May 25

Monday, May 25th

Good evening, Good evening,

I am late sending this letter as I took the two seminarians and a few others fishing today.  It was a wonderful occasion to sneak off to a farm pond near Middleburg, Virginia.  I leave you with a few pictures from another fishing event.  Of course I will have to go to Confession for helping to expand the photos… if you know what I mean.

The other morning I was sitting on one of the benches out in front of the church just looking out over the horizon.  It is been a hard nine weeks with the pandemic.  A character building experience for a great number of us.  I happen to live in the best rectory of the diocese and found great solace in the wit and wisdom of the priest and two seminarians I was associated with.

A woman walked up to the bench  and apologized for disturbing my quiet time.  I responded, not at all.  She asked when we will open up full time.  And I responded, “It’s not too far away… I hope.”  She asked me an interesting question, “What have you missed in the Lockdown?”  I smiled and said, “I miss the Fish Fries.”  “Really?”

In the lockdown I have always been awed by the hunger and thirst expressed by the parishioners for Communion.  We had plenty for Confessions from this parish and beyond… especially beyond.  We had plenty who would dial in for Masses on the Internet as well prayers from the rectory for, Morning Prayer, evening prayer, rosary, and night prayer.  We had a beautiful display of families at adoration… especially the loving husbands and wives.  We had the voices rising with the Divine Mercy adoration every day at three o’clock.  The Charismatic group has been meeting online from the chapel every Wednesday night.  We have had Baptisms, First Communions, Weddings, and Funerals… on the camera for the distant relatives.  We have had an incredible display of generosity to the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal and weekly collections.  The Knights of Columbus have been breaking records in the amount of food they have been collecting for the Food Pantry in Leesburg.  I have met with the CHRSM group and have enjoyed listening to their plans for school in the Fall.  The Guardian Angels Group has been calling all the Seniors in the parish, checking on them.  One senior called me in tears thanking the parish group that called her.  I will leave you with a note from the Mother Therese Garden program… raising crops for the Food Pantry in Leesburg. (More on that below.)   The darn pandemic hasn’t slowed our parish down.  Quite the opposite, it has cranked us up spiritually.

No, I want a Fish Fry for one and all to come home.  I want the baked potato with butter and sour cream.  I will bring my own corn on the cob if necessary.  I want to start in the kitchen and listen to the lovely voices singing out with love for God and all of us… None of them had to be there and because they were we stood stronger as a Family in Faith.   Yes, we are all blessed to stand together in such a difficult time.  It is not over yet.  But it should be recognized on how it has changed us for the better.

I will send you the report from the Mother Therese Committee.  From the E-Mail you can see who to contact them if you want to jump on board.  Everyone is welcome to the parish groups that mark our home.

Happy Memorial Day to one and all.  I have mentioned this story in a Sunday letter some time back.  Memorial Day officially started after the Civil War… in the North.   But not celebrated by the Southern states until after World War I.  Part the original discord for the Day was found quite near us in Warrenton, Virginia.  During one of the several occupations on Warrenton the Yankee soldiers used the Southern grave markers in the town cemetery for their campfires.  It wasn’t like Fauquier County was missing trees for wood.  It was pure malice that left four hundred unmarked graves, memorials, for the Virginians, and beyond.

It is quite ironic that the first Southern casualty of the Civil War is buried in the Warrenton cemetery.  “On June 3, 1861, Warrenton, Virginia, was the location of the first Civil War soldier’s grave ever to be decorated, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper article in 1906, This decoration was for the funeral of the first soldier killed in action during the Civil War, John Quincy Marr, who died on June 1, 1861 during a skirmish at Battle of Fairfax Courthouse in Virginia.”

All is not so dark as caused by the behavior of a few in a war setting.  The women of the South often put flowers at the graves of the fallen soldiers.  And, I am sure their counterparts to the North did the same. There was always a sentiment of respect for those who died in the military campaigns.  In fact, it is rather difficult to ascertain who actually started our “Memorial Day.”  I believe there are twenty five places around the country that claim to have initiated the holiday.  It doesn’t really matter by whom it originated or where it started.  It matters that all who have fallen on the open plains of America to those who step onto the hostile territories of the Middle East are remembered and honored.  God bless them and God bless America.

A story from outside the box.  One of my dear friends in the diocese was also a schoolmate when I attended Blessed Sacrament Grammar School in Alexandria.  Her married name is Karline Webster and she lives in Woodstock, Virginia.  Her claim to fame is neither Blessed Sacrament Grammar School nor friendship with me.  She was the personal secretary for Rear Admiral (Later Senator from Alabama), Jeremiah Denton.

Denton spent eight years in the North Vietnamese Prisons and survived to come home while many many of his compatriots died in captivity.  He wrote a book on the experience titled, “When Hell Was In Session.”  It was a very moving book and made into a movie.  Actor Hal Holbrook played the A-6 pilot, Denton.

And now the rest of the story.  There was one part of the story Rear Admiral Denton was not permitted to tell in the book nor did it make it to the movie.  Prisoner Denton was a devout Catholic and all through the years, through many beatings he appealed to the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” for help.  He also prayed for the “Donut,” the circle that shaped his vision just before he would pass out.  One day it happened… a vision of Christ just before he passed out.  It was plain as day and stood out in is memory on recovery in his cell.

The next day Prisoner Denton was provided with a Bible and clean prisoner attire.  And the beatings came to an end.  The untold story was Denton’s conviction that the guard given the duty of torturing him… also saw the vision of the Sacred Heart of Christ.  Let us pray for one another.

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