January 5, 2014
Christmas Season is still here…Happy Epiphany!
This Sunday we are celebrating another Christmas Sunday Solemnity: Epiphany! We recall the time in our salvation history when Jesus was shown or manifested (epiphany) to the non-Jewish (Gentiles) population. It was a sign that Jesus’ message of salvation was for the whole world to hear. Some years later the Gospel did reach all the 4 corners of the earth beginning with the preaching of the apostles. So make sure not to take down your Christmas decorations even your outdoor Nativity scenes. We still have one more week to go with the Christmas season. If you really want to go extra traditional, then keep celebrating Christmas until February 2 (Candlemas)!
Bountiful food donations
Many thanks for your successful food contributions during the Fall Harvest food drive campaign. Our official Share Sunday coordinator, Dennis Godfrey, gave me the final tally of the November food collections at 10,611 pounds! This is a new record for us and it surpassed the goal that was set at 10,000 pounds. Catholic Charities in Leesburg sent us a very nice thank you letter for the incredible generosity of our parishioners. The food distribution helped a lot of people during the cold spell we’ve had recently and for the people to have something to celebrate this Christmas.
New facilities manager hiring
Once again I thank you for your prayers as our parish just hired a new facilities coordinator for the entire parish facility. With the help of our volunteer parish facilities committee members who sorted out the numerous applicants, Gregory Wojtkun (“Wojo”) and MaryAnn Harrison, we were able to hire William Gibson. From the 5 finalists interviewed by our panel, William was the unanimous top choice. His first day of work was on December 23 and just in time for the big Christmas Mass crowds. William was a big help in aiding the Knights of Columbus direct traffic for the large crowd of people who attended the Christmas Eve Masses.
Finally, many many thanks for your generous Christmas gifts and prayers. I most certainly am grateful for your kindness and thoughtfulness. Be assured that you and everyone in the parish are remembered in my daily prayers to pray for your special intentions. I feel very blessed to have celebrated my 5th Christmas here with you.
May you continue to have a blessed Christmas season and may you also have a happy and blessed New Year in 2014!
Your shepherd in Christ,
January 12, 2014
“Working for the good of our soles”
Last week as we were gearing up to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God and the Solemnity of the Epiphany, I decided to get a haircut in town and have a “fresh” new look for the New Year. There was 1 person in front of me at Mickie’s Barber Shop so I decided to make my first visit to the shoe repair shop next door (near the ReStore). My one good pair of 3 + year-old slip-on dress shoes has worn down and thought I could get them repaired. The kindly man at the shop asked if I would be waiting for the service and I said “yes” because I didn’t have another pair and it would be chilly to walk around town with just my socks on. He quoted me a couple of prices and both seem fair and I chose the more costly one as my shoes would likely last longer for its next repair.
In the meantime, unbeknownst to me a parishioner had come in to bring in some leather for repair and heard the whole conversation and offered to pay for the repair of my shoes. That generous act of charity sent a warm feeling of love all over me and graciously thanked this wonderful child of God for her loving act.
When it was time for me to pick up my newly repaired (and brightly shined!) shoes a few minutes later, the kindly man said to me, “I see you are a priest. There is no charge for you, sir. I, too, am a Christian and I go to a Korean Christian church in Chantilly.” Let me tell you, my heart was already feeling warm from the first act of charity from the parishioner. But now after hearing those words from the kindly cobbler I felt like I was melting from feeling the warmth of God’s love shown by these two truly loving people of God. This is what the real meaning of Christmas is all about. The good news of the Gospel brought by the birth of Jesus really shows in the hearts of his people who truly love God and do good works for others. I was very humbled by these two wonderful souls. All this happened when I initially sought the service of someone to care for the “soles” of my shoes. Instead, I received a double blessing: a good pair of soles…and a great pair of “souls.” As I left I told the kindly cobbler that we are both called by God to be caretaker of souls/soles!
My new year is off to a great start and may we all have a great year filled with many of God’s blessings in 2014. And if you need any kind of shoe or leather repair of any kind, you know where to find a good cobbler in town. This gentle kindly man can heel you, take care of your sole, and he will even dye for you!
Your shepherd in Christ,
January 19, 2014
Pope Francis warns against “throwaway culture”
On Monday, January 12, Pope Francis addressed the ambassadors to the Vatican from various countries and warned them against being part of what he calls a “throwaway culture.” The pope was referring to how many in the world have been engulfed with the notion of wasteful discarding that unfortunately includes those who get rid of children through abortion.
The pope says, “We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted everyday in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed the ‘throwaway culture.’ He then added, “It is frightful even to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day.”
This message is quite timely to the upcoming March for Life, the annual peaceful and prayerful rally against the legalizing of abortion in the United States in 1973. Last year’s 40-year tally of abortions (1973-2011) in the U.S. alone as reported by the Center for Disease Control reached nearly 55 million Americans who never saw a day of light in their life. There was another stat I read that broke it down to 1.2 million abortions per year; 3,288 per day, 137 per hour, 9 every 4 minutes, and one every 26 seconds. It is not hard to see why the pope laments a pattern here of a wasteful culture that has permeated including throwing away innocent children due to unwanted pregnancy. It is also even more sad to see those who display a care for the environment by strongly encouraging others to recycle materials and to aim for as much green friendly lifestyle as possible but yet support pro-abortion (exactly the same as “pro-choice”) causes and lawmakers.
It is a serious error of the intellect not to recognize that human life begins at conception. That is the moment when a person becomes the image and likeness of God and given a particular mission here on earth. Those who support and promote the termination of innocent life will answer to God for all the lives lost through their efforts. While not everyone will be able to physically participate in the annual March for Life in Washington, everyone can offer prayers or even attend Mass for the end of abortion and for the respect of human life in all stages from conception to natural death.
Your shepherd in Christ,
January 26, 2014
Who is Saint Francis de Sales?
This past Friday, January 24, we celebrated the feast day of our parish patron, Saint Francis de Sales. Not a lot of people even in our parish can instantly give details about our parish saint so this is a good time to mention a brief biographical information about him.
Francis was born on August 21, 1567 in Savoy, France at his family’s Chateau de Sales castle. That’s how he got the name Francis de Sales (of Sales noble family). He was born a couple of months premature and started out as a weak baby. As he grew he became quite healthy and strong. His mother was very devout and taught him how to pray. She also read him the lives of the saints and brought him with her to visit the poor people. Since he was a bright student he studied at the Jesuit College of Clermont in Paris and at the University of Padua in Italy where earned degrees in law and theology. At 24 he received his doctorate in law. His father wanted him to become a prominent lawyer or some other secular career but he felt strongly about being called to the priesthood. On December 18, 1593 he was ordained a priest.
There were a lot of anti-Catholic sentiments in many parts of Europe during his time due to the strong influence of the Protestant reformation during his era. Nevertheless, he wanted to work in the most difficult regions in teaching the Catholic faith even though some tried to kill him. Francis was known for his heroic patience and kindness that helped bring back many of the people who strayed away from the Catholic faith. He made good use of the printing press by writing several books and numerous pamphlets explaining the beauty of authentic Catholic doctrine. Most of his writings are preserved today and continue to be printed especially his classics, Introduction to the Devout Life (1609) and Treatise on the Love of God (1616).
In 1602 Francis was appointed as Bishop of Geneva, Switzerland but never really lived there because it was under the governance of the Calvinists who refused to have the presence of Catholic bishops. Instead he took up residence in Annecy (modern day in France) about 22 miles south of Geneva. Even though he could not be in Geneva his diocese was still one of the most effective and efficient in the whole of Europe during his time. His diocese flourished tremendously. Francis was not just a very holy man but he was also a highly skilled administrator. He was excellent in encouraging lay people to become holy and be pro active in their work for the good of the Church.
One of the people he gave spiritual direction to became a founder of a religious order and was later canonized as a saint. Her name was Saint Jane Frances de Chantal. The name of the order was The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. They are still a very active order today.
On December 28, 1622 Saint Francis de Sales died at the age of 56 in Lyons, France. He was canonized by Pope Alexander VII in 1665 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1877. He is the patron saint of writers, journalists, educators and confessors.
Your shepherd in Christ,
February 2, 2014
Does the Catholic Church recognize your marriage? – Part 1
--Very important, please respond--
Every year I meet several parishioners who were not aware that unless their marriage was recognized by the Catholic Church as a valid marriage that they would not be able to receive any of the sacraments. It is a very important fact to know that if you are in a marriage that is not recognized by the Catholic Church you may not receive the sacraments such as the Eucharist (Holy Communion) nor be able to go to confession until your marriage situation is rectified. It is a very serious sin for a Catholic to marry outside of the Catholic Church without an official dispensation from the bishop and without marriage prep done through one’s local parish. It also nullifies your privilege to be a godparent for Baptism or be a Confirmation sponsor. In some cases the Baptism of your child may be delayed to address your marriage situation. The good news is there is help available to try and fix your sacramental dilemma.
Though some of you were well aware of this, there were some who were shocked to find this out because no one, including their parents, mentioned this when they decided to get married outside of the Catholic Church. In hindsight some expressed their regret not having gone to see their priest first to make sure that they were approaching holy matrimony in the right way.
Nevertheless, if you were one of those whose marriage needs to be “blessed” in the Catholic Church, please contact me immediately so that I can assess what needs to be done to take care of your situation. The proper term is to “convalidate” your marriage. It’s not really a blessing as that is only a generic term we use. A convalidation is an actual wedding that will need to be administered. Don’t worry, it’s not a big wedding that you’re normally familiar with. The ceremony lasts as little as 5 minutes and it’s free.
I am writing to offer you help in getting your marriage convalidated so that you will be able to go back to going to confession and receive the Eucharist once again. But I also want to make it clear that this does not prevent you from going to Mass where you know you are always welcome. It is only the sacraments that you may not partake in until we convalidate your marriage.
You might be wondering just how long does it take to convalidate a marriage. It varies from the couple’s situation. If neither was married previously, I have convalidated a marriage in less than 10 days from the first time we met. In this case all you will need are recently baptismal certificates, a copy of your marriage certificate and for your witnesses to fill out forms and we’re set to do the wedding.
For those who had a previous marriage, we do need to take an extra step called the “annulment” process before a new marriage can be administered. This could take as little as 2 weeks to a year or more depending again on the couple’s situation. Overwhelmingly, most annulment cases are granted. A few days ago on January 24 Pope Francis addressed all the church tribunal judges that deal with annulments to take their work with a merciful spirit that is “pastoral, impartial and imperturbable” (not easily upset or excited, just learned this now!). The pope’s address inspired me that this is the right time to reach out to my parishioners who are in need of the sacraments especially Holy Matrimony. After going through our sacramental records, I will send out a letter soon to all those who currently do not have a Catholic marriage. If our record is a mistake, please accept my apology for the incorrect information and will place the correct information in your permanent sacramental record.
In our parish we are blessed to have a canon lawyer, Tara McIntosh, who has helped me a lot in the annulment process. She has generously offered to do the prep work and, if necessary, act as an advocate for those who apply for the annulment. Between the two of us we have gone through several annulments for parishioners and lots of convalidation marriages. I actually have done far more convalidations than regular formal weddings at Saint Francis de Sales!
Next week I will cover more information on convalidations and annulments.
Your shepherd in Christ,
February 9, 2014
Does the Catholic Church recognize your marriage? – Part 2
--Very important, please respond--
[If you missed part 1 from last week’s bulletin, stop by the church to pick up a copy or go to “Bulletin” (Feb. 2) @ www.saintfrancisparish.org. As mentioned in the previous column, we are in the process of updating our parish marriage sacramental records and I have noticed that there are several non-Catholic marriages there and I would like to invite those couples to reconcile their marital status so that they could receive the Eucharist again and the other sacraments as well. I will soon send out a letter to couples inviting them to work on their marriage. And if we made a mistake this is an opportunity to fix records.]
An annulment is not the same as a divorce granted by the civil court. A civil divorce simply undoes the legal marital obligations that the couple previously and lawfully agreed upon for life. What the civil law nullifies does not have any effect to the sacramental bond that may have been forged by the couple before God. “What God has joined together let no man put asunder!” (Matthew 19:6). A legally divorced couple is likely still married in the eyes of God. The cliché “till death do us part” means that until the other spouse dies they will always remain married even after divorce. No civil judge has the power to undo what God has joined together. If this is still unclear, read the teaching of Jesus on marriage in Matthew 19:1-12 and you will understand it better.
So what is an annulment? An annulment is a declaration that the marriage was null from the moment that it was originally contracted—thus where the word “annulment” comes from. In a nutshell, the only way for a person to remarry that is acceptable in the eyes of God is if the previous marriage bond was declared to be null & void, in other words, the permanent marriage bond DID NOT occur. The Catholic Church did not make this up, it was Jesus who insisted it: “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). In an annulment process the Church seeks and investigates possible grounds that could have invalidated the marriage bond. That’s the “unlawful” part that Jesus was talking about. The only way to determine this is for the individual to speak to the parish priest regarding his or her failed marriage. We have a canon lawyer (Tara McIntosh) in the parish who helps me with the annulment cases and has generously offered to assist me in this parish drive to reconcile Catholics in their marriage.
Couples (with at least one Catholic party) who are both in their 1st marriage but not married in the Catholic Church only need a convalidation ceremony and don’t need an annulment process. This includes both a Catholic/Catholic or Catholic/non-Catholic marital combination. Non-Catholic/non-Catholic 1st time married couples are recognized marriages in the Catholic Church. If they convert to become Catholics (even if only one of them) they do not need to have their marriage convalidated.
This is not as complicated as it sounds when I discuss it with you personally. It’s just that there are so many combinations of circumstances of people getting married. For the average person this looks complex: Catholic/Catholic, Catholic/Protestant, Catholic/non-Baptized; Catholic/Jewish; Catholic/Orthodox, Protestant/Protestant, Protestant/Orthodox, Catholic/atheist, Catholic/former Catholic, and more. This is just for starters! How about this: Catholic/previously married Catholic, previously married Catholic/1st time married Protestant, etc…. Get the scenario? Even though there is a lot of sorting out to do we will do that for you. Tara and I will simply it and walk you through. Contact me in the parish now so that we can get started with your convalidation and/or annulment process. Next week I will cover some of the grounds for annulment.
Your shepherd in Christ,
February 16, 2014
Does the Catholic Church recognize your marriage? – Part 3 (of 3)
--Very important, please respond--
[If you missed parts 1 & 2, stop by the church to pick up them up or go to “Bulletin” (Feb. 2 & 9) @ www.saintfrancisparish.org. As mentioned previously, we are in the process of updating our parish marriage sacramental records and I have noticed that there are several non-Catholic marriages there and I would like to invite those couples to reconcile their marital status so that they could receive the Eucharist again and the other sacraments as well. I will soon send out a letter to couples inviting them to work on their marriage. And if we made a mistake this is an opportunity to fix records.]
A marriage sadly ending in divorce does not automatically mean that the marriage bond is no longer there. Remember, once a sacramental marriage is validly conferred on wedding day there is no power except death that can break that bond. An annulment is a declaration that there was a critical defect prior to or at the time of the exchange of vows. During the initial meeting we try to find what ground could reasonably challenge the validity of the marriage. Then the marriage tribunal in the diocese will try the case composed of judges, advocates, notaries, etc. The testimonies of the petitioner, respondent, and the witnesses play a major role during the trial. Take my word for it, there is a lot of training and professional counseling involved in the annulment process. This explains why there is a cost ranging from $45-$750 to process an annulment. And this is only a partial cost to the actual expense as the diocese subsidizes most of it. (Compared to divorce costs this is actually a bargain!) Most of the staff that work in the tribunal are lay people who need to get paid for their living. And contrary to the bad rumor that Catholic annulment is a money making scheme, NO ONE is ever denied an annulment process due to the inability to cover the expenses. Our mission is for no other reason than to reconcile marriages and get people back in the sacraments.
The easiest to process are those referred to as Lack of Form cases (the $45 case). These are marriages that involved at least 1 Catholic who married outside of the Catholic Church without dispensation. These are easily and automatically ruled invalid and can be processed within a week once the simple documents are submitted (see Part 1). So those of you out there who did this, whether you need an annulment or not, are not in a marriage recognized by the Church and may not receive communion or any of the sacraments until we convalidate your marriage in the Church. See me now!
Here are some of the common grounds (and example cases) that need a Formal Annulment process. 1) Couples of childbearing age but at least 1 did not intend to have children. 2) Deception. At least 1 did not disclose pertinent information that would have caused the other not to enter the marriage. This could include a variety of problems such as violent/criminal past, infidelity, married for the other’s wealth, disordered personality, same sex attraction, secret boyfriend/girlfriend, substance or porn addiction, etc. 3) Force or fear. Woman gets pregnant and now has to get married but was not really initially planning to marry; another case is if one believes it is a now or never chance to marry or to get out of the house; “shotgun” or at least the spirit of it type of weddings. 4) Not intend to marry in an exclusive & faithful relationship. Proven cheating the other prior to marriage. 5) Incapacity to enter marriage. One or both had mental health issue such as depression, mental duress, etc. 6) Lack of discretion. This is a wide range that we can discuss in private. 7) Non-sacramental marriage. Some referred as a Privilege of the Faith cases that could either be dissolved by the local bishop or by the pope directly (and I’ve had 3 of these that 2 popes personally read & approved!). 8) Prior bond. There was a previous marriage.
These are just the more common types of annulment grounds that most of us deal with. Tara McIntosh and I will figure out the ground(s) we will use once we’ve met. The other question you may have is whether all annulments are automatically granted. The simple answer is no but most of them are especially if everything was carefully prepared. But I can tell you this we will do our best to give you the best representation. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging so I won’t publicly mention the percentage of my success rate in getting an affirmative decision on everyone who initially approached me to get an annulment. But if you ask me in private once you’ve decided to seek an annulment I will gladly tell you. [You might want to hold on to your chin because your jaw might drop to the ground when you find out!] So don’t delay and contact me now so that we can get started on helping you get back to the sacraments and give the best and most important Valentine’s gift you could give to each other.
Your shepherd in Christ,
February 23, 2014
U.S. District Judge strikes down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage
Enclosed in this bulletin is the joint statement by the Virginia’s two Catholic bishops, Bishops DiLorenzo and Loverde, responding to the U.S. District judge’s decision to reject Virginia state law’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriage. I hope you realize that this is a major threat to our belief in one of the sacred sacraments established by Jesus: Holy Matrimony. For the last several years there has been a strong offensive in pushing for the acceptance of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage. Sadly, we have lost ground in the public forum in presenting the authentic Christian teachings on marriage. How did this happen?
In the Nov. 17, 2013 Meet the Press interview, Cardinal Dolan of New York explains that the Catholic Church has been “outmarketed” on the issue of gay marriage. The main reason is because we are being unfairly and untruthfully “caricatured as anti-gay.” The Catholic Church is not anti-gay. Cardinal Dolan said it well that proponents of traditional marriage are “not anti anybody.” In other words, it doesn’t make anyone a bigot for rejecting gay relationships and/or gay marriage. The Catholic Church loves everyone regardless of whether she approves of their lifestyle or not. Since when is it wrong to believe what the Bible teaches? Or to believe what the world has practiced and defined as marriage since the beginning of creation? Are we not guaranteed the freedom of religion and speech in the United States? Why are those who believe in traditional marriage as a teaching coming from God now called bad people and being forced to accept what they believe as sinful? When did God change his past revelations that what he once strictly forbade are now totally acceptable as a new way of life?
Last week’s Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 5:17-37) gives us a clear understanding of God’s teaching regarding traditional moral teachings. Let me repeat the words from Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” If you read on to Matthew 19:4-6 you will find that Jesus specifically teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman only: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
There are a lot of humans arguing against traditional marriage without real substantiation from the Word of God by scripture or tradition. Well, we are not concerned about unsubstantiated opinions because anyone can make up an opinion regardless of whether it is right or wrong. But can anyone offer anything coming from Jesus in scripture (or even in Catholic doctrine) that reversed this declaration of Jesus from Matthew 5 and 19? The truthful answer is: No! There is no such existing teaching from Jesus. It is a myth! What he said in his time is still true today. Let me leave you with last week’s closing Gospel line from Jesus that rejects living life in a “grey” area: “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).
Your shepherd in Christ,
March 2, 2014
Christianity losing the cultural war
Everyday Christian values and moral principles are being trumped in our society. Can you remember the last time you heard of good news regarding a triumph for Christian beliefs? They have become rare and far in between. It is not just the Catholic Church that has been publicly and legally challenged but Christian churches with evangelical values in general. Pro-life groups and others that hold “conservative” values have also been targeted even by the IRS scandal that surfaced last year. As Catholics we are well aware of the battles we’ve had in trying to protect our healthcare coverage from a government mandate that would require the covering immoral procedures such as abortion and contraceptive use. How about students getting in trouble for singing Christmas carols that mention religious references to Jesus? Actually, if you mention the name of Jesus in many public gatherings or ceremonies you could be disciplined or even fired from your job.
In 2011 the military even briefly banned Bibles from being distributed at Walter Reed Hospital. Due to strong opposition the ruling was rescinded a couple of months later. Last year the Air Force “accidentally” included Evangelical Christians and Catholics on the list of “religious extremists”. An article by a news commentator last week cited that 70% of Protestant senior pastors believe that religious liberty has been on a steady decline in the U.S. and that 59% of Christians in general say that we are losing the cultural war. And 11% of all Christians believe the cultural has already been lost. So it is no surprise that we have been struggling in promoting Christian values especially in defending traditional marriage. But as Christians we have to remain strong in the true teachings of Jesus and not remain silent when we have the opportunity to defend the faith that Our Lord died for. That’s the main reason we are losing the cultural war: silence.
Let’s us meditate on the Word of God to see what is truly happening in the world today. Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5, “Understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power. Reject them.”
Your shepherd in Christ,
March 9, 2014
Why we should take Lent seriously
On a few occasions Jesus insisted that we do penance for the good of our souls. To make it easier for the people of God to observe doing penance the Church has set aside a season to reflect on uniting our personal sacrifices to Our Lord Jesus Christ. So we have the season of Lent that began this past Ash Wednesday. The use of the sacramental ashes placed on our foreheads provides the reminder to humble ourselves before God acknowledging that we are sinners in need of mercy and forgiveness. During Pope Francis’ interview last summer he was asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio” (pope’s baptismal name), his immediate response was, “I am a sinner.” This humble response was a great reminder that before God we are all sinners. But the pope also reminds us that God never tires of forgiving us when we ask pardon for our sins.
At the November 20, 2013 general audience, Pope Francis said that while some people are embarrassed to go to confession to a priest he encouraged everyone that this is the best path to spiritual healing and health. He even told the crowd that he personally goes to confession to a priest every two weeks.
Speaking of confession, this Wednesday begins the annual Light Is On program. You can go to any parish in the Arlington Diocese and Washington Archdiocese on any Wednesday between 6:30-8 PM during Lent and you will find confession is available. If you or know someone who has not gone to confession in a while, now is the time to do it. Remember, if you have committed even just one mortal sin and have not confessed it, you have an obligation to go to confession as soon as possible. You are also to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until after you make a sacramental confession.
The personal sacrifices we do are for the reparation for our sins and the sins of the world. It makes us spiritually better and…the world too! It is the prayers of the just that bring souls back to God and keep him from sending the punishment the world deserves. [If anyone doubts this read Genesis chapter 18 where God tells Abraham that if there were even 10 good people praying in the city of Sodom he would have spared the city from destruction.] Jesus also taught us that prayer becomes extra powerful when it is combined with fasting, almsgiving and good works.
Let us have a great preparation for Holy Week and Easter by taking the season of Lent seriously through prayer, penance, faith study, meditation on the passion/death of Jesus, and doing good works. You might also consider attending weekday Mass and Stations of the Cross on Fridays at 7:30 PM. And if you need a meatless meal on Fridays of Lent just stop by between 4-7 PM at our hall for the delicious Fish Fry made by parishioners Tim & Joyce Sparbanie! The proceeds support the building of our new parish center.
Your shepherd in Christ,
March 16, 2014
Bulletin available online
In case you were unable to get a bulletin because you were out of town or we “ran out” of copies, you can always read it by going to our parish website. Here is the correct web address: www.saintfrancisparish.org. You will find a lot of helpful information there including the latest times for our liturgical schedule. This is going to be important as we get closer to Holy Week and Easter. The bulletin information has the latest events taking place in the parish so if you have internet access you will have the more up to date schedule for a lot of important activities.
Planned Catholic Cemetery section in Purcellville update – not happening!
It is with great sadness to let you know that the cemetery that was proposed a couple of years ago that would include a Catholic section is not likely going to happen. We have not heard anything about it in a while so last week I inquired about its status. I was informed that a number of complications are preventing the cemetery from moving forward. It’s very disappointing news as we really need a Catholic cemetery not just in our area but anywhere in the diocese. Right now Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville is the only Catholic cemetery that is readily available as long as you are fine with the old fashioned way of burial: no casket, direct to the ground burial. It may not sound appealing to some but I personally like it. As of date I have done 3 burials there already and found all of them very inspirational. If it weren’t for my family’s cemetery plot in Maryland, the simple body shroud wrapping and primitive monastery style of burial is totally appealing to me and would have been my first choice. After hearing the words from last Ash Wednesday, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” it does seem like the more natural way of how God intended our bodies to return to the earth until the resurrection.
Your shepherd in Christ,
March 23, 2014
In need of a “face” lift or any kind of uplifting?
When we’re feeling sad or discouraged our face tends to look noticeably down. If we’re lucky someone who cares might ask why we’re displaying a long face. What if nobody is around to uplift us? Is there any way we can get some encouraging words to pull us out of our sad state? Yes, of course! And it won’t cost us the hefty price of a plastic surgeon. What you need is a “heart” operation from the Lord Jesus himself!
Last Sunday several expressed how the select scriptural verses I used during the homily to combat some of the common downing effects hit them right in the heart. They were the precise words they needed to hear from God. I promised that I would include them in my column this weekend so that they are available in print and that others who didn’t hear them may benefit also. Read and meditate on the sacred words of God and you will hear God’s consoling message in your mind, heart and soul. So here they are:
In an impossible situation: “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” (Luke 18:27)
Feeling worn out/tired: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Lacking confidence: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” (Philipp. 4:13)
Not recognizing God’s presence in our weakness: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Assurance God can give us what we need: “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Nobody loves me anymore: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
I’m having trouble forgiving myself: “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)
I’m so afraid! “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
I’m always worried and frustrated: “Cast all your worries upon Him (God) because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
I don’t feel smart enough to do anything: “God has made you members of Christ Jesus and He is our wisdom.” (1 Corinthians 1:30)
I feel alone and abandoned: “I will never forsake you or abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Your shepherd in Christ,
March 30, 2014
BIG transition from “Building Our Faith” to
“Faith In Action”
-- Volunteers needed! --
The severe winter significantly delayed the construction of the new parish center. Our new projected occupancy is now June 5, 2014. This is an exciting and historic time in our parish history and we would like to make sure that we are prepared to make the transition. I invite and encourage you to help our parish by responding to God’s call to be a part of our new volunteer crew that will now be called “Faith In Action.”
Building Our Faith chaired by Dave Doseff and his “skeleton” crew has done a magnificent job organizing the management of the construction and furnishing of the building. Dave has spent countless hours to make sure that the building is being built to what we need for our parish mission, primarily, to use the facility to build up the Catholic faith in our region.
Several subcommittee members have done a superb job in sharing their talents and expertise in support of the building committee. One of the volunteer members who was involved in setting up a nice stewardship arrangement to help fund the expense of the building was Beth Gruneisen. Beth started with our successful Increased Offertory campaign a couple of years ago and has now expanded to working on a program to inspire parishioners on a fundraising mode including the recent spirit wear promo.
Now that we are moving into putting the parish center into good use, Beth came up with a new name to transition to the new mission by calling it, “Faith In Action.” We need lots of help with volunteers to make the transition happen including new leaders to guide this important transition.
However, it is with great sadness to share with you that both of our great leaders are moving to a different state most likely not long after our opening day or as soon as their homes sell. The Doseffs are moving to Pennsylvania to be closer to their grandchildren while the Gruneisens are moving to Maryland to be closer to his work and their young son’s new school. We are most grateful for their dedication and hard work. They will certainly leave quite a void upon their departure and this is where you come in. The good news is they have already set us up quite nicely so that their successors will not have to start from scratch with their work (as they did!).
We are pleading for your help while they are still here to find new successors so that they can be around to share every resource they have on the project. This will make the transition so much easier. Please contact us if you would like to volunteer in some capacity and/or interested to take the leadership position. We have great plans already how to make use of the new building. But first, I need your help to make the building available for its use as soon as we get the occupancy permit from Loudoun County. Your sacrificial giving of time is also always greatly appreciated by the Lord Jesus who will never be outdone in generosity.
Your shepherd in Christ,
April 6, 2014
Church maintenance two weeks ago
A couple of weeks ago we closed the church for 3 days and used the Oratory for daily Mass during that time. You might be wondering what kind of maintenance work was done because the church still looks the same. Well, not quite. Mold was discovered on the ceiling of the church recently where the beams meet. A couple of parishioners suspected there was mold up there so we had the ceiling examined. The test result was positive so we contracted a company to treat the ceiling and remove the mold. And that was not cheap! Up until about 3 years ago we used to get regular leaks inside the church whenever there was substantial rain. The leaks are gone but somehow mold got in. We hope that this is the end of the mold creeping up on us.
Big Mass favor on April 27 at the 6 PM Mass
Bishop Loverde would like to do our Confirmation and the only day he is available to visit is on Sunday, April 27. We will be having a Confirmation Mass at 2 PM & 6 PM. Since we have a small church, only the Confirmandi and their guests are invited to the Confirmation Masses. So if you are a regular 6 PM Sunday Mass attendee, please go to another Mass time that weekend. You will have trouble parking and you will not be able to get a seat inside the church either.
You also would be wise to avoid the 12:30 PM Mass because you will run into a traffic jam as you leave the church. The 2 PM crowd will make their way to church between 1-1:30 PM. [And don’t all try to go to the 10:30 AM either because that is already the most crowded Mass. If you ask me, your best choice is the 7 AM—there are plenty of seats there EVERY Sunday!]
Thank you very much for your cooperation. Our parish center will be ready before the end of spring and we’ll have plenty of room and parking once that happens. God bless and may your Lenten observances have been very fruitful as we near the most sacred time of Holy week.
Your shepherd in Christ,
April 13, 2014
“Holy Week – Are you ready?”
We are now entering Holy Week—the most important week of the calendar year. How was your season of Lent? If you’ve had a good spiritual experience during the past 5 weeks then you are all set to make the best of your Holy Week. But even if you felt that you didn’t reach your goals during Lent you can still make up a lot for this during Holy Week. I encourage all of you to take part in all of what we offer during these most sacred days of the year. And this is a great time of the year to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.
Have a great Holy Week and Easter!
Your shepherd in Christ,
April 20, 2014
A Happy Happy Easter to all of you!
The Lord is truly risen, alleluia! Once again we are celebrating the most important Christian Holy Day of them all: Easter! Jesus promised that if we remain faithful to our Baptismal promises until the end of our lives and own resurrection into eternal life is guaranteed! What a great gift from our generous and loving God.
We have so much to celebrate this Easter including 22 who received the sacraments at this year’s Easter vigil. 14 of the 22 were received in the Catholic Church while the other 8 are baptized Catholics who received Confirmation and/or their First Communion that night. We are so blessed that our RCIA/RCIT programs have brought many new members into our Catholic faith. If you know of anyone who might be interested in becoming a Catholic please contact me directly or our Religious Ed office.
And we cannot overlook the nice Easter blessing right across from our church: the new parish center. The harsh winter kept us from completing it in time for Easter Sunday as originally projected but it looks like we are on track to open the doors to the public by mid-June. We already have BIG plans how to utilize the new facility starting in the Fall with the introduction of new and exciting faith study programs for children and adults. We even have volunteers already working on getting our CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) basketball program set up for our kids. [An adult basketball night is also in the works.] We’re just getting started. Stay tuned in the bulletin for more details!
Faith in Action Capital Campaign 2014
Our newly formed Faith in Action Committee (extension/transition from the Building Our Faith committee) met last week to discuss the plans on how to best use the new parish center and to chart a course on the financial support of the new building. The parish-wide launch of the Faith in Action Capital Campaign begins the first weekend in May. A FIA committee rep will speak at all the Masses on the weekend of May 3-4 to promote the financial stewardship for our new parish center. You will receive a packet in the mail inviting you to participate in the pledge for this very important campaign. An in-pew follow up will take place later in the month for those who may have missed the mailing. This is a very exciting time in the history of our parish and it is our hope that every parishioner will participate in supporting the capital campaign.
Important Reminder about next week’s Sunday Confirmation
Bishop Loverde is coming next Sunday to administer the sacrament of Confirmation. Please be advised that next week we will have Two Confirmation Sunday Masses: 2 PM & 6 PM. If you are not part of the Confirmation celebration please do not attend the 2 PM & 6 PM Masses because we have very limited seating and parking. We thank you for your cooperation and may you have a great celebration of Our Lord’s resurrection with your family and loved ones. Happy Easter!
Your shepherd in Christ,
April 27, 2014
One very packed Sunday!!!
Divine Mercy + Canonizations of Bl. John XXIII & Bl. John Paul II + Bishop Loverde administering Confirmation at 2 Masses
Let’s start with Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus revealed to Saint Faustina that if we receive Holy Communion this Sunday in the state of grace honoring God’s divine mercy, we would receive many graces including the remission of all our temporary punishments (purgatory time) at least up until the moment we receive the Eucharist. The other condition is that we have gone to confession recently (usual condition is 1 week before or 1 week after Divine Mercy Sunday).
Dual Papal Canonizations
Our Church is doubly blessed today to have TWO popes canonized as saints by Pope Francis. Saint John XXIII & Saint John Paul II are now numbered among the saints in heaven. Some may not have experienced St. John XXIII in their lifetime since he died in 1963 but most of us lived around the time of St. John Paul II who was pope from 1978-2005. We thank God for his great gift of sending us two great popes who guided us during some of the most challenging time in history. I was very blessed to have met St. John Paul II on a few occasions while I was a seminarian in Rome and plan on putting some of my pictures with him in the bulletin and Facebook. After all, how often does one get his photo taken with someone who is now a saint in heaven? It’s too bad digital photos weren’t around during my seminary years. I regret not being able to take a “selfie” back then! Pope Francis is doing that now with the people around him.
Dual Sunday Mass Confirmations
Bishop Loverde will administer the sacrament of Confirmation to our Confirmandi at the 2 PM & 6 PM Sunday Masses this weekend. We are very happy to welcome our own bishop for this year’s Confirmation. And it is exciting that Bishop Loverde will actually get to see our new parish center just before it is completed. He has accepted our invitation to have him officially bless and dedicate our new building at the parish picnic on September 21, 2014 at 2:30 PM! Our expected completion date is mid-June and the building will be ready for use by the first week of July just in time for our Vacation Bible School (July 7-11).
Capital Campaign Kickoff next weekend!
Don’t forget that next weekend is the start of our capital campaign to help pay for our new parish center. Faith In Action kicks off May 3-4!
Your shepherd in Christ,
May 4, 2014
Faith In Action!
Important capital campaign kicks off this weekend
We are only a few days away from finally opening the doors to our new parish center. If all goes well with the weather, the essentials of the building could be completed by the beginning of June. And if the county inspectors find everything in good order we could get the long awaited occupancy permit within a few days after its completion.
The final overall cost of the project will be a little over $8 million. We have used up all of the $4 million that we raised in our previous campaigns so our diocesan loan to pay the current construction bills has finally kicked in. This weekend our parishioners who represent our new Faith In Action capital campaign will give a talk at every Mass encouraging all of you to please take part in helping us cover the expenses for our new parish educational/recreational facility. This is an exciting time in our parish to expand our activities for the glory of God and we need your support. Please take the time to hear the testimony of our representatives as they take the lead in encouraging you to participate in the Faith In Action Capital Campaign.
Congratulations to the Confirmandi
A big congratulations to all those who received the sacrament of Confirmation last week from Bishop Loverde. This year we had another big class with 136 getting confirmed. We wish all of them well in their journey of faith and may they grow in holiness and love for Our Lord Jesus and his Church everyday.
Your shepherd in Christ,
May 11, 2014
Your pledge card is needed before the end of May
Last weekend 2 of our Faith In Action capital campaign committee members, Martin Hamberger and Tim Sparbanie, took turns speaking at all the Sunday Masses articulating the mission of the new parish center that includes the expansion of our Catholic religious education for all ages.
They also mentioned the urgency of parishioners supporting the cost of our new building. By now every household in our parish registry should have received the pledge card. This is not the same as a generic secular “fund raising” that does not necessarily involve the salvation of souls. Our pledge drive is about making a responsible sacrificial offering for the continuation and the expansion of the work of Jesus Christ through our parish to make known the saving message of Our Lord.
No one in the parish is going to personally benefit from the funds raised through this capital campaign. We didn’t even hire a professional fundraiser like we did previously. Everyone involved in Faith In Action capital campaign committee is a volunteer parishioner or staff member. The planning, execution of the drive, spirit wear promo, and even the design of our new Saint Francis de Sales logo was created by parishioners. And everything we collect will go towards repaying the loan we received from the diocese that made our construction possible.
We would like a 100% parish participation in whatever capacity that you can support this capital campaign. At minimum, everyone should be able to pray everyday and ask God for the success of our mission to meet our financial burden. By the time construction finishes this month we will owe about $4 million. The current campaign’s goal is to raise at least $2 million. We request that you please return your pledge card before the end of the month.
Next week we will have an in-pew campaign for those who have yet to make a pledge. Always remember that God is never outdone in generosity and blesses abundantly the generous of heart. St. Paul writes, “Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
Special Congratulations to the First Communicants
This Saturday about 120 of our children received their First Eucharist. We congratulate them on receiving the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus for the very first time. May this be a beginning of their great spiritual journey with the Lord Jesus.
Happy Mother’s Day too!
And let’s not forget to say, “Happy Mother’s Day!” This includes sending greetings and our prayers to our common mom, Our Blessed Mother in heaven!
Your shepherd in Christ,
May 18, 2014
“Anything you give for the glory of God, you will never lose!”
From the life experiences of numerous people including my own, I have found this to be true. I have lived this principle since my younger days and God always found a way to make my ends meet even through my desperate times as a financially struggling student all the way through my seminary days. Making a sacrificial offering to God is based on the proportion of how much someone actually possesses. A single person who makes $100k and gives a $5k donation is giving proportionately different from a father of 7 children who makes $100k and donates the same amount. We learned this from Jesus’ observance of the widow who gave a couple of pennies in the Temple’s treasury: “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood” (Luke 21:3-4).
After being around for half a century I have never met any person of faith who was sincerely generous in stewardship who actually became destitute. Most of them never became the stereotypical wealthy person but they were satisfied with whatever God provided for them. This is what I mean by you can’t lose if you give to God. Everything belongs to God anyway so when we donate to the Church we are only giving back what belongs to God in the first place. The best part is God blesses and rewards abundantly those who return “only 10%” of God’s belongings and keeps the astounding 90% for themselves. Not a bad deal! (In the secular world thieves are required to return 100% of what they took while the IRS will make no bones about deboning you of 50% or more of what you legally earned!)
Be a part of the historic building of our new parish center and support the Faith In Action stewardship campaign. Soon we will be able to use the center in promoting our treasured Catholic faith even more. As I mentioned previously, starting this Fall we will host a series of adult conferences that address many of the faith questions of our day. We are also expanding formal religious education to the high school parishioners who have been requesting it (we’re so proud of them!). Everyone needs to participate at least in the prayerful support of the campaign. Every household in some way should be able to give in helping our parish meet the heavy financial responsibility of the construction cost. As of this writing we received past 10% of our goal already at $220,000.
This month I will be celebrating my 19th anniversary (May 20) as a priest. As a newly ordained I wondered what would be the most “unusual” thing I would have done when I reached my 20-year mark. Well, this is definitely it! So if you’re looking for an “anniversary gift” please prayerfully consider how much you will pledge. We need all your pledges in by May 31, 2014—same day as the construction completion date!
Naming our parish team
On another exciting note, our competing CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) does not have a team name yet. If you’d like to participate in the naming process, please fill out the official sheet to submit your recommendation. There are guidelines for choosing the name. It should be a name that has yet to be used by any Arlington Diocese team; possibly a connection to the life of St. Francis de Sales; a relevant biblical passage; a characteristic of our parish or something already in our new logo. Return the form to the main office or drop it off at the new church office mailbox (inside). The selection of the name will be discussed at the next pastoral council meeting on June 5th.
Your shepherd in Christ,
May 25, 2014
The Institute of Catholic Culture is coming to our parish!
The Institute of Catholic Culture mission statement is: An adult catechetical organization, faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and dedicated to the Church’s call for a new evangelization. The institute seeks to fulfill its mission by offering educational programs structured upon the classical liberal arts, and by offering opportunities in which authentic Catholic culture is experienced and lived.
On March 18, 2014 I signed an agreement with the institute to host their series at our new parish center. There is no fee for the participants to participate in the lecture series and they have been a big success in promoting the Catholic faith in the modern world. You can visit their website and even get over 400 hours of free online Catholic education by clicking to www.InstituteofCatholicCulture.org. Please save the dates of the lectures once we publish them each season.
The lectures are divided into 4 quarters corresponding to the 4 seasons and liturgical calendar. The lecture topics are divided into these 7 categories: History, Philosophy, Theology, Sacred Scripture, Liturgical Studies, Literature and Catechetics. Giving you their curriculum from last year will give you a sampling of the kind of topics they cover. I believe the specific topics are different every year.
Quarter 1 (Focuses on the ancient world, human nature, Old Testament, intro to Catholic faith): Cradle of Civilation, Defense of Virtue in the Face of Death, Suffering With God, Lamentations of Jeremiah (the prophet), Mary the New Eve, Chesterton’s Cosmic Caveman, and Confronting Secularism with the Gospel
Quarter 2 (Studies revelation of Christ, patristic age, fundamentals of morality, Church & sacraments): Lives of the Apostles After the Resurrection, Baptism of Greek Philosophy, Early Councils of the Church, St. John’s Book of Glory, Biblical Study of the Lord’s Baptism, Approaching Judgment, Introduction to the Christian East
Quarter 3 (Medieval & Renaissance world, scholastic philosophy, Church’s spiritual patrimony): Fall of Constantinople, Roots of Heresy, Introduction to Summa Theologica, St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, A Biblical Tour of Jerusalem’s Way of the Cross, The Quest for the Holy Grail, Learning to Live the Lord’s Day Today
Quarter 4 (Issues facing Christians in the modern world, defense of faith): Formation of the Modern Middle East, Galileo On Trial, Kingdom of the Cults: Scientology, Baha’i, Masonic Lodge, Learning to Defend Your Faith, Study of the Immaculate Conception, How Great Catholic Literature Can Impact Our Culture Today, Modern Immorality & the Teachings of the Church
This is a great opportunity for adults to really enhance their Catholic faith and hope to see you all there!
Your shepherd in Christ,
June 1, 2014
Construction nearly finished!
The general contractor told me as of Memorial Day weekend that the construction of our new parish center is still on schedule to be completed by May 31, 2014. And if the expected rain arrived this past week, the parking lot would need to be completed on the following week. We expect the county inspectors to swing by shortly after the construction is finished. We can hardly wait for the occupancy permit to be issued. It is a great feeling that we are within a short distance from seeing the completion of years of hard work. This is a very exciting time for our parish and I cannot wait to let you peek inside our new parish center. The basic furniture delivery is scheduled on the last week of June and our open house is tentatively set for the 4th of July weekend.
Capital Campaign weekend result
Here is the result of our Faith In Action capital campaign weekend. We received a total of 108 pledges for a total of $524,035. That’s an impressive average of $4,852 per pledge! And I would like to thank all of you who have generously participated. It is your sacrificial stewardship offering that makes it possible for our new parish center to exist.
We’re off to a good start after 1 week but it is my hope that we can maintain a surge to raise more from the rest of the parishioners. So far we have reached only a little over 25% of our $2 Million goal. We have 1,508 registered households and about 500 regular Sunday contributors. 107 pledges out of 1,508 is only 7% of our total household. 107 out of 500 is only 21% of our weekly contributors. This weekend is the target date for us to receive all your pledges so that our Finance Council can gauge the financial situation of the parish as we come to the end of our fiscal year (June 30, 2014). So if you have not turned in your pledge card please do so this weekend if possible.
Parish Picture Directory photo session coming up in August!
We are finally going to get our new parish picture directory for the first time since the mid-1990s! Now that we have a new parish center we’d like to get started right away so that parishioners can begin recognizing each other by looking at the directory. Please save the following dates for your photo shoot: August 6, 7, 8 & 9. Lifetouch has secured the rights to give us a commemorative parish directory highlighting the building and dedication of our new parish center along with the commemoration of the canonization of Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Saint John XXIII. There is no purchase necessary for parishioners to receive a free complimentary 8x10 portrait and a directory just for participating. Each household will have the opportunity to purchase more pictures of different poses and sizes. The directory will be ready before Christmas and is updatable. Please contact me directly if you would like to volunteer to help with this project.
Your shepherd in Christ,
June 8, 2014
Check out the new parking lot!
We finally have a nice parking lot for the whole parish! As I am writing this they are putting the topcoat finishing touches on the asphalt and plan on putting the lines tomorrow (Wednesday). Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do my “rollerblading” test on the surface until the parking lines are completed. But I did a walk-through already and did not see any rough spot. When the architect/contractors were talking about the parking lot at the new parish center I asked them to include refurbishing our current lot because it would be cheaper to do it now than later while the crew is already here. Even though it costs less in the long run, it still costs us $135,000. Nevertheless, it was definitely worth the price and we’re set for at least the next decade.
Now that we can use both lots for parking there is no reason to park out on the side road any longer. The police has been very kind to let us park there without issuing a citation for overflow parking but now we should have all the parking spaces we need. I believe there are 208 spaces available once they finish all the work.
Faith In Action Capital Campaign in-pew follow up
This weekend is when we make one more in-pew follow up of the capital campaign before many leave for after school vacation. I am most grateful to all who have participated in the campaign and your generous act of stewardship. But we still have many more who have not turned in their pledges yet. Please make a prayerful reflection on how you may offer a sacrificial offering for the support of our new center.
7 New priests for the Arlington Diocese
Bishop Loverde ordained 7 new priests for the Diocese of Arlington this Saturday. While we hear of lamenting from other dioceses about not having enough priests, we should always count our blessings that our diocese continues to be blessed with many new priests ordained for most of the past 20 years. Some are puzzled by our diocese’s “old style” spirit of Catholicism that has successfully inspired many of the young men to accept God’s lifelong call to the priesthood (and many young women to join religious communities). Conventional wisdom tells us that proven classic spirituality was immensely successful in the past 2,000 years of Catholic history so why would it be any different now? The formula is rather simple: loyalty to the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church and the pope, faithful liturgical celebration and practices, faithful commitment to personal prayer life especially to the Blessed Sacrament, faithful devotion to Our Blessed Mother, respect for life in all stages, and faithfulness to serving God’s people especially those who are most in need. God always calls many to the priesthood and religious life but not everyone responds affirmatively. Let us continue to pray that those who are called in the “special services” of leaving everything behind to follow Christ may have the wisdom and strength to answer “yes” to the Lord.
Your shepherd in Christ,
June 15, 2014
Our New Team Name: “THE ARCHANGELS”
Of the nearly 30 team names submitted, the Parish Council (2013-14) voted to select “The Archangels” as the nickname for our new Saint Francis de Sales Parish sports teams. It took 3 rounds of balloting but in the end Archangels beat out Guardians by just one vote! Other notable names submitted include: Crimson Pride, Crimson Bolts, Defenders, Fighting Angels, Musketeers, Muskets, Saints, Salesians, Scribes, Shields, Soldiers of Christ, Swiss Guards, and Sword. There were 2 entry forms submitted for Archangel but only one included their family name: Kevin & Jennifer Dize Family (see bulletin front page photo). The other person chose to remain anonymous for now but disclosed that he is a Knights of Columbus member! By the way, our Knights have generously donated our first set of basketballs for the new gym and offered to help with our CYO uniforms and more basketballs.
We need CYO Coaches…and players, of course!!!
We are in great shape to organize our parish basketball teams to compete with other parishes in the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) league. Paul Kerstanski (email@example.com) has graciously offered to be the overall head of all the parish CYO (basketball, cheerleading, cross country, tennis, track & volleyball). Dermot Winters (firstname.lastname@example.org) has accepted the role of our parish CYO Basketball Commissioner so please feel free to contact him about coaching and/or have kids interested joining the team. Boys & girls basketball teams range from 3rd Grade to high school. The requirement for a CYO participant is quite simple: the student is actively enrolled/attending a CCD program (including RCIC/RCIT), Catholic School (diocesan/private), or a Catholic-based homeschool program. High school players need to be active participants in a religious education program and/or parish youth group. The main purpose of the CYO’s existence is to encourage Catholic faith formation thru organized athletic competition.
Possible [heart]-breaking news…
We need your prayers as the architect and engineers are working with the Virginia Department of Health of an oversight with the well water from 3 months ago. If the issue is not resolved, it could delay getting our occupancy permit and not get it in time for our Vacation Bible School at the beginning of July. That would be a major disappointment and we certainly would not want that to happen. Please say lots of prayers especially to Our Lady and Saint Francis de Sales!!!
One bright news…
After the assignment of priests was released last Saturday, the Lord has decided to keep both of us priests again this year at Saint Francis de Sales...Yay!!!
Your shepherd in Christ,
June 22, 2014
Pray for our Youth Group traveling for Workcamp
This Sunday our Youth Group will be traveling to Imperial, PA to do their annual workcamp. Please keep them in your prayers that they will have a safe and most fruitful experience in their summer work of charity. A total of 110 participants will be going on the trip. As usual, they return with inspiring stories of their experience doing faith-based charitable work. We look forward to their dinner gathering the following Sunday as they share their wonderful moments of service with God’s people in PA.
More construction delay agony
A couple of weeks ago I watched for the first time in years the classic Bugs Bunny episode titled, “Water, Water Every Hare” (1952), where a mad scientist was lamenting about the amount of time lost in his project by saying, “Delays, delays, nothing but delays!” This is certainly the sentiment that many of us working in the building project have and practically driving us “mad.” An unfortunate delay in completing the design to connect the new building with our existing well water has sprung and it has caused a serious setback in getting our occupancy permit this month. The parish center will not be ready for use in time for the annual Vacation Bible School even though the building itself will likely be finished by then (that’s one good news!). The major problem includes getting water, especially drinking water, properly hooked up into the new building’s water treatment that meets the Commonwealth of Virginia Health Department code.
Our building committee was very disheartened and caught off guard with this news. I was grateful that I received a cc note from the health department alerting me that they had not received the necessary responses that they requested way back in February from the firm working with us. The design team finally sent the revised drawings and responses on June 10 and we’re hoping they can now work together with state officials very quickly. It won’t be long before CCD starts again in September and we are counting on using the new building by then. Please continue to pray for the quick completion of our new parish center.
Your shepherd in Christ,
June 29, 2014
Bishop Loverde strongly defends Archbishop Cordileone’s
defense of Traditional Marriage
It is very sad to see that anyone today who speaks on marriage according to God’s scriptural and traditional definition of it gets chastised intolerably by those who are supposedly promoters of tolerance in society. Tolerance seems to be one-sided and only acceptable if it is the popular view of the public. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and current chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops subcommittee on promotion and defense of marriage has been receiving lots of criticism for stating the Catholic Church’s teaching on traditional marriage according to God.
There is a large myth out there in public and the media that the Catholic Church is “anti-LGBT.” Although it is hard for some to understand, the Catholic Church is not even about anti anything. When Jesus preached the Gospel that led to his own death, he was simply preaching the truth and asking the people to change their hearts and be converted. For example, when Our Lord defended the woman who was about to be stoned to death for adultery, Jesus rescued her. But that’s not how the story ended. If you read the entire narrative (John 8:1-11) you will find these closing lines: “’Has no one condemned you?’ She replied, ‘No one, sir.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, from now on do not sin anymore.’” St. Augustine’s profound words summarize Jesus’ philosophy, “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum” (His letter 211, c. 424). This translates to, “With love for mankind and hatred for sins.” The phrase was later popularized to, “Hate sin but love the sinner.”
The Church patterns herself to the proclamation of the Gospel by Jesus. It is the duty of the Church to identify the sins that lead people to satan’s kingdom of hell but leaves the individual judgments of salvation to Jesus. When the Catholic Church speaks about marriage it is simply teaching what relates to Holy Matrimony, one of the 7 sacraments that she has consistently taught for 2,000+ years. This is the same for all the teachings of the Church. Another clear example is when we speak out against abortion. We take part in the pro-life activities to promote everyone’s right to life including the unborn. We condemn the act of killing the unborn children but we do not condemn those who have had abortions. The Church offers support for those wounded by abortion. And for those who are struggling in same sex attractions we also offer care and support for them. I invite you to visit this important website that is unknown to many people: www.couragerc.net or contact the Arlington Diocese chapter by email at email@example.com.
This was the statement from Bishop Loverde regarding Archbishop Cordileone on June 17, 2014:
"I commend Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for his clear and objectively written response to those who would silence him for proclaiming the truth of marriage. In upholding the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church on the essential meaning and importance of marriage and family, Archbishop Cordileone is discharging faithfully his mandate as shepherd and bishop, despite worldly catcalls and criticism from some government officials. His letter today puts to rest some of the flaws, misinformation, and half-truths that threaten the fundamental good of traditional marriage."
Your shepherd in Christ,
July 6, 2014
“Mini Open House”
With the help of the Knights of Columbus, we are having a “mini” open house of the new parish center this weekend. The new facility is mostly complete so we should be able to give a partial tour of the building. Moisture underneath the concrete has held up the installation of the floors on the first level especially in the gym. As of this writing we are awaiting final approval from Loudoun County of the water treatment system. The occupancy permit will be issued once all the inspections are done and approved. In the meantime a limited guided tour after each Sunday Mass this weekend is our best alternative to give you a sneak peak of our nice new parish center.
Speaking of the Knights, congratulations to Bill Talamantes for being elected as our new Grand Knight. He succeeds John Haraburda and we thank him for leading another very successful year of leading our Knights of Columbus Council 11136.
Vacation Bible School this week
Our annual Vacation Bible School is held this week from July 7-11. The theme this year is “Wilderness Escape: Where God guides & provides.” I had a chance to see the volunteers prepare and they are very excited to get going and minister to our young parishioners by sharing their faith in a fun way. Let us keep them in our prayers so that by the end of the week they will take home important faith lessons that will benefit them for a lifetime.
Your shepherd in Christ,
July 13, 2014
Record-setting Vacation Bible School participation!
A total of 177 kids from Kindergarten to 5th Grade took part in our 2014 Vacation Bible School program this past week. There were also over 80 volunteers who helped James Blankenship and Janice Rees manage this year’s VBS. We are blessed to have so many wonderful parishioners who willingly give their time in the service of our youth. It’s Tuesday now when I’m writing this and everyone is having a blast and so far the weather has been very cooperative. Although the new parish center wasn’t ready in time everyone adjusted to the tents. Since the theme is Wilderness Escape they actually have been more meaningful for the skits. Part of the theme is about God helping the Israelites escaping the Egyptians through the desert after being enslaved for over 400 years.
Last week’s New Parish Center ‘Sneak Peek’
I would like to thank the Knights of Columbus for leading the tour last week. They did a superb job giving a guided tour of our new parish center. Glad you liked the mini preview and thank you for your wonderful comments! It will be even nicer once it is complete and ready for use. Keep praying for a quick finish.
Parish Directory Picture Taking
Getting your picture taken for the parish directory is less than a month away (August 6-9). Please go to our website and sign up for a time slot. Just click on the Portrait Signup button and look for an empty time slot. For those non-computer users, please contact our parish office to sign up. Remember, you automatically get a free 8x10 print + a free parish directory just for participating to get your picture taken.
Have a blessed summer!
Your shepherd in Christ,
July 20, 2014
CCD “Early Bird Special” Rate ends July 31st!
We are very excited to have this year’s Religious Education Classes (CCD) to be held at our brand new parish educational center. Since we are no longer renting the local high school (for $50k+), we decided to lower our tuition rate and offering an Early Bird Special signup rate if you register by July 31st. The new limited time discounted rate this year is $99 for the 1st child ($120 after July 31), $140 for 2 children, $160 for 3 children, and $15 for each additional child (for families with 4 or more).
This year we are adding a high school (Grades 9-12) religious education program on Monday evenings (7-8:15 PM) for the same rate as above. So far we have 15 high school students who have already signed up! The program is designed to have more of a discussion of topics that is relevant to the faith growth of our teens. One of the reasons many of the youth begin to struggle in their faith is because they stopped learning about God after Confirmation and they go through the latter part of their years trying to answer the true meaning of life with an 8th grade knowledge of God. This is a great investment in life to prepare them for the “rough” years ahead. Those who spend the time to learn more about God find it easier to love and pray. Knowledge of God allows us to get to know Him better and be able to have good conversations with Him in prayer.
Sign up now for Religious Education before July 31st and save. The rate goes up by $20 after the limited time offer. More importantly, invest in your kids’ faith lessons and help them remain close to God and “save” their souls!
VBS Charity Bonus raised $4500!!!
During Vacation Bible School the kids were given a presentation by Sara Ablard Parella on the Smile Train program to help children born with a cleft palate have corrective surgery. They were so moved by the cause that they were able to raise a whopping $4,500 dollars in one week! Each surgery costs $250 (doctors donate their surgery time) so 18 children will benefit from the efforts by our VBS kids. This was an amazing and inspirational act of generosity of the kids who were able to express the need to their parents and others who helped them raise the funds. God bless them for their great act of love!
Your shepherd in Christ,
July 27, 2014
Popular news: “Moon Landing 45th Anniversary” (2014)
Very Unpopular news: “Humanae Vitae 45th Anniversary” (2013)
(Part 1 of 3)
The 1960’s were filled with lots of memorable events (including the debut of my favorite, Scooby Doo, in 1969!). The whole world was in awe of the first moon landing on July 20, 1969 with the crew from Apollo 11 and we rightfully are overjoyed to re-live that historic day today. I have very few recollections of my very early childhood but this was one of them. I was 2 months shy of my 5th birthday at the time but I still remember vaguely watching this event somewhere with my family and that there was a jubilant celebration out in the streets.
On July 25th this year we celebrated the 46th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical (official faith instruction addressed to all the bishops), Humanae Vitae (1968). Unlike the moon landing, there was no big media celebration last year of this event outside of some Catholic circles. While the 1st moon landing was a big historical event, Humanae Vitae was a bigger historic defining moment for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This encyclical was met with great opposition including by many Catholics and clergy! What exactly was this pope’s spiritual instruction to the world all about?
The teaching was nothing new in the world at all. Humanae Vitae was simply reiterating what the Catholic Church and all Judeo-Christian faiths have previously taught: the use of artificial contraception is immoral. This was no blockbuster brand new teaching that was being introduced. A lot of people are not aware today that prior to the Anglican 1930 Lambeth Conference every Christian church taught that the use of artificial contraception was immoral.
The Catholic Church has never taught that birth prevention/control is immoral as she constantly teaches responsible parenthood. It is the artificial means of attaining this end that is immoral. The encyclical states that the deliberate use of artificial means to destroy the life-giving element that is attached in the conjugal relationship is contrary to what God has established in natural law. In other words, this isn’t just a teaching for Catholics, it is God’s law for the whole of humanity. And contrary to popular secular belief, this encyclical is a very positive and uplifting message affirming the philosophical beauty of understanding the real essence of the presence of love in a marriage.
Couples who truly live the sanctity of their married life as God has intended it don’t feel like the Church is shackling them. They are happy people who understand the true boundaries of life. They are living the true freedom of their bodies knowing what “unconditional” love really means. They are not concerned about compromising their values by selling out to the non-God approved inventions of the pharmaceutical companies by resorting to the use of barrier methods, chemicals, pills, and surgeries that render “inoperable” to perform certain bodily functions (both for men and women) that could lead to the new dreaded word in the modern era for many: pregnancy. If one carefully examines the promotional arguments for artificial contraception one could see that pregnancy is treated as some kind of a nasty disease. It is no wonder that the number cause for abortion is due to failed contraception. (Part 2 of 3 is continued next week.)
Your shepherd in Christ,
August 3, 2014
Popular news: “Moon Landing 45th Anniversary” (2014)
Very Unpopular news: “Humanae Vitae 45th Anniversary” (2013)
(Part 2 of 3 – Continuation of Pope Paul VI’s teaching on contraception)
The 1968 Humanae Vitae encyclical is widely available online and all Catholics should read it to understand why artificial contraception is a tool of destruction perpetrated by the devil to ruin sacred relationships and individuals. Pope Paul VI identified 4 serious concerns for using contraception. See for yourselves and see if he was right. Here are the 4 concerns.
1) There will be an increase in infidelity and general lowering of morality. Has there been an increase in marital infidelity since contraception was introduced? Prior to its wide introduction, a major deterrence to marital infidelity or promiscuity in general was the “fear” of dealing with pregnancy. Contraception has most certainly contributed to drastically reducing that concern. All stats show a spike in divorce that coincided with the widespread distribution of contraceptives. Should we be surprised that infidelity also became a common ground used for divorce by a large number of couples. As far as the “general lowering of morality”, what do you think prompted the sexual revolution of the 1960’s? If you don’t see the connection with the widespread use of contraception as a significant part of this free-for-all promiscuous movement, then you’ve got a lot of catching up with reality! How does approaching 60 million abortions in the U.S. alone since 1973 strike you? The main cause for abortion is failure of contraceptive method. There was also the rise of STD cases, cohabiting couples over marriage, and children born out of wedlock. Just look at the movies and TV shows that came out of Hollywood towards the late 1960’s. Hollywood was once “very conservative” and had censors that strictly monitored the scenes and the script. There was a time where married couples on TV shows weren’t allowed to be filmed in the same bed nor could Jeannie even expose her bellybutton! Anyway, was Pope Paul VI right with his prediction?
2) Lost of respect for women. Paul VI feared that women would be looked upon as objects of pleasure rather than a man’s equal sacred companion. By seeking pleasure alone without the responsibility for procreation due to acceptance of the contraceptive philosophy, men could now just use the conjugal relationship “on demand” without regard to the sacred function of fertility of his partner. A significant rise in physical/sexual crimes against women rose during this same era. And we can’t ignore the rise of the pornography business that mostly degrades women as pure of objects of pleasure. A General Social Survey (2000) shows that men are 543% more likely than female to look at pornography. ABC News reported this year that pornography is a $10 Billion+ business (surpasses revenues by the NFL, MLB & NBA combined!).
3) Abuse of power enforcing the practice to unwilling population. Many “developing” countries in the name of “responsible planned parenthood” are forcing their population into a forced sterilization program. The most extreme is China where abortion is forced upon women to purposely limit their population.
4) Unlimited dominion mentality over one’s body. The contraceptive philosophy of being able to do anything with one’s body without regard to any limitation has led to many other forms of “unlimited” dominion over anything without moral regard to God’s plan for human nature. This includes acceptance of sterilization, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, gender change operations, unlimited body piercings/”body art”, multi-partner and same sex relationships, etc.
The examples mentioned here were just some of the many that were part of the 4 major concerns Pope Paul VI had when he wrote Humanae Vitae in 1968. Many thought he was out of his mind when he declared this moral teaching and that his concerns were a bit far fetched. No would argue with him now that his concerns were accurately legitimate. What is most surprising is that the teachings of Humanae Vitae became the unlikely gauge for who is truly a faithful Roman Catholic both the clergy and lay people in the Vatican II era (post 1968). This is very important to remember. Anyone, including priests and bishops, who rejects the Catholic moral teachings on artificial contraception is seriously in error and would not be speaking as a Catholic in good standing. In summary, the Catholic Church has consistently taught since the very beginning of Christianity that the use of any form of artificial contraception is a mortal sin. (Part 3 of 3 is next week).
Your shepherd in Christ,
August 10, 2014
Popular news: “Moon Landing 45th Anniversary” (2014)
Very Unpopular news: “Humanae Vitae 45th Anniversary” (2013)
(Part 3 of 3 – Continuation of Pope Paul VI’s teaching on contraception)
Parts 1 & 2 can be found online: http://www.saintfrancisparish.org/shepherd-s-notes/2014-archives/
Some have asked, are there positive things about Humanae Vitae? The truth is that ALL of the teachings of the Catholic Church are positive teachings! Catholic doctrine is positive theology. Its beliefs are not formulated in a negative reaction to other beliefs or teachings. Catholic teaching is nothing but a direct proclamation of the revelations of God. What the Catholic Church teaches as articles of faith stand on their own as God’s truthful teachings. What we believe is something that we have always proclaimed as the truth. Humanae Vitae is not a new teaching in reaction to the popularization of artificial contraception because the Church has opposed any form of artificially contrived contraception since the beginning of her existence. This opposition even predates Christianity as the Old Testament condemns it (read Genesis 38 as an example) and considered having several children a blessing.
Catholics families who have embraced the Humanae Vitae encyclical have found great value in its teachings. They have been sanctified in their vocation and have far more insights to what unconditional love really means. This may surprise some but many of them used to be advocates and users of artificial contraception. By the grace of God they realized the damage it was doing to their relationship and were able to reverse course. They are much happier now and able to pass to their children the fullest meaning of true family values. One of the sad memories I have was going to Wal-Mart one afternoon with about 6 or 7 kids in front of me at the counter who were either late middle school/very early high school age. These boys and girls weren’t buying candy. They were buying boxes of condoms and were joking about how they were going to use them! Contraceptive society + contraceptive parents = (most likely) contraceptive children. By today’s secular standards, these kids at Wal-Mart were supposedly acting responsibly by following the rules of engagement in “safe sex.” Does the Church have something to offer to the youth today regarding responsible safe sex for protection? Yes, of course, there is. It’s called wearing…a wedding ring! You pray and look for the 1 person who will love you forever (of the opposite gender—unfortunately, some needs a reminder that this is God’s way too) and marry that person. A monogamous relationship is still the best way to avoid the dreaded STD. After you exchange vows before God in his Church, you wear the wedding ring and then you can enjoy God’s original plan for married couples for the very best…[yada yada yada yada!].
It is also important to know that the Church teaches responsible parenthood. Couples are not required to have as many children as nature would permit them to have. The Catholic Church does not oppose birth control (delaying, spacing & even limiting the number of children they can responsibly have). What the Church opposes is artificial birth control. Natural Family Planning (NFP) is 99% effective if the method is used properly (as effective as what the best contraceptive that’s out there—except perhaps permanent destruction/sterilization of reproductive organs). It doesn’t use any artificial means to frustrate or destroy the life giving process. Contrary to popular myth, this is not the ineffective rhythm method (jokingly called, Vatican Roulette) or withdrawal (onanism). NFP simply helps the couple accurately track the time when conception is practically not possible. It works both ways to achieve or avoid conception. It requires personal sacrifice on both spouses and therefore have a shared responsibility. NFP has also caught on with the health and environmentally conscious “green” community because it’s “all natural.” Who wouldn’t want that? The 2 leading NFP methods are 1) Billings Method: http://www.thebillingsovulationmethod.org, and 2) Creighton Model: http://www.creightonmodel.com. If you’re looking for an all-Catholic approved OB/GYN practice in Fairfax area, go to: http://www.tepeyacfamilycenter.com.
For those looking to increase their chance of conceiving a child that is far more effective than in vitro fertilization (not approved by the Catholic because it always involves immoral practices), there is what is called NaPro Technology. Go to these sites: 1) http://www.popepaulvi.com or 2) http://www.unleashingthepower.info to learn more.
Your shepherd in Christ,
August 17, 2014
Well water treatment approved!
Many thanks to your prayers we finally received the official letter from the Virginia Department of Health office in Richmond authorizing us to connect the new parish center to our existing well. The engineers and builders expect the project to be completed in 2 weeks. There will be tests and inspections conducted and hopefully everything will work as the technical drawings suggest. We also have to pass the inspections by the fire marshal regarding the fire fighting capacity of our system and various safety alarms in place.
After the latest building meeting/analysis, our new timeline expects us to be ready barely just in time before the religious education classes (CCD) begin on September 14. That’s if everything goes as planned without any further issues! So please continue to pray that we can open our CCD season in time. We didn’t renew our rental of the Woodgrove HS classrooms for this coming year because we thought the construction would be over by May 30. In a worse case scenario if we cannot turn on the water yet, we plan on applying a temporary occupancy permit to use the new building because we can get drinking water and use the bathrooms in the existing facilities we now have. This way we can have our CCD and other classes open as scheduled. We expect to have somewhere between 800-900 students in our religious education program this year. Number wise, this is an incredibly good amount of people who will receive the Word of God this year. Praise the Lord!
Middle-Schoolers…you’re invited for some fun time!!!
We are kicking off the Middle School Youth group, called the MAC-PAC (Middle-schoolers Acting in Christ: Prayer-Action-Charity) on Saturday, August 30 from 6:30-9:00 PM. Activities include prayer, fellowship, kickball, campfire & swimming. It will be held at the home of our MAC-PAC coordinator, Dana Friedl, at the Friedl Ranch (16076 Berlin Turnpike). If you are going to be in middle school this upcoming school year, please join the group and RSVP Dana at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-627-8151. There will be plenty more activities the rest of the year but this is a great way to end your summer break before the new school year begins.
Your shepherd in Christ,
August 24, 2014
Will we get to enjoy the presence of animals in heaven? Read on!
Last week we heard Jesus in the Gospel mention dogs in not the best of light, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” (Matt. 15:26). Our faith and scripture in general has been passive about making a clear declaration that aside from God, the angels, and the saints (anyone who makes it to heaven is a saint), there are no other living beings in heaven.
But is it wrong to believe that our beloved pets that gave us joy here on earth could also possibly be in heaven with us? Of course, not! There may not be a strong theological argument to support that animals have salvation but such a theory is not directly contrary to any of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal teachings. But there is always the dilemma about which animals should go to heaven. Fleas, ticks, ringworms, and other parasites are animals too. Why couldn’t they come along with the other animals? And don’t forget about the stinkbugs, snakes, spiders, bats, etc.…yuk! Isn’t heaven supposed to be a paradise with no worries? Not if these critters will be there too!
However, for the very first time in my theological life, a reflection written by a prominent priest from the Archdiocese of Washington, Msgr. Charles Pope, really got me thinking that perhaps it just might be possible that we may get to see animals and even our dear pets that have gone before us. Though I personally do not know Msgr. Pope, we have crossed paths a few times in the past 25 years and recently heard him speak at our diocesan priest convocation 3 months ago. His reflections have always been spiritually practical and his recent take on the animals has been very intriguing.
Msgr. Pope brings up the prophecies of scripture that God will one day renew the whole of creation (Rev. 21:1-5) and bring peace and harmony to everything in it including the animals. He makes a compelling point from Isaiah 11:6-9,
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
In my homily just a few weeks ago I mentioned that in the book, “Heaven Is For Real”, the little 4-year old who said he was taken up to heaven when he died briefly in the operating room saw animals in heaven. While his testimony is not on the same par as scripture, the story he told was very believable. 4-year olds are usually incapable of making up stories because they have not yet reached the age of reason. They only speak of things as they actually see them and nothing more.
Many of us have had memorable experiences with pets and other animals that are sadly no longer here with us. I am including the link where you can read Msgr. Pope’s article (http://blog.adw.org/2014/08/what-are-our-pets-really-saying-perhaps-they-express-the-longing-of-all-creation/). It brought me pleasant feelings of joy of the possibility of seeing nice pets and other animals I’ve encountered in the past and it will probably do the same for you. This article just made me long for heaven even more! Isn’t it a happy thought to think of those who lived for God, and are now heading towards heaven, may also find their dearly beloved pets up there? On the other hand, how terribly tragic and sad it would be for those who have failed to follow God, and lost their souls, but their animals made it to heaven. Now that’s one hell of a thought to keep in mind! [So let’s not get complacent and heed St. Paul’s admonition: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12b).]
Your shepherd in Christ,
August 31, 2014
A “Labor Day” Story
On this Labor Day weekend I’d like to share with you a story that everyone in the parish should know. It’s about one’s labor of love. Many of you have seen the new confessional rooms we have on the right side of the church. For those of you who have gone to confession in the past year you know how beautiful and inviting these penitential rooms are. If you have not seen the inside of these rooms, not only are you missing out, but it is also definitely time for you to go to confession! Remember, all Catholics must receive the sacrament of reconciliation at least once a year regardless of whether they have a mortal sin or not.
Anyway, have you ever wondered how and who built these confessional rooms? Our generous parishioner, Dan Beckstead, voluntarily built them for the spiritual benefit of our parish community. Dan’s beloved wife of 55 years, Arline, passed away at the age of 76 on January 30, 2012. She was a lovely soul and I got to visit her a few times to bring her the Eucharist when she was terminally ill and we had a very nice Last Rites celebration before the Lord called her into the next life. A few months after Arline’s death, Dan approached me about replacing the current confessionals as they were in need of serious repair.
On at least a couple of occasions I remember the collapsible confessionals collapsed while I was in there when penitents of certain stature leaned a little too much towards the screen. Others have brought up the concern that there is not a lot of privacy in those rooms due to the gaps between the wood panels that don’t seal properly. We tried our best to subdue the sound by raising the volume of the Gregorian Chants playing in the background and for the most part it was quite effective. So I graciously accepted Dan’s offer to build the rooms in his spare time and they both have been completely operational since Lent 2014.
The first confessional he built (the one on the right which I normally use) was dedicated to his wife, Arline, and the second one (Father Tewes’ usual station) was dedicated to the whole parish. We’re working on getting memorial plates at the present time. Dan’s labor of love for his wife and our parish is just absolutely beautiful. You won’t find a lot of single-handedly built confessionals as artistically refined as the ones we have. He did this in his spare time while working full-time in his son-in-law’s construction business. I talked him into getting his picture taken with his work to put in front of our bulletin on this Labor Day weekend. We are all very thankful to Dan for his great work and contribution to our parish church. And you know what else is amazing about all this? Dan completed the confessional rooms when he was 79 years old! He turns 80 next week but his heart and strength seem younger than ever. Let us keep Dan in our prayers that Our Good Lord will continue to bless him abundantly. After hearing this story I now expect all the “younger” ones will be even more inspired to do volunteer work for the good of our church!
Your shepherd in Christ,
September 7, 2014
Progress on our new patio
Some have wondered what is being built in between the new parish center and our current office building. That is the new outdoor brick patio and where our Knights of Columbus barbecue pit is going to be reassembled. Construction is going very well and should be ready in time for the parish picnic on September 21st. The design of the patio has grey brick pavers to match the side of the new building and brown bricks (to give the visual effect of wood) in the middle in the shape of a cross. The best view for the patio is going to be in the Upper Room (Teen/Youth classroom) 2nd floor window. Subdued ground lighting has been added in the design around the cross for a nice evening mood lighting effect.
Final week to register for Religious Education (CCD)
Welcome back, everyone! If you haven’t enrolled your kids for CCD classes now is the time to do it. Classes begin on Sunday, September 14 and it will be at our new parish center. Everyone in this year’s religious education will forever be part of the parish history to be the first ones to use our new faith formation center.
Interested in the Catholic faith?
If you know of anyone who might be interested in the Catholic Church, our RCIA class (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) begins on Tuesday, September 23rd at 7:30 PM in the parish center. Adult Catholics who have not received Confirmation and/or other sacraments can now fulfill this obligation through this program. All adult Catholics who want to take a refresher course in the Catholic faith are also most welcome, and encouraged, to participate. Call the Religious Education office or contact me directly to register or sign up.
Your shepherd in Christ,
September 14, 2014
“Barren” but still beautiful
We are barely going to make it with the occupancy permit in time for this weekend’s opening day for Religious Education (CCD). If all went well at the courthouse in Leesburg, we would have gotten the permit no later than Wednesday (September 10). What we have in the new building are just the bare necessities to hold classes. We have all the chairs and tables we need plus the dry eraser board. We also have new bathrooms and a great HVAC system that seems to be working well. It’s a beautiful building but please be patient with how plain the rooms are right now. We will try to get the phones and computer systems installed as soon as we can. Until we get the occupancy permit, we really couldn’t get much done in there.
And that reminds me, since each room is named after a saint, is there anyone out there in the parish who would be interested in voluntarily decorating a room (or more) in a nice orderly manner? I was told that this would be “branding” a room so that there is cohesiveness and consistency in the decoration as fits the theme. I figured out how to build a building but interior design just didn’t quite make it in my crash course. So please contact me directly if you are interested. The themes of the rooms are as follows: (1st Floor) Holy Family, Guardian Angels, St. Agnes, St. Francis de Sales Library; (2nd Floor) Upper Room, St. Elizabeth Seton, Martin de Porres (conference room), Bl. Mother Teresa, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Gianna Molla, St. Padre Pio, Bishops of Rome (Papal Room), and St. Rose of Lima.
Would you like to sponsor a classroom crucifix memorial?
We found a good craftsman who is making all of the crucifixes for the classrooms and other rooms (15 total). It’s going to be 8” x 14” made of rosewood. If anyone is interested in making a memorial donation for the crucifix, please let me know. This will probably go quickly. We will mark the memorial on the back of the crucifix. I’m still waiting for the final cost as this will be determined by the cost of the metal corpus part that will go on the wood. My estimated guess is around $100.
Also, two separate individuals have offered the possibility of memorializing an entire classroom in memory of their loved ones as they do in Catholic schools. The offering would be the cost to outfit one room. Once everything is installed in the rooms we can then offer a “room memorial.” If interested, please contact me anytime!
Interested in the Catholic faith?
If you know of anyone who might be interested in the Catholic Church, our RCIA class (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) begins on Tuesday, September 23rd at 7:30 PM in the parish center. Adult Catholics who have not received Confirmation and/or other sacraments can also fulfill this obligation through this program. All adult Catholics who want to take a refresher course in the Catholic faith are also most welcome and encouraged to participate. Call the Religious Education office or contact me directly to register/sign up or just show up at Room 107 (Saint Agnes).
Your shepherd in Christ,
September 21, 2014
Finally, it’s dedication time!!!
One day after I moved to Saint Francis de Sales five years and eight months ago, I called a meeting to revive the project of building the parish educational center after learning about it from the parish business manager, Diane Morano, during my initial visit. She was very instrumental in alerting me of this need and has followed every step of the process with me since. It was made known to me that we had only about 18 months left on the clock to submit a real architectural plan to the Loudoun County or the 11-acres of land that was “conditionally” sold to the parish at a discount for the purpose of building the center (within 5 years) would revert back to the seller. [It kind of reminded me of the treaty between France and Monaco. Until a recent amendment to Monaco’s constitution, if no male heir (prince) comes from the royal family’s direct bloodline, Monaco would seize as an independent monarchy and revert back to France.]
After passing all of the county inspections, we were granted a temporary occupancy permit on September 12 (Feast of the Holy Name of Mary) that now allow us to have full use of our new parish center. This paved the way to open the doors in time for our religious education program on September 14. This also made it possible for us to finally have the official blessing and dedication of our new parish center by Bishop Loverde this Sunday. We are very excited that after more than a decade since the concept was first introduced the parish education center is now here.
God was truly behind the construction of our new center. Prior to coming to the parish I had never built a single building structure in my life. I’ve never even owned a LEGO set! But I prayed to God to guide me on how I may find the right person to lead the building committee chair. Through some mysterious grace of God, I was led to asking Dave Doseff to head this committee. I heard a “rumor” somewhere that he had experience with residential home building as a career. It turned out that Dave was a true goldmine! Dave has been at my side since he took the reins after prayerfully considering the position and just ran with it with great dedication. We had a skeleton crew of mostly 4 building committee members but we had plenty of prayerful support (Hail Mary Campaign, Building Our Faith Prayer at Mass, etc.). We are now on our 3rd capital campaign (Faith In Action) that has helped provide funds for our construction and secured a loan from the diocese to pay for the overall expenses. We are very grateful and indebted to Dave’s leadership but at the same we are saddened that he and his wife Lisa are moving to Pennsylvania to be closer to their grandchildren before the end of this month. But as you can see from the inside and outside of the building, he is leaving behind a beautiful and solid facility that will endure in the service of Our Lord’s mission in the years to come.
The Building Our Faith committee has been passed on to our “fish fry” heroes, Tim and Joyce Sparbanie. The next phase of our project is now called, “Faith In Action.” This exciting husband and wife team has been a staunch supporter of our building project and has raised several thousand dollars in the past 4 years through the Lenten Friday fish fries. Joyce has also been very active in the interior design of the building and both she and her husband were a tremendous help in designing our beautiful kitchen in the new hall (Our Lady of Victory Hall). We also have a number of other volunteers that are too many to name individually who have been big supporters behind the scene and I would like to thank and recognize them as well. And for all of you have offered your prayerful and financial support, I also want you thank you for your great help and contribution that made it possible for us to be where we are. This project has been a combined effort in the service of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I am very blessed to have been a part of this exciting journey and history of Saint Francis de Sales parish. Let us continue to make more great memories in the years to come!
Your shepherd in Christ,
September 28, 2014
Dedication Ceremony was a BIG success!
Many many thanks to all of you who helped make our dedication ceremony an incredibly big success. Bishop Loverde was very pleased with everything including the impressive building that we added to the diocese. We were also blessed with beautiful weather so that we could begin the ribbon cutting ceremony outdoors as planned.
The Faith in Action planning committee did a superb job with the event planning and coordination. Everything pretty much went as planned. And the ever-reliable Knights of Columbus and their helpers did an incredible job supervising the activities to serve the meals to numerous guests of 500 or more! They also set up and cleaned up for the event. The hall was very neat and clean when the festivities were over.
We are also grateful to the music ministry for beautifully singing sacred music for the dedication and blessing. Our building is not equipped yet with the audio/video system but one of our Knights, Shaun Maher, was a big help in providing our hall with a nice temporary sound system for the celebration.
There were also a lot of unsung heroic parishioners that made great things happen including those who worked in fixing the design flaw in our barbeque pit. They worked until early Saturday evening to make it work and made it possible for the Knights to crank out grilled chicken, burger and hot dogs for the massive crowd. There were also many who donated food and dessert to top off the food selection.
Thank you for making last Sunday one of the greatest celebrations in the history of Saint Francis de Sales parish. God has truly blessed us with many great things. We pray that our Catholic faith and charitable outreach will thrive even more with the use of our new parish education center.
Your shepherd in Christ,
October 5, 2014
New challenge for the parish center: We need fundraisers!
Just when it felt like the hardest part of building the new parish education center was finally over a new very challenging situation has come up. It makes planning and construction rather easy compared to this one: financing the $4 million debt we now need to pay back to the diocese. The one good news is we shaved off $1 million from the original estimate. This in itself was quite an accomplishment working with Chamberlain Construction (they originally gave us the absolute low bid for the construction) and with Hughes Architects for offering quality but cost effective options. We also have a few parishioner volunteers who put a tremendous amount of pro bono that included legal work with the county, wiring the building for telecommunications, interior designing, etc., that saved us an enormous amount of money.
Our in-house capital campaign has so far yielded us $800,000+ of pledges but short of the $2 million we were seeking. Since our lottery playing parishioners have yet to hit the jackpot (if they have they certainly haven’t come forward yet!), we will go with the conventional way of raising the money, at least for now, by doing fund raising. We’re looking for someone or a group of volunteers who could take the role of finding ways to raise money especially by utilizing our new Our Lady of Victory Hall. After all, our new hall/gym can be used as a large meeting hall for 500 people, art & other exhibits, and even as a place to host formal banquets for as many as 384 seated guests. If you are interested in taking part of these please contact me immediately! Your help is greatly needed so that we will make our mortgage payments on time.
Feel like doing some ‘holy’ decorating?
Maria Keim has graciously accepted the role of helping decorate our library and classrooms according to the designated saint(s) for each room in the new building. We have existing framed holy pictures for some of the rooms already but we may need to get specific new ones for the others. If you have a particular favorite saint that the room is named after then you might be the one called to do this work! You may call Maria’s direct number for more info at 703-431-9772.
Here is the list of names for the rooms: St. Francis de Sales (Library), Holy Family, Guardian Angels, St. Agnes (you’ll be working with me as she is my personal patroness), St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Martin de Porres (Catholic Charities room), Bishops of Rome, St. Gianna Molla (also the Respect Life room), St. Rose of Lima, St. Michael & the Archangels (“Skybox”), Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, The Upper Room (also the Youth Ministry/HS room), St. Padre Pio (mini conference room in lobby), St. Martha (kitchen), and St. John Bosco (workroom).
Your shepherd in Christ,
October 12, 2014
What to do if a child becomes too noisy at Mass
In the Ask the Priest column this weekend you will find that the last question was a collection of requests to address the “noisy” child situation we have at times during Mass. The last time I had these many questions dropped into the box was probably 2 years ago. At that time I decided to interview 3 mothers whom parishioners have often admired to see their many children so well behaved during Mass including the tiny little ones. It’s not unusual that I get asked if I knew the “secret formula” (or magic spell) that they use. Several more families that are like them but I limited at asking these 3 moms because the others seem to have the same methodology. These 3 families regularly go to one of the 3 large family Mass schedules (8:30 AM, 10:30 AM & 6 PM) so it is a good variety of sampling. They also prefer to remain anonymous because their biblically based method of correction (especially Proverbs 23:13-14, 13:24, 19:18) is frowned upon by our overly sensitive godless anti-traditional family values and secular society. All 3 moms admitted that not all their kids were always well behaved in church but they are now because very early in their childhood they got the “biblical correction” when they misbehaved and learned very quickly! (Maxim learned: No pain…no pain!)
But for some reason, the noisy child issue in church got better back then and I decided to hold off addressing it. I spoke about it very briefly before a homily one weekend and perhaps that was all it took. Why write on a very sensitive issue if the problem has already subsided. However, in the past couple of months I have been getting more verbal and anonymously written complaints that the church has gotten unbearably noisy with little children acting up and the parents are not doing anything about it; or if they do, they wait way too long to go to the back of the church. Since this is keeping the congregation from hearing the Word of God and has become a major worshiping problem I felt the obligation to offer some suggestions (not rebuke) to the parents.
First of all, let me make it clear that families should bring all their children to Mass every Sunday and that they are always most welcome in our parish. Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19:14). If they come to Mass regularly it becomes a natural part of their life and they will eventually get used to becoming properly respectful in church. They will learn more quickly that going to church is about being close to God and a preparation for the kingdom of heaven. It would be a major faith disaster if children weren’t brought to church until it’s time to receive their First Communion.
In general I have a very high tolerance for children making noise in church. I am also aware that I am far removed from the noise than the person sitting in church. I’m certain that you are far more affected by the noise in the pews. But recently I do have to admit that there have been occasions when I lost my place during the homily and at the Mass prayers, and this does not normally happen, due to a child’s prolonged noise. Historically, it is not in my nature to correct anyone publicly during Mass about his or her little kids making noise in church but I have noticed (and been told) the frustration among parishioners who are seriously bothered by this. It is my hope that the parents who have little children that are causing the disturbance at Mass would read and prayerfully reflect on what is written here with an open mind and follow the example of the other parents who have handled these situations very well.
One of the best suggestions I have come across from parents whose child has become uncontrollably restless and noisy is to follow the “5-second cookie rule.” If after 5 seconds she was unable to calm her child down, she would go immediately with her child to the back of the church in the narthex (behind the glass doors) and follow the Mass from there. [Most, if not all, are familiar with the “5-second rule” that you may eat (some) food that falls on the floor as long as you pick it up within 5 seconds.] The narthex is our unofficial cry room and speakers have been set up there so that you can hear everything spoken from any of the microphones inside. And if the child regains his or her composure then they rejoin their families back in the pews. Most families in parishes seem to follow this routine already and just a few who do not. And if reading and coloring books are used to keep the kids “busy”, it is preferable that the books are faith-based so as to keep in the spirit of being in the house of God. The 3 moms are also adamantly opposed to giving snacks in church to keep their kids at peace.
Here are a couple of heartfelt quotes from 1 of the 3 moms who originally agreed to my interview. “It is easy to look around and see good behavior in other families when your children are having a difficult behavior day but kids are kids and they all have surprisingly disruptive moments. Some parents are just more experienced at remaining calm and maybe not drawing as much attention. When you have to make a quick exit with a screaming youngster, be assured that the other moms are saying a quick prayer for you because we all have been there.” I really like this one too: “Always remember to thank God for the kind words of strangers in regards to the good behavior of your children, and the restraint of strangers that don’t mention the bad behavior.”
There are many other wise words from the interviewed moms but I didn’t want to prolong this long message already make it appear like some kind of a rebuke of parents with children. That’s not the intent at all. It is great that we have families with lots of children. It is simply to let everyone know that there is a concern to the noise a few of the little ones make and that others are simply asking the parents to please be considerate of the rest of the faithful by excusing themselves at least briefly in the back of the church. They are no less of a Catholic being in the narthex with a noise-making child than if they were sitting quietly in the pews.
Since we’re in the subject of making noise in church, there is also a growing concern with adults who make a lot of noise talking before and after Mass that are disrupting the people in church who are praying. So how about the adults also keep the conversations at a whisper if you need to talk or perhaps go to the narthex to carry on your conversation. If it gets worse, we may need a church sign at the door that reads, “SILENCE—CHILDREN ARE PRAYING!”
Your shepherd in Christ,
October 19, 2014
Our Virginia bishops’ response to the Supreme Court’s
“non-action” regarding the recent Same-sex marriage issue
On October 6 the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the challenge of some states (including Virginia) that the lower courts decided to permit same-sex marriage. Same sex couples can now legally contract a “marriage” in our state. How is a Catholic, or anyone who supports traditional marriage, supposed to react to this? This seems quite timely because I currently have 8 questions regarding same sex relationships that came through the Ask the Priest box and our bishops seem to have answered most of them in their letter. The two Catholic bishops of Virginia (Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington and Bishop Francis Di Lorenzo of Richmond) gave a brief but very clear response that everyone should read. It is included in this weekend’s bulletin.
Basically, the letter reaffirms what the world has been proclaiming since the beginning of God’s creation that marriage is defined as a permanent covenant between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24) and not detached from the life-giving union of the creation of a true family. Legal human laws can never rightfully supersede God’s law and that’s why we cannot condone this law regardless of its legality. Active relationships between people of the same gender that mimic a husband and wife in a marital relationship were always clearly forbidden by God in tradition and in scripture: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). Any form of “romantic” relationships departing from the traditional understanding of marriage is purely man made and not supported by God under any level. If anyone thinks this is a horrible and “extreme” position of belief, how about opening your Bible and read the sacred World of God for yourself and decide. For starters I invite you to read the following: Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:18-32 esp. 26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:8-11.
Some have asked why Jesus did not speak out specifically against homosexuality. That’s because no one had a problem with God’s prohibition of homosexual practice during his time. Jesus upheld all the moral laws of the Old Testament era and only questioned the hypocrisy of those who preached but did not practice. Those who were eager to stone the woman caught in adultery could have done so if they themselves were without sin. Jesus was not giving the sinful woman a pass for her wrongful act but was saving her from being stoned. Our Good Lord wanted her rather to repent and live a holy life by telling her, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:1-11). It is outright wrong to say that Jesus got rid of the moral laws of the Old Testament that his own Father gave to Moses. Jesus himself declared, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
Legalizing something that is bad and immoral does not make it right. Our country has had a share of bad laws that we’re not very proud of. Wasn’t slavery once legal in the United States? How about racial segregation? And how about the tragic ultimate child abuse that we’re dealing with now, the current law that the Supreme Court legalized in 1973 that has caused the legal death of more than 55 million unborn aborted Americans? These are legitimate civil rights that needed to be reversed because God had no laws advocating the legalization of these laws. We cannot say the same for today’s other popularly accepted lifestyle: pre-marital sex, cohabitation, same sex relationships, contraception, open and multi-partner relationships, etc., for God has clearly opposed them. Just as the fight to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion in 1973 continues to be waged, so will the battle in defense of traditional marriage continue for as long as there are people who care about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right" (Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen).
Despite all these, the Church reminds us at the same time the following very important principle. We have to be respectful to those who are struggling in their sexual orientation because they too deserve to be recognized as God’s children made in his image and likeness. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (CCC 2358-2359).
Your shepherd in Christ,
October 26, 2014
So what really happened last week…at the
Extraordinary Synod on the Family in Rome
Pope Francis called for a weeklong extraordinary synod that ended on October 18 to address key family issues that we are facing today. A synod is a group of bishops called upon by the pope to act in an advisory role to help him get a better understanding of the needs of the church in the world and to foster unity with his spiritual leaders. The synod was created by the newly beatified pope, Blessed Paul VI, after Vatican II.
Midweek reporting from the synod created quite a stir in the public because panic causing topics were brought up by some bishops (for discussion, not necessarily to seek its implementation): “communion for divorced and remarried” (outside the Catholic Church) and “welcoming those who are cohabitating and those who are in same sex unions.” Some reporters gave the misleading impression that the Catholic Church was debating on loosening up its “strict” moral teachings and go with the flow of the secular world. At the end of the synod the final result was “no change” in the Catholic Church teachings. This extraordinary synod was the preliminary for the ordinary synod next October when a larger participation of bishops will continue all of these discussions.
Some were disappointed by the result and wondered if anything was accomplished at all. But why would anyone be surprised by the outcome? Any person who understands even minimally what the Catholic Church is has no reason to be caught off guard. All Catholic teaching on faith and morals is based on these two pillars: Tradition and Sacred Scripture. There are no ifs and buts about it. The Church cannot just make up a new teaching without being able to support it based on Tradition and the Bible. The synod basically reaffirmed that true marriage can only be between a man and a woman. It would have been shocking if the opposite had happened.
So what did the synod accomplish? The biggest achievement was the openness of the Catholic Church to discuss the most sensitive and controversial issues the church is facing in local parishes. Issues that were generally considered “too hot to handle” were brought in the forefront. Pope Francis encouraged everyone not to hold back from speaking his mind. His response after the synod was, “Personally, I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these temptations and these animated discussions if everybody had agreed or remained silent in a false and quietistic peace.”
Should we welcome homosexual couples in the Church? Oh yes, absolutely! The bishops went even beyond that by encouraging us to seek and invite them to be part of the Church. Isn’t salvation for everyone? The Catholic Church has always been the church for all: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). However, being welcoming means we share the entire truth of the faith with everyone. Being welcoming does not mean an endorsement of one’s lifestyle not approved by God. It is like gathering in a multi-faith/ecumenical function where we are welcoming to each other and have a dialogue even though we have a substantial difference in our faith. We can be perfectly welcoming even though we cannot share Holy Communion with them. This is very similar to those who are cohabitating, divorced and remarried outside of the Catholic Church, and those in an active same sex relationship. We welcome them at Mass even though we cannot share the Eucharist with them until their impediment has been settled. The spirit of the synod was the desire to improve our means of reaching out to those who struggle reconciling their faith and their same sex attraction. We can all benefit in learning more in how to become bearers of Jesus’ Gospel message without compromising even a tiny portion of it as we seek the guidance from our Holy Father and our bishops. In essence, this was a very positive and exciting synod and we look forward to hearing more spiritual insights regarding new means of evangelization. As I mentioned last week, Pope Francis uses the same lyrics of Catholic teaching but just plays it with a different melody. Remember, popes are chosen by power of the Holy Spirit. And God chose Pope Francis to be our spiritual shepherd and leader.
Whether the world agrees with her decisions or not, the Catholic Church has a response to every single issue the world brings forth on the table. There’s nothing like her on earth. As Catholics we understand this because the Church is the speaking voice of Jesus Christ especially in matters of faith and morals. God did not create the world and leave us with an arbitrary way of living rightly. While some members of the Catholic Church have erred in their personal judgment (including the popes), the Church has been consistently accurate in teaching what is necessary for salvation. Is there any other church out there that has the confidence to declare infallibility in her teachings and maintain those same doctrines unchanged for 2,000 years? Answer: None! The Catholic Church does not say this out of arrogance. She is simply speaking honestly that whatever Jesus proclaimed as the Gospel truth some 2,000 years ago is the same one you are receiving unchanged today and found in Catholic doctrine. Catholics who recognize this feel very blessed and truly appreciate being Catholic. And non-Catholics who have become aware of this also feel very blessed to have discovered an incredible treasure hidden in the field and have become Catholics or in the process of becoming one.
Your shepherd in Christ,
November 2, 2014
Interested in registering “dead” people?
Take my word, don’t want to pass this up!
During Halloween week there are lots of themes floating around that revolve around dead people. Several people dress up in costumes depicting the dead and there are plenty of movies and TV shows that emphasize something about the dead. Skulls, bones, and gravestones are also found in people’s yards. Wouldn’t it be nice if these creative outfits and props made everyone think about seriously preparing their souls for life after death?
Even with the best of efforts to prepare ourselves to meet Our Lord Jesus in the next life many still come up short and end up in purgatory. It’s still a great situation because everyone in this place of purification will be in heaven eventually. The good thing is we can play a special role in helping many of these souls get to heaven sooner.
One of the drawbacks of experiencing a death and funeral service is that many, including Catholics, presume that the deceased is now automatically resting in peace in heaven and that there’s nothing more they can do except lament and perhaps keep their memories alive. While these are certainly honorable acts, we’re far from done in trying to help them out! How do we know that the person is not in purgatory suffering greatly and begging for prayers? Others can deny the existence of purgatory all they want but Christians since the very beginning have always believed in purgatory and prayed for the dead. Just read the prayers that are said at the funeral Mass and you will see constant references of praying for the dead that they may be admitted to heaven.
The best gift we can offer for a soul in purgatory is offering Masses for them. This can be arranged at our parish office. The next best gift is by offering many prayers for them and can be done anywhere. If they are in purgatory, the more prayers and Masses they get the sooner they will finally enjoy their eternal rest and happiness with God. If they are already in heaven our prayers are not wasted because they will go to those who have no one to pray for them (either because their families don’t believe in purgatory or their Catholic friends & families presumed they’re already in heaven).
This week I found a website called the Purgatory Project. It is dedicated to encouraging people to register the names of any deceased person they wish to be remembered daily in prayers by those who participate. There is no cost or obligation and you can register an unlimited number of names. What a great opportunity for us to have tons of prayers offered for our deceased loved ones and even strangers whom we’ve never met. Saint Padre Pio said, “More souls of the dead climb this mountain to attend my Masses and seek my prayers…. The holy souls are eager for the prayers of the faithful which can gain indulgences for them…. Pray unceasingly. We must empty purgatory.” I highly encourage you to visit this website and add as many of the faithful departed to the list: http://www.holysouls.com/main.htm
Quick note on upcoming election
God reminds us to vote responsibly during the election and to consider the importance of religious liberty and respect for life in all stages. Keep in mind that while the Catholic Church publicly opposes some of the political issues, she does not officially endorse any particular candidate. True conscientious devout Christian Catholics who believe 100% of Catholic teaching should be able to easily figure this out on their own. The church also does not permit the placing of any political candidates’ pamphlets that you may find on your windshield after Mass. When we catch them we escort them out of our property (I personally caught 2 last year and asked them to leave and take their papers with them). So please don’t discard these pamphlets on the church’s parking lot. IT IS A SIN TO LITTER OR DEFACE GOD’S CHURCH PROPERTY! You could also end up in purgatory for a very long time if you do this and hope that someone will pray and light a candle in church for you. Don’t say you weren’t warned!
Your shepherd in Christ,
November 9, 2014
We reached 1 Million Hail Marys goal!!!
Our parish spiritual campaign to support the building of our new parish center reached a milestone on October 31st, the eve of All Saints Day! I would like to thank the prayer committee led by Beth Gallegos, Kerry Smith, Laura Burgess, Dave Dittmeier and all their helpers for their successful campaign in encouraging parishioners to turn to Our Blessed Mother’s help to get our new parish educational center built and for the success of our ministry to spread the Catholic faith.
The county also granted the renewal of our temporary occupancy permit the same week and they also received the submission of the final water treatment paperwork around the same time. We are hoping to receive the final occupancy permit before the Thanksgiving holiday and once that happens we will switch our end of Mass prayer to a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer for continual financial support.
Thank you all for your prayerful support and please let us continue to pray for the success of our parish in the service of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Guess who’s coming to town next weekend?
You need to be here on Saturday for that!
The Institute of Catholic Culture is making a debut appearance at our parish on Saturday, November 15 at 9:30 AM. I would love to see a large participation of adults in the parish attending in Catholic faith study. This is the 1st major use of Our Lady of Victory Hall for the purpose of adult faith education. The 2-part talk is titled, “Eden to Eden: A Study of Salvation History”. The 2nd talk is at 9:30 AM Saturday, November 22. You can catch ICC’s season opener at Saint John the Apostle (Leesburg) at 7:30 PM on Friday, November 7 with Bishop Robert Morlino’s talk, “From Corruption to Christ: Saving Society with the Salt of Sanctity”. The future of the adult Catholic talks hosted by our parish will be dependent on the attendance we draw. There is no charge at all to participate for any of the talks.
Church bathrooms renovation coming up!
Now that we are wrapping up the majority of the work and permanent occupancy permit for the new parish education center, we have been meeting with the diocese and possible contractors to renovate the church restrooms. Please pray for this important project as well. We also ask for your patience because you may possibly have to travel to the new building to use the bathrooms there for at least one weekend (maybe two) while work is being done. If all works out, we can have newly renovated restrooms in time for Advent, the church New Year, and in time for the annual large Christmas crowd!
Your shepherd in Christ,
November 16, 2014
Suggestions on “avoiding” time in Purgatory
An article caught my attention in a Catholic publication earlier this month titled, 12 Steps to Avoiding Purgatory. It gave 12 practical suggestions on how one may lessen or even avoid completely one’s time in purgatory. During this month of November the Church encourages us to pray for the dead especially our loved ones. In case they are still in this state of purification they could really use our prayers.
There was a time in a Catholic way of life to take purgatory seriously. Since there has been a significant diminished interest in preparing for the afterlife since the wild era of the late 1960’s, the concern for purgatory has disappeared far more in the minds of many Catholics than even the thought of going to hell. It doesn’t help than many who believe in the afterlife presume that most people go immediately to heaven after they die. Some from other faiths have also ridiculed those who believe in purgatory so in the end very few Catholics today think of purgatory even after attending a funeral of someone they knew. For many, they won’t believe in purgatory until they are sent there after they death. That’s not a bad thing if they end up there because everyone in purgatory eventually goes to heaven after their spiritual process of perfection is completed.
But wouldn’t it be nice for those who really believe and appreciate purgatory could avoid it altogether and immediately enjoy living in heaven? Well, you might want to invest some time to read this article to obtain that great benefit. Living in a consumer filled world with incentives on how to get the most out of life, why not take advantage of one of the best “out of this world” deals that is surely far better than what Black Friday and Cyber Monday has to offer. If you are a serious spiritual consumer, go ahead and check out this web article: http://www.spiritdaily.com/twelvesteps.htm
Update on sprucing up the bathrooms
Last week we met with the diocese and our projected contractor about improving our church bathrooms. It looks like our budget can afford to do all 3 of the bathrooms in the church and thus would require about a month’s work to complete. The earliest work the contractor can begin would be late November or beginning of December and way too close to risk not having bathrooms available close to church during the heavy Christmas Masses. We are now planning to commence the bathroom improvement project at the beginning of January 2015 when the building traffic calms down quite a bit. I encourage you to please pray for the success (and affordability) of this important facilities improvement. We all know how important bathrooms are in a public gathering. Everyone wants to make sure that everything…comes out all right.
Your shepherd in Christ,
November 23, 2014
Successful debut of the Institute of Catholic Culture!
On November 15 we had a very successful inaugural hosting of the Institute of Catholic Culture adult faith study at Western Loudoun. 88 people arrived at the beginning of the seminar. I stopped counting after it started because I didn’t want to miss any of the presentation). The organizers were very happy with the Saturday morning turnout. The topic covered was Eden to Eden: A Study of Salvation History and it was one of the best presentations I’ve ever heard on the subject. If you were there you know very well how nice of a treat that was for us. If you missed it and wish you could have gone, you can still watch the entire presentation and other topics as well by going online at www.InstituteofCatholicCulture.org. Next week I’ll fill you in on how things went this past weekend with part 2 of the presentation. We look forward to their return in our parish in the winter. And we can thank our Religious Education Director, James Blankenship, for bringing the ICC to our parish who has been involved with their organization for the past few years.
Parish basketball tournament
We are having our first parish in-house basketball tournament starting on Sunday, November 23 leading up to the championship Finals on December 21. Winning team members are crowned as Saint Francis de Sales Christmas Break Basketball Champions! All registered parishioners from 3rd grade and up are eligible to play and the fee is only $5/person. You can register online to participate and pay the fee at the parish office or online thru Parish Giving. This is a last minute alternative to the CYO league because we couldn’t get enough players to participate due to the distance of the games away from our region. Now we can watch them all play right in our own court!
There are many leagues around us but our own tournament is designed to promote within our parish a greater sense of appreciation for our Catholic faith through prayer, fellowship and good sportsmanship with the use of our newly built gym.
For more information go to our website at www.saintfrancisparish.org and click on the basketball icon on the Home page. You may also contact directly our parish CYO commissioner, Paul Kerstanski,(email@example.com) for more details or if you are interested in coaching one of our teams.
A Saint Francis de Sales Cheerleader???
Yes, indeed! You can also be a cheerleader and enter the diocesan CYO Cheerleading competition and you can start by joining our parish team lead by coach Nancy Griffith-Cochran. Our cheerleaders will be training under Nancy and cheer at the upcoming in-house basketball games/tournament. The info is also in our parish website or you may directly contact Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your shepherd in Christ,
November 30, 2014
Happy Advent, Happy New Year!
We are now in the Church New Year with the arrival of the 1st Sunday of Advent this weekend. It is inevitable that consumerism will dominate the public for the next few weeks but our focus should primarily be our spiritual preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. This is a time to make new spiritual resolutions and not wait until January 1 or even Ash Wednesday. Advent is a penitential season and God invites us to find ways to get closer in our relationship with him. This is a good time to go to confession if you have not gone in a while. There’s no feeling better than having a clean soul and a clean conscience. Sometimes this is all what it takes to feel better when feeling sad and bitter. Frequent confession heals even the most saddened and wounded soul.
It is also recommended that we take some extra time to do spiritual readings and saying extra prayers during Advent. We really get a lot out of celebrating Christmas when we make an effort to spend a little more time learning about Our Lord Jesus and conversing with him in prayer.
Crucifixes ready for the classrooms
The crucifixes are now ready for installment in the classrooms. We have a total of 15 crucifixes for the classrooms, offices, kitchen and workroom. There were some who saw the crucifixes in our main office and expressed an interest in purchasing one for their home. If there is a lot of interest I will ask our craftsman, Kevin Baker, if he would be willing to make some more. Call our parish office and tell our secretary, Angela, if you’re interested. I thought the crucifixes were beautifully done too so I can understand why others would want it in their homes. And I also would like to thank our parish artist, Diane Waller, for doing the dedication engravings on the back of the crucifix. Wait till you see the incredible painting she did of Saint Francis de Sales that will go in the new parish center!
I hope you had a good celebration of Thanksgiving and may God’s blessings continue to shower you even more during this Advent season. Happy New Year!
Your shepherd in Christ,
December 7, 2014
Don’t forget Monday as a Holy Day of Obligation
This Monday is our nation’s patron saint’s feast day, The Immaculate Conception of Mary, and it is a holy day of obligation. Remember to attend one of the 4 Masses we are offering (6:30 AM, 9 AM, 5 PM & 7 PM). I highly recommend that at some point in your lifetime to make a pilgrimage the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. It is such a very beautiful and inspirational basilica and I visit it nearly every month. There is also a free tour available everyday of the week.
Over 10,000 pounds of donated food!
Once again our Knights of Columbus volunteers organized a very successful Fall Harvest drive to collect food for the poor during the month of November. Our parishioners donated over 10,000 lbs. of food for Catholic Charities. We did so well that Catholic Charities is a little bit over-filled right now with food because their new facility on Market Street is not officially open yet to distribute food to the public. We will take a break taking Share Sunday food donations on December 14 and will resume again on January 11. Thank you so much for your generous donations to our food bank!
Beware of “beggar scammers”
In case you have not heard, a “begging” family showed up on the steps of our church just before the Sunday 6 PM Mass began on November 23. Several parishioners gave them lots of money because they gave a sobbing story how poor they were and that the father had lost his job. After Mass I pulled the family aside to the office away from the crowds because I suspected that they might be frauds. When I offered to get them serious legitimate help by trying to connect them with a county social worker they became very perturbed and kept insisting that I give them only cash and wanted nothing to do with getting long term help or to get in touch with any social worker. The man’s driver license showed that he is residing in Hyattsville, MD. When asked how he found our little parish tucked away in Purcellville and over an hour’s drive from Prince George’s County in Maryland, he could not give me a straight answer. His English suddenly became very bad and needed his young son to translate. (He was speaking English fluently when we were initially discussing possible monetary help for him.) I also found out he was from the Romani heritage in Romania.
In case you’re not familiar with this, the Romanis are better known in the world as gypsies. I lived in Rome for 2 years surrounded by numerous gypsies practically on a daily basis so I’m very familiar with what they do. They are historically nomadic people and most profess to be Christians and a minority are Muslims. They have a very strict code among fellow gypsies but outside of their culture and ethnicity they are not shy about trying to get the most out of making you give to them everything you have through fraud, deception and even outright stealing. When I was a seminarian in Rome I learned that Pope John Paul II once invited the gypsy community there to attend one of his general audiences. While many of the pilgrims were busy trying to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father, the gypsies were busy pickpocketing and stealing purses from the crowd. They did all of these in the presence of the pope! I hope this gives you a better picture of what you’re dealing with when it comes to fraudulent beggars. Parishioners told me that whatever they gave them initially they insisted that they really needed more because they are really in dire straits. What I found out the following day was they also hit a few other Loudoun County churches including St. John Catholic Church in Leesburg. They were also seen scamming people at Target doing the same thing.
God is well aware that you gave to this family from the goodness of your heart and therefore He will truly bless you for your charitable act. In the future, please do not hesitate to scrutinize “suspicious” needy people. There are many ways we can help the poor and I always recommend giving to legitimate organizations such as our Catholic Charities, Loudoun Cares, Catholic Relief Services, Cross International, Food For The Poor, etc., and even to our parish Poor Box. Social services often refer to our parish some of the needy in our local community who need emergency rent, water or electrical bills, and other needs. They have been properly screened and found truly in need of assistance. The check we write also goes directly to the company and not to the individual person.
Your shepherd in Christ,
December 14, 2014
Finally, it’s here!
We finally received our long awaited permanent occupancy permit for our new Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Education Center (official name designation of the facility). We were first informed of the news last Monday while we were celebrating the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the United States. It was quite fitting that we got the approval on the feast day of our nation. Our temporary occupancy permit would have expired on December 15 so this one arrived just in time. We thank God for his gift of a nice new facility to fulfill our parish mission of enhancing and spreading our Catholic faith.
It looks like this is a good time to switch our Mass parish prayer to a new one. Last Thursday (December 4) our parish council met and helped me compose the prayer that has the theme of thanking God and petitioning Him to help us meet the financial responsibility of paying and maintaining our new facility. We will continue to say this prayer until we have paid off our $3 million debt—the sooner, the better!
You will get a “pink slip” this weekend
This weekend we are celebrating Gaudete Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. The liturgical color is “rose” and is visually related to pink. This means we are closing in on the celebration of Christmas and a good time to reflect on going to confession. To make it easier for you, especially if you have not gone in a long time, we are inserting a confession guide printed on a rose/pink colored sheet in the bulletin for you to take home. Everything you will need for confession is on that sheet. On one side it gives you a step-by-step “How to go to confession” tutorial and on the other side is an examination of conscience based on the 10 commandments. Remember, even if we don’t have a mortal sin to confess the Church requires us to receive the sacrament of Penance at least once a year (under pain of sin). This is to fulfill Jesus’ mandate, “Unless you do penance, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Please check the bulletin and our website for the regular confession times and for the added Advent times as we get closer to Christmas. A good sacramental confession not only guarantees forgiveness of sins, it also makes us feel really much better and more confident.
Come to our 1st annual parish basketball Christmas championship tournament
This weekend (Dec. 19-21) you are invited to watch and cheer all the participants of our very 1st parish basketball tournament in our new Our Lady of Victory Hall (gym). See who will be crowned as Christmas 2014 Parish Basketball Champions. Our new Mighty Archangels Cheerleaders coached by Nancy Griffith-Cochran will also be there to provide everyone a spirited competition. Please check the website for the schedule of games and age groups. We have a total of 10 teams among the youth that are competing. The number of adults who can make it on championship night will determine the number of adult teams. We had 30 who showed up on our first evening of pickup games. We thank Paul Kerstanski for organizing our tournament. The practices have been great and all the participants have been enjoying the practice games. See you there!
Your shepherd in Christ,
December 21, 2014
Christmas this Thursday…already!
Advent season seems to have breezed right by us and we will soon be celebrating Christmas this Thursday. A good spiritual preparation during Advent always assures us that we will have a very fulfilling celebration of Christmas. One of the best spiritual practices is to make a good confession during Advent. Last weekend’s bulletin was a big promo for the sacrament of Reconciliation. This coming Monday and Tuesday evening we’re adding 2 evenings (6:30-8:00 PM) for confession so please take advantage of this opportunity if you have not gone yet.
Remember to use the greeting, “Merry Christmas,” and not the secular “Happy Holidays,” mainly used now to purposely take away the importance of celebrating the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. None of the other minor holidays during this time would have any significant relevance if it weren’t for Christmas. The number of Merry Christmas signs in public is significantly down this year and it has been declining steadily for the last few years especially since many stores no longer use it for their advertisements either through the media or in their stores. So make sure to be open about expressing Merry Christmas to everyone either by word or by display. If someone greets you, Happy Holidays, always return the greeting by wishing them a Merry Christmas!
Here’s a sad story. In the Florida State Capitol a satanic temple was permitted for the first time to include their temple exhibit alongside the Christian Christmas displays for their annual Christmas holiday exhibits. And guess what greeting the satanic temple has on their display: Happy Holidays! You can read about this unfortunate story at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/05/satanic-temple-florida-capitol_n_6277082.html
New Catholic calendars available in the narthex of the church
Please pick up a new Catholic calendar at the church. This is very important in finding out the Church’s feast days, holy days of obligation, fasting days and days of meat abstinence. We are once again very grateful to our long time parishioner, George Snyder, who has been faithfully donating the calendars. Don’t forget to say prayers for his special intentions in thanksgiving for his generous gift and favor to all of us.
May you have a very Merry Christmas celebration with your family and loved ones. If you are in town I do hope to see you at one of our many Christmas Masses. Please check our bulletin and website for the schedule. God’s blessings to all of you!
Your shepherd in Christ,
December 28, 2014
Happy Feast of the Holy Family!
On behalf of everyone from Saint Francis de Sales staff, parish council and finance council, I wish you all again a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you so much for all the prayers and support you have given to our parish this past year. New parishioners and visitors often tell us how amazed they are to see how many activities and volunteers we provide in our “little” parish in what appears to be a big “little town.” And I truly appreciate all the help you’ve given me in the parish as we seem to add more and more activities every year in the service of Our Lord when I make my Christmas reflections to see what we’ve done in the past year. Be assured that Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will see to it that you will be rewarded greatly for all the sacrifices and good works you have done both in this life and in the next.
The new Christmas season has just begun and it will not end at least until January 12th on the feast of Our Lord’s Baptism. In the traditional calendar, Christmas runs all the way through February 2nd so you may keep your Christmas decorations for 3 more weeks after the new church calendar if you wish! But the most important thing is to keep celebrating Christmas at least until January 12 regardless of whether your neighbors think you’re just being late taking down your decorations that commemorate the birth of Jesus. It’s very sad that non-Christian radio stations stop playing Christmas music as early as December 26th. I commend that a few Christian stations keep playing the Christmas carols until Epiphany (January 6).
May you have a great celebration of the Christmas season and best wishes to all in the New Year.
Speaking of New Year, January 1st is a holy day of obligation to honor the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. All Catholics are required to go to Mass this coming Thursday. Our Masses are: 6:30 AM, 9 AM and 5 PM. See you at one of these Masses (or if your purposely miss it, I’ll need to see you at the confessional box!).
All of the Mass schedules (and confession hours) are posted on our website: www.saintfrancisparish.org
37730 St. Francis Court
Purcellville, VA 20132
In case of emergency 540-338-6440
Parish Office 540-338-6381
Office Hours - M-F 8:30am-4:30pm
(office closed 12noon - 1:15pm daily)
Religious Ed. Office 540-338-4497
RE Office Hours - M-Th 10:30am-4:30pm