Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"God never ever tires of forgiving us"

“Let us not forget this word: God never ever tires of forgiving us!”

— Pope Francis

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"You have to go with the Eucharist as No. 1" - MLB pitcher

San Diego Padres’ Pitcher Practices Patience

Joe Wieland looks to recover from arm injury and have a healthy second half of the 2014 season.

by Trent Beattie
ncregister.com
3/28/14


Heading into spring training in February, San Diego Padres’ pitcher Joe Wieland was feeling great.

He thought his previous arm injuries were behind him, and he was hoping, by this time, to have earned a spot on the team’s major-league roster.

Things turned out differently, however. After re-aggravating a tenacious right arm injury, the 24-year-old Reno, Nev., native is now focusing his attention on a successful surgery and recovery. After a March 26 arthroscopic operation, he’ll have to spend three months rehabbing his arm before he has the opportunity to return to the big-league roster.

As the Padres looked to open their season against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 30, Wieland spoke of accepting his recent injury as part of God’s plan.


How has spring training gone, and what are you looking forward to now that the regular season is upon us?

I started last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, where a ligament in my elbow was replaced. Throughout the 2013 season, I endured quite a few setbacks as I tried to get my arm back into pitching shape. We never did find out what was wrong with the arm last year. That was no fun, so coming into spring training this year, my big goal was to stay healthy.

Things turned out differently than I had hoped, though. My first three outings were great, but in the fourth outing, the pain started up again. An MRI last week showed that there was a bone spur, cartilage or scar tissue that has been giving me problems. Being injured is never fun, but it’s a great relief to finally know what the cause of the pain is.

On Wednesday of this week [March 26], I’ll go in for arthroscopic surgery, which is supposed to be quick and easy, as far as surgeries go. Then I’ll have three months of rehab, and I should be back in “game shape” by the All-Star break in July.

It will take some patience, but I just have to accept it as part of God’s plan and try to make small improvements every day. It’s important not to get too caught up in what you’d like to happen in the future, all the while ignoring the good things you already do have. So many people are much worse off than I am. I can walk, talk and do everything else that a healthy person can do; the only thing I can’t do right now is play baseball.

When did you start playing baseball?

I played baseball almost from the get-go. My first toys were a ball and a bat, and I’m told my first word was “ball.” Baseball seems to have always been a part of my life. I remember my dad coaching me in Little League, even though he hadn’t played baseball as a kid himself. Yet he knew what he was doing, and he helped me to become a better player.

I’m a pitcher now, but hitting used to be my favorite thing. I was drawn to any sport that involved hitting, like golf, ping-pong and tennis. I played soccer, basketball and football, as well, but I had always been most into sports that had bats, clubs or rackets.

I fully intended to be a shortstop, until my sophomore year of high school; but that’s when I had a great pitching season. The scouts took notice, and that’s when the transition to pitching started.

Were you able to connect sports and faith while growing up?

When I was really young, they were separate. I went to Catholic schools, so we would pray before games, but I remember wanting to get that part over with so I could run out onto the field and start playing. Yet, as I got older — say, around 13 or so — sports and faith started to come together.
I made the discovery that any talent I had for sports or anything else did not originate from me, but was ultimately due to God’s goodness and generosity. I could then see that sports were not some separate compartment of my life, isolated from God, but were an extension of God’s love for me.

Without God, I’d have no ability to play sports; and even more to the point, without God, I’d be nothing.

My parents and grandparents were huge, as far as making right and wrong clear to me and my younger brother and sister. They were strict, but it was with a good goal in mind, not just for the sake of being strict. They wanted us to become responsible people who do the right thing.
Something else that really helped to shape me as a young Catholic was the availability of retreats. I was able to go on and even lead some retreats while at Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, Nev., so those experiences helped to solidify my connection with God. When I went to the 2012 Catholic Athletes for Christ retreat, I was able to learn even more than I had previously.

That 2012 retreat was where I met Justin De Fratus, a pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies. We discovered that we had a lot in common, so we kind of stuck together that weekend.

You were also able to go on that retreat with Jeff Suppan, who played with you for a year while he was with the Padres in 2012, right?

Yes, Jeff is a great man who isn’t shy about laying out the faith with anyone at any time. There’s a story from the 2012 season, when we were doing pitcher fielding practice. It was after we had been to a Bible study with some other players and were discussing how Catholicism is very biblical.

While the other guys started to become quiet as they did the drills, Jeff kept talking about the Catholic faith. Even as he was going through his pitching motion and scooping up balls in the infield, he was still going on about one aspect or another of Catholicism. I was very impressed with his multitasking abilities, which made it possible to play baseball and evangelize at the same time.

Jeff is an awesome guy who has been a great example to me of how to carry myself as a baseball player and a man. The same is true with Mark Kotsay, whose house I got to stay at last season. Being around Mark and his family was one of the few bright spots from last year, as I was grinding along, recovering from surgery.


What are some of the things you like most about the Church?

You have to go with the Eucharist as No. 1. That’s the greatest thing, and you don’t get that anywhere else. The Church calls it the source and summit of the Christian life, and that’s just what it is. How else can you explain our Savior becoming truly present to us for our consumption? Words can’t adequately describe it.

At every Mass, a miracle takes place on the altar. We may not see it with our eyes, but bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. That’s a true miracle, so I count myself privileged to be a part of it. Even now, as I’m talking about it, I’m getting goose bumps. It’s a totally amazing gift to have access to the Eucharist.

Another thing I like about the Church is [the sacrament of] reconciliation. We all fall short, so before we can receive the Eucharist, we need to be in a state of grace. That’s where reconciliation is so helpful. Many people are anxious before going, even to the point of skipping out on it, but we should pay attention — not to how we feel before going, but how we feel afterwards.

There’s no feeling like being told by Jesus, through the mouth of the priest, that your sins are forgiven. It’s a very humbling experience, to be honest about how you’ve messed up, but the grace you get in return is more than worth it. Even if you don’t have mortal sins to confess, getting rid of the venial ones that have accumulated is a relief.

Even though I’m one of the people who can get anxious about it beforehand, there’s such vitality to the whole thing. You get to see who you really are and who God really is, a reality check that is irreplaceable.

Since you share a name, do you have a devotion to St. Joseph?

Devotions are a relatively new thing for me. I’m learning more about the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and the intercession of St. Joseph, whose feast day was March 19.

Jesus and Mary, rightfully, get a lot of attention, but St. Joseph can be passed over a lot. If you just take the time to reflect on his role in the Holy Family — that of protector and provider — it’s just mind-boggling: how holy he must have been. Here, you have the head of a family whose other members are the Son of God and the Mother of God. St. Joseph was given the amazing task of filling the role of father to Jesus as he grew up on earth.

If a short reflection on St. Joseph doesn’t inspire us to look more deeply into his life, I don’t know what will. You can’t pass over someone like him. He has more to teach me about being a true Christian man than I’ll ever understand, but it’s very enjoyable to start understanding it at least a little bit better.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

We are all different people now

Day 10

Mount of Temptation / Jericho...where Jesus prayed and fasted for 40 days and was tempted by the devil (Lk 4).  A Greek Orthodox monastery now sits over the cave where Jesus stayed.


  The view of Jericho Christ had during the temptation.


A GW Catholic touches the rock on which Christ stood while tempted in Jericho.


GW Catholics in the Holy Land '14...what a contrast from the Day 1 pic at the airport!  We are all different people now.


We kiss Israel goodbye, and say thank you to the good people here and Almighty God for an incredible 10 days!!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Celebrated Mass with GW Catholics IN THE TOMB!!

Day 9

In the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, this is Mount Calvary...where Jesus died on the Cross.  We all touched the spot where the Cross went into the ground.  We went up many steps to get to Calvary, and then went down to the tomb where He was buried.  Put us in the footsteps and experiences of the Apostles and disciples - what must they have experienced at both places!  Unimaginable lows and highs.  How blessed are we to be where they were through the Act of Salvation.


The tomb of Christ...celebrated Mass with GW Catholics IN THE TOMB!!

GW Catholics filing in for Mass...they were in the first room through the doors.  Then, I went into the smaller, back room where Jesus's body was laid.  Celebrated Mass on a marble slab where He lay...and rose!!!  Couldn't contain the tears, and had to stop several times just to speak.  Most emotional Mass I've ever celebrated.


From the priest's book of prayers (missal) from Mass at the Holy Seplucher: notice "HERE, I have risen".  No other missal in the world says that.  Wow.



GW Catholic praying at the spot where Mary was born.


Pool of Bethesda (!) where Christ healed a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years...I blessed our pilgrims with holy water there so that they would be healed of whatever paralyzes them in their life with Christ.



The courtyard where Jesus was scourged / whipped over 100 times :(   On to the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering) and the 14 Stations of the Cross.

4th Station, Jesus meets His mother.


8th Station, Jesus meets the holy women of Jerusalem (two holy women of GW in pic).


Near 9th Station, and getting ready to go up to Mount Calvary (in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on left).


11th (right) and 12th Stations (left): Jesus in nailed to the Cross, and dies on the Cross.


Relic of the True Cross...largest in the world, I think.


GW Catholics in the Upper Room!  This is where Jesus instituted the Eucharist and priesthood at the Last Supper, and where the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles at Pentecost...WOW!



Church of the Assumption...the spot where Mary was taken up to Heaven body and soul.


GW Catholics in the tomb of Lazarus!



Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Amy Kovacs and GW Catholics on EWTN!

Last night, our campus minister, Amy Kovacs, appeared on EWTN's "Nightly News".  The full show is below.  Amy's brief segment starts at 23:33.  Hopefully, they will give her more air time next time.  But, the piece is well done.  And, what a strong, beautiful witness she is!


                   



Monday, June 30, 2014

Amy Kovacs and GW Newman Center on EWTN!

Please tune in to EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) tonight for their new program at 6 pm (and repeated at 9 pm) to see an interview with Amy Kovacs, our campus minister.  They interviewed her at the Newman Center this morning about the GW Newman Center and our ministry here, and I'm sure that Amy did an amazing job.  She is incredible!

If you don't have EWTN on your cable TV package, you can:

1)  download the EWTN app and stream the shows live

      OR

2) check out the interview on YouTube after tonight.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Clint Dempsey, World Cup Star, Credits Jesus For His Success"



From the Huffington Post (6/24/14):



U.S. World Cup player Clint Dempsey has an impressive record and enough fame and success to make any aspiring player jealous. But the soccer star takes little credit for his own success and insists it's all in service to a higher power, Dempsey said in a recent interview with Sports Spectrum.

"Today, I pray for strength to walk the road before me," Dempsey said. "I play to the best of my abilities and am thankful for the many opportunities and amazing success He has given me. Through it all, I want to do right, not make mistakes, and live a life that is pleasing to Him."

Dempsey grew up in a Catholic family going to church every Sunday with his grandmother. His parents enrolled him in soccer to help him "learn good people skills," Dempsey said. "Little did I know that the sport I loved and the skills I learned would later play a role in my relationship with God."

He began developing his spirituality and at 12 years old had his first experience that would test his faith.
"When I was 12 years old, my life took a turn that would change me forever. My sister [Jennifer] died [from a brain aneurysm] and I was faced with questions about why things happen and what role God played in it all. For a number of years, I struggled and put distance between God and me. But He was faithful and patient and provided gradual healing and strength."
Dempsey went on to attend Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, where he joined a Bible study and continued playing soccer.
"God's Word brought me peace and a desire for a relationship with Him," said Dempsey.
"I found that questioning Him and searching for answers through Scripture helped me grow and gave me direction. Now my faith in Christ is what gives me confidence for the future. I know that through both good times and bad, He is faithful and will watch over me."
Many other athletes have been known to invoke religion for dealing with the successes and failures that necessarily arise in sports. Grand Slam champion Michael Chang famously said in 1989, after becoming the youngest male to ever win the French Open: "I thank the Lord Jesus Christ because without Him, I am nothing."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

GW Catholics in the cave where Jesus was born!

Day 8

The Muslim Dome of the Rock, just beyond the Western Wall and where the Jewish Temple once stood.  The Temple is where Jesus was presented after His birth, and where He visited and prayed later. 


GW Catholics praying at the Western (wailing) Wall, the only remnant of the Temple.



The Church of the Nativity: the crowds waiting to touch the stone that marks where the Savior was born.  At Mass just before this, I said that at the Nativity, God entered our mess.  It's still a mess!  This was the only place we encountered a line or wait or chaos of any kind.  God was speaking to us!


Amy Kovacs, our campus minister, touching the stone of the Nativity!


GW Catholics in the cave where Jesus was born!   This is the "St. Joseph's chapel"; it's much quieter than on the other side of the wall to the left...a wall that was built hundreds of years after the birth of the Lord.  So, it's the (same) cave of His Nativity.



Milk Grotto Chapel...Mary nursed Jesus and some milk spilled...thousands of miracles have resulted from Mary's milk in the past 2,000 years, including the births of babies whose parents were previously infertile.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Corpus Christi homily - "'This is my body' means this is my body"


There is an excellent book out now called, “Chosen to Heal”, by Laura Wright which highlights six Catholics through whom God has worked miraculous healings.  One of them is a priest of Washington, Father Dan.  Years ago, Fr Dan visited a sick infant girl in the hospital.  Actually, she was dying; her heart was failing.  The doctors had given her parents the grim news that she didn’t have much time left.  Three or four nights in a row, Fr. Dan came to see her and placed the Eucharist on the heart of this precious little girl.  Immediately, her heart began to respond and show signs of life.  Not long after, her heart began to beat without the help of machines and she made an incredible recovery.  The doctors themselves called it a miracle. 

The Eucharist that we celebrate today as a Church on the solemn feast of Corpus Christi is the real deal, folks.  It is not just a symbol or representation of Christ’s Body and Blood; it is really Him in the flesh.  I don’t think a symbol would have brought that girl’s heart back to life.  By the way, it’s so beautiful to read in that book what her mother (who became Catholic as a result of her daughter’s miracle) said: “the Lord touched her heart”.  It was truly the Lord.

And yet, 70% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is just a symbol.  I was one of them for half of my life.  I have no idea why; it was never taught to me in Catholic schools or from the Bible.  Everything changed when a priest said to me when I was 21, “’this is my body’ means this is my body”.  That’s when I got it.  That’s when God became real.  That’s when our faith became real.  That’s when God became close, and not a billion miles away.  Going to Mass every day helped to enter into the incredible gift of the Eucharist.  Reading and meditating much on John 6 helped.  This is the chapter where the Lord teaches about the Eucharist; we just heard verses 51 to 58 in today’s Gospel.  This is my favorite chapter in all of Scripture.

Many of you know that I just returned from the Holy Land with GW students.  At the start of the trip, students asked me what I most wanted to see.  I said that I didn’t know if we would hit it or if people knew where it was, but I most wanted to see where Jesus taught about the Eucharist (John 6).  One day, our guide took us to Capernaum, and showed us the synagogue.  He said that this is where Jesus taught about the Eucharist.  I fell prostrate on the floor of the synagogue, pretty much in the fetal position, praising God amid tears of joy.  So many of the lines we just heard echoed in my mind and heart: “the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”…“my flesh is real food, my blood is real drink”.  I have prayed over and taught these lines regularly the past twenty years. He said this just a few feet away! In the Holy Land, we weren’t sure at every site if that was really the place that something happened, or how legit it was.  But, this was the synagogue.  This is where it happened.  I posted a picture on Facebook with the caption, “thank you, Lord, for bringing me to site of John 6.  My bucket list is complete. My life is made”.

I beg you to read over John 6 before you go to bed tonight or sometime this week.  They are mind-blowing and life-changing.  “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (v. 51). Jesus is basically saying that the same flesh and blood that were on the Cross are present on the altar.  “The bread that I will give” is the Eucharist. He gave us His flesh for the life of the world on the Cross.  So, the Eucharist = the flesh and blood on the Cross.  The only difference is that the Eucharist is the risen Body of Christ.  “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. I’ve explained this to 10 year olds before.  When they’ve asked me why we need to go to Mass every Sunday, I say it’s to get to Heaven.  Jesus says that we need to receive the Eucharist to get to Heaven; so we need to be at Mass to receive the Eucharist.  They have gotten it, and then not only went to Mass, but dragged their parents there!  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him”.  In John 15, Jesus says, “whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit”.  So, if you want to live a fruitful life, receive the Eucharist often.  If you want to be a saint, go to Mass every day!  Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said that the only way she could serve the poorest of the poor was by receiving the Eucharist every morning at Mass.  “Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever”.  I was speaking with a friend last week who is Baptist. I told him to check out John 6 and to hit a Catholic Mass.  At a Protestant service, the bread that is offered is like the manna: it’s just bread.  But, at a Catholic Mass (and Orthodox service), what is offered is the Eucharist. 

The Jewish crowds were right about two things in John 6: 1) this is a hard teaching, and 2) Jesus was speaking literally.  They heard him literally – He says ‘flesh and blood’ over and over – and then left Him because of it.  Think about that: they left Him over the teaching of the Eucharist after witnessing His miracles and healings and probably believing He is the Messiah.  They left Him, and He let them leave.  He didn’t stop them and say, ‘wait, come back.  You misunderstood me.  I wasn’t speaking literally’.  He didn’t do that because He was speaking literally.  He turned to the Apostles and asked them if they were leaving, too.  Peter responded, “Lord, where are we going to go?  You have the words of eternal life”.

The Church doesn’t understand HOW bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ at every Mass, but she believes THAT it happens.  The reason: well, John 6, definitely.  But, it’s really four words:  “This is my body”.  He doesn’t say at the Last Supper, ‘this symbolizes my body’ or ‘this represents my body.’  And, we can start to get to the WHY.  I took the Eucharist to a friend today who just had surgery, and lost 7 units of blood during and after surgery.  As much as anyone else on this feast understands the importance of blood in life.  He had little or no energy when he was so low on blood.  The body needs blood to live.  So does the soul.  Blood is a symbol of life in the Old Testament.  Jesus talks about life so much in John 6.  Our souls need the Blood and Body of Christ to live.

The phrase “flesh and blood” also helps get to the WHY of the Eucharist.  We use that phrase to connote a really tight bond.  ‘That’s my flesh or blood’…’we’re flesh and blood’.  Jesus wants to unite His flesh and blood to ours.  He wants to be that close to us.  He promises us in Matthew 28 that He would be with us until the end of time; the Eucharist fulfills that.  He doesn’t just want to be with us; He wants to be in us.

Finally, this is a hard teaching.  If you’re having trouble believing in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, ask God to help you.  A priest in Italy many years ago doubted the Real Presence.  He prayed, “Lord, help me in my unbelief”.  One day, at Mass, as He elevated the consecrated Host, drops of blood began to fall from the Host.  It was declared a miracle of the Eucharist.  Ask God to give you a miracle to help you to believe in the Eucharist, the greatest treasure on earth, as the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gethsemane: the most powerful moment of the pilgrimage

Day 7 (June 2)


Chapel of the Ascension, located on the Mount of Olives, believed to be the site where Jesus ascended into Heaven 40 days after His Resurrection.

Stone believed to contain the footprint of Jesus when He ascended into Heaven.


Mount of Olives: where Jesus hid with His disciples, taught them to pray the Our Father, wept over Jerusalem, and entered into His agony in the garden the night before He died.


Pater Noster Church (Pater Noster = Our Father)


The two arches in the middle of the picture are where Christ entered Jerusalem (Palm Sunday).

Church of Dominus Flevit: where Jesus looked upon the city of Jerusalem and wept.  The cross in the middle of the window lines up with Mount Calvary in the distance.


Garden of Gethsemane


Gethsemane: "these trees witnessed the agony of Christ" (our tour guide, RJ).



Church of Agony / Gethsemane: offering the Precious Blood at Mass a few feet from where it was first shed (Rock of Agony).  INCREDIBLE.


View from the Church of the Visitation...Mary traveled 90 miles over rough terrain while pregnant with Jesus to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist.


Church of the Visitation

Friday, June 20, 2014

Jordan River...and on to Jerusalem!

Day 6 (June 1)


At the Jordan River where Christ was baptized...and where we renewed our baptismal promises!


Holy Mass at Shepherd's Field (where the angel appeared to the shepherds about the birth of Christ).  On to Jerusalem!!



JERUSALEM!

Friday, June 13, 2014

"Spiritual bar crawl"

Day 5

We began our "spiritual bar crawl" this morning at the Primacy of Peter (where Jesus gave His authority to Peter: "feed my sheep" - Jn 21).  It is believed that this rock is where the Lord ate breakfast with the Apostles post-Resurrection.  'Mensa Christi': meal with Christ. 


One of the friars, Fr Mark, praying by the Sea of Galilee.  He was just stationed at Catholic U. in DC, and will be stationed at the home parish in the Northeast of one of our pilgrims!  Small, small world.  And, what a shot. 


Then, traveled a couple minutes down the road to Peter's house in Capernaum where Jesus lived during his public ministry.


And, just walk a few steps up to the roof (of Peter's house)...and, it's where the friends of the paralytic lowered him down to be healed by Christ!


And, then, a few steps more to my favorite spot: the Synagogue where Jesus taught about the Eucharist (John 6).  Bucket list is complete! 


Mass at the Sea of Galilee close to where the Lord multiplied the loaves and fish.  Awesome.


Boat ride on Sea of Galilee; "Jesus Jam" broke out with music and dancing

Mount of Beatitudes where we stayed for three nights; walked the grounds each night praying the rosary, and would stop to look down the hill and think, "that's where He preached the Sermon on the Mount".  Wow.


By the Sea of Galilee; the steps lead up to the spot where Jesus was sitting before he healed the man possessed by demons and sent the demons into the swine