Sunday, January 31, 2010


Generosity will save the world.

You may not think there is enough generosity around to get you through your day, much less save the world. But I know otherwise. The evidence is in, and Exhibit A is you.

I know we were all moved to witness the destruction and need in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. I know every one of us wanted to be able to do something to help. Being so far away, the one thing that comes most readily is to offer financial assistance. Over the past two weeks, we had two special collections for relief to Haiti. We collected over $10,000 in those collections. Those funds will go directly to Catholic Relief Services.

Fr. DeRosa and I were with Archbishop Wuerl on Monday, and one of the things he spoke about with us was aid to Haiti. First, he said that the Archdiocese sent $100,000 to CRS the day after the quake. Then, he pointed out that CRS has an extraordinarily high efficiency rate on the donations it raises – over 94%.

That means that less than six percent of donations received goes to pay for the organization and administration of the aid; almost all of it goes to the aid itself. So you can take some confidence from knowing that your generous gifts will reach their intended recipients. Not only that, but CRS already had organization and personnel on the ground in Haiti when the quake hit. It was in a good position to bring in the aid fast.

Your generosity might not save everybody, much less undo the damage of the earthquake, but it will help the people of Haiti know that people care, and love them. And that will go a long way.
More locally, this past week we were saddened by the sudden death of the father of one of our young families, Pat Solis. His wife, Ally, and their daughters, Maite and Rakel (6th and 3rd grade, respectively) received an outpouring of support in prayer and practical assistance that was deeply moving.

This is a strong and loving community, and though it cannot take the place of a beloved husband and father, your generosity is already helping them confront and conquer the sadness and fear that naturally come at such a time. I am grateful and confident that they can count on this support and love for the years ahead.

In both of these sad situations, no one of us can by our own actions fix the source of grief, or repair the damage – “make it all better,” as kids like to say. But by generously responding and offering of ourselves in love, people bring life-giving good into a situation where something bad or sad might otherwise overwhelm.

Giving of ourselves, giving of our lives, to give life and light to another, is a participation in the sacrifice of Jesus. When we not only model our actions after His, but unite ourselves to Him in prayer and sacrament, then we bring Christ’s divine life into the lives that we touch. And that is the generosity that will save the world.
Monsignor Smith

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gifts and Epiphany

One of the beautiful windows in our church is dedicated to the Epiphany of Our Lord: the manifestation to the Gentiles of Jesus the Son of God. Of course, you can make out the Three Kings bringing their gifts, as they recognize the newborn King. One of the clues to the identity of Jesus is the gifts He inspires people to offer Him.

Many gifts accumulated before the newborn Jesus last week, and I am privileged and pleased to be in a position to convey gratitude, not only my own but yours as well, to all who so faithfully brought them.

I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to decorate the church to receive so great a guest. A faithful few came to polish and prepare, and Elaine Vining and her crew brought lights, trees, and flowers, plus a lot of their precious time on Christmas Eve, to prepare the way of the Lord. I love it when the little children come up just to see the infant Jesus in the Nativity scene!

Richard Fitzgerald, Camille Frezzo, and our choirs and musicians certainly offered Jesus beauty of the highest order, and helped us to share in that precious offering. They are laboring for God, not for us, but we are the beneficiaries in many ways as well.

We have others who put a lot of effort into the liturgies that bring Christ into our “stable;” our most excellent altar servers did a fine job, as usual, and sacristans handled the logistics seen and unseen. Don’t forget how important the ushers are to making important things happen, not the least of which is welcoming our many guests.

A small but fearless band, led by Holy Name men, were here to erect our outdoor crèche even before the snow from our recent blizzard was cleared. I don’t know if many of you know how often that scene of Christ’s birth draws attention and attendants from passers-by on the Boulevard!

Not that it is the same as laying gifts at the crib of Jesus, but many of you certainly put some nice ones in the rectory. We got cookies and fruit and other good things, for which we are all grateful. Many of you sent cards, and I particularly enjoy the family pictures! Yes, I’m one of those who love to read the newsletters, too. While I see a lot of you, it is rare I get such a comprehensive narrative. Best of all though are your prayers, which keep us up and running. Thank you.

I particularly want to thank everyone who donated flowers to decorate our altar, which stand there now as a witness to your prayers for your loved ones, living and dead. The dedications are listed in the Christmas bulletins; if you didn’t get one, we saved some for you. The beauty of those flowers is a grace note soaring above the chorus of prayers that each of you brings by your presence, filling our church with the glory to God.

Just as we all are grateful to the parishioners and priests who preceded us at Saint Bernadette and built this beautiful church, so I am grateful to you for continuing to beautify it further with your gifts, songs, prayers, and the very gift of your fidelity, which shows the world Who it is we greet here. May your faith continue to be an instrument of Christ’s manifestation to the world, His on-going Epiphany, and may He bless you abundantly for it.

Monsignor Smith

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Our local Church

To judge by the many of you who inquired after my trip or kindly welcomed me back, many of you know I traveled to Rome earlier this month. I went for a reunion on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical North American College – my seminary, and Fr. DeRosa’s, and Fr. Toups’…

Alumni of every vintage were present, from priests still in their first assignments to several long retired, with job descriptions of every sort, including Parochial Vicar and Archbishop, professor and Cardinal Prefect. We were privileged to enjoy an audience with the Holy Father, who very generously spent time greeting almost all of the seminarians.

Amid all the splendor of Rome and the Universal Church, in which you know I rejoice, one thing did catch my attention, and that is the true strength and beauty of the church in Washington.

Not that you probably think about it much, but our Archdiocese is quite young – founded only in 1939, and then only over the strenuous objections of Baltimore, from which we were taken, which is the first and therefore senior See in the United States. We are also quite small, geographically, and not so large by population, either, as Archdioceses go. We embrace the capital city of the greatest nation on earth, but a city that never has been culturally Catholic, where visions of the separation of church and state have often been exaggerated to our detriment.

On the day that was the centerpiece of the reunion, Sunday, we were all at the seminary itself, first for a theological lecture, delivered by Archbishop Donald Wuerl – of Washington.

We of course had Mass, for which the chapel was more crowded than I had ever seen it. We then had, in true Roman style, a grand banquet, students and alumni all together. According to the tradition of the College, three toasts were offered, each a speech or address in itself. The first one given was to the Holy Father, offered by Fr. Charles Cortinovis, a student priest – of the Archdiocese of Washington.

At the end of the meal, the Chairman of the Board of the seminary presented the Founder’s Medal, the College’s signal annual award, to William Cardinal Baum, the second longest–serving Cardinal in U.S. history (34 years!), former Prefect of the Congregation for Education, Major Penitentiary emeritus, three-time papal elector, and Archbishop Emeritus – of Washington.

At the heart of the Church, among the finest she has preparing to serve, serving, or having served, one finds the clergy of Washington singled out. It gave me great pride, with two of my brother Washington priests, to take out for a long dinner in a Roman trattoria, the seven men from our Archdiocese currently in formation to be priests. It was a long and delightful evening filled with laughter and common purpose, and joy at the grace at work in our local church.

That grace is at work in our parish, too, for sitting next to me at that dinner was young Patrick Lewis, in his second year of theology at the North American College, a son of Saint Bernadette Church, dedicating himself to serve and preach the Gospel of Christ as a priest – of Washington.

Monsignor Smith

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Unfinished Business

It was a great Christmas, wasn’t it? Around here though, maybe like your place, there is a bit of unfinished business. I look after your spiritual well-being first and foremost, but I also keep an eye on the material circumstances of the parish, so I have to let you know that while Christmas grace and joy abounded during the last weeks of December, we took a pretty big hit materially.
The huge snow the weekend before Christmas prevented many folks from making it to Mass. Our offertory that week was about one-third of what it usually is on a Sunday. We had great crowds at Christmas, of course, but a weak showing the weekend after (was everyone sick, or away?) again shrank the offertory.
All that beautiful snow had to be cleared, and it was thoroughly done, so that we had good access to the church all through the weekend of the snow, and the parking lots were completely clear heading into Christmas. But it cost us $14,700 for just that one record storm, which exceeded our snow-removal budget for the whole year.
Two poor weekends AND a rich snow-removal bill lead me to ask you to check and see whether you might have missed some of your offerings to God in our parish last month – or anytime this past year. If so, we could sure use them now!
The turn of the calendar year is always a good time to make sure things are caught up. A number of folks very conscientiously have checked to see if they had met their commitment, and already sent year-end checks. Others have been so full of joy at Christmas that they gave something extra in gratitude. I rejoice at this fidelity, and am inspired by it to make sure I keep up my own giving.
But if you have not already done that, I ask you, please, do so soon. We have not yet closed the books on 2009, and would be happy to accept whatever additional participation you care to contribute. Later on, we will be sending out to all contributors a statement of their offerings during 2009 for your use on your tax returns.
One of the things that has really come to help with situations like this is Faith Direct, the electronic giving program that over 130 of our families have found very useful – more than a quarter of our regular givers. In coming days, you’ll be receiving a letter from me encouraging you to consider enrolling.
For all of you who participated so graciously in our November offertory commitment renewal, I humbly remind you that your new commitment began with the turn of the new year. If you are already participating in Faith Direct, you will get a letter reminding you to adjust your donation schedule to reflect your commitment.
I know that January is the month when the bills come for everyone. But please don’t allow the weather or the exigencies of the holiday distract you from your offertory commitment, which is an aspect of your relationship with the Lord in this parish community.
There is so much joy in Christmas, and such great grace in this parish, that most folks are happy to do what it takes to make it all happen. May your love for one another and for the Lord Jesus who dwells among us continue to bring you grace upon grace.
Monsignor Smith