Monday, November 29, 2010

1st Sunday of Advent - homily

You all begin to prepare for your final exams. I remember a final in high school that I didn’t prepare well for. It was pre-calculus in second semester of senior year. I slumped all semester (well, really, all year). I had to stay up the night before the exam learning a whole semester of material in one night. And, I needed to do really well on the final just to pass the class and graduate! At about 5 in the morning, I decided to get a little sleep with the hope of reviewing the material in time for the exam at 10:45 am. When I woke up, it was 10:53. D’oh! I freaked out. I threw on some clothes and raced down to school which was 30 minutes away. They wouldn’t let me take the exam because I was too late. The Dean of Students, who I knew well, even said, “I recommend that you fail the class and don’t graduate”. What?! Again, freaking out. I had to pull some serious strings just to take the exam just before graduation. At graduation, when I received my diploma, I actually had to look inside to make sure the diploma was there (instead of a “see you in summer school note”). It was there, so I gave a thumbs-up to my family who probably shook their heads in shame.

Hopefully, our students will be more prepared for their exams than I was for that one. In Advent, all of us are reminded that we are preparing for a BIG final exam. It is the biggest final of our lives: the coming of Christ…Judgment. And, oh yeah, it’s a pop final…a pop quiz. Jesus says it will come at “an hour you do not expect”. So, we always need to be preparing…we always need to be ready. We’re all preparing for a final exam, so we’re all taking a course together. It’s a course that I will call, “Life 101”. The course meets every Sunday here at Mass, as you know. The Teacher has told us we have to be here if we want to pass the course. He says, “Keep holy the Sabbath” and commands us to receive the Eucharist when we do. In John 6, He basically says that if we want to pass the course, we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

Our syllabus is big – it is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It’s probably the biggest syllabus you’ll ever see. Some people have dropped the class (i.e., left the Church) after seeing the syllabus and they are in trouble. Don’t be intimidated by it; if you need help in using it, I am always available. Like any syllabus, it’s a great guide in passing the class. The Teacher has told us that we not only need to know what it is in the syllabus, we need to believe and follow all of the main teachings in it. There is some beautiful stuff in it. Check it out!

Our required text is the Holy Bible. It is a unique “textbook” in that you can communicate with the Teacher when you read it. The students who do the best in the class are those who pray over Scripture. They talk to by opening the Bible and listen to Him in His Word. This leads them to do the lab work which is required. There is a lot of lab work to pass the class. In fact, most of the class is work done in the laboratory of the world. Lab work is described in the required reading as well as the syllabus and includes living out the traditions and devotions of our faith, receiving the sacraments, living the virtues, evangelizing, caring for the poor and those in need, doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy, etc. It’s a big part of our grade!

We also have some supplemental readings – handouts, articles, etc. These would include writings of the saints, the Fathers of the Church, as well as modern theologians writing on modern issues. We have a bunch of handouts at the back of Church as you leave tonight ranging from contraception to living simply. Again, some great stuff. Check it out.

Now, some people are not preparing for our final because they think that the Teacher is such an easy grader. They think that, because He is all merciful and all-loving, everyone passes Life 101. Well, He is all merciful and all-loving, but He just told us in today’s Gospel that 50% of the people fail the class! “One will be taken, one will be left. Therefore, stay awake!”, He says. We need to prepare well. Others are preparing for Judgment, but are not preparing well. They only do the bare minimum and simply just want to pass the final exam. Kinda like me with my pre-calculus final. Do not be like me and do not be like them! Prepare for Life 101’s exam in the same way that you prepare for your exams in the university. At GW, you do not just do the minimum in hopes of merely passing. You do your absolute best and try to get the best grade you can. You try to excel!

Some of you are doing this with Life 101. You are doing more than the bare minimum. You are digging in and trying to excel. For example, some of you are digging in with tonight’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. You are trying to throw off the works of darkness – lust, promiscuity, drunkenness, etc. – and making nor provisions for the desires of the flesh. You are trying to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and live chastity. You are coming to see the Teacher in his office hours by going to Confession and spiritual direction. You are doing your best in preparing for the biggest final of your life, the Coming of Jesus Christ. This is the model for all of us in Life 101 and in Advent.

Finally, the questions for each one of us is, in the class of Life 101, what grade are you aiming for? Are you aiming just for a passing grade or do you want to get the best grade you can? What kind of Advent are you aiming for? Will you do the bare minimum or try to excel? Suggestions on how to make a good Advent include reading some of the syllabus (we can help you buy one if you don’t have one), praying over the required text (maybe you can read one of the Gospels during Advent), taking and perusing the handouts at the back of Church, and seeing the Teacher in his office hours by going to Confession. With God’s help, if we excel in Advent and we excel in Life 101, then we will hear the words of the Lord at Christmas and at Judgment, “well done, my good and faithful servant. Come, share your master’s joy”.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"World's Toughest Catholic Quiz"

DC 'Hood vs. St Andrew Apostle, tonight, 7:30, at E Brooke Lee middle school, Silver Spring. Go 'Hood!

Here is another quiz for bloggers. It is tough!  The author of the quiz writes that there aren't any trick questions; but, some of the answers are tricky! If you don't do well, don't're not alone. I scored an "average" 13 (don't tell Cardinal Wuerl). I want some of my answers back!  Still a little bit of yesterday's turkey on the brain, I guess...  It might actually live up to its name as the "World's Toughest Catholic Quiz". It's an old quiz (1993) but still pertinent and fun. To view the answers, click on today's title.

The World's Toughest Catholic Quiz
By Karl Keating

Some call it "the pop quiz from hell." Others call it things we can't print in a family magazine. You are about to find out if you know as much about your faith as you claim to know. Take it from me: Your ego will suffer. But don't fall into despair. Most Catholics (some priests included, alas) will answer most of these questions incorrectly. When I sprang this quiz on an audience of well-informed Catholic business leaders and their spouses, few got more than half the questions right, and that was with some sub rosa "sharing" by test takers. The high score was seventeen right out of twenty, and that was a very good score indeed. Some people got only a third right.

To save you acute embarrassment, this quiz will not be turned in. It is for your enlightenment (and amusement) only. In fact, I suggest you take the quiz in private so no one else will know the truth about the state of your Catholic knowledge. (If you happen to do well, you can brag later.)

For each question, circle the one answer which you think is most fully correct. There are no trick questions, but you must read very carefully. Terms are used in their precise meanings; don't be fooled into selecting a wrong answer by thinking in loose or colloquial terms. Each question has only one correct answer, but it might be "None of the above."

At the end of this article I explain why each possible answer is right or wrong. You can score yourself and see how you rate as an apologist. (Sorry, no prizes will be awarded to anyone for anything.)

All set? Here we go:


1. In the Mass
a. Jesus is symbolized by the bread and wine from the moment of consecration onward.

b. Jesus is spiritually present when the community gathers in prayer under the leadership of the priest and ceases to be spiritually present when the priest leaves the sanctuary.

c. Jesus is physically present along with the bread and wine once the consecration has occurred.

d. Jesus is present, and the bread and wine are not present, after the consecration.

e. None of the above.

2. After the consecration
a. The host on the paten is Jesus' body, and the contents of the chalice are Jesus' blood.

b. The host symbolizes Jesus' body, and the wine symbolizes Jesus' blood.

c. The host is both Jesus' body and blood, and the wine is both Jesus' body and blood.

d. Jesus' body and blood are really present with the bread and the wine, and this is called the Real Presence.

e. None of the above.

3. The consecration of the Eucharist
a. Can be performed by a Catholic priest or by a priest of an Eastern Orthodox church.

b. Can be performed by a Catholic priest only if he celebrates Mass with at least two witnesses.

c. Can be performed by Catholic priests and Anglican priests so long as they have the proper intention and pronounce the correct words of consecration.

d. Can be performed by deacons and specially-commissioned lay persons in emergency situations.

e. None of the above.

4. A Mass is invalid
a. If fewer than half the people present hold hands during the Our Father.

b. If the priest omits the opening sign of the cross and the Nicene Creed.

c. If the priest celebrates Mass while he is in the state of mortal sin.

d. If the priest ad libs any part of the canon.

e. None of the above.

5. Holy Communion may be taken by
a. Anyone at all, so long as his conscience tells him it is the right thing to do.

b. Any Christian who wishes to manifest the unity which Christ willed for his Church.

c. Catholics in the state of grace, but not by Protestants even if they are in the state of grace.

d. Catholics who have committed mortal sins and are sorry for them, even if they have not confessed them yet in confession.

e. None of the above.

6. The doctrine of the Trinity means
a. There is one God who manifests himself in the three distinct roles of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

b. Since the Resurrection there have been four persons in the Trinity, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ the God-Man.

c. In the Godhead there is only one divine person, and he takes on different.aspects according to his actions as Creator, Redeemer, or Sanctifier.

d. There are three Gods who work so closely together that it is proper to call them one God.

e. None of the above.

7. A deacon is
a. A priest who does not have permission to celebrate Mass until after his wife dies.

b. A layman who may distribute Communion, marry people, baptize babies, and wear vestments.

c. A man who has received the first level of holy orders and is neither a priest nor a layman.

d. Forbidden to hear confessions and give absolution except in emergency situations and in the absence of a priest.

e. None of the above.

8. A sister is
a. Neither a lay person nor a cleric.

b. A cleric, but no longer a lay person.

c. May be installed as a chaplain of a hospital.

d. Is the female equivalent of a deacon.

e. None of the above.

9. An archbishop
a. Is always an older bishop and, by canon law, must be at least 55 years of age.

b. Has jurisdiction over all the bishops within his metropolitan area, and he may overrule their decisions.

c. Assists the pope by voting on prospective cardinals.

d. Is a regular bishop who has been given the honorary title of archbishop by leading bishops in his national bishops' conference.

e. None of the above.

10. Which of the following is a defined Catholic dogma?
a. Limbo

b. Purgatory

c. Both limbo and purgatory.

d. Priestly celibacy.

e. None of the above.

11. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception means
a. Mary conceived Jesus immaculately in her womb, without the aid of a human father.

b. Mary conceived Jesus immaculately in her womb, and he remained without sin.

c. Mary was conceived immaculately in her mother's womb, without the aid of a human father.

d. Mary was conceived immaculately in her mother's womb and was preserved from sin.

e. None of the above.

12. Papal infallibility means
a. The pope is preserved by the Holy Spirit from committing mortal sins.

b. Anything the pope teaches is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit to be true.

c. The pope's teachings must be obeyed because he is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and thus speaks for the Holy Spirit, who cannot err.

d. The pope is incapable of teaching erroneously on matters of faith and morals when he teaches publicly and officially a doctrine for all Christians, not just Catholics, to hold.

e. None of the above.

13. Contraception is
a. Permissible only to married couples with the permission of their parish priest and under extenuating circumstances.

b. Never permissible, no matter what the circumstances.

c. Permissible if the husband and wife, after honest prayer, conclude it is right for them and do not use it selfishly.

d. Permissible only if the wife's health would be in danger or if the husband is unable to support a large family.

e. None of the above.

14. The sacrament of confession
a. Must be received before receiving Communion by anyone guilty of a mortal sin since his last confession.

b. Is entirely superfluous if you privately and sincerely confess your sins to God.

c. Must be received by all Catholic adults at least once a year. (This is one of the six precepts of the Church.)

d. Was done away with by Vatican II, except in cases of the three sins which "cry out to God for vengeance": murder, adultery, and sexism.

e. None of the above.

15. At the Crucifixion
a. Jesus' human nature died on the cross.

b. Only the human person of Jesus, not the divine person of Jesus, died on the cross.

c. God died on the cross.

d. Jesus' human and divine natures both died on the cross, but the universe was kept going by the Father and the Holy Spirit until Jesus' Resurrection.

e. None of the above.

16. Purgatory is
a. A state of natural happiness where souls of unbaptized infants and morally good non-Christians will wait until they are judged on the Last Day.

b. A state of mild punishment for people who were not bad enough to go to hell and who were not good enough to go to heaven.

c. A state of purification for people who die in the state of grace but who do not die with complete love for God.

d. A temporary state where sincere people who do not die in the state of grace get a second chance to do good and thus avoid going to hell.

e. None of the above.

17. An annulment is
a. The canon law equivalent of a divorce under the civil law.

b. A Church-authorized dissolution of a marriage which has failed through the infidelity of one of the spouses.

c. A declaration that no valid marriage existed in the first place, even if there are children born during the relationship.

d. A declaration that children born in a failed marriage are not illegitimate.

e. None of the above.

18. Parish councils
a. Were set up by Vatican II to oversee the work of parish priests.

b. Prevail against the opinions of pastors if at least two-thirds of the council members agree on an issue.

c. Advise the pastor and relieve him of administrative duties, but have no authority over him.

d. Were instituted by Vatican II because the Church is now a democracy, not a monarchy.

e. None of the above.

19. Mortal sin
a. Is nowhere mentioned in Scripture.

b. Is a theological construct from the Church of the Middle Ages, and since Vatican II we recognize that there are only two kinds of sins, venial and serious.

c. Is the same as serious sin; only the words are different.

d. Makes it impossible for you ever to get to heaven, no matter what you do.

e. None of the above.

20. Apologetics means
a. Never having to say you're sorry.

b. The art of apologizing for being a Catholic.

c. A course which seminarians used to have to take but which they now are exempted from by canon law.

d. Giving reasoned explanations and defenses for the faith.

e. None of the above.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pope's interviewer: "ridiculous"

Seewald's Take: Benedict XVI Misunderstood by Many

Author Tells What It's Like to Interview the Pope

By Anita S. Bourdin

ROME, NOV. 23, 2010 ( The author of the new book-interview with Benedict XVI showed visible disappointment that the text has been reduced by the media to a misrepresentation of a few statements on condoms.

What the Pope's talking about in the interview is the "future of the planet," Peter Seewald said, discussing "Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times," available today from Ignatius Press.

The German author decried a "crisis of journalism" when he presented the book today at the Vatican.

He referred to the media flurry spinning through the world since Saturday, when L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semi-official newspaper, published several excerpts from the interview. One of the texts released was from the end of the 10th chapter, when Seewald asked the Pontiff two questions on the fight against AIDS and the use of condoms. Those statements have been taken out of context or falsely presented in headlines around the world.

"Our book," the author said today at the presentation, "speaks to the survival of [our] planet that is threatened; the Pope appeals to humanity -- our world is in the process of collapse, and half the journalists are only interested in the issue of condoms."

Seewald insisted that the Pope was promoting a "humanization of sexuality" and posed the deeper question: "Does sexuality have something to do with love?"

For the Bavarian writer, excessive concentration on the issue of condoms is "ridiculous." Meanwhile, he reflected, the issue of transforming the world that the Pope proposes is forgotten.

Seewald affirmed that the Holy Father presented a wide-ranging panorama in the six hours of interviews conducted last July at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

But he urged getting to what's important in a book such as this: discovering what the Pope does and says. That is the "gift" of this book, the author suggested: being able to "hear his voice," see the way he interprets his pontificate, "to live" beside him in a very personal way.

Giant among men

Benedict XVI might be placed in the category of the "small popes" when compared to the "great popes" like John Paul II, the author reflected. However Seewald does not hesitate to speak of him as a "giant" -- because of his ideas, his authenticity and capacity for dialogue.

The German author -- who rediscovered his Catholic faith in dialogue with Cardinal Ratzinger in the '90s -- explained that he worked without any censorship from the Pope, who allowed him to write freely and only offered "clarifications."

The journalist expressed his admiration for the Holy Father, with his "elevated point of view" as a "brilliant intellectual," and his "spiritual strength," as well as his "simplicity."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Conversion, not condoms"

I’ve already been peppered with questions about the Holy Father’s recent comments about condoms and AIDS. When we see what the Pope actually said, we realize that it’s not as alarming as advertized. First of all, he is speculating, not pontificating. He is speaking about conversion of heart, not about the morality of condoms. Second, what he said is not contrary to anything Catholic. He reaffirms the Church’s position that the use of condoms is not a “real or moral solution”. So, in the interview, he said that condoms are immoral!

The biggest point that the Holy Father is making (which, of course, is lost in the media’s coverage of this interview) is the move toward “a humanization of sexuality”. The use of a condom in a certain situation (e.g., by a male prostitute as mentioned in the statement below) CAN be a first step in humanizing sexuality for some people. He is speaking more about the process of conversion than about the use of condoms. I know it can be confusing and certain headlines add to the confusion, but the Pope’s statements are much more about the internal than the external. Hopefully, the following helps to clarify things.

DETROIT, ( - A book-length interview with Benedict XVI, due to be released on Tuesday, is already causing controversy in the public spotlight due to the Pope's comments on the use of condoms. Some quotes from the book, "Light of the World" (Ignatius Press), were published ahead of the release date, prompting media opinions and a statement of clarification by Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office.

Janet Smith, a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family who holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and has published extensively on the topics of sexuality and bioethics, explained in this interview the source of the controversy and what the Pope is really saying. She noted that in the book (p.119), to the charge that "It is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms," Pope Benedict replied (This paragraph is at the end of an extended answer on the help the Church is giving the AIDS victims and the need to fight the banalization of sexuality.):

"There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality."

The interviewer asked the Pontiff, "Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?" The Holy Father replied, "She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality."

Smith explains in the following interview, which she sent to ZENIT, how Benedict XVI was advocating conversion, not condoms, in the striving for moral behavior.

Q: What is Pope Benedict saying?

Smith: We must note that the example that Pope Benedict gives for the use of a condom is a male prostitute; thus, it is reasonable to assume that he is referring to a male prostitute engaged in homosexual acts. The Holy Father is simply observing that for some homosexual prostitutes the use of a condom may indicate an awakening of a moral sense; an awakening that sexual pleasure is not the highest value, but that we must take care that we harm no one with our choices.

He is not speaking to the morality of the use of a condom, but to something that may be true about the psychological state of those who use them. If such individuals are using condoms to avoid harming another, they may eventually realize that sexual acts between members of the same sex are inherently harmful since they are not in accord with human nature.

The Holy Father does not in any way think the use of condoms is a part of the solution to reducing the risk of AIDs. As he explicitly states, the true solution involves "humanizing sexuality." Anyone having sex that threatens to transmit HIV needs to grow in moral discernment. This is why Benedict focused on a "first step" in moral growth.

The Church is always going to be focused on moving people away from immoral acts towards love of Jesus, virtue, and holiness. We can say that the Holy Father clearly did not want to make a point about condoms, but wants to talk about growth in a moral sense, which should be a growth towards Jesus.

Q: So is the Holy Father saying it is morally good for male prostitutes to use condoms?

Smith: The Holy Father is not articulating a teaching of the Church about whether or not the use of a condom reduces the amount of evil in a homosexual sexual act that threatens to transmit HIV. The Church has no formal teaching about how to reduce the evil of intrinsically immoral action. We must note that what is intrinsically wrong in a homosexual sexual act in which a condom is used is not the moral wrong of contraception but the homosexual act itself.

In the case of homosexual sexual activity, a condom does not act as a contraceptive; it is not possible for homosexuals to contracept since their sexual activity has no procreative power that can be thwarted. But the Holy Father is not making a point about whether the use of a condom is contraceptive or even whether it reduces the evil of a homosexual sexual act; again, he is speaking about the psychological state of some who might use condoms. The intention behind the use of the condom (the desire not to harm another) may indicate some growth in a sense of moral responsibility.

In "Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World)," John Paul II spoke of the need for conversion, which often proceeds by gradual steps: "To the injustice originating from sin ... we must all set ourselves in opposition through a conversion of mind and heart, following Christ Crucified by denying our own selfishness: such a conversion cannot fail to have a beneficial and renewing influence even on the structures of society.

"What is needed is a continuous, permanent conversion which, while requiring an interior detachment from every evil and an adherence to good in its fullness, is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward. Thus a dynamic process develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of His definitive and absolute love in the entire personal and social life of man. (9)"

Christ himself, of course, called for a turning away from sin. That is what the Holy Father is advocating here; not a turn towards condoms. Conversion, not condoms!

Q: Would it be proper to conclude that the Holy Father would support the distribution of condoms to male prostitutes?

Smith: Nothing he says here indicates that he would. Public programs of distribution of condoms run the risk of conveying approval for homosexual sexual acts. The task of the Church is to call individuals to conversion and to moral behavior; it is to help them understand the meaning and purpose of sexuality and to help them come to know Christ, who will provide the healing and graces that enable us to live in accord with the meaning and purpose of sexuality.

Q: Is Pope Benedict indicating that heterosexuals who have HIV could reduce the wrongness of their acts by using condoms?

Smith: No. In his second answer he says that the Church does not find condoms to be a "real or moral solution." That means the Church does not find condoms either to be moral or an effective way of fighting the transmission of HIV. As the Holy Father indicates in his fuller answer, the most effective portion of programs designed to reduce the transmission of HIV are calls to abstinence and fidelity.

The Holy Father, again, is saying that the intention to reduce the transmission of any infection is a "first step" in a movement towards a more human way of living sexuality. That more human way would be to do nothing that threatens to harm one's sexual partner, who should be one's beloved spouse. For an individual with HIV to have sexual intercourse with or without a condom is to risk transmitting a lethal disease.

An analogy: If someone was going to rob a bank and was determined to use a gun, it would better for that person to use a gun that had no bullets in it. It would reduce the likelihood of fatal injuries. But it is not the task of the Church to instruct potential bank robbers how to rob banks more safely and certainly not the task of the Church to support programs of providing potential bank robbers with guns that could not use bullets.

Nonetheless, the intent of a bank robber to rob a bank in a way that is safer for the employees and customers of the bank may indicate an element of moral responsibility that could be a step towards eventual understanding of the immorality of bank robbing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Feast of Christ the King - homily

Last year, I was called to visit a man at GW hospital who was dying of cancer. He was actually in good spirits when I talked with him, ripping some jokes and one-liners. Then, he asked for confession. He started off by telling me it had been fifty years. Fifty years. He was very worried that God would not forgive him because it had been so long and he had so many sins. I told him the story that we just heard in the Gospel – the thief next to Jesus on the Cross. He acknowledged Jesus as King and was essentially asking for mercy. Jesus responded with, “today you will be with me in paradise”. I told the man that Jesus says the same thing to him. He began to cry…tears of joy. He said, “I know God will forgive me”. He died two days peace and joy.

“Today you will be with me in paradise”. What an awesome promise! How sweet must that have been for the criminal to hear in the last hour of his life. He proclaimed Jesus as king when he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus rewards him with a promise that he gives to no one else in the Gospel…not even his mother or any of the Apostles. Will He give us the same promise when we die? I know you all are young and you’re thinking this is a long ways off, but you never know. None of us knows when we will die. We always have to be ready. Christ certainly wills to give each of us the promise when it happens. Scripture says that “God wills all men to be saved”. He wants to give us the promise of eternal life. It’s up to us and how live in this life. We can either choose Heaven or Hell with the way we live. As one preacher put it, it’s either “non-smoking or smoking for all eternity”.

What does it mean to choose Heaven? It means to live as the criminal died: proclaiming Jesus as King. It means living in close friendship with Christ…living a life of grace. Sanctifying Grace is what we need to get to Heaven. We first receive this grace when we are baptized. This grace is given to us at Baptism, sealed at Confirmation, and nourished by the Eucharist. Jesus even says in John 6, “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. We received more grace to live out our vocations through the sacraments of Holy Matrimony or Holy Orders. When we get sick or approach death, we are strengthened by the grace of Anointing of the Sick. This is the life of grace that gets us to Heaven. If we die in a state of grace, we will go to Heaven.

Chances are, though, we won’t go straight to Heaven Martyrs are the only ones who go straight to Heaven when they die; they are perfectly purified by their baptism by blood. The rest of us – even yours saintly grandmothers, the Pope, Mother Teres, etc. – need to be perfected before they enter the Kingdom of Heaven for all eternity. In Heaven, everything is perfect. Scripture says that we need to be free of any “stain or wrinkle”; we need to be perfect. Purgatory is what perfects us to get to Heaven. It will be painful to go through Purgatory but it will be good, ultimately. Painful because we will see how our sins hurt people. Let’s say someone struggled with drunkenness in this life. They might have been forgiven for it at the time of their death, but still weren’t perfect with regard to temperance. Purgatory helps them to see how much their drinking hurt their parents, friends, etc. Basically, people see their lives as God sees them. It will be painful, but good because everyone in Purgatory goes to Heaven. Souls in Purgatory are filled with joy because they know they are going to the Big Dance forever. I will be psyched to make it to Purgatory even though I am expecting a long stay!

Not everyone goes to Purgatory, though. Some people choose Hell. We know because Jesus tells us. They choose Hell. This is a big point to make: Hell is chosen. God wills all men to be saved. Pope John Paul II put it very well. “Hell is not a punishment imposed by God; it is the consequence of an unrepentant sinner’s choice against God”. The person chooses to reject God in a major way and knows full well that he is doing it. It’s called mortal sin. Mortal sin is a serious sin – such as skipping Mass on Sunday, getting drunk, committing sexual sins outside of marriage – that the person knows is seriously wrong and freely chooses to do it. It has to be chosen to be a sin, so if someone is home sick on a Sunday, that it not a mortal sin.

Now, if someone commits a mortal sin, they leave the state of grace and break their relationship with God. God is so merciful to someone who does this to Him. He doesn’t say “screw you” and leave us to go to Hell. He gives us another sacrament that forgives our awful mortal sins. He has given us Confession primarily to forgive mortal sins…primarily to keep us out of Hell. I offer you all confession so much mainly for the salvation of your souls. I am not saying that you are in mortal sin…but, just in case you are, the offer is always there for confession. My m.o. with you is to save your souls, first and foremost. Many Catholics go to Confession before they travel, especially when they fly. Come see me tonight, Monday, or Tuesday before you leave and we’ll take care of business in just a few minutes.

Finally, the criminal on the cross proclaims Christ as King and receives the promise of paradise. Christ has the authority to promise this. He has given this authority to his priests. When the man in the hospital went to confession, he basically heard the same promise from me. May each of us hear this promise soon in confession. May each of us hear this awesome promise when we die: “today you will be with me in paradise”.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Are you prepared to die?"

Watch the Consistory on TV or Online

Watch Washington’s archbishop become a Cardinal! The consistory and the papal Mass on the following day, which will include the bestowal of rings on the new cardinals, will be aired live on EWTN and streamed online at

Get Your Red On!

On Friday, November 19, all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington are invited and encouraged to wear red in celebration of Cardinal-designate Wuerl’s November 20 elevation to the College of Cardinals and the honor it will be for our archbishop and archdiocese.
I was speaking with a GW Catholic who is a freshman here. We were talking about Final Judgment. She made the comment that “most Catholics don’t want to think about that”. While she might be right, we need to think about it. We always need to be ready for judgment: our own particular judgment when we die and the general judgment at the end of the world. Either can happen at any time! We always need to be ready. I will be preaching about judgment - Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory - this weekend.

The following is a good source of reflection and meditation for us on the subject of judgment, “Are you prepared to die?” by Msgr. Charles Pope on Also, check out the video which is an excerpt of one of his powerful funeral homilies.

In the month of November we meditate on the four Last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. In the modern age we think little of such things. This is dangerous and ill advised. That death will come is certain. It may come in an instant. Tomorrow is not promised. I can’t even promise you that you will make through alive, reading this post.

Not only do modern people think little of death, but even less do we think of the judgment to follow. The Book of Hebrews says, It is appointed to man to die once, and after this the judgment (Heb 9:27). Even Church-going Catholic largely pass over any notion of judgment after death. This is most evident at Catholic funerals which are dominated by gleeful canonizations of the deceased and never a mention of jjudgment or the need to pray for the one who has died. Our neglect to pray for the dead is a terrible dereliction of duty.

At every funeral I spend almost half of the homily reminding the assembled mourners that they are going to die and that they must ready themselves for this fact. At most funerals, the majority of those attending have little spiritual roots in their life and I use the opportunity to urge them to a greater sobriety about their condition and ultimate appointment with God. Indeed, too many people today are not serious about their spiritual life. They do not pray, they do not go to Mass, receive the sacraments or read scripture. They go on laughing and playing and goofing off like life were some big joke. But it is not and we must ready ourselves to meet God and face judgment…

1. I have much to say in judgment of you. (Jn 8:26)

2. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead (Act 17:31).

3. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matt 25:11-13)

4. But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. (Rom 2:5)

5. When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matt 25:31)

6. This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares (Rom 2:16).

7. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart (1 Cor 4:5).

8. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10)…

Well, by now you get the point, to ignore judgment is to ignore a LOT of Scripture. And this is only a partial recording of the judgment texts here. Despite the voluminous Scriptural affirmation, little is said of judgment by modern Christians. The problem must certainly be laid at the feet of many clergy who seldom mention judgment or warn of it. While this is not true of all, it is certainly true of many.

The Catechism speaks of Judgment in the following way:

Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others. Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation. (CCC 1021-1022)…

A word about the nature of judgment we face. None of us can say for sure what that moment will be like. However it would seem that the key word to describe what must go on is “honesty.” In that moment, before the Lord, all masks will be removed. All the little excusing lies we like to tell ourselves will be set aside. We will see ourselves as we really are. Perhaps too we will also see more clearly some of the grief and trouble we have been carrying and have a truth compassion for our self even as we have a sober understanding of our faults and incompleteness. For a true believer the judgment is not simply between heaven and hell, but even more so, an assessment of what remains incomplete in us. The Lord promised us perfection (Matt 5:48) and St. Paul wrote: May God who has begun a good work in you bring it to completion (Phil 1:6). Hence our judgment must also certainly include the question of what, if anything, remains incomplete in us. For it is impossible that a promise of God would remain incomplete for us or anything be less than perfect. Whatever is judged to be incomplete or imperfect is set right in purgatory which is for us not against us.

But the fact is, judgment awaits us all and we must soberly prepare for it. Death will come (perhaps when we least expect) and thereafter the judgment. Prepare for your own judgment and pray for those who have already gone there. Judgment is certain. Prepare and pray.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wear red on Friday!

Wear red on Friday!!

On Friday, November 19, all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington are invited and encouraged to wear red in celebration of Cardinal-designate Wuerl’s November 20 elevation to the College of Cardinals and the honor it will be for our archbishop and archdiocese.

Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church wear red as a sign of their readiness to “act with fortitude, even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church."


Last night, we also mentioned a website that has lots of cool Catholic stuff, mainly the daily readings.  Check out by clicking on the title above.  I just joined - it's really easy.  "Daily readings", "daily catholic quote", etc.  We might look to use this site more in the future!

Lectio divina - try it!

Last night, Msgr. Rob Panke gave an inspiring and informative talk on prayer that was well received by our students. He called it “Prayer 101”. He described prayer, offered proper places of prayer, encouraged all of us to pray to God from our heart every day, and challenged the students to attend daily Mass. “If someone asks me how they go grow spiritually, I tell them to go to Mass every day and come back to me in a year”. He said that there is so much at Mass for us to grow in our relationship with God – entering into conversation with God with others, asking for God’s Mercy, hearing the Word of God, receiving catechesis, coming into communion with God in the Eucharist, etc. He also challenged the students to attend Adoration regularly. “If you don’t come to Adoration, then you really don’t know what you are missing”.

He strongly encouraged the students to begin the practice of “lection divina” if they haven’t already. He referenced Pope Benedict’s recent apostolic exhortation, “Verbum Domini”, in which the Holy Father described lectio divina. His section on lectio divina is below. To view “Verbum Domini” in full, please click on today’s title.

In short, lectio divina involves reading over a particular passage from Sacred Scripture and letting it speak to us…to our hearts. We read the passage (over and over again if necessary) and meditate on it. Something usually jumps out at us – it could be a particular word or phrase from the text. As Msgr Panke explained, this is the method that many priests use in preparing their homilies. Yesterday, he meditated on the Gospel with Zaccheaus and our Lord. It hit him that Jesus called out to Zaccheaus by name…that he knew him. He knows each of us by name. He said he had never really noticed that part of the passage before. Lectio divina opens us up to what God is saying to us every day.

Here’s an outline of the lectio divina process. Try it!

1) Reading of the text – “what does the biblical text say?”

2) Meditation – “what to does the text say to us?”

3) Prayer – “what do we say to the Lord in response to the text?”

4) Contemplation – “what change of heart is the Lord asking of us?”

5) Action – “How does this text call me to give to others in charity?”

The documents produced before and during the Synod mentioned a number of methods for a faith-filled and fruitful approach to sacred Scripture. Yet the greatest attention was paid to lectio divina, which is truly "capable of opening up to the faithful the treasures of God's word, but also of bringing about an encounter with Christ, the living word of God".[296]

I would like here to review the basic steps of this procedure. It opens with the reading (lectio) of a text, which leads to a desire to understand its true content: what does the biblical text say in itself? Without this, there is always a risk that the text will become a pretext for never moving beyond our own ideas.

Next comes meditation (meditatio), which asks: what does the biblical text say to us? Here, each person, individually but also as a member of the community, must let himself or herself be moved and challenged.

Following this comes prayer (oratio), which asks the question: what do we say to the Lord in response to his word? Prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, is the primary way by which the word transforms us.

Finally, lectio divina concludes with contemplation (contemplatio), during which we take up, as a gift from God, his own way of seeing and judging reality, and ask ourselves what conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us? In the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul tells us: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (12:2). Contemplation aims at creating within us a truly wise and discerning vision of reality, as God sees it, and at forming within us "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:16). The word of God appears here as a criterion for discernment: it is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb 4:12).

We do well also to remember that the process of lectio divina is not concluded until it arrives at action (actio), which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Unprecedented Ferocity" on Catholics in Iraq

Iraqi Christians Victims of "Unprecedented Ferocity"

Bishop Laments Western Misunderstanding; Urges Courage

By Tony Assaf

ROME, NOV. 12, 2010 ( The Oct. 31 attack on an Iraqi Christian church is being called an "act of unprecedented ferocity."

This was the description made by Auxiliary Bishop Mikhael Al Jamil of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the Syrians in Lebanon, at a Mass celebrated in Rome this Wednesday for the 58 who died in the massacre and the more than 100 people who were wounded.

"The grave attack of last Oct. 31 on the Syrian Catholic Church of Baghdad was an act of unprecedented ferocity against defenseless persons, gathered in prayer," he said.

Tuesday and Wednesday, there were more attacks against Christians in Iraq.

Bishop Al Jamil described the situation in the country as "increasingly difficult, so much so that many feel constrained to flee."

He reflected that "they [the victims] do not belong to any faction in combat, they do not take part in the internal conflicts of the county and do not have arms, not even to defend their lives."

Beautiful together

Bishop Al Jamil invited Islam "to recover the role it had when Christians and Muslims created the Arab civilization together, and not to allow terrorism and other political components, whether Eastern or Western, to empty the East of Christianity."

He urged renewing "this beautiful image of secular dialogue and of Muslim-Christian coexistence."

The bishop decried a policy that seeks to make of the Middle East a simple ensemble "of religions, of various sects and of other components forged by political designs, which have as the sole result the destruction of a true and beautiful Middle East, to create a monster that will always have need to recover and be cured in the hospital of international politics [...] a policy that is without history, without tradition, without religious ethics, without a Redeemer, without God."

"The Western democracies do not succeed in understanding the Eastern mentality and above all the political thought of some fanatical currents of Islam that consider their Christian fellow citizens an extensions of the colonial West and actually a continuity of the Crusades," and, unfortunately, "the better Islam has been unable up to now to deplore sufficiently or put an end to these currents," he explained.

"We hope that Muslims will be able to be more decisive in protecting their civil and religious ethics, committing themselves to support the trust and tranquility of their Christian brothers," he added.

Finally, Bishop Al Jamil requested the West to find the courage to "raise its voice against all fanaticism, all injustice and all violence, in defense of the coexistence between various components of our Middle Eastern countries and of religious minorities.

Monday, November 15, 2010

33rd Sunday - homily

You're probably aware of what people's greatest fears are. It's always been remarkable to me that public speaking is one of our greatest fears. I remember an incident -this is kind of a sad story - in high school that showed this. It was freshmen English class; we each had to get up in front of the class and deliver a famous or well-known speech. Most of us were terrified to do this in front of our peers. One guy got up to give his speech and then just froze with panic. He said, "I can't do this." We all encouraged him to do it. He said "no, I'll just take an F.". The teacher said, "what?" He said, "I'll take a zero" and ran off the stage, back to his seat.

People have a lot of fear these days. One of the biggest fears drove my classmate to take the F: fear of being rejected or not liked by others. That is a huge fear, especially among young people. But, we see fear on so many levels in the world. People have the global fears like those that Jesus addresses in the Gospel - fears about wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan and natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti. We have national fears, with the economy being probably the biggest. Folks are afraid of what might happen. There is much fear about unemployment with people not knowing if they will have a job. Since 9/11, our national security fears are incredibly heightened. Locally, our students at GW fear what grades they'll get and if they'll get the internships or jobs they want. They are afraid of what might happen in their relationships or with family situations. People are so much more afraid of how they speak; political correctness rules the day in our culture. Finally, there is overwhelming fear of living out our Catholic faith in a world that mocks it.

As believers, we live in faith, not fear. Fear is the opposite of faith. We believe that we will survive. No matter what happens in this life, no matter what danger we face, not a hair on our heads will be destroyed. Jesus goes through many of our greatest fears in today's Gospel - including public speaking! - and tells us that we will survive. We will survive even death! We don't know what will happen in this life - that's why people are so on edge. We don't know what will happen when we die. But, we believe that we will get through it. Not a hair on our heads will be destroyed.

Three examples of people who live by faith and not fear. The first is a friend of mine who had to testify in court in a high-profile case. She was an important witness and so was very nervous. I told her to read this Gospel over and over - the Holy Spirit would give her the words to say. She took this approach and did an excellent job, speaking with eloquence and wisdom on the stand. The second is a man who started a Catholic school around here not too long ago. Even though the school struggles financially, he admits some students who can't afford it. The school's board and his friends think he is crazy for doing this. But, he manages the school with the faith that they will somehow be able to make payroll and pay their bills. They do every time. The third is a man who I knew from my last parish. He was dying of cancer when I went to anoint him in the hospital. I asked him if he was afraid of dying. As soon as I finished my question, he said, "No", very firmly. I will never forget that moment. He was staring death in the face and was not afraid. He was a man of great faith. He lived out what Jesus says so many times in the Gospels: "be not afraid".

Finally, brothers and sisters, we believe that we will survive because Jesus is with us, especially in the Eucharist. If we persevere in our relationship with Him in the Eucharist, then our lives will be secure. If we persevere in our faith in Him, then our lives will be secure, and not a hair on our heads will be destroyed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A miracle of the Eucharist at GW?

Anon posted the following questions: “Padre, I just stumbled upon this thanks to Google...can you explain it to me? Isn't this totally wrong?” The site that is linked here is troubling, to say the least. It is for the “Ray of Hope Church” which seems to include many Catholic devotions but isn’t Catholic. The site shows a store which advertizes the Church and “Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament”. There are pictures and descriptions of their Eucharist, even a mention of a “Eucharistic miracle” performed in their store. However, this is totally wrong….like, scary wrong...because it is treating the Most Holy Eucharist in an unholy manner (outside a Church or chapel without the permission of the Church). It is sacrilege. The Catechism defines sacrilege in paragraph # 2120: “Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.” (#2120)

Tuesday night, several students here viewed a video on the miracles of the Eucharist. The 30 min. video, “This is my body, This is my blood”, was done years ago by Bob and Penny Lord. It narrates the stories of four Church-approved miracles of the Eucharist. It is sensational. The students seemed to be very intrigued and asked many penetrating questions in our discussion. They asked what it is like to celebrate Mass as a priest, why God works miracles in the first place, do miracles give faith or build on faith that’s already there, and why haven’t there been miracles anytime recently or in the United States. Great questions, huh? We even discussed what would happen around GW if God worked a miracle of the Eucharist here.

Here is some info on two of the miracles which I wrote about in my post from 11/15/06, “Eucharistic miracles”. Also, there is a very short clip of the video we watched the other night.

1) In 1263 a German priest, Peter of Prague, stopped at Bolsena while on a pilgrimage to Rome. He is described as being a pious priest, but one who found it difficult to believe that Christ was actually present in the consecrated Host. While celebrating Holy Mass above the tomb of St. Christina (located in the church named for this martyr), he had barely spoken the words of Consecration when blood started to seep from the consecrated Host and trickle over his hands onto the altar and the corporal.

The priest was immediately confused. At first he attempted to hide the blood, but then he interrupted the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighboring city of Orvieto, the city where Pope Urban IV was then residing.

The Pope listened to the priest's account and absolved him. He then sent emissaries for an immediate investigation. When all the facts were ascertained, he ordered the Bishop of the diocese to bring to Orvieto the Host and the linen cloth bearing the stains of blood. With archbishops, cardinals and other Church dignitaries in attendance, the Pope met the procession and, amid great pomp, had the relics placed in the cathedral. The linen corporal bearing the spots of blood is still reverently enshrined and exhibited in the Cathedral of Orvieto.

2) On August 14, 1730,... thieves entered the deserted Church of St. Francis. Taking advantage of the friars' absence, they made for the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was kept, picked the lock to the tabernacle and carried away the golden ciborium containing consecrated Hosts.

The theft went undiscovered until the next morning, when the priest opened the tabernacle at the Communion of the Mass... Two days later, on August 17, while praying in the Church of St. Mary of Provenzano, a priest's attention was directed to something white protruding from the offering box attached to his prie dieu. Realizing that it was a Host, he informed the other priests of the church, who in turn notified the Archbishop and the friars of the Church of St. Francis.

When the offering box was opened, in the presence of local priests and the representative of the Archbishop, a large number of Hosts were found, some of them suspended by cobwebs. The Hosts were compared with some unconsecrated ones used in the Church of St. Francis, and proved to be exactly the same size and to have the same mark of the irons upon which they were baked. The number of Hosts corresponded exactly to the number the Franciscan friars had estimated were in the ciborium -- 348 whole Hosts and six halves.

Since the offering box was opened but once a year, the Hosts were covered with the dust and debris that had collected there. After being carefully cleaned by the priests, they were enclosed in a ciborium and placed inside the tabernacle of the main altar of the Church of St. Mary. The following day, in the company of a great gathering of townspeople, Archbishop Alessandro Zondadari carried the Sacred Hosts in solemn procession back to the Church of St. Francis.

To the amazement of the clergy, the Hosts did not deteriorate, but remained fresh and even retained a pleasant scent. With the passage of time the Conventual Franciscans became convinced that they were witnessing a continuing miracle of preservation...

As a test to further confirm the authenticity of the miracle, the Archbishop, during this 1789 examination, ordered several unconsecrated hosts to be placed in a sealed box and kept under lock in the chancery office. Ten years later these were examined and found to be not only disfigured, but also withered. In 1850, 61 years after they were placed in a sealed box, these unconsecrated hosts were found reduced to particles of a dark yellow color, while the consecrated Hosts retained their original freshness...

By this miracle the Hosts have remained whole and shiny, and have maintained the characteristic scent of unleavened bread. Since they are in such a perfect state of conservation, maintaining the appearances of bread, the Catholic Church assures us that although they were consecrated in the year 1730, these Eucharistic Hosts are still really and truly the Body of Christ. The miraculous Hosts have been cherished and venerated in the Basilica of St. Francis in Sienna for over 250 years.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Your body is holy!

I am reading the book, “Exorcism”, by Fr. Thomas Euteneur. It is intense! It depicts exorcisms as they really are, not as Hollywood presents them. They are actually more powerful than we see in the movies. At one point in the book, Fr. Euteneur describes an exorcism as a “trespassing” of the demon or demons on God’s temple (the body). When I read that, it hit me hard. I’ve heard the line from St. Paul that we heard in yesterday’s second reading at Mass a thousand times, that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The reality of the body as God’s temple is what hit me. Demonic possession is such an offense to God that it truly is a trespass against His temple. God’s temple is the body!

Yesterday’s feast in the Church was the dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome as the mother church of Christendom. It is a feast for the Church for many reasons. It celebrates the Church as God’s temple. It celebrates the Chair of St. Peter which the universal Church comes in union with. It celebrates the Church as the mystical Body of Christ. It also celebrates the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

So, what does a church in Rome have to do with our bodies? Yesterday’s readings help us to see that we are to have the same reverence for our bodies that we have for a Church or chapel. Christ shows his “zeal” for his Father’s house in driving out the moneychangers. He talks about raising up the temple three days after it’s destroyed. They all think he is referring to the temple in Jerusalem. “But he was speaking about the temple of his Body”. In the second reading, St. Paul writes, “for the temple of God, which you are, is holy”.

Can you imagine if I let the chapel of the Newman Center go to pot? Can you imagine coming in here and seeing dust everywhere, cobwebs, stains on the floor, and experiencing a terrible smell? You would be pretty upset with me for treating God’s temple with such disrespect and demand that I clean it at once. We all have a great reverence for God’s house. We show that in the way we dress when we’re here, in the way we speak when we’re here, and in the reverence we show while we are here.

We are to have the same respect for our bodies and souls. We should treat our bodies and the bodies of others with the same respect we have for God’s house. If we have stained our bodies through…if have all kinds of junk, filth, and dirt on them... we need to clean them at once. One way to see Confession is a “house cleaning”. Going to Confession would be akin to my cleaning the chapel. It should be done regularly and thoroughly!

You hear me say before every Holy Communion, “let all faithful Catholics come receive our Lord”. What I’m really saying is that we need to be clean in order to receive Jesus into our bodies and souls. We need to be in a state of Grace to receive the Eucharist. We need to be faithful Catholics in order for Jesus to come into our homes, the temples of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

"God is attracted to lost souls"

This Thursday, a group which disguises itself as a Christian organization, the Westboro Baptist Church, will visit GW before it heads to Arlington National Cemetery to protest against deceased soldiers for Veterans Day.  The group is really anti-Christian in nature carrying signs that say, "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers".  Why they are coming to GW is not totally clear; they protest anywhere they can get attention and publicity.  While the situation is not normally one I would want us to get involved in, the Newman Center will participate peacefully and prayerfully with the rest of GW.  We intend to carry our own signs: "Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love" - 1 Jn 4:8 and "Love the sinner, hate the sin" - St. Augustine.

The Holy Father made an address which is applicable to the statements of the WBC.  He reminded us last week that God not only has great love and mercy for wayward sinners, He is attracted to them:

God Is Attracted to Lost Souls, Says Pontiff

Encourages Practice of Mercy Toward Others

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 31, 2010 ( Benedict XVI is affirming that God wants to save all souls, and is especially attracted to those that are lost.

The Pope stated this today in an address before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"God excludes no one, neither the poor nor the rich," he said.

The Pontiff continued, "God does not let himself be conditioned by our human prejudices, but sees in everyone a soul to save and is especially attracted to those who are judged as lost and who think themselves so."

"Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God, has demonstrated this immense mercy, which takes nothing away from the gravity of sin, but aims always at saving the sinner, at offering him the possibility of redemption, of starting over from the beginning, of converting," the Holy Father affirmed.

Speaking about the Gospel story of Zacchaeus, Benedict XVI noted the example of God's mercy.

"When Jesus was passing through Jericho and stopped at the house of Zacchaeus, he caused a major scandal," the Pope said. "The Lord, however, knew exactly what he was doing."

"He wanted, so to speak, to gamble, and he won the bet: Zacchaeus, deeply moved by Jesus' visit, decides to change his life, and promises to restore four times what he had stolen," the Pontiff recalled.

Jesus "did not condemn him but he met his desire for salvation," the Holy Father concluded. "Let us pray to the Virgin Mary, perfect model of communion with Jesus, to be renewed by his love, and to show his mercy to others."

Monday, November 08, 2010

32nd Sunday - homily

Years ago, a priest took his youth group to Italy. One of the places they went to was a Church that is a site of an Eucharistic miracle. There are hosts at the Church that are over 250 years old. Consecrated hosts are consecrated bread. They have the substance of the Body of Christ, but the qualities of bread. They usually decay as any bread does. These hosts haven’t shown any signs of decaying in 250 years. They are fresh, shiny, and smell like new unleavened bread. The Church has declared it a miracle. So, these high teens and their priest showed up at this Church one night, but it was already closed. The priest had to talk the pastor into letting them in; they were given 5 minutes. The priest told the kids to get in the Church and “be ready”. When he walked out with the monstrance that contained the hosts, he saw 50 high school teens on their knees, worshiping the hosts. He says it’s the greatest reverence and devotion he has ever seen. 50 kids on their knees!

Their reverence and devotion say a lot. They reveal a lot of faith. Now, it helped that they were in the presence of a miracle. Miracles help our faith. If you are struggling to believe in the Eucharist, then come check out the video we will show on Eucharistic miracles Tuesday night after dinner. It will help. God works miracles to help us believe, and He has worked at least 4 miracles in the Eucharist to help us believe in the Real Presence. But, this is what these teens believed. They believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, but they also believe so much more. They believe that He lives. They believe that He rose from the dead…that He is God of the living…that He is the Son of God…that everything He said is true…that the Catholic Church is truly from Him…and so forth.

Do you also believe this? Do you believe that Christ lives? This is the question! I ask you to think about this tonight, this week…really for the rest of your life. You have to be careful with your answer. If your answer is yes, then you’re like the Maccabees in the first reading. Their faith was most important – faith in God, in the resurrection of the dead, in the traditions of their faith. It was more important than their own lives. If your answer is no, then you are like the Sadducees who I like to call the “Sad, you see’s” ; they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. A Sadducee would come into this Church and say that the crucifix is still true…that Jesus is still dead. There are many people on this campus that would say the same thing. If your struggling to answer the question and are saying, “I don’t know”, that’s ok. This is the time in your life when you should be tackling the main questions of your faith in search of the Truth.

To help you think about all of this as it really is, think of the ten most important things in your life right now. You have classes, internships, student orgs, fraternities, sororities, relationships, family, etc. Where does Jesus Christ rank on your list? Is He in your top ten? If He’s not number one, then you don’t really believe that He lives. Why? Because if He lives, then He is God! He transcends all other things. All other things have their life from Him. He is life. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Also, if you believe that He rose from the dead, then you believe that he entered into the dead for you. He died for you. If you truly believed that He died and rose for you, then you would want to live with Him, die with Him, and rise with Him.

My guess is that you want to believe that He is living. You want to experience the God of the living. I have another suggestion, especially if you’ve never really had an experience of the living God. The suggestion is going to the FOCUS conference in January. I’ve never been, but from what I’ve heard, it will be amazing. I’ve been to events like this before, and trust me, you will experience the God of the living. You will see that God lives in the Eucharist and through the people who are there. If you’ve experienced the God of the living through our FOCUS missionaries, then there will be hundreds of them there. There will be thousands of other college students who will be with you in experiencing the God of the living. God wants to show you that He is living, and this is a perfect opportunity to enter into that. He wants you to know that He is the God of the living…He wants you to know His life. He wants you to know that He is God of the loving…He wants you to know His love. He has infinite life and love for each one of you. May you come forward Tuesday night and in January to experience the God of the living.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

America's Moral Compass

Carl Anderson: America's Moral Compass Is Intact

Book Says Americans Desire Traditional Values

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, NOV. 5, 2010 ( Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus and New York Times bestselling author, has just released his latest book, "Beyond A House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street and the Media," the Knights of Columbus announced in a recent press release.

In the book, which was released on Election Day, Nov. 2, Anderson examines recent polling data, which he says exposes the fact that America is not as politically polarized as the public is led to believe, and that the country's collective "moral compass" is still pointing us in, basically, the right direction.

Anderson shows how the nation's political and business leaders, as well as other in the public eye, influence the public's perception of how our society views certain key issues, such as "the separation of church and state, ethical business practices and abortion restriction." The book also shows that, for the most part, American's share basic moral values.

"Time and again," says Anderson, "polling has revealed that the moral compass of the American people is sound and continues to point an ethical way forward for our country."

In the statement, Anderson shares that the consensus among Americans is the desire to move past "institutionalized partisanship and division." He says that even on issues that are especially controversial, such as abortion, "eight in 10 Americans can agree on certain restrictions." These common values and views on morality are often ignored by the media and those in positions of power.

According the press release, nearly five times as many Americans want a "return to traditional values" than feel that America is currently headed in the right direction.

"What we need now," says Anderson "is for people in key institutions to act with courage on these transcendent values."

Friday, November 05, 2010

Do you fast?

My alma mater, Gonzaga College High School, lost a dear friend last week when its president, Father Allen Novotny, died suddenly at the age of 58. He was president of Gonzaga for 16 years who succeeded a legend, Father Bernie Dooley. Fr Novotny was kind to me and so many “men for others” at Gonzaga. A video tribute to him is below.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
Do you fast? I mean, other than Ash Wednesday and Good Friday when we are required to fast. Fasting is one of those practices that people have either forgotten about or don’t know about. While it is tough, fasting rocks! It is really cool to try and get pure and holy through our bodies. Fasting helps us to live purity; if we can control our desires with God’s help with regard to our food appetite, then we are better equipped to control our sexual appetite. Fasting brings spiritual strength, too. Try fasting in moderation (e.g., fast from breakfast or your favorite food for a day) and offer it up for an intention. There is power in fasting!

Friday is typically a day that many Catholics fast (to be in union with Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday in some small way). So, maybe you can offer a little sacrificial fast today.  The Church prohibits fasting on feast days. For those who make a habit of fasting, feast days are appreciated all the more! Technically, fasting really refers to abstaining from snacking between meals.  We should really eat only enough at each meal to get to the next meal.  But, for Jesus, we try to do more.  Fasting beyond the minimum requirement is what I'm writing about here.  It is a practice that began in the Jewish tradition and has been carried out by the saints.  We see what fasting did for the saints! 

Here’s some more info about fasting from my post on Sept, 1, 2007:


At the end of yesterday's post about liturgical life, I wrote about feast days. While the Church highly recommends the practice of fasting throughout the liturgical year (but only requires it on two days -Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), she prohibits fasting on feast days. If we are in the habit of fasting, then we will appreciate feast days all the more! Here's some more info about fasting, according to

What Fasting Is:

Fasting, broadly speaking, is the voluntary avoidance of something that is good. When Catholics talk about fasting, we normally mean restricting the food that we eat. We can fast between meals, by not eating snacks, or we can engage in a complete fast by abstaining from all food. The English word breakfast, in fact, means the meal that breaks the fast.

While fasting takes the form of refraining from eating, it is primarily a spiritual discipline designed to tame the body so that we can concentrate on higher things.

Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving - The Swiss Army Knife of the Spirit:

That is why fasting is usually mentioned along with prayer and almsgiving (or charity). By controlling the passions of the body, we free our souls for prayer. And by refraining from eating, we free up food or money that we can give to those less fortunate than ourselves. The three spiritual disciplines go hand in hand, and the Church calls us to practice all three together, especially during the season of Lent.

Lenten Fasting and Penance:

Lent, the 40 days before Easter Sunday, is a season of the Church calendar set aside for Christians to do penance in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Refraining from food can help us to bring our bodies under the control of our souls, but it is also a way of doing penance for past excesses. That is why the Church strongly recommends that Catholics fast during Lent.

Current Church Law Regarding Fasting:

The Church used to prescribe very rigorous rules for the Lenten fast (including abstaining from all meat and eating only one meal per day). The current rules, however, are much more lax. Catholics are only required to fast on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and on Good Friday, the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. Anyone over the age of 18, but under the age of 60, should eat only one full meal on those days, although they can also have small amounts of food in the morning and the evening.

Going Beyond What’s Required:

The Church continues to encourage individual Catholics to observe a stricter fast. Extreme fasting, however, can be physically harmful, so, as with all physical forms of penance and of spiritual discipline, you should consult with your priest before embarking on a very strict fast.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"Power of the priesthood"

Last night, we had an excellent discussion on the "Power of the Priesthood".  Many students and I viewed the amazing video on the priesthood, "Fishers of Men" (parts 1 and 2 are below).  I then shared stories of mine and other priests of blessings, exorcisms, miracles, healings, and intense moments with the sacraments. The discussion usually goes no more than an hour.  The students asked questions about the priesthood and my journey to it well past the hour mark!

The main point was that priests today have the same power that Christ had 2000 years ago.  We readily acknowledge Christ's power to drive out demons and perform miracles from the Gospel stories.  But, do we believe that our local priest of Jesus Christ has the same power??

Fishers of Men Part 2 of 2

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Send someone to Heaven today!

On Sunday, we had a decent turnout for Mass, but nowhere near 300.  Moonwalk was done after Mass, video might be coming soon...

Here is a nice little write-up about All Souls Day from  We can send someone to Heaven today if we gain the plenary indulgence!

November 2 is All Souls Day, the day on which the Roman Catholic Church commemorates all of those who have died and are now in Purgatory, being cleansed of their venial sins and atoning before entering fully into Heaven. At one time, Catholics flocked to their churches on All Souls Day, to offer prayers in memory of their friends and loved ones. These days, however, most All Souls Day Masses are poorly attended.

Since praying for the dead is our Christian duty, it's sad to see how little attention is paid to All Souls Day. That's especially true since there is a special plenary indulgence that can be gained for the souls in Purgatory on All Souls Day. A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment for sin--and so, in effect, releases a soul from Purgatory.

All you have to do is visit a church, recite one Our Father and the Creed, receive Communion, and pray one additional Our Father and one Hail Mary for the intentions of the Holy Father.

The final requirement is that you take part in the Sacrament of Confession, but you can do that up to seven days before or afterward. Since most churches offer Confession on Saturday, you can go to Confession this Saturday, and then fulfill the rest of the requirements on All Souls Day itself.

The All Souls Day indulgence is a wonderful way to show your love for a friend or family member who has died. In less than an hour on All Souls Day, you can release a soul from Purgatory. Why not gain the indulgence for your loved one?

Monday, November 01, 2010

31st Sunday - homily

We hear about Zacchaeus in today’s Gospel. Zacchaeus is my boy! He’s a little guy, short in stature, who needs to climb a tree in order to see Jesus. If you are like Zacchaeus, not so much that you are short in stature, but that you are seeking to see Jesus, give me an AMEN! If you are like Zacchaeus and are willing to go out on a limb, give me an AMEN! Zacchaeus goes to great lengths to see Jesus. And, he risked a lot. He was a rich and powerful man, so he had a lot to lose. With all of his money, he was missing one thing and went out on a limb to find it. He was missing happiness. It’s not until he finds Jesus that he finds happiness and joy.

There are many ways for us as Catholics to seek to see Jesus. I’d like to challenge you in one way to go out on a limb to see Jesus: daily Mass. Now, I know that going to Sunday Mass is going out on a limb for GW students. You risk a fair amount to come here. But, we’re supposed to be here every Sunday; we’re supposed to keep holy the Sabbath each week. There is something special, though, about going above and beyond what we’re supposed to do, especially with regards to daily Mass. We definitely go out on a limb to see Jesus when we go to daily Mass. And, when we do, like Zacchaeus, our lives are changed forever.

We have Mass every day in the Catholic Church and it is awesome! As much as I love Sunday Mass, daily Mass is my favorite. It is much more intimate and personal, less distracting, and, ahem, shorter (no singing or collections, either!). Daily Mass changed my life as it has for so many people. It was in college that I started going to daily Mass. I much preferred going to Mass than going to class! I saw Jesus in a new way. I saw the Eucharist in a new way. I saw our faith in a new way. This is the experience of many people who are seeking to see Jesus at daily Mass.

Now, if you’re thinking, ‘daily Mass is not for me’, did you say “Amen” when I asked if you are willing to go out on a limb to see Jesus? If so, this is for you. This is God asking you to seek Him. I promise you, you will not regret it. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to hit the 12 noon Mass at the Newman Center Monday through Friday, try to hit one of the Saint Stephen’s Masses: 6:30 am, 12:10, and 5:30 pm. Also, go to which lists all of the Mass times around the area. Try to go to one Mass this week.

At Mass in our chapel each day, we get a nice turnout of government workers, World Bank employees, and students. People love it! They go out on a limb every day to see Jesus. And, when they receive salvation in their home – meaning when they receive the Eucharist – they receive the joy and happiness that Zacchaeus received from Christ.

Tomorrow, we celebrate All Saints Day. One of the secrets of the saints has been daily Mass. In fact, one of the greatest saint-makers is the Eucharist. So, if you go out on a limb to see Jesus at daily Mass, you are not only there with Zacchaeus, you are there with the saints! They are the happiest people in the world, and daily Mass has a lot to do with it!

So, your challenge is to attend a weekday Mass this week. Your challenge is to seek to see Jesus…to go out on a limb to see Jesus at daily Mass.