Annunciation – 2020

It was a most propitious sign that the ships The Ark and The Dove, transporting the Jesuit, Fr. Andrew White and the first governor of the Maryland Colony, Leonard Calvert et al. landed on the north shore of the Potomac, St. Clement’s Island, March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation), 1634. The occasion was the fruit of much sacrifice. Over a hundred years of religious persecution, a failed colony in Newfoundland, many rancorous negotiations with the Crown and the Virginia Colony, a three month daring trip across the Atlantic that included surviving storms which separated the ships for weeks, finally the English speaking Catholics would have a place to call “home” in the New World, Maryland. They would be able to build churches and openly receive the sacraments. Various historical circumstances would quickly arrive to challenge this plan, but through a War of Independence, religious freedom would be established in our land.

Interestingly the man who brought about a Catholic Colony in America was the first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert (Leonard’s father). He would not live to see this dream realized. He died in 1632 from lingering complications of the plague that he had survived two years prior. The point that we can take from that interesting factoid is that a virus didn’t stop the dream.

Sacrifice may have been required but nevertheless the goal was accomplished.

The prophet Ezekiel had a vision of a temple from which blessings flow. The symbol for these blessings is water. The water comes from the temple and fills the earth distributing manifold blessings of life and healing. It makes barren lands, verdant, salt waters, fresh, trees ripe with year-round fruit and medicinal leaves. This same temple that Ezekiel describes has an east gate that he curiously mentions will remain shut. (Ez 47)

“Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the Sanctuary, which faces East; and it was shut. And He said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut. Only the Prince may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out the same way” (Ez 44:1-3).

Many Church Fathers have taught that this eastern gate of the prophecy is the virgin birth of Christ. As our Catholic faith teaches, “the Blessed Virgin Mary is perpetually a virgin – she did not have relations with Joseph after Christ’s birth.” So according to Ezekiel’s prophecy, “God entered creation through her womb…. The “Prince” is Jesus. He “sits in it to eat bread before the Lord.” Christ was nourished in the darkness of her womb. He gained the flesh and blood that He would offer on the cross to His Father. The “bread” reference refers to Bethlehem (which means “house of bread”). It also points forward to the super-substantial bread of the Holy Eucharist which is His flesh and blood.” (

The prophecy of Ezekiel has been fulfilled with the coming of the Christ. The Blessed Virgin Mary fulfilled the role of a gate that nobody but the Christ was to pass through. So she is that singular instrument through which all blessings flow. So she has been rightly heralded as the Mediatrix of All Grace.

God has chosen His Son to be the means of salvation for all. “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Act 4:12) God the Son chose no other means to enter the world than through the womb of the Virgin Mary. As unique as she is, her role was entrusted to another. The role of the Mother of God was given to the Church. E.g: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20)

Jesus is uniquely manifest in the Church. “As sacrament, the Church is Christ’s instrument. She is taken up by him also as the instrument for the salvation of all, the universal sacrament of salvation, by which Christ is at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for men. The Church is the visible plan of God’s love for humanity, because God desires “that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 776)

The temple of the New Jerusalem is the Catholic Church. Interestingly outside one of the eastern gates of the Old Jerusalem is the traditional childhood home of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also the scene of one of our gospel passages set at a place called Bethesda. It means House of Mercy. It was the name of a healing pool. The House of Mercy that Jesus established takes His flesh and blood, His DNA, from the Blessed Virgin Mary. For a man who never married, how does this lineage continue?

The bloodline continues in the faithful. In English we might say that the House of Windsor has a branch in Canada, now that Prince Harry has moved out of Windsor Castle. The word “house” is synonymous with family. This is especially true for ancient tongues like Hebrew. The House of Mercy that Jesus established is generated from the blood and water that flowed from His side at Calvary. “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (Jn 3:5) “For this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:28)

This House of Mercy, the Church, is up and running, yet many ignore it, are ignorant of it, or are bothered by it. The world, and we too, need a reminder of our precious and unique mandate. This doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is condemned, but it does mean that without us (the Church) their chances are greatly diminished.

God has a goal for the world and it is nothing less than many blessings, including salvation. I pray that our time away from familiar routines may reinvigorate our resolve to fight forces that impinge upon the source of happiness.

Bethesda, the healing pool that lies just outside of one of the eastern gates of Jerusalem, is presently owned by the White Fathers. The gate has had a few different names is history, but there is one that gets our attention, St. Stephen’s Gate. There is a stylized rendering of this gate in the floor of our church. This is the scene of the crime (Act 7:54) is where Saul (St. Paul) organized the stoning of the deacon Stephen.

Our forefathers, like Fr. White, won for us access to God’s many blessings through religious freedom. The challenge for us today is to combat the circumstances that demand freedom from religion. On this March 25, remember the blessings of Christmas, the feast of Emmanuel, God-with-us. The Annunciation, Mary’s, “Yes”, to God is where that begins. We ask her to help us say, “Yes” to God in all circumstances, and be open to receive His many blessings.

Homily for Fourth Sunday of Lent

IV SUNDAY OF LENT – A – 2017 Laetare Sunday
Father Christopher Murphy, Pastor

As sung by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith in the 1993 hit song Livin’ on the Edge, “There’s somethin’ wrong with the world today I don’t know what it is Something’s wrong with our eyes

We’re seein’ things in a different way And God knows it ain’t his It sure ain’t no surprise”

This rock band is not your usual prophetic voice. In fact it is usually a voice of vice. Nevertheless they are on to something. As they say, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut on occasion.” We have lost sight of the way that God sees things. A personal loving God, as He has revealed Himself, must be saddened by the state of disbelief today. Cardinal Sarah, in his latest book, The Day is Now Far Spent, makes a point from his perspective as a man from Guinea. “African man cannot understand a world without God. The river would no longer have sources, and the houses would be without foundations. A world without God and without morality is like a stillborn infant. The Sea of Galilee cannot exist without its source in the Jordan River. A world without God and without moral and religious values is a deadly illusion. Technological advances try to anesthetize man in an ever deeper sleep.” (p. 224)

I hope that as life slows down for most of us that we don’t squander this opportunity to get back to more of how God sees things. The confused may raise a fist to God and cry, ‘If there is a God, how could He let this happen?’

Firstly, His concern is our eternal happiness. Because so many of us have lost sight of that perspective a deadly epidemic that shuts down business such as Planned Parent for two weeks could actually save about 2,000 lives. (According to their statistics We must try to see things through God’s eyes. He gives us faith in order to do so, and blessedly it appears that He is giving us some time to get back to it.

We may find these times anxious, frustrating and unnerving, but we are all called to get back to basics. The basics of our own home, our family, our neighborhood, our next-door neighbors… One parishioner commented that she didn’t even recognize the neighborhood children out playing. We are getting back to the basics of free time. Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics speaks of leisure as necessary for the good-life, that is, in order to pursue the good. Josef Pieper “points out that religion can be born only in leisure — a leisure that allows time for the
contemplation of the nature of God. Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture.” He warns, “Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for non-activity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture — and ourselves.” ( And so I hope that we’re finding time for some fruitful pursuits, such as parents educating your own children, or those without children in the home – the basics that might include some needed exercise and reading. For all of you, I hope that this might be that needed opportunity for prayer. You parents might be faced with the challenging task of keeping the Lord’s Day holy by leading your family in communal prayer for the first time.

One of the common devotions from the treasury of our tradition is Spiritual Communion. Pope Francis and Bishop Burbidge have been encouraging us to put it to good use in this time that Holy Communion isn’t available for the most part. What is it?

Have you ever been confronted by your fundamentalist Protestant neighbor, “Have you invited Jesus into your heart?” I can’t help but think that Christ has instilled in these baptized separated brethren, that is, those who are separated from Holy Communion, a means to communion with Him. We find ourselves is a similar situation and sure enough we have a spiritual tool for this. We Catholics have a way of inviting Jesus into our lives, even if we can’t get to church.

“The basis of this practice was explained by John Paul II in his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia: In the Eucharist, “unlike any other sacrament … God joins himself to us in the most perfect union.” Precisely for this reason it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. … St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: “When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you” [The Way of Perfection, Ch. 35.].1 .” ( Of course, allow me to explain that St. John Paul II and St. Theresa of Avila are not speaking of blowing off Mass for a soccer game, but rather the opportunity to regularly get into the habit of seeking communion with the Lord, especially if we are prevented from going to Mass for a legitimate reason.

The Council of Trent teaches that the Eucharist is received three different ways: 1. In sacrament only by those who come to Holy Communion with unrepentant sins. 2. Spiritually only by those who can’t receive, like most of you this Sunday, but desire to.
3. Sacramentally and spiritually, that is, those who are prepared beforehand and come to Holy Communion with a clean conscience.
Dr. Taylor Marshall explains: “So then, if a person is in mortal sin and receives the Eucharist, he receives it only sacramentally but receives no grace, but rather condemnation (1Cor 11:29-30). Now a person in a state of grace who eagerly seeks union with Christ and makes an act of the will (i.e. an Act of Spiritual Communion), this person does receive the grace and presence of Christ. Now then, the best way is to combine both the sacramental reception with the earnest desire of a spiritual communion. This is what spiritual authors call “making a good communion,” which requires preparation (sacramental confession or at least an act of contrition) and an openness to receiving the Divine Savior into a the palace of one’s heart.” (

It is my sincere hope that as absence makes the heart grow fonder, our forced absence from Mass will instill a longing and appreciation for that which we take for granted. I am reminded of the many communities that I served in the Dominican Republic who went weeks and sometimes months without the sacramental presence of the Lord. When I would finally arrived there were many souls who edified me with their gratitude. But in all honesty there were many who fell away from the practice of the faith, or who had been away so long that they had no idea what I was offering. This is a real danger.

If we should have the Mass suspended till May, how many might get plenty accustomed to the weekend and overlook the Lord’s Day. Even before this crisis (may be it’s the reason for the crisis) many of our parish had fallen into such bad habits. They sacrifice the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to seek the pursuits of the Massless masses. This is the blindness of our age.

Our Gospel passage today is an example of our how Our Lord heals blindness. This is not always welcomed as the Pharisees object. They’re upset because in their eyes Jesus isn’t respecting God’s law regarding the Sabbath. He is sinning. Furthermore, upon investigating the blind man’s healing, they object to his testimony because he is a sinner.

They are wrong about Jesus’ sin, but they are spot on about the sin of the blind man. His blindness is because of sin. “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” The Pharisees are correct. Sin is why there is blindness. This is why the blind man cannot see. They are correct that he is born in sin, because his parents are sinners. We too have Adam and Eve as our parents and hence the world suffers from diseases such as, blindness. What is the answer to the great problem of our sin and blindness?

I hope that you all said, “Christ”. He provides us with faith. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) With it we can see the hand of God in creation. We can see His image and likeness in our neighbor. We can see the help of God in our troubles, but the greatest gift is that we can see the Cross in our lives. We can know how God is using bad times, sacrifices or difficulties to make us holy, i.e. saints. From our own Way of the Cross, He is leading us to heaven.

How does the blind man of the gospel see? Jesus puts mud on his eyes and commands him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. Was it the mud or the waters of the pool that restored the man’s sight? No. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus heals and cures in many different ways. The common element in all of our Lord’s miracles is not mud or a pool, but rather the person who follows our Lord’s instructions, or if you will, blind obedience.

Look how blind faith grows through obedience. At first, the man called Jesus a “man”, then he saw Him as a “prophet”, as “a man sent from God” and finally as “Lord”, i.e. Divine. The scriptures say that no one can call Jesus, “Lord”, without the Holy Spirit, i.e. the power of faith.

Faith provides us the necessary grace to see how to cooperate with God’s plan for our salvation. This insight is diminished by our sin. “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God….” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1855) The Pharisees were right. Sin is the reason for blindness. Ironically, they forget their own sins and in turn are blinded to the work of God before them. How do we restore the vision that sin diminishes? “Mortal sin … necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:” (CCC 1856) By Confession, the baptized have a sacrament that Christ uses to wash away the mud. We can be restored to the light of faith regardless of how simple the instruments may seem. As mud didn’t restore sight to the blind man, but rather it was humble obedience to Christ, likewise, our participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, despite the lowly priest that ministers it, restores the sight of those already washed in the pool of the Baptismal Font.

Please, note that our regular Confession schedule has changed very little. You may find me in the box ready to assist you Wednesday and Friday nights from 6:307:30, and Saturday afternoon 3:45-4:45. If you are concerned about social distancing, the Confession Line at St. Stephen’s has been the safest place to be for years.

Latest Update on Building Project

Our efforts to construct a permanent home for St. Katharine Drexel are moving along quite well this fall.  Our meeting with the Diocese of Arlington Building Commission is scheduled for October 28 to gain conceptual approval of our approach, financing, and other aspects.

On December 8, 2019, we plan to hold a get-together between the Masses to provide you with an overview of the latest plans.  Refreshments will be available. Please mark it on your calendars.

Let’s Build Our Church: DBC Review

September 2019: An important update from the St. Katharine Drexel Building Committee.

The SKD Building Committee has been busy since June 2019 preparing the information needed by the Diocesan Building Commission to gain approval to proceed to the next steps of our project (e.g., design and construction). Since June, we’ve prepared a detailed financial analysis to demonstrate feasibility and our ability to pay for, own, maintain, and operate our new church building. We assembled all the necessary supporting studies and documentation as required by the Diocese.

What is the Diocesan Building Commission?
The Diocesan Building Commission is comprised of clergy, management, and external experts in real estate, architecture, construction and finance. The Commission was established to ensure projects are appropriately formulated and vetted prior to undertaking significant financial obligations and initiating costly design and construction.

The Diocese supports our need to have a permanent, spiritual home for St. Katharine Drexel to ensure that we provide for the spiritual needs of our current parishioners and minister to new Catholics, all by spreading the Word of Christ. Diocesan representatives lauded the significant support and efforts St. Katharine Drexel’s parishioners have undertaken – both financial and through community formation. This assessment is underscored by the investment the Diocese has already made in acquiring the land ($1.5M) and the support (financial and professional) the Diocese provided in securing the Special Use Permit from Prince William County.

Next Step: Diocesan Building Commission Review
We will be continuing our collaborative work with the Diocese in October to develop a path to build our church in a timely manner and within the appropriate financial parameters.

To that end, we are pleased to announce that the Diocesan Building Commission will formally evaluate our plan approach in their next meeting on October 21, 2019.

The purpose of this meeting is to come to an agreement on the basic financing approach and underlying assumptions and projections. Upon approval from the Diocesan Building Commission, we can then solicit proposals from and interview Design/Build firms, select a firm, refine our concept, start preliminary design, and other activities.

Your Support Makes This Possible
The most important factor that enabled us to get to this point is the incredible financial and spiritual support the dedicated parishioners of St. Katharine Drexel Mission have provided. We appreciate all you do and trust you will continue to support the building of our church through the fulfillment of your Capital Campaign pledge.

Are you new to St. Katharine Drexel Mission or haven’t yet made a financial commitment?  Join our community in supporting the SKD Capital Campaign. We are currently at 94% of our campaign goal and we truly need your help to make it the rest of the way. Together, we can Build Our Church!

In Christ,

David O’Flynn
Building Committee Chairman


P.S. – The SKD Building Committee is planning an event this fall to share further details and visual designs. Details will be provided in the coming weeks.

Latest News on SKD Building Project

Progress continues in our efforts to build a new church home for St. Katharine Drexel parishioners. Based on the positive response we received from our fall Capital Campaign (reaching 94% of our campaign goal), this spring was spent moving our church building project forward!

March 2019
The building committee initiated development of the general “architectural program” for the church along with potential floor plans.  The architectural program outlines the overall requirements for the number of seats and types of support spaces we need within the constraints of budget and overall footprint/size stipulated by the county’s Special Use Permit.

April 2019
Preliminary floor plans were developed to accommodate at least 350 people, plus provide office and limited meeting space, along with confessionals, cry room, and other spaces.  We hope to complete the architectural program, floor plan, and elevations by June. Those items will be used as inputs to the preliminary design.

Site design activities continued through our civil engineering firm, Ross-France.  Various soil and hydrology (e.g., water well capacity) investigations were performed along with fire protection and site utility engineering required by the county.  By late summer, we are hoping to receive approval on the site development permit, submitted to Prince William County in November 2018.

Summer 2019
The building committee intends to start the selection process this summer to identify a design and construction team to prepare the preliminary design.  We anticipate selecting a team by early fall.  The result of the preliminary design will be a more detailed plan and refined cost estimate needed to evaluate financing and affordability for our $6M budget.

Apart from design activities, we also entered into discussions with the Diocese about financing our project (i.e., obtaining a mortgage). Those discussions will give us parameters as to what debt we can afford and will be used to help us finalize our design and construction approach.  In a project like this, it is normal for design and financing activities to occur in parallel to inform affordability and features of our church.

How you can help us continue moving forward
We are pleased to report that we are making steady progress. This project will only happen, however, if we all continue to fulfill our pledges.  If you have not participated in the Capital Campaign, we urge you to do so. We would very much appreciate your support in helping us make a new church home for the St. Katharine Drexel parish community.

David O’Flynn
Chairman, Building Committee

St. Katharine Drexel Capital Campaign

SKD at 94% of Downpayment Goal through Pledges

The parishioners of St. Katharine Drexel Mission are moving forward on our shared goal of building a permanent home for our Catholic Community. Please read our 2018 Annual Building Committee Update for important and exciting news!


Pond Bridge - SKD Mission Office

Eagle Scout Bridge at the Mission Office

A big note of thanks to Matthew Lorzing and Eagle Scout Troup #1882. For Matthew’s Eagle Scout project, he and members of his Troop built a bridge on the back property of the St. Katharine Drexel Mission Office to complete the Rosary Walk positioned around the pond. What a beautiful and tranquil spot for prayer. Thank you, Matthew!


Knights of Columbus

Our Thanks to the Knights of Columbus

The community of St. Katharine Drexel wishes to thank the members of the Jon O’Brien Council of the Knights of Columbus for all of their hard work in organizing and staffing the 2nd Annual SKD Fall Festival held on Sunday, September 30 at Four Hills Farm in Catharpin. It was a beautiful day full of fun activities and fellowship!

After Mass on Sunday, September 30, Grand Knight Dennis Corrigan also presented Fr. Murphy with a check from the Knights in support of the SKD Building Fund in the amount of $2,400.

Thank you to all involved in the work of this ministry which provides such strong support for our Mission!

St. Katharine Drexel - Preliminary Interior Church Sketch

Support the SKD Building Project

Your contributions are essential to make a permanent church home a reality for the parishioners of St. Katharine Drexel.

Giving is easy, and every contribution matters – so here’s the Top 5 Ways you can contribute!

  1. Through the Building Fund Envelopes (included with your weekly envelopes) – include check or cash.
  2. Through the SKD Help Build Our Church page on the website.
  3. Faith Direct:
  4. Mail a check with a note: St. Katharine Drexel Mission, 4100 Mill Creek Road, Haymarket, VA 20169.
  5. In any envelope, insert cash, a brief note and drop in the basket during Mass.

Thanks for your support!

Knights of Columbus Charter Ceremony

Each month during the upcoming year, St. Katharine Drexel will highlight a church ministry. We kick off the year with a look at the Father Jon O’Brien Council of the Knights of Columbus.

January 14 marked an important day for the Father Jon O’Brien Council of the Knights of Columbus. With the support of local Knights from other parishes, a special Charter Ceremony signaled the official launch of the Council. Father Murphy served as Ceremony Chaplain and shared his excitement about the establishment of the Father Jon O’Brien Council, named after St. Katharine Drexel’s long-time celebrant instrumental in the growth of the mission.

In a ceremony presided over by Knights of Columbus District Deputy Craig Radcliff, newly appointed Grand Knight Greg Murray was presented with the framed chapter declaration. Thirty-four charter members from the Father Jon O’Brien Council were in attendance for the event.

Through the work of Father Michael J. McGivney, the Knights of Columbus was officially chartered as a fraternal benefit society in 1882 under the founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity. The Knights of Columbus is one of the largest fraternal charitable service organization with more than 1.9 million members in over a dozen countries. Members are Catholic men who come together through faith to support their Church and local, national and worldwide causes through charitable action.

A driving force behind the creation of the Council, Craig Radcliff explained that, “efforts to form a Knights Council began when SKD parishioner Patty Kuntz notified him that Father Murphy expressed interest in the formation of a Council.” From that point on, you could find Craig in his red jacket talking to current and future Knights after Mass.

With strong support from the parish, things moved quickly. In January 2017, the SKD Round Table was formed. This past September, the Father Jon O’Brien Council #16793 was created. The Knights got to work immediately in October, sponsoring and running the first St. Katharine Drexel Fall Festival with over 300 parishioners in attendance. During Advent, 21 members from the Father Jon O’Brien Council assisted the Our Lady of the Rosary Council in selling Christmas trees at Holy Trinity Church which in turn donated $2,000 of the proceeds to the Council.

That leads us to January 14, when the Charter Ceremony took place with support from the Bishop Flaherty Assembly & George Brent Council. An active Knight and an officer with the Fourth Degree, Greg Murray’s responsibilities as Grand Knight include coordinating the installation of officers and members, appointing committees, monitoring programs and activities, and scheduling services for departed Knights.

“Our guiding principal is charity,” explained Greg Murray. “Activities focus on the Parish, Catholic Church and community.”  Mutual aid is offered to members in need, and fellowship is promoted among members and their families through educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, and public relief works.

What’s up next for the Father Jon O’Brien Council?
Murray shared that future plans include efforts to support KOVAR, a Virginia Knights of Columbus Charity that provides support for individuals with intellectual disabilities. During Lent, a dozen Knights will be working at the All Saints’ George Brent Council Lenten Fish Fry to raise money for KOVAR. The Knights are also planning other events focused on parish youth, diocesan Seminarians, Culture of Life events, the House of Mercy, and the SKD community.

Membership in the Knights of Columbus is open to men 18 years of age or older who accept the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, live according to its precepts, and are in good standing with the Church. There are four degrees within the Knights of Columbus. Each degree ceremony imparts a lesson on the Order’s core virtues of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. Fourth Degree Knights participate in funerals, baptisms, Confirmation, local parades and community events, and activities in support of the Bishop.

Those who are interested in learning more about the Father Jon O’Brien Council are encouraged to approach a fellow Knight after Mass or visit the Knights of Columbus website. “We are looking forward to growing our Council and we invite parishioners to get involved in this faith affirming organization,” added Murray.


The Saint Katharine Drexel Knights of Columbus Council meets on the third Thursday of the month at 7:00 PM at the Mission Office moving February 1st to 4100 Millcreek Road in Haymarket, VA.