Thursday, May 31, 2007

Feast of the Visitation - Gospel

Gospel - Lk 1:39-56

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"God will provide"

A blogger posted the following: “Does tithing include time, talent & treasure(money)? How should a Catholic Christian distribute treasure? We help support 2 families who live below the poverty income level (groceries, rent money, clothing). They have fallen into hard times due to illness and the other family -dad desertion. If we continue to help these families, we feel like our tithing seems too minimal. Is our first priority to give a certain percentage to the church and then help others? We live on a budget and we are not sure what to do.......If we had more funds, we could do it all and still pay our bills. Yet we must apportion the funds. What is the right way to do it?”

Great question, blogger, and great job!! Tithe means literally “one-tenth”, and usually refers to the percentage of one’s income that is offered to God through the Church. One of the primary foundations for tithing is found in Genesis 14:20 where Abram gave “a tenth of everything” to the priest, Melchizedek. The letter to the Hebrews confirms the significance of this account: “see how great he is to whom the patriarch ‘Abraham gave a tenth’ of his spoils” (7:4). There are many other biblical references to tithing. I found an online article which lists many of them; please click on the title of this post to view the article.

There are other spiritual and practical points about tithing in the article that are helpful, especially in answering the questions of the blogger. There is also a workbook that I haven’t read but which received good reviews from a solid Catholic newspaper. “The Catholic Answers Guide to Family Finances” by Philip Lenahan “helps people build their finances on a foundation of faith” (National Catholic Register, Feb ‘05).

I remember reading that Catholics give about 1% of their gross income to the Church; Protestants give about twice as much. Some people view their children’s tuition to Catholic schools as part of tithing, so that percentage would go up if that is to be factored in. I remember what Fr. Wells once said: ‘if every Catholic gave 3% of their income, Catholic education would be free’. The point is that we should give to the Church in generosity and trust. If we gave more generously, the Church would then be more able to pool our donations and provide more adequate services, one of which would be free education in our schools.

During the five years that I was working in sales, I abided by the old formula that Cardinal Hickey once proposed: 5% (of gross income) to the parish, 4% to charities, and 1% to the Cardinal’s Appeal (which provides for local Catholic charities). Obviously, I didn’t have children for whom I needed to provide (but was thinking at that time that I might be preparing to raise a family in the future). I made good money, but not huge money. But, during the time I tithed and through God’s generosity, I was able to buy a house, invest in mutual funds, and put away money for retirement. The old adage that “God is never outdone in generosity” was a recurring thought during those days, especially.

I really do believe that the more we give, the more we receive. It’s kind of like keeping holy the Sabbath: people who work only six days in order to rest on the Sabbath are usually more productive than when they worked seven days. It’s the same with tithing: people who have increased their giving have found more financial prosperity than before. A big part is that God rewards generosity (he does offer investment returns of thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold!). But, another big part is the whole idea of prioritizing our expenses so that we are good stewards of all that God has given us. In other words, we eliminate expenses which really aren’t necessary and don’t work toward building up the Kingdom.

Please think back to the story of the widow who gave two coins. She gave all that she had; the rich people gave from their surplus. She gave when it hurt to give; they gave what was comfortable to give. Each one of us can ask ourselves, ‘do I give when it hurts to give or am I only giving what is comfortable to give?’ We probably do more of the latter than the former because we want to be “financially secure”. But, when we, as Abraham taught us, trust that “God will provide” and give to Him even when it hurts, we find something more meaningful than financial security: spiritual, moral, and personal security.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"To whom shall we go?"

“Night Owl”: “My godmother decided to change religions from Catholic to Southern Baptist about a year ago (my godfather passed away years ago). How do I help her back to the Catholic faith or should I even try? I think it’s a bit ironic that I need to help my "godmother" who promised to help raise me Catholic.

It is ironic, Anon, and, of course, sad about your godmother. Absolutely, you should try to help her back to the Church. You might want to start by asking her why she has left, and be prepared for just about anything. She has probably fallen in with people who look very unfavorably on the Catholic Church and its teachings. After listening to her, I would direct the conversation toward the Eucharist. Specifically, I would ask her about John 6 where Christ says to Peter, after the large crowd of people left Christ after the teaching on the Eucharist, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter responds with, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?”

The Southern Baptist church does not have the Eucharist; the Eucharist is only found in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. So, I would ask her as gently as possible, ‘how can you leave the Eucharist?’ Hopefully, she will realize in time what Peter realized immediately: to walk away from the Eucharist is to walk away from Christ who is eternal life.
“Anon”: “I have a family member who is Jewish. When one of my children asked why she doesn't have a crucifix in her home, she told her that she is offended by the symbol of the cross. I know that b/c she is the sole Jew in our large Catholic family, she has a tendency to be a bit defensive about her faith, and I didn't feel comfortable asking her why she felt that way. I can understand that this is not her faith, but why is the cross offensive? I do not find the Star of David "offensive". She and my cousin just had a baby boy, and I'm guessing my cousin can kiss passing his Gonzaga legacy on goodbye!”

The Cross can be offensive to Jewish people if they think that we hold them solely responsible for the death of Christ. They might think that we are saying, ‘look what you did to our Savior’. Remember the uproar about the movie, “Passion of the Christ”, and how it was seen by many as anti-semitic? The movie was just telling the story of what happened: yes, the Jewish leaders and peoples were in the midst of it all, and yelling, ‘crucify him…crucify him’. But, so was Pilate and the Roman soldiers; and, so were all of us.

You might want to talk to your cousin’s wife and remind her that we all take part in the Passion narrative on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. We participate in it because we all had a hand in the death of Christ. It is our sin that has wounded him. No one group of people takes more blame than the other; the sins of all of humanity were present on Good Friday.

Also, you might try to find common ground with her. You don’t find the Star of David offensive because it is part of the foundation of your faith. The Jewish faith is the foundation of our Catholic Christian faith. We are all Jewish Christians. We don’t abandon the Old Law or the Old Testament because it is our heritage. It speaks to us of our ancestors in faith. You and she were family members, then, long before she married your cousin.

I would recommend learning more about the Old Testament so that you can discuss it with her. All of the Old Testament leads to Christ and the New Testament. The Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament (e.g. the Passover feast is fulfilled in the Eucharist). Judaism itself finds its fulfillment in Christianity. As St Paul realized, being a faithful Jew means being a faithful follower of Christ.
“Anon”: “A protestant person told me that they read in the paper that St. Mary's College was taking down crosses to make the non-Christian students more comfortable is this true?”

If you are referring to St. Mary’s College in Maryland, it is a public college, so there wouldn’t be crosses up in the first place.

Monday, May 28, 2007

"A day of remembrance"

The following is an article from last Thursday’s Catholic Standard. I concelebrated a Mass this morning at Gate of Heaven cemetery with Bishop Holley and several priests from the Archdiocese. Several hundred people attended this beautiful and moving tribute to all those who have died “with the mark of faith”, especially those who sacrifices their lives for the sake of freedom.

"A day of remembrance"

By Mark Zimmermann

Serving as a combat area chaplain with an Army National Guard Unit in Iraq during 2005, Father Sam Giese and his fellow soldiers gained a new respect for Memorial Day, because they lost friends and comrades in the war.

"They now owned Memorial Day in a way they didn't before. It was not just the beginning of summer anymore. It changed from a holiday to a day of remembrance," said the priest, remembering meeting with soldiers that Memorial Day in Iraq.

Father Giese, who was recently installed as the new pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Landover Hills, wrote a popular series of columns from Iraq for the Catholic Standard, chronicling his life as a chaplain there.

He said that Memorial Day Masses, especially at Catholic cemeteries, are meaningful to him, as a priest and as a veteran. "At moments like that, you think this really is a place of prayer, a consecrated sight," he said.

Interviewed last week about Memorial Day, the priest said, "The emphasis (on that day) should be on the debt we owe to those who served and who are killed in war service... So much of the freedom we now enjoy is owed to these people who really sacrificed, who put aside their lives and personal needs" to serve. "It's the sacrifice also of families," he added.

On Memorial Day last year, he spoke at a military cemetery in Baltimore, and he emphasized that line of service extends from the Civil War to those who saved Europe and Asia in World War II, to later veterans in Korea and Vietnam, to those serving overseas today.

Father Giese said he thinks about those whom he met during his rounds in the military camps in Iraq who later made the ultimate sacrifice. "I think about them pretty frequently, particularly the young fellow who didn't want to go, the young medic who was killed. He wanted to stay at home and care for his mother."

That incident reminded him of a gravestone for a Civil War soldier buried at St. Ignatius Church in Chapel Point in Southern Maryland, that includes an inscription, "Oh God have pity on a poor mother who lost her only son."

The priest said he also thinks about the mother whose son was killed in Iraq, yet she continued to send cookies to the soldiers in his unit.

"What Memorial Day should do is bridge the gaps of time we have for ourselves, and for those who've gone before," he said.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost: the birthday of the Church

The following is Pope Benedict XVI’s homily on Pentecost, 2006:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended with power upon the Apostles; thus began the mission of the Church in the world.

Jesus himself prepared the Eleven for this mission, appearing to them on many occasions after his Resurrection (cf. Acts 1: 3).

Prior to the Ascension into Heaven, he ordered them "not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father" (cf. Acts 1: 4-5); that is, he asked them to stay together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised event (cf. Acts 1: 14).

To stay together was the condition laid down by Jesus in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; the premise of their harmony was prolonged prayer. In this way we are offered a formidable lesson for every Christian community.

Some think at times that missionary effectiveness depends primarily on careful programming and its subsequent intelligent application through a concrete commitment.

The Lord certainly does ask for our collaboration, but before any other response his initiative is necessary: his Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church. The roots of our being and of our action are in the wise and provident silence of God.

The images used by St Luke to indicate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - wind and fire - recall Sinai, where God revealed himself to the people of Israel and offered his covenant (cf. Ex 19: 3ff.). The feast of Sinai, which Israel celebrated 50 days after the Passover, was the feast of the Covenant.

Speaking of the tongues of fire (cf. Acts 2: 3), St Luke wants to show Pentecost as a new Sinai, as the feast of the New Covenant, where the Covenant with Israel is extended to all the nations of the earth.

The Church has been catholic and missionary from her birth. The universality of salvation is meaningfully manifested with the list of the numerous ethnic groups to which those who heard the Apostles' first proclamation belonged (cf. Acts 2: 9-11).

The People of God, which had found its first configuration in Sinai, extends today to the point of surmounting every barrier of race, culture, space and time. As opposed to what occurred with the tower of Babel (cf. Gn 11: 1-9), when people wanted to build a way to heaven with their hands and ended up by destroying their very capacity of mutual understanding, in Pentecost the Spirit, with the gift of tongues, demonstrates that his presence unites and transforms confusion into communion.

Human pride and egoism always create divisions, build walls of indifference, hate and violence.

The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, makes hearts capable of understanding the languages of all, as he re-establishes the bridge of authentic communion between earth and heaven. The Holy Spirit is Love.

But how is it possible to enter into the mystery of the Holy Spirit? How can the secret of Love be understood?

The Gospel passage takes us today to the Upper Room where, after the Last Supper, a sense of loss has saddened the Apostles. This is due to the fact that Jesus' words arouse disturbing questions: He spoke of the world's hatred of him and of his own, he spoke of his mysterious departure; and there were still many other things to be said, but for the time being the Apostles were not able to bear the weight (cf. Jn 16: 12). To console them, he explains the meaning of his departure: he will go, but he will return; meanwhile, he will not abandon them, will not leave them orphans. He will send the Consoler, the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit will enable them to understand that Christ's work is a work of love: love of the One who gave himself, love of the Father who has given him.

This is the mystery of Pentecost: the Holy Spirit illuminates the human spirit and, by revealing Christ Crucified and Risen, indicates the way to become more like him, that is, to be "the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 33).

The Church, gathered with Mary as at her birth, today implores: "Veni, Sancte Spiritus! - Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!". Amen.”

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Priesthood ordinations today!!

Please pray for these five men who will be ordained priests today by Archbishop Wuerl at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception:

• Roy E. Campbell, Jr., 59, is a native of Pomonkey (Charles County), Maryland, who moved to Washington, DC as a child. A graduate of Howard University, he had a 33-year career with Bank of America, working his way up from teller to vice president and project manager. He also directed the American Lung Association of Maryland for five years in the 1980s. He was active in St. Gabriel parish in Washington, DC prior to entering Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Boston, MA.

• Brian A. Coehlo, 33, is a native of Kumta, India. He worked in his family’s business of splitting and delivering firewood prior to moving to the United States to enter Redemptoris Mater Seminary. He will serve as a diocesan missionary priest, both in local parishes, but also in overseas missions during his priesthood. He speaks Hindi and three other languages in addition to English and some Spanish. His parents and elder brother will travel to the United States for the ordination.

• John T. Nguyen, 33, is a native of Saigon, Vietnam. He escaped Vietnam with his father and a sister in the late 1980s, arriving in the United States when he was 15 years old. He has extensive pastoral experience, working with youth, at hospitals and teaching religious education. He attended the University of Scranton, The Catholic University of America and then seminary at Theological College in Washington, DC. His home parish is Our Lady of Vietnam in Silver Spring.

• Paul Nguyen, 28, was born in Tan Hiep, Kien Giang, Vietnam. He arrived in the United States at age 11 after several attempts at leaving Vietnam, including a year by himself in an orphanage and refugee camp in Thailand before he was reunited with his family in California. Paul attended the University of California at Irvine and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. His home parish is Our Lady of Vietnam in Silver Spring.

• Joseph E. Rogers, 35, was an international business executive for eight years prior to entering the seminary. His work took him to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Mexico, Russia and other nations. He participating in the US-Argentina and US-Brazil Business Councils, working on free trade issues. A native of Mobile, Alabama, he attended the University of Notre Dame, and received a master’s degree from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. He completed his pre-theology studies at Theological College in Washington, DC and seminary studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He speaks Italian, and some Spanish and German.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Total Consecration to Mary

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are welcome!
May is the month of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a time for all of us to step up our devotion to the Blessed Mother in some way. One of the best Marian devotions that I have found comes from St. Louis Marie de Montfort. It is a 33 day consecration that is based on his book, “True Devotion to Mary”. Pope John Paul II once called this book “a turning point in my life”.

I highly recommend this consecration to anyone who wishes to grow closer to Jesus through Mary. It can be done at different times during the year, and ends on a Marian feast. The consecration book is called “Total Consecration according to St. Louis Marie de Montfort” (Montfort Publications). If anyone has questions about or needs help in doing the consecration, please email me. The following is an excerpt from the consecration book:

“If we would go up to God, and be united with Him, we must use the same means He used to come down to us to be made Man and to impart His graces to us. This means is a true devotion to our Blessed Lady. There are several true devotions to our Lady: here I do not speak of those which are false.

The first consists in fulfilling our Christian duties, avoiding mortal sin, acting more out of love than with fear, praying to our Lady now and then, honoring her as the Mother of God, yet without having any special devotion to her.

The second consists in entertaining for our Lady more perfect feelings of esteem and love, of confidence and veneration. It leads us to join the Confraternities of the Holy Rosary and of the Scapular, to recite the five or the (twenty) decades of the Holy Rosary, to honor Mary’s image and altars, to publish her praises and to enroll ourselves in her sodalities. This devotion is good, holy, and praise-worthy if we keep ourselves free from sin. But it is not so perfect as the next, nor so efficient in severing our soul from creatures, in detaching ourselves in order to be united with Jesus Christ.

The third devotion to our Lady, known and practiced by very few persons, is this I am about to disclose to you, predestinate soul. It consists in giving one’s self entirely and as a slave to Mary, and to Jesus through Mary, and after that, to do all that we do, through Mary, with Mary, in Mary and for Mary. We should choose a special feast day on which we give, consecrate and sacrifice to Mary, voluntarily, lovingly and without constraint, entirely and without reserve: our body and soul, our exterior property, such as our house, family and income, and also our interior and spiritual possessions: namely, our merits, graces, virtues, and satisfactions.”

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Jn 17:20-26

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:

“I pray not only for these,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Madison is coming home!!

I saw Madison Mehlferber this morning at the rehab center. She is coming home June 2!! She is doing very well, especially considering that she’s been in the hospital and rehab center for the past 3 months. She and her parents are amazing! God is sooo good! Thank you all for your prayers.
“Night Owl” asked, “If a baby dies at 6 weeks of age and she was not baptized does the baby have a shot of going to heaven or does she end up in limbo?” Timely question! The Church recently issued a statement about the question of whether babies who die without being baptized can go to Heaven. Here are excerpts from an online article about the statement; to view the full text, please click on the title of this post:

“…In a document published April 20, (the Vatican's International Theological Commission) said the traditional concept of limbo -- as a place where unbaptized infants spend eternity but without communion with God -- seemed to reflect an "unduly restrictive view of salvation."

The church continues to teach that, because of original sin, baptism is the ordinary way of salvation for all people and urges parents to baptize infants, the document said.

But there is greater theological awareness today that God is merciful and "wants all human beings to be saved," it said. Grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ's special love for "the little ones," it said.

"Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered ... give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision," the document said.

"We emphasize that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge," it added…

The commission's document said salvation for unbaptized babies who die was becoming an urgent pastoral question, in part because their number is greatly increasing. Many infants today are born to parents who are not practicing Catholics, and many others are the unborn victims of abortion, it said.

Limbo has never been defined as church dogma and is not mentioned in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states simply that unbaptized infants are entrusted to God's mercy.

But limbo has long been regarded as the common teaching of the church. In the modern age, "people find it increasingly difficult to accept that God is just and merciful if he excludes infants, who have no personal sins, from eternal happiness," the new document said.

Parents in particular can experience grief and feelings of guilt when they doubt their unbaptized children are with God, it said.

The church's hope for these infants' salvation reflects a growing awareness of God's mercy, the commission said. But the issue is not simple, because appreciation for divine mercy must be reconciled with fundamental church teachings about original sin and about the necessity of baptism for salvation, it said…

This does not deny that all salvation comes through Christ and in some way through the church, it said, but it requires a more careful understanding of how this may work.

The document outlined several ways by which unbaptized babies might be united to Christ:
-- A "saving conformity to Christ in his own death" by infants who themselves suffer and die.
-- A solidarity with Christ among infant victims of violence, born and unborn, who like the holy innocents killed by King Herod are endangered by the "fear or selfishness of others."
-- God may simply give the gift of salvation to unbaptized infants, corresponding to his sacramental gift of salvation to the baptized.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The most reasonable faith in the world

Anon posted the following: “Is it possible for someone to be psychologically, innately incapable of accepting the religious truths discussed here and generally believed by Catholics? Think about this: Some people think so logically and so concretely that they have no aptitude to grasp the things that are at the core of Catholic doctrine: that a man rose from the dead for the sins of humankind; that Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit; that God is present at all in our lives, to name a few. This takes believing in the supernatural, in the divine. Some people simply are not wired in such a way that they could ever accept that. Am I just describing agnostics?”

Thanks, Anon, for laying out your thoughts in a well-constructed manner. Yes, they represent an agnostic view of faith, particularly the Christian faith. But, I do appreciate the probing nature of your post because it allows all of us to look more deeply at what is at the core of Catholic doctrine. Unlike any religion in the world, Catholic doctrine has faith and reason as its foundation. In fact, Pope John Paul II issued an encyclical titled, “Faith and reason”, in 1998. I will refer to it to help answer your questions.

The persons you describe – those who “think so logically and so concretely that they have no aptitude to grasp the things that are at the core of Catholic doctrine” – would be capable of accepting the religious truths discussed here and generally believed by Catholics. I can say that because it is entirely reasonable to believe what Catholic doctrine states. And, what does Catholic doctrine state? That which God has revealed to us. As John Paul II wrote, “The knowledge which the Church offers to man has its origin not in any speculation of her own, however sublime, but in the word of God which she has received in faith (cf. 1 Th 2:13)”. It does take faith to believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but it is reasonable to believe it.

The whole idea of how we think logically (how we use human reason) can be traced back to early Greek philosophers. Catholics and any other persons who are in pursuit of “the truth” share a foundation in Greek thought. The Greek philosophers – Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, etc. – tackled the questions of who God is and how we all came to be. They helped us to understand (what Vatican Council I confirmed) that we can know that God exists through human reason alone. The Church has even based its “5 Proofs for the Existence of God” on Greek logic.

Now, agnostics might separate from the Church in thought based on this alone because agnostics posit that truly attaining knowledge of the divine is not possible. But, let’s say, for the sake of argument that they agree with us that we can know by reason THAT God exists. So, then, how can one know by faith WHO God is? In Vatican I, the Church says that this kind of knowledge involves “mysteries hidden in God which, unless they are divinely revealed, cannot be known”. We can only know by faith WHO God is (Father, Son, and Spirit) because God has revealed himself to us as he is. As I wrote earlier, it takes faith to believe in Divine Revelation, but it is also reasonable to do so. ‘God has said it, it makes sense to me, so I believe it’ is how I approach the Bible.

Anon, I would probably suggest to the persons you are describing that they should refresh themselves with some solid philosophy courses. These can really help to understand how it is we think. When I say that what’s revealed in the Bible makes sense to me, of course I don’t mean every single line and book; I mean that the whole makes sense. The story makes sense: God is hidden from human experience for a while, then slowly reveals himself, and then the truth about himself is, as JP II wrote, “declared once and for all in the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth”. The Catholic story about who God is and who we are makes the most sense of any religion or movement in the world. In fact, I would say that to not believe it would be unreasonable and illogical.

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Prayer is like brushing your teeth"

The following is a reflection on prayer from the book, “From the Pastor’s Desk”, which is a collection of spiritual reflections given by Msgr. Thomas Wells when he was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bethesda from 1994-1999:

“A number of people (well, actually two of them) have asked me to share some thoughts on how to pray. I often mention the importance of prayer in living the Christian life, so perhaps it might be useful for some to give at least a few suggestions on how to pray.

I begin with two notes of caution. In a society that craves instant gratification, prayer – like most really important activities – goes against the current. Prayer is the principle means for drawing close to God, but that drawing close takes place over the course of a lifetime, and, most often, we do not notice it as it happens. Secondly, there is no “right” way to pray. Because each of us has a different personality, each relates to God differently. For any Catholic, of course, there can be no authentic prayer life where the Mass is not the center, because in the Mass, in a perfect way, we pray with Christ who leads us to the Father. As for prayer outside of the Mass, what I suggest are only basic principles that, I believe, have served me well over the years.

First, prayer is like brushing your teeth: do it each day and at a regular time and it will become a habit. God is Spirit; we are active in the material world and, therefore, most of us are not inclined to turn off the obvious material world in favor of listening to the much less obvious spiritual. In addition to a regular time, try to find a place for prayer, perhaps before a Crucifix or favorite religious image. The reason for this, of course, is simply to put ourselves into a prayerful frame of mind. Russian Orthodox homes, for example, have a special corner where an icon is placed and before which a candle is lit at time for prayer. Obviously, at (Our Lady of) Lourdes, the adoration chapel in the church is an ideal place for prayer. However, if it is not practical to come daily, why not schedule a period each week to come before the Blessed Sacrament?

Finally, the heart of prayer is listening to God. Obviously, what He has to say in prayer is more important than what I say. Equally obvious is the insight that I cannot hear God as I hear another person. That is why I recommend praying with Scripture. Each day, the Church selects passages from the Bible for use at daily Mass; but, even if I cannot get to Mass, I can still use the readings as a way to hear God’s Word each day. No, if I give the Lord five or ten minutes each day and quietly try to hear what He is saying in these passages, I probably will not “hear” anything. But, if I make this listening a daily habit, I guarantee that over time His Word will sink into my life and I will find it gradually shaping the way I live. God may be subtle; but He most certainly is powerful in those who listen to Him!”

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Feast of the Ascension - homily

Last weekend, I officiated a wedding up near Philadelphia. The groom is a good friend of mine from Mount St Mary’s where I went to seminary. He played lacrosse for the college; I helped out with the men’s lacrosse team for four years there. He’s a great guy, and he married a fantastic woman. But, it was Philadelphia Eagles land – that’s right, enemy territory! So, at the rehearsal dinner, I was asked to give the blessing of the food. As I finished up the prayer, something came over me – an inspiration from the Holy Spirit? – to say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen…Go Redskins!!” A loud cascade of (playful) boos followed those last words.

It was a great weekend; they are a great, young couple. Thursday night was the rehearsal dinner, and then on Friday a bunch of us guys played golf. I was paired with the groom - my buddy, Kevin. Kevin was very excited to be getting married, of course, but he was also distraught. The week before, a good friend of his died in Iraq, serving our country. So, at some point on the back nine holes of the golf course, Kevin just came right out and asked, “Fr Greg, why did God allow this to happen? Why did He allow such a young and good person to be killed?”

Kevin was obviously very troubled, and these were his most significant questions. I looked at him and said, “well, the same can be said about God’s son. Why did he let his own son die in the same kind of way?” I went on to say, “Kevin, it’s all about faith. It’s all about Christ”. I then went through the story of our faith – beginning with Adam and Eve and how suffering and death entered the world, and on through Christ and then the Church. The point I was making to him is that the faith that he had been learning about his whole life has the answers to his deepest questions about the death of his buddy, Travis.

God allows evil because he gave us free will; we are free to choose to reject God by choosing evil. Suffering is a result of evil. But, God brings good out of evil. The greatest good that has been brought out of evil is the Cross. God allowed his son to die for our sake. He allowed Christ to be a sacrifice for us so that we would get to Heaven. Christ offered his life for us; it is the greatest sign of love in the world. God allowed his son to die so that we would see what love is all about. Love is sacrifice. Christ showed us the greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends. Kevin’s buddy, Travis, imitated Christ in this way; he laid down his life for all of us.

Kevin was profoundly affected by this talk. It was one of those conversations where we just “get it” about Christ and about life. It was a talk like this where his faith became very real and relevant. It helped answer the deepest questions of his heart. He would go on to say that it was one of the greatest days of his life.

As we celebrate the feast of the Ascension, I think this story is relevant because it asks the question, ‘what is this all about?’ As we remember the day when Christ ascended into Heaven and into glory, we can ask, ‘why did he come down from Heaven in the first place? What is the whole point of Christ’s life on earth?’ The whole point is love. Christ teaches about love and then shows us how to love. Love is sacrifice. Love is about laying down our lives for others. Some are called to do this in a physical way, like Christ and Travis. The rest of us are called to do this every day in less dramatic ways. You married persons know best what this means. I believe that there are more sacrifices in the married life than there are in the religious life. And, this is what I said to Kevin and his bride in my homily at their wedding: that they were entering into this same kind of sacrificial love that Travis lived. Kevin was laying down his life for his wife, and she was laying down hers for him.

When I look back at the conversations when I finally “got it” about Christ, it was one main talk with a priest about the Eucharist. He simply said, “’this is my body’ means this is my body”. I finally got it that this whole thing (pointing to the sanctuary) is real. That our faith is real. That God is real. It changed my life, and eventually propelled me to give my life as a priest. If I didn’t have that conversation, who knows, I might not be here at St Andrew’s. As I told the 7th graders the other day, ff the Church came out tomorrow and said that transubstantiation doesn’t really happen after all, I would take off the collar tomorrow, and find myself a girlfriend. In other words, if the Eucharist is just a symbol, then our faith is pointless, and my life as a priest would be a waste. If there’s no Eucharist, there’s no Catholic Church.

As we celebrate Christ’s ascension into Heaven, we thank God for showing us what love is all about through Christ. We ask him to help us to live the love that Christ has. And, through us, may others know God’s love. May we all live sacrificial love. May we all know God’s love, and may others know his love through us. May you all know God’s love this day.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday's Gospel

Gospel - Jn 16:23b-28

Jesus said to his disciples:“Amen, amen, I say to you,whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.Until now you have not asked anything in my name;ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.“I have told you this in figures of speech.The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figuresbut I will tell you clearly about the Father.On that day you will ask in my name,and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you.For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved meand have come to believe that I came from God.I came from the Father and have come into the world.Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

Friday, May 18, 2007

Congratulations, Mayor Comer!!

1) Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!

2) Congratulations to Theresa Comer, a SAA parishioner, who was recently named mayor of a nearby town. If you see Theresa around the parish, please wish her congrats, and be sure to ask her which town she now runs!
I am regularly edified by comments of our bloggers. Here are some recent comments that show, thanks be to God, the conversions of heart that are taking place in our midst as well as the deep, spiritual insights of bloggers. God is good!

“I have been going to Mass more regularly every weekend and I feel a conversion process within my heart. I am becoming a more responsible Catholic and it feels great!”

“I met a nice lady in a class I am taking who told me she became Catholic 9 years ago because her son at 15 decided he wanted to be part of the ‘true religion’. She went to say she will never forget the wonderful feeling of being baptized. Although this wonderful event happened 9 years ago she had so much excitement when telling me the story. Her husband who at first didn't like anything about the mass he had attended now only has converted but is more devoted to his new faith than anyone else!”

“In that we are all made in His image and likeness, you are in fact closer to God than you may realize. If your friends are listening and responding, God is listening and responding. If your friends are offering words of advice and encouragement, and lending their support, that is God working through them in your life. When you ‘see and touch’ those human beings, you are looking at the face of God and touching Him.”

“Went to an amazing talk and healing Mass at my parish!!!!”

“I made a decision a few years ago to refrain from participation with gossip. I do not gossip about others, and I do not listen to others doing it. I frequently excuse myself from someone or some group who is engaged in talking about someone else. It isn't because I am "shocked" or "appauled" by their behavior. Rather, I walk away because I know how easy it is to get embroiled in it. It's tempting to momentarily feel good about myself by looking down on the actions of someone else. That definately distracts me from becoming the person I want to be.”

“Okay this is it-another 3 more days and I commit myself to a Franciscan lay order… this is so exciting!! I wonder what major changes I will have to do with my life. Whatever it is bring it on I CAN handle it!!”

“Can you give more detail as to the who & when for confession schedule. It's been about 20 yrs since I've made confession…”

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Today's feast of the Ascension has been transferred to Sunday in the Archdiocese of Washington.

Gospel - Jn 16:16-20

Jesus said to his disciples: “A little while and you will no longer see me,and again a little while later and you will see me.”So some of his disciples said to one another,“What does this mean that he is saying to us,‘A little while and you will not see me,and again a little while and you will see me,’and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks?We do not know what he means.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them,“Are you discussing with one another what I said,‘A little while and you will not see me,and again a little while and you will see me’?Amen, amen, I say to you,you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices;you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Reproductive technology

1) DC ‘Hood v. St John Neumann parish– Fri, May 18, 7 pm, Watkins Mill HS, Gaithersburg. Go 'Hood!

2) RCIA “Inquiry” meeting – next Tues., May 22, 8:15 pm, rectory. This is an opportunity for those who are interested in joining the Catholic Church to get information about RCIA and to meet other people. Spread the word!
Anon wrote: “With all the advancements in the treatment of women's fertility, the church's views on fertilization would be an interesting topic. There are many Catholic couples who employ means of achieving fertilization that the church doesn't condone. They simply do not know that there are licit options available to them.”

The following are excerpts from a website from the US Catholic Bishops which outline the Church’s teachings on reproductive technology. To view the full text, please click on the title of this post.

Technologies Compatible with Catholic Teachings: (4 of 7)

1) Observation of the naturally occuring sign(s) of fertility (Natural Family Planning). Time intercourse on the days of presumed (potential) fertility for at least six months before proceeding to medical interventions.

2) General medical evaluation of both spouses for infertility…

6) Appropriate medical treatment of ovulatory dysfunction.

7) Appropriate (usually surgical) correction of mechanical blocks to tubal patency (the state of being open)...

Reproductive Technologies under Discussion (neither "approved" nor "disapproved"):

Gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT). (The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has not yet pronounced on the subject.)

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) of "licitly obtained" (normal intercourse) but technologically prepared semen sample (washed, etc.).

Reproductive Technologies in Disagreement with Catholic Teachings:

1) Obtaining a sample of seminal fluid by masturbation.

2) Artificial insemination by a non-spouse (AID), or even by the husband (AIH) if the sample is obtained and handled by non-licit means (masturbated specimen).

3) In vitro fertilization (IVF), zygote intra-fallopian transfer (ZIFT), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), ovum donation, "surrogate" uterus.

"How do I know when a reproductive technology is morally right?"

The rule of thumb is:

- Any procedure which assists marital intercourse in reaching its procreative potential is moral
- Procedures which add a "third party" into the act of conception, or which substitute a laboratory procedure for intercourse, are not acceptable.

- The guidelines are drawn from the document Donum Vitae.

Definitions (2 of 6)

1) IVF (In Vitro Fertilization): Conception occurs outside the body--"in a glass."

...Prior to implantation in the woman's uterus, embryos are examined in order to select the "best."

…Usually at least two embryos are implanted; in some centers, as many as four are implanted with the hope of getting at least one live baby. At times, three or four embryos thrive. Some clinics then offer the mother "embryo reduction" (selective abortion) to allow only one or two fetuses to develop further.

Because the endometrium is considerably changed by the stimulation of ovaries to produce eggs, it is the practice in some centers to freeze the embryos and to implant them in a subsequent natural cycle. Overall success rates in terms of having a living child range from 16-20%. The disposition of frozen embryos varies with the wishes of the parents. "Spare embryos" may either be preserved, donated to other women or to researchers, or destroyed…

2) AIH (Artificial insemination with husband's sperm): Sperm can be placed into a cup which is placed over the cervix. This technique is also used in AID - artificial insemination by donor.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Faithful"= state of Grace

Three anonymous bloggers recently commented on the statement I make before Holy Communion at every Mass, “let all faithful Catholics come receive our Lord”:

1) “Perhaps it would be helpful to those of us attending Mass if, prior to the distribution of the Eucharist, you did not say that all "faithful Catholics" may come to Communion. The bishops of the United States recently published a statement on our decision making process to feel worthy to receive Communion. The bishops spent several years preparing this statement. Could you have some of these pamphlets available in the back of the Church for parishioners? I know of friends who do not go to Communion when you are the celebrant at Mass because they say they don't know what a "faithful Catholic" is. I hope you will think about just how powerful the words "faithful Catholic" are to the people in the pews. It means different things to different people. I believe that the bishops' statement will help each of us (ordained and lay) examine our conscience in a way that will truly light our path to the celebration and participation in the Sacrament.”

2) “It does seem as though there are very many who question what being a "faithful" Catholic means. I've always thought being faithful means acknowledging Christ as my savior, acknowledging the true meaning of the Eucharist and following the rules as I know them. I am certain that I do not now ALL the teachings of the church, but I do follow those of which I am aware.”

3) “I thought that the requirement for receiving Communion is being in a state of grace which means being free of mortal sin. When I hear "faithful Catholic," that sounds like much more than being free of mortal sin. I don't go unless I'm with my children so I can avoid having to tell them that I'm not worthy for reasons I do not fully understand.”

Thanks, Anons, for your comments. My primary intention is to remind people about a) who may receive the Eucharist, and b) who we are receiving in the Eucharist. Yes, when I say "faithful Catholics", I am mainly referring to Catholics who are in a state of Grace. But, it would seem a bit too legalistic to say that at Communion each time. I'd rather it be more of a spiritual invitation than a statement of a rule. And, the latter part of my statement – “come receive our Lord” - is more of the focus than the former part.

I am open to appropriate suggestions, if bloggers have them, of how to remind people the guidelines for receiving Communion in a brief way before each Communion. I have included some of the bishops’ 1996 statement below. It says “participants should not be conscious of grave sin”. I agree with the bishops, of course, but I don’t think it would be best to mention “grave sin” before Holy Communion each time. While it might be more direct than “faithful Catholics”, it would generate a much more negative spirit at that moment and in general.

I have found that most people know what it means to be a faithful Catholic. It’s like being faithful to your spouse. You know when you are faithful and when you are not. I am not saying, “perfect Catholics”; it’s more like “practicing Catholics” but a bit deeper. Most Catholics know when they have stepped out of Grace and into mortal sin; they may not know all of the teachings of the Church and even the theological terms involved, but they know when they’ve done something seriously wrong. I am simply reminding them and others about respecting the Eucharist. I have heard many comments from people who have responded with this respect after hearing my reminder. I don't do it for myself; I do it for the souls of those at Mass and for Jesus our Lord.

“As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.”

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spread the word about RCIA!

"Justin" writes, "Father,I am a baptized presbyterian who is very interested in becoming Catholic. I have attended Catholic mass for the last year and have questions regarding the Eucharist. I truly believe in the power of the Eucharist and how it truly is the body and blood of Christ. I read your post and others online to find out if my own beliefs and desire to become Catholic would be enough for me to share in this sacrament. In one post I found this:The guidelines for receiving Communion, which are issued by the U.S. bishops and published in many missalettes, explain, 'We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (John 17:21).' Is this true. Thank you father for your advice. God Bless."

Justin, thanks very much for your post. Great to hear of your interest in becoming Catholic, especially with your focus on the Eucharist! The Eucharist is the center of our Church’s life, so you definitely have your eye on the target. It is clear to me that you are open to “the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist”; it is the Spirit who is leading you to the Bread of Life, and I would encourage you to remain open in your heart, mind, and strength.

You write “is this true”. If you are referring to the bishops’ statement, yes this is the statement from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1996 which serves as the guidelines on the reception of communion. You (or anyone else) can click on the title of this post for the full text of guidelines.

If you are referring to your point that “my own beliefs and desire to become Catholic would be enough for me to share in this sacrament”, that is partially true. Of course, it’s a big part!! But, the other big part is played by the Church. As you probably know, the Church has requirements for someone in your position to become Catholic, and to be able to fully share in the Eucharist. It’s analogous to a marriage: you might be ready to get married at this time, but your spouse-to-be wants to make sure that you’re on the same page with stuff and to take your time.

In that spirit, the Church has a program for adults who have not been baptized as well as baptized non-Catholics who desire to become Catholic. It is called RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). Here at St. Andrew’s, the program goes from September through Easter. The purpose of the program is to prepare those who will be received fully into the Church at Easter with intellectual, spiritual, and personal formation. The duration of the program might seem a bit long (it used to be three years), but it’s similar to a wedding engagement. Just as an engagement period reveals if a future spouse has love that will last, so, too, the time of preparation to come into the Church reveals that a future Catholic has faith that will last. In other words, it’s a sign that the person’s faith is not just a passing faith.

While the program officially begins in September, we will have an “Inquiry” period in a few weeks. There will be announcements in the bulletin and at Mass, so if you are in the parish, please be on the look-out for the information. If you know of anyone else who might be interested in attending, please spread the word to them. If you or anyone else have questions that you would prefer to ask privately, please click on my profile for my email address, and send me an email.

One final word about where you are with the Eucharist and where you want to go. It comes again from the bishops’ statement referring to “those not receiving Holy Communion”. “All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.” Praise God that you have this desire in your heart for unity with the Lord Jesus and the Church! That desire will be satisfied the day that you receive the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion, with God’s help. It is an awesome day!! You can ask those who just received the Eucharist for the first time at Easter this year. And, they will tell you, it is worth the wait.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Easter, 6th Sunday - homily

A few summers ago, I was stationed in a parish in Southern Maryland. One of the families who lived in the parish asked me to pray for their daughter, Maria. Maria was pregnant with her second child when her doctors discovered a tumor in her body that was cancerous. The family asked me and many other people to pray for Maria. They also turned to the intercession of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a woman who was in the same situation as Maria about forty years ago in Italy. Gianna was pregnant with her fourth child when doctors discovered her cancerous tumor. They advised her to abort her baby if she wanted to live.

She made the heroic choice to go forward with the pregnany, and she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. A year later, she died in her battle with the cancer. A few years ago, Pope John Paul II canonized her a saint, and now she is a patron saint of the pro-life movement. Maria made the same heroic choice, and now she is battling the cancer. It has been up and down for the past two years, but the last I heard she was doing better. Please join in praying for Maria as so many people are.

What incredible examples of heroic, motherly love! All of our mothers are heroes of life and love. They lay down their lives – some do it literally, like Maria and Gianna – for us. They have given their lives so that we would have life. This has been God’s Plan for humanity: that all human life comes from mothers. We thank God that our mothers said yes to life; if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here!

Just like the Apostles and early disciples, as we hear in the first reading, mothers “dedicate their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. They dedicate their lives to the name of love… to the name of life. Think about what that lines says: they dedicate their whole lives to a name…to a name! Mothers give their lives for life. They dedicate their lives for our lives. We are grateful to God that they have said yes to life, and dedicated their lives to our lives.

God is all about life and love. Jesus is God’s Word in the world. He speaks of the Father’s life and love. The lives of our mothers speak of life and love; they “keep God’s word”, as Jesus says in the Gospel. This shows us, not only that they love Jesus because they keep his word, God’s word in the flesh – his word about life and love. Also, a line from today’s Gospel sounds like something our mothers would say: “do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”. Our mother want the same thing for us as God does: for us to be secure, safe, and at peace.

The greatest example of heroic, motherly love is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is most dedicated to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Her whole life – every day, hour, and second – was dedicated to her Son. She always said yes to God. It was most true when she was around 14: she said yes to God’s Plan through the angel Gabriel to bring the Christ into the world. She said yes to bring our Savior into the world. Her yes brought salvation into the world.

Everything we have in our faith in Christ is through Mary, our Mother. In a few minutes, we will receive the Eucharist, the greatest gift in the world. We will have Salvation in the flesh…true bread from heaven... all because Mary said yes. If it weren’t for our own mothers, we wouldn’t be here…on this Earth. If it weren’t for our Mother, Mary, we wouldn’t be here in this Church. It’s because they said yes that we have life, and because she said yes that we have Eternal Life.

We thank God on this Mothers Day for our mothers. They are heroes of life and love. It is because they have said yes to life and love that we have life and a chance of eternal life. It is through their yes that we can experience God’s love in this life and for all eternity.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Saturday's Gospel

Gospel - Jn 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;but because you do not belong to the world,and I have chosen you out of the world,the world hates you.Remember the word I spoke to you,‘No slave is greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,because they do not know the one who sent me.”

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday's Gospel

1) Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!

2) Parish carnival, Saturday (5/12), starting at 10 am.

I am in Pennsylvania to officiate a wedding on Saturday. The following is the Gospel from today's Mass; another powerful passage from John 15!!

Gospel - Jn 15:12-17
Jesus said to his disciples:“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.No one has greater love than this,to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.You are my friends if you do what I command you.I no longer call you slaves,because a slave does not know what his master is doing.I have called you friends,because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.It was not you who chose me, but I who chose youand appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.This I command you: love one another.”

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

The following is today's Gospel at Mass. It contains one of my favorite lines in all of Scripture: "I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete".

Gospel - Jn 15:9-11
Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that
my joy might be in you and
your joy might be complete.”

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"Who is Confession for?"

1) Anon: “Who is Confession for -- the penitent or God? I ask because I am not motivated to go for myself because I have done it and it does not do a thing for me.” As with all the sacraments, Anon, Confession is for us (although our participation in the sacraments glorfies God). God has given us these opportunities to come closer to Him not for himself, but for us. We have addressed the whole ‘feelings’ issue on this site many times – it may not ‘feel’ that Confession does a thing for you, but, believe me, it does A TON! It fills your soul with God’s Grace (divine life) and reconciles you with Him and the Church (all of us). Our bodies may not feel anything when we go to Confession or Mass, but our souls are very happy!! Finally, it may help to think of times when you’ve had to apologize to a dear friend and reconciled with him or her; has there ever been a time when it did not do a thing for you? God is our dear friend with whom we reconcile in Confession.

2) Anon asked the following, and quoted one of my homilies: "'Normally, he is much more subtle in his attacks on the Eucharist. He puts certain thoughts in our heads: “it’s just a symbol”; “I can worship God on my own; “I don’t need the Eucharist”; or “I don’t need to come to Mass every week”’. What is the difference between having these thoughts out of reason than being evil thoughts. I am confused.”

Anon, I wouldn’t refer to these thoughts as reasonable. None of them has been revealed by God – e.g., “the Eucharist is just a symbol” is not found anywhere in Scripture or Tradition. In fact, quite the opposite is true of them. God has revealed that a) the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ, b) worship of God is a communal event, c) we need the Eucharist to have life, bear fruit with our lives, and have eternal life, and d) the Sabbath occurs every week, and we need to go to Mass as Catholic Christians to keep it holy. It is reasonable to believe what God has revealed.

The confusion comes in, of course, when the Evil One gets involved. He tries to put thoughts in our minds that contradict what God has revealed. Quick example: in the Garden of Eden, God revealed to Adam and Eve that they shouldn’t eat the fruit of the tree. Then, Satan got involved, putting the thought in their heads that if they ate the fruit, they would have the knowledge that God has. It wasn’t reasonable to believe that because a) God hadn’t revealed that, and b) it wasn’t true. Reason rejoices with the Truth! What God has revealed – whatever it might be – is the Truth.

The examples of evil thoughts that I used in my homily haven’t been revealed by God and are not true. It might take some time to sift through certain things to discern what the truth is. When we find it, our reason recognizes it: “everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to my voice” (Jn 18:37). And, so, we are then able to know what are evil thoughts – those that the Devil tries to put in our heads to take us away from Christ who is the Truth.

In all of this, I am mainly referring to matters of doctrine; it can be harder to discern personal thoughts as being from God or from the Evil One (e.g., having proud thoughts). As soon as we can recognize thoughts as being doctrinally erroneous (i.e., in direct conflict with what God has revealed), we should move away from them immediately by thinking about or doing something else. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jam 4:7).

3) Kiwi Nomad 2006: “I was given a blessing by a priest I met in Lourdes last year, the first such 'personal' blessing I have ever had. A few weeks later it was the 40th anniversary of my father's death, and I was kind of sad thinking about this as I cycled along. But I found that each time I had a 'sad' thought, I also had a memory of the blessing, and it was as if I was 'lifted up' out of my sadness. When I was talking about this to a friend, she said "That was the grace of the blessing." Was she right?”

I think so, Kiwi! Lourdes, France, is an especially powerful place. I was there this time last year. It was a Grace-filled experience!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"Good news about sex" - Part II

Here are the rest of my notes from my recent talk in the parish to young adults, "Good news about sex".

III. Sex is pure

All are called to live sexuality as God intends – in a pure way

All (married, religious, single) are called to live chastity

What is chastity and how do we live it?
- chastity is sexual purity

5 ways to live it
1) Pray
2) Sacraments
3) Custody of the eyes
4) Use reason to control sexual desires
5) Read lives of saints / examples of living virtues

How important is chastity?
St Maria Goretti - martyred at age 11 for her commitment to chastity

Christ: Mk 7 (unchastity is among the most serious sins)

St Paul: Eph 5:22 (chastity is 1 of 12 fruits of Holy Spirit)
Eph 5:21 (those who live impurity…”will not inherit the kingdom of God”)

IV. Sex is good
a) Living sexuality the way God intends leads to:

Joy, happiness, peace, freedom

b) Impure thoughts and actions: “slavery” to sin

c) example of someone who was living chastity after many years of unchastity

Freedom v. slavery
Happiness v. sadness
Peace v. anxiety

d) I am a priest largely b/c of freedom of chastity:
-fervent prayer to the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary for chastity
-daily prayer as priest

e) All should pray and fast for chastity
Fasting – great way to control desires (small matters---> big matters)
- practices / disciplines of saints

Priests: at Mass, especially
Married – for self and spouse
Single – pray for self (at Mass, etc.)
- and for future spouse to be living chastity

Monday, May 07, 2007

"Good news about sex" - Part I

Anon asked, “So Fr. When are you going to give a talk on Chastity to the Parish? More then just a homily that is...” Actually, I just gave a talk to our Young Adult group last weekend called, “The good news about sex”. The following is the first part of my notes:

How can a celibate priest give a talk about sex?
Same question as, ‘How could Jesus talk about sex?’

-I and any priest re-present Christ’s teaching (God’s revelation about sex)
What did Jesus teach about sex?
- reaffirmed what was taught in the beginning, for one
- Matt 19: 5 (sex within the context of marriage)
- “in the beginning”…what does that mean?

I. Sex is beautiful
One of the first things God reveals to us is the beautiful gift of sex:
Gen 1: 28 – “Be fertile and multiply”
Gen 2: 24 – husband and wife “become one body (flesh)”
- Yahweh is speaking about marriage in Genesis, and to the first married couple(Adam and Eve)
-it is God’s command for them to have sex so that they will become oneflesh (union) and multiply (procreate)
-if it is from God it must be good, true, beautiful, glorious, wonderful (these are all qualities of God)
- The gift of sex is meant for us to understand what love is: the love between spouses + God’s love

- (example of engaged couple)

- “Good news about sex and marriage” (West), p.20: Sex expresses marital love

- So, God has given us sex for these two reasons: union and procreation
- where is pleasure in all of this? not there
- God has made the sexual act very pleasurable so that married persons
will do it!
- so they multiply (we need sex to survive as a race)
- those things we need to survive are pleasurable: eating, drinking, sleeping, e.g.
- but need to do it in right context and with moderation
-pleasure is not to be the focus
-any reason outside of union and procreation is not what God intends for sex
-unmarried persons can’t enter into one-flesh union; haven’t promised themselves to the other
-couples not open to life can’t be fertile and multiply; artificial contraception is from man, not God
-‘for pleasure only’ is an abuse of the gift of sex; selfish; focuses on what I get, not what I give

II. Sex is holy
- first of all, what is holiness?
- not just praying or being in Church
- holiness = otherness (living for God and others)
- second, how can sex be holy?
- within the marital act

1) husband and wife imitate God the Creator
Union:“the union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator’s generosity and fecundity” (CCC, #2335)... fecundity = fruitfulness

Procreation:Continuing God’s work of creation
- they are co-creators with God!

2) husband and wife imitate the life of the Holy Trinity
- (example of married couple)

- West, pp. 19-20

- when the couple gives themselves completely to the other in the sexual
act, they are acting in love
- love = gift of self
- God is love, and He gives himself completely
- so, sex is a way to imitate God in a very deep and powerful way
- worshiping God through our bodies
- holiness through our bodies
- marital act = sacramental
- bedroom of a married couple is analogous to a Church
sanctuary just like marital love is analogous to the Eucharist
- Eucharist = union b/w God and man
- marital love = union b/w spouses

to be continued...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Easter, 5th Sunday - homily

What is Heaven like? This is a question to which we all want to know the answer. None of us knows exactly what Heaven will be like because it hasn’t been revealed to us. It is beyond our comprehension how awesome Heaven is because it is an infinite reality, and our minds are finite. St. Paul wrote that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard…what God has prepared for those who love Him”. St. Catherine of Siena once said that “the indescribable sweetness of the perfect union (between God and man in Heaven) can not be told by tongue, which is but a finite thing”. So, we can’t really grasp the splendor of Heaven, and words can’t describe how awesome it is. But, we do have some images and details from Revelation and Tradition which help paint a picture for us of what Heaven is like.

In today’s second reading, St. John has a vision of Heaven. He sees a “holy city…a new Jerusalem”. There is no death, no tears, and no pain in Heaven. It is all new! Heaven won’t be completely different than our life on Earth; we do see some glimpses of Heaven in this life. But, it will all be new because it is eternal life. Here, and elsewhere in Scripture, Heaven is described as a wedding feast of the marriage between us and God. In Heaven, we will be married to God. Think about who God is…he is infinitely more beautiful and more attractive than any spouse on Earth. He is Beauty itself. We are called to be married to Beauty in Heaven.

Many people ask if we will see our family and friends in Heaven. Of course we will, if they are in the Kingdom. They will be with us and all the angels and saints, enjoying the full happiness and peace with the Trinity. When I think of Heaven, I think of a party where all of my closest family and friends are there, celebrating life; it is a time of great joy! Heaven will be like that, but it will be forever.

Heaven is home; it is our homeland. We all want to be home. Home is where our heart is; it is where we are loved, where we feel safe and secure. This life is not our home; Heaven is our homeland.

Now, I would ask the servers to come forward to help me with a demonstration. I ask two of our servers to take hold of each end of this long cord (that stretches across the width of the church). Please raise it up as high as you can. Now, I ask the third server to stand near me. I ask all of us to imagine that this line represents our lives. Here at one end to the left is when each of us was brought into the world…when we were conceived. The rest of the line represents our lives on earth and our lives for all eternity. The line goes off to the right, past the server for infinity…

Now, where on the line would we have the third server put his finger if we were measuring our life on earth in relation to eternity. He would put it right next to where we came into this world! We think our lives are so long here, maybe eighty or ninety years. That is a long time, but in relation to eternity, it is a mere fraction only. It is a very small amount! Now, how we spend this small amount of time determines how we will spend all of eternity…! Whoa. Thank you, servers, you may sit down.

So, how do we spend all of eternity in happiness and peace? Who does go to Heaven? In the second reading from last Sunday’s Mass, we heard that those who are faithful to Christ go to Heaven. Most of them knew his name while they lived on Earth, but some didn’t know his name. They lived good lives and tried to do God’s Will. This would be like the good men and women from the Old Testament – they are in Heaven. In today’s Gospel, those who love as Jesus loves – those who give their lives for the sake of others – they go to Heaven. Jesus addresses this question specifically a few times: those who are baptized will have eternal life, those who receive the Eucharist have eternal life, and those who care for the poor will enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 25).

In general terms, the Church speaks of living in friendship with Christ to get to Heaven. The term used is “Grace”. If we live in a state of Grace – in a state of friendship with Christ – and die in that state, we will ultimately go to Heaven. Not everyone goes to Heaven, as we know, because Jesus tells us there are people in Hell. But, if we live and die in a state of Grace – and we mainly receive Grace from the sacraments – then we will ultimately go to Heaven.

In the Eucharist, we have Heaven on Earth. The Eucharist is where Heaven and Earth meet. When Christ becomes present on the altar under the signs of bread and wine, the Kingdom of Heaven is present on Earth. Where there’s the Son, there’s the Father and the Spirit and all the angels and saints. When we come to Church, then, it’s like we’re in a chamber of Heaven. If we have loved ones who have died and are now in the Kingdom, they are with us at every Mass. It is the ‘communion of saints’ – the saints in Heaven are with the saints on Earth.

When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we are filled with happiness, peace, and joy. It is the greatest experience on Earth. It’s what Heaven will be like. But, in Heaven, it will be for all eternity.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

1st Holy Communion - homily

Congratulations to all who made their first Holy Communion today at St. Andrew's!!
I have a question for you all that I don’t want you to answer right away. I want you to think about it for a little bit. We are here today because you all are going to be eating food and consuming drink that you’ve never eaten or drank before. Why is this different from any food or drink you’ve had before for the first time? Ok, now I have some questions that you can answer right away…

When you had pizza for the first time, did your parents call a lot of people in your family to tell about it? Were they like, “hey, little Johnny is going to eat pizza for the first time this Saturday! Isn’t that great?” Did they do that? No, they didn’t, did they? When you drank soda for the first time, did they have you all get dressed up in your best dress or suit? Did they say, “ok, now, Suzie, you are going to get dressed up this Saturday for when you have a cup of Coco-Cola for the first time”? Did they do that? No, they didn’t, did they? How about when you all had steak for the first time…did they say, “Ok, Billy, you’re going to eat steak for the first time this Saturday., and you’re going to do it with all of your friends and family, and meet up at St. Andrew’s for it”? Did they do that? No, they didn’t, did they?

So, why are they doing all that today for the bread and wine you will eat and drink for the first time? What is so different about this food and drink that your family is here, you’re all dressed up, and we’re all together at St. Andrew’s for it? Who can tell me?

(some answers given were: “it’s the Body and Blood of Jesus…it’s the Body and Blood of the Lord…it’s something that our whole family shares in”). Yes, very good. This is no ordinary food and drink – it’s the Body and Blood of Jesus. It’s the Bread of Life! It’s the Bread that’s comes down from heaven.

Now, I asked you last week at the instructional Mass, and you got it right – what are the four words that are the whole reason we believe that the Eucharist that you will receive for the first time is the Body and Blood of Jesus? (answer given: “this is my body”). Yes! Jesus says, “this is my body”, and we believe him. He wasn’t joking around, and he never says anything that isn’t true. So, when he says about this bread and wine, “this is my body…this is my blood”, we believe that it isn’t bread and wine – it really is his body and blood! It looks like bread and smells like bread, but it isn’t bread – it’s the risen Body of Christ.

Now, I want you to cup your hands like you will in a few minutes to receive the Body of Christ. Look at your hands. In a few minutes, Jesus will be placed in your hands! He is the Son of God…the Creator of the Universe…and he will be in your hands. I would ask you to look at your tongues, but it’s kind of hard to do! But, it’s the same point…in a few minutes, Jesus will be placed on your tongue and into your mouth. Then, he will be in your stomach and soul.

As the readings said, you will receive mercy – Jesus is Mercy, he is Love…He is all good and all love. He loves you so much and wants to be so close to you that he wants to be in you. And, of course, when we have Jesus within us, he helps us to love others as he loves. The best way for us to love is to receive the Eucharist!

Finally, three more words. There are three words that I want you all to pray many times as you receive Jesus in the Eucharist today. They are the three words that sum up everything we do at Mass: “thank you, Jesus”. Than you, Jesus, for giving us your life, and for continuing to give us your life in the Eucharist. I ask you all to say in your hearts as you make your first Holy Communion, “thank you, Jesus”.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A friend's article in the Post

1) Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church.

2) DC Hood v. Holy Redeemer parish, Kensington, 6 pm. Go 'Hood!!
The following is a powerful and uplifting article written by a good friend of mine, Melanie Carroll, which was published in the Washington Post this week.

"How we became a Hokie family"

I sat with checkbook in hand last month amid the piles of acceptance letters, scholarship awards, loan offers and college directories that have dominated our lives for two years. The May 1 deadline to accept offers of admission to universities across the nation was fast approaching. My daughter had been accepted to four colleges, but Virginia Tech was her top choice by far. In the face of the largest shooting massacre by an individual in U.S. history, should my husband and I allow her to go to VT?

Only two weeks ago, over the weekend of April 14-15, my daughter and I had driven the 270 miles from our home in northern Frederick County, Md., to Blacksburg for "Hokie Focus." The program was an opportunity for accepted prospective VT students to visit the school before making their acceptance formal. My daughter already had her mind made up. This was her chance to persuade her parents to pay out-of-state tuition to Tech.

Over the festive, event-filled weekend we were entertained by the Marching Virginians pep band and the Hokie Bird. We were told that the incoming freshman class has the highest GPA and SAT scores ever and were given details of the campus's vibrant student life. We snacked on Hokie cookies and juices. We were treated to a tour of the barns, because my daughter wants to study equine science. We found the atmosphere remarkably warm and friendly for such a large institution. We felt like part of the Hokie family.

Back at home on Monday, April 16, it was devastating to watch the news as Tech administrators attempted to explain and absorb the horror unfolding on the campus. My daughter and I were stunned to learn that the first victims were an equine science major, Emily Hilscher, and Marching Virginians baritone horn player Ryan Clark.

In this time of piercing grief, the VT students themselves led the nation out of darkness. We love this school . . . We would never think of leaving Blacksburg, many said. My daughter studied the students' faces as, one after another, they expressed their desire to remain at Tech. She turned from the television and said, "I can't let one person ruin my dreams."

The week passed in a fog as the deadline for the deposit approached. Friends, neighbors, relatives, our pastor, my daughter's riding instructor and others called to make sure we weren't still in Blacksburg -- and to ask of our intentions.

Some were astonished that my daughter still considered attending Tech. But most offered reassurance. We realized that the tragedy is more a reflection of the society we live in than of the school the slain attended.Like most high school seniors, my daughter resides between two worlds, in the nebula between preparation for high school graduation and the start of college. The shootings painfully pulled her worlds farther apart. At our church and her school, she prayed for the victims.

But she longed to join the thousands of Hokies on the Drillfield at the April 17 prayer service for the victims. She wanted to show her support by wearing her VT sweatshirt and singing "Amazing Grace" and holding a candle high on that dark night. Instead, she was stuck here, doing her high school homework.She has worn orange and maroon ribbons in her hair and her Virginia Tech sweatshirt to school. She knows that one tormented soul displaying his hatred of humanity should not and cannot diminish the legacies of the victims or the university.

My husband and I have concluded that our beautiful fledgling was created by God for this moment, to be a member of the Virginia Tech 2007-08 freshman class. The class will be a sign to all of us that life must go forward. She will join her classmates and, per the university's motto, which predates the shooting by a year, "Invent the Future."

Hold her spot, VT. The check is in the mail.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Feast of St. Philip and St. James

Today is the feast day of two Apostles, St. Philip and St. James. The following are excerpts from an article online ( about their heroic lives. St. Philip and St. James, pray for us.

James, Son of Alphaeus: We know nothing of this man but his name, and of course the fact that Jesus chose him to be one of the 12 pillars of the New Israel, his Church. He is not the James of Acts, son of Clopas, “brother” of Jesus and later bishop of Jerusalem and the traditional author of the Letter of James. James, son of Alphaeus, is also known as James the Lesser to avoid confusing him with James the son of Zebedee, also an apostle and known as James the Greater.

Philip: Philip came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee. Jesus called him directly, whereupon he sought out Nathanael and told him of the “one about whom Moses wrote” (John 1:45).

Like the other apostles, Philip took a long time coming to realize who Jesus was. On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following him and wanted to give them food, he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat. St. John comments, “[Jesus] said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do” (John 6:6). Philip answered, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit]” (John 6:7).

John’s story is not a put-down of Philip. It was simply necessary for these men who were to be the foundation stones of the Church to see the clear distinction between humanity’s total helplessness apart from God and the human ability to be a bearer of divine power by God’s gift.On another occasion, we can almost hear the exasperation in Jesus’ voice. After Thomas had complained that they did not know where Jesus was going, Jesus said, “I am the way...If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6a, 7). Then Philip said, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8). Enough! Jesus answered, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9a).

Possibly because Philip bore a Greek name or because he was thought to be close to Jesus, some Gentile proselytes came to him and asked him to introduce them to Jesus. Philip went to Andrew, and Andrew went to Jesus. Jesus’ reply in John’s Gospel is indirect; Jesus says that now his “hour” has come, that in a short time he will give his life for Jew and Gentile alike.

As in the case of the other apostles, we see in James and Philip human men who became foundation stones of the Church, and we are reminded again that holiness and its consequent apostolate are entirely the gift of God, not a matter of human achieving. All power is God’s power, even the power of human freedom to accept his gifts. “You will be clothed with power from on high,” Jesus told Philip and the others. Their first commission had been to expel unclean spirits, heal diseases, announce the kingdom. They learned, gradually, that these externals were sacraments of an even greater miracle inside their persons—the divine power to love like God.

“He sent that as sharers in his power they might make all peoples his disciples, sanctifying and governing them.... They were fully confirmed in this mission on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1–26) in accordance with the Lord’s promise: ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for me...even to the very ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). By everywhere preaching the gospel (cf. Mark 16:20), which was accepted by their hearers under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the apostles gathered together the universal Church, which the Lord established on the apostles and built upon blessed Peter, their chief, Christ Jesus himself remaining the supreme cornerstone...” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 19).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Busy day...

Too busy of a day to make a post...

Among other things, I've been working through an error I made: I goofed on the starting time for this Friday's DC Hood game versus Holy Redeemer in Kensington.

The game will start at 6 pm, not at the time it was previously advertized (7 pm).

The game will be played on the outdoor court at Holy Redeemer - 9705 Summit AvenueKensington, MD 20895.Please spread the word about the time change. Hope to see you there!!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A 4 year old and the Eucharist

"Misguided mom" wrote: “My 4 year old has been going to mass since she was little, but I guess she's just really started to listen. Last week she didn't want to walk up to the altar with me when I went up for communion. She said she was scared. Well, people were in the pew waiting to go up, so I didn't have time to ask why just then. I asked my 6 yr old to sit there with her when I went up. Later, I asked here why she was scared. She told me that she didn't want to see Jesus' "dead" body and blood.

In listening to my daughter's fears, it reminded me of many of my own apprehensions about my faith- not knowing enough about Catholicism, not being as devout as someone else (and having them find out), being uncomfortable in participating in many of the beautiful offerings of the church like confession and adoration, feeling out of my element, etc. In that moment, I realized that I haven't been living my faith very purposefully. I go to mass, sing the hymns, go up for communion and stay around after mass to say hello to the priests and parishioners, but I do little more to acknowledge the enormity of what I have through the Eucharist. I do understand that it is probably normal for a younger child to have misconceptions about parts of the mass, so I'm not beating myself up about that, but it was a sign to me that I could do so much more within my family to teach my kids in both word and action about how much Jesus means to me in my life and how grateful I am in the abundance of his love.”

This is one of my favorite stories of the past year at St. Andrew’s. I don’t mean to belittle “misguided mom’s” apprehensions, but it really is amazing to hear that the Real Presence has registered with a 4 year old! Ok, maybe the child’s theology needs to be squared away just a bit – the Eucharist is the RISEN Body of Christ – but she gets it: The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ! I think we should change the mother’s nickname from “misguided mom” to…say…ummm… Mother of the Year! Whatever you’re doing in your home, Mom, please keep it up!

I told this story last Saturday when I celebrated an instructional Mass for the second graders who will be making their first Holy Communion this Saturday. It was a real Mass, but I stopped a few times to explain the parts of the Mass, and why we do and say certain things. During my homily, I retold this story, and praised the faith of this precious child. I then asked the kids what four words are the whole reason we believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. I even offered my car for any of them who knew the answer! All of a sudden, one little girl raised her hand, and my heart sank. She said, “this is my body”. After promising her my car keys (sort of) and envisioning long walks around Silver Spring, I congratulated her for her inspiring and correct answer.

The reason why I make such a big deal about people (especially kids) getting it about the Eucharist is because the Eucharist is a big deal! It’s huge!! I truly believe that if these kids really have made some kind of an identification with the Eucharist– which the 4 year old went out of her way to show – then they will be set for life, and for all eternity! They get it that Christ is real, and that he is very close to them in the Eucharist. They have begun a relationship with him, one that it will be very hard to walk away from later in life. And, Christ promises that if they (and anyone else) stay close to him in the Eucharist, they will have eternal life (see Jn 6:54).