Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Let us be enamored of this sacrament!"

"Dear brothers and sisters, in the school of the saints, let us be enamored of this sacrament!” Pope Benedict XVI recently wrote these words as an exhortation for Catholics to fall in love with the Eucharist. Right on, Holy Father! It has been especially as a priest who offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass daily that I am enamored of this sacrament. In my thanksgiving after Mass, I constantly say to the Lord that I am not worthy to offer, celebrate, participate, share in, and receive the Eucharist. I am truly unworthy to be the vessel through which Consecration happens by the power of the Holy Spirit.

"Let us willingly and frequently converse, face to face, in the company of the Most Blessed Sacrament!" I was speaking about this with a woman yesterday who I am preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. We spent the prior two meetings talking about the Eucharist, Mass, and Adoration. One of the main points of our discussion was that conversing in the company of the Most Blessed Sacrament is so personal, so life-changing. Adoration is such a powerful experience of the presence of God and so needed for each one of us. When we are praying face-to-face with the Eucharist, we should be enamored of this encounter: we are looking at the Body of Christ, the Son of God! People who put themselves in this situation are not just enamored at what they are looking; they are often enamored of the overwhelming experience of peace and joy. It truly is the Real Presence of Christ. It truly is the Real Presence of Peace and Joy. We all long for the peace and joy of Christ; we find it in the Eucharist.

It is a tremendous gift to see people every day being enamored of the Blessed Sacrament. We have about 40 people who attend our daily Mass at the Newman Center. Many of them are workers in the area who take their lunch break to attend Holy Mass. They truly live out the reflection of the Holy Father: "Let us understand well why St. Thomas and other saints celebrated the Holy Mass shedding tears of compassion for the Lord, who offers himself in sacrifice for us, tears of joy and of gratitude…Let us participate in the Holy Mass with recollection to obtain its spiritual fruits, let us nourish ourselves on the Body and Blood of the Lord, to be incessantly nourished by divine grace!”

It has also been a blessing to read comments of bloggers over the years who are enamored of the Eucharist. One blogger recently wrote the following:

Over the last four years, I’ve been fortunate enough to begin to discover the intricacies of the Eucharist. What I’m learning is that the understanding the Eucharist is not a one time, “I get it” moment - it’s a culmination of many “I get it” moments.

A few years ago I heard the bread of life discourse mentioned in a homily. I didn’t know what the priest was talking about. I kept my ignorance (and pride) to myself and went on-line to see what I could learn. I found an article that referenced a prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit philosopher that I’d never heard of. Teilhard de Chardin’s prayer is heavy reading, but after reading it a few times, the end of his second sentence jumped out at me.

“Lord God, when I go up to your altar for communion, grant that I might derive from it a discernment of the infinite perspectives hidden beneath the smallness and closeness of the host within which you are concealed. Already I have accustomed myself to recognize beneath the inertness of the morsel of bread a consuming power which, as the greatest doctors of your Church have said, far from being absorbed into me, absorbs me into itself.”

When I read, “…far from being absorbed into me, absorbs me into itself” I felt like I’d been hit on the head with a 4x 4. I realized I’d been approaching communion with the thought of Christ becoming part of me but never, ever thought in terms of me becoming part of Christ. John 6: 56, “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him” took on a whole new meaning for me. At that moment, I realized the obligation that comes with my assent, my “Amen” to the priest’s, “…through Him, with Him and In Him…”.

A second truth that I believe the Eucharist reveals has to do with suffering. Pain and suffering are something I have a hard time grasping and embracing. I was thinking about the Eucharist I realized that when I receive Christ’s body, I have to be willing to take the whole package –the good, the bad and the ugly. I know I want the salvation end of His deal, the good stuff – who wouldn’t want eternal life surrounded by nothing but calm and love? But, at that moment, I realized that suffering goes hand in hand with salvation. It's all part of eternal life. Somehow the suffering we all endure made a little more sense.

Monday, June 28, 2010

13th Sunday - homily

I’m looking for a show of hands: how many of us here today are called to live chastity? (A few hands go up). Let me ask this another way: can everyone raise their hands? All of us are called to live chastity…every single one of us…young..old…married…religious…single…All of us. Ok, please put your hands down. Now, if you mix up celibacy with chastity, then you might be wondering, ‘what did Father just sign me up for?’ Celibacy is the state of being unmarried; chastity is the virtue of living sexual purity. We are all called to live sexuality as God intended – in a good, pure, and holy way.

Many people think it’s impossible to live chastity in this day and age. So many struggle with this virtue because our sexual desire is our strongest desire and we are constantly bombarded with impure images. So, when I introduce the idea of the freedom of chastity, it is very appealing and refreshing to people. The freedom of chastity helps us to control our desires – to use our reason in saying to our sexual appetite, “I don’t want to go there right now. It’s not worth it. This stuff doesn’t make me happy”. It helps us to control our thoughts and to say, “let’s not go into fantasy. Let’s get real. That stuff will never happen”. It helps us to control what we look at and what images we bring to our bodies and souls through our eyes. The freedom of chastity is life-changing. As St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “we are called for freedom”.

We are called to live in freedom, a freedom that comes about through a life in the Spirit. I don’t know how much this means to most people, but for those who live in slavery, it means everything. Scripture says we are slaves. We are slaves to at least two things: sin and a life in the flesh. First, we are slaves to sin. The most confessed sins are sins against chastity. People come to me and other priests regularly to confess sins of fornication, pornography, and masturbation. They are in slavery. They don’t want to be committing these sins. They are in bondage and they want out. They want the chains of their slavery to be cut. Second, we are slaves to a life in the flesh: to worldly desires, attachments, and excuses. Jesus hears a few excuses in today’s Gospel and calls people out on them. He gives the image of someone who pus their hands to the plow, ready to do the work of God, but looks back to see what they are leaving behind. It indicates a slavery to attachments. They should be free to go forward.

We are slaves to our excuses. We have a ton of them and use them regularly, maybe without even knowing it. I hear them constantly. I will suggest daily prayer and hear, “oh, Father, I am too busy to pray”. Or, Sunday Mass even on vacation: “well, no one from my family was going to Mass, so I didn’t want to make it inconvenient for them’. Confession: “it’s been so long” or “I just go to God directly”. Virtue: “I was too upset to be patient”. Evangelization: “I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to make people feel uncomfortable or offend them”. Jesus says, “proclaim the kingdom of God” in our words and deeds! Make God #1!

We are called to be free of our excuses and sin. We are called to be freed of our slavery. Slavery is saying ‘no’ to God or ‘hold on, God’. Freedom is the ability to say yes to God and to what’s good. Freedom means choosing the good. It means to living the way we truly want to live and are called to live. Freedom allows us to live as God wants and to live as we want. I work with the GW Catholic students; many of them have told me privately that they really don’t want to be committing the sins they are committing. They truly want to live as God wants them to; they want to be good Catholics. They want to be free to be the person God created them to be. This is true of all of us.

Finally, how do we live the freedom to which we are called? We live a life in the Spirit. We live a life of Grace, centered on the Eucharist. We come here every Sunday to receive the Grace of the Eucharist; to build up Grace in our lives. The more we come to the Eucharist, the more we live a life of Grace…a life in freedom. You might know people who receive the Eucharist more than once a week through daily Mass. Their lives have been changed. They are going to Confession regularly, praying daily (especially the rosary), reading Sacred Scripture, reading the lives of the Saints, and getting involved in service. They are living lives of Grace. They are living in freedom….the freedom that God intends for each one of us. He wants us to be free. When we enter into freedom, we enter more deeply into peace, joy, and happiness.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The freedom of chastity vs. the slavery of pornography

In this Sunday’s second reading, we will hear St. Paul speak about freedom. “For freedom, Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery…For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters” (Gal 5). In Christ, we are free! When we first hear this, it may not mean much. But, when we contrast life in Christ and His Spirit against life in the flesh (as St. Paul does later in the reading), it means everything.

This might hit home most with people when it comes to living chastity (sexual purity). The greatest example of slavery to sin in the modern world is pornography. Priests have said for many years now that pornography is the most confessed sin. Marriages are being ruined, families are being destroyed, and careers are being lost to the addiction and slavery of pornography. And, kids have the target audience of those in the pornographic industry. Their thinking is that if they get them at a young age, they get them for life. A few years ago, the parents of a 9-year-old boy came to me, horrified that their son and his friends had been looking at pornography. 9 years old! When I speak to young people, particularly young men, about pornography, I tell them that this is what happens: that no one starts with pornography as a teenager (or younger) thinking they’ll do it for the rest of their life, but that’s often what happens.

What is the solution to the problem of the vice of unchastity, particularly pornography? The Grace of Jesus Christ, particularly in the Eucharist and Confession. I tell these same young people that a regular confession can root out the ugly habits of pornography and masturbation. To live in the Grace of Christ means to live in the Spirit. It means to live in freedom! For those who have agonized for so long in the slavery of unchastity, the freedom of chastity is refreshing and life-changing.

How bad is the problem of pornography? The following interview from gives us a sense. To view the full (part 1 of the) interview, please click on today’s title.

Interview With Psychotherapist Peter Kleponis

…In this interview with ZENIT, (Peter Kleponis, a Catholic psychotherapist who specializes in marriage and family therapy) speaks more about the nature of the pornography problem, its causes, and how to address it on the personal and societal levels...

ZENIT: What are the latest statistics on the prevalence of pornography use today?

Kleponis: The prevalence is huge, and even the statistics that we have are underestimates, because this is something that is going on late at night in the privacy of people's homes, so we really don't know how serious it is.

What we do know is that it is a $97 billion industry, and $13 billion of that comes from the United States. Also, looking at the sheer number of pornographic Web sites, we see that it's huge.

ZENIT: How does this use compare between men and women?

Kleponis: Currently about 83% of pornography addicts are men, and 17% are women.

For women, it's the chat rooms rather than the visual pornography that they're looking at.

Men and women are wired differently. Men are visually stimulated.
When a man looks at a pornographic image, there is a chemical reaction going on in the brain. Dopamine is released, there is euphoria, and, when combined with sexual arousal and orgasm, it becomes what I call the "perfect recipe" for an addiction. Thus they're going to be more attracted to the pictures and videos.

Women, on the other hand, are more relationally oriented, so they're looking into the chat rooms where they can develop a false persona.
Here they can be anyone they want to be, look anyway they want to look, and engage in these erotic relationships with men on the Internet, all through words.

It is like they're working with this man and writing their own romance novel together -- and that is what they get addicted to. There are some women who do get addicted to the visual pornography, but it is a very small amount.

There are a number of younger women who are forced into this because their boyfriends insist that this be part of their relationship. They fundamentally don't want it, and that's a different issue.

This gets into the issue of what pornography has taught young people.

First of all, it has taught young men and teenage boys that women are there for their own sexual pleasure -- call it the sexual utilitarian philosophy, or on college campuses they call it the "hook-up culture."
This is the belief that it's okay to use someone for your own sexual pleasure.

What this teaches young women is that in order to get a boyfriend and keep him, they have to be sexually active and participate in pornography.
Right now it's a popular thing for women to use their camera phones to take nude pictures of themselves and email them to their boyfriends. They feel that this is what they have to do. Do they like it? No.

If you ask them, deep down inside they feel that it is degrading, and they're very angry about it. But they feel that they're stuck, that it's what they have to do.

Thus you can see where it warps a person's sense of what a healthy, loving relationship really is; they don't learn about respect for one another…

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Contraception is anti-Catholic

I went to dinner at the home of friends from another parish recently. I hadn’t seen them for a little while, so it was good to catch up. Well, most of it was good. I asked how things are in the parish, and they gave me a look that said, “we have no clue”. They haven’t been going to Church regularly for some time. Then, the question of having more children was raised (gee, I wonder who could have done that); the husband said they were contracepting. Now, he is a doctor and he has little or no clue about the birth control pill. I informed him that often the pill serves as an abortifacient; he disagreed. I told him that the pill does harmful things to wife’s body; he seemed unphased. When I spoke with his wife later, she said that she didn’t want to be on the pill.

He knows that to have a Catholic marriage is to be open to life; contraception is anti-life and anti-Catholic. So, he is willing to jeopardize his faith and his wife’s health for his career. That’s what it comes down to; in his mind, contraception ensures that another child won’t get in the way of pursuing his career goals. I’ve said before that contraception is very selfish. This is one of the worst examples I’ve seen. He is a nice guy, but is being completely self-centered in this. Hopefully, they will follow my suggestion to use Natural Family Planning (NFP).

Here are excerpts from an article, “Contraception: Why Not?” which lay out harmful physical effects of the pill. To view the full article, please click on today’s title:

There's a wonderful book out by Dr. Ellen Grant called The Bitter Pill. She was very much in on distributing contraceptives in the 60's in London, but she saw woman after woman coming in with different pathologies that she found were pill-related high blood pressure, blood clots, cysts in the breast, all sorts of things. So, she said, "I'm not going to prescribe these anymore." She looked into this and she discovered, that when they were first testing for the pill, they were trying to find a male contraceptive and a female contraceptive pill. And in the first study group of males, they found that there was some slight shrinkage of the testicles of one male, so they stopped all testing of the male contraceptive pill. You might notice that there is no such thing in the first study group of females. Three females died and they just readjusted the dosage. Now, I don't know what that tells you, but it tells me that there's something sinister going on here. Women are still dying from the pill.

If you look at the insert in any set of pills, you can get this from a pharmacist if you can't find it elsewhere, it says such things as the pill will cause blood clots, high blood pressure, heart disease, greater increase of some kinds of cancer, infertility. Now, these are very small percentages where this happens, but there are some sixteen million women in the United States on the pill. Sixteen million. And even a very small percentage is still a very large number of women. Not to mention the day by day side effects. These always fascinate me. Most women, in fact, 50% of women who start on the pill, stop within the first year because of unpleasant side effects. So, these side effects are really largely those of the sixteen million who continue, so you can imagine how bad they must be for the 50% who stop. But, what are they? Most women complain of:

• increased irritability
• increased propensity to depression
• weight gain
• a reduced libido

Now, I don't know about the rest of you women, but I've been looking for a pill that will make me more irritable, more depressed, help me to gain weight, and reduce my libido so I can have sex. And I'm sure all the men would like the woman he's dealing with to be more irritable, more depressed, gain weight more easily, and have a reduced libido, don't you? Now, why does the pill do this to a woman? Why does it do this to a woman? Well, the fact is that the pill makes a woman's body think it's pregnant. It gives it hormones that are there the first couple months of pregnancy. And women in the first couple months of pregnancy get irritable, depressed, gain weight, and have a reduced libido. And women are in this condition when they're on the pill, for week after week, month after month, year after year. It's an astonishing thing.

Now, I haven't really told you the worst reality about the pill which really is that it's an abortifacient. I've been talking about it as though it were a contraceptive, but it also works as an abortifacient. At least it says so in the insert that's in with the pill. It says that it works in three different ways: One is it stops ovulation, and again, that's clear enough. If it makes your body think it's pregnant, the body will not ovulate because when you're pregnant, you can't get pregnant. When you're pregnant you don't ovulate because you have a new baby growing inside of you and there's no reason to ovulate. Or if that doesn't work, there may be a breakthrough ovulation, and no woman knows when that's happening in her body.

Women have the most complex hormonal system, as you know. If you've ever looked at the chart of a female hormonal system, there's three major ones as far as their reproductive system is concerned. And they go up and down like peaks and valleys and they crisscross. And I showed this to one of my friends and she said, "You know, I've never felt like the same person from day to day and now I see that I'm not. I'm dealing with a whole new chemical system every day." And as you women know, you wake up in the morning and say, "Gee, am I going to be the sweetest person in the world today or am I going to be the meanest person in the world today? How do I know? Let me see how I feel after my coffee." And it mostly has to do with your hormones. You know the male hormonal system, it's just wonderful. You know how much fluctuation there is in that? There's two of them. Straight line, all month long. This guy seems steady day by day, same guy yesterday, today and tomorrow, and you don't know who you are yesterday, today and tomorrow. There are explanations for that. They're called hormones.

A woman doesn't know month by month, how her hormones are acting, whether she's not ovulating when she's on the pill or if there's breakthrough ovulation. The pill can change the 'viscosity' of the mucus. There's a certain mucus that helps the sperm get to the egg and a certain mucus that prohibits the sperm from getting to the egg. The pill sometimes changes the mucus. Or, it will prevent the nidation of the fertilized ovum. That means, the fertilized ovum, new little human being, working down the fallopian tube, try to implant itself in its mother's uterine wall but fails to nest. Nidation. The pill prohibits that and then the uterus sloughs off the new fertilized ovum. A woman doesn't know how the pill is working in her system. Norplant works as an abortifacient, the IUD and Depo-Provera do as well.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Homily - Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY, 20 JUN 2010 (VIS) - Benedict XVI celebrated Mass this morning in the Vatican Basilica, during the course of which he conferred priestly ordination on fourteen deacons from the diocese of Rome.

In his homily the Pope explained how, "in prayer, the priest is called to rediscover the ever-new face of his Lord, the most authentic content of his mission. Only one who has an intimate relationship with the Lord can be seized by Him, can bring Him to others, can become His envoy. This involves a kind of 'remaining with Him' which must always accompany, and be the core of, priestly ministry, also and above all during moments of difficulty when it seems that 'the things to be done' must take priority. Wherever we are, whatever we do, we must always 'remain with Him'".

"The priesthood must never represent a way to achieve security in life or to attain social position. Anyone who aspires to the priesthood in order to increase his personal prestige and power has radically misunderstood the significance of this ministry. Anyone whose main goal is to realise an ambition of his own, to achieve success, will always be a slave to himself and to public opinion. In order to be noticed he will have to adulate; he must say what people want to hear, he must adapt to changing fashions and opinions. In this way, he will deprive himself of the vital relationship with truth, reducing himself to condemning tomorrow what he praises today.

"A man who organises his life like this", the Holy Father added, "a priest who sees his ministry in these terms, does not truly love God and neighbour, he loves only himself and, paradoxically, ends up by losing himself. The priesthood - let us never forget it - is founded on the courage to say yes to another will, with the daily-growing awareness that - precisely my conforming ourselves to the will of God, 'immersed' in this will - not only is our originality not cancelled but, quite the contrary, we increasingly enter into the truth of our being and our ministry".

"When we celebrate Mass", said Benedict XVI, "we have the bread of heaven in our hands, the bread of God Who is Christ, the grain broken to be multiplied and become the true food for the life of the world. This cannot but fill you with a sense of inner wonder, of living joy and immense gratitude because now the love and gift of the crucified and glorious Christ pass through your hands, through your hearts! It is an experience of wonder, ever new, to see that in my hands and in my voice the Lord achieves this mystery of His presence".

The Pope asked God to give the new priests "the grace to achieve a profound experience of all the beauty and power of your priestly service and, at the same time, the grace to be able to live this ministry coherently and generously, every day.

"The grace of the priesthood", he told the newly-ordained priests, "will unite you in the depths of your hearts to the sentiments of Jesus, Who loved unto the end unto the total gift of self, it will unite you to His becoming bread multiplied for the holy meal of unity and communion".

The Holy Father concluded by explaining that "care over the celebration of the Eucharist must always be accompanied by commitment to Eucharistic life; that is, a life lived in obedience to the one great law, the law of love that gives completely and serves with humility, a life that the grace of the Holy Spirit makes ever more similar to that of Jesus Christ, High and Eternal Priest, Servant of God and of man".

Friday, June 18, 2010

"The fire of the love of Christ"

Priesthood ordination, tomorrow, 10 am, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (at Catholic University). If you’ve never been to an ordination, you should go! It’s an incredibly powerful experience, seeing eight men lay down their lives in service to the Church as they receive the sacred powers of Holy Orders through Archbishop Wuerl. Eight good men are being ordained – please pray for them!

On the eve of the ordination and at the end of the Year of the Priest, it is fitting to post the following Q&A with Pope Benedict XVI about the priesthood. The question that was presented to His Holiness was from a parish priest who asked what more he could do to “meet the needs of a society that is very changed”. PB’s response includes very welcome and inspiring words for us parish priests, especially with the priority he places on the Eucharist:

In regard to the question: I am well aware that today it is very difficult to be a parish priest, also and above all in countries of ancient Christianity; parishes become increasingly more extensive, pastoral unity ... it is impossible to know everyone, it is impossible to do all the works that are expected of a parish priest. And thus, we really ask ourselves how we should proceed, as you have said.

But I would like to say first of all: I know that there are so many parish priests in the world that give all their strength to evangelization, to have the presence of the Lord and of his sacraments, and to these I would like to say a big "thank you," at this time. I have said that it isn't possible to do all that one wishes to do, which perhaps should be done, because our strengths are limited and the situations are difficult in a society that is increasingly diversified, more complicated. Above all, I think it is important that the faithful can see that the priest does not just do a job, hours of work, and then is free and lives only for himself, but that he is a man impassioned for Christ, who bears in himself the fire of the love of Christ.

If the faithful see that he is full of the joy of the Lord, they also understand that he cannot do everything, they accept the limitations, and help the parish priest. This it seems to me is the most important point: that one be able to see and feel that the parish priest really feels himself called by the Lord; and is full of love of the Lord and of his own. If this is the case, one understands and can also see the impossibility of doing everything. Hence, the first condition is to be full of the joy of the Gospel with our whole being. Then choices must be made, priorities set, to see how much is possible and how much is impossible.

I would say that we know the three fundamental priorities: they are the three columns of our being priests. First, the Eucharist, the sacraments: to render the Eucharist possible and present, above all to offer Sunday Mass, in so far as possible, for all, and to celebrate it in a way that it really becomes the visible act of love of the Lord for us. Then, the proclamation of the Word in all the dimensions: from personal dialogue to the homily. The third point is "caritas," the love of Christ: to be present for the suffering, for the little ones, for children, for persons in difficulty, for the marginalized; to really render present the love of the Good Shepherd.

And then, a very important priority also is the personal relationship with Christ. In the Breviary, on Nov. 4, we read a beautiful text of St. Charles Borromeo, great pastor, who truly gave all of himself, and who says to us, to all priests: "Do not neglect your own soul: if your soul is neglected, you cannot even give to others what you should give them. Hence, also for yourself, for your soul, there must be time," or, in other words, the relationship with Christ, personal conversation with Christ is a fundamental pastoral priority, it is the condition of our work for others! And prayer is not something marginal: it is in fact the "profession" of the priest to pray, also as representative of the people who do not know how to pray and do not find the time to pray. Personal prayer, above all the Prayer of the Hours, is essential nourishment for our soul, for all our action.

And, finally, to recognize our limitations, to open ourselves also to this humility. Let us recall a scene of Mark, Chapter 6, where the disciples are "stressed," they want to do everything, and the Lord says: "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while" (cf. Mark 6:31). This also is work -- I would say -- pastoral work: to find and to have the humility, the courage to rest. Hence, I think that passion for the Lord, love of the Lord, shows us the priorities, the choices, helps us to find the way. The Lord will help us. Thank you all!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Jesus always wins in the end" -Stephen Colbert

The other night I was flipping through the channels and came upon “The Colbert Report” which I checked out for a few minutes. I have heard students at the Newman Center talk about this show which takes a humorous and entertaining look at the events of the day, mainly through its host, Stephen Colbert. Two minutes into my viewing, Colbert welcomed a guest who has written a book, “God is not one” (doctrinal error already in the title). I have not read the book, but it seems that the main point the author made is that there are significant differences between the main religions of the world.

Check out the clip of this interview. It’s actually a good little segment. It shows Colbert, who is Catholic, defending the Catholic faith in a positive and inspiring way! I don’t endorse Colbert or any other political commentator, but I do like what he did here. He talked about the Cross! Knowing how influential these late night talk shows are on the minds of young people, I thought it was quite significant. To have a popular figure in the culture portray Christianity in a true light is quite a victory in itself; Colbert does more, though. He finished the segment by saying, “Jesus always wins in the end…and that will be the case forever after”. Amen!

To view the clip, please click on today’s title.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Homily at Our Lady of Lourdes parish

I am Father Greg Shaffer, the chaplain of the Newman Center (the Catholic Student Center) at George Washington University. I grew up in this parish. It is an honor and privilege to preach here tonight; I am grateful to Monsignor Filardi for inviting me. We are here to celebrate the end of the Year of the Priest. We priests are eternally grateful for all of the letters, prayers, support, and encouragement from the lay faithful this past year. Please keep them coming! We also celebrate the priesthood of two priests who served so faithfully here at Lourdes: Monsignor Louis Quinn and Monsignor Thomas Wells. They were stationed here together back in the 90s. They were here with two other priests and I remember many stories coming out of the rectory; these were four characters! My favorite story involved these four men having breakfast together. Father Wells told me that he and Msgr Quinn enjoyed quiet at breakfast as they read the newspaper. Well, the other two priests liked to talk at the breakfast table…at a really HIGH volume. So, Msgr Quinn and Fr Wells would raise the newspapers over their heads to seek shelter from the conversations.

We have had so many good priests here at Lourdes over the years. It’s no coincidence that we’ve had several men become priests: 5 men have been ordained from this parish in the past seven years, thanks be to God. Priests like Msgr Quinn, Fr Wells, Fr Dorsonville, and our current priests have been great examples to so many of us; their holiness and joy make priesthood attractive. We also have a vocations society here that supports men studying to be priests. The Msgr Thomas Wells Society has done such great work for the past ten years in providing personal, spiritual, and financial support for seminarians. I am grateful to the members of the Wells Society for all that they do.

St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, once said, “the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus”. This is what Msgr Quinn, Fr Wells, and the other priests were getting ready for each day at the breakfast table: to love the heart of Jesus. That was their life. We get a glimpse into the heart of Jesus in today’s Gospel. He forgives the sinful woman at the home of the Pharisee. The Pharisee can’t understand why Jesus would forgive her; he doesn’t know Jesus. We know Jesus, and we can’t understand His heart. We constantly go to Him in Confession and He continuously forgives us. His heart is full of love and mercy; His heart has infinite love for us.

This is what a priest is called to live: the heart of Jesus. Pope Benedict recently said the priesthood is the “audacity of God”. God calls certain men to be Him to His people…to be alter Christus (another Christ). Priests are to live the heart of Jesus…to offer the same love and mercy that He offers. Msgr Quinn lived this for 65 years. For 65 years, he was alter Christus! He loved the heart of Jesus and showed it to his people. Msgr Quinn was Tom Wells’ pastor growing up at Blessed Sacrament. When Tom went into the seminary in New York, Msgr Quinn visited him. That is a haul! I’m sure it made a big impression on Tom Wells as it would any man whose pastor visited him to offer love and support.

Msgr Quinn inspired men to become priests as did Fr Wells. He inspired, encouraged, even forced men to enter the seminary (in a good way!). When I first went to speak to Fr Wells about the priesthood back in 1993, I said, “I don’t know, Father, I think I’m sorta, kinda, having a few thoughts here and there about the priesthood”. He interrupted by saying, “can you hold on for a second?” I said, “yeah, what’s up?” He picked up the phone and called the Vocations Director! He said, “Mark, hey it’s Tom. Yeah, we got one”. I was like, “Noooo…we’re just talking here.” I entered the seminary a year later.

Another man from the parish, Andrew Royals, called me up as he was graduating from college, about a year after Fr Wells died. He said that he had a dilemma: he was offered a contract to be an actor for a year but felt called to be a priest. He didn’t know what to do. I told him what Fr Wells would have said: “Drew, if you feel that God is calling you to be a priest, go into the seminary. It’s the best place for you to discern your vocation”. Drew agreed that’s what Fr Wells would say. He dusted off his seminary application and entered that fall. I asked him years later if it was the right move and he said, “absolutely”. He is now a happy priest of four years.

In his life and in his death, Fr Wells inspired vocations to the priesthood. His nephew, Dave, is scheduled to be ordained a priest this Saturday. Dave has said that it was when Fr Wells died that he realized he was called to be a priest. And Dave is not alone. Other men have come forward to answer the call in the wake of Fr Wells’ death.

We need priests! St John Vianney also said, “without the priest, the Death and Passion of our Lord would be of no avail”. Without priests, we wouldn’t have all this (access to the Cross, altar, etc.). Using the language of St. Paul in the second reading, we can say that without priests, “Christ died for nothing”. Priests make the Death and Resurrection of Christ…salvation…God’s Grace…Christ’s heart available to us. St John Vianney made God’s Mercy available to his people by hearing confessions for about 15 hours a day. Msgr Quinn and Fr Wells made God’s Grace available to people for almost 100 years. 100 years! We need generous priests who will make Christ’s Death and Passion available to us.

Finally, all of our efforts to promote vocations are centered on the Eucharist. Fr Wells knew the importance of the Eucharist when it came to vocations. He once said as pastor here, “as long as we are a people centered on the Eucharistic sacrifice, there will never be a shortage of those willing to give their lives in service of the Church”. This parish has gotten that. We get that down at the Newman Center as we have had 9 men and women enter seminary and religious life in the past 9 years. We are centered on the Eucharist. When we center our lives and efforts on the Eucharist, so much good happens: an increase in vocations, fruitful marriages, fruitful families, fruitful parishes and schools. This is where it all happens: in the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, may the Lord grant our petition that more men come forward to answer the Call to bring the love, mercy, and the sacraments of Christ to the next generation.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The "audacity of God": the priesthood

The Year of the Priest ends next Saturday, June 19. I hope that all of you have participated in this in some way. It has been overwhelming for us priests to receive the outpouring of prayers, letters, support, and encouragement from the lay faithful. We are eternally grateful. The following are excerpts from Pope Benedict’s homily for today’s feast of the Sacred Heart and the close for the Year of the Priest:

Dear Brothers in the Priestly Ministry,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Year for Priests which we have celebrated on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of the holy Curè of Ars, the model of priestly ministry in our world, is now coming to an end. We have let the Curé of Ars guide us to a renewed appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of the priestly ministry.

The priest is not a mere office-holder, like those which every society needs in order to carry out certain functions. Instead, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ’s name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ’s words of thanksgiving, which are words of transubstantiation – words which make Christ himself present, the Risen One, his Body and Blood – words which thus transform the elements of the world, which open the world to God and unite it to him.

The priesthood, then, is not simply "office" but sacrament: God makes use of us poor men in order to be, through us, present to all men and women, and to act on their behalf. This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings – who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in his stead – this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word "priesthood". That God thinks that we are capable of this; that in this way he calls men to his service and thus from within binds himself to them: this is what we wanted to reflect upon and appreciate anew over the course of the past year.

We wanted to reawaken our joy at how close God is to us, and our gratitude for the fact that he entrusts himself to our infirmities; that he guides and sustains us daily. In this way we also wanted to demonstrate once again to young people that this vocation, this fellowship of service for God and with God, does exist – and that God is indeed waiting for us to say "yes". Together with the whole Church we wanted to make clear once again that we have to ask God for this vocation. We have to beg for workers for God’s harvest, and this petition to God is, at the same time, his own way of knocking on the hearts of young people who consider themselves able to do what God considers them able to do.

It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the "enemy"; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite. We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again; and that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life’s dangers. Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events. But for us what happened was precisely the opposite: we grew in gratitude for God’s gift, a gift concealed in "earthen vessels" which ever anew, even amid human weakness, makes his love concretely present in this world.

So let us look upon all that happened as a summons to purification, as a task which we bring to the future and which makes us acknowledge and love all the more the great gift we have received from God. In this way, his gift becomes a commitment to respond to God’s courage and humility by our own courage and our own humility. The word of God, which we have sung in the Entrance Antiphon of today’s liturgy, can speak to us, at this hour, of what it means to become and to be a priest: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart" (Mt 11:29).

We are celebrating the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in the liturgy we peer, as it were, into the heart of Jesus opened in death by the spear of the Roman soldier. Jesus’ heart was indeed opened for us and before us – and thus God’s own heart was opened. The liturgy interprets for us the language of Jesus’ heart, which tells us above all that God is the shepherd of mankind, and so it reveals to us Jesus’ priesthood, which is rooted deep within his heart; so too it shows us the perennial foundation and the effective criterion of all priestly ministry, which must always be anchored in the heart of Jesus and lived out from that starting-point…

Lord, we thank you because for our sake you opened your heart; because in your death and in your resurrection you became the source of life. Give us life, make us live from you as our source, and grant that we too may be sources, wellsprings capable of bestowing the water of life in our time. We thank you for the grace of the priestly ministry. Lord bless us, and bless all those who in our time are thirsty and continue to seek. Amen.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A Victory for Grace (in the death of Fr Wells)

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the death of my good friend, Msgr. Thomas Wells. I’ve been talking with people recently about it and the most frequent comment has been, “can you believe it’s been 10 years?” This has come from some who knew Fr. Wells well and from some who didn’t. I understand their point and agree to some extent, but, overall, it has been every bit of 10 years, if not more. Maybe I’m alone in this among Fr. Wells’ family and good friends (a huge group itself), but my thought is that the 10 year anniversary is no surprise because a) we’ve been commemorating the anniversary each year, and b) the events of his death seem so far removed from our lives now. It seems like so long ago.

So, I took all of these thoughts to the memorial Mass at Mother Seton Church in Germantown last night. Archbishop Wuerl celebrated the Mass and did a beautiful job as celebrant and homilist. The main point I took from his homily was that Fr. Wells, as with all priests, was anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring the ministry of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, to so many people. It was extremely meaningful to have the Archbishop of Washington honor Fr. Wells in the way His Excellency did last night.

There were several of us concelebrating priests. As you’ve seen before, it is customary for the concelebrating priests to gather around the celebrant at the altar as the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer begins. When I thought that this would happen, I remembered the significance of the place of the altar at Mother Seton: it was where the old rectory was located…where Fr. Wells was murdered. I flashed back to 10 years ago returning from Calcutta and seeing my buddy’s place taped off as a crime scene. I recalled the gory pictures from the trial which showed the slain Fr. Wells and his ransacked bedroom. Then, I thought about how the Eucharist was the focal point of Fr. Wells’ life and I was about to concelebrate the Eucharist on the spot where his life was taken.

As we made our way into the sanctuary, I began to get overwhelmed with what was about to happen. Fr. Wells was the one who led me to the Eucharist. He loved the Eucharist with every fiber of his being and truly loved celebrating Mass. He would stare at the Eucharist for several seconds each time at the elevation of the Host. He appeared to say several words quietly to the Body of Christ each time. This is now part of my ritual at the Consecration: after holding the Host and Chalice above my head in Adoration, I then bring them down lower to the level where Fr Wells would gaze upon the Blessed Sacrament. I thank God for Fr Wells each time I make this tribute to my friend and spiritual father at Mass.

There was a lot going on at the altar area during the Mass, as you can see. And, at the moment of Consecration, I just lost it. Just lost it! Tears came streaming down my face and I was a mess externally. Internally, I was overwhelmed with awe, joy, sadness, and humility. But, there was also a great peace with it all. Here I was doing what Fr. Wells led me to do: offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice on behalf of the people of God. The powerful irony was that it was on the very spot where his life ended…where his final sacrificial offering was made. His life continues through me and other men who he inspired to become priests (again, a large group).

The biggest realization, then, from last night is that Grace wins! Last night’s celebration was really to say that good has won over evil in the death of Fr. Wells. On the very spot where evil prevailed on a given night 10 years ago, Grace has won victory…in the exact same manner that Christ won victory over sin on Mount Calvary.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Solemnity of Corpus Christi - homily

We are on summer break at the Newman Center. There are some students who are around this summer, mainly because they are working in D.C. These students are unbelievable! It is summer but they still want to go deeper in their faith. They not only wanted to continue with our weekly Bible Study, they asked to do an 8-week series on the story of the Bible. We are getting more students for that than for our Bible Study during the year! And, then, last week they asked if we go do Eucharistic Adoration which we did for 2 hours on Wednesday night. I wouldn’t mind a bit of a summer break (!), but I am totally impressed and inspired by GW students regularly. They are great kids!

Today we celebrate one of the greatest feasts in the Church’s year: the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ…can I get an “Amen”? Amen! Speaking of the Bible, the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is presented very clearly in Sacred Scripture. In John 6, Jesus teaches about the Eucharist. He says over and over again that “my flesh is real food, my blood is real drink” and “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you”. Then, at the Last Supper, he instituted the Eucharist with these words: “this is my body”. Acts 2:42 tells us that the early Christians centered their life on the “breaking of bread”, the Eucharist. In our second reading, we hear that St. Paul handed on what he received from the Lord, namely the tradition of celebrating the Eucharist. Today’s first reading and Gospel give fuller meaning to our sacred weekly ritual with the priest Melchizedek offering bread and wine as a blessing for Abram. This was a preview to the Eucharist. And Jesus, the high priest, blessing bread and fish to feed five thousand in an eucharistic manner. So, the teaching that the Eucharist is for real is found throughout Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church. To be Catholic means to believe in the Eucharist.

And yet, the majority of Catholics don’t believe in the Eucharist. Studies from years ago found that 70% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is only a symbol. Where do they get that? I’ve asked myself that very question because for the first 20 years of my life – after 12 years of Catholic education – I thought that the Eucharist was just a symbol. And, this affected the way I approached coming to Mass every week as it does the 70%: coming late, leaving early, not dressing reverently, not being attentive or participating fully. If people don’t believe that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ at every Mass, then they will show it outwardly. I think that people don’t believe because they don’t know. They haven’t heard the teaching of John 6 on a regular basis. They don’t know what I learned when I was 21: “this is my body” means this is my body.

“This is my body” means this is my body. Can I get an “Amen”? Jesus doesn’t say “this symbolizes my body” or “this represents my body”. His teaching on the Eucharist in John 6 is clearly literal. He repeats the teaching over and over again and the people hear him speaking literally. The Apostles took Him literally and were the only ones who believed Him. They passed it on and the Church has believed it ever since and made the Eucharist the center of her life. The Eucharist is for real! I have staked my life on it. I ask you to do the same. Be among the 30% who believe that “this is my body” means this is my body. Show your faith in Jesus’ words and the Church’s tradition in word and deed. Come to Mass on time – even a few minutes early to prepare for this amazing event – and stay until the final blessing (or, be like the saints who prayed in thanksgiving after Mass for the incredible gift that they just received). Be attentive during Mass, most especially at the Consecration when the priest says, “this is my body…this is my blood” (when the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ). Fully participate in the liturgy – hey, if I can sing, anyone can sing…and you probably want to drown me out anyway). Wear your Sunday best for Jesus; as the Old Testament says in a few places, “worship the Lord in holy attire”. And, when the minister says to you at Communion, “the Body of Christ”, you say: “Amen”. Amen…I believe. I believe that what is placed in my hand or on my tongue is the Risen Body of Christ. In all of these ways, we show our belief and trust in the Lord that “this is my body” means this is my body.

Finally, we don’t know HOW the change in bread and wine takes place; we believe THAT it takes place. We believe that God can do all things. If He can change water into wine; if He can walk on water; if He can rise from the dead; then, He can turn bread and wine into His Body and Blood. And, why does He do this? Why does He become so small and vulnerable for us? Because He loves us so much and wants to be so close to us that He wants to be in us. He wants to be in our lives so intimately and wants us to be in His life so intimately. As we prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist tonight, let us reflect on what we are about to receive: the greatest treasure on earth. And let us respond to this gift at Communion and throughout our lives by saying clearly, “Amen!”

Friday, June 04, 2010

"Antidote to Mediocrity" (by Msgr. Thomas Wells)

Tonight, 6-7 pm at the Newman Center: Holy Hour for the men to be ordained priests of Washington and for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Please join us!!
This Sunday is the Feast of Corpus Christi which celebrates the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ. For many of us Catholics, it is the greatest feast of the year because the Eucharist is the greatest treasure in the Church. One of the most inspiring examples of faith in and love for the Eucharist I’ve ever seen was Msgr. Thomas Wells. The 10th anniversary of Fr. Wells’ death is this Tuesday, June 8. Here is one of his writings (June 14, 1998) about the feast of Corpus Christi from the book, “From the Pastor’s Desk”:

Mediocrity. I guess that is where I most see the remains of sin in my life. Thank God, I do not sin mortally, but the quality of my response to God’s goodness and His call is like the Caps early season mediocrity. I am called to so much; I give so little: mediocrity. It is not exactly a consolation to me, but I do recognize that I am not alone in this self-evaluation. Often I hear people speak about how much more they should be loving their spouses or children – and they are right. I mean, if we are called to be signs of the goodness of God to those around us, who can say, “Boy, they sure are blessed to have me as their father.” We all fall short; and often we fall short simply because we do not go beyond the acceptable or the minimum: we are mediocre. And, really, is there any way out of it?

The “Yes” that is the answer to that question is one of the reasons why the Eucharist is the gift it is in Catholic life. Pay attention to some of the lines we hear Sunday after Sunday: “We thank You for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve You.” “Grant that we, who are nourished by His body and blood, may be filled with His Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit, in Christ.” The point is that, to the extent that we open ourselves to the Eucharist, we become as individuals and community, more than we are. We see our mediocrity – and we are right! – but God sees His people and works through us so that we become, in His Spirit, more of what He would have us be.

On today’s Feast of Corpus Christi – The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – we worship the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. It is truly the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord whom I receive in Communion. “My Lord and my God,” we rightly pray as the Host and chalice are raised. The equally great miracle though, is that we become what we eat. The antidote to the sin and mediocrity of our lives is the Body of Christ. If we eat His Body with faith; if we recognize Him under the signs of bread and wine, His Spirit will gradually make us like Himself. Surely, we will continue to see our pitiful response to God; faith, however, reminds us that in His time and in His way, we are becoming what the Body of Christ, the Church is meant to be.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

"We are not the Church Impotent"

Fri, June 4, 6-7 pm at the Newman Center: Holy Hour for the men to be ordained priests of Washington and for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Please join us!!
The following are excerpts from a potent commencement address given by Dr. Charles E. Rice, Professor Emeritus, Notre Dame Law School, at Christendom College on May 17, 2010:

…Remember that Truth, with a capital T, "is a person, Jesus Christ."[6] And Christ is not some lawyer, CEO or community organizer. He is God. Cardinal Avery Dulles described three foundational principles: "that there is a God, that he has made a full and final revelation of himself in Jesus Christ and that the Catholic Church is the authorized custodian and teacher of this body of revealed truth."[7] The Catholic faith is not a set of doctrines. It is a lived encounter with Christ, who lives in, and teaches through, the Church.[8]

The Magisterium, or teaching authority of the Church, is a great gift, not only for Catholics but for others to whose conscience it appeals "on the basis of reason and natural law."[9] The forces of evil concentrate their fire on the Vicar of Christ, who is the authoritative interpreter of the moral law. We must respond with loyal defense of him and of the Church. We are not, to borrow Fr. Euteneuer's phrase, the Church Impotent. We are part of the Church Militant. Our job is to fight for the Truth. Don't be conned by their lies:

1). The first lie is secularism: There is no God or he is unknowable. They say that is what the First Amendment means, but that, too, is a lie. On September 24-25, 1789, the First Congress approved the First Amendment and called on the President to proclaim a day of "thanksgiving and prayer... acknowledging... the many ... favors of Almighty God."[10] President Washington proclaimed that day of prayer. The First Amendment required neutrality on the part of the federal government among religious sects while recognizing the power of the state and federal governments to affirm the existence of God. The Supreme Court has now imposed a duty on all governments to maintain an impossible neutrality between theism and non-theism. The words "under God," according to Justice William Brennan's still accurate description of the Court's approach, may remain in the Pledge of Allegiance only because they "no longer have a religious purpose or meaning." Instead they "may merely recognize the historical fact that our Nation was believed to have been founded 'under God.'" [11]

At all levels of government, the suspension of judgment on the existence of God has evolved into an establishment of secularism. Today, affirmations of God are considered non-rational, and are generally excluded from the public discourse which is shaped by utility and power rather than right or wrong.

The existence of God is not self-evident. But it is unreasonable, even stupid, not to believe in God, an eternal being that had no beginning and always existed. The alternative is that there was a time when there was absolutely nothing. But that makes no sense. St. Thomas Aquinas said, "if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence--which is absurd."[12] As Julie Andrews put it in The Sound of Music, "Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could."

The only basis for transcendent rights against the State is the creation of the immortal person in the image and likeness of God. Every state that has ever existed, or ever will exist, has gone out of business or will go out of business. Every human being that has ever been conceived will live forever. That is why you have transcendent rights against the State. The person does not exist for the State. The State exists for the person. And for the family.

2). The second lie of Satan is relativism. To say that all things are relative is absurd, for that statement itself must be relative. The jurisprudence of relativism is some form of legal positivism, which asserts that there is no higher law that limits what human law can do. A law of any content is valid if it is enacted pursuant to prescribed procedure and is effective. Hans Kelsen, the leading legal positivist of the 20th century, said that Auschwitz and the Soviet Gulags were valid law. He could not criticize them as unjust because justice, he said, is "an irrational ideal."[13] Kelsen claimed that relativism is the philosophy of democracy. John Paul II said relativism leads instead to totalitarianism: "If one does not acknowledge transcendent truth, then the force of power takes over, and each person tends to ... impose his own interests ... with no regard for the rights of others."[14]

In your personal and professional lives you will be pressured to be a relativist, to lie, cheat or steal. As John Paul put it, the negative prohibitions of the Commandments, which are a specification of the natural law, "allow no exceptions."[15] But you will pay a price for your fidelity.

Let me tell you a story. Captain James Mulligan, of the United States Navy, spent seven years, half of them in solitary confinement, in the Hanoi Hilton after his plane was shot down in 1966. He was a cell-mate for a time of later Senator Jeremiah Denton. He, as were the others, was tortured severely and often to try to make him betray his fellow prisoners and his country. Captain Mulligan put his reliance on prayer, especially the Rosary. Under torture, he laid it on the line in a prayer he composed that we ought to make our own: "Lord, give me the strength and the guts to see this thing through to the end, one way or another. No one else knows, Lord, but you and I know, and that's all that's necessary. You suffered for your beliefs, and I must suffer for mine. Right is right if no one's right; wrong is wrong if everyone's wrong."[16] That is the answer to relativism.

3). The third lie you will confront is individualism. Social contract theories denied the social nature of man. They postulated a state of nature in which each person was an autonomous, isolated individual with no relation to others unless he consents. That is the origin of pro-choice as we know it today. Planned Parenthood didn't think it up. The mother has no relation to her unborn child unless she consents. The husband and wife have no continuing relation unless they continue to consent. And so on. The autonomous individual is his own god. Conscience is not a judgment about the objective rightness or wrongness of an act. It is the individual's unfettered decision as to what he wills to do. Whatever he chooses is, for him, the right thing to do. That is portrayed as the way to freedom. But "authentic freedom" cannot be separated from the truth.[17]

You are "free" to choose to put sand in the gas tank of your car. But you will no longer be free to drive your car because you have violated the truth of the nature of your car. You are "free" to choose to lie, to fornicate, etc., but you will diminish yourself because you have violated the truth of your nature. You have chosen the moral equivalent of putting sand in your gas tank. And there is one thing the autonomous individual of liberal mythology can never do. He can never put himself out of existence. He is going to live forever and will spend eternity someplace. Where, is up to him.

It is time for us to shed our inferiority complex. We allow ourselves to be conned into thinking that the smart guys are the academics who think that something can come from nothing, who are sure that they can't be sure of anything and who think that freedom means, without limit, the power and right to do whatever they want. This culture has lost not only its faith but also its mind. They need to hear the truth, especially about the right to life.

But there we have a problem. Our prolife efforts are compromised by our timidity on contraception. The Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930 was the first time that any Christian denomination had ever said that contraception could ever be objectively right. The Magisterium teaches the truth, that contraception is wrong, first, because it deliberately separates the unitive and procreative aspects of sex; second, by so changing the nature of the conjugal act, the man and woman make themselves, rather than God, the arbiters of whether and when life shall begin; and third, contraception frustrates the total mutual self-donation that ought to characterize the conjugal act. If man makes himself the arbiter of whether and when life shall begin, he will make himself the arbiter of when it shall end as in abortion and euthanasia. John Paul II described abortion and contraception as "fruits of the same tree."[18] If it is man's decision whether sex will have any relation to reproduction, why can't Freddy and Harry get a marriage license? In 2004, Pastor Donald Sensing of Trinity United Methodist Church in Franklin, TN, wrote that opponents of same-sex marriage are "a little late. The walls of traditional marriage were breached 40 years ago" with the general acceptance of the contraceptive pill.[19]

God has chosen to depend on human cooperation for the creation of new citizens for the kingdom of heaven. The contracepting couple alter the conjugal act to prevent that creation. What they say to God is something like this: "For all we know, God, it may be your will that from this act of ours a new human person will come into existence who will live forever. For all we know, that may be your will. And we won't let you do it." That is awesome. "Contraception," said John Paul II, "is so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God."[20]

Catholics practice contraception at the same rate as everyone else. One reason is that they have not been adequately informed. Many Catholic churches and schools are closing or consolidating for lack of parishioners and students. A fair response would be respectfully to say: "Most Reverend Bishop (or Father), you would not have this problem if you and your predecessors had been doing your job, over the past four decades and still today, of educating your people about the evil of contraception and about the entire positive teaching of the Church on marriage and the gift of life." Christendom graduates know the score on this. Don't be afraid to live it. And teach it, by word and example…