Spiritual Resources

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

May 10, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

Pastors keyboard: If someone were to ask me what question I get asked the most, I would have to say it is, “When will public Mass resume again”?  It is the question that me and my brother priest ask each other the most and the one answer that we are most anticipating.  The short answer I have received from the archdiocese is the same answer that they have received from the Governors faith based working group, which is this:

“The key milestones that need to be met in Maryland before starting to lift any restrictions: (1) Adequate PPE (185 countries are trying to obtain PPE from limited suppliers. Maryland goes through 11 million gowns per two weeks and many more million in masks); (2) Have surge capacity in ICU and acute care hospital beds (Maryland has 4,800 beds but needs 6,000 to handle potential surge after reopening. Twenty-two triage units along with opening of Laurel Hospital, Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park and the Baltimore Convention Center will get to the 6,000 beds soon.); (3) Enough testing capability; and (4) Flattening the curve (following Federal guidelines needing 14 days of decreasing deaths and hospital stays, and Maryland is not there yet. “

I know, you are thinking “where is the good news”?  The good news is that Jesus is Risen! He still loves us and works to bring about our highest good. He can do “All Things”!  Also, many good people in the state and government are working hard to meet these goals. So, the hope is that sometime in the near future, churches will begin to open again in Maryland.  Until then, I encourage you to continue to pray and, if possible, fast and offer up penances for this pandemic.

One of the last things Patricia Ball texted me before she died was that the Lord is trying to tell us something.  Not just as a culture, but as individuals. It is a good time to look at the opportunities for spiritual growth that can still take place now in this new normal. Some questions we should ask ourselves are:

 

1) What is most important in my life?

 

2) What can I live without and what can I not live without?

 

3) Who do I wish I could most visit with at this moment?

 

4) When things do start to open again, are there important changes I need to make in my mind set, life, and how I spend my time and waste my time?

 

5) Was there any good I got out of this experience that led me to trust in the Lord more?

 

How we answer these questions can tell us a lot about where we have been and where we are heading.

May the Lord help us to be honest with ourselves and with Him.  May we learn many good lessons that will help us to appreciate every day of life and good health. Remember that every day is a blessing!  May we recognize it and strive to use what we have been given.

Your Father and Brother in Christ

Fr. Scott Woods

April 26, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

Pastors Keyboard: As many of you know, I am now offering Mass live streamed on Facebook and then leaving it taped on our parish Facebook page every day of the week. For a long time, I resisted doing this, fearing that it would be a distraction from true worship within the Mass, and for me. I have never liked being on T.V. or in photos. My own insecurities come out. Yet after persistent requests from parishioners, college students and others, along with an offer to do all the technology part from Cookie Pontzer (one of our Latin Mass parishioners from St. Peter Clavers), I finally decided to do it two Saturdays ago ( the Easter Vigil). The response was incredibly positive, and so many have said how much they appreciated it (even though it was tough since we had not worked out the kinks). I realized that we should do more.

 
When I called Cookie to ask if she would be willing to air more, maybe even daily mass and twice on Sunday, she immediately said “Father, that is exactly what I was going to ask you”. This seemed to be Divine Choreographer. Since then Cookie and her husband have found better ways to live stream and to get the sound and quality improvements that some were asking for. Mass last Sunday at Peter Claver had over 600 views as of Monday morning! Far more then attend all my Sunday masses put together. We do not know how many watch the whole Mass, just check out the Homily, or click in and click out. But after hearing from you the faithful how thankful you are to be able to see Mass at your parishes, I now see how the Lord once again arranged everything for your good and mine dispute my initial misgivings.

 
Please continue to pray for me and for the seminarians during this time. They are deep into their online classes while also taking on some of the task of helping me where they can with pastoral work. Know that we are praying daily for you and for your families. I am still offering the Masses daily for the Mass intentions, so let me know if you would like me to offer Mass for anyone.

 
Know that “The Lord is with you”! And He will see you and me through this extraordinary time. Let us be faithful, prayerful, generous, and trusting in the Lord.

 

Your brother and father in Christ,
Fr Scott