Sunday, September 26, 2010

I am on retreat this week.

26th Sunday - homily

Imagine a new season of “American Idol” is about to begin. There is more than the usual buzz because of one upcoming performer. Musical agents and talent performers have been talking much about a young woman who will be auditioning. They say she is incredible and could be one of the great new signers. Maybe she’ll be one of the greatest singers of all time. Many people are getting excited to listen to her. Many people except the judges of American Idol. There’s J-Lo and Steven Tyler and the others who are not impressed for whatever reason. They are just not into all of the hype surrounding the woman.

Then, she comes on to the show and is absolutely amazing. It is such an incredible performance. It is such an incredible event for all who witness it. People are so taken aback by her singing…by the whole experience. For some, it is a life-changing moment. For those who are present for the show and for those watching on TV, her performance is one of the greatest events they have ever witnessed. Except that the judges are still against her. Maybe it’s jealousy, who knows. But, they are not open to her and to what she brings. Their hearts are not open to her and to the incredible event of her performance. It is baffling to those who are witnessing it. The judges reject her and kick her off the show.

How did this happen? The hearts of the judges were completely closed to this woman for whatever reason. They were closed to the words of the talent evaluators who talked about her so much. Then, they were not open at all to her performance. Everyone else who was at least a little bit open came away with an incredibly positive experience. It shows how closed the hearts of the judges were that they couldn’t appreciate the beauty and power of her performance at all.

This gives us some kind of understanding of what the message of today’s Gospel. Abraham is talking about those who are not open to the most incredible event in the history of the world – the Resurrection. The Resurrection of Christ is the ultimate event for any Christian. It is infinitely more significant than any musical performance, scientific discovery, or dramatic event. People who are not open to the story of Jesus Christ and to the Gospel (particularly, the Resurrection) have really closed hearts. Their hearts are as closed as the judges from Idol. The judges weren’t persuaded by the “scouts”; those who aren’t open to Christ aren’t persuaded by the prophets. Not even God can persuade a closed heart. The Resurrection can’t persuade a closed heart, as Abraham said.

For Catholics, the Mass is the ultimate event. This is where we encounter Christ risen from the dead in the Eucharist. He was dead. Now He is alive! Many Catholics aren’t persuaded by the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in the same way that people aren’t persuaded by the Resurrection..or that the Idol judges weren’t persuaded by the female performer. But, the Eucharist is as real as the Resurrection. It is the same risen Christ. And, this brings us to our knees in repentance. He who rose from the dead now comes to us to ask us to give our hearts to Him. May the Eucharist help us to open our hearts to Christ and give Him our hearts. And, may the way we live persuade others to believe that the Eucharist is real…the Resurrection is real….Jesus Christ is real.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Pope in England: to young people

1) Room blessings for GW students: if you would like to have your room blessed, please email me at

2) Sunday student Masses
Sat 5 pm Vigil Mass - Newman Center
Sun 5:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 10 pm - St Stephen Martyr - 25th and Penn.

Greeting of Pope Benedict XVI
to Young People
Westminster Cathedral
18 September 2010

Dear young friends,

Thank you for your warm welcome! “Heart speaks unto heart” – cor ad cor loquitur – as you know, I chose these words so dear to Cardinal Newman as the theme of my visit. In these few moments that we are together, I wish to speak to you from my own heart, and I ask you to open your hearts to what I have to say.

I ask each of you, first and foremost, to look into your own heart. Think of all the love that your heart was made to receive, and all the love it is meant to give. After all, we were made for love. This is what the Bible means when it says that we are made in the image and likeness of God: we were made to know the God of love, the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to find our supreme fulfilment in that divine love that knows no beginning or end.

We were made to receive love, and we have. Every day we should thank God for the love we have already known, for the love that has made us who we are, the love that has shown us what is truly important in life. We need to thank the Lord for the love we have received from our families, our friends, our teachers, and all those people in our lives who have helped us to realize how precious we are, in their eyes and in the eyes of God.

We were also made to give love, to make love it the inspiration for all we do and the most enduring thing in our lives. At times this seems so natural, especially when we feel the exhilaration of love, when our hearts brim over with generosity, idealism, the desire to help others, to build a better world. But at other times we realize that it is difficult to love; our hearts can easily be hardened by selfishness, envy and pride. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the great Missionary of Charity, reminded us that giving love, pure and generous love, is the fruit of a daily decision. Every day we have to choose to love, and this requires help, the help that comes from Christ, from prayer and from the wisdom found in his word, and from the grace which he bestows on us in the sacraments of his Church.

This is the message I want to share with you today. I ask you to look into your hearts each day to find the source of all true love. Jesus is always there, quietly waiting for us to be still with him and to hear his voice. Deep within your heart, he is calling you to spend time with him in prayer. But this kind of prayer, real prayer, requires discipline; it requires making time for moments of silence every day. Often it means waiting for the Lord to speak. Even amid the “busy-ness” and the stress of our daily lives, we need to make space for silence, because it is in silence that we find God, and in silence that we discover our true self. And in discovering our true self, we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for the building up of his Church and the redemption of our world.

Heart speaks unto heart. With these words from my heart, dear young friends, I assure you of my prayers for you, that your lives will bear abundant fruit for the growth of the civilization of love. I ask you also to pray for me, for my ministry as the Successor of Peter, and for the needs of the Church throughout the world. Upon you, your families and your friends, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Promoting Catholicism on Campus"

Our FOCUS missionaries were featured in an article on Monday in the GW Hatchet, an independent school newspaper.  It's a fair article which is always good.  I could have done without some numbers being discussed, but it's not the end of the world.  In one online discussion, someone complained about the amount we are paying the missionaries and how it could have been used in a better way - for example, feeding the poor in a third world country.  Several students fired back, with one person saying that we are free to use the money as we see fit and that we have chosen to feed the spiritually poor locally.  Wow, good response! 

Here's the article.  All in all, our missionaries got some good press! 

"Media Credit: Dennis Li

The GW Hatchet"

Missionaries from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students pray outside of the Newman Catholic Student Center before embarking to recruit new members Thursday morning. The Newman Center paid $50,000 for FOCUS to come to campus this year.

"Promoting Catholicism on Campus"
by Julie Douglas

Hatchet Reporter

Hippo costumes, freezer pop-eating contests, Chipotle barbecues and the Catholic faith are not readily associated with each other.

But this year at the Newman Catholic Student Center, four young missionaries are marketing Catholicism with Chipotle to promote Mass attendance among Catholic students on campus.

"We want to show students that it is possible to be young, Catholic, fun and devout," said Lauren Clark, a member of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionary organization. "We have been unafraid and outrageous in proving that point."

The organization focuses on national outreach to invite students "into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith," according to the group's website.

Clark and fellow FOCUS missionaries Dan Grossano, Becca Mullan and John Sollee are all recent college graduates who have put their daily lives aside for their commitments to Catholicism.

The Newman Center raised $50,000 to bring FOCUS to GW, the organization's requisite campus fee.

Andrew Buonopane, president of the Newman Center, said the center raised the money with the help of donors from the local Catholic community.

FOCUS' goals are to raise weekly Mass attendance from 120 students to 600 and to increase the number of Bible study groups from four to 10.

One of FOCUS' tactics has been dressing up its representatives as GW's unofficial mascot, the hippo, and standing outside of Thurston Hall, with the point of engaging students.

"[We need to] take a religion that is seen as something that is somber, rigid and strict, and reach out to people to show them that it's really about friendship and faith," she said.

Mullan, another missionary, said the hope is that FOCUS will bring positive attention to the Newman Center as well as bring Catholic students closer to God and to the Roman Catholic Church.

Already, the group has started new Bible study groups for GW athletes and for women involved in Greek-letter life. Attendance at the Newman Center's free Tuesday night dinners has increased attendance from 60 to about 100 participants.

Buonopane said the group has been very successful at relating to students and incorporating them into campus ministry.

"I've met students here, happy students, whose faith plays to who they are," Buonopane said. "Catholicism isn't a chain on them or a security blanket or anything like that, but instead a calling for joy."

"I know that the FOCUS group can send that same message out to other members of the GW Catholic community," he added.

This year, FOCUS placed missionaries at 50 different colleges in 27 states and the District, according to its website. Members train for five weeks in order to prepare for missionary life. FOCUS requires a two-year commitment from missionaries, which does not have to be served at the same school. They are also asked to refrain from romantic activities for the first year they are part of the organization, including dating, in order to be fully available to students.

"I had to decide between being an investment banker and earning $60,000 this year or joining FOCUS," Sollee said. "I have never been more at peace with my decision to join this group. Being here gives me such a strong sense of purpose."

He said that GW students have been open to the group and interested in what it has to say.

"GW students, although not all Catholic, have been passionate about religion in general," Sollee said. "People here are willing to have conversations and are open to dialogue and discussion about faith."

Monday, September 20, 2010

25th Sunday - homily

When I was out of the seminary, I was the sales manager for my brother’s construction company. It was a cool job. The thing is that when I started, I really had no idea about sales. I had to attend seminars and do all kinds of reading. One of the main points was to make yourself stand out as a salesman so that people would remember you and what you were selling. So, in order to be unique, I started changing my voicemail greeting every week. They were memorable, to say the least. One week’s message was, “Hi, this is Greg with Imperial Stone Paving. I’m sorry I missed your call, but I am in the Middle East right now searching for Osama bin Laden. Please leave a message.” People were like, ‘what the?’. Another week it was, “I’m sorry I missed your call. I am on the other line talking to the US Olympic Committee trying to finalize and realize my dream of being an Olympic figure skater.” I went to a general contractor’s office one time and when they heard who I was they said that they would call my voice mails just to hear the new message. Sales tripled in the first year!

It was a lot of hard work (and corny messages) to make honest wealth for the company and myself. It was even harder competing against dishonest contractors. There was one job we bid on that was high-profile and lucrative. We submitted our very competitive bid which we knew was the best bid. Another paving contractor got the job even though their bid was incomplete. It turned out they had an in with the owner. The whole job was this way – it was corrupt, illegal, and dishonest with all kinds of kickbacks and favors.

We all have a choice in how we acquire wealth – we can do it the hard way and do it honestly or the easy way through dishonesty. Professional wealth can be achieved through dishonesty like the construction example or those from the first reading who fixed scales for cheating. College students know they can acquire academic wealth through cheating or they can gut it out and get honest grades and honors. And then, there is social or personal wealth which I’d like to focus on. Accumulating honest wealth personally means being the person who you are. You are simply yourself with people socially. Dishonest personal wealth means being a fake or a phony to people; in other words, being someone you’re not. How many of us said when we were young things like, “I’ll never get into drugs or alcohol”. Or, “I’m waiting ‘til I’m married to have sex”.

What happened? Well, we went to college (or high school). Peer pressure, or pressure from the “children of the world” (as Jesus puts it in today’s Gospel – Lk 16:1-13), has worn us down. Little by little over time we have given into things we used to see as wrong. They don’t seem like big deals anymore to us but they are. The people in the construction job might not have thought it was that big of a deal to be involved in such illegal and dishonest activity. The people in the first reading might not have thought it was that big of a deal to trample all over the poor or to cheat in their wage-earning. I have worked with many young people when they realize that what they have been doing is wrong. They get to the point late in high school or college when they see that they have become someone they are not and they hate it. They have gotten away from who they are and hate who they have become.

It is an uphill battle to be yourself in college. It’s like going up a really steep hill or like being in the ocean and going against a really strong undercurrent. That hill and that undercurrent are the children of the world. It’s not just sheer pressure, it’s really smart pressure. The Lord says that “the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light”. Last year, in Thurston Hall, they had buckets of candy with condoms in them. That is brilliant. Sick and twisted, but brilliant. Stuff like this didn’t happen years ago. I went to get my haircut in a local barber shop recently wearing my clerics and was having a good experience until I went to pay. There were a stack of Playboy magazines on the rack. I asked the owner, “what’s up with this?” He and the other men laughed at me as I walked out. Our approach to pornography, contraception, abortion, etc. has changed. As a society and as individuals, we have let our consciences be diminished. We don’t see these things as evil and dishonest to the human person anymore. My job is to call our evil and dishonesty for what it is. My job is to remind you to stay true to who you are and live the truth.

Finally, whenever we come here to Mass and the Eucharist, we are saying who we really are. We are children of light and Christ is our master, especially in the Eucharist. This is who we are and this is where we want to be – with Christ. One important point to remember is that the more we know Christ, the more we know ourselves. The more we go away from Christ, the more we go away from who we are. We come here to be who we are. The world hates that we come here every week. You might experience this with your roommates, friends, or family. “Or, you’re one of those!” The children of the world hate sit but God loves it. And, He loves who you are. So, do I! I hope and pray that each one of you knows in your heart two very important things: one, you are good, and two, you are loved.

Friday, September 17, 2010

GW Catholics in the news!

DC ‘Hood vs. St Bartholomew parish, Bethesda, tonight, 7:30 pm. The (basketball) game will be played at St Bart's gym.  Go ‘Hood!!


GW Catholics are in the news! Here is an article from yesterday’s Catholic Standard, the Catholic newspaper in Washington:

Archbishop encourages GWU students to invite friends back to Church

By Moira McLaughlin
Special to the Catholic Standard

Emphasizing his message of the New Evangelization that he wrote about in his recent pastoral letter, Archbishop Donald Wuerl concelebrated Mass Sept. 12 for a church full of George Washington University students at St. Stephen Martyr parish in Northwest Washington.

“We all know people who have drifted away…our responsibility, our task is to invite them to enjoy again the embrace of their Father,” the archbishop said in his homily after the Gospel reading of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son.

The archbishop told the students about being stopped in airports by non-practicing Catholics curious about the faith.

At a ticket counter in the airport, one man told him that he used to be a Catholic, but wasn’t sure what happened.

“All you have to do is next Sunday make your way to Church,” he told the man. To the students, he said, “Sometimes, people just need to be asked.”

Coming to church helps Catholics live with a purpose and a goal, the archbishop noted, and it helps answer the big questions. Jesus’ first disciple were excited by this and so invited others to join them, he said. His new pastoral letter, Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision, was issued on Sept. 9.


“Each one of us is called to be not only disciples who have heard the message, but each one of us is called to be a witness,”, he said and challenged the congregation, saying, “Some have drifted away, and it’s up to you and me to bring them back.”

At the end of Mass, the archbishop spoke to the students again. He recalled Pope Benedict XVI’s message when he visited Washington in 2008. The pope said that secularism, materialism, and individualism – the idea that one can make it alone – are hurdles that people face, distractions that can keep them from Christ.

But, Archbishop Wuerl continued, “We walk through this life knowing there’s more to it.” The archbishop said that the pope encouraged Catholics to help others meet Jesus. The theme of the papal visit was, “Christ Our Hope,” and the pope said that “Those who have hope, must live different lives.”

After Mass, the archbishop joined students for a reception at the parish, Some George Washington students interviewed later said they appreciated his visit with them, and they took his message to heart, thinking about how they might be more vocal about their faith.

Sharing the Faith

Freshmen Amanda Pasek said she would invite a friend to Mass with her next time. Junior Jared MacDonald pondered the different ways he might speak about his faith to someone who might ask. Senior Elizabeth Janus recalled being a little scared to talk to a roommate last fall who questioned her weekly Mass attendance. She feels she would be more comfortable with the conversations now.

According to sophomore Damian Legacy, who is in formation to become a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross, the Catholic movement is growing on the G.W. campus…

Just as the archbishop spoke of the excitement of the first Catholics, so too did Legacy talk about that same excitement in the Catholics at that university.

“We have a small group of people, but when we get excited, that grows.” Legacy noted the increase of students attending Tuesday night Mass and dinner this year from last year. “When you’re asked about what you’re doing, that attracts attention,” he said. “We’re seeing the work we’re doing paying off,”, he said.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Does God have a sense of humor?

Tonight I am leading a discussion with a group of our students, “Does God have a sense of humor?” This is actually a topic that was selected by the students; it is our first meeting this year after meeting several times last semester. Most of us believers would answer yes (some theologians have said no in the sense that we can’t move God to laugh) based on our experiences. I have plenty of anecdotes and stories that have continuously shown me God’s great sense of humor and plan on using a few tonight.

There are many ways to define humor. Humor can be wit, sarcasm, irony, poking fun at ourselves or others, etc. One of the best ways to describe humor, especially in the Christian sense, comes through humility: not taking ourselves so seriously. So, a humble person could have a great sense of humor without much wit. Conversely, a proud person with all kinds of one-liners could have a poor sense of humor. Father Daniel Lord, S.J., once prayed, “Let me have too deep a sense of humor ever to be proud. Let me know my absurdity before I act absurdly. Let me realize that when I am humble I am most human, most truthful, and most worthy of your consideration.”

The best way to know if God has a sense of humor is to go the source: Divine Revelation. In Scripture, we read that “the one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord derides them” (Psalm 2:4) and “You, Lord, laugh at them; you deride all the nations” (Ps 39:9). I know God has had a good time laughing at some of my nonsense over the years; it’s been that way with mankind since the beginning. Mother Teresa used to say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”.

God showed some humor with Job as narrated by an online author: 

"Job became quite sarcastic after his life became miserable and the Book of Job is replete with sarcastic remarks. Job’s explanation regarding the righteous person that suffers was (Job 12:4): 'The completely righteous man is a laughingstock.' Job demanded to confront God and know the reason for all his suffering. Job’s wish was granted, and God said to him (Job 38:4): 'Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?' Or, in other words, when you create your own world, then you can tell me how to run mine."

The Cross of Jesus Christ is the sign of many things. It is the sign of God’s love, mercy, generosity, kindness, etc. It is also the sign of God’s sense of humor. Talk about not taking yourself so seriously! He is God…on a Cross! He is stripped, beaten, and bruised. It is the ultimate sign of humility…the ultimate sign of humor. Specifically, though, Jesus had some good one-liners. They may not fall into the “LOL” (Laughing Out Loud) category, but they show that he was fun. In Lk 24, he’s walking along with two disciples on the road to Emmaus after the Resurrection. He asks them what they are discussing. They replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” His comeback: “what sort of things?” They were talking about him! He obviously knew that and was being ironic. I wonder if they got that one later on.

Here is a nice online description of the story in Mark 7 in which Jesus enjoys the humor of a woman:

"Picture the setting for Jesus' quick repartee with the Syro-phoenician woman who interrupted his meal (Mark 7). He blends ethnic humor and a playful challenge to this Gentile kneeling at his feet. She rolls with his humor (yes, humor can be present amid serious matters), and as we say today she 'flipped it back at him.':

"For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth (a Gentile or non-Israelite), and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

"But Jesus said to her, 'Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.'

"And she answered and said to Him, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.'

"Then He said to her, 'For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.'” (Mark 7:25-29, NKJV)

Jesus must have smiled when he immediately granted her request."

If Revelation does not convince us that God has a sense of humor, then a mirror can. Look at us! We see and hear humor every day. We do not doubt for a second that human beings can have a sense of humor. Where did we get it? From Almighty God. We are made in His image and likeness. We reflect God’s image…His beauty, intelligence, and yes, humor. Many of the saints were very funny and enjoyed practical jokes. St. Augustine’s classic line shows his wit: “Lord, give me chastity, but not right now”. St Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Summa, “It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes."

One of the funnier lines from people in Scripture comes at Pentecost. The Apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke with tongues of fire in several different languages about Jesus. The people who heard this assumed that they were drunk. Peter replied, “It is only nine o’clock in the morning” (Acts 2:15). Good timing on the part of the Holy Spirit (as with most humor); a few hours later in the day and we might not have the Church we have.

Finally, here’s another take on humor from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

We say a person has a "sense of humor" if he can "see through things"... God made the world with a "sense of humor," in the sense that we were to see Him through His creation: to see His Power in the mountains, His Beauty in the sunset, His Wisdom in a snowflake, His Love in the human heart. Poets have inherited this sense of humor for, like Thompson, they can look at the sun and see in it the Host that is raised in Benediction over the world, and at night set in the Flaming Monstrance of the west. Saints must have a sense of humor, so as to be able to see a resurrection through the trials and sorrows of life.

Man loses his sense of humor through sin. He begins to take money seriously, flesh seriously, business seriously, food seriously. These have no other purpose than just to satisfy him. Now Christmas Day was the restoration of humor, and those who displayed it most were the shepherds and the wise men. They came to this little Babe and "saw through Him" - God Himself. His Flesh was the Sacrament of His Divinity. When the Babe grew, He taught parables in or with a sense of Divine Humor. Salt and camels, sheep and goats, patches on old clothing, wine in old bottles, businessmen, traders, were not to be taken seriously. All were telltale of something else. Christmas then is a romance and a joy only to those who have a sense of humor, whose vision is not opaque when they look at a Babe, but can see through Him all the problems of life answered in the vision of God Who appeared as a Man. They who pass through this life with that sense of humor, which is faith, will one day be rewarded by the one thing that will make heaven Heaven - His Smile.

Monday, September 13, 2010

24th Sunday - homily

A recent survey found that “approximately one-third of all respondents who say they were raised Catholic no longer describe themselves as Catholic. This means that roughly 10% of all Americans are former Catholics”. Wow. That’s very sad. There are many reasons why so many people have left the Church. One underlying point is that almost every single one of these people is like St. Paul – at least, how he used to be: in ignorance. They really don’t know what the Church is all about; if they did, they were never leave. And, like St. Paul, they need to be mercifully treated. I don’t blame them exclusively. In fact, the Church has to do a better job of teaching people what it means to be Catholic. It has to do a much better job of showing Jesus Christ to people. This is exactly what the “New Evangelization” of the Church is all about.

The New Evangelization means reaching out to people, especially those who have left the Church, and showing them Christ. In my opinion, this primarily means leading them to the Eucharist. There was a study done years ago that found that 70% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is only a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ. Again, people don’t believe the teaching because they don’t know the teaching. The Church needs to do a better job of teaching that the Eucharist is truly and really the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The New Evangelization involves teaching and showing the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The other primary staple of the New Evangelization should be Confession. Once someone begins to see that Christ is real in the Eucharist, then he or she will see that He is real in the Confession. This is how it happened for me. I learned that Christ is really present in the Eucharist and then realized that he is present in the confessional (and all the sacraments). It’s really Him forgiving sins through the priest. The Eucharist and Confession are real! If Catholics really knew this, they would never leave the Church.

Jesus helps us to see that Confession is real with tonight’s parable, the Prodigal Son. This parable is often used to explain the sacrament of Confession. The son is each one of us; the father is God the Father. We can all relate in some way to the son. He leaves home with his inheritance and probably thought, ‘I am free! I can do whatever I want now!’ And, this is what he did. He got into all kinds of bad stuff – a “life of dissipation”, Scripture says. This can be translated as “debauchery”, a more familiar word to college students. He was partying it up, getting hammered and hanging out with prostitutes.

He represents college students, not just with drinking or getting high, but with all kinds of stuff that are going on on this campus: random hooking up, cutting, skipping Mass, taking God’s name in vain and just throwing His sacred name all over the place, pornography, masturbation, gossip, and all kinds of stuff. He got in way deep with this and then basically realized, “this stinks. The swine are living better than I am’. This type of living brought him to his knees. We might call this rock bottom. He realized that he wasn’t happy and that he screwed up. He needed to return to his father.

When he returned, his father didn’t scream at him or ask him where he had been. After all of this, the father embraced him, kissed him, and threw him a big party. This is the image of God the Father any time one of us returns to Him…any time one of us asks for mercy…any time one of us goes to Confession. God the Father always offers mercy to us. And, that is what I offer you in Confession. No matter what kind of debauchery you’ve been in or how long you’ve been in it, I will offer you mercy in Confession. It is the mercy of the Father that I offer you.

This is what the Church is offering in the New Evangelization. It is bringing people to the mercy of Christ and bringing the mercy of Christ to people. When I evangelize about God’s Mercy, especially through Confession, I refer to this Gospel. Three times we heard that there is great rejoicing in Heaven when a sinner repents. So, when someone returns to Confession after being away for a while or for something big, there is a great party in Heaven! It is like the joy or finding a lost coin, a lost sheep, or lost son. In the New Evangelization, the Church is looking for lost Catholics in much the same way as Jesus presents in these three images.

Finally, the centerpiece of the New Evangelization is the Eucharist. This is where it all starts. You all can be a big part of the New Evangelization simply by inviting someone to be your “Mass buddy”. This is a huge part of bringing people to Christ. And, you never know what can happen when they come here. IT could happen for them what happened to me when I was 21 – that was the first time I understood that “this is my body” means this is my body. I finally learned that the Eucharist is real. I finally learned that Christ is real…not just up in Heaven…but real to me here and now. We are all invited to bring people to experience Christ’s reality. We are all invited to bring people to Jesus and Jesus to people.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Archbishop Wuerl at GW this Sunday!!

Archbishop Wuerl will celebrate the 7:30 student Mass for GW Catholics this Sunday at St. Stephen's Church (25th and Penn.).  We are asking all GW Catholics to invite 3 students to the Mass.  Pizza to follow in the Parish Hall.

His Excellency has published a pastoral letter on the "New Evangelization".  Here is an overview from  To view the letter in full, please click on today's title.


All of us know someone - a friend, family member, colleague or neighbor - who used to be a practicing Catholic, but isn’t any more. For some who initially heard the incredible proclamation of Christ alive in the Church, the message has become stale. The promises seem empty or unconnected to their busy lives today. So, what is our response?

A new pastoral letter by Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision, invites Catholics to renew and reinvigorate their own faith and then to invite others whose faith has grown stale to reconnect and rediscover Christ. Pope Benedict XVI calls this invitation a “reproposing” of our faith and the “New Evangelization.”

The New Evangelization is not a program. It is an outlook on life and a personal invitation to rediscover Christ and his message. In his pastoral letter, Archbishop Wuerl asks that Catholics reflect together on how we can renew the Gospel message and Christ’s love, first in our own hearts and then, having grown in our faith, by inviting others to hear once again, maybe all over again for the first time, the exciting invitation of Jesus: “Come, follow me.”

This can start with something as simple as participating more in the sacraments, a direct conversation about Catholicism, offering to pray for someone or inviting a friend to Bible study or Mass. For parishes, it means looking at all that they do through a new lens, a self assessment of the parish’s vitality in the areas of worship, education, service, community and administration. For the archdiocese, it means reaching out in new ways, such as a redesigned website to better engage people with the Church, a new email system to reach parishioners directly, and consideration of every program through the lens of the New Evangelization.

This is a fresh moment for the Church because it is a new moment in our world. In an increasingly secular and materialistic society, what gives true and lasting meaning and joy is Christ and his message. From the renewal of faith by individual Catholics to their invitation to others to share in the joy and excitement of Christ and his Church comes the possibility of a world transformed.

The pastoral letter begins with observations on the evangelizing mission of the Church; explores how we can understand the New Evangelization as an invitation to repropose the Gospel of Christ and an encounter with him; considers what it will actually mean for us here in the Church of Washington; and what our involvement in it means for our personal renewal, vitality of our parish family and regeneration of our society.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Getting into FOCUS

Happy Birthday, Mary! Today is the feast of the birth of Mary, the mother of our Savior. St Andrew of Crete once said, “Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed, and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages”. Today’s feast also helps us to enter into the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8. For some reason, many Catholics think that Dec. 8 celebrates the conception of Jesus. But, it honors the conception of Mary, exactly nine months ago today. Jesus’s conception is celebrated on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, which is nine months before Christmas.

Tuesday nights are becoming one of my favorites at the Newman Center. We started with Mass and, again, had a large number of students. The first two Tuesday evening Masses have averaged about 45 students, thanks be to God. I could get used to that! Then, about 70 students were here for our weekly Tuesday dinner. It was another quality home-cooked meal (done by our students). After dinner, the FOCUS missionaries led a discussion about faith in college which evoked quality comments from students, including several freshmen.

One of the missionaries, Dan, began the discussion with a talk about his own life of faith growing up and during college. It set a solid tone for others to ponder and reflect on where they are and have been in their faith. One of the things that struck me while Dan was speaking was the reason we were all together last night in the discussion. He was speaking to a room of virtual strangers, sort of bearing his soul in regards to his faith. He didn’t know any of us here at GW a month ago and now he is speaking to us as if he’s known us for a long time. It hit me that he came to GW without family or friends…almost all alone.

This is true of all the FOCUS missionaries. They just met a couple of months ago and just met us a few weeks ago. They have left everything to come here – family, friends, career, relationships (at least in the first year), etc. Why? What is the purpose of all of this? Why was Dan bearing his soul to a room of strangers, for all intents and purposes? What brought him and the others to GW? Jesus Christ. They have all left everything behind for Christ. They have come here to bring Christ to GW students and me. It is such a powerful witness that hit me last night and will hit our students this year.

FOCUS is obviously into our students and our students are starting to get into FOCUS! At our Opening BBQ , about 450 students filled out FOCUS / Newman Center forms. Almost half of them said that they are interested in Bible Studies and discussions (that FOCUS offers). Wow! Pray God, they will respond when the missionaries invite them individually to the groups. That’s when the students will see what I saw last night, if they haven’t already. And that is, they will see Christ. The main purpose of FOCUS, the main reason I brought them here, is to engage college students in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Before, during, and after all of the study of Scripture and teaching of the Church, the witness of the missionaries is what shows the students Christ. It was a powerful moment for me last night and will be for our students to see that these bright, talented, and dynamic young men and women have sold everything to follow Jesus and to bring Him to others.

Monday, September 06, 2010

23rd Sunday - homily

Imagine if God spoke to you in your dorm or home tonight and said, “sell everything you have and follow me”. What would you do? What would you think? Something very close to this happened to a friend of mine. He was looking for God to speak to him, and so he decided to play “Bible Bingo”. This is where someone flips through the Bible and lands their finger on Scripture passages or verses with the hope of a message from God. Now, this is not an advisable way to read Scripture! But, my buddy did this and the first line he came across was, “sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mt 19:21). He believed God was speaking to him, so he sold everything he had and gave it to the poor. He was left behind much wealth and success to follow Jesus. His name is Saint Francis of Assisi and he became one of the greatest followers of Jesus and lovers of poverty of all time.

God has spoken to us tonight, too. Jesus says in tonight’s Gospel to you and to me, “renounce your possessions”. We think he means all of our “stuff” – our extra clothes or books, gadgets like ipods or cell phones,etc. It may mean material possessions. It also means personal possessions. The Lord makes this clear when he says to “hate” father and mother, wife and children…even our own lives. The better translation is to “love less”. If we cannot love all the people and things in our lives less than God, then we can’t be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We are to love God more than anything…more than any of our possessions.

In today’s Gospel, then, possessions refer to those things that we love more than God. For college students, this could be a boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, athletics, academics, wealth, success, fame, image, etc. Jesus is saying to you tonight: “you have a choice to make this year: to follow me or not. Will you be a follower of mine? Will you renounce your possessions and love me more than anyone or anything? Will you live as a Catholic this year?” Before anything else, you are Catholic. We are disciples of Jesus Christ. That is first and foremost. After that, we are the sons or daughters of our parents, a major in political science or whatever, a member of a fraternity or sorority…we are Catholic first.

To be a Catholic disciple of Jesus Christ starts right here at Mass. It is awesome to see college students choosing Christ over everything else for an hour on Sunday evenings. It is the best way to renounce possessions and to put Jesus first! Keep it up…every Sunday. Not just because you have to, but because you are choosing it. You are saying that Jesus, especially in the Eucharist, comes first. This starts our week. I have often said that the Eucharist is C.O.O.L. - the center of our lives. There is no person or thing that is more important than the Eucharist. If you compare all of our “possessions” to the Eucharist, then you see there is no comparison. Jesus died for you and me; the Eucharist is the living memorial of His sacrifice. You can’t say that about any other thing of this world. Also, the Eucharist is God’s love in the flesh. God’s love is everlasting. One thing we learn about possessions in today’s Gospel is that they don’t last; they are not perfect. God’s love does last and is perfect. He will always love us and never let us down.

So, the general way for us as Catholics to put Christ first is Sunday Mass. Then, during the week, you students can get involved at the Newman Center through daily Mass, Adoration, Confession, Bible studies and discussions, Tuesday dinners, retreats, etc. It takes courage and some renouncement of your image to do this. Speaking of retreats, next weekend is our Freshmen Retreat. You freshmen who haven’t signed up and have put other things ahead of it should sign up by Tuesday. It’s a great way to put Christ first. And, it will be a lot of fun – white water rafting! For all of you, an excellent challenge to renounce your possessions is by wearing the GW Catholic t-shirts we gave you yesterday at the Opening BBQ. These shirts are bold. They say who we are – the Crucifix and Eucharist on the front and “To Jesus Through Mary” on the back. It takes a lot of courage to wear these on campus. It’s a simple (and tough) way to live out this Gospel ; you will be putting your faith in Christ ahead of your own image. Don’t be afraid to say you are a Catholic…it’s a great witness!

Finally, God asks us to love Him more than anything because He loves us more than anything. He has infinite love for each and every one of you. His love for you does not end! My purpose and the purpose of the FOCUS missionaries this year is to show you God’s infinite love. We won’t do it perfectly, but we will give you all that we have. My door is open to you 24/7. I am always open to you for confession, spiritual guidance or direction, or just to talk when you have a problem or question. May you know God’s love through us and each other this year. May you know His love for you this week. May you know God’s love for this night.

Friday, September 03, 2010

(St. Gregory the) Great day!

1) Opening BBQ, tomorrow (Sept 4), 12 noon – 4 pm, Newman Center.
FREE Chipotle and Coldstone for all GW students!!
Also, sign-ups for Freshmen Retreat, FOCUS, RCIA, Knights of Columbus, and Catholic Daughters

2) Opening student Masses – Sun, Sept 5, 5:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 10 pm, St Stephen’s Church (25th St. and Penn. Ave.)

“Great day!” This is what an athlete at Mount St. Mary’s and good friend of mine would say every day at practice. I say it today. Great day!! It’s my feast day and my Mom’s birthday. Please say a prayer for us today. My parents are way cool for giving me a patron saint with “The Great” after his name. Does your patron saint have this title?? (only if you're Leo or…hmmm, who else…John Paul??)

Here are some interesting excerpts from an article found on about the heroic life of Pope St. Gregory. To view it in full, please click on today’s title.

St. Gregory the Great, pray for us!

Pope Saint Gregory the Great not only saved the Church, in times so frightful that the men who lived in them were sure that the end of the world was come, but he founded the great civilization which has lasted down to our day and of which we are part, Western Civilization. All alone, in the midst of famine and pestilence, floods and earthquakes, endangered by Greeks and barbarians alike, and abandoned by the Emperor, Pope Gregory, frail and ailing in body but strong and undaunted in spirit, succored and saved his people, his city, his country, and the whole of Christendom…

The custom of saying “God bless you” when someone has sneezed, and the making of the Sign of the Cross on the mouths of those who yawn, goes back to the days of Saint Gregory and the Roman plague. The dread disease always ended in a spasm of sneezing or yawning, and the holy Pontiff ordered that “God bless you” should be said to those who sneeze, and the blessing of the Sign of the Cross should be put on the mouths of those who yawned…

Saint Gregory was, above all else, a vigilant guardian of the Church’s doctrine, always the mark of a holy Pope. He ordained, early in his pontificate that the first four Ecumenical Councils of the Church should be treated with the respect given to the four Gospels. He worked unceasingly to stamp out heresy. He ordered that at the beginning of Lent the blessed ashes should be placed on the foreheads of the faithful, instead of upon only the head of the Pope — as had been the custom up to that time — and that the priest should repeat to each one, “Remember, man, that dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”..

There has been a revival also in our day of the beautifully reverent “Gregorian Chant,” named in honor of Saint Gregory’s patient labor in restoring the ancient chant of the Church and in setting down the rules to be followed so that Church music might more perfectly fulfill its function. Pope Gregory held that the place of Church music was a subordinate one. It should never provide, he said, anything more than a background for the sacred reenactment of Calvary. It should never draw attention to itself, and away from the Holy sacrifice of the Mass. It should, while disposing the minds of the faithful to profound reverence of God, and making more ardent the love of their hearts for Him, never become an end in itself…

“Since,” the Pope wrote Theodelinda, “since, then, by my own public profession you know the entireness of our belief, it is fitting that you have no further scruple concerning the Church of Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles. But persist in the true Faith, and ground your life on the rock of the Church, that is, in his confession: lest your many tears and your good works avail nothing, if they be separated from the true Faith. For as branches wither without a root, so works, however good they seem, are nothing if separated from the solidity of the Faith.”

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"The strongest influence upon young people is the Eucharist"

"Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it".  Last night, we had about 50 students participate in our first Tuesday night Mass.  It was just about standing-room only in our chapel.  I saw the crowd before Mass and said, "you all know it's not Sunday, right?"  Then, about 100 students came for dinner.  20 large pizzas were demolished in 15 minutes.  God is good!  Having too many people for our facilities, staff, supplies, and budget are good problems to have.  God will provide.  Any help or suggestions that bloggers can offer will be much appreciated!

Speaking of Newman Centers, the following are excerpts from an interview by with Father Drew Morgan, an Oratorian priest who served for 15 years at a highly reputable Newman Center in the U.S. and dossier for Cardinal John Henry Newman’s beatification. To view the interview in full, please click on today’s title.

ZENIT: Tell us about the history and basic role of the Newman Center.

Father Morgan: According to John Evans, author of a history of the Newman Clubs titled "The Newman Movement": "Reaction to supposed anti-Catholicism certainly accounted for the origin of the first Catholic student organization in secular higher education."

The very first meeting of such a “club” was on Thanksgiving Day, 1883, in Madison, Wisconsin, where Catholic students were enjoying the holiday at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Melvin, who lived across the street from the University of Wisconsin. In the course of the evening, one of the students mentioned that a professor had slandered the Catholic Church in his treatment of “medieval institutions.” His fellow Catholic students began a discussion as to whether such discourse was, indeed, slanderous, or appropriate, given the state of the Church in that period of history.

The students continued to meet at this home for further discussion and fellowship, constituting the beginning of the “Melvin Club.” It was the first organized manifestation of Catholic students coming together on a secular college campus.

One of the students who participated in the meetings of the Melvin Club was Timothy Harrington. He eventually found his way to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). During a semester break, Harrington reread Newman’s autobiography, "Apologia pro Vita Sua." Inspired by Newman’s ability to defend the faith and his ideas about university education for Catholic students, Harrington drew on his experience in Wisconsin and initiated the first “Newman Club.” It followed a similar format, incorporating social activities, discussions on the faith, and mutual support for Catholic students in a frequently hostile academic environment. The meetings often became occasions for dating and debating, essentially providing a Catholic culture in a secular environment…

Today, Newman Clubs or “Centers” can be found on almost every secular college campus in the United States, although one of the earliest clubs was at the University of Toronto in Canada. Frequently, and unfortunately, the Newman name is no longer tied to this ministry and the work is identified as “campus ministry.” Nevertheless, the mission can be traced to the Newman Club movement…

ZENIT: College life in the United States can be such a testing ground -- a time either for students to grow in their faith, or possibly to abandon it altogether. What are the challenges in ministering to college students, given the particular environment surrounding them? And what are the keys to success?

Father Morgan: This is true for Catholic students whether they are attending a secular or a Catholic institution. Unfortunately, college life reflects the standard of our contemporary culture, with all of its lures of self-indulgence found in consumerism, individualism and hedonism. The work of the Church is to provide a counter-culture. The standard of Christ contradicts these influences, challenging the faithful to embrace charity, community and self-control.

We have found that the strongest influence upon young people is the Eucharist. A spirituality that draws them to an intimate communion with Christ, whether that is through Eucharistic Adoration, daily Mass, or participation in the community’s daily prayer, is the best defense against losing one’s faith. A corollary to this is the support that the student would receive from ministers and fellow Catholics who are also struggling, but successfully, to maintain their life of faith. Newman Centers are intended to be the locus for this work of the Church.

ZENIT: How do you envision the student’s relationship to the Newman center? Is it a type of parish, a place to attend Sunday Mass? A Christ-centered home away from home?

Father Morgan: Interestingly, Newman ministry was originally a diocesan endeavor. The priest whose parish was located near a secular institution became the de facto Newman chaplain. On Catholic campuses, the religious order would provide campus ministry through the priests, brothers and sisters who administered their own institution of higher learning. The first Newman centers were a significant dimension of the local parish, where the students would often dominate the congregation during the semesters. It was their parish home-away-from-home. The degree to which the priest could become occupied with the students’ concerns would dictate the success of that ministry.

When the presence of American Catholics on the campuses increased so dramatically, the dioceses would often assign a priest in a separate facility, specifically designed for the needs of the students and thereby effectively establish a new community of faith centered on college life. Today, there is a growing interest in building Newman student housing, such as has been accomplished at the University of Illinois.

This new vision of building Catholic student residences alongside the Newman Center fulfills Newman’s original intention of providing a Catholic community and even a Catholic collegium at the heart of a secular college campus, as he desired to have built at Oxford.

ZENIT: Can a Newman Center promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, and if so, how is that done and with what success?

Father Morgan: Any ministry that is faithful to the teachings of the Gospel by its very nature will promote vocations. Newman Centers have a wonderful opportunity to foster vocations because we are ministering to young adults at an important time in their spiritual formation that often includes vocation discernment. Many students bring their questions regarding religious vocation to the Newman ministers and it is important for the minister to be prepared to journey with them in that process.

However, this is also true of the discernment of another great sacrament in our faith, holy matrimony. Many students find their spouses at Newman Centers. This is, in a sense, a special role that the Newman ministry provides. Whether it is a religious or married vocation, this discernment process done at this time in the students’ lives will change them forever. We have been fortunate over the years to have many young men and women enter the priesthood and the consecrated life, but we have also performed many weddings and baptisms!