Dear Brothers and Sisters of St. Andrew the Apostle,

The mornings are a little chillier, the shadows longer, and the leaves are beginning to fall from the trees. The change of the seasons reminds us how time passes, and how it seems to pass more quickly as we grow older. In autumn, the green warmth of summer gives way to the bare cold of winter. I know this is the favorite time of the year for many people, the season of colorful leaves, fresh apples, warm sweaters, all manner of pumpkin-spiced drinks, and football. I understand the appeal; I really do! However, as I mentioned before, summer is my favorite season and fall marks its end. So I'll spend some time mourning her loss, and then throw myself into the good things of fall. Go Ravens!

We are fast approaching election day here in Virginia. This is the time when we learn about the candidates, form our consciences so we can respond in faith, and pray. Then, on election day (or earlier if you plan for that), we can fulfill our obligation as Christians to help form the society around us through our vote. Below you will find a link to the Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC), which has some of the resources on voting that I shared last week. Let me point to a few videos on voting: A general understanding of Catholic voting from the USCCB, and two from the VCC describing threats in our Commonwealth to what Catholics hold dear: "The State of Abortion in Virginia" and "The Freedom to Live our Faith," which discusses the attacks on religious freedom in Virginia.

Join me in praying for all who vote, as well as all who hold public office, that they may truly be inspired by the common good of all, especially the most vulnerable. Bishop Burbidge has asked the Diocese to join him in praying a novena of Memorares in the days leading up to the elections - from October 25 to November 2 - for the intention of the health of our Commonwealth concerning the outcome of the election. To participate as a parish, we will be replacing the Hail Mary at the end of our Masses with the Memorare.

As I mentioned in last week's newsletter, a parish Holy Hour will be this Sunday at 3:00 PM in the church. Like the Mass, these times of communal prayer help to unite us as a parish by drawing us closer to God, in whom all are one. Please join us as we gather before our Lord in the Holy Eucharist for an hour of prayer for the intentions of our families, our parish, our nation, and our Church, as well as those we hold for ourselves in our hearts. May this favored time be one of transformation for each of us and for St. Andrew's.

Please join me as well praying for the young men and women in the seventh grade who are participating in the Confirmation retreat that will kick off their two-year preparation for the sacrament of Confirmation. May this be a time of growth in intimacy with the Lord and conversion, that they may receive the Holy Spirit with open and joyful hearts when they are Confirmed in 2023! We pray too for those who are a year ahead of them and will be Confirmed by Bishop Burbidge at St. Andrew's in February. Let the Holy Spirit change the hearts of us all, and set us afire with a vibrant faith.

While I mention upcoming parish events in this newsletter, please know that they are only a portion of what is going on here at the parish. Please be sure to check the links below for the parish bulletin and the parish website, maintained so well by Trish Burkat. These are the best sources for details about the parish programs and events as well as opportunities to be more involved at St. Andrew's.

Speaking of involvement, thanks to our new Gardening Committee, led by Samantha Mauk, for helping to beautify the parish flower beds last weekend. Their work involved a lot of weeding. Among gardeners, this is probably the most tedious task requiring the most persistent attention. However, after such work, the result is a beautiful and flourishing garden.

Spiritual writers use the analogy of our souls as gardens. To cultivate one that is beautiful and flourishing requires the sunlight of the sacraments and the water of God's grace. It also requires constant attention to uprooting the weeds of sin and vice that dwell within. Many of us, myself included, are tempted to think that our gardens are in perfect order. We go to Mass. We pray. We don't murder anyone (we often set the bar too low).

Yet it does not take much introspection to see the ways that we choose comfort over doing God's will, or how we hold grudges instead of forgiving, or how we gossip or judge or commit any number of sins that dwell among the good things of our souls. These sins and vices are the weeds we need to uproot, because left unchecked, they can do great spiritual damage.

This is why it is necessary to include an examination of conscience in our daily prayer routine. Such an examination is best done before bed, early enough so that we don't rush through it in our drowsiness. Through this daily examination, we are aware of how the Evil One most easily tempts us, and where we need to be alert in the future and pray for God's grace that we may avoid future sin in this area.

It also helps to prepare us for Confession. The precepts of the Church only require Confession once a year (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no 2042), yet we know how difficult it is to call to mind our sins over that length of time. It's much more spiritually healthy to confess our sins to a priest once a month or more to help clear the garden of our souls.

Here at St. Andrew the Apostle, we have Confessions four times a week: Tuesday from 11:45 AM to 12:15 PM, Wednesday from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Thursday from 11:45 AM to 12:15 PM, and Saturday from 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM. Fr. Smith and I also welcome anyone who wants to make an appointment to confess his or her sins outside of those times. If it has been a while since you have gone to Confession, please see these examinations of conscience and this Confession guide.

Know of my prayers for your continued conversion of heart and the abundant life of grace that comes from being attentive to your soul. Please pray for me as well, that I, too, may always work to cultivate my soul as to serve our Lord with a heart like unto His own Sacred Heart.

In Christ,
Fr. Wagner