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* Host and Participant sign-ups continue for our Lenten Small Groups Series, “The Doctor’s In: Pathways to a Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit”. Information may be found on page 9 and our the parish’s signupgenius.com website, enter email@example.com to locate our signup.
* Our Parish Offices will be Closed on Monday, February 20 in observance of President’s Day. The office will re-open on Tuesday, February 21 at 8:30am.
* The collection on Ash Wednesday is for the Churches in Central and Eastern Europe. For more information visit, usccb.org/catholic-giving/ opportunities-for-giving/central-and-eastern-europe/collection/
* ASH Wednesday Masses Schedule, 9am, 12noon, 6:30pm and 8:00pm in Espanol
* Next weekend Commitment Weekend for the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal. If we reflect on the mission that Jesus has given us, and the words of Pope Francis, the Church us uniquely placed by God to be his agent of mercy and change, to heal our world. Prayerfully respond to this call. Your generosity is what makes our Church’s response possiblke. “Offering Hands to Serve and Hearts to Love”
* Plan to attend our Parish Penance Service, Thursday, March 23. Many priests will be on hand for a special parish service: prayer and song, an examination of conscience, quick individual confessions individual absolution, a prayer of penance and a song of mercy. Join us for mercy and reconciliation while still early in Lent.
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
I wish all of you could have gone to Rome with us for a real celebration of faith and Church. I have to say that our choir sounded really good, too. Maybe we can have a concert here at St. Bernadette before we forget all our songs! I was originally going on the trip as chaplain for the pilgrimage, and my job was to have provided Masses and talks where necessary as we traveled from place to place.
Then we found we were short on men’s voices. So I became a member of the bass section! I hadn’t sung in a choir since seminary—23 years ago—and the experience for me was so great, and rich, to serve in the ministry of music, standing in the shoes of others for a moment... We rehearsed several times a week for the month before we left, and our group came together in a way that was really powerful. Our shared effort made the trip together a trip of real friends and partners in ministry.
It was also good to see our new music director, David Mathers, in action. The transformation of our volunteer choir was amazing, and I saw his gifts as a choir director. It was good for the two of us to work together in this way as he comes to our parish.
Again, I want to thank Tom Schafer for coming to the rescue. When I found out I was coming to St. Bernadette and there was no music director, we started a search. Soon, however, it seemed that the new pastor of Saint Mary had someone in mind with whom he had worked together previously, and David asked if he might come here, except that he must honor his commitment to all who had already invested so much time and money in the choir trip to Rome. We knew it would be awkward, the time in between, but Tom saved the day. Tom, who worked here for many years previously, was a familiar face and excellent musician, and came back for six months to carry us through Advent and Christmas. I am so grateful for Tom’s dedication and goodness to our parish. I told him anytime he wanted to come back down his mountain from Front Royal for a visit he was welcome here.
I am thankful that David is now here, and our music program can continue to take shape, especially since I had my refresher course in choir ministry since Christmas. The choir has become a great metaphor for the parish for me. When you sing in a choir, you must always listen to the persons on both sides of you; the goal is to use your voice to blend the others that you hear. This kind of constant listening while singing is like serving in the Church. We can’t just talk all the time without listening, without realizing that we are not here just to sing a solo. Imagine what a mess you would have on your hands if you had a group of people who were all singing solos, trying to make their voice distinctive out in front of everyone else. A choir has one voice, as a parish has one voice.
It isn’t the voice of the director, or of one bass, or even one section of sopranos. It is one voice. On top of that, you then realize that the purpose of a choir in liturgy is very different from a choir in concert. The choir in liturgy has, as its primary purpose, the promotion of singing in the congregation. It only exists to support the singing of the assembly! To support, to encourage, to show everyone how possible it is to raise voices in praise and prayer.
Did you know that? The first purpose of music ministry at Mass is to encourage YOU to sing! You can tell the health of a community by the way they sing. We have some challenges here, because our church is so big and doesn’t help us with good accoustics. It means that sometimes it might seem like you are the only one singing... I hear people singing when I’m coming up the aisle—but the sound doesn’t carry well to the altar. We will figure this out: in the meantime, sing twice as loud! I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Mass when it seems like the congregation’s singing is going to take the roof off; it is so great, so life-giving.
Also, you probably heard the old story about the pastor who mentioned to members of his congregation that they weren’t singing very well. They told him that God didn’t give them good voices for singing. “Well,” he said, “all the more reason to give back to God the gift he gave you!”
I’m a firm believer that the most important thing that a parish does is Mass. It is the one thing that we do that literally touches every person who sets foot on the property. For this reason it is imperative that we do it well, to the best of our ability, so that God’s gift of beauty in spoken and sung Word might be the vehicle by which his Spirit can touch every heart. And it is why we need to involve as many people as we can in the work of liturgy: everyone has a role, everyone has a place, each according to their calling and their gifts. As individuals we might not trust our vocal acumen: but as an assembly we sing with one voice, and it is always beautiful, the voice of Jesus himself. The Body of Christ sings.
God bless you,
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
Our choir pilgrimage is now more than half over, we are in Rome today. I thought I might share with you some of our experiences.
Our time in the Tuscan city of Florence was beautiful—not only perfect weather (although it has been below freezing at the beginning of every day so far, so it is a little chilly—the coldest winter in 30 years) but also all of the wonderful sights and tastes that we get to share together. We sang our first Mass at the Franciscan church of Saint Mark, the church that s connected to the convent where you can find the priceless treasure of the many nuns’ cells decorated with frescoes by Fra Angelico. It was a little dark, and very, very cold in the church, but the choir sounded amazing. These churches were designed with music in mind, along with many other things:
we discovered that we only need to work at making about half the sound in these churches because everything carries. We also learned how well our mistakes carry!
We toured the city, the Duomo, Our Lady of the Flowers (the name of Florence, Firenze, is a derivation of the word fiori, or flowers). The city is so old, and walkable, and we toured some of the world’s greatest art galleries and centers of power, both for the republic of Florence and the Church. So beautifully situated around the Arno River, the city combines the best of Italian culture, from the Renaissance to the modern day.
On our way to Rome on Saturday, we visited the clifftop Umbrian town of Orvieto, with its beautiful Duomo (Cathedral) of Our Lady of the Assumption. This is one you could google and study a little. It is the town of a Eucharistic miracle which gave birth
to the Tradition of the feast day of Corpus Christi. Like Florence, it is a town rich in the development of Renaissance culture, when a reawakening in art and music paved the way to modern day. We chose it because it is a town largely unimpacted by tourism and modern blight: it is a town like you might imagine still to be in the 1600s. After singing at Mass in the cathedral’s Chapel of the Corporal (the Host at Mass bled onto the bishop’s corporal, the cloth that is placed on the altar), a chapel from the 1200s, we went nearby to a 2 1/2 hour lunch! After a little shopping, we headed to Rome.
Since we have been in Rome, we have visited St. Peter Basilica several times. We were first there to sing for the 3:45pm community Mass on Sunday. St. Peter is a place that has something happening all day long, and we were the choir for a regular Sunday Mass at the altar of the Chair of Saint Peter. We were back there again on Monday morning to celebrate a private Mass for our group in a chapel beneath the main altar, at an altar facing the actual tomb of Saint Peter himself. After Mass we toured the Vatican Museum, culminating in a time when we experienced the Sistine Chapel. We were on our own this afternoon; I visited the Pantheon and the ruins at the Roman Forum. When I have been here before we always seem to rush through it on our way to something else... Today we leisurely walked through the centuries of history there.
Tuesday (tomorrow, as I write this) we will go to Assisi and while at the Basilica of Saint Francis we will have a private Mass for our group. These Masses serve also as great opportunities to rehearse for our Thursday night concert at the Church of Saint Ignatius in Rome. We also, at every place we stop, pause and pray for all the intentions we carry with us to Italy. I have been praying for all of you in a special way at all of these Masses, for your intentions.
We saw the Pope at his Sunday Angelus talk this past weekend. He stands at a very high window from the Papal Apartments of the Apostolic Palace every Sunday he is in town and gives a homily for the day. He gave a very moving homily on the Beatitudes, particularly in the context of our political divisions and the way in which immigrants and refugees are being treated right now.
We will, again see Pope Francis on Wednesday morning, as I think we have good tickets to see him at his Wednesday audience. Then, best of all, our choir will sing at the Papal Mass, the Solemnity of the Presentation of the Lord on Thursday afternoon. I went to the Congregation of Religious Orders this morning and picked up my ticket to concelebrate the Mass with the Holy Father! Cool. We will be home before you even read this—consider this my postcard greeting you from all the points along the way of our pilgrimage. We carry with us your prayers, and keep your hearts present to us all along the way. Hopefully we will do this again, and you will be able to join us. There is nothing like Rome anywhere in the world for Catholics, I have to say that when I am here, it feels like home.
God bless you.
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
As you read this, we are already in Rome, having sung in Florence, Assisi and Orvieto. I forgot to mention—if you are on Twitter, I’ll be tweeting photos, @frdonrooney.
Last week before we left for Italy I signed a little under 2,000 letters to all of you who have contributed to the parish in the past year. I’ve done this every year now since being a pastor, and every year I become very much aware of how dependent the mission of the parish is upon your goodness and generosity. I am deeply grateful to you for what you make possible, and hope you have a sense of accomplishment, of being a part of something wonderful that is larger than any of us. Not everyone can give a lot—in fact, not that many people do: it is the collective contribution, something from everyone, that makes the difference. The responsibility of the parish should not rest on the shoulders of a few, anyway.
Each year we are asked by the diocese to conduct an “offertory enhancement” program of some kind, in which we encourage everyone to actually make a pledge to give more in the coming year. There is good reason for this. Just like any area of our lives, we respond to the requests before we ever get to the things we know we should get to. That is why we have things like the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal each year, because we know that we will respond to the request. We might not get around to giving—certainly not as much as is needed—if just left up to our memory. I decided, as the new guy, to get to know the parish before I started asking formally for more. What I have found here is good. You are generous, you are supporting your church. We have a good bank account, and I don’t believe the Church is in the ministry of saving: we will identify the good works that we want to accomplish in building up our parish community and reaching out as Christ into the community surrounding us. In the meantime, I ask that you continue to give. If you would like to skip one Starbuck’s a month per family and give that, in turn, to the parish I wouldn’t argue. That would add nearly $200,000 to the budget alone!
When my brothers and I were kids we watched our dad write the check every week. We were far from rich, and lived without a lot of the things we saw that our friends had, but we knew that the Church got his first $20 every week (this was in the 60s and 70s), at times when we knew that there wasn’t a lot to spare. Maybe this is a reason that my brother and I became priests. We witnessed our parents’ commitment to the parish.
I wonder if successive generations would remain more faithful to the practice of our faith if parents were to make visible the sacrifices they make in support of the Church, a living example for children to know how to pick up where previous generations left off. Where your treasure is, there will your heart will also be. Children watch.
Maybe it was because my grandparents were first and second generation Americans of immigrant families. They had a keen sense that the only success of the Church would be due to their support. In this new country, they realized, there would be no benevolent ruler to build new versions of all the beautiful, old churches they knew in the “old country” and maintain them.
Or, if you visit Central and South America, you’ll find the same remarkable churches from previous centuries. But with the wave of dictators and 150 years of freemasonry which has sought to destroy the Church in these countries, confiscating properties and murdering, straining faith communities financially to the breaking point, the Church is largely now controlled by the government as a “service” to the people. Salaries, buildings, maintenance and community development are all subsidized by the government. At least, this was my experience studying several summers in Mexico and working two years in the Dominican Republic. There is not the direct correspondence between the Sunday Offertory and the survival of the parish in those countries as there is here.
What can we do to restore the Church as the heart of the community and the center of peoples’ family life?—or is this even an ungrounded, idealized, sentimental vision of a past based on pictures of big, fancy churches and pious stories of pay, pray and obey. Maybe we need to quit looking at the past: What we have now, Where are we now?
What do we have now? What if we remove the word “restore” in our question and replace it with the word “build”? What can we do to build the Church as the heart of the community and the center of our family life?
This is where your office as lay people becomes so important. Show your children how to be faithful, and talk about these things where there is silence, contribute in the conversation. Let’s build up.
God bless you.
For Bishop Burbidges homily, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN6ivig7wHI
The Deanery Mass welcoming our new Bishop Michael Burbidge is this Monday, January 23, 7pm.
All are invited to attend our annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity prayer service with Bishop Burbidge at Mt. Olivet Methodist Church, Arlington, VA Tuesday, January 24 at 7:30pm. Please join us!
There may still be room on the bus for the March for Life on the National Mass this Friday. Please call the office for more information.
St. Bernadette Parish 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 the use of Parish facilities especially during winter months.
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
This Wednesday, January 25, I will going to Italy on a concert tour with the Saint Mary choir. Over a year ago now, we began planning this trip (unfortunately, not knowing that it was Catholic Schools Week!) and I was to go as their pilgrimage chaplain. Then, changes happened, the new pastor at Saint Mary already had plans and couldn’t go, so I decided I would make the sacrifice and go afterall! In the meantime, music director David Mathers (who is with us at Saint Bernadette starting this weekend) realized that he was going to be short on men’s voices, so he recruited Bob Bell and Mike Nolan from here, and asked me if I would sing bass. Like I said, we were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice! We begin in Florence at the duomo, Our Lady of the Flowers, then will sing in the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, in the Cathedral in Orvieto, and then several churches in Rome, our final stop being the Papal Mass with Pope Francis at Saint Peter on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, February 2. We will fly home on the 3rd.
I am sorry to be missing Catholic Schools’ Week this year—it sounds like we have a good week planned. Be sure not to miss events that are hosted for you:
—Open House for the parish, Sunday the 29th, 10:30am-12:30pm;
—Welcome and Open House for prospective paents Wednesday the 1st, 9:30-10:30am;
—Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day (send messages of appreciation if you can to our wonderful teachers and staff), Thursday the 2nd.
Other events are happening, but they are for school families only. Please check your calendars and participate as much as you can, celebrating our mission to provide Catholic education!
There are a few events coming up to which I would like to encourage you to attend.
The March for Life is this Friday. It has been a lot of years since I’ve been in a parish that was remotely near the National Mall. The March for Life is one of those institutions that has survived all these years because people continue to show up. Just by showing up we prove that there remains a significant, visible witness for life that cannot be denied, and that we remain steadfast in the hope that hearts will be converted and our culture come to the truth of the holiness of life.
Virginia Advocacy Day is also coming up Thursday, February 9 in Richmond. This is another way the Catholic voice regarding life, the poor, Catholic education, and social and health issues and the like can be heard. I’ve been attending Virginia Advocacy Day hosted by our bishops’ Virginia Catholic Conference (www.vacatholic.org) for a decade, and have always welcomed those who would like to go along. We will gather for discussion about issues and bills that are a part of the legislative agenda concerning Catholic values, and then make appointments to visit the state senators and house members who represent us, to voice our beliefs, concerns and encouragement. This is the second year that the bishops will host Evening Prayer at the Cathedral in Richmond and a reception following in the evening, so I plan to go for the entire day. If you would like to be a part of our Saint Bernadette contingent, please let me know. You will find more information on p. 8.
I wrote a bit about our 2017 Lenten Small Groups Program in last week’s bulletin; you will find information about it on p. 9 of today’s bulletin. I encourage you to seriously consider making a commitment of five meetings as a part of your Lenten observance this year. There is nothing better than praying with Scriptures, except for praying with Scriptures with others. We are one of seven parishes participating in this program this year. Please contact your friends and colleagues and start building foundations for our faith community.
Finally, for those ministries who are already established here at Saint Bernadette, it is quite possible that many people don’t know what you are doing and might like to become active. I would like to encourage all those leading ministries in the parish to take advantage of this bulletin. For too long the parish bulletin has been a place where people just placed "ads" to ask for what they wanted, or to advertise what is coming up. I encourage you to write a story about your ministries. What are your hopes? What are your experiences? What has been happening, and what is coming up where we can get involved? Usually when a relationship begins to slip it is because communication has somehow failed. This parish bulletin is a weekly opportunity to really connect, parishioners to parishioners, and is read by people who are seeking to know what you know. Call me.
God bless you.
Fr. Don Rooney