January 4, 2015
“Merry Epiphany” and Happy New Year (again)
When the 3 wise men (Magi) saw Jesus, it was the first time that the savior of the world was revealed to the Gentiles (non-Jews). It was a sign that God came into the world as a savior and redeemer for everyone. Precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were presented to Jesus. But the greatest of all the gifts was Jesus himself who was given to us by our Heavenly Father. Through the teaching ministry of Our Lord the world was transformed into a much better place for people…of good will. Those who sincerely accepted Jesus Christ in their hearts were changed forever and became great citizens of the world.
We owe the great positive results of western civilization through the spirit of Christendom when the moral, ethical and political values of society were based on the Gospel. Barbarians, Vandals and other violent clans that ruled a good chunk of Europe became better citizens and government leaders when they accepted Christianity. Those who continue to promote these Christian values in government are the ones who are “Christ-friendly.” They are the ones who are not offended by Christmas greetings and decorations in public. They are also the ones who promote respect for life in all stages (the preborn to the advanced in age, healthy or unhealthy, rich or poor). There are still a good number of them around.
Who were the anti-Christs in the time of Jesus? They were those who felt threatened by Christ the King such as the worldly-minded King Herod. Herod’s insecurity even led him to become “pro-choice” by choosing to terminate (kill) the lives of young children as he feared they would inconvenient or challenge his very comfortable career and lifestyle. Others include some of the Pharisees, Scribes and temple priests who rejected Jesus’ reforms and wanted to keep things the way they were not out of holiness but as some kind of a “mob” who wanted to continue lording it over the people. By John’s definition, the antichrist is anyone (past, present or future) who is against Jesus Christ is the antichrist: “Whoever denies Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist” (1 John 2:22). Eventually the anti-Christ sentiments escalated to the ultimate extreme of “terminating” the presence of Jesus through a false trial and crucifixion. They were terribly wrong with that conclusion as Jesus rose from the dead and the Christianity began to spread rapidly on Pentecost Sunday. In our present generation as we celebrate the original epiphany, or manifestation of Jesus to the whole world, we are surrounded by numerous antichrists who are working very hard to rid of the presence of Jesus in public. Let us all be encouraged to work even harder in making Jesus known in the world.
Bathroom improvement begins this week
Now that we have the permanent occupancy permit for the new Catholic Education Center, we can begin work on improving the 3 church bathrooms. Please use the restroom facilities in your homes before coming to Mass. Otherwise, it is a long way from the church to the center if you have to use the bathroom. The door closest to the church/parish hall (aka South Entrance) will be unlocked for you to get in during Mass times. The bathrooms should be ready for use in about a month.
Your shepherd in Christ,
January 11, 2015
Being in sync with Pope Francis
It has been reported worldwide by many parishes and dioceses that there has been a recent noticeable rise of Catholics going back to confession including by those who have not been active in the church. One of the articles published last week spoke of the “Francis Effect” that has been sweeping the world caused by Pope Francis’ inspirational words, ministry and humble example. Long-lapsed Catholics have somehow been affected by the pope and decided to return to the sacraments. In my nearly 6 years at our parish this past December was the largest number of people who went to confession during the season of Advent. On the final 4 days of confession before Christmas we barely missed reaching the 400 mark for the number of people who received the sacrament of reconciliation. Normally, this is the size parishes get for Holy Week. The “pink slip” confession guide we inserted on the 3rd Sunday of Advent was a tremendous help and definitely in keeping with the spirit of Pope Francis’ encouragement to bring people back to the sacrament of penance!
Bathroom remodeling has begun!
At 7 AM on January 5th the church bathroom remodeling has officially kicked off. The workers were very quick to start dismantling and clearing the old upstairs bathroom. The bathrooms are scheduled to reopen at the end of January. In the meantime, please use the new center’s downstairs bathrooms. You may enter from the closest entry to the church (south lobby entrance). We thank you for your patience and cooperation. Consider this “minor” inconvenience as a mini purgatory. Bathroom paradise is right around the corner.
Your shepherd in Christ,
January 18, 2015
Does the “respect for life” message mean a lot these days?
As we lament the tragedy that happened in Paris just a few days ago (January 7-9) when a couple of radical extremist Muslims gunned down a dozen people at a publication’s building, we were shocked and angered by the heinous acts of crime that they committed. An estimated 3.7 million nationwide joined the people for a rally of unity in France. Altogether, a total of 17 died in the 2-day terrorist attacks. We pray for the dead, for those mourning the dead, and for the healing of the wounded.
Just a few days before in Nigeria (January 3), another Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram, massacred an estimated 2,000 people and displaced around 35,000 others. This one did not get as much publicity but we should also be just as concerned and troubled. These were innocent people who were killed by another radical group who refused to go along with the group’s quest to follow their extremist religious views.
It is obvious that those who perpetrate the killing of innocent and defenseless people are not interested in respecting human life. They do not hesitate to forcibly end people’s lives through violence. They are part of the culture of death that St. John Paul II warned us about. Pope Francis uses a similar phrase, throwaway culture, to describe how humans are viewed as irrelevant wastes that should be discarded if they do not meet other people’s standards.
If we really understand the value and sacredness of human life, then how is it that so many people do not understand that abortion is a violent ending to the life of innocent unborn children? Why is our own nation divided on determining when human life begins? With all the technology we have that shows that the living being inside the mother’s womb is actually a human baby, how is it that about half of the population is still in denial of this obvious fact? It’s even worse when we have publicly elected officials, including pseudo-Catholics, defend pro-abortion (pro-choice) policies with a passion. You wouldn’t want to be in their shoes when they face the judgment seat of God with all the aborted children in the background during their “up or down” trial. (You also wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of those responsible of putting the pro-death to the children public servants into office!)
It is totally understandable that millions rallied over the murders at Charlie Hebdo publication at France’s capital. Shouldn’t we also have millions rallying at the annual March For Life in our own nation’s capital? The more than 1 million children who are mercilessly put to death in the U.S. alone annually deserve a voice to defend them. If you are unable to join the March for Life in Washington on January 22nd please pray for the end to abortion and the respect for life in all stages of life. A special March for Life Mass will be offered at 10 AM in our parish. Those who signed up for the bus ride to the march will be departing at 11 AM. One can always pray whether he or she may be so join us in spirit in praying on this special day. More than 56 million children have been aborted since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 and 1.3 billion since 1980 worldwide. If you want to see a ticker counter (similar to the national debt estimator) that estimates the number of abortion that takes place nationally and worldwide, check out this website: http://www.numberofabortions.com
Your shepherd in Christ,
January 25, 2015
Pope Francis Sets "Mega Church" Record!
Last weekend Pope Francis continued to make an astounding presence in the world by drawing somewhere between 6-7 million for a single celebration of the Holy Mass in Manila! This has stunned even the most experienced veteran news reporters who have been covering papal events for the past 20 years. He also drew over 1 million at the airport to see him leave (largest airport sendoff?).
A "megachurch" in the U.S. supposedly reaches its status when it holds a weekly attendance of 2,000. Though many Catholic parishes have more than a total of 2,000 that attend Mass every Sunday, we are not included in the megachurch classification and I'm not sure why. A congregation in Houston, TX has reached a "record" high of 47,000 and currently tops the list. When Pope Francis and the other popes celebrated a Mass open to the public at Saint Peter's Basilica they could easily reach well over 50,000 in attendance for an outdoor Mass. When Pope Francis drew well more than 6 million in the city where I was born, the media should come up with a new term that multiplies several times over a megachurch. How about a "gazillion church?" The original Catholic Church founded by Jesus remains the champion when it comes to worship attendance. Just when some thought the Catholic Church is a "dying" religion for her old traditional faith values and not cool anymore, it seems like Jesus is saying, "Better think again!"
While the charisma of Pope Francis was undeniable and impressive, these stats are far less in importance than the message he delivered that weren't emphasized heavily in the mainstream media. There were highlighted coverage of his visits to the poor and the sick and they were definitely phenomenal and genuine expressions of the pope's love for the people. But there was not a lot of mention with the Holy Father strongly condemning those promoting artificial contraception in the name of population control as destructive to true family values. He also defended traditional marriage in one of his strongest words and laying the blame on the proponents of moral relativism who are becoming entrenched in society promoting human concocted values opposed to God's original values for humanity.
I am writing this column on Tuesday night in my room in Rome (Italy) overlooking Saint Mary Major Basilica about 50 yards away. I wasn't able to go to Manila to see Pope Francis but we both arrived in Rome almost at the same time on Monday (January 19). I concelebrated the 6 PM Mass (offered for David Miles, our 3-time Knights of Columbus Grand Knight, who recently passed away) at the Basilica not knowing the pope was simultaneously praying in thanksgiving for his successful trip at the chapel to our right. The Franciscans of the the Immaculate Heart monks who care for the liturgy there weren't allowed to tell anyone about the unannounced papal visit so they couldn't alert me ahead of time. I was wondering why they were literally rushing me out of the sacristy and even "ripping out" my vestments after Mass. These kind obedient monks were "silently" plotting to drag me to see Pope Francis close-up as he was preparing to leave the basilica and they succeeded! Wow, the pope was as stunningly inspirational seeing him in person as he we have been hearing in the news reports. It's indescribable the emotion seeing the latest successor to Saint Peter the Apostle for the 1st time.
My patroness, Saint Agnes of Rome, has always taken very good care of me each time I have visited her city. It was 30 years ago I began my devotion to her and asked her to take very good care of me on our big anniversary "date." Within 3 hours of arrival my sweet Agnes had me celebrating Mass at the most important church in honor of Our Lady at the chapel right next to the pope and she even arranged a "quick peek" of him even though I wasn't expecting to see him till later in the week. [I barely whipped out my iPhone just in time to get a quick video and can be viewed at this link: http://youtu.be/tLcVwyulkUo]
I also got to visit and have dinner with one of our former parishioners, Sister Catherine Murphy, who is now a member of the consecrated community, "Spirituality the Work." She is doing great and enjoyed visiting her super holy and friendly community. She sends her special greetings to everyone in the parish. All of these so far in just my 1st 24-hours in Rome. My weeklong visit is off to a great start and looking forward to Saint Agnes' feast day Mass (January 21) to honor my beloved friend and longtime guardian. Perhaps now you have an idea why I have been so madly in love with my saint for 3 decades! I highly recommend that you befriend a saint. You'll be amazed how helpful saints can be in helping you get close to Our Lord Jesus Christ because they successfully lived the Gospel and now spending eternity in heaven.
Your shepherd in Christ,
February 1, 2015
Cranking up the Catholic presence
Whether locally or globally we’ve been having quite a whirlwind of Catholic presence in the past few days. Pope Francis got things started with a successful Asian tour culminating with a record Mass attendance of nearly 7 million in Manila, Philippines on January 18.
A few days afterwards our parish participated in the annual March for Life on January 22 that annually draws 100,000+ to support awareness in respecting the life of the unborn and any life in general. Many Catholic parishes and institutions joined with other faiths and groups for this important common cause in our society. While this march is popularly dismissed by some in society as just another special interest group, what they don’t realize is that this is a movement to save over a million innocent children from getting murdered annually legally in the U. S. alone through the work of doctors!
The Institute of Catholic Culture has returned to our parish for the past 2 weekends (January 24 & 31) for the 2-part series of talks by Prof. John Cuddeback, Ph.D. on Walking With God: Ethics in the Catholic Tradition. It is very nice to have a new Catholic education center that can host a large venue for Catholic faith study. We look forward to many more great topics in the field of adult Catholic education when the ICC returns in the near future. I also encourage you to read this nice article in the Arlington Herald (1/28/2015 issue) about the Institute of Catholic Culture coming to our parish and featuring our new director of religious education, James Blankenship. It is titled, “Faith Formation in Loudoun County.”
We may be a small parish in a scenic country setting but we do what we can to bring the authentic teachings of Jesus through the Catholic Church in a BIG way!
Your shepherd in Christ,
February 8, 2015
An extraordinary gift to the parish!
One of our dear parishioners, Otto Edmond Spokas, was called by God into eternal on November 13, 2014 at the age of 98. Though he was limited mostly to his home in the past few years, the Holy Eucharist was brought to him weekly. Anyone who conversed with Otto enjoyed his company and great sense of humor. He was a pioneer in the field of electronics and helped develop the top-secret proximity fuse that gave the U.S. a great advantage during World War II. We shared the same birthday on September 23 (obviously, different years!) and interest in astronomy so we had very nice conversations about the celestial skies. If you drive up at the intersection of St. Francis Court & Berlin Turnpike (at the STOP sign), on a clear day just look as far as you can see and on a hilltop there is a white observatory at the edge of the property. That was the telescope he built many years ago. I always think of Otto every time I see it.
Otto loved reading our weekly bulletin and followed the progress of our new parish education center with excitement. Whenever I visited him he could tell me a lot of our parish activities and loved reading about the construction updates. I believe it was on his 97th birthday when he told me that once he enters eternal life he would like to leave us a gift to help us with the cost of the building. Shortly after I returned from Rome last week I received an email from his lawyer that a check was arranged for me to pick up in Leesburg from Otto. On January 30th I stopped by the lawyer’s office and picked up the largest single church donation check I have ever seen…$100,000!!! His amazing generosity was consistent with his charitable heart. In his lifetime Otto generously supported many charitable organizations such as the local area food banks, volunteer fire department, Native American support, and the disabled war veterans.
Before I left for Rome his lovely widow, Anne, had selected a classroom to dedicate in honor of her late husband. The Saint Michael and the Archangels room was chosen as it best reflects Otto’s fondness to hang out on the back porch of their home overlooking the valley towards our church. This particular classroom, as many of you know, is nicknamed the Skybox because the windows overlook the gymnasium. We are most thankful to Otto for this most generous and extraordinary gift. And please continue to pray for the repose of the soul of Otto Edmond Spokas. This is the best spiritual gift we can give him. Anyone who is willing to match his donation please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Church bathrooms are ready for use
As promised, the long overdue and newly improved church bathrooms are now ready for use! This is another blessing from God that we can be thankful for! The contractors were really good on their guarantee to get them ready before the end of January and they did an excellent job. They also did not go over budget. We kept the colors neutral and in keeping with the building’s surrounding colors. You gotta love the Air Force hand dryer rated to dry your hands in 12 seconds. (Sorry, I don’t have the hair drying stat time should you decide to wash and dry your hair but you can let me know if you try it!)
Your shepherd in Christ,
February 15, 2015
Here we go again, it’s Ash Wednesday…and Fish Fry time!
One of my favorite seasons of the year is Lent and it begins this coming Ash Wednesday. If observed properly, this penitential season moves us closer to God by focusing our minds and hearts towards God and away from catering to the desires of the comforts of our flesh. Observing fasting and abstinence as required and recommended by the Church do wonders to our spiritual and physical health. It is not by accident that eating less and/or abstaining from “comfort foods” makes us pray to God better and feel healthier. The less we give in to the demands of the flesh the better our souls react to the call to holiness. As the Lord reminded us on the first Holy Thursday, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Start your Lent by coming to one of the Ash Wednesday Masses. Remember, we only distribute ashes at Mass so make sure to “Get your ash in church this Wednesday!”
Fish Fry Ministry & Stations of the Cross are also back
Keep in mind that everyone from the age of 14 and above is required to abstain from eating (land) meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday of Lent. Those who are ages 18-60 are required to observe the Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Please check the bulletin for the guidelines.
The good news is that our crew from the Fish Fry Ministry is back to help you with the Friday meals. For the 5th year Tim and Joyce Sparbanie are once again providing an opportunity for parishioners to have a meatless meal and good Catholic fellowship on Fridays of Lent. Afterwards, you can stay for the 7:30 PM Stations of the Cross at the church. And for the 1st time we will be having the fish fry (and other meatless options such as grilled cheese & mozzarella sticks—brand new addition!) at our new gym. The Sparbanies and their helpers also have other fun spiritual activities planned for parishioners every week. All the proceeds help pay for the cost of our new building. So come on over and join us every Friday night of Lent for a wonderful spiritual adventure!
The Light Is On confessions program start on
The Light Is On Lenten Confession begins on February 25. 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. Every Catholic should not pass up an opportunity to be spiritually renewed by the sacrament of Penance. If you have 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. Even if you only have small venial sins it also helps a lot to go to confession. This sacrament always makes us holier and more virtuous. Have a great season of Lent!
Your shepherd in Christ,
February 22, 2015
Men’s & Women’s Conferences for you
Are you looking for something inspirational to put a spark in your spiritual life during Lent? Not far from our parish are two conferences scheduled to address issues relevant to the typical struggles of daily living. Both conferences are sponsored by the Diocese of Arlington Office for Family Life.
The Men’s Conference (March 7, 9 AM -4 PM) topic is Victory Over the Common Enemy – Overcoming Sin & Evil and the Women’s Conference (March 28, 8:30 AM – 2:30 PM) will cover Suffering Endured With Joy Will Transform The World. Both conferences will be held at the Fox Chase Manor (81010 Chatsworth Drive, Manassas, VA). Speakers include popular spiritual speaker, Father Larry Richards (Men’s) and Kerri Caviezel (Women’s), wife of Hollywood actor, Jim Caviezel.
To register please log on to this website: www.arlingtondiocese.org/men or www.arlingtondiocese.org/women. $55 registration includes continental breakfast and lunch. Confession is available at 7 AM (and always free of charge!).
Parish donation to the needy
Even though we still have a construction debt close to $3 million, I still think it is important that our parish continues to support the different organizations that help the needy especially in our region. With the help of the parish council that meets quarterly, we make a donation of at least $1,000 to charity. Last meeting we were able to give a little extra due to leftover money from the POP fund. Here’s the breakdown of the $3,000 donation: 1) S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat): $1000; 2) Loudoun Volunteer Care Givers: $500; 3) Food For Syria Donation: $1000 (Christian refugees displaced from Syria—charity organized by Knights of Columbus Council 15045 in Thornhill, ON Canada); 4) Unbound (formerly known as Christian Foundation for the Children & the Aging): $500. List #3 is very urgent because there aren’t a lot of help going in their direction. The international leaders have mostly turned a blind eye or treated lightly the plight of Christians suffering for their faith in Muslim countries. We need to pray for our own president, who has been mystifyingly silent on strongly condemning radical Islamic terrorists, that he will do more in defense of the Christians who are being executed at a rate of 300 a month! As I am writing this, news of 21 Egyptian Christians were just beheaded by ISIS militants. It just makes no sense that Islamic terrorists killed 17 people in Paris last month in retaliation to Charlie Hebdo’s radical publication poking fun at Mohamed led to 4 million rallying against the murders. Why don’t we see large groups like this rallying in support of the Christians who are worldwide being killed or driven away daily? How many more thousands of Christians need to be displaced from their homes and/or killed before the international community takes some serious actions? It seems that we have several 21st century Pontius Pilates who wash their hands clean and let Jesus be re-crucified repeatedly. Praise to the modern holy martyrs for their faith!
Your shepherd in Christ,
March 1, 2015
Offer your Lenten promises to the persecuted Christians
Last week I wrote about the constant exodus and martyrdom of Christians living in Muslim dominated countries in the Middle East. This past Tuesday ISIS abducted at least 70 more Syrian Christian men and they are likely to be martyred. Pope Francis is pleading for prayers and help from the international community for these persecuted Christians. It is very frustrating that many western nations’ leaders, not excluding ours, are very passionate to police and condemn the world about arbitrary human rights violations (e.g., abortion rights, all sorts of immoral sexual relationship relationship rights, free speech to make a mockery of religion—as Charlie Hebdo, easy access to contraceptives, global “warming”, etc.) but maintain a deafening silence regarding the Christians who are being massacred regularly. Has the world forgotten the lessons learned from a certain movement that tried to exterminate the 20th century Jews? If unstopped, it will lead to another massive holocaust! These Islamic extremists now want to eliminate both Jews and Christians from the face of the earth and their membership is increasing rapidly. Where are these supposed western “human rights champions” that normally make the headline news demanding justice for the oppressed? You can’t help but wonder whether they passionately take up only issues that help them get elected. These innocent people ARE GETTING KILLED and it just makes no sense why there is only at best a passive concern for these Christians. There is one volunteer privately funded group out there I have to commend for helping train the Christian men to defend themselves from ISIS. Their group is called Sons of Liberty International (SOLI) and they provide free training to the men to battle with ISIS because they are not getting the support they need from other countries. We pray that they will receive the supplies and training they need. God bless and help them in their mission to keep Christianity in Iraq and other Muslim countries.
In response to our Holy Father’s call for help, we can at least offer our Lenten prayers and sacrifices for our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ. We can’t even imagine just how hard it is for them to live for Jesus in their homeland and as refugees in a foreign country. They are like the Holy Family running away from Herod’s sword and many of them eventually receive their own form of crucifixion. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other personal sacrifices can do great wonders so let us offer these as a helping hand to our suffering Christian brethren and members of Christ’s Mystical Body.
Got your ash, now just add confession
Even though the weather was bad and school/CCD were canceled, we had an incredibly large Ash Wednesday Mass attendance. Whatever made you get your ash in church that day now is the time to make that sacramental truly meaningful. Follow it up by going to confession. Remember, ashes don’t remove our sins and act only as a reminder for our need to receive the sacrament of Penance. During Lent all the local churches are adding an extra confession night on Wednesdays from 6:30-8:00 PM. For confession guide & more info go to this website: http://thelightison.org
Would you like to learn more about annulments?
Come to Our Catholic Education center on Monday, March 9 from 7-8:30 PM at the Guardian Angel classroom (Rm. 106) and hear a presentation from our parish canon lawyer and marriage tribunal judge, Tara McIntosh. This evening is dedicated to help you understand the Catholic Church’s annulment process and how to reconcile your marriage. If you are in a marriage not recognized by the Catholic Church due to a previous relationship, it is very important that you attend this. Please be advised that Catholics may not receive Holy Communion or any of the sacraments whose marriage is not yet convalidated in the Catholic Church.
Your shepherd in Christ,
March 8, 2015
Bible Timeline in New Library
If you really want to get the most out of studying biblical history, swing by our new Catholic Education Center Library to see the large-scale version of the Bible Timeline. Our parishioner, Maria Keim, did a beautiful job of arranging the timeline and adding ancient biblical maps to help us get a better picture of the events in the Bible in reference to world history. Please stop by sometime to see the library when Religious Education is open on Sunday mornings and during the weekdays RE office hours and evening CCD (Monday – Wednesday). Thank you, Maria, for the great work and dedication with this project. She’s not done yet as she graciously offered to help with arranging the themes for the classrooms as well!
New gym on high octane last weekend
Our new gym/multi-purpose room was pushed to the limit last weekend with first-time activities in the new center. It started with Fish Fry on Friday with record sales of $2,244. On Saturday morning the Institute of Catholic Culture held their adult faith study day-retreat and nearly hit a hundred participants. The gym was switched to Bingo Night on Saturday night and had a record number of participants. 8 more tables were added for this Workcamp fundraiser to accommodate the crowd and they ran out of betting slips! On Sunday morning we had the Knights of Columbus 1st Sunday pancake breakfast that also drew another record turnout (and ran out of eggs towards the end!) while the Religious Education did their regular CCD morning opening prayer around the breakfast people. On Sunday evening the adult basketball capped it off and let the gym take a cold night breather with the freezing weather outside. Whew! That was some heavy-duty weekend and in the next 3 weekends we will be using the gym/multi-purpose room for 2 First Communion retreats and 2 Confirmation retreats for the 200+ kids in these programs. Please pray that we can continue to keep up with the building maintenance issues that were exposed by the bad weather and heavy volume of occupants. The lone bright side is we are still under building warranty and the repairs are still covered!
Must see video of persecuted Christians
In my homily last weekend I mentioned about an inspirational video I saw of the testimonies given by Iraqi Christian children who had to flee to save their lives from the radical terror group, ISIS. It was too late to include it for last weekend’s bulletin and I promised to mention it here. Their testimonies will touch your heart and recall the Gospel of message of Jesus about continuing to love God wholeheartedly even when they were stripped of everything they possessed. Their forgiving heart is very humbling and makes us think twice about hatred and holding a grudge. You will find this video on YouTube or by browsing the web with this: “Report from Ainkawa Mall, Erbil, Iraq.”
Your shepherd in Christ,
March 15, 2015
It’s “Pink Slip” Sunday time!
It’s the 4th Sunday of Lent or Laetare Sunday. Laetare means rejoice in Latin and priests may wear rose-colored vestments to signify that we are around midway of the Lenten penitential season. The only other time this rarely seen vestment is used is during the 3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday). Last Advent I began the practice of enclosing a rose/pink-colored confession guide and examination of conscience sheet in the bulletin to help our parishioners make a good preparation for confession. Combined with Pope’s Francis’ picture going to confession, we heard some 400 confessions during the last 4 days of Advent! It is my hope that we will continue to have great success in promoting the sacrament of reconciliation during this season of Lent as we prepare for the celebration of Our Lord Jesus’ resurrection.
Have you gone to confession during Lent yet? Has it been a long time since your last confession? Now is the perfect time to do it as the Light Is On program is in effect. You can go to any church in the Diocese of Arlington and Archdiocese of Washington on Wednesdays of Lent from 6:30-8:00 PM and there will be at least 1 priest available to hear confessions. All Catholics are required to receive this sacrament at least once a year regardless if one has committed a mortal sin or not. And all Catholics are required to go to confession before receiving Holy Communion if they have at least 1 unconfessed mortal sin in their soul. And many Catholics have found great joy and relief by simply receiving this sacramental gift of forgiveness from God. It might be the one thing missing in your life that is keeping you from being truly happy.
Mark Forrest returns on March 30
On Holy Week Monday, March 30 (7 PM), we are once again blessed that my good friend, Mark Forrest, has graciously offered to share his God-given world-class voice at our Eucharistic Night of Prayer (Come Walk With Me). Invite your family and friends to join us on this very inspirational evening of Eucharistic Adoration during the most sacred week of the year. If you have not experienced this special night of prayer you will not be disappointed. I highly recommend that you reserve this evening to spend time in church with Our Lord Jesus. It is open for everyone so feel free to invite your family and friends (including non-Catholics) to join us. You can see Mark’s website at: http://www.markforrest.com
Your shepherd in Christ,
March 22, 2015
Don’t blink, Easter Sunday is two weeks away
This year’s Lenten season seems to be moving at jet speed. Easter is only two Sundays away! With Holy Week right around the corner starting with Palm Sunday, I would like to invite you to check our schedule of many spiritual activities in our bulletin and on our website.
You will really get a lot of spiritual charge by actively participating during the Holy Week liturgy that will last you throughout the year. After Palm Sunday we have the Monday Eucharistic Adoration/Holy Hour with Mark Forrest starting at 7:30 PM (please make note of the time change from last week’s announcement). Confessions are offered on Tuesday, Wednesday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Tenebrae on Wednesday night at 8 PM will get you on an “eerie” but reverent experience of re-living the night Jesus was in prayer and getting arrested on the eve of his crucifixion. Holy Thursday at 7:30 PM begins the celebration of the sacred Triduum, the 3 days of Easter Sunday followed by Good Friday. We have the traditional Stations of the Cross at 3 PM and then the Good Friday Liturgy at 7:30 PM. On Saturday we will have the ultimate Mass of them all, the Easter Vigil starting at 8:30 PM. The celebration is nearly 3 hours long and we will have 14 new Catholics who will complete their faith journey that evening including 11 baptisms. This Easter is shaping up to be another spectacular night in our parish filled with an abundance of blessings from our risen Lord, Jesus Christ!
Speaking of Easter preparations, we are looking for help in decorating the church on Holy Saturday, April 4 starting at 10 AM. If you are interested in helping please email Cathy Mitchell (email@example.com) or call her at 540.338.6381.
Your shepherd in Christ,
March 29, 2015
Most anticipated week of the year is here:
How about making your Holy Week and Easter the best ever? Or if you felt the need to maximize the spiritual benefits of your Lenten season, now is your chance. You are invited to participate in every Holy Week event this week in church to honor the Paschal Mystery: the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.
I look forward to seeing you this week and feel free to just stop by in prayer to visit the Lord in silence. His real presence is always here in the sacred tabernacle. Even on Good Friday and Holy Saturday when the Blessed Sacrament is reposed in the closed Oratory room, Our Lord Jesus is not far from us. This is also a good time to go to confession especially if you have not gone in a while. Take advantage of our extra confession hours. May you have a most blessed celebration of Holy Week and Easter.
Your shepherd in Christ,
April 5, 2015
The Lord is risen, Happy Easter!
Wishing all of you a very Happy Easter! We have an incredible future to look forward to if we are living for Jesus, our risen Lord, because he promised us eternal life in heaven if we remain faithful to him to the end. The resurrection is our sure sign of hope of being with God forever. If we have God in our lives, we have everything! That’s a beautiful thought to ponder no matter whether we are going through a smooth or rough “streak” in our lives. Faith in Our Lord Jesus gives us that unsurpassable confidence that all is well because our relationship with our Savior is solid. So celebrate this Easter with great joy. The Easter season is 50 days long and it won’t end until the great feast of Pentecost (May 24).
Our now poor parish helping the fellow poor
Not long after Pope Francis was elected pope, one of his early memorable comments was his desire to see a more “austere” church. He said, “Oh, how I would like a poor church, and for the poor” (March 16, 2013). We have certainly reached that stage of a “poor church”. We’ve made great progress in building a new facility that has already seen heavy use for providing Catholic education to children and adults in the parish. The faith formation will only be cranked up more very soon. While the $8.2 million price tag (originally priced at over $9 million) is now down to a little over $3 million that we owe, this also means that we have become a very “poor church.” Nevertheless, we need to follow our Holy Father’s desire as a poor church in the service of the poor people.
When our parish council met on March 12, we decided to send $1,000 donations each to the following charities: 1) Aid to the Church in Need (Catholic Churches in Iraq & Syria), www.churchinneed.org; 2) Guadalupe Free Clinic (free medical service for the poor in the southeastern part of our diocese), www.guadalupefreeclinic.org; 3) Heifer International (providing poor people in the world with self-reliance to cope with their poverty), www.heifer.org; 4) St. Benedict Joseph Medical Center (Franciscans providing medical service to the poor in Honduras), www.sbjhonduras.com. We may be a poor parish but we are still eating and we have a roof over our heads to carry out our parish mission. Please continue to support our collection to the poor so that we can continue to provide money to help the needy in our area and in other parts of the world. So when I humbly beg you for money to help with the church expenses, please be generous especially to help pay for our new facility. We really are now a very poor parish in debt but we are thankful to our risen Lord for providing us with our necessities. But we could use your help especially in fundraising. Aside from the new building loan, we also need to focus on the maintenance of fixing up our church because we’re broke! But I’m confident that our Lord will answer our prayers especially during this wonderful Easter season!
Your shepherd in Christ,
April 12, 2015
Divine Mercy Sunday
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. The Catholic Church officially recognizes the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a Sunday dedicated to bring awareness to the great loving mercy of God. This day is an opportunity for us to receive numerous graces simply by receiving Holy Communion in the state of grace. Jesus reveals to Saint Faustina: “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of my tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. Let no soul fear to draw near to me, even though its sins be as scarlet” (Diary #699). So make sure to offer your Holy Communion in honor of Our Lord’s Divine Mercy this Sunday and go to confession (within the week before or the week after Divine Mercy Sunday).
Join us this Sunday afternoon (April 12) for the special observance of the Divine Mercy. From 2:45 PM until 4 PM we will have Eucharistic Adoration, the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet (3 PM) and the Holy Rosary.
Great Holy Week & Easter!
We just celebrated an incredibly good Holy Week and Easter! We received 11 new Catholics in the parish and several who returned to the sacraments and the practice of the faith. And I would like to thank everyone who helped with the liturgies during Holy Week and Easter. We were also treated to some very nice sacred music. Our choir practiced for several hours to help enhance our liturgies. Our Lord was undoubtedly very happy with all of our volunteers this past week and blessed them tremendously. I also would like to thank everyone who dropped off some nice Easter goodies at the rectory. Your thoughtfulness and generosity is greatly appreciated. Have a great Easter season!
Your shepherd in Christ,
April 19, 2015
Q. In the case of a miscarriage or a stillbirth, can the hospital deny the mother’s request to keep the baby for a proper burial? Do you do funerals for miscarried or stillbirth babies? –Anonymous
A. I have not heard of a hospital refusing to turn over miscarried or stillborn babies to family members but it is possible. But we hold funerals for them as we would regular funerals.
Q. What is the Church’s teaching about a miscarriage? What should you do for the unborn especially for an early miscarriage? Baptism is not an option. –Anonymous
A. Paragraph 99 of the Gospel of Life encyclical teaches that these children are now with the Heavenly Father. As mentioned above, we can do a regular funeral for them as well. There is a support group that recently started at Holy Trinity parish in Gainesville, VA that specifically ministers to women who lost their child(ren) prematurely. It is called, M.O.M.S. Peace (Mothers of Miscarried and Stillborn Souls), led by my friend, Kara Palladino. Kara has also arranged with Fairfax Cemetery and the Benedictine Nuns (Bristow, VA) to allow burial plots dedicated to miscarried and stillborn children.
Q. I know why Saturday 5 PM Mass counts for Sunday, but why does the 6 PM Mass on Sunday count for Sunday and not for Monday? Just curious. –Anonymous
A. You bring up a very good point and there are many Catholic Churches across the country, including in our diocese, that do not offer Sunday night Masses. None of our neighboring parishes in Ashburn, Berryville, Leesburg, Middleburg and South Riding offers one. Some pastors wished they did not have a Sunday night Mass while some regretted starting one. We’re the last chance Mass in our region. The Saturday vigil was liturgically created to accommodate working Catholics (e.g. nurses, doctors, firefighters, law enforcement, etc.) who would otherwise miss Sunday Mass because of unavoidable working circumstances. The Church did not intend the Saturday Vigil Mass as a way for Catholics to take Sunday off just for fun. Sunday remains as the Lord’s Day for worship and rest. Sunday night Masses evolved sometime after the Saturday Vigil. Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia (from 1961-1988) was one of the last prominent bishops to oppose Saturday Evening and Sunday evening Masses in his Archdiocese. Liturgically, the Church does not require a parish to have a Saturday Vigil or Sunday Night Mass. One of the most common dilemmas with Sunday Masses is that some Catholics would aim for Sunday night Mass but end up getting tied up and miss their Sunday obligation. I love our 6 PM Sunday Mass Youth-centered ministry but I personally wish we were having it on Saturday night at 5 PM. I would even prefer that we have it at 5 PM on Sundays because this is the SEVENTH (7th) Mass of the weekend for us 2 priests (not counting if we had wedding and/or funeral Masses)! On the other hand, the 6 PM congregation would be celebrating their only Mass so it’s hard for some to fathom how exhausted priests can be on Sunday nights. Perhaps now you can understand why some pastors would oppose starting a Sunday night Mass or wish they didn’t have one. If there’s one thing that gives me the strength to celebrate Sunday night Mass with joy and enthusiasm is seeing some of the best people in town at that Mass. It is worth praying and worshiping with them to end my evening no matter how tired I feel.
[No entry for April 26, 2015 – away in the Dominican Republic]
May 3, 2015
Q. How old do you have to be a cardinal? –Anonymous
A. Cardinals today mostly come from bishops but a few were simply priests. Historically, the pope can appoint anyone a cardinal (even a lay person). Present canon law states that a priest needs to be at least 25 years old to be ordained so technically to be a cardinal today one needs to be at least 25. The current youngest is Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, who is 54 years old (b. 12/19/1961), from the Diocese of Tonga (in the Pacific way off Australia & New Zealand). By the way, did you know that there are 3 different rankings for a cardinal? They are cardinal bishops (the fewest, currently only 9), cardinal priests (the most common at 173), and cardinal deacons (41). From this total of 223 only 120 are eligible to vote at the next papal conclave.
Q. Are there any plans to put changing stations in the bathrooms in the new parish center? I don’t have any infants myself but I’m sure there are lots of mothers who would appreciate that convenience. –Anonymous
A. There is a changing station for infants in the new parish center and it is located in the Family Restroom on the main floor across from the staff office. There are no changing stations in the regular restrooms.
Q. About how old were the apostles when they followed Jesus’ call? –SBC
A. The Bible doesn’t mention their age but we have some idea. Childhood education around the time of Jesus ended at age 15. Peter was the only one mentioned who was married so he had to be at least 18 since that was the common and accepted minimum age for a Jewish man to marry. He may have been a widower because only his mother-in-law was referenced and not his wife. The other apostles (and 72 disciples who were sent in pairs) may have been around 18 (or at least still unmarried) because it was highly unusual that none of their wives was ever mentioned. When the holy women witnessed that Jesus’ tomb was empty on Easter Sunday, Peter ran to see it but was outrun by another disciple (John 20:4, by the younger John). Jewish rabbis at around age 30 would start taking younger students. This fits the age of Jesus when he started his public ministry and began calling the apostles to join him. At times Jesus referred to his disciples as his “little ones” or “children” (as in John 13:33). This would not have been appropriate if he were speaking to older men. The apostles and his disciples also traveled at great distances and worked practically non-stop. That’s another indication of their youth. John lived nearly a hundred years as more evidence of his youth. The other apostles did not live as long because they suffered martyrdom for the faith.
Q. Once you receive confirmation, do you get to decide when you go to Mass? —Anonymous
A. That depends on how old you are and your ability to get to church. Most are confirmed at 8th grade (around 14 years old) so your decision when to go to Mass is determined by the driver. Remember, there are 2 kinds of people in the world: there are drivers, and there are passengers. The most important duty for you is to make sure you go to Mass. So if the “driver” does not want to go to Mass, you should remind him or her (and this could be your parents) that it is a mortal sin to skip Sunday Mass.
May 10, 2015
Happy Mother’s Day…twice!
While many celebrate only their birth mom’s special day today, we are blessed to know that we also have a Heavenly Mother who watches over us with her Son, Jesus! In the midst of the greetings and celebrations with our moms, let us take the time to add even as simple as a Hail Mary to honor our Blessed Mother.
First Communion weekend
It has been our parish tradition to celebrate First Communion on Mother’s Day weekend. We congratulate all the children who received Our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist for the first time this Saturday. We encouraged them to wear their First Communion outfit this Sunday so feel free to honor and congratulate them.
Introducing a new & much needed support group:
“Compassionate Heart of Mary”
In the next few months our parish will unveil more ministries to address the needs of our faithful. Having done numerous funerals for years, one of the goals I yearned for was for the parish to provide a way to reach out to those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. Parishes generally have bereavement groups that offer up to the time of the funeral reception but very rarely have a follow up ministry. This is when grieving can be most painful for many. Some find themselves participating in other Christian churches that offer a support group for the grieving. In my native country (Philippines) we have 40 days of group prayer/gathering (and even Mass) after the death of the person but I was surprised to find out that there is no model for general use in the Catholic Church (at least in the U.S.) to adapt for other parishes to model theirs.
On this Mother’s Day, through the leadership and guidance of our dedicated parishioners, Beverly Elero and Laura Burgess, I am very happy to introduce to you our new Catholic bereavement group called, “Compassionate Heart of Mary.” Their newly formed group is at its early stage but has worked hard in incorporating in the program what has worked well in other bereavement groups. They chose a beautiful name that gives it an undoubtedly Catholic identity. Some of the unique elements of this support group that sets it apart from other Christian programs is that it will include offering Masses and praying for the deceased. As Catholics we pray for the dead everyday at Mass and especially on All Souls Day because our loved ones could still be suffering greatly in purgatory and in urgent need of our prayers. The dual mission of the Compassionate Heart of Mary is to assist both the grieving and the deceased.
The inaugural meeting will be held on Saturday, June 13 at 1:30 PM in the old Parish Hall (for now). Shaileen Backman (Bereavement counselor), and Suzanna Calley (Medical Social Worker for Blue Ridge Hospice) will facilitate an informational and educational session on the grieving process. They will also address how friends and family can help those who are grieving. Spread the word and hope to see you there!
Your shepherd in Christ,
May 17, 2015
Got change for a twenty? Not in my lifetime!
A few days ago Bishop Loverde sent to the priests the official invitation for those who will be receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders at the cathedral on Saturday, June 6. While our nation will be celebrating the 71st anniversary of D-Day, 7 of our Arlington diocese seminarians will be contemplating on “THE DAY” of their lives. On that day they will hit a major milestone that will impact their eternal life. Holy Orders joins Baptism and Confirmation as the only sacraments that remain with the person forever.
As with the other sacraments there’s a lot of excitement that comes with its reception--very similar to getting married. However, we’re well aware of what great and sometimes difficult responsibilities that accompany marriage and family. It is no different in the priesthood. A true priest will experience both the thorns and the roses along the paths of his journey. They are both very good for the soul. Please keep in your prayers the seminarians especially those who are preparing for their ordination.
The Dominican priest, Father Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire describes it best that the life of a priest is one of contradiction in these sublime words: “To live in the midst of the world without wishing its pleasures; to be a member of each family, yet belonging to none, to share all sufferings; to penetrate all secrets; to heal all wounds; to go from men to God and offer Him their prayers; to return from God to men to bring pardon and hope; to have a heart of fire for charity and a heart of bronze for chastity; to teach and to pardon, console and bless always, My God, what a life! And it is yours, O Priest of Jesus Christ!”
Father Lacordaire’s words of wisdom were inscribed on the back of my St. Agnes ordination holy card that I handed out to my family and friends on the day I became a Catholic priest 20 years ago (1995) this coming Wednesday, May 20th. The brief but poetically true reflection of Lacordaire on the life of a priest still continues to send reverberating chills on my spine 20 years later after I stumbled upon a few remnant copies of these cards. Each year of the 20 has a unique blend of joy and sorrow reaching their respective summit. Not a single year excluded the challenge of a heavy cross; but not a single year did it fail to yield a remarkably satisfying achievement that leveled things out. I would never exchange the past 20 adventurous years of my life as a priest for any other kind of life. Perhaps my image of life as a traveling seesaw is not all that absurd. As long as Our Lord Jesus is on the other side riding up and down with me (sometimes violently), my priestly journey will be just fine no matter where the road leads me. So please continue to pray for me as I reach for my 20-year milestone this coming Wednesday. Be assured that you are in my prayers every single day even when I am away from the parish. And being here with you at Saint Francis de Sales parish is one great gift from God that I will always treasure!
Your shepherd in Christ,
May 24, 2015
Success of last week’s Ministry Fair
In the past few years our Ministry Fair was held on the 3rd Sunday of September. This year we moved it to May hoping that by doing the early signups we can have many of our volunteers prepared and trained when the Fall activities start up. It seems to make sense because nearly all our ministries are running shortly after Labor Day.
For the first time the representatives from numerous parish ministries were able to showcase the many activities that we offer in the comfort of our newly built parish education center. Our volunteers served bountiful colossal doughnuts, coffee and juice to the visitors. It was a very nice atmosphere after Mass for the faithful to just mosey around and see how active our parish is. Some expressed surprise that the very activity they were looking for they didn’t know was available until last Sunday. What I really liked the most was that parishioners simply got to meet others whom they have seen in church but have never had a conversation with each other. We will continue to explore more opportunities like this because the event brought a lot of excitement and meeting opportunities for parishioners of all ages. If you missed the Ministry Fair feel free to contact our parish office to get a packet of what we offer. You can also browse our website (www.saintfrancisparish.org) and click on Ministries.
BEWARE OF PARKING ILLEGALLY…IN CHURCH!
(You have been fairly warned!)
We recently had real emergencies when paramedics needed to reach parishioners who experienced medical problems. We also experienced electrical damage due to a power surge. In both urgent situations the emergency teams were frustrated that they were unable to get through some of the parking lot areas during Mass because some of the vehicles were parked illegally. A couple of cars were even notoriously parked at the entrance and at the exit by the STOP sign while others were on the Fire Lanes which prevented the big fire trucks from getting closer to the church. This is a major safety hazard and if you’re guilty you are also personally compromising the 5th Commandment, “You shall not kill!” We worked really hard expanding our lot and we don’t have a parking lot shortage anymore so please park appropriately in between the designated lines. Oh, I almost forgot. We’ve been spared of past offenses but the next time you park illegally you may find a hefty ticket on your windshield! Remember, if your illegal parking impedes emergency crews, citations can be issued by law enforcement even on private property. Just thought I’d give you an advance friendly notice. My suggestion: Park legally and send the money to our building fund instead!
Your shepherd in Christ,
May 31, 2015
Got big problems and looking for a solution?
PRAY THE ROSARY!
Are you going through some problems in life right now? Many would say yes right now. We face life challenges daily. Regardless of whether we are going through personal issues, family squabbles, financial struggles, health complications, political/world conflicts, or fear of violence, there is an easy and effective way to get started in solving our problems. It is through the centuries-proven spiritual practice of praying of the Rosary. It is simple to learn but very powerful and effective.
You’re not a real Catholic if you do not recognize what a rosary is. You may not know how to use these prayer beads but as a Catholic you should at least be able to identify what that thing is. The rosary is probably the most recognizable Catholic symbol in the world. Even many non-Catholics know what a rosary is because they’ve seen it on many car rear-view mirrors. They’ve also seen Madonna and other pop music artists wear it around their neck since the 1980’s. If only those entertainers would actually pray the rosary, they would set a great example for their fans and do the world a lot of good.
On that note, do you know how to pray the Rosary? If you do not, have you ever wondered why? If these rosary beads have been around for over 800 years, wouldn’t you want to know what it is all about and start praying it? St. Dominic popularized this devotion in 1214. Many great miracles have been wrought through this devotion ever since. About a month ago we had the Institute of Catholic Culture give a presentation on the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 that saved Europe from being annihilated by the Muslims. The people and the soldiers fought and decisively won the battle while praying the rosary. In 1945 there was a lone house (Jesuit mission house) in Hiroshima that was about 10 blocks away from ground zero that survived the atomic blast including all of its 8 Jesuit residents! The only reason they said they lived through it was because they prayed the rosary in that house everyday just as Our Lady of Fatima (1917) asked. They then turned their house as a makeshift hospital for the wounded. One of those residents was Father Pedro Arupe, S.J. who later became the Jesuit superior general in 1965. There are many other miracles associated with the rosary and even more great stories of how many prayers have been answered.
When faced with so many problems why not take the time to learn to pray the Rosary. You will be sanctified by it and it will bring you closer to Jesus. This is the best and most powerful prayer devotion to Our Blessed Mother at your disposal. For a beautiful and powerful short 15-minute documentary on the Rosary, go to this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY-rmqg9MCw. These days you can learn just about everything online and here are some guides on how to pray the Rosary: http://www.theholyrosary.org/index, http://www.rosary-center.org/howto.htm#loaded. If you’d like to see a very nicely done YouTube Rosary tutoring from a devout and angelic young lady, don’t miss this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY-rmqg9MCw. There will be some Rosary guides in the church narthex and some rosaries available in the office if you need them. Start praying the Rosary and watch your life change for the better! (More on the Rosary next week.)
Your shepherd in Christ,
June 7, 2015
How to fight back against radical extremists
One of the most notoriously violent radical extremists in the world is Boko Haram. They are terrorizing Africa to promote an Islamic State with allegiance to another terrorist Islamic group, ISIS. They have killed several thousand Christians and many more have been driven away as refugees. A year ago (2015) they kidnapped over 200 girls and most of them were Christians. They were taken for the purpose of “marrying them off” to the Islamic fighters. For unknown reasons, the Nigerian government was not seen taking any strong actions to search and free the girls.
Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, Nigeria said that this past April (2015) Jesus appeared to him in a vision while he was praying in his chapel. Jesus handed him a sword that turned into a rosary. Bishop Dashe said that the message clearly meant that he should promote praying the rosary to get rid of Boko Haram. His diocese had 125,000 Catholics in 2009 and now they only number fewer than 60,000 due to the presence of the terrorists. Bishop Dashe said the meaning of his vision was to preach the rosary as the way to rid of Boko Haram. Only some Catholic publications took up his announcement on April 21. On April 29 the Nigerian troops freed about 300 women and girls after being held prisoners by Boko Haram for over a year!
As I mentioned last week in my column, history has shown the power of praying the rosary. We need to get back into using God’s way of battling the evil forces in the world. We need the help of Our Blessed Mother to get us through the most challenging problems the world is facing today. True Christians are being persecuted and massacred everyday. Even in our own nation the “traditional” Christians are becoming the enemy of the “mainstream.” ISIS and Al Qaeda sympathizers have already made their presence known in our nation. But we have also been facing other extremist groups: radical progressive fundamentalists who are proponents of abortion and same sex relationships. If you dare to speak out against these views you will likely be mocked, persecuted and ridiculed for infringing on what they believe is a perfectly acceptable moral lifestyle. They have conveniently called themselves as people for “choice” and for “gender equality.” Our nation has legally killed nearly 60 million unborn babies since 1973 (far more than Al Qaeda, ISIS & Boko Haram combined!) in what we as Christians preach as the sin of abortion (“choice” for the radicals). God has clearly defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5-6) but Christians are now being labeled as bigots for refusing to abandon the teachings of Jesus. What Christians (and Jews) traditionally believe as serious sins of the flesh is now viewed as morally acceptable. They can now legally mimic the relationship between a married husband and wife and call it “same sex” marriage. (It wasn’t that long ago when everyone knew what marriage was and didn’t need to have an “identifier” before it.) Can anyone point out exactly when Jesus reversed the Biblical moral teachings? Did we miss his return on earth when this happened? Even though there were some reports of unjustifiable acts against gay people in the past, and true Christians never advocated this behavior, I don’t recall personally witnessing anyone getting bullied for being gay but I have seen many instances where traditional Christians are now being bullied to accept the gay lifestyle in schools and, in general, in our society. Who are really getting bullied today in the world? It is the traditional Christians! When the Labour Party in Ireland succeeded in pushing for gay marriage in their nation, they proudly stated publicly that their next task is to push for legalizing abortion. What are they thinking?! Archbishop Diarmuid Matin of Dublin lamented the defeat of the Christians in the voting and the Vatican issued the statement that what happened in Ireland was a “defeat for humanity.” (If the story about St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland was true, then it’s time to bring him back because the snakes have returned!)
We really need to promote the rosary now for the sake of preserving the true faith proclaimed by Jesus Christ and for the protection of Our Savior’s followers. Stay tuned for more next week on how our parish will promote praying the Holy Rosary as God’s plan for world peace.
Your shepherd in Christ,
June 14, 2015
Major promotion of the Rosary for world peace on its way!
I’m working on different Rosary praying pledge levels for everyone in the parish to participate. The format is going to be easy to follow and fun. Most of the goal levels are easily attainable. The 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima is in 2017 and I would like to set a goal of 100,000 Rosaries prayed by our parishioners by October 13, 2017. We really need the help of Our Blessed Mother as we face a difficult world that has been waging war to get rid of faithful Christians loyal to the traditional teachings of Jesus Christ. Many of our families are also struggling with the daily challenges of life in general and praying the Rosary is just the right spiritual jolt they need to turn things around. Call or email me about helping out in this new Rosary Challenge. We need to meet very soon!
New priest coming our way
In case you missed last weekend’s news, our bishop announced the new assignments for the priests in our diocese. On June 25th we will be saying farewell to Father Tewes who served as parochial vicar here for nearly 5-1/2 years. We thank him for his years of service and we are planning to have a farewell party for him on the weekend of June 23-24. Check the bulletin and website for upcoming details.
The new parochial vicar assigned to us is Father Mark Mullaney. He is coming from Saint Elizabeth of Hungary in Colonial Beach, VA. The only time I’ve personally conversed with Father Mullaney was during my 1st pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2008. We concelebrated Mass at the tomb where Jesus was buried and rose from the dead. That was quite a “prophetic” encounter! I’ll ask for his brief bio as soon as I hear from him.
Are you ready to face death?
Have you made the proper preparation in case you face a medical emergency or even death for you or your loved one? Or perhaps you’re not sure whether your current plan is up to par with our Catholic faith. Fear no more, Deacon Robert Gillispie, a practicing attorney and permanent deacon from Saint John the Apostle Catholic Church (Leesburg) will be giving a free presentation on the Catholic approved Advance Medical Directive. The presentation is on Wednesday, June 24 at 7:30 PM in the Catholic Education Center. Admission is free.
Your shepherd in Christ,
June 21, 2015
Farewell to Father Tewes
We thank Father Tewes for his 5-1/2 years of service to the parishioners of Saint Francis de Sales. We wish him well at his new assignment in Gainesville, VA at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. If you get this bulletin before the 6 PM Sunday Mass, you are invited to his reception at the gym in the Catholic Education Center. The gathering starts at 1:30 PM. Swing by and spend some time with Father Tewes before he leaves on Thursday, June 25. Our new parochial vicar, Father Mark Mullaney will be moving in our parish on the same day.
Bishop Loverde warns of the fading religious liberty in the U.S.
Bishop Loverde is sponsoring a talk at Saint Ambrose Catholic Church in Annandale, VA on the danger of losing religious liberty in our country. He invited Rev. David Pignato, S.T.D., J.D. (St. John’s Seminary Professor, Boston), to address this very important issue. The decline of Christian moral principles in our nation is becoming more and more relevant around us and there is no sign of stopping. The talk is titled: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY…For How Long? –How to Prepare Spiritually for the Coming Persecution. The program starts with Mass presided by Bishop Loverde at 9 AM and the talk begins at 10 AM on Saturday, June 27. I hope you’re able to attend.
We have a powerful spiritual weapon: the Holy Rosary
In the last few bulletins I have expressed the need to be aware of the moral decline in our nation and the persecution of traditional Christians. Our parish response is going to include primarily the spiritual strengthening of our parishioners through the peace plan of Our Lady of Fatima: prayer, penance, sacrifice, Mass and the praying of the rosary. I plan on doing a mini promo of the Rosary Challenge in mid-July and a major parish-wide promotional launch of getting everyone to pledge to pray the Rosary regularly on September 12-13 weekend. We can’t do much what the powers around us are doing to dismantle our religious liberty but we can do something about strengthening and protecting ourselves when we face persecution. They can have their little victories here and there but we do know that in the end Jesus Christ will triumph! In the meantime, we have to prepare ourselves to remain strong in the midst of the persecution that is getting worse by the day. With Our Lady of Victory on our side, we will always remain on the narrow path that leads to the heavenly kingdom of Our Lord Jesus. Protect yourself and your family now by praying the rosary regularly. Contact me directly if you would like to help my team of Rosary Challenge apostles to help in the promotion of praying Our Blessed Mother’s Holy Rosary. We will be meeting very soon. If you are concerned about your family and what is happening in the world, stay close to Our Lady and her rosary and you will always remain strong.
Your shepherd in Christ,
June 28, 2015
Let us welcome our new parochial vicar!
Father Mark Mullaney is our new parochial vicar replacing Father Tewes whom we said goodbye to last Sunday. His previous assignment was at Saint Elizabeth of Hungary in Colonial Beach, VA. Father Mullaney studied at Saint Charles Borromeo (Philadelphia area) and was ordained in 2003 by Bishop Loverde. He enjoys teaching on a wide variety of topics including apologetics, bioethics, Church writings, and Islam. He has gone on pilgrimages to Italy, Malta, Jordan, Turkey, Ireland and multiple trips to the Holy Land. His liturgical sacred music preference is Gregorian chant and appreciates the liturgical richness in the Church’s liturgical treasury. He enjoys many outdoor activities and sports. As a seminarian he spent 4 summers as the religious director at BSA Goshen Camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
New Children’s Rosary Group: “Crown of Roses”
A new monthly children’s Rosary group, “Crown of Roses”, will begin on July 11 at 3 PM in the Oratory. The subsequent meetings are going to be held on the 1st Saturday of the month. No experience needed in praying the rosary! This is a great opportunity for children and adults to learn praying the rosary together. When the Rosary Challenge is unveiled to the parish in the near future, the Crown of Roses will be very instrumental in helping the kids take part in the rosary praying campaign. See the bulletin ad for more info. Katie Magin is the coordinator and may be reached at: 540-441-7342 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you there!
New pews donation/dedication
We’re in the process of looking into replacing the church floor and all of the pews with new ones. With a large debt to pay off the new educational center we have some tight planning to make this project possible. I’d like to get a feel of how many parishioners would be interested in sponsoring a pew (with a dedication plate in the honor of your choice). This will give our finance council an idea whether we can financially support this project sooner than later. We estimate about 50 pews will be needed. Some pews are shorter than the others and the price range will be somewhere from $1,500 to $3,000 depending on how fancy the pews we select; and whether we use all wood or with cushion (seat, back, kneelers—or everything cushioned). Let me know soon if you’re interested so I can start getting a head count. If I receive 50 requests then we’re in good shape to move with the project!
Parish directory is almost here
We received proof of the parish directory last week and once we make a couple of minor corrections we should be ready for printing. I can tell you that it looks really good! We expect shipment to our parish around mid-July. For those who did not participate in the picture taking but would like a directory or extra copies, they will be available for purchase after we distribute the complimentary copies.
Your shepherd in Christ,
July 5, 2015
Supreme God vs. Supreme Court
In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles were strictly ordered to stop teaching the Gospel message of Jesus. But their reply was, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This reply is the same as what we say to those who ask Catholics what our reaction is to last week’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage in all 50 states. There is no authority in the world that can supersede the laws of God. Any law that is directly contrary to God’s law is an unjust law. God has clearly defined through divine revelation that marriage is sacred covenant between one man and one woman. All the civil laws can legalize any kind of a relationship here on earth but God’s law on marriage will always remain the same and the only legitimate one.
Let us remember that the ruling only has a civil effect. It does not trump the First Amendment rights of churches (at least for now). We still have the freedom to practice our religious faith and therefore can refuse same sex couples from getting married in the Catholic Church. It is still a sign of our nation and the world going in the wrong moral direction. I encourage you to keep praying for our beloved country especially this 4th of July weekend. Please try to pray the rosary everyday. We are still working on the big rosary promotion for everyone. We really need the spiritual strengthening help through Our Lady’s intercession as we continue to face more undoing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s teachings in our society. It is becoming more and more clear that the prince of darkness is in charge of the world. Don’t lose heart, we all know that Jesus is the eventual final victor and we are on his side.
I’m currently at Workcamp in New Jersey this past week with our youth group. By the time you read this bulletin I should be back this 4th of July weekend. God bless and enjoy your summer holiday weekend!
Your shepherd in Christ,
July 12, 2015
Another round of VBS this week
We welcome our Vacation Bible School participants for the summer of 2015! The theme this year is Hometown Nazareth – Where Jesus Was A Kid. Now that we have a nice big Catholic Education Center we expect a record number of kids and volunteers in our program. Rain or shine we’re good to go because we now have a big permanent roof to house all of our activities indoors if needed! Please remember to pray for the success of our VBS this week.
Pilgrim Virgin has arrived!
While I was in New Jersey for Workcamp I was able to get away for a couple of hours to Our Lady of Fatima’s shrine in Washington, NJ to pick up our parish’s Pilgrim Virgin statue. I will write up more on this in my next bulletin but this replica statue of Our Lady of Fatima will make its way to your home at your request. You will be able to sign up to keep Our Lady for a week as you pray the Holy Rosary in your home. We really need our Blessed Mother’s intercession to strengthen us spiritually as we go through the dark troubles the world is going through today. She will bring many blessings and even miracles in your home if you devoutly pray the rosary in her honor. The Pilgrim Virgin will be blessed at this Friday’s Noon Mass at the ending of Vacation Bible School week.
On another note, this Thursday, July 16th is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. One of the strongly recommended devotions by Our Lady of Fatima is for us to devoutly wear the Brown Scapular. There is a beautiful promise from Our Lady that “whoever dies devoutly wearing the Brown Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” This is one of the easy ways to stay on the narrow path that leads to heaven. I have been personally wearing the Brown Scapular since 1980 (my HS sophomore year). This devotion has been around since 1251 A.D. and EWTN has a good quick summary on this at: https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/brown_scapular.htm. If you would like to wear the Brown Scapular and be invested in it, please contact me directly.
Adoration in the “wee hours”
For the past few months we’ve been having a difficult time maintaining Eucharistic Adoration slots on Saturdays after the First Friday exposition from 2 AM to 5 AM. Last week someone heroically stayed for 3 hours to keep Our Lord in company. I’m sure he received tons of graces that morning but we can’t expect anyone to do this every month. It would be very unfortunate to end the overnight adoration and we will try to keep it up. If you are willing to volunteer your time for those early hours please contact Mark Donofrio immediately at: email@example.com.
Your shepherd in Christ,
July 19, 2015
Our Lady of Lourdes is coming to our parish!
Our Blessed Mother’s love for our parish is really showing! Our Lady of Lourdes has brought miraculous physical healings to many people and even many more spiritual healing to countless number of people. Most do not have the means to travel to Lourdes, France to visit the apparition site to Our Lady of Lourdes so our dear Blessed Mother is coming to visit us on Wednesday, November 4. Make sure to save this evening (6 – 8 PM) for a special virtual pilgrimage to honor Our Lady of Lourdes.
The Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality volunteers for years have been arranging many of the sick to travel to Lourdes, France. Unfortunately, they can only handle so many per year. They started a program called Our Lady of Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage to make it possible for the faithful to participate in the pilgrimage to Lourdes right in their own locale. The virtual pilgrimage includes a night of Eucharistic Adoration, candlelight Rosary procession, music sung at Lourdes (provided by our parish choir), anointing of the sick sacrament, projected images of the shrine in Lourdes, free miraculous water, and veneration of the rock from the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Pope Francis has also extended the opportunity for the virtual pilgrimage participants to receive a plenary indulgence. For more info go to: http://lourdesvolunteers.org.
If you are in need of healing from anything, whether it is physical or spiritual, this is a perfect night for you. Even if you are just seeking to get closer in your relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no better way than through Our Lord’s loving Mother, who is also our Mother, to lead us to Him. Since apostolic times the close friends and disciples of Jesus remained close to Our Lady especially during their troubled days while waiting for the arrival of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost, Acts 1). We’re living in troubled times and we need plenty of spiritual uplifting. I just think it’s great that God is sending this to us as a nice spiritual gift. This will be a big boost to our upcoming Rosary Challenge that will kick off on September 12, the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary.
Record number of VBS participants
As of publishing time, we’re having a superb time with a record number of Vacation Bible School participants. A whopping total of 332 were on hand for this year’s VBS: 212 campers and 120 volunteers! We are so blessed to have our new Catholic Education Center that we didn’t have to limit the number of kids who could sign up for this amazing faith-filled fun summer activity. And many kids were introduced to Eucharistic Adoration for the very first time. Thank you to our DRE team of James Blankenship, Janice Rees and their incredible volunteers for making this year’s VBS tremendously successful!
Your shepherd in Christ,
July 26, 2015
Significance of youth church volunteers
If you look around our parish you will find a good number of young parish volunteers. What does it mean when young members of the parish are actively participating in church? And I'm not referring to kids who "volunteer" in church just to earn their community service hours for Confirmation, or for their school requirements, but don't really go to Mass regularly. Sadly, once they have completed their hours we don't really see them again until the Church's "Final Four": Christmas, Easter Sunday, Ash Wednesday and Confirmation.
What I'm talking about are our dedicated young people who really love Our Lord Jesus Christ and desire to serve Him through the goodness of their hearts by serving the Church. We have a lot of them. Most of them are quiet and they go about their business fulfilling their roles. You'll find them at Mass as altar boys, Junior Altar Women Society, ushers, and lectors. At the recent VBS several of our youth didn't volunteer for the hours at all. They just enjoy sharing their Catholic faith in a fun way with the younger kids. During Fridays of Lent we have a large contingent of the youth serving at Fish Fry. We also have a large number who now belong to the children's choir and have also participated in Choir Camp. Our high school Youth Ministry is filled with active students helping plan retreats, Workcamp, and various other activities including staffing the Sunday Teen Mass.
These young parishioners are the future adult leaders of the Catholic Church. Their presence means that the Catholic Church is young and alive in our church. It is very important that we give them the support and encouragement now because their generation will someday be the active families of the future. Many of them will be the adult leaders who will set the pace in the parish they will be serving. Some of them may even become the parish priests, deacons, missionaries and nuns of tomorrow. To become great church leaders we need to continue to give them authentic Catholic teaching and spirituality. The greatest training we could give them is how to become holy, their greatest asset in serving God. Knowing the faith is not enough. Understanding the faith and applying it to one's sanctity is what makes true apostles of Jesus Christ. So please continue to encourage our young volunteers in the parish and keep them in your prayers regularly.
Your shepherd in Christ,
August 2, 2015
Superb Choir Camp Week!
We are so blessed to be having such an incredible summer of youth activities. Last week’s Choir Camp led by our music director, Michael Galdo, yielded 49 children for the 5-day event. The camp culminated with the kids singing beautifully as a choir at the Noon Mass on July 24th. It looks our adult choir is looking very good down the line with these talented young voices eager to participate right now in the children’s church choir. A big ‘thank you’ to Michael Galdo and his volunteers for their great success in holding this year’s choir camp.
It was only a week before that when our Religious Education department had over 300 kids took part in our Vacation Bible School. A couple of weeks before that our Youth Ministry took 120 teens to do a Workcamp in New Jersey to continue the hurricane Sandy cleanup. These young souls are certainly responding to Our Lord’s invitation to come to our parish and spend time with Him. As Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).
Parish Picture Directory ready for pickup
For those who participated in the parish picture directory you may now pickup your free copy from our parish secretary, Angela, at the office during regular business hours. If you are unable to pickup during the weekday hours, Angela will work with you on picking it up at another time.
Saint Francis Softball Team Champs Again!
Congratulations to our parish adult softball co-ed team for winning Loudoun County’s Parks & Recreation Community Services church league softball championship. This was the 3rd time in the last 6 years that our parish has won. Thank you, team members, for a job well done on the diamond. Keep on rolling!
Major change in 1st Friday Eucharistic Adoration Schedule
We have been having a difficult time finding parishioners consistently cover the early hours of the morning (especially 2-6 AM) for the Eucharistic Adoration. Since the Eucharist may not be exposed without anyone present we have no choice but to discontinue the overnight adoration. Starting on August 7 the First Friday Eucharistic Adoration will now be from 12:30 PM (after Noon Mass) until 11 PM (ending w/Benediction). But I’m hoping that there will be a larger participation during the reduced hours of Eucharistic Adoration. Could you spend an hour with Jesus?
Your shepherd in Christ,
August 9, 2015
Rosary Challenge set for September 12-13
In about a month we will launch the Rosary Challenge in our parish. I will be preaching at all the Sunday Masses during the rosary pledge drive on the weekend of September 12-13. I will ask every parishioner to minimally pledge to say the rosary at least once a week. This isn’t too much to ask. Even if you prayed one decade a day during that week you could easily fulfill your pledge.
Our nation and the world needs a lot of prayers right now. Families are worried about the future of their children. Many are worried about the violent state of the world. Many of our neighborhoods are becoming less and less safe. Our Lady’s rosary is the most powerful private prayer we can offer. The holy rosary is going to strengthen us spiritually to face whatever the devil and his angels hurl in our direction. We don't have a lot of control over the crazy things some people do but there is something we can do about making time for prayer.
The families praying the rosary together is also what is going to keep them together. I have seen too many families fall apart and see some of their children destroyed by the evil influences of others. Many of them have lost their faith. Looking back I also found out that their families never really prayed together other than perhaps at grace before meals or the parents just routinely taking them to church. Recalling Father Peyton's famous phrase in the early 20th century, "The family that prays together stays together", we really need to promote the family rosary. My family prayed the rosary together everyday when my 4 siblings and I were all still living at home. To this day we are all still active in our Catholic and I believe that praying the rosary as a family was what kept us in our faith.
This week I got to see the new rosary website that our parishioner and rosary challenge volunteer, Mandy Corcoran, has created. It will be soon linked to our parish website. It looks spectacular and I know it will be a big help in promoting the rosary. It will be interactive so that you can learn the rosary online and even pray with it online if you prefer. And if you have a rosary testimonial you would like to share in our website, please submit it to me.
There will be 9 levels of rosary commitment pledges and are named after the 9 choirs of angels. Each level is also labeled Cloud 1, Cloud 2, etc., leading up to the highest level called, of course, "Cloud 9"! Anyone can reach Cloud 1 - Guardian Angels level. All you have to do is pledge to pray one 5-decade rosary a week and belong to one of the 30+ rosary clubs on the list. Don't worry, the clubs don't actually meet. If you pray the rosary you already belong to at least one or more clubs already. For example, those who pray the rosary and ride horses belong to the "Equestrian Club"; those into sports belong to the "Sports Club"; those who pray rosary in the car belong to the "Commuters Club"; those who sometimes pray lying down belong to the "Parallel Club"; and couples who pray the rosary together belong to one of 5 "Romantic Clubs", etc.
Anyway, the Rosary Challenge is going to be a fun way to encourage each other to pray the rosary regularly. Stay tune for more!
Your shepherd in Christ,
August 16, 2015
What is the "Brown Scapular"?
In the 13th century Our Lady revealed to Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order: "One day, through the rosary and the scapular, I will save the world." This does not mean taking away the saving work of Jesus Christ who redeemed us from our sins. Our Lord's redemptive work reamins totally intact. What Our Lady meant was that through the rosary and the brown scapular she would bring many souls to conversion to her Son, Jesus. Most Catholics are familiar with the rosary by the sight of it regardless of whether they pray it or not. But what in the world is a "Brown Scapular"?
In a nutshell, the Brown Scapular is a small brown cloth (traditionally made of wool) Catholic sacramental that is worn over the shoulders with the intention of honoring Our Lady of Mount Carmel. That's how it got the name of the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For those who wear it devoutly, Our Lady promised to Saint Simon Stock in 1251 that the person who dies wearing it devoutly will not go to hell. Saint Simon Stock was the former superior general of the Carmelites who received this promise, "Whosoever dies wearing this cloth devoutly shall not suffer eternal fire." The promise was later extended to lay people. I read somewhere that since at least 1280 A.D. every pope has worn the Brown Scapular. Saint John Paul II not only faithfully wore his scapular but even joined the Third Order Carmelites. When he was shot in 1981, the pope ordered the doctors not to remove his Brown Scapular while they operated on him!
During the miracle of the sun on October 13, 1917, Our Lady's final appearance at Fatima to the 3 children, she and appeared holding the Brown Scapular. Sister Lucia was asked in 1950 for an explanation of Our Lady holding the Brown Scapular. She replied, "It is because Our Lady desires everyone to wear the Brown Scapular."
We have a few scapulars in our office but they can also be ordered online. Try to get the wool scapulars. Traditionally, the material is supposed to be made of wool. For info on the Brown Scapular devotion you can check this website: http://www.carmelitedcj.org/saints/scapular.asp. I'm also available to tell you more about the scapular in person. I have been wearing the Brown Scapular daily since the spring of 1980.
There is also an optional investiture in the Brown Scapular. Any priest can invest a Catholic in the Brown Scapular Confraternity and I have done it several times including to our parishioners. The benefit of being invested is that you get to share the many Masses offered by the Carmelites worldwide for those who belong to the confraternity.
Your shepherd in Christ,
August 23, 2015
New this year: Preschool CCD
Our religious education program is adding weekday preschool CCD classes. Sign up God’s precious little ones from your family on one of the following sessions: Monday (10-11:30 AM), Wednesday (4:15-5:45 PM), and Thursday (1-2:30 PM). This is a great way to prepare your children for the sacramental years that will soon come upon them. The more the young children get exposed to spirituality and learning the faith with others, the better they will understand the universality of the Catholic Church. Virtues are also enhanced when they are exercised with others in a community setting.
Make note of new parish picnic date: September 13, 2015
We have a new date for our parish picnic. It is now set for Sunday, September 13, 2015 from 1:30 PM to 5 PM. Save this date on your calendar! Due to construction last year we were unable to have a picnic. This year we are resuming our annual parish picnic and we won’t have to worry about rain washing out our plans. Our sit-down meal will be held inside the gym and the entertainment portion will be held indoor as well. We thank our Knights of Columbus members for hosting the largest annual event of the parish. 2 years ago they served at least 700 meals! This is the same weekend when CCD classes begin and the kickoff of our Youth Group. It is also the weekend when we begin our big Rosary Challenge. I really think this is going to be one big exciting weekend…period!
Talent show for parishioners
Many have asked me if we could have a talent show in our parish. We couldn’t really have one before because we didn’t have a big enough place to hold the event. But now that we have a new parish center I’m open to hosting it. I came up with a format to make it interesting based on the talent shows that have been popularized on TV (e.g, America’s Got Talent, American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, The Voice, The X Factor). Right now we’re in the works of forming Catholics Got Talent! I came up with 5 possible categories for parishioners to participate in with a sole winner in individual groups: 1) voice, 2) musical instrument, 3) dancing, 4) magic acts, 5) “X” factor [any other talent other than the previously mentioned]. To pull it off I will need to know if there’s enough interest of participants. So if you are interested, please submit your name to me plus the category group you would like to participate in. You’re welcome to participate in more than one category and there is no age minimum/limit. We’ll have a panel of judges to determine the top three who will perform live at a parish dinner night and compete to win. Submit your name/contact info/type of talent to me by September Sunday, September 20.
Yours shepherd in Christ,
August 30, 2015
Enter the raffle to be with Pope Francis
Pope Francis is visiting Washington, DC next month on September 23rd. He will be officiating the canonization of Blessed Junipero Sera at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass will begin at 4:15 PM and it will take about 2 hours. As I mentioned last Sunday, I have 2 tickets available for you to attend. We will determine the randomly selected recipient thru a raffle drawing at the parish picnic on September 13. Due to the expected large crowd, it would be wise to arrive at the basilica 2 hours before Mass. You will need to provide your own transportation. Contact the office to register for the raffle (call 540.338.6381 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
This offer is for our registered parishioners only and limited to 1 entry per household. Make sure you give the following information: 1) Your Full Name; 2) Current Address; 3) Best phone number to reach you; 4) email address; 5) if you have it handy, your parish envelope number or Parish Giving number. #5 is only for registration verification. [There is no cost for the papal tickets. Enclosing a large donation with your raffle registration will not increase your chance of winning the tickets—but we will gladly accept it!] Deadline for the entry is 4 PM Friday, September 11.
Early Advent Gift Giving
Advent is still 3 months away but it is never too early to think about making a sacrifice to help the poor. Even though we have a lot of expenses of our own to be concerned of, there are still many others who are in a lot worse situation than we are. I am inviting a priest from the Cross Catholic Outreach (crosscatholic.org) to speak at all the Masses on September 19 & 20 to tell us how we can help the poor people in other countries. Proverbs 19:17 reads, “He who has compassion on the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his good deed.” May the Lord Jesus bless us through our acts of charity that he may generously bless us when we are in need.
Volunteer driver needed
Does anyone want to volunteer to pick up the visiting missionary priest from Dulles airport on Saturday, September 19 and drive him back there on Monday? This would be very helpful for us priests as we are usually very tied up with Mass, confessions, Baptisms, etc., especially on that weekend. Contact me directly if you can help. God’s blessings will also be upon you for this great act of charity. If Our Lord were to add a “9th beatitude” it would be probably be something like this, Blessed are they who offer a lift, they shall be raised up on the last day.
Diocesan Pilgrimage organizer for October 3 needed
Every other year we have a diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. If anyone is interested in coordinating our participation to the pilgrimage on Saturday, October 3 (9:30 AM to 3 PM) please contact me very soon.
Your shepherd in Christ,
September 6, 2015
Rosary Challenge starts next weekend!
The parish rosary drive begins next weekend (September 12-13). I will preach at all the Masses to promote the Rosary Challenge. Our goal is for everyone in the parish to make a pledge to pray Our Lady’s rosary at least once a week. It is not a difficult goal since a 5-decade rosary takes only an average of 20 minutes. If you prayed only 1 decade of the rosary a day it will take you only 4 minutes/day and less than a week to complete the 5-decade rosary.
Praying the rosary has done incredible wonders to the spiritual lives of so many people in the past 800 years since Saint Dominic introduced this devotion. It made many saints and converted many souls. We are living in a world filled with all sorts of troubles beyond our control. As scripture says, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ
Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little” (1 Peter 5:8-10).
Many of you have approached me about the terrible problems you have encountered in your family, marriage, children, workplace, financial situation, health, neighborhood, and even what is going on in our country and the world. The list is endless and we all often feel helpless. It saddens me when I feel helpless to offer an immediate solution.
However, no matter how helpless we feel, we are definitely not hopeless! At the first miracle of Jesus the people felt helpless when they ran out of wine at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1-11). And who was responsible for getting the bride and groom out of the bind by asking Jesus to intervene? It was the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and our Mother in heaven as well!
We shouldn’t feel hopeless anymore since God gave us our Blessed Mother to turn to in time of need. The best private devotional prayer we know in the history of the Catholic Church (and the world) is praying the rosary. This simple prayer has helped everyone regardless of his or her spiritual, age, social, intellectual, financial or health status. This is the prayer for all ages. If you have never prayed the rosary before now is the time to get started and you will see a major change in your spiritual life. If you pray it often, you will amaze yourself how quickly you will get to know and love Jesus even more. You will also become much happier and much more confident in your life.
To make it more fun and easy, I devised an all-original Rosary Pledge Drive designed for parishioners to take part in. I also added a “Rosary Club” membership and 9-Pledge Levels drive to let you know that people who pray the rosary come from all walks (and hobbies) of life. By joining the club (that doesn’t actually meet) and posting your name, you will get to see others online who pray the rosary and have the same interests as you. You will also get the incentive of increasing your pledge level by checking how far you can go and see what level your fellow parishioners are in. The idea is to get the parishioners to pray the rosary more and to add more personal devotions along the way including Eucharistic Adoration and daily Mass.
To get a preview of what’s coming up, look up our new Rosary Challenge website at www.rosarygraces.com.
See you at the Parish Picnic and for the lottery drawing of who gets the 4 available tickets to join me for Pope Francis’ Mass next month at the Immaculate Conception Basilica on September 23rd (my birthday—thank you, Saint Agnes!). The drawing will be held after my 3 PM Magic Show.
Your shepherd in Christ,
September 13, 2015
Make your Rosary Pledge this weekend!
The time has arrived for our Rosary Challenge! I would like to ask every parishioner to pledge to pray at least 1, just even 1, rosary a week as part of your prayer life. This will not take up a lot of time but it will make a big difference spiritually. There is no easier way to get to know and love Jesus than going through Mary. Saint Louis de Montfort wrote, “It is through the most Holy Virgin Mary that Jesus came into the world and it is through her that He must reign in the world” (True Devotion to Mary).
So many people including many Christians have overlooked the role Mary had in her closeness to her Son, Jesus. The very flesh of Jesus came from Mary. God asked thru the angel Gabriel if Mary would allow the salvation of mankind to finally happen by conceiving the Son of God. By virtue of her affirmative response, Mary played a major role in bringing forth our salvation and redemption through Jesus Christ!
We are facing urgent times now with troubles plaguing our families, our neighborhoods, our schools, our towns and cities, our nation, the rapidly declining morals in society, and the extreme violence and persecution the world is going through. We should not feel hopeless because God has given us Our Blessed Mother to strengthen our faith in the Lord Jesus in the midst of whatever challenges the world throws in our direction. We may not be able to avoid some of the terrible things the devil has placed in our way but we have been given the tool to strengthen us spiritually to fight back and not lose hope. This tool is what we call the Holy Rosary. It has been around for over 800 years and has been proven to be a great spiritual weapon against the spirits of darkness. Many who prayed in the midst of their trials and tribulations became great saints. Saint John Paul II had this to say about the rosary: “It would be impossible to name all the many saints who discovered in the rosary a genuine path to growth and holiness” (Rosarium Viginis Maria).
If you really want your spiritual life to take off to new heights and be strengthened to face whatever hurdles the forces of evil may place in your path, take up praying the rosary and sign the pledge now. If you haven’t prayed the rosary before and have not taken advantage of its wonderful graces, now is a great time to start. There is an ancient African proverb that should help inspire you to pray the rosary at this moment: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”
Lottery for Papal Mass tickets is at the Parish Picnic
Come to the parish picnic this Sunday for food, fellowship, fun & games, and we’ll also have the exciting lottery (around 4 PM) for who gets to attend Mass with Pope Francis on Wednesday, September 23 at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. See you at the big party!
Visiting priest next weekend
Let us welcome next weekend Father Ron Mrozinski who will be preaching about Cross Catholic Outreach at all the Masses.
Your shepherd in Christ,
September 20, 2015
Very successful Rosary pledge drive!
We had a far better than expected response for the Rosary Challenge pledge drive! Over 600 pledges were received during the in-pew session and over 2,400 people pledged to pray the rosary at least once a week.
Big turnout for the parish picnic
A big Thank You to our Knights of Columbus for hosting another very nice parish picnic last Sunday. As in the past, our K of C council is very efficient in handling our largest parish social event of the year. There were plenty of food, fun and games for everyone to enjoy. The day before heavy rains soaked the Father Mullaney and a couple of the knights who went shopping for food. By Sunday we were blessed to have a very pleasant Fall-like dry weather to that we were able to food served inside the gym and outside on our nice patio. After a 2-year hiatus, I was able to put on another magic show especially for the kids in the parish and we had a blast! It is so nice to see the kids having fun and for them to see a couple of new mind-boggling tricks I have rarely used.
Papal Mass ticket winners
Immediately after the magic show I switched to the drawing of names for the Mass to be celebrated by Pope Francis at the Immaculate Conception Basilica on September 23, 2015 at 4:15 PM. Pope Francis will be officiating a canonization for the 1st time in the United States for Blessed Junipero Sera. The 1st winner for the two seated-tickets was Raeann Meier. The 2nd winner for the two standing-tickets was for the Ismael and Doreen Garcia Family. Congratulations to our winners and I really wish I had more tickets to offer to join me in this very limited and rare opportunity to be at Mass with the pope.
Your shepherd in Christ,
September 27, 2015
Keep on praying…the Rosary!
Right now we’re up to 1,444 signed-pledges from our faithful who pledged to pray a minimum of 1 rosary a week. Several have already seen a major improvement in their family prayer life by praying the rosary together. Some have begun to pray the rosary for the first time or restarted it and now feeling very blessed as well. In the 6-1/2 years I’ve been with you in the parish this is the largest spiritual jolt I have ever witnessed in just one weekend. It is just purely amazing and let’s keep it going!
How could a simple little prayer do so much in one’s relationship with God? The best person who can probably explain this concept in modern times is St. Therese of Liseux, aka The Little Flower. She became a great saint by offering to God with great love the little things she did. God is not interested in how great the things we do but in how we offer the things with love from our hearts.
Today much of the world is caught up in doing things the complicated way and shuns God’s humble and simple way. Many are quick to resort to psychological counseling and refuse spiritual guidance. Some turn to regular pagan meditation in twisted bodily forms but would want nothing to do with meditating on the mysteries of the rosary or meditating before the Blessed Sacrament in the Eucharist. Some find their “balance” in life working out at a gym a few times a week but cannot make it to Mass once a week on a regular basis. But those who found the simplicity of praying the rosary have found a new and effective balance in life and it doesn’t even take that much time. It is free and you don’t have to painfully contort your body in a certain way to pray. You can pray this while in the car, parallel to the ground, or even as a couch potato!
Report your rosaries prayed
Don’t forget that we have a goal to pray 100,000 rosaries by October 13, 2017 to commemorate Our Lady of Fatima’s 100th anniversary. Go to our website to report the number of rosaries you prayed weekly (recommended), to sign up for the Rosary Pledge Level, and to join as many rosary clubs as you can: www.rosarygraces.com. To encourage more and regular participation, we have a plan to recognize those in the top level of the pledges and the clubs. Stay tuned for this one! In the meantime, please send the number of rosaries you prayed during the week by going thru the website and click on the button: Challenge.
Win $5,000 in CASH…while raising money for our center!
A limited 500-raffle ticket drawdown lottery will be held to raise money for our new parish center. See the Bella Notte promo for the gala/fundraiser. $150 gets you 1 ticket but the 2 of you can have a meal catered by Maggiano’s at the gala held right here in our center. If you just want a raffle ticket the cost is $100. Your chance of winning is far better than the Lotto or the scratch off games. There are several cash prizes leading up to the big $5k last-ticket standing winner. For more details see this week’s bulletin or visit the Bella Notte table after all the Masses this weekend.
Your shepherd in Christ,
October 4, 2015
An amazing visit from Pope Francis!
Some were skeptical that Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. would fare as well as it was expected. The pope’s historic address to congress got everyone hanging on to every syllable that came out of his lips. What could catch the attention of this 78-year old pontiff? Was it his reputation as a “superstar” motivator or his charisma? Those things may have some factor but the real reason why Pope Francis captivated his audience was because he is the Vicar of Christ. He came as the visible representative of Jesus Christ for the whole world! That’s the essence of the mysterious aura the pope brought with him. He was God’s chosen visible presence of Jesus in the world today and he’s making the most of it by letting the Holy Spirit guide him.
Pope Francis is personally living the life Jesus Christ wants him to live and giving an authentic witness to the world by being himself. Some may disagree with what the pope stands for with regard to politics, and that’s fine, but there is no doubt that he is personally trying to live as close to how Jesus wants him to live as an individual person. If we read the life of Jesus what do we see? Jesus prayed, cared for the poor and the sick, drew attention for the care of orphans and widows, stood against injustice, promoted giving alms and personal sacrifice, dialogued with disgraced public sinners, encouraged visiting prisoners, talked with foreigners and people outside the Jewish faith, being with the crowds even when danger surrounds him, etc. What do the people see when Pope Francis is around the public? He does exactly what Jesus did by praying, caring and drawing attention to the poor, sick, imprisoned, the helpless, the foreigners; calling for true justice, mingling with the public sinners (including those who have murder in their hands by advancing pro-abortion/pro-choice and anti-traditional family legislations).
And some ask why the pope hangs out with people who seem to have blatant anti-Catholic/Christian views and not speak strongly against them? As Jesus says, “It is not those who are well who need a physician but those who are sick” (Luke 5:31). Pope Francis likes to meet people where they are before working to bring them up to a new level with Christ. That’s the way we normally work with sick people. We approach them first at their comfort level before “nursing” them back to health. Some need minimal care but some could use a “major” operation! Either way Jesus made sure that he approached both of them first out of love and concern. Pope Francis has manifested to us that the simple way of Jesus is still the most effective and preferred way of God. The pope schooled us gently on the way of Jesus! We are so blessed to have had the pope’s presence and that he touched our whole nation regardless of faith (even those without one). In less than a week, Pope Francis made the Roman Catholic Church stand really tall in the U.S. as a true Church of Jesus Christ for everyone. We should feel very blessed that we have already been a part of that Church!
Your shepherd in Christ,
October 11, 2015
Host the Pilgrim Virgin Statue in your home…
…and receive multiple blessings!
We are now ready to have Our Lady of Fatima’s Pilgrim Virgin visit your home. All you have to do is reserve a Sunday when you would like to host the Pilgrim Virgin for a week at a time by emailing the coordinator, Diane Waller (email@example.com). For those who do not use email, please call the parish office to make the arrangements at 540.338.6381 and ask for Angela.
The system of transfer we devised from home to home is quite easy. After you sign up, just pick up Our Lady’s statue in her travel box in the narthex (left side of the glass doors in the church) next to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and return her (no later than the following Saturday morning) in the same place for the next person to pick up and you’re all set. You can pick her up either after the Saturday vigil Mass (5 PM) or after any of the Sunday Masses you attend that weekend. Make sure to include in your email your name, phone number, address and the Sunday date you wish to begin hosting. For available “open dates” and schedule of hosts, just go to our website (ww.saintfrancisparish.org) and click on the Pilgrim Virgin Statue button.
For nearly a hundred years the tradition of hosting the Pilgrim Virgin of Our Lady of Fatima has brought many blessings and even miracles to those who devoutly prayed the Holy Rosary before her sacred image. Take advantage of this opportunity to receive graces in abundance from Our Blessed Mother whom the archangel Gabriel addressed as “full of grace” (Luke 1:28).
Remarkable “That Man Is You” inaugural
That was one incredible opening day for the new men’s group, That Man Is You, last Saturday (October 3) with 60 men showing up at 6:30 AM. This was no small feat. It is not easy getting men to do anything on a Saturday that early (or on any day!). I’d like to thank James Blankenship for introducing another new wonderful adult formation group in our religious education. I am also very grateful to the core group leaders who are helping coordinate this great program designed for men to become better men in the name of Jesus Christ by incorporating the Catholic faith more closely in their daily lives. Since the first meeting the group now has swelled to 80 registered members. For the married men, you can only imagine how thrilled their wives are because they know that their husband will come home each Saturday with a better insight on how to be an even better husband and father in their home. For the single men, they will be enriched each week on how they can become better apostles of Christ in their church, workplace and among their peers. It looks our Faith In Action prayer/plan in building our new faith center and putting it into serious action has taken on another exciting faith adventure. Praised be Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Your shepherd in Christ,
October 18, 2015
Can you spare a cup of coffee or a footlong sub a week?
This weekend I am preaching at all the Masses regarding the financial support of the parish. The diocese asks every parish to do this every year but the last time we did it was in 2012 and we’re long overdue. We’ve had to deal with the construction of our new parish center so we worked on our Faith In Action capital campaign for the past 3 years. I didn’t want to overburden our parishioners by requesting an increased offertory commitment while the capital campaign was being promoted.
We have had many requests to financially help various missions both domestically and internationally and we have been very generous in sending funds to them including disaster relief efforts when they happen. We’ve also been the largest donor to the food bank in the whole diocese since we started Share Sunday back in 2010. Many 2nd Sunday collections are assigned by the diocese and go outside of our parish.
Where we need help now is for our own parish needs to support our own mission in our quest to fulfill Our Lord Jesus’ desire to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and o f the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). We have added a number of faith-related programs since opening our new center and we’re now operating at “break-neck” speed to abide by Our Lord’s missionary appeal. The increased cost of operation was inevitable due to the $3.3M mortgage left on our loan plus the addition of 3 staff members (facilities manager, 2 custodians).
Last week the Finance Council rep spoke at all the Sunday Masses and gave a brief breakdown of their financial report. Their numbers were very revealing. Of the 1,621 registered households, 263 use the weekly envelopes and 57 give electronically thru Parish Giving. A tiny minority donates but don’t use the envelopes/Parish Giving but most of the remaining 1301 households are church-inactive and non-donors (if everyone in our registry came weekly we’d have over 6,000 total at Mass and we know that’s not the case; peak average is around 2,200). Their report also shows that 78% of the weekly donors give $10 or less per week. [FYI, the Finance Council only knows the stat numbers but don’t have info on what individual donors give per week—and I don’t have access to that in my computer either!]
Our average weekly offertory collection is around $18,000 and I would like to set a goal of increasing that to an additional $2,000 a week. It may sound a lot at first glance but if everyone sets a goal of an extra $5 a week to give back to God we would have an increase of $1,600 a week just from the 320 envelope/electronic givers alone! Adding an estimated 20 conventional “straight into the basket only” household contributors would push us to $1,700. A cup of “nice” coffee at Starbucks or a Subway footlong costs about $5. So for the price of a cup of coffee or a sub per week, could you please make this sacrifice for the mission of our church? If God has tremendously blessed you, an equivalent of 2 or more cups or subs a week would be great! Regardless, whatever you give from the heart God will bless you tremendously for your generosity. As Jesus says, “ Store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:20-21).
Your shepherd in Christ,
October 25, 2015
Let’s “super size” our priesthood & religious life promo
Next weekend one of our diocesan seminarians will speak at all the Masses before the end of Mass to promote vocations. His name is Blaise Raidel from St. Patrick Parish in Fredericksburg, VA. He is currently studying at the Josephinum College in OH.
A recent study of the Priesthood ordination Class of 2014 reported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops revealed some interesting and helpful info on how we can promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The study I’m drawing from is for newly ordained priests (ordinands) but the stats are also useful for promoting religious life for women. The report shows that 71% of the new priests credited the personal invitation and contact from priests as the predominant reason for their decision to enter the seminary; a friend was a distant second at 45%; other stats include a parishioner at 43%, mother at 38%, father at 28%, teacher/catechist and grandparent at 26%, another relative at 24%, religious sister at 19%, campus minister at 17%, and youth minister at 15% [they don’t add up to 100% because some of the surveyed chose more than one category]. The report also says that 49% of the ordinands were involved in the parish youth group—the largest influence group in the survey. [For complete stats, go to: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/upload/Class-of-2014-report-FINAL-2.pdf
After seeing these telling signs, we decided to crank up the priests’ involvement by actively promoting these special vocations to our youth group and take advantage of these two high scoring stats that help them. Starting this Sunday Father Mullaney and I will host our first “On Fire with God” series of vocation related gatherings with our high school youth group that meets after the 6 PM Sunday Mass. Every high school youth is invited and hope to see you Sunday night! We are literally going to have real fire by gathering around the rectory fireplace while light refreshments are served. This is the 1st time our fireplace will be lit up since Father Gerard & Father Cesar went back to their native countries nearly 6 years ago. I’m hoping that the pleasant flame will be a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s arrival at Pentecost that inspired the apostles to go out and evangelize with great zeal. We plan to do a monthly gathering and I expect to soon outgrow our fireplace and will need to set up an outdoor campfire. At the suggestion of a staff member we are also planning an overnight parish camping night where the participants will get to experience late night Eucharistic Adoration, early morning Mass, spiritual talks, games and fellowship. If possible, we will have an outdoor camp night for the boys and girls on separate nights [we’ll need volunteer moms/dads for these!]. We will also invite Sisters from religious orders to take part with the high school girls’ activities. It is also our hope that these new faith formation ideas will lead into greater spiritual participation by our high school youth and help them get closer in their relationship with God regardless of the vocation God is calling them. Stay tune for more as we let the Holy Spirit guide us into this new exciting spiritual adventure he’s leading us to.
Your shepherd in Christ,
November 1, 2015
Happy All Saints’ Day
The All Saints solemnity recognizes all the saints in the Church especially those in heaven. Church members on Earth who are living in the state of grace are also part of today’s celebration. Although there’s an All Souls Day the following day (November 2), the souls in purgatory are also included because they are saints on their way to heaven.
Bella Notte’s massive success!
Our very 1st gala held at Our Lady of Victory Hall last weekend netted over $30k to support our new parish center! I would like to thank Paul Kerstanski for organizing and leading his remarkable group of volunteers to an incredible successful fund raising evening. Bella Notte surpassed all our expectations and everyone who came to the gala that evening was in for an astounding treat! The food from Maggiano’s was succulent but the fun and excitement of the evening surpassed every fun activity I’ve ever seen in my 6-1/2 years here in the parish. It was just great seeing everyone having a superb evening. The music was great and our DJ, Shaun Maher, kept a serene blending of classic Italian and pop music to keep the dance floor hopping. My heart was filled with immense joy seeing how happy everyone was at their tables socializing and meeting other parishioners for the first time. The auction of the generously donated items also raised everyone’s spirits during the bidding. What I found truly amusing was that most of the gala participants I’ve only previously seen in church in their most pious moments with Our Lord in prayer especially in receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. Some of them were our Eucharistic adorers and ministers, Lectors, Cantors, catechists, adult faith study leaders, ushers, staff members, daily Mass communicants, rosary devotees, etc. But once they reached the dance floor, their energy-filled dance moves made me reminisce of King David’s excitement when he danced before Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:11-22). Not only were they remarkably passionate in their dancing, they also knew the lyrics of the songs from Frank Sinatra to the contemporary Bruno Mars! (Their excitement was so infective that my feet and hips involuntarily moved with the flow along with them!) We were really blessed with an immensely joyful evening and they were already asking when the next big parish party is going to be. Actually, we’re having a Harvest Hoe Down Square Dancing on Saturday, November 7 from 6-10 PM. And this event is open to families so bring your children to the event! Please check the bulletin for more details.
Our $5,000 cash prize winner: Liz McDonald
Congratulations to the Bella Notte $5,000 top prize Drawdown Lottery winner: Liz McDonald! I still vividly remember asking Liz after Sunday Mass to “please buy a ticket” even though I knew she was going to be away that weekend. We were true to our promise: “You don’t have to be present to win” and Liz certainly won big time!!!
Your shepherd in Christ,
November 8, 2015
Another incredible blessing to our parish:
An onsite Catholic Psychologist!
A coincidence or perhaps just the latest result of the many rosaries now being prayed by our parishioners that we have just filled one of the major things on my pastor’s “to do list” by opening the Saint Martin de Porres (2nd floor room) in the new parish center for an onsite practicing Catholic psychologist every Monday from 11 AM – 7 PM. Originally from England, his name is Bond…Dr. Antony Bond (I was contemplating changing his room number from 204 to 007!). We really do need the expertise of an experienced psychologist who also understands Catholic moral principles. Through the support of the Arlington Diocese Catholic Charities we are now able to have Dr. Bond with us. His services are available to everyone in our region including non-Catholics. To schedule an appointment you will need to call the Catholic Charities intake number (703.841.2531). His practice takes several insurances. For those who do not have insurance a very low fee (based on a sliding scale) is offered. Our goal is to help as many people as we can. (See Dr. Bond’s info in the bulletin.)
Here are some of the services Dr. Bond can offer: most psychological/emotional issues, depression, anxiety, trauma, sexual/emotional/physical abuse, anger management, bereavement, childhood problems (ADD, Autism, social skills issues, conduct problems, etc.), relationship/parenting difficulties, marital problems, abortion related problems, obsessions, phobias, compulsive behaviors (including various addictions, pornography, etc.). If the demand increases, Dr. Bond is willing to add an additional day(s).
High Youth Vocation visit to the rectory
Father Mullaney and I hosted the high school youth group for a mini vocation chat (On Fire With God) in the rectory on Sunday, October 25. Our youth ministers took 27 girls and 13 boys on separate trips for an informal vocation talk around the rectory fireplace (unfortunately, without the fire—too warm of a night!). Both groups asked very good questions and were amazed to hear that a huge majority of priests and nuns are very happy with their vocation. We are looking into inviting other priests and sisters from various religious communities visit and address our youth group. We’d like to explore more ways of encouraging our youth to look into God’s “special services” because there’s limited exposure for them to look at religious communities and the priesthood. A suggestion was made for an overnight camp/vocation promo for the boys (4th Grade thru HS) on Friday, November 20. A proposal was made for an afternoon of games in the gym, movie night, Eucharistic Adoration, outdoor camping on St. Francis de Sales grounds and finishing up with 9 AM Mass the following day. For volunteers interested in helping, please contact me directly or our music director/Youth Apostle, Michael Galdo (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Big ‘Thank You’ to the McDonalds
Brian & Liz McDonald won the $5,000 top prize at our Bella Notte Gala. They bought a ticket but were unable to join us so they stopped by the following Monday to pick up their prize check—and donated the whole amount right back to the parish!!! Thank you so much, Brian & Liz, for your most generous gift! Others also donated back their cash winnings and we thank you as well for your generous hearts. Your gifts are most certainly appreciated.
Your shepherd in Christ,
November 15, 2015
Nice visit…from Our Lady of Lourdes
We were blessed to host the Virtual Our Lady of Lourdes Pilgrimage last week (November 4) and I thank everyone who worked on arranging this spiritual event. Those who participated were introduced to the beautiful messages of Our Blessed Mother given to Saint Bernadette in Lourdes, France (1858). The basilica at Lourdes is most famous for its miraculous fountain that has brought cures and conversions to countless people for more than 150 years. Stones from the site of Our Lady’s apparition were brought for people to touch. The virtual pilgrims were also blessed with the miraculous waters and were able to take home a small bottle for their own use. To give great honor to Our Lord and Our Lady we prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and recited the rosary. Through the generosity of Pope Francis the faithful had the opportunity to gain a plenary indulgence (full remission of temporal punishment, aka “purgatory time”) for taking part in this unique spiritual devotion. Our inspiring choir also provided beautiful church music to add sacred serenity to this memorable evening.
On another note, the popularity of our Pilgrim Virgin devotion is amazing. Our Lady of Fatima is booked for parishioners to host thru March 2016! Sign up now and you will love praying the rosary in the presence of Our Blessed Mother’s sacred image.
Expanding faith formation & vocation awareness to the youth
It is no secret that a large number of church-going youth stop their practice of the faith once they leave home. During my campus ministry days, those of us chaplains lamented seeing the collegians stop going to Mass. Those who came from diocesan and private Catholic schools weren’t immune from this serious problem either. In my 5-year experience at the University of Mary Washington, the percentage of students who attended the college Mass weekly were 80-90% former public high school students. It could very well be that most of the Catholics who went to this state school came from public schools so that there were more of them. Still, there was a great interest among Catholic chaplains why there’s a high percentage of Catholic school-trained students who would walk away from the Mass after their parents spent several thousands in their Catholic education (some since kindergarten). Their most common reason for not going to Mass: “I just need a little break from ’all this stuff’. I’ll probably be back again.”
What we found evident was that the students who took their faith seriously at heart in high school regardless of whether they went to public or Catholic school were the ones who were most devout and most active in the campus ministries. This is why a strong Catholic high school faith formation on the parish level is so important. Anybody can pass a CCD or a Catholic religion test and move on. But how many actually live and breathe daily in their hearts a deep love for Jesus Christ and his Church and have the willingness to serve their brothers and sisters in Christ? Catholic virtues aren’t practice on paper; they are practiced personally and by associating well with others.
In response to the spiritual needs of our youth, I decided to bring a visiting priest (and a seminarian helper) to help the formation of our youth on a monthly basis. Father Jeremy Lambert from the Legion of Christ order has agreed to add our parish to his list (we’re #6 in the Arlington Diocese) to work with our youth ministry. I’ve known about them for nearly 30 years (and once thought of joining them) and I’m a good friend of one of their members. Their success working at St. Timothy (Chantilly), Holy Trinity (Gainesville) and St. Agnes (Arlington) led me to prayerfully consider adding their mission to enhance the spirituality of our youth as they prepare to move beyond their high school years. It is our hope that their presence will also give them a better awareness as to what sacred vocation God has for them. Father Jeremy and Brother Domingo were off to a great start last Sunday with a large turnout of high school kids and let us keep them in our prayers for the success of their apostolic work. Father Jeremy will also celebrate Mass monthly either at the 8:30 AM, 10:30 AM & 6 PM Masses. In the next few days I will also work on getting Sisters from the consecrated/religious communities to visit our kids. [And keep praying your rosaries for more of these great blessings to come our way!]
Your shepherd in Christ,
November 22, 2015
The donor wall display is now up
The dedication and memory wall plaques are now installed in the new parish center and ready for viewing. In the midst of the plaques is an image of Saint Francis de Sales. The beautiful and historically accurate portrait of our patron saint was painted and donated through the generosity of our own parishioner, Diane Waller. We are most thankful to the donors from the 3 capital campaigns made the building of our new center: Rooted in Faith – Forward in Hope, Building Our Faith, and Faith In Action. Please stop by and see the vibrantly painted picture of Saint Francis de Sales. You’ll be in awe! (The project is not quite finished. The letterings will soon be placed above the plaques.)
Celebrate Thanksgiving Mass with us!
We are having a special 9 AM Thanksgiving Mass this Thursday. Please join us and thank God for all the blessings we have received by celebrating the Holy Eucharist!
Shop Amazon.com thru our parish website
Many of you are doing your shopping, especially for Christmas gifts, thru Amazon.com. Please remember to go thru our website (www.saintfrancisparish.org) and click on the Amazon.com button on the lower right hand column of our homepage. Amazon gives us a small percentage of each purchase you make when you use our link. Since October 2013 we have received just over $3,700 thru your shopping. That’s free donation to our parish and it doesn’t cost you an extra cent!
Prayers for the tragedy in Paris
Once again the world was appalled to see another tragic terrorist attack that claimed the lives of at least 128 and injured scores of others in Paris, France. Let us continue to offer our prayers of support for the victims and for everyone else closely associated with this horrific act of violence. God brings true healing to those who are suffering as Psalm 34: (18) 19 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed.” The terrorists also threatened to bring this violence to our U.S. soil. We should not let this warning get under skin but we do need to heed the words of St. Peter in scripture cautioning us to always keep a watchful eye: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Our vigilant observance can save lives. We also should always resort to the words of Jesus in times of distress: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (John 14:1).
What happened in France is all the more reason why praying the rosary is so important today. Make sure to include this beautiful and powerful prayer as part of your “home security.” Pray the rosary regularly at home or on the go. Let the protection of Our Blessed Mother keep you safe wherever you go.
Your shepherd in Christ,
November 29, 2015
17 future priests from Saint Francis de Sales?
We’ll find out a few years from now if any of the 17 boys who came to our first Vocation Night Campout (November 20) will actually be numbered among the apostles’ successors to the priesthood. It was a very successful evening with cookout, games, Eucharistic Adoration, rosary, movie night (Life of Saint Peter Damien) and a freezing overnight camping for the boys and their dads. Even though I offered the warmth of the gym for them to spend the night, our Jesus campers braved the outdoor freezing temperature and slept in their tents sprawled on the parish grounds. There are those whom God has blessed as his chosen people. That Friday night God blessed us with his frozen people!
During adoration I gave them a brief priesthood talk and I could sense the seriousness of their faith and their love for Our Lord Jesus Christ. These boys seem like they will become great leaders in their future parishes and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some of them will one day become priests. I chose two Gospel readings for them to reflect on the possibility that Jesus may be calling them to the priesthood. The first is from John 15:16 that mentions Jesus as the one who personally chooses his priests and the individuals. It is an honor to be called by God to be a priest. The second is from Matthew 19:29 where Jesus speaks of being rewarded in heaven a hundredfold for leaving everything behind to follow Jesus in the apostolic ministry. The boys took turns leading the rosary and after a silent reflection we closed the Eucharistic Adoration with Benediction. And I would like to thank our music director, Michael Galdo, and the dads who helped make the vocational campout a very successful spiritual and inspirational evening. We look forward to having more activities in the very near future.
Advent begins this weekend
This Sunday is the beginning of the new Church calendar year with the First Sunday of Advent. In the midst of the Christmas rush I encourage you to take the time to plan a spiritual course in preparation to the celebration of Our Lord’s birth about 4 weeks from now. Make a spiritual sacrifice of your choice and plan on receiving the sacrament of reconciliation by going to confession before Christmas. If you do this you will be guaranteed a very rewarding Christmas celebration. And if you have not started praying the rosary regularly (or at all) now is the perfect time to do it. Believe me, you will improve your spiritual relationship with Jesus many times over through praying Our Lady’s rosary.
Friendly reminder: Send “MERRY CHRISTMAS” greetings and don’t fall for this “Happy Holidays” secular nonsense!
Your shepherd in Christ,
December 6, 2015
2016 church calendar available after Mass
While you may have several calendars in your home, it is very important to have at least one Catholic Church calendar. Our calendar lists important holy days of obligation, fasting & abstinence days, saints’ feast days, and liturgical season dates. We have enough available for one calendar per household so please pick one up after Mass this weekend. We are most thankful to our donor and parishioner, George A. Snyder, for making the calendars available to our parish.
How did they get their names on the center’s donor wall?
Two weeks ago we installed the new parish center’s donor wall with the nameplates on them. Some who donated to the building wondered why their names were not included. To clarify, there have been 3 capital campaigns done to raise money for the center: 1) Rooted In Faith, Forward In Hope (2001), 2) Building Our Faith (2009), and 3) Faith In Action (2014). In the first campaign there was no motion made to do a commemorative dedication memorial so we did a general commemorative plate thanking everyone who donated. For the second and third campaigns, we offered that anyone whose pledge was $3,000 or more have the option to give us a 30-character max dedication to place on individual plates. We saved the pledges and added the names to the wall plaque from those who placed their requests. If for some reason your plate was missed from the $3k+ memorial please let us know so that we can correct that. Also, the Faith In Action campaign is still ongoing. For a donation of $3k or more (can be paid in installments) you can add a memorial plate of your choice to the beautiful donor wall. Please contact the office or me directly if you would like to place a request for the donor wall. We sure could use your help!
After admiring the beautiful portrait of Saint Francis de Sales on the wall, many have wondered who the brilliant artist was who painted it (must’ve missed the bulletin mention 2 weeks ago). This was done by our parishioner, Diane Waller, who researched the life of our patron saint before creating this original painting. You’ll even see the “lazy eye” of Saint Francis depicted in the picture. Diane donated the painting as a gift to the parish. Please say a prayer for her in thanksgiving for her generosity. Here’s a beautiful picture of Diane and Saint Francis de Sales. (Remember, there’s plenty of space left to add your nameplate to the wall!)
Come to Mass this Tuesday, December 8
This coming Tuesday is a holy day of obligation as we celebrate the patroness of the United States, The Immaculate Conception. We have 4 Masses for you to choose from: 6:30 AM, 9 AM, 5 PM and 7 PM.
Your shepherd in Christ,
December 13, 2015
Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy has begun!
What does it mean when the Catholic Church celebrates a “Jubilee Year”? The tradition traces back to the Jewish practice of prescribing a special year. In Lev. 25:10-14 Moses declared a special year of observance that included blowing a trumpet made of a goat’s horn called a Yobel in Hebrew—where the word jubilee came from. Since 1300 A.D. under Pope Boniface VIII, the Catholic Church has proclaimed a jubilee year generally every 25 years (with some exceptions).
From what I’ve read there have been either 29 or 30 jubilees and 3 of those were identified as extraordinary (specially called and out of the normal numerical sequence). The last ordinary jubilee was in 2000 with St. John Paul II and the current one declared by Pope Francis is one of the extraordinary ones. The celebration of the jubilee year was intended as a major faith event calling for the conversion of heart, the forgiveness of sins, and the reparation for the sins committed in the world. Confession (sacrament of reconciliation) is always a part of the observance. It also encourages reconciliation between warring parties and adversaries. Past history shows a call for slaves to be freed, forgiveness of debts, returning land to its rightful owners (all still relevant today!).
In Rome Pope Francis opened the Holy Doors for the jubilee year. It was unique because Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was also present for the celebration. There is a special blessing and plenary indulgence (full remission of purgatory time) for anyone who walks through those doors [but you must include the following to get the spiritual gift package: go to confession, say a prayer for the intentions of the pope, and not be attached to sin]. Most people will not make it to Rome during the holy year but there are designated doors in each diocese to obtain the same graces. On December 13 at 11 AM Bishop Loverde will open St. Thomas More Cathedral’s holy doors for the pilgrims to walk through and have the same spiritual effect.
Pope Francis encourages everyone to read scripture and learn about the mercy of God thru Jesus’ teachings [Luke 15 is a must read because it is nicknamed the “chapter of mercy” with all its beautiful imagery of God’s mercy in it.]. The pope also encourages us to forgive those who have offended us. We are also to practice more diligently the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I highly recommend praying the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet to help our hearts become more loving and merciful like Christ.
It’s “Pink Slip Sunday”
The 3rd Sunday of Advent is Gaudete (“Rejoice) Sunday and the priests may wear rose-colored vestments to signify that we’re nearing the season of Christmas. It also gives us the anticipatory feeling of the return of Jesus as he promised. Since Advent is a penitential season Catholics are encouraged to go to confession and this would be in keeping with the observance of the Year of Mercy. In the bulletin is a pink salmon colored paper with the confession guide on one side and the examination of conscience on the other. This “pink slip” will help you when you go to confession. We have extra confession times during the week leading up to Christmas. And remember, my “Blue Light Special” (maximum penance for any sin: 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys) is available during Advent. Stop by my “penalty box” if you haven’t been to confession in a while and need the special as an incentive!
Your shepherd in Christ,
December 20, 2015
Christmas is almost here
Our parish is very much looking forward to celebrating the Christmas Masses later this week. Every year I would like to remind you that 5 PM Family Christmas Eve Mass is always very crowded. If you have any health or physical difficulties, please attend another Mass (6 others to choose from). With the exception of the family that won the fundraiser auction to reserve a pew at the 5 PM & 10:30 PM Masses, we do not allow seating reservations. It will be first come/first serve seating. As standard in many parishes, sending an “advance party” to reserve seats is not permitted (except for those involved in the ministries who need to come early).
If you insist on attending an early Christmas Vigil Mass but have physical concerns, you need to go to the 5:10 PM Overflow Mass in the gym (Our Lady of Victory Hall) in the new parish center. It will be nicely beautifully decorated and Christmas music will be provided. The gym wasn’t quite ready last year but this year it is. It is architecturally designed for use as a “backup” church and it can seat up to 500 (same as the church). Wouldn’t it be nice if both Masses are at full capacity?!
But if you really want Christmas a hassle-free spiritual experience, then come to Mass on the actual day we celebrate Jesus’ birth: December 25th: 8:30 AM & 10:30 AM. The 12:30 PM is also usually very crowded. Here’s a guideline tip for you about Mass last year: Most crowded: 5 PM & 8 PM Vigil Masses, and 12:30 PM Christmas Day. The least crowded: 10:30 AM (super light and only time of the year this happens).
30 new pews have been reserved!
We’re working with a company to replace the pews and a contractor to replace the torn up carpets in church with porcelain tiles. Once we receive the completed proposals we will submit them to the bishop’s office. Right now we have 30 of the expected 50 pews reserved for donation/dedication. The old pews will also be put up for sale.
Remember, it’s “MERRY CHRISTMAS”
If you love Jesus and really care about the salvation he brought upon the world, you will greet the people with “MERRY CHRISTMAS.” Even if someone greets you with the secular (and in many places, anti-Christian) “Happy Holidays,” you should still respond with “Merry Christmas.” True Christians should have nothing to be ashamed of using the beautiful word, Christmas. Jesus reminds us, “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:18).
May you all have a very Blessed and Merry Christmas during this Jubilee Year of Mercy!!!
Your shepherd in Christ,
37730 St. Francis Court
Purcellville, VA 20132
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