Friday, December 30, 2005

Mary, Mother of God

Many of us are getting ready for a big celebration this Saturday night and Sunday. January 1 is always a time of excitement, parties, joy, and hope. The Church herself honors this glorious day with a Solemnity, which is the greatest type of feast in the Roman calendar. The world celebrates Jan. 1 as New Year's Day, and it is a fitting time to celebrate the arrival of a new calendar year. But, the Church celebrates Jan. 1 for a different reason:the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

As an FYI, the Church's new year starts in Advent. The first Sunday of Advent is the Church's New Year's Day. So, liturgically, 2006 began on the first Sunday of Advent. The (3 year) cycle of readings from the Lectionary changed A to B (next year it will change from B to C). Just a little liurgical FYI for ya!

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is placed on Jan 1 more for its relationship with Christmas than to the secular celebration of New Year's. It is placed on Jan 1 in the Roman calendar because it is seven days (one full week) after the Birth of Christ. The Church celebrates many aspects surrounding the Birth of our Savior in this holy season - Holy Family, Holy Innocents, Epiphany, etc. It is still within the Octave of Christmas (the 8 day celebration of Christmas), and highlights Mary's role in the First Coming of the Messiah.

The official title of Mary, Mother of God, is Greek: Theotokos. There can be no debate about her title as Mother of Jesus. But, this title of Theotokos has sparked debates with our brothers and sisters of other faiths. The Church proudly affirms this and many other titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary because of her extraordinarily significant role in bringing Salvation to the world.

Mary is referenced throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. Her role in God's Plan as the Mother of the Savior brings praise from the angel Gabriel ("Hail, full of grace") and her cousin, Elizabeth ("blessed are you among women"), but also vicious attacks from Satan (Book of Revelation). The title of Mother of God does not give her divine status; she is still and always will be recognized by the Church as a human being.

If we stop and think about it on basic terms for a minute, it's obvious- Mary is the Mother of Jesus who is the Son of God. He is God himself, the second person of the Trinity. Ergo (one of my favorite words), Mary is the Mother of God. Now, that's pretty easy math. That's basically the formula the Church has used to name Mary as Theotokos. But, so much of who she is goes into title - she was preserved from any traces of original sin from the moment of her conception, she always said yes to God, she lived the Commandments and Beatitudes perfectly, etc. She is "full of grace" - the Father created her to be the Mother of His Son and gave her extraordinary grace for her to live every moment of her life in this role.

She is the mother of God! She lived a life like you and me, and had all the joys and pains of day to day life in the world. For nine months, she carried God in her womb! Then, she nurtured and raised him as a little boy. She watched him "grow in wisdom and knowledge" and then accomplish his mission of Salvation that ended in a bitter and painful death on the Cross. This is all the fruit of her womb. As Elizabeth said to her, "blessed is the fruit of your womb".

So, do I really know Mary? Is she a part of my life? Christ came to me through her; she is blessed indeed, as Scripture repeatedly says. She is the perfect instrument through whom He entered the world. She is His Mother!! He gave her to me at the foot of the Cross (in the person of the Apostle, John). She will always lead me to Christ - "do whatever He tells you". In this new year of 2006, may I go to Jesus through Mary, and realize her incredible intercessory power as the Mother of God. May I imitate her in always saying 'yes' to God.

Mary, Mother of God: pray for us!

Happy New Year and Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

Friday, December 23, 2005


What a weekend last weekend!! First, the ordination to the transitional diaconate. Then, the Redskins whooped the Cowboys! 35-7!! I should get ordained every weekend! Woo-hoo!!
Wow, last Saturday night's ordination was awesome! Many people have said it was a very powerful and moving experience. Uh, yeah! For me, it was this, of course, but it was a lot of fun! I had made a holy hour with the Lord just before the Mass began, and at the end, I said to Him, "let's have some fun!" I was filled with such peace and joy.

There were a bunch of people there - the place was just about filled. I saw many people I knew there, and it was so great to enjoy this with so many who have been praying for me and supporting me for 11 years. We're finally here!! Thanks, especially, to all the GW students who came. I greatly appreciate all of you efforts.

Some people have commented that this ordination was different from any other that they've been to. It did have a special feel - like it was electric or something. The ordination rite itself went smoothly. Apparently, when my name was called, I practically shot up out of my chair. Guess I couldn't wait (been long enough). I made promises of celibacy and obedience to Cardinal McCarrick and the Church of Washington.

Then, there was some drama. The other two guys and I prostrated ourselves as the Church sung the litany of saints. I started to have images of my Dad, Father Wells, Mother Teresa, and other family and friends who have died. My saints in Heaven!! They were there!! They have been there for me for so long. Well, the litany went on for a while, and it was an extremely powerful experience for which I wasn't ready. I got up off the floor, thinking 'somebody needs to mop up that wet spot' I left with my tears. Tears of joy, of course!

Then, the big moment. The Cardinal laid his hands on me, and the Holy Spirit came upon me. That is the Sacrament of Holy Orders right there. I've waited 11 years+ for that one moment! Oh, cool! So, as a result, I have the power of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles and early deacons of the Church had. I have the faculties to preach, baptize, give blessings, etc. This is so cool!

After this, I was given two vestments to wear as a new deacon, and then served the rest of the Mass at the altar. There was a huge mob scene after we processed out, and it's all kind of a blur. Lots of people. Praise God! We had a big party at my brother's house that went late. Great time there! I preached twice the next day, and served for the Cardinal that night (during the Redskins game!). I really enjoy serving as a deacon- I've got the power!!

As I said in my first homily, "I thank God for all the gifts he's given me to serve as a deacon".

Friday, December 16, 2005

The love of my life

Tomorrow is the big day!! It's a big day for many reasons, but one of the biggest will be that it's when I make my promise of celibacy. I have spent the last 12 years of my life "discerning whether or not Christ is giving (me or any seminarian) this gift", as John Paul II put it. He has led me to this momentous day, and I truly believe He is offering me this precious gift of celibacy. Yes, celibacy is a gift!! My last day and a half on retreat focused on celibacy. I meditated on Matthew 19:10 and Song of Songs, chapter 4. Here are some insights.

Mt 19:10 - I am called to celibacy "for the sake of kingdom"
- my life should point to the kingdom of God
- my bride is the mystical Body of Christ (the people of God) and the eucharistic Body of Christ; my spiritual intimacy is with the people, physical intimacy with the Eucharist

- this realization cut right to my heart. I have been thinking for so long that I will marry the Church in a spiritual way. This is true, and I want to be spiritually intimate with many people. My heart is built that way. But, I also desire (like we all do) physical intimacy. I need to be able to see and touch the One on a regular basis. Celibacy means that Christ is the One. For me, specifically, it's Christ in the Eucharist. I see, touch, taste, smell, and hear (in my heart) Him every day in the Eucharist. The Eucharist has been the love of my life for 13 years; this retreat helped to rekindle that love. I want to give my life to Jesus in the Eucharist (and the Church). I will promise Him my life tomorrow, and then that promise will be consummated as a priest each time I offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

This is the sweetest love on Earth! The Song of Songs is one of the most beautiful descriptions of the intimacy God desires with us. God invites each one of us to be married to Him in Heaven for all eternity. He invites me (and all religious) to a special intimacy with Him on Earth as well. Truly, truly, an incredible gift from the Lord!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Where are today's Apostles?"

Please pray for my cousin, George, and my uncle, Mike. They both are sick right now, and could really use your prayers. Thanks, "prayer warriors"!
On about the second or third day of my retreat, my director had me meditate on several Scripture passages. Below are some of the things that stirred my heart and mind during those days.

1. 1 Sam3: 2-10
- Samuel hears God's Call two times while he rests, but thinks it's Eli talking to him. Eli tells him that it's Yahweh speaking to him. So, for the third time, Yahweh calls out to Samuel, and Samuel finally hears the Lord, and says, "speak, Lord, for your servant is listening".

Well, me and "Sammy" have a few things in common. The one that jumped out at me is that it took us both three times to hear and answer God's Call! As you probably know, this is my third try at seminary / priesthood - third time's a charm, right, Sammy!?

2. Rom 10:14-15
- I, like the priests and deacons in the early Church, am called to preach the Good News. Me? Who am I to teach people about the Kingdom of God? Well, all I know, is that God knows who He's called.

I am to be a messenger of the Good News. What is the Good News? Most fundamentally, that God loves us. My goal is to end each Sunday homily with a reminder of how much God loves- "please, remember this day, that God the Father, Son, and Spirit has unconditional and infinite love for you".

3. Is 6: 1-8
- my preaching will come from my worship - public and private. My worship of the Word and the Eucharist at Mass will define my preaching. My time in Adoration of the Eucharist outside of Mass will help to shape and mold my heart more to Christ's, so that I will preach and act as He wills.

4. Acts 6:1-7
- I am called to preach with great love as a man of prayer; called to be an apostle! This insight hit me pretty hard as it occurred on a feast of an Apostle, St. Andrew (Nov 30). "Where are today's Apostles?", my director asked.

I am called to have great zeal, both publicly and privately. I am called to love as Christ loves, and serve as Christ serves. Here's a paradox that hit me along the lines of service:

The more I give, the more I have to give.
The less I give, the less I have to give.

This is rooted in grace and charity. What it means is that the more that I give myself to God, I find that I actually have more energy to give (to Him and others). Zeal begets zeal; selflessness begets selflessness. On the flip side, laziness begets laziness; selfishness begets selfishness.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The prayer of Jesus

Ordination to the diaconate!! I will be ordained a transitional deacon along with two other men by Cardinal McCarrick next Saturday, December 17, at the 5 pm Mass at St John Neumann Church in Gaithersburg, Md. Thanks be to God!

I will make promises of obedience and celibacy to Christ through His Church, and then be ordained through the Laying on of Hands (a Tradition that goes back to the Apostles!). This is the sacrament of Holy Orders (the three offices of Holy Orders are deacon, priest, bishop). A man who is ordained a deacon is ontologically changed...he is a deacon forever!
So, my recent retreat really helped me to spiritually and personally prepare for this incredible gift of ordination. I want to present some of the powerful ways the Lord spoke to me during the five day of silence at the hermitage.

Day # 2: My retreat director gave me a couple of passages from Scripture on which to meditate. One of them was John 17: 9-11, 16-19. This is Jesus's prayer to the Father for His priests: "consecrate them in the Truth". Consecrate means to "set aside for" or "dedicate". As one of His future priests, Jesus prayed that I would be consecrated to Truth (Himself- Jesus says I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life). Jesus prayed for me!!

That thought hit me hard because we usually pray to Jesus- He is the recipient of our prayers. Actually, though, our prayers never stop at Christ. He always takes them to the Father. He is our greatest intercessor; He is the sole mediator between God and man. But, still, to think of the Son of God on his knees praying to the Father for my sake and the sake of all priests kind of blew me away.

Am I consecrated to Christ? Well, yes, because of my Baptism. But, no because I haven't set aside and dedicated everything in my life for Him. Am I ready to be consecrated to Him? This will officially take place on Dec. 17...that's what this is all about. I say with an ethusiastic 'YES' that I wish to be consecrated to Christ. I am ready to give Him all that I am. At one point in the ordination rite I will prostrate myself and lay down my life for Christ. The Lord is asking that it not just be a symbolic gesture. He wants me to dedicate myself totally to Him.

Christ consecrated himself to the Father for me and all of us - that we might be consecrated. In a special way, though, He prayed that those He calls to Holy Orders would be especially dedicated to Him who is Truth. I truly felt the power of His prayer during these five days with Him "in the desert". He will consecrate me to the Father next Saturday night. Last week, He prepared me even more to make this a full, internal reality.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The silence was deafening

Well, last week was an unbelievably good week! I spent five days in silence with the Hermits of Bethlehem in New Jersey. When I arrived on Monday, I experienced some culture shock as I was shown my living quarters and briefed on the rules of the community. First, silence. Dead silence. The community is basically in the middle of nowhere...just woods. There is a main house and chapel, and then there are the hermitages.

My hermitage was two rooms, which included a bathroom. Tight quarters but doable. I was doing fine the first day; the first night was a different story. No one told me about the many little creatures who would share the place with me. I went to spend time with Jesus, and ended up hanging out with about 10 little spiders, too! Ooh, don't like spiders. The silence of the place at night was deafening. When I turned out my lights, it was completely dark. Black everywhere. I said goodnight to the little guys on the floor, and actually slept very well.

Then, there were the meals. Each hermit, including yours truly, took his/her Playmate cooler down to the kitchen and picked up each meal. We took our meals back to our respective hermitages, and ate there. The food wasn't too bad, but each meal felt a bit institutional. Part of the deal in their community. Wednesday was bread and water only, but they gave us enough bread to last a week!

I write all of this to lay out the physical environment, and the things that caused me a bit of shock. But, the overwhelming sense in this beautiful place is the tremendous sense of peace that is there. It is the presence of the Lord, and you feel it much more in the seclusion of a hermitage than in the noise of the world.

It was one of the hardest weeks I've ever had, but also one of the best. The spiritual fruits of the week were more lavishing than I anticipated, and will try to write about some of them in the coming days. I think it would be good to share some of the incredible gifts that Christ gave me last week, especially as I approach my Ordination to the Diaconate (Dec 17). It is powerful stuff!

Monday, November 28, 2005


According to Canon Law, I have to make a 5 day retreat before being ordained a deacon. So, today I'm heading off to a hermitage in New Jersey for 5 days of silence. I"m actually very much looking forward to it. That's right, 5 days of silence. No TV, cell phone, email...nothing. It'll just be me and Christ. You can understand why I am excited. It'll be very refreshing to meet him in this silence.

My hope is that this week will help me enter into more deeply what it means to be a deacon (deacon=servant), and to let the Lord work on my heart. I'm not trying to have any expectations, but I do feel the Lord is pulling me in the direction of changing my heart to that of a servant. On a much deeper level. It is sirely needed!!

Please pray for me this week.. thay my heart will be changed. I will pray for you as I live as a hermit this week!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Giving thanks

A man looked at the menu at the airport restaurant, and realized that the sandsiches were named for planes. "I'll have a 'jumbo jet'", he said. When the order arrived, he was disappointed to see how small his burger was, but he ate it anyway.

He called his waiter over. "Was that the 'jumbo jet?'" he asked.

"Yeah", the waiter answered. "Went pretty fast, didn't it?"

Well, it was last year at this time that we started this site..right around Thanksgiving time. Please check out my post from last year's Thanksgiving for a good list of things for which we are thankful. Since we have launched this site, much has happened in our world, both locally at GW and globally. We have much to be thankful for, especially as we've seen so much suffering around us in the past year.

I hope that the natural disasters, especially Hurricane Rita and the tsunami, have brought each of us to our knees every night, thanking God for all that we have. Thanksgiving Day should be every day; to give thanks to God for all our blessings is a huge part of being a Christian. I go to Mass each day to thank Him mainly for the Eucharist (which means thanksgiving), but for all that He has given me. Every day is a gift from Him!

I thank Him for the great year I had at GW, for all of you with whom I had the great honor of meeting, for the situation I'm in now about to be ordained, all the great friends I've made, the incredible people I meet on a regular basis in ministry, for our faith, my great family, my gifts, vocation, and for my life. He has given me all of this, and I can never thank Him enough for all of it.

For what are you thankful?

I wish everyone a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!! Be safe!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Update on Maria Turner

On the post just below this one ("Who is your hero?"), I write about a real hero, Maria Stefko Turner. Maria has made a special request for prayers, so please pray for her. Here is an update on her situation.

She went on Monday for her 3 month check up, and the Cat Scan showed a new infected lymph node around her heart. She goes for a Pet Scan on tomorrow. Next Monday, she will begin intense chemotherapy to shrink the disease. Maria also has an upcoming bone marrow transplant, and they are looking at her family members as potential donors.

Maria writes this: "I could really use a lot of prayers to help give me the strength to fight this and, God willing, be cured. Thank you for your prayers and support."

Please show Maria your support by leaving a comment to this post, assuring her of your prayers. Either she will read your comments, or her family members will read them to her.

Thank you all very much!

Who is your hero?

The following is a reflection I gave on July 28 at the parish where I was this past summer. Please pray for our hero, Maria Stefko Turner.
Years ago, I had a T-shirt with a list of celebrities’ names on the front of it– rock stars, athletes, politicians. Across the front were the words, 'Who is your hero?' Then, on the back of the shirt were the words 'Would he die for you?' with a big Cross. The point is that Jesus Christ is the greatest hero the world has ever seen. That, to live a heroic life is to live heroic love. Jesus says that heroic love is the greatest love: “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus freely accepted laying down his own life for each one of us, his friends.

If I were to make a shirt today with a list of my heroes, certainly all mothers would be on it. Every mother makes great sacrifices, as many of you here today can attest. Through pregnancy, labor, nurturing, and raising a child, every mother lives sacrificial love. There is a very short list of mothers, though, who have made the greatest sacrifice and laid down their lives for their child.

One of these women lived in Europe last century. Gianna Beretta Molla was a mother of four children. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, doctors discovered cancer in her body. They advised her to abort the child in order to save her own life. She discussed it with her husband, thought and prayed about it, and freely made the heroic choice for the life of her child. Within a year of giving birth to her beautiful fourth child, Gianna lost her battle with cancer. A few years ago, Pope John Paul II canonized her a saint for the heroic choice she made to lay down her life for her child.

There is a woman who has family in St. John’s parish who was recently confronted with a similar situation as Gianna when she became pregnant with her second child. Maria Stefko Turner had the same condition, was given the same advice from her doctors, discussed it with her husband, thought and prayed about it, and made the heroic choice for the life of her child.

Now, Maria is fighting the cancer. Today is significant because she goes for her scans - tests to see where she is with the cancer. Some parishioners here have been making a novena to St. Gianna, imploring her intercession. Please join in this novena and pray for Maria. We have great confidence in God that He will hear our prayers to restore Maria to good health.

Who is your hero?” JESUS CHRIST…..St. Gianna Beretta Molla….Maria Stefko Turner.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Heroic trust

What a game the 'Skins and Buccaneers played yesterday, huh? 36-35! Wow, does this one hurt for us "Skins fans. They get me all excited that they are this really good team, and then they lose it. Oh well...they'll probably finish 9-7, possibly 10-6. Oh, by the way, the Tampa Bay winning points yesterday shouldn't have been allowed- the runner was down before he scored. Them the breaks, I guess!
A good friend of mine is a single, Catholic stud who is in his thirties. He fell in love with a young woman last year, and they have patiently developed their relationship. He is an Intel Officer in the Marine Corps. Just when things were getting very good between him and his girlfriend, he was sent to Iraq. As tough as it was to do, he accepted it in faith, trusting that God willed for him to go and would be with him every step of the way.

My buddy spent seven tough months in Iraq. He wasn't near any fighting, but still had a very difficult time there. Part of it was missing his girlfriend, but the other part was the awful living conditions he encountered. He was extremely happy to come home this Fall. He picked right back up with his girlfriend who missed him more than he thought she would.

Then, the USMC called him to a second tour of duty in Iraq. Another seven months starting early next year. Oof. That's a tough one. His reaction? Well, if this is what God wants, I'll do it. He's not overly psyched about it- who would be? But, he's going back. This is a serious sacrifice. He has waited so long to find the right person (and trusted God's Plan throughout). Now, he's found her. She is great and she loves him. He is a hero anyway, but it's on many levels.

He trusts God on an heroic level. He has for many years now. He has his own idea of what will make him happy, but if it's not God's idea, then he doesn't want it. In other words, he will follow God wherever He leads him, even into places "where you would rather not go" (Jn 21:18). Even to Iraq...even away from the woman he loves. God is his first and truest love. He trusts that God's Plan, even if he doesn't understand it, will ultimately be what's best for him.

I have thought that his time in Iraq will strengthen their relationship. He said that was true for the first tour, and is hopeful that it will be the case for the second tour. Years down the road, hopefully they will be married, and will look back on this time and think that it was the best thing for them. It was hard but good (usually things that are good are hard). For now, my buddy has that hope, and his heroic trust in Christ will be tested every day that he is defending our country in a place he'd rather not go.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Call to Orders!

Update on my ordination status:

Last Thursday, Cardinal McCarrick gave me my Call
to Orders! What that means is that he officially
called me to be ordained a deacon. I've gotten
the Call!! In larger terms, it means that God has
called me to be a deacon through the Church. That's
way cool! After all this time, especially, it's
unbelievable to know with certainty that I am
doing God's Will. Guess I've been on the right
track after all with this priesthood thing!

I think the exact wording His Eminence used was,
"Greg, I call you to Sacred Orders for service
in the Church of Washington". So, I am now set
to be ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday,
December 17, 5 pm, St John Neumann Church,
Gaithersburg, Maryland. There should be three
of us ordained deacons that day, which would line
up twelve of us to be ordained priests for Washington
in May. That would be the largest ordination class
here in like 20 years!

I will give a general invitation to the GW community
as the ordination nears, but in general terms, everyone
is invited to attend the Ordination Mass. Also, I am
happy to answer any questions that you might have
about being a deacon or priest. Please pray for me
as I enter the clerical state!

- Rev. Mr. Greg (Reverend Mister is the title for
transitional deacons or deacons to be)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Feasts of All Saints and All Souls

Yesterday (Nov. 1) we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, and today (Nov. 2) we celebrate the memorial of All Souls. As the Catholic encyclopedia (to view this site, click on the title of this post) states, All Saints Day "is instituted to honor all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful's celebration of saints' feasts' during the year". Nov.1 honors all the saints in Heaven

Today (and throughout the month of November), we pray for all the souls in Purgatory. Offering prayers and sacrifices for the dead is inspired by 2 Maccabees, in which sacrifices are offered for the dead "so that they might be released for their sins" (12:46). Our prayers are for those who have died in a state of Grace, but not yet perfectly cleansed from venial sins. As the encyclopedia says, "the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, almsdeeds and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass". If you know someone who has died, especially in the past year, the best thing you can do for him or her is go to Mass on this day.

Here is a clip of a Q & A about saints from

Why does the Catholic Church emphasize saints' relics if Jesus says that the only way to heaven is through him?

Relics do not save people, and the Catholic Church does not teach that they do. Jesus saves people.

Relics can, however, remind us of flesh-and-blood people who generously cooperated with God’s grace. Those saints, in turn, can encourage us to cooperate just as generously with God’s grace.

Many Christians can agree that Jesus Christ has saved us through his passion, death and resurrection. They will likely also agree that a person could choose not to accept salvation. How? By that person’s choices.

Saints remind us to make good and generous choices. Relics can remind us of saints (including Mary). All walked this earth and eventually gave God an accounting for their stewardship of resources, time and talent.

The Son of God became a human being, in the person of Jesus Christ, within a specific time and in a designated place. In a sense, relics remind us of Jesus’ Incarnation and of our need—right here, right now—to make choices which reflect and reinforce our identity as followers of Jesus.

Adapted from "Ask A Franciscan,"a feature in St. Anthony Messenger.

When did we begin to venerate saints?

The various Church communities cherished the early Christian martyrs and commemorated the anniversaries of their deaths (their birth into eternal life) by keeping all-night vigil at their graves and celebrating a Eucharist in the early morning.

By the time Christianity became an accepted religion in the Roman Empire, the cult of martyrs was well established and they were being invoked as intercessors. Particular saints could plead before God on behalf of certain communities or individuals.

Members of the community still living on earth could intercede on behalf of those in purgatory. Praying for the dead is based on the scriptural passage in 2 Maccabees 12:43-46: "It is a holy and wholesome thing to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins."

There was much emphasis placed on this idea of a saintly community in the early Church. All the saints—those on earth, those in heaven and those in purgatory—were seen as belonging to the one body of Christ.

St. John Chrysostom, who died in 407, called for a "feast of martyrs of the whole world." At his behest the feast of All Saints (All Hallows), those known and unknown, has been observed since his time.

The fourth-century Nicene Creed leaves us in no doubt of the importance of this early Church teaching. As Christians we profess a belief in the communion of saints.

Monday, October 31, 2005

All Hallow's Eve

The following is an article I found on a Catholic website,, about the history of Halloween. It might surprise some of you. If you wish to check out the article and its site, please click on the title of this post.

Tonight (all Hallow's Eve) is the eve of All Saints Day. Remember, the Solemnity of "All Saints" is a Holy Day of Obligation. So, have fun and be safe tonight, and hit Mass tomorrow!!
When you think of Halloween, what comes to mind? For a lot of people, Halloween has become synonymous with candy, costumes, scary stuff, witches, ghosts and pumpkins. But do you know the Christian connection to the holiday?

The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead—including ghosts, goblins and witches—returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.

When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider—traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play? In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.

The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints,” which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things” (#1475).

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Council of Trent and the Eucharist

In a comment to one of my recent posts, an anonymous blogger asked about what the Council of Trent taught about the Eucharist. The Council of Trent convened between 1545-1563 A.D., mainly to address the doctrinal errors made by Protestant Reformers. Specifically, it clarified and reaffirmed the 1500 year old Christian belief in the Holy Eucharist that is based in Scripture and Tradition. Today, the Catholic Church continues Trent's beautiful and clear eucharistic theology, which originated from the lips of our Lord Himself (John 6 & Last Supper).

The following are the "Canons of the Most Holy Eucharist" as decreed by Trent. For an understanding of what the word "anathema" means, please click on the title of this post to read an excellent web site article. The article clarifies many misconceptions about "anathema"; examples of these misconceptions are: an anathema sentenced a person to hell, an anathema was a sure sign that a person would go to hell, anathemas applied to all Protestants, and anathemas are still in place today.

Canon 1.
If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ,[42] but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema.

Canon 2. If anyone says that in the sacred and, holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation,[43] let him be anathema.

Canon 3. If anyone denies that in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist the whole Christ is contained under each form and under every part of each form when separated,[44] let him be anathema.

Canon 4. If anyone says that after the consecration is completed, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the admirable sacrament of the Eucharist,[45] but are there only , while being taken and not before or after, and that in the hosts or consecrated particles which are reserved or which remain after communion, the true body of the Lord does not remain, let him be anathema.

Canon 5. If anyone says that the principal fruit of the most Holy Eucharist is the remission of sins, or that other effects do not result from it,[46] let him be anathema.

Canon 6. If anyone says that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is not to be adored with the worship of ,[47] also outwardly manifested, and is consequently neither to be venerated with a special festive solemnity, nor to be solemnly borne about in procession according to the laudable and universal rite and custom of holy Church, or is not to be set publicly before the people to be adored and that the adorers thereof are idolaters, let him be anathema.

Canon 7. If anyone says that it is not lawful that the Holy Eucharist be reserved in a sacred place, but immediately after consecration must necessarily be distributed among those present,[48] or that it is not lawful that it be carried with honor to the sick, let him be anathema.

Canon 8. If anyone says that Christ received in the Eucharist is received spiritually only and not also sacramentally and really,[49] let him be anathema.

Canon 9. If anyone denies that each and all of Christ's faithful of both sexes are bound, when they have reached the years of discretion, to communicate every year at least at Easter,[50] in accordance with the precept of holy mother Church, let him be anathema.

Canon 10. If anyone says that it is not lawful for the priest celebrating to communicate himself,[51] let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If anyone says that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist,[52] let him be anathema. And lest so great a sacrament be received unworthily and hence unto death and condemnation, this holy council ordains and declares that sacramental confession, when a confessor can be had, must necessarily be made beforehand by those whose conscience is burdened with mortal sin, however contrite they may consider themselves. Moreover, if anyone shall presume to teach, preach or obstinately assert, or in public disputation defend the contrary, he shall be excommunicated.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Is the Mass real ? (part II)

The following is the continuation of Tuesday's post:
Now, if what happens at the Mass is real, it is the most amazing event on Earth. If it is not real, then it is all one big lie, and the biggest scam on Earth. But, "this is my body" means "this is my body"; the Mass is real. It blows away any movie or TV show because of its content and meaning for all of us.

At Mass, we are all witnesses to the Salvation of the world: Jesus' death and resurrection. Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is made present on the altar through the words of his priest: "this is my body"..."this is my blood". It is the same flesh and blood that was present on the Cross.

How do we know that the same flesh and blood that was on Mount Calvary is on the altar at every Mass? Jesus tells us: "the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world" (Jn 6:51). If we put that into equation, it would be: bread=flesh.

So, does Jesus die at every Mass? No. Scripture says that Jesus died once and for all (Rom 6:10, Heb 7:28, e.g.). What has occurred since the Crucifixion? The Resurrection. Thus, the only difference between Jesus' flesh on the Cross and his flesh on the atlar (other than it is under the signs of bread and wine) is that it is Jesus' Risen flesh and blood. Holy Communion is not an act of cannibalism; we feed on the Bread of Life, the Bread that has come down from heaven that will bring us to everlasting life: "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life" (Jn 6:54).

After I present some of the incredible beauty and reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the youth realize that the Mass isn't what they thought. It is real and incredible. If someone still thinks the Mass is boring after hearing that it is a re-presentation of Mount Calvary, then that's like saying they would have found the Crucifixion boring. No way. The Mass is the most incredible event in the world because the Son offers Himself to the Father through the Spirit on behalf of all humanity; anyone who participates in this Sacrifice participates in the Salvation of the world (even those in the back pews!).

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Is the Mass real? (Part I)

A small boy is sent to bed by his father.
Five minutes later...."Da-ad...."
"I'm thirsty. Can you bring a drink of water?"
"No, You had your chance. Lights out."
Five minutes later: "Da-aaaad....."
"I'm THIRSTY. Can I have a drink of water??"
I told you NO! If you ask again, I'll have to spank you!!"
Five minutes later......"Daaaa-aaaad....."
"When you come in to spank me, can you bring a drink of water?"

Sometimes when I am giving a talk to youth, I will ask what their experiences of going to Mass are. "Too long", "boring", "same thing every week", and "can't relate to it" are usually the most popular answers. 'Fair enough', I tell them...we'll come back to that later.

Then, I ask them how much time they spend watching T.V., movies, and listening to music each day. As they throw out the staggering numbers, I tally up their stats and try to come up with a conservative estimate. According to them, it's fair to say that they spend at least 2 hours a day doing these things (it's probably much higher than that), which means about 15 hours a week.

Then, I ask them if, for the most part, the TV and movies they watch are real. 'No' they say. 'So, why do you spend so much time watching them?' I ask them. They say it's because movies engage them, and take them to another place. Whether it's a character or the story itself, movies and TV entertain them on different levels (mainly emotional). Even though they have nothing to do with the story and don't participate in the show at all, they walk out saying, 'that was awesome'.

'How much time do you spend with God each day?', I ask them. Then, I hear a pin drop. Oops. They do talk to God each day, but it's less than an hour. We come to the conclusion that they spend at least one hour with God each week- at Sunday Mass. So, and this is the main point of the exercise, is the Mass real? 'Yes', almost 100 % of them say at once (probably because this seems like the obvious answer).

I ask them to honestly think about what they are saying. Are they really agreeing with the Church which has taught for 2000 years that the bread and wine truly become Jesus' body and blood during Mass? Do they really believe Jesus' own words about the Eucharist: "This is my body"? Is what happens on the altar at Mass for real?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The only unforgivable sin

In today's Gospel reading at Mass, we hear Jesus proclaim the following words which may seem difficult and troubling to grasp: "Everyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven, but no one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven" (Lk 12:10). So, what does it mean to sin or blaspheme against the Holy Spirit?

Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit can be understood as hardness of heart. It means that a person doesn't seek the forgiveness and mercy of God through the Holy Spirit either because he (or she) doesn't think he has anything to confess to God or because he doesn't think God can forgive him (for a particular sin). Whatever the reason, he "deliberately refuses to accept God's (infinite) mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1864).

If a person lives his whole life rejecting the forgiveness of God through the Holy Spirit, "such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss" (CCC, # 1864). However, as with any sin, if he repents of his hardness of heart at any moment before death, he can be forgiven. At that point, his heart is finally open to the forgiveness of the Spirit. God's mercy knows no limits with a contrite heart; the only heart that God can't touch (and thus forgive) is the one that isn't open to His forgiveness.

The only unforgivable sin, then, is the one that is intentionally not confessed. It is a sin against the Holy Spirit because it is the Spirit that forgives any and all sins (see Jn 20:20-23). The Spirit can forgive any and all sins that are confessed with a contrite heart until the moment of death. Anyone who seeks Christ's forgiveness acknowledges the power of His Spirit to forgive, and is forgiven. Anyone who does not ask Christ to be forgiven denies the power of His Spirit, and is not forgiven.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"Who do you say I am"

Here are my notes from a talk I'm giving tonight for an RCIA class on the person of Christ.

Who do you say I am?” (Mk 8:29)

-Who is Jesus?
-How would we properly begin to answer that question?

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mk 8:30)

- Church’s initial response (St. Peter)
- 2000 years of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition have developed the Church’s answer

- mission of the Catholic Church is to preach the person of Jesus Christ; started with the Apostles

Person of Jesus Christ

a. Christ is the Word (Logos)

John 1:1-5 – “In the beginning was the Word"
- divine nature of Christ

b. Christ is the Word became flesh

John 1:14 - “The Word became flesh”
- human nature of Christ

Mystery of person of Christ (1 person, 2 natures)
- fully human and fully divine

c. Christ is the Truth about God

- revealed to the world
- “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6)

The Way – he reveals the Father and the way to Father
The Truth- the words he proclaims are from the Father
The Life- “everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (Jn 3:15)

- “I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice” (Jn 18:37)

d. Christ is the Vine (we are the branches) – John 15

- not just an historical figure
- Christ is center of human experience: “salvation history”

- everything B.C. leads to Him; Christ referred to throughout O.T. / prophets

the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel” (Is 7:15; cf Mt 1:23); Immanuel= “God is with us”

- everything A.D. goes back to Christ

“He exists before all things
and in him all things hold together,
and he is the Head of the Body,
that is, the Church”
- Col 1:17-18

e. Christ is Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of God, Eternal Life

- “the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand” (Mt 4:17)

- Matthew: “Kingdom of Heaven”
- Mark: “Kingdom of God"

-“ whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54)
- The Eucharist dwelling within us = eternal life dwelling within us

- in all the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, we encounter the
person of Christ

“who do you say that I am (in the Eucharist)?”; you are the Christ, the Son of the living God (under the forms of bread and wine)

Discussion questions
  1. Do you have a relationship with the person of Christ? How important is it to you? Is He the most important person in your life?
  1. In what ways can we preach the person of Christ to the world? Is it only through words? How do you teach others about Jesus?
  1. Do you want to join the Church in her mission to preach the person of Jesus Christ?
  1. If one of your friends asks you, “who is Jesus”, how would you respond? Has tonight’s class helped you to better answer that question? Why or why not?

Monday, October 10, 2005

A special wedding invitation

Most people accept invitations to weddings, and look forward to going. Some are not able to go, of course; but, it's pretty uncommon for most people to reject an invitation to a particular wedding. In the parable from yesterday's Gospel (Mt 22:1-14), those who were invited by the king to his son's wedding feast rejected the invite. Why is it that "the invited guests...refused to come (to the wedding feast)"? "Some ignored the invitation and went away".

Why would so many ignore the invitation and go away? What would be the possible reasons for the guests to do this to the king? Maybe they are afraid of him. He might be very good to them, and they have not been very good to him. They would fear seeing him because he might get angry at them. That doesn't make much sense, though, because he wants them to be a part of such a grand celebration (his son's wedding).

If we apply this parable to the Mass (Heaven on Earth), we might ask the same questions. Why do so many Catholics reject the Father's invitation to this feast every Sunday? First, do they see it as an invitation? If so, do they skip Mass because of guilt? Is it just laziness (the parable gives no indication that the guests just don't feel like going)? Or, is it fear? As in the parable, it makes no sense that people would be afraid to see God at Mass because He might get angry at them.

This is a feast of the grandest proportions, people! Our King wants each of us to share in the joy of His Son's banquet! He knows that we are all sinners and have been unfaithful to Him. We might be like the second group of guests that the king invites: "good and bad alike". Whoever we are, God has called us to His table. We are called "blessed" by the author of the Book of Revelation (from which many of the chants at Mass are taken): "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb" (19:9). The Father rejoices when we come to the feast of the Lamb, and share in the Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Custody of the eyes

Ol' Fred had been a faithful Christian and was in the hospital, near death. The family called their pastor to stand with them. As the pastor stood next to the bed, Ol' Fred's condition appeared to deteriorate and he motioned frantically for something to write on. The pastor lovingly handed him a pen and a piece of paper, and Ol' Fred used his last bit of energy to scribble a note, then he died.

The pastor thought it best not to look at the note at that time, so he placed it in his jacket pocket. At the funeral, as he was finishing the message, he realized that he was wearing the same jacket that he was wearing when Ol' Fred died. He said, "You know, Ol' Fred handed me a note just before he died. I haven't looked at it, but knowing Fred, I'm sure there's a word of inspiration there for us all."

He opened the note, and read, "Hey, buddy, you're standing on my oxygen tube!"
One practice in the Christian life that we don't hear too much about these days is "custody of the eyes". Our parents and grandparents are more familiar with this important aspect of Christian purity; basically, it means to have control of what we look at regularly. With the countless images that inundate us each day via television, movies, magazines, music / videos, ads / billboards, and internet, we need to employ this great spiritual tool as part of our daily arsenal to "fight the good fight of faith" (2 Tim 4:6).

Jesus places the utmost importance on custody of the eyes in Luke 11: "The lamp of your body is your eye. When your eye is clear, your whole body, too, is filled with light; but when it is diseased your body, too, will be darkened. See to it then that the light inside you is not darkness" (v. 34-35). If we are not careful, the light that is in our body and soul can be darkened by diseased or poisoned eyes.

The eyes are the "windows of the soul". They reflect the state of the soul; if someone if filled with the light of Christ, you can see it in their eyes. By contrast, if someone is filled with darkness and constantly appears sad, you can often see that in their eyes. Even if their eyes don't reflect it, Jesus' words remain true: we can pollute our minds and bodies by looking at unclean things.

Living a pure, chaste life for Christ starts with our eyes. How can we possibly begin to live this kind of life? A Catholic author, T.G. Morrow, helps us get started:

One must begin by observing with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, I, q 81 a3), that the sexual appetite listens not only to reason, but to the senses and the imagination as well. Thus, one must first be careful what he/she looks at or watches. Viewing sexually explicit movies or videocassettes, or pornography, or even focusing on provocatively dressed members of the opposite sex is poison for one seeking chastity. The worst of these is using pornographic materials, since pornography depicts sex as merely recreational and women (or men) as mere objects of enjoyment. Both are terrible lies.

The Father of Lies knows how important our eyes are in following Christ, and is constantly fighting each one of us for custody of our eyes. He wants us to view what is impure, and to do it ad nauseum. But, we have major weapons to fight him in gaining (or regaining) control of all that comes into our mind and soul.

We have the Grace of Christ in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist and Confession, Scripture, prayer, the intercession of the Blessed Mother ("Virgin of Virgins") and all the angels (ask for your guardian angel to help you) and saints (St. Maria Goretti, virgin and martyr at age 11, is a good one), other devotions, mortifications, books on purity and chastity, and each other to help us "fight the good fight".

"Do not say that you have chaste minds if you have unchaste eyes because an unchaste eye is the messenger of an unchaste heart". - St Augustine

Friday, September 30, 2005

A letter to youth

"Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs... Then he embraced them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing". - Mk 10: 14,16
As I get set to leave St. John's on Sunday, I want to write a special note to the youth of this great parish. This is to all of the students in the school, CCD, and youth group:

My young brothers and sisters,

Hi! Thank you so much for letting me spend so much time with you in Church, on the playground, in the classroom, on the campgrounds, at Cyberspace, on the white water rapids, and in your homes. You are a very special group of people of whom I am very proud and love very much.

As I said this morning at Mass, there are two things in this world that I love the most: 1) Jesus in the Eucharist, and 2) youth. I spend as much time as I can with both of you every day. I spend an hour with Jesus every morning in Church. Then, I come visit you on the playgrounds, in the classroom...I want to be wherever you are. I want to be a priest so that I can spend so much time with Jesus and you every day for the rest of my life. What a life!!

Jesus loves you very much! He, too, has a special love for children. The Bible verse above shows that. All of our love comes from Jesus. The love I have for you is from Jesus. It is really His love for you, coming through me. He has been the one playing with you, talking with you, embracing you, and laughing with you. It's not about Brother Greg, it's about Jesus. It's all about Jesus. He is always here for you; He will never leave you.

For now, I have to leave you. I have to go serve Jesus in another place. But, I will be back to visit you soon. I will pray for you every day. Please pray for me! Also, pray for Fr. Ray, Mrs. Suit, your teachers, your parents, your brothers and sisters, and your friends. Jesus wants us all to pray for each other. We are a family! Thank you very much for letting me be a part of the St. John's family.

I will miss you all a lot but will smile when I think of you. Please smile when you think of me! Our smiles will say, as they always do, "Jesus loves me".

May God bless each of you always,

Brother Greg

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Living next to a saint

I am good friends with a couple in Pennsylvania. They live very close to the seminary I attended (Mount St Mary's), and I would visit them and their five kids frequently. Great Catholic family! When I would visit, I played with the kids and joked around much of the time. But, then, they invited another seminarian (who was a deacon) to their home. He prayed evening prayer with them, blessed their house, and led them in a rosary. When he left, their kids halfheartedly said, "so that's what a seminarian is supposed to be like!" ...(oops)
Last week, I learned that a good friend of mine from the seminary lost his long battle with cancer at a very young age. Fr. Darin Didier was a ordained a priest of Fargo, ND in June of this year after fighting non-Hodgkins lyphoma for many years in the seminary. The disease had been in remission for at least a year, maybe two. Unfortunately, it returned this summer, and Fr Darin died the first week of September.

Darin and I were friends, classmates, and neighbors. I would hear him coughing through many a night in his last year of seminary. He rarely (if ever) complained about the cancer, and lived his simple yet joyful life as normally as ever. Darin was very athletic, intelligent, kind, enthusiastic, and loving. To me and many others, he was a saint. For nine months, I had the great honor of living next to a saint!

When he was first diagnosed with the cancer, he underwent radiation and chemotherapy, and had to leave the seminary. After a while, the doctors told him that the treatments were not working properly. Eventually, he was told by them that there was nothing more that they could do. So, Darin turned to natural supplements, a strict diet (he was already a health nut), and to priests. He had a few priests pray over him in the hopes of a healing. Basically, he put his whole life in the hands of God.

Amazingly, the cancer went into remission. He was well enough to return to the seminary and resume his formation for priesthood. He continued a rigorous natural and supernatural diet to keep the cancer from returning. He was an heroic witness to the virtue of faith to so many people at and around the Mount, not to mention elsewhere. What courage!

The amazing gift for Fr Darin, obviously, is priesthood. He was cured long enough to be ordained. When a man is ordained a priest, it is forever. Fr Darin is a priest forever! I believe he is like John Paul II in the sense that he had a very short stay in Purgatory, and is now in Heaven. He endured the Cross in huge ways; now, he enjoys the fruits of Paradise with Almighty God and all the angels and saints.

I have already asked his intercession on some matters. As powerful as his prayers were on Earth, they are even more so now. Father Darin, pray for us!

Oh, and by the way, the seminarian I mentioned above was Darin Didier.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Thank you, GW!!

I learned this summer that I won't be returning to St Stephen's/GW. Cardinal McCarrick has asked me to serve in a parish in Montgomery County (Maryland) for this school year. Hopefully, he will ordain me a transitional deacon in December, and then a priest in May '06. I will keep you updated.

Last year at St Stephen's was one of the greatest experiences of my life. To be around such great people in the parish and GW was such a blessing! I am extremely grateful to the former pastor (Msgr Hill), staff, young adults, and parishioners for making me feel so welcome and part of the family. I spent most of my vacation time there last year because of your hospitality, joy, and goodness. The young adults inspired me with their faith and generosity. I will miss them- studs, all of them!

To the students of GW, I say thank you in a HUGE way. You allowed me to be a part of a big year in your lives to share laughs, tears, and faith. You are all so talented and have such busy lives, yet you gave so much to Christ, me and the programs. You opened your minds and hearts to Christ and it paid such great dividends for all of us. I encourage you to continue living the generous spirit you have, and give yourselves more to Him and to others in prayer and service.

While the dinners and discussions were truly memorable and powerful experiences, my greatest memory was a Lenten Penance service. Amid the craziness of your schedules, the fact that it was late on a Sunday night, and with some being afraid because it had been years since going to Confession, we still had a great turnout! Something special is going on when people make the free choice to reconcile with God and the Church in Confession. It was AWESOME to see! Inspiring, really. Hopefully, it was awesome for those who went to experience the mercy of God in a deep way.

I will continue to blog on this site unless Fr Gurnee decides to have someone else take over. We still have many people reading this each week, which is great. I will try to visit GW at some point this year. I pray for all of you each time I pray the rosary. For those who have asked me to pray for them or their special intentions, you are on my list which I take to Night Prayer each night (always looking to add to the list!). Until I see you next, I will see you in prayer.

I love you all, and from the bottom of my heart am truly grateful for the love and support you have shown me. May God continue to bless you abundantly this year, and all the years of your life. Please pray for me, priests, and those in religious life. Thank you, GW!!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Tabernacles of hope

"You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the cake."

- Bob Hope
Here is an exerpt from a reflection I gave at all the Masses this past weekend at a parish in Southern Maryland:

There are two things that I can say with great confidence about Hurricane Katrina. First, the hurricane was not part of God’s active, perfect Plan. Second, God has allowed this to happen in order to bring about tremendous good. On the first point, the Book of Wisdom, Chapter One, “God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living”. On the second point, whenever we ask, ‘why does God allow evil to exist? Why does He allow suffering’, we need to look at the Cross. Why did He allow that? He loves his only Son infinitely, He has perfect love for Jesus. And yet, He allowed Him to suffer tremendously.

Like Christ, the people in the South, particularly New Orleans, have been humbled something fierce, have been stripped of almost everything, and have suffered tremendously. They are carrying a HUGE Cross. Like most crosses, they didn’t choose this. They are sharing in Christ’s Passion and suffering. But, while Christ had his Good Friday, He also had his Easter Sunday. He rose from the dead! Conquered death! Life after death! So, too, those in the South who are in their Passion will have a Resurrection.

Mother Teresa once said, “Don’t ever get so sad that you lose sight of the Resurrection”. While we are men and women of the Cross – Jesus says, ‘unless you carry your cross, you cannot be my disciple’ – we are men and women of the Resurrection. We believe and have great confidence that our brothers and sisters in the South will experience a Resurrection. They will experience a newness of life that they’ve never known. They will find joy in things that before they didn’t or in things that they’ve taken for granted – a bed to sleep on, a hot meal, a roof over their heads. We believe that they will experience a Resurrection soon.

We come to this Mass, every Mass, celebrating Christ’s Death and Resurrection. Especially in the Eucharist, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross in a special way, and that makes Him present on the altar under the signs of bread and wine. We receive Jesus’ risen flesh and blood in Holy Communion, and go forth from this place as living tabernacles of hope to those we meet. We have the risen Lord dwelling within us at that point. Hope Himself dwelling within us. We take a message of hope, this Gospel of Hope, Joy, Peace and Love to our neighbors, friends and family this week, and pray with great confidence for the victims of Katrina.

“Don’t ever get so sad that you lose sight of the Resurrection”.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Big Hurt in the Big Easy

Sorry it's taken me a little while to get back on here to make a post about World Youth Day... it was awesome! Probably over 1,000,000 Catholic youth there to greet Pope Benedict and celebrate our Catholic faith. I actually got to shake the Pope's hands at one point! We toured churches and tombs of saints in Rome, Assisi, and Padua before heading off to Germany. In Germany, the crowds were huge for the Opening Mass, conferences, prayer vigil, and Closing Mass. For the vigil and Closing Mass, our group (of about 125) walked 6 miles, and slept outside with a million other people. The 2 week pilgrimmage was an encounter with Christ and his Church for many in our group. Pretty cool stuff!
It is very painful, frustrating, and sad to watch the TV coverage of the devastation in the South from Hurricane Katrina. The networks are trying to show positive stories of heroism with every story of heartbreak. And, there are many great people rising to the occasion and doing selfless acts of love for their neighbor. But, there are also some people who are either acting immorally or illegally in acting solely for themselves. In other words, God is very much at work in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama right now, but so is the Opponent.

Some of the glimpses of the conditions down there, especially in New Orleans, remind me of Calcutta, India. I was there in 2000, working briefly with the Missionaries of Charity. There are many similarities between Calcutta and New Orleans at the moment. One thing I saw a lot of in Calcutta is many people wandering the streets with nowhere to go, nothing to eat or drink, and unclean conditions all around them. I saw the exact same thing on the TV on Wednesday; people walking around New Orleans with nothing except the shirts on their backs. What is going on in the Big Easy is the norm for Calcutta.

Can any good come out of this? Physically, yes, but it will take much time, effort, and money. Spiritually, yes, too, and I believe it will be much more immediate. In Calcutta, I saw the poorest of the poor; we are seeing them every night in New Orleans on TV. They really have nothing. For the men and women of Calcutta who sleep on sidewalks or for those in New Orleans who walk back and forth on Interstate 10 with no food, clothing, or shelter, it's really just them and God. They have nothing else except Him right now. Maybe for the first time in some of their lives, they are talking and listening to their Father in Heaven.

Do we who are rich do that? Or do all of the things ("toys") we have distract us from talking with God? Have we tuned God out with all of the noise of the world - I Pods, cell phones, internet, etc.? Are we focused more on things of this life or things of the next life? Jesus warns us: "Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth... but store up treasures for yourselves in heaven" (Matt 6:19,20). Also, he tells the rich young man to "go and sell your possessions and give money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me" (Matt 19:21). Our Lord knows full well the danger of riches. Possessions can become evil if we become attached to them.

I don't believe that all of this has happened to the people of the South because they're evil, and God is angry. On the contrary, I believe that God has allowed his children down there a great opportunity to reach out to Him. He has allowed them to be humbled, stripped of almost everything, and suffer greatly; He allowed the same things in His own Son's life. In a radical and paradoxical way, Christ honors the poor but condemns the rich (see Matt 19:24). Our Southern brothers and sisters are the poorest of the poor; they are the 'poor in spirit' whom Christ calls 'blessed' (Matt 5:3).

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

World Youth Day bound

I'm heading off on a trip with approximately 100 high school youth and 20 adults to Germany for World Youth Day. It should be a great trip; a great group of kids. We're heading to stops in Italy (Rome, Assisi, etc.) and Germany before ending up in Cologne, Germany, with the Pope. Please pray for these youth, as they hear and see the Gospel from people their own age from all over the world, and also from the Holy Father.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Confirmation - notes

Is Confirmation necessary for salvation?

-debatable; theological debate
-might say that it is necessary for those who have been offered it

- the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church says this:
“It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed." (CCC, # 1285)
-Confirmation completes baptism
-“seals” the gifts of baptism
-sends us on our journey; missionary
-“receive the Holy Spirit”

“The 1st Confirmation” – Pentecost (fifty days after Resurrection / Passover - feast of weeks)
- Acts 2:1-13
- Jesus had promised that the Father would send the Spirit
-“the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you” - John 14:26

- Acts 8
- the Apostles, began to impart the gift of the Spirit through the laying on of hands
-Peter and John went to Samaria where the people “had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (16-17)

Did the early Church celebrate Confirmation as we do??

-yes, with external signs (oils, the laying on of hands) and with the bishop as celebrant
-no, because it was celebrated with baptism as a “double sacrament”

Conf. completes bapt., seals gifts of HS, indelible character
-Bishop couldn’t be present at all baptisms
-huge number of baptisms, growing number of rural parishes, growth of dioceses (among other reasons)
-West separated the 2 in order to reserve Conf. to the bishop
- East kept them as one; priests did Conf.

Did the early Church Fathers distinguish between Baptism and Confirmation:

- St. Hippolytus of Rome (235 AD) mentions the following rites of
- Imposition of hands by the Bishop and prayer
- anointing with consecrated oil - this unction must be distinguished from the baptismal unction performed by the priest after Baptism - together with imposition of hands and the simultaneous pronouncement of a Trinitarian form of blessing
- signing of the forehead and the kiss of peace.
(St. Hippolytus may have studied under St. Iraneus, who studied under St. Polycarp, who studied under St. John the Apostle)

What about the oils used in Confirmation?
- “Christ” = anointed one ; Christian = anointed one
- very early in the Church, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands
- continues in both East and West
- East: “chrismation”
- West: “Confirmation” (ratification of Baptism and strengthening / fulfilling baptismal grace)

- Chrism oil is used in Baptism – priesthood of Christ as p,p,k

- from OT and other ancient symbolism, oil:
- is a sign of abundance and joy
- cleanses (before or after a bath) and limbers (athletes, e.g.)
- is a sign of healing since it soothes bruises and wounds
- makes radiant with beauty, health, and strength

- those who are anointed at Baptism are cleansed and strengthened
- those who are anointed at Confirmation are consecrated to Christ and share more deeply in his mission

Confirmation seals us as Christ’s and helps us to DO God’s Will

Confirmation brings a greater familiarity with the Holy Spirit, particularly, who can be a powerful presence in our lives
- gifts of the Holy Spirit (+ charisms; 1 Cor 12; healing, prophecy, miracles, tongues)
- fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Baptism - notes

Here are my notes from a talk I gave recently on the Sacrament of Baptism at the parish at which I'm stationed this summer. It's part of a summer series on the sacraments. I will post notes from talks on the other sacraments in the coming weeks. Please feel free to ask questions if something is unclear. Hope everyone is having a good and safe summer!!

Can someone get to Heaven without being baptized?

Jesus – to Nicodemus (‘see the kingdom of God’...need to be ‘born from above’)

“In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit” - John 3:5

“whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” – Mark 16:16

Does baptism in the Spirit only occur through water?

By desire – the good thief on the cross, e.g.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”
“in truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” – Lk 23:42-43

By blood – sharing in Jesus’ baptism by blood
“The cup that I shall drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I shall be baptized, you shall be baptized” – Mk 10:39

Is baptism symbolic only??

- sacraments – confer the grace they signify
- no Scriptural references to baptism (or any of the sacraments) being symbolic only

“’You must repent,’ Peter answered, ‘and every one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” -Acts 2:38

“every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ” –Gal 3:27

“when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death. So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life” – Rom 6:4

Baptism prefigured in OT

- 2 Kings 5:14
Naaman immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, “and his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.”

- Isaiah 44:3
“I shall pour out water on the thirsty soil and streams on the dry ground. I shall pour out my spirit on your descendants” (water and Spirit)

- Ezekiel 36:25-27
“I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you”

- Noah’s ark, as described by Peter – 1 Peter 3: 19-22
“ In (Noah’s ark), only a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water. It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now
– not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience given to God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”

OT purification rites = almost always limited to external ‘bodily’ purity
- Ark shows the limits of the saving waters of the old covenant

-Baptism = no limits of the saving waters of the new covenant

The spiritual life begins with baptism

- Rom 6:4 - by baptism, “we too should begin living a new life”
Heaven on Earth, fullness of life

- Col 2:9 – “you have been buried with him by your baptism…you were dead, because you were sinners and uncircumcised in body; he has brought you to life with him”

- baptism and all of the sacraments are not just about getting to Heaven when our bodies die, but also about getting to Heaven on Earth

- die to self, sin
- experience the fullness of Christ on Earth in the Church (sacraments)
- Eucharist, Confession, etc.

What do we receive at Baptism?
- Life in Christ

- Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
“Baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”
- real (vs Protestants – merely symbolic)

- Faith
-“for all of you are children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, since
every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ”
– Gal 3:26-27

- forgiveness of sins
- “by Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin”
- concupiscence remains (the inclination toward sin)

- gifts of the Holy Spirit
- wisdom, knowledge, understanding, reverence, fear of the Lord,
right judgement, courage

- incorporation into the Church, the Body of Christ
- “for by one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body” – 1 Cor 12:13
- all the baptized share in the common priesthood of Christ

- “but you are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a people to be a personal possession to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” – 1 Pet 2:9
- baptized to be priest, prophet, and king

- “Having become a member of the Church, the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to him who died and rose for us. From now on, he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of the Church, and to "obey and submit" to the Church's leaders, holding them in respect and affection. Just as Baptism is the source of responsibilities and duties, the baptized person also enjoys rights within the Church: to receive the sacraments, to be nourished with the Word of God and to be sustained by the other spiritual helps of the Church.” – CCC, # 1269

- "’Reborn as sons of God, [the baptized] must profess before men the faith they have received from God through the Church" and participate in the apostolic and missionary activity of the People of God.’” – CCC, # 1270

- an indelible spiritual mark
- “Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.” (CCC, # 1272)

- “do not grieve the holy Spirit who has marked you with his seal, ready for the day when we shall be set free” – Eph 4:30

- "Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life." – St Ireneaus
- die with the seal of baptism = enter eternal life

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

"Parts of the Mass" - III

The following is part 3 (of 3) of the "parts of the Mass". Please see the introduction to the other parts for more information.
72. At the Last Supper Christ instituted the Paschal Sacrifice and banquet by which the Sacrifice of the Cross is continuously made present in the Church whenever the priest, representing Christ the Lord, carries out what the Lord himself did and handed over to his disciples to be done in his memory. For Christ took the bread and the chalice and gave thanks; he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take, eat, and drink: this is my Body; this is the cup of my Blood. Do this in memory of me." Accordingly, the Church has arranged the entire celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in parts corresponding to precisely these words and actions of Christ:

At the Preparation of the Gifts, the bread and the wine with water are brought to the altar, the same elements that Christ took into his hands.

In the Eucharistic Prayer, thanks is given to God for the whole work of salvation, and the offerings become the Body and Blood of Christ.

Through the fraction and through Communion, the faithful, though they are many, receive from the one bread the Lord's Body and from the one chalice the Lord's Blood in the same way the Apostles received them from Christ's own hands.

The Preparation of the Gifts
73. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the gifts, which will become Christ's Body and Blood, are brought to the altar. The offerings are then brought forward. It is praiseworthy for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful.

76. The priest then washes his hands at the side of the altar, a rite that is an expression of his desire for interior purification.

The Prayer over the Offerings
77. Once the offerings have been placed on the altar and the accompanying rites completed, the invitation to pray with the priest and the prayer over the offerings conclude the preparation of the gifts and prepare for the Eucharistic Prayer. The people, uniting themselves to this entreaty, make the prayer their own with the acclamation, Amen.

The Eucharistic Prayer
78. Now the center and summit of the entire celebration begins: namely, the Eucharistic Prayer, that is, the prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. The priest invites the people to lift up their hearts to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving; he unites the congregation with himself in the prayer that he addresses in the name of the entire community to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the meaning of the Prayer is that the entire congregation of the faithful should join itself with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifice. The Eucharistic Prayer demands that all listen to it with reverence and in silence.

79. The chief elements making up the Eucharistic Prayer may be distinguished in this way:

Thanksgiving (expressed especially in the Preface): In which the priest, in the name of the entire holy people, glorifies God the Father and gives thanks for the whole work of salvation
Acclamation: In which the whole congregation, joining with the heavenly powers, sings the Sanctus.
Epiclesis: In which, by means of particular invocations, the Church implores the power of the Holy Spirit that the gifts offered by human hands be consecrated, that is, become Christ's Body and Blood, and that the spotless Victim to be received in Communion be for the salvation of those who will partake of it.
Institution narrative and consecration: In which, by means of words and actions of Christ, the Sacrifice is carried out which Christ himself instituted at the Last Supper, when he offered his Body and Blood under the species of bread and wine, gave them to his Apostles to eat and drink, and left them the command to perpetuate this same mystery.
Anamnesis: In which the Church, fulfilling the command that she received from Christ the Lord through the Apostles, keeps the memorial of Christ, recalling especially his blessed Passion, glorious Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven.
Offering: By which, in this very memorial, the Church—and in particular the Church here and now gathered—offers in the Holy Spirit the spotless Victim to the Father.
Intercessions: By which expression is given to the fact that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the entire Church, of heaven as well as of earth, and that the offering is made for her and for all her members, living and dead, who have been called to participate in the redemption and the salvation purchased by Christ's Body and Blood.
Final doxology: By which the glorification of God is expressed and is confirmed and concluded by the people's acclamation, Amen.

The Communion Rite
80. Since the Eucharistic Celebration is the Paschal Banquet, it is desirable that in keeping with the Lord's command, his Body and Blood should be received by the faithful who are properly disposed as spiritual food. This is the sense of the fraction and the other preparatory rites by which the faithful are led directly to Communion.

The Lord's Prayer
81. In the Lord's Prayer a petition is made for daily food, which for Christians means preeminently the eucharistic bread, and also for purification from sin, so that what is holy may, in fact, be given to those who are holy.

The Rite of Peace
82. The Rite of Peace follows, by which the Church asks for peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament.

The Fraction
83. The priest breaks the Bread and puts a piece of the host into the chalice to signify the unity of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the work of salvation, namely, of the living and glorious Body of Jesus Christ. Communion

84. The priest prepares himself by a prayer, said quietly, that he may fruitfully receive Christ's Body and Blood. The faithful do the same, praying silently.The priest next shows the faithful the Eucharistic Bread, holding it above the paten or above the chalice, and invites them to the banquet of Christ. Along with the faithful, he then makes an act of humility using the prescribed words taken from the Gospels.

85. It is most desirable that the faithful, just as the priest himself is bound to do, receive the Lord's Body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that, in the instances when it is permitted, they partake of the chalice (cf. below, no. 283), so that even by means of the signs Communion will stand out more clearly as a participation in the sacrifice actually being celebrated.

88. When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately. If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation.

89. To bring to completion the prayer of the People of God, and also to conclude the entire Communion Rite, the priest says the Prayer after Communion, in which he prays for the fruits of the mystery just celebrated.

90. The concluding rites consist of
Brief announcements, if they are necessary;
The priest's greeting and blessing, which on certain days and occasions is enriched and expressed in the prayer over the People or another more solemn formula;
The dismissal of the people by the deacon or the priest, so that each may go out to do good works, praising and blessing God;
The kissing of the altar by the priest and the deacon, followed by a profound bow to the altar by the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"Parts of the Mass" - II

The following is part 2 (of 3) of the "parts of the Mass". Please see the intro notes from last week's post.

55. The main part of the Liturgy of the Word is made up of the readings from Sacred Scripture together with the chants occurring between them. The homily, Profession of Faith, and Prayer of the Faithful, however, develop and conclude this part of the Mass. For in the readings, as explained by the homily, God speaks to his people, opening up to them the mystery of redemption and salvation and offering them spiritual nourishment; and Christ himself is present in the midst of the faithful through his word.

56. During the Liturgy of the Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence, accommodated to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the first and second reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the homily.

The Biblical Readings
57. In the readings, the table of God's word is prepared for the faithful, and the riches of the Bible are opened to them. Hence, it is preferable to maintain the arrangement of the biblical readings, by which light is shed on the unity of both Testaments and of salvation history. Moreover, it is unlawful to substitute other, non-biblical texts for the readings and responsorial Psalm, which contain the word of God.

58. In the celebration of the Mass with a congregation, the readings are always proclaimed from the ambo.

59. By tradition, the function of proclaiming the readings is ministerial, not presidential. The readings, therefore, should be proclaimed by a lector, and the Gospel by a deacon or, in his absence, a priest other than the celebrant. If, however, a deacon or another priest is not present, the priest celebrant himself should read the Gospel. Further, if another suitable lector is also not present, then the priest celebrant should also proclaim the other readings.

60. The reading of the Gospel is the high point of the Liturgy of the Word. The Liturgy itself teaches that great reverence is to be shown to it by setting it off from the other readings with special marks of honor: whether the minister appointed to proclaim it prepares himself by a blessing or prayer; or the faithful, standing as they listen to it being read, through their acclamations acknowledge and confess Christ present and speaking to them; or the very marks of reverence are given to the Book of the Gospels.

The Responsorial Psalm
61. After the first reading comes the responsorial Psalm, which is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and holds great liturgical and pastoral importance, because it fosters meditation on the word of God.The responsorial Psalm should correspond to each reading and should, as a rule, be taken from the Lectionary.

62. After the reading that immediately precedes the Gospel, the Alleluia or another chant indicated by the rubrics is sung, as required by the liturgical season. An acclamation of this kind constitutes a rite or act in itself, by which the assembly of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to them in the Gospel and professes their faith by means of the chant. It is sung by all while standing and is led by the choir or a cantor, being repeated if this is appropriate.

The Homily
65. The homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.

66. The Homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay person. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate. After the homily a brief period of silence is appropriately observed.

The Profession of Faith
67. The purpose of the Symbolum or Profession of Faith, or Creed, is that the whole gathered people may respond to the word of God proclaimed in the readings taken from Sacred Scripture and explained in the homily and that they may also call to mind and confess the great mysteries of the faith by reciting the rule of faith in a formula approved for liturgical use, before these mysteries are celebrated in the Eucharist.

The Prayer of the Faithful
69. In the Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in a certain way to the word of God which they have welcomed in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is fitting that such a prayer be included, as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the holy Church, for civil authorities, for those weighed down by various needs, for all men and women, and for the salvation of the whole world.

70. As a rule, the series of intentions is to be
For the needs of the Church;
For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
For those burdened by any kind of difficulty;
For the local community.

Nevertheless, in a particular celebration, such as Confirmation, Marriage, or a Funeral, the series of intentions may reflect more closely the particular occasion.