January 2, 2011

 

“Happy Epiphany & Happy New Year!”

 

 

            I hope you had a great celebration of Christmas with your family last week and that you are now enjoying the New Year. We are certainly a very blessed parish out here in Purcellville and we expect 2011 to be an even bigger year for us because we are hoping to break ground for our new parish center within the next few months.  Our complete site plan has been submitted to the county since mid-September and we’re just waiting word for the final approval so that we can finally put the project up for bid and begin our construction.  Due to our incredibly successful SHARE SUNDAY monthly drive this past year we will definitely continue the program and hopefully for many years to come.  Your generosity to help the poor is greatly appreciated.

            And thank you so much for the cards and gifts that you have sent to Father Tewes and me this Christmas season.  We truly appreciate the kindness you have shown us in serving you through our priestly ministry.

            Happy Epiphany and a blessed Happy New Year to all of you!  God’s blessings to you and your family.

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                        Father Escalante


 

January 9, 2011

 

“Christmas Season Ends This Sunday Night”

 

            The Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord this Sunday marks the last day of the Christmas season.  If you have kept your Christmas tree up and continued to listen to Christmas music until tonight then you have correctly celebrated the liturgical Christmas season.  It is really too bad that nearly all the radio stations in the country stop playing Christmas music on December 26 when Christmas had just begun.  The Christmas season is a beautiful time of the year to reflect on a joyful mystery in the life of Jesus.  It is admirable to see Christians who continue the tradition of celebrating Christmas all the way through the three Sundays that follow Christmas Day. 

It wasn’t that long ago (less than 50 years) that Christmas was liturgically celebrated through February 2 (Candlemas), the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and also the Purification of Mary.  Christmas trees were kept up until then and so was the Christmas music.  There are still Catholics today that observe that time frame and God bless them for doing so.  I think it’s a great idea.  The secular world has the spirit of celebration in reverse by starting to play Christmas music way too early, usually around Thanksgiving, and ending it prematurely.  One local station prided itself in 2010 for exclusively playing Holiday-Christmas music from November 19 to December 25.  It would have been preferable if they had kept the program going until January 1.  I am still enjoying listening to my Christmas music collection and will play it until tonight.

One last time this season, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!  And many thanks for the wonderful memories this past year, the prayers, cards, and gifts that you’ve sent to the rectory.  You are all always in my prayers.

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                        Father Escalante


 

January 16, 2011

“Culture of Death”

 

            It was very sad to hear the news of the recent deadly violence that took place in Arizona that killed 6 and wounded 16.  Not only are we faced with foreign insurgents who want to harm our nation but we are also facing a serious problem with domestic violence.  Pope John Paul II perfectly described that today’s society has resorted to the Culture of Death mentality.

There was a time when mass killing was condemned and despised and it usually referred to something like a wartime extermination of people or an oppressive government committing genocide against their own.  And every now and then we’d hear of gangs having turf wars but for the most part the innocent people in public were not the targets.  But now we have people who seem to come from a well-to-do background committing senseless heinous acts of killing innocent citizens (to name a few, Columbine HS teens, Virginia Tech student, Oklahoma City bomber, Ft. Hood army major shooter, and the recent Arizona shooter).  Just exactly what is going on?

One of the parishioners who was troubled by last week’s shooting called me and we had a profound discussion about how this could be happening.  I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things we discussed.  First of all, it was great idea that he recommended that we encourage our parishioners to pray for healing and an end to the violence in our society.  This can be done individually by every parishioner or as a group such as taking a Eucharistic holy hour at the next First Friday Adoration dedicated for peace in the world especially in our own nation. 

We also had a discussion as to the root of the violent society we have.  It seems that a lot of the old time discipline that once were basic standards in the homes and schools seem to have disappeared.  A lot of people today have a radically different understanding of what discipline, etiquette, and proper respect for people means as in the first half of the 20th century era.  Even our own nation has lost a lot of respect for life when abortion was legalized in 1973.  We undoubtedly lament the millions killed during the holocausts of the 20th century especially in Germany and Russia.  But many do not even care that over 50 million innocent American lives since 1973 have been terminated as a result of abortion.  This figure does not even include the number of abortions through the RU-486 pill that are taken in the privacy of people’s homes and the lives lost through abortifacient contraceptives.

The ultimate source of violence of evil and violence comes from the devil, satan. All attempts to rid the public display or mention of God will only empower the influence of the devil even more.  The devil hates humans because it infuriates him that God who had taken on human flesh in Jesus has conquered him through the cross and opened up heaven for us to enter.  He hates the idea that God is willing to share his happiness in heaven with creatures whose nature is lower than the angels.  That’s why he tries with all his might to denigrate the dignity of the human person through killing and other means of evil.  He doesn’t want any of us to be in heaven where he once was.  Let us counter this by celebrating life in the name of God and doing what we can to promote life in all stages.

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,       

                                                Father Escalante


January 23, 2011

 

March For Life (plus, The Labyrinth Issue)

 

            Every year prolife supporters gather in Washington, DC for the annual March For Life.  It is a time of prayer, reflection, and witness for the respect of the sanctity and dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural life.  In our time and society this important message cannot be said too often.  The pro-abortion group, Guttmacher Institute, regularly reports the abortion statistics and recently said that U.S. abortions are up to 1.21 million in the recent 2008 study; 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. If my math is correct, that’s 3,315 abortions a day!  That’s the number of children that are innocently put to death legally through a fatally wrong choice.  And that’s not counting the number of abortions through post contraceptive means such as the RU-486 drug that aborts an unborn child up to 2 months old in the convenience of one’s private home.  Other forms of contraceptives also raise the number of abortions even more when they are classified as abortifacients (e.g., prevention of conceived eggs, i.e., babies, from implanting to the uterine wall).

            It is impressive that we have 2 busloads of parishioners who will be attending the prolife march and be present for the pre-march rally and Mass at the Verizon Center this Monday.  Our own gifted parishioner, Maddy Curtis, is featured as one of the principal singers.  This year the march coincides with the feast of our patron, Saint Francis deSales (January 24).  It is very important that everyone participates in the prayerful and peaceful March for Life demonstration.  Even though you are unable to physically go to the march you are encouraged to offer your prayers in spiritual union with the rest.  Prayer is very important and very powerful.  Every year through the prayers of the faithful we hear testimonies of women who canceled their abortion after seeing people praying for them to save their babies.  And for those who made the mistake of having an abortion, there are also testimonies who regretted their decision and found forgiveness and healing.  They attributed their conversion through the prayers of the people as well.  Finally, we also have a very important duty of supporting prolife legislations and lawmakers if we expect to seriously challenge the legality of abortion in our country.

            Unfortunately, I have to cut short my usual column of devoting it exclusively to a prolife subject just before the march.  The labyrinth structure was removed last Monday, January 17.  Our civil engineering firm working on our parish center project (GeoConcepts), and a consultant sent by the diocesan Office for Planning & Construction, have found us in violation of a drinking well code.  Citing the Loudoun Facilities Manual, we are not to have anything placed within a 50-foot perimeter of the public non-community well.  The labyrinth was located well inside the 50’ area and therefore had to be removed.  Reread my August 8, 2010 bulletin and you will see that the last time we were found not in conformity with the county code it cost the parish $89,355 to correct the problem and delayed the submission of our site plan.  We cannot afford any further delays, costs, and adjustments.  The expiration of our special exemption to build is May 2011 and it’s right around the corner.

            It is very sad and unfortunate that a controversy had to happen and an errant report is circulating as the reason why the former labyrinth had to be removed.  A former parishioner, who has been attending a local non-Catholic church for the past few years, has perpetrated an e-mail campaign and spreading news report that I “made up” the reason for its removal.  It is also very sad that a small number of parishioners and non-parishioners were not interested in the explanations that I presented and are convinced by the testimony of their leading voice.  I was also advised by a concerned law enforcement parishioner to inform the local sheriffs office after learning that a candlelight prayer vigil was being organized on the parish grounds around the former site of the labyrinth without any authorization.  Essentially, they would have been trespassing.  (Please note that even our recognized church prayer groups appropriately ask for permission before holding any organized prayer gathering.)  The sheriff’s office acknowledged the potential violation and was very kind to offer and arrange periodic patrols to check on our parish as late as 10 PM on Monday night.  No disturbance occurred.  The diocese and our building committee chair (Dave Doseff) can also vouch for the activities in our building process.  Let us continue to pray for the success of the building of our new parish center.  We’re hoping to still break ground sometime this summer.  This will occur only after the county has deemed our site plan completely in compliance the county code.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

January 30, 2011

“E-L-E-C-T-R-I-F-Y-I-N-G March for Life!”

 

            Last Monday (January 24) was one great March For Life 2011 experience for our parishioners.  We had 2 buses that left at 6:30 AM to attend the Pro Life rally and Mass at the Verizon Center prior to the march in Washington.  The crowd was so big that we decided to take a detour from the designated march route by taking a ‘secret’ shortcut that I learned a few years ago (you’ll have to join us next year if you want the learn the secret).  We barely made it on time for our 4:30 PM bus rendezvous at the Union Station.

            The rally and Mass at the Verizon Center was spectacular.  Songs of praise and inspirational talks prior to the rally moved everyone’s spirit.  Maddie Curtis sang and acknowledged our parish sitting in the 200’s section of the arena.  The Curtis family was also chosen to bring up the gifts during Mass celebrated by Donald Cardinal Wurl of Washington.  For the 2nd year in a row I was very fortunate to concelebrate at the Mass and to be seated again where the hockey game’s penalty box is normally located.  It was actually one of the best seats for the Mass.

            The numerous young people at the march was a very good sign that the future of our nation recognizing the importance of the sanctity of life is in good shape.  The partial birth abortion has brought many to realize that human life is being put to death.  It is no surprise that the majority in America recognizes that an unborn child is a real human being.  We need to continue to resonate the truth that life begins at conception. 

            All of us became the image and likeness of God at conception and not after we were born.  Even Jesus, the Son of God, became both God and man at the moment he was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.  While still in the womb, both Jesus and John the Baptist recognized each other’s presence.  These wonderful events can be found in Luke chapter 1.  That’s why a true Catholic (or any true Christian) can never claim to be a Catholic (or Christian) and pro-choice in the political arena.  Isn’t it odd that the slogan used by pro-abortion proponents is an incomplete sentence:  “The woman’s right to choose.”  Why does it stop there?  To choose what?  Well, they can’t really spell it out because it wouldn’t be acceptable to the majority of the people, especially mothers.  What the phrase really intends to say is, “The woman’s right to choose to abort (kill) her baby.”  One could argue the freedom to do whatever he or she wants to do with his or her body.  But the unborn child is not part of the body of the woman but an individual body of its own with individual characteristics already formed (gender, DNA strands, etc.).  Allowed to live this child would become a citizen of the nation where it would be born just like us.

            Jesus loves even those who have gone through the abortion procedure(s).  There is absolute forgiveness and healing available for them.  And we want to help them as well.  The church loves to extend a helping hand to those who have been wounded in the past.  Their children are now with God and would want nothing more than for their mothers to be reconciled with God.  Aside from the sacrament of Penance, there is a wonderful confidential support group called Project Rachel that can be reached by calling 888-456-HOPE, or 703-841-2504, or by email (projectrachel@arlingtondiocese.org), or by logging to:  www.hopeafterabortion.com.

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 

February 6, 2011

 

Away on retreat.

 


February 13, 2011

 

New Mass Responses For Advent 2011

 

            The Vatican has approved the revision of the English Roman Missal translation and we will be transitioning into the new format starting on the First Sunday of Advent 2011 (November 27).  We received word from the diocesan liturgy office that they will supply us with the new official cards that will be placed in the pews for the congregation to follow the new responses.  Some of you may be already aware of this but a large number of parishioners are just hearing about it recently.  The parts for the priests are the ones that are significantly changed.  It won’t take long for the congregation to learn the new responses but the priests will be glued to the book for the years to come as we get used to the text.  I have attended one conference already that addressed the new changes and I have two more significant conferences in the very near future (April & May) to help prepare me and the other priests guide the parish in the transition.

            Why the new translation?  Most of the other countries don’t need any revision because they translated more accurately (Formal Translation) right from the very beginning (e.g., French, Spanish, German, etc.).  The International Commission for the English Liturgy (ICEL) back in the late 1960’s chose the translation format described as a Dynamic Translation which was intended to translate giving the same meaning but with liberty to translate according to what was presumed the style of the common spoken language of the culture.  It was successful in some areas but the other sections of the Roman Missal were either completely omitted and/or inaccurately translated.  Some of the phrases used somewhat watered down the intended theological mystery that the original text from Scripture and Tradition tried to convey.  While some phrases may take some getting used to, the richness of the words in the mystery of our faith will help one to fully grasp a better meaning of the great mysteries of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Revisions include the common responses such as the Confiteor (Penitential Rite), Gloria, Creed, Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), and right after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).  All of the gestures remain the same and only the texts are modified.

            I actually find this very exciting because I have been in Masses in several languages.  Though I am not an expert linguist, for a period of over 7 ½ years I have studied French, Latin, Italian and (1 audited semester) Spanish. Even as a novice I could sense the Mass in those Romance languages have been in conformity with the Latin text all along as opposed to the English.  If I were given the final exam to translate the official Mass in Latin into English, and gave the professor the current English translation of the Mass, I would have probably gotten very low marks (if I even pass!) because the teacher would have corrected me for being unfaithful to the actual text and for taking too much liberty using my own interpretation.  The new translation is something that we can very much look forward to when the church new year begins on the First Sunday of Advent.  For more information on the upcoming new Roman Missal translation you can check out the following website from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USSCB):  http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

February 20, 2011

 

Church Windows Repair On The Way!

 

            A very much-welcomed warm weather arrived last Monday allowed our crew to begin replacing some of the badly damaged windows in our church and hall.  The worse one was the circular window in the oratory as you can see from the bulletin picture.  A window in the rear of the hall was shattered by a wild turkey.  It probably saw it’s own reflection and thought it was an opposing turkey looking for a fight.  That window has been replaced and we will gradually replaced all of the damaged windows and frames as the weather continues to get better.  The estimated total cost for all the window repairs for the church and the rectory is around $30k.  We really appreciate your past and continual support of our parish building maintenance (separate from our new parish center collection).  We’ll do what we can to stretch as far as possible your generous contributions for the care and well being of our parish facilities.  And please continue to pray and support the building of our new parish center.  That project is still moving forward and we’re waiting for comments from Loudoun County as to how we may proceed with our submitted site plan.

            We continue to receive very positive reports from those who have read the “Rediscover Catholicism” book.  We thank again our donors for giving this book as a Christmas gift to our parishioners.  There were 8 redeemable coupons for a Mass intention among the books but so far only 3 have redeemed the coupons.  All 3 Masses have been celebrated for those who turned in their coupon.

            Have a wonderful Presidents’ Day weekend and remember to pray for our president and our great nation.  God bless America!!!

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

February 27, 2011

“What to do in time of need”

 

            In our lifetime we’ll go through countless challenges in life.  This could come from all sorts of categories such as financial, family, career, political, natural disaster, death, crime or health problems.  We’ll never know for sure why God allows us to undergo such trials and may even appear at times of bringing us close to the brink of despair.  Suffering is not an intellectual question where we can find the ultimate rhyme and reason for the cross that we have to bear.  Suffering is a mystery. 

            The one consolation St. Paul assures us is that God is well aware of our sufferings and will not give us beyond anything we cannot handle:  “No trial has come to you but what is human.  God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  The part about “He (God) will also provide a way out” gives us the optimism that whatever hard times we’re going through will eventually come to an end.

            What does Jesus tell us in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 6:24-34)?  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them…. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”  Our Lord just gave us the solution to everything:  Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (justice), and all these things will be given to you.  One of the reasons why our interior soul suffers a lot more from personal trials is because we have not turned to the Lord quickly enough.  The sooner we turn to prayer, and in personal conversation with Our Lord Jesus, the sooner we will experience the benefit of receiving help from God.  We can take any life of a saint who endured much suffering here on earth and we will find that God did not turn his back on any of them.  Even the holy martyrs gladly died for their faith with some lamenting that they wish they could die for Christ a thousand times.  Most Christians will not have to die for their faith as a martyr but the point is even in the most extreme situations God was there for all of his faithful to help them endure their heavy trials.

            Seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness for Catholics primarily means striving to live our Catholic faith 100% and not anything less.  Our prayer becomes very powerful when we strive to a life of holiness.  As St. James teaches us, “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (James 5:16b).  Right now we are hearing plenty of serious troubling news from people suffering financial problems to political uprisings in some of the countries.  We don’t have to look very far for many who are in fear for their future in one way or another.  This is where trusting in Jesus really comes alive.  He is there for us and he will never abandon us.  Jesus encourages praying to him and remaining steadfast in living a good holy life.  It is a very simple formula but it has been proven to work countless of times no matter what era in history.  So when you’re feeling lost and the pangs of suffering, reread and put into practice today’s Gospel and you will immediately find help and consolation.

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

March 6, 2011

 

Offering aid during Lent

 

            Ash Wednesday this week marks the beginning of the new season of Lent.  It is a penitential season set aside by the church to fulfill Our Lord’s request for us to do penance.  Our personal sacrifices could include prayer, fasting, almsgiving, acts of charity and atonement for sins.  This is the time when we most especially want to unite our personal sacrifices to the ultimate sacrifice Jesus did for us.  Throughout Biblical history we read how beneficial prayer and fasting can be in turning the tide against evil. 

            Lately we’ve been hearing news of violence taking place in a number of foreign countries and domestically in our local streets.  Countries undergoing a government transformation have led to the persecution of the Christian minorities in Muslim countries.  Many of them have died and some while attending Mass.  You may have received a letter from our local congressman, Mr. Frank Wolf, informing us that he just introduced a bipartisan bill in congress to offer help and awareness to the plight of the Christian minority who are severely suffering human rights violation and persecution for their faith.  I was very pleased to read that mailing last week because the Christians in those nations have no one to turn to for help.

            Is there anything we can we do to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who are constantly living in fear for their lives?   Yes, there is.  This Lenten season we can offer whatever penitential practice we choose for the persecuted Christians.  We read about the early Christians and the ones who were persecuted by the communists in the 20th century how the prayers and sacrifices offered by the faithful have helped them.  We can be a part of helping the present persecution of Christians by doing the same.  Whatever prayers, Masses, fasting, almsgiving or any personal sacrifice we’ve chosen can be offered both in reparation for our past sins and failings and for the persecuted Christians. 

            We are blessed that here in our nation we can freely worship God in our churches.  We certainly don’t want to forget that if a member of our church is suffering then the rest of the members suffer as well.  We are part of Christ’s great mystical body and we’d like to do our part in offering aid to our other ailing members.   Charity goes beyond just the feeding, housing and clothing of the poor.  It is also about offering help to those who are suffering for their faith and for the sake of justice.  Prayers combined with acts of penances are very powerful and we cannot underestimate their effectiveness.  So during Lent let us especially remember to offer our prayers and sacrifices for the well being of those who are suffering persecution for their faith.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

March 13, 2011

 

“The Light Is On” is back again!

 

            This past Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of a new season of Lent.  Once again the church graciously invites us to receive the sacrament of reconciliation by offering a midweek evening confession at all the Catholic Churches in the DC Metropolitan area and Northern Virginia.  Every Catholic Church in our area will have at least one priest hearing confession every Wednesday from 6:30-8 PM.  It is also an opportunity to spend time in church for prayer during the week.  No matter how many years it has been since your last confession there is no better time to return to the sacraments than now during the penitential season of Lent.  We also have our regular Friday and Saturday confessions as scheduled in the bulletin and parish website.  If none of these hours work you can always call for an appointment.  Catholics are required to go to confession a minimum of at least once a year.  And if one has become aware of committing a mortal an immediate trip to the confessional is required before he or she should receive Holy Communion.  But every Catholic who has had First Penance is encouraged to receive this sacrament often because it is one of the most effective ways to sanctify our souls.  Those who frequently go to confession out of devotion are the most likely to advance into a higher realm of spiritual closeness to Our Lord and the least likely to ever walk away from God.

            There is a website you can visit to learn more about The Light Is On program.  The site includes radio ad clips from Cardinal Wurl of Washington and Bishop Loverde of Arlington encouraging Catholics to go to confession.  Our bishop even has a YouTube video link promoting confession!  The site is at www.thelightison.org. 

            If you’re looking for a good simple all-around Catholic website where you can enhance your faith, encourage non-practicing Catholics, or even introduce a non-Catholic to our faith, go to www.catholicscomehome.org.  There you will find a beautiful and professionally done website that serves as a valuable source for Catholic faith information.  The videos are also very inspirational to watch and may even surprise you just how incredible the Catholic Church really is.  The world media isn’t necessarily “friendly” to Catholics so the news tends to portray a lot of negativity by magnifying actions by a few of the erring church members thus giving a false image of the Catholic Church.  We really do have a great church and that’s the reason why we have never ceased to exist since we were founded by Jesus Christ upon Peter, the first pope (Matthew 16:18).

            Let’s prepare for a great celebration of Easter by fully living the spirit of Lent.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

March 20, 2011

 

What we can do for the earthquake victims now

 

            The earthquake and Tsunami that devastated Japan Last Friday (March 11) stunned everyone in the world.  Initial report says the 8.9 magnitude of the earthquake was the largest on record for Japan and the Tsunami waves got as high as 33 feet (10 meters) and crossed as far as 6 miles inland in certain areas.  The earthquake aftershocks and the damaged nuclear reactors also continue to threaten the lives of many people.  The casualties are very high and the recovery will certainly take a very long time.  While we are still waiting for instructions on how we can help, as we do when disaster strikes, the one thing we can do is to offer our prayers and Lenten sacrifices for the people of Japan.  Our prayers are most helpful to them right now especially for those who are already there present trying to help them.  Some of the ways to spiritually help them is by attending a weekday Mass or more, praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet, or perhaps skipping a meal (fast) every now and then as a personal sacrifice.  Scripture has often mentioned the great value of prayer and fasting.

            There is something impressive through all that has taken place so far in this devastating disaster that is worth noting.  It is how resilient the Japanese people have been in responding to the situation.  Reporters are amazed how the Japanese have been relatively calm and have not shown signs of panic.  As I’m writing this column I’m watching how calmly the people line up to get food, medical supplies, and radiation checkup in a patient and orderly manner.  They have yet witness anyone screaming or demanding to be given special attention for their needs.  Another incredible point was mentioned that there are NO reports of looting at all!  The only thing I can think of was this is what Jesus would want us to do in a time of crisis.  We may be reduced to tears and have concerns when disaster strikes but we know that the right thing to do is to remain charitable and calm no matter what.  This would allow us to become constructive thinkers and better formulate the best solutions to the problems surrounding us.  It is well worth watching the Japanese people right now because the whole world including us can learn so much from their remarkably responsible attitude.  In the meantime, let us continue to pray often for the well-being and disaster recovery of the Japanese people.

           

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

March 27, 2011

 

Votive candles in the Oratory & Mass offering

 

            Very few seem to know that we have a limited amount of votive candles available to parishioners for lighting.  The reason is its location is unknown to many.  The candles are in the Oratory located in between the church narthex and the water fountains in the hallway.  The votive candles last about 5 days and a suggested offering of $3 per candle is requested.  Why do Catholics light candles in church?  The burning candle is a sign of our desire to continually pray for our special intentions.  Since we cannot remain in church the whole time we leave the lit candle there in our place while we continue to pray in spirit wherever we are.  It is a wonderful tradition and once we build our new parish center we will probably be able to add more votive candles in the Oratory.  Right now the room is often used as a classroom for religious education and as an auxiliary prayer room.  See the picture of the candles in front of this weekend’s bulletin.

            The parish calendar also has many dates available for Mass offerings.  Mass is celebrated everyday and each one can be dedicated for a particular intention both for the living and deceased.  It is the best spiritual gift one could give to another because the grace of the Mass is received by whom it is offered for.  The Mass can be offered for individuals or a group of people.  A suggested offering of $10 is requested but no one is turned down if this is unaffordable.  Contact the parish secretary to arrange for a Mass or for more information.

            I’m also very thankful for the success of our Friday Nite Fish Fry and thank the Sparbanie family and helpers for all the great work they do to make our Fridays of Lent a very spiritual evening for our parishioners.  The fresh-fried breaded tilapia is the best I’ve ever had it!  I feel bad that I’m enjoying fish on Friday’s that I had to add an extra penance on Fridays to make up for it.  Come join us at Friday Nite Fish Fry and then join us for our 7:30 PM Stations of the Cross in church.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

April 3, 2011

 

Check out our new parish DIGITAL BULLETIN!

 

            Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged the faithful to use whatever medium is available to make our Catholic faith accessible to as many people as possible including the use of the internet.  Our parish is happy to announce that this weekend we are launching our new digital parish bulletin online!  For those who have internet service, all you have to do is go to our current website and click on the button Digital Parish Bulletin.

            The new format is going to be very helpful for our many different community groups because parishioners can just look for their individual group and instantly be informed of their group’s latest activities.  This is going to be most beneficial to our religious education program that manages around 900 kids and their sacramental needs.  Our Youth Ministry also has numerous activities and this will be a tremendous asset for them as well.  Each community group leader can update their own section individually right from the comfort of their home so they can send the latest news for their members rather quickly.

            Another nice feature is the News section where you can keep up to date events around the world that is related to our Catholic faith including the latest coming from the Vatican.  The section includes parish, local, U.S. and international news.

            Representatives from Catholic Online first approached me about introducing this in our parish about a year ago and I liked it a lot.  I brought it up to our staff just a few months ago and they were very excited as to how they can expand and make easier the work they are doing by having this service.  Here’s the best part.  Just like our weekly paper bulletin, the service is totally free and it doesn’t cost our parish a penny to use the system.  The advertisers from our local area merchants (many from the ones already advertising in our paper bulletin) are the ones who cover the cost and they are thrilled that their business will now be accessible online to many of the 1,700 households in our parish registry and to anyone who clicks on our parish website.  There’s even a Services Near You button if you’re looking for a specific business.  So please support our generous local advertisers and look for their upcoming digital specials and coupons.

            For the next two Sundays there will be a Catholic Online representative in the church narthex to answer any questions regarding the new digital parish bulletin.  Happy parish church surfing and have a great Laetare Sunday! 

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 


 

April 10, 2011

 

“Arguing our case with Jesus?”

 

            In our lifetime there are times when certain things don’t make sense and we feel troubled.  We have been taught since childhood that we should always turn to God for help when we feel helpless and abandoned.  Is it impolite or disrespectful to argue with God?  It isn’t if we love God and we’re truly looking for the right answers.

            The Gospel reading for this Sunday’s Mass (John 11:1-45) invites us to take a closer look at the conversation between Jesus and Martha.  Her brother had passed away and she argued that if Our Lord had been there Lazarus would not have died.  Martha believed in the resurrection but she didn’t want her brother to die yet.  Her argument eventually prevailed and Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to the amazement of everyone.

            Scripture tells us that Mary, Martha and Lazarus befriended Jesus.  There seems to be quite a familiarity between them especially when they conversed.  It shows that a good relationship with Jesus leads to great things.  While we admire that Jesus enjoyed having a meal with these three siblings, and we marvel at the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, it is even more important that we understand that the three of them truly believed in Jesus as the Son of God and the savior of the world.  Their close relationship led to great things especially in their salvation.  Now we refer to them as Saint Mary, Saint Martha and Saint Lazarus as citizens of heaven.

            Through regular daily prayer we can get that same relationship bond with Our Lord Jesus.  So let us be encouraged by this Gospel reading to speak constantly in our hearts with the Lord praising him and even bringing up certain things that bother us.  It is perfectly all right at times to argue our case with Jesus as long as we continually to truly love him as Our Lord and savior.

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

April 17, 2011

 

“Will you spend time with us … in D-A-R-K-N-E-S-S?”

 

 

            Last year’s Tenebrae was a big success and well-attended so this coming Wednesday of Holy Week we will once again do a Tenebrae service starting at 8 PM.  We will have our usual The Light Is On confession service from 6:30 – 8 PM.  But we will continue to hear confessions during Tenebrae if needed.

            Tenebrae (Latin for darkness) is a Lenten devotion that dates back to the Middle Ages and acts as a prelude to the celebration of the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter).  Our adapted version uses 7 scriptural readings plus hymns and 7 candles reflecting the passion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  After each reading a candle is extinguished and the church lights are gradually turned off.  At the end of the last reading, the 6 candles are extinguished and all the lights are completely shut off.  The 7th candle is mysteriously removed from the congregation’s visibility and the church becomes completely dark.  A very short time later a loud crackling sound (strepitus) of kaboom! is heard in the whole church.  The loud sound signifies the closing of the tomb when Jesus was buried.  The 7th candle then mysteriously returns to the top of the candelabra and at this point everyone leaves the church in complete silence and darkness.  For everyone’s safety, please walk out slowly and grab on to the pews if necessary.  The parking lot will also be dark so please exercise great caution when departing.  A flashlight might come in handy outside.

The spiritual and emotional effect of Tenebrae is intended to prepare one for the Triduum.  Those who have experienced this in the past have never forgotten the clashing sound and the gradual darkening of the church.  It is one of the best moments you will ever remember in preparing for the celebration of the passion, death, resurrection and of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Also, take advantage this evening of the final opportunity for confession in the church until after Easter Sunday.  Come join us at Tenebrae and experience what Isaiah the prophet said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4:16).


 

April 24, 2011

 

“The Lord is R-I-S-E-N! HAPPY EASTER!!!”

 

            Easter Sunday is the most important day of the year for all Christians.  We celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead in a big way because all the faithful followers of the Lord were promised the same thing:  resurrection on the last day.  Millions of dollars are spent in the world by some to try to extend their lives and or look young through various kinds of cosmetic surgery, anti-aging spas and all sorts of supplements.  The reality is, an investment to look young and remain healthy forever is very inexpensive and guaranteed for all eternity.  And it’s free!  Jesus promised the fountain of eternal life and happiness to all those who are faithful to him.  So how much does it cost to pray, go to Mass, observe the commandments, and do good works in the best of our ability?  That’s pretty much all it takes.

            At the end of time everyone who died in the good graces of God are promised eternal life in heaven with a perfect resurrected and glorified body.  Jesus says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  Saint Paul writes to the Philippians, “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

            Next Sunday is a big day in the church with the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II.  Let us look forward to this great celebration.  He was a great pope in our time and truly was the perfect image of Christ that the world needed badly.  Many non-Catholics in the world were also touched by his holy life.  Pope John Paul II showed the world how to love as Christ loves us.  I consider myself very blessed when I was a student in Rome to have had the opportunity to be at many of his papal Masses and audiences.  Once I got to the rare opportunity to serve as a candle bearer at his Good Friday service at Saint Peter’s in either 1990 or 1991.  When he came to the U. S. in 1987 I was able to go to the Mass he celebrated at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan.  That was the turning point in my life to seriously look into going into the seminary.  Much to my surprise, less than two years later I became a young seminarian in Rome.  Only a small percentage of seminarians in the world get to study in Rome and I consider being there as a ‘miracle’ worked out by none other than my dearest patroness, Saint Agnes of Rome.  She knew how I much I love her as my saint and I really believe it was her way of showing her appreciation by bringing me to her ‘home city’.  Now you know why my license plate reads, ST AGNES.  It was during my undergrad years there that I had the chance to see (and very briefly speak with) the soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II on a number of occasions.

            Praise the Lord and proclaim his resurrection!  May you all have a most blessed Easter season.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

May 1, 2011

 

“A Double (Spiritual) Treat”

 

            This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday and also the day of Pope John Paul II’s beatification.  There are 4 levels that lead to one’s canonization as a saint (Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed and Saint).  Beatification is the 3rd level and the church also assigns a feast day for the beatified.  Blessed John Paul II’s feast day is October 22, which is the anniversary day of his election as pope (1978).

            Many saints took several years and sometimes centuries before they were canonized as saints.  Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005 and it took only 6 years for his beatification.  It is a testimony of how widely recognized the late pontiff’s saintly life.  During his papacy he was recognized worldwide even by many non-Catholics and non-Christians as a holy man and a great spiritual leader.  His funeral Mass was the most attended by world leaders and ambassadors in history.

            Pope John Paul II was also responsible for the revival and popular promotion of the Divine Mercy devotion that was revealed by Our Lord Jesus to Saint Faustina in the 20th century.  Today numerous people in the world on a daily basis recite the simple and spiritually effective Divine Mercy Chaplet devotion.  This has been my one of my favorite daily prayers as well and I was blessed to have been introduced to this while I was still a junior in high school (1981).  You can learn more about praying the chaplet by going to thedivinemercy.org.  Regardless of where you are in your spiritual life, your life will become even better the moment you embrace this devotion.

            The Catholic Church officially recognizes the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.  It is a Sunday dedicated to recognizing the great loving mercy of God.  This day is an opportunity for us to receive numerous graces simply by receiving Holy Communion in the state of grace.  Jesus reveals to Saint Faustina: “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of my tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. Let no soul fear to draw near to me, even though its sins be as scarlet” (Diary #699).  So make sure to offer your Holy Communion in honor of Our Lord’s Divine Mercy this Sunday and go to confession (within the week before or the week after Divine Mercy Sunday).

Please join us this Sunday afternoon (May 1) for the special observance of the Divine Mercy.  From 2:45 PM until 4 PM we will have a Eucharistic Adoration, the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet (3 PM) and the Holy Rosary.  It would also be a good day to offer our prayers in honor of Blessed John Paul II’s beatification.  Have a great Easter season!

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                        Father Escalante

 


 

May 8, 2011

 

“Congratulations to our First Communicants!”

 

            As Catholics who love and appreciate Our Lord’s real presence in the Eucharist, we can’t help but feel overjoyed watching those who receive their First Communion.  This weekend about 130 of our young parishioners received the ultimate experience with God—to be joined with Him both spiritually and physically.  The beauty of the sacrament of the Eucharist is that God made it possible for us to encounter Him in a visible and tangible way.  That’s what happens when we receive Holy Communion.  We come in a true physical contact with God when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  Who wouldn’t be thrilled to see God’s precious little children come so close to Jesus?

            A couple of weekends ago we also witnessed the adults in the RCIA program join the Catholic Church on Easter vigil.  Their experience of First Communion was also very special.  One of the converts described the journey to the Catholic Church as a way of finding one’s true home with Jesus.  Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time gave the feeling of finally being home with God.  And our parish welcomes everyone wholeheartedly who recently joined the Catholic Church.  May your faith in the Lord continue to blossom in the days ahead.

            We can all benefit from what the First Communicants went through these past couple of weeks by asking ourselves the following questions.  Do we still look forward going to Mass to receive the Eucharist?  Do we still have the excitement of knowing that it is our Lord and God whom we receive each time we come up for communion?  Have we been to confession recently to make sure that we are in the state of grace to worthily receive the Eucharist?  These questions should recall those moments from years back that helped us prepare for communion.

            While we can never fully re-live the immense spiritual excitement and fanfare that accompany the celebration of one’s First Communion, we can come quite close to it.  Why is there so much excitement for either a child or an adult to receive the Eucharist for the first time?  It is because they did a lot of spiritual preparation prior to their big day with the Lord.  It is no different when someone prepares for a wedding.  Due to the immense preparation before the big day, a big celebration was pretty much guaranteed.  If we invest some ample time to spiritually prepare ourselves before Mass and Holy Communion, we can also expect a much better experience receiving the Holy Eucharist.  Do you want to know one of the secrets to having a really joyful disposition prior to receiving the Eucharist?  Come to Mass even just a few minutes early and pray silently in church.  Those who discovered this have done it for years.  Try and it and you’ll be amazed just how spiritually fulfilling regular Holy Communion can be!

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

May 15, 2011

 

“Away this weekend”

 

            I am away this week visiting sunny California.  Be assured that you are in my prayers during my annual visit to some of my family members.  This trip was timed in between our parish First Communion (May 7) and Confirmation (May 21).  During the first two weekends in June we have our seminarians being ordained either to the diaconate or the priesthood and we’re expected to be at those great events in our diocese.

            When I get back I have plenty to tell you especially from the incredibly good conference for priests that I attended last week (May 4-6).  Right now I’m about to leave for the airport so let me just give you an idea how ‘extraordinary’ the conference went.  The first speaker introduced was the chief exorcist for the Archdiocese of Chicago.  Get the picture?  Stay tuned till I return.  Have I got some stories to tell you at Mass!

            Have a great week and pray for me during my trip.  God’s blessings be upon all of you wonderful people of Saint Francis de Sales.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

May 22, 2011

 

Advance Medical Directives:  The Catholic Way

 

            One of the most important questions priests get asked is how to prepare to exit the world.  There are very few things that we are 100% sure will happen and one of them is that we will all eventually die.  Practicing Catholics have a good general understanding how to spiritually prepare to meet the Lord:  live a good life, observe God’s commandments, receive the sacraments regularly (Eucharist and Penance), and die in the state of sanctifying grace.  But there is one more obligation that we need to look into as part of our preparation for death.

            Before we die there is a good chance that we may have to endure a longsuffering illness and hospitalization.  Family members are often faced with difficult decisions as to what would be the correct or moral way to handle their loved ones’ medical treatments.  When is it morally acceptable to pull the plug?  Is it acceptable at all?  Is it all right to be an organ donor or to donate my body for scientific research?  Is there a written guideline as to what options Catholics are morally allowed to do in preparing an Advance Medical Directives (AMD) to give to one’s family, physician and/or attorney?

            The good news is this information is readily available for you right here in our own parish.  When I attended the conference for priests a couple of weeks ago this was one of the main topics that was covered.  Our diocese has prepared materials that would serve as helpful guidelines to help prepare an AMD.  It is written in accord both with Catholic teaching and the state laws of Virginia.  The contents of the pamphlet are easy to read with minimal legal terms.  And the legal terms are explained in an easy to understand format.  Some Catholics are hesitant to make the difficult choices for their loved ones’ health care out of fear that they may be doing something contrary to the Church’s teaching on human life.  However, those who have read the AMD materials were surprised that the choices they made were actually perfectly in accord with the Church!  So please take the time to read the AMD materials and I suggest that you begin with the small pamphlet titled, Catholic Medical Directives:  Questions and Answers.  It was so easy to read that even I could understand it.  You can also access this info through the Arlington Diocese website under Family Life and Advance Medical Directives (www.arlingtondiocese.org/respectlife/adv_med_dir.php).

            We will have the materials available for you this weekend in the narthex of the church.  Our parish nurse, Nancy Grish, will be around to help answer your questions regarding AMD.  And feel free to contact me as well in the parish if you want to discuss something about AMD in private.

            Glad to be back from my California family visit and I would like to send my congratulations again to our new young adult Catholics who were Confirmed this Saturday!  And one more small note, Father Tewes (May 18, 15 years) and I (May 20, 16 years) celebrated our respective anniversary in the priesthood this past week.

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                        Father Escalante


 

May 29, 201l

 

 

“Good News:  CATHOLIC CEMETERY in Purcellville…in about a year!!!”

 

            It’s true!  A few months ago a parishioner (Joe Curto) and a couple of investors offered me a proposal to give our parish a portion of the new cemetery being built in Purcellville that will include a Catholic section at no cost!  24.02 acres have been reserved for us from the total of 84.06 acres and we were even given the choice which section of the cemetery we wanted.  I picked the most scenic and easily accessible so we’re going to have the area closest to a nice looking 2-acre pond.  The cemetery is right across from the Loudoun Golf and Country Club just past Saint Andrew Presbyterian Church going west on Main Street.  The surprise offer was too much for me to pass up and there is a great need for a Catholic cemetery in our area.  The diocese is very favorable to the project and was happy to hear about it.

            An estimated 19,000 + can be buried in the burial plots, mausoleums and columbarium.  Due to the large number of available space we’re subdividing the area into 12 sections and offer the other sections to the Catholic parishes in our Deanery III (10 parishes, 2 missions).  Each section will be named after the individual parish.  Originally the plan was to call it something like Saint Francis de Sales Cemetery.  But after giving it some reflection I thought it would be appropriate to give a name more inclusive to the other parishes.  So I decided on naming it All Souls Memorial Garden.  Each parish or mission will have about 1,500 spaces available for burial.

            Next weekend (June 4-5) we will have an important in-pew parish survey to determine the interest from our parish about the number of plots that we can potentially reserve at our cemetery section.  If we can convince the developers that we can sustain enough interest then the All Souls Memorial Garden section becomes ours.  Joe Curto will be around at all the Masses to answer any questions you may have regarding the proposed cemetery.  You can look at a newly developed website with pictures of the cemetery area, pricing and location by going to www.mvmgardens.com.  Click on the All Souls Memorial button and you’ll be amazed how beautiful the new cemetery is going to look like.  We will also have materials available next weekend for those who are unable to log into a computer.

            And on this Memorial Day weekend let us remember to pray for the deceased heroes of our nation by praying for the deceased members of our military.  Offering our prayers and Masses are the best gifts we can give to the departed members of our armed forces as an offering of thanks for their great service.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

June 5, 2011

 

Father Gerard Ramotso:  1963 – 2011

 

            It is with a heavy heart in writing to let you know that Father Gerard Ramotso was called into eternal life on Sunday, May 29, 2011.  We received word from the secretary for the Bishop of Mthatha of the news of his passing.  We were told that Father Gerard collapsed and died as he was preparing to celebrate Sunday Mass at his parish in Ngqeleni, South Africa.  He was a great inspiration and a friend to many of us in the parish.  We all loved having Father Gerard’s presence around us and we will miss him dearly.  He was a good holy priest who endured much suffering and pain due to heart problems.  May he now rest in peace for all eternity with the Blessed Lord whom he served faithfully.  Let us recall the words of Our Savior, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:23).

            We will have a parish memorial Mass for Father Gerard at 7 PM on Thursday, June 9th.  We hope that many of you will be able to attend.  The best gifts we can give to our deceased love ones are prayers and Masses.

 

Father Gerard Ramotso

Born:  December 16, 1963

Died:  May 29, 2011

In residence at Saint Francis de Sales:  July 4, 2008 – January 12, 2010

 

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

June 12, 2011

 

Parish Center and Cemetery Updates

 

            First of all, I want to thank all of you who participated in last Thursday evening’s Memorial Mass for Father Gerard Ramotso.  Offering a Mass is really the best going away present one could ever possibly receive here on earth.  The graces that come along with the Mass have eternal benefits that the person will treasure for all eternity.  And we will miss him dearly but we also look forward to being reunited with him and Father Kelly someday.  The way I view life in a positive way is that each morning we wake up is but one day closer to living with the Lord forever and being reunited with our departed loved ones in heaven.

                        There has been some great progress on the process of building our new parish center.  VDOT recently approved the last two remaining items that we needed to get done to move towards getting a final site plan approval.  Our plans for a left hand turn lane from Route 287 to St. Francis Court and for the entrance to our property finally received clearance from VDOT.  Our architects and civil engineers expect Loudoun County to grant our site plan approval around mid-July.  Once this is done the architects will take about 4 months to complete their drawings for the building.  And as soon as the county approves them, and I understand this process will not be as lengthy, then we’re set to put the job up for the contractors to bid building the new parish center.  I’m optimistically hoping for an early spring groundbreaking—if not sooner!

            We’re still pushing forward to get the legal jargon worked out so that we could have a Catholic cemetery right here in Purcellville.  What the diocese needs is a legal assurance that the cemetery will always remain a Catholic cemetery in perpetuity.  Once this is settled and “etched in stone” it will only take a short time for the cemetery to be built because the plan is already pretty much in place.  We’ll keep you informed with any new information we receive and please continue to pray for this to happen.  We really do need this cemetery badly.

            Next week I am taking a trip (June 17-25) that I have planned and saved up for the past decade:  Alaska!  You can probably tell from the front page of our bulletin how much I love photography.  This trip offers a Photo Safari Land & Sea excursion that will allow us to see and photograph humpback whales, sea lions, orcas, harbor seals, porcupines, eagles, salmon and black bears.  We will also visit Ketchikan, Misty Fjords National Monument, Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier, Hubbard Glacier and Sitka National Historic Park.  I will treat this trip as if it’s going to be my only trip to Alaska (I’ll probably be broke anyway after this trip!).   So I’ll be shooting tons of pictures while I’m there.  My extra portable hip pack traveling Mass kit (they really do make it!) will be with me so I will continue to pray for you and your intentions aboard the ship wherever we go.  I am very much looking forward to seeing more of God’s beautiful creation on this trip.

            Have a great summer, everyone, especially those who will be getting out of school this week.  God bless!

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

June 19, 2011

 

Wanted:  New Parish Pro-Life Coordinator

 

            First of all, I want to wish all the dads a Happy Father’s Day!  Since priests are spiritual fathers I guess one could make the good argument that priests and bishops could be included in today’s celebration.  Saint Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”  This scriptural verse pretty much answers the frequently asked question why priests are addressed as ‘Father’. 

            I do have one Father’s Day wish from the parish.  Our Pro-Life coordinator, Michele Cohoon, has generously served her role for the past 8 years and has expressed a desire to seek a new successor.  Michele will continue to be active in our pro-life cause that she passionately enjoys but would like to hand the baton of taking the lead role to whomever God has called to this position.  Some of the activities include coordinating the annual bus trip to the March For Life in January, Pro-Life ministry fair on Respect Life Sunday in the Fall, Baby Bottle campaign to raise funds for the local crisis pregnancy centers (Lifeline, Birthright) and be in support of our own new program, The Gabriel Project.

            Anyone interested in becoming the new pro-life coordinator please contact me directly by phone (540.338.6381, ext. 102), by email (countryparishpriest@gmail.com) or in person.  Michele and I would love to hear from you and she will help with the transition.  It is also important to note that the requirements for the new pro-life coordinator include being a practicing Catholic who accepts all of the doctrinal teachings of the Church especially those that pertain to life issues (e.g., rejection of abortion, artificial birth control, euthanasia, pro-choice [abortion] laws/agenda, in-vitro fertilization, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, capital punishment, etc.).

            Doing pro-life work is a very rewarding mission and a grave need in our time.  It is far more than just going against the abortion movement.  It is about proclaiming the goodness and sanctity of human life.  Life is a gift from God that begins at conception. Every person is made in the image and likeness of God.  God has a plan for everyone and therefore has the right to life.  And for those who are seeking healing from abortion(s), we also would like to reach out to them knowing that God truly forgives and heals all.  One of the most important tasks of the Pro-life ministry is to assure those who have been involved in abortion(s) that we are there to help them heal from their suffering and pain.

            I look forward to hearing from those interested in taking on the parish pro-life ministry leadership.  If you want to see me in person about this you’ll have to wait until June 26 and beyond.  While you are reading this weekend’s bulletin (June 18/19), I am currently on my long awaited trip to Alaska.  I do hope to post some nice scenic pictures when I get back.  Father Phong Pham from the Archdiocese of Chicago and Cross International was kind enough to take my Masses and preach at all the Masses regarding his missionary work.

             

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

June 26, 2011

 

‘Financially sound’ to build our new parish center!

 

            A week and a half ago I went with our parish finance committee chair (Kathy Chepega), building committee chair (Dave Doseff) and business manager (Diane Morano) to meet with the diocesan CFO (Tim Cotnoir).  We discussed our financing plan to fund the soon-to-be built new parish center.  First of all, I want to thank all of you for the prayers and financial support you’ve been giving to our parish project.  And I really do believe that the prayers we’ve been saying before the end of every Sunday Mass has been coming to visible fruition.  The diocesan CFO examined our building plan and parish financial status while factoring in our current capital campaign.   He gave us a strong vote of confidence that we are doing very well into financing our Phase I (classrooms and hall) project.  Even better news is that Mr. Cotnoir’s assessment that with just a little more effort in raising more funds he sees that we are well within the parameters to build BOTH Phase I and Phase 2 (gym/hall/auditorium)!  Wouldn’t this be a tremendous boost and blessing to our parish community?!

            I want to thank Kathy Chepega and our finance committee for working really hard to analyze and forecast our parish financial status and for laying out an excellent plan to pay for the building.  It was a stunning presentation to the diocese and I sure wish the whole parish could have seen it for everyone would have been proud.  And I want to thank Dave Doseff as well for doing a well-thought out presentation of the building plan for the parish center.  Both Kathy and Dave answered very well all the pertinent questions that were asked.  And Diane Morano’s neatly arranged binder with all the important financial and building presentations for the diocese was also found very impressive by everyone at the meeting.  They really made me look really good by how well they gave their respective presentation and it seemed that our chance for obtaining the loan we need was pretty much a ‘given’ once the meeting was over.

            So thank you, everyone, please continue to pray and financially support our building project.  All we need now is Loudoun County’s final site plan approval and we’re ready to move with the final steps for the architects to finish their drawings.  We’re optimistically hoping to get the ultimate final approval to build before the end of 2011.

            God bless and enjoy the summer!

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

July 3, 2011

 

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

1776 - 2011

 

            Happy 235th Birthday, U.S.A.!!!  We understand that for many celebrating one’s birthday is a big occasion.  So celebrating the birth of our nation should be an even bigger event because we can all share in its glory.

            When we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we include the following words, “one nation under God.”  In his letter to the Supreme Grand Knight in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower thanked the Knights of Columbus for their great work in having those two words, “under God”, added to the pledge.  The Knights officially began using the version in 1951 and successfully lobbied to get congress and the president to make it the official pledge of allegiance for the entire nation. 

            As we celebrate our nation’s birth and independence, let us thank God for the gift of being able to live here in the United States of America.  Our founding fathers left us a good constitution as our foundation.  Let us pray that the inhabitants of our nation will always respect and love the presence of God in our society as our forefathers did.  And may all those who are in the position to govern nationally or locally always keep in mind that the only good laws are those that are either in accord or indifferent to the laws of God.   This includes respecting and protecting the lives of the unborn children.  Finally, let us never forget to pray daily for all the members of our armed forces who are in the forefront in helping preserve the liberty that we enjoy today.

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                        Father Escalante


 

July 10, 2011

 

Parable of the Seed

 

            For most people in the church, especially cradle Catholics, the seed of faith has been planted in each one of us at the time of our baptism.  Our faith is later on nurtured and the more support we get from those who care for us the better equipped we are into living our faith well for the rest of our lives.

            But sometimes even if some were provided all the spiritual support they needed it still boils down to the individuals exercising their free will that will determine whether they will keep the faith or be on the path to lose their soul.  Jesus’ parable of the seed explains in a nice image categorizing what people do with their faith.

            We should ask ourselves, what have I done with the precious faith that I received from God through my parents (or whomever passed the faith to us)?  Did I cast it on the footpath by carelessly ignoring my faith?  Did I let it fall on a rocky ground so that my faith got a head start but I allowed it to quickly fizzle through my own fault?  Did I live my faith for a while and then allowed the distractions of the world “choke” away my faith by not carefully guarding it?  Or, did I take great care of my faith my saying my prayers regularly, going to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day, went to confession a few times during the year, did acts of charity to help others, continue to study my faith especially in areas I do not quite understand?  If we are doing the latter, then we are cultivating our faith in good rich soil and should hear the silent voice of Jesus say to us in our hearts, “The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

             A couple of weeks ago we held our annual Vacation Bible School (VBS) with about 120 young children participating.  The seed of our Catholic faith was deeply nurtured in their hearts and they enjoyed it immensely (the adult volunteers did too!).  They learned that living our faith could be a lot of fun.  Their experience will go a long way in keeping their faith grounded on good rich soil.  And I thank our Religious Education department and all the volunteers who did a marvelous job with this year’s VBS.  We also need to pray that we will not have to cancel VBS next year due to the construction of our new parish center.  It is a great program that I hope we’ll have every single year.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

July 17, 2011

 

God the Holy Spirit Helps Us To Pray

 

            If we find ourselves struggling in prayer, this weekend’s 2nd reading (Romans 8:26-27) brings to light how God the Holy Spirit is ready to help us.  St. Paul writes, “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”  This affirms that God is aware that we often struggle in prayer and offers to help us.  Great spiritual writers such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross spoke of their struggles in prayer in the beginning of their spiritual lives and gave us a great insight not to panic when our prayer life does not seem to be doing well.

            As long as we are praying, or conversing with God, we are always benefiting.  We may not always have those sweet emotional feelings of consolation when we pray but we should not see that as God necessarily withdrawing his grace from us—far from it.  When Jesus was the Garden of Gethsemane, was his prayer not pleasing to the Heavenly Father because he was in agony?  On the contrary, the Father was most pleased with his Son’s prayer.  Our prayer is actually more efficacious and fruitful when we continue to pray despite dealing with the distractions of the mind and perhaps even a sorrowful heart.  This only proves our faith and loyalty to God.

            God seems to whisper to us when we are praying with joy but he screams at us assuring his ever presence when we are struggling the most.  There is great value placed on the prayers we say especially when we are carrying our cross.  Just as there was great value to the prayers that were said at the foot of the cross by the few who remained with Jesus.  If we are experiencing difficulty in prayer, all we have to do is ask the Holy Spirit to help us to pray.  Let us take to heart the rest of what we heard this Sunday, “And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.”

           

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

July 24, 2011

 

“The Latest Dig”

 

            In case you’re wondering what’s all the digging going on around the east and backside of the church, it is to improve the drainage around the building to stop the moisture from going inside the church.  It is also preparing our church for the new heating and cooling system that is expected to be installed in the Fall.  The diocese approved my request for permission to install a new HVAC system.  The current unit we have is 20 years old and is basically operating on “borrowed timed.”  In a few months we will finally have a consistent heating and cooling system for the entire church facilities.  Last year we were able to install a new HVAC system for all the offices and the church narthex.  And now the church sanctuary will finally receive its overdue share. 

            It is very important to have good climate control in the worshiping area as it encourages people to pray and spend more quality time with the Lord.  It is a known fact that the faithful finds it very difficult to stay in church that is either too hot or too cold especially if they have a health issue.  So in the Fall I expect an increase of more people showing up to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and an even far less number of people leaving Mass early!

            Our parish is again most grateful to those who donated to our new HVAC system last year and this year.  Without their support we would not have been able to undertake this major task.  Both projects cost a total of about $200,000 and I didn’t even need to do a parish drive or pulpit announcement.  God has really been very good and generous by sending us his faithful stewards.  I do believe that the generosity of our parishioners is a reflection of what this Sunday’s Gospel is referring to regarding those who go out of their way to do what it takes to express one’s faith in support of the church:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).  Be assured that the Lord is never outdone in generosity.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 


 

July 31, 2011

 

Seeing the Light Through Darkness

 

 

            The 2nd reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 8:35-39) this Sunday reminds us that nothing on earth can separate us from the love of Christ, “What will separate us from the love of Christ?”  What happened on July 22 in Norway brought a lot of darkness in the world.  It is another fruit of the devastating effect of man’s sin being manifested through another heinous act of senseless violence.  Hatred is opposed to the virtue of love.  What the world has seen time and time again is that the extreme hatred of people can be fatal and can be committed by the people of their own.  This is reminiscent of the Oklahoma City bombing that we experienced back in 1995.  We lament with the people of Norway as we pray in solidarity with them while they mourn the loss of their loved ones.  We pray for their nation’s healing and consolation.  Tragic events like this should remind us that every Advent the prayers of the liturgy yearns for Our Lord’s return to bring about true peace in the world.

            In the meantime, St. Paul teaches us to remain close to Our Lord Jesus who helps us overcome any adversity in life.  Jesus as the light of the world can bring a lot of good through the evil that others have done.  Life can already be very challenging when we have God in our lives.  It becomes nearly impossible to live a life filled with challenges when certain people attempt to have a life as if there is no God.  As we are saddened by the tragic stories we hear in the news, let us be strengthened by St. Paul’s words today, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 

August 7, 2011

 

Parish Hall repainted and floor resurfaced

 

            First of all, congratulations to Jane and Chris Treado for leading a successful youth workcamp to East Bank, WV from July 17-23!  The participants always have great stories to tell and we always look forward to hearing their inspiring reports.

            The next time our youth group gathers in the parish hall (or any group), they will be treated to a nice surprise.  We just completed repainting the walls and resurfacing the floors including the kitchen.  Once again the hall is currently sparkling clean!  We had to wait till this summer when there is a minimal use of the hall before we could do any maintenance work there.  We had some money for maintenance from your generous contribution to the Building Maintenance fund (separate from the Building Our Faith fund for the new parish hall) due to the donors who helped pay for our new sanctuary HVAC system that will be installed this Fall.  Slowly but with consistent pace we’re trying to improve our current facilities for a more pleasant use for our activities.  

            We are patiently working through getting our new parish center built as well.  I’ll have more updates for you in the next bulletin.  While the paperwork seems to be moving along, inflation is taking a bite on our upcoming projected building cost the longer we wait to officially get the final site plan approval from Loudoun County.  Anyway, let’s save the ‘bump on the road’ news for next week.  Right now let’s just enjoy the good news the kids brought back from workcamp and our cosmetically fixed up parish hall.

            God bless and I hope you are finding a way to enjoy this summer despite the awful heat.  I try to remind myself with the following words from scripture to ‘cool off’ and it seems to work:  “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24).

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

August 14, 2011

 

Updates on the Web Sunday Bulletins & New Parish Hall

 

            Our Sunday bulletins are once again available for viewing at our parish website.  One of our parishioners, Steve Domine, has graciously agreed to maintain the website especially updating the weekly bulletins.  Steve is also working on an archived section of the Ask the Priest column so that one could easily look up the previous entries dating all the way back from the very first column (June 7, 2009).  We also want to thank Kevin Bills and Tom Gaven for all the previous work they did in setting up and maintaining the website.  None of us at the parish office knows anything about handling a website so we truly appreciate all the help we’ve received to keep our parish presence on the internet.

            Last week I mentioned about a “bump on the road” regarding the new parish hall. Waiting for the county’s site plan approval is moving along as expected.  However, the original estimate building cost has gone up since I first worked on reviving the project 2-1/2 years ago.  We hired a professional firm to give us a current estimate of the building cost.  The price we were given for “Plan A” (9 classrooms w/convertible 3800 sq. ft. fellowship hall, library, warm-up kitchen, no gym) went up from $6 million to $7.8 million.  Our “Plan B” (11 classrooms, library, warming kitchen, with a smaller size gym that converts into a fellowship hall) went up from $7.5 million to $9.3 million.  The price of the building materials has gone up the past couple of years due to inflation and internal turmoil from some of the oil-producing Middle Eastern countries that raised the price of gasoline.  And the cost could rise even more depending on the kind of impact the recent downgrading of the U.S. government’s credit by the S&P will result into.

            Our building and finance committees need your prayers now more than ever to help us make the right decision for the parish.  The one thing that is certain is that a decision needs to be made soon because we are not that far away from getting our permission to finally build.

            Speaking of prayers, I’ve done some preliminary planning with our parish Christian Family Movement (CFM) coordinators, Dan and Beth McKenna, to organize a prayer rally asking our parishioners to pledge to pray the Rosary for the success of building our new parish center.  We have the spiritual resources available to make great things happen because we have a large community of prayerful people.  With about 1,700 households in our registry we could really pray up a storm!  We just need to get organized and pray as God’s family for this special intention.  Shortly after Labor Day our plan will be unveiled.  We believe this will generate a lot of excitement in our parish while at the same time encourage everyone to pray the Rosary.  For centuries Catholics have received great wonders praying the Rosary and we are certain that great things will happen to our parish if we do the same.

 

 

                                                                                  Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                   Father Escalante

 


 

August 21, 2011

 

We have a new parish Pro-Life coordinator!

 

            I want to introduce you to our new parish Pro Life coordinator:  Sue Cypher!  She succeeds Michelle Cohoon who has done a wonderful job coordinating our pro life activities for the past 8+ years.  Sue has been very active for years working on pro life causes.  She and her family have been parishioners for several years and her sons have served as altar servers.  Sue has worked as a public high school nurse but will be working at Our Lady of Hope Catholic School beginning this Fall.  We welcome Sue and her generous desire to carry out the important mission of spreading the truth to everyone that sacred human life begins at conception and that it should only end with natural death.

 

Newly cleaned church

 

            Two weeks ago we hired cleaning crews to clean the interior of our church sanctuary.  You may have noticed that each pew has been wiped clean and the ceiling beams have been dusted.  All the pews were also removed in order to clean and shine the church floor.  We were all impressed with the crew’s take down and reinstalling of the pews.  They did an excellent job!  The downstairs hall was also cleaned and repainted as mentioned previously so we’re all set for the upcoming Fall activities with Religious Education and other ministries.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 


August 28, 2011

 

“A Big Move . . . to Woodgrove!”

 

            This year our Sunday Religious Education program is moving to a new location:  Woodgrove High School!  We looked into addressing the logistics of the traffic, parking, pick-up/drop off and class size that have been concerns for the past several years at Loudoun Valley HS.  It seems that Woodgrove HS fits well in response to the many issues that catechists and parents have brought up to our attention.  Our Director of Religious Education, Melissa Gobs, surveyed the catechists through email about their thoughts of relocating to the new high school.  We were amazed that an overwhelming 85% of those who responded were in favor of it and were very happy to hear the news! 

            While we’re very excited to go to a beautiful new facility, the other good news is that the move is expected to be short-lived because in a couple of years we expect to have our new parish center built and have the religious education classes held right here in our church property.  And we are very grateful to Loudoun Valley HS for letting us use their facility for the past several years.

            Please make note of the new time schedule for the Sunday classes beginning on September 11.  The First Session is now from 8:45 – 10:00 and the Second Session is from 10:35 – 11:50.  Parents are also reminded to please submit your children’s registration for the Religious Education Classes (CCD) as soon as possible.  This is very important. We need to get an accurate number of students for this coming school year so that we will know how to plan for the catechists and classrooms.  Contact Melissa Gobs or Janice Rees at our Religious Education office for registration (540-338.6381).

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 


 

September 4, 2011

 

New Saturday Afternoon Confession Schedule

(3:30 – 4:30 PM)

 

            As announced in the previous week, beginning September 3 our Saturday afternoon schedule has been changed from 3:45 to 4:45 to 3:30 to 4:30 PM.  Please make note of the change.  The reason for the adjustment in time is because the confessions have recently been running right up to the 5 PM Saturday evening Mass.  There has been a tendency among some of the penitents to arrive towards the end of the afternoon time slot (around 4:40 PM) that has caused a delay in ending the scheduled confession session.  This makes it very difficult for the celebrant for the evening Mass to get ready especially if he is a visiting priest who is unfamiliar with the church.  We try to have two priests available but this is not always the case when one priest is away or called upon to take care of an emergency call.  Ending the confessions ½ hour before Mass takes care of this concern.  The Saturday evening celebrant priest will leave right at 4:30 PM to get ready for the Mass even if he is the only one hearing confessions.  If there is a secondary priest he will also leave shortly after.

            The new time change is not intended to discourage the faithful from going to confession.  On the contrary, we want Catholics to go to confession often—and early!  We have more confession times scheduled than the average parishes.  The issue is not to discourage confessions but to encourage the faithful to come earlier when there usually are not a large number of people waiting.

            Spiritually, priests are encouraged to spend some personal prayer and recollection period prior to the celebration of the Mass especially for the Sunday Liturgy.  Sunday is the Lord’s Day, our Christian Sabbath and, therefore, great preparation and attention is needed for the priests to offer in a most reverent way the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

            Have a good Labor Day weekend and God bless!

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

           


 

September 11, 2011

 

Remembering 9/11 (2001 – 2011)

 

            Many of us would remember where we were ten years ago on 9/11.  It was a very tragic moment that gripped our country.  It was a day we will never forget.  I was flying out of Dulles that very morning to go to Fatima and Lourdes on a pilgrimage but my flight was scheduled a couple of hours later after the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were hit.  Our pilgrimage was postponed while I ended up ministering instead to the four families who lost their loved ones from my then parish in Alexandria. 

            This weekend we are encouraged to take part in one of the many activities that commemorate the tragic event that happened on 9/11.  Mayor Bob Lazaro of Purcellville asked me to lead and close the prayer at the 9/11 Ceremony and First Responder’s Dedication at Fireman’s Field on Sunday at 6 PM so that’s where I will be.  Even if you are unable to attend any of the events it would be a good idea to offer prayers for those who are still mourning the loss of loved ones due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Aside from those who lost their loved ones in NY, PA (plane crash) and the Pentagon, we must not forget to pray for those in the military and the other organizations who lost their lives fighting the war against the threat of terrorism in various parts of the world, and for those who are continually fighting to keep us safe here in our homeland. 

            The Sunday Gospel (Matthew 18:21-35) for today is about having a forgiving heart.  When Peter asked Jesus how often must one forgive an offender, the response Our Lord gave was every single time.  No matter what offense has been done to us it is the will of God that we at least forgive those who have wronged us in our hearts.  It is not easy to pray for and forgive our enemies but it is the right thing to do.  9/11 weekend is a test of how seriously we take our Christian faith regarding prayer and forgiveness.  Should we pray for those considered our enemies responsible for the death of many Americans through acts of terrorism or are we going to take a hateful or an indifferent attitude towards them?  Before answering it might help to first meditate on the following prayer of Jesus just before he expired on the cross:  “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

 

Family Prayer Commitment Sunday

 

            Next Sunday our parish is participating in the diocesan wide Family Prayer Commitment Sunday.  Bishop Loverde would like to encourage families and individuals to pray the Rosary and attend a Eucharistic Adoration more regularly.  There will be an in-pew pledge drive on the weekend of September 18th and 25th for you to fillout.  We will also have a bus available for the Bi-annual diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC on October 8.  Information for this pilgrimage and the bus sign-up sheet will soon be available in the church narthex.  We thank Dave Kole (email:  2006catholic@gmail.com) for all work he has done and he will be speaking before the end of each Mass next weekend to promote the prayer commitment and the bus trip.


 

September 18, 2011

 

Adoration & Rosary Pledges Next Sunday (Please read)

 

            The most powerful public prayer in the world is the Holy Mass.  We commemorate the Paschal or Easter mystery each time Mass is celebrated.  The real events of the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus are re-presented right before us.  The Lord’s Last Supper is in essence extended to us especially when we partake of the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  Catholics fulfill God’s command “Remember to keep the Lord’s Day (Sabbath) Holy” by participating at Sunday Mass.

            As far as private prayer, two of the most powerful devotional prayers are the Eucharistic Adoration and the Holy Rosary.  Eucharistic Adoration allows the faithful to spend time with Jesus in the Eucharist as he is exposed before us in the sacred vessel called the monstrance.  This private devotion is called “Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.”  We receive numerous graces by spending time praying and talking with Our Lord while he is mystically hidden under the appearance of the Eucharistic bread right before us.  This moment is no different as when Moses spoke to God at the burning bush or when the apostles spoke face to face with Our Lord.  On First Fridays of the month, from 12:30 PM until 8:45 AM Saturday morning, is when our parish has set the time for the Exposition in the Oratory (chapel in the church hallway).  It concludes with Benediction that precedes the 9 AM Saturday morning Mass.  When we spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament we fulfill the request of Jesus from the apostles who were found sleeping that night, “So, you could not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40).

            The other popular private prayer is the Holy Rosary.  For centuries Catholics have prayed this and found it to be a great source of spiritual help.  Having a Rosary in the house, in the car’s rear view mirror or person’s pocket is a sign that there is a Catholic in the vicinity.  Praying the Rosary of Our Lady does not steer us away from Jesus but, on the contrary, brings us closer to him.  Mary would never want anyone to steer us away from her Son and Savior of the world.  Mary lived a life closest to the life of Jesus and is therefore the best one to guide us towards him.  The Rosary has brought countless souls to Jesus since Saint Dominic popularized this devotion way back in the year 1214.  Nearly 800 years later, 797 to be exact, it still remains one of the most powerful private prayer devotions in the Catholic Church.  The mysteries of the Rosary, 20 in total, is a scriptural meditation on the life of Jesus.  We can see why the late Pope John Paul II said that this was his favorite private prayer.  Pope Benedict XVI said in his May 3, 2008 address at Saint Mary Major Basilica in Rome, The Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the center.” If you’d like to learn how to pray the Rosary please stop by the church narthex and pick up a How to Pray the Rosary pamphlet or go online to either one of these two websites:  http://www.rosary-center.org/howto.htm or http://www.newadvent.org/images/rosary.pdf .  We also have free Rosaries in the parish office and the narthex available for those who need them.

            Next weekend (Sept. 24/25) our parishioner and diocesan liaison, Dave Kole, will lead the in-pew Family Prayer Commitment before the end of Mass.  Bishop Loverde’s goal is to get 50,000 pledges of the faithful who will make the promise of regularly making time to visit at a Eucharistic Adoration and pray the Holy Rosary by the time for our diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC on October 8.  By the way, we have a bus going to the basilica on that day and the sign-up sheet is in the Narthex.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

September 25, 2011

 

Dedication of the New Pro Life Memorial

and the Parish Picnic

 

            Last Sunday our Knights of Columbus Council did more great things for the parish.  First, we had the dedication of the new Pro Life Memorial that they built and then hosted our annual parish picnic.  These wonderful men in our parish have really been cranking up a lot of the good work that they have been doing in the past few years.  We graciously thank them for their hard work and dedication.

            Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have expressed that every parish should have a memorial that especially remembers the unborn children who died through abortion.  It helps recall that the fullness of human life exists and is sacred from the moment of conception.  It is with the hope that the memorial would help those contemplating abortion to choose life and also serve as a healing for those who have had abortion(s).  While the Church laments the injustice of terminating the life of the unborn children, she also offers complete forgiveness and healing for those who have regrettably not chosen life.

            Through a research done by our Past Grand Knight, John Haraburda, he found the perfect image that we could use to encompass the fullness of our Pro Life Memorial.  John found in Italy a new marble statue of Rachel, Jacob’s wife from the Old Testament.  In the Gospel, St. Matthew says that the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled when the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem were massacred by Herod in an attempt to kill the child Jesus:  “Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more” (Mt 2:17-18).  It is our hope that the peaceful and contemplative countenance of Rachel would lead struggling mothers towards healing and making the only right choice by choosing life.  The memorial is also intended to inspire a general respect for all the stages of human life from the moment of conception through natural death.

            We are also most thankful to another Past Grand Knight, David Miles, who designed and coordinated the landscaping work, and to Tim Schutte for creating the nice pathway that leads to the memorial.  With the help of the other Knights they created the best Pro Life memorial I have ever seen in the whole Arlington Diocese! 

            Any of you practicing Catholic men 18 and over might want to consider joining these great group of men in our Knights of Columbus Council as they continue to come up with some of the most impressive things for our parish.  And we’d like to thank the Knights again for the spectacular parish picnic they organized this year.  We had a lot of fun and ate a lot of good food!

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 


 

October 2, 2011

 

New Windows in the Rectory

 

            The replacement of windows in our parish rectory is now complete.  The new windows were installed last week.  As you see the picture samples inside the bulletin, practically every single window frame suffered severe water damage and deterioration in the past 20 years.  The current windows are made of a synthetic material that is expected to last several years after I have retired (in case you don’t know, the priest retirement age is 75 and I’m only…um, let’s just say I have not reached a half-century years old yet). 

            I want to thank all of you who continue to donate to the parish Building Maintenance Fund.  It is through your generous contribution that the priests’ residence and the rest of the parish facilities are properly maintained.  It is such a good feeling to be able to open our rectory windows knowing that we will be able to close it again and not worry about another piece falling off!

           

Pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

 

            As of this writing we still have plenty of space available on the bus for our diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC on October 8.  Please consider making the trip to join us for a day of prayer, Mass and spiritual day of reflection.  Please see details in the bulletin.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 


 

October 9, 2011

 

Msgr. Thomas J. Cassidy, 1928-2011

 

            As we announced last weekend at the Sunday Masses, Msgr. Tom Cassidy, known to many as Father Tom, entered eternal life on October 1, 2011.  He was a well-loved former pastor here at Saint Francis de Sales from 1997-2003.  Msgr. Cassidy died during a medical procedure to prepare his heart for a valve procedure.  He had just turned 83 the previous Sunday (September 25).  Msgr. Cassidy was the pastor during our parish’s transition from being under the care of the Capuchin Friars to diocesan priests.

            One of the funniest stories I heard was Msgr. Tom’s account of how he and 3 other priests in the Arlington Diocese were made monsignors by the late Bishop Welsh in 1982.  The bishop called them in one day for a bogus discussion on their opinion regarding religious education.  The discussion was very brief and it was over before they knew it.  The bishop told them that his real purpose was to surprise them with the news that Pope John Paul II accepted his request to make them monsignors.  The next issue of the Arlington Catholic Herald featured the 4 new smiling monsignors with a small headline about their appointment.  A larger ½”-size headline directly above their photo was Pope John Paul’s public bold condemnation that read:  Mafia Members Excommunicated!  Msgr. Tom said that he always got a chuckle whenever he pulled out this old clipping from his scrapbook.  (And I believe that till the day he died he had no idea whether the headline was accidental or a “bit of malicious mischief!”)

            We will miss Father Tom’s presence among us and let us keep him in our prayers and in our memories.  The best gift a priest could receive is by having Masses offered for him after his death.  So I encourage you to do this if you’re looking for a way to honor Father Tom.  As of this writing the funeral arrangements were to be held on October 6 at Saint Mark Catholic Church in Vienna, VA beginning with a wake service from 4-6 PM followed by a Mass of Christian burial at 7:30 PM.  A private internment will take place at a later date.

 

Catholic Cemetery in Purcellville Update

 

            Speaking of internments, our diocese has given us permission to take a survey of how many members in our parish who would be interested in purchasing a burial plot in our proposed Catholic cemetery across the golf course on Main Street.  Our parishioner and developer Joe Curto will conduct a survey before the end of each Mass on the weekend of October 15-16.  We will have a brief follow up the weekend after for those who missed the survey.  It is important that we get an idea of the support for this so that we can present the viability of having a Catholic cemetery in our region.  The survey will include the expected cost of the burial plots.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 


 

October 16, 2011

 

Use of New English Mass Translation Begins November 27

 

            Back in February I mentioned about the upcoming new English translation of the Mass.  It will be implemented beginning the First Sunday of Advent 2011 (November 27).  We will be preaching about the upcoming changes this Sunday and next week.  Our Religious Education department is also making available a brief series on the new translation on 4 different occasions beginning October 25.  Please check the bulletin titled “A Biblical Walk Through The Mass” for more details.

            While there is a new English translation of the Mass, there is no change at all to the structure and order of the Mass.  Only the text of the Roman Missal was changed.  All the movements and gestures by the priest and congregation remain the same.

            What is the purpose of the new translation?  Shortly after the completion of the Vatican II Council, the official English translators at the time known as ICEL (International Commission for the English Liturgy) decided to make a “dynamic” translation of the official Latin text.  This means that a general meaning of the Latin text was translated into English instead of the usual “formal” translation as most of the other countries did.  As a result, many liturgists and linguists have noted over the years that the intended fuller meaning of the Mass was not attained and even lost.  Some of the richness of the spiritual meaning of the prayers was lost through the dynamic style of translation.  In 2001 Pope John Paul II through the document Liturgiam Authenticam he called for a more precise Mass translation “without the omissions or additions in terms of their content, without paraphrases or glosses.” 

            It took a decade to have the final English translation completed because this translation needs to be good not just for Americans but also for all the English speaking countries in the world (England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and several other countries that use English as their official liturgical language).  So a few phrases or syntax may not be familiar to us but it is in many other countries.  One thing we are certain of is that the new translation is far more literal and accurate translation from the Latin.  I have gone through the whole Mass translation and I find it a lot more poetic in style.  I find the text so exciting and beautiful that I scheduled myself to celebrate the 5 PM Saturday vigil Mass on November 26!  For those who love either the English classics or the English translation from the old Latin/English Traditional Missal, you will be familiar with the new Mass translation and have little adjustment to make.

            Have a great week and let us look forward with excitement to the celebration of the Mass in its new and improved English Mass translation.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante


 

October 23, 2011

 

This weekend is part 2 of the New Mass explained

 

            This Sunday the new English translation for the 2nd part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is explained during the homily.  Last week we treated the Liturgy of the Word and the very first change has already made an impact to many as to why the new English translation was needed.

            The opening dialogue alone was quite a revelation to practically everyone:  The Lord be with you.  And “with your spirit.”  Nearly everyone found the response, “And with your spirit” a bit awkward until it was explained to them that the dialogue is not between the priest and the congregation.  It was actually a dialogue between God and the people.  “With your spirit” is in reference to the presence of the Spirit of God within the priest who is celebrating the Mass.  This is an ancient Christian greeting that has been used for centuries but lost its significance in the English Mass 40 years ago when the non-literal translation, “And also with you,” was used.  All those years the people presumed that it was the priest personally greeting the people.  Luckily, many other countries originally translated theirs correctly so they didn’t have to do any revision like we do.

            For the 2nd part of the Mass, the new translation reverts back to the biblical terms especially in the consecration.  Using the word “chalice” instead of “cup” is important because it refers specifically to a sacred vessel used in solemn rituals instead of a regular cup used at meals or parties.  In the words of the consecration it now uses the phrase that Christ’s blood was shed “for many” instead of “for all.”  This makes it accurately in line with what was actually said at the Last Supper in scripture (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24).  While Jesus suffered and died with the intention of redeeming everyone, in reality not all would accept the redemptive grace offered by God.

            There are several more changes that will be mentioned at Mass but you could also check the United States Catholic Conference’s website that contains all the changes and explanations of the new translation by going to:  http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/

            It is very exciting to see many of the theological words that were previously omitted in the former translation.  Properly understood, one could sense an even more inspiring celebration of the Mass in its new format.  I am very much looking forward to celebrating the revised English Mass next month on the First Sunday of Advent (November 27).  If you really want to get into learning more about the new Mass translation, sign up on the course offered in our bulletin under the section, “A Biblical Walk Through The Mass.”

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                        Father Escalante

 


 

October 30, 2011

 

Catholic Cemetery Survey Results

 

            Since we have a large number of parishioners who showed a lot of interest in the possibility of having a Catholic cemetery here in Purcellville, I would like to share with you the results from our parish survey that I received from Joe Curto that was forwarded to our diocese.

 

Two assumption we made in doing our statistical analysis;

1)  We roughed counted the number of people (Men, Women and Children) who attended all six Masses both Saturday night and Sunday October 15  & 16, to be  +- 2500.

2)  We also assumed the average family size being 4 (some more and some less) which would equate to 625 households attending last weekend Masses.

 

Results:

We received 365 inquiry cards back filled out, 186 or 51% of them checked one of the boxes which stated interest in purchasing a plot, and 179 or 49% of them checked the box "Not interested at this time".

 

Out of the +- 625 families attending Mass last weekend, 365 or 58% of them participated in the inquiry.

 

Out of the 186 respondents who checked one of the boxes which stated interest in purchasing a plot, the number of plots they noted they were interest in purchasing was 364.  242 or 66% of them were in ground and 122 or 34% Cremation Niches.    

 

Out of the 242 In ground plots, 133 of them were "Double Plots" requested, the reason why this is so important is 375 parishioners will be buried in those 242 plots, when you add the 122 parishioners that will be lay to rest in the Cremation Niches the total number plots inquiring parishioners had an interest in securing was 497 or 20% of the +- 2500 parishioners (men, women and Children)  who attended mass that weekend. 

 

The breakdown on the inquiry form concerning time frames to purchase were 0-12 months, 12-24 months, and 24-60 months, and not interest at this time, If all approvals from the Diocese and Loudoun County would take 12 months and another 6 months to build, the 0-12 months and much of the 12-24 months falls into the time frame of us opening. The 24-60 months will be the first three years after opening. The breakdown by time frame of the 186 Interested respondents is as follows.

 

0-12 months      $ 217,145.00

12-24 months    $ 289,645.00

24-60 months    $ 625,815.00

Total               $1,132,605.00

 

The most amazing fact I am seeing in the inquiry results is a Spiritual one, it is coming from the question we asked "How important is it to your family to be buried in a Catholic Consecrated Cemetery  0,1,2,3,4,5" The scale was measured "0" being not important at all, and "5" being extremely Important. Out of the 186 or 51% interested respondents that answered this questions the average score was a 4.6 out of 5, very close to a perfect 5 or extremely Important.  The amazing fact came from the 179 or 49% of the respondents who filled out the inquiry card and checked the "I am not interested at this time" box, the average score for those who answered this questions was 3.8 out of 5, wow, those interested as well as those not interested at this time all have this same inner sense of the importance of having their final remains placed to rest under the Apostolic covering and Blessing of our Bishop, Bishop Loverde. I am so excited about these results, this will be a blessing to so many.

 

            Your survey participation was greatly appreciated and we pray that the cemetery will be built soon.  In the meantime, out of charity for all the souls in purgatory, let us remember to pray for all the faithful departed especially on All Souls Day (Nov. 2).

                                                           Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                           Father Escalante

 

November 6, 2011

 

“3,000 lb. Food Challenge”

 

            Next Share Sunday weekend (November 13) is our “3,000 lb. Food Challenge” in response to the diocesan-wide effort work together in fighting hunger in our diocese.  Many food banks are suffering a shortage so we sure would appreciate it if you could help us meet our goal.  With the arrival of the cold weather this means that there is a greater urgency to provide food for the hungry.  As we decide on helping the poor and the needy, we could meditate on the words of Our Lord Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-40), “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…. Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brethren of mine, you did for me.”

 

 

Virginia Catholic Bishops Letter Regarding the Upcoming Elections (November 8)

 

            With the upcoming election this Tuesday, the two Catholic bishops from Virginia, Bishop Paul Loverde (Arlington) and Bishop Francis DiLorenzo (Richmond), have composed a letter for all the Catholics in their respective dioceses to read as a way to prepare prior to voting.  It is titled, “On Praying, Voting, and Advocating for the Common Good.”  This letter is available with this weekend’s bulletin.

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                        Father Escalante

 

November 13, 2011

 

Welcome back, Sister Catherine Murphy!

 

            This weekend we are very happy and blessed to have one of our parishioners, Sister Catherine Murphy, speak at all our Sunday Masses.  Sister Catherine recently made her First Profession this past summer in Austria for the pontifical community called Familia Spiritualis Opus (in English, The Spiritual Family The Work).  Mother Julia Verhaege of Belgium founded the community in 1938.  One of the many missions they are noted for is supporting the needs of the permanent Vatican observer at the United Nations in New York.  A good portion of their mission is to support the local parishes in different parts of the world.

            Prior to joining to the community, Sister Catherine was a very active member of Saint Francis de Sales parish and was a current member of the Finance Council while maintaining a career as a successful lawyer.  When she informed me about leaving the Finance Council I told her that she better have a good reason for doing so.  After telling me that she felt called by God to join a consecrated community I made sure that I didn’t get in the way of that one.  Our faith and salvation history tells us that those who dared to obstruct the work of God ended up paying a very heavy price!  Actually, I was thrilled to hear of the news despite knowing that I was losing a good committee member.  The other good news is that through Sister Catherine’s prayers I was able to recruit 3 more new excellent members that have contributed immensely to the Finance Council.

            We look forward to Sister Catherine’s talk about her vocation before the end of each Mass and let us pray for the success of her mission and her apostolic community.  May many more men and women respond to God’s special vocation to the consecrated life and the priesthood.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 

 

November 20, 2011

 

Diocesan-wide Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

 

            This Sunday on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Bishop Loverde designated it to be the day that he consecrates the whole diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  The bishop asked all the parishes to pray together with him at all the Sunday Masses the prayer of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that the diocese has provided and placed in the pews.

            The popularity of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes back to the Middle Ages when certain saints from different eras promoted meditating on the loving heart of Jesus when we pray to him.  These saints include St. Bonaventure in the 13th century and our own St. Francis de Sales in the 17th century.  When the Church declared the authenticity of the private revelations St. Margaret Mary Alacoque received from Jesus regarding the many blessings and graces one receives from honoring the Sacred Heart (1673-75), the devotion spread even more rapidly throughout the whole world.  From my own experience my family has honored the Sacred Heart since I was little child back in my native country in the Philippines.

            When we read sacred scripture we find the very root of the Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion going back to the days of the apostles.  We read in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

            After this Sunday’s homily we will pray together as a parish in spiritual union with Bishop Loverde the consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  For more online information regarding the Sacred Heart devotion, please log on to the following website provided by the Arlington Diocese:  http://www.arlingtondiocese.org/heartofchrist/

 

 

THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU

For your incredible donations to last weekend’s SHARE SUNDAY!!!

 

            The Knights of Columbus and Catholic Charities of Leesburg has informed us that we surpassed our 3,000 lb. goal of food collection by going over 6,000 lbs. and still counting!  We received so much that we will even be able to share the collected food with the poor people in the rural area around Front Royal where they have been desperately in need of food because they don’t have as much access to donors as those in more urban areas.  Our Catholic Charities affiliate there, Loaves and Fishes, was thrilled that we were able to help them with our overflow of donations.  Our Leesburg branch was able to arrange for the transportation of the food.  We are blessed to know that through your generosity we were able to extend our help to the needy well beyond our normal boundaries.

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                        Father Escalante

 

November 27, 2011

 

“The New English Mass Translation Is Here!”

 

            First, “Happy Church New Year” to everyone!  This First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new year in church.  This year is quite extraordinary and unique because for the first time in 40 years we have a new English Mass translation that inaugurates its use this Sunday. 

            We can take the opportunity to have a vibrant spiritual renewal this Advent by re-learning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The more accurate theological words coming from the original Latin text are very meaningful and filled with great mysteries of our Catholic faith.  During the next few months we will be getting accustomed to the new translation so please use the new plastic-coated guideline for the Mass parts that is found in the pews.  For those who may have missed the two Sundays we dedicated last month or the Biblical Walk Through The Mass program that we provided to explain the new translation and have questions, please feel free to contact me and/or our Religious Education department and we’ll gladly meet and explain it for you.

 

“Would you like to join me build a poor house for Jesus this Advent?”

 

            Do you remember Father Pham from Cross International Catholic Outreach (www.CrossCatholic.org) who came to speak last June at our parish?  Cross International is inviting parishes to participate in an Advent program called, “No Room At The Inn” campaign for the homeless.  If you are looking for a meaningful Christmas gift to give to Jesus, how about giving a $50 gift to build a house for a homeless family?  Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of these least ones, you did it for me” (Matthew 26:40).

            There are 3 different projects available:  1) The Philippines = $2,500, 2) Guatemala = $3,000, and 3) Haiti = $5,500.  If we start with the first one from my native country, The Philippines, all I need is 49 others to join me to give $50 for the one house and we’re all set to provide a house for a homeless family.  If for some reason there is an overwhelming response and we surpass 49, then we can work on the Guatamela house and see about getting 49 others to join me at $60 to build another house.  Now this might be pushing it but IF there are people who missed out on the opportunity on the first two homes, I’m willing to squeeze out $55 from my small wallet and ask 99 others to do the same for the third house!  Another great news I just found out today from talking to Cross International is that there is a donor who would match every home sponsored by the parish for either the Philippines or Haiti project so we can potentially double house #1 & #3 if we get both houses.  Please email me directly (countryparishpriest@gmail.com) or contact our parish secretary (s.khalil@saintfrancisparish.org or 540.338.6381) if you’re interested so we can track our progress.  The deadline is December 23.

            May you have a most blessed Advent Season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

           

December 4, 2011

 

“No Room At The Inn” Program is flying high!

 

            It is great news that at Saint Francis de Sales parish There is plenty ROOM at our Inn for Our Lord Jesus this Advent!  Our parishioners have responded so well to building a home for the homeless that we now have enough participating donors to build our 1st home in the Philippines ($2,500) and our 2nd home in Guatemala.  This is incredible news after only one week of promotion.  Now we can concentrate on building our 3rd home in Haiti ($5,500) at $55 per person (total of 100 donors).

            Since we have a couple that will match the home in the Philippines, we really now have three new homes in total that will be built for the homeless.  One family in our parish offered to match half the Guatemala house cost if we could find others to match the other half ($1500).  Contact me know if you are interested in taking part with the matching offer.

            One thing I forgot to mention was who to make the check out for the project.  Make it to St. Francis de Sales and write down on the check memo, “No Room At The Inn”, so that the check does not go to the general parish donation.  It would be helpful if you could send it to my attention so that I could directly keep track of the progress of our 3rd home.  After December 23 our parish will write one check to Cross International for the total we’ve collected.  And thank you so much for your generous participation.  By the way, the promo posters are now hanging on the glass windows of the narthex.

 

 

Advent Confessions

 

            Observing Advent in anticipation to the celebration of Our Lord’s birth is not complete without receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation.  We are extending our confession schedule to Wednesday nights in December (7, 14, 21) and Thursday night December 22 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.  We will have the regular 10:45 AM confessions on Friday, December 23.  We will also have 2 morning confession schedules on December 24 (8 AM and 9:45 AM).  Please note that there will be NO SATURDAY AFTERNOON (3:30 – 4:30) CONFESSIONS on December 24 as we prepare for the Christmas Eve Masses.


 

December 11, 2011

 

Have you noticed our beloved “JAS” in the parish?

 

            If you pay really close attention before or after Mass, you will see the “JAS” working quietly in support of the most important prayer and worship service in the Catholic Church—the Mass.  JAS stands for the Junior Altar Society.  The work that they do is invaluable to the priest celebrating the Mass.

            Who are the members of the Junior Altar Society?  When the group first formed we met at the church one early Sunday afternoon on September 26, 2010.  I originally coined the name “Junior Altar Women Society” for the new all-girls ministry but I wanted them to select a name of their preference.  Some of the girls noticed that the acronym sounds a bit too “ferocious” because it spells out as “JAWS”!  A couple of the girls actually liked the nickname but they didn’t have enough votes to keep it.  Personally, I would not have minded JAWS because these dedicated young ladies are really sharp—intellectually!  They are fast learners and very good with details.  JAS opens its membership to Catholic girls in our parish from 6th grade and up.  Younger ones who feel ready for the job, such as 5th graders who like coming to church early, may be admitted.  You will recognize them when you see them wearing the blue and white sash with the Junior Altar Society logo that they designed.

            Mrs. Laura Burgess, the head of the Mass coordinators, does most of the JAS training.  The JAS work alongside the Mass coordinators preparing everything for the Mass including making sure that the Roman Missal and the Lectionary are properly marked for the priest to celebrate the Liturgy.  They also set up the sacred vessels such as the chalice, ciboria, patens and the sacred linens that are used.  Sometimes you will see them scanning the congregation just before Mass begins to get a head count.  This gives them an idea how many communion hosts they will need for the priests to consecrate.  They also make sure that all the necessary personnel for the Mass are accounted for:  priest, altar servers, Eucharistic ministers, and lector.  They also prep the families that bring up the gifts to the altar and would often help the ushers take up the collection.

            As you can see, our Junior Altar Society girls are really special and numbered among the many unsung heroes in our parish.  They truly love what they do and take great pride in their work.  Through their training and hands on ministry they actually know a lot more of the intricate details in preparing and setting up for Mass than most Catholics will ever know.  Their excellent work complements the altar servers very well.  As a priest I truly appreciate what they do.  They give me the confidence that I can begin Mass knowing that they have helped prepare everything for me and that in the end they will reset everything for the next Mass.

            Right now we have 10 members of the Junior Altar Society:  Caitlin Blake, Maizie Eastman, Nicole Fetterman, Lizzie Haraburda, Laney Malone, Lori Martin, Gracie Sacripanti, Hana Thurman, Nori Thurman and Molly Warndorf.  If you are one of the young ladies in the parish who feels called to be a future member of the JAS, contact me (countryparishpriest@gmail.com) or Mrs. Laura Burgess (llburgess@verizon.net).

 

                                                                        Yours shepherd in Christ,

                                                                        Father Escalante

 

“No Room At The Inn” update

 

            As of this writing we are well ahead in collecting donations to build homes for the homeless through the Cross International Catholic Outreach.  We have just surpassed the $10,000 level for the amount collected to provide a home for families in the Philippines, Guatemala and Haiti.  When we reach $11,000, plus the matching challenge for the homes in the Philippines and Haiti, this would mean that a total of 5 good solid homes will be built for among the poorest people in the world.  I thank you again for your generous support.  Even though I was confident that we could raise our goal, I did not expect that we would almost reach our ultimate goal of $11k in just a little over a week!  What I like about this program is we were able to participate in it as a whole parish.  Many of us could not afford to give the minimum of $2,500 to build a house for a poor family (especially ‘salaried’ priests like me), however, we could all chip in as a parish and make it happen.  Even those who cannot afford anything but prayed for our success has a share in providing shelter to Our Lord through the poor.  I will write another update at next Sunday’s bulletin. –Father Escalante


 

December 18, 2011

 

“Putting the new HVAC to the test”

 

            This past October we were able to complete the installation of the new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) for our church sanctuary (see picture in front page).  Your generous donation for the maintenance of our facility has made it possible for us to install the new 40-ton unit at just under $100k for all the work.  Thank you so much for your incredible support.

            We’re still gauging what is the correct room temperature for the sanctuary so please let me know if you are finding it either too hot or too cold.  It varies according to the different Mass times.  The new unit has given us more new options so we’ll play with the controls until we get it right.  The ultimate test is coming right up with Christmas when we get an extended number of visitors (including the “Christ-ers”).  We will find out just how good our new HVAC system can keep up with the expected semi-annual big crowd.  But thank you again for all your help in making this happen.

 

 

“No Room At The Inn” update

 

            At the present time we have collected a total of $12,970, which gives us all the 3 homes for the homeless in the Philippines, Guatemala and Haiti.  Since the Philippines and Haiti have matching donors, we are greatly responsible for getting a total of 5 sturdy houses to be built.  Our collection deadline is set for December 23 and now we’re hoping to reach the $14,000 mark so that we can build one more house for Guatemala since we don’t have a matching challenge for that country ($60 per  Guatemala donation payable to Saint Francis de Sales and marked “No Room At The Inn").

            I am just amazed at everyone’s incredible response with this Advent project from Cross International Catholic Outreach to build homes for the homeless.  The program allowed many of us with “little pockets” to participate in helping provide a home for Our Lord by helping the homeless to have a home.  Cross International will provide us with the progress of the homes being built and expect all of them to be completed within 6 months after we send them the check.  Our contact person with CICO, Maria Aleman (800-391-8545 ext. 126, maleman@crossinternational.org), told me this past week that of all the parishes participating in the U.S., our parish currently has the highest amount of money collected!

            Have a great final week of Advent and a great celebration of Our Lord’s birth with your loved ones next weekend!  You’re in my prayers.

 

                                                                                   Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                   Father Escalante


December 25, 2011

 

“Hiding Jesus During Christmas”

 

            Every year in the last couple of decades or so there has been a noticeable steady increase in efforts to hide the fact that the world celebrates the birth of Jesus, Savior of the world, on December 25th every single year.  Every year as priests we have to constantly remind our own parish community not to fall into the secular trap of greeting the people, “Happy Holidays”.  Our greeting should always be, Merry Christmas, regardless of how other people greet us.  We should never be ashamed or embarrassed of our Christian identity.  Jesus suffered and died for us and we have no reason to hide our Christianity from anyone especially on the season that we traditionally celebrate the birth of Jesus worldwide.  The words from the Gospel according to Mark should make us think twice about concealing our faith in Jesus:  “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

            We should never presume that we are going to offend non-Christian people by wishing them a Merry Christmas.  Earlier this week I went for my physical therapy and as I was leaving the staff wished me, “Happy Holidays.”  Of course, my response was a joyful, “Have a Merry Christmas!”  I was inspired by the reaction from the staff because they were delighted that I gave a “Merry Christmas” response.  Their faces lit up and immediately wished me back a very Merry Christmas.  It is understandable that by company policy they were required to give the standard secular holiday greeting.  At times we bring an unexpected joy to people who really want to wish us a Merry Christmas just by giving them the real Christmas greeting.

            During the Christmas season God calls us to a life of holiness and invites us to make spiritual resolutions.  God seeks the occasional Mass goers to regularly participate in the Divine mysteries of the sacraments.  All it takes is one good confession to return to the sacraments and the life of grace.

            We’re blessed once again to have parishioners donate a Christmas gift to the parish households (and guests) who are here for our parish Christmas Masses.  This year we are giving a free book titled, “A Father Who Keeps His Promises”, written by the great modern Catholic convert, Dr. Scott Hahn.  In summary, the book treats of how all these years God has been faithful to the promises (covenants) he made with mankind and patiently reaches out to us despite our faults and shortcomings.  [If the books arrive on time, they will be handed out after all the Christmas Masses as we did last year.]

            Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas to you and your family.  As always, you are well remembered in my daily prayers.

 

                                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                                    Father Escalante

 

P.S.  Please pray for my parents who were unfortunate recipients of a hit-and-run collision a week ago.  They survived the crash very well with minor aches and pains but their car was totaled.  If anyone has a reliable used car you’d like to sell me for under $3k, please let me know and I will give that as a belated Christmas gift to my parents.

 

* * * * * * * *

 

Ask the Priest column is off for the Christmas bulletin but will return next week!

 


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37730 St. Francis Court

Purcellville, VA  20132

 

In case of emergency 540-338-6440

 

Parish Office 540-338-6381

secretary@saintfrancisparish.org

FAX 540-338-6431

Office Hours - M-F 8:30am-4:30pm

(office closed 12noon - 1:15pm daily)

 

Religious Ed. Office 540-338-4497

RE@saintfrancisparish.org

RE Office Hours - M-Th 10:30am-4:30pm

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