March 2021
St. John Neumann Catholic Community
Staffed by Oblates of St. Francis de Sales
Current Mass Times
Saturday: 5 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. (español)
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 9 a.m.


Confession
Saturday: 10-10:30 a.m. (English)
Sunday: 3-4 p.m. (español)
Pastor’s Perspective
Dear Friends,

I am writing this letter as we approach the end of February. It is so nice to see the sun and blue sky today, even though there is still definitely a chill in the air. The month of March, especially this year, gives me a sense of hope. Spring is in the not-too-far distance. Often in March, we start to see the budding of spring flowers and we notice the sound of the morning birds. As we all know, when we think we are out of the woods, old man winter comes back with a vengeance. Yet we often see a daffodil poke up from under that frozen ground, and there is hope.

Likewise, we are starting to see some positive signs in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic with more and more people getting the necessary vaccines, but we also know that a lot more people need to be vaccinated before we can let down our guard. As difficult as it may be, for the near future, we still need to be vigilant by practicing the protocols that keep us safe such as social distancing, wearing a face mask, and constantly cleaning our hands. We hang on, persevere, and have hope.

All of this brings me to my thoughts on the virtue of hope. In many ways we need to live these days with caution as well as in reality. The pandemic has wreaked havoc in so many ways. It unfortunately has taken way too many lives. And yet, without the perspective of hope, I am not sure I could get through. It is this gift of hope that gives me the strength to persevere. St. Francis de Sales suggests that it is in daily life that we find ourselves hoping for many things that we desire as good: “The supernatural virtue of hope is based on our ultimate good: the love of God and eternal happiness with him.”

Pope Francis in his 2020 Easter Vigil homily spoke of the women who went to the tomb of Jesus on that Saturday morning who were filled with many emotions but did not give in to sorrow and despair. He recalled that “Jesus, like a seed buried in the ground, was about to make new life blossom in the world; and these women, by prayer and love, were helping to make that hope flower.” Likewise, in today’s pandemic-haunted world, Francis said, “How many people, in these sad days, have done and are still doing what these women did, sowing seeds of hope! With small gestures of care, affection and prayer” (O’Connell).

For me, Pope Francis touches the heart of what gives me hope in my daily living during the pandemic. It is in both the small and large gestures of goodness that are directed to those who are suffering in this pandemic. Reflecting back on these past twelve months, even with all of the hardships, sadness, and death, I am in awe of the beautiful outreach and prayer that has been happening, especially here at the parish. The love and goodness that has been experienced during this difficult time has been both life-giving and transformative. Not only do these acts of goodness express signs of hope in our daily lives, they direct us to that ultimate hope that de Sales states: the hope based on the ultimate goal which is the love of God and eternal happiness. As I come to the end of writing this letter, perhaps the biggest sign of hope and joy are the voices and singing I am hearing from our preschoolers as they walk and skip by the outside of my office.

As we begin this month of March and continue through this pandemic and anticipate and pray for it to be over soon, may we always be open to the small and large gestures of goodness that give us hope and keep us from despair.

Let us continue to walk together during this Lenten season in patience and in hope!

Live Jesus,
Fr. Joe

Gerald O’Connell, “Pope Francis delivers stirring message of hope to humanity in its ‘darkest hour’ at Easter Vigil,” America (The Jesuit Review), April 11, 2020, https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/04/11/pope-francis-delivers-stirring-message-hope-humanity-its-darkest-hour-easter-vigil
Reflection Question
What is bringing you hope this Lent?
Catechetical Corner
Reflection on St. Joseph
By Dan Ambrose

Several years ago, for Lent I gave up saying “no” to my son. I was (and still am) very lucky because I get to spend a lot of time of him. I was able to transition to part-time work right after he was born and was later able to leave the workforce as he was starting kindergarten. We had a lot of fun together, but I found myself sometimes getting caught up in my own priorities instead of his.

“Dad, can we play a game?” ”No, I need to work on dinner.”

“Dad, can you read me a story?” “No, I have to do some other chore.”

I realized that saying no to him was becoming more of a habit than an exception. So, during Lent I focused on how to more fully live out my vocation of fatherhood by finding ways to say yes. It wasn’t always easy – sometimes dinner needed to be cooked. But, I tried to make yes my first instinct.

In those times, when I really wanted to focus on my own priorities, my own plans, I found myself thinking of St. Joseph. He also had to put aside his own plans and priorities for the sake of what he was called to do. And he said yes. At every point we hear about St. Joseph, his plans are being disrupted. And he continues to say yes. That to me is why St. Joseph is such a great model for fatherhood. He reminds me every day to make the choice to say yes to more fully live out the vocation of fatherhood, even when those choices I face are not what I planned for or even want to do.

I continue to work on being a better father every day. The Holy Family, and especially St. Joseph, shows me what is possible the more I make the choice to say yes. St. Joseph, pray for us.
Image via Creative Commons
Reflection Question
How can St. Joseph be a model to you in your interactions with the children in your life?
What’s Lent All About, Anyway?
By Fr. Don Heet, OSFS

When I was a boy in Catholic school, Lent always seemed very gray and dark. Of course, growing up in northern Ohio, March typically was, in fact, very gray and dark. My strongest memories of Lent, besides knowing I had to give up something, were of the whole school marching over to the church for Stations of the Cross every Friday. The small red books we were given had dark copies of engravings for each of the stations; they reinforced my impression of Lent as a gray and dark season.

As I matured, Lent has taken on a brighter tone. After all, winter officially ends towards the end of Lent, and in fact, the word “Lent” comes from the old English word for “spring.” Now, instead of focusing on darkness, I notice the days getting longer. I have come to see Lent less a time of punishment for my sins and more a time to get my spiritual life back in shape. To that end, I find that the gospel on Ash Wednesday sets the tone for the following 40 days; it emphasizes the three traditional Lenten practices: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.

Nowadays, the official Lenten fast is much easier than what my parents experienced. They had to fast every weekday during Lent, except Sundays, Solemnities of the Annunciation, and, since we had an Irish bishop, St. Patrick’s Day. The rest of Lent they could eat only one full meal, the other two could not include meat, and together they had to be less than the full meal. Today there are only two days when those between 18 and 60 are obliged to fast (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday). All those over 14 are obliged to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays in Lent. And, in case you were wondering, this is what the USCCB says about abstaining from meat: “Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consommé, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese, and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.”

Also, every Sunday, even the six Sundays of Lent, are celebrations of Jesus’ Resurrection; for that reason, there is absolutely no expectation that we follow penitential practices on Sunday. This is not a cop-out; it is a recognition that on every Sunday, we are to rejoice in our salvation. All that being said, it seems to me that we should be ready to go beyond what is technically allowed or not allowed and find a meaningful and challenging way of fasting that respects and obeys the official discipline of the church. That is clearly more in line with what the Lord asks of us when we fast.

Lent should certainly be time of prayer. Our Lenten prayers can certainly be prescribed devotions, such as the rosary, the divine mercy chaplet, litanies, or novenas. Some people pray morning or evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. Another possibility you might want to consider is reading and praying the daily readings for Mass; you can find them in publications like Living with Christ or Magnificat, or online at bible.usccb.org.

Almsgiving is an ancient tradition in the church and in the Jewish religion for centuries before the time of Christ. Interestingly, until recently, Lenten almsgiving seemed to get much less attention than fasting or prayer. Today, that has changed. Certainly the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl initiative is a practical way of incorporating the practice of almsgiving into our observance of Lent. Or you may decide to contribute to other relief organizations. Over the past several years, I have developed the practice of setting aside a certain amount of money every day; then I draw from it over the course of the year to give to people who are hungry or homeless.

Finally, a good question to ask at the beginning of Lent is, “How do I want to be different, come Easter Sunday?” Certainly our Lenten practices are important, but we should see them as a means, not an end. Lent is more than giving up something or doing something extra; it is a time of change, of growth, of rebirth. Fasting, prayer and almsgiving should help us in our efforts to turn away from sin and believe the good news. If, with the grace of God, we have changed for the better, then our Lenten experience, though it may still seem dark and gray at times, will lead us to the light that pours out of the empty tomb at Jesus resurrection.
“Not only is God always in the place where you are, but God is in a very special manner in the depths of your spirit.”
St. Francis de Sales
Ministry Leader Spotlight
Mike Dimaiuta
How long have you been a parishioner at SJN?
Since 1995!

What ministries have you been involved with at SJN?
I have been active in SJN High School Youth Ministry and WorkCamp since 2010 (many thanks to our former youth minister Doug Johnson for encouraging me to get involved). I support SJN’s Pro-Life Ministry and enjoy helping our homeless guests through the Hypothermia Prevention Shelter. I’ve participated in a small faith sharing group at SJN (Life After Sunday/Companions on the Journey) for almost 10 years as well as the parish’s recent Arise small groups.

What is a memorable moment from your ministry work?
My first time participating in the week-long Arlington Diocese WorkCamp (2011) with 1,000+ teens (including my oldest daughter) and adults was very memorable! The opportunity to encounter Christ through service, faith, and fellowship was truly a life-changing experience for me.

What is your favorite thing about being Catholic?
The intimate relationship with Christ through the sacraments – particularly the Eucharist and reconciliation; the beautiful and clear teachings on the sanctity of life from conception through natural death; and working with others to serve those in need through the church’s many ministries.

A fun fact about yourself:
I attended Monsignor Farrell High School in Staten Island, New York (Class of ’81), where SJN’s Faith Formation Director Mickie Abatemarco was a religious education teacher during my last two years! Small world!

Learn more about the SJN High School Youth Ministry, WorkCamp, Pro-Life Ministry, Hypothermia Prevention Shelter, and Adult Faith Formation, including small faith groups.
Parish Events & Announcements
Please pray for our young parishioners receiving the sacrament of First Reconciliation this month!

Beginning March 15, please call the parish office at 703-860-8510 to sign up for Triduum and Easter services (9:30 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday–Friday) before the office closes on March 31. Be prepared with which service(s) you will attend, how many people will attend, and if you need an accessible seat. Sign-ups will not be accepted before March 15. SJN will livestream all Triduum services and several Easter Masses.

There are parish Lenten activities happening throughout March. Find them on the SJN website. Don't miss our parish soup cookbook and daily Lenten reflections from LPT in English and in Spanish.

Exposition and Adoration: Contact the Liturgy Office (703-860-6151) or add your name to the sign-up sheet outside the chapel for a half-hour slot on March 11.
Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19
During this Year of St. Joseph, we especially recognize the Solemnity of St. Joseph the Husband of Mary, which is on March 19. Because the solemnity falls on a Friday this year, it is not necessary to abstain from meat on that day (Can. 1251).

SJN will have Mass at 9 a.m. on March 19. Look for the signup to attend in person in early March or join us via livestream.

St. Joseph is the patron saint of the Universal Church, unborn children, fathers, workers, travelers, immigrants, and a happy death. He is Jesus' foster father and we know about his life from the Scriptures. Because he does not appear in Gospel stories about Jesus' public ministry or beyond, it is thought that he had perhaps died before that public ministry began.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay
There are many resources about St. Joseph online, including:

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.”
John 4:13