Pastor’s Piece – SSM Open for Public Masses

Pastor’s Piece – May 30, 2020

In accord with the Governor Northam’s and Bishop Burbidge’s permission, we are going public this Sunday at St. Stephen the Martyr Church. As you know this is not back to normal. There are many new instructions. Due to the constant barrage of information these past two months there are many who suffer from anxiety. As a consequence they may regard certain present instructions as a matter of life and death and falsely think that to depart from such guidelines is to actually place one’s wellbeing in mortal danger. The following graph I find helpful for perspective.

Such information does not give license to ignore prudent guidelines, yet those who equate such guidelines with the gravity we should have toward mortal sin are not welcome to make a fuss. If you or those for whom you care are vulnerable to infection or the serious effects of coronavirus, please, stay at home. Those who are “vulnerable” are over the age of sixty five (once more, no i.d. needed), those who have existing heart or lung conditions, have diabetes, and or are otherwise immune-compromised. Others who should consider staying home are those who simply feel sick.

Bishop Burbidge expects facemasks to be worn and Governor Northam’s rules regarding such practice are clear about their use at church. Nevertheless those not wearing mask should not receive our reproach. The following are from the governor’s Executive Order 63:

  • A – 6 “Face coverings may be removed to participate in a religious ritual.”
  • D 6 – “Nothing in this Order shall require the use of a face covering by any person for whom doing so would be contrary to his or her health or safety because of a medical condition. Any person who declines to wear a face covering because of a medical condition shall not be required to produce or carry medical documentation verifying the stated condition nor shall the person be required to identify the precise underlying medical condition.”

While the facemask maybe de rigueur, the bishop gives me permission to not wear mine. Nevertheless I shall don one for the distribution of Holy Communion.

In compliance with Executive Order 63 and the integration of Phase 1, we have permission to fill our church to 50% capacity. The reality is that we will no where near approach 140 persons seated (maybe if you count the guardian angels who attend to us). Once we calculate social distancing measures as currently recommended, we can expect a minimum of 20 people in the nave. If persons arrive from the same household or vehicle we could have up to 48 people in church. So, we must sit six feet apart from individuals, unless from the same house or car, and sit six feet from the aisles. Look for the dark blue tape on the floor to of the pews. Sit between them.

The nave is not the only venue. We can seat minimally 4 and possibly 16 in the narthex. In the parish hall I’ve placed 30 seats and two pews where we could possibly have 38 people. Along with the speaker in the parish hall, I’ll be broadcasting the Mass on FaceTime. I don’t think that there is a county code that regulates how many can sit outdoors. Social distancing and one’s ability to hear the outdoor speaker system may be the only factors that determine the number that gathers there. There will be 30 chairs available and weather permitting the front doors of the church will be open. Or feel free to sit in your car and tune into 89.5 FM “The Martyr”. Please note, the procedure has changed for those attending Mass via vehicle. At the time for Holy Communion, I invite you to approach the altar rail.

We are expected to disinfect our hands for things like Holy Communion. I’ll have some hand sanitizing stations available. You are welcome to BYOB. If you wish you may bring an empty bottle for some home brew, small batch Holy Water. This newly controlled substance is in the usher’s closet. Help yourself. Remember that the password is “Wuhan”.

Besides the fact that there is no longer an obligation to attend Mass (until further notice), there are some changes to the Mass:

  • No holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer.
  • No exchange of peace.
  • No distribution of the Precious Blood.
  • Only Priests & Deacons distribute Communion.
  • Only those in a state of grace may receive Communion, but those who have health concerns are not obliged.
  • One is encouraged to disinfect his hands immediately before receiving Communion.
  • Please maintain social distancing in the Communion line.
  • One retains the right to decide how to receive, whether on the tongue or in the hand.
  • Holy Communion cannot be received in the hand with gloves.
  • I am to disinfect my hand immediately if accidental contact is made with a communicant.

Procedures at SSM to be aware of:

  • Ushers will maintain roughly the 140 person number and social distancing in the church. Please, follow their instructions.
  • All this social distancing allows for extra people to enter the church to receive Holy Communion. I invite those attending 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.
        • It would be impossible to receive Holy Communion on the tongue if it isn’t.
        • For those receiving on the hand, I fear that one may drop the Sacred Host while engaging in this unfamiliar action of holding the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior in one hand and deftly extricating one’s mask with the other hand.
      • 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.

I’m obliged to disinfect the church and hall after each Mass. Volunteers are welcome. We need to wipe down pews and chairs after Mass to prepare for the next one. Lamentably this may cut into the time of those who prefer a lengthier thanksgiving after Mass. Please, be flexible. We are trying to serve as many as possible.

In compliance with the bishop’s instructions that the church be well ventilated I am opening the windows and doors this Sunday. The forecast appears very amendable to such a practice, but I don’t know for how long we can keep that up.

In preparation for Mass this Sunday, look for a QR code posted outside of the church and on our website. 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 Pentecost, May 31: 8:00 & 10:00am in English and 12:30pm in Spanish. There is no Saturday evening Mass of anticipation for Sunday. Daily Mass will resume at its scheduled time of 8:30am with the addition of Saturday morning Mass (8:30am). Also, we’ll return to Wednesday evening Mass at 6:30 in Spanish before the Eucharistic Holy Hour starting at 7:00.

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

Homily – Feast of the Ascension

I understand that one of the many casualties of the Coronavirus is that our beloved graduates don’t get a graduation ceremony. They are deprived of some VIP and the valedictorian give commencement addresses. In their place I offer them Our Lord and Savior. Today’s gospel account was our Lord’s commencement address to the Apostles who were the first graduates of the messianic school of divinity. His words are quite simple and to the point. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations …  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Traditionally, the feast of the Ascension reminds us of the humanity that Jesus brings to heaven, kind of like Neil Armstrong on the moon, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But there is more to this feast than the Apostles marveling about what Jesus did. It isn’t about the followers of Christ waiting around till we have our chance to join Him in heaven. The point of this commencement address is about their mission and how He will be with them. Simply put, they and their followers, us, are to share the faith. Our faith teaches that God Almighty in His Omniscience has placed us, with our particular gifts and talents for this time, space and people. He has freely chosen us for this task to do the right thing, that which is in accord with truth, justice & charity. In so doing we become a sign of hope for the world.

No doubt that we often feel inadequate, unfamiliar or even afraid. Next Sunday we celebrate how the Holy Spirit ignited the conflagration of Christianity in the world. We particularly celebrate how that same Divine Force bestowed the gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge and Counsel. Through our Baptism and Confirmation we have our own personal Pentecost. We too receive these gifts for the divine mission.

After the Ascension of Our Lord the Apostles head to Jerusalem to pray and wait as Jesus instructed. But after Pentecost, they don’t remain there. After our full initiation into the faith by Confirmation & Holy Communion, we mustn’t stagnate. It’s contradictory to the Christian life. At the end of each and every Mass we are reminded of this mission, Ite misa est. Not merely, “Go forth the Mass is ended”, or “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”, or even, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” It is rather ‘Go y’all, it is sent.’ That is, the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus and His Father is at the lead. We merely follow His prompting.

“One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism…. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in …” (Pope Francis, Evangelium Gaudium, #85)

We are assured of victory. Jesus gives us the end of the story. Meanwhile before that triumphant moment, we are called and equipped to do our part for Our King Who wishes to expand His Kingdom on earth in the hearts and minds of mankind. Sister Janet Erskine Stuart says, “If you look to Sacred History, Church History, and even to your own experience … you will see that God’s work is never done in the ideal conditions, never as we should have imagined or chosen.” (Legion of Mary Handbook, #24, p. 301) I.e. Our human estimate of poor conditions or lack of talent is not an obstacle for God. In fact we hear Our Lord tell St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9) No excuses! Our limitations are not obstacles. Rather they are required for success. It is how God works. He takes great pleasure in adding His Divine Grace to our human nature. So we have to do our part to cooperate.

How many today succumb to fear, complacency or false ideas about all religions being equal? Do we not believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life? We broadcast this loudly when our lives conform to the truth of His teachings. When we put our lives on His path of the moral way of life, we teach better than any talented or cleaver defense of the faith. This also gives us the courage to teach boldly. I wonder whether the popular compromise of our convictions has more do with the compromise of our life-style.

You know the lines of the ostensibly Catholic politician, ‘I’m personally opposed to abortion, but in a pluralistic society we don’t have the right to impose our beliefs on anybody. So, whatever the people want is what we have to accept.’ We wouldn’t accept a leader say that regarding racism, hunger, ignorance or injustice. The personally opposed argument is faithless and cowardly. This is blasphemy for one who has the Holy Spirit’s gifts of Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord.

Before time began, God chose to place us here in this time and space, with these people and with these problems. We may not feel expert or up to the task, but that’s okay, neither did Moses. He told God that he didn’t know how to speak publically, or Jeremiah. He told the Lord that he was too young, or Peter. He told Jesus to leave him for he was a sinner, or even the Blessed Virgin Mary. She said to the archangel that she was a mere virgin.

The Lord’s Ascension challenges us to assent to our Lord’s command to share the faith and trust in His promise that He is with us until the end of the age. As we go forth each day and take on the task at hand in our lives with fidelity and love, we become a sign of hope in a desperate world.

Pastor’s Piece – May 23

I hear good reports regarding your health and the Coronavirus. The three persons of our communities that were roughed up a bit by COVID-19 are recovering well. I pray and hope that this trend persists. Although we can’t go “public” this Sunday we can prepare. God willing and Governor Northam & Loudoun County cooperating, we’ll be have Public Masses at St. Stephen the Martyr next Sunday, Pentecost, May 31. In order to get everyone ready with the expectations and procedures, I have sent you what Bishop Burbidge instructs for Phase I parishes. And as he has instructed me, here is how these guidelines apply to SSM.

Let’s start with the expectations. Firstly to gather for Mass at SSM we do so in a spirit of charity. Out of charity we mustn’t endanger the health of our neighbor. If you or those for whom you care are vulnerable to infection or the serious effects of coronavirus, please, stay at home. Those who are “vulnerable” are over the age of sixty five (I won’t be checking your i.d.), those who have existing heart or lung conditions, have diabetes, and or
are otherwise immune-compromised. Others who should consider staying home are those who simply feel sick.

According to the governor and the bishop we are able to fill our church and adjoining spaces up to 50%. That means for the nave of the church we have a maximum seating capacity of 140 rumps. This number will be diminished by social distancing guidelines whereby we are to leave six feet between each other, unless we’re from the same household. I will block off every other pew and ask you to use your judgment and, please, follow the instructions of our ushers to accommodate these guidelines.

The nave is not the only venue to attend Mass. We can seat up to 8 more people in the narthex. Theoretically I can seat 50 people in the parish hall, but I’ll need to place the chairs in there this week to see what that looks like. Similarly I’ll try to gather a number for those seated in front exterior of the church. I don’t think that there is a county code that regulates how many can sit outdoors. Social distancing and one’s ability to hear the speaker system may be the only factors that determine the number that gathers there. Or feel free to sit in your car. I’ll broadcast the Mass on 89.5 FM “The Martyr”.

The bishop’s guidelines mention expectations. There are expectations to wear facemasks (not requirements). And so you can expect Fr. Murphy not to wear one. You can expect to feel free to wear one (the bishop encourages it). You can expect that if your neighbor isn’t wearing one that it is the sin of rash judgment to consider him uncharitable. If you find these expectations troubling, it may be a good barometer to help you determine if you should attend. Generally speaking, I find that the mask is rather optional in Middleburg. If this makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps you’re not ready.

We are expected to disinfect our hands for things like Holy Communion. I’ll have some hand sanitizing stations available. You are welcome to bring your own. Please, know that it should contain 60% alcohol. Speaking of hooch. Holy Water isn’t prohibited, but it is now a controlled substance. We stash it is the Usher’s Closet. BYOB (bring your own bottle) and help yourself.

Besides the fact that there is no longer an obligation to attend Mass (until further notice), there are some reminders and actual changes to the Mass as instituted by Bishop Burbidge:

  • No holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer.
  • No exchange of peace.
  • No distribution of the Precious Blood.
  • Only Priests & Deacons distribute Communion.
  • Only those in a state of grace may receive Communion, but those who have health concerns are not obliged.
  • One is encouraged to disinfect his hands immediately before receiving Communion.
  • Please maintain social distancing in the Communion line.
  • One retains the right to decide how to receive, whether on the tongue or in the hand.
  • Holy Communion cannot be received in the hand with gloves.
  • I am to disinfect my hand immediately if accidental contact is made with a communicant.

Procedures at SSM to be aware of:

  • I invite those attending in the church nave, narthex, front porch and parking lot near the front of the church to come to Communion at the altar rail.
  • Those in the parish hall or seated in a car near the parish hall, please, wait for me to bring Communion to the hall after those in the church receive.
  • Regarding the altar rail:
    • There are six Communion stations.
    • They provides 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 as one waits for the communicant ahead to receive.
      • Such tape indicators are found throughout the main aisle.
    • Many will have for the first time the experience of wearing a mask for Holy Communion. This will require extra time for:
      • The removal and reapplying of masks.
      • It will require 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.
        • It would be impossible to receive Holy Communion on the tongue if it isn’t.
        • For those receiving on the hand, I fear that one may drop the Sacred Host while engaging in this unfamiliar action of holding the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior in one hand and deftly extricating one’s mask with the other hand.
      • Counter-intuitively this will be faster because I am the one moving and therefore the whole congregation doesn’t depend on the velocity of one individual communicant.
    • Those in vehicles must come into the church or parish hall to receive.
    • Ushers will maintain roughly the 140 number and social distancing in the church during this time, so, please, follow their instructions.
    • Those in the Parish Hall can line up and follow the markings on the floor in order to maintain social distancing.

I’m obliged to disinfect the church and hall after each Mass, so I need some volunteers. We need to wipe down pews and chairs after Mass to prepare for the next one. Lamentably this may cut into the time of those who prefer a lengthier thanksgiving after Mass. Please, be flexible, we are trying to serve as many parishioners as possible.

Mass times for Pentecost, May 31: 8:00 & 10:00am in English and 12:30pm in Spanish. There is no Saturday evening Mass of anticipation for Sunday.

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

P.S. This Sunday’s Private Mass (May 24) is the same as last week. If you have no idea what that means, ask around, we’re getting a reputation.

P.P.S. On May 29th, the Knights of Columbus will be collecting non-perishable food to replenish the Saint Lucy Project’s food warehouse. 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.

 

Guide for the Lay Faithful from the Diocese of Arlington – May 13, 2020

Homily – Sixth Sunday of Easter

VI SUNDAY OF EASTERTIDE – A – 2020

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (Jn 14) Divine Providence was at work when they etched those words in stone above the front door of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Richmond. You see, many years after the cathedral was built, they would build the college campus of Virginia Commonwealth University surrounding it. And furthermore, they would place the dorms, so that a certain undergraduate would pass this message three times a day on the way to the cafeteria.

Later in the next chapter of John Our Lord would tweak His message to, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn 15:13) That sounds so odd or inauthentic. I remember newly arriving at VCU and being approached by fraternity members looking for me to pledge. Their pitch reminds me of Our Lord’s teaching, ‘if you come and do what we say, we’ll be your friend.’ I steered clear of these guys. No offense to you frat boys. Although the beer was enticing, I already had friends so I declined. Later I would join the oldest and largest fraternity in the world. I pledged the Alpha and Omega house.

If I rejected the friendship of the Greek fraternities on the grounds of insincere friendship, why do accept the Lord’s? The friendship that He came to establish is what is called a covenant. We can see how this relationship has been developing throughout the OT.

  1. Adam
    • God’s promise – I give you paradise
    • His command – Be fruitful and multiply, and don’t eat of the tree
  2. Noah
    • Promise – “I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood.” (Gn 9:15)
    • Command – “Be fertile, then, and multiply; abound on earth and subdue it.” (Gn 9:7)
  3. Abraham
    • Promise – great nation and descendants as numerous a the stars
    • Command – Worship God (the only), circumcision
  4. Moses
    • Promise – freedom from slavery, Promised Land, Divine Presence (tabernacle, pillar of cloud and fire)
    • Command – 10 Commandments and a way of life (yearly cycle of feasts)
  5. Jesus

  6. Promise – freedom from sin, salvation, personal involvement in our live and His abiding sacramental presence
  7. Command – be Catholic

Hopefully, we have all heard that God loves us. Well, love demands a response. Just as a young man professes his love to his girlfriend and he expects her to respond with the intention to exclusively spend her time with him, so there is a proper way to respond to God’s love – 10 Commandments.

In the Catechism before we get to the section of the moral life, we study the Creed. Likewise today’s Gospel passage is from the 14th chapter of John, the second half of his presentation of Christ’s life. Jesus establishes who He is and His love for us well before He starts in on commanding us. How wrong would it be for the young man demanding exclusivity and all the free time of a girl on the first date?

We have heard people complain that the Church is all about is rules. But is it not really all about a relationship? Like your homes, it isn’t uncommon for the teenaged member of the family to have such a great desire for independence that the love and support of the parents is obscured and all he sees is rules, rules, rules. This adolescent perspective isn’t lacking in our culture. There is an influential part of our society that wants complete and utter independence from any authority that can’t be controlled or manipulated by them. They bristle at the idea that one has to accept a rule that they can’t control, like human life is sacred, marriage can’t be reconfigured or gender reassigned. If their premise were accepted, that all rules have to be under human control, this would mean that the principles that govern mankind are merely governed by things in creation. We are more than the things of earth. Our bodies are only a part of who we are. We are created in God’s image and likeness. Our souls have higher law.

Just laws are in accord with one’s nature. I can’t expect the cat that shares my house to sit at the dinner table, wait for me to say grace and then be deft with the manners that govern the proper use of fork and knife. Why is it that often the oldest children are scolded before the younger ones? They have an ability that the younger ones don’t. They know better. Likewise our appetites and strengths don’t govern right and wrong like they do for animals. We answer to a higher law. In turn we enjoy the higher powers of freedom and immortality.

Human freedom is ordered to the good and not evil. To do evil is not freedom, nor a part of freedom, but only a sign that one is free. Freedom is not rooted in the physical ability to do evil, but in the moral ability to do good. “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to the “slavery of sin.”” (CCC 1733) “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”  (Rom 6:16)

A sports analogy can help. There was a movie that came out a few years ago, called Million Dollar Arm. It’s based on the idea that there are those with extraordinary athletic abilities, no matter what sport they play. So, a baseball scout goes to India and to find some athletes who excel at cricket and bring them back to America to play baseball. Now, to bring these boys into professional baseball, they will have to surrender their way of throwing a ball for a cricket. I don’t know anything about cricket, but I do know that you can’t excel at golf, that is, you will lack the freedom to move the golf ball around the links as you wish, if you insist on using a baseball swing, stance, and grip. Now, tell me. Is this a lack of freedom? Who is more free, the one who insists on using the baseball, hockey, lacrosse or cricket swing to hit the golf ball, because after all these are more options, or the person who is disciplined and stays within the natural physics of golf?

The key to our excelling and living like the immortal divine family member is the moral life. Like the Indian boys pulled from the grinding poverty of India to be professional ball players in the US, they will have to adapt to new rules. When Christ teaches, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. He wants us to know what it is like to live like a royal member of His household. “I no longer call you slaves … but friends…” (Jn 15:13) We don’t know what it is like to live with slaves, but we do own pets. Why do we give them the privilege of living in AC, eating table scraps, watching t.v., going on trips and sharing the intimacy and love of our family?

Well, because our pets aren’t living like they do in nature. If they were tearing up the furniture, doing their business where and when they want, biting and abusing the members of the family, I’m sure that we would reconsider their status as indoor companions. But because they have altered their lifestyle, in as much as their nature permits, they live with us. In fact we extend their lifespan as much as our power permits. Well, Jesus doesn’t want to leave us outdoors to die like an animal. I will not leave you orphans. Yet let’s not get carried away with ourselves, it isn’t our nature to be divine. How will we know what is expected at God’s divine banquet table?

When Moses was sent down river as a baby in a basket, he was a condemned criminal for being born Hebrew. He is an image of the human race that lives under a death sentence because of our birth. In a wonderful way, according to God’s plan, the families that gave Moses this death sentence were the ones who saved him. The mother that gave him his Hebrew status, the very thing that condemned him, surrendered him so as to save him. And the daughter of Pharaoh, the king who condemned him, saved him by taking him in as his own mother. The daughter of Pharaoh gave him royal status. Yet at the same time, Moses natural mother is called in to nurse him.

Our mothers gave us life and a death sentence. The moment we are born, we started to die. To remedy to this problem, most of our mothers sent us down stream as infants. They brought us to the waters of Baptism and we entered into a new family. God became our Father and we are now brothers and sisters of His Son. Moses was nursed by his natural mother but then lived as Pharaoh’s son. Likewise our natural parents raise us but we live with the promised inheritance of living in the Kingdom of Heaven, as members of the royal family of the King of Kings.

It was Pharaoh’s royal daughter that brought the lowborn Hebrew baby, Moses, into Pharaoh’s royal family. Our new mother likewise has a status far beyond her adopted children. She is the one whom the angel declared to be “full of grace.” The Blessed Virgin Mary is always the mother of Jesus, a natural member of the divine family, but also she is the mother of those whom her Son adopts, us. Mary’s new status as our adoptive mother is established when Jesus tells John the Apostle, a representative of His the new Church,  “Behold, your mother.” (Jn 19:27)

To attain heaven, to live as a child of God, we have an adopted mother. How will we know what is expected at God’s divine banquet table? Follow the instructions of your mother. Devotion to her is a certain path to our heavenly home. Ad Iesum per Mariam. If we were to take her up on her plan that we pray the Rosary daily like she instructed the children at Fatima, how could we fail to miss her maternal guidance?

Pastor’s Piece – May 15

Here is the latest update from our chief pastor:

It is great news that we are now beginning to offer public celebrations of the Mass in some areas of our diocese. While we would like to join together as quickly as possible, we must proceed cautiously, consistent with guidance from state and local officials and health experts, in an effort to continue protecting the health and safety of parishioners, volunteers, staff, clergy and all who serve throughout the Diocese.

As we move forward, portions of the Diocese will reopen at different times as the commonwealth takes a regional approach to Phase One of re-opening. Governor Ralph Northam originally announced that many areas of the commonwealth will enter Phase One of re-opening on May 15. At the request of local officials in Northern Virginia, the Governor has delayed Northern Virginia’s re-opening until at least May 29. The areas impacted are Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties (and those cities located within that area) along with the City of Alexandria.

Parishes in Northern Virginia will not be able to celebrate public Masses at this time. However, all parishes in these Northern Virginia counties are permitted, but not mandated, to conduct Communion services, provided they are done in a manner consistent with existing social distancing protocols and health and safety guidelines. It is left to the prudential judgment of each pastor to determine if his parish is able to move in this direction. Please contact your local parish to see if it will be offering this liturgy.

Beginning May 16, parishes outside of Northern Virginia will be permitted, but not mandated, to resume public celebration of the Mass if the parish’s pastor feels confident that Masses can be celebrated safely and in accordance with diocesan protocols. As such, parishioners outside of Northern Virginia should contact their parish to know if Masses will be publicly celebrated. During this time and due to capacity limits, please do not plan to attend liturgies at any parish other than your own. Parishes will continue to livestream the Mass to the best of their ability.

Guidelines for celebrating the Mass in Phase One include gathering at no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy of the room or facility, ensuring proper social distancing and diligently maintaining cleaning schedules. Additionally, all parishioners are expected to wear face coverings while on parish property. Due to social distancing requirements, not all parishes will be able to accommodate 50% capacity. Pastors of parishes outside of Northern Virginia have the discretion to decide if they can safely enter Phase One. For the health of our priests and in order to allow for thorough cleaning between Masses, not all parishes will maintain a normal Mass schedule.

Until further notice, I am continuing the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. I encourage those who are 65 years old or older, as well as those with underlying health conditions, to avoid gatherings of the general public and attending public liturgies.

In laying out the details of how we move forward, I will continue to be assisted by the Diocese of Arlington’s Reintegration Working Group, which has been meeting regularly and is providing requirements, recommendations and resources to parishes as they begin to hold public Masses.

Key resources have been provided to help parishioners worship safely. In consultation with our pastors, I am confident we are responding to the best of our ability to the spiritual and physical wellbeing of the faithful and making appropriate progress in upholding with public health and federal, state and local directives. As this situation continues evolving, each phase will allow us the opportunity to take steps in a positive direction in unity and faith.

May we continue to pray for one another and all those who need our prayers, especially at this time. We will continue to keep the faithful updated as the situation evolves.

Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

P.S. Please, feel free to participate at SSM this Sunday as has been the custom. Nevertheless I am changing procedure for Holy Communion. For those who are listening to Mass on 89.5 FM “The Martyr” in their cars, don’t line up for Communion. I will distribute to those in the church, porch and hall, and then give the final blessing. Afterwards I will bring Communion to your vehicle. Please, be waiting outside of it if you wish to receive. This will avoid the large groupings.

 

P.P.S. On May 29th, the Knights of Columbus will be collecting non-perishable food to replenish the Saint Lucy Project’s food warehouse.  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

 

Homily – Fifth Sunday of Easter

Mother’s Day / Fatima Anniversary

Last week I spoke of how our nation’s bishops joined together to re-consecrate the U.S. to the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) and how the image of Our Lady of Fatima is in the sanctuary of St. Stephen’s throughout the month of May. Why do we do such things? Is this an example of ignoring the words of the Gospel today, “You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” Are we ignoring Jesus?

Quite simply faith in God and His Son is a family affair. Lets take a moment to remember one of the great events of our family history. The most marvelous miracle to grace the Christian era had to be the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. At this event the Blessed Mother appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, during the First World War to deliver urgent messages about the need to turn to prayer, especially the Rosary, to steer the world from greater disaster. Her appearance wasn’t a onetime visit, but rather once a month for six months. While only the children witnessed her appearance, the Blessed Mother promised and delivered a miracle for those who accompanied the children. The concluding miracle was so tremendous that 70,000 people who gathered with the children witnessed the sun appear to dance in the sky. Atheistic secular newspapers reported it, and even witnesses miles away gave testimony to the event.

This week we celebrate Mother’s Day and we mark the 103rd anniversary of the BVM appearing to the three children at Fatima on Wednesday, May 13. All the popes of our lifetimes have had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Pope J.P.II attributed his survival from his assassination attempt to her intervention. That attempt occurred on May 13, 1981. Pope Francis has visited Fatima, and declared two of the visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, saints.

The message of these apparitions involved the events of the 20th century and the time period we are in now. At the time of the apparition, Mary said that souls were being lost due to a growing godlessness. The Blessed Mother spoke to the children about the need to pray and offer sacrifice for those who didn’t believe in God so that certain worldwide disasters could be avoided. The sad part is that these tragedies were not avoided but rather became part of our history like Our Lady predicted: World War II began, Russia rose to power to spread atheism, persecuting religious people and destroying nations.

The hopefulness of these messages is that through prayer, specific prayer like: praying the Rosary daily, coming to Mass every first Saturday of the month and through the pope consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Russia would convert and the world would know an era of peace.

Most of us remember the bloodless change of government that happened in Russia during our life times, but were we aware that it was in 1984 that Pope St. J.P.II, with all the bishops of the world, consecrated Russia and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

One year later, Mikhail Gorbachev rose to power. The Berlin Wall came down without a gunshot in 1989. In 1990 Gorbachev, the atheist communist leader visited J.P. II and asked him to pray for his country. As the forces of Communism dissipated, a last struggle was made to maintain it through a coup attempt against Gorbachev that was defeated on August 22, 1991, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. This is a story of a mother intervening to save her children from danger. Why wouldn’t she?

In sacred scripture Mary’s motherhood is nothing less than a perfect model of motherhood. At the Annunciation, she accepts God’s will and brings His Son, the Logos, into the world. Her humility enabled her to cooperate with God. She was the perfect instrument to bring the world its Savior. Her maternal love brings the world its greatest love, Jesus. Mary brought this Love of God to others. With her heart full of God’s love and Christ in her womb she goes on a mission of charity to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Her love for God doesn’t allow her to step aside and retire after she delivers God’s Son into the world at Bethlehem. She is there to begin the Gospel. She initiates His mission by having Him perform His first public miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana. She is faithfully with Him till the bitter end of His ministry when He offers himself for our sins at Calvary. Our Lady is even there in the upper room with the Apostles when they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And because of this, we see her as Mother of the Church.

In this role of Mother of the Church she intervenes to bring us to our senses, to bring us to her Son. Her urgent message at Fatima is that the reason for the discord in the world is godlessness. Whether it is a government that outlaws the practice of religion, such as the Soviet system, or a people who live as if God doesn’t exist, like in much of the West. This is what leads us to disaster as a people and damnation as a person. Mary leads us back to God.

All of our mothers have shared life and love with us. Our mothers did not benefit from being immaculate, but nevertheless they gave us a share of maternal love that is good preparation for the perfect love of Christ: complete, unconditional, and reliable every step of the way. Mothers give us a glimpse of the love Christ has for us. But this just points us in the right direction. As Mary told the waiters and Cana, “Do what he tells you.” We come to know love more completely by our own relationship with Jesus – by prayer, by making constant decisions to reject sin, by imitation of His friends (the saints), and His own mother. Speaking of imitating Mary, what was the circumstance in which she gave this instruction to the waiters?

She was orchestrating the rescue of the unsuspecting couple at Cana from a tremendous party foul, running out of wine. And what was the circumstance that gave Our Lady the opportunity to save this bride and groom from social disaster? They had invited Jesus and Mary to their wedding. This is a lesson for us all. We must learn to invite Jesus and Mary into our lives.

St. Pius of Pietrelcina (aka, Padre Pio), a saint our time, had a motto that I think needs to be recited every morning before we get our daily dose of fear from the media, “Hope, pray, don’t worry.” Let’s repeat that, …

I think that this is a fair contemporary rendering of today’s Gospel, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” That is, we hope for heaven, the Father’s House, where there are many mansions being prepared. It is the object of the supernatural virtue of hope. We trust that Divine Providence is working in our lives and in the world with all things to make us saints, to bring us to heaven. The exercise of the hopeful is to pray. Prayer is the expression of our faith. This invitation of Jesus and the saints into our lives opens us up to divine perspectives and possibilities. This all works to eliminate worry.

There are all sorts of words for worry, such as: anxiety, stress, lack of confidence, or low self-esteem. And there are lots of ready examples of worry, such as people driving alone in their cars with masks on. Such anxiety leads to a fate worse than suffering coronavirus, unhappiness. We can never ultimately place our trust in things, people, science or government. These can never provide for what we hope. When such material or temporal goods are the object of hope for a culture or society, it leads to upheaval, revolution, rash and extreme solutions to our problems that tend to dehumanize, such as Communism and Totalitarianism. These are extreme human solutions of a people who solely look to themselves to solve their society’s problems. But as of late, how closely we Americans resemble these people we once pitied?

The number one message of God’s Divine Word in sacred scripture for us personally is our redemption. How God prepared the world for a Savior and delivered. But the number one message of the Bible for society is that a people who invoke the Lord, who make a place for Him in their society will have a more humane solutions and enjoy greater freedom and peace.

As we honor our mothers this day we must honor our heavenly mother also. She doesn’t want brunch. She is not as impressed with a fancy flower arrangement as she is with the arrangement of five decades of Our Fathers and Hail Marys that beautifully crown our devotion to her in the Holy Rosary. She has given us the solution to world crises!

Think of the difference. The worldly powers demand we stay confined to our homes, threaten our livelihood, sacrifice our social life, and cut us off from the consolation of the sacraments. They turn our lives up side down, run rough-sod over revered constitutions and ignore the Bill Rights that we so proudly boast to the world about, all in order to resolve the unknown crisis. What is the solution prescribed by the Queen of Heaven for worldwide threats to our well being?

A minor inconvenience that I guarantee will give us many consolations. We are to set aside 15-20 minutes to invite Jesus and Mary into our life. How could we be content with less and still call ourselves followers of the Lord? An extremely flawed man, Governor Northam, gives an Executive Order and we upset our lives. The Queen of Heaven has the sun dance for us to prove the importance of her message and we think that it is too bothersome. Honestly, we have all had to recalibrate our understanding of inconvenience as of recent. Let’s readjust once more to make room for the Holy Rosary. Peace and freedom are resting on shaky ground. Our prayers are still very necessary for the continued conversion of godlessness in the world.

Pastor’s Piece – May 9

Happy Easter! Here is the anticipated message from our chief pastor:

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

From updates provided by state officials, we are preparing to enter Phase 1 of reintegrating our diocese back to normal operations. While this is not full reintegration of our normal lives, it is a step forward, as Governor Northam’s plan for Phase 1, which begins on May 15, allows for churches to operate at a maximum of 50% capacity, unless a local jurisdiction determines otherwise. Reinstituting the public celebration of the Mass at each parish depends on proper social distancing and the ability of parish clergy and staff to safely accommodate parishioners. This ability may vary from one parish to another.

Know that when we return to our churches to worship together at Mass, some restrictions will be essential for everyone’s wellbeing. A Reintegration Working Group is assisting me in developing those critical measures. This group is composed of pastors from diverse parishes in our diocese, medical experts, public health professionals, and others with pertinent expertise.

The Reintegration Working Group has been preparing requirements and recommendations that will be implemented in all parishes to ensure the safety and health of parishioners. Implementation will allow for some flexibility when appropriate. The Working Group’s approach will evolve as more information is provided by public health and government officials. We will provide pastors and the faithful with more information next week.

Since many still have concerns about attending Mass, such as having health conditions that make attending public gatherings inadvisable, the dispensation I promulgated from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and on Holy Days of Obligation will remain until further notice. I respectfully encourage parishioners who are 60 years old or older and those who have underlying medical conditions to ensure their own health and safety by staying at home until the dispensation is lifted.

The risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus will remain a reality for quite some time. Those who visit our parishes, ministries, charities and programs must recognize this inherent risk and take every reasonable precaution. Consequently, the use of face coverings and hand sterilization are recommended as a critical part of our gradual reintegration.

Diocesan guidelines will include limiting the number of persons allowed per Mass, maintaining social distance, and providing for an active cleaning schedule. Due to limited attendance, parishes will be asked to continue live streaming the Mass as much as possible. The Reintegration Working Group guidelines will also include measures such as omitting the presentation of the gifts by members of the assembly, omitting the

exchange of peace among those gathered, and suspending the distribution of the Precious Blood.

Thank you for your patience as we adapt to this ongoing situation. You can be assured that the Reintegration Working Group and I are working steadfastly to reinstitute quickly and safely the public celebration of the Mass, as well as diocesan and parish events, celebrations and liturgies. This will be done while doing everything reasonable to provide for the spiritual and physical well-being of all the faithful.

Going forward, we will continue to share updates regarding our guidelines through our website, social media, email and the Arlington Catholic Herald. I recommend everyone follow us on social media to receive the most current information regarding new developments.

I also encourage everyone to sign-up for our e-newsletter at ArlingtonDiocese.org/Email.

In closing, I am grateful for your faith, for your prayers, and for your continued support during this demanding and unusual time.

Please continue to pray for your priests and for me—know that I am praying for you and your families as well. I look forward to seeing you all very soon. God bless!

Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

P.S. Details about how this effects our parish and our worship will be forthcoming. I need to meet with staff this week.

P.P.S. On May 29th, the Knights of Columbus will be collecting non-perishable food to replenish the Saint Lucy Project’s food warehouse.  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

 

Pilgrim Virgin Statue to Honor Mary

May is the month we pay special honor to Mary, Jesus’ mother and our mother. The Legion of Mary has
been blessed to bring the Pilgrim Virgin Statue to many of the homes of our parishioners. The Pilgrim
Virgin Statue is currently on display in the sacristy at SSM.

As Jesus’ mother, Mary is unique among all Christian saints and also closest to Him in heaven. We do well to ask her to intercede for us especially in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. We encourage you to pray the Rosary during this time and continue your Marian devotions to honor our Lady who is a great intercessor for us in heaven.

When the Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, please consider having the Pilgrim Virgin Statue in your home for a week. Please contact Jackie Lorzing, Legion of Mary, if you are interested at legionofmary@katharinedrexelcc.org.

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)