Monday, February 28, 2011

8th Sunday - homily

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “it is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly”. The “preoccupation with possessions” refers to materialism. Materialism is prevalent among college students. A study was done back in the 70s. In 1970, one quarter of a million college students were surveyed. 40% of them said that doing very well financially was very important; 70% said that having a meaningful philosophy of life was very important. Then, in 1987 and through 2005, the numbers reversed. 70% of college students now think that making a lot of money is very important while 40% think that having a meaningful philosophy of life is very important.

Possessions are not bad; the preoccupation with possessions – materialism – is dangerous. Pope Benedict XVI has warned about the dangers of materialism many times. He has said that it presents a “false mode of happiness” and referred to consumerism as a “dead end street”. He has wondered aloud if the world has created its own idols and if people have imitated, even if they haven’t intended, the pagans of antiquity. He is hitting the nail on the head. The danger of materialism, or as Jesus refers to it in the Gospel as “mammon”, is that it can be a false god which demands the same loyalty that Almighty God does.

Jesus says that we cannot serve both God and mammon. Again, mammon refers to love of money, possessions, wealth, or power. How can we tell if we serve the real God or if we serve the false god of materialism? Here’s a simple questions to see: if you think about the future, of what do you think? If you worry about the future, about what do you worry? Someone who serves mammon would think of or worry about the following: the size of the house they will have, how many cars they will own, how much money they will make, what their spouse looks like, how many kids they will have, country clubs, and personal travel or vacation spots. All of these “things”.

Someone who serves Almighty God will answer that they think of or worry about the following: doing God’s Will, living out their vocation whatever it might be, serving others whether country or the Church, falling in love and loving another, raising and education children, and family. They will be focused on people and not things. Now, just to clear up a myth, it’s not like one life (materialism) is all fun and games and the other life (in God) is all BORRRING. A life in God is an adventure! God doesn’t just give us what we need; He often gives us what we want…the true desires of our hearts. Father Byrne talked about this last Tuesday when he said that God has taken him places he never would have been if he weren’t a priest (like meeting Pope John Paul II once when he was simply driving through Rome). A life in God has allowed me to travel through the country and around the world that I don’t think I would have done on my own.

We can use this Gospel to look at one possession you all have right now: your grades. I know that all of you are worried and anxious about your grades. Do you spend more time worrying about grades than you do working toward your grades? This is what Jesus is warning against. He is speaking primarily to peasants and laborers and telling them not to worry more about possessions than they work. Their worry shouldn’t exceed their labor. The same is true with you all: if you spend more time worrying about your grades than doing the work toward your grades, then there is a problem. You have probably heard me say this before: do your best and let God do the rest. That should be your approach for the rest of the semester, for the rest of your time at GW, and for the rest of your life. Do your best and let God do the rest. That is a huge stress and anxiety relief.

This Gospel is really a question about trust. God is saying, “do you trust me?” Do we trust God and find security in Him? Or, do we trust in money and the security of a large bank account? Our country has answered this question, even on our own currency. Every bill we have gives the answer: In God We Trust.

Finally, brother and sisters, God has entered into our material world in Jesus Christ. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. He continues to be in the midst of all of our “stuff” in the Eucharist. Among all of our “possessions”, the Eucharist is primary. St Augustine went after all of the things of the world and found what our psalmist did: that in God alone is our rest. Only God can bring us true rest and peace. Only the Eucharist can bring us true rest and peace. As we receive the Eucharist tonight, let us say these words: in God we trust.

Friday, February 25, 2011

"Does God give us signs?"

Mardi Gras!!  Join us for some Cajun food and live music as we celebrate Mardi Gras. Saturday, March 5, University Yard, 4-7 pm. Our newest GW Catholic tradition!
A blogger posted the following question: "Does God (or Mary or the Holy Spirit) give us signs if we ask/pray for them? Do you know of any examples of this happening?"
Yes!  There is an abundance of examples of God giving His people signs when they ask for them.  I have come to know many examples of this through reading, listening to people, and in my own experience.  One of the most popular examples among the saints would be St. Francis of Assisi.  When he first opened Scripture in order for God to speak to him, God spoke clearly.  We might refer to this as "Bible Bingo" - when someone opens up the Bible, says, "Ok, God speak to me here!" as they blindly place their finger on a Scripture passage.  The passage that St Francis pointed to was the one in which Jesus teaches to sell everything and give to the poor.  This is exactly what St Francis did.  He became one of the greatest examples of living a simple life and embracing poverty in union with the poor that the world has ever seen.  And, of course, he lived one of the most fruitful lives ever.

Closer to home, many students have received signs from God when they ask for them.  A student went on retreat last summer in order to have some kind of an experience of God's presence.  He had been very active at the Newman Center his first three years here, but in the midst of spiritual darkness.  He had gotten to know so many GW Catholics who had a regular experience of God's presence, especially in the Eucharist, and wanted to know what that was like.  So, he went on a 5 day, silent retreat with the hopes of experiencing God's presence in some way.  It happened.  God spoke to him during that retreat in a way he hadn't know before.  It was just an initial word that has grown since then.  He has had a breakthrough since the retreat, not just with God's presence in general, but with the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  He spoke to other students at a recent Tuesday discussion about the sign God has given him.

A commuter student was hitting some turbulence last year in regards to her major and future career.  She was actually becoming depressed because her "plans" were not working out; her major seemed to be a dead end.  She turned to Our Lady of Guadalupe because she has such a strong devotion to her.  Her prayer was that God would show her what to do through Mary.  Well, He did.  During her nine day novena, the student received an offer for another major that was just as fruitful and exciting.  She is now doing well on her new path.  Also, during the novena, a rose in her Mom's garden grew unusually large and fast. She wasn't looking for this kind of sign, but it confirmed what was happening with the other students and other major.  She showed me pictures of the rose - it was huge!

A woman who comes to me for spiritual direction had come to a crossroads about her vocation a few months ago.  She was t the point of major frustration.  I suggested that she ask God to give her a sign as to what her vocation is.  So, she made a novena to St. Joseph.  On the ninth day of the novena, two significant things happened.  In her prayer, God gave her an insight about raising children she had never had before.  It brought her wisdom but also peace.  Then, she went to daily Mass (as she does every day).  The readings were about marriage!  The priest preached on marriage in a way that spoke directly to her.  She truly believes that God gave her the sign that she is called to be married and has been living in peace ever since.  (Now, he just needs to send Mr. Right!).

There are many other examples of people receiving signs from God when they ask for them.  More often than not, the signs are not very dramatic.  God gives us signs that are subtle but strong.  So many students here have talked about the peace they have experience in Adoration.  That is a sign that the Real Presence is real!  There are also many people who receive signs from God even if it's never in prayer.  These are the real heroes of prayer.  Fr Wells used to ask why God never spoke to him in prayer.  And yet, he prayed every day of his priesthood.  Mother Teresa lived in spiritual darkness the last forty years of her life.  And yet, she, too, was faithful to daily prayer.  For Fr Wells, Mother Teresa, and so many others, God speaks to them loudly, just not in ways that they were looking for or necessarily asking for.  He speaks to all of us! He speaks to us in prayer, through Scripture, our experiences, and through other people.  He will us a sign if we ask for just might not be in the way we ask for it...or it might!   

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Confession is like spiritual Drano"

Last night, Father Bill Byrne spoke to a large group of us after Tuesday dinner.  He again amazed us with his stories, anecdotes, insights, and jokes. One hilarious tale was when he was in Rome studying at the North American College.  He had bought a car there which he named, "Baby Doll".  He drove one day to the Vatican to drop something off.  As he arrived, a Cardinal basically jumped in front of his car and was in desperate need for a quick ride.  The Cardinal, who was the 3rd highest Cardinal at the Vatican, got in the front seat and gave (then seminarian) Bill directions..."right...left...right".  They were going up to the Vatican Gardens!  When they arrived, they saw Cardinals 1 and 2.  Cardinal #3 and Bill got out of "Baby Doll" - they were on the helipad of the Vatican!  A short time later, a limo pulled up...the Pope's car.  Pope John Paul II got out, met the three Cardinals, and then Bill Byrne...with "Baby Doll" sitting close by.     

In his talk, Father Byrne focused on faith and the keys on how to live it.  His main image was that of the candle of faith that was lit at each of our baptisms.  We were given the light of Christ at Baptism...the light of faith.  In order to keep the candle lit, we need to do two things.  The first is to protect it from things that might blow the candle out.  In other words, guard it against forces that opposed to the light of Christ.  The second is to ensure that the light always has enough oil (as with a lamp) to continue to burn brightly.  

We see the images of lights, candles, and lamps used by Christ in the Gospel, and especially keeping the oil of our lamps in his parable of the ten virgins.  Oil is understood in this context as Grace.  Grace is the oil that keeps our lamps burning.  Father Byrne focused mainly on the Grace of the Eucharist and Confession as keeping our light of faith burning brightly.

He gave an analogy with Confession that was classic.  He said that we are like water pipes (like the ones that run from our kitchen sink).  The water represents God's love.  As pipes, we are to run the water out to others.  But, like all pipes, we get gunk on us from time to time that constricts the amount of water that can run through.  The gunk, of course, is sin; sin constricts the amount of God's love we bring to others.  Father Byrne made a clear distinction: we are not the gunk!  The gunk does not become us and we do not become the gunk.  Sin does not become who we are and we are not defined by our sin.

Confession is like spiritual Drano which clears the gunk out of our pipes, he said.  It clears our pipes and allows God's love to freely move through us.  Father Byrne said that he cleans his pipes with spiritual Drano every 1-2 weeks.  He doesn't have major gunk but needs the grace of Confession on a regular basis to stay clean, alert, and protected. 

For GW Catholics, then, I am your spiritual plumber who is on call 24/7 if your pipes get clogged with major gunk or you just want to have them cleaned. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Will work for love"

Last Friday, as we were peacefully praying our weekly rosary outside of the abortion facility on campus, a young woman started handing out condoms right next to us. So, on a busy sidewalk, in between every beautiful chant of “Hail Mary, full of grace...” could be heard a pagan refrain, “free condoms”. Our group didn’t stop praying, but two of our women walked over and asked her why she was doing that. “If you all can protest, so can I!”, she exclaimed. I will give her credit in one regard: she has some guts to come out by herself to protest a group of (peaceful) protesters. After we finished praying the rosary, I said to her, “it’s sad that you are promoting something that leads to the objectification of women”. She countered with stuff about condoms preventing diseases. I said, “condoms help men to use women”. Her reply: “women can use men, too”. I said, “that’s not good either”, and walked away. It is sad that a young woman (I am assuming she is a student here) who has passion and gifts is working against herself and all women. The saddest thing might be that she totally believes that what she is doing is right and that I and those with me stand for evil.

Last night, our FOCUS missionaries hosted an event called “Chase and be chaste”. It looked like a lot of fun. When I arrived, the group was doing “speed dating”. There were about 20 students there, with just about an even number of guys and girls. They had heard an inspiring talk about dating from a young Catholic couple. Then, they watched clips of TV shows and movies and discussed them during the speed dating. The night ended with different forms of dancing. It was a good event for our Catholic “singles”...! Speaking of dating and relationships in college, here’s an article from sent to me by a GW professor:

A mandatory orientation session at Princeton University each year features a play called "Sex on a Saturday Night." It's a piece of student theater designed to teach naive freshman about the dangers of STDs, date rape, drugs and alcohol.‬‪

But in years past, as one observer remarked, the lesson came as a serious punch line to an otherwise comical presentation, rife with examples of various forms of sexual encounters -- none of which illustrated commitment in long-term relationships.‬‪

Welcome to what some are calling the hook-up culture, permeating just about every college campus in the country. It's a default mode of impulsive sexuality with few, if any, responsibilities.‬‪

It's this type of lifestyle the Love and Fidelity Network is targeting this Valentine's Day with half-page ads in the campus newspapers of 18 mainly Ivy League colleges and universities, including Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth and Princeton.‬‪

"We're working for a better reality of sex and relationship experience,"‬‪ said Cassandra Hough, director of Love and Fidelity Network.

Love & Fidelity Network is the spin-off of the Anscombe Society at Princeton, an organization created in 2005 by a group of students, including a couple of Rhodes scholars, to build a counter force to the hook-up culture. It lobbied to have a more romantically devoted character added to the “Sex on a Saturday Night” skit.‬‪

"There's an impression that chastity and abstinence, is just a list of no's," said Hough. "But we're embracing sexuality, human relationships and authentic intimacy."‬‪

The ads, co-sponsored by the Let's Strengthen Marriage organization, will run in connection with National Marriage Week, which ends on Valentine's Day.

There are two different ads. One shows a heart-shaped puzzle with a few pieces missing. The caption reads: "There's more to sex and relationships than campus culture suggests. We're filling in the missing pieces. Join us."‬‪

The other ad features a man holding a cardboard-shaped heart with the words "Will work for love," on it. The caption is the same about “campus culture” except the tag line is, "And we're doing something about it."‬‪

Hough said she believes her organization is tapping into the heartfelt desires of young people today who want meaningful relationships.

She's actually echoing a just-released poll of 13- to 18-year-olds by One Hope,‬‪ which reported that 82 percent of them believed God intended marriage to last a lifetime.‬‪

But there's a big problem said Hough. "Young people growing up in a divorce culture have no understanding of how good marriages work."‬‪ They're inundated, she says, with sexual content in movies, magazines, and on TV like MTV's explicit show "Skins."

Then there’s the ever-present peer pressure on campuses to be carefree and casual in their attitudes about sex.‬‪

Hough said the culture, to some degree, is enabled by college administrations. In 2009, students at Princeton were encouraged to attend something called Safe Sex Jeopardy, an event modeled after the long-running TV game show. The students were quizzed on their knowledge of things like anal intercourse, flavored condoms, sex toys and sado-masochism.‬‪

“The goal of the program is to provide students with accurate information to help them make whatever sexual decisions they choose to make in the healthiest way possible,” said Princeton spokesperson Emily Aronson.

Every other year, Yale University has what’s called Sex Week. It’s ostensibly a student-run health awareness program designed to spark dialogue. But it has been criticized for its raw sexual content and the involvement of its corporate sponsor, Pure Romance, a company that sells adult sex toys.‬‪

Hough and others argue such programs teach students to detach sex from love, making it difficult for them to form lasting relationships.

David Lapp, from the Institute for American Values, said he found young adults woefully uninformed about marriage. For example, a study he and a research partner conducted with a group of 20- to 34-year-olds in Ohio found most felt living together before marriage was a must.

But Lapp said research actually shows “it either doesn’t help the marriage or it actually hurts it.”‬‪

Hough said young people, particularly those at academically intense institutions like Princeton, know they must be highly disciplined to be successful in their chosen field. Love, she said, takes the same effort.‬‪

“They’re willing to commit to professions, but when it comes to relationships and marital stability, there’s a disconnect between good habits and preparations.”

Monday, February 21, 2011

7th Sunday - homily

"Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

The saints were not always perfect. You all know the stories of saints who were big-time sinners -like St. Mary Magdelene, St. Peter, and St Augustine. Here are two more who you might not know. The first is St Mary of Egypt who lived in the fifth century. During her teens and twenties, she didn't treat her body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, as we hear in today's second reading. She dressed immodestly and had many sexual encounters with men. One time, she even used a Church pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a way to hook up with men. It was on that pilgrimage, though, that she saw her sinful life for what it was. With the help of the blessed Mother, she gave her life to God and then lived the remaining years of her life in deep prayer and virtue.

The second is Venerable Matt Talbot who lived in Ireland in the early twentieth century. Matt was a real booze hound. He started drinking when he was 12 and would become the town drunk in his twenties. His alcoholism got so bad that he would sell the shirt off his back for a drink. He couldn't even quit drinking for a day, often. Finally, he made a three month pledge of sobriety that stuck for the last forty years of his life. Like St Mary of Egypt and all the saints, he lived heroic virtue on a regular basis.

So, the saints are not always perfect! Mary, the mother of God, is the only saint who was always perfect. If you're thinking, 'what about Jesus?', well, then, we have problems. Jesus is not a saint -He is God! He made all the saints. One kid in my last parish wanted to have Jesus as his Confirmation saint...oops… But, the saints are not always perfect. So, there is hope for us!

Now, we may not relate to the huge and dramatic sinners who became saints (some of us great sinners do). But, there is a famous quote about saints that could speak to us: "saints are sinners who never stop trying". Saints are sinners who never stop trying. That is us! We are sinners who never stop be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

We need to have the correct wisdom in approaching this commandment of our Lord. If we approach "be perfect" with the wisdom of the world (which St Paul writes is foolishness to God), then it's just for's just vanity. The world is trying so hard to make itself perfect. We see this all around us in newspapers, magazines, movies, and TV. People want the perfect body, the perfect face, perfect hair, perfect this, perfect that. And, it's all for them. "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain".

Our approach is with the wisdom of God which calls for us to become fools. We realize first and foremost that God is perfect and we can't be perfect like Him on our own. He is God! He is perfect! We can’t be perfect like Him unless He helps us. And, we only want to be perfect for His sake...not for our own. It's for His glory, not ours. This is foolishness to the world. We are fools for Christ's sake. An example of this in Matt Talbot's life is the day he stopped by to pray in a church in Ireland. He was desperate for some Adoration as he had fallen in love with the Eucharist. This is true of all the saints. The Eucharist is how they became perfect! Well, Matt couldn't get into the church because the doors were locked. So, he knelt down on the sidewalk, and prayed in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament inside the church. He must have looked like a total fool to those passing by! He was a fool...for Christ's sake. He knew that he needed God to be perfect. And, God helped him to live a heroically virtuous life.

That is the other thing about our approach to "be perfect" - it's so much deeper than the world's approach. The world's perfection is superficial and shallow. The world swims in the shallow end of the pool; we swim in the deep end! We never stop trying to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect in regard to the virtues. We try to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful. We try to be loving and kind and generous as He is loving and kind and generous. The Father has given us the Son as the model to follow. If we imitate the Son's virtues, we will be like the Father.

One of the best examples of imitating the mercy of the Son is St Stephen. He was the first Christian martyr. As he was being martyred, he said virtually the same words that Christ said as he was being crucified: "do not hold this sin against them". We all have examples in our lives of how God is calling us to be perfect and holy as He is perfect and holy. Maybe your roommate hasn't spoken to you in weeks; say hello and start a conversation. Maybe there's bad blood with a family member back home. If you need to apologize to them, apologize. If you need to forgive them, forgive. Maybe it's saying hi to people on campus or on the streets. This is what we do as Christians. Jesus wants us to be unusual. Striving for perfection and holiness means doing things that aren't usually done. We won't find perfection until Heaven, but we never stop trying to be perfect in this life.

Finally, the commandment to be perfect is the culmination of the Sermon on the Mount to this point. We've been hearing the Sermon the last several Sundays, starting with the Beatitudes. Jesus has laid out how we will be happy in this life. Happiness is fulfilled in being living holiness. When we live perfection and holiness, we live happiness.

Friday, February 18, 2011

New "High-Def" Bible coming

The 'New' New American Bible, Coming March 9

Language keeps changing, and so the translation needs to keep pace. Here are some of the changes to look for.

BY PATRICIA ZAPOR (CNS) 02/01/2011 WASHINGTON (CNS) — The revised New American Bible that will be released on Ash Wednesday, March 9, may seem most notably different to casual readers for its efforts at providing context and clarity in how the passages fit together, according to the coordinator of its publication.

“It will be like going from regular TV to high-definition,” said Mary Elizabeth Sperry, associate director of New American Bible utilization for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “You’ll have the same programs but more clarity, more detail.”

What is being called the New American Bible Revised Edition, or NABRE, will include the first revised translation since 1970 of the Old Testament. The New Testament translation is the same as in 1986’s Second Edition of the New American Bible.

The NABRE also will include the updated Book of Psalms, which was revised in three phases between 1991 and 2010 and has been included in Third Edition versions of the New American Bible published since 1991.

The new Bible will be available in an assortment of print, audio and electronic formats, from a variety of publishers. Individual publishers will roll out their versions on their own schedules. For instance, Oxford University Press announced its line of compact NABRE editions will be available by Easter, April 24, and its study Bibles will be on the market for fall 2011 courses.

The NABRE’s publication will not affect what Scripture texts are used for Mass. The Lectionary translation has already been updated recently.

Sperry explained that some of the updating in the Old Testament resulted from developments in biblical scholarship since the last time it was translated. For instance, recent archaeological discoveries have provided better texts, which affected scholarly views on how certain passages should be translated, she said.

The goal of retranslating the Old Testament was to “get it closer to the original language,” Sperry said. Scholars start with the original Hebrew or Greek text, for instance, rather than simply working from the 1970 New American Bible version, or from translations used in other Bible editions.

For the most part, the changes will be hard to spot, except by those who are serious students or scholars, she said.

In other places in the NABRE, even casual readers may catch the differences.

She and Benedictine Father Joseph Jensen, executive secretary of the Catholic Biblical Association and one of the scholars who worked on the translation, both gave two examples of the type of changes everyday readers might notice: the disappearance of the words “cereal” and “booty.”

The goal when possible was “to make the language more contemporary,” said Father Jensen. In today’s culture the phrase “cereal offering” conjures up images of Wheaties and Cheerios, not the bushels of wheat type of offering that the term is intended to mean, he said.

The word “booty” also has taken on the slang meanings of “buttocks” or sometimes, “sexual intercourse,” instead of its primary meaning of “plunder,” such as a marauding army might acquire.

Sperry said another change made for contemporary readers was the elimination of the word “holocaust” in favor of “burnt offerings.” Since millions of Jews were killed in German death camps before and during World War II, the word Holocaust has gradually come to specifically refer only to that period of history, she explained.

Kathleen Nash, associate professor and chair of the Religious Studies Department at Le Moyne College, translated the books of 1 Samuel and Joel for the NABRE. She joined the process in 1996, several years after the team of translators got started.

It turned out to be a long-term commitment. The editorial board met one weekend a month for years, reviewing each others’ work, sometimes spending multiple weekends on a single book, she explained. Later the group’s meetings revolved around queries from bishops who had their own questions and suggestions after they received the translations.

“For a good number of years, that’s all I did: live and breathe translation,” Nash said.

Coming into the work fairly early in her academic career, Nash said, she was very excited to be involved in the process, especially since the team was “a good mix of senior and younger scholars. ... we worked well together.”

There were disagreements, to be sure, such as over whether the pronoun “he” should be used in all references to God, she said. Another effort was made to substitute “it” for references to the Church as “she.”

“That didn’t fly,” Nash said.

The completed Old Testament revision was approved by the bishops at their November 2008 meeting. In 2010 the bishops signed off on the latest revision of the Psalter, as the book of Psalms is called…

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Virtual Tour of the Sistine Chapel

A blogger wrote, “I've downloaded a Rosary app. Would it be wicked to use it during Adoration?”

As long as it doesn’t make noise, it would be fine during Adoration. I use the iBreviary app to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in Adoration every day.

A friend sent me a link to a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. It is way cool!  Click on today’s title to view the tour. Here is the description of it:

The Amazing Sistine Chapel



In the lower left corner, click on the plus to move closer, on the minus to move away.

This virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel is incredible. Apparently done by Villanova University at the request of the Vatican...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"The Rite" exorcist at GW tonight!

"A Night with an Exorcist", tonight, St Stephen's Church, 7:15 pm.  Father Gary Thomas, "The Rite" priest, will speak about being an exorcist and will take questions from GW students. 

The night begins with 5:30 Mass at St Stephen's Church and then pizza in the Parish Hall after Mass.

GW students are asked to arrive before 7:15 so that they get a seat...we are expecting a big crowd!  The talk is primarily for GW students, but we have had many calls from non-students looking to attend.  If there is room in the Church for non-students, they will be let in after 7:15 pm.

Please pray for a good turnout and a fruitful night!

Monday, February 14, 2011

6th Sunday - homily

One summer, my brother got kicked out of our house. He was 19, I was 14. One day I called him and said, “how ya doing?” He replied, “I need food. Can you bring me some food?” I said sure, but then we wondered how I would do that. He was staying at a friend’s house about 20 minutes away. The next thing we know, we’re talking about me driving there. The car was in the driveway, the keys were right there, and I was home by myself all day. I said, “ok”. So, I got into the car and drove for the first time; two years before I got my license! It was a nerve-racking experience. I had to get on the Washington Beltway which freaked me out. And, there was one guy following me the whole way. I was convinced he was an under-cover cop. When, I finally got to my brother’s place, I handed him the food and said, “I’m not doing that again”. But, then I would drive a few more times before I got my license…!

I didn’t have a license to drive. Yet, I thought I had license to do whatever I wanted. God gives us freedom, not license. The “wisdom of this age”, as St Paul puts it in the second reading, says that we have license. But, the first reading says that God gives no one license to sin. I didn’t have a license to drive. We don’t have a license to sin. Many who come to college are like me driving at 14. I had the car right there for the taking; in college, there is so much there for the taking – alcohol, drugs, sex, cheating, and all the stuff on the internet. Parents are not around. When the thought and tempatation to do these things hits, the heart starts beating faster and it gets fun and exciting. But, we don’t have license to do any of these things.

Specifically, we don’t have license to view pornography. Guys, Jesus says in today’s Gospel that if we look at a woman with lust, we commit adultery in our hearts. And, he also says that we can go to Hell for it. We can go to Hell for masturbation, too. These are serious sins. Pornography and masturbation are the most confessed sins that priests hear (in Confession). It’s a big problem in the world. It’s a big problem in the Church. When he says that it’s better to tear out our eye or cut off our right hand if they cause us to sin than to go to Hell for the sin, He doesn’t mean literally to do this. He is saying that this is serious business. These are serious sins. There are serious consequences. Jesus is saying that we should do anything to avoid offending God. We should do whatever it takes to avoid serious sin. Whatever it takes.

How do avoid serious sin, especially sexual sin? How do we avoid the slavery to sin, as Scripture calls it? How do we live in freedom? How do we live the Commandments? When we live the Commandments, we live in freedom. Freedom is the ability to choose the good. It allows us to live as we truly want to live and be the people we really want to be…the people God created us to be. How do we live the freedom of chastity? Here are some suggestions.

Make a frequent Confession. Once a month is ideal, or whenever we commit serious sin. I am open for Confessions 24/7.

Receive the Eucharist frequently. We have daily Mass in the Church! We have 12 noon Mass at the Newman Center Monday through Friday.

Pray every day, especially the rosary. Mary is a powerful intercessor, especially with the virtue of chastity! We have rosary brochures here tonight.

Guard your eyes. Have what’s called “custody of the eyes”. We have to be careful what images we bring into our minds because our minds are like DVRs – they can play back images over and over…especially at times when we least expect them and are least prepared for them. We have to have control over the images we bring into our minds.

If the internet is an occasion of sin (which it is for many people), then say a prayer before you log in. Have some good images around the computer : pictures of Jesus, Mary, the saints . We have some cards here tonight and can order more for you at the Newman Center.

When impure thoughts or impulses hit, just let him go. We all get impure thoughts from time to time. Just let them go as fast as they came in. Then, they are not ours…they are not sins. Scripture says, “resist the devil and the devil will flee” (St. James).

Use reason to control your desires. The Church teaches that reason can control our desires, even our sexual desire which is the strongest. When tempted to fantasize or pursue impure thoughts or acts, tell yourself repeatedly things like, “get real” or “I’ll never be with her or with him” or “this doesn’t make me happy”. Write them down if you have to. Say or read them a few times each day. This does work. It takes a lot of work, but reason can tell our desire, “no, not right now”.

I want to close with an example of this. There are many people, including GW Catholics, who are now living the freedom of chastity because of these and other techniques that the Church recommends. Shortly after I was ordained, a woman came to me for Confession. She confessed the sin that she’d been confessing for 30 years. I gave her the same suggestions and techniques that I’ve just given you. She said, “I’ve never heard this before”. Well, things changed. She hasn’t committed the sin since then. It’s been over 4 years. It’s normally not that immediate, but it can happen. What God gave her (and what she was open to receiving) is what He intends for us: freedom. I have seen dramatic changes in her life since that Confession. She has gone from anxiety to peace…from sadness to joy…from slavery to freedom. God intends this for all of us. God intends for each one of us to live in freedom, especially the freedom of chastity.

Friday, February 11, 2011

30 Days of Chastity

In response to my post on 1/19/11, “Why is sex before marriage wrong?”, a blogger asked, “so can it be forgiven?”

Yes, of course. Any sin that is confessed and for which a person is truly sorry and firmly resolves not to do again is forgiven. The only sin that is not forgiven – Jesus refers to this in the Gospel as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – is the one that is not confessed.

Staying with the same topic from the 1/19 post, a student asked me about how to live chastity with his girlfriend. He said that they have strong faith, pray together, and want to save themselves for marriage. But, they struggle sometimes when they are together and asked for advice, especially in the weak moments. I have great respect for this young man and we have a good relationship. So, I could give him the following advice that is challenging and knew it would be received with openness and respect (which it was). It is especially tailored to young Catholic couples who are trying to have Christ at the center of their relationship.

The main thing I'd suggest is for you two to go on a 30 day plan (the idea here is to take it one chunk at a time). 30 days of chastity. Agree together that in the next 30 days, you will:

- see each other only 2-3 times each week (if at different colleges, talk / text 2-3 times a week only)
- only hold hands, hug, and lightly kiss each other
- set a curfew for being at her place or her at your place; 11 pm is good
- set up "fun" nights; things that you will both really enjoy
- if alone in a room, don't sit together on a couch or bed (can lead to trouble!)
- avoid watching movies or TV programs that will arouse you both
- go to Sunday Mass together
- go to Confession at least once, more if step into mortal sin
- go to daily Mass together at least once a week (more if possible)
- go to Adoration together at least once a week, if possible
- pray the rosary together, at least part of it, 2-3 times a week
- do some kind of Bible study together - maybe read a Gospel together and discuss
- pray for the other by name each day

Chastity is a lot of work!! It takes a lot of work and a lot of Grace, but it is possible. It's worth it. God may have given you an incredible treasure here. If so, He has put a tag on it, "Do not open ‘til your wedding day". You will never regret living chastity. You will never, ever, ever, ever regret doing the right thing. The first couple I married did all of this, and said to me on their wedding weekend, "we're SO glad we waited".

…There is a point to this (limiting how often you talk or see each other) . Fr Bill Byrne touched on it when he spoke to the students here in October. I posted notes from his talk on the blog – 10/6/10 post. Here’s the main point:

“People, especially in college, need to establish and find themselves before they can be with another. The old saying is that you can’t love someone if you don’t love yourself. College is a time to experience life and to see all kinds of stuff. Someone who becomes a “we” with another in college misses out on becoming the true “I” they are meant to be. College is a time for expansion, not constriction. Fr Byrne said that he saw many people at the University of Maryland (he was chaplain there for many years) constrict their world to the other person only. They should be expanding their world to all kinds of people, places, and things.”

Having only a couple times of discussion during the week helps each of you to expand; talking or texting every day leads to constriction. It’s hard to cut back if you’ve been talking or texting every day, but it will help. It will help you to experience college, to become two “I”s. And, it will help you two “cool it” in many ways which will help you cool it physically...

There are two books to suggest: 1) "Pure Love" by Jason Evert, and 2) "Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World" by Rev. Thomas Morrow. They should give more suggestions and understanding than I have given.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Confession App for iPhones!

Check out our new website! Thanks to the work of two students, Michael Russo and Tayler Lofquist, we have a sweet new site. It is still under construction, but already has many great and helpful tools: pictures, calendars, upcoming events, Catholic apps and podcasts, “Got questions?” section, and many ways to get involved. Please click on today’s title to go the site.

When you go to the site, you can check out the new “Confession App” for iPhones (under our iCatholic section). You might have seen this on the news this week. I’ve heard that there are other confession apps, but they are not from the Church. This one is legit Catholic. It has the imprimatur of a bishop (my former rector in the seminary) – the first one for an iPhone app. No Confession app, including this one, replaces the Sacrament! What this app does is help penitents to prepare for and use during Confession. Here is the description of “Confession: A Roman Catholic App”:

"Designed to be used in the confessional, this app is the perfect aid for every penitent. With a personalized examination of conscience for each user, password protected profiles, and a step-by-step guide to the sacrament, this app invites Catholics to prayerfully prepare for and participate in the Rite of Penance. Individuals who have been away from the sacrament for some time will find Confession: A Roman Catholic App to be a useful and inviting tool.

The text of this app was developed in collaboration with Rev. Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Rev. Dan Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, IN. The app received an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin C. Rhodes of the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend. It is the first known imprimatur to be given for an iPhone/iPad app.

From one of our users which we stand by:


it does not and can not take the place of confessing before a validly ordained Roman Catholic priest in a Confessional, in person, either face to face, or behind the screen. Why? Because the Congregation on Divine Worship and the Sacraments has long ruled that Confessions by electronic media are invalid and that ABSOLUTION BY THE PRIEST must be given in person because the Seal of the Confessional must be Protected and for the Sacrament to be valid there has to be both the matter and the form which means THE PRIEST.


- Custom examination of Conscience based upon age, sex, and vocation (single, married, priest, or religious)

- Multiple user support with password protected accounts

- Ability to add sins not listed in standard examination of conscience

- Confession walkthrough including time of last confession in days, weeks, months, and years

- Choose from 7 different acts of contrition

- Custom interface for iPad

- Full retina display support

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Famous Catholic converts

Tonight, we will have a discussion on "College Conversion".  Five GW Catholics will briefly tell their story
 of conversion to or within the Catholic faith:

-Freshman who converted to Catholicism in high school
-Freshman who has gone from being vehemently secular, New Age, and pro-choice to attending daily Mass and praying weekly rosary for life
-Senior who converted to Catholicism at GW as an atheist
-Senior who has finally felt the presence of God as a practicing but doubting Catholic
-Grad student who was pursuing PhD in science and is now applying to be a Catholic missionary

It should be good!  All GW Catholics are invited to the Newman Center tonight for Mass at 5:30, homemade dinner at 6, and discussion after dinner.

Speaking of converts, I just saw a pretty cool list on Wikipedia of famous and historical people who are Catholic converts.  Below are some of the people from the list.  To view the full list, please click on today's title.

(partial) List of people who converted to Catholicism

• Approximately 400 Anglican priests in the UK, along with some politicians such as Ann Widdecombe and John Gummer who objected in 1993 to the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Church of England (see Graham Leonard, below).

Tony Blair: former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; converted Dec. 22, 2007, after stepping down as prime minister[10]

Robert Bork: Leading Constitutional Law scholar, Yale Law School professor, U.S. Solicitor General, nominated for the United States Supreme Court

Sam Brownback: U.S. senator from Kansas[14]

Buffalo Bill: American Old West legend (deathbed conversion)

G. K. Chesterton: English writer

Dorothy Day: social activist and pacifist, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Raised nominally Episcopalian.[25]

Catherine Doherty: Canadian pioneer of social justice, from Russian Christianity.[28]

Faye Dunaway: Oscar-winning American actress

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese: Historian; feminist turned anti-feminist; Founder of the Institute of Women's Studies; wife of Eugene D. Genovese

Newt Gingrich: American history professor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and author

Sir Alec and Lady Guinness: British actor and his wife

Scott and Kimberly Hahn: Catholic apologists

Ernest Hemingway: American novelist, soldier and traveller

Bob Hope: Comedian and comic actor.

Laura Ingraham: American conservative talk radio host and author.

Bobby Jindal: Governor of the U.S. state of Louisiana

Walter B. Jones U.S. politician, Member of the United States House of Representatives

Katharine, The Duchess of Kent: musical member of the British Royal Family

Joyce Kilmer: American journalist, poet, literary critic, lecturer and editor

Norma McCorvey: anonymous plaintiff in Roe vs Wade

Thomas Merton: American Trappist monk and spiritual writer

Jim Nabors: actor portraying "Gomer Pyle" and singer

Bernard Nathanson: American medical doctor and fetologist, former abortionist, now active in the anti-abortion (pro-life) movement

John Henry Newman: Anglican clergyman, theologian, and leader of the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement who converted to Roman Catholicism in the 1840s, and was later appointed Cardinal-Deacon

Sister Nirmala: Successor to Mother Teresa as head of her worldwide order (first generation Indian of Nepalese extraction) on behalf of the poor, the

Danica Patrick: American Auto Racer

Floyd Patterson: American boxer

Walker Percy: American writer

Vincent Price: American actor, converted after marrying his third wife (actress Coral Browne, also a convert)

Elizabeth Ann Seton: foundress of the 'American Sisters of Charity and first U.S.-born person to be canonized.

Tony Snow: Political commentator, columnist, television news anchor, radio host, and third White House Press Secretary under President George H.W. Bush

Edith Stein: Philosopher, Catholic nun; Jewish by birth, died in a concentration camp during World War II; canonized a saint (St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross, her monastic [Carmelite] name) in 1998 by Pope John Paul II.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, daughter of a Mohawk warrior

J. R. R. Tolkien: British novelist (his mother converted when he was a small child and he was re-baptized)

Evelyn Waugh: British writer

John Wayne: Oscar-winning American film actor (converted shortly before his death; all his wives and children were Catholics)

Oscar Wilde: Irish novelist, playwright and wit (reportedly converted on his deathbed)

Tennessee Williams: major American playwright and one of the prominent playwrights of the twentieth century[citation needed]

Jane Wyman: Oscar-winning American actress, first wife of movie star Ronald Reagan, who would become the 40th President of the United States

Monday, February 07, 2011

5th Sunday - homily

A few weeks ago, I took our FOCUS missionaries out for a nice dinner to thank them for all of their exceptional work, especially this semester already. We went to Ruths Chris steakhouse. I don't usually go there because it's rather extravagant. The missionaries are the same way. But, I wanted to do something special for them. Well, as soon as we walked in, we were overcome by an amazing aroma. Oh, it was a sweet smell! We sat down and started looking over the menu. One of the missionaries said, "there's so much to choose from. I don't know where to start!". A moment later, he turned to me and said, "Father, it's like the Church. There's so much good to choose from. I don't know where to start. You should preach on that!" So, there you go, I preached on it.

Ruths Chris has its own particular taste. It has a distinctive taste that is very popular. McDonald's also has its own taste that people really like, especially the Big Mac. Coca-Cola is the same thing. They each have a unique taste that is very good. But, what if Coke changed its taste? They actually did this in the 80s to compete with Pepsi. They came up with "New Coke". Yeah, bad idea. People didn't like New Coke. It wasn't Coke! If the Big Mac changed tomorrow, it wouldn't be any good because it’s not the Big Mac. It would be the same thing if Ruths Chris changed its menu and recipes.

Each one of us is like a Coke or a Big Mac or Ruths Chris...but even better! Each one of you has a particular taste...a particular gift...a particular brand of salt, to put into Christ's language in today's Gospel. You have a particular taste that no one in the world has. It's a unique personality, intelligence, charm, or whatever. There's no one in the world who has your brand of salt. There's one thing that makes you, you! If you ever saw the movie, "City Slickers", then you remember Curly talking about the "one thing"... the one thing that brings us happiness. Well, each of has that one thing...that one taste...that one brand of salt.

Salt preserves the taste of food, adds to the taste, and disappears in food. Those who are "salt of the earth" are those who add to the things of earth. They are so good, pure, and holy! They make everyone and everything around them better. Jesus talks about a shining light and how it lights up a whole room. It's the same thing with people who are salt of the earth; they give taste to everyone around them.

Our Lord says that if salt loses its taste, then it is good for nothing. Many people come to college and their salt loses its taste. They probably knew what their taste is before they came, but when they arrived, maybe were shy and didn't want to stand out. They tried to fit in and be like everyone else. Maybe peer pressure led to their salt losing its taste. It's been in Confession that I've seen many students in the past year and a half realize that their salt has lost its taste. They see that they are not being themselves and they are not happy. They are not as good as they could be and not living as God created them to be. Confession restores their taste; it restores their light.

Some students discover their taste in college. They come to find their one thing...their unique gift. Christ is the one who gives us our particular taste. If we live in Him, then we realize our taste and develop it. If we don't live in Him, then we lose our taste. But, let's be clear: each one of us has a particular taste...a unique brand of salt...that one thing that makes us who we are and the person God created us to be.

Finally, when you were younger, did you ever give the last sip of a Coke to a sibling or friend? They ask you for a sip as you open the bottle and you're like, "sure". Then, you guzzle it to the end and hand them the last sip, the one with backwash. They say, "ewww", as you have a nice laugh. Do we do this with God? Again, the Coke is our taste. Do we give God the first taste which is the best? Or, do we give Him the last we give God our backwash?

He has given us His best taste, His Son, Jesus Christ. He continues to give us His best taste, the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the sweetest taste in the world! It is like salt for us - it preserves our taste, adds to our taste, and then disappears in us. May the Eucharist help each one of us to be salt of the earth and light of the world.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Can you donate $25 for a GW service trip?

"Friday Night Live", tonight, 6-10 pm.  "Jesus and Burritos" + bowling at the Hippodrome. 

Adoration 6-7 pm
Chipotle 7-8 pm
Bowling, 8-10 pm

A group of GW students, Amy (our campus minister), and I will go on a service trip to South Carolina over Spring Break, March 12-19. It's called "Alternative Spring Break". We will be building and renovating homes for low-income families.

The students have to raise $7,500 in order to go on the trip. This covers their transportation, housing, project fees, tools, food, gas, etc. They have raised over $6,000 so far. Can you help them meet their goal?

You can help send these students on the trip by donating through our website.  Click on today's title which will take you to our new site, then go to "Make a Gift".  Click on the orange PayPal "donate" button. Your donation will go to the GW Newman Center which will put it toward the Alternative Spring Break trip.

A donation of $25 will pay for a student's housing for a night.

A donation of $50 will pay for a student's tools and equipment for the week.

A donation of $75 will pay for a student's project fee for the week.

A donation of $100 will pay for a student's transportation for the week.

On behalf of the students, thank you very much for your generosity!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

US soldier to GW Catholics: "Be strong in the pursuit of Christ!"

I am working with several men at GW who are discerning a call to the Priesthood. Six of our upperclassmen and grad students are going on an Archdiocesan retreat this weekend with other men from the area. Cardinal Wuerl will spend some time with these men on retreat. Please pray for them! Here is what one of our men emailed last night…whoa, cool.

“I was googling some Christian prayers, and this is what I randomly found that was really intimidating(the last line to be precise) in relation with answering the call to Priesthood:

If the priest is a saint, his people will be holy.
If the priest is holy, his people will be good.
If the priest is good, his people will be fair.
If the priest is fair, his people will be mediocre.
If the priest is mediocre, his people will be bad.


Last night, I read the following letter from a soldier in Iraq to our students at Tuesday dinner. It blew us all away. The soldier is a devout Catholic. He and his wife have been very generous financial, spiritual, and personal supporters of the Newman Center the past year. They have given a lot to the Center even though they don’t have a ton of money. They just believe so strongly in what we are doing here. It is completely humbling and edifying to come to know saintly people like them.

I gave this basic intro to the letter and then read it. As I read it aloud, the power of this man’s words took over the room. Twenty college students and I were in utter amazement at the spiritual depth of our friend and soldier. This is powerful stuff!

25 Dec 10

Fr. Greg,

Everyone at the Newman Center,

Thanks all! One of the greatest challenges of deployment is the solitude. My brothers in arms are here but my brothers in Christ are hard to find. I receive the body and blood of our Lord every other week thanks to the mercy of a priest from a base south of ours who flies to our base to celebrate Mass with us.

I was greatly encouraged by your letters. It was a good feeling to know that a community is praying for me by name in a more personal way than I have seen. I was also encouraged by hearing from students living the faith. I truly believe that the men and women who follow Christ in the university environment represent a unique hope for the Church. It is your ability to stand as a sign of contradiction to the world that makes your faith that much more powerful.

I am in the ancient city of Mosul, Iraq. It is the same city that was once known as Ninevah where the prophet Jonah spoke. There is a monastery from the 7th century here. At its height, the people were baffled by the men who went out into the desert to pray. These monks were a sign of contradiction. They confused people by their way of life. In the same way, I think of you. Be strong in the pursuit of Christ! You are in the middle of the desert! Pray!

Your courage to always be prepared to meet Christ in the Eucharist gives me, my wife, and the whole Church joy.

Finally, pray for the Christians in Iraq. As you know, they are a persecuted Church.

Thanks for the letters.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"A Night with an Exorcist" (part 2)

"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. Last Wednesday, I posted the trailer of the movie as well as part one of an interview with Fr Thomas. Here is part two:


Interview With San Jose Diocesan Exorcist

By Genevieve Pollock

SARATOGA, California, JAN. 21, 2011 ( Father Gary Thomas has spoken about his ministry to Hollywood and numerous bishops. He warns that people are often unaware when they open doorways to the diabolical.

ZENIT spoke with Father Thomas, official exorcist of San Jose, California, about his experiences and why he thinks every priest should have training in this ministry.

On Jan. 28, a new movie based on the story of the priest will be released to the public. "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.

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 spoke about the relevance of the exorcism ministry for the Church today.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.

ZENIT: Could you say something more about these unorthodox practices that could be doorways for demons? What are the practices people should be aware of and should be careful of getting into?

Father Thomas: I think people should know if there are any effects from being involved in these things, and they should know why. They are tapping into these kinds of activities and if they do not know, they are really running a risk of opening themselves up.

For example, people who get involved with psychics, or tarot cards, Ouija boards, crystals, Wicca, or even yoga. My mother does yoga, but she does it for exercise. There is a difference between that kind of use of yoga, and the practice of it where it is giving you a certain kind of power to influence other people. Supposedly you can use yoga for a variety of different reasons.

People that get themselves involved in very unorthodox kinds of self-focused practices need to be aware of the potential that they might be opening themselves up to.

Or, séances, again, are a doorway. People should ask who is running the séance, and why they are going to a séance. They want answers to the future, and if they are going to commune with a human spirit from the world beyond ours, it is very dangerous because they do not know what they are doing.

ZENIT: What signs would indicate possible demonic activity in a friend or a family member?

Father Thomas: If, for example, if somebody was able to speak in a language that he had no prior competency in, or if someone would foam at the mouth or have a lot of rolling of the eyes.

If the person were not able to walk into a church or be close to any Catholic sacramental: holy water, a crucifix, the sacrament of the Eucharist, the sacramental anointing of the sick, or someone wearing some kind of a Christian symbol. If these caused a reaction, it certainly would be a sign.

Another sign of a diabolical attachment is when people have unnatural amounts of strength that they normally do not possess. Sometimes people will take on a serpentine appearance, again in reaction to sacraments and sacramentals.

But there would be things leading up to that; for example, these people could have an obsessive amount of thoughts or ideas of the Satanic, or feel a tremendous amount of depression in their lives, usually due to tapping into the spirit world. Those would be signs.

ZENIT: Is this ministry of exorcism something that any priest might feel called to engage in?

Father Thomas: First of all, you have to believe.

It is what Anthony Hopkins says to my character at one point in the movie, "You cannot defeat it till you believe in it." You have to believe that Satan is a reality.

Personally, on an ideal basis, I think that every priest should be trained to be an exorcist.

It is part of our healing ministry, and it is very much at the heart of the Paschal mystery. So on the one hand I do think every priest ought to be trained to know how to do this.

Do I think every priest has the ability? Probably to some degree; it depends. But I think every priest should know what to do in these situations, and quite honestly they don't, at least at this time. The seminaries do not teach this.

When the book came out, I requested that the publishing company send this book to every bishop in the United States and every rector in every major seminary. They did, with a cover letter from me.

This came up in the meeting in Baltimore to some degree, without a huge amount of response, but I firmly believe this needs to be in the program of priestly formation in our seminaries. This needs some serious attention.

It does not mean there has to be a whole semester course on it, but there needs to be a development of some pastoral skills in this area, and some theological training.

Satan has to be part of the equation of salvation in the formation of priests, and the topic is not there right now.

Now I know the major seminary in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is teaching a course on demonology. And I know in the seminary that I went to they are teaching a course this semester on good and evil, though I don't know what that is going to entail. It is a start. If that is happening at other seminaries, I am not aware.

All I can say with some certitude is that there is nothing in the formation program as such that deals in a kind of overt way with exorcism.

ZENIT: Could you tell us a bit about your own story, and how you knew that you were called to be an exorcist?

Father Thomas: I didn't know; that's the amazing thing in all of this.

Two months before Pope John Paul II died in 2005, he sent a mandate through Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's office requesting every bishop in the United States to select and train an exorcist.

This was because of the growing occult that has become an epidemic in Europe. I know in my time in Rome on sabbatical, which coincided with all of this, it was reported that 25% of the people in Italy practice the occult. We saw a lot of damage to people, when I was working with Father Carmen.

How I got involved with it was obviously providence, but it was not like I had an epiphany. What happened was that our bishop took the letter seriously, and approached a priest of our diocese.

It came to my attention that the priest who received the initial invitation declined, so I decided to volunteer for this ministry. I thought to myself: "I can be the exorcist. I believe in the personification of evil. I can fulfill that role."

The bishop came to me the month before my 12-year term as pastor of my previous parish was coming to an end and I was going on sabbatical to Rome. He said, I'm appointing you exorcist; thank you very much for saying yes, and there is a course you can take in Rome while you're there.

I took this course in Rome, which was taught at the Regina Apostolorum seminary of the Legionaries of Christ, while I was on sabbatical studying at the North American College.

Halfway through the course it was apparent to me that I needed someone to work under, because the course was good but it was very theoretical and theological.

There were about 60 people in the class, mostly Italians and Africans, and another priest was working with this 85-year-old exorcist. He would come to class on Thursday morning and tell us what he had been doing, what he had seen, and what he had been experiencing. And I said, I have to find someone to work under.

Now there are nine exorcists in Rome but none of them speak English. Finally I was able to locate Father Carmen, and I worked with him for three and a half months, observing exorcisms three days a week for three and a half hours at a time.

I would go home and journal about what I had seen today: what did he do, and what did I see from the people who would come to him. And then every few weeks I would sit down with him with an English translator and ask, what did this mean, why did this happen, why did you do this? That's how I learned.

There is no course in the United States per say to train exorcists although I just came back from a meeting in Baltimore with the bishops and the exorcists and we did talk about this some.

ZENIT: Why do you think the bishops called that meeting in Baltimore? Was it in response to the letter from the Pope a few years ago?

Father Thomas: No. I think what made them hold this conference was the fact that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, who is the chairman of the canonical governance committee for the bishops, called for the meeting. He had come to one of our annual conferences in Chicago, and I think he felt that this was the right time to bring this to the bishops.