith, and during the second semester I will join in teaching about 5 or 6 of the topics. You can contact Bob and Bev Ward at 703-644-5873 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Classes begin this Monday (tomorrow), September 8, at 7:30pm in the Rectory classroom (the “Maurer Room”).
But this class is also designed to be a refresher course for all adult Catholics. I wish I could require every parishioner to sit through this course since, being honest with ourselves, most adult Catholics don’t know their faith nearly as well as they should. And this course is a perfect way to begin to fix this. So please consider joining this class—even on a week-to-week/topic-to-topic basis. Come to one class (no need to sign up in advance), and I guarantee, you will not regret it.
We also begin a new season of pro-life events, leading-off on September 20 with Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, PhD, the nationally renowned neuroscientist-theologian, who will talk about “End of Life Issues.” Please see the “St. Raymond’s Respects Life” corner below for other important events coming up in September and October.
This is just scratching the surface: we have CYO basketball, the Mother’s Group, Bible Study, the Choir, and all the rest of the parish groups/committees… Please see the rest of the bulletin below (and every week!) for lots of opportunities to get involved and grow in your Catholic faith and as a member of the Church here at St. Raymond’s in the coming year.
Finally to kick-off the year for all of us I invite you all to our Parish Picnic next Sunday, September 14, from 1-4pm here on the Parish grounds. Lots of food and fun for kids and adults alike—a great way to meet and get to know your fellow parishioners. For new parishioners (and visitors) this is a great opportunity to meet people and learn more about the parish; for “old timers” this is one of the best chances you will have all year to welcome others into the a deeper participation in the life and fellowship of our parish—don’t pass it up!
On a More Somber Note. This Sunday (today) our second collection is taken up for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, to support urgent humanitarian needs facing the people in Iraq, Gaza, Syria, and surrounding countries to which refugees have fled. We have all read or heard the sickening accounts of this persecution, especially the barbarism of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”) toward Iraqi Christians: the beheadings, the crucifixions, the torturing of …on and on.
These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, just as surely as the person sitting next you at Mass is. They are us, except for the thousands of miles that separate us. But the leaders of ISIS would clearly eliminate that difference if they could: “See you in New York,” said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, when he was freed from American custody in 2009. Now he is the leader of ISIS, murderer and persecutor of 1000s of Christians in Iraq and Syria.
We must help our Christian brothers and sisters against these barbarians. So be generous with your donations today. But even more importantly, be generous with your prayers. Pray as you would for your flesh and blood brother or sister, your own child or parent. Pray that Jesus may end this carnage, violence and terror, and stop the rampage of these Islamist barbarians. Pray that He give our fellow Christians the grace of faith, courage and peace to endure what they must. Pray for those who have fled, and those who have not been allowed to flee. And pray that no Christian anywhere in the world should have to flee his home to maintain his life and faith in Christ.
Many people have told me how angry they are at ISIS, and how this troubles their consciences, knowing that we must “love our enemies.” But “anger” is not the same as “hate.” Anger is an emotion, a passion, and it is not in itself evil. Like another emotion, “affection,” it can lead to good or evil, depending on what we do with it. If we let anger be controlled by hatred and bitterness, it will lead us into terrible sin. But if we let anger be guided by reason and charity, it can serve the common good, strengthening our courage, determination, perseverance and generosity to fight against evil.
This can include engaging in a “just war” against our enemies, i.e., not people we hate, but people who hate us. The Church has always taught: “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.…For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors…” (CCC 2265).
So, let our “righteous anger” at ISIS (and their comrades) strengthen our determination to do everything in our power to help and defend our Christian brethren, and to fight these evil men with all the weapons at our disposal: prayers, money, and the political influence of a citizen of the greatest Republic on earth.
But let that anger be truly righteous, governed by right reason and charity. “Loving your enemies” doesn’t mean we have to embrace them with open arms. True love wishes the other good, and the ultimate good is heaven, and this is accomplished only with conversion from sin. So “love your enemies,” by praying for their conversion.
More Prayers. In the last two weeks reports have surfaced that Pope Francis is “in the crosshairs of ISIS.” So Let us pray for the safety and courage of our beloved Holy Father. And as we remember the anniversary of “9/11” this week, let us pray for all those who have died in this war, and for the continued safety of our beloved nation.
Oremus pro invicem, Fr. De Celles