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Announcements ~ December 30, 2018

fleur cross logo The Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God is Tuesday, 1 January. This year, The Solemity of Mary is a Holy Day of obligation.  We invite you to join us at one of our Masses:  Monday night Vigil at 7:30pm, Tuesday at 6:30, 9am, Noon, 6:30pm and 8pm (in Spanish).
 
fleur cross logo The parish offices will be closed on Monday, 31 December through Tuesday, 1 January. We will re-open on Wednesday, 3 January.
 
fleur cross logo Religious Education Classes will resume on Sunday, 13 January , 2019
 
fleur cross logo March for Life: This year’s March will be held on Friday, 13 January, to commemorate the 46th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Please plan to join your parish family in this peaceful protest against abortion. Please see page 8 for details
 
fleur cross logo Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is the week of Friday, 18-25 January.
 
fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy:  St. Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. 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

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ December 30, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

I remember reading something that the Pope said about families and went to look for it.  It was pretty easy to find, although there is a lot of material to look through, the Holy Father writes a lot about families.  Here is the quote:

“Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is ‘forged’ by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows. Love can flourish in men and women who try not to make conflict the last word, but rather a new opportunity. An opportunity to seek help, an opportunity to question how we need to improve, an opportunity to discover the God Who Is with us and never abandons us. This is a great legacy that we can give to our children, a very good lesson: we make mistakes, yes; we have problems, yes. But we know that is not really what counts. We know that mistakes, problems and conflicts are an opportunity to draw closer to others, to draw closer to God.”

-- Address to Festival of Families, Philadelphia, Sept. 27, 2015

His words provide encouragement, certainly, to those who are having difficulty with family life.  A lot of families are a real mess, my own family is not without its problems.  But the thing that I think we must be careful about is to settle for “good enough.”  “Well, I’m doing my best...” indicates that there is still room for something better, objectively speaking.  We have to be careful about not falling into that relativism that tempts us to concede—“Well, I’m only human”—as if being human is somehow not exalted, presumed flawed, or even an illness. God made us good, and calls us to be perfect not only in our potential but in our resolve to attain the fullness for which we were created.

It is true, the admission of our brokenness can help us begin the process of healing.  But even our brokenness is measured according to an ideal.  We are not adrift with an ignorance that provides no anchor or goal to guide us.  When I was a kid I’m pretty sure my brothers and I sitting in the pew with our parents wearing our blazers and ties wanted to give the impression that we were the Holy Family, but we certainly were far from it.  Still, we were guided by the ideal which is actually the reason for the Incarnation of the Word of God.  He became one of us so that we could see in him what Godliness looks like in human form, how Godliness acts, how Godliness serves and cares and steps in selflessness to save us.  We see what perfect love and mercy look like.  We see what it looks like when God enters into and dwells in a human family.  He provides the ideal that most of the world does not know (or care to know?): Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

They certainly knew hardship, danger, hard work, discouragement, deep suffering.  Have you ever wondered why it was somehow necessary that Jesus had a mom and a step dad to care for him?  He could have been some miraculous child who was perfectly capable of taking care of himself.  But it was somehow necessary for the Father’s mission for him to have a family as his place of formation.
Notice how Pope Francis immediately gives the remedy for discouragement:  love.  Love must live in a relationship as a context, and the context where love is learned is the family.  Where families are no longer intact, we must work all the more to promote this love that grows as well out of conflict and adversity.  But we must live our lives intentionally to form our children to know what is true and good, and our witness to family life and love must be genuine.

Young people often are represented as less than responsible, often in trouble, even out of control.  Adolescents and young adults likewise are often criticized for their lack of compassion and selfishness.  Maybe it has always been this way.  As I have watched over the years it seems to me, though, that young people haven’t had a great chance to become who God intended them to be.  Families spend very little quality time together, many suffer from failed marriages.  Children don’t know their parents well and are not known by them.  Too many parents want to be friends with their children when what children really need is parents.  True love in a family empowers parents to be parents and children to respect them.  It allows young people to know their dignity through the responsibilities which are given to them as they grow.  There is a sense of a proper order and hierarchy.
 
There is one other conversation that we’ve had in nearly every dialogue with other Christians and people of other religions, whether Hindu, Sikh or Muslim:  we, all of us, are losing our children and youth where faith and religious culture is concerned.  After some conversation, all are in agreement why this is happening.  We might practice faith but how many actually pass on to their children the loving reason why the practice is important?  Empty practice has no attraction to anyone, and parents can’t give their children what they don’t have.  If faith has its place in the loving context of families who pray together in God’s presence, families stay together.

God bless you.

Announcements ~ December 23, 2018

fleur cross logo December 24 (Monday): Christmas Eve Masses at 4:30pm, 9:00pm and Midnight.  Concerts will precede both the 9pm and Midnight Masses 45 minutes before Masses begin.December 24 (Monday): Christmas Eve Masses at 4:30pm, 9:00pm and Midnight.  Concerts will precede both the 9pm and Midnight Masses 45 minutes before Masses begin.

fleur cross logo December 25 (Tuesday): Christmas Day Masses at 7:30am, 9am, 11am and 1pm (Spanish).  Please note, there is no 5pm Mass on Christmas Day.
The Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God is Tuesday, 1 January. This year, The Solemity of Mary is a Holy Day of obligation.  We invite you to join us at one of our Masses:  Monday night Vigil at 7:30pm, Tuesday at 6:30, 9am, Noon, 6:30pm and 8pm (in Spanish).

fleur cross logo The parish offices will be closed on Monday, 24 December through Friday, 28 December. We will re-open for the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, 29 and 30 December with limited service. The parish office will also be closed Monday, December 31 through Tuesday, 1 January. We will re-open on Wednesday, 3 January.

fleur cross logo There will be no Religious Education Classes the weeks of 24 and 31 December and 7 January. Classes will resume on Sunday, January 13, 2018

fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy:  St. Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. 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

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ December 23, 2018

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

On the day before Christmas Eve, those who are going to travel are probably gone; all those home from school – welcome home – and visitors and family from out of town, if you are with us today, we hope you find a warm welcome and the comfort of joining us at Saint Bernadette in prayerful anticipation of the Lord’s coming.

It is a good time to give a kind of “year in review,” it has been a very, very busy year with a lot of activities and signs of renewal and growth.  In 2018:

– We completed the addition of a second Pre-K classroom in the school to assure future enrollment;

– We have all but completed an administrative addition to the school so that we now have new offices for the principal, assistant principal, registrar, curriculum coordinator and counselor, as well as a conference room, a new front reception office and secure entrance.  Hopefully we will have an open house for you to visit during Catholic Schools’ Week later next month;

– We replaced the sound equipment and speakers in the gym and cafeteria;

– We expanded our middle school faculty to better meet the needs of students in math and language arts, and have introduced programs for student with special learning needs;

– We renovated and equipped our parish kitchen so that we are able to offer USDA approved, healthy hot lunches to our students, as well as free and reduced lunch to those in need;

– We have expanded our youth programs to reach out more comprehensively to the youth of the parish, who are all invited to come and see the parish life we offer;

– Because it was a challenging year for storms and electrical outages, we replaced a couple of dozen hardwoods to reforest the edge of the bluff overlooking the creek, and continued to clean up and remove trees that impact our power lines;

– We hosted our second annual Parish Picnic Family Day to a record crowd;

– We welcomed three hundred parishioners from the school and parish to a new School Auction themed “The Music Man,” with silent auctions and a live auction and catered dinner which allowed the school to significantly expand instructional technology in the school;

– We completed phase 1 in renovating our chapel with a new tile floor and new chairs and kneelers, as well as designing and producing furnishings for the church sanctuary; 

– We held our second Called and Gifted Workshop and completed the follow-up small group meetings for the discernment of spiritual gifts for all who are seeking their place in God’s plan;

– We added the position of Development Director to the parish staff in the interest of growing a culture of stewardship and long-term support of the mission of the parish;

– Again this year, we hosted the Summer Theater Program who rehearsed all summer for their production of “Newsies” at Bishop Ireton High School;

– We continued our tradition of giving in support of ECHO, the Catholic Charities’ Lucy Project for meeting the needs of food insecurity in the diocese, the annual Catholic Charities Christmas Collection and Bishop’s Lenten Appeal.  Again this year we hosted classes by Catholic Charities for English as a second language and citizenship, and supported the full complement of Scouting programs in the parish.

With the help of our new Development Director, Doug Mills, we have begun a well-thought-out and realistic of program of building for the future, and will soon begin conversation about a Capital Campaign which will fund a new Parish Hall and meeting rooms, and a much-needed renovation and expansion of parish offices.  Although the parish did not indicate a particular desire to make any improvements in our worship space, we will talk in the coming year about ways we can reshape the ceiling to at least allow for better accoustics and lighting, as well as solve the problem of accessibility and utility for the sanctuary and choir area.

It has, indeed, been quite a year.  We saw Fr. Vu depart and Fr. Nicolas and Fr. Rich arrive.  I believe we have a lot to look forward to, appreciating all that has gone before but also living into a certain, bright hope for the future which surely is God’s plan for his Church.  Our community is growing in its self awareness in Christ, slowly but surely, and I invite you to take an active part in this work which is ongoing.  Merry Christmas to you.

God bless you.

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

.-  -  -  -  -
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

-  -  -  -  -
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.

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