Pastor’s Piece – March 28

To vax, or not to vax? That is the question that I’m getting from some of you. I’ve not weighed in on the issue because I don’t feel that I’m expert in moral theology, medicine or in the art of prophecy. Nevertheless, here is my frank, non-professional assessment of the issue. I guess the word for that is pastoral.

Morally – The Church says it’s okay, then it is okay. We may be confused at times by things that Pope Francis says. We may suspect that there is too much politics involved in USCCB statements. That doesn’t mean that there is an inability to speak authoritatively on matters of faith and morals. Pope Francis, the
Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishop Burbidge, the United States bishops as a body, have said clearly that it is morally permissible to be vaccinated for COVID19. So, whether or not it is a good idea for you, is a separate question. You are not morally culpable for any association with immoral means of developing these vaccines if you should take one.

The moral question is further nuanced when we choose between vaccines. While the cooperation with evil is remote enough so as not be culpable sin, there is nevertheless greater proximity to the sin of abortion with the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines. This means that if we are given the choice between vaccines that we ought to choose the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines over the first two. Medically – Unfortunately, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are more novel and experimental in their vaccination. Some in the field of medicine do not regard them as “vaccines” but rather as gene therapy.

While they are promisingly effective, the long-term effects are unknown. In fact, although more of a traditional vaccine, AstraZeneca has been suspended in many European countries. Personally, I’m not interested. I’m not at risk. If I should catch it, and I’m not sure that I haven’t had it, there is a very small chance (.12%) that it will be mortal. This is based an on-line Johns Hopkins COVID19 Risk Calculator. ( Regardless of the morally acceptable nature of the vaccine, that doesn’t make it mandatory. “As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has clarified, ‘vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and … therefore, it must be voluntary.’”

Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines

Prophetically – This will probably mean that I run the risk of being banned from airline flights in the not-too-distant future. I’m at peace with that. I’ve seen plenty of the world and I look forward to spending more time with you.

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

Religious Education Program

Religious Education Updates

Sacraments for the 2020-2021 year have been scheduled! We are still finalizing some information with the Diocese and therefore do not have all the details set. All Sacraments for both Saint Katharine Drexel and Saint Stephen will take place at Saint Stephen the Marytr. Once more details are finalized we will be sending information on how to register for specific times via email & Google Classroom to families enrolled in these classes.

First Penance: Due to COVID-19 we will not be holding the large Reconciliation event as we have in the past. During Lent Father Murphy will be available at all regularly scheduled parish Reconciliation times to hear the student’s First Confessions. He will have a list of students.

Parents – please inform him as your child is entering that it is their First Reconciliation. More information will be sent out.

First Holy Communion: May 1, 2021 – Noon
(Spanish), 2 pm (English), 5 pm (English)

May 2, 2021 – 10 am (English)
Confirmation: May 15, 2021 – times TBD
(pending information from the Diocese of Arlington)

Pastor’s Piece – March 21

I have the feeling that we like to force the hand of good things. There are bars with St. Patrick’s decorations up as soon as March begins, in the attempt to expand the good times of this day long feast. We get the start on celebrating Christmas earlier than ever, to the point that we have no desire to even finish out the Christmas Season. Now that our evenings are basking in the glow of Daylight Savings Time, it seems like we decided Spring would start last week. Regardless, of what our clocks say, Spring has finally arrived. The sun crosses the equator today. On this Vernal Equinox we enjoy a little over 12 hours of sunlight. (Our equinox is not quite an equal split between night and day because we’re over 30 degrees north of the equator.) This is significant to the life of faith because the first full moon from this date forward is when we find the nearest Sunday and declare it Easter.

The logic in determining this feast is a combination of old and new. Why not use the same date as we do for most other feasts? Because the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan, the day that Moses sets from Passover, is going to be different for us each year. They use a lunar calendar, and we use a solar calendar. Secondly, the importance of our week and especially that of Sunday comes from Holy Week. The most important days of Holy Week are the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday (beginning at the Vigil). You might have noticed that Sunday is a part of the following week, the first day of Easter Week. True, but this is also a good example by what we mean by Sunday being not only the first day of the week and creation, but also an eighth day, a day that marks the time of the new creation of sanctifying grace.

The power of the Resurrection infuses our era with a new capacity of pleasing God, attaining blessedness and living forever. This is why the Church wants us to regard every Sunday as a little Easter, a way of remembering that we go about life differently now. Speaking of a different time, over the years a great
frustration of being your pastor is that we put a lot of effort, time and energy getting you ready for the liturgical crescendo of Holy Week (especially the Triduum) throughout the weeks of Lent and then, nobody is here. Not only do the Jews and us have a different calendar, but so do we and the public schools in Loudoun, Prince William and Fauquier Counties. They love to plan for the children to have their Spring Break during our Holy Week. So, because so many of you are blessed with the means and free time to vacation at that week, I have very few participants and volunteers for the unique and rich liturgies of the sacred season.

Ironically, everybody was around last year, but the Church wasn’t doing anything. Perhaps this year things will be different? Different in that, you’re still around, and different, in that the parish will be active. So, I invite you to consider making time to attend our Holy Thursday, Lord’s Last Supper Mass, 7:30pm, Good Friday’s, Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, 3:00pm, and the Easter Vigil, Saturday night at 8:30pm (April 1-3).

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – March 14, 2021

We’ve reached the midpoint of Lent and that is reason to rejoice. Not to diminish this joyful occurrence, but that does leave only three more weeks to make a good confession before Easter Sunday. Our faith teaches that to receive Holy Communion worthily in the Easter Season is so important that it is part of our identity. Participating in the Paschal mysteries of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is a defining quality of being Christian. From the earliest times of the primitive Church, it was seen as most fitting for the catechumens (converts) to join our ranks at the Easter Vigil. After weeks of scrutiny and preparation, they would receive the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion. Through these Sacraments we are united to the new life of Easter and its promised resurrection. But for we who are initiated, what do we do?

Over time, Lent was developed. A time of doing acts of penitence concluded with a renewed participation in the sacraments. Of course, the faithful couldn’t be rebaptized, so what could they do? The Rite of Renewal of Baptismal Promises was developed. Additionally, there is no redoing our First Holy Communion, but there is always room for improving our communion with the Lord. And so, making a good confession and experiencing the sacramental grace of forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance became a part of our Easter experience.

Throughout most of Christian history much greater obligations of penitence, abstinence and fasting characterized this time compared to the all time historical bare minimum that we have today. Nevertheless, we still have an Easter Obligation, the need to receive Holy Communion worthily during the Easter Season. In turn, this prompts the necessary obligation to sacramentally confess our sins in this time period, hence the urgency. So, according to Canon Law, the bare minimum that defines us as Catholics in good standing, is making a sacramental confession and receiving Holy Communion worthily in the Season of Easter.

What about COVID? As long as there is no obligation to attend Mass, then there can’t be an obligation to receive Holy Communion and therefore neither is there an obligation to go to Confession. Bishop Burbidge hasn’t reinstituted the obligation to attend Mass yet.

While there may be no obligation, as your pastor I invite you to consider. In the course of visiting the supermarket, which 98% of you do, (I know. I’ve seen many of you.) you are exponentially more at risk to encounter the Coronavirus than coming to Confession at SSM. At a minimum you are exposed to at least a dozen people in the course of grocery shopping. At SSM on a Saturday afternoon, you have a 10% chance of seeing another soul at church. (That is a scientific conclusion based on a field study of two penitents in the course of an hour for the past two Saturday’s.)

Perhaps you’re among the group that doesn’t believe he has committed any sins. I believe you. The grace that Our Lord provides us is powerful enough to keep us from mortal sins. What a great blessing to be among those who have experienced this power. But for the rest of us, let’s examine our conscience carefully.

Not only is confessing your sins at SSM safe, but it is so convenient. For the vast majority of you, it is an out of the way location. This means that penance is built to your confession. So not only do you have an automatic reduction in temporal punishment by confessing at SSM because of the time it might take to arrive there, but there is minimal line waiting and ample hours and days to fit the diverse lifestyles of the parish, such as:

  • Wednesday nights from 7-8:00pm. This is the time that you are most likely to have to wait. Our Spanish speakers have been taking advantage of this convenient time for years.
  • Friday mornings. Please note, this takes place immediately after 8:30am Mass. That means, be there at 9:00am, I won’t wait around for long.
  • Friday evenings are blessed with a double header. I’m in the confessional at 6:40pm after the Spanish Stations of the Cross and then again at about 7:30pm following the English. Once more, the Stations are some readily available penitence.
  • Saturday afternoon. Starts at 3:45pm . I’m there till 4:45pm, but I have to leave at that moment to get ready for Mass. I can’t linger.

Hope to absolve you soon,

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – March 7, 2021

We are all engaged in the freewill sacrifices and obligatory penitence of Lent. Perhaps we need an incentive to maintain the rigors of our discipline. There is a special reprieve for us this month. March 19 is the Solemn Feast of St. Joseph. Solemn Feasts carry with them special distinctions. Not only do we sing the Gloria at Mass, as we would for any Feast Day, but in addition, we recite the Creed, as we would on a Sunday. So as Sundays (in normal times) would be a Holy Days of Obligation, so are Solemn Feast Days in many parts of the world. In fact, in Italy, not only is St. Joseph’s Day a Holy Day of Obligation, but it is their chosen day to honor all fathers, their Father’s Day, thus tying in a noble secular observance with our Catholic faith. In the United States we don’t observe St. Joseph’s Day in the obligatory way that precept days are designated because our bishops decided to use an option that the Holy See granted back at the II Vatican Council. So, while we don’t observe St. Joseph’s Day as a Holy Day of Obligation, it is still one of the 10 Precept Days of the universal church. This means that it carries no obligation on our part, but we still have the benefits.

The benefits of a feast day are just that, to feast. As we know, there is a strict prohibition not to eat meat on Friday’s during Lent. This rule applies to those who have attained 14 years and is a mortal sin for those who knowingly and willingly disregard it. Meaning that if you fall into that category, you’ve got to visit the Sacrament of Penance before you show up for Holy Communion. (Consult the bulletin on the expanded Confession schedule during Lent.)

Nevertheless, this year, March 19 falls on a Friday. This means that nobody need ask me or Bishop Burbidge for dispensations. It is often the case when St. Patrick’s feast falls on a Friday, the Knights of Columbus ask the bishop for dispensation in order have their corned beef and cabbage dinners. Unlike St. Patrick, St. Joseph’s feast is a Solemn Feast for the universal church, not just a singular country, or those whose cathedral or parish is named after a particular saint. Therefore, there is no fasting or even abstinence on Friday, March 19 this year.

This is a mere fraction of the blessings that devotion to St. Joseph can bring us. Out of all the men in human history that the omniscient and omnipotent God could choose to guard, protect, educate, and love His only begotten Son, and His Most Blessed Mother, He chose St. Joseph. This is why Pope Francis has invited us to draw closer to St. Joseph. He has designated 2021 as the Year of St. Joseph in order to do just that. I’ve included information in our bulletin on how we can participate. It is a venerable tradition of our faith to use the nine days before a feast in order to prepare spiritually. Please, consider using one of these St. Joseph devotions for your novena as a way of making this March 19 the day of blessings for you and your that it could be.

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy