Spiritual Resources

July 26, 2020 – Summer Helper Column

Good Afternoon, St. Cecilia! My name is Jacob Redmond, and I am the most recent addition to the summer helper program.

Growing up, I was Catholic and went to Archbishop Neale School in Laplata, Maryland. During my time there, I learned a lot about the Lord.  They taught me things like the ten commandments, the bible, and the rosary, but never told me that I could be in a relationship with Our Lord. No one told me that I could know Our Lord in the same way I know my closest friend. I did not know that the Lord and I could have conversations in which I would talk, and he would reply, and, most importantly, I did not know how to listen to his reply. I did not know how to enter a personal relationship with Him.

Lacking a relationship with Our Lord, I thought that being Catholic was pointless. I saw Catholicism as a whole bunch on standing and sitting on Sunday. I did not understand why I was Catholic, so in high school, I turned to the world for happiness.

I partied a lot starting in my freshman year through the first half of my senior year, but I was always interested in my theology classes. Particularly in my junior and senior year, I had a theology teacher named John Olon, who challenged my class to have a relationship with Our Lord. Bear in mind, this whole time, I was still living a very worldly life. In my mind, God was this big idea in the sky that was distant from us, so I ignored Mr. Olon and kept living a life trying to make myself happy.

Senior year of high school came around, and I was at rock bottom. By Christmas time that year, I was going to leave home and move in with a friend that was trouble. With my plans pretty much set, I went to a movie night hosted by Mr. Olon for his students. I liked his class and figured why not.

The movie was “Life is Beautiful” which is about a Jewish husband, wife, and son during the holocaust. The movie shows how, during the holocaust, the husband, Guido, sacrifice for the good of his family. For example, at one point, the family is brought to a concentration camp. His child starts asking questions about why they were there. So, the father comes up with the story that everyone in the camp is playing a game. He tells his son that in the game, the winner gets a tank, and the guys with guns are trying to get them out. All the son has to do in order to win a tank is to avoid the people. For the rest of the movie, Guido makes sure that the child is having fun playing the game. The father, in the face of the greatest tragedy in all of history, makes sure his son is having fun. Let the selflessness of Guido sink in for a moment. He wills the good of another through sacrifice. He loves his family.

I went away from that movie with a tear in my eyes. In my 18 years, I had done pretty much everything the world had to offer. I had drunk, smoked, fornicated, cheated, lied, and stolen. I had received all kinds of pleasures from these activities. But in all my life, I had never once encountered a person who loves so completely, like Guido in the movie. A love that selflessly lays its life down for the other.

I went home that night unsure about the whole Catholic thing, but I knew that I wanted to be in a relationship with the One who loves like that. Seeking that Person, but not knowing where to find Him, I got on my knees. I made the sign of the cross and said to the Lord, “Lord, if you want me to be Catholic, give me a sign in the next 24 hours.”

It is important to know that I was born on January 12th, 1999. My mom went into labor with me at 3:00 am. It is the night of January 11th, 2017, and Mr. Olon’s wife, Nahn, was due with her child on January 15th. That night after the movie, I was up late doing homework for the end of the quarter. Eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, one o’clock, two o’clock, and nothing had happened. Then out of nowhere at 2:57 am, there was a text on my phone. It was from Mr. Olon which read, “Happy Birthday, looks like you are going to share a Birthday. Nahn just went into labor with our son.”

I started to cry then and there. Not because a man, whose wife was in labor with her son, took the time to text me, but because Jesus used this experience to reveal himself to me. John and Nahn had sacrificed a bit of their time, when Nahn was in labor, to will my good of companionship. Jesus showed me that how John loved me and how Guido loved his son, was a glimpse of how He loved me. Jesus used two men, who loved, to reveal Himself to me. That night, for the first time, I could say I knew our Lord and how He loved in a personal way. I got down on my knee, made the sign of the cross, and said, “Lord, you got me, I am yours. I will be Catholic. You win.”

From then on, I have continued to enter a deeper and deeper relationship with Our Lord. Things were still hard. I had vices, and still do, but that night a massive change occurred within my life. I choose to respond to Jesus’ call to enter into Him, with Him, and it is from that relationship that my life has been changed. It was not an idea, a philosophy, or a movement that changed me, but rather a relationship with a person.

It will be good to get to know you all during these strange times, and I ask that you please pray for me.

In Christ,

Jacob

 

July 26, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

If you ask most pastors who are usually the most difficult people to work within a parish, and if they are honest, they will tell you it is the church musician! I am very blessed at both my parishes to have excellent, talented, humble, Christ-loving musicians who have been a joy to work with these 12 years.  Sadly, the time of service for us all is limited, but for most church Musicians, since they see it as a vocation (a call from God), they stay years, decades, and sometimes a lifetime. Down here, in St. Mary’s County, far from the colleges that turn out Musicians every year, it is often hard to find a talented church organist, piano player, and choir director. Yet, at both parishes, we have had them, and they have been with us for many years.

Today, I want to highlight Betty Wearing, our church Musician at St. Cecilia Church, who is now ending her tenure with us after 18 years of service.  At the beginning of COVID, Betty called to tell me she could not come in as long as pandemic was happening because of her need to protect her dad, who is in his 90’s.  We both thought this would last only a few weeks and then maybe a few months. Now that the experts are saying it will most likely last until next year, or longer, Betty recognized as much as she has loved working here, she was going to have to retire as our church musician at St. Cecilia.

Betty, like Roy at St Peter Claver’s, is extremely hardworking, kind, easy to work with, open to suggestions, and in love with God and His people. Many may not know this, but Betty has also acted beyond the job. She is the Sunday morning sacristan (one who set up for Mass), she used to shop for the food pantry, unlock the confessional, and assist visiting priest with the ins and outs of Mass at St Cecilia. Betty became a friend to several Parishioners, and has always watched out for me.  She has been a blessing to me personally and to the whole parish. Please pray for Betty and her family.

Your Brother and Father in Christ,

Fr. Scott

Side note:  William Bolin, our St. Mary’s College Campus Minister, has consented to take over the job leading music at St Cecilia’s. He plays organ, piano, and guitar.  He has lead music on many retreats and conferences all over the archdiocese and beyond.

July 5, 2020 – Summer Helper Column

In the gospel for this week, our Lord cries out to us with His most intimate invitation. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” It is in this invitation that we might come face to face with the fear that following our Lord can be overwhelming, especially during these times. This temptation can draw us away from our Lord’s message. Our Lord says definitively, “Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” However, we must always remember that for anyone, at any time, challenge is a promise. But what we do when faced with these challenges, our crosses, that separates the Christian from all else.

While many of us are called to act or be inactive in different ways, one universal choice must be made: We must turn to our Lord and find rest in Him. It is through doing this that we will find true peace. While we are often told that hiding from conflict is the way to this rest, our Lord shows us the opposite. By being fearless and walking confidently into Our Lord’s rest, we find true peace.

I hope and pray that this week and onward, we will all turn to our Lord and trust that through bearing our crosses, we will find true rest in the loving guidance and embrace of our Lord.

God Bless,

Carson Phillips

July 5, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

“You will be ever young” at the start of COVID, I visited Helen, a woman who had been a daily communicant, daily Mass sacristan, twice a week food pantry volunteer, and an active parish council attendee at St Cecilia’s. She was not very sick, and she had just gotten out of another extended stay in the hospital and rehabilitation center. She was physically weak, tired, hard of hearing, and her health was in decline. I came by expecting that with her condition, she would not be in the best of moods and would most likely would not want to speak long. To my surprise, once her home aid woke her up, she came alive. She was the same joyful, talkative, and, most of all, funny conversationalist she had always been. Normally on sick calls, I have to lead the conversation and find topics to discuss (which can be very draining). She not only led the conversations but swept me off of my feet with her humor, joy, faith, and trust in the Lord. She did not complain much and only had words of gratefulness about her home aid and her son Ed who took care of her. It was beautiful to behold.

I did not know this would be my last visit with Helen. She had health problems most of the time I knew her, but she always overcame them, and as soon as she could, she returned to Mass and to serve in the food pantry. Our Lord had other plans for her this time. It was so unexpected, even for a woman in her 90s, she was so young, so funny, and so full of life. I could barely believe it when I received the news of her passing. Yet she was always prepared to meet the Lord. Her life was a constant song of praise, a hymn of love to God, family, friends, and the poor. I only pray that others will now step into her shoes and continue to do the work of the Lord in this small part of God’s garden.

Your Brother and Father in Christ,
Fr. Scott Woods

June 28, 2020 – Summer Helper Column

What a peculiar time to be alive, yet, what a perfect time to be a saint. I pray all of us within this community are holding fast to our Lord. As the times grow more confusing, our Lord beckons us to grip him.

In this Sunday’s gospel, our Lord states we must have a deep love for Him, deeper than that which we hold for anything else of this world. Along with this, we all must have a deep ordering to follow our Lord by carrying our crosses, while many times, we can all be found guilty of desiring to avoid these crosses. Of placing our Lord anywhere else besides the center of our lives. Especially now, we must push ourselves to pray and fast, to bear these crosses with piety for the sake of our souls. It may sound like a punishment, but know that our Lord’s love for us does not cease when challenges are plenty. Our Lord shows His love to us the most when He calls us to suffer.

During this summer with Father Scott and the other men joining us, I have been experiencing a deep fraternity and joy, even in these complicated circumstances. Our Lord desires us to pray and fast fervently, for our Church, for our country and families. It is through these willful acts of penance that our suffering becomes like kindling for an intense fire of joy; a fire that spreads to others as a beautiful witness to our faith. While the words of this gospel are intimidating, our Lord does not send a challenge without a way to be joyful, appreciative of His love, and the beauty of his creation.

This community is incredibly powerful! I hope you all fervently take upon your crosses and pray for me as I do the same.

In Christ,

Carson Phillips

Pastor’s Keyboard – June 21, 2020

Recently a local pastor of a non-catholic parish called me to ask what I was doing to get the church services up and running again. I first made clear to him that I had a lot of help, but it still was not easy. After all, now we must have seating with six feet distance on all sides of every family or individual that attends the Mass. We are not allowed to have a choir singing music, Communion must be distributed in a way that I can purify my fingers every time I touch someone’s hand, or if someone receive on the tongue.

If this were not enough, ushers must direct people to pews and Communion. Every weekend Mass is live-streamed and recorded on our Facebook page (so we need someone to do that). I have to make sure the church pews and door handles are sanitized after every Mass. Along with this, I must give out Communion by myself at all Masses. All I can say is thanks be to God for the summer helpers! They have had to serve, lector, usher (at St. Cecilia), learn how to properly sanitize the church, and learn how to use a camera so we can post live-streamed videos of our Masses, funeral, and weddings on our Facebook page.

All of this is to say it has taken a lot of organization, hardworking parish staff members, volunteers, patience, and prayer. Because of this, we are blessed to have all our regular Masses up and running at both St. Cecilia and St. Peter Claver. I’m more grateful then I can say to so many of you for your prayers, for checking in on us, making meals, and those who continue to volunteer, as well as the financial support everyone is continuing to give so we can pay our bills. As I described all this to my pastor friend in much greater detail than here, it started to hit me how much we are doing to make it possible for our parishioners to attend Mass safely and respectfully.

Know that myself, the seminarians, and summer helpers are praying for you all every day at Mass and holy hour. Please continue to pray for us. There is much ahead, and I have no idea how it will affect us, but God does. Since He is still in charge, I am not worrying but trusting in the goodness of the Lord. May you do the same.

Your brother and father in Christ,
Fr. Scott

June 14, 2020 – Summer Helper Column

The mystery of the Eucharist will never be completely understood, but there are a few aspects of the mystery that are my favorites. The Eucharist is a gift, it is the best gift I have ever received, and I am sure it is the best gift anyone has ever received. Usually, when we give and receive gifts there is an exchange. I give you something and you give me something of relatively the same value. However, the sacrament of the Eucharist is God giving Himself to us, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is the closest we can come to God outside of heaven. It is a gift we will never be able to reciprocate, the only way we can even come close to reciprocating this gift is by giving ourselves to God, by loving Him with our entire heart, soul, and strength.

The Eucharist is defined as the source and summit of our faith, it is everything. The entirety of the Mass is structured around this perfect gift of the Eucharist. It puts on display His fiery love for us and it is an amazing display of humility. Not only did He become a man so that we may come to know and love Him, but He also died for us. Then He gave us Himself to us in the Eucharist, where He is vulnerable, with no way of protecting Himself. He put himself into our care so that we may love him in our reverence towards the Eucharist; in how we handle Him and in how we act in His presence. He does all this because of how much he loves us and desires us to be with Him.

Now that Churches are opening, it gives us the opportunity to be with our loving God once again in the sacrifice of the Mass and in Adoration. And in this time of separation from these gifts, no matter how much we may have missed receiving these divine gifts, He has missed it infinitely more.

God Bless,

Eric Bain

 

June 7, 2020 – Summer Seminarian Column

A blessed Trinity Sunday to you all! My name is Joseph Brown, and I will be one of the summer helpers this year. In fact, this will be my second summer here; four years ago, I worked for Fr. Scott before attending The Catholic University of America, from which I have just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. Thank you for welcoming me (back) to the parish for the summer. I hope to grow in faith and sanctity with you over the coming months!

One thing I wanted to reflect on this Sunday is the Holy Liturgy. At some point, we will pass from this earthly life and, pray God, enter purgatory where we will be purified, so that we may be able to see God face to face. We will join the angels and saints in the heavenly worship of God, the true heavenly liturgy. The Church gives us the earthly liturgy as a way to participate in Christ’s perfect worship of the Father, as they are essentially the same one act of Christ at work. This is why the ordained priest is the only one who can offer the Mass. He is configured in a special way to Christ to be able to perform the same act of worship once completed by Christ on the Cross, albeit in a sacramental manner, not in a bloody manner.

One way the Holy Liturgy teaches us is through its deeply meaningful symbolic actions and postures. The tradition at this parish has been to celebrate Mass with the priest facing the tabernacle during the Christmas and Easter seasons. Though it may seem like the priest has his back to the people, this is an ancient practice called ad orientem, which is Latin for “toward the east.” Traditionally, Churches were built on the east to west axis, with the altar facing the east, the rising sun, to symbolize that we are in waiting for Christ, the true Sun, to rise over the earth and dispel the darkness. This means that the priest is not facing “away from the people” but that the priest and the faithful are facing in the same direction, the priest leading the people to God. Just like Christ ascended into heaven, not to distance Himself from us, but to show us that where He has gone first, (heaven!) we, too, will soon follow.

In conclusion, when the priest faces God to celebrate the Mass, we can be assured that where the priest goes first, we, too, will follow. The priest and faithful stand together facing God, to show that through the Mass, we will be drawn into the heavenly liturgy where we will be face to face with God, perfectly incorporated into Christ’s self-offering to the Father.

God Bless,

Joseph Brown

May 31, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

Pastors column: I recently read this about the Eucharist from one of my favorite mystics Catherine De Bar.

“All must remain in the silence of admiration. A God makes Himself our food! O astonishing prodigy! What are all the miracles worked by Jesus Christ during the course of His earthly life in comparison to this one? What a spectacle! What bounty! What charity! A God who gives Himself to us! O love! He who with three fingers sustains the universe is held by the priest. He who commands all of nature obeys a being who is nothing. He who is all-powerful makes Himself so dependent that He is in the power of His creatures; they carry Him, they bring Him wherever they choose. This is too much. Your charity, my Savior, goes even to excess! O incomprehensible miracle! Mystery forever inconceivable! No, the thought of man would not know how to attain it. “

How privileged we are to receive our Lord once again. Maybe one of the best things that could come from the long Eucharistic fast you have endured will be an even greater hunger to receive Him more often. Many are now home every day! Why not come to a daily mass or two? Temporarily, many no longer drive to work, so why not stop by at St. Peter Claver convent chapel or at St. Cecilia church to visit Jesus, who awaits us in the Blessed Sacrament? We are so privileged to have this chance once again to visit with the Lord. Let us pray that more people will come to enjoy and bask in the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord.

Your Father and Brother in Christ,
Fr. Scott Woods

May 17, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

Pastor’s Keyboard: One of the greatest blessing of this time of quarantine has been the number of family and friends who have begun to reach out to check in on me.  Several them I have not heard from in a long time, so it has been nice catching up with everyone.  What has really amazed me are the number of parishioners that call, stop by, bring food (for the hungry seminarians), and send texts just to bring encouragement as well as to see if the parish needs anything.  Some have even called to offer part or all of their stimulus check to the parish, food pantry, or the First District Catholic Aid Society.  Many are bringing food by weekly to the food pantry and often ask what they should look for when they go shopping.

I feel like the most blessed pastor on the planet because of the incredible kindness and charity given to our parish, those in need, and to me and the seminarians.  Every time I offer the Mass, I intentionally lift up on the paten (the gold plate that holds the bread to be consecrated) for each one of you. Sometimes the Lord even brings to mind certain individuals and families, especially the ones I know are in the most stress or strain or the ones HE knows need it.

My hope is that with the Diocese of Arlington starting to offer public Masses starting this weekend, we are not far off from reopening.  Keep praying! Keep making spiritual communions! Keep reaching out to family, friends and fellow parishioners! And most of all, keep trusting and loving the Lord and those you are staying with!

Know you are in my prayers and the seminarian’s prayers. Please keep us in yours.

 

Your Father and Brother in Christ,

Fr. Scott Woods