St. Lucy Project - Diocese of Arlington

Replenishing St. Lucy Food Project

Mark your calendars and start saving non-perishable food items for St Lucy.

On May 29th, the St Katharine Drexel Knights of Columbus will be collecting non-perishable food to replenish the Saint Lucy Project’s food warehouse. We are donating as much food as their food truck will carry.

Donations will be accepted at the Food Lion parking lot off Washington Street in downtown Haymarket between 10AM and 2PM on Friday the 29th.

If you can’t deliver your donation to the Food Lion parking lot on the 29th, you may bring any donations to Saint Stephens from May 11– May 28. There will be a bin labeled “St.Lucys” in the Narthex for your donation.

Tell your friends and neighbors. The more food the better. CDC and Virginia guidelines concerning the corona virus will be followed at drop off.

Please no glass containers.

We will also pass on cash and/or check and/or grocery store gift card donations. Make checks payable to should be made out to “CCDA” with St. Lucy Project in the memo

If you have food but are shut-in, or if you will be out of town, let the Knights of Columbus POC Craig Radcliff (703-850-5457) know and he will coordinate getting it from you.

Thank you and God bless you and your family.

Homily – IV Sunday of Easter

Good Shepherd Sunday

The lockdown called for by the CDC happened March 23, forty days ago, yesterday. As we know our Lent is roughly 40 days (Quadragesima). In a similar fashion our word quarantine comes from the same Latin source and means roughly forty days. In scripture the rains poured down on Noah forty days and forty nights, after which God initiated a covenant with him and his descendants. Moses standing on the threshold between the promises God made to Abraham and a new law went up to Mount Sinai and staid forty days to get the Ten Commandments. The Blessed Mother followed this Mosaic Law and was confined forty days after giving birth to Jesus. Jesus went in to the desert forty days to begin His ministry and initiate the New Testament.

On Friday, May 1, the fortieth day after the President’s recommendations to be locked down the bishops of the United States re-consecrated our nation to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her protection. This act is meant to be a reminder of the effective intercession of the Blessed Mother. We may recall how she rescued the couple in Cana from social disgrace on the day of their wedding when she advocated for them with her Son. The Church in America has a long tradition of turning to her. Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, the first bishop of the United States, promoted devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and placed the United States under her protection in1792. The Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1846 named the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, as the Patroness of the United States, hence the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

In our parish church this entire month, we are honoring the Virgin with this statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The Fatima apparitions started in May and spoke of the need to reform in order to avert world catastrophe and usher in an era of peace in our time. The daily Rosary was to be an integral part of realizing this prophetic plan to bring the world in accord with her Immaculate Heart. It is interesting to note that the last time that the churches closed like we are experiencing was exactly one year after Our Lady of Fatima last appeared to the children visionaries. These children were shepherds and so it seems appropriate bring them up on this Good Shepherd Sunday.

How do we know that we are with the Good Shepherd? The Good Shepherd provides for His followers. He established this universal church on the Twelve Apostles, so that throughout history and geography these followers may have His shepherd’s care. We may at times have questions about the men who succeeded the Apostles, their character, their instructions or even example. It seems to me though that that is part and partial to being apostolic.

Were these original bishops, the Apostles, without sin? Peter and Judas’ sins are notorious.

Did they always have the right motivations? James and John tried to angle for VIP spots in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Did they always believe? Thomas’ doubt is renown.

Did they always do what the Holy Spirit revealed? Startlingly we read in Galatians, “And when Kephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I (St. Paul) opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong.” Paul even speaks of James and Barnabas being in cahoots with this error. “I said to Kephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal 2:11-14)

Historically things can get real bad. E.g. the Arian Heresy denied that Jesus is the Son of God. It lasted formally for three hundred years and arguably gave birth to Islam and even some contemporary modern sects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. It has been estimated that over half the bishops at one time were Arian. Then there is the gloomy history of Reformation England. Only one bishop, St. John Fisher, maintained that the successor of St. Peter is head of the Church, the rest said that King Henry VIII was.

So we ought to conclude that it isn’t in individual bishops or in a singular pope, that we find the Good Shepherd but rather in their united effort. The Second Vatican Council teaches in Dei Verbum that “The Magisterium is not above the Word of God but serves it.” Likewise the Council fathers teach that this is also the case for Sacred Tradition. (DV #10) In other words, nobody is making it up as he goes along but rather is beholden to the gift of faith that is passed to him and in turn is obliged, and more importantly, equipped to ensure that that same deposit of faith is passed to the next generation of believers authentically.

Our union with the bishops, united to Peter’s successor, the pope, are how we know that we are under the Good Shepherd.

And so from the beginning and throughout history there is an imperfect use of this gift, yet it would be wrong to conclude that therefore they don’t have the means to speak for Christ authentically and authoritatively. We Jesus Himself gave instruction to His followers it wasn’t always heeded. Yet it was the Apostles who persevered. For example when Jesus was taught unambiguously of need to eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood, He lost a lot of disciples. Jesus turned to the Apostles and asks them if they are going to skidaddle. “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” (Jn 6:68) If it weren’t for Peter and the Apostles would the Lord have had any disciples left?

Ultimately they followed Jesus through obedience to Him and not what the crowd said or even what their own limited understanding dictated. Similar to those early disciples who left Jesus over the Eucharist it was revealed last summer that over 70% of Catholics in America don’t believe in the Eucharist. With such widespread misunderstanding of our Catholic faith today we must give the example of the Apostles.

When the Jesuits returned to Japan after having been expelled for 260 years there were amazed to find in a remote village in the north east of the country where the people gathered every Sunday to pray the Apostles Creed, the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity and Contrition, and recite the Ten Commandments and the Eight Beatitudes. The flabbergasted missionaries asked about the custom and were told that a long time ago the “fathers” in preparation of their own martyrdom instructed the ancestors of these Christians to do this. And then the jubilation of these Jesuits turned to apprehension when the villagers said that they were given instruction by these same “fathers” that when others would come talking about Christ, they were to ask them four questions. When you enter your churches what do you do? Does your Lord have a mother? Where does the leader of your church live? Do your fathers have wives?

The timeless identifying marks of those under the guidance of the Good Shepherd. The true Presence of the Eucharist, the honor to the Blessed Mother, the successor of St. Peter in Rome and the discipline of celibacy in imitation of Jesus and the Apostles. Ultimately this is where we find the Good Shepherd.

God became one of us. The hallmark of the Incarnation is humility. This virtue is to be always present in the humble instruments that He uses to shepherd His Church. The Good Shepherd leads as one of us, not like those who bark commands over the flock, wielding sticks and employing dogs.

God the Son became one of us. So much so that He Himself practiced obedience, even when every fiber of His being didn’t want to. In the Garden of Gethsemane He resisted to the point of sweating blood. Nevertheless just as He taught His disciples He took up His cross. Chances are that we won’t literally be taking up instruments of our execution. More often the obedience that we are expected to imitate is that of the Child Jesus.

Take Joseph, Our Lord’s foster father. Sacred Scripture describes him as a just man. We know that God the Father entrusted him with the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary and His Incarnate Son, so he must have been quite admirable. Nevertheless that doesn’t mean that he was immaculate. He was a victim of Original Sin like you and me. And so, like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, Who humbled Himself to live and obey under Joseph’s roof and adhere to the Fourth Commandment, so we are called to follow good men who have flawed human nature and enormous and unimaginable responsibility.

Who of us was content with our father’s managing our homes at some point in our youth? Hopefully most can look back and see their father’s wisdom eclipsing their sophomoric understanding of the world. As the saying goes, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” We call this phenomenon 20/20 vision.

By-the-way we are in the year 2020 and 20 + 20 = forty. Hopefully the forty days that we’ve spent will give us the insight needed to improve things in ourselves and the world. Don’t forget the Holy Rosary in that improvement. The Blessed Mother was most clear and emphatic with it being the tool to improve the world in our time. The Good Shepherd not only obeyed Joseph, but especially His immaculate Mother.

We imitate the Good Shepherd and follow His humble lead. Regarding those whom He has called to lead us, we can rest assured that we can’t go wrong in obeying. The great thing about obedience regarding options that are moral (we can’t never obey an immoral law) is that you can’t be wrong. “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.” (Rm 13:1-2)

Pastor’s Piece – May 2

Happy Easter!

We all know that Governor Northam’s Executive Order 55 would have us remain at home except for some expressed purposes until June 10. We may have forgotten Executive Order 53 where most businesses will be allowed to function, while maintaining social distancing measures, starting May 8. Bishop Burbidge hasn’t forgotten. Although it may appear that our governor will maintain restrictions for the above businesses till June 10, our bishop together with the Bishop Knestout of Richmond intend to press the issue if public worship doesn’t resume May 8. Our bishop wants to show the governor our church’s good faith and commitment to the common good. So waiting till May 8 he believes will establish the sincerity of that commitment, but he assured his priests that “The Diocese is prepared to advocate further for a lift on restrictions if the May 8th date does not ease restrictions in some way.” (April 22, 2020 Presbyteral Council Notes)

I am hopeful that next Sunday will be a big change for the better for us. Of course it won’t be business as usual, but it will be reason to dispense with some cautions.

Bishop Burbidge has cancelled all Confirmations in May and so, I have cancelled all First Holy Communions this month. We plan to have the children make their First Holy Communions September 26 & 27. As far as Confirmation is concerned the bishop is taking extraordinary measures and granting me permission until December 31 to confirm the children and adults of the parish who are prepared.

You learned in catechism class that the bishop is the ordinary minister of Confirmation. At least that’s what I’ve been teaching eighth graders. But if we had an AP Religious Education class we would learn that he isn’t the only one who ordinarily confirms. Priests ordinarily do it when they baptize an adult, bring somebody (who’s not an infant) into the Church or when they encounter somebody in danger of death who lacks the sacrament. If fact the only sacrament that I am powerless to minister is Holy Orders. (Technically I don’t minister Holy Matrimony, rather I officiate the vows. So if you hear word that I’ve ministered matrimony it is reason to pray for my soul.)

I’ll do my best to imitate the successors to the Apostles and confirm our graduating eighth graders September 12. As far as the adults that I’ve been preparing in RCIA our date has yet to be determined. I’d love to celebrate the event on one of the great feast that our church has during June, such as Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, SS. Peter & Paul or the Birthday of St. John the Baptist. But we know how hard it is to predict the status of things a month from now.

In the mean time I invite everyone to check our cyber presence. We have done some work on these that you might find more helpful:

https://www.saint-stephen.org

https://www.katharinedrexelcc.org

https://www.facebook.com/katharinedrexelcc/?epa=SEARCH_BOX

https://www.facebook.com/St.StephentheMartyrMiddleburg/

By-the-way the Wednesday night Holy Hour (6:30-7:30pm) will continue. It was well attended.

Just in case you don’t have the same source of jokes that I have during our shutdown. What do you call a nun who sleepwalks?

A roamin’ Catholic. 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

P.S. Confessions this week can be found Wednesday 6:30-7:30pm (during the Holy Hour), Friday morning after Mass, and Saturday 3:45-4:45pm.

Homily – III Sunday of Easter – A – 2020

You may ask how I pass my time in this time of confinement? One of the activities filling up my time as of late is putting the eighth graders of our parish on the hot seat. It’s no wonder why the Church calls the preparation of adults intending to be baptized and join the Catholic Church, “the scrutinies.” As I scrutinize the confirmandi for pertinent knowledge of the faith they are to be confirmed in, one of my go-to questions of recent is, ‘When did the power the Resurrection enter into the disciples’ life?’

I’m not talking about Jesus rising from the dead being good drama and warming our hearts with a good story, but rather, ‘When did that event become something practical, personal, applicable and not just inspirational?’

Baptism connects us to the power of Easter Sunday. Notice here in the first part of today’s Gospel passage that the disciples are on the way to Emmaus. We got to figure that they are already baptized. It was the first thing that Jesus did to begin His ministry (the Baptism of the Lord). Then again on the last night of His ministry with His followers (the Last Supper) He says that He must wash their feet. Peter protests. “‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.’  Simon Peter said to him, ‘Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.’” (Jn 13:8-10) Jesus responds that those who are washed only need their feet clean. He is speaking of the washing of the disciples through baptism. Since we can’t be baptized again. Maybe the feet part is a reference to the Sacrament of Confession?

Throughout the Sundays of the Easter Season, the gospel passages reveal encounters of the disciples with the wonderfully mysterious presence of the resurrected Jesus. Last week we heard the dramatic account of Thomas placing his hands in the nail marks in the Body that just mysteriously passed through a locked door. He appears in flesh and blood, to see and to touch. He even eats and prepares meals for them. But at the same time, He can be unrecognizable like He is with the disciples on the way to Emmaus or Mary Magdalene who mistook Him for a gardener. Nevertheless, this mysteriously wonderful Body of Jesus always leaves the disciples with great joy.

Many today are content to say that ‘Jesus was a great man, a great teacher, he was a prophet, but his disciples got carried away and made him a god.’ No wonder there is a lot less wonder in the world. They’ve rejected the saving power of Jesus. He is the one source through Whom we arrive at salvation. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16:16) He is the standard of all our actions. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40)

To accept Jesus as merely a prophet compromises heaven. One might begin to believe that death is the only end. This may lead us to think that there is no consequence to our lives because we ultimately end up as worm food. Take the disciples of the gospel today for an example. When they speak of Jesus as a prophet they are rather down-hearted, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel…” Their hearts are heavy. But, as we continue the passage, there is a great change in the disciples. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

The good news is that the joy that they encounter is not limited to them alone. What St. Luke has provided for us is an outline for all disciples to encounter the Risen Lord. Firstly, there is a scripture lesson. Sacred Scripture is the warm up. It is how we come to know God’s plan. Jesus interpreted the Old Testament and applied it to their present circumstance. We follow a similar pattern today. It is how we begin Mass. We gather to hear the Liturgy of the Word. When I read the Gospel to you, I declare, “The Gospel according to …” And you respond, “Glory to you O Lord.” Then, silently we make three signs of the cross. The idea is that we wish to have Christ’s words in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts. We want Him in our hearts like these disciples.

After Jesus shares and explains Sacred Scripture to His followers, He shares a meal with them. It’s at the breaking of bread that they realized Who He is. Let’s take note, their disposition, regarding Jesus as a prophet, is dejection and anxiety. Their disposition upon seeing Him at the breaking of bread is joy, excitement and a desire to share the news. So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem…”

What a great opportunity that we have at Mass! Hopefully this absence from Mass for many will help more appreciate the Eucharistic manner that Jesus intends to use to be a part of our lives. Even for those who are unable to receive Holy Communion for a variety of reason that are present even if we are not sheltering in place, consider that the disciples in today’s Gospel are merely watching the Breaking the Bread and they were filled with excitement. It was a Mass on TV moment. I read in an article regarding how the Church as been in the situation where Mass was suspended for fear of contagious disease before. The great reformer of the Church and founder of seminaries, the Archbishop of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo, shut down the churches in that city during a plague. During this time he encouraged his priest to say Mass at the intersections of the city so that people could witness it from their homes. Our mere participation outside of receiving Holy Communion is efficacious.

Another important aspect of these disciples on the Road to Emmaus is that they expressed hope that Jesus was the one. “We were hoping he would be the one to redeem Israel.” This is further evidence of their Baptism. We receive the gifts, the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity at Baptism. These disciples seemed to have built a life around this hope. They had left homes, businesses and family to follow Jesus.

If our hopes are on the Lord, then we too should feel our hearts warm up to His word. Once we place our hope on pay-raises, promotions, new technologies, political leaders, stock market, entertainment or vacations to bring us security, joy or peace then we become less enamored or ardently desirous of the Lord. We might believe in His Resurrection, but do we believe that this means He is here for us now?

He has risen and is now here in a mysterious way to strengthen, encourage, enlighten, give us hope and fill us with joy, but as we learned sometime ago in catechism class we have to prepare ourselves. First we’re baptized, then we confess our sins, and we learn of the need communicate with God regularly through prayer and to even have time for making sacrifices, such as, fasting. Take another sacrament such as, Holy Matrimony. There we know that bride and groom become one flesh. Their conjugal relations bring them together not only physically. Such relations are enhanced through regular conversations. What we would their union be like if they didn’t talk all week long, show up with no preparation, and expect to have an ecstatic physical moment?

It would hardly be what that act is designed to be. It might give life, but would it convey love? Would it communicate or give assurance that this is the person with whom I want to build a life? Then again it might be a sin, a moment to end the relationship. I.e. To force the issue without consent is a violation on the deepest levels.

There is a similarity with receiving Holy Communion unworthily. This is why St. Paul teaches the Corinthians, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1Cor 11:29) They are abusing a gift and in turn destroying the relationship that is designed to be sustained by the reception of Holy Communion. He concludes that this is the reason for mortalities, “That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.” (1Cor 11:30) This is why the Church teaches that it is a mortal sin to receive unworthily.

Communion is meant to be our personal moment with God. St. Paul also says that if you accept Jesus personally, you’re saved, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rm 10:9) Our Protestant friends think that this is it. The only thing that is necessary. If our Protestant friend should ask us, ‘Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?’ Our response should be a resounding, ‘Yes! I have welcomed Him into my life, into my body and dinned with Him.’ How much more personal can one get?

In the Breaking of the Bread we meet the wonderfully mysterious Body of the Resurrected Lord.

Pastor’s Piece – April 25

Happy Easter!

Divine Mercy Sunday went well. Arriving a little early didn’t seem to deter the determined. I will be prepared with sufficient hosts tomorrow.

While many have found attending my Private Mass at safe social distancing recommendations or in the security of their cars to be edifying, this is not the only way in which to benefit from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that I offer at St. Stephen’s on a daily basis.

Read More: Pastor’s Piece – April 25

Homily – Easter Octave A – Divine Mercy Sunday

In the 1950s Sci-Fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, we are treated to some state of the art special effects that appear rather primitive to us today. These aren’t the only aspects of the film that appear dated. There are the formal mannerisms of the people. The protagonist, the alien man from outer space, Klaatu, adopts the name Carpenter as an alias, and I don’t think that anyone asks for a first name.

These aren’t the only marks of the passage of a by-gone era. The arms race and the nuclear showdown in the world loom large. Additionally the film was almost a victim of its age before it was ever released. The censors (Motion Picture Review Board) had some concerns that Klaatu was too close of a Christ figure. It wasn’t that they thought that portraying Jesus Christ was bad, but rather because the population was so Christian they feared the audience might be offended by not portraying Him well enough. They didn’t want to be accused of blasphemy. If only we could bring some of those sensibilities back.

Indeed the same similarities to the Christ story seem intentional: a man not of this world, comes to earth to deliver a message of peace, but then is rejected by the authorities, disguises himself as an average Joe, takes the name “Carpenter,” is accepted by the innocent and women, is killed (shot to death), is brought back to life with his alien (i.e. other worldly) technology, reveals who he truly is, makes a post-revival address and then is carried off into space. But these are where the similarities end.

What caught my attention were the 1950’s prejudices. Secular society was esteemed. The natural sciences, military and government were the only considerations as to what might provide world peace. It seems that we have been on this path of thought in our society for a long time. Where has that gotten us? Are we any closer to world peace?

Human life seems more precarious than ever. We promote violence among mother and child with our steady abortion rate and state protections that follow. Some other measures of societal health don’t speak well either: the rates of divorce, suicide and drug addiction, I’m sure dwarf any 1950s measures. Then we’ve opened up whole new means of dissatisfaction, confusion and mental illness with what we think marriage, sex and genders are.

It is good to remember that the root of the word “secular” is the Latin, “saeculum”, meaning, ‘century’ or ‘of the age’. In a real way those who embrace secularism limit themselves to a knowledge that is as old as the generation before them and as farsighted as the next. How does this differ from what we profess?

We believe in the Logos, the Word through Whom all has come into existence. Or if you will, timeless principles upon which the universe was created and is sustained. We have a Church with two thousand years experience, not to mention the future that has been revealed. In a real way those without the light of faith, or at least knowledge of Christian history, have no means of judging things other than by the prejudices of the generation before them and their personal experience. They have no certainty about a future other than death.

In the movie, Klaatu promises to deliver the gift of world peace. Understandably the greatest threat to world peace at the time was seen as more world wars. So the thinking goes, if we can eliminate that, violá, we’ve accomplished peace. So the movie crescendos to where Klaatu delivers the solution to the threat of nuclear war. In his final addresses after his resuscitation and before his departure into the heavens (Not so unlike Our Lord today in the Gospel), the special extraterrestrial knowledge that we hopeless earthlings needed revealed to us is … more fascism.

His solution to the problem of peace is more heavy-handed government enforcement. Of course, he wasn’t advocating that we repeat the mistakes of a decade prior by putting the power in the hands of a national government. No. This broadminded progressive solution reached all the way back to the previous generation for an idea that introduces the international (or rather, interplanetary) governing body. Finally might will make right because, after all, the Interplanetary Police would be free of petty human concerns. They are robots. The idea was for Earth to enter a permanent pact with the other planets in this futuristic League of Nations in order to hold each other accountable. If any member should become aggressive with another world, so the agreement has it, then the consequence would be their destruction by the robots. How in the world does this have anything to do with what we celebrate today?

Jesus Christ died to deliver to the human race the solution. The post-resurrection divinely revealed answer to our problems is none other than what we celebrate today, Divine Mercy. If 1950’s Sci-Fi is an accurate window into that era, we can see why Jesus would be eager to redeliver this message again. And so for our era the Church has established that the mid-twentieth century Polish nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska, did receive inner locutions from the Lord that are worthy of belief. Through this humble instrument, like so many saints, He delivered the message of God’s mercy as a solution to our problems.

I am no student of St. Faustina. Yet in light of what I have read and of what multiple Church approved apparitions have said in the past one hundred and fifty years, we are on borrowed time. Practically all the approved messages and those being investigated currently speak of a chastisement before a time of peace and harmony that will be enjoyed by the world before the end of time. That is, there is to be a time of tribulation because of so much infidelity and disbelief that needs to be rectified. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said in an address in 1947, “God will not allow unrighteousness to become eternal.  … we cannot turn from God without hurting ourselves.” (https://www.ncregister.com/blog/joseph-pronechen/did-fulton-sheen-prophecy-about-these-times)

Now is the time of mercy. We’ve all just experienced how quickly ordinary life for the whole world can change overnight. If this isn’t a merciful wake-up call, I don’t know what one could be. What do we do with the time we have?

There are some very practical steps such as praying the Holy Rosary and or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. In doing so we gain more mercy for the world. By doing so also we help mitigate the future troubled times and win more souls for the Kingdom. Yet the heart of the whole message is what we find in today’s Gospel passage.

The institution of the Sacrament of Penance. This how we get right with the Lord. By acknowledging our sins, confessing them sincerely, making a firm purpose of amendment and exercising the act of self-denial, i.e. penance, we activate our membership in the Kingdom. We are part of the solution. We are helpful members of the Kingdom of God working to expand its reign in the hearts and minds of more souls.

The urgency of The Day the Earth Stood Still is prompted by the threat World War III. In Klaatu’s farewell speech he gave an ultimatum, “But if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration.” (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Day_the_Earth_Stood_Still_(1951_film)

Instead of the threat of dispassionate robot calculated worldwide destruction, Christ announces His Divine Mercy. He is clear that challenging times are coming. He is offering us the means not to avoid them but to prepare for them and maintain a sense of peace in the midst of great chaos. As Archbishop Sheen preached, we “must realize that a moment of crisis is not a time of despair, but of opportunity. … Once we recognize we are under Divine Wrath, we become eligible for Divine Mercy. It was because of famine the prodigal said: ‘I will arise, and will go to my father.’ The very disciplines of God create hope. The thief on the right came to God by a crucifixion. The Christian finds a basis for optimism in the most thorough-going pessimism, for his Easter is within three days of Good Friday.” (https://www.ncregister.com/blog/joseph-pronechen/did-fulton-sheen-prophecy-about-these-times)

Pastor’s Piece – April 18

Happy Easter!

Easter Sunday went well. Nevertheless we need to change a few things, and for pastoral reasons, the earlier the better. So now I will offer my morning prayers an hour earlier. I can sympathize with the difficulty. The piety of my youngest brother speaks for many. When he was informed that the family was gathering to join me at church on Easter Sunday at 9:00am, he responded, “The one time in my life that the bishop says that I don’t have to go to Mass on Sunday and you want me to get up early!”

The second thing that we do well to do is for those of you listening to my Private Mass on you car radio, I will meet you where the sidewalk that extends from the church steps arrives at the parking lot for Holy Communion. Remember that if you’ve parked near the Parish Hall, I will meet you at the bottom of the office steps by the traffic cone for Holy Communion.

The latest information from Bishop Burbidge regarding this unique circumstance is that he has canceled all Confirmations in the Diocese of Arlington till May 8. That means we still need to prepare for our First Holy Communions scheduled for May 8 & 9 and Confirmations May 16. Of course whether we have those events will depend heavily on what the governor says before then. Nevertheless there are some things that we can be certain about regarding next month. If we are permitted to have public Mass in May, I don’t imagine that the bishop will make them obligatory. Secondly, we know that Governor Northam has shut the schools and their facilities down till June 10. So there is no hope that SKD will be meeting at Bull Run Middle School before then. You all are always welcome at your parish church SSM. That is the best that my crystal ball can come up with at the moment. We pray that this ends soon.

Till then, a joke, where did the Terminator find toilet paper?

Aisle B. Back.

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

P.S. Confessions this week can be found Wednesday 6:30-7:30pm, Friday morning after Mass, and Saturday 3:45-4:45pm.

 

Easter Sunday Homily

I’m borrowing the Gospel (Mt 28:1-10) from the Easter Vigil, since I didn’t have the opportunity to share it with you last night.

The women of the Gospel are given a great hope. Jesus isn’t in the tomb. Could it possibly be that He is still alive? This hope against all hope is entrusted with a mission. The angel said, that is, the ultimate authority, heavens’ mandate, assigned a task. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ What a marvelous and fearful thing that they have experienced and now have a responsibility to share. Are they not good models for us?

We too are entrusted with proclaiming the message of the empty tomb. It is not a metaphor. We are believers in life after death, in a man who returned from the dead. This changes everything. The message and the belief in the Resurrection comes with a formula for how it is to be actualized in our lives: Baptism, Ten Commandments, Sacraments of Initiation, weekly church, Holy Days of Obligation, fasting during Lent, avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins, practicing a virtuous life, including the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and daily prayer.

If we are believers, where is the evidence? As Sir Isaac Newton so succinctly explained about reality in his Third Law of Motion, “that for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.” (https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/newton3.html) The force of reality that we celebrate is life over death, grace over sin. As Newton explained, if object A exerts a force on object B, then object B also exerts an equal and opposite force on object A. So it stands to reason there should be effects of the Resurrection in close proximity to us.

We may not be feeling so confident of this divine power manifest in the world. We’ve had our wings clipped so to speak. We may even be fearful that we’ve lost divine favor since we are under a worldwide cloud. If we believe that this virus is a chastisement, and we have good reason to believe so, e.g. the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation, “Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.” (Rv 3:19) Then are we saying that it God’s plan to punish? No. Is it your plan to discipline and a remove freedoms and privileges from your disobedient children? No. You would rather that domestic harmony is maintained through their obedience to you. Nevertheless punishment does become your obligation when you see that they are in danger.

We may gain a glimpse of this heavenly perspective from one of visionaries of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima. In regards to some of the calamities of the twentieth century of which the world was warned, such as: World War II, signs in the sky, the dominance of Russia and the destruction of nations, Sister Lucia said, “…let us not say that it is God who is punishing us in this way; on the contrary it is people themselves who are preparing their own punishment. In his kindness God warns us and calls us to the right path, while respecting the freedom he has given us; hence people are responsible.” (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html)

We can say that it was the best solution for obstinate disobedience. It was the lesser of two evils. So, no, I’m not saying that God is the cause of this, but I am saying that because of our sin, He is permitting this. In that sense, because it is of God, then we can dispense with our anxiety.

Look at the women of the Gospel. They were entrusted with a message. They must have anxiously thought, ‘I have to go all the way to Galilee? A whole 78 miles on foot and then, tell a bunch of men this unbelievable story. Who’s going to believe this from us?’

Here we are, the believers in the Resurrection. We are the faithful of a message that says God is involved in our lives. In fact, we believe that we have no life accept for God’s. As St. Paul asks the Roman Christian community, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rm 6:3-11) So, in fact, we are more than messengers of some unbelievable news. We are at the same time evidence of it. The power of the resurrected Christ is in our lives. “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” (ibid.)

So we live in accord with the perspective that death is not the last word. And accordingly the loss of mobility, confinement, routine, threat of pestilence are opportunities to see God’s power manifest in our life anew. Our life as recipients of the power of the Resurrection gives us power to rise above the greatest anxiety of the human race, death, and consequently, its lesser evils, such as, disease, lack of freedom, and sin.

I hope that we might resolve to put the light of our Resurrected existence to work. We conquer death through vanquishing all that which makes us anxious: such as pride that puts our will first; or greed that believes that we are better providers than God; or envy that isn’t happy about what neighbor is or what he has; or anger that for most of us is often due to our own lack of patience with the weakness of another; or lust which is enamored merely with the surface of a person and is hardly an expression of care and concern; or gluttony that misses the beauty that less is more (and even healthy); and sloth that is one of greatest expressions of our ingratitude for the time on earth that we’ve been given.

If we feel a little anxious about the task to conquer sin, that is, to announce the Resurrection in our very lives, then, I invite you to examine what happens next to the friends of Jesus who just received their angelic mandate. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They aren’t alone with the heavenly command. He is with them. Once more He reaffirmed their mission, their obligatory task. But nevertheless they were also consoled and reassured.

Pastor’s Piece – April 11

Please, note that your pastor is now equipped with the coveted N95 mask. A highly trained and experienced medical professional has outfitted me like a pro. According to instructions outlined by Bishop Burbidge there is a way for me to minister the sacraments without fear of multiplying contagion. I feel up to the task, yet Prince William Hospital doesn’t share my enthusiasm. I don’t know of the other healthcare facilities. With this in mind, please, feel free to call upon my services to minister the Anointing of the Sick, Confession, Holy Communion and an Apostolic Pardon. Yet, keep in mind, it will only be possible for me to minister to you before you go to Prince William Hospital and possibly other facilities.

After all my middle name is Damian, as in St. Damien of Molokai. I can’t turn away from this challenge less I’d deny who I am. St. Damien never wanted to get leprosy, yet he knew it was a distinct possibility. Before I left for my stint in our diocesan missions, of which you have often heard me speak, my father handed my holy card of St. Christopher that he had recently found in a letter that my great grandmother had sent her son, his father, as he went off to World War I. The message was not lost on me. The man who named me Christopher Damian was handing me a relic from the woman who initiated the tradition in our family of the males being given the middle name Damian. For you see, Fr. Damien was engaged in his heroic work in her lifetime. I was experiencing the power of the Communion of Saints. In her life, Great-grandmother Murphy was renowned for her piety. She was seemingly teaming up with her favorite holy heroes to send me on my way.

In my time away, I never felt alone. I was reassured by the fact that I would be back home some day. The Diocese of Arlington is my home and I am ordained to serve here, so the bishop was obliged to bring me back. Nevertheless, if should be called heavenward then I would be truly home with those who had been rooting for me. This perspective, of always knowing that I was going home, kept me going. Each and every one of us who are baptized can call upon the power of our heavenly home.

In light of the Easter Resurrection and the eternal life that it shares with us, consider the perspective of our heavenly family. Those of us who are the beneficiaries of today’s miracle, today’s feast, will look back on our time on earth and say, what was I thinking? How could I have been so shortsighted? What was a mere ninety years? Why did I let the discomforts of that time bother me so? Why couldn’t I see them for what they were: my trials, my cross, the great test to make me a saint?

How could I have wasted time on earth being so anxious about the style of my shelter, the fashion of my apparel, the different flavors to give my mouth? How could I have spent so much time following the lives of the famous, of getting upset at politicians and given so little attention to those in my family, neighborhood and surroundings that could have been relieved by my attention, by my resources, by these talents that God gave me? Why was I so concerned about what God gave my neighbor? When after all, He had a specific plan and duty for me?

Please, be assured of my continued prayers with the power of Christ’s Resurrection. As I’ve said before, God was the first one to adopt the motto, ‘Never let a crisis go to waste.’

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

P.S. This Sunday will be like last Sunday. Confessions this week can be found Wednesday 6:30-7:30pm, Friday morning after Mass, and Saturday 3:45-4:45pm.

Good Friday 2020

[The Passion Narrative of St. John, Chapters 18 – 19:42 is traditionally read today around 3pm.]

A wonderful confluence of events happened at the beginning of what is traditionally known as Passiontide this year. This is the time period that includes Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday and the Sunday before it. You may have noticed that the statues in St. Stephen’s are covered. This is traditional although it hasn’t been customary at SSM for a while. Frankly I’ve never done it in my 23 years of priesthood. So with the kind promptings of a parishioner who purchased the veils, I attempted to follow the instructions in the Ordo (the annual instructional manual for liturgical dates in the US). Being a neophyte at this, I didn’t give our kind donor instructions to purchase coverings for our angels or the altar cross. The angel problem was easily solved. I took them down. How many angels can fit into a closet? Yet I didn’t feel motivated to remove our new bronze altar cross. I think now that I understand why.

Ordinarily this altar furnishing doesn’t face you, the congregation. But ever since these days of Private Masses, it has been. See, I’m facing ad orientem (liturgical east). I’m looking towards the Lord since I’m without you. Things started coming together in my mind on the Tuesday that followed the Sunday that began Passiontide. On that Sunday we read about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and on the following Tuesday we read about the strange passage of Moses being instructed by God to make a bronze image of the serpents who have been biting the people and making them mortally ill. A little background is necessary here.

Moses was leading the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land and not unusually they are complaining, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”* So the LORD sent among the people seraph* serpents, which bite the people so that many of the Israelites died. (Numbers 21:4-9)

Moses pleads with God for the people and is given a solution to the problem. This solution we regard as a Good Friday prophecy. “Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and everyone who has been bitten will look at it and recover.” (ibid.)

So Moses goes about this curious remedy by making a bronze image of the same serpents that are killing the people and lifts it up on a pole so that they may gaze upon it and be healed. We may recall Our Lord prophesying His death on the Cross. “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (Jn 12:32)

What in the world does gazing upon a horrific death have to do about our salvation? It is a mystery. I don’t understand. But, hey, I wouldn’t be much of a pastor if I didn’t give it a try. So, here goes.

It is no longer popular to bronze one’s baby shoes. This trend seemed to be on the decrease when I out grew out my first shoes. But nevertheless I was aware of the unique custom. What is the thinking behind it?

I would have to say that it was a mother’s way of capturing some precious memories in the life of her family. I’m sure that the custom goes back to a time before photographs were so readily available. If you will, Moses was bronzing the serpent to capture an image in the few ways that were available in his age. Why the image of an object of death? Or even, why an image? The Israelites have their newly minted Ten Commandments that strictly prohibited graven images. Why this departure from the new law?

Obviously, it was to convey something really important. For the Christian believer there is nothing more important than the Cross, the means of our salvation.

So there I was preparing for Mass on the first Tuesday of Passiontide and I gazed into the sanctuary of St. Stephen’s from the pews. The only image unveiled was a bronze image of Jesus crucified standing , or lifted up, on the altar. By gazing upon the bronze serpent lifted up the Israelites in the desert were healed. The Roman soldier at the foot of the Cross, has a moment of saving faith, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Mt 27:54)

As we read today exclusively in St. John’s Gospel who breaks character and interrupts his dispassionate narration of historical events to say, the “soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth (because that witness is John)…” Then, as a good pastor, he gives a brief sermon, “so that you also may come to believe.” (Jn 19:34-36)

The Latin word for healing, salus, is often used to convey our Christian notion of salvation. The Israelites are healed and we are saved. (Interestingly the image for Blue Shield uses the snake on a pole as a universal sign of medicine) The saving event of the Cross is not trapped in the past, like an object dipped in metal, but rather it is placed on the altar.

The blood and water to which John testifies is how this awful event finds it was into our lives. We are reborn and nourished through the elements flowing from Christ’s side. We are washed clean by water and Spirit at our Baptism in the Blood of the Lamb and sustained throughout our life on earth from the nourishment of the altar. We behold the source and summit of our faith, the Eucharist, made present by the holy Sacrifice of Calvary, re-presented on each and every altar.

In solidarity with the Israelites who were healed by gazing upon the bronzed deadly punishment of their sins, likewise we come to the altar. Every Catholic Church is equipped with a crucifix for this very reason. It is why on Good Friday we commemorate Our Lord’s Passion by lining up to reverence the Cross.

During this dramatic liturgy the priest is instructed to gradually unveil the covered cross and proclaim three times, “Ecce lignum Crucis, in quo salus mundi pepéndit. Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.” And the congregation responds, “Come, let us adore.”

The bronze crucifix on the altar is a snapshot image of the furthest extent that God went to win us back. As horrible at it is to behold we know through faith that it shows God’s love.