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Announcements ~ 24 March 2019

fleur cross logo Easter Flower Memorials Available - Remember someone you love, either living or deceased, with a donation for our beautiful Easter Flowers. Envelopes are available in your envelope packets, in the Church and in the Parish Office. The deadline for the listing in the bulletin is Palm Sunday.
 
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 The Bishop’s Lenten Appeal is coming to fulfillment and we are asking every household in our parish to support this appeal to the extent you are able. BLA funds are restricted gifts that provide many programs, services and ministries that serve people in need, and may not be used for any other purpose. Don’t forget every new donor or gift over last year’s gift will be matched by a challenge gift.  Thank you for responding so quickly.  Once our goal is met we may begin our own parish Capital Campaign!
 
fleur cross logo Our Parish Penance Service will be Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30pm, a time that we will have at least eighteen priests (English and Spanish) who will be here for you. Please plan to come.  + Martes, 9 de abril.  Unanse a nosotros para un servicio especial que incluye confesión individual rápida y absolución.  Favor mirar el boletín.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 24 March 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
Lent is all about fasting, prayer and almsgiving.
 
Having spoken about fasting and prayer in the two last bulletins, we turn now to the topic of almsgiving this week.  Our parish 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration and Parish Mission last week was really a time of palpable grace for our parish family, thanks to all who made it such a huge success.  As you know, many effects of grace are realized later when God knows we are ready.  So much groundwork was done for our parish family last week, and we will be better for it, if we aren’t already.
 
“Giving” is one of the gifts which might be received at baptism, as we learn in the Called and Gifted Program.  It is relatively rare, apparently, or else people are so saturated with the world they are completely unaware that they have it.  A person who has received the gift of Giving doesn’t ask (like most of us do), “How much must I give?”  She or he asks, rather, “How much do I really need to keep?”  A person who gives needs a lot of trust, and a humility that recognizes that we don’t identify ourselves by what we have, but by what we have given to others.  This is not just money I’m talking about, it is about precious hours in the day, and about sharing the things that you can use to actually make another person’s life better rather than your own.
 
We get a glimpse of what Christianity looked like in the years immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus in the account of the Acts of the Apostles.  People lived in community, sharing all they had in common, providing for those in need with the resources of all.  People would literally bring what they had and lay it at the feet of the Apostles, who would figure out how it could be best used to provide charity and well being to others, regardless of their affiliations.
 
Think of it logically:  we cannot be a community that calls ourselves Christian if we are not a community that gives of ourselves.  It would be a lie.
 
Early Christianity might seem like socialism to many.  Such a system of socialism seems to be impractical, even dangerous because such social systems have been established and taken advantage of by corrupt and ruthless dictators.  The state becomes more important than the value of the life of the individual or even the life of the community. 
 
But in the system of the Apostles, there was no power involved.  Everyone remained humble, people lived in peace as equals.  The only thing that still exists today that is faithful to this “new way” of Jesus is religious life.  Communities of Sisters, Priests and Brothers who have no goal but to love and serve God, and exercise their respective charisms for the good of the apostolate, whether that be education, development, caring for the afflicted or helping the poor.  Great religious orders throughout the history of western civilization such as the Benedictines, Franciscans and Jesuits have always lived with all things shared in common, with no personal property and no agenda other than the purpose of their Order or community to serve God in his creation.
 
I wonder how that happens in our lives who are not committed personally as men and women religious are?  Just because we haven’t made a vow of poverty (diocesan priests don’t, either) does that give us license to be rich?  To keep all that we can and build up barns to storing all we can?  To live in this world without regard to the Lazaruses that sit outside our door in the dirt, waiting for someone to be kind?  Jesus is clear.  Even to give a glass of water to one who is thirsty is enough not to lose your reward. 
 
The thing is, the more you do it, the more you do it.  It becomes a part of your personality, even identity, to be generous.  It starts with kindness, maybe nothing more than a smile, and grows into greater and greater contributions of yourself to others and the community.  A personal transformation is underway.
 
For this reason almsgiving, classically understood as providing sustenance to the poor, is considered one of the greatest works of penance (instruments of personal conversion) for the season of Lent as well as throughout the year.  We make a sacrifice of something significant, so that the gift actually means something to us, too.  And the person who receives our generosity will, in turn, glorify God in their own way.
 
Giving makes reparation for the sins we ourselves have committed, as well as builds virtue enabling us to live a life more faithful to the Gospel.  It gives another hope, and reveals to others the way that Jesus went about doing good and helping provide the healing and peace that was, and is today, so needed.  Our lives become living Gospels, even without necessarily needing to use the words.
 
God bless you.
 

Announcements ~ 17 March 2019

fleur cross logo Beginning tonight (Sunday) - Join us for 40 Hours of Adoration and 3 evenings of parish mission talks - see page 7 for the full schedule as well as the schedule for Lent confessions and liturgies for Lent and Holy Week.  Mark your calendars for our  Parish Lenten Penance Service on Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30pm.  Start preparing now with an examination of conscience - see p. 9.

fleur cross logo Easter Flower Memorials Available - Remember someone you love, either living or deceased, with a donation for our beautiful Easter Flowers. Envelopes are available in your envelope packets, in the Church and in the Parish Office. The deadline for the listing in the bulletin is Palm Sunday.

fleur cross logo This year, for Masses on the Sundays (and Saturday evenings) of Lent, instead of singing a closing song, at the end of Mass we will have silence after we are sent forth and during the procession of the priest and ministers. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are traditional disciplines that we intensify during Lent. Many parishes have found that having silence at the end of Mass is a way of extending the fast beyond food: another way of reducing and simplifying. Then when Easter comes, our richer musical fare will reflect our Paschal joy as we return to our custom of singing a closing song.

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 The Bishop’s Lenten Appeal is coming to fulfillment and we are asking every household in our parish to support this appeal to the extent you are able.
The BLA funds are restricted gifts that provide many programs, services and ministries that serve people in need, and may not be used for any other purpose. Don’t forget every new donor or gift over last year’s gift will be matched by a challenge gift.  Thank you for responding so quickly.  Once our goal is met we may begin our own parish Capital Campaign!

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter - 17 March 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Lent is all about fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

Having spoken about fasting in last week’s bulletin, it seems timely to work on the topic of prayer this week, especially since we begin our parish 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration and Parish Mission, when all of the talks on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evening are going to be about prayer.

On Sunday night I am going to reflect on the presence of God in Sacred Scripture and about how, even though the world approaches the Bible as a text book, it has been since the beginning a prayer book.  It is, I believe, the most powerful form of prayer.  Why?  Because the words are not our own.

Just think about it.  Really God’s words.  It makes you wonder how there can be so many who don’t listen to them.
 
When I talk about prayer with people (I used to have more time for providing spiritual direction and prayer is definitely an important topic for directees) it has been my overwhelming experience that prayer is patrick 03(1) the most difficult topic for most Catholics who find themselves frustrated about not knowing how to do it and (2) the number one reason that people give up practicing faith.  It seems dry, or pointless.  I don’t get what I ask for—why should I keep trying?  Is God listening to me?  Or is this some kind of endurance test?  This endless repetition—how many times does God need to hear the same prayers over and over?

Actually, if you think about it, our prayer can’t be any more enjoyable for God than it is for us.  If he truly wishes us to have joy, how can it be that prayer is one of the most unjoyful experiences that people have?  He is not happy that we are miserable.

Well, I don’t want to give away my talk Sunday night, but it is enough to say that the way we learned to pray as children is not going to satisfy us as adults.  As children it is already easy to get absolutely bored.  But if you recall, when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray he didn’t say, “When you pray, repeat these words...”  He said, “This is how you are to pray.”  And then the words welled up from within his heart with expressions of praise, hope, petition and trust, and contrition.  All forms of prayer are wrapped up in these few lines.  I don’t think it was ever his intention that we memorize it and rattle it off over and over as we do.  He wanted the words to well up from within us, the movement of love and trust, of entrustment and joy and praise.
 
People say (always) that they are uneasy about prayer because they guess they didn’t learn how to do it, or never somehow figured it out.  I tell them the first error they have is that prayer isn’t something we do.  It is not a doing, it is a simple being with God.  Ah, the simplest things are often the hardest because we have made ourselves so complicated.  Remember—we must become like children.  But not bored children.

Prayer is not a series of doing deals with God.  God, if you heal my sickness I’ll treat my brother better.  Well, first of all, we are offering God a carrot that he is owed already.  It is not a conversation of equals.  Trading favors.  Jesus says to the disciples you do not get what you ask for because you ask wrongly.  Prayer is not a pleading to get God to do what we want.  It is, rather, an attentiveness to him so that we will know what he wants.  You see, prayer is, afterall, about him.

If in a moment of clarity if we could even begin to grasp the enormity and sheer excellence of God, we would realize that there is only one appropriate activity in his presence.  To be still, and listen.  His word is everythingHis words are spirit and life.  A double-edged sword that lays bear the truth of our hearts to us.  And our falseness.  He reveals to us who we are, only when we stop making all the noise and realize that God’s own existence is love to be shared.  A relationship that must include a beloved.  Of course, his only begotten Son is his Beloved, but that same love has incorporated us into himself, and we, too are the Beloved.  He pours himself out so that we might have life.  And the key to unlocking this life is in his living Word, the Word made flesh who dwells among us.

Monday night Fr. Rich will present on the Eucharist and how we can grow through prayerful stillness in the life of God, a prayer we call adoration.  God calls us to the altar of his Word, and the Body of Christ, somehow one Mystery, just as we think of Holy Thursday and Good Friday as one reality.  Now is the time of fulfillment for Saint Bernadette.

Tuesday night we will wrap all of this up in a talk about the Mass, where Word and Sacrament become the foretaste of heaven and the source of salvation for the world. 

God bless you.

Announcements ~ March 10, 2019

fleur cross logo This year, for Masses on the Sundays (and Saturday evenings) of Lent, instead of singing a closing song, at the end of Mass we will have silence after we are sent forth and during the procession of the priest and ministers. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are traditional disciplines that we intensify during Lent. Many parishes have found that having silence at the end of Mass is a way of extending the fast beyond food: another way of reducing and simplifying. Then when Easter comes, our richer musical fare will reflect our Paschal joy as we return to our custom of singing a closing song.
 
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 The Bishop’s Lenten Appeal is in full swing 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 waiting to learn of our progress this week.

fleur cross logo 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 - March 10, 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Lent is all about fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

Lent is not, however, about introducing a void in your life: fasting from food or abstaining from meat on Fridays of Lent isn’t about being hungry for the sake of being hungry. I think sometimes people think that we have to do these things because God thinks that suffering is good for us and he wants us to suffer. No wonder so many people don’t believe in God anymore! Life is enough of a refining fire that I don’t think we need to arbitrarily add more suffering.

Still, we can see that suffering and death of Jesus was the instrument God used to bring about the redemption of mankind: Man was lost and the only remedy was to give himself back to God, but he was unable. So God stepped in and, as one of us, literally took care of it for us, in our own place. As so many prefaces in the Mass say, the cause of our downfall, humanity, was itself the cure in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

We must also acknowledge that—and I do believe this, that most people are good and trying to do the right thing—God doesn’t really get our full attention unless we find ourselves in a tight spot, facing a serious circumstance like illness, or when we experience the reality of loss in our lives. Even if we pray regularly or often, the intensity of our prayer multiplies when we are in dire need. Food always tastes better when you are really hungry. As my mom always used to say, hunger is the best sauce. Being hungry makes us less concerned about the taste of the food, and more grateful to receive it. Obviously, we draw the parallel of this to the spiritual life. You can’t experience resurrection without death. Somehow, we must acknowledge our sinfulness and know contrition (being sorry for what we have done) in order to grasp the reality of forgiveness.

Our world doesn’t forgive anymore, does it? One’s transgressions are revealed and last forever on the internet. Children today have to worry that something they did in adolescence will affect the way a job application is received when they are old. Forgiveness seems to come harder for people as our society polarizes and hardens and continues to grow in mutual disrespect and disregard. People are less likely to give someone the benefit of the doubt before judgement is made. Really, people are quick to judge before they even know each other.

I belong to a religious leaders group of the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington DC that meets every two months, and this was one of the topics of conversation last week. We were talking about how people don’t practice faith anymore and one of the pastors said that she blames the internet for this overwhelming trend in all churches. The whole nature of relationship has changed. In cyber space there is now only an “I” who anonymously interacts with others who are able, in their anonymity, to freely self-define a “reality” completely disconnected from truth. The truth of community and responsibility and the connectedness that is broken by sin and needs to be reconciled doesn’t even exist in this construct. I’ll never forget the chill that I experienced when a groom in a former parish explained to me that all his friends, even his best friend, were people he met on line and actually had never met in person. “As far as the nones are concerned,” this pastor said, “all they need to do to experience ‘church,’ is to reach out and touch the screen.” (“Nones” are those who have replied “none” to surveys asking their religious affiliation.)

So if fasting is not a sacrifice for suffering’s own sake, then what is it for? It reminds us of a hunger that we have—for what? Or whom? Since we can never own another person, is it not then the relationship that we long for?

A sin ruptures more than just our relationship with God: when one member of the body is sick, the whole body is sick. Sin also destroys fellowship. This is ancient Christian teaching. Absolution (forgiveness) must come from God, of course, but also from the community. For this reason in those early centuries the confession of sins and the fulfillment of penance were public acts, not in confidentiality as it is today. The priest uniquely can speak sacramentally as Christ in the vertical forgiveness as well as the Church for the horizontal aspect of reconciliation.

More and more, as budgets tighten and full calendars and even traffic make getting together harder and harder, this fellowship is the first thing to be cut. We become “disaffiliated,” literally, “un-brothered.” We might look for substitutes in digital hang-outs and conference calls, but the result is only compromise with a gradual dehumanization of ourselves and the radical disappearance of community.

This Lent, I ask you to make a choice. Give up anything that divides or tries to substitute true human relationship. Embrace anything that seeks personal dialogue and reconciliation with God and others. Find inspiration in prayer and fasting.

God bless you.
 

Announcements ~ March 3, 2109

fleur cross logo This year, for Masses on the Sundays (and Saturday evenings) of Lent, instead of singing a closing song, at the end of Mass we will have silence after we are sent forth and during the procession of the priest and ministers. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are traditional disciplines that we intensify during Lent. Many parishes have found that having silence at the end of Mass is a way of extending the fast beyond food: another way of reducing and simplifying. Then when Easter comes, our richer musical fare will reflect our Paschal joy as we return to our custom of singing a closing song.
 
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 begins this weekend at all Masses. Your generosity is what makes our Church’s response possible.
 
fleur cross logo 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 ~ March 3, 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Starting at the Masses for the First Sunday of Lent we have some minor changes to the procedures at Mass.  There is a short form on page 6 of this bulletin, or you may find a more detailed description in last week’s bulletin on the parish website.

There is one additional liturgical note for Lent.  This year, for Masses on the Sundays (and Saturday evenings) of Lent, instead of singing a closing song, at the end of Mass we will have silence after we are sent forth and during the procession of the priest and ministers.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are traditional disciplines that we intensify during Lent. Many parishes have found that having silence at the end of Mass is a way of extending the fast beyond food: another way of reducing and simplifying. Then when Easter comes, our richer musical fare will reflect our Paschal joy as we return to our custom of singing a closing song.

Here we are, poised on the beginning of a new privileged season, a time of reckoning and penance in preparation for the celebration of new life, baptism and resurrection at Easter.  I urge everyone to take this time seriously.  Seldom do we take the time to really make an inventory of our lives and decide to move forward on an adjusted, converted path.  Turn the control over to God to guide the adjustments that you need to make in your life.  I haven’t been on a diving board since I was a kid, but I remember that feeling too well (maybe this is why I haven’t done it since!) of standing on the end of the high board at the pool, that rush of adrenaline as you begin to bounce into a dive.  That is exactly the feeling I would like you to bring to active memory as Lent begins.  A feeling of some uncertainty, keen attention to what is happening, maybe a sense of possible imminent danger if we don’t act carefully and with all our senses, as well as hope of a good outcome.  A good dive takes a lot of practice.  Divine life doesn’t come easy:  not on Jesus’ part, nor our own.

Your inventory must be honest, humble and realistic.  Where do you stand in your life in relationship with God?  Even the greatest saints who advanced so far on the path of spirituality were never satisfied with where they were.  It is like knowledge—the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.  The Good News is that the more you grow in God, even though you realize there is always more, that “always more” comes with a great deal of trust, peace and joy.  Maybe you know someone in your life that has a deep spirituality living with God.  They stand unshaken even in the most difficult times.  There is a stillness at their core that is not threatened by anything worldly.  Everything has its place, and they know their place is with God alone.

I look around, listen to people in their conversations, read about what people outside the circle of faith have to say, even some of the people who believe they already have all the answers.  There are so many people who are here, but not engaged.  Is that you?  Going through the motions but not connecting.  There are others who show up but don’t really know why.  It seems like a good thing to do, but eventually it becomes a chore and they fall away.  When asked why people leave the practice of religion, most don’t have a reason.  They don’t know why they just seemed to fall away.  Is that you?  If so, it is so easy today to look deeper.

Many people are out there who are no longer personally connected to the practice of religion, oblivious of faith, not really even looking.  You might be their only link.  The best way you can help them is to work on your own relationship with God, and let them get a glimpse of the joy you will find.  It is irresistible.

This past week I lost a dear friend from my former parish.  Well, we use these words, don’t we?  Actually, I didn’t lose anything.  She is still just as alive as before, just differently.  Her name is Gail, and she was a great lady in my previous parish.  Very quiet, a humble servant, very generous with her time, talent and treasure.  Even in her later years with disabilities she would be there every Sunday night cooking dinner for the 70 or 80 kids who would come to youth gatherings.  She organized events, served for years on parish council, led small groups and helped facilitate the Called and Gifted program, established a health ministry for the parish, and supported the arts in the parish with our quarterly concerts.  She bought a good number of the pipes in our new pipe organ.  It was truly a moment of grace to be with her as she died last Sunday in the hospital surrounded by her dearest friends.

I mention her because we grow fastest when we see someone else going where we want to go, leading as we want to lead, serving as we think we might be able to serve.  Whether you are already committed to living your faith, are now seeking God, or even merely curious, get ready to make this Lent a time of serious work.  Plan now, so that your life of faith can be intentional and authentic, and fruitful.

God bless you.



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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