Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"It is you who have crucified him"

Questions from bloggers:

1)“WTFlarry!”: “Is there another way to make Confession other than physically? Is there a site for 'internet' confession?”

No and No. When people ask me if Confession can be done over the phone, I respond by asking if we can receive Holy Communion over the phone. They usually laugh off my question as being ridiculous and physically impossible. But, that’s the point – Sanctifying Grace can only be transmitted in person. Grace is the main reason we go to the sacraments, and it’s what makes a sacrament a sacrament. “A sacrament signifies the grace it contains”.

2) "Victoria" : "How does one find TV stations that carry The Mass? And, if one is not able to receive the Holy Eucharist or making confession, does the TV station qualify for observing Mass?"

The best Catholic TV network, in my opinion, is EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network). They have the Mass televised every day, as far as I know. To find local channels that carry EWTN, check out this link on the EWTN site -

A canon lawyer wrote online, “Watching Mass on TV is fine, but it is a purely devotional exercise which does not qualify as liturgically "assisting" at Mass; thus, watching TV does not satisfy the Sunday and holy day obligation set out in 1983 CIC 1247-1248”. (This refers to Canon Law, specifically law # 1248 which is below).

*Can. 1248 §1. A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.

§2. If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families.

3) Anon: “Do non catholics commit mortal sin by not going to mass on sunday, also who made that law.Tom.”

God made the law, Tom: “Keep Holy the Sabbath”. Christ gave the Church the commandment to celebrate the Eucharist (“do this in memory of me”). From the beginning (and documented as early as 150 A.D.), the Church has kept holy the Sabbath primarily in the context of the Mass.

If a non-Catholic has full knowledge about the Mass and the Sunday obligation and freely chooses to miss Mass, then he/she would commit a mortal sin. This is probably a rare scenario, and one that most likely occur only with someone who had been in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).

4) Anon:” If God is still alive, aren't the sins we commit another nail pounded into his hands?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:

Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the apostle, “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him. Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins. (CCC 598, quoting St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitio 5.3)

Here’s a video montage of clips from “The Passion of the Christ”. It contains strong and graphic images.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"We chose to stand by our faith"

A GW Catholic grad student sent me the following online article from Another valiant witness to life and faith!

A sign in the bathroom of Tim and Nicole Roach’s home in Fari¬bault (Minnesota) reads, “Gratitude, Always Remember to Count Your Blessings.”

“It should say, ‘August, wash your hands and brush your teeth,’” joked Nicole, referring to her 9-year-old son.

The sign has come in handy re¬cently as the family, which be¬longs to Divine Mercy in Faribault, continues to struggle with Tim’s unemployment, which began in July 2009 when he was laid off of his job as an electrician. And, the couple had to take an even harder look at the concept of gratitude when a huge blessing unexpectedly appeared recently, then vanished in a matter of seconds.

In mid February, Tim, got a call from his local union with the news every laid off worker longs to hear — a job offer.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Tim’s unemployment benefits were about to run out. He could hardly believe what the voice on the other end was presenting to him — an offer to be a job foreman for at least 11 months, with a salary of $65,000 to $70,000 a year.

Perfect, Tim thought. Then came the bad news — he would be working on construction of a new Planned Parenthood Clinic in St. Paul on University Avenue. The highest of highs became the lowest of lows as he quickly turned down the offer.

“The roller coaster started going downhill,” said Tim, 38. “He [union rep] wasn’t really sure if there were going to be abortions there. He kind of sidestepped that, I think, to try to entice me to say yes. But, I said, ‘Wait a minute. It’s a Planned Parenthood.’”

Facing financial fears

And, just like that, Tim went back to being unemployed with no immediate prospects — and his unemployment benefits set to run out sometime this month. Fortu¬nate¬ly, his wife, Nicole, 37, has a full-time job as a media specialist for Akin Road Elementary School in Farming¬ton. Still, things are tight financially for the family, which also includes 11-year-old Adeline.

Though Tim was quick to turn down the offer — the phone conversation lasted only about a minute — Nicole was slower to embrace his decision, mainly because she works with the family budget and has dealt with the financial stress of Tim’s lengthy unemployment.

“The first thing I wanted to do was justify [taking the job],” she said, when Tim called her moments after he turned it down. “It’s just a clinic. No, it isn’t.

“Through this whole process, our faith has deepened,” she said. “We feel like it was a test of our faith. We chose to stand by our faith.”

To some outside observers, this is another important way of being pro-life. Perhaps, not as direct as picketing an abortion clinic, it, nonetheless, sends a message about the sanctity of human life, says Sharon Wilson, respect life coordinator for the archdiocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Life.

Decision inspires homily

“What struck me most is that he turned it down immediately,” she said. “He had within himself that sort of moral upbringing that had him immediately recognize that this was not the right thing to do [take the job].”

Shortly after making his decision, Tim’s story was sent out via e-mail. It landed on the computer of Father Erik Lundgren, associate pastor of Divine Mercy, who parlayed it into one of his homilies. In the Gospel reading for that Sunday, Jesus tells his disciples that they can’t serve both God and money.

”I just thought it was an inspiring example to everyone in our parish, in the zeal that’s necessary for us Catholics to take into the pro-life debate, the pro-life struggle,” Father Lundgren said. “It’s inspiring to me as a priest. Here at Divine Mercy, the words, ‘Jesus, I trust in you’ are written on our baptismal font, and that’s what it’s all about.”

That’s the kind of trust the Roach family is taking up as Tim continues to look for a job. Ultimately, his goal is to start up his own company, but he will need to earn and save money to make that happen. In the meantime, he is eager to take any work he can find. One asset that both he and Nicole have is a sense of peace that wasn’t there just a few months ago.

“In the last six months, we’ve learned to take our fears and worries and give them to God,” Nicole said. “It’s really changed me and my faith. I feel like I’m proud to be a Catholic and proud to take a stand against abortion.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

3rd Sunday of Lent - homily

We have a book at the Newman Center called "Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World" by Father Tom Morrow which has been enjoyed by many GW Catholics. Father Morrow will be speaking at Tuesday night's discussion and will present many of the guidelines on Christian dating from the book as well as some new stuff. He is a popular national speaker, giving talks to young Catholics on dating and providing very clear, concrete tips on how to live chastity and prepare for marriage. So, bring your many questions on Tuesday for our discussion, "Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World".

For those of us who have had an encounter with Christ, today's Gospel story of the woman at the well is so relevant and meaningful. It's all about conversion of heart after meeting Christ. It's about God meeting us where we are, helping us with our mess, and thirsting for our love. In her, we can see ourselves because she is just like us!

We have students here tonight who are just like the Samaritan woman - they are experiencing a change of heart after encountering Christ and are preparing to become fully Catholic at Easter. Just like her, they are powerful witnesses to the Gospel.

When the woman comes to the well, she is simply looking to draw some water. She meets the Lord at Jacob's Well which is a huge biblical moment. Jesus starts talking about the water of eternal life, and she dismisses it, probably in a sarcastic way. She just wants some water. Filling her water jar is all she is concerned about. When I first met Christ, I was the same way. Well, except I was basically holding a beer mug and coming to a watering hole. But, God met me where I was.

Like many of us, she was a mess when she met Christ. He calls her out on her sin - she has had five husbands and is now with a sixth who is not her husband. He obviously addresses this painful situation with her in a helpful way because she has such a positive reaction to it. In fact, this is what changes her heart. He speaks the truth to her - the truth about herself and her mess. How many people in her life spoke the truth to her? He shows his great love and respect for her by speaking the truth in love. He speaks the truth about herself. (When we come to know Christ, we come to know ourselves). Then, He reveals the Truth to her about himself, that He is the Christ. She has such a good experience that she goes and tells others about it and about Him. She actually converts a whole town for Christ!

We might be scared to bring our mess to God. We might be afraid of what He will think of us. We can look at her and not be afraid. She basically goes to Confession to Him. This is what He really wanted from her. He wanted to clean up her mess. He wants to clean up your mess! He wants to forgive your sins. He wants to help you with your problems. He is the one Person who can do all these things. He came into the world to come into our come into our problems. As I said on Ash Wednesday, Matthew 11:28 tells us that he wants our mess.

Jesus says to her, "give me a drink". He is not thirsting for water; He is thirsting for her love. It's like on the Cross: when He says, "I thirst", it means that He thirsts for souls...for hearts...for love. He comes to the well for her love. He wants her heart. He wants your heart. His desire is that you give Him your heart. This is also my desire for you. I became a priest so that you will give your hearts to that you will give Him your that you will know the Truth. Christ goes to great lengths and considerable risks to get her heart; I will do the same with you. Recently, a student came to me in the middle of the night for Confession. That's what I'm talking about. Whatever it takes! I want you to have the same experience as the woman at the well: an encounter with Christ and a conversion of heart.

Finally, how do we have such an encounter with Christ? The closest way is in the Eucharist. He is waiting for you in the tabernacle of the Newman Center chapel as He was waiting for her at the well. You won't hear Him speak out loud like she did, but you will hear Him speak to your heart. He will reveal the truth to you and help you with your mess. He thirsts for you...for your love...for your heart. Give Him your heart and let Him love you this Lent.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"That peace still has not really left me"

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!!  As Cardinal Wuerl has indicated on the Archdiocesan website, we are dispensed from abstaining from meat and fasting today.  Woo hoo!  This is not a "loophole", as some students jokingly refer to it.  This is in honor of the feast of the Incarnation.  We don't fast on feast days!  As a Church, we are celebrating the glory of God through the Word becoming flesh. We abstain from meat on Fridays during the year, except on solemnities like today (per Canon Law).  Enjoy!

Lenten practices, tonight:  1) Stations of the Cross, 5:30 pm, and 2) Eucharistic Adoration, 6-7 pm, Newman Center chapel.

At the end of our spring break trip last week, I asked the group for feedback so we can assess our annual spring break service trip.  One freshman student took this seriously and wrote an absolutely beautiful reflection about our week together.  Below are excerpts from it. We go to South Carolina every year to perform service to those in need, but other fruits are produced for our group and our ministry.  One fruit is the bonding of students in friendship that will last their remaining time at GW and the Newman Center.  Another positive result is a deeper experience of faith that many students who come on the trip might not expect.  It's not a retreat, but for some, there are retreat-like moments. 

This student wrote about a powerful spiritual experience on the first night of the trip.  How ironic that it was involving the ocean; the student pointed out at the end of the Tuesday discussion that the quote from Peter Kreeft (see Wednesday's post) was about an atheist at the ocean...!  God is that cool. 

Also, the student writes about praying throughout the day.  "Praying three times a day" refers to the times when we prayed the Angelus on the trip.  As a Church, we pray this beautiful prayer to remember the Incarnation, today's feast - when God became man. This is a great prayer for all GW Catholics to pray.  The Church prays it at sunrise (6 am), midday (12 noon), and sunset (6 pm).  GW Catholics can click on today's title for a link to a iPhone Angelus app or simply google "Angelus prayer" to learn it.

"Saturday night was really magical, in a way. For as long as I can remember, I have not been able to grasp the idea of Heaven. When I was as young as six or seven, I remember jumping out of bed at night, going downstairs to my dad and asking him about Heaven. I’d ask him how we know it’s there, how something can possibly last forever, and what heaven looks like. As the great father that he is, Dad did his best to try to explain it to me. Some of it, though, was beyond his ability to explain.

In recent time, especially over the past few years, I’ve been doubting that heaven even exists at all. It is too large of a concept. Something can’t last forever. Nothing can last forever. There has to be an end at some point. Sometimes I even thought that maybe things are cyclical so that they are beginning and ending all the time, but keeping constant. In other words, I was thinking of reincarnation as a possibility. And when I would think that maybe heaven does not exist, I would start shaking and feel the need to shout or make other loud noise. When I’d hit this point while daydreaming in class, I’d cover it up with a loud cough. Once I even had to walk out of the classroom. I hit a point where there was no heaven. It was impossible. And so at some point, I would be on my death bed and then be gone. I’d turn to dust. No, there was no heaven. Forever is impossible.

On Saturday night, upon arriving, we all traveled to the beach in Isle of Palms. My schoolwork was left in my dorm, as was my lap top. All my worries were left behind. It was warm out, and I was sitting barefoot in the sand surrounded by my new friends For the first time in what seemed like forever, I could take a deep breath of relaxation.

I took a good look around. I looked at the beautiful people around me, including my best friend. I looked down the length of the beach. I looked out at the dark water that stretched beyond my sight. I looked up at the star-filled night sky that I had been missing so much. I looked at the bright moon. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of joy as I thought, 'None of this is possible.'

People should not be this beautiful. Water should not be able to sit in such a large volume. The stars, the moon, and the sun – these GIANT chunks of the universe, are literally hanging in place perfectly. How could that ever be possible?

Indeed, it seemed that none of it could be possible. Thus, all of it is possible. I thought, 'If all this is possible, why can’t forever?'. I repeated the thought about ten times in my head, and was overcome with an immense feeling of peace. That peace still has not really left me...

I had a realization over the break that I think will help me in my everyday life. In all of the hustle and bustle and stress of daily life, it is easy to forget to make space for Christ. And when we lose Christ, we lose our own way in the world. Being with such prayerful people all week gave me the realization that focus can be achieved simply by working prayer into our everyday lives. By praying three times a day, praying before meals, and praying in the car, we were constantly reminded of our central point in life, we were constantly shown our meaning. It is my challenge to continue doing this now that I’m back at school...

I got back to my room at around 11:00 Saturday night. Feeling refreshed and renewed, I put my stuff down and sat on my bed. I glanced over at the corner. My trash bin was overflowing. It reminded me that I picked up much of the trash in my life and handed it off to Jesus in the past week, and reminded me that this was the beginning of my work, not the end."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Confessions tonight

Tonight and every Wednesday during Lent I will be offering confessions for GW Catholics from 8-10 pm in my office at the Newman Center (2210 F St.), top floor.

Is God really there?

Last night, Father Carter Griffin spoke to a packed room of students here about the existence of God.  He was very good!  He was extremely impressive with his knowledge, demeanor, and ease, not to mention generously staying here for almost an extra hour answering questions.  Oh, the students seemed to really like him and what he was offering.  His notes are below.

Within them you see three "witnesses" (mind, heart, and conscience).  "Witness" was a big point of Fr. Carter's.  We can witness the things in our mind, heart, and conscience (as he has laid out below and which include the 5 ways of St. Thomas Aquinas) that lead us to know that God is really there.  But, also, he focused on our witness to others in showing them that God is really there.  When he was asked the best way for students to prove to their atheistic friends that God exists, he answered by saying that the witness of friendship and joy is the best way.

Check out the quote from Peter Kreeft - excellent!

Is God Really There?


Why hasn’t anyone asked me if I believe in God?
Setting a low threshold - basically, an intelligent Creator or force
Leaving aside question about who is God/Christianity later
Presumption of favor to theism
That there is something beyond us? Funerals...
In love with her DNA??
What makes us human: love, honor, goodness, curiosity, justice...
World of spirit, everything that makes us great - atheist - flat existence
Not to believe in God is not to believe in us
History of humanity

Witness of our Mind

Church believes we can know of God with reason alone
Five ways of Thomas
  1) Motion - nothing can move itself
  2) Cause - nothing can cause itself
  3) Contingency - could be time when nothing existed; need necessary
  4) Gradation of Being - Predications refer to uppermost thing, which causes the others...also true for being, uppermost of which is God
  5) Design - natural bodies move to goal; many not knowledgeable, need another intelligence to move them (witness of creation)

Eternal world possible, but
-Still metaphysical creator
-Eternity is dogmatic too - and no proof, scientific evidence against it
-And works against third proof

Atheism is sustained only by ideology

Witness of our Conscience

Without God there is no foundation for moral life
If only instinct, might makes right - no right and wrong
Are you prepared to live in that world?
Proof from conscience (Newman)
Good atheists, but sustained by Judeo-Christian background

Witness of our Heart

Human yearning for eternity: would make no sense: C.S. Lewis
Nietzsche quote
Human yearning to give thanks

"What could an atheist do with the sea? How could he place it? For him, no Mind designed it, no Artist loved it into existence. It is not art; it just is. It does not mean, only be. It has no place, no address, no home in the Mind of God. No Heavenly Father gave it to him as a gift. What a terrible moment that must be for an atheist - when he feels great gratitude for the gift of the sea and there is no one to thank for it. For most of us, the most terrible moments in life are the moments of grief, when hope is tested. For an atheist, I think the most terrible moments must be the moments of joy, when there arises from his heart the wisest and best feeling anyone can have - cosmic gratitude, praise for his very existence and that of the whole universe - and he has to believe that that feeling is false, stupid, wrong, pointless, and out of tune with reality, since reality is nothing but chance and gravity and molecules. That feeling of cosmic gratitude and praise was a temptation to be ‘religious’. Imagine how horrible it must be to feel that gratitude is a temptation! That’s almost like believing that goodness is evil. It’s like waking up one morning to see that the sun is a black hole." (Peter Kreeft, The Sea Within: Waves and the Meaning of All Things.)

Human yearning for meaning: Atheism tries to give depth to the moment; only religion does


Very few have the courage to be atheists - conclusion is that world is absurd and meaningless
Easy to talk to honest atheist better than agnostic; seriousness
Agnostics - most simply drift there without looking any further
Not speaking about seekers - Walker Percy quote/Woytyla story
Agnosticism is the opposite of curiosity, seeking: it is a temptation
If because no effort has been spent to look, then it is laziness
If because no courage to embrace something (someone), cowardice


Impersonal force - but likely to create rational creatures, persons, if this “force” is not a person?
Effect cannot exceed the cause
Likely for God not to reveal himself? Why not?
Role of faith - a gift
First look at religion, not philosophy
Internal contradictions (e.g. Islam)
Judaism or fulfilled in Christ
If so, which Christian?


Most are not atheists: What are we willing to die for?
Letting go - allowing ourselves to believe, and to be loved
Witness of joy, credible life, vibrant fidelity - that alone is convincing

The root cause of atheism is the fear of God. (Benedict XVI)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Awesome" Spring Break

"Is God Really There?", talk tonight by Fr. Carter Griffin, 6:30 pm. Fr Griffin is a talented and brilliant priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. A convert to the Catholic faith, he was educated at Princeton and Rome (North American College). He looks forward to tackling the existence of God with GW Catholics and making the case that God is really there.

Last week, 11 of us went down to Charleston, South Carolina for our annual Alternative Spring Break trip. It was an excellent week of service and fun...dare I say awesome! (inside joke with the group). God is awesome and He gave us a week together that was from Him. We fixed up two homes of low-income families and tried to bring joy and friendliness to their homes. The students worked very hard and did more work than the United Methodist Relief Center (which has been rebuilding homes in SC since hurricanes hit there in the 1990s) expected. They were very happy, as were the homeowners.

Four days of work, daily Mass, Adoration, home-cooked meals, minitiature golf, go carts, beach, dinners out, Ladies Night, Man's Night, Mass at the Cathedral (I met Bill Murray!), and adventures in road tripping sums up another great week of GW Catholics spending their spring break serving others. Here are some pics:

Monday, March 21, 2011

2nd Sunday of Lent - homily

I hope that you all had a great spring break and enjoyed much rest and relaxation. We had an excellent week of service down in Charleston, South Carolina. Fun, too! (BettAYYY!) We jump right back into everything this week, and so I want to let you know about a cool talk on Tuesday night by a good priest friend of mine, Father Carter Griffin. He is wicked smart! He studied at Princeton and Rome, and wanted to speak to you all on “a hard topic”, as he said. So, I’ve asked him to prove the existence of God. That’s hard! He will make the case for God’s existence and probably point to the universe, nature, or ourselves. I know many of you struggle to know that God is really there, so this will help you, I promise. Also, invite your friends who would benefit from it. It will be on Tuesday night after dinner and Mass which begins at 5:30 pm.

We can know in our minds that God exists. The first Vatican Council told us this. Reason tells us THAT God exists. Faith tells us WHO God is. When we get into the person of Jesus Christ, for example, then we get into the things of faith. It takes faith to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that He is the Son of God. In order for someone to believe in Jesus, they have to know His story. If He is God, then why did He come into the world? What was the point of all of it? A line from our second reading helps immensely to understand Christ and the point of His story: “he destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”. This is a hard-hitting line from St. Paul letter to Timothy. He brought life and immortality!

To understand this better, let me ask you a question that some of you have heard before: how many people went to Heaven before Christ? Zero. Between Adam and Eve and Jesus Christ, no one died and went to Heaven. Why? Because of Original Sin. Adam and Eve committed the first sin and it was devastating to mankind. When God created them, He told them to enjoy the paradise He had give them. He told them they could do whatever they wanted, just not to eat the fruit of the tree. So, they were loving life in the garden of Eden, happy as can be, and not even noticing that they were naked. But, then, the devil got involved and tempted them to eat the fruit of the tree. This was the one thing that God said NOT to do! This caused a major rift in their relationship with God. (By the way, all of the details from this story don’t have to be taken literally, but we do need to believe in Original Sin).

Imagine being in a relationship with someone you love dearly. They make very clear to you that there is one thing that they hate and ask you not to do it – maybe it’s getting high or lying. Whatever it is, it is seriously wrong to them, you know it’s seriously wrong to them, and if you choose to do it, you will seriously offend them. You will seriously hurt your relationship with them. This is what Adam and Eve did. They seriously offended God and they knew it. As soon as they ate the apple, they were filled with guilt and shame and noticed that they were naked. The gates of heaven closed. For hundreds of years after that, the people of God tried to atone for their sins through offerings and sacrifices, but none could open the gates of Heaven. We don’t have the power to bring about the forgiveness of our sins – only God does.

So, God became one of us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. We will hear in a few minutes at the Consecration, “this is my body…this is my blood…shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven”. Christ died for you and for me…for our sins to be forgiven. His sacrifice on the Cross is the only acceptable sacrifice to the Father for the forgiveness of sins. His Death and Resurrection opened the gates of Heaven. It is through the Cross that we are saved. It is through the Cross that Christ brought immortality to us. Christ entered into our immorality and planted a T-shaped Cross in it. Through Christ and His Cross, we go from immorality to immorTality.

This gives us a very brief look at the story of Jesus Christ and should fill us with great joy that we are in the right place if we want to get to Heaven. It is here at Mass that we not only remember the act of our salvation, we participate in it! Peter says it all at the Transfiguration, “Lord, it is good that we are here”. It is good that we are here. It is good that you are here. I love that you are here. God loves that you are here. Please keep coming!

It is good whenever we come to the Cross, but it is tough. I was a junior in college when I first entered into all of this stuff. It was tough because I had so many serious sins going on at the time. What I realized is that Christ saw all of my sins from the Cross, and basically said, “Greg, I will die for your sins to be forgiven”. He says that to each one of you, too. I know that everything I am saying to you tonight is tough and a bit intimidating. God knows this, too. He says many, many times in Scripture (including tonight’s Gospel), “do not be afraid”. Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid to come to Christ. Do not be afraid to come to the Cross. Do not be afraid to go from immorality to immortality. Do not be afraid to be Catholic on this campus. Do not be afraid to come to Mass. Do not be afraid to invite another GW Catholic to Mass. Do not be afraid to go to Confession. Do not be afraid to come to the Newman Center. Do not be afraid to love Christ and let Him love you this Lent.

He says about each one of you, ‘this is my beloved son’…or ‘this is my beloved daughter’. He says to each one of you tonight, “rise, and do not be afraid”.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring Break!

Have a great and holy Spring Break!

I hope that all GW students enjoy their week off next week. Rest up and be safe!! For those going on one of the university’s Alternative Spring Break trips, work hard in your witness to Christ. Great job! For all GW Catholics, continue your Lenten observances during the break. Hit a daily Mass if you can (in addition to Sunday).

Pray for us on the Newman Center’s Alternative Spring Break trip, please. We’re going once again to Charleston, South Carolina, to fix up homes with the United Methodist Relief Center. Should be a good week of work, fun, and prayer.

All those who attended our Ash Wednesday Masses learned about my invitation to welcome people back who have been away from church. With Spring Break coming just days after we gave out the invitations, there is a chance that people might forget to give them to another. If you didn’t hand the invitation to another GW Catholic before today, please do so when we get back. Hopefully, you can suggest that to them you both go as “Mass buddies” to our Sunday night 7:30 Mass at St Stephen’s. It rocks!

If you need another invitation, we have more copies.

Also, for an inspiring reminder, here are a few stories from years ago when the Archbishop of Washington sent out the same type of invitation to Catholics in Washington who had drifted away (where I got the idea) as given on the Archdiocesan blog site:

A Report from the Frontline

As you know the Archdiocese of Washington is extending invitations to people who are part of our family of faith but have not been participating in our life of prayer and worship. Archbishop Wuerl has asked us to take his invitation and to give it to someone and invite the person to join us for Mass. This makes some of us quite nervous. It is not that we don’t want to do it. Many of us, in fact, pray regularly for family members or friends to find their way back to church. Often, our hesitation is wondering how the person we want to invite will respond. Today, I’d like to share two stories about “what happened next…” and ask you to share your stories.

Firstly, From Fr. Mike, a priest at St. Camillus parish. Fr. Mike is excited abut this initiative because a number of years ago, something similar changed his life. In his words:

Twenty years ago, I was just such a young man, who had drifted away from the church for a number of years, until a friend invited me to come to Mass. Not realizing how much I missed the experience, I initially said “no.” This friend was persistent because he too had been away from the church for a while and knew it what a huge difference returning, reconnecting had made in his own life. Because of his persistent invitation and his sharing his experience I ultimately said “yes” and went to Mass with him. Absent that invitation 20 years ago, my life might have taken a very different course. To this day, I am incredibly grateful for the gift of this invitation. As we prepare to celebrate the greatest sacrifice, the mystery of Christi’s Passion and the gift of new life on Easter Sunday, let us reach out and bring God home to those who have drifted away from the Church.

Secondly, an eyewitness account from Maggie Gutiérrez, Coordinator of Evangelization and Hispanic Christian Initiation:

I have been explaining our Lenten initiative to my friends, my family, my coworkers and leaders on the parish evangelization team. Last week, I met with the planning team for the RCIA Retreat for Spanish speakers at which we are expecting 500 people. I was meeting the retreat planning team for dinner to go over some details. We went to a Mexican restaurant in Silver Spring and while we were driving I found myself again retelling the story of how Archbishop Wuerl sent hundreds of invitations to the parishes and that he is asking us to give them out to people who we want to invite back. After we ate our delicious dinner, and we were discussing the planning of the retreat, we noticed that our young waiter kept coming back to the table and chit chatting in a friendly manner.

At some point he asked if we were Catholic, which he probably figured out because Father Jose Arriaga was wearing his clerics and collar. So we talked to our waiter friend, Anastasio (Father told him it means resurrection in Greek) and he told us that he always tries to go to Mass even when he has to work on Sunday, though that is not always easy. We told him that Saturday night Mass is also an option. He left us again to continue our meeting. I told Father: “Hey Father, I have with me a few Spanish invitations, why don’t you give Anastasio one and ask him to give it to a friend?!”

Father answered, ”Anastasio could probably do that right here and now, just look around, all the waiters, they are all young adults.” So when Anastasio came back, Father José, who is a Scripture scholar, a former university professor, very calmly, very clearly, very much the teacher, explains the program to Anastasio, and asked Anastasio if he would be interested in helping us by giving an invitation to a friend. Anastasio smiled and immediately said, ”give me two, Father.”

The four of us rejoiced in this young man’s interest in being an evangelizer. We had one of those humble moments when we collectively realized how blessed we are to have an opportunity to be part of God’s ministry of reconciliation this Lent and every day of our lives!

I fear you might be thinking that it’s easy to invite when you are a priest or an RCIA retreat team and that maybe true, so please post a story of your own. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday!

Ash Wednesday Masses

Marvin Center, 3rd Floor, Grand Ballroom

12 noon, 5 pm, 7:30 pm

At today's Masses, we will offer written invitations to those who have been away from Sunday Mass to come back.  I will ask students to also give an invitation to another GW Catholic who has been away.  Here is the invitation:

Grace and Peace to you in Christ.

Sometimes before they even know it, college students drift away from things that were once important to them. If you have been away from church for some reason, I invite you to come back again to pray and to attend Mass.

Don't be afraid to come back. You will be welcomed back with love and compassion, not judgment. Please accept this invitation to fill the longing you may be feeling for God and discover the love of Christ and your Catholic family on campus.

In Christ,

Fr. Greg Shaffer

Sunday Student Masses
Sat- 5 pm (Newman Center, 2210 F St.)
Sun- 5:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 10 pm (St Stephen’s Church, 25th & Penn)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Is getting a tattoo sinful?

The following is an article from "Catholics United for the Faith" which will bring joy to some of our students. I have been asked a few times by these students recently if getting a tattoo is a sin. I gave them my opinion which is yes. The article below says no, so I have to eat some crow here (don't get used to this, GW Catholics!). I learned something in all of this. Not that I want to get a tatt, but that tatts aren't inherently sinful. They can be sinful and the Church gives some principles to guide people in their discernment. It's basically up to us and our consciences.

My conscience has always told me that tatts are sinful. No matter what the tatt is and the reasons for it, it is still desecration of the body in some way. The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. To me, getting a tatt is like spray painting a portion of an ornate temple. Even if the painted image is not bad, it shows disrespect to the beauty of the temple. Also, I think that pride drives getting tatts. People want to be noticed by others and look cool to them. Chances are, most people who get tatts when they are younger come to regret them when they get older. Ever see a saint with a tattoo?
But, that is just my opinion formed by my conscience. I bow to the Church and her authority on this and every matter. For the GW Catholics who are looking to get a tattoo, please use the following guidelines in full before you make your decision to get a tatt.


Issue: What is the teaching of the Church on tattoos and body piercing?

Response: Tattoos and acts of body piercing are not intrinsically evil. The Church offers principles by which Catholics can discern whether it is sinful to be tattooed or have one’s body pierced in particular situations.


What Sacred Scripture Has to Say

Some Protestant authors have argued that the Bible forbids tattoos and body piercing. They typically cite the following verse: "You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:28).

References to this verse are not present in important magisterial documents and in the principal writings of the Fathers of the Church. It is the consensus of Catholic biblical commentators that this prohibition is not part of the unchanging moral law, but part of the ritual law specific to the Old Testament. Many commentators believe that this prohibition was intended to separate Israel from its Canaanite neighbors; some believe that the cuttings in the flesh and tattoo marks to which the verse refers were part of idolatrous Canaanite worship.

The context of the verse favors this interpretation. The preceding verse reads, "You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard" (Lev. 19:27)—this prohibition is certainly not applied to members of the Church.

The Church does not teach that Sacred Scripture forbids tattooing and body piercing, but the Church does offer principles by which to discern whether, in particular situations, it is sinful to be tattooed or have one’s body pierced.

Respect for Health and Bodily Integrity

The Fifth Commandment—"You shall not kill"—does not simply require respect for human life; it also compels Christians to respect the dignity of persons and to safeguard peace (see The Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2258-2330). Respect for the dignity of persons includes, among other things, respect for the souls of others, for their health, and for their bodily integrity.

"Life and physical health," the Church teaches, "are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good" (Catechism, no. 2288). Prudence dictates that persons considering tattoos or body piercing research any health risks that may be involved. If a particular act of tattooing or body piercing entails a likely risk to health, it would be more or less sinful depending upon the gravity of the risk. If a particular act involves mutilation—if the act renders a bodily organ unable to perform its function—the act is immoral (Catechism, no. 2297).

Charity and Respect for the Souls of Others

Catholics must also consider the common good when they decide whether to be tattooed or have their bodies pierced. In certain instances—for example, in indigenous cultures in which tattooing is a rite of passage to adulthood—the common good practically demands that a person be tattooed.1 In the United States and other Western countries, however, considerations of the common good generally lead one to pause before being tattooed or having one’s body pierced.

The question of whether an act of tattooing or body piercing hinders a Catholic’s evangelizing mission leads to the broader question of whether such an act harms the souls of others. Tattoos whose words and images celebrate the demonic, are unchaste, or otherwise offend against charity are immoral.

Even if a tattoo’s words and images are not uncharitable in themselves, the act of obtaining a tattoo can be rendered immoral if done so with an evil intention—for example, in order to spite one’s parents or society (cf. Catechism, no. 1752).

Persons considering body piercing should also be aware of the implicit messages that the particular act of piercing conveys in a particular time and place. Some acts of body piercing can imply approval for the immoral homosexual lifestyle. Other acts of body piercing can imply active participation in, or a desire to participate in, other unchaste acts. In such cases, the acts of body piercing are immoral because they appear to manifest an approval of sin and thus scandalize others (cf. Catechism, no. 1868, 2284).

Questions to Consider

Catholics who are considering getting tattoos or having their bodies pierced may want to reflect on the following questions:

· Does this particular act of tattooing or body piercing involve a risk to my health?

· Would this act mutilate me—that is, would it inhibit the proper functioning of my skin or another organ of my body?

· Is the explicit message of my tattoo compatible with love of God and neighbor?

· Is the implicit message of my tattoo compatible with love of God and neighbor? Does it convey an implicitly unchaste message?

· Why do I want to get a tattoo or have my body pierced?

· If I am under the authority of my parents, would this act be an act of disobedience that would violate the Fourth Commandment?

· Would this particular act needlessly offend my family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and thus hinder my ability to lead others to Christ and His Church?

· Can the expense involved be justified in light of the needs of my family, the Church, and the poor?

In most cultural contexts in the United States, a woman’s decision to have her ears pierced is compatible with respect for health and bodily integrity, charity, and respect for the souls of others. Other acts of piercing and tattooing are more open to question. The criteria above can help one come to a prayerful and prudent decision in one’s particular circumstances.

1 In People on the Move (December 2003, pp. 281-88), a publication of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Fr. Mathias Bhuriya has written about the role of tattooing in the Adi-Vasi Bhalai nomadic Indian culture. See

Recommended Reading

Holy Bible (Catholic edition)
Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 1756, 1768, 1780, 1794)
Vatican II Documents (Gaudium Et Spes)
Fr. Mathias Bhuriya, People on the Move
Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte

To order, call Benedictus Books toll-free: (888) 316-2640. CUF members receive a 10% discount.

Hahn and Suprenant, eds., Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God
Leon Suprenant and Philip Gray, Faith Facts: Answers to Catholic Questions
Ted Sri, Mystery of the Kingdom: On the Gospel of Matthew
Leon Suprenant, ed., Servants of the Gospel
Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Without a Doubt: Bringing Faith to Life

To order these and other titles, call Emmaus Road toll-free: (800) 398-5470.

Available Faith Facts

Going God’s Way: The Church’s Teaching on Moral Conscience
Here Am I Lord: Vocations in Christ
Morality is Habit-Forming: The Cardinal Virtues
All You Need is Love: The Theological Virtue of Charity
Principle of Double Effect
Should I Obey?: Faithfully Responding to Lawful Authority

© 2005 Catholics United for the Faith Last edited: 5/23/2006

Monday, March 07, 2011

9th Sunday - homily

A few weeks ago, a student came to see me. He is a Protestant who is interested in the Catholic Church but has many questions about our faith. I gave him some books to read, one of them is this little booklet called "Confession of a Roman Catholic" by Paul Whitcomb. Whitcomb is a biblical scholar and former Protestant minister. His story is similar to that of Scott Hahn and others: he used to be anti-Catholic until his thorough study of Scripture led him to become Catholic. Like Hahn and others, he learned that the Church is deeply scriptural and that Scripture is deeply Catholic.

In this book, Whitcomb shows how all of the Catholic sacraments are based in Scripture. After the student read the book, he immediately emailed me, saying how much he enjoyed it and that it answered so many of his questions. The book is a bit technical and dense, but very good. I have some copies of it here tonight. If you know someone or are someone who questions where the sacraments like the Eucharist and Confession are in the Bible, then take a copy for them or for yourself.

Many Catholics don't know the history between Catholics and Protestants. For 1500 years, we were all Catholic! But, then in the 16th century, some Catholics "protested" against the Church over the issue of indulgences. The protesters, led by Martin Luther who was a Catholic priest, were right to object to the scandalous selling of indulgences that was going on in the Church. But, then Luther and the reformers went too far in their protest. Luther started his own church as did other reformers; now there are about 30,000 Protestant denominations. They denied six of the seven sacraments (all except Baptism), claiming that if the Church can be in error about indulgences, then it can be wrong about the sacraments.

Also, Luther changed Scripture to fit his new theology. In tonight's second reading, St Paul writes that "a person is justified (saved) by faith apart from works of the law". He is trying to steer people away from focusing on the old law. Martin Luther added the word "alone" to this line from Romans 3:28. His theology was that we are saved by faith alone and attacked the Catholic teaching of justification by faith and good works. He was correct in putting the focus on faith in Christ and grace and that no one can merit salvation through good works, two positions that are very strongly held by the Catholic Church. In recent years, the Catholic and Lutheran Churches have signed a joint declaration on justification to express their agreement that salvation comes about only through the grace of Christ.

But, the doctrine of faith alone is still prevalent among many Protestants. I met a Protestant minister years ago on an airplane. He said that all someone needs to do to be saved is to confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I said that while that is a beautiful thing to do, it is not the only thing we need to do to be saved. I asked him where Matthew 25 fits into all of this. This is where Jesus says that judgment is based on how we treat the poor; those who took care of the poor will be saved and those who didn't will be condemned. He had no answer.

Jesus gives us a big answer about all of this in today's Gospel. He says that "not all who say 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven". Salvation is about doing the will of the Father...about hearing the words of Jesus and acting on them. For 2000 years, the Catholic Church has been acting on the words of Jesus. His words are the source of all that we believe and do. This book by Paul Whitcomb shows that. All of the sacraments are based in the words of Jesus. The Catechism of the Catholic Church shows that all that we believe is based in the words of Jesus. It expresses our theology; theology literally means "Word of God" which is Jesus Christ.

The first reading also confirms that we need to do what God has commanded. If we keep his commandments, we receive a blessing; if not, we receive a curse. If we obey the third commandment, for example, and keep holy the Sabbath by coming to Mass, we receive Grace. If we intentionally miss Sunday Mass, then we lose the state of grace and enter into mortal sin. Skipping Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin.

Finally, brothers and sisters, when we come to Mass, we act on Jesus' words at the Last Supper: "take this all of you and eat this in memory of me". For 2000 years, the Church has an unbroken tradition of celebrating the Eucharist. We base our actions here on the words of Christ and our belief on his four words: "this is my body". It's not "this symbolizes my body"..but this is my body. The Council of Trent responded to the Protestant Reformation’s attack on the Eucharist by affirming that Jesus is “truly, really, and substantially” present in the Eucharist. Only the Catholic and Orthodox churches have the tradition and belief in the Real Presence. The Eucharist is our is THE rock, Jesus Christ! Receiving the Eucharist is a blessing which helps us to act on the words of Christ, to do the will of the Father, and to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Friday, March 04, 2011

"Catholicism Project"

Mardi Gras party tomorrow night (3/5), 4-7 pm, University Yard.  All GW students are invited for some Cajun food and live music as we celebrate Mardi Gras. Our newest GW Catholic tradition! 

I read in the paper the other day that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued that the United States is "losing the information war" with international news media.  While foreign media is reporting "real news", American news programs consists of "a million commercials and arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff not particularly informative", she said.  Whether or not you agree with her argument or motives, the point is made: the United States needs to do a better job in communicating itself as it really is to the world.

In the same way, the Church needs to do a better job of communicating herself and her message to the world.  The saying is that "millions of people hate the Catholic Church for what they think she is, but less than a hundred worldwide hate her for what she actually is".  The point is that people really don't know what the Church is all about.  There is a new project underway to help change that.  Fr. Robert Barron, a popular theologian, has put together a 10 part series that will be available on TV and DVD.  Below is the trailer for the "Catholicism Project".  Check it out and let me know if you would like the Newman Center to purchase the DVD series.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

“We are a Church on Fire!”

A GW Catholic sent me the following article from

“We are a Church on Fire!”
Eucharistic Adoration Transforms Parish

“A little church in a small town, St. Frances Xavier Catholic Church, was facing tough times. The congregation was dwindling, and Mass attendance was at an all-time low. The empty confessional was collecting dust, and donations were dismal.

But, then the unthinkable happened.

Today, St, Francis Xavier is one of the most vibrant parishes in the diocese with standing-room only Masses, confessional lines, a busload of parishioners participating in the March for Life, and an abundance of freewill donations that will make them debt-free by April.

“Jesus is on the property,” said Mary Cardoza, the spark that inflamed the parish. “We are a church on fire”.

Eucharistic Adoration has done the same thing at the GW Newman Center. Adoration on Wednesdays has been a long-standing tradition here. When I arrived two years ago, many students came to adore the Lord and receive Benediction during the two hours of Exposition on Wednesday nights. We stepped up Adoration, increasing it to almost ten hours every Wednesday. Students have responded incredibly; we now have 25 students signed up for thirty minutes of Adoration every week. Others stop by for a quick visit and/or Benediction.

I am utterly convinced that the fruits of our ministry come from the Eucharist, and Adoration has played a big part. Here are some of the fruits of the past two years:

- Attendance at Sunday student Masses has more than doubled
- Attendance at Tuesday night Mass and discussions has doubled
- Twice as many GW Catholics attended retreats /conferences this year
- Ten Bible study groups with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students)
- Two dozen men and women attended discernment events this year
- Almost 60 GW Catholics attended the March for Life events, probably the most ever here
- A significant increase in confessions each week

Thanks be to God, especially Jesus in the Eucharist, the Newman Center, too, is on fire!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"Modern love" essay contest

Discussion on relationships tonight! Greg and Pam August who have been married for 21 years will talk about their relationship and offer advice to GW Catholics. Greg was our most popular speaker last year; Pam makes her first appearance at the Newman Center. Join us!

Speaking of relationships, a friend sent me the following about an essay contest on modern love by the New York Times. The Times is asking for stories about modern love and offering $1000 to the winner. My friend suggested that it would be good for GW Catholics to enter: “I think it would be a great opportunity to show that not everyone in our culture is sex-crazed.” She helped with a GW Hatchet story last year which involved two of our students, Matt Shoemaker and Andrew Buonopane. Here are excerpts from the article:

"Senior Matt Shoemaker, who has also chosen to abstain, said he believes that deferring sex until marriage is intimately related to the concept of love itself.

'If you commit to this sort of lifestyle, you can achieve it,' says Shoemaker, who cited the conflict between his former girlfriend's desire to have sex and his Catholic faith as an insurmountable problem for their relationship. 'I think it comes down to understanding what the actual purpose of love is.'

Junior Andrew Buonopane said he abstains because, in his mind, sex is too often connected with exploitation and ill treatment.

'Sex has a procreative function, it's the greatest form of love that two people can experience,' Buonopane says. 'In our society, sex has been used to express either lesser love, temporary affectionate feelings or a means to an end, a way to just feel good.'

Here is the info about the Times essay contest. If you have a good story or point of view but don’t want to sit down and write, my friend is “more than willing to help with the writing portion.” Deadline: March 21. Please click on today’s title to see the Times website about the contest.

"Three years ago we invited college students to tell us the truth about what love was like for them in this age of 24/7 communication, blurred gender roles and new attitudes about sex and dating. The response, from students at more than 365 colleges and universities nationwide, was overwhelming and eye opening.

So we’re asking again. If you have a personal story that illustrates the current state of love and relationships, e-mail it to us at The winning author will receive $1,000 and his or her essay will be published in a special 'Modern Love' column on May 1, 2011, and on"