Visit no. 6: Our Lady of Hope

Visit no. 6: Our Lady of Hope

Terry was very excited about this visit, as we’re not only getting to halfway through our Mary-named church visits and celebration, but this one, out in Potomac Falls, is near to her 98 year old Godmother — who can recall every detail about Terry’s baptism.

Visit date: Saturday, August 5, 2023

Mass: 8:30 am Saturday

Address: 46639 Algonkian Pkwy, Potomac Falls, VA 20165

Website: Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church

Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, Lectionary: 406

Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
“It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.


by Michael

Another wonderful day, wonderful visit to No. 6 of our Mary-named churches. And, this parish is near to Terry’s 98-year old, wonderful Godmother, whom we visited after Mass. Oh, and this is a beautiful church with a vibrant, inspired community.

Our GPS took us to the back entrance, going past a little strip mall, so our first sight was of the back of the church (behind the front…, as the Sanctuary faces that direction), whereas the main entrance is more impressive:

Back entrance

Front entrance

We had arrived early so that Terry could pray the Rosary before Mass. She went straight to the church, while I wandered outside. My first visit was to the outer parking lot, where I spied a couple pieces of trash that would do better in the doggie-bags I always carry in my pocket than on the ground.*

That done, I realized the large parking lot is the first evidence of a vibrant and ambitious parish. As I wandered around looking for a trash can, which was across the way by the school, I saw just how vibrant and ambitious a parish this is. The main entranceway is tree-lined and lovely, and it points straight to the front doors at the back of the church (see our Visit No. 3 for this running joke), an impressive entranceway and viewpoint:

As we entered Route 7 from the Dulles Access Road, we ran into a fog, which had dispersed by the time we reached Sterling, but the low clouds persisted, yielding a grayed yet translucent sun that was perched just above the apex of the church’s roof as we entered. That entrance is a wide patio — perfect, I thought, for post-Mass gatherings — with a statue of Mary holding the Crucifix rather than a baby Jesus. The archways of the three “front” doors (to the back of the church) present images of Christ with emblems above, such as Chi Rho, Alpha-Omega and HRI. Really nice reminders of these important symbols that are everywhere but often overlooked.

I turned to a friendly man who sat quietly on a bench along the patio, observing me taking photos. We shared greetings, and, without asking me anything, Gerry (with a “G”) told me that the statue of Mary is unique, and that there is a book that explains all the motifs and symbolisms of and in the building. I explained about our Marian churches pilgrimmage, and that we are from the Saint Thomas More parish.

“I used to be in that parish, ” he said. “I lived nearby, on a road just off the highway, Hudson.”

“Hudson Street?” I inquired. “What number?

“125,” he replied. “125 Hudson Street.”

“That’s across the street form our house!” I exclaimed.

Best of all, he told me that he met his wife at the Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral. He raised his children there, and they still live in the area with grandkids. He now lives in a retirement area for service members nearby to Our Lady of Hope.

Thinking the time was close, we both looked the hour and realized it was 8:26. I managed to slip in a selfie, then we shook hands and moved into church.

A number of others were rushing in behind us, so Gerry and I reached for the main doors to the church. As we held them open, a friend of Gerry’s laughed, “New ushers, eh?”

I found Terry just before Mass started, giving me enough time to find my spot in the Magnificat. I love reading the antiphon, which means “response” or “rejoinder”, so when Father Smith opened with it, I was thrilled, even if I felt as if the only one reciting it with him.

Father Smith has a booming, deep voice, and a compelling cadence and manner that both affirms the Mass’ solemnity and invites joyful participation. I liked that he had us recite the full confitior (“I confess…”), and also that he recited the initial Eucharistic prayers in silence, something I am coming to enjoy from one of our priests at St. Thomas More, as I can better read along with him and reflect on his prayers in the silence.

Today’s Gospel reading was about Herod’s murder of John the Baptist, but Father Smith explained that it’s not his feast day. He then discussed today’s optional memorial, a most appropriate choice for a church named for Mary, the dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, around 435, one of the great Marian shrines (see here). Father Smith said that in addition to its miraculous genesis, the Basilica was important for the continuity of belief in Mother Mary, as the Archbishop of Constantinople, Nestorian, had promulgated the heresy of distinct natures of Christ as man and God, thus Christ the Son of God could not have been born of Mary a human. Cyril of Alexandria, Father Smith told us, pushed back on the idea, and the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary as true Mother of God and Jesus as both human and divine. The homily was exactly what I wanted and needed to hear on this day.

Father Smith distributed the Eucharist by himself to the assembled, which was not a small crowd, be it First Saturday or not. (Here and here for interesting articles from the USCCB on the giving and receiving of the Eucharist.) Father closed Mass, and from the alter launched us into the Saint Michael prayer. I then scrambled for the Magnificat’s Salve Regina, hoping for a good Marian prayer at a good Marian church. Instead he introduced another prayer that neither Terry nor I knew, but that the faithful spoke with practice and resolution. We were unable to find the prayer in the pews’ Missel, but we did catch that it resembled the Saint Michael prayer in its call to the Blessed Mary to defend us against the devil. First time we have encountered this prayer, so we will be on the look out for it at one of the other Mary churches we have yet to visit.

Here for some shots I took after Mass inside the church:

The narthex (lobby) is spacious and welcoming, and has a beautiful shrine to Mary. I particularly liked the brochures table and ongoing food drive container.

From there we headed out the back through the front doors and walked around the church towards the school. Between the buildings is a rounded walk with Stations of the Cross and three sets of statues, Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus, Calvary, and of Mary of Guadeloupe.

I am always touched by depictions of Calvary that include Our Lady suffering her “pierced heart” and Saint John, the Beloved Disciple, before the Lord on the Crucifix. The partial sun created a dramatic backdrop for us, and I wondered if it would get completely dark for a couple hours. I hope the photos convey that sense we felt at that moment.

Terry is reading everything she can about Mary of Guadeloupe, whom we will visit in just over a week from now, so she thoroughly enjoyed the display. I was touched by the inclusion of Juan Diego.

There, we got in our obligatory Mary-church selfie, and Terry headed back towards the car while I walked around the church, which brought me to a statue of a priest and two students (seemed that way — and would be appropriate for the school), but I did not see any marker or inscription. I entered the backside, or rather basement meeting areas below the church’s (alter-facing) front. The sacristan had invited all men us to a First Saturday Bible Study, so I wanted to peak in. There I met John, the sacristan, who kindly invited me to join the session as well as coffee and donuts, which my Friday-fasting body desperately craved. I demurred, explaining the purpose of our visit. John said they are gathering First Saturdays to review Father Schmidt’s Bible in a Year. Wonderful!

I made my way through the spacious meeting areas, back up to through the narthex, and out the front doors, where I discovered a small group of people chatting happily with two young boys who were absent-mindedly swinging their arms back and forth with a light slap of each other’s hands — a perfect gesture for defeating the boredom of parent talk after church!

I turned to them and said, “How about a proper ‘paddy-shake’?” They responded enthusiastically, and to the delight of the adults and me:

We chatted a little about our visit, about the National Shrine, which one of them said she loves to visit, and about the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. I invited them to our blog site, and I do hope they’ve made a visit here!

We set out from there, ever more thrilled by the joys and satisfactions of these visits. “I liked…” Terry says, and I say, “And I liked…” and onward we share each others’ distinct experiences of the morning and perspectives on the priest, the Mass, the parishioners and the church.

The idea of coffee and donuts lay strong in our minds from having seen a Dunkin Donuts on the way in, and from John’s invitation of them for me at the Bible Study group. Here we finally found something negative on one of our visits — a woman in line ahead of us started complaining to the clerk that she had been waiting thirty minutes for a sandwich, and we noticed, as well, that the donut bins were near empty. Perhaps it was just an off-day for the poor souls running the place that morning. I’d still stay with the Dunkin over the restaurant next door, “Tacos and Tequila,” at least on a Saturday morning.

On the upside, a gentlemen in line with us had on a Bosox cap, an invitation I couldn’t avoid. So I quipped about Boston and asked him if he had driven that MG out front from the Fenway. He was thrilled to brag about his old car, which he had purchased in his home state, New Hampshire (not found in a barn, he assured me). He apologized that it’s dirty, but we agreed that a loved car is an enjoyed car — even, I told him, if it is an old Duesenberg, such as that of a collector I know of in Massachusetts who races, and frequently crashes or blows the engines of, 1920s era Duesenbergs. The guy got a kick out of that story.

As we left, he happily started up the MG for me, showing off that British sound. Great fun!

We were but 10 minutes from Terry’s Godmother, who, at age 98 is in amazing health and spirits. She told us all about that day, more than a few years ago at Saint Jane de Chantal in Bethesda, when she held Terry in her hands to receive her baptism.

– Michael

* here for Michael’s story about picking up trash


4 responses to “Visit no. 6: Our Lady of Hope”

  1. Fran Labate Avatar

    Thank you for visiting our parish, OLOH, in Potomac Falls/Sterling (near it, but east of Ashburn). Everything in OLOH was selected by our founding pastor, Fr William Saunders, who is now near you at at St Agnes. The priest statute with the children is the K of C founder, Fr Michael McGivney. There is indeed a book available showing the history of many items in our church that Fr Saunders ‘saved’ from beautiful old churches that were being shut down. He also wrote the unique Marion prayer that we recite after masses, which you can find pasted inside the back cover of our St Michael
    hymnals. Come visit again sometime. God bless.

  2. Michael Avatar

    Thank you, Fran! And thanks for clarifying Potomac Falls/Sterling v. Ashburn. Very cool about Fathers Saunders and McGivney. Do you mind sharing the Marion prayer Fr. Saunders wrote?

    Btw, we plan on attending a lecture on Our Lady of Guadalupe at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Sterling on Monday, November 27:

    The Significance and Science of Our Lady of Guadalupe
    Monday, November 27, 2023
    7:30 PM 8:30 PM
    The Significance and Science of Our Lady of Guadalupe
    Monday, November 27, 2023
    Presentation by Steve Hemler and Lee Granger of the Catholic Apologetics Institute of North America (CAINA)
    Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church
    46833 Harry Byrd Hwy
    Sterling, VA 20164

  3. Michael Avatar

    Also fixed the Paddy-Cake video, which was rendering upside down. Those kids are awesome!

  4. Michael Avatar

    Feb 18, 2024: Today a young man remained after Mass at the Cathedral, praying. As he got up to leave, I noticed that he kneeled before the sanctuary, then took a photo of it. I was curious, as the Cathedral is closed for renovations and we’re in the basement for services, so it’s not much of a sanctuary.

    “You took a picture of God!” I said, as we both headed out. He laughed and, smiling, told me that it’d amazed him that in the middle of construction, God is still there. Wow, I said, that’s fantastic. He explained that he was nearby and decided to come to Mass at the Cathedral, as he is a parishioner at Our Lady of Hope, and in Mass this notion struck him. He was sure his mother would be most encouraged by the photo and thought.

    What a fantastic encounter, and thank you, Daniel, for sharing your message with me.

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