Saturday, October 26, 2013

Give and take


Already it is getting dark very early, and though the maples out front have not yet exploded in their customary colors, fall is well on its way.  I had to turn on the heat in the church and in the rectory this week!  I also received shipments of supplies I will need for Halloween, which is this coming Thursday.  The veteran tick-or-treaters among you will know just what those supplies are.
If it is getting colder, then it must be time for our Fifth Quarter party next Saturday after the annual Gonzaga-St. John’s football grudge match.  That is a lot of fun, and one of the ways people from around the metro area learn about our excellent parish.
We have autumn traditions besides football and trick-or-treating, but you won’t see them advertised on television because they do not help sell you anything.  If you are wondering how to engage the season, without falling into commercialism, and in a way that strengthens your family and your faith, you know that the Church has something for you.
First of all, the Halloween hijinks are a precursor to a holy day – a Holy Day of Obligation, in fact, and a day that is holy because of the ones whom we recognize and celebrate: All Saints.  Friday’s unique feast acknowledges that many, many of the Holy Ones of God have not received and may never receive public and official acknowledgement for their sanctity and service.  Though “unlisted,” they rejoice all the same with the saints whose names we cite and whose days we mark throughout the year.  As ever, when we celebrate saints, part of the reason for our joy is that they reveal what is possible for each and every one of us, and make good on their promise to help us achieve it: holiness, in eternity, in heavenly glory. 
Second, after we reflect on the help we receive from all the saints who have gone before us, we acknowledge as well our obligation to offer help to the ones we love who have died, on their path to beatitude.  November is the month of prayer for our beloved dead, who were good, oh so good, but not perfect, oh no. God has revealed His mercy is powerful enough to make perfect those who fall short, because nothing less is good enough for heaven.  We rejoice to be cooperators with God in this project of perfection, when we bring our love to bear in union with his, and offer our time, attention, penances, and prayers for the souls of the faithful departed.
The second day of November, Saturday at 11:00, we will offer a Requiem Mass for the souls our parish has commended to the mercy of God over the past twelve months.  Come do something for the ones who no longer can choose or do anything for themselves; the ones you love, or remember, who have died, and await their liberation.  The music will be from Gabriel FaurĂ©’s sublime setting of the Requiem Mass, “requiem” being Latin for “rest,” as in, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.”
Every day in November, one of our parish Masses will be offered for the perfection and purification of the souls in purgatory.  You may bring the saving power of Christ’s sacrifice to bear on your loved ones who have died by submitting their names in an All Souls’ envelope along with your sacrificial offering on their behalf.  Doing this, we are carefully, intentionally keeping their memories alive in our hearts and before Christ.
Our Church offers traditions that enrich us with faith, hope, and love.  These dwindling days remind us that our own days are numbered, and awareness of our mortality gives us not fear, but confidence in Christ, who neither dwindles nor diminishes, for in Him there is no darkness, even in November.
Monsignor Smith

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Centered


It is good to be home!  Aside from the jet lag, I feel much better now.  A little time away was just what the doctor ordered.  Deacon Chris Seith is well and rightly ordained – along with his forty classmates.  Our Holy Father is hard at work, preaching it to the people.  I sort of looked in on him at his Wednesday audience while I was making a little visit in the Vatican offices.  I brought back a little something from him for all the kids in religious education and the school; they should know that he is their Pope, not some world celebrity.
Our time in Rome was busy.  While it is for all people a place of pilgrimage, a tourist magnet, and a vacation paradise, Rome is also the center of the Church, which happens to be the organization I work for; and it is also my former home.  That means there are meetings, errands, and relationships that require my attention when I am there.  Not that I am complaining – those meetings, errands, and relationships are some of my favorite things!  But When Fr. Knestout and I left Rome, we were both a little breathless from everything we had done while we were there.
So one week in a stone cottage amidst the hedgerows and orchards of Normandy was just what the doctor ordered.  Every day had a little excursion, usually history-nerd outings on the trail of the brave souls who participated in D-Day, but they all started slowly, and with Mass; and ended with a leisurely dinner at home.  And there I was, out of the habit of cooking, too, with my current housemates here in the rectory shouldering those duties willingly and well.  So it was peaceful, which was just what we needed. 
I was pleased to find everything in good order upon my return, though I hear you nearly washed away in the rains.  The Fall Festival was a success and took all the beautiful weather for itself, apparently.  The rectory washing machine waited for me to return (and my two weeks worth of travel laundry to be done!) before it died in a puddle of despair.  Father McCabe did not follow through on his threat to begin raising goats in my room.  Small favors, for which I am grateful.  The jet lag should pass any day now.
On the new and exciting front, this week marks the beginning for our new Director of Music and organist, Mr. Robert Barbarino.  He comes to us from the Shrine of the Little Flower – in Baltimore.  He is quite accomplished, for one so young.  He brings a great deal of experience in parish music, and is eager to continue to develop our superb program of sacred music here.  He is beginning to find his way around the place, and has begun to get to know the choirs.  I told him they are a good bunch, but warned him about rookie hazing.  I think he can handle it!
So, if you have a chance, after Mass this weekend or in coming weeks, stop by the organ console (shiny and new!) and welcome Rob to the parish.  The singers and musicians are at the heart of our worship and prayer, which strengthens our union with one another as it deepens our communion with God.  Let him know that, though there are many other places that are delightful to visit, this as a great place to be at home.  Peace to you!
Monsignor Smith

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Looking on from afar


This is such an awesome weekend.  You can only imagine how I groaned when I realized I was going to miss it! 
There’s not much that can take me away from the Fall Festival weekend here at the parish, so you may figure out what did it, since it is the same as last time I missed it.  The Ordination to the Diaconate for the North American College in Rome was Thursday of this week.  I went, not least because Christopher Seith, our seminarian assigned here for the summer of 2012, is one of the new deacons.   One other man from our Archdiocese, Aaron Qureshi, is also among the forty-one newly ordained.
That is a huge class, and very good news for the church in the United States.  The College is filled to capacity, with not one empty bed.  They are adding on to the already-large building, to make room for more library, study space, and classroom space needed to give all those men a place to do the work of preparation for Priesthood.
My own ordination class of deacons numbered twenty-three when we knelt before then-Bishop, now-Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, our former rector.  That was seventeen years ago to the day.  So, I will be travelling with my classmate and fellow Washingtonian, Fr. Mark Knestout, who is now Pastor at Saint Bartholomew in Bethesda. 
While we are in Rome, we will surely spend time as well with Msgr. Tom Powers, who was immediately to my right as we prostrated ourselves before the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica.  He now serves as an official of the Congregation for Bishops in Rome.  To my immediate left was another character whom some of you may well remember, Msgr. David Toups.  With company like that, is it any wonder that this is a happy anniversary for us?
But this year’s class boggles the mind, for size anyway.  Only for events like the Pope’s funeral, or the creation of new Cardinals, have I ever gone to Saint Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world, and worried whether there would be room for me to find a seat!  But that is precisely the case this week.  And that is awesome.
So I will be missing the awesomeness that is here.  I hope you do not hold it against me that I go away at this odd time of year.  Because I get by on the help of student priests – two very, very good ones, I might add – I can’t leave the parish during normal vacation times.  That’s when the students are away.  It’s been a long time since I’ve gone on vacation.
Strange as it sounds, this weekend, I am in Europe, but thinking of Silver Spring.  You’re always in my prayers, but especially during the Festival I will be thinking of you. 
All of the best of Saint Bernadette will be on display making it clear to any visitor – and let’s hope there are many – what a delightful parish this is.  I take this opportunity to thank Lauren Draley and Jessica and Stanley Barsch, for all their good work in organizing and executing the fall festival for several years in a row now.  Other folks will also be making it happen, including but not limited to the Rosensteel Knights of Columbus, the CYO, the HSA, the Scouts of Troop 440, the guys of Holy Name, the Blue-Haired Sno-Cone Guy, and a slate of other colorful volunteers.  Please, thank them – and then thank them again, once for me.  I really, really, really, wish I were there! 
Monsignor Smith