Sunday, August 29, 2010

22nd Sunday - homily

All these years, I’ve been hearing stuff about Catholics who sit in the back of Church. They really do get the shaft. Well, today, I am declaring that I got their backs! After hearing this Gospel, I realize that Catholics who sit in the back of Church are the humble ones here. They have taken the lowest seat at a banquet! I don’t know, are you all in the back waiting for me, your host, to invite you to a higher seat (like the front pews)?!

Humility is the prominent theme in today’s readings. The first reading from Sirach 3 teaches us to “conduct your affairs with humility”; Jesus says in Luke 14 that “the one who humbles himself will be exalted”. My definition of humility is honesty. To be humble means to be honest. To live humility means to live the truth. First, we live the truth about ourselves. The truth is that everything that is good in our lives is from God. We participate in it, but even that is Grace. Anything that is bad is from us. This is the truth. Humility helps us to recognize that we are sinners. When we first start Mass, we say this: “I confess…that I have sinned”. We acknowledge in God’s presence that we are sinners. We acknowledge the truth.

Humility helps us to live the truth about God. God is all-knowing and all-powerful. We are not. God knows infinitely better than we do. And yet, so many people come to me and say that they know better than God. They don’t say this directly, but indirectly. Recently, I was speaking with a friend of many years who is a good man. He was telling me that he uses contraception with his wife because they are done having kids. I explained to him that God has said through Scripture and Tradition that contraception is wrong. He wouldn’t buy it. So, I asked him, “If God told you tonight that contraception is wrong, would you stop doing it?” He said, “No”. That’s all that needed to be said. It was pride. He was saying that he knew better than God.

More often than that, people have told me they know better than the Church. When I first started getting involved in my faith, I was 21. I realized then that I didn’t know better than the Church which is 2000 years old. We don’t know better than God and we don’t know better than the Church. To be a humble Catholic means to be a humble servant of the Church and to bow to her authority. God has given the Church authority to teach for Him.

Living humility means living the truth about sin and grace. Again, we know the truth: we are sinner in need of Grace if we want to do anything good in our lives. A saint once said, “a truly humble person is never scandalized by sin”. This would be our sin or the sin or others. The proud person is scandalized: ‘I can’t believe I did that’…’I’m better than that’. Pride is so pervasive.

The Book of Sirach, chapter 10, says that “pride is the root of all sin”. People are generally so surprised to hear the effects of pride when I bring it up to them in Confession, spiritual direction, or counsel. One woman confessed defensiveness and hyper-sensitivity with her family that led to immediate comebacks to their jokes. I said it was pride. She said she had never thought of that before. Pride leads to being judgemental, angry, and impatient with others. So many of us can be perfectionists. We expect others around us to be perfect because we expect that with ourselves. Also, we see them as reflections of us. If they sin, then we look badly. ‘No son (or husband or co-worker) of mine does that kind of stuff’.

The best and most fruitful counter to pride is a regular confession. Confession is certainly a humbling experience. It takes a lot of humility to get on our knees and admit honestly to God what we have done. The Grace of Confession helps to move us away from pride. And, the counsel that the priest offers can really help to identify the problems we are having. A monthly confession can really help us to grow in the virtue of humility.

Finally, St. Thomas Aquinas gives us a fuller picture of what’s going on with humility. He taught that humility comes from the Latin word, “humus”, which translates as earth. Humility, then, brings us down to earth. This understanding shows us the humility of Jesus Christ. He came down to earth from his throne in heaven. As St Paul writes in his letter to the Phillipians, “he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross”. The Cross is the greatest sign of humility in the world. Christ continues to humbled Himself in the Eucharist, becoming so small for us. He sends us forth from the Mass to imitate his humility this week…to stay down to earth and honest this week. If we live his humility, we will share in his exaltation. St Paul writes, “because (he humbled himself), God greatly exalted him” (Phil 2). And, hopefully us, too.

Friday, August 27, 2010

"If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans"

Anon asked, "Could you please tell me where I could purchase the book, The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, A guide to a 30 day retreat by the founder of the Jesuits by Image books. I can't seem to find that edition online. Thanks."  Sorry to take a little while to answer this, Anon, but if you can't find it online, try the following local bookstores:  Newman Bookstore (near Catholic U.), the Shrine bookstore (Basilica of the Immaculate Conception / Catholic U.), or Pauline Books and Media in Alexandria.
Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.  Happy Birthday, MT!  Here are some beautiful and efficacious quotes of Mother Teresa:

"The best way to imitate Christ is through suffering.  Those who are closest to Jesus on earth are those who suffer the most".

"If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."
"Keep the joy of loving God in your heart and share this joy with all you meet especially your family. Be holy – let us pray."

"I once picked up a woman from a garbage dump and she was burning with fever; she was in her last days and her only lament was: ‘My son did this to me.’ I begged her: You must forgive your son. In a moment of madness, when he was not himself, he did a thing he regrets. Be a mother to him, forgive him. It took me a long time to make her say: ‘I forgive my son.’ Just before she died in my arms, she was able to say that with a real forgiveness. She was not concerned that she was dying. The breaking of the heart was that her son did not want her. This is something you and I can understand."

"When once a chairman of a multinational company came to see me, to offer me a property in Bombay, he first asked: ‘Mother, how do you manage your budget?" I asked him who had sent him here. He replied: ‘I felt an urge inside me.’ I said: other people like you come to see me and say the same. It was clear God sent you, Mr. A, as He sends Mr. X, Mrs. Y, Miss Z, and they provide the material means we need for our work. The grace of God is what moved you. You are my budget. God sees to our needs, as Jesus promised. I accepted the property he gave and named it Asha Dan (Gift of Hope).

"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."

"Like Jesus we belong to the world living not for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength."

"There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic. We believe our work should be our example to people. We have among us 475 souls - 30 families are Catholics and the rest are all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs—all different religions. But they all come to our prayers."

"There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ:
Jesus is my God,
Jesus is my Spouse,
Jesus is my Life,
Jesus is my only Love,
Jesus is my All in All;
Jesus is my Everything."

"Make us worthy, Lord, to serve those people throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread, and by our understanding love, give them peace and joy."

"I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor. It was an order."

"I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them."

"When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed."

"You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing."

"Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me."

"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world."

"If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive."

"A clean heart is a free heart. A free heart can love Christ with an undivided love in chastity, convinced that nothing and nobody will separate it from his love. Purity, chastity, and virginity created a special beauty in Mary that attracted God’s attention. He showed his great love for the world by giving Jesus to her."

"There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives - the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them."

"Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart."

"Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness."

"Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well."

"The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance."

"It is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. But we are perfectly happy."

"I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, 'Love one another as I have loved you.' Ask yourself 'How has he loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?' Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery."

"Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing."

"A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Aspiring nun" on TV

A friend of one of our students was on local TV recently.  Check out the segment by clicking on today's title.  The transcript is below. If time allows this week, please help this woman!
A local woman wants to join a convent, but her college loans might keep her from answering her calling.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are hoping a bake sale will help raise the dough.

Elise Maloney, 24, is volunteer coordinator at the Jeanne Jugan Residence for the Elderly in Northeast Washington, but she believes God has called her to be a nun.

"I would like to be a Little Sister of the Poor, be serving Christ and the elderly poor," Maloney said.

The sisters run the home, and would love to have her. But there's one big problem: nuns aren't allowed to join if they have any debt.

Maloney graduated from college with $75,000 in student loans. The sisters, who get no salary and live solely on donations, say it's a serious problem nationwide: desperately needed vocations are being sidelined by college debt:

"Most congregations will not accept a young woman with a large school loan," said Sr. Camille Rose Hampton, the postulant supervisor. "So many young women are forced with a decision either to wait, and to pay off their loans . . . or to give up."

None of the Little Sisters wants maloney to give up.

"We realized that if God is calling her, then He's expecting us to do something, too, and to get in there and do what we can to help her," said Sr. Benedict Armstrong, the mother superior.

So, the Little Sisters and residents are having a bake sale this Saturday to raise money to pay off Maloney's loans.

"Elise would make a wonderful Little Sister, so I wanted to help as much as I can," said Anne Sparich, a Little Sisters resident.

The bake sale will feature homemade scones, pineapple upside-down cake and all kinds of baked goods, as well as the sisters' famous peanut brittle.

"If I didn't believe in her vocation, I wouldn't be baking thousands and thousands and thousands of cupcakes," Hampton said.

Everyone at Little Sisters believes in miracles.

"When you know what God wants for you, and ultimately He wants you to be happy, and He's giving you the opportunity to do that, of course you're excited!" Maloney exclaimed.

That bake sale is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence, located at 4200 Harewood Road NE, Washington, DC, 20017.

FOCUS missionaries at GW!

Our four FOCUS missionaries have arrived at GW! FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) is an extremely effective and fruitful outreach to Catholic college students across the country. These amazing missionaries are fresh out of college and are spreading the New Evangelization. They have been here less than two weeks and have already engaged several GW students in conversation about the Newman Center and what we’re offering. To our students, please stop by Newman to meet Lauren, Becca, John, and Dan shortly after you arrive this weekend. Also, check out our website for information on how to get involved with them; it will be posted soon.

Here is some info about FOCUS from their website ( which you can access by clicking on today's post.

Why do we need to reach college students?

College years are some of the most pivotal of a young person’s life. Without the support of family and friends, the majority of freshman students fall into the party culture, swallowed by promises of happiness from destructive influences. What most of these students don’t realize is that true joy is closer than they think. At FOCUS, we introduce young men and women on the college campus to a relationship with God. With encouragement from our campus missionaries, thousands of students are overcoming the harsh reality of campus culture:

o 85% of Catholic college students do not attend Sunday Mass

o Binge drinking, sexual promiscuity, moral relativism and academic hostility towards the Catholic faith

o General lack of knowledge or understanding of faith

o Scarcity of faithful young people to lead the Church into the future

How do we reach college students?

Our Model

o Win them over through genuine friendships.

o Build up their personal relationship with God and equip them with tools needed to thrive in college and beyond.

o Send them out and share the Faith with their peers.

Our Methods

o Large Group Outreach: We host events, conferences and retreats that provide opportunities for college students to respond to God’s love, foster relationships and grow spiritually.

o Bible Studies: By facilitating small group discussion, we aid students in understanding and applying Sacred Scripture to their everyday lives.

o One-on-One Mentorship: Through personal investment in the lives of our students, we model Christ’s love and guidance; teaching them how to live their faith in the midst of life’s everyday demands and distractions.

o “I am so grateful that God gave me the opportunity to become involved with FOCUS to learn more about His love and His desire for me.”

o College is the time when young adults are searching for truth and answers. Questions like, “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose in life?” begin to tug at their hearts. It is here where FOCUS meets them, reaching out to the individual offering hope, direction, and purpose in Jesus Christ. Through one-on-one invitation and mentorship, FOCUS missionaries offer themselves with radical availability, allowing the Holy Spirit to do with them what He will to bring each college student to the heart of Jesus Christ and His Church

“FOCUS allowed me to see that the youth in the Church are ALIVE!”

A solid community of friends is one of the most important pieces of a student’s college years. FOCUS engages students in weekly Bible studies and large group events as a way to help them find Christ-centered fellowship with their peers.The love and support found in a joyful, vibrant community of friends helps carry students through the challenges of college with confidence and trust in God.

“I came to FOCUS out of curiosity, as I am not Catholic. The speakers, conferences, and fellow peers were amazing in answering my questions and encouraging me. Thank you for opportunity to look into your amazing faith!”

The beauty of a Christian community is that its joy is infectious. In mentorship and Bible study, FOCUS students cultivate their personal prayer lives, but they also live the Gospel, spreading Christ’s love to their classmates and neighbors. In the past 12 years, FOCUS has reached tens of thousands of college students on hundreds of campuses. At our most recent National Conference, 265 colleges were represented; 220 of those schools did not have FOCUS on their campus. The word is out, and students across the nation are seeking out the type of extraordinary fellowship that only the Holy Spirit can inspire.

Monday, August 23, 2010

21st Sunday - homily

We hear much about “nations” in today’s readings, especially the first reading. Nation is important to all of us. A nation is where we are from. It helps form our identity as people. We identify as people of a nation and can legitimately take pride in being from a particular nation. The word nation has also arisen in pop culture, mainly with regard to sports teams. There’s “Redsox nation”, “Redskins nation” (my personal favorite…go Redskins!), and a ton of others. It seems to indicate a large number of fans or followers for a particular team. It’s almost as if the team is the preeminent team in our nation; like, it’s America’s team. And, people of, let’s say Redskins nation, really let others know that they are a part of Redskins nation. You see it on their cars, in their homes, on their clothing. They are proud to be an active part of Redskins nation and let everyone know it.

What if there was “God nation”? Would we be a part of it? If we could only choose one “nation” to be a part of, would it be God nation? Would we choose God nation over Redskins nation? Specifically, God nation refers to Israel. They are the first nation, the first people, who are invited into covenant with God. Jesus teaches about “the first” and “the last” in today’s Gospel. Israel is “the first”; they are the first chosen people. But, even some of the first aren’t active in God nation; they’re not big fans of the Lord, especially the Christ. So, they become the last. Then, “the last” are people of all the nations. Christ extends the covenant to all nations. Some in the last become big fans of God, especially the Christ, and become the first.

So, are we among the first or the last? Are we big fans of God? Do people know that we are a part of God nation? Do they see it on our cars, in our homes, or in our clothing? Do they see it in the way we live? Does God know we are a part of God nation? (We can’t fool God.) When I talk about being a part of God nation, I don’t mean being a fair-weather fan. I mean being a faithful follower of His, through thick and thin…through the good times and bad. Imagine if someone had left Redskins nation a while ago because they were so bad (as many people have). And let’s say, the Redskins win the Super Bowl sometime soon (a priest can dream, can’t he?). If those same people come back to Redskins nation at about that time, the rest of us will be like, “who are you? We don’t know where you’re from.”

It’s the same with God. We can’t be a fair-weather fan of God’s. We aren’t followers of His only when times are good or when we need something. We are with Him through thick and thin…good times and bad. To be a part of God nation means to be faithful to Him and to let everyone know we are followers of His, mainly in the way we live. If we aren’t, then we will be among the last.

Based on today’s Gospel, that means that we would be among those who are invited, but not chosen. Jesus is asked about those who will be saved. He then makes a distinction between the first and the last. “The first” are those who will eat at table in the Kingdom of God. “The last” refers to those who are not saved. He would say to them “I don’t know where you are from” and “depart from me”. He also speaks of “wailing and grinding of teeth” which refers to punishment, most commonly eternal damnation. Can you imagine trying to get into Heaven and hearing God say to you, “I don’t know where you’re from”. In other words, I don’t know you. I don’t know which nation you are from. You were invited to be a part of my nation, but you chose to be a part of another nation…another team.

Finally, the best way for us to be among the first - the chosen, those who are saved – is the Eucharist. When we come to the Eucharist, we are those “from the east and the west and from the north and the south..(who) recline at table in the Kingdom of God”. And, in John 6, Jesus promises that anyone who receives the Eucharist “has eternal life”. May the Grace of the Eucharist give us the courage and strength to out God first…to be among the first…to let everyone know that we are faithful fans and followers of Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"You're not a homosexual. You're a man"

My post on December 11, 2009, “A student teaches a teacher (about homosexuality)”, included comments from one of our students about homosexuality to a former teacher. A local youth minister invited me to speak to her youth group after reading the post. So, I gave a talk on homosexuality to about 40 teens from her group and other parish youth groups last month. A mother of a teen in one of the youth groups emailed me about her son who is struggling with same-sex attraction. She hoped he would attend the discussion, but he didn’t. She was looking for help in understanding more about his situation and how best to approach it with him. I mentioned this to the same student here, and she found the following article from, mainly for the mother to read. It’s good reading for all of us, especially the recommended resources at the bottom.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of new monthly columns by Simcha Fisher where she will interview a variety of Catholics in order that we might learn from their unique perspectives.)

Steve Gershom (a pseudonym) is a young, Catholic professional who recently came out as a homosexual to friends and family.

What advice would you give to a Catholic who thinks he might be homosexual?

First, don’t assume that you’re “gay” and that’s that. I think of homosexuality as a spectrum, and there are plenty of people in the middle for part or all of their lives.

Find a priest to talk to who is both orthodox and understanding. Isolation gets you into bad mental habits.

Find a support group that you’re comfortable with: Courage is one, and there are dozens of others.

Finally, pray a lot. You won’t be able to “pray it away,” but prayer, adoration, and frequent communion and confession make everything better. Of course, that goes for anyone with any kind of a cross to bear. Which is everyone.

What advice would you give to parents who are concerned about their son’s sexual identity?

It’s terribly important for fathers to be accessible, emotionally and otherwise, to their sons; to spend regular one-on-one time with them; to praise them when they do well; and to give them lots of physical affection, from early on. I mean really early—we think of the adolescent years as being particularly formative, but a person’s emotional makeup can be drastically affected, for good or ill, from day one.

If the horse is already out of the barn, then first educate yourself [see below for recommended reading], and then talk to your son, in a careful, loving way. That is going to hurt a lot, for both of you, but not talking is much worse. He needs to know that you’re not scared or disgusted.

Do you think that you might be able to become heterosexual, or that anyone can?

I believe some degree of change is possible. Ex-gay groups are caricatured as brainwashers and Bible-thumpers, who will tell you how depraved you are, and to squash your feelings down into the back of your psyche.

My experience with one group is the exact opposite. The work I did with People Can Change would benefit almost every man I know: they helped me to open old, badly-healed wounds, confront old fears and prejudices, and dismantle some of the lies I had been telling myself. It was scary and it hurt like hell, but it left me with the beginnings of a peace and confidence I had never experienced before.

Has it made me less attracted to men, or more attracted to women? Yes, a little bit. But more importantly, it has made me a less fearful, more integrated person. That’s a work in progress.

Maybe I’ll be able to get married and have children, maybe not. But the one sure way to be miserable is to obsess about the things you don’t have, and forget to give thanks for the things you do have. I have a lot.

Is there anything you wish you could change about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality?

Not a thing. Without the Church’s clear teaching on the issue, I would have been at the mercy of my badly confused emotions. When your instincts are misleading, you need something unshakable. The Church is a rock.

On the other hand, I do think the Church’s approach to the topic needs work, and badly. You might hear a sermon or two about gay marriage, but that’s not terribly helpful. Catholics often talk about homosexual men as if they were another species—who should of course be pitied and prayed for: Those poor freaks!

This isn’t due to ill will, obviously. It’s because people are embarrassed, are scared of offending someone, and have been badly misinformed by all the cultural propaganda.

If you could clear up one common misunderstanding about homosexuals, what would it be?

I don’t believe that “gay” is a valid category, the way “male” and “female” are. I used to think being gay meant being a different kind of person altogether—like a third gender. These days I think that it’s something I have, not something I am.

The surprising thing is that gay men are gay because they are masculine, not because they are feminine. What I mean is this: men, gay and straight, want to know they’re real men. If something stops them from believing that, then they’ll go looking for that manhood for the rest of their lives.

Some men look for it by finding a man who will give them acceptance and affection—or at least sex. These are the men we call “gay.” Some men look for it by sleeping with a lot of women and picking a lot of fights. These are the men we call, well, “jerks.” But both of them are the way they are, and want the things they want, because of the specifically masculine traits they started out with.

The best way to sum it up is something a very good priest once said to me in confession. He said, “You’re not a homosexual. You’re a man.”

Simcha Fisher is a mother of eight who writes from her home in New Hampshire. She blogs at I Have to Sit Down.

Resources Steve recommends:

• For general understanding: The Homosexual Person: New Thinking in Pastoral Care by John Harvey

• For practical help: Growth into Manhood: Resuming the Journey by Alan Medinger; and

• For a referral to a therapist:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Great advice for young Catholics

Every day, priests, deacons, and religious are required to pray the "Liturgy of the Hours".  It involves praying over the Psalms, canticles, readings, and writings by the saints.  It's all done in the tradition of praying seven times a day, as Christ did. "Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws." -Psalm 119:164

It's an amazing and peaceful devotion; almost everyone I've ever introduced it to has fallen in love with it.  One time, I gave the LOH to a friend for Christmas; he still says it's the best present he's ever received!

Below is the Second Reading from Monday's Liturgy of the Hours.   It's a letter from St. Stephen of Hungary to his son.  Monday was the memorial of St Stephen, who was a powerful king of Hungary in the 11th century and solid Catholic and father.  This letter to his son is absolutely beautiful and spot-on advice for any of us, but especially young Catholics.

From admonitions to his son by Saint Stephen

My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession.  Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or son of the Church.  Indeed, in the royal palace after the faith itself, the Church holds second place, first propagated as she was by our head, Christ; then transplanted, firmly constituted and spread through the whole world by his members, the apostles and holy fathers.  And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient.

However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians lest a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.

My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at every time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow-countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you.  By fulfulling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness.  Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said: I desire mercy and not sacrifice.  Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak.

Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down.  Be humble in this life, that God may raise you up in the next.  Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately.  be gentle so that you may never oppose justice.  Be honorable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone.  Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death.

All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth or attain to the heavenly kingdom.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Feast of the Assumption - homily

Sometime ago, I went to dinner with a couple that I’ve been friends with for a long time. After dinner, they invited me to pray the rosary with their four kids who ranged in age from three to about eleven or twelve. It’s always uplifting to pray with families, especially the rosary. This one was definitely unique; each of their kids prayed a decade of the rosary, including the three year old boy. When his turn came, it was a trip! Like his siblings, he was very serious and focused. But, he only knew about every fifth word of the Hail Mary: “Hail Mer, fulla gray, Lor wid thee, bless whim, bless fwoo… Jesus”. I was trying so hard not to laugh. It was quite the scene – the priest trying not to laugh hysterically as the other kids and their parents all were praying efficaciously: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us…” It was a trip!

I started praying the rosary in the early nineties after hearing a tape from Fatima. Mary said to the three kids at Fatima (and to all of us), “pray the rosary every day for the salvation of sinners”. I took this as a directive and have been praying the rosary every day since then. It has changed my life! I look at it in the language of Scripture: this was the day that I “took Mary into my home”. I truly believe that my devotion to Mary has been one of the most significant reasons I am a priest. She is a powerful intercessor!

If you know the scene of John and Mary at the foot of the Cross. Jesus gives Mary to John (who represents the Church): “behold your mother”. Scripture then says, “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:27). This changed John’s life. Of course, Christ is his life, but to have His Mother with him every day must have been amazing. He was able to get tremendous insights from her incredible wisdom of being the Mother of God. And, it must have been so powerful to be in the presence of her incredible faith, virtue, and motherly care.

In today’s Gospel, Mary enters the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Right away, we see her power. It’s really the power of God through her. Elizabeth is crying with joy and John, of course, leaps in his mother’s womb. This is a life-changing experience for all, and Elizabeth makes that clear. The Mother of her Savior is in her home and carrying the Lord in her womb! It is a powerful encounter with the Grace of God through Mary. This is how we as Catholics approach the Blessed Mother: we go to Jesus through Mary. We do not worship her; we worship God alone. But, we go to Him through her as He came to us through her. And, when we do, it is powerful!

We can look at three things that shows us the power of God through Mary. The first is today’s feast of the Assumption. Mary is taken up body and soul into Heaven…take up into glory. This imitates her son who ascended into Heaven…into glory. The second is the Devil. The Devil hates Mary. We see this throughout Scripture. In the first book of the Bible (Genesis), enmity is declared between her and Satan (represented as a serpent). Then, in the last book of the Bible (Revelation) which we just heard in the first reading, Satan (represented by a dragon) chases after Mary and her son. Satan hates her because she brings salvation into the world. His contempt for her is similar to his hatred for the Eucharist which is our Salvation; there are many stories of evil forces desecrating the Eucharist. Satan knows the power of Mary and the Eucharist and wants to destroy both. The third thing that shows us Mary’s power is the saints. Two things that all of the saints have in common are a great devotion to the Eucharist and a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. These are both saint-makers and the Devil knows it. He knows that these devotions bring salvation to people; he wants no one to be saved.

Finally, a challenge and recommendation for all of you: bring Mary into your homes, if she is not there already. Pray the rosary as a family. The Church often says, “the family that prays together stays together”. As individuals, pray the rosary every day for the salvation of sinners. I know everyone is busy and many people complain to me that it’s hard to block out 15 minutes to pray the rosary. So, take two minutes and pray at least a decade of the rosary every day. Turn to the Mother of all Graces and bring Grace to the situation about which you are praying. Just as importantly, draw close to Mary. Pope Benedict has written that “precisely because Mary is with God and in God she is very close to us”. The rosary helps us to become close to Mary and to get to know her. Through it, we get to know her incredible faith, virtue, and motherly love. Through the Grace of the Eucharist, may each of us this week take Mary into our homes and, ultimately, enter into God’s home, His eternal Kingdom, forever.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Free Chipotle (Sept. 4) and Archbishop Wuerl (Sept. 12)

All new and returning GW Catholics are invited to the following events to start the new school year:

                              Opening BBQ
                              Sat, Sept 4, 12 noon - 4 pm

                   FREE Chipotle and Coldstone!!

                  Newman Catholic Student Center
                             22nd and F St
                             Opening Masses
                                  Sun, Sept 5
                      5:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 10 pm
             St Stephen's Church (25th and Penn. Ave.)
                     Mass with Archbishop Wuerl
                           Sun, Sept 12, 7:30 pm
                             St. Stephen's Church
                       Pizza after Mass in Parish Hall

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

"Priesthood: A Full-Contact Sport"

Today is the feast day of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests. So, happy feast day to all parish priests! Last week, I spoke at “Theology on Tap” in Alexandria. The title of my talk was “Priesthood: A Full-Contact Sport”. I told stories from the priesthood which included some from St. John Vianney. Priesthood was indeed a full-contact sport for him; he did battles with the Devil directly. Satan was so upset with Fr. Vianney because he brought so many people to Christ that he shook his rectory, set his bed on fire, etc.

Here is a brief summary of the life of St. John Vianney from

A man with vision overcomes obstacles and performs deeds that seem impossible. John Vianney was a man with vision: He wanted to become a priest. But he had to overcome his meager formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies.

His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue. But his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, John was ordained.

Situations calling for “impossible” deeds followed him everywhere. As pastor of the parish at Ars, John encountered people who were indifferent and quite comfortable with their style of living. His vision led him through severe fasts and short nights of sleep. (Some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.)

With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls. Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home.

His work as a confessor is John Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day.

Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But John Vianney had no thoughts of retirement. As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God’s people. Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil.

Who, but a man with vision, could keep going with ever-increasing strength? In 1929, Pope Pius XI named him the patron of parish priests worldwide.


Indifference toward religion, coupled with a love for material comfort, seem to be common signs of our times. A person from another planet observing us would not likely judge us to be pilgrim people, on our way to somewhere else. John Vianney, on the other hand, was a man on a journey with his goal before him at all times.


Recommending liturgical prayer, John Vianney would say, “Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.”

Monday, August 02, 2010

18th Sunday - homily

God matters.

Almost every year since I’ve been ordained, I’ve gotten together with classmates from high school for a class Mass. It’s a great tradition that I especially enjoy: being my old friends in the context of the Eucharist. Last week, only a few guys came down to the Newman Center chapel, but we had a beautiful Mass. Then, we went to Georgetown for dinner and some, ahem, refreshments (a little trip down Memory Lane!). While we were enjoying our meal, one of my buddies asked if “snip-snip” (vasectomy) was ok in the eyes of the Church. I replied, “Snip-snip? No-no”. Of course, they peppered me with questions and comments for the rest of dinner.

I defended and explained the Church’s teaching on procreation, that each couple needs to be open to life. Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the recommended method of the Church. A big part of NFP is prayer and being open to God’s Will. When I brought up these points, they seemed to either get lost in the conversation or were not that significant. These are good men who want to be good Catholics, but they were focused mainly on earthly matters. There was a definite disconnect between us. They were telling me that the Church needs to “get with the times” and not be so “out of touch”.

The disconnect happened specifically with one of them later in the night when he dropped me off at the rectory. He wanted to know more about the Church’s teaching and asked some good questions. He raised the question of what is the difference between a couple who uses NFP only to avoid pregnancy and a couple who uses artificial contraception. Good question. I told him that they were both forms of contraception; one is natural and the other is artificial. But, I pointed out that NFP involves much more; it involves prayer. One of the key aspects of NFP is being open to God’s Will. Whatever His answer is each month is what the couple is to do. If the answer is ‘no’ to having a child, then that’s God’s Will. The answer might change. The key is to be open to life…open to love…open to God’s Will. Again, this point seemed to get lost in the conversation. He was focusing on the practical, logistical, earthly matters only. Again, a disconnect between him and me.

These conversations got me thinking. Do these guys really pray? My friends might represent a large number of Catholics. They are good people who are generous and want to be good Catholics. But, there seems to be a disconnect with the and the Church. One of the reasons for this is prayer. Do Catholics really pray? I don’t mean just saying grace at meals or saying rote prayers. I mean getting down on our knees and entering into conversation with God. I mean getting to know God and the Church. I mean what St. Paul writes in the second reading: “think about what is above”.

At the heart of the Church is prayer. For 2000 years, the Church has spent time getting to know God and what He has revealed to us. It is focused on what matters to God. It focuses on the supernatural and the natural. The disconnect between Catholics and the Church might come when the supernatural is brought into the natural. This is what happened with my friends. This is what happens with regards to the Eucharist. 70% of Catholics believe the Eucharist is only a symbol. To them, it’s only bread and wine. It’s only about the natural. It’s only an earthly reality. But, the Church has always believed that something supernatural takes place at Mass – that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. One might give the same response to this teaching as it does with family planning: ‘give me a break…where does the Church come off teaching this?’ With the Eucharist, it’s because Jesus says so: “this is my body”.

Jesus says in today’s Gospel that we are to become “rich with what matters to God”. The Church helps us to become rich with what matters to God…with the supernatural. These matters are important! God matters. These are not just nice things to focus on or do, they are necessary for everyday life. How do we become rich with what matters to God? We get to know God in prayer. We get to know the Church and what it teaches. The saying is that “millions of people hate the Catholic Church for what they think it is. Less than a hundred hate it for what it actually is”. Catholics need to know what the Church teaches and why it teaches it. We need to know that the authority of the Church to teach on God matters like contraception is the same authority as Christ himself.

Finally, we have an example of someone who has grown rich in what matters to God. Anne Wein will be receiving the sacrament of Confirmation as an adult in a few minutes. She has been meeting with me every week the past several months getting to know God and the Church better. She has become more familiar with Church teaching and has entered into prayer. For those who say they don’t have time to do this, please know that Anne has done all of this while working full-time and planning her upcoming wedding! She will now receive the fullness of the faith she received at Baptism and the great treasure of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

When we grow rich in what matters to God, we receive real treasure. Earthly things only are vanity, as we hear in the first reading. The things that matter to God bring us true happiness and fulfillment. They are real and they matter! They are the real treasures in life.