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.