From Our Pastor ~ January 25, 2015

From Our Pastor ~ January 25, 2015

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

I hope everyone has had a chance to sit quietly in church at some point this week, or maybe this coming week, to just sit, consider the power of the Presence of Jesus among us, surrounded by all the children and gifts that cover the walls. There is a holiness in this “community” that I have not experienced before. A holiness that is filled with love, and hope and expectation, and possibility.

Never say “the youth are the future of our Church.” It ignores the present moment in which we live together. The youth are as much a part of the present moment as anyone else. Why spend time thinking about what might be? When we can be enlivened and thankful and filled with hope for what is. The youth are the present of our Church.

We are confronted with the many faces and many gifts that are the people of God. I think it is probably a whole lot easier for a child to recognize his or her gifts and celebrate them. Adults become encrusted with all kinds of opinions and expectations they have for themselves, and others have of them, that have shaped us into a group of doubters. One year I filled in at St. Leo elementary school in Fairfax as the art teacher until we could hire a new one. My first day I asked, “How many of you are artists?” In kindergarten and first grade all the hands shot up. Second grade, doubt had begun to enter. By fourth grade maybe one-fourth of the students admitted their creative ability. By eighth grade maybe one uncomfortable student would look around to see if anyone was judging them and raise their hand halfway. I asked the rest why there were no artists in the room. Most answers were like this: “My friends / parents / teachers told me I’m not an artist.” “My friends / parents / teachers told me I can’t sing.” They must have been friends / parents / teachers who didn’t understand what it was to be a friend or parent or teacher!

Is it any wonder that Jesus says that unless we become like children we will not enter the kingdom of heaven? Not because children have it all figured out or have the secret of sanctity. They just love, and live in the possibility. When God says something that might seem unlikely to our adult ears, they can allow wonder and pay closer attention.

This week I have intentionally asked people what gifts they have that make them uniquely who they are. You know, the whole “no two snowflakes are exactly alike” thing, only applied to people. We are distinct and unique not because of our fingerprints, but because of the combination of gifts each of us has received. The call is the same. To holiness, to fulfillment, satisfaction and fullness of life, and joy. The way each of us responds by using the gifts we have received is what makes each of us different.

So I asked people the question about their gifts. And the number one answer was, “I don’t know.” Some said they doubted that there was anything that made them special at all. Most probably didn’t realize that a gift isn’t just something you like to do or are good at – but a tangible way that God has chosen for each of us to be instruments of his love, to help our world, our brothers and sisters, all those who seek what is good – to touch the Mystery of God. To be servants after the heart of Jesus.

We have lived our lives, and are teaching our youth to think the same way we have, as if what is real and God’s will is always something out of reach, something yet to be, some state of future perfection. The problem with this thinking is that it will never happen. We will always be dissatisfied, most will give up after a while, a long while or a short while.

But what if you really believed that God has already given you everything you need? He has. You are who you are, who you always will be. He has given us his divine life in baptism, a call as a member of the Body of Christ to share in his mission, the gifts of the Holy Spirit to accomplish a life’s work, free avenues of reconciliation and mercy, and perfect Communion with God. Is there more?

The way to start this awareness of the new life we have already received is to look into ourselves and see how God is calling, according to the gifts he gave us, which make us who we are. It isn’t mysterious, any more than we can say what color of eyes we have and what our favorite food is.

I imagine a Church where people live fully in their gifts for the glory of God, and nothing is a chore or burden. They say that there are no volunteers in the Kingdom of God, just people who are living out the call that they have received. Because it is who we are. May all of us begin to build this Kingdom on earth, living with youthful hope to look not at some undefined future moment, but to know the love of God now and live in it, and care.

God bless you.

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ January 18, 2015

Express Announcements ~ January 18, 2015

* This weekend is the Council of Catholic Women’s Baby Shower to benefit our local Pro-Life groups. Please bring unwrapped gifts to the Parish Life Center before and after all Masses (and at HCA). Monetary donations MUST be in the form of a check made payable to the organization of your choice (Mary’s Shelter, Birthright, Catholic Charities, or Paul Stefan Homes).

* Buses for the March for Life Rally depart Saint Mary following the 9am Mass.

* You will not want to miss the Called and Gifted Workshop St. Mary is hosting Friday, February 6, and Saturday, February 7. Please register! Click on the link on the front page of our website and join us.

* SCRIP is on sale this weekend in the Parish Life Center after most Masses. Please use SCRIP and help our school.

Looking Ahead:

* Upcoming Events January 25-31, • Catholic Schools Week

* January 27, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity prayer with Bishop Loverde at Mount Olivet UMC in Arlington

* January 29, Catholic Advocacy Day in Richmond. Register online at www.vacatholic.org

From Our Pastor ~ January 18, 2015

From Our Pastor ~ January 18, 2015

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

A big part of living faith is standing up and being a witness to how that faith is lived faithfully in our modern world. In the next two weeks we will have real time opportunities to make that faith visible, to walk and talk the Gospel in how it guides us in our daily lives.

Of course, the first obvious example is the March for Life this Thursday, February 22. There is probably still room on a bus; we always order two just in case and end up using only one. Sign up quickly. If you have never gone, you must try it even if only once. The powerful message of the Gospel lived by so many present, who silently witness to the gift of life and how it is so disregarded in our world today is a remarkable event. No doubt once again this year it will be underreported, the estimated size of the crowd will be reported again and again as much smaller than reality, and the message will be distorted according to various editorial agendas.
Every other protest this year will be reported, and re-reported; this one will largely be ignored again. Our legislators will take the day off. But the message is still clear, that we must value and reverence the life that is given to us by God and the administration of death must stop. Unfortunately, God has been left out of the deliberation process, as if he were some sort of intellectual fashion. Well, that is the pride of man that has gotten us into a mess ever since Adam and Eve. If you go to the March, just be present, be humble and sincere, and pray for conversion, beginning with ourselves. Take heart,the tide is turning, I believe, through the generous and prophetic work of so many people, our own people like Kathleen Wilson at Mary’s Shelter and the Bereit family and their gift of 40 Days for Life. They have made their voices clear and strong, and we are blessed that they are right here as brothers and sisters of our own at Saint Mary. I have learned so much from them.

One of the most unnoticed events, it seems, is Catholic Advocacy Day in Richmond a week from Thursday, January 29. At such an opportunity when we gather with our bishops and discuss the issues of law and society, and then have the opportunity to take the message of our faith and conscience in person to our lawmakers — I’m always amazed how only a few of us go year after year.

Yet, a good showing of Catholics can make a difference in how our state legislators consider bills and act to defend life, care for the poor and immigrants, defend marriage and build strong families, promote parental choice in education and uphold religious freedom, among other issues for the common good.

These are critical issues to our culture and the Catholic voice is needed so badly to provide balance in the deliberations of our leaders as they consider issues and votes. This is how nobody can say they didn’t know what we Catholics believe, and how
many of us there are in constituencies in Virginia!

You can find a complete list of the Virginia Catholic Conference agenda in this week’s Arlington Herald, and register at their website, www.vacatholic.org  Catholic Advocacy Day is always held on the last Thursday in January after the General Session has begun. Last year about 275 people attended from the dioceses of Richmond and Arlington, much fewer from Arlington. The day begins with breakfast and welcoming remarks from Bishops DiLorenzo and Loverde, followed by prayer and briefings on proposed state policies in the areas of concern. After the briefings, participants from Catholic churches and schools throughout Virginia meet in groups to discuss the issues, then head to the General Assembly building for constituent visits at legislators’ offices. Afterwards, Mass, lunch, and a debriefing are held at nearby St. Peter Church.

If we don’t speak about what we believe, nobody will. Nobody will know any better.

Finally, the other, next opportunity to live the Gospel is personal. You may be wondering why I keep mentioning it, it is because I believe that the Called and Gifted Workshop February 6 and 7 is going to make a real difference in how you live your life as a baptized Christian seeking your path in the world today, serving God and others. How can you know your focus if you don’t know the concrete ways God is calling you to act through the gifts he has already given you, perhaps some you aren’t even aware of, or have taken for granted? So far about 100 parishioners at Saint Mary have begun the process. To date, only about 75 people have registered, though many are telling me that they are coming and haven’t done it yet. The Diocese has asked if they can invite leaders from all the parishes to attend, so it is important to register soon if you plan to come. The deadline is Wednesday, January 28 so we will know how many chairs we can give away to others who may be interested. Please come.

God bless you.

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ January 11, 2015

Express Announcements ~ January 11, 2015

* Religious Freedom Day 2015: Today (Sunday) is the 238th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s writing the later First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution here in Fredericksburg. Come: 2pm at the monument on Washington Boulevard (see p. 8).

* You will not want to miss the Called and Gifted Workshop St. Mary is hosting Friday, February 6, and Saturday, February 7. Please register! Click on the link on the front page of our website and join us.

* SCRIP is on sale this weekend in the Parish Life Center after most Masses. Please use SCRIP and help our school.

Looking Ahead:

* On January 17 and 18, the Council of Catholic Women will host a baby shower to benefit our local Pro-Life groups: Mary’s Shelter, Birthright, Catholic Charities, and Paul Stefan Homes. Unwrapped gifts will be accepted after all Masses.

* Upcoming Events

• January 22, March for Life

• January 25-31, Catholic Schools Week

• January 27, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity w/Bishop Loverde at Mount Olivet UMC in Arlington

• January 29, Catholic Advocacy Day in Richmond