Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pope Francis Named Time Magazine's Person of the Year

Time Magazine has named Pope Francis its "Person of the Year." Of course, like Benedict and John Paul before him, he does not aspire to celebrity. Still, this recognition is an occasion to be happy because it ultimately is about more than Jorge Bergoglio the person - it shows that, as secularized as our culture has become, still there is a hunger for the spiritual. Even if the story below from Time gets some things wrong about the papacy, the Church, and Catholicism in general (and unfortunately uses what should be a moment of praise to, yet again, take unfair and mean-spirited slaps at Popes Benedict and John Paul), the award itself is nevertheless heartening and can be understood another step in that continuing journey of the secular in dialogue with faith.

Pope Francis, The People’s Pope
Time Magazine
December 11, 2013
On the edge of Buenos Aires is a nothing little street called Pasaje C, a shot of dried mud leading into a slum from what passes for a main road, the garbage - strewn Mariano Acosta. There is a church, the Immaculate Virgin, toward the end of the ­pasaje — Spanish for passage — where, on one occasion, the local priest and a number of frightened residents took refuge deep in the sanctuary when rival drug gangs opened fire. . . .

The word asesino — ­murderer — is scrawled in spray-paint on the sooty wall of a burned-out house, which was torched just days before in retaliation for yet another shooting. Packs of dogs sprawl beneath wrecked cars. Children wander heedless of traffic, because nothing can gather speed on these jagged roads. But even Pasaje C can lead to Rome.

As Cardinal and Archbishop of Buenos Aires, a metropolis of some 13.5 million souls, Jorge Mario Bergoglio made room in his schedule every year for a pastoral visit to this place of squalor and sorrow.­ . . . On other days, there were other journeys to barrios throughout the city — so many in need of so much, but none too poor or too filthy for a visit from this itinerant prince of the church. Reza por mí, he asked almost everyone he met. Pray for me.

When, on March 13, Bergoglio inherited the throne of St. Peter—keeper of the keys to the kingdom of heaven—he made the same request of the world. Pray for me. . . .
To read more, go to: TIME's Person of the Year 2013 Pope Francis, The People's Pope

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fifty Years of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Today is the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, on December 4, 1963. Understanding the primal importance of the liturgy, this was the first document approved by the Second Vatican Council and it followed a long and growing "liturgical movement," which extended back for many decades. Many prior popes and bishops, including St. Pope Pius X, had recognized the need for various reforms to meet people's desire for deeper appreciation of and greater lay participation in the Holy Mass.

One of those involved in the liturgical movement was Father Joseph Ratzinger, who was a peritus (advisor) to the Council (and later became Pope Benedict XVI). In his contemporary account, he described how important the sacred liturgy is and why the situation as it existed prior to the Council demonstrated an evident need for renewal.
[F]or the Church, divine worship is a matter of life and death. If it is no longer possible to bring the faithful to worship God, and in such a way that they themselves perform this worship, then the Church has failed in its task and can no longer justify its existence. But it was on precisely this point that a profound crisis occured in the life of the Church. Its roots reach far back. In the late Middle Ages, awareness of the real essence of Christian worhip increasingly vanished. Great importance was attached to externals, and these choked out essentials. (Theological Highlights of Vatican II, 129)
Although the Council of Trent eliminated some abuses that had crept into the liturgy over time and made some reforms to prevent new overgrowths in the future, Father Ratzinger noted that this created its own problems.
The main measure [after the Council of Trent] was to centralize all liturgical authority in the Sacred Congregation of Rites . . . This authority completely lacked historical perspective; it viewed the liturgy solely in terms of ceremonial rubrics, treating it as a kind of problem of proper court etiquette for sacred matters. This resulted in the complete archaizing of the liturgy, which now passed from the stage of living history, became embalmed in the status quo and was ultimately doomed to internal decay. The liturgy had become a rigid, fixed and firmly encrusted system; the more out of touch with genuine piety, the more attention was paid to its prescribed norms. . . . The baroque era adjusted to this situation by superimposing a kind of para-liturgy on the archaized actual liturgy. Accompanied by the splendor of orchestral performance, the baroque high Mass became a kind of sacred opera in which the chants of the priest functioned as a kind of periodic recitative. The entire performance seemed to aim at a kind of festive lifting of the heart, enhanced by the beauty of a celebration appealing to the eye and ear. On ordinary days, when such display was not possible, the Mass was frequently covered over with devotions more attractive to the popular mentality. . . . In practice this meant that while the priest was busy with his archaic liturgy, the people were busy with their devotions to Mary. They were united with the priest only by being in the same church with him and by consigning themselves to the sacred power of the eucharistic sacrifice. (Theological Highlights of Vatican II, 130-32)
Faced with this situation, as the bishops themselves could see in their own churches, the Council Fathers saw the need for liturgical renewal, including taking steps to make a reality the expressed desire of Pope Pius X for greater "active participation" on the part of the laity.
In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.

In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 21)
Clearly, then, this was not a "reinvention" of the Mass, nor was it the creation of a "new Mass," as that term is sometimes derisively used. As a matter of sacramental doctrine, there is one and only one Mass, just as there is only one God, one holy sacrifice of Christ, and one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Rather, as the text indicates, this was to be a restoration of the whole purpose of the liturgy – "when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects. . . . Such participation by the Christian people as 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people' (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism." (Id., 11, 14).

It is to their credit that our excellent priests at Blessed Sacrament have helped to make the blessings of Sacrosanctum Concilium a reality. And thanks to Bishop Loverde, and Bishops Keating and Welsh before him, that the sacred liturgy throughout the Diocese of Arlington is so reverent and fruitful. (Sadly, in some locales this is not always the case, as many of us discover when we travel during the holidays and go to Mass in some other diocese and/or as some others of us experienced back in the 1970s. Although the Mass is always holy – because Christ himself who is present in the Mass is holy – that much-needed reverence can sometimes be lacking.)

The fruits of Sacrosanctum Concilium are many, but understanding that our faith is a journey, there is still room for us to grow, to move ever closer to the Lord. As Pope Francis has been saying a lot in a variety of contexts, let us ask God for this grace in the sacred liturgy, to be more worthily disposed and to grow deeper in the love of Christ, the Holy Bridegroom of the Church.

Monday, December 2, 2013

George Weigel Speaking at Blessed Sacrament This Evening

This evening, Monday, December 2, after the 7 p.m. Mass, Blessed Sacrament will once again welcome renowned author George Weigel who will speak about the joy of "full-time Catholicism," in light of his new book Evangelical Catholicism - Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church and, no doubt, Pope Francis' recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium on the proclamation of the Gospel in today's world.

"Recreational Catholicism — Catholicism as a traditional, leisure-time activity absorbing perhaps ninety minutes of one’s time on a weekend — is over," observes Mr. Weigel.
Full-time Catholicism — a Catholicism that, as the Second Vatican Council taught, infuses all of life and calls everyone in the Church to holiness and mission — is the only possible Catholicism in the twenty-first century.

The Evangelical Catholicism of the future is a Catholicism of radical conversion, deep fidelity, joyful discipleship, and courageous evangelism. Evangelical Catholics put friendship with the Lord Jesus at the center of everything: personal identity, relationships, activity. Evangelical Catholics strive for fidelity despite the wounds of sin, and do so through a daily encounter with the Word of God in the Bible and a regular embrace of Christ through a frequent reception of the sacraments.

Evangelical Catholics experience dry seasons and dark nights, like everyone else; but they live through those experiences by finding their meaning in a deeper conformity to the Cross of Christ — on the far side of which is the unmatchable joy of Easter, the experience of which gives the people of the Church the courage to be Catholic. And evangelical Catholics measure the quality of their discipleship by whether, and to what extent, they give to others what they have been given: by the degree to which they deepen others’ friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ, or bring others to meet the unique savior of the world.
Mr. Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, is one of the world’s leading authorities of the Catholic Church. He is the author of more than twenty books and is a regular columnist for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Before Evangelical Catholicism, Mr. Weigel is perhaps best known for his comprehensive biography of Blessed Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, as well as God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, written shortly after the 2005 Conclave.

Please join us this evening for this informative and timely discussion.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pope Francis Issues Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium

Pope Francis has issued his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, which follows up on, and expands upon, the work of the Synod on the New Evangelization which met in October 2012. Below are some excerpts from the opening passages.

Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)
His Holiness Pope Francis
Solemnity of Christ the King, November 24, 2013
1. THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.


2. The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.

3. I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards! . . .

6. There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26).

7. Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. To some extent this is because our “technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy”. I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.

8. Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others? . . .

17. Here I have chosen to present some guidelines which can encourage and guide the whole Church in a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality. In this context, and on the basis of the teaching of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, I have decided, among other themes, to discuss at length the following questions:

a) the reform of the Church in her missionary outreach;
b) the temptations faced by pastoral workers;
c) the Church, understood as the entire People of God which evangelizes;
d) the homily and its preparation;
e) the inclusion of the poor in society;
f) peace and dialogue within society;
g) the spiritual motivations for mission.

18. I have dealt extensively with these topics, with a detail which some may find excessive. But I have done so, not with the intention of providing an exhaustive treatise but simply as a way of showing their important practical implications for the Church’s mission today. All of them help give shape to a definite style of evangelization which I ask you to adopt in every activity which you undertake. In this way, we can take up, amid our daily efforts, the biblical exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice” (Phil 4:4).
Please read the complete apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Confirmation Mass This Evening

This evening at 7:30 p.m., the Blessed Sacrament community will come together and rejoice as the Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred upon our young people by his Excellency, Richard B. Higgins, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

In Confirmation, we join in the mission of the Church to share the Good News of the Lord with others. As with the faithful at Pentecost, in Confirmation, the Holy Spirit descends and comes to dwell within the recipient as a helper and thereby transform the recipient into a clearer image of Jesus Christ to others.

The world today is in special need of effective and joyous witnesses of Christ in word and in deed. The graces received in Confirmation help one to be an effective witness, including the grace of strength to resist peer pressure to engage in any number of wrongful things that the world tempts us to do. By having this strength to say "no" to these things, and "yes" to God instead, we provide a witness and example that encourages others to avoid the wrong and do the good, we can be Good News to them.

Please come and attend tonight's Mass if you can or, if you are unable, please offer your prayers for our young people as they begin this new chapter in their lives and are sent forth to spread the love of Jesus Christ to the world.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

“Remember me, Lord, you who are at the center, you who are in your kingdom”

Today is the closing of the Year of Faith, a time given to us to foster a renewal of faith, but not in the sense of a one-time renewal and they we go back to life as before. Instead, our faith should be ever new, ever fresh and vibrant, in a constant state of turning toward the Lord, who makes all things new, and growing closer to him. Each of us are a work in progress and will be until our pilgrim journey on earth ends. So while the Year of Faith technically closes today, the spirit of this time should continue on as a life of faith remembering that the Lord is at the center of all creation and, hence, should be at the center of our lives, just as we also ask that the Lord remember us, we who are poor sinners, and that He, the King, help us and accompany us as we journey toward His heavenly kingdom.

Homily of Pope Francis
Closing of the Year of Faith

November 24, 2013
Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long. . . .

The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ is at the center, Christ is the center. Christ is the center of creation, Christ is the center of his people and Christ is the center of history. . .

[Thus,] the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will be Christian words, words of Christ. But when this center is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.

Monday, November 18, 2013

When Death Comes

It is bad enough when we are sick or injured ourselves, but it is often more painful when our loved ones are sick or hurt, especially when they are dying, observes Cardinal Donald Wuerl in the second installment of his series on the end of life. However, in this, we are not alone.
In faith and prayer, we know that in his compassion, Jesus suffers with the one who is dying and so, in watching a loved one die, we find ourselves like Mary at the foot of the Cross. He is with them in a special way in the sacrament of anointing of the sick, which should be requested whenever death is near, but is also available for any serious illness. Here, the loving and merciful hand of Christ our Savior is extended to touch the whole person, body and soul.

While we are certainly grateful for doctors and nurses, eventually all medical remedies fail no matter how great their skills. When death comes, when someone near and dear to us is suddenly ripped away, leaving a gaping wound in our own life, it can shake us as profoundly as an earthquake. It also places us before death’s arrogant claim to have the last word.

The presence of faith helps. It does not totally eliminate our sadness, but it does provide the blessed assurance that while medicine cannot save those we love or us, in the end, the Lord of Life can. He can bring real healing. He can make a reality the words, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

U.S. Bishops Issue Statement to Defend Religious Liberty and Resist the HHS Mandate

At their recently-concluded annual meeting, the bishops of the United States issued a statement, set out below, that they stand united in their resolve to resist the heavy burden imposed on fundamental liberty presented by the so-called HHS mandate. Prominent church observer Rocco Palmo reports here on the bishops' consideration and discussion of this urgent matter at their meeting.

Background. The Affordable Care Act, enacted in March 2010, requires all employer-provided health plans to provide certain minimum coverage, including “preventive care and screenings” for women, 42 U.S.C. § 300GG–13(a)(4). The law also gives agencies authority to interpret and implement that requirement by regulation. Purporting to act pursuant to this provision pertaining to the prevention of disease, in February 2012, various governmental agencies issued an administrative rule, commonly known as the HHS mandate, which requires employers, including many Catholic institutions, to provide free coverage in their group health plans for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, which would necessarily include abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures, or face crippling fines and penalties for noncompliance (77 Fed. Reg. 8725). The rule essentially treats healthy fertility and pregnancy as illnesses. These regulations were amended, with few substantive changes, in June 2013, with an effective date of January 1, 2014, for certain faith-based employers, including Catholic institutions (78 FR 39869). The purported "exemptions" and "accomodation" in the regulations, upon closer inspection, have shown themselves to be effectively meaningless for most Catholic employers, still requiring them to violate their faith and conscience or be penalized for refusing to do so.

As the Church has stated from the beginning, such a mandate is clearly contrary to Catholic teaching, human dignity, good conscience, and the common good. Moreover, in these regulations, among other things, the government claims the authority to establish what constitutes religious ministry and what organizations are religious enough to be able to freely practice their faith. For that reason, as part of a nationwide concerted effort, many Catholic dioceses and institutions filed suit against the HHS mandate. As these legal actions show, not only is this administrative regulation not authorized or otherwise justified pursuant to the underlying Affordable Care Act, it also grossly violates fundamental natural liberty, the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and other federal statutes.

Meanwhile, the bishops have also pursued their teaching mission, seeking to be the voice of truth and conscience, including promoting and defending religious liberty, while also remaining firm in the Church continuing to serve our society as a minister of charity.

Special Message from the Bishops of the United States
The bishops of this country have just concluded their traditional fall meeting in Baltimore and have spent time on issues important to them and their people: help to those suffering from Typhoon Haiyan; an update on the situation in Haiti; matters of worship and teaching; service to the poor; and comprehensive immigration reform. Among those priorities is the protection of religious freedom, especially as threatened by the HHS mandate.

Pope Francis has reminded us that “In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”

We stand together as pastors charged with proclaiming the Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel calls us to feed the poor, heal the sick, and educate the young, and in so doing witness to our faith in its fullness. Our great ministries of service and our clergy, religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful, especially those involved in Church apostolates, strive to answer this call every day, and the Constitution and the law protect our freedom to do so.

Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.

Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.

The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.

As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths, and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.

This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blessed Sacrament Lovingly Remembers Rev. Terry Cramer

In this moment of sorrow, the Lord is in our midst and consoles us with his word:
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

So often we turn to our priests, asking them to console us and pray for us, especially in times of distress, such as when a loved one has died. Last evening, the Blessed Sacrament community came together to pray for one of our former priests, Rev. Terry Cramer, and offer our support and condolences to his family to console them in this difficult time. This is how Father John Cregan began his homily before a crowded church at the Memorial Mass for our former father and eternal brother in Christ.

Father Cregan recounted how so many people from all stations of life remembered Father Cramer not only for his excellent teaching in his homilies, but especially for the care and compassion he brought to others. From weddings to baptisms to funerals and much more in between, he was a priest who really cared and brought the consolation of Christ to many people. For this we give thanks to God, for the life of Terry Cramer, for his priesthood, for the joy and comfort he brought to his spiritual family at Blessed Sacrament and elsewhere.

Raising of Lazarus by Duccio
Jesus is always about life and that gives us hope, Father Cregan emphasized, noting Saint Paul's assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). As the Mass readings said, this "hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us [and] God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:5-8).

This is a great blessing and grace for which we ask God in all humility for our brother Terry as well as ourselves. Even though too often we all stray and fail to live up to the promises of Christ, our Lord in His mercy tells us, "this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day" (John 6:39-40).

Terry Allen Cramer was given to God in Baptism and Holy Orders, anointing him with the Holy Spirit and sealing his soul with an indelible mark as belonging to the Lord. Having been consecrated and configured to Christ, permanently marked with the sign of faith and the seal of eternal life, with our prayers to Divine Mercy for the repose of his soul, we have hope that he may know the blessed vision of God and the resurrection of the body (CCC 1272-74, 1581-84).

This Memorial Mass also reminds us that we are all family. Priests may come and go, parishioners of Blessed Sacrament may come and go, but family is forever. Even though one may leave, he or she will always be our brother or sister, one family, a loving communion in God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Nothing can separate us from this love.
God of faithfulness, in your wisdom you have called your servant Terry out of this world; release him from the bonds of sin and welcome him into your presence, so that he may enjoy eternal life and peace and be raised up in glory with all your saints.

Eternal rest grant unto all your faithful departed, O Lord. Let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Faith helps us to see a horizon beyond this world"

Today, we honor all of our veterans who have sought to protect our nation, our liberties, our families, our lives. We pray for them all, but especially for those who gave that last full measure of devotion, sacrificing their lives so that others might live and be free.

In November, we come to the end of the liturgical calendar on the Solemnity of Christ the King, which this year also concludes the Year of Faith, which has been a time of fruitful grace for the Church and the world. Beginning with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, the month is a time set aside by the Church for us to contemplate the last things, not only the end of the entire world, but the end of our own personal worlds, that is to say, the endings of our own individual lives and the lives of our loved ones.

Last week, our neighbor across the river, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, began a series on the end of life. In his first installment, he reminds us,
as we hear on Ash Wednesday, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” One day, our bodies will fail. Death comes for us all, at least biologically, and it could come at any moment, whether after a lengthy illness or a sudden event. The ending of life on this earth, however, while it may cause some understandable apprehension, need not be cause for despair.

The Lord “is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Luke 20:38). Life in this world is preliminary to what lies ahead.
Given that death might come at any time, Cardinal Wuerl counsels, it is prudent for us to prepare.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended."

Life is a wonderful thing. A great gift - the greatest of gifts and blessings - from God. But as good as life in this world is, it is not the highest good - that is, our earthly life is not the be all and end all.

As we reflect on the deaths this year of those close to us and pray for the repose of their souls, including recently Rev. Terry Cramer, we remember that we were made by God for something even better. This is something we cannot lose sight of, especially as we contemplate the horror of the loss of an estimated 10,000 lives in the Philippines in the wake of the typhoon that struck there last week. Rather, as Bishop Paul Loverde reminds us in his recent column,
there is no denying that we are pilgrims in this world, with a final destination elsewhere. Saint Paul likens us to runners in the same race, warning us that we must “Run so as to win” (1 Cor 9:24). Our eyes must be focused on the finish line and what route we are taking to get there. Eternal life is not an abstract concept, but a concrete reality. When we pass from this world, we will find ourselves face-to-face with Jesus Christ, and the manner in which we “ran the race” will determine our final and eternal dwelling. . . .

Saturday, November 9, 2013

God of Divine Mercy, Remember Your Son Terry Cramer

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of one of Blessed Sacrament's former priests, Rev. Terry A. Cramer, on Thursday, November 7, 2013, at the young age of 46. We remember how warm and loving he was and those who heard his homilies always came away learning just a little bit more about the faith than they knew before.

On Wednesday, November 13, there will be a visitation from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Everly Funeral Home, 10565 Main Street in Fairfax (just west of Chain Bridge Road), with a funeral service at that same location the following day at 11 a.m.

UPDATED: The Blessed Sacrament community will gather for a Memorial Mass on Tuesday, November 12, at 7 p.m. Through the Holy Spirit, the community is joined together in faith as one Body in Christ to reaffirm in sign and symbol, word and gesture, that each believer through baptism shares in Christ’s death and resurrection and can look to the day when all the elect will be raised up and united in the kingdom of light and peace.

Please pray for our former father and eternal brother in Christ.
All-powerful and merciful God, we commend to you Terry, your son, whom you have called from this life to yourself. You turn the darkness of death into the dawn of new life. In your unending mercy and love, show compassion to your son, blot out any sins he may have committed through human weakness and embrace him in your arms. In this world he has died: let him live with you forever.

Lord Jesus, our Redeemer, you willingly gave yourself up to death so that all people might be saved and pass from death into a new life. Listen to our prayers. We pray for our brother Terry and commend him to your mercy. For his sake you came down from heaven. By dying you opened the gates of life for those who believe in you. Lord Jesus, holy and compassionate: forgive Terry his sins, do not let our brother be parted from you, but by your glorious power, give him light, joy, and peace in heaven where you live forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Service of Remembrance Tonight

Raising of Lazurus - Carl Bloch
Through music, scripture and the reading of names, we come together this evening at 7:30 p.m. to remember and pray for our loves ones who have passed from this world into eternal life in Christ.

Our music is the Requiem Mass of Gabriel Fauré, performed by the Adult Choir and the Blessed Sacrament Festival Orchestra. The Bells of Blessed Sacrament will begin and end the service.

Whether you have suffered a loss or come as a companion to one who has, this evening will be inspirational. Please join us.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Matthew Kelly Coming to Speak on March 22, 2014

Acclaimed writer and speaker Matthew Kelly is coming to the Arlington Diocese for a special event -- "Living Every Day with Passion & Purpose." Co-hosted by Blessed Sacrament and other parishes, this morning-long celebration of faith will take place on March 22, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Saint Mary's church in Alexandria.

"Are you aching for more? Do you want to experience your faith more deeply? Draw closer to God, deepen your understanding of his plan for your life, and gain renewed passion to live that plan out."
-- This program seeks to help you to become a bold and dynamic Catholic, "living with passion and purpose."

Said one pastor about Kelly's book Rediscover Catholicism, “Continually, parishioners tell me how much they are enjoying the book, learning from it, re-reading it, sharing it with others, and discovering a side of their Catholicism they had not seen before. People continue to talk about this book, both in and out of confession.”

So, save the date, tell your friends, and get tickets here for this exciting event.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Election Day 2013

Tuesday, November 5th, is Election Day in Virginia. All Catholics capable of doing so are encouraged to fulfill the moral obligation to vote, exercising a well-formed conscience. This year, the Virginia Catholic Conference provides the results of a candidate survey of all major races to assist you. As well, Bishop Loverde of Arlington and Bishop DiLorenzo of Richmond have issued a joint letter to help Catholics make informed decisions in light of Church teachings.

"Many issues are important [but] not all issues have equal moral weight. . . . When the issue is whether to protect or deny the fundamental right to life, it outweighs other matters," Bishops Loverde and DiLorenzo explain. "This consistent ethic of life provides the proper moral foundation for our engagement in political life. As Catholics, we must seek the best ways to respond to the many needs of our neighbors, at every stage of life and in every condition. Indeed, we must be attentive to all issues that affect human life and dignity and the common good."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Francis on St. Thérèse Before He was Pope

Love in Little Things

Letter to St. Thérèse
Albino Cardinal Luciani (Pope John Paul the First)
Love in little things. Often this is the only kind possible. I never had the chance to jump into a river to save a drowning man; I have been very often asked to lend something, to write letters, to give simple and easy instructions. I have never met a mad dog; instead I have met some irritating flies and mosquitoes. I have never had persecutors beat me but many people disturb me with noises in the street, with the volume of the television turned up too high or unfortunately with making noise in drinking soup. To help, however, one can not take it amiss, to be understanding; to remain calm and smiling (as much as possible) in such occasions is to love one’s neighbor without rhetoric in a practical way.
-From the book, Illustrissimi

Friday, September 27, 2013

Matthew Kelly Coming to the Diocese of Arlington

Acclaimed writer and speaker Matthew Kelly is coming to the Arlington Diocese for a special event -- "Living Every Day with Passion & Purpose." Co-hosted by Blessed Sacrament and other parishes, this morning-long celebration of faith will take place on March 22, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Saint Mary's church in Alexandria.

"Are you thriving or just surviving? Are you ready for more energy? A deeper sense of purpose? More joy? A clearer understanding of God’s plan for your life?"
-- This program seeks to help you to become a bold and dynamic Catholic, "living with passion and purpose."

So, save the date, tell your friends, and watch for news on how to get tickets to this exciting event.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bishop Loverde Invites You to Our Diocesan Pilgrimage on October 12

Bishop Paul S. Loverde
Diocese of Arlington
It is the grace of God and His Son's sacrifice on the Cross that enables us to reach the finish line of eternal life, but we must be willing participants. This means more than just fulfilling our Sunday obligation, though this is certainly essential; it means putting Christ first in our life. To train, we must set aside time for prayer, for spiritual reading, for learning more about the rich deposit of our faith. The Lord is waiting for us to respond to His invitation to delve deeper into a personal relationship with Him. . . .

I invite you to set aside Saturday, October 12 in order to participate in our biennial Diocesan Pilgrimage. This is a concrete way to grow in faith, a day when thousands of diocesan parishioners make the journey to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The pilgrimage will consist of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with a guided meditation, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the availability of the Sacrament of Penance, all spent in the magnificent Shrine dedicated to Our Lady, our first model in faith and discipleship.

During this year's pilgrimage, we will not only have the opportunity to pray with the members of our diocesan Church, but also with Catholics around the world. On the afternoon of October 12, we will participate in an international simulcast wherein ten Marian Shrines around the world will pray the Rosary. This afternoon of prayer with the universal Church will include a message from Pope Francis, uniting himself with us during this Year of Faith.

I encourage you to make this Pilgrimage the first step in your recommitment to an intentional faith, whereby the Lord Jesus is the center of your life. Remember, the Lord cannot be outdone in generosity. The sacrifices that you make in spending time with Jesus and in other activities will bear great fruit in your spiritual life. The Diocesan Pilgrimage is one small journey in the larger pilgrimage that each one of us is making — the pilgrimage to join Mary and the saints at the finish line: in Heaven with the Lord!
Find out more information here. This pilgrimage of faith will encourage families to commit to praying together daily, an essential practice that will help create much-needed peace and stability within the foundation of society, the family. Please join us at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at 9:30 a.m. on October 12, the vigil of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. If you would like transportation from Blessed Sacrament to the Basilica and back, please contact Susan Doyle by clicking on this e-mail link before October 6 to receive further information.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Theology on Tap at Blessed Sacrament:
Father Dyer and Perfect Love Casting Out Fear

Fear. Life often brings with it all sorts of fears. Fear of dangers, fear of worldly things, fear of losing worldly things, fear of ourselves, fear of God or at least fear of our conception of God. Are these fears justified, are they reasonable, or are some or all of them irrational? What can be done about our fears?

For Theology on Tap this week, Father Rich Dyer explores the question of fear and suggests an answer with his talk "Perfect Love Casts Out Fear." Please click on the link to this mp3 podcast to listen or right click to save it to listen later.

Father Dyer is another in a line of exceptional new priests that we are blessed to have. He was first assigned to Blessed Sacrament as a transitional deacon and then ordained to the priesthood in December 2011. Ever since he has been a bright light of faith. But the journey wasn't always easy - there were fears about what to do in his life, about what God was really calling him to do. Along the way, though, he sought the guidance of a saint, Thérèse of Lisieux, and she helped him to learn and understand that the answer to fear, as it is the answer to all other things, is love - the love of God, the love for God. As is said in the letter of Saint John from which the title of the talk is derived, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4:18).

To be sure, this lesson was impressed upon Father Dyer in a very profound way. Normally, ordinations in Arlington are held in the spring, not December, but Bishop Loverde ordained Father Dyer early so that his father, who was seriously ill at the time, could attend. It was feared that his father would not make it to the spring and, in fact, his father died the day after the ordination. And so, the birth of his priesthood was an occasion of both happiness and mourning, joy and suffering. It was a time of love -- love of the Lord, love for the Lord, and love for one another.

Note: On Monday, September 30, Father Dyer will be appearing in the "live and in person" version of Theology on Tap at 3207 Washington Blvd., across from St. Charles Borromeo in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington. He will be speaking about St. Thérèse to kick-off the fall 2013 series, "Want to be Truly Great? Come, follow Me," focusing on the lives of the saints and how we can practically apply their lived heroic virtues in our time. So come and see and listen to Father Dyer and have some food and a pint too!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Blessed Sacrament School

Blessed Sacrament School has established a new Facebook page for its Annual Fund. They have also put together a delightful video of students thanking everyone for all of their support of the school.

Also, on October 4, 2013, there will be an "BSS Annual Fund Back to School Parents Night Out" at Samuel Beckett's Irish Gastro Pub in Shirlington, 2800 S. Randolph St., across from the parking structure. They say that it will be a fund way to gather with BSS friends and colleagues, to catch up with friends, meet new families, and get to know one another better, and to toast Blessed Sacrament's blue ribbon school. (Blame them for the bad pun.)

Our Catholic schools play an indispensable and irreplacable role in the education and formation of our young people. They are also a crucial component of the New Evangelization by being a bridge between the Church and the wider community, helping to make our world better by bringing the love and truth and light of Jesus Christ to others.

Unfortunately, the days are gone when parents could send their kids to a Catholic school for nominal cost. Due to factors in the economy beyond the Church's control, education expenses have gone up and up and up since many of us older people were in Catholic schools. Notwithstanding the enormous efforts of the diocese and the parish to keep costs down, including providing financial assistance themselves, more help is needed for families to be able to send their children to a Catholic school rather than be at the mercy of secular public schools, all too many of which do not share our Catholic values. The communities of Blessed Sacrament and Alexandria are no exception to this.

During his visit to the United States, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI made an appeal for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our Catholic institutions of learning.
Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation. . . .

Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society.
If you can help with your financial support, not only would families, students, and the Church be grateful, you would be making an investment in building a better, more just and more caring world. Please go here for more information on how you can support the Annual Fund.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Theology on Tap at Blessed Sacrament:
Father Hurd and Forgiveness

With the anniversary of September 11 still fresh in our minds, and as we learn more about horrors and evils like chemical warfare, the question arises of what to do about such things? One response is to retaliate, to take "punitive action" against the wrongdoers. Another response is far more radical and one that is often as misunderstood as it is avoided - forgiveness. Forgive? Forgive that?? For many the very idea of forgiving is to provoke outrage and the objection "what about justice???"

The idea of forgiveness, especially the forgiveness that our infinitely merciful Lord offers us, has been a big theme for Pope Francis, and it is one that our world greatly needs at this time.

The urge is great that if you injured me, then I'll make you sorry for it and injure you back and call that justice. Of course, when we hit back, then they might say the same thing and hit us back in return, and the cycle of violence and hate goes on and on. Or maybe we don't counterattack, but simply hold grudges and nurse the resentments, saying to ourselves that what was done is "unforgiveable." All the while, thinking that we are somehow getting back at the wrongdoer by being resentful, we are actually allowing all of that anger and bile to destroy us from within.

This week on Theology on Tap we have Father Scott Hurd on "Forgiving Others: A Catholic Approach," which is both the title of his talk and his recent book. Please click on the link to this mp3 podcast or right click to save it to listen later. A native of Alexandria, together with his family, Father Hurd is a member of the parish of Blessed Sacrament, but a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington. He also serves as Vicar General of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, having previously been an Episcopal priest who in 1996 entered the Catholic Church. In 2000, Father Hurd was ordained a Catholic priest under the Pastoral Provision, which permits married former Anglican clergy to be ordained Catholic priests.

"The forgiveness we are called to offer is a decision, a process and a gift. It’s a decision because by forgiveness we choose to let go of any desire for revenge or retaliation, and we free ourselves of the bitterness and resentment that harden our hearts," says Father Hurd. "Forgiveness is a process because letting go of resentment takes time; we may need to make the decision to forgive over and over again! Finally, forgiveness is a gift of love that we give freely, without expectations, exceptions or limits. It is neither earned nor deserved. When we love the ones we forgive, we wish them happiness, not harm; well, not woe; heaven, not hell."

Note what Father Hurd says here: not "when we forgive the ones we love," but "when we love the ones we forgive." Jesus calls us to forgive and forgive and forgive -- forgive even the people we don't like, even those who have done us great harm, just as we ask Jesus in all humility to forgive us for all the bad and harmful and, yes, evil things we have done. The evil that has been done to us or by us is done and cannot be undone, but if prospective danger and evil remain, we can rightly take steps to prevent it. Forgiveness does not preclude justice, but tempers it with mercy and prevents the perpetuation of the evil, all while remembering that Jesus took all that justice upon Himself on the Cross, transforming death to new life.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering September 11

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today to remember the attacks on our nation,
that day of incredible violence and pain twelve years ago.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died in Arlington, New York, and Pennsylvania -—
the heroic first-responders: our fire fighters, police officers, emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them there on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence there that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
in the days and years following in the on-going battle against terrorism.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.
--See Prayer His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at Ground Zero, New York
Sunday, 20 April 2008

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pope Francis: rebuild peace and harmony with encounter, not conflict

Pope Francis decisively denounced all forms of violence, during Saturday's vigil for peace at St. Peter's Square. Nearly 100,000 people joined him during the four hour prayer service to Our Lady.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Theology on Tap at Blessed Sacrament:
Father Workman and the Simple Truth

Next up on Theology on Tap is Father Jamie R. Workman, a beloved previous Parochial Vicar at Blessed Sacrament, but now in full-time ministry in the Office of Canonical Affairs and the Diocesan Tribunal, with residence at the Church of Saint Luke in McLean.

What is so interesting and exciting about Father Workman, besides his insightful knowledge of the faith, is his conversion story. It is a love story about his encounter with Jesus and then His Church, which led him to enter the Catholic Church and then answer the call to become a priest.

We at Blessed Sacrament first met Jamie Workman when he was still a transitional deacon and then a newly-ordained baby priest. He is still, as he was then, on fire for the Lord. Please click on the link to this mp3 podcast and listen to this wonderful witness, "The Simple Truth" (right click to save it to listen later).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

This Weekend:
the 25th anniversary of the Dedication of Blessed Sacrament Church

This weekend - September 6, 7 and 8 - the Blessed Sacrament community is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the dedication of Blessed Sacrament Church.

The weekend will open with our first concert of the season on Friday, September 6 at 8 pm. Our organist, Ann Carney will open the program with “Prelude & Fugue for Alexandria” a work she commissioned based on the communion song “Make Us One in Christ” (a piece commissioned by Blessed Sacrament for the dedication of our building in 1988). Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E Flat Major and the “Trout” Quintet of Schubert will also be performed by our resident ensemble, the Cecilian Players. All are welcome!

On Saturday, September 7, the Vigil of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we invoke as Queen of Peace, Pope Francis has called for a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world.

On Sunday, September 8, we are having our Ministries Fair in Quinn Hall. Come stop by after Mass and find a place to exercise your unique gifts and talents by serving the parish and our community! Involve yourself in Religious Education, Music, Baptism, Social Justice, Lectors, Greeter & Ushers, Legion of Mary - just to name a few!
All training and support included - all we require is a willing heart.

And on Monday, September 9, the year begins for CCD classes!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates Mass with the Ratzinger Schuelerkreis

On Sunday, Pope Benedict celebrated his first public Mass since his resignation as Supreme Pontiff. Joining him on this joyous occasion were members of the Ratzinger Schuelerkreis, a group of his former students. This is their 38th annual meeting.

In his homily, Benedict was as beautiful as ever, saying that man cannot survive without gratuity in the Christian sense. "We cannot pay for the greatest things in life - love, friendship, goodness, forgiveness - we get them free, as God gives them to us. And so, even in the midst of fighting for justice in this world, in a continuous give-and-take, we must never forget God's gratuity."

Yes -- We cannot pay for the greatest things in life - love, friendship, goodness, forgiveness - we get them free or not at all. And we must give them for free in turn. So let us be generous in gratiuty, seeking the good of others in all humility before our own prestige and worldly desires.

Thanks to Teresa Benedetta at the Benedetto XVI Forum, where the rest of the story and homily may be read.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Prayer Intentions of Pope Francis for September

For the value of silence. That people today, often overwhelmed by noise, may rediscover the value of silence and listen to the voice of God and their brothers and sisters.
For persecuted Christians. That Christians suffering persecution in many parts of the world may by their witness be prophets of Christ's love.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Theology on Tap Comes to Blessed Sacrament!

That's right, in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Dedication of Blessed Sacrament Church, Theology on Tap is here at Blessed Sacrament - or the blog at least.

As summer ends and everyone starts looking to go back to school and back to work, this is a good time to review our lives, assess what is right and what is not so right, and determine where to go from here. Of course, in this Year of Faith, Popes Benedict and Francis have called us to do that with our faith, with our relationship with Jesus Christ, to recognize our need for continual conversion, that is, to constantly be turning toward the Lord, who makes all things new, including us and our faith.

Appropriately, first on tap is our beloved pastor, Father John Cregan, who speaks about "Saying Yes to Christ: Your Call to Serve." He begins with the story of his own vocation, first to the Marine Corps, then to the priesthood. Please click on the link to this mp3 podcast and listen to this powerful witness (right click to save it to listen later).

We are all called by God to some role, to some function. No part of the Body of Christ, of which we are all members, is superfluous. We are all wanted, we are all needed. He asks all of us to serve Him, to serve Him who is Love and Truth. There is none of us who is so lowly or inadequate that he or she cannot serve, especially since He gives us the grace to do what needs to be done. Indeed, it is in serving Him and others that we are made truly free, and it is in humility, in recognizing our lowliness and allowing the Lord to make us His instruments, that we are raised up. And it begins with prayer, in opening our hearts to God and then shutting up enough to allow Him to speak to us.

What is the Lord saying to you? What is He calling you to do? And when He asks, what is your response?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pope John Paul I

Can it really have been 35 years ago?

So it was. It was 35 years ago yesterday that Albino Luciani was elected as Pope John Paul I.

The following day, August 27, 1978, he gave his Urbi et Orbi message.
Placing our hand in that of Christ, leaning on him, we have now been lifted up to steer that ship which is the Church; it is safe and secure, though in the midst of storms, because the comforting, dominant presence of the Son of God is with it. . . .

The Church, in this common effort to be responsible and so respond to the pressing problems of the day, is called to give to the world that "strengthening of the spirit" which is so needed and which alone can assure salvation. The world awaits this today: it knows well that the sublime perfection to which it has attained by research and technology has already reached a peak, beyond which yawns the abyss, blinding the eyes with darkness. It is the temptation of substituting for God one's own decisions, decisions that would prescind from moral laws. The danger for modern man is that he would reduce the earth to a desert, the person to an automaton, brotherly love to planned collectivization, often introducing death where God wishes life.

The Church, admiring yet lovingly protesting against such "achievements", intends, rather, to safeguard the world, which thirsts for a life of love, from dangers that would attack it. The Gospel calls all of its children to place their full strength, indeed their life, at the service of mankind in the name of the charity of Christ.
Cardinal Luciani did not expect to become Pope, and his papacy did not last long, only 33 days. But that does not mean that he did not make an impact. In fact, Pope John Paul I made great contributions to the Church.

It was John Paul the First -- not the Second -- who began the new dawn of the Church, following the stormy night of the 20th century, which we were able to withstand because of the shelter of the Council and bravery of Paul VI. It was John Paul the First -- not the Second -- who began the process of demonstrating that the Church is not old and musty, but ever fresh and alive.

And, John Paul the First made the invaluable contribution of preparing the way for Karol Wojtyla to become Pope John Paul the Second. It was the very briefness his pontificate that led the cardinal-electors to look beyond Italy for a shepherd of the Church. So we should not for one moment think that such a short papacy meant that the cardinal-electors erred in choosing him to be pope. John Paul I accomplished his mission, he fulfilled his role, and prepared the Church and the world for the one who would come after him, leading the Church from the new dawn to the bright day.

One of the Cardinal-Electors, a Joseph Ratzinger from Germany, said of Pope John Paul I,
I was very happy about [his election]. To have as pastor of the universal Church a man of that goodness and with that luminous faith was the guarantee that things were going well. . . . Personally I’m altogether convinced he was a saint. Because of his great goodness, simplicity, humility. And for his great courage. Because he also had the courage to say things with great clarity, even going against current opinions. And also for his great culture of faith. He was not just a simple parish priest who had become patriarch by chance. He was a man of great theological culture and of great pastoral sense and experience. His writings on catechesis are precious. And his book Illustrissimi, which I read immediately after his election, is very fine. Yes, I’m convicted that he is a saint.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review:
Jacques Philippe, Time for God

by Jim Bradshaw

In his book, Time for God, Jacques Philippe presents a convincing account of the critical importance of mental or contemplative prayer. He begins by telling the reader what mental prayer is not. Mental prayer is not a technique. It is not akin to Yoga where the practice depends primarily on the efforts of the individual.

Distinct from the various spiritual techniques and practices of the East, Christian mental prayer is essentially and primarily a freely given gift of God. It is, first and last, a grace where God is the protagonist; God, in pursuit of the soul, reaches down to lift the soul up to loving communion with Him.

The author goes to great lengths to explain the internal dispositions of heart and soul which are essential to open the individual to this precious grace of contemplative prayer. The most fundamental internal disposition is that we live, and breath and act not by sight, but by faith.

Perhaps, we’ve heard this before, but what does it mean to live by faith?

To live and act, to make choices according to our Catholic faith, means to live out in daily prayer and action the Word of God as taught, professed and practiced by Holy Church. As Catholics we seek ardently to become of one mind with the Church just as we seek to become of one Body with Christ as we grow progressively in holiness by the daily practice of contemplative prayer and in participation in the Sacrament and Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Eucharist.
While the Mass is the “source and summit of the Christian life,” the full fruitfulness of the liturgy is not realized without patience and perseverance in mental prayer.

In Time for God, Jacques Philippe emphasizes that the more time we spend with God, the more time we will want to spend with God. And, the more time we will want to spend in loving service to our neighbor.

Jacques Philippe, Time for God (2008)
Scepter Publishers, Inc.

ADDED: Rev. Jacques Philippe is a member of the Community of the Beatitudes, founded in France in 1973. Also recommended are his other books of interest to modern readers, including the need for prayer, peace of heart, and a correct understanding of freedom. His books In the School of the Holy Spirit and Interior Freedom are also available from Scepter.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Daughter of her Son - the Assumption of Mary

by Mark Rothe, Master Catechist

Today is the Solemnity of the Bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate Mother of God, a "holy day of obligation."

 About this idea of Mass as an "obligation" --

 Yes, this is the Church's own terminology, and it is 100 percent true, but I'll confess I'm not entirely comfortable with the word in our contemporary times. Too many people associate "obligation" with drudgery, a burden, a really big pain, something one has to do when when he would rather being doing something else that is more interesting or beneficial. We're obliged to pay way too much of our hard-earned money in taxes rather than spend it on what we want to spend it on. We're obliged to get up in the morning and have to go to work, rather than sleep in and play all day. In most people's eyes, obligation is the antithesis of freedom. It is a matter of owing something to another, rather than giving it freely and voluntarily.

Well, Mass need not be, and should not be, seen as a burden and a hassle. Instead, it should rightly be seen an an opportunity. An opportunity to be with God and love Him. And the more we love Him, the more we receive from Him, the more we obtain the grace to be truly free, the freedom and power to do good and be the people we want to be, rather than be the slaves of worldly desire and sin. Thus, we can see that the truth of the "obligation" to attend Mass is not something that deprives us of freedom, rather, it is a truth that sets us free. In fact, it so liberates us that, by showing God your love at Mass, you can receive the "medicine of immortality," i.e. the Eucharist. It is hope, the hope by which we are already saved.

 If we love God, and if we want to be with Him in heaven, then we should want to be with Him for a little bit while we are still sojourning down here on earth. Conversely, if we purposely do not go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, we are saying that we do not want to be with God, we do not want to spend a measly one-hour in His presence. Not only does that end up making us less free, making us servants and slaves to worldly concerns and sin, it imposes the enormous burdens and pains and drudgery that are associated with worldly concerns and sin.

 Ultimately, of course, that means that if we do not want to be with God here and now, then we will not be with Him after we have left this earth. Despite the use of the word "obligation" to refer to Sundays and Holy Days, neither God nor the Church will force you to go to Mass, just as God will not force you to spend time with Him in heaven. You are perfectly free to spend your eternity apart from Him in hell if you desire.

 So, go to Mass!

If you have been away for awhile, for whatever reason you left and/or have stayed away, do not be afraid to admit that you are starving. Come home. The Father will slaughter the fatted calf and all of heaven will rejoice and celebrate.

 If it is not proper for you to receive Holy Communion because you’ve done something that you shouldn’t have done and thus are in a state of sin, but you like it and intend to keep on doing it, so that you're not ready to go to Confession yet, don't go up for Communion, but do still go to Mass! Jesus Christ is there!  (And work toward getting yourself to Confession!)

 If the liturgy is poorly done, or if the music is bad, or the homily is boring, or the other people are dressed inappropriately, or the priest/deacon/ministers are too liberal or too conservative or too this or too that, or you stayed out too late the night before, or you don't understand some of the teachings of the Church, or you think you know better and oppose the Church, or whatever million other excuses you can come up with, even when you are fully justified in your dissatisfaction, none of that is God's fault. Don't take it out on Him. He is the remedy to all these problems. He is the priceless pearl. The Eucharist is "the source and summit" of our faith. The Blessed Sacrament is Emmanuel, God with us. No matter how lousy everything else is, do not let that keep you from Him.

Mass is not a burdensome duty, but is an empowering opportunity. It should not be thought of as having to go to Mass, but as getting to go to Mass. An opportunity to be with God and love Him.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Teens and Their Faith

Chris Hitzelberger, Director of Youth Ministry, Blessed Sacrament Parish

A common question I get from parents is, “My teens say they don’t want to go to Mass anymore. I don’t want to force them to come, but I know it is important for them to be connected to their faith. What should I do?” We all know that as children become teenagers they naturally pull away from their parents and family as they begin to define who they are and what is important to them. Often teens reject things that are important to parents as a way to distinguish themselves as different from their parents. This is normal. However, there is nothing wrong with insisting that your teen still do things with your family because it is important. Family meals, social time together, family prayer, Mass, etc. are all good and healthy ways for teens to be connected with their family.
If Mass is a priority for your family, it is good to make it a priority for your teenager. So, how do you do it? Here are four steps I would take if I had a teenager who was not interested in attending Mass with the family:
1. Check what is my own attitude about Mass. If Mass is simply an obligation and not something I see as essential to my spiritual life, then it will be difficult to encourage Mass attendance for my child. Our faith should culminate in Sunday Mass – it shouldn’t be just another thing on our list of things to do.
2. Be prepared. Read the Sunday readings on Wednesday evening (or another night) as a family. Talk about them at dinner (even if that is while you are eating McDonald's on the way home from some sports practice). The more you know about something, the more interested you become in it.
3. Linger. We spend more time on important things. I can think of many times when I have had a meal with a friend where we spent time after the meal just talking, even if it made me a little late for my next activity. Don’t rush to get to Mass – give yourself plenty of time so you can be in good spirits when you arrive, and don’t make it a habit of leaving right after Mass. If you seem ready to bolt as soon as the priest leaves, your teens will be eager as well. Sit for a bit after Mass (even if your teens head out for donuts). Take some time to walk in the courtyard or chat with another parishioner. Our days are so rushed that taking it a little slower will make Mass stand out as a restful and welcome break from the rush.
4. Finally, talk to your teen. Have an honest conversation. Tell them that Sunday Mass is the most important thing they do all week. Tell them you care more about them coming to Mass than about any other thing they do all week – it is that important in your view.
Ask them what is really important to them – maybe it is sports, friends, video games, who knows what. Tell them if they are disregarding going to Sunday Mass, they are disregarding you, because the Mass is so important to you, as well as neglecting their own relationship with God. Our souls need nourishment, just like our bodies do, and at Mass our souls are fed by God. To put it very simply, God has given us everything and we owe him our thanks and praise. We are so limited and life is so fragile. Yet God is eternal and almighty, and he has become one of us in Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, God the Father saves us from sin and death. As we say at Mass, “it is right and just” that we raise our minds and hearts in prayer to God, who is our origin and final destiny. The gift of Jesus in his Word proclaimed at Mass and in the Eucharist, his actual Real Presence given at every Mass, is the greatest gift we as human beings have – Jesus himself is the Bread of Everlasting Life.
Hopefully this gives you some insight, or at least one suggestion, as to how to deal with this common issue with teenage kids.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Youth Ministry Update

On Saturday, April 27, the Diocese of Arlington will once again invite middle school students from across the area to come together for BASH, a day of faith and fun, and the largest annual gathering of Catholic 6th-8th graders in the diocese. Meeting at Bishop O’Connell High School, students will have the opportunity to climb on rock walls, jump on moon bounces, eat pizza and snow cones, and have some great social time together.
At the same time, confessions will be heard by a dozen priests, and you would be surprised at the line of young people excited to get the opportunity to be reconciled with Christ.
There will be great speakers, time for adoration, and of course, Mass!
Blessed Sacrament Parish will bring over 20 students to the BASH. Stay tuned for some pictures of the event next week!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Called & Gifted Workshop Presented Again!

If you missed it the first time, here's another opportunity!  Blessed Sacrament is repeating the Called & Gifted Workshop on Friday, May 3, 7-10 pm and Sat., May 4, 9am-4 pm.  The recorded talks lay out the Church's teachings which undergird the critical role of the laity in Her mission to evangelize.  Small group discussions follow the talks, and each participant is given an inventory on "charisms" (particular Gifts of the Holy Spirit) to take and score during the event.  Following the workshop, participants will schedule phone interviews with the Catherine of Siena Institute to further discern charisms.

Registration is required as lunch will be served.  Please contact Susan Doyle in the parish office:

Phase II of the Called & Gifted series will be scheduled shortly for those who attend this event, as well as for those who attended the workshop during Lent.


Parish Initiates "Virtual Inquiry" for Those Seeking Information About Catholicism

Blessed Sacrament Church is adding a new dimension to support those who have questions about the faith.  "Virtual Inquiry" is an opportunity for those interested in Catholicism to ask questions while never leaving the comfort of home.  An inquirer with one or more questions may simply email  Susan Doyle, Director of Religious Education at Blessed Sacrament, will respond to the questions with the support of the parish RCIA (Rite of Christian Initation of Adults) team.  If and when the inquirer is interested, personal meetings will be set up to continue informal conversation.  The hope is that, in offering a virtual venue, the tech savvy will find an easy, non-threatening way to have their questions answered, and that when curiosity is satisfied, one emerges with desire for a relationship with Jesus.

If you know of someone for whom "virtual inquiry" is a good fit, please pass along the email address:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.  In 1963, Pope Paul VI designated Good Shepherd Sunday, as day of worldwide prayer for vocations.

In the Gospel readings for today, Jesus says,

My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.” (John 10:27-30)

The Daughters of Saint Paul are visiting our parish this weekend!  Their mission is to serve the Church through communications. As their website states, "The sisters are active in all forms of media, from traditional publications to e-books, from TV to social media, from the internet to mobile apps—working in the areas of writing, publishing, recording and broadcasting, screen-writing, media literacy, religious education, adult faith formation and spiritual development. They operate 14 Pauline Book and Media Centers throughout the US and English-speaking Canada."

During their visit to Blessed Sacrament Parish, their Director of Vocations, Sister Margaret Michael Gillis, will share some reflections on vocations. Sister Maria Elizabeth Borobia will speak about vocations with our Hispanic community.

In this video, Sister Margaret Michael shares some thoughts on listening to God's call.