Sunday, October 24, 2010

Crimson in the Future

The Church of Rome has favored the Church of Washington! His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI announced this week that he will elevate our Archbishop, Donald Wuerl, to the College of Cardinals in a consistory in Rome on November 20. We rejoice!

Likely you saw some of the coverage this week, since the creation of a Cardinal is a transformation significant and mysterious enough to attract the attention of even the secular media. This itself is an indication of the role of a Cardinal in his home country: to speak with elevated authority on behalf of the Church and the Vicar of Christ.

When the Holy Father appointed Archbishop Wuerl to Washington over four years ago, it was an indication that he knew him and had great trust in him, and wished him to have the increased prominence that our capital-city Archdiocese carries. Archbishop Wuerl, who for decades has had special assignments from the Pope, and taken responsibilities in Rome, was given the greater responsibilities of our local Church and its significant citizens.

Now that trust and regard will be made visible in a new and splendid way, as he is given the crimson garb of a Cardinal of the Church. This great honor brings with it also one awesome office, that is, one unique role and responsibility in the life of the Church: to be one of the electors who convene when the Successor to Peter dies and his successor must be chosen.

Our Archbishop also becomes a titular member of the Roman clergy. Next month, when he becomes a Cardinal and dons his red hat, he will be given title of a Roman parish, that is, he will become its nominal pastor. It is thus as a member of the Roman clergy that he is eligible to choose the next Bishop of Rome. Which parish it will be is not announced until the Consistory.

He will also probably receive assignments as a member of congregations or councils in the administration of the Holy See. Congregations and councils are rather like cabinet-level “Departments” in the United States government, but instead of being led by a Secretary (of education, for example) they are headed by a Prefect (congregations) or President (councils). They are called congregations or councils because they are actually a selected group of cardinals, along with a few others – archbishops or experts – who convene to consider specialized aspects of the life of the Church.

There are, for example, Congregations for Education (all seminaries and Catholic universities and schools), Saints (overseeing the vetting and process for beatification and canonization), and Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (that one is pretty obvious), as well as, let’s see, the Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Any Cardinal can be appointed to any of these bodies, and some Cardinals are appointed to a number of them. That would be my guess for our Archbishop, as he is known to be a hard worker.

There will doubtless be a Pilgrimage to Rome for the Consistory organized in coming days by the Archdiocese. I couldn’t wait, and bought my own ticket already (well, somebody has to go!), and I think I even found a place to stay -- that ‘s tough, with all the crowds coming. If you are interested, check with me next week. Because there is no better time to visit than when the Church of Rome is blessing the Church of Washington.

Monsignor Smith

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pray for them by name

One of the many things Father Brainerd taught me was to pray for the dead who have no one to pray for them by name. The urgency, the sadness, the obligation of that realization – that some people have no one who will pray for them! -- is compelling.

One of the consolations of having children and grandchildren is knowing that in them, one can see that he or she will be remembered, will be loved, and will be prayed for after going into the grave. We celibate clergy don’t have that on our plan, so when I ask you to pray for me, don’t think I just mean this week!

November is the month that the Church dedicates to meditating upon the Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. This motivates us to remember all who have died, and pray that they be liberated from purgatory and admitted into the fullness of heaven’s glory.

When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating 'in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is.’ So it is that the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who sleep in the peace of Christ is in no way interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the constant faith of the Church, this union is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods. In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and 'because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins' she offers her suffrages for them. Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective. (From the Catechism, 954-958, emphases mine.)

The most effective prayer is the Holy Mass, because it is the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ Himself. To bring the sweet fruit of that saving sacrifice more readily to our loved ones who have died, we have two opportunities here at Saint Bernadette.

On All Souls’ Day itself, we will offer a special evening Mass in which we pray particularly for the souls of those who have died in our parish since last year. We will list the names of all we have buried from our church in that time. If you submit their names and relations to the rectory office, we will also include your close family members who died this year and were buried elsewhere.

Every day throughout November, one Mass is offered for the intentions of the Holy Souls whose names are placed upon our holy altar. To participate, write the names of your beloved dead on the All Souls envelopes you receive or find near the doors. Include your offering – that’s your participation in the sacrifice – and put it in any collection. It will join the stack of envelopes and names on our altar, and remain there through the month. Don’t stop at your parents; include teachers, friends, military personnel, or crime victims you have read about. And don’t forget to include the names of priests or sisters you have known!

Why? Because no one you or I have ever known and loved should ever be left with no one to pray for them by name.

Monsignor Smith

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What makes it great

Was that a great weekend, or what? Whether you ran in Becca’s Run, polkaed at Oktoberfest, or got your face painted at the Fall Festival, you were having a great time when I saw you. Some did all three – and had three times the fun!

We had many guests for all the events last weekend, and all of them got to see what gives Saint Bernadette her distinctive character: her people. The warmth and joy that everyone showed sent the clear signal that this is community centered on Christ, reaching out in love.

Literally several hundred folks worked to make all the activities so much fun, and such a smooth success. All freely give of their time and talent to make these things happen, and each year the logistics get more complex, and the events more impressive. Each event has its standard-bearer too, taking the lead and putting in the extra work to make it happen. Amy Langevin coordinates with the Lilly family to drive Becca’s Run; Peter and Mary Zaudtke have the secret of bringing Bavaria to the ball field for Oktoberfest. And Mindy Sippel pulls together an amazing array to make the Fall Festival just so delightful.

My thanks and yours go to them, and to all the folks who took the time to take a turn and help it happen. To see how well and how generously everyone worked together is an inspiration.

It is a beautiful time of year to be here at Saint Bernadette. Maybe because I live here, wake up here every morning and go to bed here every night, I see the details of the parish more intensely than you can. But can you miss the spire outlined by the low autumnal light against the bright clear sky with its scudding Canadian clouds, coming to bring that cooler air our way? How the recent rains have once again made green the grass that had parched over the late summer drought? How the top of the first tree to change out along the back parking lot has long since started, and now here and there a burst of color is emerging?

The kids are used to being back at school, and come and go with the conviction that each day they are making progress in knowledge and understanding (would that we adults could say the same). The air carries more clearly the noise of the teams practicing and playing on the field, and the silence of a Sunday afternoon once the Mass goers have gone.

The slender crowds of summer are a distant memory as the church fills again each week, and the choirs lead the voices in proclaiming the glory of God. His love is revealed as we walk once more through the works and words of Christ, reminded of all He is doing so that we know His salvation. Truth, goodness, and beauty all conspire to reveal our source and our destination.

Speaking of numbers, you may notice people moving about the church with clipboards during Mass, usually during the homily. No, they’re not writing down who isn’t paying attention – they are counting heads. As regular as the change of leaves, it is the October Count, when every parish in the Archdiocese counts every soul who attends Sunday Mass each weekend this month. It helps us know how many folks love the festival, enjoy the beer, or can complete the run…. but know where to find what we are really about: God become Man and offered to us in His flesh, in the Holy Eucharist. Truth, goodness, and beauty you can touch and taste, the heart of every great weekend.

Monsignor Smith

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Parts and the Whole

It is going to be a wild weekend. Wait, let me change that – we are halfway through one wild weekend. There is so much going on this weekend, I would hate for you to miss anything. So I will give you something that you can enjoy whenever you have the time.

Enclosed find the annual report for the parish for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. The report includes a letter from the Finance Council, and the financial statistics as the Archdiocese requests that we present them to you. It is amazing how much comes…and goes through this parish, isn’t it?

Statistics not financial are also included, so don’t forget to look at the number of baptisms, funerals, registered families, and students. This reminds us that what we are about as a parish cannot be presented on a balance sheet. We exist as a church to bring ourselves and others to God, to worship Him in spirit and in truth, and to draw souls to the salvation that is achieved in Jesus Christ. That’s a little harder to quantify! The numbers only make sense if we remember who is Number One: Jesus.

So take the report and read it whenever you have time; keep it for your files, or on your desk for a while. If you have any question, feel free to ask any of the Finance Council members. They work very hard along with me and Delfina, our parish business manager, so they know the story behind the numbers. I am sure your gratitude for their work is proportional to my own.

Behind all numbers of the parish, there are people, and there are some changes among them lately as well. Mrs. Jane Baily, for sixteen years the Director of Religious Education here, has resigned. She assures me that much prayer and consideration went into her decision, so I am sure that her earnest prayers will lead neither her nor us away from the good that God intends.

Mr. Neil Sloan, a parishioner and theologian, will graciously serve as Interim Director of Religious Education to ensure that the catechesis of our children in the School and weekend Religious Education Program continues. Over the remainder of this year, we will seek a qualified catechetical leader and administrator to develop our parish program to new levels of evangelization and service.

It is an exciting time for our Religious Education Program. It has grown significantly in numbers and family involvement over the past two years, and promises to continue to do so; and the Archbishop’s call to the New Evangelization brings with it new catechetical standards to be implemented in the coming year.

Also, you regulars of our 9:00 Mass may have noticed that when the Contemporary Choir returned from the spas and beaches of summer to sing with us again, one of them was missing. Mrs. JoAnn Parker, longtime accompanist of that choir, stepped down over the summer as well. She will still sometimes play for the school choir and events, and is still about the parish, so if you see her, thank her and assure her of your prayers.

So amidst all the excitement this weekend, the practicalities of the parish still receive the attention they deserve – and not only from the Pastor. Enjoy yourselves at our Festivals this weekend, and continue to pray for us as a parish, that each transition, each transaction, and every activity and action, bring us in joy by God’s providence to greater communion in Christ.

Monsignor Smith