Saturday, November 24, 2018

Viva Cristo Rey!

After November’s long slog through the Four Last Things, it is time to rejoice in the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end:  Jesus Christ, who is King of Heaven and Earth.  
We crave leadership.  When we look at the powers that contend for our affections and attentions in this world, we are rightly alarmed.  After the appalling display that accompanied our recent elections, it is all too clear that neither those who govern nor those who claim to speak for the governed any longer lay credible claim to virtue, and least of all to charity.  Self-aggrandizement and bitter outrage seem to be the sole constants.  
To whom should we be loyal? Whom should we be willing and ready to serve?  Despair has become almost fashionable, and proximity to the marbled halls of power and shining domes of sovereignty is no antidote to such desperation.  

But I find hope in a chair I have in the corner of the church, in a little room, behind a curtain.  There, regularly, I hear speeches of people seeking not office for themselves nor influence, but mercy.  Aware of their sins, with sorrow for their shortcomings, they come in humility and supplication. 

The power and the glory of the one true ruler is reflected in their hope for forgiveness.  They approach His throne not with fear, nor with flattery. They know their Lord, and they know He is stronger than sin, stronger even than death, for He has already achieved the victory over both.  They know He has all power over heaven and earth, and offers it all in sacrifice for them, that they may have life, and have it in abundance.  That is real leadership for our lives; our one hope for real change is the mercy of our King.  
While citizenship in this fair Republic showers many gifts upon us along with its challenges, we find true liberty when we kneel before our true King.  Let us thank God that in this land of red versus blue, we have the gift that is greater than gold: the freely given life of our Lord, who reigns from the Cross.  In loyalty to Him, let us lay down our pride and power and acclaim Him by repenting of our sins, and by our embracing and emulating His selfless sacrifice. 
This is all He desires from us, that we acknowledge our need for His mercy, and turn away from sin toward Him. We learn from him not to grasp at power and might, but to seek mercy, and offer it.  To serve in charity is to rule with Him.  This is the stuff of the Kingdom that will endure forever, the path to our sharing in the reign of Him who is Lord of all.  
But now, in our day and our land, this seems to move out of our reach.  The Church herself is riven by infidelity, so where to find Christ?   Some turn away.  Others cry louder for her to yield to the force of history or opinion or self-described pragmatism.   But the King has only one Bride.  He Himself called her into being and ordered her according to His design.  He Himself comes, consistently nourishing her and mercifully healing her every wound.   And He alone governs her every step on the path that leads finally and fully to union with Him.   He is her beginning and her end, the Bridegroom Who will never abandon His Bride.  
Neither resignation nor despair, neither demanding nor destroying is the response of those who know and serve the King.   Humble fidelity cannot be imposed, only offered; and when offered freely and fully, it is contagious.   To renew intentionally and refresh consistently our dependence on the intimate friendship He offers to each one of us is our part in His renewal of the Church.  This is where we find the part, the role, the task he has set for each one of us, uniquely, to give to our life to Him in the Church, and through her, bring life to the world.  
Praise God for revealing to us Who truly rules over us, and how He won that throne.  May Christ the King be praised in every land and every home and every heart!  God bless you and Our Lady watch over you,  
Monsignor Smith

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A good year's work

Last week was an anniversary; so is this one.  We are one year from the announcement at parish Masses of our Capital Campaign to repair, restore, and improve the church.
Honestly, your response to the Campaign was remarkable and more than encouraging.  Clearly, I am not the only one excited by the real promise of this community’s commitment to care for and improve the splendid church that is provided to us by the sacrifices of our forebears, the founders of Saint Bernadette. 
One of the evidences of this shared excitement has been the frequency with which I am asked, When does work start?   Probably more people are wondering than have asked, and a lot of you have asked; so, it is time for me to give an update.
You pledged $1,040,242 to this great work.  As of this writing, you have given a total of $607,466.07, almost three-fifths of the total in the first year!  We have accrued $3,695.03 in interest since investing the funds in late January, a satisfactory return on an intentionally conservative investment.  
Let me remind you at this point that when we undertook the Campaign, the goal was to raise between $600,000 and 800,000, so we already have in hand what was our target minimum for the three-year campaign.  That is a very good sign for the prospects of the project.
But this does not mean that we can start work sooner; rather, it means we can plan to accomplish more.  Thepledgedamount allows us to undertake the more ambitious vision for improvement, especially of the church entrance.  Even so, your fidelity in fulfilling your pledges will give us the confidence to start work before allthe money is in hand, knowing we can count on the full amount to arrive on schedule.  
The timeline to raise the full amount pledged is three years, which technically means by January 2021 (don’t let that scary date fool you; that’s just over two years away!). But we should not have to wait THAT long to start the work; I would hope that we could begin a year or even more before that, provided the continued, faithful fulfillment of the pledges.
That means this coming year will be spent on planning and preparing what the project will accomplish. You won’t see much of that work, but we should have some drawings to share with you.  Now that will be exciting!
The recent restoration of our beautiful windows revealed several things to everybody.  First, that the people who built this church endowed it with beautiful features of high quality that are meant to enlighten hearts and minds for generations to come.  Secondly, that these features require care and maintenance for preservation of their full beauty.  And thirdly, when parishioners provide generously of their resources, that is their financial resources, beauty erupts anew in our church for all to see.
She is a big church, and her beauty is great too.  The window project cost almost $200,000, provided by one big gift.  This is a big project, but I am confident that your love for Our Lord and your parish is big enough to provide.  This is all good news to provide on this anniversary of the launch of our Capital Campaign, and gives us good ground for joyful anticipation, confident perseverance in sacrificial giving, and, just in time: Thanksgiving!  
I hope to see you here Thursday. God bless you in abundance!
Monsignor Smith

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Volume One

The World War I Memorial Peace Cross in nearby Bladensburg, Maryland.
Mark the time, friends; and mark the day.  Eleven o’clock (local time in France) on this eleventh day of the eleventh month marks the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War.
The last combatant killed was an American; a Marylander, even, from Baltimore: Henry Gunther, who died at 10:59 that morning, sixty seconds before the guns went quiet.  Ironically, his parents were immigrants from Germany.
The Americans had been the last to join the fray, declaring war in April of 1917, and finally landing troops in France much later that year.  Gunther was the last of 116,708 American military personnel to die in that first of our military interventions in Europe.  
It seems like a horrifying number for such a short period – just over a year.  Compare that amount to the total number of military personnel who died: estimates range between nine and eleven million.  Every one of them had a name, a hometown, parents, and a story just like Henry Gunther did.  Then add the eight million civilians who died, and realize that our loss was a tiny portion of the carnage in that conflict, one of the deadliest in human history.  
The eruption of that great conflict in the summer of 1914, ostensibly because of a terrorist attack, the assassination of royals on parade, ended one of the longest periods of peace the Europeans had enjoyed with one another.  Because Europe was at peace, the world was largely without war, and cooperation and commerce flourished to bring about prosperity more widespread and elevated than the world had ever known.  Cultural sharing and international friendships aided by new technology and ease of travel brought people closer together than ever before; now we call it globalization.  One killer, two deaths, and the garden party collapsed into mobilizing armies and military campaigns that nobody expected but everybody was prepared for, seeming simply to happen spontaneously while everyone in charge was on August vacation. 
In those days, they called this war the “Great” one, and thought it the War to End All Wars.  But the elaborately conceived and relentlessly worked out Fratricide was just the first volume of a what would become a trilogy to be written across Western civilization over the century to follow.  Two decades later its sequel, Genocide, would reach its gruesome climax in a conflagration that wouldmake this conflict the First of something awful of which there was a Second.  The resultant societal self-doubt and collapse of confidence brought our culture to the third volume in the trilogy, already entitled Suicide, though an unknown number of chapters or perhaps pages have yet to be written before we reach The End.
One hundred years ago the guns went silent and millions rejoiced, thinking the end of this war had brought them to peace. Those combat deaths were but a trifle compared to what was to come; they had only just crossed the threshold of a century in which more people would be murdered by their own governments than the cumulative total of souls who had inhabited the planet Earth over all the preceding centuries combined.   
Pause sometime today and listen to the absence of gunfire, the absence of bombs and explosions that we enjoy hereabouts.  Find some silence, and be glad for it.  Thank a veteran for making it possible for you to enjoy the confidence that you will make it through this day without being killed.   And maybe, just maybe, reconsider what you might have been thinking was the gravest threat to the peace of the world, the peace of your home, and the peace of your heart.
Monsignor Smith

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Three Simple Things

While it has been good to reflect on something other than the evils infesting the Church, I take this opportunity to return to the subject, but I hope in a pro-active, productive way. Along with grief, anger, consternation, frustration, disbelief, and confusion that you have rightly experienced and shared with me because of all that has been revealed since that Wednesday in late June, there also have been two other consistent responses from the faithful in Christ, including you, for which I am daily grateful.   The first is concern for me, and I would guess for other priests whom you know. That is a greater gift than I can express!  The second is the desire you have to do something.  It is this latter, healthy desire that I hope to address.
Earlier this summer I shared with you some examples of my personal knowledge and experiences of the plague that afflicts our Church, and the resolute opposition to it that I am confident my entire generation of clergy shares.  This has resulted among clergy of the past quarter-century or thereabouts in a habit of refusal to accept not only participation in, but moreover laxness toward or even casual tolerance of unchaste behavior or language among the brethren, and wherever practicable to be “our brother’s keeper.”  
When it came to those above us and ahead of us, who exercise authority over us and not vice versa, who failed to see the serious necessity of this accountability, I admit that there has been some resignation to wait for the cancer to pass from the Body of Christ – to “age out,” as it were.   Perhaps it is my intimate familiarity with the hierarchy that leads me to a conviction of its immovability, and therefore a certain degree of cynicism about your or my ability to elicit some action or change.  
But one of the brethren, my friend Msgr. Bill Parent, Pastor of St. Elizabeth in Rockville, recently proposed to his parish a letter for them send to the Holy Father’s representative in the United States, the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre.  The letter is circumspect but forthright, and acknowledges that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was allowed to abuse us, the people of the Archdiocese of Washington, when he was placed over us even though already a known abuser.  It is right and reasonable for us to express our desire for these three things – truth, accountability, and transparency.  
I might come up with a different letter if I were to draft one myself, as well might you.  But this one is good, especially the closing paragraph that steers us clear of disobedience and disorder.  To lend our voices to this call, already undertaken by our brothers and sisters in Rockville, will lend weight to unanimity.  
Go to the web site of Saint Elizabeth Rockville ( and click on “Three Simple Things,” or to ( to get straight to the letter, and click on the PDF.  You can type in your name and address, then print the letter, sign it, and put it in the mail.  Also, I will print copies of the letter and place them near the entrance of the church.  Write in your name and address, then sign the letter and mail it.  Or, if you want, you may drop your completed letter at the rectory and we will make a packet for the Nunciature, also send copies to Cardinal DiNardo, President of the USCCB.   
With the help of God, the weight of this outcry will reveal to the hierarchy the seriousness of our alarm and concern.  With the help of God, this will have a positive influence on the choice of our next Archbishop and the behavior of all Bishops.  With the help of God, this will help with the purification of Christ’s Church that he has already so painfully begun.  
Sometimes, there can be a temptation among clergy to avoid a good idea because somebody else came up with it. Not giving in to that temptation, I hope you also will think this is a good idea.  If you do not, it is not by any means something that you have to do.  But I present to you today because it is something that you can do.
Monsignor Smith