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Announcements ~ February 24, 2019

A Women’s Group is forming again at St. B!  Women of the parish are invited to a social meeting on Sunday, February 24 from 3–5pm in the Bradican Room. Refreshments will be served! Please come and meet your fellow parishioners and join in the conversation about how we can get to know each other better!
 
Saint Bernadette’s new subscription to Word on Fire’s ENGAGE is your doorway to all the Word on Fire materials:  text saintbern to 84576 to join our parish account and receive updates and notices of what is happening in our parish community!
 
It’s time for each and every registered family to consider how they plan to support the work of the Catholic Church in the annual Bishop’s Lenten Appeal: “Together in the Light of Christ.” Please prayerfully consider making a pledge to this important appeal that funds many programs and ministries that serve the people in our diocese. Commitment Sunday will be March 2-3 at all Masses. Your generosity is what makes our Church’s response possible.
 
Inclement weather policy: Saint Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. Please take this policy into account when scheduling use of Parish facilities during winter months.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ February 24, 2019

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Announcements ~ February 17, 2019

fleur cross logo A Women’s Group is forming again at St. B!  Women of the parish are invited to a social meeting on Sunday, February 24 from 3–5pm in the Bradican Room. Refreshments will be served! Please come and meet your fellow parishioners and join in the conversation about how we can get to know each other better!
 
fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette’s new subscription to Word on Fire’s ENGAGE is your doorway to all the Word on Fire materials:  text saintbern to 84576 to join our parish account and receive updates and notices of what is happening in our parish community!
 
fleur cross logo It’s time for each and every registered family to consider how they plan to support the work of the Catholic Church in the annual Bishop’s Lenten Appeal: “Together in the Light of Christ.” Please prayerfully consider making a pledge to this important appeal that funds many programs and ministries that serve the people in our diocese. Commitment Sunday will be March 2-3 at all Masses. Your generosity is what makes our Church’s response possible.
 
fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy: St. Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. Please take this policy into account when scheduling use of Parish facilities during winter months.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ February 17, 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Last week all the pastors of the diocese met with Bishop for our annual meeting to talk about what is happening in the parishes and various difficulties and trends that we should address.  Of course, the abuse scandals of the Church were painfully in the foreground of everyone’s thoughts, and we could tell that Bishop Burbidge carries a heavy burden of responsibility.  He said that the diocese has been reviewing all the clergy files and that there would be a report coming out soon of all credible accusations which have been made since the foundation of the diocese in the early 70s as well as from the time before, when we were all the diocese of Richmond. 

He spoke about the pew counts which were made again last October, and that the numbers were pretty consistent.  On the average, about 30% of Catholics attended Mass on those Sundays of October, with as much as a 3% drop in attendance seen in some parishes.  At Saint Bernadette, our number was more like 25%, same as last year, but I don’t think we have dropped in our attendance over the past year.  If anything, it seems like maybe more people are coming.

Many pastors voiced the idea that they believed their parish registration rolls were inflated, for a couple of reasons.  One of these is that so many families today register only because it is required to receive baptism, confirmation or eucharist, or to be married in the church, or serve as a godparent or sponsor for someone else who is receiving a sacrament.  So many of these families never participate in the life of the parish community at Mass.  It seemed to me that our situation was common among the other parishes:  of our 4,000 families there are 2,200 who we do not have record of contributing to the parish at all.  I raised my hand and brought up the topic of families who are registered in more than one parish, and asked if there might be some way we could encourage people to register in only one parish.  We have four parishes within four miles of us in each direction, and the attendance, though it may be fluid, shouldn’t mean that people are registered everywhere.  Some families from elsewhere registered here to take advantage of the now-discontinued in-parish break on school tuition.

One pastor said that, during the past year, he simply placed all those people in an “inactive” category and no longer counted them as part of the number of registered families.  Actually, in my travels, I have found that this is pretty common.  But what bothers me about this thinking is – what if people are really poor?  We have to still be here for all the people.  Canon law says that pastors are responsible not only for the Catholics in the parish, but all souls who live within the canonical boundaries of the parish.

The conversation went around the room a couple more times, and finally one pastor stood up and suggested that we look at these families not as a problem, but as an opportunity for doing some real evangelization work.  What if, he suggested, we could set up associations in our parishes whose ministry was simply to call up the families we haven’t heard from lately?  Sure, some of them will say they aren’t members anymore.  We would slowly get a clearer idea of how many families we truly have.  But more importantly, we would show that we cared to know who our people are.  What if someone is out there just wishing someone would call?  By our reaching out to them we could become more keenly aware of what our family needs, and who we are. 

It got me wondering.  Do you think there might be a group of people who would be willing to do this most valuable work?  Re-populating the Church just showing a little kindness?  It might take months, but it would be very rewarding work.  At the end of each day you would know that you did something positive to build up the kingdom of God here among us, so much beyond just complaining about it.

All churches are facing the same crisis of faith and asking the question how do we evangelize the unaffiliated?  How do we do the work of reconciliation to welcome home people who, for whatever reason, left?  I believe that there is no reason good enough to take our faith out of our hands.  I believe that down deep people are people wired for faith and long for something to enter their lives and transform them with meaning and purpose.  We all know on a deep, visceral level that we weren’t put on this earth to be alone.  God calls us, and we are to call upon each other to be his Community of Three made visible in our community of 11,000.

Perhaps this can be a first invitation to you if you find yourself away at the present time.  We are not complete as the Body of Christ in Springfield without all the members present and accounted for.  There is nothing that can rob us of the love of Christ and the love that we are to give each other.  It is our responsibility; it is our identity.
 
God bless you.

Announcements ~ February 10, 2019

fleur cross logo It’s time for each and every registered family to consider how they plan to support the work of the Catholic Church in the annual Bishop’s Lenten Appeal: “Together in the Light of Christ.” Please prayerfully consider making a pledge to this important appeal that funds many programs and ministries that serve the people in our diocese. Commitment Sunday will be March 23-24 at all Masses. Your generosity is what makes our Church’s response possible.
 
fleur cross logo Year-end Giving Statements have been mailed. Please contact the parish office if you have any questions.
 
fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy: St. Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. Please take this policy into account when scheduling use of Parish facilities during winter months.
 

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ February 10, 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Writing this column today it is Tuesday. 70 degrees or more, an all-time record. Less than a week ago, record cold with wind-chills that could flash freeze your face if it weren’t covered up. We live the extremes. The most rain in one year in all recorded history. The most fires, intense storms, record flooding and earthquakes. The longest government shutdown in our history. The deepest divide in our society, the greatest confusion of the difference between right and wrong.

I don’t know if we are experiencing the lowest level of religious or racial tolerance in history, but what seems to be the most constant thing about us now is that we continue to exceed expectations with regard to our indifference. Is it possible that our indifference is more of a survival tactic in the face of such extreme experiences of life today? Even what we used to call conservative or liberal seems to have reached a kind of jihadism that allows nothing of the coexistence of others who may have a different understanding of life. We retreat into a melancholic indifference and wonder how we got to where we are in all this mess.

I first experienced this thing when I was a priest in the Dominican Republic. My parish was on the border of Haiti and there was great violence between the Haitian and Dominican peoples. Murder was common, violence with machetes, probably drug traffic through our town which was the only place where you could safely cross the Artibonito River. Danger and death was a part of our every day. I had received a call from home, the nearest phone 30 minutes away by truck on bad roads and the message was brought by someone coming back from the town. My parents were calling to tell me that my aunt Rose had died. It was late, but I got in the truck anyway, knowing I would probably have another flat tire. There was no electricity and I remember it was a particularly dark night. I came around a turn in the road and there in the headlights of my pickup were four men standing across the road with rifles pointed at me. The moment seemed like an eternity. I remember asking myself several times: do I stop, or just hit the gas? At that moment I realized that I had been compromised. I had allowed the evil of life to let me drift into indifference. All the extremes in my life had hit a limit. Enough. Do I care?

I experienced this type of thing again, I think, when I visited Israel-Palestine right after the second intifada, I think it was 2004. The buildings were all shot up with bullets and missiles, great craters in the ground where streets had been. Buildings, piles of rubble. I remember while once in the area that had become a no man’s land north of Bethlehem and south of Jerusalem (now controlled by 30’ walls that choke Bethlehem) I heard bullets whiz past. “They are probably rubber bullets,” I was told by our guide. Good, not to worry, I thought. We just need to adjust to a new normal here.

A bomb went off in the next neighborhood, but nothing was happening where we were so it was okay. We were there to take photos of the wall that the Israelis were building across the land of the Palestinians, taking land and water that wasn’t theirs, well beyond the Green Line agreements of 1968. Soldiers pointed machine guns at us while we took photos of the wall being built that we would later share with Church leaders and senators and members of the House on the hill which were generally met with indifference. “That can’t be true,” the Papal Nuncio said in Jerusalem, “I have it on good authority that they have stopped building the wall.” Even though we had the photos of the cranes setting the concrete wall in place.

The process of desensitization is gradual and hardly noticeable sometimes. You’ve heard of the classic simile of the frog who is swimming around happily in the pot of water. The fire is lit, the water becomes pleasantly warm, like a bath, then warmer, suddenly the frog is cooked before he even knows what happened.

I believe we are swimming in the water of indifference. Ultimately we will discover so much that has happened while we were not alert and on vigil watching and waiting for the Lord to come. You see, he calls everyday. The Gospel today is an interesting example. The men who would become Jesus’ greatest Apostles are working day to day fishing, mending their nets, maintaining their boats. That was important work, and it was probably the work of their fathers and grandfathers. But suddenly the moment comes when the Lord speaks. It is a voice you’ve never heard before, but there is something familiar about it that catches your attention and touches something deep in your heart. You know immediately that you have to leave the indifference and go to work.

For now, we have to be caring witnesses that proclaim: this violence is not okay. This racism and persecution is not okay. Our out of control selfishness is destroying us. We cannot be indifferent any longer. We must answer the Call.

God bless you.

Announcements ~ February 3, 2019

fleur cross logo Join us THIS weekend for a Pancake Breakfast in the school cafeteria Sunday, February 3, 8–11:30am, sponsored by Knights of Columbus.

fleur cross logo It’s time for each and every registered family to consider how they plan to support the work of the Catholic Church in the annual Bishop’s Lenten Appeal: “Together in the Light of Christ.” Please prayerfully consider making a pledge to this important appeal that funds many programs and ministries that serve the people in our diocese. Commitment Sunday will be March 23-24 at all Masses. Your generosity is what makes our Church’s response possible.

fleur cross logo Year-end Giving Statements have been mailed. Please contact the parish office if you have any questions.

fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy:  St. Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. Please take this policy into account when scheduling use of Parish facilities during winter months.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ February 3, 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

This past week was our first meeting of the faith leaders’ group of the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington.  We meet every couple of months and talk about current issues and possible positions we might take or responses we might make interreligiously, united by God-given values and common purpose, and the benefit and goodwill of all people in our community.

The first meeting of the year was a time for us to catch up and share what is going on in our respective religious communities.  There was some very deep sharing about the struggle of the United Methodist Church and how they may split the last week of February over issues of human sexuality.  The Imam of Masjid Muhammad in DC, the first mosque established entirely by American-born African Americans, spoke emotionally about the observance of this year’s 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in the United States.  The conference of Catholic bishops has released a very well-received pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide our Hearts, the Enduring Call to Love,” which we should be studying in the parish.  (Search for open-wide-our-hearts.pdf at usccb.org)  Rabbis in the group spoke about the dramatic rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes over the past year throughout the world.  Fr. Charlie Cortinovis, interreligious officer for the Archdiocese of Washington and I, for Arlington, spoke about the bishops’ gathering in Chicago last month, and the meeting with Pope Francis in a couple of weeks to seek a way forward through the anger and great sadness brought upon so many in and out of the Church because of the abuse scandals and subsequent inaction in dealing with perpetrators and neglect of victims/survivors.  Those representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints agreed everyone needs to be called to a new innocence, mutual respect and civility.

Our country is very divided today.  I think about it—is it the worst ever?  I would guess the Civil War was a rough time.  But there seems to be no limit to the way we judge one another and dismiss each other.  If you don’t agree with me, I have no time for you.  If your world view or life experience has caused you to see things differently, I do not need to give you the consideration due to a human being.  How did we get here?  Is it possible that we have gotten so accustomed to typing instead of conversing, dismissing each other as we would clutter or spam, disconnecting ourselves from each other in the name of being more connected—having everything we want and need literally at the tip of our fingers—that our self-centeredness has literally sucked the oxygen out of the room for anyone else to share?

You could say, when confronted with the reality of 38,000 Christianities (and counting) that it is just the way of the world.  Why wouldn’t a faith be just as shattered and scattered as our nation, our communities, our family?  Why, indeed.  This is a logical question only if you believe that the Church is a human invention and, like the self-licking ice cream cone, exists only for the purpose of self-preservation.  Looking at the world, and if that is your standard, you might come to this conclusion.

But last I checked the ground of human relationship among persons wasn’t based on “every man for himself.”  This isn’t a competition, who wins the most candy at the end of the day.  I remember a question asked by a professor in my early days in the seminary.  If you work hard, are holy and get to heaven and find out that you are the only one there, were you a success?  I know the world today doesn’t even think much in terms of heaven and hell anymore.  Young people do, however, still recognize corporate sin, so sin still exists.  What about the sin of not being your brother’s keeper?  Are we responsible for one another?  Even someone we have never met?

Are we called to be a community of faith?  Is this faith more powerful than our individual selfishnesses which divide?  It must be, or else last one out cut off the lights.  Jesus says you are salt.  You are light.  A lamp isn’t placed under a basket, but rather set on a stand that will illuminate the entire house.  You are light, not a mirror.  We are not here to simply mirror all the hate, division, and error that surrounds us, but to bring light and healing so that all things might be fulfilled.  You have much to give, more than you know. 

We must witness to the fact that there is more.  God has given us more, and expects more.  In a real way, our own fulfillment depends on it.  Our words and deeds are powerful and need to be carefully chosen in order to counteract the constantly deepening divide which can isolate and destroy us.

Let all the churches say, “Amen.”

God bless you.

Announcements ~ January 27, 2019

fleur cross logo TODAY we invite everyone to kick-off Catholic Schools Week by visiting our Open House, Sunday, Jan. 27, 10:30am-1pm. If you have any questions, please contact our Registrar, Mrs. Cynthia Johns at cjohns@stbernschool.org. Come see why our school is a great place to grow and learn!
 
fleur cross logo Please join us for our monthly Taizé Prayer Service, Monday, 28 January 2019 at 8pm. Come pray for Christian unity in our community and in the world. All Christians are warmly invited; invite your friends!
 
fleur cross logo This weekend is the Collection for the Church in Latin America which strengthens the faith of our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean. To learn more, please visit usccb.org/latin-america.
   
fleur cross logo Join us next weekend for a Pancake Breakfast in the school cafeteria Sunday, February 3, 8–11:30am, sponsored by Knights of Columbus.
 
fleur cross logo It’s time for each and every registered family to consider how they plan to support the work of the Catholic Church in the annual Bishop’s Lenten Appeal: “Together in the Light of Christ.” Please prayerfully consider making a pledge to this important appeal that funds many programs and ministries that serve the people in our diocese. Commitment Sunday will be March 23-24 at all Masses. Your generosity is what makes our Church’s response possible.
 
fleur cross logo Year-end Giving Statements will be mailed this upcoming week. Please contact the parish office if there are any questions.
 
fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy:  St. Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. Please take this policy into account when scheduling use of Parish facilities during winter months.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ January 27, 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
This week I was asked to preside and give the homily at the annual regional celebration of the Oblate Priests and Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales at Saint John Neumann church in Reston on his feast day, last Thursday.  It is a great honor to be considered a friend of the Oblate family for me, a diocesan priest, and I consider Oblates among my dearest friends.  Over the years we have traveled to France twice, once for the 100th anniversary of the death of their founder, Fr. Louis Brisson, and again for his beatification in Troyes, France a few years later.  He and Saint (Sister) Leonie Aviat were called by Christ to form a new expression of consecrated life out of the Visitation Sisters founded by Bishop Francis de Sales and Saint Jane de Chantal, to work with the population of young women who were flooding into the cities looking for newly-available jobs at the time of the industrial revolution.  They literally dedicated their lives to this apostolate as offerings (“oblations”), and are known simply as “Oblates.”  Then, a few years back, we traveled together on a tour to their missions in South Africa and Namibia to celebrate the dedication of a convent for the Oblate Sisters in Pella, South Africa, which Saint Mary Parish in Fredericksburg helped to make a reality.
 
The Oblate Priests have played a strong role in the formation of our diocese.  Still today they provide pastoral leadership at Saint John Neumann  and Our Lady of Good Counsel parishes, but were responsible for years for leadership and staffing at two of our three diocesan high schools, Paul VI and Bishop Ireton.  As such, their spirituality has become a real part of the fabric of our diocese, as we experienced in Fredericksburg with the Oblate Sisters who are responsible for Holy Cross Academy.
 
The spirituality of Saint Francis de Sales is real and refreshing, very accessible.  He was one of those great saints in the time following the Reformation who responded to the need for a spirituality for the laity in the Catholic Church and promoted holiness for everyone.   One of the influences at the time of the Reformation which brought about division in the Church was an over-emphasis on the clergy and their power and a de-emphasis on the common priesthood of the faithful by virtue of baptism.  By that common priesthood we recognize our union with Christ and one another.
 
His voice is as real today as it was 400 years ago.  The motto of the Oblates, from the teaching of Saint Francis de Sales, is “Live Jesus!”  It is a call to be authentic and relevant in the way you live your life in the world today.  Certainly, God has given us many gifts and things that indicate his will for us in our life but the question that lies at the heart is how have we received them?
 
He writes about this in his treatise on The Love of God, a theme that Saint Pope John Paul II takes up again 400 years later when he teaches that just because we have gone through the ritual of a sacrament doesn’t mean that we have really received its grace:  it must be received and lived.  Here he is not speaking about those who, by their free will, choose to do evil and rupture the flow of God’s life in them.  That is one thing.  Rather, he is speaking about those who simply do nothing.
 
“The Holy Spirit, source of living water, embraces the heart of man to pour out his graces into it.  However, he means us freely to consent to accept them, so he infuses them only as he pleases, and to the extent that we are disposed to cooperate with them."
 
“If medicine were placed in a sick man’s hand, but he did not put it into his mouth, he would have accepted the medicine, but not taken it—in other words, he would have received it uselessly; it would do him no good.  We too offer God’s grace an ineffectual welcome if, when it is poured out into our hearts, we do not drink it in, do not consent to it.  We receive, you see, but we do not take... there is no point in being aware of an inspiration unless we act on it.”  He uses the example of the empty oil jars of the widow and her son visited by Elijah:  because her jars were empty the oil continued to flow.  “Let our hearts be open: or rather, let us allow our hearts to open wide; let them remain empty by assenting to God’s mercy...”
 
Jesus went to a lot of trouble to institute the sacraments that we might have everlasting life, but it is possible to say that many—if not most—Catholics today see sacraments as goals to be achieved and not a graces to be lived.  They are only the beginning, calling us to sacramental life:  literally, to live Jesus.  This is the realism that so many young people look for today but don’t learn in the Church.
 
I have preached all year on this idea in one way or another.  We are not called to be Christians, we are called to be Christ.  Otherwise, we are still divided by individualism.  We underestimate the sheer value of the priceless gift that God offers and too often settle for second best.  Most people are hoping that they will merit even to get an invitation to be a guest at that eternal wedding feast in heaven, not even realizing that God has something completely different in his plan:  not to be guests of the bridegroom, but to be the bride...  If we can fix this, we will have more people coming to Mass than we can handle, and too many vocations.
 
God bless you.

 

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