Pope Francis has called parishes to “provide a fruitful and creative encounter between the Gospel and the culture.” A parish should be a center that is conducive to an encounter with Christ. The Holy Father says, “Parishes must make a determined missionary decision that is capable of changing everything. The Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times, schedules, language, and structures must be channeled to the evangelization of today’s world, rather than for her self-preservation.”
In May, Archbishop Perez met with the priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in Hershey for a Priest Convocation. During our gathering, he discussed his thoughts on the Holy Fathers’ ideas. He outlined his three top priorities for the Catholic Church in Philadelphia:
1. Move the mentality from crisis to hope.
2. Build up resources for the sake of the Church’s mission.
3. Build – in the Archdiocese and in the parishes – a culture of intentional, missionary discipleship.
He announced an initiative, entitled, “Called for More.” This initiative calls for parishes to do an assessment, determine three “Parish Priorities,” and then develop six goals - 2 for each priority. The goals should be completed over the next 3 – 5 years. Archbishop Perez said, “I want each parish to put these three goals, and the plans to achieve those goals, on my desk by Ash Wednesday.”
Catholic Leadership Institute is assisting the Archdiocese and individual parishes in this process. What is striking is that CLI is doing the same for hundreds of parishes, in 14 dioceses and archdioceses, across the country. Is it probably the largest religious self-assessment ever undertaken?
Additionally, every priest in the Archdiocese is to perform a similar analysis of themselves and their ministry. An instrument was developed for the priests to develop a “Personal Priest Growth Plan.” Each priest will examine the Human, Intellectual, Spiritual and Pastoral dimensions of their ministry. The goals for this plan are to be submitted to the Archbishop at the same time as the parishes.
Over the past few months, several events occurred that deal with this self-reflection of the Church, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and Saint Raymond parish. For example, St. Raymond parishioners completed the Disciple Maker Index. This instrument was developed by Catholic Leadership Institute. It measures the spiritual, devotional, temporal, and liturgical health of a parish. In a few weeks, I would like to invite a diverse group of parishioners to examine the results of the DMI. We can then begin the process to discern three Parish Priorities and the six goals. Besides the DMI, there are other areas we should examine. They include the state of our building and grounds, our finances, financial policies and procedures, our social ministry, liturgy and music, staff development, discipleship, and evangelization efforts, how we form our adults in the faith, how we form our children and young adults in the faith.
It is an exciting time to be at St. Raymond. I shall continue to keep you all informed as we move this process forward. Blessings to you all.
Saturday, December 31st.
at St. Raymonds
Holy Hour 10:00 pm
Mass at 11:00 pm
“It is a day for poetry and song, a new song. These cloudless skies, this balmy air, this brilliant sunshine . . . are in harmony with the glorious morning of liberty about to dawn upon us.” Frederick Douglass
On the night of December 31, 1862, enslaved and free African Americans gathered, many in secret, to ring in the new year and await news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. Just a few months earlier, on September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the executive order that declared enslaved people in the rebelling Confederate States legally free. However, the decree would not take effect until the clock struck midnight at the start of the new year. The occasion, known as Watch Night or “Freedom's Eve,” marks when African Americans across the country watched and waited for the news of freedom. Today, Watch Night is an annual New Year’s Eve tradition that includes the memory of slavery and freedom, reflections on faith, and a celebration of community and strength.
New Year’s Eve Vigil (Saturday) 5:00 pm; Holy Hour 10:00 pm
followed by Mass at 11:00 pm New Year’s Day (Sunday) at 8:00 am & 10:00 am
SOLEMN BLESSING OF EPIPHANY WATER
Thursday, January 5, 2023, at 7:00 PM
While the feast of Epiphany in the Roman Rite is primarily focused on the visit of
the Magi, historically it was more focused on the baptism of Jesus Christ in the
Jordan River. For this reason, there developed a special blessing of Epiphany
water in memory of Jesus sanctifying the waters of Baptism.
This blessing of water on Epiphany was maintained by Eastern Catholics, but
Roman Catholics also have an optional ceremony that was approved in 1890 that
did homage to this tradition.
The emphasis of the blessing, however, was less on the commemoration of
Jesus’ baptism and more on the symbolic nature of water as a cleansing agent. In
this way, the blessing of Epiphany water in the Roman Rite was used to cast out
Satan and all his demonic angels.
It is a powerful blessing, one that uses strong language to invoke the power of
God over evil. It reminds us of the spiritual power of holy water and encourages
us to use it in faith, trusting in the protecting help of God over our spiritual
This blessing is quite beautiful and will be done in the Traditional Rite. Blest
water will be available afterward.
Epiphany of Our Lord Church
3050 Walton Road
Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr 12/26/22 Saint Stephen was one of the first ordained deacons of the Church. He was also the first Christian martyr. The Greek word from which we derive the English word martyr literally means witness. In that sense, every Christian is called to bear witness to Jesus Christ, in both their words and their actions. Not all are asked to shed their blood.
Those who do shed their blood for the faith are the greatest witnesses. They have been especially honored since the very beginning of Christianity. Stephen was so conformed to Jesus in his holy life that his martyrdom was both a natural and supernatural sign of his love for the Lord. It also inspired the early believers as they faced the first round of brutal persecution.
His behavior, even forgiving those who were taking his life while he was being stoned to death, was a beautiful reflection of how conformed he truly was to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is recorded in Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 7:54-60), which immediately follows the Gospels in the New Testament.
Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist 12/27/22 St. John, the Evangelist, who is styled in the Gospel, "the beloved disciple", was a Galilean, son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother to St. James the Greater, both of whom were fishermen. Jesus called the two to be disciples as they were mending their nets by the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus showed St. John particular instances of kindness and affection above all the rest. He had the happiness to be present with Peter and James at the Transfiguration of Christ and was permitted to witness His agony in the Garden. He was allowed to rest on Our Savior's bosom at the Last Supper, and to him
Jesus confided the care of His holy Mother as He hung dying on the Cross. St. John was the only one of the Apostles who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion and Death.
It seems that St. John remained for a long time in Jerusalem, but that his later years were spent at Ephesus, whence he founded many churches in Asia Minor. St. John wrote his Gospel after the other Evangelists, about sixty-three years after the Ascension of Christ; also three Epistles, and the wonderful and mysterious Book of the Apocalypse or Revelation. He was brought to Rome and, according to tradition, was cast into a caldron of boiling oil by order of Emperor Domitian. Like the Three Children in the fiery furnace of Babylon, he was miraculously preserved unhurt.
He was later exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he wrote the Apocalypse, but afterward returned to Ephesus. In his extreme old age, he continued to visit the churches of Asia. St. Jerome relates that when age and weakness grew upon him so that he was no longer able to preach to the people, he would be carried to the assembly of the faithful by his disciples, with great difficulty; and every time said to his flock only these words: "My dear children, love one another."
St. John died in peace at Ephesus in the third year of Trajan (as seems to be gathered from Eusebius' history of the Saint); that is, the hundredth of the Christian era, or the sixty-sixth from the crucifixion of Christ, St. John then being about ninety-four years old, according to St. Epiphanius. —Excerpted from Heavenly Friends, St. Paul Editions
Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs 12/28/22 Today, dearest brethren, we celebrate the birthday of those children who were slaughtered, as the Gospel tells us, by that exceedingly cruel king, Herod. Let the earth, therefore, rejoice and the Church exult — she, the fruitful mother of so many heavenly champions and of such glorious virtues. Never, in fact, would that impious tyrant have been able to benefit these children by the sweetest kindness as much as he has done by his hatred. For as today's feast reveals, in the measure with which malice in all its fury was poured out upon the holy children, did heaven's blessing stream down upon them.
"Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers' womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives, they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod's cruelty tore as sucklings from their mother's bosom, are justly hailed as "infant martyr flowers"; they were the Church's first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.
Memorial of Saint Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr 12/29/22 Four knights hustled down the nave of England’s Canterbury Cathedral, weighed down with tackle and found the church’s, strong man. Eyes narrowed. Teeth clenched. Hard words were spat back and forth. Tempers. A tussle. Then the four knights brutishly struck down Thomas Becket, his blood defiling the sanctuary. People quickly flooded the Cathedral, but no one touched the dead body, none even dared go near it. The news blew like an ill wind through all of Europe. The December spilling of an Archbishop’s blood in his own Metropolitan Cathedral, a sin joining martyrdom with sacrilege, was perhaps the most stunning deed of the High Middle Ages.
Our saint referred to himself as “Thomas of London” and said his enemies alone styled him “Becket.” He was not of noble blood and rose in the Church primarily through the patronage of an admiring Archbishop, who dispatched Thomas to Rome several times on sensitive Church-Sate missions. Thomas was appointed Chancellor by English King Henry II, cementing their warm, personal bond. Perhaps hoping friendship had softened Thomas’ resistance to the royal will, the King proposed his friend as Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the English Church. The decision was ratified by the Pope, so Thomas, who had remained a Deacon until that point, was quickly ordained a priest and then consecrated a bishop. But his appointment to high ecclesial office poisoned Thomas’ friendship with Henry II, led to years of exile, and ultimately drove those four determined knights through the doors of Canterbury Cathedral.
Thomas Becket was a complex man in whose soul formidable virtues swirled as one with powerful vices. He was volatile, easily provoked, and vain. He relished the magnificence of his high status and traveled with a personal retinue of two hundred servants, knights, musicians, and falconers. He fought for England on the battlefield, engaging in hand-to-hand combat while vested in chain mail. But Thomas also fasted, endured severe penances, prayed devoutly, was generous with the poor, and lived a life of purity. Being ordained a bishop helped to cool his temper, abate his pride, and refine his coarser traits.
England’s two strongest men were destined to clash over their exclusive loyalties to Holy Church and Holy Realm. King Henry II demanded significant concessions from England’s bishops: the abolishing of ecclesiastical courts, no appeals to Rome without the King’s approval, and no ex-communication of landholders without the Crown’s consent. The King also imposed higher taxes on the Church and curtailed priests’ rights. Thomas was aghast at the demands of his former friend and resisted the Crown’s demands at every step. The wick was now lit, and the flame slowly burned its way toward the explosive murder in the Cathedral.
In reaction to the King’s overreach, Thomas fled to France, met with the Pope, resigned, fretted, was reinstated, and waited. The struggle between State power and Church freedom dragged on for six years as various complex intrigues played themselves out. Thomas finally returned to England on December 1, 1170, to an admixture of hostility and joy. He would not live to the end of the month, and he knew it. In a fit of incandescent rage, King Henry II asked to be rid of Thomas, vague words taken to their most violent extreme by the four killers. When they rushed into the sanctuary, the knights shouted, “Where is Thomas the traitor?” Thomas replied, “Here I am, no traitor, but Archbishop and priest of God.” Thomas’ brains were soon washed over the floor. King Henry II did public penance, the Knights sought forgiveness from the Pope himself, and Becket was rapidly canonized. Saint Thomas Becket’s ornate tomb became a place of pilgrimage for centuries until it was desecrated by a later King Henry, the eighth of that name, in 1538, when royal spasms once again brought violent blows down on the Church.
Feast of The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph 12/30/22
The devotion to the Holy Family was born in Bethlehem, together with the Baby Jesus. The shepherds went to adore the Child and, at the same time, they gave honor to His family. Later, in a similar way, the three wise men came from the East to adore and give honor to the newborn King with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that would be safeguarded by His family.
We can go further to affirm that in a certain sense Christ, Himself, was the first devotee of His family. He showed His devotion to His mother and foster father by submitting Himself, with infinite humility, to the duty of filial obedience towards them. This is what St Bernard of Clairvaux said in this regard, ‘God, to whom angels submit themselves and who principalities and powers obey, was subject to Mary; and not only to Mary but Joseph also for Mary’s sake [….]. God obeyed a human creature; this is humility without precedent. A human creature commands God; it is sublime beyond measure.’ (First Homily on the ‘Missus Est’).
Today’s celebration demonstrates Christ’s humility and obedience concerning the fourth commandment, whilst also highlighting the loving care that His parents exercised in His keeping. The servant of God, Pope John Paul II, in 1989, entitled his Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Redemptoris Custos’ (Guardian of the Redeemer) which was dedicated to the person and the mission of Saint Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church. After exactly a century, he resumed the teaching of Pope Leo XIII, for who Saint Joseph `...shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men’ (Encyclical Quamquam Pluries  n. 3).
Pope Leo XIII continued, ‘...Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was.[…] It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.’ Not many years before, blessed Pope Pius IX had proclaimed Saint Joseph, ‘Patron of the Catholic Church (1870)
Looking at the Holy Family, we see the love, protection, and diligent care that they gave to the Redeemer. We can not fail to feel uneasiness, perhaps a shameful thought, for the times in which we have not rendered the appropriate care and attention to the Blessed Eucharist. We can only ask for forgiveness and do penance for all the sacrilegious acts and the lack of respect that are committed in front of the Blessed Eucharist. We can only ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, for a greater love for their Son Incarnate, who has decided to remain here on earth with us every day until the end of time.
Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1)
The week-long holiday of Kwanzaa honors African-American heritage; it’s a cultural holiday as opposed to a religious one.
Black nationalist Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 as a way to unite the African-American community following the Watts Rebellion in a predominantly Black Los Angeles neighborhood. An uprising against systemic racism began after a white California highway patrol officer arrested a young Black man for drunken driving. The rebellion led to 34 deaths—two-thirds of which were individuals shot by police or National Guard troops, per the Associated Press. It also resulted in more than 1,000 injuries.
Karenga laid out seven key principles for Kwanzaa: unity; self-determination; collective responsibility; cooperative economics; purpose; creativity; and faith. Its name comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which translates to “first fruits.”
REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!
REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!
Congress XIII (2023)
Announcing the Congress Theme — “Write the Vision:
A Prophetic Call to Thrive”
July 20-23, 2023
The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745 https://nbccongress.org
Men of St. Raymond
Save the Date March 4, 2023
Man Up Philly 2023 will be here before you know it. Please reserve the date on your calendar. More Information to follow in the months to come.
Let's bring people back to the pews.
We ask parishioners to sign up to answer a question about their faith and why they worship at St. Raymond. After the interview, we would like to post it on Social Media and play it before Mass.
Can you help?
Does it sound like something you can do?
Call the office and let us know.