Saturday, January 25, 2014


Well, at long last, there is a new roof on the rectory.  I offer a sincere thank-you to everyone who contributed to this essential improvement over the last couple of years.   Like the rest of our physical plant, the rectory was built very well, but it still requires attention to keep it in good shape.  The roofers did a remarkable job in what seemed a very short time.  There is still some detail work to be done that they were unable to complete before the winter storm, so we will have to wait for that to pass before they can come back and finish.  But the new roof is installed, and what is under it is solid and protected.  Thanks be to God.
Weather like we had this week reminds me both of how well set-up we are here at Saint Bernadette by the people who came before us, and the constant care that is our obligation to be stewards of this parish.  The buildings are not fancy or elaborate in any way, but all of them are solidly built and do not skimp on any of the elements of their construction or equipment.  They are also beautiful and comfortable.  This is not to be taken for granted!  
So, in every season, there are details and elements that need to be maintained, upgraded, or replaced just to keep things in as good shape as they were given to us.  It takes a good bit of time and attention on the part of several of us here at Saint Bernadette Central to do just that.  So, every time you come in and find a place that is warm or cool according to the season, and dry and clean, offer a prayer of thanks for all the people who made that possible.
Please let me take this opportunity to invite you all to celebrate our patron saint and the event that changed her life in a way that she herself would have recognized and enjoyed.  This February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, is the 156th anniversary of the first visit the Blessed Virgin Mary paid to Bernadette Soubirous in the tiny town at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains in France. 
We will celebrate the even with a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form, that is, according to the 1962 Roman Missal.  This “Tridentine” form of the Mass is almost exactly what Saint Bernadette would have known and loved.  The music will be by one of the great composers of all time, Tomas Luis de Victoria, a Spaniard.  This setting he based on the tune of a motet he composed to Our Lady entitled, Quam pulchra es, or, How beautiful you are.   
The music will indeed be beautiful too, and how better to remind ourselves of the marvelous event that happened then in Lourdes and gave us the saint who is our patroness.  And I challenge you to identify anything better than this that you could do on this cold Tuesday evening in February!  So come to the Solemn High Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on Tuesday, February 11, at 7:30 PM.
You won’t see me around this weekend.  I have gone up to see Father Nick!  Last year, when he was down to help me after Christmas, he pointed out that he had a place for me to stay at his new place.  So I went up for a few days, and found it very restful.  There’s a chapel so I can say Mass, and the seminarians are polite (and cautious!) because they know I am a friend of the Dean.  This year he renewed the invitation.  Not everybody would consider it a vacation to spend a few days in late-January in a hilltop century-old stone seminary in Yonkers, but it worked for me, and I am doing it again this year.
Meanwhile, let’s hope the weather warms up enough that the snow melts, and you get to admire the new rectory roof.

Monsignor Smith

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sing, Choirs of Angels!

In case you were wondering, it seems to be the case that Pope Francis would really like Mass at Saint Bernadette.  How can I say that with such confidence?  This just in:
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis baptized 32 children on Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The celebration took place, as is customary, in the Sistine Chapel.
Included among those baptized by the Holy Father were primarily the new-born children of Vatican employees.
In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis noted that Jesus Himself had no need of Baptism, but that with His Divinity, united to His human body, Jesus blessed the waters and gave them the ability to be used in Baptism. Ascending into Heaven, the Lord commanded His followers to go into the world to baptize – a command that the Church fulfills even to the current day.
The children baptized today, he said, are a link in the chain; in time, they will return to have their own children baptized. This implies a duty on the part of parents, the duty of transmitting the Faith to their children, so that they in turn can pass it along to their children.
The Holy Father concluded his homily with a special word of affection for the newly baptized children. “Today the choir sings,” he said, “but the most beautiful choir is [the choir] of children” making noise.
So, you see?  He would really enjoy it here at our parish, too, not least because our actual (music) choir is pretty good too – but this is no skin off their nose.
Last week, the eleven o’clock Mass was crowded with guests for the Baptisms that followed.  I know because a lot of people didn’t leave the church after Mass was over.  I then baptized five new sons and daughters of our Father in front of an exultant crowd, many of whom were suspiciously short themselves.  There was a lot of audible delight.    It was just another typical celebration at Saint Bernadette, though.  Thank God.
We have a lot of children in our parish, and a lot of them are at Mass and other events all the time.  This is one characteristic that increasingly sets us apart from other gatherings, which have become increasingly segregated.  More and more places and events are for just one age group or another, either intentionally, or simply as a matter of fact.  There are plenty of events for small children, certain times and places teens gather, but many more for just adults.  Actually older folks (retirees?) are often separated out into their own events and locales as well.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when do the people come together?
There is no better place than the worship of God.  Since Mass is the bread-and-butter of our relationship with him, if you’ll pardon the turn of phrase, it is the one thing that everyone needs.  But because it is not a class or lesson, it is not graded into age groups. Because it is not primarily a social event, it is not divided into age, interest, or language groups.  In fact, it is not divided into any groups, because it is the unifying event that holds us together with one another, and with God.  That’s why we call it communion. 
I was great to have Father Nick around for a week, not least because he gave me some help with the Masses.  He really loves it here, and is still loved.  One of his (many) famous lines is this: Welcome to St. B., where the “B” stands for “baby”!
There is grace available at Mass; grace that can be found nowhere else, and grace that everyone needs.  Little babies receive that grace in a manner appropriate to them – but only if someone brings them.  Thank goodness so many people here do!  It is just another sign that everyone is invited to the heavenly banquet we share here at Saint Bernadette – not least, Pope Francis.

Monsignor Smith

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Tree of Life

Christmas culminates this weekend in the Baptism of the Lord, which happens not to the Baby Jesus, but the adult ready to begin His public ministry. The Voice of the Father says from the clouds, Behold, my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. 

That is the most parental of inclinations – behold, my children!  To judge by the Christmas cards we received here at the Holy House of Soubirous, it is something our parishioners have in common with God the Father.  I have admitted before that I love getting the photo-greeting cards that you send me.  I like seeing the kids, and I like it when you, Mom & Dad, are in the picture, too. 

This year I came up with a better plan than just admiring them, and keeping them on my windowsill until they toppled into disarray.  I hung them on the Christmas tree in the front office, where I could see them everyday – and so could the staff, Michael the UPS guy, the several mail carriers, and everyone who came to request a Mass intention.    
So, thank you for sending them.  You know, even though some people mock them, I also love reading the Christmas letters that bring a new installment in each family story.  It helps reveal you and your families to me, and I get so proud of you all.  Here’s looking at you, kids!  Behold, my beloved sons and daughters, in whom I am well pleased. 

Monsignor Smith

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Communionist Manifesto

Epiphany:  The feast commemorating Christ's manifestation to the Gentiles in the person of the Magi, as well as his baptism and first miracle at Cana. It began in the East in the third century and soon spread to the West, where it is identifies with the visit of the Magi. In some countries it is known as Twelfth Night (after Christmas) and is the occasion for special celebrations. For centuries the Epiphany has been a holy day of obligation in many places. (Etym. Greek epiphaneia: appearance, manifestation.)

Our Archbishop, Cardinal Wuerl, has had as his motto since becoming a bishop, “Thy Kingdom Come.”  Several years ago, on the occasion of his 25th anniversary of ordination a bishop by Pope John Paul II, he acknowledged people from around the Archdiocese with a new award he called Manifesting the Kingdom.  These people were chosen for having by their lives and their work built up the Church and made Christ’s presence known in outstanding ways.

Now, as we begin the year that will mark the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Archdiocese of Washington, once again he is calling for recognition of the gifted and gift-giving souls who have made an extraordinary contribution to the life of our local church.

From our parish, His Eminence will be acknowledging the good work and gracious spirit of David and Mary Ellen Barringer.  They have worked most visibly in the Religious Education community and Boy Scouts here, but overall have been leaven in the loaf of our parish across the spectrum of our life and activity. 

Because I had seen them working for the Scouts, I approached them in 2008 to help me organize and energize the families who participate in our Religious Education program.  They eagerly and energetically took up leadership of the Religious Education Enrichment Committee (REEC), which has been an engine of community- and faith-building in that portion of our parish family.   

In seeking to share their commitment to the faith, they first worked to deepen and strengthen their own.  The grace that they found in this has led them both to be leaders among our parishioners who work together to grow in the knowledge and love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ.  They have been leaders in the men’s and women’s groups, respectively; continued to be strong in Scout leadership; and have led Bible study and other enrichment opportunities.  Both have also served well as lectors at weekday and Sunday Masses. 

This past summer, Dave took on a new position as head of the nationwide Saint Vincent de Paul Society, which requires that he live most of the time in Saint Louis.  Mary Ellen remains here with their son Thomas until he finishes at DeMatha in 2015.  We still see a good bit of Dave, who predictably lends a hand whenever he is back in town. 

Dave and Mary Ellen have been Manifesting the Kingdom here for all these years, and so I am glad that Cardinal Wuerl will present the award to them this Sunday (January 5th) afternoon at two o’clock, at a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  If you cannot join us there for it, keep them in your prayers, and pray as well that God continue to inspire good people among us here to take up the life-giving work of manifesting the Kingdom. 

The manifestation of the kingdom that we celebrate on this Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the Kingdom come, and the King who will come.  It is a marvelous occasion to remember that we are all called, and able, to manifest this Kingdom now, in our own day, and in our world. 

Monsignor Smith