Pastor’s Piece – July 18, 2021

There are some topics that I bring up in a Sunday homily every so often that always seem to be of interest and news to many of you. Last Sunday’s Gospel passage concluded with, “The Twelve … anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mk 6:13) And so, it was appropriate to speak on a misunderstood sacrament the Anointing of the Sick. The following are catechetical highlights we all need to know about this sacrament.

The above passage from Mark is where Christ institutes the sacrament. The Letter of St. James teaches how the Apostolic Tradition put it to use. “Are there people sick among you? Let them send for the priests of the Church, and let the priests pray over them anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick persons, and the Lord will raise them up. If they have committed any sins, their sins will be forgiven them.” (Jas 5:13-15)

We keep in mind, though, the reading from St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, where he spoke of suffering with this mysterious “thorn in the flesh”. He learned from the Lord that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9) Such it is, that suffering, at times, is to be endured.

Regardless of the physical benefits we may or may not receive from the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, a person’s soul is cleansed from his sins and restored completely to the sanctifying grace that allows him to enter heaven. In such a state of grace, the sick person isn’t the only beneficiary. He is now a more effective instrument of grace for others. “The sick person … through the grace of this sacrament, contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers and offers herself through Christ to God the Father.” (CCC1522)

The Catechism clarifies that one doesn’t need to be on his death bed. “The Anointing of the Sick ‘is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.’” (CCC 1514) This sacrament isn’t meant to be a one-shot deal like Baptism or Confirmation. “If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person’s condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced.” (CCC 1515)

I provide this information for your personal edification, but also to deputize you. I need you to call me when you know of a  Catholic who needs these benefits. I still make house-calls.

Christ’s Peace
Fr. Murphy


Pastor’s Piece – July 11, 2021

I hope that everybody enjoyed the Independence Day. We had a very successful gathering of happy parishioners from both SSM & SKD for the Middleburg firework display. We are all indebted to our Fr. Jon O’Brien Knights of Columbus Council. Thank you, brother Knights for manning the grill et al! Additionally, we thank Dennis and Celeste Corrigan and their Mosquito Joe enterprise. I didn’t suffer one irritating bite.

It’s interesting to think of how our celebration of independence depends on so much. Not only did the nation’s forefathers sacrifice so much to provide us a nation free of tyranny, but how much effort did our fireworks depend on freedom from storm, pestilence, or civil unrest? We are rather very much dependent independents. With good reason we safeguard our independence, as we ought to care for our personal health, but we ought never forget upon which so many blessings depend.

Indeed, like a good parent, our providential God wants us to thrive and be happy. As our parents wish to see us fly the nest, God the Father is the origin of independent living. He gave us a free will to accomplish freedom. Yet at the same time how miserable is the person who wants nothing to do with his parents. Perhaps there is the person with good reason never to speak to his parents, yet we all know that there is a bad reason behind that. God never gives us such a reason to cut ourselves off from Him. The present social discord of our society is symptomatic of this separation from the Source of our concord and peace. We do well to pray and put effort into drawing others back to the origin of He Who provides for our independence.

Those who caught my Mass on Independence Day heard this quote from Professor Daniel O’Connor that I think is worth sharing again. “A kite flies high and free, a marvel to all who see it, precisely because it is anchored. Sever this tether, and it quickly becomes just another piece of litter caught in a tree branch.” (

Various Incidentals:
There is an abundance of Tupperware and other food containers that have become independent from many of you. Perhaps they can return. If not, they’ll find a home in the cabinets of the Parish Hall.

This Tuesday, July 13, there will not be 8:30 AM Mass.

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – July 4, 2021

If you don’t have plans for fireworks this Independence Day, consider the front porch of the church. Middleburg is returning to their annual fireworks display. I invite you all to join me at our church’s front steps for one of the best views of the display without the hassle of traffic, parking, or fees. The Knights of Columbus have agreed to grill hamburgers and hot dogs for us. Feel free to bring a side and beverage. Fireworks are scheduled at 9:15 PM. We’ll start gathering at 7:00 PM.

Speaking of important anniversaries, Bishop Burbidge is preparing for our diocese to mark its 50th Anniversary in 2024. That year and the years leading up to it will have a variety of events and themes that have yet to be determined. Nevertheless, it has come to my attention a significant event that will interest of many of you and for which we should plan. So, I wish to get this date out on your calendars ASAP. On June 25, 2022, Bishop Burbidge is organizing a pilgrimage to Philadelphia to visit the remains of St. John Neuman and St. Katharine Drexel. Speaking of pilgrimages, the diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is this October 30. More information to follow.

I’ve been blessed as the recipient of many kind and delicious meals prepared by so many of you over the years. Perhaps, you have wondered where you favorite Tupperware container has gotten to. So many of them started to pile up at the rectory before the pandemic that I had intended to try to return them, but then all of a sudden, I no longer saw so many of you. Blessedly, the flock is returning with regularity. If per chance, you think that you have a missing food storage container, please, visit the parish hall where I’ve placed them on the countertop.

Christ’s Peace
Fr. Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – June 27, 2021

Religious Freedom Week started on the Feast of St. Thomas More, June 22, and extends to the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul, June 29. It is a good time for us to take to prayer, with devotions, attending Masses and making sacrifices to aid the cause of religious liberty in our land. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops brings to our attention some important issues.

You may have heard of a very promising decision from the Supreme Court recently regarding religious liberty. The Court ruled unanimously by a decision in favor of Catholic Charities in Philadelphia. The city had prohibited the Archdiocese from placing children in adopted homes because the church can’t morally place a child in a home without a mother and father. Nevertheless, we must be aware that the only reason that the customarily left leaning judges of the court agreed to this was because the scope of the decision was defined so narrowly to the particulars of the case so as not to be applied more broadly nation-wide. Therefore, what is needed is The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act. (Contact your U.S. Senators and Representative today and ask them to co-sponsor and support the federal Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act.)

Another looming threat to religious liberty is the Equality Act. It is a bill that has passed the House of Representatives and will be presented to the Senate this summer. “The Equality Act purports to protect people experiencing same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria from discrimination in these and other areas. But at the core of the Equality Act is the codification of the new ideology of “gender” in federal law, dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting “gender” as only a social construct.” ( “(It) is the most comprehensive assault on religious liberty, the right to life, and privacy rights ever packaged into one bill. Catholic hospitals would no longer be allowed to govern as Catholic facilities, threatening healthcare for everyone, especially the poor.” Bill Donohue, The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. (

Opposition to the Equality Act needs the positive enforcement of the Conscience Protection Act. In recent years, “activists have sought to undermine the Church’s mission by forcing Catholic hospitals to perform procedures that destroy human life and undermine human flourishing, such as sterilization, gender reassignment surgery, and even abortion.” (USCCB, ibid.) The Conscience Protection Act would address deficiencies that block effective enforcement of existing laws, most notably by establishing a private right of action allowing victims of discrimination to defend their own rights in court. (Contact your elected officials in Congress and urge them to support the Conscience Protection Act!)

Our cherished freedom of speech is becoming strained. “Just this year, a book on problems with gender ideology by a prominent commentator was removed from Amazon. A Catholic news outlet had its Twitter account suspended for noting that a government official who claims to be a transgender woman is a biological male.” We need to speak up while we can. (USCCB, ibid.) Church Vandalism – “Recent years have seen a number of high-profile attacks on houses of worship. Beginning in May of 2020, there was a wave of attacks on Catholic churches and statues. Vandals entered churches and desecrated sanctuaries. A man in Florida even attempted to set a church on fire with people inside. There have been at least 61 attacks so far, and that number continues to grow.” (USCCB, ibid.)

Let’s be perfectly clear, this fits an historical pattern of persecution: from ancient Rome, the Iconoclasts of 8th & 9th centuries, Reformation England, the French Revolution, Soviet Russia, the Cristeros War in Mexico, and the Spanish Civil War. Such persecution always starts with the symbols of our faith, then progresses to the places of our faith, the churches, and then finally, the faithful. As far as the faithful are concerned, the clergy take the heat first. E.g., Thomas More heard of Bishop John Fisher’s execution from his jail cell.

Until we take to catacombs, let’s celebrate our freedom. Middleburg is returning to their annual fireworks display. I invite all of you to join me at our church’s front steps for one of the best views of the display without the hassle of traffic, parking or fees. The Knights of Columbus have agreed to grill hamburgers and hot dogs for us. Feel free to bring a side and beverage. Fireworks are scheduled at 9:15 PM. We’ll start gathering at 7:00 PM.

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – June 20, 2021

This is Sunday is the moment of truth. Do we trust and obey the Church, or do we listen to fear, or perhaps it is only the message of enjoying the comfort of home on a Sunday morning? To be clear, Bishop Burbidge and his fellow bishops of Washington, Richmond, Baltimore, Wheeling-Charleston and Wilmington have declared today the day to get back to normal church going practices. The following exceptions are noted: “We welcome and encourage the Faithful to return to full in-person participation of the Sunday Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic faith (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 1246-1247 and Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2180). This obligation does not apply to those who are ill; those who have reason to believe that they were recently exposed to the coronavirus, another serious or contagious illness; those who are confined to their home, a hospital, or nursing facility; or those with serious underlying health conditions. One should consult his or her local pastor if questions arise about the obligation to attend Mass (Canon 1245 and the Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 2181).”

Is it really a sin not to come to Mass if you don’t fall into the stated categories? Yes. Who says? God. He revealed to Moses the need to keep His day holy, Commandment #3. And so, the Jews observe the Sabbath, the last day of the week, Saturday, as their day to do this. “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work … for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore, the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Ex 20)

Tradition and scholars of Mosaic Law gave more details of how to keep the sabbath rest. Our Lord Himself observed these as He was known to gather and teach at synagogues on the Sabbath. Yet as we know, He taught that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. He famously took issue with scrupulous adherence to the man-made letter of the Law and not the spirit. “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?” (Lk 14:5)

The Apostles, the close confidants of the Lord of the Sabbath, establish a Church that doesn’t keep the Sabbath on Saturday. Why not?

The Didache, a document that most scholars believe was written in the first century, perhaps before St. John’s Gospel, speaks of the obligation, “On the Lord’s own day, when you gather together after you break bread and give thanks (Or: celebrate the Eucharist), after you have confessed your unlawful deeds so that your sacrifice may be made pure.” (Loeb Classical Library, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol 1, p. 439) Of course, the author doesn’t define what day of the week is the “Lord’s Day”, but yet less than one hundred years later (AD 165), St. Justin Martyr is explaining to those in Rome, “On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members…. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray. On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen.” The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.” (Liturgy of the Hours, III Sunday of Easter, Office of Readings)

I hope to see everybody soon, or at least, hear if I need to make a home visit.

Calling all rising fourth grade boys and older at SSM parish. Let’s meet after 10:00am Mass this Sunday, June 27, and talk about serving Mass. I’d love to train you for an hour, but if you can’t stay, leave your name and number and we’ll find time later on. If you’ve made First Holy Communion and have an older brother who serves, we can find a place for you too.

Christ’s Peace
Fr. Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – June 13, 2021

We changed our Mass time for SKD just in time to avoid some serious heat. 9:00 AM might be a little early for some, but I think that we’ll be grateful as summer gets into full swing.

The big reveal last Sunday at SKD was that we have the green light from the Diocese to begin the church building project. With the approval of Bishop Burbidge, the Diocese and building committee developed a plan that has the potential to have a groundbreaking as early as Dec 1, 2021, depending on final county approval. Since our meeting, the Diocese has assigned a project manager focused on driving to completion the necessary architecture, design and engineering packages. Site preparation for our property on Waterfall Road will be extensive, but we are looking forward to getting the process underway.

The generosity of our parishioners is what has made this possible. Although a church building is now in sight with potential groundbreaking at year’s end, there is still work to be done. In the next 18 months, we will need to raise the remaining $600,000 needed to complete the entire building process. Details about how we plan to accomplish this goal is to follow soon. In the meantime, click to our SKD webpage and consider:

  • Extending your Capital Campaign donation for a few months
  • Contributing to the Building Fund
  • Making plans to participate in our upcoming SKD Golf Tournament on August, 9, 2021.

Calling all rising fourth grade boys and older at SSM parish. Let’s meet after 10:00 AM Mass this Sunday, June 13, and talk about serving Mass. I’d love to train you for an hour, but if you can’t stay, leave your name and number and we’ll find time later on. If you’ve made First Holy Communion and have an older brother who serves, we can find a place for you too in our altar boy ranks.

Christ’s Peace

Fr. Murphy

Women’s Bible Study Summer Sessions Now Available

SESSION 2 Available

Session 2: June 23 – July 28, 2021
Wednesday Evenings, 6:15 – 7:45

Session 2: Fearless and Free
This six-lesson study is based on the book of Ephesians. The study will awaken us to who we are in Christ, help us to recognize the enemy who seeks to steal our true identity and strengthen us as warriors in Christ.

SKD Mission Office
4100 Mill Creek Drive
(Zoom will be available to join the meetings.)

For more information, contact:

  • Elizabeth Kutz,
  • Mary Banwarth,

Learn more about the Walking With Purpose Bible Study Programs at: walkingwithpurpose.

Pastor’s Piece – June 6, 2021

Attention! SKD members who are reading this before June 6. Please, make plans to join us for Mass this Sunday, the day of the D-day anniversary. It may not be as historic as storming the beaches of Nazi held Normandy, but we do have some good news regarding building the church that you’ll want to hear.

Last week was filled with good news regarding lifting COVID restrictions. There was so much that I’d like to take more time to go over some of the items. E.g., during the Masses at SSM, I explained how I wish to continue to distribute Holy Communion at the altar rail as long as it is practicable. Many folks were habitually social distancing because of the three cushions at the rail found on the either side of the main aisle. These are not there to mark the need for social distancing, but rather just the fact that we don’t have a longer cushion yet.

I hope that many of you found the Holy Water. Perhaps you’re doubting the efficacy of Holy Water. I feel very badly that it wasn’t more readily available to you in the time of crisis and need. We might be tempted to think that the Church no longer believes in the power of this sacramental. Perhaps, but maybe the reason the bishop was fearful in making it more available was theological?

Unlike the words of the priest at consecration during Mass that bring about the miracle of Transubstantiation, a sacramental is more subjective. In the sacraments, we have a guarantee by Christ Himself that when a priest expresses the words, such as those of absolution, at Confession, He, the Lord, brings about the forgiveness of sins. Because salvation depends on this, it happens regardless of whether the penitent is paying attention or whether the priest is holy. On the other hand, a sacramental doesn’t work that way. Rather, it depends more on the faith and holiness of the minister and user. And then, in addition, there is an option of more than one prayer we priests can use to bless Holy Water. Lamentably, they don’t uniformly speak of the intention to ward off pesky pestilence.

I can assure you that here at SSM & SKD our Holy Water is made with the intention to not only reaffirm us in our baptismal promises and strengthen our struggle with sin, but also, to ward off “all illness and every snare of the enemy.” I pray explicitly for “soundness of body and soul” for all who use it. Additionally, it is made with an optional ritual that includes blessed salt. Naturally speaking, this helps reduce the pond scum that gathers in the stagnate water of the Holy Water stoups, but supernaturally speaking, it provides additional prayers repulsing evil and disease.

Please, feel free to make liberal use of this powerful sacramental.

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – May 30, 2021

St. Stephen’s Parish and many supporters from St. Katharine Drexel finished up my anniversary octave with great enthusiasm. It was a great pleasure to be with so many of you. I am so grateful for all your very generous and beautiful expressions of appreciation. It is an honor and pleasure to be your pastor.

Now for the notice that you’ve all been waiting for. From the desk of Fr. Workman, Bishop Burbidge’s wishes:

  • Bishop Burbidge encourages all parishes to return to pre-COVID schedules for Masses, Adoration, and access to the Parish
  • No occupancy limits on Mass attendance
  • No social distancing
  • No disinfecting or cleaning between Masses as expected during the pandemic
  • At the pastor’s discretion, live-streamed Masses may still be offered out of solicitude for the homebound
  •  As for face coverings
    – Fully vaccinated persons no longer need to wear a mask in any setting
    – Unvaccinated persons are encouraged to wear face coverings per Executive Order 79
    – Priests should not inquire into the vaccination status of parishioners
  • Priests should not bar parishioners not wearing masks from entering church buildings or the Mass
  • At this time, Communion should continue under the Precious Body only
  • The use of full Choirs may return to Mass
  • The following liturgical elements that were suspended during the pandemic may now be reintroduced:
    – Holy water
    – Procession
    – Collection
    – Offertory procession
    – The sign of peace (without physical contact between non-family members)

The return to our liturgical Ordinary Time this week gives a whole new meaning and appreciation for ordinary. We’ll not take it for granted.

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – May 23, 2021

I can’t believe that Easter just ended. It’s not even June and we’ve concluded the Easter Season. But then again, where did the past 25 years that I’ve spent as a priest go?

Last Sunday we successfully launched at SKD what seems like a season’s worth of anniversary celebrations. I anticipate a pleasant gathering of appreciation at SSM this Saturday and Sunday after each Mass. So many of you have expressed your gratitude prior and during this week. Thank you! Additionally, I know that the staff and volunteers have put in some extra effort to make this time special for me. Mission accomplished.

I don’t deserve it all. May be some of it, but really, where would I be without you to serve? I’d look pretty silly wearing my beretta live-streaming an empty church. It is a joy to be appreciated and feel needed. I hope to continue to be of service.

A lot has happened in 25 years. Recently in reading a book by Jacque Phillipe, published in 2002 on spirituality, the author makes references to people not wanting to accept God’s will. He uses examples such as parents who imagine what a great freedom it will be to be able to determine the sex of their child or the child’s eye color. Doesn’t that seem
quaint? Little did he know that in less than 20 years, the parents themselves could determine their own sex, and additionally have a whole palette of genders from which to choose.

I started my first assignment in 1996. I had much to learn about being a priest. Rome was great preparation in many ways, regardless, there was a learning curve in trying to catch up with the latest and greatest in the US. Like, why were there so many commercials saying, “www … .com”? I don’t know how long it took, but I remember
learning that when people asked if I had a computer, they meant, did I have e-mail or did I go online? I was ordained with a computer that had never talked to another computer. I even had a Blockbuster card and a pager. Despite having to take extra time to be kind and rewind and hunt down the nearest landline to return my page, things did get accomplished.

Some very kind and appreciative parishioners were trying to quantify my accomplishments. They came up with 9,125 Masses said. Not to brag, but it is probably more or less, 11,542. I don’t know how many funerals, but I do know that I’ve officiated 194 weddings, and baptized and or confirmed 1,994 souls. If you find yourself among the wedded or initiated-into-faith numbers, please, know that in addition to the prayers that I offer for all of my parishioners, I say some added intentions for you. Thanks for giving me something to do with the life God gave me. In the sage words of a classic rocker from way back in the twentieth century, “Life’s been good to me so far.”

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy