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Announcements ~ December 16, 2018

UPCOMING ADVENT LITURGIES:

December 20, Thursday: Parish Advent Penance Service, with many visiting priests! Begins at 6:30pm.

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. You may also call the Parish Office for a recorded message. Please take this policy into account when scheduling use of Parish facilities during winter months.

Upcoming Events

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ December 16, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Thursday this week is our Parish Advent Penance Service and, as last year, I have two important requests for you.

1. If you are still planning to come to confession before Christmas, please take advantage of this opportunity. There will not be a guarantee that we can cover demand later, or at the last minute. It is a great blessing to have so many priests (14!) give up an evening for our parish, and we will accomplish more in one evening that Fr. Rich, Fr. Nicolas and I alone could do in over a week. But you must come Thursday night, 6:30pm.

2. This one is just as important. Come prepared, and do not plan on a counseling session or spiritual direction. Already have done the work of examining your conscience, know your sins, say them, receive a penance and absolution. Our goal here is simple:  serve as many people as is humanly possible as efficiently as possible. One of the reasons people give up on confessions is that they get stuck behind someone (or maybe several people) who take up so much time that there is no more time. I used to be a lay person, remember?  And I remember this one clearly. If you wish to have a longer conversation, plan on another day, or make an appointment with one of us, please.

I am not proposing an irreverent practice of the sacrament, but have done this before. If people know they aren’t going to get a lecture, you’d be surprised how many come back after many, many years. People already know the lecture they should get, that is why they come to confession!  I believe in treating everyone like an adult. As of that evening we will have offered confession already to every student in the school as well as our Religious Education program.

It was not always so:  when I was first ordained I liked confessions because it was an opportunity for me to cast my pearls of wisdom on poor penitents, solicited or not. I made it a point in every confession to admonish, to inspire and to affirm. Eventually I realized that most people don’t actually care.  There is something to be said for the simple acknowledgement that I have sinned, that I can’t fix this without God, and I need certain forgiveness. As I always tell the kids, if you truly forget something, it is okay, because Jesus already knows all of it, even the ones we are indifferent to. The one thing he can’t do for us is say “I’m sorry and I intend to do better from here on.”  Let’s keep it simple and welcome hundreds of people back to the sacrament of Reconciliation on Thursday.

You will find a valuable resource for examinations of conscience on the USCCB website:  usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/examinations-of-conscience.cfm as well as a guides to confession:  http://usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/index.cfm. There you will find links to many resources in both English and Spanish

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Reflection

The apostle Paul reflected in his letter to the Romans how Christ’s coming fulfilled the hopes of patriarchs and prophets and  brought joy to his people:
For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:   
          “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;     
          I will sing the praises of your name.” 
Again, it says,   
         “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” 
And again,   
         “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;     let all the peoples extol him.”
And again, Isaiah says,   
        “The Root of Jesse will spring up,     
         one who will arise to rule over the nations;     
         in him the Gentiles will hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15: 8-13)

Rejoice in the Lord! The pain, the suffering, the unfulfilled longings will all meet their end. We have a Savior. He is coming. Rejoice!

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” Zephaniah 3:16-17

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Farewell and thanks

Father Jean Nicolas will be moving on to a new assignment outside of the diocese on January 15, 2019.  We thank him for his kind presence and time with us and wish him well in his ministry.  Be sure to watch for details after the holidays for a date and time when we will host a farewell reception for him.

God bless you.

Announcements ~ December 9, 2018

UPCOMING ADVENT LITURGIES:
  • December 12, Wednesday: Special bilingual Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the unborn, 7:30pm.
  • December 14, Friday: Our parish Advent Lessons and Carols, 7:30pm.  Please see page 7.
  • December 15, Saturday: Diocesan Simbang Gabi Mass and Reception at Saint Bernadette, 7pm.
  • December 20, Thursday: Parish Advent Penance Service, with many visiting priests! Begins at 6:30pm.
 
This weekend is the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington’s annual Christmas Collection for the poor among us.  Please help this most important collection which provides 10% of the annual budget for Catholic Charities.  If you were unable to participate this week, please consider bringing your contribution next week, clearly marked for Catholic Charities.
 

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ December 9, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
Again this past week we celebrated the sacrament of Reconciliation with all the students who attend our Religious Education program.  Maybe this is the time, now that we are in Advent and preparing for the coming of Jesus, to have the talk about confessions.
 
Most of the children had no idea what was happening, and, the older they were, entered the confessional already with a sense of indifference.  I’ve been thinking a lot about why this might be.
 
It isn’t our catechists, who are trying to teach something to children who maybe get one hour a week here and there.  It isn’t enough.  Formation has to start with the parents in the home.  Religious Education needs a context where it is relevant.
 
I have been hesitant to preach too much about confessions because there are only two of us in a parish of (potentially) 13,000 penitents and it could quickly become impossible.  Also, I have been keenly aware that it is easy to quickly stir up a culture of people who are constantly in the confessional, which is also unhealthy.  Some days in former parishes you might hear confessions for two hours and there might be, actually, only a couple people who were there because they really wanted to ask God to help them change their lives.  Confession isn’t an oil change to just enable us to go back out on the road to repeat all the same traffic violations all over again.  Jesus doesn’t give us the opportunity of frequent confession so we can actually sin more frequently, presuming absolution.  That is also a sin.  The sacrament requires genuine sorrow for what we do, and a firm resolution to not do it anymore.
 
For the past two years we’ve been there every Saturday at 3:30pm and usually there are very few.  I’ve never been able to convince people that my confessional is no longer “Spanish only.”  Some Saturdays (outside of Advent and Lent) there are literally only a few people coming.  Also, it seems, that maybe the parish has been taught simply to come to the big Penance Services when there are a lot of priests twice a year.  But two times a year really isn’t enough for most people.
 
Certainly not for children who need to grow accustomed to and recognize the merciful and loving voice of God, whose grace they need in this world where it is impossible for a child to morally succeed alone.  They need God, they need you, their parents, to teach them right and wrong and the humility to admit that we must do better.  The sacrament of Reconciliation is necessary.
 
A high number of students this week were back to confess for the first time since their first confession, five, four years before.  Most never attend Mass.  Most don’t seem to really care.  By the way, this is not directed only at families in Religious Education.  We don’t see kids from school at Mass much, either.
 
Someday we will wring our hands and regret that our children have fallen away from the faith, many parents will realize too late what has happened and will end up praying for their children for the rest of their lives for bad decisions that they made.  But we need to say it:  it is happening now.  It won’t be a surprise in five, ten years, because it is already happening.
 
So what might be some solutions?
 
Mrs. Dalmut has this thing in her office which I was looking at in a meeting the other day.  It says:

Tell me and I’ll forget.
Teach me and I’ll remember.
Involve me and I’ll learn.

I wonder how many children have witnessed their parents actually going to confession?  I’m going to guess very, very few.  So why would they take it seriously as an integral part of the spiritual life?  How many parents have talked about the spiritual life with their children?  I’m guessing that our students don’t have a healthy sense of themselves as spiritual beings with particular needs:  the need for innocence, the need for protection from the immorality that surrounds them (a fight which they simply cannot fight alone), the need for confession to clear the shadows from their lives, the joy of knowing that you are right with God and can move forward with a clean slate, grateful for God’s mercy and forgiveness. 
 
Consider an examination of conscience and act of contrition with your children before bed every night.  Grow good habits of choosing to do better tomorrow.
 
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in the past couple of decades we have become more and more unforgiving of each other and, basically, anyone who doesn’t agree.  If we don’t experience the loving forgiveness of God first-hand ourselves, we don’t even know what that forgiveness looks like, let alone be people able to forgive.  With that aspect of the spiritual life gone, there is no need for remorse or contrition, or even accountability – it is why we see more and more terrible sins and tragedies all over the news on a daily basis.  Please, take advantage of our penance service December 20, bring your kids.
 
God bless you.

Announcements ~ December 2, 2018

UPCOMING ADVENT LITURGIES:

fleur cross logo December 8, Saturday: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. The Mass schedule is a little different this year as the Holy Day is a Saturday: Vigil Masses Dec. 7 at 6:30pm (English) and 8pm (Spanish), Dec. 8: 6:30 and 9am, Noon. (Saturday evening Vigil counts for Sunday.)

fleur cross logo December 12, Wednesday: Special bi-lingual Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the unborn, 7:30pm.

fleur cross logo December 14, Friday: Our parish Advent Lessons and Carols, 7:30pm.  Please see page 7.

fleur cross logo December 15, Saturday: Diocesan Simbang Gabi Mass and Reception at Saint Bernadette, 7pm.

fleur cross logo December 20, Thursday: Parish Advent Penance Service, with many visiting priests! Begins at 6:30pm.

fleur cross logo Next weekend is the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington’s annual Christmas Collection for the poor among us.  Please help this most important collection which will provide 10% of the budget for Catholic Charities in 2019.

fleur cross logo The Christmas GIVING TREE continues through Dec. 16 in the Church Vestibule! Take a tag for neighbors in need and bring the gift back before noon on Dec. 16.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ December 2, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

For some time we have been trying to discourage the beggars outside church who come with cardboard signs with desperate messages, photos of sick children, asking for money.  I know it tugs at your heart to consider that there are people with such need, and I’ve heard that many have given them considerable amounts of money.  Last weekend they became so bold as to enter the church vestibule to beg after we have repeatedly asked them not to come here.

They are appearing at churches and shopping malls all over the city, usually are families with children, and after they are asked to leave they simply circle back around for the next Mass.  They are very disrespectful to those who do not give or who ask them to leave.

Many say they are Gypsies, have eastern European accents and are the modern face of human trafficking.  I’m not sure the veracity of this explanation, but I have been told that it is a form of organized crime today, these people are brought here to this country and kept poor, so that they will continue to beg and their bosses take a cut of the money that they receive.  Whether or not this is true, I find the possibility of it very troubling, considering that this “industry” is all over the country and, if you look online, all over the world.

It is my opinion that you should not give to them.  I have spoken with the police who are here directing traffic – who have themselves run off the beggars numerous times – and they say it is a difficult problem because you must have a name and contact information to ban someone from private property.  We have every right to do so, because this is not public property, but it is difficult to enforce.  The only way they will leave is if you make it financially unattractive to them.  Refer them to Catholic Charities.

This is the perfect introduction to what I was going to  speak about this week, anyway.  When I encounter people who are begging on the street, I always invite them to contact Catholic Charities for assistance.  This is exactly why we have Catholic Charities.  When I’m in D.C. I always encourage them to contact Catholic Charities there.  Our parish is very, very generous supporting the work of Catholic Charities who can best sort out the proper use of our charity for the poor and those in need.  I’ve worked with the homeless enough to know that they all have cell phones.

Catholic Charities will not only help people in real need, but seek to help with the causes of peoples’ poverty and being at risk.  It is one thing to give someone money for a meal, it is another to help them find the way to prepare one for themselves. 

  • For financial assistance, or if you are in danger, contact our CATHOLIC CHARITIES of the Diocese of Arlington, 703-841-3830.

 Next week is the annual Catholic Charities Christmas Collection and I ask you to be generous, as you always are.  This annual collection represents over 10% of the annual budget for our Diocesan outreach and is a very important part of the mission of the Church today.  The need is growing daily.  Your assistance is directly applied to the great work that Catholic Charities is doing today in confronting the reality of food insecurity and the growing population of people who cannot meet the cost of living in northern Virginia.  It is a vital part of who we are.


I have included here a few clip-out messages you can give to beggars when you see them outside.  Ask them to leave the property and give them one of these.  It isn’t a rejection, it is a referral.  And be sure to give to the Christmas Collection next weekend so that your referral comes with the substance of your personal support for those who really need to beg to survive.

And let us be truly thankful that we don’t find ourselves in this position one day.  There is a beautiful prayer that we pray sometimes at weddings for the newly-married couple:  “May you be witnesses in the world to God’s charity, so that the afflicted and those in need who have known your kindness may one day receive you thankfully into the eternal dwelling of God.”


God bless you.

Announcements ~ November 25,

fleur cross logo You are invited to participate in our GIVING TREE. Please consider taking a tag this weekend from the tree displayed in the Church Vestibule! Our annual tradition benefits many local and regional charities and institutions!  Please see page 8 in today’s bulletin.

fleur cross logo Support Christians in the Holy Land and consider purchasing olive wood carvings and other handicrafts from Bethlehem this weekend before and after Masses in the vestibule.  Once 37% of the population of Palestine, Christians are now less than 1%.  Your purchase will help a family stay on their land and keep a Christian presence at all the holy places.

Mark your calendars!
December 8, Saturday: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. The Mass schedule is a little different as the Holy Day is a Saturday: Vigil Masses Dec. 7 at 6:30pm (English) and 8pm (Spanish), Dec. 8: 6:30 and 9am, Noon. (Saturday evening Vigil counts for Sunday.)
December 12, Wednesday: Special bi-lingual Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the unborn, 7:30pm.
December 14, Friday: Our parish Advent Lessons and Carols, 7:30pm.  Please see page 7.
December 15, Saturday: Diocesan Simbang Gabi Mass and Reception at Saint Bernadette, 7pm.
December 20, Thursday: Parish Advent Penance Service, with many visiting priests! Begins at 6:30pm.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ November 25, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

When you think about the end times, the end of the world as we know it, the second coming of Jesus Christ, what is your immediate response?  I think the most common reaction people have is dread, or just prefer not to think about it.  I propose to you that this is a vestige of a childhood reaction that we, perhaps, have not thought through as adults.  When I was a child I never would have imagined that our world might someday be indifferent to it.  I’ve asked a couple of people I know, and a couple of acquaintances.  I told them I was going to write a piece on the end of the world.  “What is your reaction to prophecies about the end of the world?”  One simply said we are not to know the day and the hour.  Another said that we are already in the end times.  Another said she didn’t want to think about it.

My parents were fixated on it.  On being ready.  They would subscribe to cassette recordings and publications that would predict the next date the world would end and we would have this cloud of dread over us as the date approached.  We gritted our teeth and imagined the worst God could do to punish our evil world.  The day would come, and then it would be yesterday, and I would wonder: what happened?  Why didn’t the end come?  Then the predictors would publish the next date it would happen.  It was not a happy part of childhood.  Finally after I had finished college I told my parents on the phone that if they continued to talk about it I would hang up the phone and stop talking to them.  Enough is enough and I’d had enough.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still think about it, though.  Jesus is pretty clear that this world isn’t supposed to last forever.  It is true, we won’t know the day or the hour, but we should care about the day and the hour.  We should think about it.

If, in fact, Jesus is our brother, the one who died in love to save us, then we might consider being glad to see him, especially in his terrible glory.  If we connect his coming a lot of suffering and disaster—things like earthquakes, tidal waves, raging fires, terrible storms, a broken earth, genocide, nations against nations, false idols, senseless violence or a generation that has rejected Jesus—as fearful as these things may be, all we need to do is watch the news.  These aren’t news stories we can blame on opinion or politics, they are happening now.  Perhaps they have always happened in previous generations or eras, we don’t know from personal experience because our life is so short.  But if we consider this article of faith as adults (“he will come again to judge the living and the dead...”), we will recognize that his coming will be a remedy for all these evils, moral and natural, that surround us.  “He shall be peace...”  His voice will be familiar, in the midst of whatever might be going on around us, we will be home.

It is true, we won’t know the day or the hour, but we can be working on recognizing his voice so that it will be familiar; we can become comfortable in the life of the Church as our home.  We must care about the state of our relationship with God on that day and hour.  We can’t control the fire, but we can work on inflammability, that core calm that is God’s presence.
You see, Jesus has already done all the work.  It isn’t our job to alter God’s plan of salvation—certainly, not to delay eternal life.  For this?  That white garment of baptism you received is fireproof.  But you have to keep it on, and not take it off every once in a while, and you have to keep it clean.  We underestimate the power of this flameproof white garment.  (If you know someone who has put off baptism, now is a great time to talk about it!)  It is important.

When I was growing up we didn’t talk much about having a relationship with God.  I guess we called him “Brother” and “Friend,” but it seemed to me that all that was up to him, too.  I was not taught that one of the powers of the common priesthood of the faithful from baptism was to be actively involved and participating in the work of salvation itself.  I am an agent of renewal and re-creation in God’s plan for the earth.  And now as an adult, I understand Jesus’ words, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain...(Jn 15:16)” as a tangible call to do something with the calling I have received.  Many are called, few are chosen (Mt 22:14).  It is not just enough to be satisfied with the call, it demands a response.

My mom always used to say that hell is paved with good intentions (unfulfilled).  Someone wrote me an email quoting St. John Chrysostom saying that the road to hell is paved with the skulls and bones of priests.  I looked it up; some say it might have been St. Athanasius but there seems to be no source document.  As I think of these end times, the only way that might be true is if I didn’t maintain my baptismal garment and sincerely encourage you to do the same.  Let us pray for one another that we not be put to the test.

God bless you.

Announcements ~ November 18, 2018

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  Wishing everyone a wonderful and grace-filled holiday filled with warmth and love.

fleur cross logo Please note:  there will be only one Mass on Thanksgiving Day at 10am.  All are asked to bring non-perishable food in bags to the Mass and bring all of it up in front of the altar at the time of the Offertory during Mass.  We will then put the food in the Saint Lucy food truck after Mass.  Thanks for making this thankful offering a success!

fleur cross logo Christmas GIVING TREE begins this weekend in the Church Vestibule! Our annual tradition of taking tags and returning gifts will benefit many local and regional charities and institutions!  Please see page 8.

fleur cross logo This weekend - Olive Wood Religious Goods from Bethlehem will be for sale in the church vestibule after all Masses. Please support our brothers and sisters surviving in the Holy Land!  Please see page 7 for more details.

fleur cross logo 2018 Saint Bernadette Parish Calendars - Please pick up a beautiful parish calendar which can be found on display in the church vestibule (one per family).

Mark your calendars!

December 8, Saturday: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. The Mass schedule is a little different as the Holy Day is a Saturday: Vigil Masses Dec. 7 at 6:30pm (English) and 8pm (Spanish), Dec. 8: 6:30 and 9am, Noon.
December 12, Wednesday: Special bi-lingual Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the unborn, 7:30pm.
December 14, Friday: Our parish Advent Lessons and Carols, 7:30pm.  Please see page 7.
December 15, Saturday: Diocesan Simbang Gabi Mass and Reception at Saint Bernadette, 7pm.
December 20, Thursday: Parish Advent Penance Service, with many visiting priests! Begins at 6:30pm.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ November 18, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Every year we are strongly encouraged by the diocese to do an offertory enhancement program.  I’ve seen the letter that Fr. Larsen sent out every fall.  It had a strong message that our salvation depends on our generosity—probably a true message, but it seemed a little strong.  Instead, for the past two years, we have published a ministry catalog and annual report, asking you to commit to praying, serving, and giving.  We sent out follow up letters last week to all who responded, 216 families out of 4,100, and I realized that the program has nearly completely failed.  There seemed to be little interest in increasing giving, most people committed to about $10, some $20 a week in the offertory, if there was any financial commitment indicated at all.

I realized that we will probably go forward from here in following years with the program that is prescribed by the diocese.

For my family, supporting the Church was always important.  In my homilies last weekend I recalled how we were probably poor when I was a boy, though we didn’t dwell on it much.  My dad took college classes at night, my mom made our clothes, we rarely ate out.  If we did it was on very special occasions.  But my dad would always take a $20 bill on Sunday morning and put it in the envelope, saying this was for God.  In those days $20 was a lot of money.  And we would all take turns who got to put it in the basket at Mass.  It was this witness of my dad and his commitment that probably played some role in why my brother and I are priests today.

We are grateful for anything you can give to the parish and our mission in Springfield.  Without your gifts we would not be able to meet payroll for our staff that is already stretched to capacity working for you.  We have little outreach in the community, but do what we can with the hours available.  What the Church is able to accomplish depends completely on you.

It is not like this in most countries, and as our parishioners become more international in origin it is probably really important to say this:  We receive no subsidy from the diocese or the government for anything we do.  In most countries the properties are owned and maintained by the government and there is not a developed program of offertory giving because many things are covered by taxes and federal funding.  There is nothing like that here in this country.  Also, with the difficult situations in which many dioceses find themselves today with regard to abuse of minors and corruption (fortunately, to my knowledge, not here in the diocese of Arlington), it needs to be said that funds received by parishes are kept in individual accounts for those parishes.  Debt that may result from a lawsuit or something is not taken from parish accounts.  (One way you could be sure of this is if you make a restricted gift, a gift for a specified purpose, the building fund, for example.  This money may not be used for anything else.)

We are who we are because of your generosity, and we do what we can do because you make it possible. 
 
With regard to Faith Direct, many parishes have found that electronic giving becomes a more dependable and steady income source for the parish.  Here, more of the offertory is received electronically than in the basket on Sundays.  As I have thought about this these few days, recalling my dad and the Sunday envelope, I wonder if the next generation will even understand the need to give to the Church and the importance of giving if the visible giving of parents is no longer seen.  I haven’t really thought this through completely yet, but maybe electronic giving isn’t so helpful in the long term.

I can only give you my word that we are responsible and transparent with your generosity, supporting the work of the Church and reaching out to those in need through diocesan and parish programs as much as we are able, and ask you to continue to give.  Please consider this our annual offertory appeal, it’s done.

Sometimes I hear people say that all the Church ever does is ask for money (often at the time of the annual Bishop’s Lenten Appeal).  Every diocese in the United States has an annual appeal of some kind to support the salaries and programs of the Church—and they have to ask because, otherwise, people don’t give spontaneously.  Catholic Charities would not be successful without the annual Christmas Collection, the chancery would not be able to provide the many services to Catholics and the greater community.  It literally depends on those who give, that others might receive.  As we come into this Christmas season, let’s count our blessings and in gratitude for the many things we have, consider how much we might be able to support others. We give to need, but more importantly, we need to give.

God bless you.