Pastor’s Piece – July 25

St. James the Greater, Apostle, July 25, 2020

I’m happy to announce that SSM is safer than ever. Our 5pm Saturday Mass, where there is an extra emphasis on wearing the mask, was met with a positive response. To give you a sense of what you might expect. We had less than thirty in the congregation. In addition, I have spared no expense to equip our air-conditioning system with antimicrobial filters. Of course, there are always the options to take in Mass in the great outdoors (on the patio), in the parish hall with a television monitor (not available Saturday nights), and starting Sunday August 2, for those at SKD, in a barn at the Fall Festival venue Four Hills Farm (4610 Sudley Rd, Catharpin) at 9:00 am.

Regardless of what the school year will look like, it’s time to register your children for Religious Education. We still have lots of questions without answers. We still don’t know of if Loudoun and Prince William Counties will let us use their facilities. Regardless, we will offer on-line options, but also, I would like to have the in-person classroom option. Possibly we will be using the SKD Mission Office
and or the SSM Parish Hall. These venues would require us to coordinate classes in the afternoons during the week for various grades. Overall, I image that our in-person classroom with catechist could also be telecast via a Zoom meeting. I hope that I’m communicating that there are a lot of variables and this doesn’t begin to consider the volunteers needed to actualize these plans. We will need some new volunteers to fill in those who will not be able to assist us during the week or because of current concerns about health for their particular circumstance. So, it is imperative that we know for what, who and how many we have to prepare. Please, register now. There will be an extra fee for registration after August 16.

The following article by Msgr. Charles Pope is outstanding and reflects my unexpressed sentiments very well.

“I write this from my perspective as a priest responsible for the care of souls; I do not claim to be a medical expert. My pastoral concern is that we as a nation and as a Church have succumbed to excessive fear, which bespeaks a spiritual problem. The medical concerns arising from the pandemic are not without merit, but they are not unprecedented. What is unique today is the collective paralysis brought on by this fear. I write to express my concern and to reiterate the constant biblical cry, “Do not be afraid!”

“Some weeks ago, I wrote here at the Register about the crippling fear that seems to have seized the whole world, calling all to ponder that Jesus came to destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

“I cannot avoid concluding that many people indeed are “in slavery through their fear of death.” There seems to be no end in sight for the fear they feel — no solution other than a cure for COVID-19. Watching the news only exacerbates the anxiety, as the media naturally focuses on the areas where things are not going well in our fight against the virus. It has now become politicized and commercialized, because fear is recognized as one of the best ways to control people, to attract viewers, and to sell products.

“What will it take to help people get their courage back? What is the endgame that public officials have in mind? Will there ever be a day when we say, “Let’s all get back to normal?” Will we always have to wear masks? Will we ever be allowed to sing, shout or cheer in public again? Will crowds ever be allowed to gather in common areas and convention centers? Will those who go about living life normally always be shamed and called selfish and irresponsible?

“Let’s get into our time machine and travel back just one year. Crowds gathered freely; airports were hives of activity; planes were packed with travelers and concert halls were packed with eager listeners. Restaurants were full of diners and churches with the faithful. People shook hands and hugged, their beautiful faces uncovered for all to see. People laughed out loud, choirs sang joyfully and stadiums erupted with cheers after a score.

“That was a year ago. Now so many are cowering in fear. They view every human being they encounter as a potential source of grave illness or even death: “He looks healthy, but I’d better stay far away because he may be carrying COVID-19!” Never mind a calculation of relative risks; every human contact might pose an existential threat. As a priest, I cannot imagine anything more demonic than this sort of fear. Satan wants us to fear and even detest one another. Our communion with one another is devasted by this extreme wariness.

“But Father! This is a very different virus. It’s extremely potent. We have to do this!” Again, I am neither a doctor nor a scientist. But I am a priest, and as such I think we must count the other costs. There is more to life than just not getting sick and not dying. People have lost their jobs; food production has dropped, and famine is just around the corner in some parts of the world. Routine medical care has been largely suspended. Important human events like weddings, funerals, the sacraments and enriching cultural events have been curtailed if not prohibited. Schools have closed and few have been permitted or have had the courage to reopen. There is a cost to these losses as well.

“We have been through tough flu seasons before without shutting down the country. I remember in 1968 — a terrible year for many reasons — the Hong Kong Flu was raging; 100,000 Americans died from the flu that year. My grandfather was a doctor and warned us about it, but neither the country nor the world shut down. The sick were isolated; the vulnerable were given heightened protection. I remember seeing “Quarantine” signs on the doors of some of the houses in my neighborhood. If someone had the flu, the entire household was ordered to stay inside for two weeks, and that very visible sign was placed on the front door. Meanwhile, the healthy went about their work, and life continued. Yes, the death toll was high, but everyone understood that life had to go on. Years ago, there were so many dangerous illnesses to be afraid of — cholera, smallpox, tuberculosis, polio. It takes courage to live, and people of the time had that courage.

“In the current pandemic, which is admittedly severe, we have quarantined the healthy along with the sick, the resilient along with the vulnerable. Crippling fear has seized so many people, and at some point, fear begins to feed on itself. We have shut down our economy, depriving many of their livelihoods and of the dignity that comes from working, from using their talents and from providing for their families.

“In the Church, collectively speaking, we too have cowered and capitulated. We have not summoned people to trust and faith. We have hidden our teachings on the role of suffering in bringing forth holiness and future glory. We have not presented the theology of death and dying at a time when it is so needed.

“We have limited and even denied the sacraments to the faithful, conveying the silent message that physical health is more important than spiritual health. In some dioceses, churches were locked, confessions forbidden, and Holy Communion inaccessible. Some priests who tried to supply Holy Communion to the faithful in a creative manner were criticized by liturgists and bishops. Some tried offering outdoor or “drive-in” Masses and were met with rebuke. In some cases, Mass was forbidden by local authorities, and many backed down in the face of this external pressure. While we could not recklessly disregard civil ordinances, too many of us were content to hunker down and forego public Mass. We
would not utter the biblical cry, “Do not be afraid,” out of fear of being called insensitive or

“This situation is unprecedented in our lifetime, so it is understandable that we struggled at first with what to do prudentially. But now we must reflect on all that has happened and resolve to never again allow a governor or mayor dictate whether, when or how we may give the sacraments. Even if government officials can forbid large gatherings, it does not follow that the sacraments cannot be provided at all, via other means. I never refused Holy Communion to anyone who asked me during this time; I merely gave them Holy Communion outside of public Mass. I also continued to hear confessions in the church throughout the period, grateful that my bishop never forbade it or demanded that I lock the church.

“What then is to be our role as we go forward? Some universities and public schools have announced that will not reopen for normal, in-person instruction in the fall. Will we simply follow along and refuse to reopen our Catholic schools? Or will we say to our faithful that it is time to go forth into a world that has never been and will never be risk-free, balancing the needs of all against our fear of death? How long will we continue to offer public Masses in the current limited fashion? Masks hide the beauty of the human visage and the subtleties of our expressions; will we return to seeing one another smile, frown, laugh, and cry? Will we go back to shaking hands, hugging, and touching one another? Will I be able to offer Mass without retreating immediately back into the sacristy? Will parishioners be able to mingle and chat after Mass rather than running straight to their cars?

“What is our end game? Prudence has its place, but my concern as a pastor and physician of souls is that we are allowing unrelenting fear to drive our response. Until we as the Church confronting the situation and “man up” as Christians should, fear will masquerade as prudence, and folks like me who question whether we’ve gone too far will be called irresponsible and even reprehensible.

“For the time being, follow the recommended precautions, but ask yourself, “When will this end, and who will get to decide that?” The Church, and each one of us, has a role to play in ending the fear that this pandemic has set loose. COVID-19 can undoubtedly be a serious illness, but contracting it is far from an automatic death sentence. However, getting sick and even eventually dying is a part of living in this world. Some will call me insensitive for even mentioning this truth, but our parents, grandparents, and more distant ancestors went forth daily into a world that was far more dangerous than anything we have experienced. They lived life, accepting both its blows and its blessings. What about us today? Is God no longer with us? Are sickness and death the worst fate or is crippling fear a far more painful and dehumanizing sentence? Isn’t there more to living than just not dying or not getting sick? Will we as a Church be part of this conversation or will we remain fearfully silent? Will we simply reflect the beliefs and opinions of the current culture, or will we influence it with a theology that insists that suffering and death have meaning and an important role in our lives?

“No doubt some readers will think me imprudent, irresponsible, and insensitive. I accept that. But my take is that fear is a far more serious ailment than COVID-19. Life is risky, but there is greater ruin for us if we do not accept it and live anyway. At some point we have to break out of the huddle and run the play. God will be with us.”


Christ’s Peace,
Fr. Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – July 18

Excerpts from From Married Love and the Gift of Life.

Men and women considering marriage yearn for certain things. They want to be accepted unconditionally by each other. They want their marriage to be filled with love and happiness. They want a family. In short, they want their marriage to be a source of joy and fulfillment their whole life long. God’s plan for marriage, from the time he first created human beings as male and female, has always included all this and more.

Read more from Married Love and the Gift of Live

Pastor’s Piece – July 11

St. Benedict, July 11, 2020
(Mensaje para los que hablan español está abajo.)

The results of the parochial survey are in in. The most important life altering responses are that 118 of you registered families from SKD would bring your family to a Mass at a farm, if I offered it. The second big change indicator is that 46 families from SSM said that they would attend an exclusive mask only Mass, if I offered it.

So, I’ll get to work to make it happen. Possibly by July 26 we could have Mass at the Fall Festival venue for you at SKD. You indicated that I could expect 275 to attend. If this number is accurate, we would need two Masses to accommodate everybody with recommended social distancing. I think it prudent to set our sights to lower expectations and we’ll plan for one Mass. I wish to accommodate as many as possible before things get too hot, so we’ll have Mass at 9:00am. If it is a success, then we can adjust for an additional Mass. Please, keep in mind that we can accommodate 75 in the enclosure (the barn) with social distancing. There are those who will have to be ready sit outdoors.

The mask-only Mass at SSM didn’t make the top of the life-altering list because I can start up the 5:00pm Mass. I’m still hearing Confessions at 3:45pm and frankly, it feels weird not to offer Mass afterwards. So, starting Saturday, July 18, we’ll have the 5:00pm Sunday Mass of Anticipation (“Vigil Mass”) at SSM as our exclusive mask-only Mass. We won’t turn anybody away who doesn’t don a mask, but I’ll do my best to promote it as such.

Todavía no se el sitio con el año escolar con los condados de Loudoun y Fauquier. Loudoun está hablando de asistir clases por medio del internet. Si que tu casa no tiene una conexión de internet suficiente tal vez podemos hablar de usar la conexión parroquial en el salón. Háblate conmigo, si que estás interesado.

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – July 4

Please see below for a letter from Bishop Burbidge concerning the 2020 Census.

Just a reminder that there will be no afternoon Confessions on July 4.

Also, please look for a survey that I have sent in regard to Mass at St. Katharine Drexel. Please check your spam folder if it doesn’t appear in your inbox. The survey will be open until next Saturday, June 11, 2020.

Letter from Bishop Burbidge – 2020 Census

Fr. Christopher Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – June 20

Father Christopher Murphy – St. Katharine Drexel Mission

Pastors Piece – June 20, 2020


Celebrate Mass at St. Stephen the Martyr Church

With St. Katharine Drexel Mission Masses currently suspended due to COVID-19 closures, SKD parishioners are invited to attend Sunday Mass at St. Stephen the Martyr Church located at 23331 Sam Fred Road in Middleburg, VA.

Mass Schedule – St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church

Sunday Mass:
8:00AM, 10:00AM, 12:30 PM (Spanish)

Daily Mass (Monday-Saturday):
8:30 AM

St. Stephen the Martyr Church

Pastor’s Piece – June 13

I apologize for any confusion earlier this week for information found on the webpages and or parish bulletin regarding the schedule. It’s tough getting back into the swing of things. Please, note well. Mass times for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, June 14 are 8:00 & 10:00am in English and 12:30pm in Spanish. There is no Saturday evening Mass of anticipation for Sunday. Daily Mass is 8:30am Monday – Saturday. Also, we have Spanish Mass, Wednesday evenings at 6:30 in Spanish before the Eucharistic Holy Hour starting at 7:00. The Sacrament of Penance is available in that hour.

Some things worth reviewing for the participation in Mass at SSM:

  • Those attending Mass in the church nave, narthex, front porch and parking lot are to come to Communion at the altar rail.
  • Please, make a single-file line in the main aisle.
  • Follow the tape markers on the floor for social distancing.
  • Where the aisle widens there are two tape markers abreast.
  • The side you choose directs you to which side of the altar rail from which to communicate.
  • Regarding the altar rail:
    • There are six Communion stations (three on each side of the main aisle).
    • Each Communion station is properly spaced from social distancing and has a pad for kneeling.
    • One may receive Communion standing or kneeling but the pad is the location from which to communicate.
    • One may receive on the hand or on the tongue regardless of posture.
    • Wearing a mask for Holy Communion will require extra time that the altar rail provides, such as:
      • The removal and reapplying of masks.
      • A moment extra to recollect oneself for the great unique privilege of sacramentally receiving Our Lord.
      • I ask that the mask be lowered from one’s mouth when I present the Eucharist.
    • Those in the parish hall, please, wait for me to bring Communion to you at your place.

With a video feed to the parish hall, a speaker system to the hall and exterior of the church, and a video of the 8am Mass on the inter-net, I was relieved last week not to have transmitted the Mass via FM radio. This particular medium has been waning in popularity since public Masses are now available in our area. Therefore I’m discontinuing its use. I can easily enough enable it for a need. Just let me know beforehand.


Regarding the video feed of the 8:00am Mass. I am sorry that it didn’t arrive in cyberspace until about 10:30am. We are having difficulty uploading it quickly. We shall try some new ideas this Sunday, and hope for better outcome. This recorded version of the 8:00am Mass will be available on YouTube and Facebook hopefully from 9:30am-ish until Monday. You may find the link on our webpages:,, or


In preparation for Mass this Sunday, as you walk into church, look for a QR code posted on the columns of the church and on our webpage. This will provide your smartphone with the lyrics to the hymns that we’ll be using. In addition we have limited disposable copies of these hymns printed for your use. You have permission to look at your cellphone during Mass. I know that you’re not following the ball game. There are none.

Volunteers to wipe down pews, chairs and door handles after Mass to prepare for the next one are welcome.

For all of you at SKD who are concerned about getting back to our routine at Bull Run Middle School, my third apology this Pastor’s Piece but things aren’t any clearer to me this week than last week. I think that we can comfortably bet that July isn’t available. Interestingly it is a different story in Loudoun County and so I do not believe this to be a State issue. If anyone has an influence with Prince William County, please, apply some pressure. In the mean time come and be with the members of your parochial family in Middleburg. You’ll find familiar faces and some neighbors. Once again we should have some very pleasant weather for attending Mass with the windows open or sitting on our front patio.

The big news for SKD this week is that we now own the Mission Office, 4100 Mill Creek. Finally we can get to work on repairing the deck and hopefully have an event or two while the weather is still nice. The diocesan offices are beginning to open up this week, so I expect to have group meetings at the Mission Office by the end of June.


Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy


St. Katharine Drexel Altar

SSM Sunday Mass Now Available on Facebook

Fr. Murphy has added a video feed to the St. Stephen the Martyr Church parish hall and now will be offering a recording of the Mass available on the St. Katharine Drexel Mission Facebook page.

Here are the details. It won’t be a live-stream. It will be a recorded version of the 8:00 AM Mass that will be available on YouTube and Facebook from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM. You may find the link on our webpages:,, or

Pastor’s Piece – June 6

It is time to gear up for another challenging Sunday in America. I just noticed that today marks the 76th anniversary of D-day. That should help us see that we are not unique in having challenges. And also help us see that our challenges pale in comparison. After all what’s a little riot gear and a N95 respirator mask to wear on the way to Sunday Mass in comparison to landing on a beach and scaling cliffs under the barrage of Nazi artillery, mortars and gun fire. We got this.

Nothing has changed regarding guidelines for Mass attendance. Nevertheless there are some things worth reviewing. I invite those attending Mass in the church nave, narthex, front porch and parking lot to come to Communion at the altar rail. Please, queue up single-file in the main aisle. Follow the tape markers on the floor for the spot to wait.

Regarding the altar rail:

  • There are six Communion stations.
  • They provide proper spacing, time for preparation and recollection, and speed.
  • Each properly spaced Communion station at the rail has a pad for kneeling.
  • One has the option to receive standing or kneeling but the pad is the location from which to communicate.
  • One may receive on the hand or on the tongue regardless of posture.
  • Look for tape on the floor for guidance as to where to stand while waiting for the communicant ahead to receive.
  • Wearing a mask for Holy Communion will require extra time that the altar rail provides, such as:
    – The removal and reapplying of masks.
    – A moment extra to recollect oneself for the great unique privilege of sacramentally receiving Our Lord.
    – I ask that the mask be lowered from one’s mouth when I present the Eucharist.
    – Counter-intuitively the altar rail will be faster because I am the one moving and therefore the whole congregation doesn’t depend on the speed of one individual communicant.
  • Those in the parish hall, please, wait for me to bring Communion to you at your place.

Last week I added a video feed to the parish hall, this Sunday there will be one more thing done differently. I’ve hesitated offering the televised Mass because of all the various other ways that I was making Mass available. Last Sunday went well and my new IT engineer, Kendall Parker is ready and willing to attempt to bring the Mass that I offer to cyber-space this Sunday.

Here are the details. It won’t be a live-stream. It will be a recorded version of the 8:00 AM Mass that will be available on YouTube and Facebook from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM. You may find the link on our webpages:,, or

This may be the nearest thing to a Mass at SKD that I can offer for a while. I don’t know when we can return to Bull Run Middle School. The next hoped for date is July 12. That is a date arrived at by hope and assumption, not any concrete information. Until then, please, feel free to make SSM your home. Additionally, I’ll not be sending my homily out in the e-mail. I think me through speakers, television, radio and computer is enough of me.

We are in need of some help. I need somebody who can arrive at Mass fifteen minutes early, park his vehicle near the front door of the church, and be willing to give me his cellphone number in order to man the FM Transmitter in the car during Mass.

We still need volunteers to wipe down pews, chairs and door handles after Mass to prepare for the next one.

In preparation for Mass this Sunday, look for a QR code posted outside of the church and on our webpage. This will provide your smartphone with the lyrics to the hymns that we’ll be using. In addition we have limited disposable copies of these hymns printed for your use.

Mass times for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 7 is 8:00 & 10:00am in English and 12:30pm in Spanish. There is no Saturday evening Mass of anticipation for Sunday. Daily Mass is 8:30am Monday – Saturday. Also, we have Spanish Mass, Wednesday evenings at 6:30 in Spanish before the Eucharistic Holy Hour starting at 7:00. The Sacrament of Penance is available in that hour.

Christ’s Peace,
Fr. Murphy

Homily – The Solemnity of Pentecost

A little background as to what makes the Pentecost event remarkable. “Then they returned to Jerusalem … Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1:12-14) Following the Lord’s instructions they went to Jerusalem and waited in prayer at the foot of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The most qualified person on earth who had the greatest expertise on the Holy Spirit and the Son of God.

They didn’t sit idle. They went about the work of Church ministry. “‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.’ Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 24-26)

That is the prologue to today’s events in SS. Everything that they were doing, praying with Mary, teaching SS, and ordaining a successor to the Apostles was ratified today as we read, And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. It was approved. Everything they had done was in accord with God’s will and endorsed by the Holy Spirit. We have now a new entity in the world, the Church. Jesus sent the Paraclete, Counselor, Advocate, His Spirit, on this day 1,987 years ago. Our Lord promises that it is to be here till His return.

Most clearly the power of this entity is manifests itself in the institutional Church. The hierarchical structure designed to draw the world together and lead the world to heaven. Christ prayed that we might all be one. We mustn’t think that such a prayer is pie-in-the-sky. He gave us the means to accomplish His desire at Pentecost.

According to the Annuario Pontificio, the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, Between 2013 and 2018, there was an increase of about 6% of Catholics worldwide. We now number at 1,329,000,000, an increase of 75 million people. ( Some estimate that we are nearly 18% of the world population. That seems to be an increase from 2010 whereby it was estimated that we were 16%. (

What accounts for this?

This growth should remind us of the power of the Holy Spirit that is still active. We’ve had some rough times as of recent. And quite literally the Church wasn’t there for us. Historically there are times of crisis where the institutional Church isn’t available. (interdict, war, pestilence) Nevertheless this doesn’t mean that Christ has reneged on His promise to be with us always. St. Paul explained what the Holy Spirit is to the Romans, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26) Hopefully without the Church to help you keep holy the Lord’s Day in the usual manner you engaged in some of your own formal prayers. The Holy Spirit is available to help you form the domestic church too.

God needs to return to a prominent place in our lives. When I say God, I speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet on this day I explicitly remember that God the Holy Spirit, as promised by God the Son and sent by the Father, has birthed the Church. We must avoid considering the Holy Spirit, Christ, and the Church as separate powers going in different directions. The Holy Trinity is three persons yet one, similarly, the Church is one with Christ.

Through the Church we are more able to give God His due and build our lives in a Christian manner. A life of faith, hope and charity that is infused with supernatural grace from regularly participating in the sacraments.

Recently, I was asked by a diocesan bureaucrat, how might we repackage the church? You know the jive: mission statement, corporate logo, branding, marketing, blah, blah, blah. The idea is that we need to reinvent ourselves to conform to something formed by the corporate world or the market. I stated clearly that we needed the model established by Christ: a parish.

The Apostles today, get the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. They also got His special charismatic gifts to speak to the multinational group in their own languages. But this isn’t the model that sticks. With that commencement, they established churches in all parts of the world. They didn’t just preach inspirationally to a large group in a variety of languages. They baptized, confirmed, offered Mass, forgave sins, anointed the sick, sanctified marriages and ordained local men in these various locations to keep the believers in contact with the Spirit and His power, not just His inspiring stories.

This is the basic model of our Catholic Church: diocesan and parochial. It is a physical place, where people can come hear the Word of God, be sanctified by the sacraments and take solidarity in follow believers, those who are members of this Mystical Body of Christ. We might do well to nuance it a bit for each different community, but that is the basics that we need to start with. We need that for our SKD community and we at SSM need to get back to that model a.s.a.p.

In the midst of this disruption and anxiety we need the Holy Spirit’s consolation that comes through His gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. You say to yourself that you remember a vague lesson in catechism class that spoke of those. How to we get them? Or rather, better said, how do we activate them?

Don’t overlook the great gift that the Apostles had and treasured, the Blessed Virgin Mary. On the first day of the Month of Mary our nation’s bishops invoked her intercession when they re-consecrated the US to the BVM and her protection. Here we are gathered for a our first Public Mass on the last day of May, a day that providentially has the double significance this year of being not only the day that we traditionally celebrate Our Lady’s Visitation, May 31, but also the day that marks the birth of the Church, a day that she helped midwife, Pentecost.

Pray the Rosary. It is the prescription for our age. Live-stream Masses are great, but don’t be a passive couch potato in prayer. Pick up the beads and get involved in the Mysteries of the Rosary, the mystery of our faith, the fruit, the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in our world. Let her help you bring Him into your home.