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Announcements ~ October 28, 2018

fleur cross logo All Saints’ Day Mass schedule (holy day of obligation)
October 31 Vigil at 7:30pm, November 1 Masses at 6:30 and 9am, Noon, 6:30pm in English and 8pm in Spanish.  The  All Souls’ Day Mass schedule includes 9am  and 7:30pm parish bilingual Mass for all our deceased.
 
fleur cross logo All Souls’ Novena of Masses - Remembrance envelopes in which you may include the names of your deceased family or friends are available in the vestibule of the church and parish office. Envelopes will be placed near the altar during the Novena of Masses. To participate please fill out one of the envelopes with your donation and return them to the parish office before November 2nd. Questions, please contact the parish office.
 
fleur cross logo Please welcome Cross Catholic Outreach THIS weekend. Cross Catholic Outreach supported scores of education projects in 15 countries. Among them was an outreach of Fr. Glenn Meaux’s Kobonal Haiti Mission, providing Catholic education, meals and scholarships for primary and secondary students. Also, in Kenya, we funded the construction of the two-classroom kindergarten in the remote region of Lodwar. Please welcome Father Pascal  who will be our guest the weekend of October 27-28.
 
fleur cross logo November 6 is Election Day. As it has done for other elected offices previously, the Virginia Catholic Conference has prepared a side-by-side comparison of the positions of the candidates in this year’s Virginia U.S. Senate race. Called Know the Positions of the Candidates for U.S. Senate, this resource can be found at vacatholic.org. The issues appear in alphabetical order for informational purposes only and do not represent a complete list of issues that may be of importance to Catholics. The Conference neither supports nor opposes candidates for public office. A Spanish translation of the candidate comparison is also available.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ October 28, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
In my recent talk to directors of diocesan liturgical commissions I spoke about the difference between living our faith and its expectations as a tourist compared to living as a pilgrim.  We often refer to the “pilgrim Church on earth” united in mission, but I often wonder if we really understand the expression.  In living life, are we fixing our hearts and minds on the goal, the end, or are we just trying our best to milk the present moment for all that it is worth?
 
A pilgrimage is not a vacation, it is not a life of expectation of everything going my way, with the central focus on my comfort, my entitlement.  It is not a sufficiency in the present moment:  it is always about moving forward to what is to come.  It is a concerted effort of each to contribute to the experience of the whole:  there is nothing more inappropriate to any pilgrimage than selfishness.  Jesus’ own pilgrimage could only lead to Jerusalem, and he had this image in his sights at all times.  His comfort, his own pleasure had no place in his Father’s plan.
 
A directed effort to benefit the self at the expense of the whole becomes so obvious on pilgrimage, versus a vacation when you expect your money’s worth and everyone is responsible for their own itinerary.  I often feel this when I am in traffic, when everyone lines up to work past an accident or lane closure and there are always those who continue to speed past in the closing lane and cut into traffic to get ahead.  This sort of behavior makes me angry, because I believe it is contrary to the effort of the whole to work together.  You don’t need examples, I am sure there are hundreds of examples you could think of in a very short period of time of people who act only for themselves, with disregard for those around them.
 
Well, the Church is on pilgrimage, not a vacation...  there is to be expected some hardship willingly offered up for the good of all.  There will be times when we are truly slowed down by others’ legitimate needs and we must be patient and respond in kindness.  But there is no room for individualism, which is the death of community.
 
We’ve been talking about these things as we travel, about how easy it is to be frustrated in the present moment, but that the need for the goal is greater.  Everytime we have a procession in liturgy it is symbolic of the whole people of God moving in one unity to the Kingdom -- the entrance, the gifts, Communion and recessional -- these are the times the Church moves together in perfect unity of prayer and gesture.  It isn’t about the moving only; it is about where the path is leading.  We can lose the forest for the trees.  The path itself becomes irrelevant if all that matters is how I feel in that moment.
 
We’ve spent four days traveling in the same desert where Moses and the Israelite people traveled for forty years.  As quickly as they lost sight of the goal (the promised land) they immediately began to complain.  In Scripture studies they call it the “murmuring motif.”  We’ve had plenty of murmuring even on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land this week.
 
As a Church on pilgrimage, not on vacation, then, we have to be willing to keep our eye on the goal and not be so carried away and lost in the moment.  There is always more... this is why they call it Good News.
 
As I write this it is Tuesday night, we have returned from Jordan and all the wonderful Old Testament sites back to Jerusalem.  Today we celebrated Mass in Jericho, the garden where the first Adam disobeyed and ate, and the Second Adam (Jesus) fasted and was tempted, but was victorious.  His triumph conquers the ancient foe and shows that a new order has come.  Tomorrow we go to Bethlehem and city museums, then on Thursday and Friday we address the goal of why we are on pilgrimage: we intend to share in a literal way the suffering, death and rising of Jesus, our Lord who loves us this much that he was willing to take his pilgrimage on this earth so that we and our salvation might be his goal.  It is so amazing to think about it.  He put himself aside completely on his pilgrimage to make us his purpose, his end.
 
It is only just that we do the same.  If you are traveling through this life as a tourist you will always be disappointed and your existence will be characterized by complaint.  Rather, keep you eye on the goal, where we hope to be one day, and allow the many disappointments and shortcomings only the attention they deserve in the greater perspective of God.
 
I think of those pilgrims who, after the legalization of Christianity in 325, risked their lives to war, illness, criminals and fatigue just to get a glimpse of the places that Jesus was born, healed, preached, offered himself for us and our salvation on the Cross and rose from the dead.  Such real sacrifice they made to do what we are doing in really nice hotels and transport.
 
We have continued to pray for you everywhere we go.
 
God bless you.
 

Announcements ~ October 21, 2018

fleur cross logo Our 4th Monday TAIZE Prayer Service is this week:  Monday, October 22 at 8pm. Please invite all your Christian friends to join us in this beautiful, peaceful ecumenical prayer service in the tradition of the Taizé Community in France.
 
fleur cross logo World’s Finest Chocolates! Saint Bernadette School Chocolate Sale will run October 1 – November 4. Candy bars are available for sale after all weekend Masses. The school receives 50% of the funds raised and will use the funds to support our school’s arts, academic, technology, and sports programs, as well as other events during the school year. Thank you for supporting our school!
 
fleur cross logo ECHO’s popular Yard Sale will be held on Saturday, October 27 from 8am-Noon in the gym. Proceeds of the sale benefit ECHO whose mission is to help local people who are experiencing emergency as well as those who have long-term low income needs.
 
fleur cross logo Please welcome Cross Catholic Outreach next weekend. Cross Catholic Outreach supported scores of education projects in 15 countries. Among them was an outreach of Fr. Glenn Meaux’s Kobonal Haiti Mission, providing Catholic education, meals and scholarships for primary and secondary students. Also, in Kenya, we funded the construction of the two-classroom kindergarten in the remote region of Lodwar. Please welcome Father Pascal  who will be our guest the weekend of October 27-28.
 
fleur cross logo November 6 is Election Day. The Virginia Catholic Conference has prepared a side-by-side comparison of the positions of the candidates in this year’s Virginia U.S. Senate race. This resource can be found at vacatholic.org and will be printed in next week’s bulletin. The issues appear in alphabetical order and do not represent all that may be of importance to Catholics. The Conference neither supports nor opposes candidates for public office. A Spanish translation of the candidate comparison is also available.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ October 21, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
The deadline for this bulletin to go to the printer will fall just after we land in Tel Aviv and are on the bus to Nazareth, so I can’t tell you much about our progress so far, even though by the time you read this we will already have been in the Holy Land six days!  I can tell you that we will have visited Nazareth, Mount Tabor, the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River by now, and this weekend are in Jordan visiting Madaba, Mount Nebo, the Baptism of Jesus site on the Jordan side of the river, the desert of Wadi Rum and Petra. If all went according to plan, we prayed for all of you in our parish family at all these places, especially with Masses at the Basilica of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the Church of the Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and Mount Nebo where Moses looked out over the promised land as the chosen people crossed the Jordan to begin their new lives. Hopefully next week we will have some nice photos to include in the bulletin.
 
Some good news—since Father Rich has come to the parish he and I share a common desire to add a couple of early Masses to the weekly schedule. With three priests it seems like we only celebrate Mass every couple or three days. The logical time to add Mass is early, so that people who work might be able to add Mass to their schedules. I know some people have asked for a Mass at noon or even in the evenings. It has been my experience that Masses at noon generally draw on the group that already comes to the 9am Mass (which is late in the morning already). Evening Masses in the schedule would take away the only time we are able to schedule meetings with parish groups. I propose we give 6:30am a try on Mondays and Thursdays and see if this is of benefit to you. We promise to keep it well under 30 minutes so that you can reliably plan your commutes to work. We will start the early Masses on Monday, Oct. 29 (Thursday, Nov. 1 there is already a 6:30am Mass because of All Saints’ Day, a holy day of obligation.)
 
Finally, some questions arose when we heard the readings and homilies about marriage week before last. I write a column periodically about marriage because I am always surprised what people did not learn about Church teaching growing up. It is probably not your fault, maybe you missed the class or were misled by someone who missed the class. Here is an attempt at communicating what the Church teaches as simply as possible.
 
1. Civil marriage is not valid for Catholics. Catholics who are married “outside the Catholic Church,” not according to Catholic canonical form, are not married, and are not permitted to receive other sacraments (Eucharist, confession, confirmation, etc.) until a sacramental marriage in the Church is celebrated (called a convalidation). Also, Catholics who are not married in the Church are not eligible, by Canon Law, to serve as godparents or sponsors for others who are receiving sacraments. Since only Catholics are bound by Canon Law, we honor the marriage of Non-Catholics according to whatever their church says. (For example, if  Methodists are married civilly, we would not say that their marriage is invalid, because the Methodist church says, for Methodists, that civil marriage is enough. Methodists do not believe marriage is a sacrament.) 
 
2. If you are divorced, you are still fully Catholic and free to receive sacraments, including Communion. The Church doesn’t recognize civil divorce, either; in the eyes of the Church people remain married unless they have proven through the process of an annulment that the original attempted marriage was invalid—basically, didn’t happen—because, on the day of the wedding, what was needed was not present either by lack of intention or psychological incapacity of the bride and/or groom. Before remarriage, a person must undergo this process of declaration of nullity with the Diocesan Tribunal in order to be determined free to marry. If a person remarries without a decree of nullity, therefore outside the Church, they are not able to receive sacraments.
 
It is really important to make this following point:  although you might hear someone use the word “excommunicated” with regard to marriage/remarriage outside the Church, you must not misunderstand the meaning. “Ex” in Latin means “from.”  It doesn’t mean you are no longer a member of the Church, it means that you are a Catholic who is unable, for now, to receive Communion. You should still be attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, as the obligation of the law is not to receive Communion every Sunday, but to attend Mass.
 
I think that the work we do with couples is one of the greatest signs of the mercy of God. No one who is healthy (in my experience) enters into marriage intending for it to fail, but people make mistakes. It is a great work of healing and closure to help people get back on the right track. Please, if we can help you, call us!
 
God bless you.
 

Announcements ~ October 14, 2108

fleur cross logo THIS WEEKEND IS OUR PARISH PICNIC! Join us for a day of celebrating our parish family and our 38th anniversary of the dedication of the church!  The picnic will follow a special bilingual Mass at NOON, combining the 11am and 1pm Masses into one. Families are invited to bring a side dish (last names beginning with A-L), desserts (M-S), or a non-perishable snack (T-Z). There will be no charge for hot dogs, hamburgers or drinks. Live music included. Join us!

fleur cross logo If you haven’t yet returned your Commitment Card, you are welcome to drop it in the second collection basket, or mail it in, or bring it into the office. Everyone is encouraged to make a commitment to living your faith by getting involved in the parish!

fleur cross logo All Soul’s Novena of Masses - Remembrance envelopes in which you may include the names of your deceased family or friends are available in the vestibule of the church and parish office. Envelopes will be placed near the altar during the Novena of Masses. To participate please fill out one of the envelopes with your donation and return them to the parish office before November 2nd. Questions, please contact the parish office.

fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette Choirs are welcoming new members. We have choirs for singers of all ages. For more information contact Director, David Mathers at 703-451-8576 x112 or dmathers@stbernpar.org

fleur cross logo World’s Finest Chocolates! The St. Bernadette School Chocolate Sale will run October 1 – November 4. Candy bars are available for sale after all weekend Masses. The school receives 50% of the funds raised and will use the funds to support our school’s arts, academic, technology, and sports programs, as well as other events during the school year. Thank you for supporting our school!

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ October 14, 2018

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


On the 3rd of October I was asked to give a talk in Atlanta on the progress of the ecumenical movement and how liturgy and the arts (music and environment) can unite us through beauty. The group I spoke to was the national Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, representatives of dioceses in the United States who lead worship on behalf of bishops. I was pretty nervous, I have to say, and spent a lot of time on the paper. It was supposed to be one hour long, and was one of two keynote addresses to the group, one by myself and and the other by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta. I don’t know if you have ever done something like this before, but I kept going over it and over it, assigning stopwatch timing to every paragraph to make sure I didn’t go over the time limit. You see, these are the leading professionals responsible for making beautiful liturgy that inspires the Church. They are our best and brightest, presumably, and have a very important role in the life of the Church.

In my paper I quoted Bishop Frank Caggiano (Bridgeport) when he spoke to us at the National Pastoral Musicians Convention in Baltimore last summer. Liturgy, he said, is the divine fuel of the work of evangelization to break through our indifference. “You are the custodians of the path to beauty,” he told us. There is an evangelical power to liturgy itself:  we are most ourselves when we are gathered to pray. Beauty transcends us, we are transformed. We are not here to be entertained, no matter how good it makes us feel. We are transformed, not by doing it, or hearing it, but by adding our gifts and voices and being it. This is the major divide between the Catholic Tradition and what has become of it in various Protestant expressions. Worship has been reduced to an opportunity for those who want to perform, and for those who want to be entertained. Trapped in the self, we can shut down the channel of being caught up in the life of God.

As I was giving my talk, I was thinking in the back of my mind about so many of the surveys which are coming in about our church renovation which say the church design is, in the mind of more than 60% (so far, at least), not necessary. One surveyed voted no, saying, “That is just beautification.”  My heart sinks; I am convinced that we humans, who rely on our senses to bring us closer to God, desperately need art and beauty. We need spaces that inspire and exalt our senses about being in the presence of God in order to open to him. We need music which will involve us, an organ that will enhance our community’s voice and not fight it. A space that fills us with a sense that we are in a holy place, a place like no other, where God has chosen to dwell among us. A bright, uplifting, inspiring place where our best offering of art and craft speaks of the importance of God in our lives and the joy he brings. This is not a practical thing, it is hard to sell to bookkeepers and analysts. It only makes sense to those who thirst for God’s presence. Last week we and the campaign consultants had a conversation about the results of the planning study (and unless our in-pew surveys from last weekend are different) we probably will not do anything with the church. 


When I was a pastor in the Dominican Republic you could always tell the neighborhoods who had overcome poverty. They were the ones where the people began to plant flowers in front of their houses. This is the place where we live, and it is beautiful, because life is good. But up until that point, people weren’t even aware of a lack. In so many places today we as a race are impoverished with regard to beauty (and truth, and goodness!), and not even aware of our poverty. All we know is that something is not right and we are often angry.


There is still a question whether or not parish meeting spaces will be supported. If so, my hope would be that, if we become a community that gathers and meets (if we build spaces to make such meetings possible), someday somebody can start the conversation again about how the nature of the worship space is vital. Maybe it’s a chicken-and-egg thing:  does community grow deeper faith?  Or does deeper faith grow community?


Anyway, my one hour talk on October 3rd went one hour and seven minutes. I finished the talk with a prayer:  “Through him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, we cry out with all hope: all glory and honor is yours Almighty Father, for ever and ever. All replied, “Amen!” and my talk ended with a standing ovation. Thanks be to God.


There are so many things going on at the same time in September and October:  already this weekend is the PICNIC!  I hope everyone has a wonderful day, as we say, just spending Saint Bernadette family time with God on the Lord’s Day. We leave for the Holy Land pilgrimage tomorrow (Monday) for two weeks, and will carry with us prayers for you and all your intentions as we go to the beautiful places where Jesus lived, proclaimed, healed, died and rose for us.


God bless you.

Announcements ~ October 7, 2018

fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette Choirs are welcoming new members. We have choirs for singers of all ages; three adult choirs in English and Spanish, Children’s Choir for 1st through 6th grade and, starting this fall, the re-launch of our Youth Choir for 7th through 12th grade. For more information contact Director, David Mathers at 703-451-8576 x112 or dmathers@stbernpar.org
 
fleur cross logo Save the Date! You are invited to our Saint Bernadette Parish Picnic and Fall Festival Family Day, October 14. The afternoon Mass schedules will be adjusted to accommodate our family celebration of all the diversity in the parish. Details are on page 7.
 
fleur cross logo World’s Finest Chocolates! The St. Bernadette School Chocolate Sale will run October 1 – November 4. Candy bars will be available for sale after all weekend Masses beginning October 6-7th.  The school receives 50% of the funds raised and will use the funds to support our school’s arts, academic, technology, and sports programs, as well as other events during the school year.  Thank you for supporting our school!
 
fleur cross logo Our 7th Grade Confirmation Meeting will be held on Thursday evening, October 11 at 7:00pm in the Church. Parents and Candidates are encouraged to attend.
 
fleur cross logo LIFE CHAIN - a public witness to the sanctity of human life!  We will form a chain along Franconia Road from 2:30-3:30pm. Our parish is assigned to gather in front of Key Middle School. Signs will be provided. Please join us Sunday, October 7 for a peaceful, prayerful, silent demonstration.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ October 7, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to have the day free to attend a conference at Good Shepherd Church, hosted by Bishop Burbidge and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.  It was titled “Seeking Hope and Healing in the Midst of the Opioid Crisis” and  focused on the reality of addiction, treatment and recovery.
 
The statistics of the levels of addiction and death to overdose-related circumstances are staggering, one of the highest causes of death.  Law enforcement and social services are changing their approach to this addiction crisis, because it isn’t solving anything to simply lock up all those who are trapped in this nearly-impossible-to-break-out-of situation.  Everyone is turning to solving the problem, knowing that it isn’t going away.
 
Simply beginning to speak about it is the first step to health.  If you are old-fashioned, these realities fall under the category of “none of your business”—but the silence is only exacerbating the problem.  Where the subject is brought out into the light, people can start sharing their struggles, suffering and frustration.  Parents can begin to help each other to heal, and can better guide addicts to choose treatment.  When I was in Fredericksburg, there was an annual program led mostly by Evangelical churches to plan an event, usually a concert, with booths of all the agencies and churches who wanted to express their support to anyone who might attend who was facing the problem of addiction.  I didn’t know, really, if anyone from the parish would be interested.  Suddenly there were all these moms who had young adult children who needed help, who were just grateful that the Church cared enough to speak about addiction, and pray for them.
 
Drug overdoses aren’t about suicide in most cases.  People underestimate the strength of these newer synthetic opioid drugs which are often more than a hundred times stronger than the conventional pain killers that were the original gateway drugs to addiction, or even the street heroin that became the next step when people could no longer get prescription drugs.
 
Parishes need to let people know that we are here, that there are resources and stories of hope that we can share.  Secular studies about recovery have overwhelmingly named step number one in recovery as reconnecting with God and spirituality.  One of the speakers, Fr. Mark Hushen, OSFS, from Ashley Addiction Treatment in Maryland, explained that God’s grace builds on nature—but if nature is sick, it can bounce back.  We must first rebuild nature by coming home to a safe place and seek a systematic conversion and sanctification.  Addiction is extremely self-centered; what is needed is a radical transformation in the person to become Christ-centered, and other-centered.
 
Generally speaking, this is the problem of anyone who suffers from a lack of connection with God.  We are wired to be connected to God and each other, and often our family or life situations simply don’t provide us with what we need to begin at a healthy starting point.  The good news is, that starting point is always still there.
 
He said we need to take a look at the seven deadly sins that are called deadly because they, in their self-absorption, cause spiritual death.  Pride needs to be replaced with the radical virtue of humility.  Greed, with charity. Lust, with purity.  Anger, with self-denial.  Gluttony, with self-control.  Envy, with love.  Procrastination, with perseverance.  Behaviors can change, but it must be a conscious process freely embraced, and you must be patient because it can be a long process.
 
People need to learn to pray again, and live in the present moment.  He quoted Saint Augustine, who said we must entrust the past to God’s mercy, entrust the future to God’s providence, and the present moment to God’s love.  It is in the present moment that time can touch eternity, not sometime long ago when things were somehow better, or in the future that may not evolve as we demand.
 
Perhaps there is a group in the parish who are waiting for this letter.  We want to help, and be support to you in your recovery, or your struggle in caring for a loved one who is using.  I imagine that we could have a retreat for parents, we could have an information night.  We could organize an information center for those who might be looking for a referral or to learn what options might be available.  We could invite professionals to come and talk about the strategies of treatment and recovery.  There is an existing ministry through Catholic Charities which seeks to help those who are reentering society from jail to really connect with community and not return to the familiar places that will only support relapse.
 
Ultimately, we must pray for the thousands of people who suffer from addiction and die from not getting the the help they need.  Let us commit to serve them.
 
God bless you.
 

Announcements ~ September 30, 2018

fleur cross logo This is Commitment Sunday and all are asked to put your completed Commitment Cards in the second collection at Mass. You can still turn it in, drop it in any collection basket during the next few weeks, mail it in using the return envelope provided in the Catalog packet, or drop it by the office. Please do it sooner than later; we will begin to compile lists of people for our Ministry Leaders to call, to get started. Thank you for your beautiful response to God’s call to live an active faith.This is Commitment. Sunday and all are asked to put your completed Commitment Cards in the second collection at Mass. You can still turn it in, drop it in any collection basket during the next few weeks, mail it in using the return envelope provided in the Catalog packet, or drop it by the office. Please do it sooner than later; we will begin to compile lists of people for our Ministry Leaders to call, to get started. Thank you for your beautiful response to God’s call to live an active faith.

fleur cross logo Next weekend’s Second Collection is for victims of Hurricane Florence. Please join parishes in the Diocese of Arlington in supporting this effort to assist those affected by the devastating damage from Hurricane Florence and its aftermath. Parishioners may choose to donate to these disaster relief efforts online via the diocesan website, ArlingtonDiocese.org/HurricaneFlorence. All funds collected will be forwarded to Catholic Charities USA, which will forward the entire amount to Catholic Charities agencies serving the affected areas. Thank you for your support.

fleur cross logo On Saturday, October 6, bring your beloved pets for a special Blessing of the Animals in honor of Saint Francis’ feast (October 4). We will meet at 10am in the front parking lot in front of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette Choirs are welcoming new members. We have choirs for singers of all ages; three adult choirs in English and Spanish, Children’s Choir for 1st through 6th grade and, starting this fall, the re-launch of our Youth Choir for 7th through 12th grade. For more information contact Director, David Mathers at 703-451-8576 x112 or dmathers@stbernpar.org

fleur cross logo Save the Date! You are invited to our Saint Bernadette Parish Picnic and Fall Festival Family Day, October 14. The afternoon Mass schedules will be adjusted to accommodate our family celebration of all the diversity in the parish. Details are on page 7.

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

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

Thanks to you, all our good ministry leaders who showed up last weekend despite rain and inconvenience to be available to members of the parish who might get involved in the service of the Church.  We had a lot of people stop and visit, and learn more about what the parish is doing.  Truly, you are instruments in enabling our parish to fulfill its call from God to be a Church of service after the heart of Jesus.  Despite modest results, the greatest witness was to tell the parish that ALL are invited to this life that God opens to them.

I hope people finally received their 2018 Parish Renewal Handbook and Ministry Catalog this week and will have a chance to really look at it.  It is for you.

After last weekend’s letter, I had several people come up to me and say that what I described as an active, serving parish actually was Saint Bernadette in the past.  There was a time when ministries and activities involved many people and the parish was the center of the community.  Whatever the reason is, it doesn’t matter:  people, over time, can forget that they are a vital part of the community, and feel like they don’t matter.  A lack of activities and involvement can cause people to look elsewhere because we are wired in God’s image to be community.  He is, three in one, just as we are to be:  11,000 in one.  When that is missing, we look in other places.

This is commitment weekend:  please renew your commitment to Pray, Serve, and Give to renew the mission of Saint Bernadette to God and those in need.  It is important, our lives depend upon it.~  ~  ~  ~  ~

In conversation this week, I still sense a lot of suffering in the Body due to the sins of some members in the Church in relation to the problem of abuse in the Church and the wider world.  I suggested in a letter a couple of weeks ago that our facing these terrible sins in the Church may be an opportunity to open a conversation about this reality which is a part of all society, that we might be a source of healing that could go forth from us as a ministry.  We choose to work with God to bring good out of suffering, both in our own lives and our world.  I ran across this quote from St. Pope John Paul II (Salvifici doloris, 26):

Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace.  To this grace many saints ... owe their profound conversion.  A result of such a conversion is not only that the individual discovers the salvific meaning of suffering but above all that he becomes a completely new person.  He discovers a new dimension, as it were, of his entire life and vocation ... Nevertheless, it often takes time, even a long time, for this ... to begin to be interiorly perceived.  For Christ does not answer directly and he does not answer in the abstract this human questioning about the meaning of suffering.  Man hears Christ’s saving answer as he himself gradually becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ.”


Again, I am not in the least attempting to minimize the real evil here.  I am, however, taking the concept of suffering out of the abstract where most people are most comfortable in dealing with it.  Suffering, except for cases of “natural” evil like hurricanes and tornados, is always at the hands of others.  Even the most abject suffering, as we see in Jesus on the Cross, can bring about salvation.

The first thing we must do is go about helping the victims/survivors heal.  We must be a place of welcome and healing, there must be no reason for anyone to fear being a part of this family of God.  We must make sure that this cannot happen again.

Then, we must figure out how we heal our Church and the wider world.  It is here, in our own flesh, that we are most like Christ, because it is here, in our limitations and weakness, that he proves his most profound love for us in our human condition.  Faith, then is not a spirituality where we try to pray ourselves out of the human condition.  It is the gradual realization that our life is united, more and more, to the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God through our human condition.  Rather than always revealing how our lives are such a mess, we need to discover that it is precisely that mess that God comes to transform, to convert, to use to accomplish his plan for us.  Without the Cross this mess makes no sense.

The work of reparation for our sins and the sins of others is not easy, but necessary.  Typically we think of the season of Lent in a general kind of way to work through certain disciplines from the Tradition that are prescribed:  prayer, fasting, almsgiving.  I would propose to you that we are in a long Lent right now, and that we might consider living accordingly.  Determine a day that you will fast, identify certain sacrifices that you might make for this intention of healing and strengthening our Church as she is suffering.  Pray for the inspiration to become instruments of God’s special grace which has the power to make us completely new people, a renewed Church, a new world.

God bless you.

 

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Called and Gifted Workshop
Saint Bernadette Church
Saturday, September 7, 2019
 
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