Sunday, December 27, 2009

I will be away the next two weeks.

Feast of the Holy Family - homily

I’ve told the story here before about when in my former parish I explained the famous and controversial (and misunderstood) line from today’s second reading (long form), “wives be subordinate to your husbands”. I gave the explanation to a group mostly of women, saying that another translation is ”wives be submissive to your husbands”. Submissive means to be “under the mission of”. The mission of a husband is to serve his wife as Christ serves the Church: to lay down his life in sacrifice for her. The wife receives her husband’s love and returns her love to him as the Church receives Christ’s love as returns her love to Him. So, wives should let their husband serve them. When the women heard this explanation, they said, “oh, is that what it means? Well, thank you very much. I’ll tell my husband”. After the Mass in which I told this story here, a couple came up to me. The wife was all smiles and thanked me for the story. The husband said sarcastically, “yeah, Father, thanks a lot”.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. While this is a feast of great rejoicing in the Church, I understand that not everyone is filled with gladness and joy, unfortunately. Some here don’t have a positive experience of family. It is so sad because family is the foundation of our society. Some can’t relate at all to the “great anxiety” that Mary and Joseph were filled with when they lost Jesus for three days. One or both of their parents don’t care enough about them to worry about where they are or what they’re doing. Some parents cannot celebrate the “obedience” of Jesus toward his parents because they can’t even get their kids to come to the family dinner each night. To those people, I am truly sorry that you are not having a positive experience with your family and ask that you make the best out of the situation.

But, we need to have a model for the human family. We all need examples. For us as individuals, we hold up the saints as models whom we want to emulate. As families, we look to the Holy Family as the model for our families to imitate. Now, I know that the Holy Family is practically perfect. There is a perfect wife and mother and a perfect son. Poor St. Joseph! He has such little room for error…no wonder he doesn’t get any speaking parts in the Gospel! Seriously, he is a very holy husband and father. We see in them what God intends for the human family: a mutual love and respect between husband and wife. A husband and wife is to have this mutual gift of self… so much love for the other with an openness to life that it creates another person, a child. This child is to grow up respecting and being obedient to his parents. And not just obedient as a young child, but also as an adult child which the first reading tells us: “take care of your father when he is old”.

This is all in imitation of the Most Holy Family: the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father and Son have infinite love for each other. This love overflows – like coffee overflowing a cup – and generates a Third Person, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son just like a child is the love between his parents. The Holy Trinity is a communion of persons…a communion of divine love. We are invited into this love and actually participate in it through the Eucharist and all of the sacraments. We have a share in the divine life, the divine love of the Trinity!

Finally, there were many moments of Grace on my path to the priesthood, but a few stood out. There was one particularly powerful moment of Grace during an Ordination years ago around Christmas time. I was told beforehand that it would be a huge moment of Grace, so I should have an intention at that moment. My intention was for peace and reconciliation in our family because we were going through a tough stretch. When that moment came, it was overwhelming. It was more powerful than I could have imagined. Shortly thereafter, my family experienced profound reconciliation…it was unbelievable. We have been at peace ever since; in fact, this past Christmas was one of the most peaceful ever in my family (extended and all). God’s Grace is powerful stuff. I ask you…I beg you, if you are having a family problem, please bring it to the Lord and let His Grace begin to work on it. With God, all things are possible, even peace and reconciliation in our families.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day - homily

I remember celebrating Christmas as a little boy with my parents, older sister and brother. I remember many good times…a lot of fun, joy, and happiness. I remember a bunch of sports presents – I was kind of a sports nut growing up (and still am) – and the newest, latest toys and gizmos. I remember getting Atari one year – remember Atari? That was way back! I also remember seeing my parents in a different light. I realized at Christmas as a little boy that my parents are…people! They are actually human beings who are cool and normal. Quite a realization!

My parents were good to us all year. They were good and loving. They were strict but each of us knew that our parents loved us. But, at Christmas, I saw them differently, especially my Dad. He would get into celebrating Christmas Eve so much with his side of the family. And then, on Christmas Day, he was…well, cool. I have to admit that it was through the gifts he gave me that I realized, he really loves me! He was into the things I was into – like Atari. He was cool and normal…a real person. So, at Christmas, my Dad became a human being!

At Christmas, God became a human being for all of us! This is not just a new way for us to perceive God as it was for me with my parents growing up. This is a new event in and of itself: God became a human being. St John gives a beautiful and deep description of this in today’s Gospel. He refers to Christ as the Word of God: “in the beginning was the Word”. From all eternity, God has been. “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. Think of how big God is and that He is eternal. And, then, He becomes a little baby in a manger. God sends His Son into the world as a gift. It is through His gift that we all see that God loves us!

This baby would grow up and tell us who God is. The Son would reveal God as Father (“Abba”)…God is our loving Father! God loves each of us and sent His Son to reveal that to us. This is one of the primary reasons why Christ was born. Yes, He was sent to bring Grace into the world – the Grace that we need to have life and to have eternal life. Yes, He was sent to save us from our sins (and to forgive our sins). But, one of the main reasons of Christ’s birth is to reveal who God is to us. As today’s readings indicate, Christ reveals God as Father who loves us.

We have little or no problem seeing the love of Christ. We believe that Christ loves us because Christ is Love. Christ is the perfect reflection of the Father; he is the “very imprint of his being”. When we see Christ, we see the Father. Christ reveals to us that God is Father who loves us. If we think about how much God loves us, we can think about our fathers on earth. As much as our earthly fathers love us, their love is only finite. Our heavenly Father’s love is infinite. There is no end to the love God has for us.

Finally, whenever we come to Mass, we have an experience of the Word becoming flesh. Every day is like Christmas in the Catholic Church because we have Mass every day. At every Mass, Christ is born on the altar. The Word becomes flesh under the signs of bread and wine and dwells among us. Then, He dwells in us at Holy Communion! What gifts God gives us! Pope Benedict reminds us that God is love and His love demands a response. The best response we can give is our hearts. The best gift we can give God at Christmas is our love…our hearts…our lives. He calls us into a deep, intense relationship of love with Him and with others.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Church Bulletin Bloopers"

Thanks to Anon for posting the following which I think we've seen here before. After last night's debacle, we Redskins fans could use a good laugh.

An oldie but goodie: Church Bulletin Bloopers.

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind.. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. Is done.
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church.. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new campaign slogan last Sunday: “I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

4th Sunday of Advent - homily

If you could choose one place in the world to visit, what would it be? A week from now with all this snow still around, you’d probably just go for someplace warm! I would choose Israel, the Holy Land. I would want to go where God lived on Earth! I have been blessed to have done some traveling in my life. The weird thing is is that all of the main places I’ve been have started with the letter “I”: Italy, India, Ireland, Idaho (!). And now, I hope to go to Israel. I realized that Israel is where I most wanted to go when I went to Italy, specifically Rome.

Rome is spectacular! The churches and cathedrals are so beautiful, they are overwhelming. My favorite part of Rome was the “Holy Steps”. These are the steps that our Lord used to meet with Pontius Pilate before his death. These are the very steps that God walked on! They were transferred from Jerusalem to Rome in the 4th century by the emperor, Constantine. It was so amazing to ascend these steps; some people were on their knees going up them out of reverence. I realized there that I wanted to be in the places where Jesus walked, was born, and preached…where God was on Earth 2000 years ago.

God on Earth! It’s an amazing reality. It’s what we celebrate this Friday at Christmas. Mary was the first person to receive God on Earth in the flesh. She was also the first person to bring God to the “ends of the earth”. Our first reading says that God “shall bring his greatness to the ends of the earth”. He does this first through Mary. She brings the greatness of God to her family members, Elizabeth and John. They truly have an experience of the greatness of God. They are filled with great joy and peace. We are filled with the greatness of God whenever someone brings God to us. We, too, are filled with great joy and peace.

We are called to imitate Mary in bringing God to the ends of the Earth. For us this Christmas, this means bringing God to the ends of our family. Like Mary, we might have rough terrain to pass through to bring God to our family. From what I understand, Mary traveled over 70 miles of rocky, hill country to see Elizabeth. You all trudged through two feet of snow, ice, and slush to get to Mass today. All of this physical rough terrain symbolizes the rough terrain in our families: resentments, bitterness, hostility, anger, grudges, maybe even hatred. We are called to get through this rough terrain to bring God to ht ends of our family. We are called to bring peace – maybe be a peacemaker in our family – and joy to the ends of our family in imitation of Mary. We mainly do this in our actions and in our presence. Mary doesn’t even say anything in this Gospel and she brings tremendous joy to her family members. May we imitate Mary’s example in bring God to the ends of the earth.

Finally, we don’t need to go to Israel to experience God on Earth. We experience God on Earth at every Mass in the Eucharist. God will be here on this altar just as he was present 2000 years ago on Earth. And, just like Mary, we will have Him inside us in Holy Communion. Let us all be like the Blessed Mother in bringing the Lord to others. Let us imitate her in bringing his peace, joy, and love to the ends of the Earth, to the ends of our family this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"The complementarity of man and woman"

Yesterday, the DC City Council passed a law legalizing same sex marriage in Washington. The following is the statement of the Archdiocese of Washington; I have been posting the Archdiocese’s statements here regarding this legislation since it was first introduced. What is significant about yesterday’s statement is the core reason why the Archdiocese opposes this legislation: “the complementarity of man and woman is intrinsic to the definition of marriage”.

At the heart of this issue is what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Men and women are different; they are made differently. They are made to complement each other, not themselves. How can two people or things with the same composition complement themselves? It’s like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that are identical: they can’t fit together. They aren’t made to fit together or to complement one another. They are made to fit together with and complement other pieces that are different from them.

The current movement toward same sex marriage is attempting to redefine not only marriage but what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. It rejects the view of the Church and of scientific research and of common sense that men and women are made differently. It rejects the notion of masculine or feminine. It aligns itself with modern feminism in believing that men and women are made the same way. This goes against reason, and yet both of these movements have been very successful in changing our culture. This indicates that the emotional aspect of all this has triumphed over the rational. Hopefully, reason will win out sooner than later.

Legalization of Same Sex Marriage in the Nation’s Capital

Archdiocese Remains Committed to Serving Poor

Today the District of Columbia joined a handful of states where legislatures or courts have redefined marriage to include persons of the same sex. Since this legislation was first introduced in October, the Archdiocese of Washington opposed the redefinition of marriage based on the core teaching of the Catholic Church that the complementarity of man and woman is intrinsic to the definition of marriage. However, understanding the City Council was committed to legalizing same sex marriages, the archdiocese advocated for a bill that would balance the Council’s interest in redefining marriage with the need to protect religious freedom. Regrettably, the bill did not strike that balance.

The Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities are deeply committed to serving those in need, regardless of race, creed, gender, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. This commitment is integral to our Catholic faith and will remain unchanged into the future.

Religious organizations have long been eligible to provide social services in our nation’s capital and have not been excluded simply because of their religious character. This is because the choice of provider has focused on the ability to deliver services effectively and efficiently. We are committed to serving the needs of the poor and look forward to working in partnership with the District of Columbia consistent with the mission of the Catholic Church.

For more information on marriage, visit

Monday, December 14, 2009

3rd Sunday of Advent - homily

It’s early for this, but on behalf of Meg Miller, I wish you all a merry Christmas! We know you have some work to do before then, and we will be praying especially hard for you this week during finals. But, we hope you have a great Christmas break! You certainly have earned it. I have one bit of advice for you: stay active over break. Definitely get some rest and have fun with family and friends. You want to keep your minds active; we have some pamphlets in the back of Church which you can grab as you leave tonight. Try to do some things around the house and for your family and friends. The saying goes that “idleness is a devil’s workshop”. Breaks can be dangerous because they can lead to so much idleness. So, try to stay active in different ways over break.

Today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete comes from the Latin word for “rejoice”. When we rejoice, we are filled with gladness and joy. Christmas is a time for us to rejoice! Two questions for you all tonight: 1) Do you rejoice in God and 2) Does God rejoice in you?

Hopefully, when you think of God, you are filled with gladness and joy. God is all-good and all-love, so we should rejoice whenever we consider who God is. And then, we get to something like Christmas and we see what God has done for us. If you know the story about why Christ was born, then you know it is a source of rejoicing. God sent His Son into the world to save us…to open the gates of Heaven for us. They had been closed since the Original Sin of Adam and Eve; no one B.C. went to Heaven. So many good men and women from the Old Testament couldn’t get there before Christ. But, Christ’s life, death, and resurrection opened the gates of Heaven, giving the men and women from the Old Testament a chance to be saved. Christ gives us a chance to be saved. This is “good news”! The Birth of Christ is a cause for rejoicing! May we all rejoice in God this Christmas.

How do we rejoice in God? Do we do a dance?! Do we sing as one sings at a festival? Sure, we can do that and it’s actually pretty cool to do that. But, rejoicing in God is normally more internal. We rejoice in our hearts and minds. If we know God and our hearts are open to Him, we are filled with gladness and joy. This is a deep and lasting joy. It is deeper and longer lasting than pleasure. It affects our whole being and changes us. It brings us true happiness when we rejoice in God.

Now, does God rejoice in you? Do you fill His heart with gladness and joy? Is He truly happy with you? YES! The first reading tells us that He rejoices in us. Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘God doesn’t rejoice in what I did last night at the Christmas party or what I said about so-and-so last week or that I ate ten chocolate éclairs for breakfast’. Sure, God doesn’t rejoice in your sin, but He rejoices in you! He is filled with gladness and joy at who you are. He created you and “God don’t make junk”. He loves you for who you are. There is no one in the world like you. He is truly happy with you and rejoices in you.

If we are looking for a sign that God rejoices in us, we look at the Birth of Christ. That event is a sign that God rejoices in us even in the midst of our sinfulness. God knows our sinfulness and He still rejoices in us. He sends His Son to show and tell us that He rejoices in us.

Finally, God continues to give us a sign that He rejoices in us: the Eucharist. Even in the midst of our sinfulness, God sends His Son to us in this sacrament to show and tell us that He rejoices in us. He also wants us to be filled with rejoicing. May the Eucharist fill us with the joy and gladness of God. May the Grace of this sacrament help us to know and believe that God rejoices in us. May we all rejoice in God this Christmas and know that He truly rejoices in, is happy with, and loves each and every one of us.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A student teaches a teacher (about homosexuality)

Ice-skating and Christmas party tonight!! Meet at the Newman Center at 4:45 pm and bundle up!
The following is the substance of a letter from a student here who has given me permission to post the letter. It is written to a former high school teacher who has strongly challenged the student’s views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Based on what the student told me, the teacher has personally attacked him or her as being a “bigot” and anyone who is not open to same-sex marriage as being “stupid”. This courageous and thoughtful response from the student is an example of a student teaching a teacher. The student teaches the teacher not only the truth of the issue, but how to teach the truth in love.

I acknowledge your point about homosexuality not being a choice. I don't think it is really possible to make that choice, and there really isn't any incentive to do so.

However, I do not agree that this means that the definition of marriage should be changed to allow for homosexual unions. This belief is not a form of discrimination against homosexual people. Instead, it is a stance against redefining one of the core institutions of human society. Men and women are made for each other, it is a biological fact of nature. The union between a husband and wife is meant to create families, which are the most basic unit of a healthy society. There are many, many things about our culture that have caused severe damage to the family unit in history. Disordered sexuality in all its forms, from unhealthy spousal relationships to incest to pedophilia, is one of many such realities that have damaged the institution of the family. "Disordered" does not mean that people committing sexually disordered acts have any less dignity than any other person. The act is what is wrong. And we can very easily add divorce and the pervasive nature of pornography to the list of things that have damaged healthy views on love and family in our culture.

I have a lot of gay friends here, and I love them. If they are acting on their homosexuality, I cannot love what they do. And because I want them to be truly happy, I stand by that. Just as if I have a straight friend who is having premarital sex, I love them but not what they do because I believe what they do is wrong and antithetical to true, long term happiness.

Not all people are called to be married, and I understand that is an incredible burden for homosexual people to bear. But many people are given incredible difficulties they have to face in life. I have horrible food allergies that only get worse. Doctors can't figure it out, and my immune system is deteriorating. It is not easy for me at all, I am sick very often and have an extremely limited list of foods I can still eat. I am a college student and I cannot drink alcohol. This is a burden I bear. I don't know why I have this condition, but I believe there is a reason and that somehow good will come from me carrying this burden in my life. If I laid this burden down and ate whatever I wanted, I would die. So as hard as it can be for a gay person to accept this, their orientation is in many ways gift in disguise.

True happiness for a gay person will not come from following whatever sexual whim that they feel, just as my true happiness will not come from acting that way. That sort of deep happiness comes from following the laws of nature and only participating in sexual acts that form a true union with the other person while being open to the creation of life. Biologically, no such union or the creation of children is possible for homosexuals.

So, because it is the duty of a society to promote the best possible life for its citizens, homosexual marriage should not be institutionalized. The best possible life for a child is to grow up in a home with a loving mother and father. Though this is a difficult reality to strive for, shooting for anything less would be a failure on the part of that society.

I think the dichotomy you pointed out, between educated and uneducated people, is not the most important one present in this discussion. Instead, it is one between those who love and those who hate homosexual people. Hating a person for any reason is wrong. Hating a homosexual person because of something they cannot control is wrong. But loving a homosexual person and wanting their true happiness is not wrong. And truly loving them means wanting for them what will lead to their truest long-term happiness. So, because I believe that homosexual marriage is counter to that true happiness, I do not support it. Some of the most intelligent and well-educated people in the world hold this view, and it is not because they are bigots in any way. It is because they want what is best for the homosexual person and society as a whole, based on the laws of nature.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today is the solemn feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of Obligation. Masses at the Newman Center today are at 12 noon and 5:30 pm. Masses at St Stephen's today are 12:10 pm, 5:30 pm, and 7:00 pm. Today's feast celebrates the conception of Mary (not Jesus)!

The following is more info about today's feast as found on

A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern Church in the seventh century. It came to the West in the eighth century. In the eleventh century it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. In the eighteenth century it became a feast of the universal Church.

In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

It took a long time for this doctrine to develop. While many Fathers and Doctors of the Church considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, they often had difficulty in seeing Mary as sinless—either at her conception or throughout her life. This is one of the Church teachings that arose more from the piety of the faithful than from the insights of brilliant theologians. Even such champions of Mary as Bernard and Thomas Aquinas could not see theological justification for this teaching.

Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They point out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset.

In Luke 1:28 the angel Gabriel, speaking on God’s behalf, addresses Mary as “full of grace” (or “highly favored”). In that context this phrase means that Mary is receiving all the special divine help necessary for the task ahead. However, the Church grows in understanding with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led the Church, especially non-theologians, to the insight that Mary had to be the most perfect work of God next to the Incarnation. Or rather, Mary’s intimate association with the Incarnation called for the special involvement of God in Mary’s whole life. The logic of piety helped God’s people to believe that Mary was full of grace and free of sin from the first moment of her existence. Moreover, this great privilege of Mary is the highlight of all that God has done in Jesus. Rightly understood, the incomparable holiness of Mary shows forth the incomparable goodness of God.

“[Mary] gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and she was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.

“It is no wonder, then, that the usage prevailed among the holy Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, fashioned by the Holy Spirit into a kind of new substance and new creature. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the splendors of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is, on God’s command, greeted by an angel messenger as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28). To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38)” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

Monday, December 07, 2009

2nd Sunday of Advent - homily

Tomorrow night (Monday) we will have an Advent Penance Service at 7:30 here at St Stephen’s. Some of you have asked what a Penance Service is. It is a prayer service which celebrates the sacrament of Penance (Confession). I will lead the service along with three other priests. We will have prayers, readings, an examination of conscience all in preparation of individual confessions. At the end of the service, there will be the opportunity for confession. The theme is “Confession before Christmas”. We should all go to Confession before Christmas. If you can’t get here by 7:30, that’s ok…we should be here until at least 8:30 (depending on how many people come). I hope you all can make it.

Right after I was ordained a priest three years ago, I went to Ireland with some buddies of mine, two of whom were priests. We had such a good time! It’s a beautiful country with good and fun people. One day, we went up St. Patrick’s Mountain which is a big one. Halfway up, we stopped to celebrate Mass. It was spectacular! It was really an exquisite setting, and to celebrate Mass at that spot was incredible. A few days later, we were driving through the countryside and tried to find another mountain to celebrate Mass. We saw one off in the distance and took the road that led to it. Yeah, big mistake.

As our car climbed up the mountain, we realized that this may not be the right mountain for us. We were way up there when the car pretty much failed us; the tires couldn’t go any higher on the loose gravel. We almost slid right off the edge! We were definitely sweating it. One of the guys is an expert with driving cars. We all got out while he slowly backed the car down the mountain. It took a long time but we safely got ourselves and the car down to level ground. We laughed for a while and then celebrated Mass at the base of the mountain, thanking God for our safety. It was scary.

In the readings today, we hear much language about nature: mountains, hills, valleys, paths, etc. We should be used to hearing this language during Advent. It might sound to us like nice descriptions about the change that Christ brings to the world. “Every mountain and hill will be made low…every valley will be filled”. It might just sound really nice, that everything will be different with the coming of Christ, even in nature. But, these images in nature refer to us. Things will be different in us with the coming of the Lord. “Prepare the way of the Lord” needs to take place in our hearts. We need to repent…to change…to have a conversion of heart.

For example, the word ‘mountain’ refers to the proud and vain. In other words, Scripture gives to those who are proud and vain the name of mountain. “Every mountain will be made low” means the proud will be humbled. Jesus says in the Gospel, “those who are exalted will be humbled”. If we have a mountain of pride in our hearts, it needs to be lowered in order to see salvation and to receive Christ in our lives. Like that mountain in Ireland, pride can look good but it isn’t. It can be very dangerous. There are many roads on the mountain of pride that lead us away from Christ and into danger.

It can be the road of selfishness that says, “me first”. This is one way to define sin: “me first”.

It can be the road of resentment that leads to holding grudges and not forgiving others because of what they did to ME.

It can be the road of anger that leads to hatred.

It can be the road of self-service which says “I will not do what I God wants, I’ll do what I want. I wll do my will, not God’s will. I won’t serve God”. (By the way, this is the pride of Lucifer who refused to serve God)

It can be the road of intellectual pride that says “I know better than God. I know better than the Church”.

Pride is much more prevalent and dangerous than we might think. I think that pride is the root of all sin. During Advent, if we are looking to focus on one thing to change with the help of God, let it be our pride. Let us ask God to make our mountains of pride low. What will happen is that God will lower our mountain of pride and build a new mountain that is filled with the Grace of Christ. He will build a new mountain in our hearts that is filled with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, based in humility. One of the best ways that God does this is in Confession. It is the best antidote to pride and it is primarily where our mountains of pride are lowered.

Finally, whenever you come to Mass, you make an act of humility, especially in college. It takes humility to come here each week because you might get some comments from friends (or even family): “oh, you go to Church” or “oh, you’re a Church-going person”. Your image is definitely lowered. You see that you need to be here…God has said that you need to be here to see and receive salvation through the Eucharist and you are here. It takes humility to see and follow that and to come here. Again, salvation through humility. God is very pleased whenever you come here. I just want to encourage you in your humility. May God reward you, especially during Advent. For your humility and confidence, may he reward you with an experience of His Love and Mercy.

Friday, December 04, 2009

"Very impressed with their commitment to Sunday Mass"

1) Advent Penance Service for GW students on Monday (Dec. 7) at 7:30 pm at St Stephen’s. We will have several priests there to offer confessions. As I said in my homily this past weekend, making a good Advent includes going to Confession at least once before Christmas. “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled with God” (2 Cor 5:20).

2) Tuesday, Dec 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and a Holy Day of Obligation! Masses at the Newman Center will be at 12:00 pm and 5:30 pm. Masses at St Stephen’s will be at 6:30 am, 12:10 pm, 5:30 pm, and 7:00 pm.
Anon posted the following question: “is missing mass cause of having a college baseball game a sin?”

Thanks for the question, Anon. Let me begin with a story from my days in the seminary. I helped out for a few years with the men’s lacrosse team at Mount St Mary’s (University and Seminary) in Maryland. I was a chaplain for the team; some seminarians were chaplains of the sports' teams. One weekend, I went with the team to their conference tournament in New York. The Mount made it to the championship game on Sunday. The night before, I told the players (most of whom were Catholic) that Mass was early Sunday morning at a Church about 15 minutes away and invited them to join me. Many guys came! I was very impressed with their commitment to Sunday Mass! We took up at least a row in the Church and were acknowledged by the celebrating priest. (Btw, they won the championship later that day)

Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the Sunday obligation:
“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin” (#2181).

The most relevant word in this paragraph to your question is “deliberately”. For something to be a sin, it has to be chosen….it has to be intentional…it has to be deliberate. Did you deliberately choose to miss Mass on the day of your baseball game? If yes, it is a sin. If no, it is not a sin.

It might not have been possible for you to get to Mass that day. Maybe you were playing in a tournament with games all weekend. Maybe you were playing an away game with no chance of getting to Mass. If it was the case that you did not have the opportunity to get to Mass, God knows this. He knows that you were choosing to honor your commitment to the team, not choosing to miss Mass.

In most cases, though, you should have the opportunity to both play the game and attend Mass. Masses are offered on Saturday nights, Sunday mornings, and Sunday nights in every area of the country. So, I would ask you to plan ahead next time; if you see a conflict with a baseball game or other commitment, plan on attending Mass at another time. A really good resource for this (especially when traveling) is Yes, it involves some planning and inconvenience in order to attend Mass sometimes, but it’s right and it’s worth it. It was right and worth it for the Mount lacrosse players to honor God in an extraordinary way. It is right and worth it for all of us to do the same.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Alternative Spring Break!

Alternative Spring Break Meeting
Wednesday, December 9th at 7:00pm at Newman Center

•Mandatory meeting for those signed up or interested in signing up for the Alternative Spring Break trip to South Carolina (to build/repair homes for families in need), March 13-20, 2010

•We will be discussing fundraising and basic trip information

•Bring your deposit of $250

•If the cost is keeping you from joining us, it shouldn’t…please come talk to Meg or me!

Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” -Mt 25:40

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"This is a fear of mine"

Next Monday night (Dec. 7), we will have an Advent Penance Service for GW students at 7:30 pm at St Stephen’s. What is a Penance Service? It is a prayer service which celebrates the Sacrament of Penance (Confession). There are readings, a brief homily, an examination of conscience, and then the opportunity for confession. We will have several priests there to offer confessions. As I said in my homily this past weekend, making a good Advent includes going to Confession at least once before Christmas. “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled with God” (2 Cor 5:20).
An anonymous blogger asked, “What circumstances would a priest not offer the Lord's forgiveness? This is a fear of mine.”

Thank you for your question, Anon. I hope that the following can help to alleviate your fear. Let’s look first at the requirements for receiving absolution from a priest, according to the Church: sorrow for sins and firm purpose of amendment. “In the sacrament of penance the faithful who confess their sins to a legitimate minister, are sorry for them, and intend to reform themselves obtain from God through the absolution imparted by the same minister forgiveness for the sins they have committed after baptism and, at the same time, are reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by sinning” (Canon Law, #959).

What this means is that any Catholic who is sorry for his (or her) sins and intends to change will receive absolution from the priest who is able to give absolution. It doesn’t matter what the sin is or how often it has been committed. If you’re sorry and truly intend to “sin no more”, then you will be absolved. These two conditions make up what is known as proper disposition. Any Catholic who is properly disposed for the sacrament of Penance will receive absolution.

The brief answer to your question, then, is that the only circumstances when a priest would not offer the Lord’s forgiveness to a Catholic penitent is when the penitent is not sorry or does not intend to change.

I found a pretty good online commentary about all of this from a priest, Fr Mark Vickers (Parish Priest of Hatfield South and chaplain to Hertfordshire University):

For those passing through seminary in recent years there often seemed only two absolute rules of confessional practice:

1. Never ask questions; and
2. Never withhold absolution.

The priest is deeply conscious that he too is an unworthy recipient of God’s merciful forgiveness. Is it conceivable then that he, a minister of God’s mercy, should withhold this gift from others?

Any doubts ought to be dispelled by Our Lord’s institution of the sacrament: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn. 20:23). Canon Law and the documents of the Magisterium are clear that circumstances exist in which absolution might, indeed should, be withheld. The presumption, of course, is that absolution will be granted: “If the confessor is in no doubt about the penitent’s disposition and the penitent asks for absolution, it is not to be denied or deferred” (CIC, c. 980). However, it is equally clear that the presumption may be rebutted.

In penitential services, especially those held in schools, it is not uncommon to find non-Catholics, even non-Christians, approaching the priest. Not all are aware that they cannot celebrate the sacrament. The priest, perhaps after a welcome, should briefly explain the Church’s teaching and offer to pray with them. Absolution can only be given to non-Catholics if there is a danger of death or, in the Bishop’s judgment, there is “some other grave and pressing need” and on the conditions laid out in c. 844.*

In a number of unlikely pastoral situations the priest is also unable to give absolution. In reserved cases the priest lacks faculties to absolve; these must be referred to the competent authority. A priest may not absolve a partner in a sin against the Sixth Commandment. Nor may he absolve a penitent who has falsely denounced another confessor in the circumstances described in c. 982.

What of other, more common, situations? Faulty catechesis, pressure from family members, habitual custom, may produce penitents, especially prior to Christmas and Easter, who declare they have no sins to confess. Of course, the priest invites them to reflect upon their lives with a view to inducing the correct disposition and the confession of any sins committed since they last approached the sacrament. Canon Law specifically envisages the confessor having to ask questions, but always “with prudence and discretion” (c. 979). Such an approach, used gently but clearly, often leads to the acknowledgment of sin. If the correct disposition is apparent, absolution will certainly be given. Otherwise, the priest explains Church teaching and offers to pray with the penitent, always inviting them to return to the sacrament in the future.

The correct disposition on the part of the penitent is sorrow for their sins and a purpose of amendment (c. 959). Occasionally, a penitent may “confess” their sins, but indicate that they have no regret in respect of them. Rather, they look almost to the Church for ratification of their behaviour. There are those also who mention a sin but leave the confessor in little doubt that there is no intention of future amendment. This is most frequently the case with “states of sin”, e.g. an irregular union or an ongoing adulterous relationship. With sensitivity the priest endeavours to bring the penitent to see the true consequences of their action, which includes the wounding of their relationship with God, the Church and the wider human community. “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). The priest might highlight the providential nature of their act of confession, and encourage consideration of avoiding the occasions of the sin in question.

Often a grudging acknowledgment of sorrow, a hesitant acceptance that they will endeavour to begin to rectify the situation will be elicited. To grant absolution, one is not seeking cast-iron guarantees that the sin will never be committed again, nor demanding perfect contrition. Other things being equal, absolution can be granted if the penitent simply expresses the desire not to sin again, or regrets the consequences of sin.

Yet a few may hold out against any expression of contrition or purpose of amendment. What do we say to them? There is a view that, for “pastoral” motives, everyone who approaches the sacrament should receive absolution. Not only is this theologically incorrect, it also lacks pastoral charity. How is that individual being helped in the process of conversion, to hear Christ’s call to repentance and holiness of life? At best, they are left with a diminished sense of both the seriousness of sin and the sheer beauty of God’s forgiveness; at worst, they may despise a sacrament that appears simply mechanical or even magical. Furthermore the necessary healing of the ecclesial and of the human community is postponed. It also suggests arrogance on the part of the priest. We are ministers, not masters, of the sacrament. We are required “to adhere faithfully to the teaching of the Magisterium” (c. 978, s.2). This, in fact, is the truly pastoral approach as taught by Pope John Paul II: “To acknowledge one’s sins… to recognise one as being a sinner, capable of sin and inclined to commit sin, is the essential first step in returning to God” (Pope John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Penitentia, (1984), n.13). Were it not possible to withhold absolution the very integrity of the act of Christian conversion would be undermined.

Withholding absolution may produce a variety of responses: surprise, dismay, anger – possibly directed against the priest personally. We invite the penitent to continue to reflect upon the truth of the situation, making clear the open invitation to return to us. It may be appropriate for the penitent to be reminded that such withholding of absolution is an act of compassion.

“God… pardons nothing to those who pardon themselves everything,” declared that saintly confessor, the Curé of Ars. Purporting to absolve an unrepentant penitent brings no one to this realisation. The rare necessity of having to withhold absolution may just do so. At least the penitent is given a clear choice: persisting in their sins and remaining unreconciled to God and the Church, or the conversion that leads to salvation. This is the tough love preached by Our Lord. Tough love is required on occasion, but we must be careful not to love to be tough. Withholding absolution is a last resort. We do not seek to break the bruised reed or to quench the wavering fame.

“In hearing confessions the priest is to remember that he is at once both judge and healer, and that he is constituted by God as a minister of both divine justice and divine mercy, so that he may contribute to the honour of God and the salvation of souls” (c. 978, s.1).

* I.e., for most other Christians in this country this means they are unable to approach a minister of their own communion, spontaneously ask for the sacrament, demonstrate they hold the Catholic faith in respect of the sacrament and are properly disposed.

Monday, November 30, 2009

1st Sunday of Advent - homily

This is a true story: I was driving up to my first day of college with my Mom and older sister. On our way up to Loyola in Baltimore, my Mom was asking me questions about it. One of the questions she asked was, ‘what is the ratio of girls to guys?’ I was ready for this question. I said, ‘Mom, there are 50% girls, 49% guys, and one man!’ My sister rolled her eyes, and my Mom replied, “Let me guess…you’re the one man!” I said, “you go that right!” So, I took this joke to Loyola and told my friends and classmates. I became known as “the one man”. By sophomore year, it was condensed to “The Man”. I would walk into parties and people would say, “hey, it’s The Man!” Toward the end of sophomore year, friends of mine dared me to shave THE MAN into the back of my head. I said, “OK”. So, for three weeks, I walked around campus with THE MAN shaved into the back of my head! One time, I was walking to class and the guy behind me said, “I’m walking behind The Man!” The best part was probably when my Mom visited about a month after I got the cut. My hair had grown back in but still looked bad in the back. She commented, “What happened to your hair? Did you get a bad haircut or something?” I said, “yeah, I’ll never go back to that barber!”

So, yeah, The Man! (Now, I don’t want to see any of you guys with THE MAN shaved into the back of your heads…or girls!). Some of you are thinking to yourselves, ‘it’s more like The Jerk’. I agree. I will take it one step further and say that I was in the category that our Lord warns against tonight. My heart was “drowsy from carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life”. If my time had come in the first part of college, I would have been in trouble. I’ve often thought that if I had died in college – and there was at least one night where I could have died from partying – I probably would have gone to Hell. My heart was in things other than Christ. It had become drowsy with the things of this world – things of the flesh.

If you’re wondering what this means exactly – to have hearts that are drowsy from carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life – I ask you to think back to Thanksgiving night. After we eat all that food at dinner and dessert, we sit down on the couch and are pretty lethargic. We are bloated, can’t move, are tired, and have no energy. This is like the heart that is drowsy from carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life. This is what my heart was like in the first part of college. My heart was tired, maybe even asleep, for Christ and the things of God.
Jesus doesn’t want a tired heart…He wants a tireless heart; He wants a vigilant heart. He doesn’t want a lukewarm heart; He wants a heart that is on fire. He says elsewhere in the Gospel that when He returns, He wants to see burning hearts….hearts that hearts that are on fire for Him and for the Gospel. He wants us to be on fire for being Catholic! If our hearts are on fire for Christ and the Church, then we will be vigilant.

If we are vigilant during Advent, then we will pray every day. Not just rote prayers or grace before meals, but really pray to the Lord from our hearts. We will make chapel visits a part of our Advent, especially on Wednesdays during Adoration.

If we are vigilant during Advent, then we will serve our neighbor. We will get involved in serving others, either at Martha’s table or caroling at St. Mary’s Court or signing up for Alternative Spring Break.

If we are vigilant during Advent, then we will invite others to Mass. A heart that is on fire for Christ will bring others to Him.

If we are vigilant during Advent, then we will go to Confession at least once before Christmas.

Finally, each one of us wants to have a good Advent. Each of us wants to be vigilant in these and other ways. Jesus says to “pray for the strength” to be vigilant…to have a good Advent. The best time for us to pray for the strength to do this is during Holy Communion. The Eucharist contains incredible strength for us. The Grace of the Eucharist is what changed my life…it’s what changed my heart. It woke up my heart. It has helped me to be on fire…to be vigilant. During Communion tonight, pray that the Lord gives you strength to be vigilant this Advent. Pray that He helps you to be strong amid pressure from your friends and peers. Pray that He helps you to be on fire for Him, the Gospel, and the Church. Pray that He helps you to be a faithful follower of His now and for the rest of your life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"In all circumstances give thanks"

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I ask bloggers to post up to three things for which you are thankful. I am thankful for the Eucharist, for being assigned to GW, and for my family.

The following is from my post last year after Thanksgiving. It expands on a point I made in my homily from this past weekend about how gratitude leads to health and happiness. I hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!!

The retreat master of my Fall retreat, Msgr. Steve Rossetti, gave a talk entitled, “Becoming a Eucharistic People”. He focused on the many benefits of giving thanks regularly. The overall point was that gratitude leads to joy and happiness. We should give thanks EVERY DAY for the sake of gratitude, but also because it brings us more health and happiness. Msgr. Rossetti offered evidence to the latter point, referring to results of a Gratitude Study done years ago that was published in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology (2002):

- daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, and energy

- gratitude group (those who gave thanks regularly) exercised more regularly, had fewer physical symptoms, and quality and duration of sleep was better

- gratitude group experienced less depression and stress (!). They experienced higher levels of optimism & life satisfaction without denying negative aspects of life

- gratitude group were more likely to feel loved and to help others, i.e., helped someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support

- gratitude group more empathic and rated as more generous and helpful by others

- grateful people were less envious of others

- they were less materialistic and more religious or spiritual (attend services or engage in religious activities)

“I think it is impossible for anyone to be simultaneously grateful and unhappy. So the solution to much of the unhappiness that humans experience is a reawakening in the human heart of the idea of gratitude. That's why I think it is a great idea for non-believers to celebrate Thanksgiving. Let anyone start expressing and experiencing gratitude--if not vertically toward God, at least horizontally toward others in the human community--and you'll find that person holding a new lease on happiness.” - Rev. William J. Bryon, S.J.

In all circumstances give thanks” (1 Thess 5:16-18)

Eucharistia: Greek – thanksgiving

“If the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ it will suffice”. – Meister Eckhard

Monday, November 23, 2009

Solemnity of Christ the King - homily

This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. Every day should be a day of thanksgiving for each of us. Sociologists have found that people who are thankful on a regular basis live healthier and happier lives. We should be thankful to God and others every day. We should thank God in prayer every day for everything He has given us. The best prayer of thanksgiving is the Mass; the word “Eucharist” literally means “thanksgiving”. Also, we should make the habit of thanking others who are generous to us, whether it’s thanking them in person or through a thank-you note. Also, a good way to give thanks is by serving our neighbor. Thanksgiving should lead to community service. It is right to give thanks regularly but it is also very healthy to do so.

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. We hear the intriguing conversation between our Lord and Pontius Pilate in today’s Gospel. Pilate has a sense that Jesus is a king and asks Him a couple times if He is a king. Pilate is talking to not only a king, but the King of Kings…the King of the Universe. Christ has more power than all of the kings of the world put together! Pilate senses this power. It is a power that we should all tap into.

As college students, you might be wondering how this feast of Christ the King relates to you. I have a story about a college student that might help. I met her this past January when she and about 40 others from her university came to stay at our parish for the annual March for Life. We put the students up in our school, fed them, and offered a Holy Hour and Confessions in the Church. At the end of the night, this young woman asked if she could speak with me.

She told me that she was having a lot of problems…serious problems. She was so bad off that she was worried that she would take her own life by way of cutting. I asked her if I could pray over her. She said OK. I laid my hands on her head and asked God to bless her in various ways. It was basically a prayer that God would bring healing to her heart, mind, and body. I think it was one of those times when I could actually feel the power of God go out through me. When we finished, she thanked but didn’t say a lot about the blessing.

Just recently, she told me that that night saved her life. Saved her life! Praise God, that is awesome. She is doing much better now. She’s not out of the woods and still struggles with cutting, but it is not in her mind at all to take her own life. She has really come a long way since that night in January. I believe and she has confirmed that it is because of the power of God. What she received through me - what she needed - was the power of Christ the King. Only Christ has the power to help her. Only Christ has the power to heal her. He has power over all things. He has great power to offer her and all of you to help you with your serious problems. Christ is her king and he is your king.

Christ’s power as King was not just offered to the people who lived 2000 years ago. It is still offered today, mainly through his priests. Not all priests are open to the healing ministry, but I am. I am totally open to offering you Christ’s healing power. Some of you are dealing with serious problems in your mind, heart, or body. Christ can help. I invite you to experience his healing power. His power is real. I have experienced it and others have been healed by it.

Finally, we are about to approach the throne of Christ the King in the Eucharist. And, we do take a royal approach to the Eucharist. We kneel in the King’s presence, we bow as we approach Him, and then make a throne either in our hands or on our tongue to receive our King. But, there is a great mystery involved here: the King of the Universe with all of his royal splendor and majesty gets so small for us. He gets so small for us so that He will be in us and we will be in Him. He gets so small for us so that we will share in his kingdom…in his life…in his love…in his power. and we will reign with Him in his kingdom forever.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Why Confession?"

DC 'Hood vs. St Andrew's, tonight, 7 pm, E Brooke Lee middle school, Silver Spring. Go 'Hood!
I've talked about the Sacrament of Confession in my homilies, most recently this past Sunday. Confession is important anytime, and I am open 24/7 for Confession, as you know. But, it's especially important as we enter into the seasons of Advent and Lent. With this in mind, the Newman Center will have an Advent Penance Service on Monday, December 7, 7:30 pm at St Stephen's Church. Several priests will be on hand to hear confessions for GW students before they go home to celebrate Christmas with their families. Please spread the word!

The following is an article from Catholic Faith Alive! which we have in the Newman Center in our pamphlet rack titled, "Why Confession?":

Why Confession?Do we really need it?

Why should you go to confession? There are a hundred reasons we conjure up why not to go to confession, but there are twice as many reasons why we should go.


The most popular argument against going to confession is "I don’t need to go to a priest. I can confess directly to God." St. Augustine had to deal with this in the fifth century:

Let no one say... "I repent before God. God knows it and pardons me." What! Was it then said in vain to the priests, "Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"? You hold the Gospel of no account. You despise the words of Christ, and you promise yourself what he refuses to you.

You can indeed confess directly to God, and be forgiven venial sins. However, as the Catechism of The Catholic Church (CCC) teaches, "Individual and integral confession of grave sins followed by absolution remains the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God and with the Church" (CCC # 1497). For mortal sins we need more than just "direct confession": Anyone conscious of grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion (CCC #1385).

Also, by not making use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, you do not receive the sacramental grace that comes from going to confession. St. Francis de Sales wrote,

In confession you not only receive absolution from the... sins you confess, but also great strength to avoid them in the future, light to see them clearly, and abundant grace to repair whatever damage you have incurred. You will also practice the virtues of humility, obedience, simplicity, and charity. In the single act of confession you will exercise more virtues than in any other act whatsoever.

St. John Vianney said, "When you go to confession you un-nail Our Lord."

When you confess directly to God you don’t hear the words of absolution from the priest, by which you can be sure you have been forgiven. Jesus gave his apostles the power to forgive and retain sins (Jn. 20:23). A priest can often tell if you are truly contrite for your sins. He can help you know what things are truly wrong and what things are serious matter. It is said, "No one is a good judge in his own case." The priest helps us arrive at an objective understanding of how we stand before God. There is great comfort in knowing we are truly forgiven, not just subjectively, but objectively.

St. Dorotheus said "It does not matter how many virtues a man may have, even if they are beyond number and limit. If he has turned from the path of self-accusation, he will never find peace."

In confession, too, we can get some spiritual guidance. We may need counsel on how to deal with a problem in a truly Christian way. The priest can often help us find the right approach.

There is another reason to go to confession, of course. The Catechism of the Church states:

According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year" (CCC1457).

Each year we put off confessing serious sins, alas, another serious sin is added.

As anyone who has gone to confession recently knows, the sacrament of penance is not a harsh tribunal of justice, but a manifestation of God’s infinite mercy. God waits patiently for us to return to him so that he can embrace us again with his love and help us to be at peace. The priest is there in the confessional to represent Christ, the one who told the parable of the lost sheep, the prodigal son, who forgave his executioners from the cross. This is the Jesus who waits for you in the person of the priest in the confessional!


One person said he had a friend who "shakes all over every time she goes to confession, and has many friends who do the same. How can you call this a consoling sacrament?" Perhaps more important than how she feels when she goes is how does she feel when she leaves? This is the key.

Also, Many people tremble at the mere thought of going to the dentist, or for surgery, but consider the alternative: rotted teeth, diseased organs, etc.

Rotted teeth and diseased organs are serious matters, but a rotted soul... What a tragedy. Some put off the confession of serious sins and try to cover them over with various arguments why they shouldn’t go. After a while they feel that they have accomplished their goal, the pain is numbed. They hardly notice it. It’s like an infected wound that gets covered over by skin. You almost forget it is there. But it is there, festering away and eating away at your whole body. Unconfessed mortal sins eat away at the soul, but the corrosion is almost invisible. It can be like a cancer, which is not discovered until it’s too late.

Many psychologists have marveled at the power of this sacrament. It is not primarily a psychological exercise, but there is a psychological element. We are told that strong emotions need to be expressed in some healthy way. If we keep them in we may develop a neurosis. Guilt can be a strong, and helpful emotion, if we allow it to move us to apologize. If we hold it in however, it will pop out in other ways, as toothpaste used to come out from the side of the tube when we squeezed the tube without taking the cap off. Guilt will come out as criticism, especially of the Church. Or, it may come out as anger, anger over any little thing that happens. Unexpressed guilt can make us very sour people.

"But, I thought guilt was a bad thing," you say? Some guilt is good, some bad. The guilt that moves us to contrition and apology is good. The guilt that we keep after that is bad. Once you go to confession and are absolved, get rid of the guilt. Prolonged guilt is often the result of pride. The person thinks, in effect, "How could someone like me do something as terrible as that?" The fact of the matter is we are all weaklings in the eyes of God, and it is only when we say with St. Paul, "I will boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me" (2 Cor. 12:9), that we get strength.

Once Fulton Sheen was instructing an airline stewardess in the faith. When he taught her about confession, and the need to go, in order to be forgiven serious sins, she blurted out, "Now I know I’ll never become a Catholic." Sheen said, "Come back for one more hour, and if you still feel the same, we’ll end the lessons." She agreed. The following week she came again and the hour ended the same way, only this time she was angry and screaming. He said, "There is nothing I have said which should bring such a reaction... Did you ever have an abortion?" She said "Yes," and began to weep. It was out, and she was no longer angry or reluctant to continue. She finished her lessons, went to confession and joined the Church. And, she found peace. She feared the pain of confessing, but was glad when it was over.

Sometimes by avoiding a painful thing today we bring on twice the pain tomorrow.

But, what if the priest gets angry with me? That seldom happens anymore, but if it does, simply ask the priest, "Father, did you die on the cross for me?"

There is another thing to remember about the discomfort of this sacrament: the more we go, the easier it is to go. Everyone should attempt to go to confession at least once a month, but ideally every two weeks. The more often we go to confession, the more sensitive we are to our sins, even our small sins, and the less discomfort we feel.

To be sure, if a person has a serious psychological problem with confession, he should discuss it with a priest and see about the possibility of being excused, at least for a time.


True, it can be embarrassing, but that should not keep us from so great a source of grace. How often we go to a friend to tell them some wrong we have committed against our spouse. Do we believe it is Jesus in the confessional, or don’t we? Who could be a more understanding friend? I have received more understanding and comfort from the priests in the confessional than in any good friend.

What will he think of you? He will see you as Jesus sees you: one who has been wiped clean. But won’t he look down on me? Let the priest without sin be the first to throw a stone. We priests have to go to confession too. Do you think we are without sin? Think again. Priests know also, that some of the greatest saints_St. Augustine, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Margaret of Cortona_had been great sinners. Who is to say you are not the next? Priests try to look at the "new you," not the old one.

The priest is bound not only to never reveal the sin of a penitent, but to try to forget sins as soon as he hears them. There is an expression that we priests have: What I know from confession, I know less than that which I do not know at all.


So often confession is the beginning of a great conversion. Bishop Sheen told this story:

When Charles de Foucauld, a hero of France but still an evil man, entered a church one day, he knocked at the confessional of Father Huvelin and said: "Come out, I want to talk to you about a problem." Fr. Huvelin answered, "No, come in; I want to talk to you about your sins." Foucauld, struck by Divine Grace, obeyed; later on he became a [hermit] in the desert and one of the saintly men of our times.

A young man once gave a talk about his conversion. He had been a Catholic since childhood, but he fell into sin and neglected confession, though he continued to go to Mass. So, he did need conversion. He went to confess one Saturday afternoon, and found himself at the end of a long line of people. He looked at his watch and decided he didn’t have time to go, so he started to leave. A woman close to the confessional grabbed him as he went by and said, "Here, take my place. You look like you may need it more that I." Indeed he did. He was caught... by the Hound of Heaven. He went in, confessed, and returned to the sacraments for the first time in over ten years. He went on to become a priest.


Pope John Paul II said on June 15, 1983,

The sacrament of reconciliation is not reserved only for those who commit serious sins. It was instituted for the remission of all sins and the grace that flows from it has a special [power] of purification and support in the effort of amendment and progress. It is an irreplaceable sacrament in the Christian life; it cannot be disregarded or neglected if one wants the seed of divine life to mature in the Christian and produce all the desired results.

When we confess just venial sins we develop a greater sensitivity to them, and become more inclined to overcome them. Most people who commit mortal sins began with repeated venial sins, and thus weakened, fell into more serious sins.

One person went on a retreat and as part of the retreat he went to confession. It had been more than two years since he had gone. He hadn’t committed any mortal sins so he didn’t absolutely have to go. Nonetheless, the priest gently corrected him on his staying away for so long. "Could it be a matter of pride that you haven’t come to confession all this time?" He encouraged him to go at least once a month from then on, just for venial sins. The man admitted his pride, and resolved to go monthly.

Pius XII wrote in Mysticii corporis:

For a constant and speedy advancement in the path of virtue we highly recommend the pious practice of frequent confession... for by this means we grow in a true knowledge of ourselves and in Christian humility, bad habits are uprooted, spiritual negligence and apathy are prevented, the conscience is purified and the will strengthened, salutary spiritual direction is obtained and grace is increased by the effectiveness of the sacrament itself.

Confession: God doesn’t need it. We do.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Catholic Charities cannot comply with these requirements"

On Friday, I posted the press release from the Archdiocese of Washington concerning Catholic Charities and the DC City Council’s bill regarding same-sex marriage. There has been some confusion in media reports about what the Archdiocesan statement means, with many people thinking that the Archdiocese will cut its social services if the bill is passed. The Archdiocese issued a clarification over the weekend which makes clear that that is NOT the case. It will still provide millions and millions of dollars (from its own coffers) of social services in Washington, but won’t be able to partner with the City in providing services that the bill would require them to provide. The part of the statement that clarifies this the most is the following:

“Catholic Charities observes the Catholic belief that marriage is the union of man and woman. It cannot place children with same-sex parents in foster care and adoption; it cannot promote and support same-sex marriage through payment of spousal benefits. The bill would compel Catholic Charities to do both of these. Catholic Charities cannot comply with these

For more information about the Archiocese and same-sex marriage, please click on today's title. The full statement of clarification can be viewed by clicking on "read more" in the first bullet point on that page.

Monday, November 16, 2009

33rd Sunday - homily

Washington has a basketball team of priests! We call ourselves, “DC ‘Hood” (which is short for DC priesthood). We have been playing parish teams for the past 5 years. It’s been fun to talk trash to the parishes, telling them to put together their best team of parents, coaches, teachers, and teens, and we’ll beat ‘em! We’ve actually won more games than we’ve lost. This Friday, DC ‘Hood is playing my old parish, St Andrew’s, in Silver Spring at 7 pm. We have GW students going, but I’d like to take a whole bunch of you. If you’re interested, please email me this week. It will be a lot of fun. We’ll provide transportation and there will be pizza afterwards. Hope you can join us.

This weekend, a movie came out called, “2012”. If you’ve seen the ads for it, you know that it’s about the end of the world coming in 2012. Well, we just heard from our Lord that “no one knows” when the end of the world will be. Jesus doesn’t even know! Only the Father knows. So, Hollywood doesn’t know, Nostradamus didn’t know, the ancient Mayans didn’t know. Nobody knows, and yet we’re consumed with the question of “when will the end be?”

The question shouldn’t be “when”, but “am I ready?” We’ve talked here before about always being ready. You never know when the time will come, so you always have to be ready. It could come tonight, next week, in 50 years. You always have to be ready for judgment. Now, there are two types of judgment: the particular judgment that awaits us all at the time of our death and the general judgment at the end of the world. In the particular judgment, we will go before the judgment seat of Christ and hopefully be found worthy of the Kingdom, by God’s Grace. Most of us will not be ready to go to the Kingdom to be with God in all His Glory and the angels and saints forever. I say most of us because the only people who go straight to Heaven when they die are martyrs. So, we will need to be purified before we enter Heaven; this state of purification is called Purgatory.

Now, a lot of people misunderstand Purgatory. They think that everyone goes there. This isn’t true. Hell is real. We just heard a description of it in the first reading: “everlasting horror and disgrace”. Jesus talks about Hell almost as much as He does about Heaven because He doesn’t want us going there. But, if we make it to Purgatory, that’s really good…it means we’re in! No matter how long or hard it is for us, it means we’re going to the Kingdom.

The general judgment applies to what we hear in the readings tonight – the end of the world, the end of time, the second coming of Christ when He will “judge the living and the dead”. It will also be the end of Purgatory. It will be just Heaven and Hell for all eternity.

If all of this talk about judgment gets us overly worried, it shouldn’t. If we’re living the life we’re supposed to live – if we’re living in Christ – then we have nothing to worry about. I want to offer two of the best ways to live in Christ and to be ready for judgment, but before I do that I want to let you know about a great little booklet on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. We have it in the Newman Center, but wanted to give you a chance to read it online. (Bloggers can read the article by clicking on today’s title). It will answer many of the questions you have about the next life.

The first way is Confession. Confession is a way for us to receive Grace, especially if we’ve left Grace through serious sin. I think one of the main reasons Jesus gave us Confession was to keep us out of Hell. The Catechism tells us that if we die in a state of mortal sin, we will go to Hell. Confession is mainly for the forgiveness of mortal sins. What is a mortal sin? It’s a sin that is seriously wrong, we know it’s wrong, and we freely choose to do it. For example, skipping Mass on a Sunday. If we freely choose to skip Mass, that is a mortal sin. We need to go to Confession and come back to God’s Grace, the Grace we need to get to Heaven. Even if we haven’t committed a mortal sin, it’s good to go regularly to Confession so that we grow in Grace… we grow in friendship with Grace…and, so that we live as we really want to live.

The more confessions I hear, the more I am convinced that people really don’t want to be doing the things they do in sin. It can happen easily in college where you start doing things you wouldn’t normally do ,and then months and years go by, and you wonder, ‘who am I?’ I have had many people get emotional in Confession because they realize this, and want to be who they really are…the person they are supposed to be.

Finally, the second way and probably the best way to always be ready for judgment: the Eucharist. Jesus promises us in John 6 that if we eat His flesh and drink His blood we have eternal life. That means we need to be here every Sunday and regularly receive the Eucharist. If we stay close to the Eucharist and Confession, if we regularly receive these sacraments, then we will live a life of Grace and always be ready for Judgment. It’s not just about being ready because living a life of Grace means that we experience Heaven on Earth…happiness on Earth. It also means that we will die in Christ’s Grace and be among the elect who will shine life the stars forever in the Kingdom of God.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Narrowing religious freedom in DC

DC 'Hood vs. St Andrew's, next Friday, Nov 20, 7 pm @ E Brooke Lee middle school (11800 Monticello Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20902). DC 'Hood (short for priesthood) is a basketball team of Washington priests and seminarians which plays parish teams from around the Archdiocese. I was stationed at St Andrew's for 3 years, so this is a big game!! I would like to take a group of students to the game; please let me know if you're interested. Go 'Hood!!
The following is from the website of the Archdiocese of Washington with the latest about the bill that would legalize marriage between same-sex couples in DC. The main point is that the DC City Council is taking steps in the bill to limit the religious freedom of organizations like the Catholic Church which do not support same-sex "marriages".

The DC City Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary today (Nov. 10, 2009) narrowed the exemption for religious freedom in a bill that would legalize marriage between same-sex couples. The bill is headed to the full council.

The committee’s narrowing of the exemption leaves religious organizations and individuals at risk for adhering to the teachings of their faith, and could prevent social service providers such as Catholic Charities from continuing their long-term partnerships with the District government to provide critical social services for thousands of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

The bill provides no exemption for individuals with sincerely-held religious beliefs, as required under federal law. In fact, one council member opposed an amendment that would have respected an individual’s federally-protected, deeply-held religious beliefs by saying that would encourage a “discriminatory impulse.”

The committee rejected concerns raised in testimony by the ACLU, the Archdiocese of Washington, the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and a group of nationally-recognized legal scholars, including Robin Fretwell Wilson, professor at Washington & Lee University Law School. In calling for broader religious liberty protections in the bill, the experts cited well established United States Supreme Court case law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal law that applies to the District of Columbia.

Under the bill, religious organizations do not have to participate in the “solemnization or celebration” of a same-sex marriage ceremony. An earlier version of the bill also exempted them from “the promotion of marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs.” The revised language significantly narrows that exemption to the “promotion of marriage through religious programs, counseling, courses, or retreats.”

As a result, religious organizations and individuals are at risk of legal action for refusing to promote and support same-sex marriages in a host of settings where it would compromise their religious beliefs. This includes employee benefits, adoption services and even the use of a church hall for non-wedding events for same-sex married couples. Religious organizations such as Catholic Charities could be denied licenses or certification by the government, denied the right to offer adoption and foster care services, or no longer be able to partner with the city to provide social services for the needy.

“It is our concern that the committee’s narrowing of the religious exemption language will cause the government to discontinue our long partnership with them and open up the agency to litigation and the use of resources to defend our religious beliefs rather than serve the poor,” said Edward Orzechowski, president/CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. Catholic Charities serves 68,000 people in the city each year. The city’s 40 Catholic parishes operate another 93 social service programs to provide crucial services.

The teachings of the Catholic Church, including those of the Archdiocese of Washington, hold that all individuals have equal dignity and deserve equal respect. However, marriage by its very nature must be between a man and a woman. One essential purpose of marriage is an openness to creating and nurturing the next generation, which is the reason that governments and cultures throughout all time have given these relationships special recognition and support. See for more information on marriage.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Father, question"

I was speaking to students over the weekend about the blog site. I told them that many GW students are hitting this site, but very few are posting comments or questions. One student said that I should explain how to post a comment because she couldn't figure out how to do it. I very much appreciate her feedback and will explain how to post a comment or question below.

I've probably said this before on here, but I know that you all have TONS of questions. The real purpose of this site is try to answer your questions. You can ask ANY appropriate question regarding faith, morals, or life. And, while anonymous comments aren't ideal (it can lead to confusion among other things), you don't even have to leave your name. Keep in mind this, too: your question (and the subsequent answer) could really help someone else.

One of the most frequent comments at the Newman Center is, "Father, question". It is the abbreviated form, of course, of saying, "Father, I have a question for you". I get asked questions all the time in my conversations with people here. Some of you all take full advantage of asking a priest or campus minister questions about God or faith. I am inviting the rest of you to take advantage of it here. Now is a HUGE time in your life to find answers. And, you might not always have this opportunity to say, "Father, question". Please take advantage of it.

(One side note: if you have a personal question or comment, the best thing is to email me and it will be kept confidential.)

Here's how to post a comment or question:

- click on "comments" under one of my posts
- type in your comment in the box titled "Leave your comment"
- below the box, click on either "anonymous" or "name" (and type in your name in the box below; URL is not necessary)
- click on publish your comment
- word verification - type in the letters or numbers shown (this prevents spam comments)
- I receive and review your comment; I will approve appropriate comments asap

Monday, November 09, 2009

32nd Sunday - homily

How much of Catholics’ income do they give to the Church? Is it 10%? That’s what we’re supposed to be giving. Um, no, it’s not 10%. Is it at least half of that: 5 %? No. A priest once told me that if every Catholic gave 3% of their income, Catholic education would be free. Well, we know it’s not 3%. It’s actually 1.5%. Catholics give 1.5% of their income to the Church, according to stats from 2008. That’s a bit higher than other religions and lower than the highest which is 2.5% (a Protestant denomination).

So, we give 1.5% of our income. It is supposed to be 10% which is the idea of tithing. Tithing is a practice which goes back to the Old Testament. It means giving 1/10 of what we have to God who has given us everything. So, for you all in the future, that means 10% of your income before taxes. The model is 5% to your parish and 5% to charities, preferable Catholic charities.

What about you all right now? During the summer when you have income, give 10%. But, during the school year if you don’t have income, I would say to give 10% of your spending money. Think about how much you spend going out with your friends or eating out or whatever fun stuff you do and give 10% to the collection plate here. So, if you spend $50 each week, throw 5 bucks in our collection. And, by the way, all of the offertory money goes directly to the Newman Center which is for you. It doesn’t go to me and it doesn’t go to Meg. It is for the programs of the Center which are for you.

It’s an interesting dynamic – how we spend our money out there and in here. We seem to have a different view of dropping cash out there than in here. For example, if we go out to nice restaurant and pay only $20, we think, ‘what a steal’. But, in here, dropping $20 in the collection basket makes us think, ‘whoa, that’s a lot’. Why is that? That might be for another homily. But, it does touch on something that I will talk about tonight and that is generosity.

We are called to be generous – not just with our treasure, but also with our time and talent. To be generous really means to give ‘til it hurts. Like, we should feel it a bit when we give. And, we often feel it the most when it hurts in our wallet or checkbook. We have two examples of women – widows nonetheless – of generosity…two examples of people who gave ‘til it hurt.

In the first reading, the widow and her son are on the verge of death because they have such little food. She gives away the little bit of food they have to Elijah, believing that he is a man of God. She is rewarded for her generosity: she and her son receive a year’s supply of food. In the Gospel, Jesus points out that the widow who gives two copper coins (a few cents) gave more than anyone else there. She gave more than all of the rich people because she gave from her poverty while they gave from their surplus. Jesus was basically saying to his disciples and to all of us: “see, that’s generosity”. It’s like if you put all of the bills from your wallet into the collection basket tonight. Or, if you gave all of the money from your savings account to the Church! Now, we need to be prudent in being generous, but we see the models of generosity in these women.

Finally, the story of the widow in the Gospel points to the generosity of Christ. Scripture says that she gave her “whole livelihood”. She gave everything. This is exactly what Christ did for us on the Cross. He gave us his whole life, his “whole livelihood”. This is the generosity of Jesus Christ. Talk about giving ‘til it hurts! He gave his life for us and continues to give us his life in the Eucharist. He calls us to be generous to others and to Him. Let’s make no mistake, though: God cannot be outdone in generosity. Whatever we give him, he will give us more in return. Through this Eucharist, may we be generous. May we give ’til it hurts. May we be generous to God and others this week.

Friday, November 06, 2009

"Why does God allow evil?"

Concert with Jim Cowan next Fri, Nov. 13, 7:30 pm, St Stephen Martyr. Jim Cowan is a renowned singer, songwriter, and worship leader for conferences at Franciscan University in Steubenville for 25 years. Come and be renewed in the Lord’s healing presence.
One of the most common questions that people have in regards to God is “why does God allow suffering?”. It is really the same question as ‘why does God allow evil?’. We have covered these questions in pretty good detail on this site over the years. You can google a question and include “gw catholic” and you’ll probably find the posts and comments here of which I am speaking. One of these posts is from March 15, 2006; I have included it below.

Some of you students might wonder how an all-powerful, all-loving God could exist with so much evil and suffering in the world. The very short answer to this is free will. In other words, it’s more about us than it is about God. There is so much evil in the world because people choose to do evil....they choose to sin. There is also so much suffering in the world because suffering is a result of sin, as I write below.

You might know all of this already, and so you would then ask, “but why does God allow it? Why does He allow so much violence? Why does he allow so much poverty? Why does he allow bad things to happen to good people?” These are all very good questions. At the heart of all of this is a mystery. I don’t claim to have all of the answers. But, I’d be happy to tackle questions like this if you have them. Just post them here, email me, or come talk to me about them. General questions can be posted, but question about specific circumstances should be brougght to me privately (email or in person). It is important, though, to make sure we have some theological understanding about evil, suffering, and free will. So, please read this below and then post your comments and questions.

When God created the world, it was a natural paradise. Everything he made was good and beautiful. There was no suffering or pain. There was no death. The creatures, plants, and trees were full of life; "it was good" (Gen 1:4). When God created man (male and female), He saw that "it was very good". God created man to be like Himself - good, beautiful, intelligent, etc. - in His own image. God Himself is free, so he created man to be free.

The free will that God has given man means that man is truly free. God gave him free will so that he would choose to love God and be in friendship with Him. This was His Plan for man...that he would be with God in this life and for all eternity, and He gave him much help to choose good. But, like any good parent or friend, God couldn't force man to love Him. God knew that man could reject Him, and thus do evil.

When man rejected God for the first time and committed Original Sin (Adam and Eve), suffering and death entered the world. Suffering is a natural result of sin, whether through individual sin or another's sin. It is in and of itself not good; it is a natural evil. God never wills suffering, death or evil: "God did not make death, he takes no pleasure in destroying the living" (Wis 1:13).

Rather, God allows suffering; it is part of His permissive will. God allows suffering because He allows us to choose to reject Him. He has given us free will, and truly respects our freedom. He is no less God and doesn't lose any of omnipotence if we choose evil. He is, always has been, and always will be an all-powerful God. He has created us so that we will choose Him, but knows that we can abuse the freedom He has given us.

On a natural level, then, suffering is not good because it is not from God. God most likely feels the way the prophet Jeremiah did when He sees His people suffer: “my eyes stream with tears… over the great destruction which overwhelms… my people…" (Jer 14: 17-18). Because of His great love for us, however, God will bring a supernatural component to suffering that will bring good out of evil. He will win victory over suffering, death, and evil through his Son, Jesus Christ...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

"Planned Parenthood Director Leaves"

To piggy-back yesterday's post, here's another pro-life victory courtesy of mainstream media. God is good! Please click on today's title to view.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

"Law & Order v. Roe v Wade"

Someone sent me a clip of the Oct. 23 episode of NBC's "Law & Order". I didn't see the episode when it aired but have viewed the clip. Like many people, I was surprised to see a show like Law and Order present the truth about an abortion procedure, especially because, as the person who sent it to me wrote, "Usually, the show promotes a woman's right to kill her unborn child".

You can view the clip by clicking on today's title and then scrolling down to the video on the site. Part of the script includes disturbing courtroom testimony about a born-alive baby who is killed. It is disturbing but true. This happens every day in the United States. One of the attorneys seems to have a change of heart with regards to the abortion issue (my guess is that this character represents the person or persons at NBC who have also had a change of heart).

The pro-life movement is often slammed for being too extreme about abortion by the modern culture. This is brought up in the show by the attorney who pits the two extremes against one another and then says that everyone else is in the middle. But, what happens to her in the show is what has happened to any of us who are adamantly opposed to direct abortion. What happens is that when we learn the truth about abortion, it makes us sick because it is so grotesque. We are affected greatly by what we learn. Children are so precious to us; we don't want anything bad to happen to them. We certainly do not want them to be aborted. We take up the cause to fight for their lives because they cannot fight for their own lives.

Tbe saying goes about abortion: "one dead, one wounded". Every abortion kills a baby and seriously wounds a mother. The mother is wounded physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The Church often picks up the pieces left behind by the abortion industry. These broken pieces are the shattered lives of mothers who have had abortions. The Church offers the most post-abortive care to women in the world. I and so many priests in Washington have helped women who have had abortions to find healing. Their healing can only come from Christ.

If you know of any women at GW who had an abortion, please send them to me. As I said in a homily recently, I will not get angry or judgmental or condemning. I will offer them mercy... the mercy of Christ. They have serious wounds that will last a lifetime unless they bring them now to the Divine Physician who is Christ. He can heal them.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Feast of All Saints - homily

I had the great privilege of meeting Mother Teresa years ago…actually I had breakfast with her. Yeah, I was walking into a McDonald’s and saw her chowing down on an Egg McMuffin. I was like, “Hey, Mother”, and she was like, “Hey”. No, just kidding, it wasn’t in a McDonald’s (can you imagine seeing her or her Sisters in a McDonald’s??). It was actually in one of her homes in Washington, “Gift of Peace”. It is an amazing home; I would love to take you all there someday to volunteer. The Missionaries of Charity care for the sick there, especially those with AIDS. So, it was after Mass one day at Gift of Peace that I had breakfast with Mother Teresa. She told me about all that they do for the sick in their homes in DC; that alone was entirely impressive. Then, she showed me the world map which indicated how many homes they have worldwide for the poor. It was incredible! What an experience it was for me to spend time with a living saint!

Today, we celebrate the Feast of All Saints. We celebrate all those who are in Heaven whether they have been canonized by the Church or not. The saints are incredible people. They are sinners just like you and me but are great friends of Jesus Christ. Those who are canonized by the Church have shown to live heroic virtue; simply put, they have lived the Beatitudes in heroic ways. And so, they are the happiest people in the world; they are most “blessed”.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”. Pier Georgio Frassati lived this beatitude. He lived in Italy not too long ago and was a total stud. He was smart, good-looking, athletic; he was very gifted. But, he wasn’t prideful in spirit; he was poor in spirit. He thought of others before himself. He devoted his life to caring for others, especially the poor. When he died at the young age of 24, thousands upon thousands of people – many of whom were poor – attended his funeral. His family had no idea that he affected so many people in his short life. When Pope John Paul II beatified Frassati, he called him the “man of the Beatitudes”.

“Blessed are the clean of heart”. St. Maria Goretti lived clean of heart and died clean of heart, literally. She was a beautiful young girl who also lived in Italy. When she was 11, an older boy from her neighborhood kept making passes at her. She constantly said no to him. One day, he came to her and threatened to kill her if she didn’t have sex with him. Her reply was that she would “rather die clean for Jesus than live one day unclean for Him”. So, the boy killed her; he stabbed her to death. She gave her life at age 11 for purity…for chastity. That’s how seriously she took chastity and her relationship with Jesus. She is the patron saint of purity, youth, and victims of rape.

“Blessed are the meek”. St Vincent Pallotti was meek, humble, and simple. He was a priest who lived a simple life and hated to waste things. One day, another priest was throwing away scraps of paper. St Vincent collected the scraps and sold them for 10 cents. The other priest thought he was nuts. They both went to a hospital to visit the sick. On the way, St. Vincent purchased some crackers with the 10 cents. At the hospital, St Vincent saw a man who was a notorious sinner who hated priests. At the very sight of priests, her would foam at the mouth and yell out obscenities and blasphemies. He was asleep when the priests arrived, so St. Vincent immediately went over to bless him. The man then woke up. Before her could start yelling, St. Vincent dropped a cracker in his mouth and said, “this will be good for you”. As the man chewed the cracker, St Vincent told him about Jesus and mercy. He finished chewing and was about to start yelling when St. Vincent dropped another cracker in his mouth. They did this several times until the man finally broke down and cried out, “Jesus, have mercy on me”. He made his Confession to St Vincent . A short time later, he died. He died in peace. Because of St Vincent’s meekness, the man was saved!

The saints are so amazing! Their stories are so cool and inspiring. We have many stories about the saints at the Newman Center that will blow your mind. I encourage all to you to come check them out. You’d be surprised, too, with how many saints you can relate. They are real people.

Finally, we are called to be saints. We are all called to be great friends of Jesus Christ in living out the Beatitudes. What was the secret of the saints? How did they live such heroic lives? The Eucharist. As different as all the saints are – they have different backgrounds, personalities, and gifts – they had two things in common: great devotion to the Blessed Mother and great devotion to the Eucharist. When Mother Teresa was asked how she could care for the poorest of the poor every day for 50 years, she said it was because of the Eucharist: “if we didn’t have Mass every morning, I wouldn’t have lasted more than a week”. For the saints and for us, it all starts here. May we go forth from this Eucharist and be saints this week. May we go forth from here to be generous to Jesus and to others this week. May we bring God’s love to others this week as saints.