Monday, May 31, 2010

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity - reflection

On the Trinity

"We Are Called Daily to Be Open to the Action of Grace"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

After the Easter season, which concluded last Sunday with Pentecost, the liturgy returned to Ordinary Time. That does not mean that the commitment of Christians must diminish, rather, having entered into the divine life through the sacraments, we are called daily to be open to the action of grace, to progress in the love of God and our neighbor. This Sunday, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, recapitulates, in a sense, God's revelation in the paschal mysteries: Christ's death and resurrection, his ascension to the right hand of the Father and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The human mind and language are inadequate for explaining the relationship that exists between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and nevertheless the Fathers of the Church tried to illustrate the mystery of the One and Triune God, living it in their existence with profound faith.

The divine Trinity, in fact, comes to dwell in us on the day of baptism: "I baptize you," the minister says, "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." We recall the name of God in which we were baptized every time that we make the sign of the cross. In regard to the sign of the cross the theologian Romano Guardini observes: "We do it before prayer so that … we put ourselves spiritually in order; it focuses our thoughts, heart and will on God. We do it after prayer, so that what God has granted us remains in us … It embraces all our being, body and soul, … and every becomes consecrated in the name of the one and triune God" ("Lo spirito della liturgia. I santi segni," Brescia 2000, 125-126).

Thus in the sign of the cross and in the name of the living God the proclamation that generates faith and inspires prayer is contained. And, as in the Gospel Jesus promises the apostles that "the Spirit of truth, when he comes, will guide you in all truth" (John 16:13), the same happens in the Sunday liturgy, when the priests dispense, week after week, the bread of the Word and the Eucharist. The holy Curé d'Ars reminded his faithful of this: "Who welcomed your soul," he said, "at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest" ("Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests").

Dear friends, let us make the prayer of St. Hilary of Poitiers our own: "Preserve undefiled in me this right faith and, to my last breath, grant me also this voice of my conscience, so that I remain faithful to that which I professed in my regeneration, when I was baptized in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit" ("De Trinitate," XII, 57, CCL 62/A, 627). Invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first creature in whom the Most Holy Trinity dwelled fully, let us ask her protection to journey well on our earthly pilgrimage.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"There are so many of them, and they are so young"

A student sent me an article (April, 2010) from Newsweek magazine about the pro-abortion movement as it stands today in the United States. The article surprised me because it presents those on the pro-abortion side as admitting they are losing support. There is actually a respectable estimate about how many people attended this year’s March for Life: 400,000. No one knows how many people attend, but it’s always far more than what is usually reported in the secular media. My favorite quote of this article is from the NARAL president who commented on the crowd she encountered at the March: “There are so many of them, and they are so young”. As the following article makes clear NARAL and those who fight for a woman’s legal right to choose to abort her baby are rightfully very concerned that the next generation of Americans is significantly more likely to support the pro-life movement:

When the history of the 21st century is written, March 21, 2010, will go down as the day Congress cleared the way for health-care reform. Yet for those in the abortion-rights community, March 21 will mark a completely different turning point: the day when they became acutely aware of their waning influence in Washington. The Democratic Party has, since 1980, supported a woman's right to an abortion. But in 2008 it decided to broaden its appeal by running an unprecedented number of anti-abortion-rights candidates in socially conservative swing districts. That move helped secure a robust House majority for the Democrats.

But abortion-rights supporters could no longer count on that majority to vote their way. The shift first became clear during the health-care debate, when abortion-rights supporters found their cause rather easily brushed aside in pursuit of another, larger goal. Anti-abortion Democrats, most notably the now retiring Rep. Bart Stupak, pressed for stringent abortion restrictions. While Stupak's desired language did not ultimately survive, the final health-care law was more than a psychological setback: it requires separate payments for abortion coverage on the public exchange. The strict accounting rules could well prove so onerous that insurers drop abortion coverage altogether.

So if Democrats won't stand strong for abortion rights, who will? The predicament weighed particularly heavily on NARAL Pro-Choice America, the country's oldest abortion-rights group. Founded in 1969 as the National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws, NARAL has helped protect Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case legalizing abortion, against countless legislative challenges. NARAL president Nancy Keenan had grown fearful about the future of her movement even before the health-care debate. Keenan considers herself part of the "postmenopausal militia," a generation of baby-boomer activists now well into their 50s who grew up in an era of backroom abortions and fought passionately for legalization. Today they still run the major abortion-rights groups, including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women.

These leaders will retire in a decade or so. And what worries Keenan is that she just doesn't see a passion among the post-Roe generation—at least, not among those on her side. This past January, when Keenan's train pulled into Washington's Union Station, a few blocks from the Capitol, she was greeted by a swarm of anti-abortion-rights activists. It was the 37th annual March for Life, organized every year on Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe. "I just thought, my gosh, they are so young," Keenan recalled. "There are so many of them, and they are so young." March for Life estimates it drew 400,000 activists to the Capitol this year. An anti-Stupak rally two months earlier had about 1,300 attendees.

New NARAL research, conducted earlier this year and released exclusively to NEWSWEEK, only amplified Keenan's fears. A survey of 700 young Americans showed there was a stark "intensity gap" on abortion. More than half (51 percent) of young voters (under 30) who opposed abortion rights considered it a "very important" voting issue, compared with just 26 percent of abortion-rights supporters; a similar but smaller gap existed among older voters, too. Worse still for NARAL, the millennials surveyed didn't view abortion as an imperiled right in need of defenders. As one young mother in a focus group told NARAL, it seemed to her that abortion was easily accessible. How did she know? The parking lot at her local clinic, she told them, was always full.

Millennials are more likely than their boomer parents to see abortion as a moral issue. In the NARAL focus groups, young voters flat-out disapproved of a woman's abortion, called her actions immoral, yet maintained that the government had absolutely no right to intervene. As one young woman in Denver said, "I only get mad when [a friend] tries telling me, 'It is like nothing, oh well, it is just an abortion.'?" It wasn't the abortion itself that seemed to trouble the woman; rather, it was her friend's nonchalance. "Even if it was like nothing," the woman told NARAL, "it was something."

Certainly, the anti-abortion movement helped fuel this shift in the attitudes of the young by reframing the abortion debate around the fetus rather than the pregnant woman. Millennials also came of age as ultrasounds provided increasingly clear pictures of fetal development. "The technology has clearly helped to define how people think about a fetus as a full, breathing human being," admits former NARAL president Kate Michelman. "The other side has been able to use the technology to its own end." Thirty-eight states now consider it a separate crime to kill a fetus in an act of aggression against a pregnant woman, and just last week Nebraska banned abortions after 20 weeks because of the possibility that the fetus could feel pain.

Yet, despite this trend, Americans are still largely on NARAL's side. Since 1975 yearly Gallup polls have found that public support for legal abortion in at least some circumstances hovers between 75 and 85 percent. Even among young people, NARAL found that 61 percent were "pro-choice," supporting legal abortion in "all cases" or "most cases." So the challenge is not necessarily shoring up support for the cause but convincing the next generation that legal abortion is vulnerable. If they don't act to protect it—in the voting booth, at a rally, or with their checkbooks—it could well fade away with the postmenopausal militia.

Paradoxically, the better that NARAL defends abortion rights, the less pressing its cause seems. During the Bush administration, at least NARAL could count on the specter of an anti-Roe Supreme Court nomination to rile up the faithful. But now that Justice John Paul Stevens, one of abortion's most full-throated defenders, is retiring on a sympathetic president's watch, it's tough to sound the alarm.

So what might prompt the next generation to take up the cause? "If Roe were overturned, that would certainly be a game changer," NARAL pollster Anna Greenberg mused at a recent meeting. Of course, no one in NARAL wants it to come to that. Instead, within the abortion-rights community there's a growing consensus on a promising path forward: start an open discussion about the moral, ethical, and emotional complexity of abortion that would be more likely to resonate with young Americans. "It's a morally complex issue that both sides have tried to make black and white," says Greenberg. "We have to recognize the moral complexity."

Abortion-rights activists have traditionally hesitated on this front, viewing it as a slippery slope toward their own defeat. Instead, they often go to extremes to fend off even the smallest encroachments, opposing popular restrictions like parental-notification laws and bans on late-term procedures. Lately, though, Keenan has been more convinced that NARAL must adopt a more nuanced stance. On the 35th anniversary of Roe, in 2008, she bluntly told a crowd of hundreds in Austin, Texas—the state that launched the court case—that "our reluctance to address the moral complexity of this debate is no longer serving our cause or our country well. In our silence, we have ceded moral ground." She recently reiterated that argument to NEWSWEEK.

But when the political fight over abortion raged on the Hill this year, no one was talking about moral complexity. The key slogan for abortion-rights activists was both simple and inscrutable: STOP STUPAK. In the long run, if Keenan and her allies can't find a better way to connect with the next generation, they may find themselves much like the congressman himself—sidelined.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Summer (spiritual) reading list

A blogger asked, “Fr G, have you a suggested summer reading list?” Thanks for the question, Anon. Here are some ideas from the reading list we have at the Newman Center. It comes from "Catholic Faith Alive!" To view the entire list, please click on today’s title.

The (slow) reading of Sacred Scripture takes precedence over all the following. I recommend one chapter or less per day of The Jerusalem Bible, the version with footnotes.

The lives of the saints bear a particular relationship to Scripture. St Francis de Sales wrote, "There is no more difference between the Gospel written and the life of a saint than between music written and music sung."

The books in the first section are recommended for those who are new to spiritual reading. They were chosen for their interest and readability. More advanced spirituality, in books more difficult to read, is found in the lists, "intermediate," and "advanced" which follow.

Spiritual reading should be done a little at a time, from five to fifteen minutes a day, but every day without fail, barring some extraordinary crisis. It should be second in priority only to prayer. It is done for formation, not for entertainment, and thus doing only a small amount daily will keep the more interesting material from being read too quickly–and not retained–and the less interesting from being too painful. Note well: spiritual reading is very different from theological reading.

*1. Our Lady of Fatima, by Wm. Thomas Walsh, Image Books, & The Sun Danced at Fatima, by Fr. Joseph Pelletier, A. A. Two of the most fascinating book ever written about these apparitions of Mary in 1917 to three small children (2 beatified) in Portugal.

*2. The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St Thérèse of Lisieux, Institute of Carmelite Studies. A classic. Different translation avail. from TAN. And, The Story of A Family: The Home of St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Fr. Piat, OFM. TAN. Gives great insight into the holy lives of each member of this remarkable family. Several family members are up for canonization, including the parents.

*5. Treasure in Clay, autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen, Doubleday. Fascinating account of this famous, holy priest and bishop, the "TV priest.".

*8. St. Francis of Assisi, by Omer Englebert, Servant Pubs. Excellent book on this humble, strong saint!

**13. The Curé d'Ars by Francis Trochu, TAN. Best account of this delightful, humble parish priest. 600 pp.

**14. St. Teresa of Avila, A Biography, by Marcelle Auclair, St. Bede Pubs. Perhaps the best book ever written on St. Teresa in English. If this is not in print, try or Also *St. Teresa of Avila, by William Thomas Walsh, TAN Books.

*15. Bernadette Speaks: In Her Own Words by Fr. Rene Laurentin, Daughters of St. Paul. Fast-moving account of this simple, uneducated, but sharp young woman to whom Mary appeared at Lourdes in 1858.

*16. The Death Camp Proved Him Real: The Life of Father Maximilian Kolbe by Maria Winowska, Franciscan Marytown Press. Gripping story of a Marian priest who died for another in Nazi prison camp.

*3. Introduction to the Devout Life, St Francis de Sales, TAN Books. THE book on lay spirituality.

4. Saint Maker: The Remarkable Life of St. Francis de Sales by Michael de la Bedoyere, Sophia Press. Fine account of this great spiritual director.

6. The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, Various publishers. Short thoughts on spirituality. Classic.

*8. Dialogue of St Catherine of Siena, Paulist Press, Trans. by Suzanne Noffke, OP, Classics of Western Spirituality. Private revelations of God the Father to St Catherine of Siena, the great saint and doctor of the Church.

*9. The Life of Christ, F. J. Sheen, Image. Insightful explanation of all the major passages of the gospels.

10. By C. S. Lewis: The Screwtape Letters, Simon & Schuster; The Four Loves, Harvest Bks; Mere Christianity, Harper. 3 contemporary classics by a 20th century Anglican apologist.

11. The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, Image Books. A guide to a 30 day retreat by the founder of the Jesuits. Classic.

*12. The Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St Thérèse of Lisieux, Fr Jamart, OCD, Alba House. Excellent insights into St Thérèse and her spirituality.

14. The Holy Eucharist, and a host of other books by St Alphonsus Ligouri; TAN books. Classic works.

15. True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, by St Louis de Montfort, Alba House. A classic on finding Jesus through consecration to Mary.

16. Butler's Lives of the Saints, 4 vol, Christian Classics or 1 vol version by Harper & Row. Classic.

These works are more difficult reading but are deeply spiritual. (No pain, no gain!)

1. The Complete Works of St Teresa of Avila, 3 vols, Inst. for Carmelite Studies: Her Autobiography (read this first), The Way of Perfection, Interior Castle, **Foundations, etc. Read this woman! Great!

2. The complete Works of St John of the Cross, Institute for Carmelite Studies: Spiritual Canticle, and Living Flame of Love, read first. Then try the more difficult, The Dark Night of the Soul, and The Ascent of Mount Carmel. Classics, but not easy reading.

3. Confessions of St Augustine, various publishers. Classic autobiography of this sinner, turned saint.

4. The Cloud of Unknowing, Anonymous, Image Books. Deep. On contemplation, perfection.

5. Writings of the Church Fathers such as Augustine, Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Ephraem, Ambrose.

**Most, of these books can be found or For used books, try, or

(This is not spiritual reading.)

*National Catholic Register - P. O. Box 373, Mt. Morris, IL 61054. (800) 421-3230; Weekly, theological, orthodox. Very pro-life.

This Rock - P.O. Box 17490 - San Diego, CA 92177 - 888-291-8000; Magazine of Catholic apologetics (defending the faith). Very good.

Our Sunday Visitor - Very Catholic weekly.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ignatius, & other publishers, 1994. THE SOURCE. In most bookstores.

Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Ludwig Ott, TAN. 1954 Classic. Excellent!

Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) - Mother Angelica's network. If your cable company doesn't have it, get the DISH satellite system. Call (800) 733-3986. At you can find out about WEWN short wave radio or download Church documents.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Solemnity of Pentecost - homily by Msgr. Langsfeld

The following is the powerful homily by Msgr. Paul Langsfeld, pastor of St. Stephen Martyr church:


Washington is a city whose name is interchangeable with power: political, economic, and military power. People flock here in search of power. Surrounded by the powerful, we are thankful that we have access to another, very different sort of power. That is the power that Jesus breathes out on the apostles on the first Easter Sunday evening, as he says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

It is the power that comes upon the apostles as they are gathered together on the feast of Pentecost. God’s power is the Holy Spirit. The first reading from Acts uses two images to describe the work of the Holy Spirit that leave no doubt that the Spirit is a mighty power. The spirit is compared to fire and wind, both mighty forces in nature.

But the Holy Spirit is very different from the kinds of power people seek after, and different from the power that mother nature occasionally unleashes. From the readings today, we gather that the Spirit is the power of love, the power to join people who are very different from one another into that great communion we call the Church. We heard in the first reading how believers from every corner of the known world at that time were able to recognize that they belonged to the same family of faith, though they were from very different backgrounds. The power of love creates unity where there would otherwise be only difference.

If only St. Luke, who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, could see what the universal Church looks like today. Nearly a billion Catholics from every race, language, and way of life, rich and poor, of very different political persuasions, all gathered into one communion of faith—that is the work of God’s power of love, the Holy Spirit. Our own parish, with all the languages and cultures represented here, is a microcosm of the universal church.

The Spirit is the power of life: he hovered over the world at the first creation to generate life and now he hovers over the baptismal font to give us the new life of Christ and make us adopted children of God.

The Spirit is the power that distributes different gifts to all so that each of us can contribute to the building up of Christ’s body. There are many gifts, but one Spirit, who calls us to put our gifts at the service of others.

The Spirit is the power which allows us to open our mouths to confess that Jesus is Lord. The ability to speak is not enough to make that confession. The Spirit has to plant that faith in us.

The Spirit is the power that inspires prophets and evangelists to speak.

He is the power that makes miracles and heroic deeds happen.

The Spirit is the power that transforms bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The priest calls down the spirit by extending his hands over the bread and wine at Mass to call down the Spirit.

The Spirit is the power that continually renews the life of the Church through the witness of saints, even as the Church suffers through countless crises that threaten her existence. The second reading is written against the background of one such crisis. The Christian community at Corinth is torn by divisions, as people boast that their spiritual gifts are better than those of other people. St. Paul reminds them that where the Spirit is, there is reconciliation and harmony. The members, though many, form one body in Christ. Just a few chapters later, in the famous hymn of love, he exalts love as the greatest gift, and he stresses that love is never selfish or divisive.

In St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, he identifies the fruits of the Spirit, the sure signs of the Spirit’s presence in a person. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, fidelity, mildness, and self-control. These qualities are a good gauge for measuring the impact of the Holy Spirit on our lives.

In particular, a clear sign of the Spirit’s presence is the experience of peace, especially in the face of life’s difficulties. Where the Spirit is, we are at peace with God, with ourselves, and with our fellow human beings. At the very moment Jesus breathes out the Spirit on Easter evening, he wishes his disciples peace. The Spirit is most often pictured as a dove, and the dove with the olive branch is a symbol of peace. People in search of worldly power, on the other hand, are never at peace. They are always restless and trying to get ahead of everyone else.

On this Pentecost Sunday, the Church prays for the Spirit to come and renew the face of the earth. We come to Church to have the power of the Spirit we received in baptism and confirmation strengthened in us, and the Spirit looks to us and depends on us to help him in his great work of transforming the world into the kingdom of God.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Taylor Hubbard: saved by the Holy Spirit

Memoral service for GW student, Taylor Hubbard, tonight, 7 pm, Patuxent Presbyterian Church, California, Maryland. Please pray for Taylor and the Hubbard family.
Last Saturday morning, GW President Knapp made an announcement at the Interfaith Baccalaureate service that a GW student had fallen from a building on campus the night before and was seriously injured. After the service I received a call from the university saying that the family is asking for a chaplain. Taylor was dying. I immediately went to GW hospital not knowing what to expect or what I would be able to do.

I met the family as well as some representatives from the university, including President Knapp. I was trying to get my thoughts together on what I could do for the family and their son, Taylor Hubbard. As a priest, things happen quickly when you walk into a tragic situation like this. We rely on the Holy Spirit to give us the right words to say and the right course of action to take. The following comes from the Holy Spirit, I believe.

I went into a room with the family to discuss Taylor's situation. The parents made it clear almost immediately that Taylor had not been baptized. They both expressed tremendous regret about this, but explained that it was because they wanted their children to choose their own faith. When I offered to baptize him at the hospital, they quickly made their desire known: they wanted him baptized.

We went up a few floors to see Taylor. He was incoherent and in very bad shape. Almost his whole body was covered with bandages and braces. I greeted him and explained that I was going to baptize him because his parents had asked for it. I sprinkled some water on his head while saying, "Taylor, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". I said a few other prayers and anointed him. Two things occurred at the same time: 1) a Protestant chaplain came into the room and prayed with us, and 2) Taylor's heartbeat increased. It seems that he knew what was going on.

I went back downstairs with the family and visited with them for a while. Amid their overwhelming sadness, they were filled with happiness that their son had just received the gift of salvation. I told them that that is the greatest gift they could ever give Taylor. They had saved him! Through the saving, life-giving waters of Christian baptism that they requested, Taylor received the gift of God's Grace. The Trinity came to dwell in him and his sins were wiped clean. He had received the gift of eternal life and was now ready to enter it forever.

Taylor died a few hours later. The magnitude of sadness is beyond words. He was a good young man with a bright future. As I told the family, God is sadder than anybody at what has happened. He hates death. "Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator" (CCC #1008). But, God brought something incredibly good out of something so incredibly bad. He saved his soul! We believe that Taylor now lives in God's Kingdom where there is no sadness or pain. We believe he is loving life with all the angels and saints. Thanks to the Holy Spirit and through my words and hands, Taylor will live forever!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"To be a priest means sacrifice" (Washington Post front-page article)

I hope that you all saw the front page story in the Washington Post last Friday about seminarians at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg (my alma mater). There was a picture of the Blessed Mother on the front page of the Post! The article itself was fair and positive. It was well done. It briefly paints a picture of life in the seminary in the midst of troubled times in the Church. It presents both the human and spiritual elements of formation for the priesthood. The rector and seminarians, including my buddy, Deacon Dave Wells, did an excellent job. Hopefully, our five seminarians from the Newman Center will shine like these guys when they get their 15 minutes of fame.

Below are excerpts from the article. To view it in full, please click on today’s title.

Budding priests in a time of crisis:
Seminarians enter scandal-scarred vocation

...For some seminarians, the abuse crisis only made them want to be priests more.

"It invoked that almost boyhood drive to be a hero," said Matt Rolling, 27, a soft-spoken student from Nebraska. "You want to help the church restore its name. You want to be an example of what the priesthood really represents."

To be a priest, Rolling said, means sacrifice. For him, answering God's call meant abandoning all his careful plans -- a career as a forest ranger, the girlfriend he'd been dating for three years at the University of Nebraska, the prospect of marriage and children.

Even now, he said, there are times when he feels a desire for a wife and family. And, of course, there is the issue of sex.

"It's not like when you become a deacon or priest, the hormones somehow shut off," he said. "There are temptations. There are doubts. How do you deal with that? You try to realize that temptation comes from the devil and salvation comes from God. You pray for that salvation. You build up the spiritual strength to look past the distraction. . . . When I see a girl, I try to think, 'If this were my daughter, how would I feel if someone looked at her that way, if someone mistreated her?' You try to move into that role of a father, which is what you're supposed to be, in a sense, as a priest."

Embracing celibacy at Mount St. Mary's is complicated by the fact that the seminary is housed on the same campus as a college, with a student body that includes plenty of young women.

Strolling through a lush garden dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Dave Wells, one of Rolling's close friends, put it this way: "I don't want to sound like it's the only thing we think about, but, yes, it can be tough."
Midway through the conversation, two girls in tight running clothes jogged by. Wells's eyes, however, remained fixed on a statue of Mary.

"It's good practice for us," he said later, "because in the parishes, we'll be surrounded and ministering to women, too. You may as well get used to it now."

Not everyone, however, can. About 15 percent of the seminarians leave without finishing. In the past year alone, Wells has attended two weddings for former seminarians in his class.

"Some of us are called to be fathers in the natural sense," he said. "Some are called in the spiritual sense."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ascension of the Lord - homily

As the students know, I usually start my homilies off with a joke or a story. But, college students are a tough crowd and many of my jokes have bombed this year. So many times, I give what I think is a good punchline and you can hear a pin drop! It’s like, “cricket…cricket”. And, I can’t really choose just one story to describe our seniors; there are too many. It really has been since day one when I arrived in July that this year’s seniors have wowed me. They are amazing! One senior helped me all summer fixing up the Newman Center. When they arrived in August, a team of seniors stepped up as leaders of our different ministries as we looked for a replacement in our campus minister’s position. They greeted other students for four straight hours at our Opening Barbeque…and they did with a smile the whole time. They have led our retreats this year and gave inspiring talks. They have inspired us all year…all four years. Meg (Miller) and I are grateful from the bottom of our hearts to you seniors. Along, with Alecia, you have been the glue that has held the Newman Center together for four years despite having three chaplains and two campus ministers. Thank you for your example to the next leaders of the Center. You will be sorely missed.

There is a parallel between our seniors and the Apostles during the time of the Ascension. I don’t know if you all picked up on it from today’s Gospel, but Jesus says something to the Apostles that applies to our seniors regarding their time here. He says, “stay in the city until you receive power from on high”. The Apostles stayed in Jerusalem for 10 days after our Lord ascended into Heaven and until they received power from the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; this is when they were “baptized in the Holy Spirit”, as the first reading describes. They received the Spirit after staying in the city and went out on a mission. They went out to proclaim the Lord Jesus. You all have stayed in the city (D.C.) and are now filled with the Spirit. Like the Apostles, you have been filled with joy here and been found often in the temple praising God, again like the Apostles. Now, you are sent out on a mission to proclaim the Lord. You will do this mostly with your actions…with you example…with your witness. But, sometimes, as you know, you will need to do with your words; to the best of your ability, you will need to defend the Lord and the Gospel. Like the Apostles, be faithful to your mission…the mission the Holy Spirit send you on now.

There is another similarity I would like to see you have with the Apostles as you leave GW. Like the Apostles, go out and become saints. Become saints! I don’t necessarily mean that someday you will be canonized and have a capital “St.” in front your name. But, I do mean that you are called to be a saint. You are called to live holiness. You are called to center your life on Jesus Christ. Before any other calling, we are all called to holiness; we are all called to be saints. You are hearing a lot of advice this weekend; and, it’s all good. But, all that stuff is not as important as your call to holiness. Jesus Christ is the one to whom we are to give our lives. He has power over all things; he has power over every dominion and authority. He died for us, rose from the dead, and ascended into glory. He is the one to whom you should live for.

If people want to know the best way to become a saint, we have a simple blueprint: center your life on the Eucharist. When we look at all the saints, we see that as different as they are – different personalities, different backgrounds, different stories – they all share a great love for the Eucharist. If you all have the Eucharist as the center of your lives, I promise you will become saints. You have shown over these four years that your life is centered on the Eucharist, and others have taken notice. You are leading others to worship, adore, and love the Eucharist. Just recently, one of our sophomores said, “I think I am falling in love with the Eucharist”. Amazing!! Thank you, seniors. Thank you for your example that our younger students are now following.

Finally, if we all center our lives on Christ in the Eucharist, we will ascend with Him to Heaven. We will ascend to glory. We will ascend to the Father. We will find happiness in this life and for eternal life. I have great confidence in you seniors that you will become saints, that you will do God’s Will, and that you will ascend to glory. Thank you for all that you have done for us. We love you very much and are very pleased with you. God loves each and every one of you very much and is so pleased with you. As Father Gurnee used to say to you, ‘may God bless each and every one of you every day of your life’”.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Farewell to our extraordinary seniors

Please pray for Taylor, a GW student who fell from the fifth story of a building last night and is is grave condition at the hospital. I just visited him and his family; they appreciate your prayers.

We are celebrating our amazing seniors here this weekend with Commencement ceremonies here at GW. It is a time of celebration and joy but with a touch of sadness in saying goodbye to these extraordinary men and women. Even though I've only been here a year, I have gotten to know well many of the members of the class of 2010 and will miss them tremendously.

There's no doubt that these students are very bright. What may be even more impressive about GW's seniors is how engaged they are. My experience with college students before coming here in July was that they were more apathetic about serious, real-world issues than caring. GW students present the opposite. I have found that more are engaged in and active with issues than aren't. Yesterday, at one graduation ceremony, the care, commitment, and passion of the students for justice and peace in the world was palpable. I don't agree with the ideology of all of the deans and students here, but I admire their passion.

Regarding our seniors at the Newman Center, I will speak to them tonight at our Baccalaureate Mass. They have been the glue that has held our Center together in the past four years, along with God's Grace and our former campus minister, Alecia. They have been led by three chaplains which would be a challenge for any group of people in such a short period of time. And yet, they have not only remained faithful to prayer and service, they have grown in their faith. They are truly an extraordinary group of leaders. They will be missed.

One of the least enjoyable parts of being a priest is saying goodbye. You never really say a final goodbye to anyone because of the communion of saints. But, it is challenging and painful to bid an immediate farewell to those you have gotten to know and love. We will miss their great service and leadership. But, mostly we will miss them. We will miss enjoying laughs over lunch. We will miss their presence at Tuesday dinners. We will miss their love for the Eucharist which has been so inspiring all year. We will miss their joy...their happiness...their kindness. We will miss God's beauty and peace coming through them.

Hopefully, they will return to the Newman Center before we can miss them! They are always welcome. Until we see them next here, we will see them in prayer.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Winning the lottery twice

As many of you know, we are in the midst of a fundraising campaign here at the Newman Center. The students, Meg Miller (campus minister), and I have been working very hard to raise money for next year’s programs, especially FOCUS. The students have really gotten into it, not just into the work but in the spirit of it all. On this point, one of our students emailed me a story about a GW Catholic alumnus who recently won the California State Lottery. He sent it to me probably more playfully than anything else. Whatever his motivations were, I am glad that he did because the following is one inspiring story that is only starting.

The headline of this GW online story says it all: “Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros plan to use their lottery winnings to give back to the community and church.” Then, you read that Gilbert won the spiritual lottery by becoming fully Catholic six years ago. He says that “religion is very important to me” and he has a great love for the Mass. What great stuff to read in the secular media! I’m very confident that the Cisneros will use the money wisely (they want to put it toward the education of others), but they are already bearing great fruit through their words. They have evangelized millions of people in a very fruitful way! This is always welcome, but even more necessary in this day and age.

The Cisneros’ humility and joy were on display on the “Today Show” recently; to see the clip, please click on today’s title. In it we learn that Jacki hasn’t stopped working and one of the first things Gilbert did after hearing that he was a multi-millionaire is go to Church to thank God. What great stuff! God has brought this about for a reason and one of them is the extraordinary example that Gilbert and Jacki are setting. It is an example that faith and charity are the most important things in life. Gilbert and Jacki see this and they will be guided by faith and love through this process. Please pray that they will remain grounded in both. If they do, this will something beautiful and epic! Here are some excerpts from the GW website:

Alumnus Wins $266 Million

Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros plan to use their lottery winnings to give back to the community and church.

May 10, 2010
By Menachem Wecker

On May 4, Jacki Cisneros woke her husband Gilbert, B.A. ’94, up and asked him if he had bought a lottery ticket at the L & L Hawaiian BBQ where he had eaten dinner the previous night. Sure enough, the numbers on one of the tickets Gil bought matched the California State Lottery’s winning numbers. The couple was $266 million richer.

“My first thought was just sign the ticket and make copies then put it somewhere safe,” says Mr. Cisneros, who lives in Pico Rivera, Calif., and recently lost his job. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I think once I take a look at my new portfolio, then it will hit me.”

In a segment on NBC’s TODAY show, Matt Lauer said the good fortune could not have found a nicer couple. In the interview, Mr. Cisneros said the couple plans on giving back to their church and their alma maters.

“Religion has become very important to me,” says Mr. Cisneros. “Six years ago I made my first communion and confirmation, and ever since then I have attended church on a regular basis.”

Mr. and Mrs. Cisneros were married in 2005 at the Vatican, and Mr. Cisneros says he believes making sacraments later in life has strengthened his commitment and given him a better understanding of the rituals of Mass.
As a student at GW, Mr. Cisneros majored in political science and was in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program.

“I have great memories from GW! I loved my time there,” he says. “When I recall some of the best experiences I have had, most are from my time at GW.”…

Basking in a national spotlight does not come naturally to Mr. Cisneros. “I went kicking and screaming,” he says. “I would have preferred to have stayed anonymous, but my wife, who works in television news, went with her natural instincts and started chasing the story even though we were the story!”

Before he knew it, the one interview he had agreed to turned into eight, with requests pouring in from around the country. “It is just so surreal to think that all these people want to speak with us,” he says.

Mr. Cisneros says he and his wife have been discussing what to do with the money. “We are happy that this will give us an opportunity to travel more,” he says.

“But more importantly, we are excited we will be able to set up a foundation that will allow us to give back. We want to be able to give people a chance to go to college. My wife and I strongly believe education is the way to a successful future, so it is going to be our focus.”

Monday, May 10, 2010

6th Sunday of Easter - homily

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and godmothers here and to your mothers at home. If you haven’t done so already, call your mother today and say thank you for the life she has given you. Without our mothers and fathers, we wouldn’t be here! Motherhood is the most important work in the world. Let me say that again, especially to our future mothers here: motherhood is the most important work in the world. It’s not just because mothers give us life; it’s because they give us love. Without our mothers we wouldn’t have life or be the people we are. Mothers give us life and give us love. While the love of our fathers is very important for many reasons, mothers love us in a way that no one else can. The bond between a mother and child is the strongest bond on earth. We have a special love for our mothers because we have a special bond with them that begins in their wombs. This is why abortion is so painful to mothers, especially: it kills the child with whom they have already bonded. Mother Teresa called it the “greatest poverty”.

The bond between a mother and child is the strongest bond on earth. We see this with each of our three mothers: our own mother, the Blessed Mother, and Holy Mother Church. Our own mothers give us natural life. It is through our mothers and fathers that we have life in the first place. Thank God they were open to life! Our mothers have said yes to life and have said yes to love. They have nurtured us, formed us, and loved us to be the people we are today. They continue to live out the strongest bond on earth; a mother’s work is never done. They consistently want what’s best for us and continually give their life for us. They want us to have life and to have it abundantly.

While our mothers bring us natural life, our Blessed Mother has brought us supernatural life in her Son, Jesus Christ. Thank God Mary and Joseph were open to life! Mary said yes to God and to life and love her whole life. She is the example to all mothers because she always said yes to God as a mother. She always trusted that He would take care of Jesus and lead him to what was best for him. With God’s help, she formed Jesus in his human nature to be the man He became. He has become our Savior through Mary. Everything we have in Christ is through his mother, Mary. It is through her ‘yes’ that we have a Savior.

We experience supernatural life in Christ through Holy Mother Church. As Pope John Paul II taught us, “the Church as Mother gives birth to, educates, and builds up the Christian family”. We are a Christian family and the Church is our mother. Just like our mothers and the Blessed Mother, Mother Church truly wants what’s best for us. She gives birth to our supernatural life in Christ in Baptism and nourishes it through all of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. She educates us about the Word of God and the new commandment of love. She builds up our life in Christ through the love She shows us on a daily basis. It is because of Mother Church that we know about Jesus Christ in the first place and have the opportunity to enter into His love.

This last point is probably the most significant about our mothers in relation to today’s Gospel. Jesus says, “whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him”. This amazing opportunity is what our mothers give us! They bring us to Jesus and to love him. They have showed us how to love Jesus and to keep His word. And, this leads to something truly incredible…what every human heart desires: to be loved by the Father. Whoever loves Jesus and keep his word, the Father will love him, and the Father and Son will come to him to make their dwelling with him. This all comes about through our mothers. The love of our mothers brings us the love of the Father. What a gift our mothers give us! It is the greatest gift that a mother can give her child.

Finally, as God makes His dwelling with us tonight in the Eucharist, may we thank Him for all of our gifts, especially our mothers. Let us thank Him for our mothers, the Blessed Mother, and Holy Mother Church. We thank Him for the life he has given us through them. We thank Him that they have said yes to life and to love. Through our mothers, may we have life and have it abundantly. Through them, may each one of us receive God’s love and receive it abundantly.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The secret to life in under 2 minutes!

1) DC 'Hood vs. Holy Redeemer, 7 pm, at Georgetown Prep gym. Go 'Hood!!

2) A safe home to all of our students who are traveling this weekend. You're done! Praise God!!
A friend sent me a video that is pretty cool. Check it out by clicking on today's title.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Christian in the world

I'm praying for you students during your final exams. Daily Holy Hour all week for ya! Do your best and let God do the rest. Enjoy the summer and know that I will miss you.

Speaking of summer, the following might be a good reflection for you as you head back out into the world for the next couple of months. An ancient letter, it is still applicable to the world today. It is a brilliant reflection from today's Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours. If you and I are truly living as Christians, we can easily relate to what is written here:

“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language, or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based on reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.”

Monday, May 03, 2010

5th Sunday of Easter - homily

“They had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished”. This is true of Paul and Barnabas in the first reading for the incredible work they did in certain areas of the early Church. It is also true of every one of you. I commend you for the work you have done! As you sit on the verge of finals, you’re probably thinking of the school work you’ve done. This is true…you have done stellar work. I see and hear some of the academic work you do and I am regularly impressed by it; but, the work I really commend you on is personal and spiritual. It is really God’s work you do and it is awesome! It truly is the grace of God coming through you and inspiring me, Meg, our guests at Mass and the Newman Center, and other friends. It all starts right here; the fact that you come to Mass every Sunday in college is incredible. I truly believe it is the Eucharist that propels you each week to be the shining examples that you are to those around you. So, in general terms, I commend all of you to the grace of God for the work you have accomplished this year.

Specifically, a small group of GW Catholics has served the poor almost every week this year, led by one of our women. They have served the poor and homeless at Martha’s Table at times when it wasn’t convenient or easy to do. She and her few helpers have done God’s work throughout the year in serving His poor.

One student came to me at the end of last semester and asked if he could start a discussion group with me for several of his friends. So, this semester we started the group at the basement of frat houses and dorms. We’ve met every week and had very good discussions. Many of the students came regularly and seemed to enjoy the group. Almost every one of them had a powerful, individual encounter with Christ in the Eucharist and Confession. It has been powerful stuff! It has not only been me who has commended the guy who started it; the members of the group have. It has really helped them in their faith and how to find happiness in this life. Great job to this man for doing God’s work!

As I understand it, a friend encouraged one of our (now) regulars to become more active at the Newman Center at the beginning of this year. This guy has come on so strongly in his faith, it is unbelievable. He is going to the depths in terms of the Eucharist, prayer, chastity, and living an authentically Catholic life. He is now leading other guys around the Center! Great work for his friend to invite him to be more active in the Newman Center.

A few months ago, we encouraged you all to invite a friend to Mass. Not surprisingly, we have seen a tremendous response. Some of you have brought a full row of friends to Mass. This is so cool and so much fun to watch…you are doing the work of God. You are bringing people to Christ and Christ to people. I am so grateful for your openness to the grace of God this year and hope that it continues next year.

Now, what about this summer? Will you continue to do great work for God? There is a bumper sticker out there that I want you to think about all summer. It says, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I have seen the evidence all year of you all being Christian…of being disciples of Christ. Jesus says in today’s Gospel that the evidence is love: “all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another”. Will people know this summer that you are Christian? Will they know that you are Catholic? Will you love others this summer? Will you sacrifice for your family members and friends? Will you give yourself to those in need? As Mother Teresa would say, will you do something beautiful for God?

Finally, your love for others and your work for God all starts here with the Eucharist…Sunday Mass…every Sunday, guys. Wherever you go, wherever you vacation, you need to get to Mass every Sunday. You need the Eucharist in order to love one another each week. One suggestion of something beautiful for God: dress nicely to Church. Like, Sunday best. Totally freak out your parents and friends! I know, it will be hot, but it will make it even more beautiful for God. If that’s what you do for God, then it will be something beautiful for Him. You will continue to be commended for the great work you’ve done…for doing something beautiful for God…for loving Him and one another. I love you all and hope that you have a fun, safe, and holy summer. May each and every one of you know that God loves you this day, this week, and every day this summer.