From Our Pastor ~ July 6, 2014

From Our Pastor ~ July 6, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Hope everyone is having a great 4th of July holiday weekend. Usually about this time of the year we reach our lowest attendance point, so many people are traveling. If you do the math, with about eight vacationable weeks in the summer, if everyone takes two weeks of vacation, that means that as much as 1/4 of the parish could be gone at any one moment throughout the summer! According to my estimate, we are about 1,500 people short all summer long. No wonder there are so many seats, latecomers are getting spoiled!

I love hearing about everyone’s travel plans. I don’t have any this summer except for the occasional meeting and overnight trip. But later in the year we do have a couple of trips in the planning stage, and we’re wondering if you are interested:

Trip idea #1.
Some people have wondered if we might be going to Italy this fall. I had originally considered going to Rome for the diaconate ordination of our parishioner, Joe Farrell, and now that our current seminarian Rich Miserendino is also waiting for the call, we have double the reason to go. My time is limited, though, so I would be with you for part of the trip. Here is a possible itinerary. Starting around September 22, there could be a motor coach tour starting from southern Italy. There are so many treasures to be found in the area around Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast and Naples. I
would be able to meet up with you in Rome early in the week of September 29, and tour Rome for a few days. We could attend the ordination at St. Peter on Thursday, October 2, and I would return on the 3rd. You, of course, could take advantage of the weekend and spend a day or two in Orvieto in Tuscany, or Assisi. If you are interested in a trip like this, we need to talk quickly. Call Margaret Ford (our parish tour coordinator) at 373-6900. Flights are steep right now and we would need a good group to try to secure a good rate.

Trip idea #2.
I’ve blocked off the days March 3-14 in my calendar for a parish trip to the Holy Land. In order to see all the things we normally see on our trips to Israel/Palestine and Jordan we would need a few days more than this. We propose that the trip start a few days before I arrive. The group can visit Tel Aviv, Acre, the Dead Sea, Masada and Qumran, and I’ll meet up with you in Galilee (sound familiar?) where we will see all the holy sites surrounding the sea, Nazareth, Cana, and Mt. Tabor. Then wego south together to Jericho, Bethlehem and Jerusalem for several days, before crossing into Jordan to the baptism site, Mt. Nebo, Petra, the desert and other favorites. If you are interested in this idea, also please call Margaret and let her know and we can start planning now.

In the meantime, I invite anyone who would like to join me in visiting the HOA NGHIEM Buddhist temple at Ft. Belvoir on Saturday evening, July 12. We are invited to join the community for a light vegetarian meal together, then view a screening of the American opera “The Tale of Lady Thi Kinh.” This opera is about Quan Am Thi Kinh, the Vietnamese Avalokiteshvara who is revered for her forbearance and compassion. Critically acclaimed, and written by Vietnamese music professor Dr. Phan Quang Phuc at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, it has received great reviews. Don’t worry, subtitles are in English.

Let me know quickly if you want to go.
May God bless you.

Fr. Don

Diocesan WorkCamp 2014

Diocesan WorkCamp 2014

Express Announcements ~ June 29, 2014

Express Announcements ~ June 29, 2014

Please note in your calendar, there is only one Mass at 10am on July 4th, and the usual 8pm Mass and adoration is canceled for the holiday. Those looking for first Friday Mass are encouraged to be sure and join us at 10am.

Looking ahead to the Taize Prayer Service in July, please note that the normally scheduled July 14 service has been moved one week earlier to Monday, July 7th.

Coffee and Donuts (often) are available after Sunday morning Masses in the Parish Life Center. Join us!

SCRIP is on sale this weekend in the Parish Life Center after all Masses except Saturday 7pm and Sunday 2pm. Please use SCRIP and help our school.

From Our Pastor ~ June 29, 2014

From Our Pastor ~ June 29, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

I was thinking about the prayer we are praying every day (p. 6) for the Fortnight for Freedom and there is one part of a line that catches my attention, that part in which we ask for courage to make our voices heard “on behalf of the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.”

I marvel at the way in which this statement is at once simple and profound. It isn’t a demand for special treatment, or seeking an affirmation for a judgment that “we” are right and “they” are wrong. It has nothing to do with what is considered by divisive spirits to be “liberal” or “conservative” according to today’s tyranny of opinion and self-interest.

It is a plea for the basic right to live in the most simple of ways as human beings who seek to be persons of faith and morals. It has long been the perennial teaching of the Church that persons have a right to know (freedom of education) and free to apply that knowledge to our human acts according to our own properly formed consciences: to do good and avoid evil is a personal choice.

But the key point is the formation of conscience. To be a person of integrity, the Church teaches, you must make choices according to your own conscience. You form it, you follow it. The same option may yield different results between different persons with equivalent integrity. Looking around today, how many people do you recognize as being properly formed in the moral life?

Further, there is no such thing as self-formation for relational persons (you can’t make it up on your own); we rely on truth, goodness and beauty as the transendent ideals to which we seek ascent, and this formation comes from outside of us. We are shaped by our life experiences and the persons with whom we share our earthly spaces, above all, by the revelation of a loving God. As always, this right to freely choose comes with a corresponding duty: to be able to follow your conscience, you must do all in your power to make sure that you are properly formed in truth and virtue.

It is at this point that the argument usually stalls out. How dare you presume to tell me whether or not I have properly formed as a moral person and judge my choices? But you see, guidance isn’t what the prayer is about. That is the next step. We’re still at the starting point of being able to make the choice at all.

The whole issue about religious liberty isn’t about freedom to be right or wrong. It is about whether or not we actually are provided the freedom to choose. Can a person be forced by law to act against their conscience?

Isn’t it remarkable and bizarre that the whole pro-choice argument suddenly becomes ours? Freedom to worship also means freedom to not worship. Freedom to do the wrong thing also means freedom to do the right thing. Otherwise it isn’t freedom.

But that freedom must not be taken away.

It is a complex meditation about the love of God, actually, and the age-old question: Why does God permit sin? Because if he didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to freely choose not to sin, and we would be slaves. But God loves us so much that he wants us to freely choose to love him, not be forced to do so.

Early on in the religious liberty debates over the HHR Mandate the press derailed the Church’s message by short-circuiting the Church’s position, convincing the world that the Church’s position was trying to enforce right over wrong. Sadly, it seems that the world bought it. But if we are praying for the courage to make our voices heard on behalf of “freedom of conscience for people of all faiths” it is clear that we are merely asking for the basic right to at least choose what we believe to be right, and not be left with only the slavery of choosing that which is wrong. Keep praying!

May God bless you.

Fr. Don