January 6, 2013

 

New parish center groundbreaking

 

            At the Christmas Masses I joyfully announced that we are ready to break ground on our new parish center on Thursday, January 24, 2013.   The date worked out quite timely as that is the feast day of our patronal saint, Saint Francis de Sales.  The bulletins during the Christmas break had to be written way ahead of the Sunday that you’re receiving them.  So some of the news you’re reading now may not be quite up to speed.  The good news is we have a Building Our Faith – Communications Committee that is actively working as of this writing to inform you on the latest developments of the soon-to-be built parish center.  They are setting up a website and will be collecting emails from you so that you can find the very latest progress on the building.

 

            Here is some info I can share with you.  The general contractor that won the bid is Chamberlain Construction.  Their winning bid was incredibly good and separated themselves from the other bids that were also quite good.  This is the same company that built our new left hand turn coming from Berlin Turnpike and into St. Francis de Sales Court.  It is estimated that work could begin as early as the 2nd half of January.  Under ideal conditions, the new parish center would be completed in about one year.  Included in this project is the resurfacing of the entire church parking lot.  I thought this would be a good idea since our black top is in need of repair.  By the way, please follow the arrows on the parking lot religiously.  If a passing construction truck hits you because you continued to disobey the clearly marked directional arrows, it will be TOTALLY your fault!  We’ve announced it several times in the past and some continue to endanger the lives of parishioners by ignoring the arrows.  This time your violation could cause a multi-ton truck to send you to eternal life prematurely (likely deep into purgatory, if you were in the state of grace).

 

            But this is an exciting moment that we are finally well on our way to build our needed new parish center.  May you have a happy and blessed New Year in 2013.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



January 13 2013

 

When does Christmas season end?

 

            We live at a time when a lot of things that we were once familiar with have been redefined.  Determining when Christmas season starts and ends is one of them—at least from the secular point of view.  The Church has always maintained that Christmas season begins on December 25 (we can safely count the evening vigil on the 24th) and in the new calendar ends on the Sunday when we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord—this year falls on January 13.  During this period we are encouraged to celebrate and meditate on the mysteries of Jesus’ Incarnation, Nativity and early life.

The Christmas decorations should not be taken down until after the conclusion of feast of the Baptism.  If you consider yourself a very traditional Catholic, you can even keep your decorations all the way thru February 2nd—feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary.

It is just sad that Christmas carols are no longer played on the radio and the public decorations disappear the day after Christmas when we just started celebrating the birth of Jesus.  It seems that playing carols a month before Christmas, usually right after Thanksgiving (sometimes earlier), was designed more to get the people in the mood to go shopping for presents than celebrating the birth of our savior.  It’s a good thing tapes, CD’s, and iPods were created which allow us to play Christmas music in the car with convenience.  I have a cassette player in my minivan and a $10 contraption that I wired to my old iPod that let me enjoy the music of my choice.  It really comes in handy during Christmas season.

As we conclude this Christmas season, let us hope that we experienced a good spiritual renewal.  It is our goal that during this Year of Faith that we take actions that would move our hearts closer to the love of Jesus.  I was very pleased to see some new faces drop by for Eucharistic adoration during Advent and Christmas.  Know that our adoration is now available every Friday afternoon and evening.  I invite you to take advantage of this opportunity to truly get to know Jesus in an even deeper and personal level of relationship.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



 

January 20, 2013

 

By the grace of God, we are finally breaking ground!!!

 

            This coming Thursday at 11 AM, on the feast of our patron, Saint Francis de Sales (January 24), we are finally breaking ground to build our new parish center.  The Building Our Faith project has now reached its gigantic moment to begin construction and I would love for as many of you who can be there to join us for the historic event in our parish.  A number of county dignitaries also have confirmed to be present and we look forward to their participation.

 

            I would like to thank everyone who has supported this project especially those from way back over 10 years ago.  Your contribution and patience is greatly appreciated.  And I am most thankful to the current building committee members who helped me revive the project nearly 4 years ago.  I started with a “skeleton crew” of 4 people but the Good Lord blessed me with this incredible group of dedicated members to get us to where we are now.  God sent us more to help with the fundraising to get us enough to afford to begin the initial funds to proceed with hiring an architect and eventually a general contractor.  Right now Our Lord Jesus sent our parish even more help by expanding the Building Our Faith committee members to over 70 and subdivided into 5 subcommittees:  Spiritual, Community Building/Communications, Construction, Financial Stewardship/Fund Raising and Facilities Management.  Believe me, these new and dedicated volunteers have so far been amazing in sharing their talents to help out.

 

            While our communications committee has been actively busy preparing for the groundbreaking, our spiritual committee is on the eve of getting the entire parish proactive in praying for the building project.  Prayer is essential to the success of this important mission and we could really use everyone’s participation.  It won’t cost you anything but your time with the Lord.  Soon our spiritual committee will unveil one of their exciting ideas:  A Million “Hail Marys” campaign!  We’ve seen the past couple of weeks how a few NFL quarterbacks succeeded in winning a couple of games with make-believe Hail Mary passes.  Just imagine what a million authentic Hail Marys prayed by the faithful can do.  Stay tuned!

 

Annual March for Life

 

            Before I end the column it is important that I mention the upcoming annual March for Life this coming Friday, January 25th.  Praying for the respect for life in all stages is essential to bringing true peace to our nation.  This important concept is most needed for an effective campaign especially to end the extreme violence we have been experiencing lately.  As long as our nation continues to legally allow the killing of innocent unborn children (nearly 1.5 million/year) through abortion, we will not see an end to the senseless killing of innocent people such as what happened to the innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary in CT.  Talks about gun control will not solve anything because hearts that have a violent desire to kill to “solve” what’s bothering them will continue to find ways to kill.  Just look at how our nation approaches the problem with deaths caused by drunk drivers.  Banning alcohol and cars is never mentioned.  What is offered is a better education on responsible drinking and driving because alcohol and cars by themselves don’t kill people—only people kill people!  So the real solution to have a non-violent society is to educate the entire nation that life is sacred and must always be respected from the moment of conception to natural death.  If everyone observed this simple principle of life from God we would solve the problem of violence overnight.  Let us pray that everyone will choose life and may all of our public officials from the top down work towards ending the legalization of abortion in our country and the world.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 

 

January 27, 2013

 

Update on parish center groundbreaking & March for Life next week

 

            Bulletin materials need to be sent to the printer by noon on Tuesdays and the groundbreaking ceremony was held on Thursday (January 24) and the annual March for Life on Friday (January 25) so I was unable to write about them on this edition.  Stay tuned next week.  But I can tell you that the Thursday weather forecast was calling for a chilly 250 F temperature.  It will be interesting to see how well the ceremonial golden shovels dig through the frozen dirt.  You can always get the latest update on the web by going to our main website (www.saintfrancisparish.org) and clicking on the Building Our Faith logo.

 

Anticipating a new parking pattern

 

            Right now we’re planning on keeping the basic Sunday church traffic pattern with a small rerouting adjustment and then see what happens after the 6-foot construction fences are installed.  If the cars don’t fit, especially for the 10:30 AM & 6 PM Masses, we will try the option of “stadium” or “inner city” parish parking of lining up cars on a single direction bumper-to-bumper format.  We’d like to avoid this if possible because after each Mass every car would need to move to empty the parking lot.  This would be problematic for parishioners who need to come in early and leave later than the others (e.g., ushers, musicians, Mass coordinators, Eucharistic ministers, K of C pancake crew and many other volunteers).  Your patience is greatly appreciated as we continue to work on making the church as accessible as possible during the construction.  The good news is in about a year we will have several more parking spaces created and the entire parking lot will be freshly resurfaced!

 

One quick “BIG” new$$$

 

            A couple from the parish, who wish to remain anonymous, called this week to inform us that they arranged to bequeath to our parish $100,000 to help us pay for our new parish center.  They gave permission to make this most generous gift known (while remaining anonymous) in the hopes of encouraging others to generously support our building project.  We are most thankful to this wonderful couple and we pray that many more will follow their lead!

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 



 

February 3, 2013

Picture perfect groundbreaking!

                                              

            On Thursday, January 24, 2013 we held a very nice groundbreaking ceremony for our new parish center.  Thank you, dear Lord Jesus, for this great moment in our parish history. And I would like to commend the newly formed Communications Committee that did a marvelous job in planning and organizing the event.  Together with the generous help from the Knights of Columbus everything went as they planned.

We also had parishioners who filled our hall to capacity to witness the event despite of a couple inches of snow and school opening delay.  The snow actually added a nice backdrop to the ceremony.  Special guests who came include Scott York (Chairman of Loudoun County supervisors), Geary Higgins (Catoctin supervisor) and Bob Lazaro (Purcellville mayor).  Janet Clarke (Blue Ridge supervisor) was unable to come due to a schedule conflict but sent a representative to express her congratulations.  What impressed me about the speakers was that the officials all gave a Christ-centered message including from the Hughes Group Architects and Chamberlain Construction.  They made us all feel very excited that our Building Our Faith project is truly the work of God using human means to construct it.  Our Communications Committee will continue to update the parish about its progress until its expected completion in December 2013.

 

The March for Life 2013

 

Our parish participated in the 40th March for Life prayerful and peaceful protest in Washington, DC against legalized abortion in our country.  In the 30 years I’ve been doing the march this was the largest I have ever witnessed.  Reports estimate over ½ million people participated.  We also took part in the pre-rally event that was held for the 1st time at George Mason University’s Patriot Center.  We all liked the new venue for our diocese as it wasn’t as hectic getting to DC to attend the larger gathering at the Verizon Center.  Six or seven bishops from other dioceses joined Bishop Loverde and the Vatican sent a representative from the papal nuncio’s office to deliver a personal message of prayer and encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI.

The testimonies from 1st time participants who came on our trip were very inspirational especially from our high school participants.  One of them wrote me a nice note saying that the event moved her so much that it changed her life to work even harder in doing what she can to help the cause of protecting the life of the unborn.  In our own way let us all continue to pray and work as God calls us in contributing towards bringing awareness to reverse the culture of death mentality in our society.  We have an uphill battle against our nation that has essentially declared war from the highest leadership against our Christian moral faith through the recent HHS Mandate.  In summary, this mandate requires all employer health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of any moral or religious objections.  While we respect the office of the president, this particular immoral policy is totally unacceptable and we are morally obliged to work towards reversing it.

Your shepherd in Christ,

Father Escalante

 

 

February 10, 2013

 

We’re back to Lent again!

 

            It wasn’t that long ago when we removed the Christmas decorations from the church and all of a sudden we’re getting ready for Ash Wednesday already.  That’s right, this coming Wednesday (February 13) is already the beginning of Lent.  We are celebrating Easter early this year on March 31.

Even though it is not a holy day of obligation Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass on Ash Wednesday to begin the observance of Lent.  We are offering 4 Masses on that day:  6:30 AM, 9 AM, 5 PM & 7 PM.  The distribution of ashes is a symbol that before God we are nothing and therefore we humble ourselves in his presence and ask for his merciful pardon for our sins.  Individually we are grimly reminded in the ritual of the future state of our flesh, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” 

The ashes will not forgive any of our sins at all.  The rite is a symbolic reminder of our need to go to confession.  It is only through the sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation) that we are guaranteed forgiveness of our sins.  During Lent we add an extra confession time on Wednesdays from 6:30-8 PM as we participate in The Light Is On program in our diocese and in the Archdiocese of Washington.

A lot of Catholics today have not gone to confession in a very long time.  This is your chance to make peace with God.  It is made easier for you since you can conveniently find a church to go to confession in the evening practically everywhere in the Washington Metropolitan area and beyond.  Once you make a good confession you will so much better.  You will receive a great feeling of relief that surpasses any medication, alcohol or drug the world could offer.  It will instantly give you peace of mind, body and soul.

Important reminder:  Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting for adults 18-60 years old.  The minimum requirement for fasting is 1 full meal a day, 2 small meals (if needed), no beverage in between meals (but you may drink water at any time—that’s unflavored plain water, people!).  It is also a day of (land) meat abstinence for those who are 14 years old and over.

Speaking of meat abstinence, our Fish Fry Friday dinner begins on February 15. You can eat with us or order a carryout.  The food provided by the Sparbanie family and their crew is so good I have not missed a Lenten Friday meal since they started doing this 2 years ago.  Come join us!

We also have the Stations of the Cross devotion on Fridays of Lent starting at 7:30 PM.  You can do a nice double-header event by going to the Fish Fry and then attending the Stations afterwards!

Have a great great penitential and spiritual season of Lent.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 



February 17, 2013

 

The great value of keeping SILENCE in church

 

            Now that the season of Lent has begun it is our desire during the penitential season to tune in closely to the voice of God.  The church encourages us to pray more, spend time in meditation specially in the mysteries of Our Lord’s suffering, make personal sacrifices, go to confession, and we are encouraged to do some works of charity.

One of the primary places to fulfill most these would be in the church especially regarding confession, prayer and meditation.

            In order to provide a proper setting for prayer and meditation it is important that we are able to hear the silent voice of God that speaks in our minds and hearts.  The prophet Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the Lord when God woke him up by calling his name.  He responded by saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).  Hearing the Word of God is vital to our faith as Saint Paul writes to the Romans, “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

It is very difficult to pray, which is really having a conversation with God, when we are surrounded with a lot of noise.  Therefore, it is very important that we maintain the spirit of silence when we are in church before and after Mass.  Saint Paul writes to Saint Timothy about the importance of keeping reverence in church, “But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).  Parishioners, and even out of town visitors, have expressed a number of times about the need for silence in our parish because it has been a challenge for them to pray before and after Mass.  I have to concur with their observation because at times I have experienced the same thing.

In order for us to be properly disposed to hearing the voice of God to prepare us for the sacrifice of the Mass, or to pray in thanksgiving afterwards, let us keep the conversation outside the church and wait until we get at least to the narthex before using our outside voice level.  Our various music ministries and other ministries have also expressed that they would appreciate it very much if everyone could wait to speak to them in a normal conversation outside of the prayer/worshiping area so that they could get their work done and not be a part of the distracting noise to those in prayer.

There are times when we have a legitimate need to speak to someone in church and in that case we should always use our quiet and whisper-like voice.  I know I have to do this at times but I’m always wary of the people in prayer and make a strong effort to keep my volume as low as possible.  A wise word from Ecclesiastes 3:7, “A time to rend, a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.”

 

As you heard in the news about Pope Benedict XVI…

 

…Due to health and strength issues the Holy Father will be resigning his holy office as of February 28 this month.  A new election will be held likely two weeks into March and well in time for the heavy liturgical schedule of Holy Week and Easter.  We will pray for our pope and for the election of his new successor to the chair of Peter as Bishop of Rome.  Thank you, Pope Benedict, for your great service to the church!

 

                                                            Your shepherd n Christ,        

                                                            Father Escalante

 

 



February 24, 2013

 

Stations of the Cross & Adoration

 

            During Fridays of Lent we have the Stations of the Cross prayed in the church from 7:30 – 8 PM.  We would love it if you could join us as we meditate on Our Lord Jesus’ passion and death.  This is one of the best opportunities to recall the important redeeming mission of our Savior as we observe the penitential season of Lent.

            We also have Eucharistic Adoration every Friday for you to swing by and make a visit to Our Lord.  Adoration is available between 12:30-10 PM and all-night on First Fridays.  If you have not experienced praying so close to God, now’s your chance!  You won’t regret it and you will feel spiritually renewed.

            Since Fridays of Lent is an obligatory abstinence from eating “land” meat, I invite you to consider stopping by to our Fish Fry Friday meal in the hall.  The first one we had this Lent was a big success.  Of the 180 breaded fish prepared, 179 were deliciously consumed.  Grilled cheese has been added on the menu in consideration of the children (and some adults) who do not like the taste of fried fish.  Carry-out is also available.  Afterwards, you can go upstairs either to pray before the Lord in adoration or join us for the Stations of the Cross.  It would be even better if you could do both!

 

Construction update

 

            As of this writing, we are still waiting for VDOT’s permit to allow the trucks to come thru for our construction.  This should happen any day now.  We have all the permits except for this one last piece from VDOT.  A trailer has been set up already for the workers to use.  Everyone from the construction’s end is anxious and ready to get started and will do so as soon as we receive the green light from VDOT.  We’ve done all we can from our end.  And please be patient with the upcoming new traffic-parking pattern once they fenced up the construction area.  We will need to make adjustments after the first weekend this happens.  In the meantime let’s keep praying for the success of building our new parish center.  You have been saying your Hail Marys and reporting them, right?

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 



 

March 3, 2013

Praying for a new pope

 

            By the time you receive this bulletin Pope Benedict XVI would have been officially retired as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. We thank him for his long and faithful service to the church.  Pope John Paul II pegged him since 1981 to work as his top aide and later succeeded him as pope.  Much of Benedict XVI’s incredible contribution to the church will be overshadowed by the great papacy of John Paul II.  But to many who were aware of the hard work he has done long before he became pope, he will be greatly remembered especially by many of his admirers who fondly recall him as Josef Cardinal Ratzinger.  It is hard for me to imagine that I was still in high school when he first worked for John Paul II (I had my 30-year HS reunion last summer).  May the Lord bless evermore Benedict XVI as he spends his final years at a monastery in the Vatican.

 

            In the meantime, we join our brothers and sisters in Christ in praying for the election of a new pope.  As faithful members of the Church, we should be very excited about having a new pope.  While our Church remains intact in her doctrinal teachings, each new pope brings a different personal charisma in his ministry as a true successor to St. Peter as Bishop of Rome.  We should look forward to what God has in store for us as the Holy Spirit guides the College of Cardinals in picking the next Roman Pontiff.  Once the new pope is elected, his name will be first announced at the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and that will also be his first public appearance.  Don’t miss it when they broadcast it on TV.  It will be a scene you will never forget!

 

Carpooling for Mass?

 

            It is hard to miss the fenced area of the church parking lot when you arrive for Sunday Mass.  We lost at least 50 parking spaces due to construction.  Some households like to drive separately for Mass and it would really be a big help to ease our parking lot if you could try to ride together, if possible.  Also, perhaps neighboring parishioners might also consider carpooling for the bigger Masses (8:30 AM, 10:30 AM & 6 PM).  It would be a lot of fun (I hope!) and will also be “eco friendly”, wouldn’t it?  The 10:30 AM Sunday Mass is our most crowded Mass so you might want to avoid this one, if you can, and try the other Masses.  For some of you it will be a great opportunity to meet other Catholics whom you probably would have never known because you always went to the same Mass before.  Believe me, this really happens!  Please keep in mind that you will be at the mercy of law enforcement if they determine that you are not properly parked outside of our lot and may give you a fine.  We will continue to monitor the situation after the initial Sunday when the construction gates are finally closed.  As any parking dilemmas, we won’t know how to make the right adjustments until we’ve seen the kind of crowd we get.  If all the Masses were evenly distributed, we wouldn’t have this much of a challenge.  Your best bet in finding parking is on Sundays at 7 AM!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

 

March 10, 2013

 

New pope this week?

 

            It appears that the Conclave to elect a new pope will begin this Sunday.  We are all encouraged to keep the cardinals most especially in our prayers during this week.  This is a very exciting time in our lifetime to see whom the Holy Spirit will select to be the new spiritual shepherd for the whole world.  We are all hoping that the election will not take very long.

The new pontiff will certainly have his hands full as the world situation has become so complex filled with great challenges.  For many of us who lived through the cold war of the 1970’s and 1980’s we saw how the wisdom of God played a big role in making the world a better place through the papacy of Blessed John Paul II.  He is even referred to at times as John Paul the Great!  We certainly are hopeful that our new spiritual leader will carry us through the 21st century with the guidance we need to tackle some of the most difficult issues in our time.  The Catholic Church has withstood all the world’s challenges for the past 2,000 years and that’s why we are confident that our current era expects to be no different.  Our unchangeable doctrine remains the strength of our Church because it is something we inherited from Jesus and the apostles.

 

Great job spreading out the Mass crowd last week!

 

Last Sunday we didn’t have signs of overcrowding in any of the Masses.  I’m not sure how you did it but our big Masses were very much evenly divided.  Great job and thank you for doing that!  You’ve seen the fenced area of the parking lot and any day now the construction company will shut the gates as they will begin to work on the new septic line going underneath certain sections of the parking area.  As a safety issue, please note that no one is allowed inside the fenced area without permission and escort from the construction foreman.

We will continue monitoring the parking situation over the next few Sundays and we will try to make the best adjustments as the traffic plays out.  Your patience is greatly appreciated.

By the way, our Friday fish fry attendance needs to pick up.  Come join us because we only have 2 Fridays left to enjoy this meal and great service!

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 

 

March 17, 2013

 

The Elijah Cup

 

            During the Year of Faith our parish would like to participate in the promotion of vocations.  It is true that everyone is called by God to a particular vocation in life and that each one may become holy simply by being faithful to their individual calling.  This includes those who are called in the married and dedicated single life.  There is, however, a shortage in the number of people who are responding to God’s call in the priesthood, consecrated, and religious life.  The calling has always been there but sometimes those whom God is calling in these extraordinary lifelong services to the Lord need extra prayers and encouragement.  Introducing, The Elijah Cup!

 

            Our current parish Vocations Promoter, Bob Craig, has worked hard in bringing the Elijah Cup program to Saint Francis de Sales.  In brief, with the help of the Knights of Columbus Bob obtained a chalice that will be used for the program.  This chalice will be used at one of the weekly Sunday Masses and the family (couples and individuals may also participate) that signed up will get to take it home for a week and say the included prayers for all vocations with the special emphasis on the priesthood, consecrated and religious life.  The chalice is given to the family before the final blessing and dismissal at Mass.  It is returned by the family before Mass the following Sunday.  The Elijah Cup has been used successfully in many dioceses and parishes in promoting vocations.  For those who are already living their vocation (e.g., married couples, individuals), they can still personally benefit from this as their calling will be spiritually enhanced by the presence of the paten and chalice, the sacred vessels, that hold Our Lord’s precious Body and Blood.

 

            Please read the Elijah Cup guidelines in the bulletin.  The family who has volunteered to receive the cup that particular Sunday will have a reserved pew towards the front of the church.  The following Sunday when they return the cup, they will have a reserved Elijah Cup parking in front of the rectory circle (it’s a bit of a walk but it’s the best we can do with very limited construction parking).  Since this is a tow-away zone, we’ll give the participant a “parking permit” to place on their dashboard.   If you are interested in signing up please contact Bob Craig at bcraig32@comcast.net or by calling him at 540.751.9832 (home) and 215.285.4885 (cell).

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

N.B.  As of this writing the Conclave had just begun and no election of a new pope yet.

 



March 24, 2013

 

God’s choice:  POPE FRANCIS!

 

             Right before the recent papal conclave to elect a new pope, many in the world’s media has painted a very negative picture of the Catholic Church that was badly in need of a new spiritual leader that could rejuvenate the church.  For many of us Catholics who have followed the ministry of the past 2 popes, we are well aware of their saintly and heroic lives in leading the Church.  Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have teamed up for over 2 decades to bring the state of the Church in a very good situation and to pave the way for the new pope.  However, whether the charges were being done fairly or unfairly, there was no doubt that the world was looking for an answer to quiet down the negative sentiments.  Millions of people have been praying to God that the cardinals would elect another great leader to take on the complex issues the Church is facing.

            God answered the prayers and concerns of the people by choosing Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Buenos Aires, Argentina, who chose to be called, Pope Francis.  The name the pope selects often gives a hint to the theme of their papacy.  Taking the name of Saint Francis of Assisi gave the world a great idea that the new pope will rebuild the Church in the spirit of the 13th century Franciscan saint.  This gave an instant tremendous boost of faith and hope especially to the many forgotten poor in the world who are struggling to survive.

            Only days into Pope Francis’ papacy he has already captured the hearts of the world that no one expected or imagined.  His very simple lifestyle and connectedness with the local and underprivileged people has resonated very well in the hearts of the people in the world.  He has already built up the reputation as the people’s pope and a man with a huge heart.  Parishioners in

Rome were surprised to find him in their church just a couple of days after the election.  They were amazed how they were able to come up and hug him and even held their babies!  Pope Francis also has a well-documented history of being an unapologetic defender of true and authentic Catholic doctrine.  He did not shy away from battling against the most powerful people in his native country in order to combat poverty and immoral policies such as the promotion of contraception and legalizing homosexual marriages.  He walked the slums of his archdiocese to personally minister to the poor and hear their cries for help.  For those who were wondering whether he could unite the dangerously fractured world we live in now, they will be very happy to know that he was loved both by the Jewish and Muslim communities for his work in interfaith unity.  He was also active in working with the Orthodox and evangelical communities. 

Representatives from over 130 countries attended the pope’s investiture Mass.  And for the first time attending were the chief rabbi of Rome and, Bartholomew I, the patriarch of Istanbul and spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians.  The magnitude of what just happened in Rome in less than a week after Pope Francis’ election was monumental far beyond what the world and media could have ever expected.  Once again, God’s wisdom prevailed over the far less inferior wisdom of the secular world.  Once again, God picked a faithful, simple, humble and very holy man in the spirit of Saint Francis, who shunned the comforts of the world and worldly honor to shepherd God’s people in the world.  He truly is my kind of pope.  Thank you, dear Lord Jesus, for sending us Pope Francis.  Viva Il Papa!!!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante


 

March 31, 2013

 

Truly, a very Happy Easter to celebrate!

 

            When Jesus rose from the dead and was seen by his faithful followers, they were instantly filled with great joy.  During the time when Our Lord was in the tomb all of Jesus’ friends and disciples were in great sadness and feeling very much discouraged.  But once he appeared to them, or even when others just heard reports of seeing him alive, their hearts were immediately lifted up.  The Easter season is a time when we should be thrilled and happy to be Christians.  Jesus promised that all those who live his true Gospel teachings and faithfully receive the Eucharist would have resurrection into eternal life:  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:54).  We are so blessed to have the real presence of the risen Lord not just in our midst but to be able to be united with him at Holy Communion.

            As a bonus booster this Easter, we have another good reason to be very happy.  God gave us a wonderful gift by sending us Pope Francis.  Catholics were saddened by the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI at the end of February.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the election of Pope Francis sent an incredible jolt of joy to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  God reminded the world that his preference of lifting the spirits of a church filled with many challenges and troubled hearts is the same as it has always been:  a combination of sanctity, humility, poverty, and fidelity to the authentic teachings of Jesus Christ as lived in the Catholic Church’s adherence to Tradition and Scripture.  Once Pope Francis’s simple and humble lifestyle was made known, the world was swept away in recognizing his holy life.  It is very hard to argue against the wisdom of a holy and humble person that embraces the life of poverty and care for the poor and the weak.  Just look at how Blessed Mother Teresa was similarly recognized just a few years ago.

 

Divine Mercy Sunday next weekend

 

Next Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a Sunday dedicated to recognizing the loving mercy of God.  This day is an opportunity 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 invites everyone next Sunday afternoon (April 7) 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.  Come and join us!

 

                                                                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                                        Father Escalante

 

April 7, 2013

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

 

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  The Catholic Church officially recognizes the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.  It is a Sunday dedicated to bring awareness to 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 7) 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.

 

Holy Week confession was a big success!

 

            The increased confession schedule for Holy Week was very successful.  Father Tewes and I heard several hours of confession throughout the week.  And for those who still have not gone to confession in a while, we continue to hear confessions during our regular Friday and Saturday hours (and by appointment) every week.  Take our word for it, you’ll feel much better afterwards!

 

Major work on parking lot has begun

 

            The contractors who are working on grading the property for construction and those who are building the new septic system have started their work the day after Easter.  We will continue to monitor the parking situation and try to create the best parking scenario for the Sunday Masses.  We are very thankful to Our Lord that our new parish center construction is on its way.  Your patience is greatly appreciated. 

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 

 

April 14, 2013

 

14 new Catholics on Easter Vigil

 

            We welcomed 14 new Catholics on Easter Vigil this year.  The liturgical celebration went very well and Holy Week in general.  It is very good to see how excited the new Catholic members in our parish and the first ones to join since Pope Francis, our new pope, was elected.  We wish them the very best in their spiritual and sacramental journey with us.  Many of them have are already thinking how they can take a more active role as parishioners.  The four newly baptized were:  Sam Gruneisen, Sarah Gutierrez, Pam Lindo and Melissa Maracle.  Those previously baptized in another faith and received into full communion were:  Will Arrington, Tracy Beglau, Ben Cates, Ross Elliott, Ray Knight, Evelyn Lloyd, Jay MacMillin, Andy Peucker, Ed Schroth, and Marie Steele.

 

            Now that we are finishing up this year’s RCIA Class of 2013 I am now looking for new members for Easter 2014.  Classes begin in mid-September.  If you know of anyone who would like to join the class please contact our Religious Education Department (Melissa Gobs and Janice Rees) or me directly.  Remember, one could attend the whole series of classes and there is no requirement to become a Catholic.  Adult Catholics are also welcome to attend the program as a “refresher” course.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 


 

April 21, 2013

 

We continue to pray for our nation’s safety

 

            This past Monday terrorism hit home again in our nation at the prestigious Boston Marathon.  Our prayers and support for the victims and families of this evil crime against humanity.  We pray that all those responsible for this senseless act of terrorism will soon be brought to justice and permanently removed from doing more harm to society.

 

When we hear of terrible reports like this we can’t help but feel troubled and angry.  It certainly challenges our “spiritual cool” because we demand that justice be done.  No matter how difficult it is we constantly make an effort to remind ourselves not to fall into hatred of others because that’s precisely what the devil wants—lower our Christian virtues standards like those that hate us.  This doesn’t mean we don’t take every action to bring those criminals to justice.  By all means, they all need to be sought out and given whatever rightful punishment they incurred.  At the same time, as upset and angry as we justifiably are, we cannot forget the words of Jesus when he prayed for those persecuted and successfully plotted his death, “Father, forgive them for they know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

 

A few days ago on April 11, the president gave the Congressional Medal of Honor award posthumously to the former Army chaplain, Father Emil Kapaun.  His heroic acts were well remembered by the Korean War veterans and I encourage everyone to read about his inspiring work as a Catholic chaplain.  Captain Kapaun’s legendary acts were not only recognized by the military but the Catholic Church is also advancing his cause for sainthood.  He has already been declared a Servant of God, the 1st of 4 stages for one to be officially declared a saint in the church.  Despite his ill treatment and the rest of the American prisoners of war at the camp, he never resorted to hatred for his captors.  As I think of the tragedy that happened at the Boston Marathon, I remind myself of the words of Father Kapaun when asked what he thought of the cruelty of the enemy combatants.  His response was, “If we fail to forgive, we reject our own faith.”  These short but powerful words of wisdom certainly came quite timely for me and I’m sure for many others as well.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

 

April 28, 2013

 

Jesus wants you to visit him…sign up for Eucharistic Adoration!

 

            After Easter Sunday we usually have a noticeably less number of people attending Mass.  It becomes even less once school is out because lots of people leave for vacation.  As a result we also have less people who are available to sign up for the Friday Eucharistic Adoration hours.  Adoration is an excellent spiritual time to be with Our Lord Jesus.  The blessings and graces one receives through this devotion are only second to receiving the Holy Eucharist at Holy Communion.

 

            Are you in need of spiritual uplifting?  Do you need your relationship with Jesus to become even better?  Do you have any special petitions you’d like to ask Our Lord face to face?  Are you going through some troublesome times?  Are you feeling sick?  Come and visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and you will get the inspiration, strength and consolation that you cannot get anywhere else.

 

            If we are unable to fill the hours during the late spring/summer seasons, we will need to cut down on the adoration schedule.  The current Friday schedule (not counting the all-night First Friday Adoration) is from 12:30-10 PM.  We especially need help between 3-9 PM time slots.  We would love it if we could have at least 4 people signed up for each of the hours.  If you are unable to commit weekly, you can also sign up as an “on call reserve” who would be open to getting a last minute call or email alert if we are running short of adorers.  If we have a large number of reserves, let’s say about 50, we would be able to keep the regular schedule.

 

            After reading this, remember what Jesus said to Peter, “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40)

 

            To sign up, please contact our Eucharistic Adoration coordinator, Mark Donofrio at:  sixdonofrios@comcast.net or 540 338-8133.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

 

May 5, 2013

 

Honoring Mary on the Month of May

 

            The popular devotion of honoring Our Blessed Mother during the month of May can be traced back towards the end of the 13th century.  Many religious orders especially the Dominicans and Franciscans during that time helped spread devotion to the Rosary and helped usher in a month where Mary was the main focus of private devotions. 

 

History seems to show that it was the Jesuits in Rome who were primarily responsible in spreading to the world the dedication of May as the Month of Mary.  The practice was started in the Jesuits’ mother church, the Gesu Church, where it originated.  It was publicly practiced at that parish and by the 1700’s the young seminarian students in Rome really liked the devotion and took it back to their respective dioceses and religious orders.  Afterwards several subsequent popes promoted the devotion in their teachings and writings and so it took off from there.

 

This month of May all of us Catholics are encouraged to honor Our Blessed Mother somehow in a special way.  If you haven’t done so, I recommend praying the Rosary daily as a good way to show one’s love for Our Blessed Mother.  Next Sunday we will have the annual May Crowning of Our Lady in the Mary Garden immediately after the 10:30 AM Mass.  If you don’t know where this is just ask around and someone will tell you.  You can access this by coming out of the exit door next to the confessional or you can go through the Oratory exit door.  If you want to go long way, just walk around outside the church and you’ll stumble upon this hidden peaceful hidden.  Feel free to visit this garden anytime.  There are 2 cement benches for you to sit for meditation.

 

And when you pray the Rosary, don’t forget to include offering one of your intentions for the success and swift building of our new parish center.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

May 12, 2013

 

How "safe” is legal abortion in the U.S.?

 

            First of all, there is no such thing as a “safe” abortion because it is 100% fatal to the baby.  A successful abortion means a child made in the image and likeness of God was successfully murdered.  It also means that it successfully wounded the parents of the child and those responsible for the abortion procedure.  One of the arguments often used in the abortion debate is that criminalizing abortion would make it dangerous for women seeking it because they would resort to the black market “back door alley” abortion providers.

Then how do they explain that a legally operating licensed medical doctor and abortion provider in the Philadelphia area, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, perform several thousands of dangerous and unsanitary abortions from 1972-2011?  There have been reports of deaths, mutilation, physical assaults, unqualified people performing medical procedures, and other violations at his facility.  Gosnell killed some of the late-term babies that were born alive after abortion by severing the spines of the babies.  A teenager even accused him of physically forcing her to have the abortion after she changed her mind.

The trial of Dr. Gosnell began this past March.  The discovery of his gruesome medical facility practice was actually “accidental.”  The feds were investigating an illegal distribution of prescription drugs from his office when they stumbled upon the shocking malpractice.  It was something one would find in an illegal “backdoor alley” that pro-abortionists (aka “pro-choice”) so greatly fear.  Some have described Gosnell as a “monster” who preyed on women seeking abortion and made several million dollars performing dangerous (and even fatal to the mother) abortions.

Here is another big problem.  Why is this trial not getting the frontline/front page attention from the mainstream media?  And if the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is supposedly concerned for the health of the American people why are we not hearing any big headline uproar from them?  After all, they had no problem publicly forcing Catholic Church organizations (and others) to accept their immoral mandate of providing contraception (including abortifacient contraceptives) to all employees.

It seems that in order to protect the abortion rights those in authority who identify themselves as “pro-choice” (aka pro-abortion) would rather bury their head in the sand than face up to the reality of what really happens in the abortion facilities.  It’s not even proper to call these places as medical “clinics” because a clinic is intended for a medical treatment and not for a deliberate termination of innocent life.  Regardless of whether an abortion facility conforms to state regulations or not, the intention is still the same:  to terminate the life of innocent and defenseless children.  In Judeo-Christian terms, we simply identify this as murder.  It is shameful that many people are uninformed of this serious problem because those in authority purposely ignore and hide the atrocities committed by Dr. Gosnell.  Anyone who becomes aware of the evil that Gosnell and his associates have done would make women think twice about getting an abortion and further expose the true nature and evil of abortion.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

May 19, 2013

 

The Birthday of the Catholic Church

 

            Many countries commemorate their nation’s birthday on the day they celebrate the anniversary of their official day of independence.  Have you ever wondered when the Catholic Church traditionally celebrates her birthday?  It is today on Pentecost Sunday.  This feast became associated with the birth of the Church because after the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles they were transformed into super apostles and began to preach fearlessly and with great zeal.  They converted so many that day and in such a short span.  The dramatic increase in number of church members led to the event being popularly referred to as the “birthday of the Catholic Church.”  Our Church is the same original church founded by Jesus Christ upon Peter and the apostles.  Back then they were simply known as Christians.

 

             As we age there are certain goals we try to achieve as part of our growth.  Our parents made a big celebration of our 1st birthday.  Then there was preschool, kindergarten and 1st Grade.  Around age 7 we looked forward to receiving our First Penance and First Communion.  We got excited reaching age 13 to begin our teenage adventures (and misadventures)…driving at 15… some kind of ”adulthood” & voting age at 18…”totally legal” at 21…lower insurance rate at 25…senior citizen benefits at 55 (okay, maybe we should stop at 25!).  The point here that is there is something to look forward to as our years increase.

 

Every year we celebrate our birthday we should also ask ourselves how much have we grown in our love for the Lord and his Church.  While we tend to stop focusing on our years after a certain age (traditionally at 39), we should always look forward to another year we have added in our lives receiving God’s gifts of faith and spiritual nourishing benefits through the sacraments in the Church especially the Holy Eucharist.  The more years we have spiritually invested in the Church, the greater the heavenly retirement benefits we’re going to reap.  As Jesus says, “Store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:20-21).

 

Pentecost Sunday reminds us that the Holy Spirit is always with us in the Church ready to sanctify us if we allow him.  Through the graces of Baptism and Confirmation we have the ability to communicate better with the Holy Spirit in prayer.  Let us be encouraged to listen to the silent voice of God as he calls us to life of holiness.  Our true happiness lies only with our sincere desire to seek a holy life before God here on earth.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

May 26, 2013

 

High tech way of saving lives

 

            On Saturday, May 18 Bishop Loverde came to the First Choice Women’s Center in Leesburg (19415 Deerfield Ave, Leesburg, VA; 703-729-1123) to bless the newly purchased ultrasound machine.  Reports show that 85% of the women who came to centers that offer the ultrasound machine to see what’s inside their womb changed their mind about getting an abortion.  Even the pro-choice (aka pro-abortion) centers discovered this and immediately stopped the practice of offering the women a chance for an ultrasound examination.  It was bad for their abortion business!

 

            It was a glorious event for many of us priests and volunteers at First Choice who joined our bishop in witnessing the blessing of the machine that will be used to save the lives of many children.  The new portable high tech device gives a very clear “4-D” image of the baby and could amplify the sound of the heartbeat at less than 12-weeks old.  The image of the child that we could easily identify on the screen at the time was at around 7-weeks old.  The head and the feet were clearly visible.  It was an amazing piece of technology!

 

            We thank our own Knights of Columbus members for working on this project.  Our Past Grand Knight (Jim Marsan) and current Grand Knight (Pete Sacripanti) worked tirelessly with the other Knights and donors in our parish to obtain the ultrasound machine this past year.  I thank all of you who donated to make this very important project a reality.  Through our prayers and with the work at First Choice Women’s Center, we are hopeful that many women who are in a crisis pregnancy situation will find their way there and get the help they need to carry the life of the child to term.  There is no such thing as an “unwanted baby.”  Every child conceived is made in the image and likeness of God and has a big plan for them.  There are many couples that are begging to adopt children.  There is such a shortage of children for adoption in the U.S. alone that many couples go overseas to try and adopt a child.

 

                                                            Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                            Father Escalante

 

June 2, 2013

 

What is “Corpus Christi”?

 

Corpus Christi is about the Catholics’ most important belief that during Mass the bread & wine are miraculously transformed into the body, blood, soul & divinity of Jesus Christ.  The catechism clearly defines this mystery in the following words: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body & blood, together w/the soul & divinity, of Our Lord Jesus Christ &, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really & substantially contained…’ it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God & man, makes himself wholly & entirely present” (CCC 1374).

While some believe that the Bible is the most important part of their salvation, the Catholic Church for its entire 2,000+-year history focuses on the real presence of God in the Holy Eucharist.  In the Gospel of John (6:53-54) Jesus insists, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day”?  The only place on the whole face of the earth that has consistently offered the true flesh and blood of Christ is at the celebration of the Mass.  Others only offer a “symbolic” bread and wine for communion.  The Catholic Church has always taught since apostolic times that what we receive at Mass is truly the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ himself.

 

“We have two new Catholics this weekend!”

 

            We are very blessed in the last couple of months that several of our young children and adults received their very first Holy Communion.  On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi we are very blessed again that we have 2 more wonderful people who will experience receiving Jesus in the Eucharist for the very first time.  Due to special circumstances, 2 high school students from Loudoun Valley High School have completed their 3-month after school intensive faith study with me on the Catholic faith and are now ready to be received in the Catholic Church at the 8:30 AM Sunday Mass this weekend.   Senior Thomas Funkhauser and junior Madison Moseley are very excited to complete their spiritual journey by expressing their desire to live and embrace the Catholic faith.  It has been a great joy working with these two young faith-filled students from Valley.  Watching them grow in their love for Jesus and the Church from a bird’s eye view was truly a great gift from God.  Please join me in prayer and encouragement for these great children of God and new members of our faith!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

June 9, 2013

 

“Ushering” a new era

 

            After 8 years of dedicated service coordinating the ushers program at our parish, Ed Mautner will be soon be handing the leadership baton to a fellow Knights of Columbus member, Victor Blake.   Ed has been wonderful in helping train new ushers for the past several years to serve at Sunday Masses and special events such as First Communion and Confirmation.  We will always be grateful to Ed’s big help in the ushering ministry.

 

            And thank you to Victor Blake for accepting the role of Ed’s successor.  Victor and his 4 daughters (Caitlin, Kerry, Kelsey and Kristen) have been actively helping with ushering for the past several years especially at the 12:30 PM Sunday Masses.  And they are pretty good at it too!  They know the routine very well and the transition of scheduling and training ushers should go without a hitch.

 

A lot of people aren’t aware how important the duty that comes along with the ushering ministry until they actually volunteer to help out.  The ushers are essential to helping the priests prepare the congregation for the celebration of the Mass.  We have 6 Sunday Masses every weekend so the ushers are quite busy doing their dedicated silent work.  Perhaps that’s the reason why some pronounce their job as “hushers.”  In the early Christian church they were known as “porters” who guided the Christians to the celebration of the Mass at a secret and hidden location.  It was also their job to lead the worshipers to safety when a warning alert signaled persecutors seeking them out.  They were operating underground because the pagan Roman government persecuted them for about 3 centuries.  Please let us know if you’re interested in joining the usher ministry.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

June 16, 2013

 

Fortnight for Freedom - June 21 to July 4, 2012


On April 12, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.

The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “Fortnight for Freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.

In spiritual support of the Fortnight of Freedom, please remember in your prayers to pray for the protection of religious freedom in our nation and to the rest of the world.  And I highly recommend stopping by at our Eucharistic Adoration Oratory on Friday between 12:30-5:00 PM on June 21 and 28.  All you have to do is follow the news daily and see how freedom of worship and religious liberty in general is steadily declining in many places especially right in our own nation.  William Penn had a nice insight about religious liberty.  He said, “Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants.”


More bad news promoting abortion among the youth


As I was writing this column, there was breaking news that flashed right in front me:  “Feds Drop Limits on Morning After Pill.”  The president and his administration removed the restriction for access to the Plan B – One Step (Morning After Pill).  Soon women of any age (including minors) will have over-the-counter access to instant abortion on demand.  It is a fact that many are not aware that this pill was not really even intended as a contraceptive but as an abortion pill.  It is designed to abort an already conceived child.  This is very sad news.  Abortion is now in the convenience of our local drug store for everyone.  If there is anything sadder than this is that many church going people, especially Catholics, continue to ignore all the anti-life policies our government has been doing and actually believe that our country is doing just fine.  Let us continue to pray in reparation for the death of the innocent unborn children and for those who have failed to protect them in our society due to their unjust laws.

                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                        Father Escalante

 

June 23, 2013

 

June is “Vocations Month”…and we have generously contributed!

 

            June is a very exciting month for the Catholic Church because this is a common time of the year when new deacons and priests receive the sacrament of Holy Orders at least in the United States.  (We might as well include those who are receiving the sacrament of Matrimony because June is also a very common month for couples to get married.)  Receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders is a rare occurrence as compared to Matrimony so it is a real big deal when we have ordinations.

            Our diocese was blessed to have 7 new priests last weekend:  Revs. Nicholas Barnes (Holy Spirit), Brendan Bartlett (Sacred Heart-Winchester), Jason Burchell (St. Agnes), Thomas Cavanaugh (St. Theresa), Christopher Hayes (St. Mary of Sorrows), Michael Isenberg (St. Veronica), Eric Shafer (Blessed Sacrament).  We pray for a very successful ministry in shepherding souls in their first parish assignments.

            In our own parish home we are celebrating a special vocation answered by one of our very own, Julie Corcoran.  Julie has been very active in our parish for the past several years but specially in ministering to the sick.  Julie was very well liked by the homebound whom she faithfully visited and brought Holy Communion to on Sundays when she served as an extraordinary minister of the Holy Eucharist.  It is quite fitting that she joined an order that specializes in working with the elderly, sick and dying:  The Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm (Germantown, NY).  We are just so happy for Julie that what she truly enjoyed doing part-time in the service of the Lord she can now enjoy full-time while having plenty of time for prayer and meditation.  The order is semi-contemplative—this means removed from a lot of the distractions outside their monastery.  They also wear the full brown Carmelite habit.

            In the past 3 years we’ve had at least three (and a half) parishioners respond to God’s special calling to the ministry of service.  I know, you’re probably wondering about the “half” from our parish.  First, let’s go through the list.  Sr. Catherine Murphy joined the community, “Spirituality the Work” (New York), and we had a nice welcoming party for her last weekend.  Jordan Willard entered the seminary for the Arlington Diocese.  Of course, Julie Corcoran entered the Carmelite Sisters this past June 16.  And two years ago Nicole Robertson joined the cloistered Dominican Nuns (Linden, VA).  Nicole helped us out a lot with the music ministry and spent substantial amount of time in our parish but she also by default belonged (and registered) at Saint John the Apostle in Leesburg where she resided.  So we can only claim half of her and kindly shared the other half with our neighboring parish.  That’s all right, we’re both 100% Catholic parishes willing to share anything that would benefit God’s people!

            While we may only be a speck on a Google map somehow we’ve had a generous number of parishioners who have accepted God’s special calling.  The vocations shortage is actually a myth.  God calls people to become priests and nuns all the time.  The problem is there aren’t as many who respond to God’s call!  So if any of you out there has received the special call from God to become a priest, religious or any kind of consecrated life, feel free to contact a priest, a nun, the vocations director, or me directly.  We’ll try and channel you to the right place where God is calling you.

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

*No entry for June 30, 2013

 

 

July 7, 2013

 

The Parish Center Building Permit has finally arrived!

 

            The day before I arrived home from my 3-state vacation (California, Nevada & Arizona) I received word from my staff that Loudoun County finally issued us our official building permit as of June 28, 2013.  This is big news as the construction crew can now proceed and with an unrestricted motion to work on building our new parish center.  The county’s health department accepted our engineering design of the complex septic system that finalized getting our permit.  Let us continue to pray for the swift completion of our new facility.  I thank everyone who has worked so hard with me in these past 4-1/2 years to reach this point of our construction.

Due to the delay we expect the project to be completed sometime before the end of the upcoming winter season.  After visiting the Hoover Dam recently I learned that it was completed more than 2 years ahead of schedule and way below budget during the Depression period.  Right now I’ll be very happy if we finish this project 2 months ahead of schedule and way below the projected cost during our own current economic woes!  Let us continue to say our prayers especially the Hail Marys as we now have surpassed the 227,000 mark as of this writing.

It is good to be back in the parish and I do hope you had a wonderful 4th of July celebration last Thursday.  A Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Church float entry was in the works for the annual Purcellville parade and we’ll try to get a picture of it for next week’s bulletin.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante


 

July 14, 2013

 

Independence Day Parade Participation

 

            Our parish participation at the 4th of July Independence Day Purcellville Parade was the best I’ve seen in my 4-1/2 years in the parish.  We had a large turnout of volunteers and children for the float.  And I thank Janice Rees and her crew of volunteers for doing such a marvelous job decorating the float and nicely displaying Our Lady’s statue on Greg Wojtkun’s beautiful Ford Model A classic antique pickup trick.  There were also many parishioners who lined up on Main Street to celebrate our nation’s birthday.  Every 50 feet or less there were parishioners on both sides of the street and often gathered in groups.  Out faith community has certainly grown a lot since the “old brick church” on Main and 16th Streets.  It was also a blessing that we were in front of the parade following the police and fire department vehicles.  We didn’t have to wait too long before getting into the shade once we were done.  It was 90+ degrees on July 4th!

 

Know of anyone who might be interested in becoming a Catholic?

 

            The new RCIA class will be starting in 2 months.  If you know of anyone who might be interested in becoming a Catholic please contact our Religious Education office or me directly.  I would like to send them a personal invitation letter next month to come and join us.  The adult class is held on Tuesdays at 7:30 PM and the teen class is held on Mondays at 7:15 PM.  Both sessions are held in the Oratory.

 

Visiting missionary next weekend

 

            Every year the diocese assigns to the parish someone to give a missionary appeal for their special mission.  This year we have Father Peter Chinnacode, a Stigmatine missionary priest, who will preach at all the Sunday Masses (July 20-21).  His visit is quite timely since I will be away that weekend.  We would have needed a priest to cover for my Masses.  Now we’re all set.  I will be leaving July 15 to attend a conference for priests in Nashville, TN organized by the Dominican order.  As in the past, please continue to be generous in supporting our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

 

August 4, 2013

 

3.2 Million for WYD’s Final Mass!!!

 

            Who can gather the biggest crowd in the world today?  No rock star, no entertainment celebrity of any kind, no politician or anyone else could get the biggest audience out there than the Vicar of Christ himself, Pope Francis, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in simple words!  For two consecutive days over 3 million mostly young adults gathered to hear Pope Francis speak at the world famous Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro.  The Brazilian authorities reported that 3.2 million people gathered at Pope Francis’ final Mass at World Youth Day on July 28.  This was 3 times the original projected crowd for the event.

            It baffles the minds of the secular world why so many would want to hear a message from the chief shepherd of the Catholic Church.  The reality is it is Jesus Christ whom they came to hear.  Jesus has continuously spoken to the world all these years using the Catholic Church whether the people realize it or not.  The pope is the official mouthpiece of Jesus Christ when he speaks in the name of the Church.  At WYD Mass Pope Francis encouraged the young audience to spread the Gospel of Jesus out in the streets and provided them these 3 words of advice:  Go, do not be afraid, and serve.  The pope says that they will find their lives more fulfilled when they go unafraid in serving Jesus by giving witness to their Catholic faith.  Jesus wants the whole world to feel the warmth of his love and mercy.  The words of Pope Francis were very simple and direct.  They are, however, very powerful and very true.

            All of us are encouraged by the Holy Father in some way to be bearers and sharers of the Gospel.  In our own respective vocations we are all called to become a witness to our Catholic faith to others.  Let us pray to the Holy Spirit on how we may fulfill our role sharing our faith with others.

 

Missing confessional room

 

            You may have noticed that we have only one regular working confessional at the moment.  A few months ago I mentioned that we would be doing repairs to the confessionals as they have been gradually falling apart.  The 2nd temporary confessional is set up in the “lower sacristy” area inside the Electrical/Mechanical/HVAC room.  Just follow the orange sign that says “Confessions” and you will be heading in the right direction.  When the priest rings the bell that is the signal that he is ready to start the 2nd confessional station.  Your patience is greatly appreciated as our volunteers are working as best as they can to finish working on our 2 confessionals.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

August 11, 2013

 

August 18, 2013

 

The mystery of the “Angel Priest” is solved!

 

            On Sunday, August 4th, a young woman was severely injured in a car collision in Missouri.  Emergency responders were not sure whether the woman would survive because they had trouble freeing her from the wreck.  They could tell that her life was in a critical condition.  Suddenly, out of nowhere a priest showed up and asked the deputy sheriff to get closer to anoint the injured person.  The officer was reluctant at first to allow the priest out of fear that the young woman might panic but the priest insisted that he would only pray and anoint her and would then move on.  His reasoning was fair enough so he allowed the priest to see the woman.

            The priest was able to pray with the young woman and anoint her.  She asked for his prayers and he promised her he would.  It brought a lot of consolation to her that the priest was there.  A short time later, the young woman who was identified as Katie Lentz of Quincy, MO, was freed from the wreck and was able to be taken to the hospital.  The emergency responders looked around to thank the priest but he “vanished” from the site and he didn’t appear in any of the multiple photographs taken at the scene.  It wasn’t long after that the news of the “mystery angel priest” went viral in the news media.  It took at least a week (August 12) before the mystery priest was finally identified as Father Patrick Dowling from the diocese of Jefferson City, MO.  I was amused that his name is Father Dowling as I enjoyed watching a few episodes of the old “Father Dowling Mysteries” played by Tom Bosley on TV back in the late 1980’s.  I only wish I had seen more of the shows as I only got to watch it when I was visiting my parents as it was a family favorite.

            Isn’t it amazing that the most eye-catching Catholic news lately has been about the simple things that priests would normally do?  The media would notice the little things that Pope Francis has always done in his life and the people love hearing about it (paying his hotel bill, riding the bus back after being elected pope, personally canceling his newspaper subscription in Argentina, carrying his own bag on the plane, etc.).  Now we have a priest who administered the anointing of the sick sacrament to an accident victim that has caught worldwide attention.  I just think it’s great!  Priests administer the sacraments worldwide regularly and sometimes the importance and beauty of this can be taken for granted.  What happened here, I believe, was part of God’s plan for the world to recognize that Jesus continues to perform his ministry through the sacraments.  As Catholics we believe that it is Jesus himself who actually administers the sacraments and uses the ministers as his “agents”.  And I do believe that simple stories like this help bring about conversions to the faith and for inactive Catholics to rethink about living their faith.  In a world that has become more and more secular and in many ways anti-God, it is so refreshing to hear that the spiritual work of the Catholic Church is very much alive today and embraced even by the secular news media.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante


 

August 25, 2013

 

We need Catechists for our Religious Education!

 

            We need a few volunteer teachers to teach religious education.  In the bulletin under the Religious Education section you will find that we still have several grades that need a teacher and an aide and we sure could use your help.  Our program has well over 800 student enrollments this year from kindergarten thru 8th grade.  Pope Francis stressed at the recent World Youth Day in Brazil how important it is to spread the Catholic faith that we inherited from Jesus and the apostles.  This is your chance to jump on the Jesus Gospel bandwagon and be a part of the new Catholic Evangelization!  I invite you to make the sacrifice and teach the faith to God’s beloved children in our parish.  Our Lord will reward you for all eternity for your good act of charity.  Please contact our Religious Education office to sign up for the training (540-338-6381).

 

Successful “Mini Summer VBS”

 

            Due to the construction we were unable to have our normal weeklong Vacation Bible School.  However, the mini VBS version was a tremendous success!  The sessions were split during 4 days of the summer and it seemed to have worked very well.  The final session was held after the 9 AM Mass on the Solemnity of the Assumption on Thursday, August 15.  (By the way, you didn’t make it to Mass on that day you may need to hit the confessional this weekend!)  Also, a very special thanks to Kerry Smith for working with Janice Rees in coordinating the volunteers to put out an incredible makeshift VBS program.  Some even said they preferred doing the split days rather than doing it all in one full week.  It’s going to be great next year because our new parish center will be ready and it will include a full gym.  Renting an expensive tent will no longer be needed.  Rain or shine our activities will abound at our VBS 2014.

 

Pour the concrete!

 

            A week from now concrete is scheduled to be poured for our new gym.  The construction crew is also working on part of the new driveway in front of the building.  As a result of that, the narrow drive-thru next to the fenced gates has been closed so our parking lot is once again narrowed just a bit more.  We appreciate your patience and sometime this Fall we expect to have our new parking spaces available along with a newly-paved church parking lot.  Our main parking lot has been in need of maintenance for quite some time due to wear and tear.  I am very much looking forward to riding my roller blades on the new and smooth surface!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

September 1, 2013

 

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

 

            For many of us this summer went by so fast like a Lamborghini on a speedway!  This weekend is considered the unofficial ending to summer and most of the students will be back to school by Tuesday.  May all of our students have a great academic year especially those going away to college for the first time.

 

  Speaking of school, this is the last year we’ll be renting Woodgrove High School for our religious education (CCD) classes because our new parish center is on schedule to be operational and ready by Easter 2014.  Hooray!!!  Please continue to pray for the success of our building project and don’t forget to pray that we can also pay off of our mortgage a lot sooner.  We’ll save a lot of money paying off interest if we can get the mortgage paid off quicker.

 

            Have wonderful last summer hurrah and enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

 

                                    Father Escalante

 

September 8, 2013

 

A “BIG” change at the parish!!!

 

            Before I start with anything else, let me first tell you that we need to wish Our Blessed Mother a very Happy Birthday today!  September 8 is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

            Okay, now for the other big news and it’s kind of sad.  After about 9 years of great service we are losing our Director of Religious Education, Melissa Gobs. Melissa is “retiring” from her position as DRE and her last day is September 30.  This is really a big change in our parish as Melissa pretty much revolutionized our entire religious education program and has taken it to new heights.  She had a great vision of implementing the teachings of the Catholic Church and was enormously successful in doing it.  She was also able to recruit and inspire a large number of catechists to teach the faith to the children in our parish.  When asked last week what was her secret formula of success Melissa’s response was simply this, “Follow the guidance of the pope and the true teachings of the Church!”  Well, her means is certainly a time proven formula and we will definitely keep the same playbook.  (Any other religious playbook wouldn’t be any good anyway!)

            The good news is that Melissa is expecting her 4th child due around March.  She asks for your prayers that she and her child will be in good health.  She also requests for prayers that her house in Leesburg will be sold soon as her family will be moving west towards Winchester.  We will miss Melissa and we sure wish her our very best as God calls her now to be a full-time mom—another great vocation!

            Now is the time for me to ask for your special prayers that God will send us another wonderful great apostolic missionary to take the helm of religious education.  This is not an easy job to fill as the person needs to be well-versed in authentic Catholic doctrine, a good administrator, works well with families, has training in the field of catechetics & spirituality, and familiar with the teachings of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.  They are the key teachers of our faith in today’s modern era.  Does this sound like a lot of requirements?  Not really.  Melissa fulfilled all of these and should we not expect her successor to meet the same standards?

            In case you’re wondering how the religious education program is going to be run after Melissa leaves, we should be able to get by just fine.  Her departure is timed so that our current program will already be running in full swing.  Also, her long time assistant, Janice Rees, is thoroughly familiar with the administrative side of things so we are in very good shape to keep things flowing through the year.  I also appointed Father Tewes as interim DRE until a new one is hired.  After all, he has a master’s degree in Theology and was once a high school chemistry teacher at Bishop Ireton HS.  Melissa also offered to help the new person transition when the time comes.  So, we should be okay this year.  But please offer your prayers (and even fasting) that we will soon hire another great DRE.  Your prayers really helped last year when we found an excellent Music Director/organist who has also taken our sacred music to new heights.  Let’s do it again, shall we?

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

September 15, 2013

 

Amazon.com willing to donate to our parish!!!

 

            Our parish Stewardship Committee chief, Beth Gruneisen, recently shared with me the Saint Bede Catholic Church (Williamsburg, VA) parish website that showed how mega mail-order company, Amazon.com, donates to the parish.  Apparently, if a parish simply adds a simple Amazon.com button to their website all the purchases by clicking through that will automatically give a small percentage of the purchase to the parish.  Since many of us are already customers of Amazon.com this is FREE MONEY donated directly to the parish.  It doesn’t affect the amount of your purchase because you are paying exactly the advertised amount and nothing more! So BEFORE you purchase anything through Amazon.com please CLICK on our parish website first (www.saintfrancisparish.org) and look for the company’s Amazon.com logo and button. You can easily do this by bookmarking Amazon.com through our parish link in your web browser.  So before you order, go to our website and”Click Us!”

 

            Saint Bede’s website says that since they started the Amazon.com website button they have received $1,668.76 of donated money (see: http://www.bedeva.org/132). It doesn’t say when the button was added but the numbers look pretty good especially since the parish didn’t have to do anything except add a little button to their site.  We’ll take every donation we can get as the bill for our new parish center will soon put us in the red around $4 million by Easter Sunday, the projected completion of our building.

 

POP donations to be put on hold

 

            Speaking of the anticipated parish debt, a year ago the parish Finance Committee strongly recommended that we indefinitely discontinue the POP donations to be able to meet paying the staff salary, new hiring of needed staff, and the anticipated large mortgage payments we will be making for the next several years.  Many of you know that we have been taking 5% off our Sunday collections to be dispersed at various charitable organizations outside the parish level especially overseas.  We were able to keep the POP going for another year but our final session to disperse donations is set for October.  We still have around $5,000 left in the account that will soon be used up.  In the past dozen+ years the parish has donated $437,090 for 181 projects outside the parish.  While the POP donations will at least be temporarily discontinued, our parish funding to help the local needy will be totally unaffected and will continue as usual.  The People’s Need account, that you so generously contribute to in our poor box and special Sunday collections, will continue to help those in our area who are in dire need of assistance without interruption.  And your continual generous contributions are most appreciated by everyone helped by your great act of charity.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante


 

September 22, 2013

 

We mourn another tragedy

 

            We are saddened by another violent tragedy of senseless killing of innocent lives.  With great sorrow we pray for the souls of the 13 who died last Monday at the Navy Yard in our nation’s capital, the day after the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.  We also include the families and colleagues of the deceased in our prayers as they mourn the loss of their loved ones.  

When something like this happens we cannot help but recall Blessed John Paul II’s famous warning to the world that many societies have become a “culture of death” as a result of disrespect for human life in general.  Human life doesn’t seem to hold as much value these days.  While many sincerely seek for ways to rid of violence in society, we really need to include the whole existence of a person to be protected.  People take the lives of others because they do not see anything sacred or valuable in the lives of the people they sought to kill.  When we see even young school children being massacred by young violent killers, what is really the root of the problem?  It is because some of the laws of our society no longer see the value of the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death.  It sounds like another repetitious cliché but it is the truth!

For more than a generation our nation has legally taught that it is perfectly fine to take out lives of people who get in our way through the abortion of living unborn children because they have “gotten in the way” of their lifestyle.  They are also taught that mercy killing is a legitimate way to end the suffering of a “loved” one.  Violent movies, violent lyrics in songs, violent video games are totally legit because they are just there for “entertainment.”  We may not fully know the motive of the deceased gunman but would he have senselessly taken out the lives of the innocent people if the whole nation were taught to respect the whole existence of human life as sacred?  God’s way to eliminate the violent state of the world is summarized in two lines:  To love God with your whole heart, with your whole mind, and with your whole soul; and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Cliché’s are not all bad and corny.  Those two lines are from the lips of Jesus and he wants us to use them to promote true peace in the world.

Last Sunday we heard about Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness through the parables.  As painful and difficult as it is, God calls us to forgive our offenders and this includes the senseless acts of the gunman.  Preliminary news as of this writing indicates that he was a very troubled man who had many past brushes with the law.  We pray that he too was able to ask for God’s mercy prior to his death.  Before Jesus underwent his crucifixion that redeemed us from our sins he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

 

 

September 29, 2013

 

New Parish Council Members for 2013-14

 

            With great joy our new parish council members met for the first time on September 12, 2013.  These dedicated parishioners are very excited to serve in their mission as special advisors to the pastor.  They come from varied backgrounds and from basically all the corners of our parish boundary (and outside as well).  But everyone had great insights as to how we can become an even better parish.  They all had a chance to express their thoughts.  The highly spirited discussion went on for nearly 3-1/2 hours!  I reminded them that this is their forum and I really wanted them to speak their mind so I accounted for only 5% (max) of the time and mostly to respond to questions directed at me.  Now that everyone is pretty much introduced and settled in we will try to keep the future meetings at 1-1/2 hours.  They also decided to meet every 3 months and offered to come to a meeting whenever I need them.  What a great crew!

            In case you’re wondering why there was no pastoral council until recently, it is because there was only a parish administrator for 3-1/2 years after Father Kelly died.  The parish council is automatically dissolved once the pastor is no longer in the parish and cannot form a new one until the new pastor is installed.  It wasn’t until July 1 last year that I was installed as pastor so I spent the year surveying pastors from within and outside our diocese inquiring how they formed their parish council.  While attending a priest conference in Nashville this summer I had one more great chance to speak to priests from different dioceses inquiring about their parish councils.  They overwhelmingly recommended “handpicking” who is best suited as advisors as opposed to an election.  This makes sense as Jesus personally selected his apostles, the pope picks his own cardinals, and our nation’s president does the same for his cabinet members.  Election sometimes results in a popularity contest and leaves out lesser-known but wiser advisers because they live a quiet holy life.

I also realized that there is no set format for a parish council and it’s up to the pastor to decide what works best for the parish.  The one common guide in circulation for the last several years found in various dioceses was actually written by our late Bishop John Keating back in 1984.  You can access this guide and the list of our current council members plus their contact info on our parish website under “Parish Council.”  The criteria I used in selecting the members had these “must have” qualifications:  Devout Catholic in good standing who faithfully goes to Mass weekly and mostly attends our parish; accepts wholeheartedly the pope and the Church’s teachings & not opposed to making a public profession of faith (as is normally required for staff, catechists, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, etc.), loves Saint Francis de Sales parish, currently active participating in some volunteer work capacity in the parish, one who is willing to represent parishioners’ concerns, and one who is willing to work with the pastor.  During the time of discernment I prayed to the Lord for who would be best suited for this year’s council members and I came up with the following 12 names & positions.  To my delight, all 12 parishioners unanimously and graciously accepted!

 

Charity/Social Outreach:  Dennis Godfrey (Philomont/Bluemont)

Knights of Columbus:  John Haraburda (Hamilton)

Liturgy/Mass Coordinator:  Laura Burgess (Purcellville)

Maintenance:  Greg Wojtkun (Hillsboro/Lovettsville)

Music:  Mike O'Neill (Hamilton)

Historian:  Dorothy Cooper (Round Hill)

Religious Education [CCD, VBS]:  Kerry Smith (Purcellville)

Religious Education [Adult Ed, Private/Homeschool]:  John Stanmeyer (Purcellville)

Respect Life:  Sue Cypher (Leesburg)

Ushers:  Victor Blake (Lincoln)

Women’s Council:  Nora Hamilton (Purcellville)

Youth Ministry (High School, Middle School):  Mark Darnell (Purcellville)

 

            Please keep the parish council members and me in your prayers that we may have a great and fruitful year serving Saint Francis de Sales parish.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante


 

October 6, 2013

 

Most grateful to our Finance Council & Stewardship Committee

 

            Last week you saw the annual parish finance report and our Finance Council was very successful in helping us “weather” a financial challenge in a difficult economic climate.  Through their recommendations we were able to cut enough in our expenses and meet our budget forecast.

And a year ago our newly formed Stewardship Committee headed by Beth Gruneisen successfully encouraged our parishioners to participate in the Increased Offertory Program and was responsible in helping us get a fiscal year surplus of $207,308!  Thank you for your generous response in giving back to the mission of Our Lord in our parish.

While all these numbers are a big help we also need to remember that the new parish center that is rapidly moving towards completion.   We will soon be in a large debt of somewhere in the $4 million dollar range.  All the positive earnings we are receiving now will help pay our upcoming mortgage.  Just to keep up with the monthly payments we will need to raise at least $400,000 annually.  So we need your participation in our upcoming fund raising campaigns.  Look for the “Building Our Faith” logo & ad in the bulletin asking for your assistance.

The numbers seem dark and daunting but the Gospel reading this Sunday reminds us that even the apostles who had Jesus in their midst were asking him the same thing we are asking today, “Lord, increase our faith.”  When I first arrived here in Purcellville I didn’t know much about building any kind of a facility.  But I was given the task to do build the parish center so in faith I prayed to the Lord to help me to get the task done.  Jesus led me to find great people in the parish who helped me and now we are about 6 months away from the ribbon cutting ceremony!  Prayer gets us through the most difficult situations.  I am encouraged by all your prayers in the Million Hail Mary campaign as I believe your prayers have also been instrumental in helping us get this far.  To date we have surpassed over 304,200 Hail Marys already prayed.  So I encourage you to pray with me in helping us be able to make our payments for our new parish center.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

October 13, 2013

 

October is the ‘Month of the Rosary’

- Pope Francis leads praying the Rosary worldwide via satellite -

 

            One of the most popular devotions in Catholic history is the recitation of the Holy Rosary.  For centuries Catholics have prayed this and found it to be a great source of spiritual help.  Having a Rosary in the house, in the car’s rear view mirror or person’s pocket is a sign that there is a Catholic nearby.  Praying the Rosary of Our Lady does not steer us away from Jesus but, on the contrary, brings us closer to him.  Mary would never want anyone to steer us away from her Son and Savior of the world.  Mary lived a life closest to that of Jesus and therefore the best one to guide us towards him.

The Rosary has brought countless souls to Jesus since Saint Dominic popularized this devotion way back in the year 1214.  799 years later it still remains as one of the most powerful private prayer devotions in the Catholic Church.  The mysteries of the Rosary, now 20 in total, is a scriptural meditation on the life of Jesus.  We can see why the late Pope John Paul II said that this was his favorite private prayer.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in his May 3, 2008 address at Saint Mary Major Basilica in Rome, The Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourishes for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the center.”  In Pope Francis’ recent interview with the Jesuit publication he revealed that he prays his Rosary everyday.  This weekend (Saturday) our parish participated in a worldwide Rosary prayer via satellite at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception led by Pope Francis.  Our current pope has joined his predecessors in promoting the Gospel of Jesus in the world through Our Blessed Mother’s Rosary.

If you’d like to learn how to pray the Rosary please stop by the church narthex and pick up a How to Pray the Rosary pamphlet or go online to either one of these two websites:  http://www.theholyrosary.org/index  or at http://www.rosary-  center.org/howto.htm.  Every Catholic should learn how to pray the Rosary and this month is the best time to start.  It is my hope that everyone in our parish prays the Rosary at least once a week.  Prayed with great love it will really improve your spiritual life.  It would be a matter of time before your heart would desire to pray it everyday.  I started the devotion when I was a sophomore in high school (and I haven’t stopped!).  We have free Rosaries in the parish office available for those who need them.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 


 

October 20, 2013

 

How about giving our Music Ministry a little “support”!

 

            You probably think this is a recruiting pick up line for our choir membership.  Well, that’s actually not a bad idea either.  We’d love it if you would consider joining one of our 3 choirs (the 3rd one is the children’s choir).  By the way, they are all singing really well and I appreciate those who joined this past year.  But no, that’s not quite I was thinking of.  Then you might say, “Oh, you mean as a congregation of dedicated worshipers you are encouraging us to sing more and louder, right?”  That’s also a great idea and I would love it if you all did that.  Yes, please do so!

 

            What I had in mind is that you would consider supporting our music ministry by participating in the memorial of our new Saint Michael Hymnals.  Instead of purchasing the current missalettes that are discarded annually when the liturgical calendar ministry ends, the Music Ministry convinced me that buying church hymnals that could last us a couple of decades (or more) is the way to go.  This is what parishes have done before the missalettes first showed up in the 1970’s.  Many parishes have gone back to the use of hymnals and have been very happy especially with the savings.  The annual cost of the missalettes is $2,600 a year for 425.  The cost for 450 copies of the hardcover hymnals is $9,800.  As you can see we will have savings in the next few years that we could use to help pay the mortgage for our new parish center.

 

            I also learned from other parishes that families really like the idea of offering a memorial for the hymnals and gladly give a donation for that.  Since these hymnals are going to be brand new for Advent I thought we could offer this to our parishioners for a donation of $15 per hymnal.  You are welcome to donate for more than one hymnal.  We will have special labels made for your personalized memorial placed in the inside front cover of the hymnal.  This will not only help defray the cost of the hymnals but your loved ones will be continually remembered each time the hymnals are used.  You also have the option to have your name placed on the label so that you will also be remembered in someone’s prayers.  The announcement is in the bulletin and there is a table in the narthex for those who wish to see the hymnals and wish to make the offering after Mass.

 

            Making a memorial offering makes a great gift.  November 2 is All Souls’ Day so this is an opportune time to do this.  You might also want to consider giving this as a Christmas or another special occasion gift to someone you love.  And for those who lost loved ones this could be a great gift of consolation to them.  But regardless of whether you donate to the new hymnal or not, EVERYONE should participate in singing during Mass.  Even some toddlers sing along with the rest of us!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

October 27, 2013

 

A “Must Go” to Mass this Friday

 

            It is that time of the year again when we have a holy day of obligation for Catholics to attend Mass.  This coming Friday, November 1 is All Saints Day.  We have 4 Masses that day available for you to attend:  6:30 AM, Noon, 5 PM & 7 PM.

 

All Saints Day is a feast day for the Three Churches.  Yes, you’re probably wondering what or which 3 churches am I referring to.  Let me explain.  Our Catholic faith teaches that there are 3 places where God’s holy people exist.  There is the church in heaven called the Church Triumphant, for the souls who have already triumphed over sin and death on earth.  The church where we belong to on earth right now is called the Church Militant, as we continue to battle evil and temptations.  And the third one is called the Church Suffering, where the souls in purgatory are undergoing a purifying state in preparation for heaven.  As long as we are in the state of God’s grace, i.e., we are not consciously aware of an unconfessed mortal sin in our soul, we share in the feast of All Saints because we would be on the road to heaven.

 

Every year some people forget to go to Mass on this important holy day of obligation.  Without a good reason it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation.  I do have a recommendation for you to remember this occasion.  Since All Saints Day is celebrated the day after Halloween why not let that secular observance be your “alarm clock” to go to Mass.  So each time you see someone wearing a Halloween mask of a goblin, a vampire, a witch, a zombie, a caricature of a political figure or a demon, etc., let that be a reminder that you need to go to Mass the next day.  A friendly word of caution:  If you constantly blow off going to Mass in your lifetime, those hideous just for Halloween faces may one day be your company for all eternity!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

November 3, 2013

 

“Helping both body & soul”

 

            A big part of our faith is the emphasis on caring for both the body (corporal) and the soul (spiritual).  We learned in our basic catechesis that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore ought to be taken of with good nourishment, exercise and respect.  We also have a soul that we need to keep healthy by nourishing it with the sacraments (especially the Eucharist & Penance) and prayer.  That’s how we care for our own body and soul.

 

            We are also called to do corporal and spiritual works of mercy for the good of others.  This month of November we can participate in helping care for one of the important needs of our neighbor by donating to our 2013 Fall Harvest 10,000 lb. Food Challenge.  Last year you donated 8,000 pounds of food to feed the hungry.  Right now our Catholic Charities food bank and the others as well have been running very low again.  Your generous participation will help alleviate the suffering of the hungry.  This is a great faith action opportunity to participate in the corporal works of mercy.  Every Sunday in November we encourage you to take home a bag or two for the weekly food collection.

 

            November is also a special time of the year when we make a strong emphasis on praying for the dead.  We can help those who are suffering in purgatory by our prayers and participate in the spiritual works of mercy.  We can offer Masses for the deceased and any prayers that we can privately say for them.  The Rosary is a good devotion to help the suffering souls and also doing the Stations of the Cross.  Making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament is another great way to send spiritual help to the poor souls.  Any prayer is greatly appreciated by the Holy Souls in purgatory.  The Church Suffering (purgatory) is a big part of our worshiping community and the most charitable act of faith we can do is to offer our prayers and Masses for them.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

November 10, 2013

 

Introducing our new official parish logo:

 

 

 

            In preparation for the upcoming dedication of the new parish center in the spring, the Building Our Faith committee has unveiled our new parish logo.  Beth Gruneisen from our Stewardship Committee worked with our long time parishioner and benefactor, Margaret von Gersdorff of Premier Promotional Products (125 Hirst Road, Purcellville, VA) in designing the logo that represents our parish patron saint, Saint Francis de Sales.  Both Dave Doseff (Building Committee chair) and I were incredibly pleased with their final design and thankful to everyone who helped them come up with the concept.

 

            In the tradition of designing the coat of arms, the symbol must be representative of the saint for whom the parish is named after.  So here’s the official explanation of the logo.  French-born Saint Francis de Sales was Bishop of Geneva, Switzerland (1602-22). 

 

The colors of the logo are cherry-purple (close to burgundy) and gold.  The purple comes from the color of the cassock worn by the bishops (cherry-purple) and the gold is from the pectoral cross worn by St. Francis de Sales.  Only popes, cardinals, bishops and abbots wear the pectoral cross to signify their apostolic authority.  If the cross includes a corpus (body) the image of the crucified Jesus is used.

 

As a priest and bishop St. Francis de Sales celebrated Mass and the Eucharistic host and chalice represent this.  We also thought this symbol was quite fitting because we are joined together as a parish primarily through our worship at Mass.  The Holy Spirit dove represents the importance of prayer.  St. Francis de Sales encouraged everyone to have a good prayer life and to pray before making a decision on anything.  A line from St. Francis de Sales Prayer says, “Come, Holy Sprit, inflame our hearts with your love.”  Pope Pius XI in 1923 declared him the patron saint of writers and journalists because of his extensive use of writing books, pamphlets and flyers in explaining and defending the Catholic faith during his time.  Thus, the symbol of the academic book is included.  Finally, the 2 small golden fishes on both sides of the logo is an ancient Christian symbol of Jesus and symbolic of how St. Francis de Sales lived totally for Jesus Christ.

 

One last note I’d like to add is that St. Francis de Sales is also the patron saint of those suffering from hearing loss.  He once developed sign language to successfully teach a deaf man about God using signs and symbols.  Having all those symbols in his logo and coat of arms can be used as a tribute to our patron’s heroic effort to teach the faith to everyone including those who are suffering from physical impairment.

 

Show your love and appreciation to Saint Francis de Sales and our parish by proudly displaying our new parish symbol.  Stop by the narthex or inquire at our office how to obtain the gift items that bear our new logo.  The introductory gift items include a car magnet, umbrella, crew or hoodie sweatshirt, tote bag and hot/cold stainless cup.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

November 17, 2013

 

Super typhoon “Haiyan” devastated my native country!

 

            On November 7 the most powerful typhoon (called hurricane in our area) ever recorded stormed the Philippines and caused massive destruction.  At the time of this writing Catholic Relief Services has reported that 10,000 are believed to be dead, several unaccounted for, and 9.5 million people are seriously affected.  The storm was a Category 5 (similar to our hurricane Andrew) with sustained winds of 195 mph.  In October 17 the Philippines was just hit with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake and was already in a state of recovery from that natural disaster.  Please pray for generous and quick relief to the people in my native country.  Last Sunday Pope Francis has called for a worldwide prayer for the Philippines and to “help them concretely.”  

 

            In the past our diocese has partnered with Catholic Relief Services and I expect that a similar diocesan effort will be in the works.  I contacted the director of our Catholic Charities office to inquire about this.  I will let you know more as soon as the info is available.  In the meantime, if you wish you to donate right away to the relief aid in the Philippines you can do so by going directly to the Catholic Relief Services website at www.crs.org.

 

            Many of you have inquired how my relatives fared during the storm.  I thank you deeply and appreciate your thoughts and prayers.  I’ve only heard mostly from my mother’s side of the family and they seemed to have survive it fairly well.  I’m still waiting to hear more from relatives from my father’s side as they were located at about 150 miles from the brunt of the storm.  Indications are promising as they were not mentioned in the news of the major disaster areas.

 

            God’s blessings to all of you as we now head into an expected very cold season.  The Farmer’s Almanac is telling us to brace for a cold winter in the east coast and a snowy forecast for the Northeast and Midwest states.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

November 24, 2013

 

A big ‘THANK YOU’!!!

 

            Last weekend’s 2nd collection for the victims of the super typhoon in the Philippines has reached $5,000 and still trickling a few more in.  I just want to thank all of you for your generous response to help the relief efforts to my native country, the Philippines.  We’ve seen in the news how horrifying the result of the wicked typhoon Haiyan’s patch caused.  It will take years before certain areas can recover.  But your generous help will immediately reach those in need of the basic necessities for living such as food, medicine, clothing and shelter.

 

            It was the most powerful typhoon ever recorded and the second deadliest in the Philippines with reported deaths of almost 4,000.  The early warning by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center helped many of the population evacuate to less dangerous areas.  Let us continue to pray for the poor people of the Philippines as they continue to entrust their faith in the Lord to help them get their lives back in order.

 

Happy Thanksgiving

 

May you have a most blessed celebration of Thanksgiving this Thursday.  We are having a Thanksgiving Mass at 9 AM with singing from our music ministry.   Come and celebrate the Eucharist with us before feasting the big dinner with your loved ones.  After all, the Greek word “Eucharist” literally means, thanksgiving!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

December 1, 2013

New Church Year…and a new DRE!!!

 

            Happy Church New Year (Advent) to all of you!!!  In this new liturgical calendar year I have an exciting news to share with you.  Our search committee consisting of Janice Rees (DRE coordinator), Joanna Willard (11-year SFDS catechist), Kerry Smith (9-year SFDS catechist & Religious Ed. Parish Council member) & Diane Morano (SFDS Business Manager) has unanimously selected a new Director of Religious Education (DRE).  And I thank them immensely for their big help and contribution to the interviews.  They were superb in the questions they asked.

 

Of the multiple applicants we received throughout the continental U.S. plus Puerto Rico, Ireland and the Philippines, we settled on interviewing six who stood out from the resumes.  [Tip for job seekers:  it is true how important it is to have a good resume to get your foot in the door for an interview!]  Two men and two women made it to the Final Four (that’s the sports enthusiast in me) but we knew that only one of them would come up to the top as the overall winner.  Our panelists will affirm that any of the four would have been a good selection.  The unanimous choice was James Blankenship!  His official employment start date is December 16 but he graciously accepted our invitation to visit our catechists and the CCD students on Sunday, December 15 at Woodgrove HS. We all enjoyed his interview a lot and we believe that he will be a great asset to our parish community. 

 

While the other interviewees displayed comparably impressive skills, what clearly set James apart from the others was his articulate presentation on how he would expand our adult religious education program.  This was something the others admitted that they did not have a lot experience.  James had already set up a successful adult program at Holy Spirit Church.  Before the interviews I made it clear to our panel that I expect the faith adult education as a priority for our new DRE’s duties.

 

Here’s a portion of James’ background:  Christendom College (B.A., Philosophy major/Theology minor; class of 2005); Univ. of Virginia (Summer Language Institute, 2005); certified for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd; Vice-president/co-founder of Priority Legal Services (2006-2011); Director of Religious Education at Holy Spirit Parish (2011-13 --Annandale, VA); 2nd Degree Knights of Columbus; active member of the Catechetical Leaders of the Diocese of Arlington.  As a bonus, James has read nearly everything Saint Francis de Sales had written during his year-long discernment in the seminary at the Institute of Christ the King 2005-06).  One last important note:  he is also a really nice guy!

 

Thank you all who prayed with the search committee and me to find our new DRE.  It looks like God answered our prayers Big Time!

 

                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                        Father Escalante 

 

December 8, 2013

 

“Go Forth with Hearts on Fire”

- A pastoral letter on the New Evangelization by Bishop Loverde -

 

            Are you looking for a good spiritual reading this Advent?  Look no more and read Bishop Loverde’s pastoral letter that was released for publication on November 24,the Solemnity of Christ the King.  This is good reading and written in simple faith language that adults and kids in middle school age could easily read and discuss.  If you subscribe to our diocesan newspaper, The Arlington Herald, you would have gotten your copy in the mail already.  If not, we do have them available free in the narthex and office for distribution.  It is also available online at our diocesan website:  arlingtondiocese.org [under “ABOUT US” + “Bishop Loverde” + “Letters from the Bishop”].

 

            What exactly is a bishop’s pastoral letter?  It is a letter of faith exhortation that the bishop would like every Catholic in his diocese to read.  Its intention is to help us become more in tune with our faith often addressing how we should best respond to our faith calling especially at the present time.  Bishop Loverde says in his pastoral letter, “I pray that this letter helps you take specific and concrete steps in drawing closer to Jesus Christ and proclaiming Him to others.”  This is very much in response to Pope Francis’ call for every Catholic to become evangelists or public proclaimers of the Catholic faith.

 

Our Catholic faith comes directly and unchanged from the time of Jesus and the apostles.  It is so rich that those who learn and embrace it receive it with great joy and the right thing to do is to share it with others.  The world can only offer fleeting pleasure that only lasts for as long as we are actively involved in the act of pleasure.  Oftentimes this pleasure turns unpleasant if it was an immoral act.  What the Catholic faith offers is that one can attain the enjoyment of true happiness both here on earth and in heaven for later.

 

Bishop Loverde offers real practical ways on how we can better live our faith and become good evangelizers.  It starts with us by first becoming personally close to Jesus in our relationship with him.  Personal prayer through personal conversation with the Lord is essential to develop this close bond with our Savior.  To become a missionary doesn’t mean we have to leave our locale into some remote place to share our faith.  Bishop Loverde says it starts right in our “own zip code”, our own homes and neighborhood, and then let it expand from there.  There is a great hunger for the truth everywhere because it is unfortunate that the secular society has the upper hand and outpacing us in teaching what is morally right.  God gave us the ultimate truth in the teachings of Jesus and he died for us proclaiming it.  We are in much great conflict now with the seculars regarding defining life and family foundation alone and, sadly, some Catholics are not even aware of this.  Thus, you see how this new evangelization is badly needed to teach the faith even to those who are already Catholics (and many are even regular churchgoers who don’t really understand well what we believe!).

 

            Here are just a couple of nice sample practical suggestions given by Bishop Loverde.  “Strive to use regular family meal times to discuss the day’s events with all your children.  Schedule a regular time for family prayer where children can pray for their own intentions.  Your own witness in prayer will help them learn to pray as they mature.”  For practice that is helpful to either the married or single, “Strong friendships can build up our faith and strengthen us in love and good works….Invite others to join you for a wholesome event—music, sports, or an event at church.”

 

            So make sure to get a copy of our bishop’s pastoral letter on the new evangelization.  You will not regret reading it.  Instead, you will feel inspired during this Advent season to really look forward to Christmas and beyond.  If you apply its practical guidelines to your life you will have a great new spiritual journey and adventure with Our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

December 15, 2013

 

Getting the most out of Advent:  Take a trip to the…confessional!

 

            Preparing for Christmas would not be complete unless it includes the sacrament of reconciliation.  Advent is a penitential season and a spiritual renewal to start the new year in the Church.  Who would not want to leave behind a collection of unwanted junk and start out fresh with a clean slate?  A clear conscience is what brings the most joy into the mind, heart and soul of the person.  There is no better way to attain this than by making a good confession.

 

Sin injures the person and it penetrates the core of the soul.  A mortal sin causes the death of the soul and leads to unhappiness and even despair.  A good sacramental confession can heal a wounded soul and instantly brings to life a dead soul. Pope Francis reminds us that God never tires of forgiving us when we ask him.  The problem is we get tired of asking God for forgiveness!

 

We have an expanded schedule of Confessions for Advent to give our parishioners as much opportunity to receive this beautiful sacrament that heals and gives peace.  Aside from our regular Friday and Saturday schedule, this week we added evening confessions from Wednesday thru Friday (December 18-20) from 7-8 PM.  For those who have children, make this a family event by going to confession together.  And if you know of anyone else who may not have been to confession for a while, now is the perfect time to invite him or her to rediscover the sacrament of reconciliation.  A good confession just may be one of the best early Christmas gifts you could give to yourself!

 

                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                        Father Escalante

 

 

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37730 St. Francis Court

Purcellville, VA  20132

 

In case of emergency 540-338-6440

 

Parish Office 540-338-6381

secretary@saintfrancisparish.org

FAX 540-338-6431

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

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

 

Religious Ed. Office 540-338-4497

RE@saintfrancisparish.org

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

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