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Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ April 2, 2017

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

This week I’d like to offer this pastoral reflection from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 22 March: “Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times.”

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative Committee has issued the following pastoral reflection in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands. In the statement, the bishops encourage each of us to do what we can to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.

The word of God is truly alive today. “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:33-34). To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the resurrection.

To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear. Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future. As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: “We are with you.” They may also be a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence. It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.

Intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well. When we look at one another do we see with the heart of Jesus? Within our diverse backgrounds are found common dreams for our children. Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, “out of many, one.” In doing so, we will also realize God’s hope for all His children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14), strengthens us to bring our words to life. How might we, as Catholics and in our own small way, bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life?

1. Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children.

2. Meet with members of your parish who are newcomers, listen to their story and share your own. Hundreds of Catholic parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees both to comfort them and to help them know their rights. It is also important to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other’s concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.

3. Call, write or visit your elected representative and ask them to fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.

As Pope Francis said, “To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey towards our heavenly homeland.”


These are confusing times. The problem is we can be so sucked into the vortex of all the angry words and fear-dealing violence that we can, as the bishops say, lose a sense of our own humanity and begin to return hatred for hatred. It has been a rough year in the confessional: the anger that many of us have discovered is palpable, and it can come out of us in ways that are damaging. Although anger is one of the seven deadly sins, we also know that Jesus never sinned, though he was clearly angry at times. Anger is a response to injustice, inhumanity and irreverence and, as such, is really an expression of the love you have for those who are disrespected, treated unjustly or abused. But anger that has doing damage as its goal destroys both the one angry and the object of that anger. Jesus was an itinerant. He accepted the hospitality of those who would receive him as he worked, people like Lazarus and his daughters with whom deep friendships are born. Literally, life out of death.

God bless you,

Announcements ~ April 2, 2017

* Please make note. First Mass on Easter Sunday is a bit earlier, 7:45am instead of 8am. Our intent is to provide a little more parking lot space between the first two Masses. Thanks for your flexibility.

* We invite prospective families to tour our parish school at our next Open House is Friday, April 7th from 9:30-10:30am. If you have any questions, please contact our Registrar, Mrs. Johns at .

* Please join us for our Lenten Soup Suppers and Stations of the Cross each Friday during Lent. Soup supper begins at 6:30pm in the school cafeteria, English Stations in the Church at 7:30pm and Spanish Stations in the chapel at 7:30pm. Bring the whole family to enjoy good soup and fellowship and then spend time waking the way of the Cross with Jesus.

* Please find the Sacred Triduum schedule for Holy Week on page 9 of today’s bulletin. During this period of three holy days, we ask that regular parish activities be suspended and everyone try to come as much as possible to our liturgies.

* Divine Mercy Devotions will be scheduled for 3pm on the Second Sunday of Easter, 23 April.

* Please send in your pledge for the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal if you haven’t already. We are asking every household in our parish to support this appeal to the extent you are able. We are at 90% of our goal!

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ March 26, 2017

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

It is hard to believe how much quicker time seems to be passing. It seems each day is over before I even get started on my lists. It occurs to all of us here in the office that Holy Week is already nearly here, and there is a lot to talk about.

First, I’ve failed to mention in all of our schedules that we will have an Easter Food Blessing on Holy Saturday morning in the church at 10:30am. The timing might be a little odd, you would think - at a time when there is no holy water. We drain the holy water we have on Holy Thursday night when the church is stripped following the procession to Gethsemane, and there isn’t any holy water available until the font is blessed at the Easter Vigil. But prior to Vatican II, when the midnight to Mass/Communion fast was still in force, it was the common practice to celebrate the Easter Vigil in the morning on Holy Saturday. In people’s minds, Lent therefore ended on Saturday morning. I remember when we were kids if we had given up candy for Lent, we were allowed to start eating candy again at noon on Holy Saturday. By then, there would have been holy water! So we are going to hide some on Holy Thursday. Shhh. We will use the blessings of the Eastern Catholic Ukrainian Rite. If you would like to participate and learn how to arrange your basket with the eggs, the butter, the meats and cheeses, you can find it at might be brisk this Holy Week, I hope everyone went to the Parish Penance Service last week when we had all the visiting priests! For the scheduled times during Holy Week (Monday,Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and Good Friday 12-3pm), please arrive at the start of these scheduled times. If the line runs out we will figure that we’re done. We will finish confessions exactly at 3pm, as we do not celebrate any sacraments during the time that we observe our Lord’s being buried.

On Holy Thursday night, rather than processing to the chapel as has been the practice in the past, we will process to the gym in the school. There, we will have a chapel set up in the center of the room where we will place the Blessed Sacrament, with chairs in circles around it. It would be impossible for everyone in the church to follow our Lord (symbolically) from the Upper Room to Gethsemane where he asks us to wait and pray with him until his arrest at midnight. I’ve been told that most people don’t bother, because the chapel is too small and the crowd is too close. I would imagine, also, that there isn’t even enough distance between the church and the chapel to get a real procession going. We will process into the gym, with the Blessed Sacrament coming last, and people will be invited to stay as long as they can. We will celebrate night prayer at 11:50pm and then the Blessed Sacrament will be removed in preparation for Good Friday.

We have commissioned a woodworker to make a simple cross for the veneration of the wood of the Cross on Good Friday. Many people don’t realize that it is actually the wood itself that we venerate, not the Body of Christ (he is in the tomb). Saint Augustine said that the wood of the Cross represented our own humanity, which Jesus chose as the vehicle of our salvation. You can see the cross displayed in a stand in the vestibule of the Church.

For Palm Sunday this year, we ask that you NOT bring old palms back into the parish. We won’t be burning them. Instead, I recommend that you cut them into small pieces and turn them into your gardens. As with any sacramental, the reverent way to dispose of them is either by burning or burying.

Finally, it gives me great gladness to invite everyone who attends the beautiful Easter Vigil to a reception following in the gym. Our wonderful ladies in the Friends in Need Committee will prepare a simple and refreshing repast for you following the Mass. It is a long Mass - often exceeding three hours, in my experience - so it will be good to strengthen weak knees and drooping spirits! Please join us.

God bless you.

Announcements ~ March 26, 2017

  • Please join us for our Lenten Soup Suppers and Stations of the Cross each Friday during Lent. Soup supper begins at 6:30pm in the school cafeteria, English Stations in the Church at 7:30pm and Spanish Stations in the chapel at 7:30pm. Bring the whole family to enjoy good soup and fellowship and then spend time waking the way of the Cross with Jesus.
  • Please find the Sacred Triduum schedule for Holy Week on page 9 of today’s bulletin.
  • Please send in your pledge for the  Bishop’s Lenten Appeal if you haven’t already. We are asking every household in our parish to support this appeal to the extent you are able. We are at 84% of our goal!
  • Are you a Registered Parishioner? If you attend Mass here regularly, we encourage you to register as a member of St Bernadette to receive all mailings sent throughout the year.  Also in order to obtain sacraments or a letter or a sponsor certificate you must be registered with the Church for at least 3 months.
  • Registering is easy! Visit our Parish Office, or download the parish registration form from our website. Email it to us to or fax it 703-269-1121.
  • Have you moved lately? Changed your phone number? Changed your e-mail address? Help us keep our records up to date and save us some money on our communication expenses. Please notify the parish office of any changes.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ March 19, 2017

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette, 

Earlier this year, while we were in Rome, Cardinal Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, held a press conference to present a new statement prepared by the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington, DC.  The IFCMW is an organization that has been active for 25 years and has served as the primary center for dialogue among the various religious communities in our region.  

Wilson Gunn, Senior Presbyter of the Presbyterian Church, USA in Washington and I were the drafters of this document, taking the sentiments and ideas of the group and putting them to paper.  It speaks to the need for a return of religious voices to the public square in shaping our society.  It is a message that needs to be heard, especially in our “not in my backyard” culture: 

An Interfaith Vision for Our Community

As faith leaders from the greater Washington, DC area, we offer this as a statement that arises from our trust in God and belief that good government is exercised “under God,” with respect for the inalienable rights of all. The theological underpinnings that form the foundation of our principles and values have, at their root, our responsibility to serve humanity and these values call us into community. The truth of our common humanity is shared by all, including atheists, agnostics, and those who claim no particular religious affiliation. These values are in harmony with the best of the values undergirding the founding documents of the United States.  

This interfaith vision for our community is founded on the hope that leaders and citizens alike might use this fundamental truth as the basis of particular practices of citizenship and express these values legislatively across all the governmental, civic, corporate and not-for profit organizations that make up our diverse community.  

First and always, we are neighbors. We don’t get to choose who is our neighbor. The neighbor is a gift. We are neighbors regardless of creed, religious affiliation or non-affiliation, race, gender, gender identity, country of origin, political party affiliation, mental or physical ability, or socio-economic condition. We are called fundamentally to be good neighbors with and for each other.  

There are, in fact, moral requirements for society. We do not merely live for ourselves, but with and for each other.  We are not exempt from serving our neighbors. We proclaim that other people may never be reduced to opportunities for our own pleasure or success; they aren’t commodities to be traded, or inconveniences to be ignored or rejected.  

As religious communities we are committed to these values. We invite all area businesses, organizations, government entities, and individuals to prayerfully join us in this commitment:

1. to be a good neighbor.

2. to value life. We oppose slavery, human trafficking, economic or sexual exploitation, torture, racism, sexism and any other practice that harms life.

3. to value families and the safety and nurture of children within those families.

4. to value quality education for all - children, teens, adults, seniors.

5. to aspire to meaningful vocations for all adults and a living wage for reasonable labor serving the common good.

6. to embrace mutually beneficial commerce that serves the common good. We oppose any commerce that demeans human life, practices usury, benefits a few while harming others, or harms the common good.

7. to promote responsible environmental stewardship of the earth and its resources. 

Our urgent concern is to remind our fellow citizens at a time when our beloved country experiences anguish and division that there are in fact values which unite us. We insist our religious communities and individuals be free both to speak of and also to act on these concerns in order to help heal wounds and comfort those in need of God’s healing through prayer and neighborly service to their fellow human beings.

In many ways, these conversations are becoming more and more common today, in response to what seems to be a growing desire for a renewal of religious values in society. Let us keep each other in prayer, not only Christians, but people of good will of all faiths.

God bless you.

Announcements ~ March 19, 2017

* Plan to attend our Parish Penance Service, Thursday, March 23. Nine priests will be on hand for a special parish service, quick individual confessions, individual absolution, a prayer of penance and a song of mercy. Join us.

* Please join us for our Lenten Soup Suppers and Stations of the Cross each Friday during Lent. Soup supper begins at 6:30pm in the school cafeteria, English Stations in the Church at 7:30pm and Spanish Stations in the chapel at 7:30pm. Bring the whole family to enjoy good soup and fellowship and then spend time waking the way of the Cross with Jesus.
* The Bishop’s Lenten Appeal is in the home stretch and we are asking every household in our parish to support this appeal to the extent you are able. The BLA funds many programs, services and ministries that serve people in need. Don’t forget every 
new donor or gift over last year’s gift will be matched by a challenge gift. We are 76% of our goal!
* Our Second Collection next weekend is for Catholic Relief Services. For more than 70 years, CRS has been providing expertise and compassion to the very poorest of our brothers and sisters in more than 100 countries. Your donation to Catholic Relief Services will feed hungry families, provide health care and clean water in remote villages, help farmers to grow better crops, protect orphans and vulnerable children, and allow for an immediate response to emergencies. Your support for this good work is greatly needed and humbly appreciated.

March 14 Weather Update

Good morning, everyone.  As Fairfax County Government is open today with unscheduled leave for employees, we will be open in the parish office today.  We will continue with our plan to reopen Forty Hours with Exposition, Office of Readings and Morning Prayer at 8:30am and Mass at 9am; those scheduled for Adoration today should be careful of weather conditions and decide with caution.  I will be here throughout the day and will be happy to monitor Adoration so that, if people are here, we will continue.

Our crew has been here throughout the night, sidewalks are shoveled and the parking lot is clear, though we still have freezing precipitation coming down so there will be a coating of sleet and slush probably throughout the day.  I walked to the office just now and encountered no difficulty.

By 3pm it should be warm and rainy, so we will plan to continue with Forty Hours certainly by 3pm, and continue with the remainder of the day: Adoration, Evening Prayer at 6, Mass at 6:30, Fr. John Rooney's final Mission Talk at 7:30, followed by Benediction and close of Forty Hours.  Thanks.

 - Fr. Don

Weather Announcement, March 13-14

St. Bernadette Church and School follows the Fairfax County Public School policy for weather closings and cancellations.  Parish activities tonight, March 13 - with the following exceptions - are canceled.

We will continue with a shortened schedule for Forty Hours this evening, with Evening Prayer at 6pm, Mass at 6:30pm  and Fr. John Rooney's Mission Talk at 7:30pm.

Adoration this evening and overnight is canceled.  We will have Morning Prayer and Office of Readings at 8:30am, Mass at 9, and hopefully adoration tomorrow, depending on weather developments.  Please check back in the morning for more information.

At this time, we hope that the snow will melt during the day, and are planning to pray Tuesday Evening Prayer at 6, and Mass at 6:30 and Fr. John's third talk followed by Benediction and close of Forty Hours.


Weather Cancelations

Weather cancelation info:

Monday, March 13: The 4:45-6:00 RE session will be held as usual. The evening session, 6:30-7:45pm, is canceled.

RE activities follow FCPS regarding cancellations.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ March 12, 2017

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Our Music Director, David Mathers, and I had a chance to sit down and talk about the shape of our liturgical expression this year during the season of Lent. In Lent the music seems to express a somberness,  maybe it is a greater sobriety, from all our everyday distractions and entertainments. It is astarkness that brings us to our senses and makes us realize that we have to change. You notice, probably, that much of the seasonal music changes key to minor chords, a “darker” sound, a greater austerity in the way we celebrate Mass. The General Instruction even goes so far as to say that use of instrumental music as an embellishment is to be avoided, that our singing is more bare, and simpler.

It might seem “grim” to some. While there might be a sincere and appropriate sadness in our hearts when we finally begin to realize how far we have allowed our hearts to wander away from God and how much we need to come home, I think that “grim” isn’t necessarily the right response. Because that moment that we realize we are far
away from God—even if that distance may seem insurmountable—we also realize that it is a moment of grace from God that allows us to see it, and therefore God is at work. God is calling. In that moment there can never be the grimness of living without hope: the moment of grace when we realize we must return to God fills us with the
realization that God’s mercy calls us home, not his judgment.

It is almost as simple as the two options the minister of ashes may use while administering ashes on Ash Wednesday. “Remember, man, you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (somewhat grim, if that is all there is), or “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” There is more than the inevitability of human death. What does it mean to you to say that Jesus died on the Cross—both as God and man? When Jesus died, he really died. He really entered into the mystery of what it means to be forsaken by God, his own Father who is love itself. To say that God and man died isn’t to say that God or man ceased to be: when we die, we don’t cease to exist, we are very much still alive, simply in a different state of existence, no longer limited by the time and space of this world. What that looks like, exactly, we don’t really know. But what we do know is that God’s lifeline for us is his mercy, and that his mercy is the source of our hope, even in what may be the darkest days of our lives.

The hope given to us by the mercy of God is the beginning of joy, regardless of how sad the separation has been. If we believe in God—regardless of what that might look like for different people— our nature demands that we seek God, our faith compels us, our practice of religion shows us the way, and our expression in worship is anything but grim as our hearts long for the living God.

Consider the difference between saying what any religion might say, “God loves me...” or “God loves the world,” compared to the bold statement of Christianity (revealed by Christ himself) that “God is love.” This can be a rich, even startling meditation, especially if you may have never really thought about before. It doesn’t work any more for us to convince ourselves that God can’t possibly love me anymore, or for now, or until I make some kind of dramatic overture to him. If he is love, then he can’t not love. His love is constant, despite our relative degree of faithfulness. It isn’t about me at all.

I think this gets more to the meaning of Mercy. Mercy is another word for love, particularly when we are speaking in human terms of being unloveable: God’s love endures despite us. It is always there, always waiting for us to come home.

Finally, as you know, this Saint Patrick’s Day Bishop Burbidge has given a dispensation to eating meat on Friday, with the provision that the customary abstinence from meat must be substituted with some form of penance or work of mercy. Here is a quick list you might find helpful.

1. To feed the hungry.
2. To give drink to the thirsty.
3. To clothe the naked.
4. To shelter the homeless.
5. To visit the sick.
6. To visit the imprisoned.
7. To bury the dead.

1. To instruct the ignorant.
2. To counsel the doubtful.
3. To admonish sinners.
4. To bear wrongs patiently.
5. To forgive offenses willingly.
6. To comfort the afflicted.
7. To pray for the living and the dead

God bless you.


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