Shepherd's Notes

January 1, 2017

 

Happy New Year and soon…

…Happy 50th year to our parish!

 

            A Blessed and Happy New Year to all of you!  Before we know it September 1, 2017 will be here and we’ll be celebrating the Golden Anniversary of Saint Francis de Sales in Purcellville.  Pastors often plan something significant for the parish to commemorate this significant landmark.  Since we completed the parish center 2 years before the anniversary I felt “moved by the Spirit” to work on the most important area of the parish:  the church!  You’ve seen the various wear and tear damages to our 25-year old church and now is the time to focus our attention to repair our sacred sanctuary.

 

“The Golden Anniversary Story” -- Part 1:  Inspiration from Psalm 127:1

 

            When I approached the diocese about the serious repairs needed in our church (roof, floors, pews, electrical lighting, leaks, cracks in ceiling, paint, undersized altar & sanctuary, etc.), I was encouraged to take care of everything in one swoop instead of doing incremental repairs and improvements.  Finally having the nerve to approach the diocese, my timing unexpectedly coincided with their presentation to the pastors (Feb. 8, 2016) that we make the necessary improvements to our respective churches and facilities because we owe our parishioners a beautiful place of worship and a decent place to enhance their faith.  Wow, I couldn’t have chosen a better time to ask!  Wait till I tell you the rest of the story.

            Shortly after Bishop Loverde dedicated our new education center on Sept. 21, 2014, I spent several months in 2015 looking into repairing and renovating our church because we can now finally shut it down for repairs and use the gym to temporarily relocate our Sunday Masses.  I also knew that I would need the help of dedicated parishioners to help me put together a “holy plan” to work God’s house.  To be a part of this sacred project they would need to be 100% in accord with Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”  This was the formula the education center’s building committee chair (Dave Doseff) and I used.  As you can see, it worked very well for us.  The Lord blessed us with a wonderful building that we’re now using heavily to teach the Catholic faith.  The church is even more important because this is where we worship God and where the real presence of JESUS CHRIST resides!

For the next several weeks leading up to Bishop Burbidge’s tentative consecration of our new altar/sanctuary in September, one by one you will read more details of the unveiling of the “secret gifts”, more than 2 dozen and counting, that we’ve been keeping under wraps as a surprise for you to enjoy in the years to come.  In Part 2 you’ll read how God led me to these “special holy parishioners” who agreed to work on this important project.  In the meantime, expect repair/construction materials rolling in church as early as week 2 of January.  This is one parish Golden Anniversary you’ll never forget!

 

                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                        Father Escalante

 

 

January 8, 2017

 

The Golden Anniversary Story

Part 2:  “The Birth of a Guild”

 

            Before forming a committee to renovate our church, I prayed for months in 2015 asking the Lord to help me find 4 dedicated parishioners who will help me with this most important project based on Psalm 127:1 as mentioned last week.  These criteria for the members came to mind:  1) an active/registered parishioner who regularly attends and loves the Mass in our parish; 2) loves our Catholic community; 3) believes 100% of the authentic Catholic doctrine and loyal to the pope; 4) pledged to pray the Rosary regularly and come to Eucharistic Adoration whenever possible; 5) familiar with authentic Catholic architecture and liturgy; 6) active in adult Catholic faith formation offered by our parish; 7) has humility to respectfully work well with others and the desire to pray and fast to achieve our goals; and, 8) has the time to come to the meetings.  This explains why it took such a long time to form the building committee.

After months of observation I invited individually 2 men and 2 women that fit all these criteria.  To my amazement, all 4 accepted the invitation!  They had some hesitation at first because they didn’t feel worthy to be part of such an important project but to me that was a confirmation that God led me to the right group of humble parishioners.  We first met on Sunday, February 7, 2016 after the 12:30 PM Mass.  They didn’t all know each other very well at that time but had seen each other in the venues mentioned above.  Most parishioners may not readily recognize them (except perhaps one) because they stay very low key and none of them is the type that seeks recognition for anything.

Recognizing how important and serious the project is, we established some ground rules.  In the medieval days some groups were formed to create an atmosphere of spirituality, dedication and safe haven among their fellow skilled workers and formed a guild.  An online dictionary defines guild as “an organization, club, fellowship, association of people (especially in medieval Europe) sharing the same interests, such as merchants or artisans:  formed for mutual aid and protection and to maintain craft standards or pursue some other purpose such as communal worship.” All 5 of us adopted a “secret guild name” that we call each other when we meet, email, text or any communication when we undertake matters associated with the project.  A slip of calling someone by his or her real name (including me) results in an immediate recitation of the Hail Mary.  It didn’t take long for the members to get the hang of this!  You should have seen the look on the face of the diocesan official when I first introduced the guild members.  At first he thought our parishioners had odd names but it made sense after the explanation of the guild.

The Parish Pastoral and the Finance Councils are well aware of their existence since their formation and are 100% in support of them.  They’ve never met them but they are fully aware of everything including all the plans, diagrams and drawings.  They were quite fascinated by the talents and mystique of the guild.  In our 11-month existence no one has discovered their identity.  [They will also neither deny nor admit their guild participation—just like in the old days!]  The diocese and the council members have been amazed how much they have accomplished in such a short time.  Only Father Mullaney and a couple of the church staff members know their identity.  The guild would have been just as happy if no one ever found out who they are but I told them that the parish should eventually know them.  They agreed that after the bishop’s dedication of our new altar/sanctuary I could finally unmask them.  Some mistakenly thought they “stumbled” upon the guild members in church but likely only saw the guild’s consultants who sometimes meet and take measurements in church.  The guild meets in a secret location away from the church that has helped maintain the guild’s anonymity.  I’ll let you in on one of our secret codes.  Our mystery rendezvous is code-named:  THE CATACOMBS.  The guild has also developed a close spiritual bond between the members which has helped to work in a fun way and move things rather swiftly.

As weeks go by when we complete a particular project I will start letting the code names of the individuals to identify which one was deeply involved with that particular project even though we all chip in on every detail of the renovation.  One of those projects is due to be “fully operational” on March 1st (Ash Wednesday) and you’ll read about his/her code name soon.  The 2nd major project is due just in time for First Communion in early May and you’ll undoubtedly “hear” about this one too.

So here’s one of the guild’s big secret 50th anniversary gifts to the parish that I can reveal to you now.  The guild decided to have a consistent church design that is authentically related to the life of Saint Francis de Sales so that Salesian fans from everywhere would want to come and make a pilgrimage.  The consensus was to design it to the era of St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622).  This means the goal is to replicate the interior architecture and artwork of 16th century, counter-Reformation, French-baroque, with a large Jesuit style painting in the background where the new crucifix will be placed.

And drawing inspiration from St. Francis de Sales’ classic writing, Introduction to the Devout Life,” where he addressed the reader as “Philothea,” meaning the “lover of God,” the members have crafted the committee’s code name as, The Philothea Guild.

[In Part 3, I will tell you about 16th century Jesuit-style artwork and how with help from holy nuns not too far away will make two of the dead “come to life” after the renovation.]

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

January 15, 2017

40 Hours of Eucharistic Devotion

(January 27-29)

 

            The feast day of our patron, St. Francis de Sales is January 24.  The Church allows a parish to move it to a Sunday so that the faithful can celebrate it more fully so we’re moving ours to January 29.  In tribute to St. Francis as we near our parish’s 50th anniversary, we’re hosting what we believe is our parish’s 1st ever 40 Hours Eucharistic Adoration from January 27 to 29.  Please plan on spending some time to visit Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  This is a very powerful time for prayer so bring your special intentions with you in your heart and mind to Adoration.  Exposition of the Eucharist begins right after the Noon Mass on Friday, January 27.  This is the same day as the annual March for Life in D.C.  So if you cannot make it to the march you can at least stop by the church and offer prayers for the safety of the unborn and for the end of abortion.  The 40 Hours of Exposition will end at the 12:30 PM Mass on January 29.  Check the bulletin and our website for more details.

 

The Golden Anniversary Story

Part 3:  “Coming back to life”

 

            One of the lessons the Philothea Guild learned about 16th century and the counter-reformation era art was the unique Jesuit-style of church artwork. The Protestant movement that had sprung during St. Francis de Sales time was heavily influencing many to ban sacred images and statues and declaring them as idolatry.  Many Catholics became confused and some were drawn away from the faith.  One of the Jesuits’ ways to counter this was to offer a style of art that was very catechetical that vividly showed real images designed to explain Catholic teaching.  When you see a church sanctuary that has a large painting as a backdrop to the main altar, that’s likely a Jesuit-influenced art.

I’m enclosing a sample of a picture taken from the sanctuary of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Baltimore.  I visited this church last summer and the Jesuit pastor gladly gave me a history tour of his parish.  As you can see, the large the painting in the background shows St. Ignatius with the Holy Trinity.  Here’s Secret Gift #2 to the parish:  Our main altar painting will be similar in style with the images of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal looking towards the Holy Trinity.  These two saints were very close spiritually and co-founded the Visitation Order of nuns in 1610.

And here’s a bonus secret revealed in the same bulletin.  The Visitation Order of nuns in Baltimore got wind that we’re creating a prominent section of our sanctuary in honor of their founders and they were thrilled!  So here’s Secret Gift #3:  The nuns promised to donate to us a relic of St. Jane Frances de Chantal as a gift.  We already have a relic of St. Francis de Sales in the Oratory and we’re transferring that to the main church.  These two great saints both died in the first half of the 17th century and now their presence will once again “come alive” through the public veneration of their sacred remains.

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

January 22, 2017

 

We welcome and pray for our nation’s 45th elected president

 

            On the eve of November 7, 2016, we held a Mass/Adoration/Rosary/Divine Mercy vigil praying to God asking for His wisdom to help our nation elect the 45th president of the United States of America.  The result was the election of Mr. Donald J. Trump.  Last Thursday Mr. Trump was sworn in to lead our nation so let us now welcome our new president and pray for his guidance and success.

 

Annual March for Life this Friday

 

            Due to the inauguration, the annual March for Life will be held this Friday, January 27.  We have a full bus going to the march in Washington, DC to show our solidarity with others who have the goal of ending the killing of innocent unborn children through abortion.  If you are unable to make the trip please join in spiritually in prayer especially during 40 Hours Devotion.

 

40 Hours Devotion starts this Friday (Jan. 27)

 

            And don’t forget that our first Forty Hours Devotion starts this Friday after the Noon Mass.  The Holy Eucharist will be continually exposed for 40 hours ending at the 12:30 PM Mass on Sunday.  Please check the bulletin and website for details.  During Eucharistic Adoration is a very powerful time to pray for our new president, for the Pro-Life causes, and for all other personal intentions that are very important to us.  Don’t miss this golden opportunity.  We’re also moving the Feast of St. Francis de Sales (Jan. 24) to Sunday (Jan. 29) so that we can celebrate the weekend Masses in honor of our patron saint.

 

The Golden Anniversary Story

Part 4:  “Most Unique Pew Design”

 

            Last winter the top 2 recommended pew company reps in the U.S. were interviewed by The Philothea Guild to make their case why we should pick one of them to replace our broken-down pews.  The Guild wanted these criteria:  quality, beauty, durability, comfort & value.  Initially it was very difficult to decide which company to choose because both gave convincing presentations.  And their six-figure bid price was amazingly only $50 apart!  It turned out that the Guild’s choice, New Holland, was the correct company as we learned later from other churches’ testimonies that their craftsmanship is superior over others. 

We also enjoyed rapport with the rep who is very spiritual and leads Christian missions.  The Guild gave him a code name (1st Guild Secret Code Name of a person revealed to you) that he loves very much:  Hiram.”  In the Bible, King Hiram I was the king and friend of King David who supplied architects, carpenters and wood for the building of his palaces and later Solomon’s Temple (2 Samuel 5, 1 Kings 5, 1 Chronicles 14).  Hiram told us that in the 20+ years of working with churches worldwide, our design was the most unique he’s ever seen.  Instead of having just one end pew design, as universally done in churches, the Guild have 3 alternating designs.  He liked them so much that he had the designs made for himself to hang in his home!  He also promised to postpone his retirement until after attending our newly renovated church dedication.  Here’ Secret Gift #4:  The three End Pew Designs are: IHS, M+ & V+J.  IHS = the first 3 letters of Jesus in Greek.  M+ = Our Blessed Mother’s symbol found on the back of the Miraculous MedalV+J = “Vive Jesus”, which means, “Live Jesus.”  This was St. Francis de Sales’ trademark signature and motto found in many of his writings.  2 of the 3 designs are found on the sample pew in the sanctuary that you are welcome to examine.  The Guild’s choice of wood is the durable European beech.  We’re blessed that all 56 pews already have pledged donors.  The diocese finalized our contract with New Holland to purchase the pews just before the end of December and escaped the 5% 2017 price hike.  Everyone who pledged for the pew (and the porcelain floor tiles around them) may now send us the payment (payable to St. Francis de Sales for 3K—mark “pew donation” on the memo).  Pews are due to be installed on September 1st.  Next week I will reveal the new pew arrangements for the 56 pews in church.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

January 29, 2017

 

Happy Saint Francis de Sales Day!

 

            We moved the celebration of St. Francis de Sales from January 24 to January 29 this year so that we can celebrate our patron’s solemnity on a Sunday when more parishioners can celebrate his feast at Mass.  I hope you were able to participate in this weekend’s 40 Hours Eucharistic Adoration as part of the celebration.  You are also invited to a reception/party for St. Francis de Sales immediately after the end of the Sunday 12:30 PM Mass/40 Hours Devotion.  See you there!

 

The Golden Anniversary Story

Part 5:  “Layout of the new pews”

 

            While some churches report of shrinking attendance, our parish continues to steadily grow.  Now the capacity of the church built 25 years ago is seriously challenged.  Unless we “miraculously” acquire the neighboring property, it is not physically possible to increase the size of the church (county setback/parking spaces rultes, etc.).  The Philothea Guild and Hiram (if you don’t know him then you obviously skipped last week’s bulletin!) creatively figured out a way to max out the church’s seating.

Although the main church is rated to seat 495, current seating arrangement only seats about 460.  Dead spaces occupy sections of the church.  The floor music area, which is used only for the Teen Mass, takes up a lot of unused space.  Moving the confessionals into the projected mini-church extension would also add more seating.  The new pew arrangement should bring our seating back up to 495.  Take a look at Secret Gift #5:  New Church Pew Layout in this week’s bulletin.

In case you’re wondering what’s going to happen to the fate of our musicians, they are not leaving.  The renovation that began on January 18 was to first address the music ministry.  The choir loft has been sectioned off to the public and is getting a major facelift to make room for all the Mass musicians to move into the choir loft.  It is getting redesigned to make it choir & instrumentalist friendly…plus, for a secret surprise!

Here are major clues to really get you geared up for next month.  Consider these as St. Valentine’s gifts.  You may recall from my recent announcement at church that the Philothea Guild will be unveiling and making operational their 1st major secret anniversary gift to the parish at the end of February; the one that the whole town will hear about.  23 parishioners [Hint:  all girls] were secretly given preliminary training 3 weeks ago to make this “game changing” project to work.  I commend them for being extremely good at keeping a tight lid on this.  But I can share with you that they love and were amazed with their new duty and can’t wait to surprise you when they execute it starting March 1st.

Roughly 2 weeks after, the Guild will reveal a 2nd major secret blockbuster gift that is scheduled to arrive much sooner than we anticipated.  If all goes well, this stunning gift will amaze you and could be operational in time for Holy Week but definitely by Confirmation & First Communion in May.  Anyway, when you hear of it you’ll understand why we had to rush through getting the choir loft project done.

 

From “Oratory” to “Chapel”

 

            The transition to move the weekday Masses into the chapel during construction has been a very pleasant experience.  Parishioners have enjoyed a closer bonding with others being in a smaller room and closer to the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass.  One even said that it was reminiscent of the persecuted Christians secretly celebrating a spiritually intimate Mass in small hidden rooms.  Traditionally, an “oratory” is a sacred place reserved for prayers, such as the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, but not for the celebration of Mass.  Since we’re now celebrating Mass there we’ll revert back to calling this room a chapel.  We also have “BIG” new plans for the chapel that the Philothea Guild believes you will all like when you hear about it—guaranteed!  It will also have a new name.  Some may describe it as “revolutionary.”  It’s in the latter part of the list so we’ll save this surprise for another day.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

February 5, 2017

 

Very successful 40 Hours Devotion Debut!

 

            Thank you to all the organizers and participants of the 40 Hours Eucharistic Adoration!  We had such a great success that we’re looking forward to next time.  From 12:30 PM Friday (Jan. 27) thru 2 PM Sunday (Jan. 29) we had a continuous exposition of Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  We only reposed while Mass was being celebrated.  Historically, great amazing things happen when a parish offers this devotion so we can only expect more blessings to what we’ve been getting already.  It was very inspiring to see the love for Jesus in the Eucharist from lots of parishioners.  We were also blessed to have confreres of Father Jeremy Lambert, LC, join us for a couple of the days.  Over 30 Legionaries of Christ seminarians joined us on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Unbelievable week of Pro-Life successes

 

            For the 44th year the annual March for Life was held in Washington, DC to peacefully and prayerfully protest the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion in the U.S.  Many in our nation, including our leaders and “pretend” Catholics who identify as “pro-choice” (that means they acknowledge that women has the right to kill their unborn baby) support this unjust law that has led to the murder of nearly 60 million babies!  However, after the inauguration of our new president we’ve had some blessings that have come along our way that supposedly “surprised” some Americans.  Like him or not, President Donald Trump, has already moved towards rolling back the rapid pro-abortion advances made by his predecessor the past 8 years by issuing an executive order to cut off funding for abortion to foreign organizations that promote & perform abortion as part of their program, worked on defunding Planned Parenthood (largest abortion provider in the U.S.), heavily criticized the media on national TV (ABC News) for ignoring coverage of the large gathering of people for the March for Life, announced a very strong pro-life Supreme Court nominee (Neil Gorsuch), and has come out publicly in support of religious liberty.  Hey, that’s not bad for someone who’s only been in office for 2 weeks and has been unfairly “demonized”!  Also, Vice-president Mike Pence personally attended and spoke at the March for Life and made history.  This was the 1st time that either a president or vice-president personally attended the event.  He brought warmth to the hearts of the people when he promised to bring the pro-life cause to the forefront of the Executive Office.  If you’ve been watching the news, so far, everything that both Trump and Pence promised on the campaign trail have been rolling out very fast!  I want to thank Sue Cypher and all the organizers and participants of the March for Life from our parish.  Great work you’re doing and we hope to expand more of our mission to protect life in all stages.

 

The Golden Anniversary Story

Part 6:  “What’s going on behind the choir loft?”

 

            Many have been wondering what is the mysterious work taking place behind the closed off choir loft covered with dust protection.  So after describing last week that the loft is being contoured to make it choir and musical instrumentalist friendly, I decided to “leak” a snapshot of this area.  Here’s Secret Gift #6 [Look for the picture in the bulletin.]

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

February 12, 2017

 

The Golden Anniversary Story

Part 7:  “No Quasimodo…no problem!”

 

            It will be 8 years this coming February 18 when I first arrived at Saint Francis de Sales parish.  Several times I’ve been asked why we don’t ring the church bells.  When I first got here the bell mechanism was jammed and did not work.  After it was repaired, ringing the bell was very inconvenient because you have to climb up to the tower to ring it.  To keep others from unauthorized use of the bells, someone rigged the rope so that it could only be rung after climbing up a ladder in the bell tower.  You pretty much needed a full-time ringer like Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame to operate the bell.  Regardless, it would be nice if we could ring the church bell again especially during the 50th anniversary year of our parish.  Enter:  a new challenge for the Philothea Guild!

            One of the secret Guild members served several years in the U.S. military and is used to rappelling from cliffs and buildings.  This member was perfect for the task of making the church bell operational.  Taking the secret code name of “HOSANNA” (3rd secret code name revealed but the 1st for a Guild member), which comes from the Mass: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts (aka “heavenly army of angels”) Hosanna in the highest.”  This Guild member researched and found that the Verdin Company (4th code name revealed:  BELL) could accomplish our mission.  They are a 175 year-old family-owned American company from Cincinnati.  BELL climbed the tower with HOSANNA to do an analysis and reported back to the Guild with the results.  Various options were presented and with HOSANNA’S recommendation we decided to install…Secret Gift #7:  the affordable Sonata Digital Electronic Carillon System that delivers the closest sound to the real church bells.  Now you understand why I said that when this new change is implemented the “whole town will hear about it!”

Because this system can be programmed to play on its own and has a manual remote control, we have the ability to ring the church bells on demand for specific occasions.  E.g., we can do a 5-minute warning (or any minute) before Mass starts and also ring them simultaneously during the consecration when the altar server rings the bell.  And who gets the special duty of ringing the church bells for these special times of the Mass?  Secret Gift #8:  The Junior Altar Women Society (JAS)!  There’s no need to hire a “Quasimodo” because all 22 JAS members were present last month for their ranking ceremony and received their preliminary training on how to manually operate the church bells.  They were thrilled and honored of their brand-new duty!  They have been so good in keeping this secret and now they can freely talk about it.  Next week I will give more fun details, the many functions of the bells, and how the Guild took a leap of faith to fund the new bell system.  But for now, let me tell you about our great JAS!

 

Recognizing the JAS in a ranking ceremony

 

            The Junior Altar Women Society (JAS) is now on its 8th year with 22 members. 

You see them before and after Mass in their distinctive white scapular uniform with the parish logo and ranking badge as they work quietly in support of the most important prayer and worship service in the Catholic Church—the Mass.

            Here’s JAS history in a nutshell.  JAS was officially formed on September 26, 2010 to complement the service of the altar boys.  I originally coined the name “Junior Altar Women Society” (a younger version of the Altar Women Society found in many parishes) but gave the new girls-only ministry an opportunity to pick a different name.  They liked the name but disagreed on their acronym and asked for a vote.  Some remarked that JAWS sounded a bit too “ferocious” but the others liked it.  The tally came down to a 1-vote majority in favor of JAS.  [I would have been okay with JAWS because these dedicated young ladies are really sharp-minded.  They are fast learners and very good with details.]  JAS is open to practicing Catholic girls 5th grade and up.  Younger ones are considered admission if they can demonstrate readiness for the liturgical details of the Mass.  Mrs. Laura Burgess, head of the Mass coordinators, does most of the JAS training.

JAS works with the Mass coordinators making sure that the Roman Missal and the Lectionary are properly marked for the priest to celebrate the Liturgy.  They prepare the sacred vessels such as the chalice, ciboria, patens and the sacred linens.  You may see them scanning the congregation doing a head count just before Mass.  This gives them an idea how many communion hosts are needed for the priests to consecrate.  They check to make sure all the necessary personnel for the Mass are accounted for:  priest, altar servers, Eucharistic ministers, and lector.  They also prep the families that bring the gifts to the altar and when needed they work as backup ushers.  Now they will also ring the church bells.

            The Junior Altar Women Society are unique volunteers.  They love what they do and take great pride in their work.  Through their ministry they learn the intricate details of the Mass more than most Catholics will ever know.  The priests appreciate what they do and give us the confidence that all we need to do is put on our vestments and we’re ready to start.  It is also our hope that these girls and the altar boys in their special sanctuary ministry will be inspired to be open to the priesthood or religious life and, at the very least, be always active in the parish.

            The 1st annual JAS Ranking Ceremony was held on January 8, 2017 to recognize their years of service by receiving their badge and merit pins.  The number of years in service determines their rank and identifies their high/low ranking for the Mass.  The rank determines who gets to be “First or Second Belle” to sound the bells for the Mass (did you catch the play on words?).  More pictures and explanation of the JAS rankings plus fun info that will “stun” you regarding the church bells in next week’s bulletin.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

February 19, 2017

 

The Golden Anniversary Story

Part 8:  “More than just a bell…ding-dong!”

 

            Are you aware of the immense value of hearing the sound of church bells?  In the midst of worldly preoccupation, the bells instill in our souls the presence of God and that his heavenly house on earth is only within an earshot.  For Catholics, the Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus and the ringing of the bells reminds us of our proximity to both the spiritual and physical presence of God.  It is an invitation to pray and even visit Him.  The pleasant sound of striking metals make even non-believers ponder about God and Catholics who planned skipping Mass that Sunday reexamine their plans for the day.  Those who are going through difficulties in life, the sacred sound of the bells gives them hope that God has not forgotten them and their petitions.

            Church bells have played an important role even in the secular society for centuries.  In the U.S. alone, the bells were used during the Colonial era to summon the militia to warn and defend against an advancing army.  They have also been used as the town’s clock and as an alarm to warn the people against fire, storms, intruders, robbers, etc.  The church bells have been an important part of history and has helped save countless of lives.  Because the use of bells is an exercise of religious freedom and have played an iconic role in our nation, church bells in America (and many other nations) are exempt from cities and towns’ noise ordinance laws.

            Acquiring newly cast bronze bells that can play different tunes like the carillon style are very expensive.  However, due to digital electronics, low-budget churches (like ours) now have the ability to replicate the sound of medieval cathedral bells at a fraction of the cost.  That’s what our new Sonata Digital Electronic Carillon System can do.  We will have the harmonious classic sound of multiple church bells that can play hundreds of hymns from the Catholic inventory and even time them seasonally (e.g., Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, etc.).  Included are bells for funeral tolls, Taps (for military), wedding peals, and other occasions.  Still, the least expensive price tag for this system (installed) was a shade under $10k.  For a parish still $3M in debt doing renovation, this is no loose change.

The Guild and I were aware we didn’t have the money originally budgeted for this.  But we knew the parishioners have been clamoring for the sound of bells so we took the leap of faith and ordered the system on the final week of 2016 to avoid the new year price hike.  Our parish was barely able to afford the $4k+ down payment coming from our operating account and just hoped God would provide for the rest.  Dear people of God, get ready for what I’m about to share with you.  It is so amazing it could make your eardrums ring with vertigo.

One of the families last Sunday loved hearing of the newly revealed secret church bells and that the Junior Altar Women Society (JAS) will have a major role operating it.  They decided to give us…Secret Gift #9$10,000 to pay for the entire system!  This happened on the day I was leaving for a 6-day silent priests’ retreat in WV.  My soul was silenced by this great act of generosity from these God-sent benefactors for whom we are most grateful.  The Guild’s leap of faith really paid off big time!  Praise the Lord…Amen.  Alleluia!!!  [Next Sunday you’ll read in the next Secret Gift how the Guild acted on another big leap of faith.]

 

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

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37730 St. Francis Court

Purcellville, VA  20132

 

In case of emergency 540-338-6440

 

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

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