Dear Brothers and Sisters of St. Andrew the Apostle,

On this Fourth of July weekend, we celebrate the founding of our country, the United States of America. It is a day of cookouts and fireworks, American flags and red, white and blue outfits. It is a day of patriotism. 

What exactly is patriotism? It is the just response of service and honor that is due to a nation by her citizens. Our first duty of service and worship of course is to God the Father. Yet, as  St. Thomas Aquinas says   there is a secondary obligation to honor and respect our parents and our country that is a matter of justice. Like our parents, our country has offered us many gifts to be thankful for and for which we owe our patriotism. We even describe our countries as the fatherland or our motherland, which shows the same connection. In all things, however, our patriotism must flow from our faith, and not be equal or above it. As our currency still proclaims, “In God We Trust.” Our service to our country must be grounded in the truths of our faith. As Americans, there is a great temptation to reverse this, and view our faith through the lens of our politics. This is dangerous for us and for our country.

Our recent history seems to show a diminishing sense of patriotism which in some cases looks like shame for being from the United States because of the sins of her past. However, just as we would not honor any sinful actions of our parents, the same would hold true of our country. The present and past sins of our country does not remove the justice that is due her for what she has given each of us. That just response to her, however, must acknowledge those errors and seek to overcome them for the good of our nation. Such patriotism has been a valuable part of our history. Such patriotism must continue to shape us as a nation.

Another helpful distinction about patriotism is that while it is a just response due to our country, it is offered to the individuals who live here. This means that the recipients of our patriotic service and honor are our brothers and sisters in this country. Jesus commands that we love our neighbors, those we agree with and those that we do not; those who are our friends and those who are our enemies. When we act patriotically, it is for more than our own good. It is for the good of the people who share our motherland. Patriotism marked by such charity leads to unity. 

On this Independence Day, we recognize patriotism as a virtue whose practice must be rooted in the truths of our faith, offered in justice and thanksgiving for what we have received, and administered with charity to those who call our nation their home as well, even when we do not see eye-to-eye with them. Let us pray that God will bless and protect our country, that all of her sons and daughters may grow in holiness and grace, and find their true home in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

I am happy to announce that our organ is for the most part installed. There are only a few more tweaks that need to take place in the weeks ahead, but the majority of the work is complete. This is great news! We will formally dedicate the organ at a special 5:00pm Sunday Mass on September 27, 2020. Our hope is that by this point a greater celebration will be possible than it is now with the current restrictions on attendance, singing, and socializing. However, in the months before the dedication, we will be able to use the organ on a limited basis, so you will hear it from time to time as we integrate music back into the liturgies. 

The near completion of the organ also means that Hannan Hall will no longer be used for Mass, and Adoration will be in the Holy Family Chapel Monday through Friday instead of in Hannan Hall. There will be one day in the week of July 12 that there will be some further testing in the church that will require Eucharistic Adoration to be moved once more to Hannan Hall, but otherwise, we are returning permanently to our beautiful church. Thank you to all for your patience and cooperation during the organ installation and the move to Hannan Hall. 

The installation of the organ led to the removal of many pews from the balcony. Yesterday, those pews were donated and moved to St. Jude the Apostle Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Chantilly. As you may know, their pastor Fr. Justin Puthussery lives with us at the St. Andrew the Apostle rectory. We are happy that our former pews will find a good home at St. Jude’s, where they will add to the beauty of their church. I thank Fr. Justin and the volunteers from his parish in helping with the move, as well as Chuck and Terri Kelly from our parish, and Tony Bennett. Many hands made for light work, which was a blessing on a hot day. 

Finally, next Sunday, July 12, Bishop Burbidge will install me as pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle at the 12:30pm Mass! While our celebration will be muted by the coronavirus restrictions, it will be a time of great joy! Many people have told me that they will be attending that Mass, and it is my hope that the main church will accommodate all who want to be there. However, I realize that a limited number of people will fit in the church because of social distancing restrictions. As much as I hope it doesn’t happen, there is the possibility that we will reach capacity, and this week we will continue to discuss options for how to address this possibility if it comes. 

Please continue to pray for me as your pastor, and know of my constant prayers for you. May the Lord bless you and your families as we continue to build up the kingdom of God in our neighborhoods, our parish, and our homes. 

In Christ,
Fr. Wagner