January 1, 2012

 

“Have a great New Year!”

 

            Last year I hoped that 2011 would be an even better year than the previous one. And no doubt it certainly was! We’ve had so many great new things that have happened this past year that are too many to name. One of the things that stand out is the generosity of Saint Francis de Sales parishioners. Our SHARE SUNDAY has been very successful in collecting food for the poor and the special November drive netted over 6,000 lbs. of food. The No Room At The Inn program to build homes for the homeless in countries overseas netted us at least 10 homes that will be built in 2012. We’ve also had generous volunteers of all ages that helped out in various different ways. This past year your generosity allowed us to replace badly rotted windows and failing HVAC (heating & AC) in both the offices and the sanctuary.   I just want to thank all of you for the great year we’ve had. Having spent my 3rd Christmas with you as your interim pastor has brought great joy to my heart. You support has been incredible!

            And thank you so much for the nice Christmas cards and gifts that you sent Father Tewes and me this past Christmas. We’re most grateful and we will do our best to get the Thank You notes out. From the large number goodies we received I know that the springs on my weight scale will be put to the limit in the next few days.

            May you have a blessed new year and a very fruitful Christmas season. As always, you are all in my daily prayers.

 

                                                                     Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                     Father Escalante

 

 


 

January 8, 2012

 

Would you like to appreciate your Catholic faith even more?

 

            The new year brings new challenges to our lives so how about making this year a time to enhance and appreciate the treasures of our Catholic faith? A new DVD titled, “Catholicism, A Journey to the Heart of Faith”, was released in 2011 and it is already considered a masterpiece. Aside from authentic Catholic teachings, a beautiful work of cinematography captivates the viewers as they see 50 location scenes from 15 different countries as they study the faith. It really puts into perspective that the Catholic Church is truly a universal church. During this month I will be away on retreat and will be able to view the entirety of the 10-hour video (best of all, without interruption as I vanish into my new retreat haven!). But the contents I’ve seen so far have been spectacular.

            We have classes starting on Tuesday mornings and evenings, Thursday evenings, and two Sunday morning sessions available for you to sign up for the Catholicism study series beginning on January 17. The sessions will be held either at the parish hall, The Oratory, or at Woodgrove High School. Please check the bulletin for the schedule, more information, and for the forms to register.

 

Final tally for the “No Room At The Inn” campaign

 

            With the help of parishioners who helped us round off the total amount of donations, we were able to collect $21,500 for Cross International Catholic Outreach and will be able to build a total of 12 permanent sturdy homes for homeless families in the Philippines (8 houses), Guatemala (2 houses) and Haiti (2 houses). You may recall that an “anonymous donor” matched any house for the Philippines and Haiti and that’s the reason why we are responsible for the total of 12 houses. Cross International informed me that in the 6 years they’ve had this program the highest number of donations they received from one parish was $15,000. Many thanks to your incredible generosity we just shattered that record! We really made sure that there was certainly room at the inn for Jesus and his Holy Family this Advent and Christmas seasons. I will update you in the next 6 months for the building of the 12 houses as I hear from Cross International.

           

            Have a great and blessed New Year!!!

 

                                                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                    Father Escalante


 

January 15, 2012

 

“Going ‘green’ again!”

 

            Now that the Christmas season is over the church goes back to what is known as Ordinary Time. The liturgical color for this season is green. You will notice that the front altarpiece and the priest’s vestments are back to the green color again. Ordinary Time is the period in the church when the church does not celebrate a specific mystery in the life of Christ as such during Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. During the year there are 33 or 34 weeks of Ordinary Time.

            The readings from the Gospel reflect on the three years of Jesus’ public ministry preaching to the people about salvation and the mysteries of God in general. We are also in awe of the miracles Jesus performed to prove that he is truly the Son of God and the along awaited savior of the world. But the most important message Jesus gave us is that he loves us so much that he was willing to suffer and die for us to bring us into his heavenly kingdom.

            This Sunday afternoon I leave for my annual 5-day canonical retreat as required by the church. I was offered to make my retreat at Deep Creek Lake, MD and everyone tells me how beautiful it is out there. It is my first time going there so I’m very much looking forward to a nice silent retreat at a scenic location. A few told me that there are a number of bears out there but not to worry because Yogi Bear and his companions should still be ‘hibernating’ for the winter. On a good day for a walk I will take my camera out and hopefully snap some beautiful nature shots.

            Spiritual retreats are really good for the soul. It is the wisdom of the church to require priests to take a minimum of 5 days out of the year to leave the parish work to spiritually rejuvenate the soul. It makes a big difference to be away from long and sometimes stressful work hours for a good chunk of the year. I only wish the required retreat was every 6 months instead of annually.

            You will be remembered in my prayers during the retreat and please do keep me in yours. If the unpredictable weather at Deep Creek Lake cooperates, I should be back in time for the Sunday Masses on January 22. And that reminds me, the annual March for Life is the day after. We have 2 buses reserved so please consider joining us to support the cause of respecting all life stages from conception to natural death.

 

                                                                     Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                                     Father Escalante

 


 

January 22, 2012

 

March For Life continues on

 

            This column was written at the beginning of my retreat this past week. Just before I left the sign up sheet (2 buses) for those going to the March For Life was nearly full so by the time you read this bulletin we should all be set to make our way to the Verizon Center on early Monday morning. It has been 39 years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States. I never liked referring to this event as an “anniversary” because that term was meant to be for happy occasions as in a wedding anniversary. On the contrary, this annual event should be looked upon as the worst human tragedy in the U.S. still going strong on its 39th year. A CDC report published this past August 2011 shows that the number of abortions since 1973 has topped well over 50 million—and that’s not counting the abortions caused by the morning after pill and unreported abortions. You can combine all the Americans who died in all the wars we ever fought and it still would not come anywhere near 50 million. The number of unborn children aborted everyday in the U.S. is about the same number of people who tragically died on 9/11. If we could only make everyone realize that everyday we are facing the tragedy numbers of 9/11 the outrage would basically make abortion extinct.

            While it is very important to take part in public demonstrations to show our support for the protection of all sacred life from conception to natural death, and to elect public officials who could help put an end to abortion, it is just as important (if not more important) to pray for this intention. So for those unable to take part in the rally in Washington, everyone is invited in some way to pray and even offer personal sacrifices to Our Lord for an end to abortion. We do not seek the destruction or the demise of the people who are seriously in the wrong but, rather, we try to win them over towards the way of Jesus. Prayer is the essential step that changes people’s hearts. It is also very important not to neglect those who are suffering for having made the wrong choice of terminating human life. God loves them too and they are in great need of healing and support from us.   As Christians we are called to be forgiving people.

            If you know of anyone in need of counseling whether they had an abortion(s) or contemplating of having one, tell them help is readily available. 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


January 29, 2012

 

“Tell me, what’s all the fuss about IVF?” (Part 1)

 

            This delicate question why the Catholic Church has never accepted the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) method to medically aid the conception a child (children) has come up a number of times recently especially in the Ask the Priest box. For those not familiar with the term this was once commonly referred to as the “test tube baby” method. Since there is no quick response that would do justice I thought it would be best to write about it in my Shepherd’s Notes column. But before I begin let me first make it clear that the Catholic Church teaches firmly that regardless of how a child is conceived, every human conception is fully human and made in the image and likeness of God. I will do as best as I can to be sensitive to the families who have children born through IVF. This column is intended solely to respond to the IVF questions as the Catholic Church teaches it. Every child is a gift from God even those conceived through crime/violence such as rape, incest, child marketing, etc., and has the God-given right to life. And every child raised in the Catholic Church goes through the same procedure to receive the sacraments.

            About 8 months ago I attended a conference for priests on Catholic Bioethics that substantially covered IVF. The presentation informed us that there are now a total of 4 million children born using IVF since its first introduction. The procedure has become so common and there are now about 250,000 annual births through IVF (not counting the embryos that were either discarded or frozen).

            Some of you may have seen the program from PBS’ NOVA titled, “18 Ways to Make a Baby”, that first aired in October 2001. You can do a search online and you’ll be amazed (or shocked) to see what they have on the list. 12 of the procedures involve a form of IVF. The first one on the list of 18 is, of course, the only one that the Church has always taught to be the moral and proper way. Can you guess what it is? If you selected the time tested simple “Birds & the Bees” formula that God originally gave to Adam and Eve, you are correct. Option 1 was simply identified as “natural sex.” God speaks of marriage as two becoming one flesh and meant that their intimate physical union (unitive) signifies their oneness as a necessary element of marriage. The other necessary and inseparable element of marriage is the fruit of their intimate union, the openness to have children (procreative). In Genesis 1:27-28 we read that immediately after God formed the first marriage he commanded them to “increase and multiply.” The first family and the subsequent families since time immemorial used only Option 1 and couples increased the population fairly well.

            The conference identified 6 main objections to IVF. 1) It undermines God’s intended meaning for natural sex. IVF procedures violate the procreation aspect that the holy intimate relationship between the husband and wife (and God) as the cause. Now scientists can manufacture babies from their labs. In their mind who needs God when they can play the role of making babies through their expertise! We contrast this with another violation of natural law by using artificial contraception. Contraception is about having sex without babies while IVF is about having babies without sex! Many have forgotten God’s principle that having a child is not a right but a gift from God.

[To be continued next week…]

                                                                     Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                     Father Escalante

 

February 5, 2012

 

“Tell me, what’s all the fuss about IVF?” (Part 2)

 

[If you missed part 1 it is highly recommended that you read it first. It is available in our website under “Parish Life + Bulletins.”]

Continuing on the 6 major objections to IVF:

 

2) The use of frozen embryos. IVF involves using several eggs that are fertilized with the sperm to form the embryos. The ones determined to be the most likely to be viable are implanted to the mother but the unused embryos are kept in a frozen environment for possible future use. Currently there are about 500,000 frozen embryos in the U.S. Our faith tells us that human life begins at conception. Therefore, these embryos are real-life children whose parents have arranged to have their children placed in a “frozen orphanage.” If we stop and think about it, the parents leave the decision at the hands of the medical staff which of their children gets a chance to live and which ones will have to be sent away to be frozen with the possibility that they may never be given a chance to live. We cannot neglect the fact that once the embryos are formed, these are now real live children! Every person in the world was at one time in the stage form of an embryo. On an interesting note, Italy and Germany prohibits the freezing of embryos and allows a maximum of 3 for an IVF procedure and all have to be implanted to the mother.

 

3) IVF rarely does not require masturbation. We understand the physiological aspect of how the male sperm is released. So it should not be too much of a surprise for anyone to find out that part of the IVF procedure to extract the sperm from the father is to use a form of “self pleasure” using pornography. Judeo-Christian principle has always prohibited any form of sexual pleasure outside of a legitimate intimate relationship between a husband and a wife. The Catholic Church has always taught that masturbation is “an intrinsically and gravely disordered action” and it is always a mortal sin [read Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2352 for more details]. Likewise, the use of pornography is also always a mortal sin [read CCC par. 2354]. Jesus makes it clear that lusting after a woman even just visually is an act of adultery: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28). There will never be a legitimate place for adultery of any form in a sacred marriage. It is also morally unethical to either donate or sell human sperms, eggs or embryos.

 

4) IVF violates the exclusivity of the couple. As mentioned in number 1, the intimate relationship between a husband and wife is removed in the upbringing of a child (or children) when strangers are brought in (doctors, medical staff, etc.) for IVF. In some cases, “surrogatehood” is also introduced as another “stranger” in the husband-wife relationship. Some of the variations include a woman who is willing to “house” the embryo for the couple, an egg or sperm donor is used, etc. Regardless, the exclusive sacred bond in the married couple is violated whenever other persons are factored in the relationship between the husband and wife in the IVF’s attempt to procure a child.

[To be continued next week….And there is good news at the end!]

 

                                                                     Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                     Father Escalante



 

February 12, 2012

 

“Tell me, what’s all the fuss about IVF?” (Part 3 of 3)

 

[If you missed parts 1 & 2, it is highly recommended that you read those first.  It is available in our website under “Shepherd’s Notes” or “Parish Life + Bulletins.”]

 

Continuing on the 6 major objections to IVF:

 

5) Risk of multiple births (multiplets).  The U.S. has the highest rate of multiplets in the world due to the increased use of IVF.  One of the means to stop the multiplets is to terminate the lives of the other conceived babies in the womb of the mother.  The reason is for fear of risking the lack of shared nutrients for the babies and the mother.

 

6) Risk of birth defects .  The risk of birth defects with IVF children is 6 times more likely than the naturally conceived children.  One example from a recent study revealed that 27% of IVF children suffer from ADHD as opposed to 3-5% for the ones normally conceived; and a higher risk also to suffer from infertility, diabetes and obesity.

 

            The good news is there are other proper and effective ways to increase the couple’s chance of conception that the Catholic Church teaches as morally acceptable.  An alternative procedure known as NaPro Technology (Natural Procreative Technology, sometimes referred to as NPT) is a far more successful scientific way of helping couples to conceive than IVF.  There is an important fundamental distinction between replacing the conjugal marital act (no sex, as in IVF) to assisting the marital act (NaPro). 

            NaPro Technology was developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers and his associates while working at St. Louis University and Creighton University.  Dr. Hilgers developed NaPro using the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and has been around for over 30 years.  You will be amazed and encouraged to know that NaPro’s fertility success rate is at a whopping 51% as compared to 21-27% with IVF procedures.  About 75% of women who chose IVF did not succeed in having a baby.

            In a nutshell, NaPro goes far beyond than just trying to conceive a child.  This technology does not use suppressive, destructive or immoral techniques in attempting to achieve conception.  NaPro Technology identifies the problems and cooperates with the woman’s menstrual and fertility cycles which in turn correct the condition, maintain the human ecology, and sustain the procreative potential.  This gives women an opportunity to know and understand the causes of the symptoms that they have been suffering from.

            For more information on NaPro Technology, the first website I highly recommend you check is the Pope Paul VI Institute:  www.popepaulvi.com.  There are links available found on their site that are very helpful such as the following:  www.drhilgers.com, www.naprotechnology.com, www.unleashingthepower.info, www.creightonmodel.com.

            I am aware how important it is for couples, who have been praying so hard to have children, to find the most effective means available to increase their chance of conceiving.  I do hope that reading this is part of the first step to getting your prayers answered.  Make sure to pray to the patron saint of motherhood, St. Gerard Majella.  He is a great advocate for all mothers’ needs (and mothers-to-be as well!).  Check out his website at:  www.praying4ababy.com/stgerard.html.

 

                                                                   Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                   Father Escalante

 



February 19, 2012

 

“2,000 years later, governments still try to suppress the words of Jesus!”

 

            One would think that today’s governments, who are supposedly are better now in understanding history, would have learned that it is futile to suppress the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Regardless of whether it was the pagan Roman Emperors, Attila the Hun, Napoleon Bonaparte, King Henry VIII et al, the Catholic Church has withstood the test of time in overcoming every single oppressors of our faith as she continues to consistently proclaim the Gospel truth of Jesus Christ.  It is very sad that the latest government that is trying to subvert the Catholic Church is coming from the United States of America.

            In reality, the recent government mandate coming from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services is an attack against religious liberty as a whole.  Forcing faith-based organizations to cover contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs is totally unacceptable in the Catholic Church.  Other faiths have rejected what is taking place right now because they recognize this as an infringement against the moral conscience of religious persons.  Our bishops rejected the recent “concession” from the president because it does not really substantially change anything from the previous one.  Please read the enclosed letter from Bishop Loverde.  If you’d like to read more on specific details of the Catholic Church’s rejection of the mandate please go to the following website links:  http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com/, http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/bishops-renew-call-to-legislative-action-on-religious-liberty.cfm, http://vacatholic.org/.

            In the meantime, let us continue to pray, fast and take action to inform our government regarding our objection to the recent mandate that attempts to force our church to compromise our faith.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



February 26, 2012

 

“The ‘Light’…is back on again!”

 

            Once again it is the penitential season of Lent.  Our diocese is renewing its participation in “The Light Is On” program along with the Archdiocese of Washington.  Every Wednesday of Lent you can go into any Catholic Church in these two dioceses between 6:30-8 PM and there will be a priest available to hear confessions.

            If you’re looking for a very effective soul “tune-up”, there is nothing better than making a good confession.  Take advantage of the available extra confession hours to receive the guaranteed reconciliation with God.  For those who have not gone to confession in a long time know that you will be welcomed back in the sacrament of reconciliation.  Going to confession at least once a year is a required practice of our faith.  It is not appropriate for Catholics who have not gone to confession in a long time to receive communion especially for those who do not go to Mass every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation.  So check the bulletin and head over to confession either at our parish or anywhere you wish in our region!  There will be a priest there who will gladly welcome you back just like the father in the story of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

 

“Our road” on Route 287 (Berlin Turnpike)

 

            You may have noticed that there is a serious road construction going on at the intersection of Route 287 and St. Francis Court.  Our parish is actually paying for that construction as part of our new parish center building project.  We are required by the county to have that left-hand turn lane before we could have occupancy for our future building.  So this is actually the very first stage of construction for our new center.  The county is in the final stage of verifying the soil samples from our designated septic drain field and we are very encouraged of the recent positive news.  We are now waiting for the final word that the new turn lane plan going into our parking lot is in compliance with VDOT’s regulation (it borders the Southern Collector road).  Once this is in the clear we will then be issued the final approval for our site plan.  As soon as this happens we will immediately put the plan out for bid!  Those involved in this project have really been working hard with our building committee so please continue to pray that we will get our final site plan approved soon.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



March 4, 2012

 

“Remembering Capt. Michael Quin, USMC (1983-2012)

 

            We were saddened hearing the news of the tragic loss of seven marines during a nighttime helicopter training crash on February 23 and even more saddened learning that one of them was Capt. Michael Quin, the son of our parishioners, Brad and Betsy.  Our prayerful support is with the family and at the present time they are still waiting for more information from the marines about details of the services to be held in Arlington Cemetery.  Since the accident I have spoken to Michael’s mother, Betsy, and his sister, Sarah.  Sarah shared with me a website they had set up that would have the latest information on Michael’s services and for web visitors to post their well wishes.  You will find this at www.michaelquin.com.   Sarah also said that they have an open door for people to come and visit them if you wish.  The sign of welcome that they are home is if their “garage door is open” (505 Canterbury Cir, Purcellville).  In the meantime we pray for the repose of the soul of Michael Quin and the fellow soldiers who died with him, and for the consolation of their family and friends.

 

 

“Generosity extends to donating—blood!”

 

            Gallons and gallons of thanks to all our parishioners who have donated blood to our Knights of Columbus sponsored Blood Drive.  We really appreciate all of Wayne Hanley’s work in organizing our very successful blood drive for the past few years.  We also would like to thank Wayne’s many volunteers who help him.  Last year a total of 43 gallons was received from 386 registered and 345 donors.  I’m not sure what year the blood drive was started in our parish but I do know that at the last drive on February 19 the goal was to reach 600 gallons.  And if you are planning to give blood at any Inova Blood Donor Services Donor Center, be sure to give our parish group number so that our hard working group will receive the credit:  Group Number 3026 (St. Francis de Sales Blood Donor Program).

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 

 

March 11, 2012

 

“Your cross shall be your crown!”

 

            In our lifetime we come across certain words of wisdom that tend to resonate well deep into one’s soul.  Some favorites include: “This, too, shall pass”, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, “Look before you leap”, “You give twice, if you give quickly”, “Before buying, ask your purse”, etc.  Last week I mentioned a phrase in my Lenten homily that many have added to their list of meaningful proverbs, “Your cross shall be your crown.”

            I don’t know the original author of this phrase but a priest friend of mine shared it with me the previous week at a dinner.  He told me that our former and late Bishop John R. Keating used to say it to priests who were undergoing a difficult trial and that many priests were able to persevere through their most challenging moments by keeping it in mind.  A number of parishioners told me this past week that they meditated on this same phrase and it helped them a lot in their own struggles!

            That same night I learned of this wise advice I went back to Reston Hospital to care for a terminally ill parishioner who was expected to meet the Lord at any moment.  She had been battling with cancer for a year and a half and have met and prayed with me several times during that span.  After praying with her family that evening, my last words of encouragement were to assure her that the suffering she has accepted as a sacrifice to the Lord will soon be over.  My parting words were, “Your cross shall be your crown.”  A significant teardrop flowed from her right eye and was gently wiped away by her family.  Less than half an hour later, Our Lord Jesus ushered her into eternal life.

            She was a good faithful soul who loved her Catholic faith and fought like a good soldier of Christ to the end.  We can only guess what her last cry was about.  But I believe that it was a combination of a farewell to her loved ones and a sense of relief knowing that it was time to exchange her cross on earth for the crown in heaven.  As scripture tells us, “Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b).

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



March 18, 2012

 

“Could you pray for me…for the next 30 days?”

 

            Did you know that we have a group of very spiritual people in our parish who would love to take whatever petition(s) you may have for yourself and/or others and offer prayers for 30 straight days?  The prayer group has been around for several years and they are called the “Ministry of Praise.”  Their coordinator is our longtime parishioner for over 40 years, Dottie Gessner (dmgessner@verizon.net).

            If you would like to place a prayer request for the group, all you have to do is fill out the prayer intention form located in the church narthex and drop it in the white box on the wall labeled, “Ministry of Praise.”  Its location is on the right side as soon as you enter the church but before you go inside the inside glass doors (on the same side of the Ask the Priest box).  You may not have noticed it before because there are no neon signs pointing to it.  It is inconspicuously hanging there and anxiously waiting for your prayer petitions.

            Many will attest that great things happened after this wonderful silent spiritual force of God’s heavenly army on earth have prayed for them.  We know that Our Lord Jesus loves this group very much for he says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  Saint James the apostle also writes, “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (James 5:16b).  And if you’re interested in joining the prayer group you may also drop your request in the same box or email Dottie from the address above.

 

Upcoming services for Capt. Michael Quin

 

            If you missed the welcoming procession last week, here’s a quick memorial service update on our local hero, Capt. Michael Quin.  There will be visitation available on Tuesday, March 20 from 1-5 PM at the Purcellville Baptist Church (601 Yaxley Dr) and 6-8 PM at the Bush Tabernacle (250 South Nursery Ave).  On Wednesday, March 21 a funeral Mass will be celebrated at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel (204 Lee Ave, Fort Myer, VA) at 8:45 AM.  For more info please check the website:  www.michaelquin.com and click under East Coast Services.  And for those unable to attend any of the services can always pray for Michael and his colleagues and their families.

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                        Father Escalante

 



March 25, 2012

 

A new MIDDLE SCHOOL YOUTH GROUP era just began!

 

            We are so excited about last Sunday’s launch of a brand new middle school youth group (Grades 6, 7 & 8).  Forty (40) kids took part in the “Amazing Grace Race” from 4-5:30 PM at our parish grounds.  The event included a combination of scavenger hunt, team work and adventure that utilized the kids’ mind, body and spirit.  The kids had a superb time hanging around with each other and are now itching to participate in the future events.

            God sent us another generous blessing by inspiring our new youth organizers (and current catechists), Bill and Beth Ann McRoberts, to spiritually foster our middle school kids in a fun way.  They are superb working with this age group.  The youngsters also relate to them very well.  This program will be a big boost for the kids to transition to our high school youth group in the very near future because they will already have been active at our parish activities.  You should have seen how happy these kids were just hanging out with each other.  The scavenger hunt helped them to identify a lot of things on our church grounds that they didn’t know were there!  Some who have not yet gone to Sunday Mass stayed on for the 6 PM Mass.  It was a great scene to see them sit with Jane and Chris Treado’s High School Youth Group.  What a great Sunday to see the future leaders of the Catholic Church sitting side by side at Mass!

            Stay tune for future activities by checking the bulletin.  New middle school students are welcome and encouraged to join.  Bill and Beth Ann McRoberts can be reached at BMcRoberts@starpower.net or at 540-668-7214.  They haven’t officially adopted a name yet for their group but they are thinking of possibly doing that at their next meeting.

            Dear Lord, we thank you for the generosity of Bill and Beth Ann McRoberts for responding to your calling to minister to our new youth group.  We are also thankful for the volunteer parents who are most eager to support them in this endeavor.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



April 1, 2012

 

WARNING!  WARNING!  WARNING!

Pornography has taken over the lives of many…including the young!

 

            This stern warning is a plea for everyone to take seriously the problem with pornography.  It has ruined marriages, careers, healthy social relationships, and sadly, childhood and adolescent development.  What you will read here may shock you but out of desperation I found it necessary to write about it because the effects of this sin has gone viral even among the good people of God.  The serious sin of pornography has become a challenge for priests to even help those who got caught in this web of satan and are having a difficult time freeing themselves from this slavery of the flesh.  It is my hope that during this Holy Week and Easter season many would make a defining effort to turn away from pornography and, if necessary, get spiritual advice or professional help.

            Spiritual writes and theologians have long believed that the most serious sins committed are those against the sins of impurity (6th & 9th Commandments).  Confessors agree with this wholeheartedly based on the repetitive sins mentioned by the penitents.  Heaven seems to give credence to this because back in 1917 Our Lady of Fatima revealed to one of the seers, Blessed Jacinta Marto, that “More souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”

            How serious is this problem in parishes?  Last October a seminar was offered to aid the priests in the battle against those who are caught up in pornography.  It truly is a spiritual warfare and, unfortunately, the church does not have the upper hand on this.  We’ve lost a number of souls already because it is very difficult to compete against a vast powerful media that promotes the deadly sin of lust everywhere from movies, to commercials, fashion, internet, cable tv, music, electronic games, smartphones, etc.  The little voice of conscience that the church has is often ridiculed or squelched as much as possible.  The facilitator at the seminar shared a study with us that it is not unusual that somewhere from 40-60% of the men in any given Sunday congregation has a problem with pornography—including many of our youth.  Porno has gotten quite a stranglehold in our society that it has become more popular than America’s pastime, baseball!  The convenience and privacy of the internet has become the main source for the fast spread of pornography.  Addiction to pornography is real and it predominantly affects men (though recent study also shows that there is a significant increase among women as well because their men don’t have time for them due to pornography).  Hopefully, after reading all of this, the men affected by this problem would man up and admit that it’s time to walk away and turn to way of the Lord.  Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).   And if you find an irresistible strong urge to use the internet to watch porn, try these:  www.PornHarms.com,  www.moralityinmedia.org,  and www.purehope.net.

And sadly, many parents today are not aware that their own regular churchgoing kids are addicted to pornography.  Some were exposed to porn by hearing it from their peers, others through curious browsing and, most unfortunately, others stumbled upon this from their father’s (or other relative’s) computer.  The website from Morality in Media is a useful site that parents can learn from to safeguard their kids from indecent internet exposure.  It is the nation’s oldest anti-pornography organization and was founded in 1962 by a Jesuit priest, Father Morton Hill.  As a pastoral advice, it would be very wise for parents to take a proactive measure now to monitor their kids’ use of the internet media.  Just placing a filter in the computer would not be sufficient.  It is a terrible situation when the youth has gone undetected for quite some time with pornography addiction.  It often reaches a point where a simple confession would not suffice to solve the problem.  It would require a combination of confession and the help of a professional counselor that could take a long time for rehabilitation.

The diocesan Youth Ministry is sponsoring a couple of free evening seminars this month designed to help the parents to be aware and/or deal with the problem of pornography among the youth.  It is titled, “Raising Children in a Sexualized Culture” presented by a representative from PureHope.  Please see the enclosed bulletin flyer for more details.

I could have written a lot more on this subject but will hold off until another time.  There are plenty of helpful materials right now in this column for starters.  Our ultimate goal in this life is to see God with our eyes of faith and be holy.  This vision can only be attained if we sincerely try to keep our hearts as close to being pure.  For as Jesus teaches us from his sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante




April 8, 2012

 

“Happy Easter…and welcome to our new Catholics—lots of them!”

 

            Wishing all of you a wonderful celebration of Easter!

 

            Easter is the greatest liturgical celebration in our church calendar.  The 3 holy days of Easter include Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday (beginning with the vigil).  And this Easter vigil we were generously blessed with 22 new Catholics in our parish!  The Gospel message of Jesus continues to bear good fruit even some 2,000 years later after his preaching, crucifixion, and resurrection.  We wholeheartedly welcome them with open arms here at Saint Francis de Sales Church.  This year’s class was personally unique for me because I had met nearly every single one of them prior to signing up in the RCIA class.  Somewhere along the way we had shared meals, played Wii or on the parish softball team, was at the same Super Bowl party, rubbed shoulders at CCD, at the same wedding ceremony, etc.  So if anyone thinks that the Catholic religion is dying out in America’s modern society—better think again!  The authentic Roman Catholic faith united with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome is very much alive right here in our humble “country-like” parish in Purcellville.

 

Next Sunday is 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 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).

 

The parish also invites everyone next Sunday afternoon (April 15) for the special observance of the Divine Mercy. From 2:45 PM until 4 PM we will have Eucharistic Adoration and the recitation (chanting) of the Divine Mercy Chaplet (3 PM) and the Holy Rosary.  Hope to see you there!

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                        Father Escalante

 



April 15, 2012

 

Get your “Get Out of Jail Free” card this Sunday!

 

            Many of us have played the classic game of Monopoly.  In that game you could land in jail.  There are a number of ways to get out of jail but the easiest one is if you have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

            Our faith tells us that not everyone who dies is perfectly ready to go straight to heaven.  One needs to be absolutely perfect to be fit for heaven because there is no place for any imperfection in God’s kingdom.  Good people who have died but are not quite suitable for heaven must undergo a state of purgation in what we theologically refer to as purgatory.  There many ways to minimize our time or even escape purgatory while we are still here on earth.  Prayers that have indulgences (don’t worry, contrary to what some people believe these are obtained absolutely without charge!) can help lessen our purification duration in purgatory.

            But this Sunday there is a popular devotion that Blessed John Paul II helped promote during his papacy that would render something like the legendary Get Out of Jail Free card.  This devotion is so simple to follow yet filled with many beautiful graces including the remission of all temporal punishments (purgatory time) up to the present time.  You wouldn’t want to miss this spiritual golden opportunity!

Today is the annual Divine Mercy Sunday.  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).

Join us this Sunday afternoon (April 15) for the special observance of the Divine Mercy.  From 2:45 PM until 4 PM we will have Eucharistic Adoration, the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet (3 PM) and the Holy Rosary.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



April 22, 2012

 

“Face to face with God”

 

            The responsorial refrain today from Psalm 4 says, “Lord, let your face shine on us.”  We would immediately experience immense joy if we see God face to face.  We would be dazzled as the apostles were with our own vision of the Transfiguration.  But what if we could get an opportunity to see and talk to God face to face, would we do it? Sadly, most people would not.  While this may sound like a wild guess, you might change your mind after I give you some food for thought.

            A couple of issues ago I read in the Arlington Herald about a recent study from Georgetown (Center for Applied Research and Apostolate) regarding Mass attendance in the U.S.  Its study contrasted that back in the 1940’s and 1950’s 70-80% of Catholics in the U.S. went to Mass every Sunday.  The percentage went down drastically during the post-Vatican II era in the late 1960’s and is currently now at about 35%.  What do these numbers mean regarding seeing God face to face?

            Does not our Catholic faith teach us that the Eucharist is the actual real presence of Jesus in both his spiritual and physical presence?  If that’s the case, then every time Mass is celebrated we would be seeing Jesus face to face.  And if we believe that the Bible is the true Word of God, wouldn’t we be listening to God speaking to us directly?  If we have the true presence of Jesus is present at every Mass, then why are there only about 35% of Catholics want to visit with Our Lord?

            We also have an all-night Eucharistic exposition and adoration every First Friday of the month from 12:30 PM through Saturday morning just prior to the 9 AM Mass.  This is an excellent time to be with God face to face for a prolonged period of time.  Why is it that only a very tiny percentage of our parishioners make even a short visit to be with Our Blessed Lord?  When I make my visit to the Oratory during adoration it is usually the same people who are there and the list of attendees who sign in during the wee hours of the night seem to be the usual ones as well.

            If more Catholics were truly aware of what they are really missing, many more would return to Mass.  Not many Catholics today truly understand the beauty and mystery of the Mass.  It is ironic that the Catholics understood the Mass much better back in the 1950’s when it was in Latin even by the far less academically educated than when it is now celebrated in the vernacular (local language).  The problem has nothing to do with language.  It was the catechesis of understanding the Mass that many have failed to appreciate God’s presence and gracious spiritual gifts in the Mass.

            Today’s Responsorial Psalm, “Lord, let your face shine on us,” was God’s invitation to truly appreciate his great gift and means to personally communicate with us. Our response is to reverently and faithfully be present at Our Lord’s heavenly banquet of sacrifice.  And when possible, God also invites us to be with him in our private time to visit him at Eucharistic Adoration.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



April 29, 2012

 

The Lord called them ‘home’

 

            We received word from our late Father Michael Kelly’s father, John Kelly, passed away on April 20, 2012.  We learned that he had been very ill the past few months and that his sons were present when God called him to eternal life.  The funeral information we have is that the viewing was held on Thursday (April 26) at Mullins and Thompson Funeral Home in Fredericksburg.  The funeral Mass was celebrated on Friday, April 27 at Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Fredericksburg at 7:45 AM followed by internment at Quantico National Cemetery.  In lieu of flowers and gifts the family requested that a donation be made to the Wounded Warrior Project (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/) in the name of Lt. Col. John Kelly, USMC (Ret). Online condolences may be sent at www.mullinsthompsonfredericksburg.com.  Please keep John Kelly and his family in your prayers.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



May 6, 2012

 

Introducing a new Men’s Purity Support Group:

“Augustine’s Brothers”

 

            Last month I mentioned about following up on providing more help for men who are seeking assistance in the area of chastity.  There is a new group that was formed in our diocese about a year ago with our bishop’s blessing.  It is called, Augustine’s Brothers.  Some of you may know that prior to St. Augustine’s conversion and baptism he had led a sinful and promiscuous lifestyle.  By cooperating with God’s grace Augustine became not just a great saint of purity but also a great Doctor of the Church. 

Augustine’s Brothers is a weekly confidential support group that meets in Reston for men who are experiencing problems with pornography.  A representative from their group stopped by my office to give me information on how I may inform our parish regarding their mission.  I learned that a priest has been assigned to visit their group regularly to offer spiritual guidance.  Their meetings begin with the recitation of Our Lady’s Rosary followed by a brief reading from a spiritual book.  Currently they are discussing “Theology of the Body for Beginners” by Christopher West.  Tuesday is the group’s choice day of the week to offer special prayers, sacrifice, and fasting for each other.  Many of the men go to daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration.  It is in the group’s principle that spirituality and accountability work hand in hand if they expect to succeed in overcoming their problem.

            Augustine’s Brothers may be reached by calling Tim at 727-207-2856 or by email at augustinesbrothers@hotmail.com.  There is also a general electronic diocesan resource regarding chastity for men, women, and children by visiting this website:  http://www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity/

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



May 13, 2012

 

“About Mother’s Day”

 

            It’s Mother’s Day!

 

            The modern day of celebrating Mother’s Day in the U.S. is attributed to Anna Jarvis in 1907 when she planned holding a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia.  In 1914 her campaign to make this a national holiday was recognized by President Woodrow Wilson.  Not long after many other nations adopted the practice of setting a day of the year for Mother’s Day.

 

            In the U.S. Mother’s Day was set for the 2nd Sunday of May and most countries have done the same.  An Egyptian journalist in 1943 introduced the concept in his country to celebrate it on March 21 and a majority of Arab countries have since followed the tradition.  Russia celebrates theirs on the last Sunday of November.  Ireland and Great Britain celebrate theirs on the 4th Sunday of Lent perhaps due to a tradition dating back to the 16th century when it was the custom for everyone to visit their mother church on Laetare Sunday (4th Sunday of Lent) and thus were also reunited with their birth mothers.  And did you know that after Christmas and Easter the largest church attendance occurs on Mother’s Day?

 

            When we honor our mother this Sunday let us also remember to honor our common mother in heaven, Our Blessed Mother.  She truly watches over all of us alongside her beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.  A portion of our prayers should be offered in her honor today.  Our annual Coronation of Mary celebration at our Mary Garden will be held this Sunday afther 10:30 AM Mass. And as a tribute to our moms we should pray that Our Lady would always bless them and provide for all the help they need.  By the way, should you decide to give a carnation to your mother, make sure it is the right kind according to tradition.  Colored carnations are given to living mothers while the white carnations are for the memorial of deceased mothers.  You could always give both colors:  the colored one for your living mom and the white in memory of her deceased mom (or grandmom).

 

            One sad note, Anna Jarvis lamented the holiday that she introduced because she felt strongly that it had lost its true meaning to truly honoring one’s mother due to over commercialization.  From the 1920’s to her death in 1948 she spent practically all of her inheritance to making known her opposition to what has become of the holiday.  Jarvis even criticized the selling of Mother’s Day cards because she felt that people have gotten lazy about writing a personal letter.  Folks, keep this in mind that while sending a greeting card is likely perfectly all right these days, make sure you don’t make a mistake of just sending your mom a simple email or text greeting—not cool, just not cool!  A personal call or visit would be better.  Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers!!!

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



May 20, 2012

 

Congratulations to the First Communicants!

 

            Last week we had 110 of our young parishioners receive the sacrament of the Eucharist for the very first time.  It was such a beautiful spiritual experience for them and every year I look forward to seeing the children receive Our Blessed Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  We were also blessed with a beautiful sunny day to celebrate this most special occasion.  I want thank all the catechists who helped our religious education department teach and prepare these precious children of God for their most important spiritual experience with God.

 

            Speaking of sacraments, this week your priests reached another milestone in their priesthood ordination anniversary.  Father Tewes was ordained on May 18, 1996 (16th anniversary) and mine was on May 20, 1995 (17th anniversary).  Please keep all the priests in your prayers everyday for the success of our apostolic ministry.  And remember to also pray for the future priests in our church:  the seminarians and those contemplating entering the seminary.

 

            Have a blessed week!

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                        Father Escalante

 



May 27, 2012

 

“Happy unofficial summer kickoff!”

 

            Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff for summer events for a lot of people.  Most schools are closing earlier this year and graduations are taking place left and right.  There are some in the parish who opened their pools and doing backyard barbecue already.  This is all great and wonderful and I, too, will soon be pulling out my comfy summer wear like the rest of you when I take my first vacation break of the year next month.  Last year I went on a cruise ship to Alaska to cool off but this time I’m getting on a much smaller boat by trying out kayaking off the Florida Keys.  Now that I have recovered much of my strength after going through Lyme disease treatment I’m starting to have the confidence to get back to doing more fun sports activities again.

            Speaking of summer attire, I would just like to make my annual reminder to please keep in mind that summer fun wear and summer church wear are not always in agreement.  Every year when the weather gets warm I get several parishioners expressing their disappointment about what some people wear to Mass.  Many find it very offensive.  It is very important to keep in mind that it is inappropriate to wear overly revealing clothing for Sunday worship.  Quite frankly, it can be sinful when one causes another to be distracted from the worship of God by someone not properly distressed for church.  If you want to know whether God cares about how we dress up for church, I recommend reading the parable of the wedding feast on Matthew 22:1-14.  It will surprise many.

            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.

            Have a great summer everyone!  And congratulations to everyone who has graduated or will graduate this year.  God bless!

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 

 



June 3, 2012

 

“Summer vacations…and parish support”

 

            Many of our parishioners are leaving for vacation and some for a prolonged period of time during the hot summer to a more comfortable region.  That’s all wonderful and I highly recommend it for those who can.  If you read last weekend’s bulletin I’m taking advantage of some down time by heading out towards the coastal waters for a few days during the latter part of June.  Just know that our beloved parish continues its mission to bring Our Lord close to the hearts of the people especially in the Eucharistic celebration at Mass while some of our members go away for R & R.  As your spiritual shepherd I would like to encourage you to please continue to send your financial support of the parish even during your time away.  Many of you are already doing that and it is even made easier for some through our online Parish Giving program.  We’re slightly behind meeting our fiscal year budget that ends on June 30.  Your help is greatly appreciated.

            Otherwise, I do wish all of you a wonderful summer!  Take care and God bless.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

         



June 10. 2012

“Fortnight of Freedom” (June 21 – July 4)

 

            If you have been following the news recently you will have some familiarity with the Catholic Church in the United States facing a major catastrophe regarding our government coercing our church to abide with the Department of Health and Human Service’s mandate that would include mandatory coverage for Catholic organizations to provide contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs at the cost of the employer regardless if they are morally opposed to those services.  This is the current law due to take effect very soon and it is not just a mere guideline or a suggestion.  When the Catholic Church expressed her moral objection to the law, the administration said that they have respectfully listened to the objection and as a concession giving the church one year to comply with the law.  In other words, thank you for your opinion and as a concession we will give you one year to get used to it and change your mind—or else start paying the heavy price of the penalties that will be levied against you!

Well, this is the kind of religious liberty interpretation we are now getting for our current political leaders.  Secular leaders who are so insistent on not having any reference to God in our society are now mandating faith-based churches and organizations what is the appropriate way to express their faith.  What has happened to our supposed defenders of the constitution that were supposedly elected to guarantee every citizen’s religious freedom?  Who would have thought that this could happen in the United States of America, the “leader” of the free world?  Unless direct action is taken immediately this erosion of freedom in our country will continue to slide into oblivion.  This isn’t just about the Catholic Church and its opposition to contraception and abortion.  This is about taking away a big chunk of religious freedom that the constitution guarantees as a right.  If the current political leaders succeed with this, you can only imagine what other rights that can be taken away in the future.

The Fortnight for Freedom that is set to be observed from June 21-July 4 (2 weeks) is the Catholic Bishops’ response for a special period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action that would emphasize our Christian and American heritage of liberty.  There will be prayers and talks in parishes regarding this important matter.  Please stay tuned to what is published in our bulletin.

Our neighboring parish, St. John the Apostle in Leesburg is having a 2-week continuous Eucharistic Adoration and our parish has taken two 24-hour slots [June 25 & July 2] to help them fill their slots.  Our 24-hour period will begin at 9am after their 8:30 am morning Mass and continue until the Tuesday morning Mass at 8:30 am.  (There is also a noon Mass Monday-Friday so the noon slot includes Mass).  We are also scheduling a children’s Holy Hour at 10:00am and a Teen Holy Hour at 8:00pm on our Mondays to encourage parishioners of all ages to participate.  This will require help from the entire Parish, not just our regular First Friday Adorers.  We hope that this will be an opportunity for many new people to experience Adoration for the first time as well  (no prior experience is required! J).  Please contact Mark Donofrio at sixdonofrios@comcast.net, 540 338-8133 if you have any questions and to sign-up.  There will also be a sign-up sheet in the Narthex after all Masses for the next 3 weekends.

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



June 17, 2012

 

“New assignment!”

 

            It was February 18, 2009 when I moved in at Saint Francis de Sales parish and remember that day very well.  It was a bittersweet feeling because I made one last farewell visit at Saint Luke School in McLean where I taught K-8 religion to all the kids before embarking for my new home in Purcellville.  The kids were quite sad that day because we had a wonderful spiritual journey together.  Leaving a parish for a new one has always been difficult for me.  In my 17 years as a priest I am now living in my 6th parish.  And each parish had a unique personality as a congregation.

However difficult each move there was also excitement in my heart knowing that the Lord has something new on the horizon for me to take his Gospel message.  God was giving me a new chapter in my spiritual adventure.  Whoever does not get excited about the challenges and excitement of a new fertile land to bring the Spirit of God into is definitely not in the right frame of mind or line of work.  Coming to Saint Francis de Sales certainly brought new big challenges for me since I did not come in the most ideal situation.  Replacing a predecessor who was called by God unexpectedly made the transition a bit more complex.  When there is a change of hands in leadership there is usually a briefing period and this was just not possible.  The good thing was there were a lot of caring people who did their best to catch me up to speed.  One of those urgent projects I came across was, of course, building the new parish center.

Regardless, after being with you for three years and four months as parochial administrator, I was very happy to announce last weekend that Bishop Loverde has appointed me as your new pastor effective June 27, 2012.  I am very much looking forward to being with you for a little while yet.  Please keep me in your prayers as we continue on our journey to walk with the Lord towards his heavenly kingdom.  "Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him"  (Colossians 3:17).

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante



July 8, 2012

 

“How I spent my first day as a pastor”

 

            Bishop Loverde appointed me as pastor of Saint Francis de Sales effective on June 27, 2012.  Due to a previously arranged vacation time I was in Florida at the time the assignment took effect and was at a place I have been waiting to see for 32 years.  The place is called Coral Castle in Homestead, FL.  If you have not heard of it I recommend that you check it out.  It is one of the greatest unsolved engineering mysteries in the world.  The romantic story behind its making and its overall history has intrigued the people from all over the world since the 1920’s.  To this date the scientific experts are still baffled how Edward Leedskalnin, a weak 100-lb. man from Latvia, could build his amazing coral reef castle singlehandedly when some of the structures weighed as much as 23 tons a piece.  He built this for the love of his life, Agnes Scuffs, whom he affectionately called as his “Sweet Sixteen.” Sadly, she canceled the wedding the night before the ceremony and Leedskalnin left for the U.S. brokenhearted.  He built this castle hoping that one day his Sweet Sixteen would come.  She never did.  But he built his dream castle anyway and proudly shared it with the rest of us.  Here are a couple of websites I recommend for you to learn more about Coral Castle:  www.coralcastle.com and www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcfBYXRC7r0.

            What I wanted to share with you was a unique spiritual experience that took place while I was there.  One of the tour guides who learned that it took me over 3 decades of waiting patiently to finally see it.  She gave me an extra private tour of the castle.  At first she didn’t notice my Roman collar because I was not wearing my usual black clerical shirt.  Since I was in Florida during a hot summer, I wore my made-for-hot- climate white clergy shirt (it’s a good thing they make one).  She thought I was some kind of a mathematician who was fascinated with the weights and pulleys on display that the builder had used.  (Had she known what my math grades were in school she would not have made that assumption!).  Anyway, when I identified myself as a Catholic priest she was delighted and filled with joy.  She mentioned how she had been recently contemplating returning to her Catholic faith and has long desired to talk to somebody about it and there I was.  As I sat on one of the amazingly comfortable 9-ton coral reef reclining chair, we talked about how God brought us together on that today.  It was God looking after her that a priest was sent to speak to her about returning to the faith.  I mentioned I had just become a pastor on that day and the job description is to be a shepherd of souls.  Our conversation made my visit even more special than it already was after a 32 year wait.  Now it was even more meaningful than I could have ever imagined and something I will remember throughout my life as a priest.  It is so true that while priests may take a vacation, priests never take a vacation from their priesthood.

            Edward Leedskalnin and I share one thing in common.  We both fell in love with a young woman named Agnes.  Regardless of where our lives would take us we both decided to dedicate our lifetime of work to our respective Sweet Agnes.  For 28 years Ed built his coral castle for Agnes Scuffs.  For the past 27-½ years I have dedicated my spiritual life revival to my dear Agnes, Saint Agnes of Rome.  The biggest difference is my Agnes has never left me and has always stood by my side especially in my most difficult times.  My seminary and priesthood days have been dedicated to Saint Agnes. Stop by my office sometime and you will see her image prominently displayed on the wall.  My license plate reads: ST AGNES.  By the way, St. Agnes’ most common image shows her holding a lamb—quite a fitting patroness for a “pastor” (Latin for shepherd), don’t you think?  And I thank you very much for your prayers and support.  It is a great blessing that I am with you at Saint Francis de Sales for my first assignment as pastor.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



July 15, 2012

 

A “new” column coming up!

 

            Due to the 4th of July holiday our bulletin had to be sent to the company a few days earlier than usual so what I may say here is about a week late.  First of all, I just want to thank everyone who helped arranged for my installation as pastor on Sunday, July 1st.  It was a bit of challenge to make it happen due to the unexpected big derecho storm that caused a lot of damage, serious injuries and even death through several states. Even our deanery priest and pastor of Our Lady of Hope (Sterling), Father Saunders, did not have electricity at his parish when he came to perform the installation.  All the Sunday Masses were understandably small in attendance.  About a third of those who came to Mass lost electricity that weekend.  Nevertheless, we had a very wonderful ceremony and reception and I just want to thank you again for all the work you did.

            I mentioned at the Mass that I am most grateful to the bishop for giving me an opportunity to stay here a little longer at the parish.  We have a lot of work to do ahead including the building of our new parish center.  One of my happiest moments in the parish these past 3-1/2 years is the willingness from many of you to give me a helping hand with the work that needed to be done.  A common question that pops up is “How can we help?” This is really great that many have expressed a desire to help me carry the load and I began to wonder how I could make the needs known to the parish.  In the past I’ve had great success using the bulletin as a means to address many of the questions pertaining to our parish and our Catholic faith through the Shepherd’s Notes and Ask the Priest columns.  (By the way, I receive at least a dozen questions per week in the Ask the Priest box!)

During the days while I was in prayer in anticipation for my installation as pastor, a thought came to my mind about asking the parishioners the kind of help I would need from them.  An idea came up and I began to imagine having a new column where this time “I” get to ask for help in the form of a column.  So I mentioned in my first homily as a pastor about creating a new column called, “Pastor’s Wish List”.  Those who have been looking for ways to volunteer will now know exactly what some of the available needs I have identified when they check the bulletin.  After Mass several people told me that it was a very good idea and are looking forward to seeing it.

Last Sunday I was reminded by an 11-year old who was present at my installation that I have not placed my new column yet for the people to see how they may volunteer their time and was quite disappointed.  I tell you, my heart warmed up even more about this new column after seeing that even Our Lord’s precious little ones really want to take part in giving me a helping hand!  Did I ever tell you how happy and blessed I am to be here at Saint Francis de Sales parish?

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 

 

July 22, 2012

 

In search of a new…

 

            Our parish is currently in a transition mode in search of a new music director.  Until the position is filled, we will be following a simple format of having a music accompanist and a cantor to lead the congregation in singing.  In the meantime I have given Father Tewes a new set of title and duties:  Vicar for Liturgy and Music.  Father Tewes is working with our liturgy director, Cathy Mitchell, whose role has also been expanded during the transition.  So far divine providence has been very good in helping them fill the gaps for the summer Sunday schedule and providing music for the couples getting married.  Should a funeral arise they also have made arrangements to take care of the liturgy planning and music.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer cantor to join our small but very nice group of cantors, please contact Cathy Mitchell at the parish (540.338.6381 or c.mitchell@saintfrancisparish.org).

The duty of every parish is to provide sacred liturgical music for the parish community in accord with the Catholic Church teachings on Sacred Liturgy and Music.  The music selected for each Mass is not done arbitrarily.  There is a format followed regardless of whether the style of music is traditional, contemporary or somewhere in between.  Whatever hymn or song selected is based on the readings for the particular Mass and/or the particular feast or liturgical season.  For example, it would be liturgically incorrect (and probably very offensive) to sing, “Joy to the World”, on Good Friday.  It has always been my goal to meet the liturgical music preferences to a wide number of parishioners.  The good thing is the format is mostly already in place.

When I arrived here 3-1/2 years ago I have been asked several times for a Mass with traditional music.  One would expect that this request is from the older generation but, strange as it may sound, a large contingent of them comes from our young families.  Just examine the crowd for the 8:30 AM Sunday Mass especially after Labor Day and you will find the congregation is filled with young families and some with several children.  (This is also our best-dressed Sunday Mass goer!).  They have also a small group of dedicated singers that sing at CD-quality stereo when they do a 4-part voice hymn.  Since they are up in the choir loft unseen there have been times when people thought we were playing a CD when they are singing—I’m not kidding!  At the 10:30 AM we have set that aside for the mix of mainline contemporary/traditional music that most families would be familiar with.  Of the 6 Sunday Masses this is by far our biggest crowd.  Their choir has gotten smaller over the years and it is my goal to build this number up.  I commend and thank all of those who have remained and kept the choir going to guide our largest congregation for the day.  And, of course, we have another very dedicated group of musicians and singers at the 6 PM Teen Mass.  Their brand of music was described to me as modern contemporary and I hope that is the correct term.  I am very thankful for their faithfulness in providing us with a constant all-season/all-weather/all-volunteer music that a large contingent of our families, especially our youth, truly appreciate and enjoy.  What was originally intended as a “Youth Mass” is not really accurate anymore because even some of our senior members love coming to this Mass!  The format for the 5 PM Saturday vigil and 12:30 PM Masses is simply a musical accompanist and a cantor.

What I would love to continue in our music ministry is that there are enough preferences for people to go to.  I have never been in a parish where everyone was happy with the choice of music and I don’t expect that to change.  We make an effort to cover a wide variety and that’s about as best as we can do it.  So please join in me in praying that we will find the right person who will be able to successfully lead our congregation in singing for the glory of God during my years as your pastor and beyond.  It is my desire that the new music director would have a good rapport with all of our music groups. Regardless of one’s liturgical music preference, we share the same one Catholic faith.  The one guarantee I can give you is that Saint Francis de Sales parish will only preach and teach what the Roman Catholic Church officially teaches.  In reality, all parishes are supposed to do the same thing so this guarantee is not just a preference on my part.  It is God’s law!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante



July 29, 2012

 

A follow up on Bishop Gassis’ visit last week

 

            We truly enjoyed the homily given by Bishop Macram Gassis last Sunday.  It was just unfortunate that he wasn’t able to be here for all the Masses.  As the Bishop of El Obeid in South Sudan, he shared with us some very inspiring and heroic work that his people do as they struggle against the hostile and oppressive north Sudan. Bishop Gassis has been able to establish churches, hospitals and schools in his very large diocese.  He told us that his boundary extends even to parts of Libya and Chad.  Darfur, Sudan is probably the most well known segment of his diocese.  And they do need our support to help them maintain their mission in bringing Christ to the hearts of the people and healing for those who are sick and victims of the ongoing war.

            There were many parishioners who wanted to send their donation to the bishop but many weren’t aware that last weekend’s 2nd collection was the designated one for the Bishop Gassis Sudan Relief Fund.  It was an accidental mistake that it was not included in the bulletin.  It is not too late to send in your generous contribution.  So for those inquiring how to send your donation, please make your check to St. Francis de Sales Church and place on the memo “Bishop Gassis-Sudan Fund” or something similar and we will forward the check to them through our diocese.  He has done so much that this year he is one of the nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Here’s a website that you will find helpful in learning more about the work of Bishop Gassis:  http://www.bishopgassis.org/

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



August 5, 2012

 

Latest update on building our new parish center

 

            On Thursday, July 26 representatives from Loudoun County examined our septic drain field area and declared that a certain section was unusable.  I was present when a backhoe was brought in to sample the soil areas that were deemed unfit and concur that the section had a high content of “chippy” layers of rock only 18 inches deep (they needed to be at 4 feet).  The good news is that they found ample area where the drain field section could be relocated.  The only negative side was that section was our projected “overflow parking” that we unfortunately now have to sacrifice.  The other good news is that since the drain fields are separately approved from the building facility, so far we have met all the requirements for the 30,000 sq. ft. building and remain on course to get that approved very soon.  When that happens we can finally put the building up for bid to the contractors.  We are still hoping that this can be done within the next month and a half.  Please continue to pray for the success of building our badly needed new parish center.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 

 

August 12, 2012

 

A new beautiful Catholic Church in Leesburg!

 

            If you’re looking for the latest landmark to visit in Leesburg I highly recommend stopping by the newly built church of our neighboring parish, Saint John the Apostle Catholic Church in Leesburg (101 Oakcrest Manor Dr. NE, Leesburg).  It is a magnificent place of worship and a great addition to the historic buildings in town.

            Some of us from our parish were able to be present at the church dedication ceremony celebrated by Bishop Loverde.  The Rite of Dedication from start to finish was over 3 hours long but very beautiful.  It started with a procession from the parish center to the entrance door of the church.  It was followed by the ceremonial handing of the key to the bishop and the rest of us were then allowed to go inside for the first time.  The walls of the church were blessed and after the homily the relics of St. Damien of Molokai, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha were permanently sealed in the altar.  Afterwards the altar and walls were anointed with the oil blessed by the bishop.  Shortly after the candles were lit the Mass continued with the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

            We congratulate the pastor, Father John Mosimann, and the parishioners of Saint John the Apostle for the great work they did in building a most glorious church to house Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  We share in their great joy as the universal Catholic Church in the world also share their delight in knowing that another beautiful sacred place has been added for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 

 

* * * PASTOR’S WISH LIST * * *

 

August 19, 2012

 

Here’s my first attempt at using the new Pastor’s Wish List column for special needs in our parish.  I thought I’d introduce it at this week’s Shepherd’s Notes column.

 

vParish Picnic Volunteers for Sunday, September 16 (as many people as possible)

 

vAdult Choir members (8:30 AM Schola and 10:30 AM Choir; no age limit!)

 

vNew Children’s Choir (Middle school age and below)

 

--An exciting announcement of a new music director/organist who would like to build up the 3 mentioned choirs is coming very soon!!!

 

vCatechists for Religious Education

 

v3 Volunteers to work with me and the diocese on the Increased Offertory Program to take place this Fall.  We really need help with this and the diocese has offered to help train us for this important task.  (The work is not as daunting as it sounds.  There is a format that parishes use for this and it doesn’t involve calling people individually.)  I really could use your help with this and I’ll be anxiously waiting for your response!

 

Please contact me directly for your response by phone (540-338-6381 ext. 102), by email (countryparishpriest@gmail.com), by “snail mail” or in person.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 

 

 

August 26, 2012

 

NEWS FLASH:  We have a new Music Director!

 

            Thank you everyone who have been praying that we find a new music director.  It looks like Our Lord has provided our parish with a timely hire.  One of the church music directors in Northern Virginia had placed his home on the market this summer and was relocating somewhere around our parish boundary.  A couple of his family friends have recently joined our parish within the past year and were quite happy to be here so he decided to move his young family towards our direction as well.  We do believe we are in God’s lovely little country so we shouldn’t be too surprised that he decided to share in our blessings.  Please pray that he finds the right home very soon so that he doesn’t have to make the 40-minute commute to our church.

            Our new music director is Michael Galdo.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and Religious Studies from the University of Virginia and a Master of Sacred Music (Organ) from the Catholic University of America.  He was the music director, organist/pianist and music teacher at Our Lady of Hope Church and School in Potomac Falls, VA for the past 4 years.  His other past parish experience includes St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish (Charlottesville), Marymount University (Arlington) and St. Luke Church (McLean).  He and his wife are active members of the Youth Apostles whose mission statement is, To evangelize, teach, advise, challenge, console, and love the young with the ultimate purpose of inspiring them to live a Christ-like life centered on prayer and the Sacraments in the Catholic Church.”

            Michael auditioned for the job the night I was leaving for vacation (August 11) and impressed me, Father Tewes and our Liturgy Director, Cathy Mitchell.  We had a long discussion that night regarding his job description and he agreed to the direction I had presented him (see my July 22 Shepherd’s Notes column for details).  Once I added my own “John Hancock” on the employee-hiring document Michael was officially hired.  This happened on August 15, the Solemnity of Our Lady’s Assumption.  I had to cut short my historic vacation tour in Philadelphia so that I could come back briefly and make this happen.  Michael officially starts on Saturday, September 1.  The decision was a bit of a challenge because there was another person who auditioned previously who was also impressive and a skilled music director.  Michael’s ability to lead the choir while at the same time being the musical accompanist played a major role in the final decision.

            We are very much looking forward to having the choirs back for the 8:30 AM and 10:30 AM Masses in September and for the return of the children’s choir as well.  I am hoping that there will be a large response to our request to rebuild our choir membership.  Michael will not just lead the choir but would also offer vocal training for the members and cantors.  For those who are looking to improve their singing this would be a great opportunity.

            May our parish patron Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Cecilia the patroness of music guide our new music director and music ministry to many successful years of bringing great sacred music to our parish community.

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                        Father Escalante

 

 

September 2, 2012

 

Saint James on “Gifts”

 

            The 2nd reading for this Sunday’s Mass is about gifts (James 1:17-27).  We are all familiar with gifts in general because it is natural for people to enjoy receiving gifts and it is also just as natural to find joy in giving gifts to loved ones.  St. James expressed beautifully in scripture, “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.”  It is no surprise that we experience a sense of joy when we are sincerely being generous by giving gifts because we reflect God’s generous heart by doing so.

            While a large portion of gifts is in material form or currency, some of the best gifts come from the time others give for the good of another.  Some time ago, I came across a Bil Keane Family Circus cartoon that showed in one box the parents giving nice gifts to their children as a good thing and the other cartoon box giving them time.  The caption read, “Parents can give children THINGS… or TIME.  TIME is better!”

            The lesson we learn is that regardless of how we express our generosity we should always keep in mind that everything we possess ultimately comes from God himself.  When we have more than the others we should see ourselves as stewards of God’s goods.  A wise person once observed that when a needy person approaches us we should look at that as a compliment.  It is an acknowledgement that we are blessed.  What if the situation was the other way around, wouldn’t we look at the other person as the one is blessed?  We can easily forget sometimes to recognize the blessings we receive from God when we don’t recognize the legitimate needs of others.  Generosity is about sacrificially giving a portion of our goods or of our time.  It is in keeping with God’s 2nd commandment to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”  One important element about true generosity is sharing something that truly belongs to us and not something that belongs to other people.  A common mistake some make is thinking that by organizing or coercing others to provide for the needy is charity and that they don’t have to give from their own personal resources.  This is far from the truth.  Charity is the giving of one’s personal gift for the good of the community.

            The 2nd part of gift giving mentioned by St. James is the sharing of one’s faith in God.  We express our faith by doing good works.  Charity is the acknowledgement of God playing a role in our action.  Although there are similarities in the physical goals of the two, there is a major fundamental difference between charity and social work.  Charity involves God in the equation.  Charity expresses our faith in God through our good works.  We also have an interest in the salvation of the souls of the people.  Social work does a lot of good work in the community but their main goal is with the physical needs of the needy but does not deal with the salvation of souls.  Oftentimes, charitable organizations and social workers work together and they accomplish great things as long as there is no conflict of interest in faith.  An example of conflicts that sometimes may arise include Catholic charitable organizations not participating with any funding of groups that support abortion, contraception, sterilization, same-sex couple adoptions, etc.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



 

September 9, 2012

Signing a public “Profession of Faith”

 

            Last year Pope Benedict XVI declared in his apostolic letter, Porta Fidei, the Year of Faith from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013.  The first day marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Vatican II Council and also the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church publication.  Our Holy Father invites us during this year to reflect on the teachings of our faith.  The Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta Fidei 6).  In the spirit of our faith renewal, Bishop Loverde has asked that everyone who is actively teaching the faith make a public profession of faith in support of the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church at Mass on Catechetical Sunday (September 16).

            While this may seem like a no brainer, some priests in our diocese have heard grumblings from a small number of catechists about being “coerced” to teach only what the Roman Catholic Church officially teaches by having them sign the profession of faith.  It puzzles me that as entrusted teachers of the Catholic faith that they would have a problem with this.  If they undertake the role as faith formation teachers, why would they have a difficulty with this?

Can you imagine someone running for public office during this presidential election year while at the same time campaigning to reject the contents of the U.S. Constitution, would you vote for that candidate?  Aren’t those elected sworn in to uphold the constitution at all cost?  If we understand this from a secular point of view, why would Catholics not understand upholding God’s standard?  If decent Americans find it appalling that any candidate who rejects the U.S. Constitution would even think of running for office, then Catholics should also find it just as appalling for any “Catholic” who rejects the official church teachings who would want to be a Catholic teacher.  And I have these questions to ask them.  If they as Catholic teachers have a difficult time accepting Catholic doctrine, what exactly would they teach their students, their own “personal” agenda and beliefs?  By what authority allows them to overrule the Church? Do they believe that they are now the new authority of the faith and that the pope no longer has this capacity?  For centuries many martyrs died defending the pope and our traditional Catholic beliefs, are these “newly enlightened” faith teachers willing to die for their new innovative sets of values and doctrines?  Do they have the consent of the parents of the children to teach their kids what the Catholic Church does not?

The Year of Faith also invites Catholics to study the 16 original documents of Vatican II.  If you have the opportunity I highly recommend it.  Fortunately, those of us who went to the seminary learned these as part of our standard course.  There are people who claim that Vatican II did away with the traditional Catholic teachings.  Simply ask them to cite this in the Vatican II documents and they will have no response because there is no truth in their statement!  Those who make this claim likely have not even read the documents of Vatican II.

Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Lectors will also be required to make the public profession of faith with the catechists since they were expected to uphold Catholic teaching when they first accepted their liturgical roles.

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 




September 16, 2012

 

It’s Super Sunday!

 

* Religious Education Kickoff  * Parish Picnic * Dual Parish Anniversaries * *Catechetical Sunday * Profession of Faith *

           

            This Sunday is a jam-packed day for great parish activities.  We are celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Saint Francis de Sales Church as an established parish (September 1, 1967) and the 20th Anniversary of the dedication of our current church (June 28, 1992).  Our parish picnic this year is certainly a great opportunity to have these dual anniversaries commemorated.  We hope you’ll be able to join us for fun, food, games, music, entertainment and camaraderie.

 

            It is also the first day of our Religious Education program.  We thank our volunteer teachers and aides for giving us a complete staff for all grades.  We really appreciate the help as we’ve been having over 800 kids in the program in the past few years.  Learning to love God and our Catholic faith is something these children will treasure in their lifetime.

 

            We are also having our first annual public Profession of Faith at all the Masses this weekend for our faith teachers.  Everyone active in our religious education formation including youth ministry, Bible study leaders, and those who are in a special liturgical ministry (e.g., Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Lectors, etc.) are required to make the profession of faith in anticipation to next month’s Year of Faith (October 11, 2012 – November 24, 2013) that the pope has declared.  This is an exciting moment as those who are called to teach the faith make a public witness before our community that they are dedicated in authentically handing on the Catholic faith that we received from Jesus Christ and the apostles, in union with the pope and our bishop, to whom they minister to.

 

            See you at the picnic and have a great Super Sunday!!!

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



 

September 23, 2012

 

A Big Successful Parish Picnic

 

            If you were there last Sunday at the parish picnic you would know how much fun we had!  The Knights of Columbus and the many volunteer parishioners who helped them did an amazing flawless job in organizing the event.  We even had a family (Chris and Janelle Stewart) donate one of the pigs from their farm and patiently cooked it overnight at our pavilion.  That was one amazing pulled-pork meal!  Tons of other tasty potluck food and dessert also graced the table and we had plenty of food for the 350 + people that attended.  This was quite a feat considering the Bluemont Fair was on the same weekend and so were a variety of sports games that the kids participate in.  It helped that we had superb clear Fall-like weather.  Some of us prayed for the best possible weather and our wish was certainly granted.

 

On the eve of our new parish center groundbreaking we may not be able to have another parish picnic at least on our church grounds until 2014 due to construction.  However, someone suggested that perhaps we could hold our 2013 picnic at another location (e.g., Franklin Park or some other big place).  But I want to thank everyone for the great picnic that we had.  It seems to get better and better every year!

 

            Last weekend was also the kickoff for our Religious Education.  It was great to see the kids back again to learn more about God and His beloved church.  This valuable education will certainly benefit them for the rest of their lives.  We thank all of the catechists and aides who have generously volunteered their time for this important act of charity.  Last weekend’s Profession of Faith by the teachers and our special ministers was also seen by the community as a very inspiring moment of public witness to our treasured Catholic faith.

 

Some sad news about our local Christian Shoppe

 

            The owners (and parishioners) of our local religious shop in Purcellville, Dave and Jami Dittmeier, are retiring from their religious bookshop ministry.  Their dedication in serving the community is truly appreciated and will be sorely missed.  They have been a big help especially to our religious education department in getting us excellent rates to supply the books the kids need and also stocking our church book nook in the narthex.  We are saddened that we will soon no longer have their great services that they have been providing to our parish and local community unless . . . there is someone who is willing to keep the store in town!  So if you or someone you know would like to take up this book ministry please contact Dave or Jami Dittmeier at 540-338-5380.  It would really be unfortunate to see a “live” Catholic/Christian bookstore close down since they are becoming quite rare these days.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



September 30, 2012

 

Saint Francis de Sales Stewardship Council

 

            You will soon hear from our dedicated members of the new Saint Francis de Sales Stewardship Council about our Increased Offertory Program.   They have been doing a lot of prep work to promote the encouragement of our parishioners to participate in God’s call to stewardship.  We really appreciate all the great work they are doing to help us in our mission to carry out God’s ministry through the financial support of our parish.  The month of October is when we decided to deliver this important message.

 

Town-Wide Tag Sale

 

            Please check the flyer on how you may participate on the upcoming Purcellville Tag Sale for our parish fundraiser.  The benefits will support our new parish center.

 

 

Good news to young adults in their 20’s & 30’s!

 

            A brand new Catholic young adults group has recently been formed in Western Loudoun County and invited our parish to be a part of it.  Of course, I told them we’d love to be a part of it as there is no young adult Catholic group anywhere near us.  The group is called Fiat Young Adults.  So far the parishes of St. Theresa in Ashburn and Our Lady of Hope near Sterling are participating.  You don’t need to drive a Fiat car to be a member.  The group got their name from the Latin phrase, “Fiat”, which means, “Let it be done.”  That was Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel when God invited her to become the Mother of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Their current leader is Megan White and may be reached at 843-685-5235 and fiatyoungadults@gmail.com.  Stay tuned for more info when they advertise their events in our bulletin.  But feel free to contact the group anytime.  I just love it whenever new Catholic groups start out especially for young adults who are looking for good company.  Have a great time hanging out together!

 

 

                                                Yours shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante


 

October 7, 2012

 

The Year of Faith

October 11, 2012 thru November 24, 2013

 

            Last month I mentioned that Pope Benedict XVI declared in his apostolic letter, Porta Fidei, the Year of Faith from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013.  The first day marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Vatican II Council and also the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church publication.  Our Holy Father invites us during this year to reflect on the teachings of our faith.  The Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta Fidei, 6).

 

Weekly Eucharistic Adoration begins!

 

            Through the inspiration of the Year of Faith, we are increasing the availability of our Eucharistic adoration in the Oratory from monthly to weekly starting on October 12.  The First Friday of the month schedule of overnight adoration remains the same but on the other Fridays the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will begin after the Noon Mass and will close at 10 PM Friday night with Benediction.  Everyone is encouraged to make even a short visit to Our Lord every Friday especially during the Year of Faith.  And I would like to thank Mark Donofrio for the great job he has been doing in coordinating our Eucharistic Adoration schedule.

 

Preaching at all Masses next weekend

 

            Next weekend I will be preaching at all the Masses to encourage all of you to reflect on the importance of participating in our Increase Offertory Program that our parish stewardship council has been working on.  Your financial stewardship is a vital part of the very existence of our parish.  Since I concentrated on doing a capital campaign to raise money for our new parish center when I first arrived, I have not had the opportunity to do an increased offertory drive.  We have had some challenges meeting our annual budget due to the amount of maintenance needed since I arrived here 3-1/2 years ago.  The replacement of badly deteriorated windows and the 20-year old heating & air conditioning system alone for the office, church and rectory have cost us well over $200,000 and we need to recover from this and other facilities expenses as we approach the eve of constructing our new parish center.  Your generosity is greatly appreciated in keeping our parish in great working condition to serve Our Lord and his people.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



October 14, 2012

 

The Year of Faith has begun

 

            Pope Benedict XVI opened the Year of Faith on Thursday, October 11 and will last until November 24, 2013 on the Solemnity of Christ the King.  This exciting year invites all of us to reflect on the beauty of our treasured Catholic Faith and how we may become closer in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  One of the best ways to do this is to visit Our Lord during our newly established weekly Eucharistic Adoration.  Every Friday we will have the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Oratory from 12:30 PM until 10 PM Benediction.  On First Fridays we still have the adoration overnight until Saturday morning just before the 9 AM Mass.

 

Increased Offertory Program Kickoff Weekend…plus the Big News!

 

            I would like to invite you to reflect on the Increased Offertory Program that the Saint Francis de Sales Stewardship Council and I have been working on.  It is our responsibility as an entire parish to maintain Our Lord’s ministry here in our region of Loudoun County.  One’s obligation to partake in the stewardship of God’s goods to financially support our parish will be highlighted this weekend.  Please pray and reflect on what the stewardship council and I will present to you this weekend and how God is calling you to respond.

 

            On another note related to the Increased Offertory Program, as I mentioned last week I have a big announcement to make to the parish.  This coming Wednesday the . . . .

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



October 21, 2012

 

A “Big Help” from the Stewardship Council

 

            I would like to commend the great help I received from our stewardship council members in presenting to the parish the importance of supporting the weekly church contribution.  Beth Gallegos and Beth Gruneisen spoke very well from their hearts before the end of each Sunday Mass about parish stewardship.  It is very helpful that parishioners themselves express the importance of financial stewardship as one’s duty to help God’s various ministries in our region.  I thought they were very articulate in reflecting that the existence of a parish depends on the generous financial contribution of its members.  They pointed out clearly the shortfall we’ve had from last year’s budget and encouraged you to respond to God’s call on how you could make a sacrifice to help cover our expenses.  By now you should have received the mailing that they sent outlining the parish financial data.  This weekend is commitment Sunday and we ask you to pray to Our Lord on how you may extend your generous sacrificial giving.  And I am most thankful to our stewardship council (the 2 Beths and Jennifer Dize + their husbands’ support) for the well organized planning of the Increase Offertory Program.  They did a heroic job considering I didn’t give them a lot of time to prepare!

 

New Saint Francis de Sales portrait!

 

            We are most thankful to our parishioner and local artist, Debbie Cadenas, for painting a most beautiful portrait of our patron, Saint Francis de Sales!  The completion and arrival of the painting could not have come on a better day:  October 11, 2012 – the opening day of the Year of Faith as declared by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

            Let me give you a brief synopsis of how the portrait found its way in our church. This year’s September 30th Ask the Priest column had a request to have a St. Francis de Sales image placed in the church.  I responded that I had been looking for the perfect image and expressed if anyone would be willing to donate for the cost of it.  Lo and behold, I certainly got a far better deal than I could have ever imagined.  A few days later Debbie called and offered to paint and donate the picture herself!  As everyone can see, Debbie likely just painted one of the best pictures of St. Francis de Sales in the whole world!  I have searched for the last couple of years and never found anything close to what she just created.  What is even incredible is that the painting was completed in less than two weeks!

            Thank you very much again, Debbie, for your most generous contribution to our parish.  Parishioners and visitors will honor your portrait in the years to come.  May Saint Francis de Sales always abundantly bless you and your family!

 

Purcellville’s Town-wide Tag Sale

 

            I also would like to thank Paul Kerstanski and his family for generously organizing a table for our parish at the Town-wide Tag Sale.  Not counting prep time, they spent the whole weekend manning our section at Fireman’s Field to sell the donated materials and raised $760!  The Kerstanskis worked really hard to raise money for our new parish center and we are most thankful for their dedication.  Paul also shared his notes on how we can even make next year a bigger and better project!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



October 28, 2012

 

Two new American Saints!

 

            Last Sunday Pope Benedict XVI declared 7 new saints in the church and 2 of them were Americans:  Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and Saint Marianne Cope.  Saint Kateri (1656-1680) is the first U.S. Native American saint from New York.  She was nicknamed the “Lily of the Mohawks” for her saintly and heroic life as a teacher of the Catholic faith in New York and Canada.  She was only 24 years old when she died.  Kateri is one of the most popular names chosen as a Confirmation saint.

            Saint Marianne Cope (1838-1918) was a year old when her family immigrated to Utica, NY from Germany.  A few years after joining the Sisters of Saint Francis, she became the superior general of her community and became well known to many as Mother Marianne Cope.  The king of Hawaii in 1883 had invited over 50 religious sisters communities to help those suffering from leprosy in the leper colonies but they all declined.  When Mother Marianne received the invitation she enthusiastically accepted and brought 6 sisters from her community that same year.  Mother Marianne would remain caring for the sick and the lepers until her death in 1918 at the age of 80.  Last Sunday she became the 2nd saint to be canonized who had served in Hawaii to care for the lepers after Saint Peter Damien (canonized in 2009).

            A third saint I’d like to mention from the group is Saint Pedro Calungsod (1654-1672) from my native country, the Philippines.  He was only 17 years old when he suffered martyrdom while serving as a lay missionary and assisting at a baptism in Guam.  Prior to getting killed, witnesses said that Pedro’s youth and athleticism allowed him to dodge several spears being hurled at him and could have escaped but did not want to leave behind the Jesuit missionary priest he was serving, Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores.  They both eventually died of martyrdom on April 2, 1672.  I really think that young Saint Pedro’s incredible love for Jesus and his teachings is an inspiration to our youth today.

 

Many thanks for your support of the Increase Offertory Program

 

            We are currently tabulating your participation in the Increase Offertory Program and cannot thank you enough wholeheartedly for your generosity.  I truly appreciate your help with this.  Asking for financial support is not my forte but I recognize how essential it is to maintaining Our Lord’s mission in our parish.  May God continue to bless you for your sacrificial giving.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

 

 

November 4, 2012

 

It’s election time again!

 

            This coming Tuesday is the big presidential election.  Eligible voters are once again called to perform their civic duty to cast a responsible vote.  There are very critical issues that will affect the Catholic Church in the U.S. and religious freedom in general during this election cycle.  All Catholics are asked to pray and be properly informed on what issues are most important that could affect the way we practice our faith based on the positions of the candidates.  There is a lot of misinformation out there and it is important to understand each candidate’s actual voting record or position they are running on.  Our new parish website (www.saintfrancisparish.org) has a button titled “Faithful Citizenship” that you can click on to see where the presidential and congressional candidates stand on issues that are relevant to faith issues. 

            During the election season there is a popular myth that churches are not supposed to be involved in politics.  This is so far from the truth.  The freedom of speech and religion is guaranteed by U.S. constitution to everyone.  The only thing it forbids is the establishment of a national religion and that’s it!  The text from the 1st amendment states, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  There is no other mention of religion anywhere in the U.S. constitution.  The separation of church and state movement is an opinion lobby just like everyone else but they give the appearance that what they stand for constitutional law.

            Saint Mary in Old Town Alexandria was the first Catholic Church built in Virginia and the cornerstone is dated 1796.  The reason why our state was “late” in establishing a Catholic parish was because it was against the law of the commonwealth at the time for Catholic Churches to exist.  If the Catholic Church back then did not get into the midst of politics and fought against this law who knows when we could have had our first parish in Virginia.  The law finally allowed Catholic Churches to be recognized in 1795.  It is actually the duty of the church to speak out on faith matters in public and politics.  It is “un-American” to remain silent for anyone including the Catholic Church when religious freedom is challenged.  But it is also important to note that the Church remains publicly indifferent to individual political candidates and parties and will not endorse either a party or a candidate.

 

Surviving Hurricane “Sandy”

 

            As of this writing our parish church facilities weathered the effects of hurricane Sandy fairly well.  An old tree fell on the power line on Saint Francis Court but we did not lose power at all.  We are very blessed that we were spared from a big disaster.  I called around different areas in our parish boundaries and only Lovettsville reported having a power outage.  We’ll continue to pray for the recovery of those who were severely affected by this major natural disaster.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



November 11, 2012

 

Let us pray for our president!

 

            Since the bulletin materials are submitted to the company on Tuesday morning I was unable to include the name of the president for whom we are praying for.  The official results will not be known until several hours after this writing.  Regardless of who won we always have the obligation to pray for our nation’s leader.  So, let’s pray for President ??? for the next four years that he may govern the nation according to the best interest of our nation and that his decisions may be pleasing to God’s plan as well.

 

Barbara Curtis (1948 – 2012)

 

            The funeral Mass for our late parishioner, Barbara Curtis, was held last Saturday.  The church was packed and many came from different faiths.  There was even someone there who traveled all the way from Germany just for the funeral.  The attendance was certainly a tribute to a Christian “revert” who was on a lifelong journey in search of the ultimate truth in life.

Barbara had lived many lives and touched a lot of people along the way.  Her passionate and articulate expression of her beliefs was a trademark that hit home for a lot of people especially families.  Her weekly column, “Faithful Families,” in our bulletin was so popular that it made its way into other weekly periodicals including our diocesan newspaper, The Arlington Herald. 

In her many writings Barbara was not shy writing about the mistakes of her past journeys because in the end the grace of God led her to finding the ultimate truth.  The most important discovery in Barbara’s journey was finding the fullness of the truth in none other than the Catholic faith.  Although she had been a practicing Christian for the last several years, Barbara still had unanswered questions about life in general.  After going back to her childhood roots, she rediscovered the beauty of the Catholic Church and her teachings.  The unchangeable doctrine of the Catholic Church was the stability she had been looking for that was consistent with the unchangeable teachings of Sacred Scripture.  I can vividly remember the first time I met Barbara shortly after I arrived here in our parish.  She had set up an appointment to welcome and get to know me.  Her parting comment was, “Thank God the Lord sent us another conservative priest in our parish!”  [For the record, many of us priests do not label ourselves as either conservative or liberal because that would politicizing the doctrine of the Catholic Church and there is no such thing.  You are either faithful to it or you are not.  A better term is orthodox.  In Greek it means, “right thinking.”  One’s interpretation of the Catholic faith is identified as “orthodox” if it is formulated in adherence to the authentic teachings of the church as officially taught by the pope.  The opposite term for orthodoxy is heterodoxy.  But I knew that’s what Barbara meant.]

We will miss Barbara’s presence very much and the many great things she did.  It was an honor to be there for her the Last Rites, funeral Mass and burial at Holy Cross Abbey cemetery.  We can be assured that she continues to be an advocate for us in the presence of the Lord.  May Barbara and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

           

 

November 18, 2012

 

What a response!

 

            Last weekend our parish conducted a couple of big drives.  The first was the Share Sunday Special Fall Harvest 8,000 lb. Food Challenge to help feed the hungry in our area through Catholic Charities.  It will be sometime later in the week before we get the final numbers to see how well we did.  But I do know that Dennis Godfrey and the rest of his Knights of Columbus brothers were hauling a lot of food this weekend for the food bank.  Thank you very much for your generous contribution.

 

The second drive we had was for volunteers to help our Building Committee chair, Dave Doseff, organize a group of parishioners manage the building of our upcoming parish education center.  Dave gave a very spirited and inspiring invitation before the end of each Mass last weekend and received to date 71 requests!  All 5 committees had multiple signees:  Spiritual, Construction, Financial/Stewardship, Communications and Facilities Maintenance.  We were so thrilled that the recruiting drive went well beyond our expectations.  And we are most thankful for your generous contribution of time and talent for the Building Our Faith project.  Please continue to pray for the success of completing our center soon.

 

            And may you have a most blessed celebration of Thanksgiving this coming Thursday.  We are having a Thanksgiving Mass at 9 AM and I’d like to invite you to join us before celebrating your big dinner with loved ones.  As you may remember, the Greek word “Eucharist” literally means, thanksgiving!

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



November 25, 2012

 

Another (Church) New Year about to begin!

 

            The First Sunday of Advent (December 2) marks the beginning of another new year in the liturgical calendar.  This new year runs concurrently with the Year of Faith and an opportunity for us to be spiritually renewed.  While the secular world seeks to make resolutions on January 1st, the Church invites the faithful to live a life closer to Our Lord Jesus this coming Sunday.

 

There is no faster and easier way to get spiritually “supercharged” than by going to confession.  Advent is a penitential season and receiving the sacrament of reconciliation has been a common practice for Catholics for several centuries.  Being in a state of grace does make living in the world a lot easier.  It gives us an incomparable feeling of self-confidence.

 

One thing I highly recommend during Advent to help improve one’s prayer life is to make a regular visit to the weekly Friday Eucharistic adoration in the Oratory.  Visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament instantly brings our minds and hearts closer to the Lord.  It has only been about a month since we started the weekly adoration devotion and we’ve already seen remarkable results just from praying for the success of building our new parish education center.  Others have shared testimonies of how their prayers were answered not long after praying at adoration.  Come on over, the Good Lord is waiting for you.

 

Have a great “New Year” in the church starting next weekend!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



 

December 2, 2012

 

Happy (Church) New Year!

 

            May you all have a very Happy New Church Year beginning with this weekend’s First Sunday of Advent.  While most in the world celebrate New Year on January 1st, the church celebrates her New Year on the First Sunday of Advent.  Once again Jesus invites us to renew our spiritual lives during this 4-Sunday season.  I highly recommend making a visit to our Eucharistic Adoration devotion in the Oratory on Fridays and going to confession as part of your Advent observation.  During this Year of Faith you might want to bring a your Bible and/or nice Catholic book to read while you are in the presence of the Lord in adoration.  You’ll be amazed at what inspirations you will get being in the presence of Our Blessed Lord!

 

            I’m still briefly away this past week and will soon be back in full swing for the rest of December.  In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying visiting my family in the Washington Metropolitan area.  I’ve also been spending time outdoors in God’s scenic natural wonders of Loudoun County and “collecting” venison meat for the freezer.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

 

December 9, 2012

 

Short Daily Catechism e-mailed to you…for free!

 

            Would you like to do an easy Catholic faith study during the Year of Faith?  One of the parishioners shared with me a really neat way to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church through e-mail.  All you have to do is subscribe by e-mail and you will receive a daily selection from the Catechism.  At the time of this writing we are now on Day 55 but it is not too late to sign up.  You can always manually backtrack to the previous days if you’d like to catch up but that is totally optional.  This is a very easy and fun way to study the basic official teachings of the Catholic Church.  To sign up go to the following website:  http://www.catholiccrossreference.com/catechism.  When you get to the web page, click on the top line that says, “Read the Catechism,” and place your e-mail address in the box.

 

Let’s give the 5 PM Christmas Mass Vigil Mass a try

 

            Our Christmas Mass schedule has been announced in the bulletin and in our website.  Some have noticed that we are adding a 5 PM Christmas Vigil Mass this year.  Parish “historians” told me that my predecessor did not have the early Vigil Mass previously in order to have more people attend the Christmas Day (Dec. 25) Masses that have become less and less attended.  I thought that was a brilliant concept and have noticed that the day Masses were heavily attended.  We hope that we will continue to have a large number of people attend Mass on the actual day of Christmas.  During my first Christmas here the only Mass that was sparsely attended on Dec. 25th was the Midnight (12 AM) Mass and many of the little ones were already asleep before the Gospel was even read.  After moving that Mass down to 10:30 PM the attendance for the “late night” Mass has gotten full again and most were awake at the end!  [This was not an original idea of mine but Pope Benedict XVI’s.  Starting in 2009 the pope moved the Midnight Mass liturgy at St. Peter’s to 10 PM.]

Since our parish has been steadily growing with young families with several children in the past few years, I am expecting an even larger number of Mass attendees this year (factoring in the usually dormant Christmas & Easter Catholics).  So this year we will try and see how expanding the schedule by adding the 5 PM Vigil Mass (plus a 5:10 PM Hall overflow Mass w/Father Tewes) will fare.

There is a great reluctance for me to add the 5/5:10 PM Vigil Mass because they invite a super large crowd for both Masses and very little parking space and seats available.  So if you are concerned about a massive crowd please avoid this Mass and go to the morning Masses instead.  These Masses are intended for families with children who are not worried about being surrounded by several other families with children.               What I’m about to tell you is the ultimate reason why I’m giving the 5 PM Mass a trial basis this year.  In 4 of my 5 previous parishes, every year there was at least one parishioner in each of those parishes who was “concerned” about his/her health due to advanced age and/or health reason who called the fire department to report the church for holding an overcrowded and unsafe worship service and “endangering” them.  At one of the parishes it was very sad to see that the ushers had to reluctantly “shut out” Mass goers in order to comply with the fire code. Christmas is a supposed to be a welcoming time to invite people to worship God and not keep them out because “there was no longer room in the inn.”  There is an old proverb that goes, “If there is room in the heart, there is room in the house.”  There is one good story I could share about what one wise fire marshal said to the pastor who was dutifully responding to an overcrowding complaint at a Christmas:  “What do you expect, ma’am, it’s Christmas!  We’ll have to shut down every church in the city if we tried to enforce the fire code today!”  So let’s pray and hope that we will not have any unfortunate incidents at Mass during Christmas so that we can just meditate on celebrating the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and keep the early vigil Mass in the future.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante



December 16, 2012

 

Advent Penance Week

 

            This week we will be offering confessions every evening starting at 7 PM from Monday to Friday (Dec. 17-21).  There is no better way to spiritually prepare for the celebration of Christmas than to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  The purpose of Jesus being born into the world was to save us from our sins.  Our Lord redeemed us by dying on the cross out of love for us and did his part to reopen the gates of heaven for the people in the world.

Does this mean that everyone is all set to just walk into heaven after we die?  Oh no, far from it!  Jesus warns, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).  Now we have to do our part by asking God to forgive us of our sins.  Since the days of the apostles Jesus established the Sacrament of Penance as a guaranteed path to forgiveness:  “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:22).

Some Catholics who argue that they don’t need a sacramental confession because they confess privately and directly to God alone are taking a serious risk about their salvation.  It is all right to tell God our smaller sins known as venial sins.  It’s like getting a first aid kit from our medicine cabinet when we suffer a minor bruise.  But when a serious injury occurs and requires surgery, that’s when we turn to a trained physician for help.  It is the same way spiritually.  We need God’s spiritual physicians, the priests, who are specially trained and empowered to immediately heal the wounded souls from serious mortal sins.  For example, Catholics who deliberately miss Mass without a serious reason cannot just go in their private room and say, “I missed Mass again this Sunday, sorry God,” and expect God to simply go along with that.  “Remember to keep the Lord’s Day holy” was a commandment and not merely a suggestion from God.  And it is also sad that many Catholics ignore the fact that it is a sacrilege to go to communion if they have committed a mortal sin without first going to confession.

The good news is it doesn’t matter what sins we have committed, whether venial or mortal, God is an all-loving merciful God who is always ready to receive us back like a Good Shepherd.  One good confession is all it takes to rid of all our sins through the sacrament of Penance.  Penitents are not aware that priests rejoice when they hear of someone going to confession after a long hiatus.  So don’t worry if you haven’t gone in years because once you are absolved of your sins your soul receives a clean slate and you get another fresh start.  You will also feel good about yourself knowing that you now have a guilt-free conscience and on your way back to the path that leads to eternal life with God.  Make a box-office hit for God this Advent season by visiting the confessional box!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



December 23, 2012

 

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

 

            Soon we will be celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  May you and your loved ones have an enjoyable and very Merry Christmas.  If you are going to be in town I hope to see you in one of our Christmas Masses.

 

            While we reflect on our blessings for this past year and thanking the Lord for them, let us keep in mind in prayer for the less fortunate in our community and in other parts of the world.  And let us most especially continue to remember to pray for the families and loved ones of the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  They truly need the prayers and spiritual support for their healing and consolation as they face a very challenging Christmas season.

 

            One of the long awaited blessings in our parish is the building of our new parish center.  It is our hope that we can have an official day of groundbreaking next month.  We already have a secret “special day” picked out and just waiting for one last piece of paperwork so that we can finally let the news out of the bag.  If all goes well the announcement could come before the end of 2012.

 

            And one last thing, make sure to wish everyone this season, “Merry Christmas.” True Christians will never fall for the slogan that attempts to keep Christ out of Christmas.  Yes, that “Happy Holidays” stuff!

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                                            Father Escalante

 

Note:  Ask the Priest column is on “break” during Christmas and will be back soon.

 



December 30, 2012

 

Finding solace in the Holy Family

 

            Have you ever experienced being far away from home and not knowing anybody? Many of us have been through this and often felt that feeling of isolation.  When someone has shown us a welcoming hospitality, especially in a foreign country, that becomes a great moment one would never forget and appreciate no matter home simple the gathering may be.

            Here on earth we do feel moments of isolation at times and in need of a welcoming family to “take us in” for the moment.  As Catholics, our faith tells us that we can communicate with the personages in heaven by praying or conversing with the saints.  This works to our advantage because we know that our family members in heaven are not restricted solely to our immediate relatives who made it to heaven.  All the people in heaven are saints who look upon us as their brothers and sisters.

            There is no greater family for us to embrace in our spiritual family than that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Today’s solemnity reminds us that good families can become even better by following the example of the Holy Family.  And for those who have lost family members or have a troubled family relationship, the Holy Family will also be there for them.  We are never alone in the world when we know that there is at least a sacred family looking out for us in heaven.  They understand our struggles very well for they themselves have experienced extreme suffering.  They understand what it’s like to be poor, what it’s like to be hunted down, and what it’s like to be a refugee in a foreign country. They also know what it’s like to have an innocent member of the family mercilessly killed.

            As we pour our hearts and prayers towards the families and loved ones of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, we can also seek solace from the Holy Family.  We are all troubled by the event that happened there and continue to seek answers as to why it happened and how to prevent it from happening again.  One of the very few consolations we have is that the innocent children who perished spent the best Christmas they’ve ever had with the birthday celebrant, Jesus himself.  It is our faith that allows us to have this insight.  Without knowledge of God’s revelation of the afterlife we would have never come to this consoling thought.

            It is very unfortunate that the secular world still does not understand the root of the problem for tragedies that happen like the one in Newtown, CT.  Right now the dominating solution being offered by the secular authorities is “gun control.”  While some believe debating these issues may have some merit this is not the root of the problem.  There was a time in our country when alcohol was declared immoral and unfit because it caused “harm” to our society and the government banned it (18th Amendment, 1919).  Did that solve the drinking problem?  Quite the contrary, more people drank alcohol and crime increased during the prohibition.  In 1933 the prohibition ended when the 25th Amendment was ratified.  Understanding and practicing responsible drinking is the only effective solution to keep people from abusing alcohol.

            The real problem we have with violence is because a large number of people in society, especially those in authority, have rejected this single principle that our Catholic faith has been proclaiming from the very beginning:  Life is sacred from the moment of conception to natural death.  Those who reverently live this concept do not become prone to a life of violence.  Unless this principle is taught to the young people today at an early age, how can we expect them to truly understand the principle of the sacredness of life and thereby help them avoid doing harm to others?

Herod resorted to violence and sought to kill the child Jesus because he felt a threat to his kingdom.  The Holy Family had to flee to Egypt for safety.  Our culture has adopted a similar philosophy by advocating abortion on demand and Kevorkian “mercy killing” as a solution to terminate those who inconvenience them and are in the way of their pursuit to happiness.

The talk of banning weapons will not stop the violence.  Have we forgotten that fertilizer that cost less than $500 was used by domestic terrorists in the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168?  Let us pray that a true meaningful solution to prevent violence against the innocent will be introduced.  Unless the solutions being formulated to safeguard society today include teaching the people about respecting life in all stages from conception through natural death, it will not be effective and the people will continue to find a way to continue to pursue the desires of their violent hearts.

I decided to write this for the feast of the Holy Family after reading how the Sunday after the tragedy, St. Rose of Lima parish in Newtown, CT, was continually receiving death threats at their church and rectory.  May the Holy Family keep safe the innocent people, and may the Lord have mercy on those whose hearts are filled with hatred.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

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37730 St. Francis Court

Purcellville, VA  20132

 

In case of emergency 540-338-6440

 

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secretary@saintfrancisparish.org

FAX 540-338-6431

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

 

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