Monday, January 31, 2011

4th Sunday - homily

On Friday night, I went to see the new movie, "The Rite", with some students. It's about a priest who learns how to become an exorcist. We have a vested interest in this because the priest on whom the movie is based will be at GW next month. Father Gary Thomas is the real-life exorcist who will speak to GW students on February 15 at Saint Stephen's Church. The movie is good, but some of the technical points aren't right. For example, Fr Gary is depicted as a seminarian when he performs an exorcism; he had been a priest for many years at that point. But, it's a good movie about faith, the power of the devil, and the power of God over evil. That power is real.

I had planned on telling you about something about God's power before seeing the movie. In almost five years of being a priest, I have experienced the power go out of me on several occasions. Do you know the story of the woman with the hemorrhage, Luke 8? She merely touched the garment of Christ and her bleeding of twelve years stopped. Jesus felt the power go out of him. I have felt the power go out of me in the same way. A few times while giving absolution in Confession, I have felt the power go out of me. A few times praying over people it has happened; many times the people have felt the power go into them! And, a few times during the Consecration at Mass it has happened. Last week at the 7:30 Mass, I felt the power go out. It's not my power, it's the power of Christ. That power is real.

Priests act in the person of Christ; all Christians act in the name of Christ. Every baptized Christian in this church has the power to act in the name of Christ. It is his power and it’s real. I know that you all have heard the Beatitudes a hundred times before and hope that you don’t gloss over them or think that that’s for other people or that you’ll live them when you get older. There is real power in living these ways of life. The Beatitudes are not isolated incidents; they are a way of life. They are the way Christ lived; they describe his life on earth. Living the Beatitudes means living as Christ lived on earth. That brings a great power to our lives. If you’ve ever lived any of the beatitudes or witnessed someone living them, then you know what I’m talking about. It may not a physical power going out or coming into our body, but it is a power that resonates in our hearts. It’s the power of uniting with the heart of Christ. Powerful stuff!

Pope Benedict has written a book, “Jesus of Nazareth”, which is really good. He’s an excellent writer – very deep, of course, but he writes pretty simply, for a pope. Even I can understand him! In the book, he gives a beautiful reflection on the Beatitudes. Concerning “blessed are the peacemakers”, the Holy Father focuses in on reconciliation with God. His point is that before we can bring peace to anyone around us, we need to be reconciled with God. And, to be a peacemaker means to reconcile others with God. Three students have told me in the past month how they have reconciled their parents with God. It’s three separate students, three different situations…all peacemakers. They have not just brought their parents back to Mass, but to Confession and prayer as well. Think about the mission of Jesus Christ in general: He came into the world to reconcile the whole world with God. He is the ultimate peacemaker. These students are right there with Him as peacemakers. Also, other students are reconciling their friends and roommates with God, starting with bringing them (back) to Mass. This is very powerful for me to hear and witness; it is the power of Christ. That power is real.

Why is that the poor and meek are “blessed”? Why do they live the Beatitudes? First, because it’s the way Jesus lived. He was poor in spirit, meek, merciful, etc. Second, because of what St.Paul writes in the second reading. God “chose the shame the wise...God chose the weak…to shame the strong”. He chooses people through whom He exercises His power who will know it’s His Power. The poor and meek know tap into a power. They recognize it is not their power. Others recognize it is not their power. It is the power of God and it’s real. I didn’t have the power that “went out from me” before I became a priest. I recognize it’s not my power. It’s the power of Christ and it’s real.

Finally, when we talk about the people who live the Beatitudes, we are talking about the saints. The saints live Christ on earth. They tap into the power of the Beatitudes. And, they are the happiest people on earth. Jesus tells us this nine days in the Gospel: “blessed” are they…”happy” are they. If you want to be happy, live the Beatitudes! Then the question is, how? How do we live them? What is the secret of the saints? The Eucharist. All of the saints have a great devotion to the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of their power. It is their strength. It is the grace that helps them to live the Beatitudes. May the Eucharist help each one of us to live Christ on earth…to tap into his power…to live the Beatitudes…to live happiness. And, may Jesus say to each one of us, “rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven”.

Friday, January 28, 2011

God is good!

It's been quite a grace-filled week at the Newman Center.  Last weekend, 40 GW Catholics attended the FOCUS Conference in Baltimore.  We joined over 1,000 other Catholic students from east coast universities that have FOCUS missionaries on their campuses.  The weekend was very good, and especially moving for our students.  For many, it was life-changing.  The highlight for me, outside of Mass and Adoration, was Saturday night confessions.  Over 500 students went to Confession between 9:30 pm - 12 midnight.  Almost all of our students went, as far as I can tell.  I set up my "booth" away from the other priests because our first penitent grabbed me right at 9:30 on the third floor for Confession.  We were two floors up from all the other students, and I wanted to let the GW students know where I was so they could come to me.  As I was about to ask the student to tell the others where I was and for them to come to Confession to me, he said, "they're here".   A huge line of 15-20 of our students had already formed on the third floor. 

I wish I could have been on the bus ride home.  Students got on the bus's mic and told about their experiences on the conference.  One student said she committed her life to Christ.  Another recommitted hers.  And, one student told the bus that he would be applying to seminary...!  The best line of the whole weekend was from one of our freshmen who is hilarious,  She said, "this weekend has ruined my life...I think I'm supposed to be a nun".  Most likely, she and I will work together to discern her vocation.  Whatever it is will be her happiness.

Then, on Monday, almost 60 GW Catholics participated in the March for Life.  Over 20 had a blast at the Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center, many of whom had never been.  Afterwards, 40 of us marched down on the Mass- probably the largest group ever from the Newman Center to march.  Again, for many of these students, it was their first time at the March for Life. The great pic below is from Monday.

Yesterday, a very special monstrance arrived.  It was used by Pope John Paul II.  The Serra Club which promotes vocations to the priesthood delivers the monstrance to parishes and Catholic groups each month around the country.  It is used mainly to promote vocations to the priesthood.  We will be using it through February for Eucharistic Adoration for my daily Holy Hour, for Wednesday Adoration, and on Feb. 4 ("Jesus and Burritos").  And oh by the way (!), six of our upperclassmen and grads will be attending an Archdiocesan  retreat with Cardinal Wuerl about discerning the priesthood.  We were hoping for just a few, and God has provided six.  This is a serious weekend, so this means that we have six serious candidates for the priesthood.  That's just our upperclassmen, too.  There are several underclassmen who are discerning priesthood.  There are a few of our women discerning religious life - some who have recently expressed this, such as the "this ruined my life" freshman. All in all, it's a great time to be a GW Catholic...a real Springtime of faith around the Newman Center.  God is good!  All the time.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"A Night with an Exorcist"

"A Night with an Exorcist".  On Tuesday, February 15, an exorcist will speak to GW students at St. Stephen's Church at 7:15 pm.  All GW students are invited and will be allowed to ask questions.  When an exorcist spoke to students at Montclair State University last fall, about 800 students attended the talk and asked questions for two hours...!

Father Gary Thomas is the exorcist of the San Jose diocese and the priest on which the new movie, "The Rite", is based.  Here is the trailer of the movie.  Below the trailer is part one of an interview with Fr Thomas.  Part two will be posted in the coming days...

Hollywood, US Bishops Spotlight "The Rite" (Part 1)

Interview With San Jose Diocesan Exorcist

By Genevieve Pollock

SARATOGA, California, JAN. 20, 2011 ( Jan. 28 is the release date for a new movie about exorcism and faith, which is based on the story of Father Gary Thomas, official exorcist of San Jose, California.

ZENIT spoke with Father Thomas about his call to the ministry of exorcism, his experiences over the past years in working with people seeking his help, and the prevalence of demonic influences in our society today.

The movie, "The Rite," starring Anthony Hopkins and distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures, focuses on themes of faith, as evidenced by the promotional tagline: "You can only defeat it when you believe."

It is based on the real experiences of Father Thomas, as recorded in the book, "The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist," by Matt Baglio. Both the author and the priest, who serves as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga, were invited onto the set to consult in the making of the movie.

Hollywood producers are not the only ones with a renewed interest in this topic; last November the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops sponsored a two-day conference on exorcism, which took place in Baltimore just prior to the fall assembly. Some 56 prelates and 66 priests signed up for the course.

In this interview, Father Thomas described his experiences on the set of the movie, and explained the relevance of this ministry today.

Part 2 of this interview will be published Friday.

ZENIT: Could you tell us about the scene on the set of the movie?

Father Thomas: I was on the set for a week with the actors, and I gave them input in terms of what the reaction to an exorcism and what the manifestations look like. The author of the book was on the set for most of the shoot.

For example, I taught Anthony Hopkins how he has to bless left to right and not right to left, and all those little things. The producer Beau Flynn and the director Mikael Håfström really wanted this to be supremely accurate, and I do too.

It's really a movie about faith. It's not a gory movie or a horror movie; there is no green pea soup or heads spinning off of bodies.

I've not seen a lot of exorcism movies; there was one that was just out about three months ago called "The Last Exorcism," which actually was very good. And "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" came out in 2005, which was done by New Line Cinema as well and actually done by the same producer. But I think this one has a whole different take to it, because it's really a movie about faith.

ZENIT: Most people get their ideas of exorcism from what they've seen in movies and on television. What would you say is different about the way Hollywood portrays exorcism and the way you've experienced it?

Father Thomas: I think in many cases Hollywood is basing everything on sensationalism, which I'm hoping this movie is not about.

Exorcism, rather, is a ritual set of prayers that command the demon to cease its attempt to inflict harm, suffering, pain and total possession of a human being, and to depart.

There are some dramatic manifestations that I've encountered, but often times what Hollywood tries to do is exacerbate the dramatic and add to it in the name of entertainment, when quite honestly this is not a topic to entertain people with.

Is there a dramatic side to personified evil? Yes, there is.

Satan or his minions attempt to intimidate human beings and to cause them to lose heart altogether, but with the help of Christ we have nothing to worry about. We have nothing to fear.

Hollywood wants to play out the dramatic, and because they've never really seen exorcisms they're just envisioning. I've had a number of media outlets contact me with the request to film one, and I've said no, because I have no guarantee and no reassurance that they are going to get it right.

I also say, you're not going to objectify someone's suffering in this way. Because then it becomes more of a fodder for entertainment rather than a way of becoming educated and informed about the real dark underbelly of the world.

ZENIT: How necessary is a ministry of exorcism in our country these days? Are these cases of demonic possession very frequent?

Father Thomas: The ministry is essential.

It is not because we are having so many cases of demonic possession. What we are seeing -- speaking from my experience -- is that we are all, not just the exorcists, but priests in general, having a lot more people coming to us about matters that are of this realm. Many of the issues people are coming with are actually not demonic; they are more related to mental health.

Sometimes people ask, "Why now?" And I say, because now there are more Catholics who are involved in paganism and idolatry, so there are a lot of people who are opening a lot of doors to the diabolical.

The occult is all about power. Now the occult is not synonymous with the Satanic, but it is a doorway.

There are also more and more Catholics, and people in general, now in this country who are involved in New Age things. With the opening of doorways to the New Age and the occult, you do not know what is behind that door; you do not know what you are tapping into most of the time.

So, are there more cases of possession? In five years, I've exorcised five people, whom I do believe had a demonic attachment. And I've prayed over others who also I think have a demonic attachment, but I've not done exorcisms with them.

But what is becoming very rampant is that more and more people are involved in pagan idolatry. Some of it is structured and formal, and some of it is not.

This is coupled with issues that have to do with sexual abuse; 80% of the people who come to me have been sexually abused. That is a soul wound, and a doorway for a demon.

If the soul wounds are coupled with either heavy drug use, heavy sexual perversions, sexual abuse or physical abuse, usually by a parent, a sibling or an extended family member, it becomes a recipe for an invitation for a demon.

It is not like demons just show up. You have to invite them in, or someone else invites them in for you.

If a person has been sexual abused it does not mean that they are going to have a demonic attachment. What I am saying is that when people have been sexually abused they become incredibly vulnerable to that possibility.

Then if they get involved in matters that have to do with paganism and idolatry, like the occult or things of the Satanic, the bar goes way up, the chances go up. Because demons are always looking for human beings who either have no relationships or a variety of broken relationships.

ZENIT: If Catholic laity find themselves in this situation, how would they guard against the possibility of demonic activity in their lives or how would they protect a loved one who they are worried about?

Father Thomas: There are a variety of ordinary means.

People say to me all the time, "I don't want this to happen to me." I tell them that as long as you have a faith life, a prayer life and a sacramental life, the chances of this occurring are very nil.

If you have a life that involves God -- and for a Catholic if you have a sacramental life that involves the Eucharist and reconciliation with regularity -- and your life is lived in the spirit of the will of God and the providence of God, you do not have any serious consideration to be concerned about.

It is when people are involved in the spirit world, which is rarely deliberate. It is usually out of curiosity, of when they think they can get a leg up on things.

For example, it can be people who get involved in very unorthodox types of meditation. I'm not talking about Ignatian spirituality or having a spiritual director who helps you learn how to meditate.

I'm talking about people who go off to Buddhist camps, or people who are involved in spiritism, where you do not know what they are involved in, and you do not know what kind of techniques people are using to somehow deal with the realm beyond this one. It is much more about stuff that is really not known or tested, or sometimes it is known and tested by people who really have the wrong focus. It is not about a relationship with God; it is about a relationship with self...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Philadelphia horror"

We have been very busy with all kinds of God’s amazing stuff the past few days, and I’m just starting to catch up on the news. I can’t (but also I can) believe what I’m hearing about an abortionist in Philadelphia. The subheading below sums up the evil situation: “Abortionist and 9 associates arrested on murder charges; Grand Jury alleges he killed viable babies with scissors, spread diseases among patients, gave woman fatal drug overdose.” An online article from “California Catholic Daily” tells the grewsome story. It’s a story that I ask GW Catholics to follow as it goes to trial. It could be very interesting to see what develops from this. A friend sent me the following experience that one of his friends had with this doctor of death:

"5 years ago he was doing abortions in both Philly and Wilmington Del. I had a very hard desicion to make, but decided to end my pregnancy. I went to him, not knowing about what he really did. I was improperly drugged, then they overdosed me. He lied about how old the fetus really was. I believe that my baby was born alive. The nurse in the room with us slapped me and told me to shut up. (no kidding) In his haste, he ripped a 3 inch gash in my uterus hitting a major artery. I bled to death in my boyfriend's car. Only a miracle saved me, the fact that it was so cold out, my body temp had dropped and I went into shock. Now, thanks to him, I can't have anymore children. The damage done to my uterus made it neccesary to have an emergency hysterectomy. I told you it was far worse than they said...... I could tell you all the details, but what I've told you is the basic"

Philadelphia horror

Abortionist and 9 associates arrested on murder charges; Grand Jury alleges he killed viable babies with scissors, spread diseases among patients, gave woman fatal drug overdose

From Operation Rescue and Grand Jury reports

Philadelphia, PA -- District Attorney R. Seth Williams released a 281 page Grand Jury Report yesterday (1/19/11) that was the basis for murder charges against abortionist Kermit Gosnell and nine of his associates. Included in that report were photos of some of Gosnell's victims.

We are posting copies of these images on our website so that the full truth of the horrific nature of these crimes can be understood.

In the report, the Grand Jury notes that several agencies and groups became aware of what has become known as Gosnell's "shop of horrors" but did nothing.

“This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women,” said the Grand Jury’s report. “What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.”

Just the day after the death of Karnamaya Mongar, Gosnell had applied for membership to the National Abortion Federations, whose meager guidelines Gosnell could not meet. Even though an NAF staff person spent several days in Gosnell's abortion mill noting numerous violations, they did not think to report him to the proper authorities.

The grand jury also had a stern rebuke for regulatory organizations who looked the other way, giving their stamp of approval on his criminal practices.

These people who saw the abuses yet stood idly by, or worse, encouraged the behavior that has now shocked the nation bear some responsibility for what happened in Philadelphia. In fact, they deserve criminal prosecution just as much as Gosnell and his cohorts because their silence not only enabled the crimes, but gave tacit consent to them.

Operation Rescue calls for massive reforms in the way abortionists and abortion clinics are handled by regulatory agencies nationwide. Kermit Gosnell's shop of horrors is certainly not the only abortion mill of this kind in operation in America.

"Operation Rescue calls for immediate emergency inspections of every abortion clinic in the nation. We have often said that if this were to ever happen, no abortion clinic would remain in operation because we have yet to discover one that adheres to all the laws that apply to them. There is no doubt that proper enforcement of the laws already in place would save the lives of women like Mrs. Mongar and babies such as the ones whose tragic images we have posted on our website," said Operation Rescue president Troy Newman.

"As the 38th memorial of Roe v. Wade approaches, it is time for Americans to consider the horrors of abortion and demand that government abolish this barbaric practice forever."

Warning! Photos are extremely graphic and disturbing. All photos are from the Grand Jury Report released by Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams. To view the photos and the article in full, click on today's title.

Monday, January 24, 2011

3rd Sunday - homily

Recently, I went with some students and the FOCUS missionaries to the Polish Embassy to see a screening of a documentary, "Nine Days That Changed the World". It is a film that narrates and analyzes Pope John Paul II's trip to his native Poland in 1979. The film is very well done; you feel like you're there! You see the huge crowds - millions of people were there everywhere the Holy Father went. Poland was in darkness then, under the regime of communism. The pope was a great light! The Polish people connected with the message of their hero - a message of freedom, faith, the Cross, and solidarity. The people united around this message and the regime was in trouble. Amazingly, this led to the fall of communism in Poland, the Soviet Union, and all of Eastern Europe. Nine days that changed the world.

Poland was in darkness - the darkness of communism. College can bring darkness for some people in a few ways: the darkness of sadness or depression, the darkness of sin, and the darkness of ignorance. When I was in college, I had all three going on! I remember being 20 years old on a college campus and saying to myself, 'I'm in darkness'. At that time, I didn't know Christ. I knew about Christ but I didn't know Him. At that time, my light was Juliette O'Hare. I knew her in high school. She was a beautiful and sweet girl. She moved to California and became Miss San Diego! We talked on the phone a lot. Then, she invited me to move out there. I was like, "um, yeah". I had my light - California, Miss San Diego, all that. My bags were packed.

God must have had a good laugh over this. The saying is, "if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans". I had my plan and was ready to go. Then, He intervened. Long story short, I unpacked my bags, and He began to show me the real light, His Son, Jesus Christ. You know what's it like when the lights go out in your house or room. It's a little scary. You can't see things as they really are You think you know what's in front of you and then jam your knee into something...ouch. That was me the first part of college. I was in the dark. God showed me the light, mainly through Truth. It started with the Eucharist. He turned on the light switch when a priest said to me, "'this is my body' means this is my body". That's when the light went on. I started to see the Truth about Confession and all the teachings of the Church. God showed me the light which is His Son.

Christ is the light! He is the light of the world. It was His light that came to Poland in 1979. It was His light that came to Corinth when St Paul preached to people who didn't know about Jesus. It was His light that came to me in college. He wants to bring light to Foggy Bottom. He wants to bring light to this campus. But, He needs your help. He's actually given you his title of "light of the world". He says you are "salt of the earth and light of the world". He wants you to bring to others. You know people who are in darkness. You know people who are in sadness - bring them joy! Bring them a never know how much that can help someone who's having a tough day. You know people who are in sin - bring them to Confession! Bring them to mercy and healing. You know people who are in ignorance - bring them the Truth! Show them the Gospel.

How do you do that? It's quite simple. It's a simple invitation. Jesus invites the Apostles to the light with two words: "follow me". He says two words and they leave everything to follow Him. Invite people to the light. Invite them to Mass, to Bible Study, to Tuesday dinner. You'll be surprised at the response. People in darkness ate desperate for light. In your dark house or room, we immediately go for our cell phone light, candles, or a flashlight. Your invitation could be exactly what people are looking for. Invite those who are in darkness to come to the light...from sadness to joy...from death to life. Bring them to the light...the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

Friday, January 21, 2011

FOCUS Conference!!

Today, 40 GW Catholics will leave for the FOCUS Conference in Baltimore.  My guess is that this is the largest group of students to go on retreat or conference in the history of the GW Newman Center (if someone knows of a larger group, please let me know). 

We had a pre-conference party on Monday night, and our students are pumped for this!  One of them messaged me on Facebook: "I feel something big is coming!"  Same here, brother!  It should be an amazing weekend with the Holy Spirit and 1,500 other college students from local universities (there are three other FOCUS conferences happening around the country this month).

If you're not going this weekend, please pray for us.  Here is a video from last year's national conference.  For those who are going, get psyched!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why is sex before marriage wrong?

Short answer: because Jesus says so.

A student asked me this question last year, and that was the answer I gave him. I told him and the others in the discussion that in Mark 7:21, Jesus lists serious sins, "murder, adultery, theft, fornication (sex outside of marriage)". While he showed respect for our Lord's teaching, he went on to argue for fornication. Sometime later, he passionately summed up his position: "I just don't think there's anything wrong with sex outside of marriage". I replied, "so, you disagree with Jesus".

Just about every young Catholic who has ever asked me this question does not know Mark 7:21. They do not know that Jesus has said that sex before marriage is wrong. Once they find out that God has condemned fornication, they still want to know why it's wrong. In other words, they now get THAT sex before marriage is wrong, but still don't get WHY it's wrong.

Sex before marriage is wrong because it involves lust, not love. You're thinking, 'how can you say that, Father?' Granted, when I'm speaking to unmarried people who are involved in a sexual relationship (the time when people most disagree with the Church's teaching), I gently and slowly make this point clear. They usually realize it before I have to spell it out. I can say it because it's true. I am speaking about the act itself, not the couple. The couple can truly love each other, but still commit sins of lust. Even married couples can commit sins of lust against one another (e.g., oral sex).

Any sexual act* outside of marriage is a sin of lust. A sin of lust occurs when you use another for your own sexual pleasure. You reduce them to being merely an object of your sexual desire. We can contrast lust with love by saying simply that lust means taking from another while love means giving to another. When the unmarried couple engages in sex, they enter into lust, not love. How? Because they are taking from the other, not giving. They CANNOT give themselves to the other. An unmarried couple has not given their love to each other in marriage, so they are incapable of fully giving their love to each other physically. This is a HUGE point in understanding why sex outside of marriage is wrong and bears repeating. An unmarried couple has not given their love to each other in marriage, so they are incapable of fully giving their love to each other physically. If it's not love, it's lust.

"But, Father, I really love my boyfriend. It's not about sex, it's about making love". Where do we get the idea of "making love", anyway? Is it from movies and TV? If Hollywood is the authority on love, then yes, you and your boyfriend of four weeks truly love each other and express that love every time you exchange the most intimate human act of sex. But, Hollywood is not the authority on love- God is. He is the author of love! "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8). And, the author of love has written (in the first book of the Bible, Genesis) that sex is for two purposes: procreation and union (between husband and wife). An unmarried couple can't truly unite, so they can't "make love", as God intends. God intends them to be married and to be open to life when they have sex! Engaging in sex as God intends is truly making love. Then, sex is sacred, holy, beautiful, pure, and good. Outside of that, sex is evil, as Jesus says in Mark 7:21.

*to see what constitutes a sexual act, check out my upcoming post, “How far is too far?”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

John Paul II to be beatified!!

On Friday night, a group of our students and FOCUS missionaries invited me to the Embassy of Poland for a viewing of the documentary, "Nine Days That Changed The World". Newt Gingrich, a convert to Catholicism, and his wife produced this impressive and powerful film. It narrates the story of Pope John Paul II's visit to his native Poland in 1979 with the help of experts who explain the global significance of his trip. His pilgrimmage played a large role in bringing the fall of communism in Poland and the Soviet Union. Also, it revealed the power of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, and solidarity among a unified people. We will try to show the film at the Newman Center sometime soon. I highly recommend it! To view the film's trailer, please click on today's title.

Ironically, last Friday was when the Vatican announced that John Paul II will be beatified on May 1.Praise God! Here's an article about this exciting news:

Benedict XVI to Beatify John Paul II

Pontiff's Great Fame of Sanctity Acknowledged

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2011 ( Benedict XVI is planning to preside over the beatification rite for John Paul II on May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday, in the Vatican.

A communiqué from the Congregation for Saints' Causes announced that today the Pope, in an audience with the congregation's prefect, Cardinal Angelo Amato, "authorized the dicastery to promulgate the decree of the miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Servant of God John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla)."

This was the final step in the process preceding the beatification rite, which will be celebrated on Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast day instituted by John Paul II.

The communiqué noted: "It is well known that, by pontifical dispensation, his cause began before the end of the five-year period which the current norms stipulate must pass following the death of a Servant of God.

"This provision was solicited by the great fame of sanctity which Pope John Paul II enjoyed during his life, in his death and after his death.

"In all other ways, the normal canonical dispositions concerning causes of beatification and canonization were observed in full."

The diocesan investigation into the cause for beatification of the Pontiff took place between June 2005 and April 2007. On Dec. 19, 2009, Benedict XVI authorized the promulgation of the decree on his predecessor's heroic virtue.


The congregation then examined the report of a miraculous healing through the intercession of John Paul II: the cure from Parkinson's disease of Sister Marie Simon Pierre Normand of the Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood.

The reports of medical and legal experts on the French nun's healing were submitted to the dicastery for scientific examination last Oct. 21.

The congregation noted that its experts, "having studied the depositions and the entire documentation with their customary scrupulousness, expressed their agreement concerning the scientifically inexplicable nature of the healing."

Thus, on Dec. 14, the theological consulters began an evaluation of the case, and "unanimously recognized the unicity, antecedence and choral nature of the invocation made to Servant of God John Paul II, whose intercession was effective in this prodigious healing."

On Tuesday, during the ordinary session of the congregation, the members expressed their "unanimous approval."

The prelates expressed belief in the miraculous nature of the recovery of Sister Marie Simon Pierre, "having been achieved by God in a scientifically inexplicable manner following the intercession of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, trustingly invoked both by Sister Simon herself and by many other faithful." The conclusions were then submitted to Benedict XVI for approval.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2nd Sunday - homily

On Tuesday night, one of the greatest priests of Washington will be leading our Tuesday discussion. Father Dan Leary is a good friend of mine who will be telling us “Stories of Healing”. He’s an amazing priest but is crazy. He’s nuts! He’s crazy funny and crazy holy. To give you a taste of his sense of humor: when Fr Dan was a seminarian, he played a practical joke on a pastor. He was stationed for a summer at a parish which had a house for the pastor. When the pastor went away on vacation, Dan Leary put a “For Sale” sign in front of the pastor’s house! People had stopped by and left messages about buying the house. When the pastor returned, he was not happy…! So, Tuesday night should be a lot of fun – Father Dan will probably make a good amount of fun of me- but it will also be really good. Fr Dan has a thriving healing ministry. He has been given the gift of healing and many people have experienced Christ’s healing through him. He is planning on bringing two women who have experienced healing through him.

It will be a timely discussion as we approach the March for Life. The women will speak to us about the healing they have received from the Church after having abortions. Fr Dan told me they are some of the most powerful people in his parish. He represents the Church so well in that he provides so much healing and mercy to women who have had abortions. Before I get into the March for Life, it’s important to point out that the Catholic Church provides more healing for women who have had abortions than any private institution in the world. Let me represent the Church’s outreach here: if you or anyone you know has participated in an abortion, I am here to help you in any way. My door is always open for healing and mercy.

The March for Life is coming up on Monday, January 24th. It is one of the greatest days of the year! Hundreds of thousands of people descend on the Mall to celebrate and defend life, most of whom are high school and college students. Young people are actually leading the March now! One of the reasons they are so involved is that they see abortion as the greatest injustice of our time. Also, they realize that they could have been aborted; thank God their mothers and your mothers chose life! If you’ve never been, you’ve got to go. In fact, every GW Catholic should make every effort to be involved in the March for Life in one way or another. There will be thousands of college students there from all over the country. They will make many sacrifices to be there: taking off more than day of classes, driving many hours in cars or buses, sleeping on floors, going without showers, etc. I am asking GW Catholics to sacrifice, too: take the day off from classes on Monday the 24th. I know, big sacrifice!

There are two things we are offering you to be a part of the March. The first is the Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center. It rocks! There will be 25,000 young people there celebrating life and faith. The group from GW that went last year really enjoyed it. Amy will take a group of 25 of you. You will meet at 7 am at the Newman Center (again, sacrifice!) and spend the morning there. Then, you’ll come back to Newman for lunch. For those who can’t go to Verizon, I will celebrate a Mass at 12:45 at Newman. Then, we’ll have lunch with the group from Verizon and walk down to the March. We’ll even give you a “GW Catholics for Life” scarf to help keep you warm. Everything is free except transportation back from the March or if you want to get food and beverages on Capitol Hill afterwards. You need tickets for the Verizon Center, so please sign up after Mass.

Why do we march? We march to represent. God calls us to represent life, especially life in the womb. God loves life. He loves babies – He became one of them! God loves life and hates abortion. He calls us to represent life, defend life, and march for life. So, we represent life, especially life in the womb. The womb is one of the most sacred places on earth. This is where God first lived on earth. It should be one of the safest and most peaceful places on earth, but it has become one of the most dangerous. Did you know that there over 3,000 abortions in the United States every day? More Americans die every day to abortion than on 9/11. Unborn babies are the most defenseless people on earth. They are people, and they cannot defend themselves. So, we defend them. There are among those who Jesus calls “the least of my brothers and sisters” in Matthew 25. He will judge us based on how we treated them and all the poor.

God speaks about life in the womb many times in Scripture. We have one of the main lines from Isaiah 49 in tonight’s first reading: “God formed me as his servant from the womb”. God formed me as his servant from the womb. Before Isaiah was ever a prophet, he was God’s servant…from the womb. Before any of us become students, teachers, lawyers, priests, or whatever, we are God’s servants first and foremost. God formed each of us from the womb. He formed us personally: He gave us our personalities, gifts, and vocations. Whenever I celebrate a wedding, I say to the couple that when God created you, he had your wedding day in mind…He had my ordination day in mind. He gave each of us our vocation in the womb! He formed us spiritually: He gave us our souls at conception. He formed us physically: He gave us our bodies in the womb. At conception, each of us had our own DNA. Eighteen days later, we had beating hearts. Twenty-five weeks later, we could hear like adults and even pick up on our mothers’ moods. He formed each of us from the womb…as His servants.

Finally, brothers and sisters, as we prepare to receive the grace of the Eucharist, let us be not afraid. Be not afraid to be God’s servants in the world. Be not afraid to do His Will and live holiness. Be not afraid to answer His Call whatever it may be. Be not afraid to be pro-life and defend life in all stages. Be not afraid to march for life. There will be others telling you not to go – friends, roommates, even family members. Don’t do the will of others, do God’s Will. On January 24th and in life, be not afraid to live out the words of our psalmist, “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will”.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Biblical humor (part 2)

CHIPOTLE  after 7:30 pm Mass this Sunday, Parish Hall at St Stephen's.  Alongside the burritos, we'll have sign-ups for March for Life, Alternative Spring Break, Wednesday Adoration, Ski Retreat, Liturgical Ministers, and World Youth Day.  Phew, it'll look more like a student org fair...!


"Wise man, huh?" (wise man takes shovel to the face)

"Well, if it isn't Joseph and Mary"... OUR SON IS GOD

CAMEL WASH..."Youth Group Fundraisers in Biblical Times"

"Tragically, the first youth minister in history was fired for breaking all ten commandments...'dodgeball accident'"


"You idiot, he said, 'Cast the nets'!"

"Thou shall not gill...Fin no more...Perfect - Great moments in logo design"

"Whaddya mean? That wasn't YOU who just said, 'Good morning'?"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Biblical humor (Part 1)

"And God separated the light from the dark"

"During the forty years of wandering in the desert, there wasn't much to read...Let my People (magazine) go!"

"Jesus clears the temple"

"Jacob the Stutterer told me it was PomPom Sunday"

Sign - Danger: Bridge Out..."The other disciples were always visiting Doubting Thomas in the hospital"

"The disciples had to admit that even at shadow puppets Jesus was clearly the best"

"During a lively game of pickup basketball, Peter denies Jesus three times"

Sign: It's a Miracle - over 5000 served...."He thinks the sign is a bit much"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

March for Life + GU conference

A friend of mine who runs his own blog site sent the following invitation to me which I pass on to GW bloggers. The O’Connor Conference is the same weekend as the FOCUS Conference, so those not going to Baltimore should try to make this conference at Georgetown. EVERY GW Catholic should be involved in this year’s March for Life (Jan 24) in one way or another.

The Newman Center will send 25 students to the Verizon Center for a Rally and Mass with 25,000 other students from around the country. This event rocks! Rally and Mass are from 7:30am-11:30am.  Transportation and lunch will be provided.  To get more info and to sign up, email Amy at
For those who can’t go to Verizon, we’ll have a Mass for Life at 12:45 pm at Newman chapel. After Mass, the group at Verizon will join us for lunch downstairs. Then, we’ll walk down to the Mall to join hundreds of thousands for the March. To sign up for (Mass and) lunch at Newman, email me at
We will also provide yellow scarves that say "GW Catholics for Life".  We'll be doing some representin' while we keep warm!  The only costs of the day will be after the March - if students choose to grab drinks or food on Capitol Hill and/or pay for transportation back to campus.

Upcoming Event: The 12th Annual Cardinal O'Connor Conference at Georgetown

The annual March for Life here in Washington, marking the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's dreadful Roe v. Wade decision on January 22, 1973 - the Dred Scott decision of our times - is coming up on Monday, January 24th. For those of my readers who will find themselves in the Washington area, I highly encourage you to consider attending the 12th Annual Cardinal O'Connor Conference and its associated events at Georgetown University over the weekend immediately prior to the March. Named in honor of His Eminence John Cardinal O'Connor, the late Archbishop of New York, the conference is the largest pro-life student conference in the country, and is co-sponsored by Georgetown University Right to Life, Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, Georgetown University Catholic Daughters of the Americas, and University Faculty for Life.

Among the many learned and interesting speakers, discussion leaders, and panelists scheduled to appear at the conference are Helen Alvaré, Professor at George Mason University Law School; Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., Superior General of the Sisters for Life; His Excellency William Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut; His Excellency Edwin O'Brien, Archbishop of Baltimore; keynote speaker Lila Rose, well-known student activist at UCLA; Thomas Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the St. Thomas More Society; and Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online. The annual Thomas King, S.J. Award, named in honor of the late Father King - whom all Georgetown undergraduates of a certain age will remember very well indeed - will be given in recognition of an outstanding collegiate pro-life group.

On Saturday, January 22nd, the evening prior to the conference, a Mass for Life will be celebrated by His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, in the historic Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart, located at the heart of Georgetown's old campus. This will be followed by a "Luau for Life" reception in the Copley Hall Formal Lounge, just a short walk from the chapel, in support of Washington's Northwest Pregnancy Center. The Center was founded by Georgetown University students and alumni back in 1983 and is today the largest crisis pregnancy center and maternity home in the city.

Please note that the website for the conference provides online registration until January 21st, however I have been told personally by the Director of the Conference that walk-in registrations will be accepted.

For those who are interested in reading a bit more about Cardinal O'Connor's views on abortion, I would encourage you to read a lengthy piece where he answered a number of questions frequently raised with him on the subject. I suspect that many readers will be surprised to learn that His Eminence held views which, in many respects, will strike Republicans as being Democrat positions - for example the Cardinal's appeal to trade unionists, a group whom he supported all of his life. Indeed, the Cardinal was often a strident critic of U.S. military actions throughout his episcopate. What this piece shows us is that the protection of life in all its forms is not a Republican or a Demoracrat issue, it is a human issue.

In this article, Cardinal O'Connor reminds us of how we must fight to save every life, and gives the very telling example of Moses, who himself was targeted for destruction at the time of his birth:

May I ask that everyone remember the story of Moses. By decree of the state, he should have been put to death at birth. A brave woman refused to kill him, and hid him in a basket in the reeds at the water's edge. His life was saved and God chose him to lead the Israelites to the promised land. If we spent the rest of our lives in an effort to save one Moses, or any other infant, could our struggle be called wasted? If any of us went into a burning building, or dove into icy waters, to save one baby, the community would bestow a medal for heroism, and we would always remember saving a single life. God knows the lives you have saved, even if you don't. Thank God for you.

The ending of this passage is an important point for us to consider. For those of us who are God-fearing people, we know that God sees and knows all that we do. Each of us, in our way, can be called upon to do something to rebuild the respect for human life which our society has been abandoning for some time now, and which continues to erode. What better way, for those of us able to attend, to shore up against that erosion than to meet with others who are as committed to this issue as ourselves, and thereby find ways of working together in this most noble of causes.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Baptism of the Lord - homily

As a seminarian, I looked at priests celebrating baptisms on Sunday afternoons after Masses and thought, ‘that would be a drag’. I didn’t really see myself getting pumped up for this, especially when there’s football on. But, then, I started celebrating baptisms as a deacon. I realized very quickly that it is an honor and a privilege to celebrate the sacrament of Baptism. And, one of my first baptisms helped me to see what a gift Baptism is. After the baptism, the father of the child came up to me and said, “that is the best gift I will ever give my child”. This blew me away. Think of all the gifts parents give their kids – and I don’t just mean Christmas gifts. They give their kids so many gifts, but the best gift of all is Baptism…the gift of faith…the gift of eternal life. That father was so right! I have used his line at every baptism since then.

One of my favorite baptisms was a few years ago in Southern Maryland. Friends of mine asked me to baptize their baby daughter. It was during Mass in a small, crowded Church. Everyone was really into the baptism. Everyone except one person – the baby girl. She cried the whole time! Ironically, the only time she stopped crying was when I poured the water over her head (it’s the opposite of what usually happens…the babies usually are chill until that cold water hits their bald heads). We called it a ‘mini-miracle’; she is destined to be a saint! One of the most powerful situations involving baptism was last year at GW hospital. I baptized a GW student who had tragically fallen five stories. By God’s grace, he survived long enough for me to baptize him. As incredibly difficult as that situation was for the family, it brought them comfort knowing their son is now with God forever.

Let’s be clear – we need to be baptized to be saved. Jesus says in John 3:5 that “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit”. John 3:5. Tell it to your family members, friends, or roommates who haven’t been baptized. You’d be surprised at their reaction. I used this line one time with a couple I was becoming good friends with who asked me to baptize their sixth child. (Actually, I use it at every baptismal prep class.) I asked them why they wanted to baptize their child. Ultimately, they said it was for their son to go to Heaven. In the conversation, I learned that the father hadn’t been baptized. I told them about John 3:5 and asked the wife is she was worried about her husband entering the kingdom of Heaven. Immediately, the husband – the husband! – said to his wife, “yeah, don’t you want me to get to Heaven?” A year later, he was baptized and is now a practicing Catholic.

Tonight, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. Why was our Lord baptized? It wasn’t to be saved – He is the Savior…the one who saves. It wasn’t to repent – He never sinned so there was nothing to repent. One of the reasons Jesus was baptized is to show us the way to salvation. There are other things He does that He doesn’t need to do to be saved but shows us the way to be saved – takes up His cross, celebrates the Eucharist, takes care of the poor, lives the Beatitudes, etc. He is like a coach who wouldn’t ask his athletes to do something he wouldn’t do. We’re only going to follow Him if He leads us.

Another reason Jesus is baptized is to show us He is “all in” for us. He goes all in at the Jordan river. He fully submerges himself in the waters of the Jordan to show his commitment to us. He is all in. He is all in in the Jordan; He is all in on the Cross... for us. When He comes out of the Jordan, it is an incredible scene: the Spirit descends and the voice of the Father is heard: “this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”

It is my hope that you will be “all in” for Jesus this semester. He is all in for you, be all in for Him? I promise you, if you go all in this semester as he went all in in the Jordan, the Spirit will descend and come upon you. And, hopefully, in some way, you will hear the voice of the Father say to you what he said at your baptism: “this is my beloved son / daughter, with whom I am well pleased”.

Finally, two points about the Eucharist in relation to today’s feast. The first is that the Eucharist is the best way to live out our Baptism. We’re not saved just because we’re baptized; we need to live it out. Baptism gives us faith and life in Christ; the Eucharist nourishes faith and life. The second is something I want you to consider as I elevate the Host during consecration: the words of the Father. As I elevate the Host, the Father says the same thing to us that He said at Jesus’ baptism: “this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”